Tuesday 31 December 2013

Hey, Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #46 is out now! Free ebook, cheap paperback!

Amazing fiction! Insightful reviews! A self-indulgent editorial! Yes, it’s Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #46! This issue features alphabetically-ordered stories by Gary Budgen, Mitchell Edgeworth, Josie Gowler, Stephen Palmer, Jessy Randall, Charles Wilkinson and Ross Gresham, plus eighteen reviews from Stephen Theaker, Jacob Edwards and Douglas J. Ogurek. Our spacechristmassy cover art is by Howard Watts.

Our print format changes a bit with this issue, shaving an inch off in each direction. Not sure if we'll stick with the new size until we see how the printing goes, but as ever the goal is to make the publication easier to produce and easier to read. I hope you'll like it.


Paperback edition: on Amazon.co.uk / on Amazon.com / on CreateSpace
Epub version (free)
Mobi version (free)
PDF version (free)
Kindle edition: on Amazon.co.uk / on Amazon.com
The ebook is also available on Feedbooks and Lulu (both free)

All 45 back issues are also available for free download, in various formats.


Charles Wilkinson’s short stories have appeared in Best Short Stories 1990, Best English Short Stories 2, Midwinter Mysteries and London Magazine. A collection, The Pain Tree and Other Stories, was published by London Magazine Editions. Ag & Au, a pamphlet of his poems, recently appeared from Flarestack Poets, Birmingham. Previously in Theaker’s: “Notes on the Bone” (#41) and “Notes from the Undergrowth” (#44). This issue: “Petrol-Saved”.

Douglas J. Ogurek reviews The Hunger Games: Catching Fire for us this time. His work has appeared in the BFS Journal, The Literary Review, Morpheus Tales, Gone Lawn, and several anthologies. He lives in a Chicago suburb with the woman whose husband he is and their five pets. His website: www.douglasjogurek.weebly.com.

Gary Budgen’s fiction has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies including Interzone, Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction (“Through the Ages”, #43) and Morpheus Tales. Recently he has had stories in the anthologies Where Are We Going? and Urban Green Man. He is a member of London Clockhouse Writers. Read more at http://garybudgen.wordpress.com. In this issue: “Black Ribbon”.

Howard Watts is a writer, artist and composer living in Seaford who provides the fantastic cover art for this issue. In fact, he provided it over a year ago, for the issue originally intended for Christmas 2012! Check out his Deviantart page.

Jacob Edwards reviews About Time, Computing with Quantum Cats, The Day of the Doctor and Gravity in this issue. His heart belongs to Australia’s speculative fiction flagship Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, but we’re happy to be his holiday romance. This writer, poet and recovering lexiphanicist’s site: www.jacobedwards.id.au.

Jessy Randall’s stories, poems, and other things have appeared in Asimov’s, Flurb, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, LQQK, McSweeney’s, and Star*Line. Her website is personalwebs.coloradocollege.edu/~jrandall/. Her story in this issue: “The Night of Red Butterflies”.

Josie Gowler specialises in writing weird tales set in the English East Anglian Fens, and science fiction and fantasy short stories; she has most fun when these all overlap. She’s been published in 365 Tomorrows, Lorelei Signal, Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction (“Soldier”, all the way back in #28) and Bewildering Tales. She is a Napoleonic re-enactor and is currently working on a trashy coming-of-age space opera. Her story in this issue is “The Lazarus Loophole”.

Mitchell Edgeworth lives in Melbourne, Australia, and his fiction has been published in The Battered Suitcase and SQ Mag, as well as here. He keeps a blog at www.grubstreethack.wordpress.com and tweets as @mitchedgeworth. “Customs” is the fourth in his Black Swan series to appear in these pages. Like everything we publish, it can be read quite happily in isolation, but if you want to find out how the Black Swan got off the ground, see his stories in #40 (“Homecoming”), #42 (“Drydock”) and #43 (“Flight”).

Ross Gresham teaches at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. His stories have previously appeared in #34 (“Name the Planet”), #41 (“Milo Don’t Count Coup”) and #44 (“Milo on Fire”). His story in this issue is “Wild Seed”.

Stephen Palmer is the author of seven published novels, including Memory Seed and Glass (Orbit), Muezzinland, and Urbis Morpheos (PS Publishing). His short fiction has been published by NewCon Press, Wildside Press, SF Spectrum, Rocket Science, Eibonvale Press, Unspoken Water, Infinity Plus and Solaris, plus two more currently unmentionable. Ebooks of all his novels have recently been published by Infinity Plus Ebooks, who will also be publishing his forthcoming novel Hairy London. He lives and works in Shropshire, UK. His story in this issue: “The Mines of Sorrow”.

Stephen Theaker reviews all sorts of things in this issue. He even liked some of them. Further to last issue’s editorial, he got up to 107 consecutive days of writing at least 250 words a day (getting up to an average of 837), before post-Nanowrimo fatigue kicked in and brought the run to a halt on December 5. His work has also appeared in Black Static, Interzone, Prism, the BFS Journal, and the letters page of the NME. (He wrote to defend the authenticity of the Manic Street Preachers, comparing them favourably in that regard with bands like Curve. Time has – as usual! – proven him quite right.)

Monday 30 December 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, reviewed by Douglas J. Ogurek

Smaug may desolate, but Legolas steals the show in a superb epic fantasy adventure

Ostensibly, The Hobbit film series is about its namesake character: Bilbo Baggins. The first film, An Unexpected Journey (2012), focuses on Bilbo, who undertakes an expedition both physical and mental. However, in this second installment, The Desolation of Smaug (2013), returning director Peter Jackson (who also directed the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy) moves further back, assuming a wider view on a group of unlikely and in some cases likely heroes. Those coming to see Desolation aren’t just coming to see Bilbo; they’re coming to see a collection of beloved characters. Moreover, true to the contemporary western culture that spawned such blockbusters as The Avengers (2012), Desolation has minimized those pesky internal struggles, and taken external challenges and battlefield bravura to the next level.    

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Twenty artists by whom I’ve only ever bought one album

Twenty artists by whom I’ve only ever bought one album (for myself, at least), and in brackets what the album was:

  1. Vampire Weekend (Modern Vampires of the City)
  2. The Streets (Original Pirate Material)
  3. The Magnetic Fields (69 Love Songs)
  4. S’Express (Original Soundtrack)
  5. The Prodigy (Their Law)
  6. Korn (Follow the Leader)
  7. Mouse on Mars (Rost Pocks)
  8. Los Campesinos! (Hold on Now, Youngster...)
  9. T'Pau (Bridge of Spies)
  10. The Hold Steady (Boys and Girls in America)
  11. Yo La Tengo (Summer Sun)
  12. Bomb the Bass (Enter the Dragon)
  13. Big Fun (Paradise)
  14. Liza Minelli (Results)
  15. The Bloodhound Gang (Hooray for Boobies*)
  16. The Cooper Temple Clause (See This Through and Leave)
  17. Oasis (What’s the Story, Morning Glory)
  18. The Art of Noise (In Visible Silence)
  19. Editors (The Back Room)
  20. Klaxons (Myths of the Near Future)

How about you?

And by the way, Merry Christmas! With any luck this will be the only new article on the internet today and our hits will go through the roof.

Wednesday is list day. This is list #16.

* I’m so, so sorry.

Monday 23 December 2013

Doctor Who and the Pescatons by Victor Pemberton, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

It has been quite a while since I last dipped into the six-story collection Doctor Who: The BBC Radio Episodes. I began with the Jon Pertwee story The Paradise of Death, reviewed in these pages many years ago, and it wasn’t too bad. A bit later I listened to The Ghosts of N-Space, which was so painfully awful I couldn’t bring myself to review it, especially since that was shortly after the deaths of Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney and it wasn’t the right time to give their work a slating, however richly deserved. If you haven’t heard that story and you’re curious what was so bad about it, as an example let’s just say I never needed to hear the third Doctor explain the meaning of “sodomite” to Sarah Jane Smith.

Monday 16 December 2013

Diablo III, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Diablo III (Blizzard Entertainment, Xbox 360; Amazon purchase) is the first of the series I’ve played, and since I don’t play games on the PC, the Xbox 360 version is a new game to me. It’s an isometric dungeon crawler, an action RPG where your heroes run around semi-randomly generated environments bashing hordes of creatures, fulfilling simple fetch-quests. Players can choose from wizard, demon hunter, barbarian, witch doctor and monk, and from male and female versions of each. The setting is pretty much indistinguishable from other fantasy games, with your regulation ghosts, zombies, skeletons etc to fight. Sometimes you get a funny feeling you’re just playing Dragon Age: Origins or Oblivion from a different point of view, though some laser-like magical powers would be more at home in Halo.

Friday 13 December 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, reviewed by Douglas J. Ogurek

Rarely does a movie outshine the book that inspired it. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire blazes as an exception.

Catching Fire, the middle installment in Suzanne Collins’s hugely popular Hunger Games trilogy, divides into two stories that could stand alone. The second and far better half details the Hunger Games’ 75th anniversary “Quarter Quell”. District 12 tributes (i.e., competitors) and winners of the last game, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, square off in a fight-to-the-death match against past victors from the nation of Panem’s other eleven districts. Collins writes about this battle royal with skill, and the film follows suit.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Ten things which I learned of from Steven Gilligan

Ten things I had no experience and/or knowledge of until I was introduced to them by our much-missed friend Steven Gilligan:
  1. Buffalo Tom
  2. John Constantine, Hellblazer
  3. J-Pop
  4. My Bloody Valentine
  5. A Song of Ice and Fire
  6. Using a small amount of water to wash out the inside of a ketchup bottle
  7. Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out
  8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  9. Wim Wenders
  10. Funerals
I'm grateful for some more than others. My life has not been improved by the addition of Mini Moni songs to my inner playlist. Not one bit. On the other hand, the first time Steven showed me an episode of Vic Reeves, I laughed so hard and so suddenly that tea shot out of my nose.

Wednesday is list day. This is list #14.

Monday 9 December 2013

Nexus Omnibus, Vol. 2 by Mike Baron and Steve Rude, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Nexus Omnibus, Vol. 2 (Dark Horse, ebook, 423pp; Dark Horse app purchase), written by Mike Baron with most artwork by Steve Rude, collects issues 12 to 25 of the original series from First Comics. They continue the comic’s odd mix of high seriousness and low humour. The former: the punishment of genocidal maniacs, as super-powered Nexus puts to death the mass murderers of whom he mysteriously dreams. An example of the latter: the ongoing adventures of Clonezone the Hilariator, a terrible Catskills-style comedian who travels the galaxy from one crummy gig to another, always in hope of making it big.

Saturday 7 December 2013

British Fantasy Awards 2014: add your favourites to the eligibility list!

I'm running the British Fantasy Awards again next year. I plan for voting to begin on 1 January 2014, so now is the time to add your favourite works of 2013 to the BFS's eligibility list:

Submit your items here: http://tinyurl.com/suggestions2014

They will appear on the list here: http://tinyurl.com/list2014

You do not have to be a member to contribute to the list.

The list is especially short on newcomers, magazines, films/tv, comics and artists, so get racking your brains. Last year I could tell that a lot of voters were using the list – the text of many votes had been copied and pasted from it.

And check the list for your own work. Let me know about any mistakes, typos, misattributions, etc you spot so that I can correct them. Last year a mention of "Subterannean Press" made it all the way to an actual awards envelope before I finally noticed it. Some proofreader I am!

Unfortunately this great magazine of ours, all the marvellous stories and non-fiction and artwork we publish, and any books we put out are all ineligible, because of my involvement. I know, it sucks, we'd be sure to win otherwise. But anything fantastical you've published elsewhere during 2013 is eligible.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Ten signs you have an unhealthy relationship with the internet

Ten signs you (okay, I) have an unhealthy relationship with the internet:

  1. You don’t get any work done at all when the internet is on.
  2. Your children have had to password protect their Kindles to stop you using them to go online.
  3. You would rather spend all day refreshing Digital Spy for new items than doing anything else.
  4. You really miss reading Ceefax from 100 to 999.
  5. You can’t put your cursor in Chrome’s box without autotyping the first two letters of your favourite url.
  6. You actually use the internet browser on your Xbox 360 or PS3.
  7. You spend more time reading Guardian comment threads than reading to your children.
  8. You’re happy when people start arguing on Twitter.
  9. You spend more time looking at the websites of wallies than the websites of people you respect.
  10. You read listicles right to the end.

What are your worst (PG-rated) internet habits?

Wednesday is list day. This is list #13.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Thirteen things I learned (or was reminded of) during Nanowrimo this year

1. I have my best writing sessions with the PC off. In previous years it was writing on the Alphasmart that saved my bacon. This year it was Daedalus Touch on the iPad, and then Pages. Small screens for the win.

2. Backing up daily is essential, because things always go wrong.

3. Updating writing apps during November is a bad idea. I updated Daedalus Touch five or six days from the end, and it completely stopped working. Luckily I’d been emailing the chapters to my PC to go into Scrivener every day. I had to switch over to Pages, which crashed a fair few times itself.

4. Sixteen picture playing cards laid out face down in a four by four grid make a nice series of treats for finishing each hundred words, and provide a useful visual representation of your progress. (I’ve got Judge Dredd, Doctor Who, James Bond and NME packs of cards, which all took a turn this month.) Micro-encouragements like that work well for me.

5. Being behind from the beginning (thanks to an early morning trip to Brighton on the first weekend) can be rather helpful, much as I hated it. At no point was I thinking, 49,500 words to go. I was chasing a target that was always just a few thousand words ahead.

6. I think best with my fingers. Thinking about my writing too much doesn’t sem to suit me very well, because it leads me to prevaricate. I can never get all the thinking done. What worked well this year was setting my timer going and starting to write my way in. Sometimes that meant circling back to the first paragraph to add extra details, but that just added to the word count.

7. It’s not a good idea to start your Nanowrimo novel with all your characters flying through a featureless landscape with no way to talk to each other. Makes it so much harder than it has to be!

8. Nanowrimo novels get much easier towards the end. You know who your characters are, and they have a lot more to talk about.

9. A frequent change of setting makes Nanowrimo easier. There’s only so many ways to describe the same rooms, and that’s not your friend if you’re writing at speed. If your characters are in a different location every chapter, it’s easier to find a little something to say about each one.

10. I find myself really funny. I’ve been in stitches reading some of the stuff I wrote this month.

11. How clever other writers are. Writing my silly, pulp, nonsensical and very short novel was a great deal of fun, but it was still hard work. I’m in awe of the novelists who write books that are actually good.

12. There’s no excuse for how long I’ve taken to finish off some old writing projects. I just need to set my timer going and get on with writing them.

13. Nanowrimo is quite a forgiving challenge. 1667 words isn’t that much – a couple of hours’ work. So even if you miss three days, there’s a chance of catching up if you put all of the fourth day into it. I only wrote on 23 of the 30 days last month, and only reached the regulation daily 1667 words on 14 of those days.

Twelve things I didn’t like about doing Nanowrimo this year

1. I couldn’t make it to any of our local events, which was a shame because I used to regularly produce four or five thousand words at write-ins. I had to keep an eye on the children while they watched Netflix marathons of Winx Club and Jesse.

2. The word “but”. I incessantly seem to think in a way that argues against myself. In reviews I try to keep myself down to one “but” construction, but often fail. (There it is again!) When my six-year-old daughter looked at a passage I was writing she said, “You use ‘but’ too much. You should use other words like ‘however’.” My speed went down by about 25% after that.

3. Having to keep quiet on Twitter. I know Nanowrimo tweets can drive people mad – normal word count tweets are annoying enough, but during November there are thousands more of them! – so I didn’t want to tweet about it. Since it was all I thought about during November (at least in my leisure time) that left little else to tweet about.

4. Being behind. Doing the final set-up bits for the British Fantasy Awards and travelling down to Brighton for the British Fantasy Society AGM got me off to a pretty bad start, and I didn’t catch up until the very last day.

5. The “rebels”, or “hangers-on”. There have always been a bunch of people who sign up for Nanowrimo who don’t want to write a novel from start to finish, think doing so would be a waste of effort, and often don’t like novels at all – or even know what they are! It’s got much worse in recent years because the organisers introduced the idea of “rebellion”. So people who aren’t taking part in the challenge but want to sip from the same cup can designate themselves rebels, converse in their own forum, buy their own special hoody, and hang around without taking part, all the while discouraging other people from the job (and joy) of writing a novel. Whenever a question is asked about the rules of the challenge, someone always pipes up to say, “But you don’t have to! You can be a rebel, like me!” It’s baffling that the organisers positively encourage people to not take part in their own event, until you realise that “rebels” are encouraged to donate money. The rebels’ presence gives the impression that raising money is more important than keeping the event focused.

6. Which leads on to: the fundraising. When I stopped being an ML for Birmingham there were a few reasons – one was that our venue for write-ins had given us the boot! But another was that the MLs were being asked to actively fundraise for the event – an event for which we were already doing a great deal of volunteer work. I’ve always been happy to buy a t-shirt or two, and donating $10 to cover the costs of running the forums seems reasonable. But this year the fundraising got out of hand, with a day being set aside for marathon sessions, promoted with guff like “Write for two hours? You should donate $100!” – as if our hard work on our own novels would mean we owed the organisation money. In the end, you don’t need that organisation to write a 50,000 novel in November. They had a good idea, and run good, very useful forums full of excellent advice and support, but if their company were to collapse the event would go on.

7. Being miserable most of the day until I got my 1667 words done.

8. Having to be extra grumpy with my kids to get them out of my study.

9. The embarrassment of seeing the appalling novels other wrimos are writing. It’s depressing to read a novel synopsis composed entirely of broken sentences – beside a word count of 150,000!

10. The disappointment at seeing the brilliant novels other wrimos are writing – that they never publish!

11. The number of people advising participants to stop trying. “You can write any time, not just in November!” “Real writers write all year round!” “It’s just a silly pointless competition!” But writing as part of Nanowrimo is special. It gives you permission to neglect everything else for a month, to burn the candle at both ends for a while, to push yourself harder than there’s ever normally a reason to. Without the deadline to aim for, I’d never have spent last Saturday writing eight thousand words. I’d have been expected to help the children with their homework in the morning, make a decent lunch for them, do the dishes, order the pizza, watch a film in the evening, and so on. I have a new novel in my hands, and if I’d listened to the numbskulls saying not to bother, that novel wouldn't exist.

12. That it’s over for another year.

Twelve things I liked about doing Nanowrimo this year

1. The incredible feeling you get when you’ve done your 1666 words for the day and you keep writing. Whether you’re catching up or ploughing ahead, it feels brilliant.

2. Slowing down the passage of time. Each time I’ve written a novel is a huge landmark in my life. The children we had five minutes ago are growing far too quickly, but by this time next year it will feel like I wrote this novel a million years ago.

3. It made me take a break from the Xbox 360. Always a good thing. Mrs Theaker pin-protected my Xbox Live account, which helped.

4. Ending up with a new Stephen Theaker novel to read. I appreciate that others may be less enthused by this than me! I’m not a very good novelist, but there are few writers whose novels I like better than my own. I leave out all the stuff I find boring in books, and include all the things I love. Why else would you write a novel, if not to create the kind of book you want to read?

5. It got me listening to Radio 3. Never really done that before, and it turns out I quite like it. Not that I’ve become a fan of classical music, exactly. It’s more that it can so easily be ignored when writing or working, while still providing a buffer against the distracting sounds of everyday life.

6. It reinforced my sense of how brilliant my other half is. If I stayed up late writing, she dealt with the children in the morning and let me sleep in. She took an extra turn at the dishes. She put up with my grumpiness. (As did the children, who were exceptionally understanding and encouraging.) She was brilliant.

7. Getting ideas from the children. Whenever I talked to them about my novel, they were full of excellent suggestions, nearly all of which I incorporated. Of course, I take all blame for the inferior quality of the final product. You can’t spin lead into gold, but the reverse is quite possible.

8. There’s a cruel, malicious pleasure in knowing that however bad my novel ends up being, there are people writing seriously, taking years and sweating blood over their work, who won’t ever write anything half as entertaining as the book I just wrote in a month. I know, that pleasure makes me a bad person, but to get a novel written in a month requires the strength of all aspects of your character, not just the nice, fluffy bits.

9. This was the first novel I’ve written (it’s the seventh I’ve finished, after Professor Challenger in Space, Quiet, the Tin Can Brains Are Hunting!, The Fear Man, His Nerves Extruded, The Doom That Came to Sea Base Delta, and The Day the Moon Wept Blood) that I would be happy for my daughters to read. The others have all been from the point of view of men, most of them rather sexist, lecherous men. I think this is the first of those seven novels that would pass the Bechdel Test.

10. Attempts to justify not writing led me to reorganise my home office, and get rid of all the junk that had been clogging it up. There’s twice the floor space in here now, and half as many televisions.

11. Commercial writers suddenly becoming terribly precious about their writing. “Sixteen hundred words a day? The thought is simply dreadful! If I wrote more than two hundred words of Thoognoth the Unthoughtable: Assistant Lord Chancellor of the Middle Under-Realms XIII: The Jewels of Yesterday’s Tomorrow, Part II in a day my muse would desert me! Each word must be dragged screaming from my soul by hours of meditation and intense personal reflection! Oh, what’s that, you want me to write an email of encouragement to Nanowrimo participants? And there are how many of them? You don’t say! And I’ll be able to mention that Thoognath XII is now out in paperback? Well, I would be delighted! As I have always said, what a marvellous event this is!”

12. That it’s over for another year.

Monday 2 December 2013

The Unsettled Dust and Other Stories by Robert Aickman, read by Reece Shearsmith, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

As far as I know, The Unsettled Dust and Other Stories by Robert Aickman (Audible, digital audiobook, 8 hrs 37 mins; supplied by publisher) has been my first taste of this writer’s work. He is of course very well regarded in horror circles, and has long been on my to-read-at-some-point list. I wasn’t disappointed.

The narrator of this edition, published by Audible themselves, is Reece Shearsmith of The League of Gentlemen. The recording is very clear. There are no sound effects or music, but their absence feels appropriate. His reading is splendid, aside from a couple of tiny fluffs.

Friday 29 November 2013

The Not Yet by Moira Crone, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

The Not Yet by Moira Crone (UNO Press, pb, 272pp). Malcolm de Lazarus is the Not-Yet of this book’s title, an orphan who spent his childhood performing in gruelling Sims to entertain the Heirs, a transhuman ruling class with fading memories of what it was like to really live. His earnings went into his Trust, and when he reaches the Boundarytime those savings should pay for his own longevity treatments. He’ll become one of them, shrunken and shrivelled within a spectacular skin-suit and headpiece – and he can’t wait. In 2121 we see him struggle to discover why his Trust is in escrow; whether a beloved mentor has betrayed him. Chapters from 2117 and subsequent years see the Sims business in ruins and the orphans in search of alternative work, bringing Malcolm into contact with Dr Susan Greenmore and her efforts to understand the chronic fogginess that afflicts the oldest of the Heirs. From earlier than that we see episodes from his childhood in the orphanage, where the children are taught to endure and shrug off the worst that can happen: it’s all Prologue.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Ten artists by whom I own more albums than is really justified by how often I listen to them

Ten artists by whom I own more albums than is really justified by how often I listen to them:
  1. The Smashing Pumpkins
  2. Mansun
  3. Ride
  4. Ryan Adams
  5. Spiritualized
  6. Muse
  7. Nine Inch Nails
  8. Moby
  9. The Smiths
  10. Toto
How about you?

Wednesday is sometimes list day on this blog of ours. This is list #12.

Monday 25 November 2013

The Last Revelation of Gla’aki by Ramsey Campbell, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Leonard Fairman is an archivist at Brichester University, whose unwise curiosity regarding a series of occult volumes leads to his involvement in the events described by Ramsey Campbell in The Last Revelation of Gla’aki (PS Publishing, hb, 137pp; pdf ARC supplied by publisher). He is invited by Frank Lunt to Gulshaw, a run-down seaside town, to collect the series, which includes such titles as Of Humanity as Chrysalis, Of the World as Lair, On the Purposes of Night, and Of the Uses of the Dead. But Lunt has just one volume, and directs Fairman to the possessor of the next, and so it goes. Reading each of the books brings on strange thoughts and visions, and Fairman becomes desperate to leave this strange, damp, sticky little town. But everyone seems awfully pleased to have him there, and as they say: “there is so much more to see”. Or is it that there’s so much more to sea?

Friday 22 November 2013

A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

A Cold Season (Jo Fletcher Books, pb, 342pp), by Alison Littlewood, is the story of Cass and her son Ben, and what happens when they move to Darnshaw, the town where she grew up. She’s a young widow looking to reboot her life, he’s an angry little boy who misses his dad, lost to the war in Afghanistan. But when they arrive at their new home, theirs is the only apartment in Foxdene Mill that’s been finished and let, even though newspapers are piling up at the flat next door. It’s a bad start to a new life that only gets worse for Cass: bit by bit she loses the means of travel, her connection to the outside world, her ability to put food on the table, her relationship with her employer, and, worst of all, her connection to her son. All of these things have perfectly reasonable, non-supernatural explanations – snow has blocked the roads and downed the lines – but as friendly old Bert tells her, “It allus comes in like this, when he wants it.”

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Ten tips for dealing with pdf proofs

Ten tips for dealing with pdf proofs:

  1. PDF proofs are for annotating, NOT editing.
  2. Adobe Reader XI (free) has a good set of annotation tools.
  3. Sticky notes are best saved for general notes about a page or section.
  4. The Text Correction Markup tool is the best way of showing text changes.
  5. The highlight text tool is the best way of commenting on specific text and asking questions (e.g. Is this font too small?) or giving instructions. Also good for simple changes.
  6. The underline tool can be used to ask for italics.
  7. Squiggly underline can be used to ask for bold.
  8. Show don’t tell, so far as possible – e.g. if something needs deleting, a swipe with the Strikethrough tool shows it more clearly than a highlight with instructions that say what needs deleting.
  9. Repeating yourself is really, really helpful – if the same thing needs doing in ten different places, it’s really worth copying and pasting the same instruction into each comment rather than referring back to earlier comments.
  10. Users with iPads should consider getting Goodreader. It’s cheap and fantastic.
Any other tips? In particular, has anyone found anything as good as Goodreader for Android devices?

Wednesday is list day. This is list #11.

Monday 18 November 2013

Journey into Space: The World in Peril by Charles Chilton, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Journey into Space: The World in Peril (BBC Audio, digital audiobook, 10 hours; Audible purchase), written by Charles Chilton, is the third story in the saga of Jet Morgan and his crew, following on from Operation Luna and The Red Planet, both of which I adored. The CD release of this conclusion passed me by, so it was an utter delight to discover it on Audible.

The twenty-episode story begins with Jet (captain), Mitch (the engineer), Lemmy (the radio operator) and Doc (have a guess) arriving back on Earth after their disastrous Martian mission, with news of a possible Martian invasion. Put into seclusion to keep Martian agents from knowing they survived, and to prevent a panic, the boys kick their heels until a new mission comes their way: to go back to Mars. A fine reward!

Friday 15 November 2013

Jane Carver of Waar by Nathan Long, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

The heroine of Jane Carver of Waar by Nathan Long (Night Shade Books, pb, 312pp) begins her story not on the far-off Barsoomian world of the title, but here on earth, getting groped by an asshole in a Californian car park. She’s a tall, strong biker chick who trained in the Airborne Rangers, and so he’s soon dead, she’s soon on the run, and like John Carter before her she ends up in a cave whose contents transport her to another world. She was “just too fucking big for this world”, and that goes double on Waar, where she stands out like the redhead burning in the sun that she is. Despite the friends she wins with her bravery, kindness and sensitive bedroom advice, her loneliness drives her desire to get home. To do that she’ll have to help gorgeous, delicate Sai-Far, son of Shen-Far, Dhanan of Sensa.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Fifteen albums I bought without hearing a single song by that artist, and whether I like those albums now

Fifteen albums I bought without hearing a single song by that artist, and whether I like those albums now:

  1. Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, M83 (yes)
  2. Digital Dump, The Jackofficers (no)
  3. Volume 2, Echoboy (no)
  4. Surfing on Sine Waves, Polygon Window (yes)
  5. Compilations 1995-2002, Hood (not really)
  6. This Is the Day, This Is the Hour, This Is This! Pop Will Eat Itself (yes)
  7. Possessed, The Balanescu Quartet (yes)
  8. Alpha Centauri, Tangerine Dream (yes)
  9. Unreleased? Fire! with Jim O’Rourke (yes)
  10. 69 Love Songs, The Magnetic Fields (yes)
  11. Decade, Neil Young (yes)
  12. Avant Hard, Add N to (X) (yes)
  13. Endtroducing, DJ Shadow (yes)
  14. You Make Me Real, Brandt Brauer Brick (yes)
  15. The Noise Made By People, Broadcast (yes)

Have you bought any albums like that, just on the basis of good reviews, a nice album cover or an interview in the newspaper?

Wednesday is usually list day. This is list #10.

Monday 11 November 2013

Hatchet Job by Mark Kermode, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

In Hatchet Job (Picador, digital audiobook, 7 hrs 53 mins; Audible purchase) Mark Kermode, perhaps the UK’s most prominent film critic and certainly one of its most respected, covers all the big issues involved in writing reviews: being honest and only saying things you actually believe, trying to get the facts right, writing well, being entertaining, and, sometimes, changing your mind. He talks about the review as an art form in itself, and speaks scathingly of the idea that the only critics of any worth are those hoping to become film-makers. Kevin Smith, who espoused that view and, for example, cancelled the screenings of Red State for UK critics at the last minute, comes in for a great deal of criticism, as does Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News, for his habit of publishing any old nonsense that his readers might find interesting, whatever its source, and his practice of publishing anonymous reviews of unfinished films.

Friday 8 November 2013

The Empathy Effect by Bob Lock, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

In The Empathy Effect (Screaming Dreams, pb, 144pp), Bob Lock introduces Cooper Jones. Named for his father’s profession, he’s a slightly psychic traffic warden. He can sense feelings, which comes in handy on the mean streets of Swansea: it may not stop him getting punched in the stomach, but on a good day it’ll give him time to clench. In this short comic novel he teams up with Albrecht von Wallenstein the Fourteenth (Alby for short), a testicular retriever who seems to share his special gift, to investigate the case of a missing girl.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Avoiding author meltdowns: twelve tips for reviewers

In my experience, the vast majority of authors are absolutely lovely, but a handful are terrors and everyone has their bad days and tender spots. Bear in mind that these are tips for avoiding author meltdowns, not necessarily rules for reviewing in general:

1. First, put out of your head the idea that you can avoid all author meltdowns. If you write honest reviews of all the books you read, they’re inevitable. All you can do is avoid some of them!

2. You might avoid reviewing a book if you’ll be the only one reviewing it, or if it’s likely to be the only review the author is going to get for a while. The longer they have to stew on it, the more likely they are to kick up a fuss.

3. So far as possible, criticise the book not the author. You’ve no idea what might have happened to the text between author and print. At a convention I once heard an editor say he had rewritten a passage to change the sexuality of a character so that they could seduce a guard and escape from a jail cell. It went to press without the author seeing it. In that case it might well be appropriate to say the book didn’t take its treatment of the character’s sexuality very seriously, but the author might justly feel aggrieved if accused of homophobia. Another book I saw went to press with the final page of one chapter turning up between other chapters much later into the book. A proofreader, noticing this, had added ellipses at the end of the chapter’s penultimate page and at the beginning of the orphan page. Again, fine to criticise the book for what would have seemed very odd to readers, but not the author’s fault (except in so far as they should have checked their proofs more a bit more carefully!). (The corollary of this is that authors must remember that reviewers are considering the entire product, not just the writer’s contribution. There’s nothing unfair about reviews that mention bad cover art, Kindle formatting, proofreading or other elements of the book that are not always within the author’s control.)

4. Try to make your review watertight and avoid woolliness. If there’s something you can’t back up, don’t include it in the review. When reviewing Alison Littlewood’s very good debut A Cold Season, I developed a wonderful theory about horror being about the loss of agency and control over your environment, and that book being the epitome of that, and somehow (I don’t remember how) Peggle was involved! It read well, but on the point of sending it to the reviews editor I suddenly thought of half a dozen counter-examples to my theory and went back to square one. Stick to what you can say with confidence, and if you’re not confident about something say as much.

5. You might want to avoid speculating about the author’s intentions or saying they should have written a different book. It can really bug them: we don’t know what they were thinking or aiming for and if you’ve got it wrong it leaves you wide open to criticism.

6. You might want to watch out for authors who make a habit of nitpicking reviews, and avoid reviewing them. Keep a list. Only review them if you’re feeling robust!

7. Where possible don’t email the review directly to the author or editor of the book. It’s when they try to thank you for it through gritted teeth that the worst things are often said.

8. Another way of avoiding trouble is, when someone thanks you for the review, to just say Thanks, or Hey, thanks, or No worries, rather than getting into a discussion. Everything you said in your review may have been carefully thought out and checked against the book, but if you let slip in an email that you thought Sandy had red hair and Ginger had blonde hair it will fuel their rage!

9. You might refuse to write negative reviews. It’s certainly an option, though not one likely to win you the respect of other reviewers. How much credit can anyone give your praise if you praise absolutely everything? If you’ve made a conscious decision to only say positive things about books, you’re not writing reviews, you’re writing appreciations. It will, however, mostly avoid author meltdowns, though even then there will be people who get angry about being praised for the wrong thing!

10. You might want to avoid writing reviews altogether. It’s inevitable that you’ll have an author lose it with you at some point, and the more reviews you write the more likely it’s going to happen.

11. You might want to keep your reviews on your own territory. Writers are I think more likely to go berserk over reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, partly because of the bigger readership, but perhaps also because there may be the thought at the back of their minds that if enough people complain, they could have the review taken down.

12. You might want to avoid Facebook. It won’t do anything to reduce meltdowns, but it makes it more likely that you’ll be happily oblivious to them!

Wednesday is sometimes list day on our blog. This is list #9.

Monday 4 November 2013

Doctor Who: The Light at the End, by Nicholas Briggs, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Doctor Who: The Light at the End, by Nicholas Briggs (Big Finish, digital audio, 2 hrs; purchased from publisher) gives us the impossible dream: a team-up of Doctors four (Tom Baker), five (Peter Davison), six (Colin Baker), seven (Sylvester McCoy) and eight (Paul McGann) in their prime, accompanied respectively by companions Leela (Louise Jameson), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), Peri (Nicola Bryant), Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Charley (India Fisher). That’s not to mention cameos from Sara Kingdom, the first three Doctors (somehow!), Jamie, Zoe, Tegan, Turlough and I’m sure many others that I missed on a first listen. With all those people involved, does the story matter? You get to hear the fourth Doctor talking to the eighth Doctor! Who cares what they’re talking about?

Friday 1 November 2013

Theme Planet by Andy Remic, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Theme Planet by Andy Remic (Solaris, pb, 384pp). Dexter Colls needs a holiday. Investigating some shady business going down in the rough side of town, he was lucky to avoid being blown up, and it’s starting to get to him. Where else would a family man take his adoring wife and more or less adoring kids but Theme Planet: it’s better than drugs, better than sex, and “if you haven’t been sick, you soon will be!” Rollercoasters stand five kilometres high and plunge an equal distance beneath the waves. A reluctant Dex slowly unwinds, encouraged by his family’s enthusiasm, and it’s shaping to be the holiday of a lifetime – until he wakes to find Katrina, Molly and Toffee missing from the hotel. Thus begins an orgy of mindless violence that won’t stop for wine, cheese and Spunky Spunk Chocolate until he gets them back.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Fifteen tips for completing NaNoWriMo

These are tips specifically to help people complete NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which challenges people to write a brand new 50,000-word novel in the month of November, from start to finish. These are not tips for writing a good novel, nor a ground-breaking novel, nor an important novel.

That’s not to say the results can’t be interesting or worthwhile. The novels I wrote while taking part in NaNoWriMo are infinitely better than any of the novels I’ve written since, because the latter don’t exist. And there’s much to be said for sometimes writing novels for your own amusement, rather than just because they might sell.

So, here are the tips:

1. Aim to write a 50,000-word novel from start to finish in a month. Yes, that’s the whole point of NaNoWriMo, but there are still people who plan to write the first 50,000 words of a fantasy brick, the back end of an unfinished project, or 50,000 words in their journal. If you’re not writing a novel from start to finish, you’ll be a hanger-on, and that’ll sap your enthusiasm for whatever project you’re trying to crowbar into NaNoWriMo. Use another month to write your memoirs.

2. Plan to write the kind of novel that is well-suited to being written in a month. Some novels are easier to write than others. Books with one point of view, with linear timelines, with quests from A to B, etc, or books that draw on clear memories, develop long-held beliefs and ideas, and are set in locations you know well. NaNoWriMo isn’t the best time to write books about the overlapping lives of multiple time-travelling, world-hopping protagonists, nor books that require historical accuracy and extensive research.

3. Write a treatment to narrow your focus. Before you start writing there are a million ways the book could go, which is exciting, but it can be hard to think very far into the novel until you’ve made some firm decisions. Take a sheet of A4 paper and set out your novel’s characters, plot, themes, setting and twists, just as if you were trying to sell an agent, editor or movie producer on the idea. If you’re not happy with it, write another, and another, till you are happy. Each one will only take half an hour or so: much better than getting thirty hours into writing the actual novel and then realising your mistakes.

4. Aim to write 1666 words a day. If you keep doing it each day it’ll build up your writing muscles. If you can’t make 1666, try to write at least something every day, anything to push that word count up. One day without writing can easily turn into two or three and before you know it you’re putting it off to the weekend and facing an uphill struggle.

5. Give yourself a nice, clear job to do each day. I tend to split my NaNoWriMo novels up into thirty chunks, one per day/writing session. It helps to be able to wake up each morning and think, this evening I’ll be writing a chapter where my character goes to see a psychiatrist to deal with his anger issues and discovers the psychiatrist is an alien. And make sure you get that task done. Tomorrow you have another. Don’t get up to 40,000 words and realise you’re still writing the prologue!

6. Draw a map as you go along. I’m not big on world-building: I don’t think it’s necessary for the kind of novels best written in NaNoWriMo. But drawing a map instantly suggests plots and events. How do they get over that mountain? Why is that city surrounded by forests? Who lives in that house on the edge of town? It’s also a good idea to draw a line marking your characters’ progress around the map, noting the dates and times they arrived at and departed from each location.

7. Use your router to block your internet access during the times of day when you’ll be writing, and have someone else set the password. In fact, do everything you can to dedicate a set part of every day to your writing.

8. Stop watching television for the month. Let it build up on the TiVo or Sky+. The only reason you’ve never written a novel before is that you haven’t set enough time aside for it. A novel this length is going to take something like 40 to 60 hours to write. Cut out two hours of television a day and you’ll be well on the way. If you can’t bear to quit the television, give up the Xbox, or reading, or drinking, or however it is that you spent your time last month.

9. Feeling stuck? Never ask yourself what should come next. Ask yourself what could come next. Your character’s thoughts on whether time should be decimalised (clue: it should!) may not be relevant to the plot you have planned, but if you can’t think what else to write, that’s a way to keep moving forward. You can always delete any crap in the second draft. You may find that the digressions turn out to be the best bits.

10. Give your characters a reason to talk to each other, different ways of reacting to things. When you’re struggling to make your word count, having a bunch of idiots jibber-jabber can be very useful. Give them different points of view. Think of something happening in Friends. How does Joey react? (Stupidly.) What about Chandler? (Sarcastically.) Rachel, Ross, Monica or Phoebe? (Selfishly, academically, anxiously, weirdly.) Every new reaction is a way to push up your word count.

11. Ignore the naysayers! Every time NaNoWriMo comes around you get lots of people, often professional writers, sniffily proclaiming their disdain of the event. No wonder, when you think about it: you’re doing for fun what they do for a job, and that can be irritating for them. They’re writing for the man, you’re writing for your inner child. Although some do take part, NaNoWriMo isn’t aimed at professional novelists who spend all day every day staring at a keyboard: writing a fifty thousand word novel in a month isn’t any challenge at all to someone who has all day to write. (Full time, you could be done in under a fortnight.) It’s for people who have other jobs, who wouldn’t clear the space to write a novel otherwise. And remember, however bad your novel ends up being, it has a valuable quality rare in commercially published work: it’s the book you wanted to write, not the book you thought would sell.

12. Give your main character some of the same interests as you. It makes it much easier to win. If you’re mad about the cancellation of Happy Endings, and your character is too, that gives you something to fall back on when you run out of steam. And you know what, while you’re writing what seems to you at first like a digression, your brain is working on a way to integrate it into your plot. An episode of Happy Endings will come to mind that reflects the situation your characters are in, your characters will start talking about that, and maybe it’ll help them to figure a way out.

13. Attend the local write-ins if you can, as long as they are actually focused on writing. The social pressure of being among other people who are quietly typing away makes it easier for you to do the same.

14. If you fall behind a bit, don’t immediately set yourself a increased daily target or try to catch it all up the next day. Focus on getting 1666 words done in a day, and then try to get the hang of writing 1666 words in a single writing session. Once you are confident about doing that, schedule two sessions for a day on which you’ll have time to give it a fair shot.

15. A bit late for this year, but learn to touch-type, ideally using the Dvorak layout. Makes it so much easier if you can type all day without your fingers aching. And look after your fingers this month: don’t play any button-mashing videogames. (Future Stephen, this means you: no Dynasty Warriors!)

Back when John and I were the Birmingham MLs, we created a handout for our local writers, with achievements, graphs to fill in, bits of advice, useful websites, etc. We haven’t updated it for a while, but it’s still available to download and print out on our old website.

Do you have any tips? Pass them on in the comments.

Good luck! See you at the finish line!

Wednesday is usually the list day on our blog. This is list #8.

Monday 28 October 2013

Doctor Who and the Planet of the Daleks, read by Mark Gatiss, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

I’ve lost track of how often I’ve read the Target edition of Doctor Who and the Planet of the Daleks (AudioGO, digital audiobook, 3 hrs 3 mins; Audible purchase) by Terrance Dicks, but as soon as I saw this new reading by Mark Gatiss (with Dalek voices by Nicholas Briggs) it attracted the attention of my monthly Audible token. That voice! Imagine him reading this: “The cover illustration of this book portrays the third Doctor Who, whose physical appearance was altered by the Time Lords when they banished him to the planet Earth in the twentieth century.” In the first story of his fourth season, the third Doctor (with the help of his earlier selves) had won back the right to travel in time and space, but as usual flew straight into serious trouble. First came the drashigs, and then the incipient space war between the human and Draconian empires, a war engineered by the dastardly Daleks to pave the way for their invasion. This story begins with Jo Grant watching over the injured Doctor, the Tardis being sent by the Time Lords to Spiridon. She’ll soon venture out for help, and end up in the hands of its invisible inhabitants, but as the title suggests, this is no longer their planet. The Doctor will eventually wake and go looking for Jo, only to meet a squad of Thals, here to destroy a Dalek base at any cost.

Friday 25 October 2013

Doctor Who: Shada, reviewed by Jacob Edwards

Doctor Who: Shada by Douglas Adams (BBC DVD, 2013). A thirty-third anniversary celebration or a subdued twenty-first? Tricky stuff, time travel…

Season 17 (1979/1980) of Doctor Who was script-edited by Douglas Adams, and was to have concluded with Adams’s six-part serial Shada. When two studio recording blocks (five days) were lost to industrial action, production on Shada was cancelled. Adams’s last work on Doctor Who went unfinished (gone but not forgotten; Adams subsequently incorporated Professor Chronotis and the Cambridge setting into Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency). Thirty-three years on, the recorded footage for Shada has been released on DVD, along with an extra DVD of special features. Firstly, to these:

Monday 21 October 2013

We See a Different Frontier, edited by Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad | review by Stephen Theaker

We See a Different Frontier (The Future Fire, ebook, 3447ll; Kindle purchase), edited by Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad, is an anthology of sixteen stories, and also a special issue of the magazine The Future Fire, which publishes fantasy work with a political edge. After a year’s hiatus, the magazine encouraged applications from potential guest editors. That led first to Outlaw Bodies, edited by Lori Selke, and now to this book. The submission guidelines set an interesting challenge: to approach science fiction from the point of view not of those pushing the frontier out, in their wagon trains to the stars, but from the perspective of those who have experienced the expanding frontier from the other side. When I read the guidelines, my thoughts went towards the alien experience of human expansion, but the introduction makes it clear that the editors were more interested in “us, the aliens from Earth. Foreigners. Strangers to the current dominant culture.” And so only a few of the stories are set in space, most being set here on Earth, using science fiction to address historical, contemporary and controversial issues directly, rather than retreating to the safe Star Trekkian distance of metaphorical alien planets.

Friday 18 October 2013

Astronauts, reviewed by Jacob Edwards

Astronauts, by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie (Network DVD; original ITV run: 26 October – 7 December 1981 (Series 1); 19 July – 23 August 1983 (Series 2)). Goodies two, Astronauts nil…and the audience is bushnana’d.

Britain’s first ever manned space mission sees an unlikely crew – two men, one woman, one dog – cooped up together for six months trying to break the world endurance record. Cut off from Planet Earth, guided only by an American mission controller (who has to be taught the correct way to read them the football scores), the astronauts must face up to both excruciating boredom and the extreme perils of isolation.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Theakerly thoughts #8: X-Files, Nanowrimo, Bullet Journal

Thought 1. I was quite disappointed when the X-Files reunion panel at San Diego Comic Con failed to produce any significant announcements, which made the panel seem a bit pointless. That appearance, and the one at the New York Comic Con this week, make a bit more sense in the light of stories like this. It sounds like Chris Carter and the stars want to make a third film, and the current publicity round is to show Fox that there’s interest in one. I hope it works, although the problems with the second film were nothing to do with the budget, and everything to do with lousy logic. (If someone claiming to be a psychic leads you to a corpse, and then fails to lead you to a second one, you wouldn’t kick them out on their butts for being fake psychics, you’d question them to find out how they knew about the first body!) Both actors have gone on to success with other projects which I’d guess makes them more comfortable with returning to those defining roles. Among other things, Gillian Anderson was brilliant in Hannibal, and David Duchovny is brilliant if despicable in Californication. (X-Filers are recommended to watch season 4, episode 10 of that show, if no other.) My hope, though, is not really for a film. I want new episodes on Netflix, Arrested Development-style.

Thought 2. Nanowrimo! It’s been a long, long time now since I succeeded at Nanowrimo. In fact, I haven’t finished writing a novel at all, Nanowrimo or not, since stepping down as one of the Birmingham MLs. I think it’s because I haven’t really committed to it, starting it out of habit most years without really caring whether I get a novel finished or not, and I have been very happily busy with work for the last few years. Two years ago I went offline for a month to get it done, in theory, but never got properly started. Also, I haven’t been going to the write-ins, and I used to regularly write 5000 words in the course of our Sunday afternoons at Starbucks. This year I feel very differently. I’m desperate to write another novel – I’m getting anxious about it again. I’m planning to take a week’s holiday at some point in the month to concentrate on it, and I’ve set aside each night from nine to midnight for writing. I’ve been forcing myself to write at least 250 words a day to build up my writing muscles. Checking the figures, I’ve actually averaged 449 words a day over the last 56 days, which is a way off the 1666 a day needed to complete Nanowrimo but a lot more than I managed during the last few Nanowrimos. And I’ve been working like mad this month to get ahead of everything. I’m also going to stop reading books and comics five days before the end of this month, so that I’m not tempted to spend time writing reviews during November instead of my novel, and so that the only story I’m ever thinking about is my own. I won’t say anything about the plot here, because I’ll probably end up publishing it in character, under a pseudonym, but I’m quite happy with the basic concept, and my notebook’s pages are filling up with plans and ideas. I’ve had an idea for one brilliant twist and I can’t wait to write that bit! I doubt that the novel overall will be any good, because none of the novels I have ever written have been any good, but writing them does make me happy. The widgets below should, once November has started, show you how I'm getting on.

Thought 3. Very good news about the Patrick Troughton Doctor Who episodes being found. I’m on a spending freeze, as I recover from paying for a holiday and look forward to Christmas and paying my taxes, so they’ve had to go on my Amazon wishlist for now, but Boxing Day is going to be wonderful this year. Amazing to think how careless the BBC was with these treasures. All three series of my beloved Journey into Space were thought lost for decades before being discovered, misfiled, by an engineer. Makes me worry sometimes what treasures of the future might be going into my recycling bin.

Thought 4. Our old friend Steven Gilligan once bought John and me matching moleskine notebooks, telling us how brilliant they were and how many artists love them, etc, etc. We were a bit baffled at the time, but I think he’d be glad to know that one has finally become a big part of my life, because I’ve been using the Bullet Journal method. The big things I like about it are the numbered pages, the contents page that builds up as you use the journal, and the page you create at the beginning of each month listing its days and events. My journal’s now got a bunch of pages relating to this year’s Nanowrimo, others devoted to notes from our monthly TQF meetings, pages listing books read and films watched. The system’s worth a look, especially if like me you have a tendency to scatter your notes and ideas around a bit too much.

Thought 5. My writing appears in the magazines reviewed here and here by Terry Weyna. Unsurprisingly, there’s no particular mention of my brief contributions, but I liked this bit in the Interzone review: “There are nearly 30 pages of book and film reviews following the fiction, written by several reviewers and critics, all eloquent and knowledgeable about science fiction and fantasy, as well as perceptive writers.” Phew – I’m still getting away with it!

Monday 14 October 2013

Insufferable: The Complete First Season by Mark Waid and Peter Krause, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Insufferable: The Complete First Season (Thrillbent, ebook, 557pp; Comixology purchase) is written by Mark Waid, a writer whose work I’ve always liked, but who to my mind has stepped up a level of late, with art by Peter Krause, the two of them co-creating the series. It tells the story of a superhero and his sidekick, who fell out a couple of years ago: Nocturnus and Galahad. Think Batman and Robin, round about the time Dick Grayson got into a snit, dropped the yellow cape and became Nightwing. Now imagine if Dick had revealed Batman’s secret identity on live television. And in response Bruce had burned down Wayne Manor and gone into hiding while Dick became a celebrity idiot obsessed with fame and money. Then imagine Bruce and Dick were… well, no spoilers. Two years later, old enemies are returning to the fray and the dysfunctional duo are pushed back into collaboration, despite all the resentments.

Friday 11 October 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness, reviewed by Jacob Edwards

Star Trek Into Darkness, directed by J.J. Abrams. Star Trek and stripes: the warp against terror.

When Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) violates the Federation Starfleet’s prime directive – not to meddle in the development of emerging civilisations, no matter how well-intentioned the interference – he is demoted and left to ponder what is truly meant by the words “command” and “responsibility”. Barely has he begun to do so, however, before Starfleet agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) turns rogue and initiates a terrorist strike that threatens to bring about war between the United Federation of Planets and its would-be enemies, the ferocious Klingons. Reinstated to the Starship Enterprise and armed now with seventy-two of the Federation’s photon torpedo prototypes, Kirk grinds vengeful teeth and leads his crew in pursuit of Harrison… who has taken himself off to the Klingon homeworld and is perhaps something more than he first appears.

Monday 7 October 2013

Star Trek: Titan #1: Taking Wing, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

The idea of a novel series putting William Riker in command of his own starship is very appealing. The guy deserves it. However, Star Trek: Titan #1: Taking Wing by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels (Pocket books, ebook, 5700ll; Kindle purchase), first in the Star Trek: Titan series, does him no justice. It begins during the events of the painfully dull and frustrating Star Trek: Nemesis, which perhaps explains why it took me eight years to read more than the first few pages. Poor old Spock is shown to be still stuck in hiding on Romulus – where he was parked in the Next Generation two-parter “Reunification” – when Tom Hardy makes his bid for power.

Friday 4 October 2013

Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn, reviewed by Jacob Edwards

Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn (Ballantine, 393pp). Once a force, ensnared now by grappling tendrils, unsurprisingly the colossus must stumble.

The Imperial Death Star has been destroyed – no small thanks to Han Solo – but Han has lost his reward money, and so he and Chewbacca must find some other way to pay back Jabba the Hutt. Retrieving stolen credit tabs from a Black Sun sector chief might seem a risky prospect, especially while his Falleen boss is staying as houseguest, but a torpid, slobbering Hutt is driving Han’s needs; and besides, the payoff for this job promises to be as big as the safe is impregnable. Trusting to his gambler’s luck, Han starts putting a team together.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #45: free download, cheap in print!

Hey, Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #45 is now available and features four stories: “The Colour of the Wind Erodes the Shape of Time” by Howard Watts, “We Slept Through the Apocalypse” by Howard Phillips, “Kingdom Automata” by Katharine Coldiron and “Carcosa, Found” by Robin Wyatt Dunn. The typically tedious editorial concerns my recent conversion to the cult of Scrivener.

The issue also includes six book reviews by Stephen Theaker (Arctic Rising, Finches of Mars, The Resurrectionist, Alien Legion Omnibus, Claudia’s Story and Saga, Vol. 2), two film reviews by Jacob Edwards (Elysium and Man of Steel), and one film review each from Douglas J. Ogurek (The Conjuring) and Howard Watts (Star Trek Into Darkness) (who also supplies the cover art).


Paperback edition: on Amazon.co.uk / on Amazon.com
Epub version (free)
Mobi version (free)
PDF version (free)
Kindle Store: on Amazon.co.uk / on Amazon.com

All 44 back issues are also available for free download, in various formats.


Douglas J. Ogurek’s work has appeared in such publications as the BFS Journal, Dark Things V, Daughters of Icarus, The Literary Review, Morpheus Tales and WTF?! He lives in Gurnee, Illinois with the woman whose husband he is and their five pets. His website: www.douglasjogurek.weebly.com.

Howard Phillips is one of this magazine’s most prolific contributors. Poet, musician, philosopher, critic: he does it all, though none of it well. In this issue’s episode of his memoirs, “We Slept Through the Apocalypse” (also to be the title of this novel as a whole when eventually published), he remembers the time he held an impromptu music festival on a farm.

Howard Watts is a writer, artist and composer living in Seaford who provides not only the cover to this issue, but also a story (“The Colour of the Wind Erodes the Shape of Time”) and a review!

Jacob Edwards supplies us this issue with in-depth reviews of Man of Steel and Elysium. But his heart still belongs to Australia’s speculative fiction flagship Andromeda Spaceways, and he edited issues 45 and 55 of their Inflight Magazine. The website of this writer, poet and recovering lexiphanicist: www.jacobedwards.id.au.

Katharine Coldiron’s work has appeared in The Escapist, JMWW, Unlikely Stories, and elsewhere. She lives in California, blogs at The Fictator (fictator.blogspot.com), and contributes “Kingdom Automata” to this issue.

Robin Wyatt Dunn lives in southern California and is the author of three novels. A member of the Horror Writers Association, he is proud to have been born in the Carter Administration. You can find him at www.robindunn.com. He contributes “Carcosa, Found”.

Stephen Theaker is the eponymous co-editor of Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, and his reviews have also appeared in Interzone, Black Static, Prism and the BFS Journal. He wishes there were Kindle and Comixology apps for the Xbox 360.