Wednesday 30 April 2014

Ten Kindles I have known

I do love a Kindle, as I’m sure you know by now if you have ever visited this blog before. I think I’ve used at least ten different Kindles, but let’s see. I write this knowing it won’t interest anyone but me. But I will find it fascinating.

1. The iPad Kindle app, which by checking my iTunes receipts I can see I got in the week of 13 May 2010. In fact, it’s the very first item on my very first iTunes receipt. I’d had a pair of Sony Readers and though I used them a lot, I only bought a few books in that format (from WH Smith, weirdly), because they were so expensive, such a faff to get on there, and I had lots of review stuff to keep me occupied. I did give iBooks a try (another iTunes receipt tells me that on 12 June 2010 I bought Neal Asher’s Shadow of the Scorpion) on there, but the iPad was a bit big for reading at length, and I couldn’t conveniently take it with me anywhere to read. Even now that it’s 37 generations behind the times I’m still reluctant to get it out in public. Funny now to think that when it first came out, sensible people were calling the iPad a Kindle killer. More like a stalking horse.

2. International Kindle (version 2). After settling for that pair of Sony Readers while impatiently waiting for Amazon to release the Kindle here, and then using the iPad app, this was my first actual Kindle. At this point they were still being shipped from the US. There’s a lot to like about this Kindle, not least that it still, even now, has absolutely free 3G internet access, and unlike more recent iterations it’s not restricted to browsing the Amazon store and receiving publications. You can use it to browse the wider web, albeit fairly slowly. It also has a nice little pair of speakers and a keyboard (which was a big selling point for me after struggling to make notes on the Sony Readers), sits nicely in your hand because its width lets it balance, and it has nice big buttons for clicking forward and back between pages. I still use this one from time to time.

3. Kindle (version 3, wi-fi only). Retrospectively renamed the Kindle Keyboard, the first of these I bought was for Mrs Theaker, and I was jealous of its wi-fi, which for the first time let documents be emailed to it without incurring a charge, and the ability to change the contrast of text in pdfs – useful for many review pdfs. One thing I don’t like about Mrs Theaker’s Kindle version 3 is that the keyboard buttons are a bit scratchy.

4. Kindle (version 3, wi-fi only). This one was mine. I just got too jealous of Mrs Theaker’s and bought myself one. Not quite as easy to hold as the v2, and the keyboard lost the number row, but as well as the features mentioned above it had one that made it ideal for an internet addict for me: it could only access the internet if the wifi router allowed it, and I made sure it didn’t. That meant no breaking away from reading to check my email just one more time before sleeping. The v3 had nice speakers too, and plenty of room for audiobooks.

5. Kindle (version 3, wi-fi only). Being an idiot I once put my v3 under my pillow and then leant on it with my elbow. Amazon let me have a new one for £40 in return for sending them the broken one, and I still use it quite often, especially for reading comics (the panel view is glitchy on the Paperwhite) and listening to audiobooks and music (I keep the new Pixies MP3s on it).

6. Kindle Android app on Google Nexus. I want to like this, and it’s slowly getting better, but it has problems. It doesn’t use the full height of the Nexus screen, and you can’t turn the brightness of the screen down to a bearable level. If I’m reading on the Nexus, I tend to use Play Books instead, which doesn’t have those problems.

7. Kindle Android app on Samsung phone. I want to like this more than I do, but the phone is always running out of power and slow to respond and by the time the app has loaded itself and loaded a book I’m often past the point where I needed something to read.

8. Kindle Paperwhite. I wasn’t that impressed by this model at first: it certainly didn’t live up to the promise of its name, and was quickly dubbed the Kindle Ghostlight in our house. The backlight caused strange shadows at the bottom of the screen, and could never be switched entirely off, giving it an eerie green glow. But it grew on me very quickly, for a few reasons. Its case is lovely, and switches it on automatically. All the screen, except left and top bars, can be tapped for next page, so you can hold it in lots of different positions and there’s no need for irritating swipes. No internet browsing on 3G, only book shopping, which means I don’t waste time checking my email on it. The downside: from the day I got a Paperwhite I had to negotiate in order to read in bed with the lamp on, and that’s made me very, very slow to read paper books, to the point where I’ve told publishers to stop sending them to us for review.

9. Kindle Desktop. I would like this a lot more if you could access your personal documents on it, since review copies make up a lot of my reading. It’d be really handy to browse my notes on the Kindle Desktop, side by side with the reviews I’m writing. Instead I have to cross refer to a physical Kindle. Disappointing.

10. Kindle Cloud Reader. Quite handy, but again suffers from a lack of personal documents, for me at least.

That’s a lot of Kindles. There are quite a few Kindles I’ve never tried, but the two I wish I’d had were the original, and the big Kindle DX. I was desperate for a DX at one point, but the lack of wifi and the way it couldn’t annotate pdfs meant it was never going to be a sensible use of my money. Still want one though.

Kindles that don’t yet exist that I would like: Kindle on Xbox, a little phone-sized Kindle, and Kindle on Google Glasses. That’s what I’ve always dreamed of – to be able to read while walking around, without walking into lamp-posts.

Wednesday is occasionally list day on the blog, though not as frequently this year because I have been so busy, and this is list #17. I would describe this as our most boring yet, but I fear my muse would take that as a challenge.

Monday 28 April 2014

La Vallée Infernale by Henri Vernes, read by Stephen Theaker

La Vallée Infernale (in Tout Bob Morane 1, Les Éditions Ananké, ebook, 10,308ll) by Henri Vernes is the first novel in the long-running Bob Morane series, which doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact in Anglophone countries. Post-WWII Bob is working as a courier pilot for a shifty operator who has him run some scallywags to Papua New Guinea.

It’s supposed to be an flyover, but upon arrival they demand to land, and when Bob declines they force a crash, into an area cut off by mountains, ruled by dangerous tribes, and far from safety. His honour forces Bob to attempt the protection of the idiots who have landed him in the mess.

But what to do when they announce their intention to steal the emerald eyes of a statue worshipped by a nearby tribe? And what of their willingness to slay the entire tribe by machine gun should it be necessary? Bob’s only friends in this situation are his two firm fists and his loyal Scottish chum. The chances of them escaping intact seem desperately slim.

It’s probably more appropriate to describe this as a reading of La Vallée Infernale rather than a review, because, as usual, having read a book in the original French I can never be sure how well I’ve understood it. (It’s hard enough understanding the books I’ve read in English!) For example, in this novel I read the following: “Morane tendait le bras vers les deux prisonniers entravés à leurs poteaux, de chaque côté de l’idole”.

I took that to mean “Morane held out an arm towards the two prisoners boiling in their pots, on either side of the idol”, and immediately sprang to Twitter to decry the book’s old-fashioned racism. In fact, “poteaux” means “posts”, and “entravés” means “chained”. Now, in that case it’s not as if I grossly misjudged the book – the men were still going to be eaten by cannibals with bones through their noses! But the potential for such tiny mistranslations to be scattered through the whole book would make a review unfair.

What I adore about Bob Morane is that he is no rock. He is a tough fighter, of course, but he is prey to crippling fear and doubts, an existentialist action hero. A typical passage reads: “Une sueur glacée noyait son front, tandis qu’il se répétait en lui-même: ‘Tu dois réussir, Bob. Il faut que tu réussisses!’” (An icy sweat drowned his brow, while he repeated to himself, “You must succeed, Bob. You must!”)

One thing that puzzled me about this novel was why Bob let his villain escape so often. He knows the guy’s after the emerald eyes of the idol, he knows that he’s ready to kill men, women and children to get it, and yet Bob lets him stroll around free as a bird. I expect Bob becomes less trusting in later volumes, not so ready to take the word of a cad.

I enjoyed this novel immensely, despite its dated elements, because Bob himself is such an interesting character. He’s been a huge influence on my little-read Howard Phillips series of stories, where I try to put a hero with similarly overdeveloped sensibilities into traditional action hero situations. With the series of omnibus editions now available as ebooks – and included in the Kindle lending library – I’m sure it won’t be the last of the series I read. Ideal for anyone learning to read French.

Monday 21 April 2014

Wonder Woman Unbound, by Tim Hanley, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

In Wonder Woman Unbound (Chicago Review Press, pb, c.322pp), subtitled The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine, Tim Hanley takes a look at the history of DC’s best-known female superhero, with a particular focus on her earliest stories and the man who created her, William Moulton Marston, and his interest in an idiosyncratic brand of bondage-led feminism. The book explores Hanley’s theory that “every version of Wonder Woman has been simultaneously progressive and problematic”, with parts devoted to the Golden Age, Silver Age and Bronze Age versions of the character.

Unfortunately, the literary logic is seriously flawed throughout, to an extent that will ruin the book for some readers. It is dedicated to a reading of the comics not on their own terms, but in relation to other works. What William Moulton Marston said in interviews or wrote in other novels is used to supposedly prove what he meant by this or that in Wonder Woman and Sensation Comics. (And that supposed proof is later used to dismiss the feminist interpretations of the seventies as misreadings of the character.)

One source of such insight is the novel Venus With Us, regarding which we are told that “in many ways, Caesar was an analogue of Marston, so it stands to reason that when we read Caesar’s thoughts on bondage and submission, these words reflect what Marston thought were acceptable, enlightened practices”. Hanley is almost admirably unafraid to take such leaps into the literary unknowable. “Reading Caesar as Marston’s representative,” he declares, “these scenes are essentially an endorsement of finding sexual pleasure in dominance.”

One section deals at length with the question of how Marston might have heard of a bondage device used in a Wonder Woman story. A newspaper article ten years before had mentioned something similar: “If Marston didn’t read the article, he still knew a lot about the prison and the brank. But if he did, it affected him so strongly that he remembered it for a decade.” Either he knew about it already, or he read about it and didn’t forget – either way, guilty! None of this makes much sense.

It’s a similar story when it comes to the question of Wonder Woman’s sexuality, and that of her friends on Paradise Island and abroad. “So was Wonder Woman a lesbian?” Hanley asks. “To answer that question we have to go beyond the comic book itself” – which is exactly what you shouldn’t do. He decides that “Wonder Woman … must have enjoyed female love relationships in a sexually pleasurable manner”, despite the absence of textual evidence. We are told to “really read between the lines”.

Moving on to later writer Robert Kanigher’s declaration in an interview that all the Amazons were lesbians, Hanley says that while “Kanigher never had Wonder Woman engage in any sort of romantic or sexual relationship with another woman, it’s hard to get much clearer than that”. But of course it could easily be much clearer, that is, if the comic did show her in such relationships, and didn’t show her (or Diana Prince) mooning over Steve Trevor. Kanigher’s comment tells us only what he thinks, not what the comics actually say.

The two big questions about Wonder Woman are barely addressed here. Firstly, why are her comics as dull as the book makes them sound? Reading this book wouldn’t leave anyone with any desire to read a Wonder Woman comic, except in so far as they had an interest in seeing her tied up. (Needless to say, I bought a copy of Wonder Woman #1. She did get tied up a lot, but unlike Batman and Robin she wasn’t punched very often.) There’s surprisingly little to suggest the author actually enjoys reading Wonder Woman comics. The book notes the “lack of iconic stories”, without exploring why that might be. (Perhaps it’s that Greek mythology is available to every other character to use as well, leaving her with little territory of her own.)

And secondly, given that her comics have often been so dull, why is she still so popular? The closest the book comes to answering that question is in a passage by Gloria Steinem from a Ms magazine book of Wonder Woman reprints, quoted here in order to criticise it for downplaying the “troublesome aspects” of the older stories. Steinem writes that “all these doubts paled beside the relief, the sweet vengeance, the toe-wriggling pleasure of reading about a woman who was strong, beautiful, courageous, and a fighter for social justice”.

We are advised that this “put Steinem and her friends on a slippery slope to missing Marston’s message entirely” – as if Marston’s message was all that mattered. “Authorial intent is important”, Hanley writes, “the Ms take on Wonder Woman has overwritten Marston’s actual intent for Wonder Woman”, and “it wasn’t actually his messages that were being celebrated” – as if any of that matters one bit.

The title of the book is quite wrong – this isn’t an examination of Wonder Woman Unbound. It’s about her binding. In a literal sense at first, and then later as her feminism and then her powers were taken away away, and her story options narrowed. She began as a champion of peace, and eventually became a Klingon in star-spangled briefs, though the book has lost interest in her by that point. Post-Perez storylines receive little more than a passing mention, while the discussion of George Perez misses an open goal – his work in pornographic live-action superhero wrestling, which would have tied into the focus of the book’s earlier chapters rather nicely!

Perhaps it is unfair to treat this as if it’s an academic piece of writing that comes up short. It appears to be aimed at a mainstream, comics-loving audience who will find the background information about Marston interesting – as did I. But it’s hard to escape the impression that this is a book with just one idea: to point out that not enough attention is paid to William Moulton Marston having at least a theoretical interest in bondage. It ends by saying that “to forget her past is to miss what makes Wonder Woman such a great hero” – an odd conclusion unless the author feels present-day Wonder Woman comics don’t show her being tied up enough.

Monday 14 April 2014

Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Her travel guide to New York having done well, despite a series of supernatural calamities that occurred in the course of its writing, Zoë Norris is given a new assignment by her editor at Underground Publishing: the supernatural tourist’s guide to New Orleans. She takes a hand-picked team of writers with her: two vampires, one of whom would kill her now if it wasn’t against company policy, a goddess of death, a Valkyrie, and a baby dragon, Bertie.

Her sadsack boyfriend Arthur tags along too. He’s on the way out, both metaphorically, because their relationship isn’t going anywhere, and literally, in that he’s been bitten by a zombie and he’s out of the magic medicine that has so far stopped him turning. (“Would he rot? Would he stink? What would sex be like?”) His dangerous search for a cure comes at an inconvenient time. Zoë has a book to edit, undead parties to attend, voodoo gods to meet.

Plus, the city itself is being a bit of a pain in the neck. Zoë has just found out that she is a citytalker, a supernatural being herself, and in New Orleans she’ll find out much more about what that means – the powers it gives her, and the target it paints on her back. She’ll get to know a friendly ghost who once had similar powers, find out more about the supposed peacekeeping activities of the Public Works, and have her willpower tested by her attraction to a series of unsuitable hunks.

The tone is light, misery when it comes played as quick, sharp melodrama. It’s a corner of the Buffyverse where demons and vampires hold down steady jobs instead of working towards the apocalypse. The characters are entertainingly tetchy, ready to jump down each other’s throats (or sink fangs into them) at the wrong word. The writers are thoroughly unimpressed with their editor, and let her know about it constantly. Zoë is little better herself – she and Arthur are consistently grumpy with everyone from whom they need help.

The interpolation between the chapters of this book of chapters and appendices of Zoë’s finished tourist guide was a bit off-putting in the contents list, but they are kept short and do nothing to break the flow of the book, being used subtly to underline important details and foreshadow future events. It is a sequel and there’s a fair bit of backstory to catch up on, but the setting of a new city makes it easy to jump in.

Ghost Train to New Orleans (Orbit, ebook, 4604ll) should appeal to anyone who enjoyed Paul Magrs’ Brenda novels, and anyone who enjoys this should give those a look too. Fantasy fans will enjoy bits like the nods to Red Dwarf (her lazy goldfish Lister and his friend Kochanski), Doctor Who (Tom Baker or David Tennant?), and “the George R.R. Martin fitness plan” (lugging his books around). I had a lot of fun with this book. It finds the sweet spot between too silly and too serious and steams straight through it. Recommended.

Friday 11 April 2014

Template by Matthew Hughes, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

There are few things I find more enjoyable than a Matthew Hughes novel, and it’s a struggle to stop myself gorging on them at the expense of everything else. Template (self-published, ebook, 4865ll) is a book from 2008, new to me, recently republished. Like most of the Hughes books previously reviewed here, it is set among the Ten Thousand worlds of the Spray, under the subtle rule of the Archonate.

Conn Labro is an exceptional sportsman, brilliant at everything from fencing to chess, and he takes on all-comers at Horder’s Gaming Emporium – which owns him. Hallis Tharp has paid in advance for a lifetime of his services: a weekly two-hour game of paduay. On one occasion, Tharp is not ready for the game, and Conn goes to investigate.

Tharp is dead, and he has left Conn with enough money to buy his freedom, as well as the deed to a mysterious property, in the shape of a small bead. Troubled by feelings he does not understand, and after an attempt upon his own life, Conn leaves his homeworld Thrais and travels with Tharp’s concerned neighbour Jenore to Old Earth and beyond to solve the mystery.

These are the adventures of an innocent abroad, though in this case the innocent is not from some idyllic, magical paradise. He’s from a planet where no one does anything unless it benefits them financially, and is “pitched from its familiar confines into a wider universe that was rife with whole worlds ruled by mass delusion” – that is, the delusion that one should ever do anything without being paid.

When it serves to further his goals, Conn sometimes describes himself as a professional duellist. And that’s how he approaches every conversation, like a fencing match to be won or lost. A character who so unerringly finds the right phrase with which to run through his opponents is perhaps unrealistic, but it’s highly enjoyable. He has one blind spot: right over his heart.

My reviews of this author’s books must now come with the disclaimer that I’m a fan. His books make me feel like a mouse whose pleasure centres are being deliberately tripped in a scientific experiment upon its brain. That disclaimer aside, I thought this was excellent. Conn has a fascinating personality, his romance with Jenore is sweet, the mysteries intrigue and the action excites. Brilliant.

Monday 7 April 2014

Divergent, reviewed by Douglas J. Ogurek

Chicago plows dauntlessly into young heroine-driven dystopia subgenre

We Chicagoans recently endured one of our worst winters in recorded history. I wonder how many of us, clomping through the slush-laden Loop streets or stuck on bleak highways, saw the Divergent ads on billboards and bus wraps as not only an exciting way to launch spring, but also as a potential to extend our city’s reputation for innovation.

Director Neil Burger had quite a challenge: how to cinematically interpret the first novel of Chicagoland resident Veronica Roth’s international bestselling trilogy? Though the film has somewhat polarized critics and the general public—guess which camp doesn’t like it—Burger has created a work as navigable as Chicago’s gridded street system and as stalwart as the city’s John Hancock Center, which happens to make a cameo.

Divergent offers a future Chicago not of gleaming efficiencies and technological showmanship, but of disrepair and jilted expectations. It’s a city whose slightly modified and sometimes crumbling architectural and transportation icons stand beside yet-to-be-built skyscrapers, a city whose beloved Lake Michigan has degraded into a marsh.

A Prior Engagement
Everyone is grouped into one of five factions, each of which focuses on some value that defines its societal role. The Erudite, for instance, value knowledge and strive to eliminate the ignorance that leads to conflict, while members of the Candor faction value truth and hold positions in the field of law. Each teen takes a test to determine the faction to which he or she is best suited. The test-taker then considers the results when he or she chooses a faction.

Sixteen-year-old protagonist Beatrice Prior, whose Abnegation faction embraces self-denial, discovers that she is one of few with inconclusive test results. Thus, she is “Divergent”. Then Beatrice shocks her family when she chooses the Dauntless faction, a motley collection of thrill-seeking thugs tasked with protecting that society.

Beatrice, now self-titled “Tris”, plunges into a highly competitive and dangerous initiation process in a subculture whose members engage in reckless activities to prove their devotion to what they consider the ultimate virtue: bravery.

The Path to Dauntlessness

The majority of Divergent, the first in a series of three (or possibly four) films, focuses on Tris and other initiates’ gruelling training to obtain the physical and mental strength that characterize the Dauntless ideals.

A variety of challenges put Tris in the underdog category and pump up the tension. First, she is a small girl competing in a faction that doesn’t consider gender or size when it challenges one initiate to fight another. Second, ruthless training leader Eric reveals that some of the initiates will be cut—“It’s a new rule”—and become “factionless” (i.e. homeless and destitute). To compound the challenge, Tris is a transfer from another faction, while many of her competitors have been raised in Dauntless households and thus have a head start. All this occurs amid a background of power struggles among the corrupt Dauntless leadership.

Meanwhile, Tris must conceal her Divergent results from an increasingly threatening Erudite/Dauntless alliance, a kind of brains-meets-brawn powerhouse that targets Divergents because they threaten the rigidity that holds the faction system in place.

Erudite mastermind Jeanine, the main antagonist played by Kate Winslet (who seems to have taken her fashion cues from Hilary Clinton), has used her power to start a smear campaign against the Abnegation faction, whose members occupy the governmental positions within the society. This macro issue escalates and eventually collides with Tris.

A key strength of Divergent is that many of the scenes evoke tension, even for those who’ve read the novels. For instance, Burger tautly renders the Choosing Ceremony, in which adolescents make proud or disappoint their parents. The families, separated in groups within an amphitheatr, watch as their sons and daughters drop blood into a bowl that represents the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives.

Four’s Company

The film also introduces a burgeoning love interest between Tris and Four, a reserved Dauntless trainer with a troubled past. Four is much more subdued than the brutish and envious Eric. Still, Four is no pushover: one of the first things he says to Tris is something like, “What makes you think you can talk to me?” Charming.

Actor Theo James offers an acceptable, but not necessarily riveting performance as this pivotal character. Four speaks through his actions, like when he hurls knives around Tris’s head as she stands immobile to prove her bravery. How romantic.

As Four reveals more of himself to Tris, he comes to embody the film’s theme. Among the tapestry of tattoos on his back are symbols of each of the five factions. “I don’t want to be just one thing,” he says. “I can’t be. I want to be brave, and I want to be selfless, intelligent, and honest and kind. Well, I’m still working on kind.”

A poignant statement for today’s teens, especially in a society that pushes them away from these ideals.

All Aboard the Hoodlum Express!

Why does Tris leave her faction and join Dauntless? It’s an interesting question to ponder. One could postulate that Tris, recognizing the flaws inherent in her social system, perceives Dauntless as a means of convincing her world to overcome the absolutist philosophies that bind its inhabitants. Or here’s another possibility: Dauntless is cool.

Think about it. Here’s a girl forced to wear bulky gray clothes, a girl taught to shun herself to the point of not even looking in mirrors. Then there’s the Dauntless, whose pierced and tattooed rebels enter the film by jumping off one of the Windy City’s famed elevated trains—Chicagoans call it the “L”—then fist pumping and hollering while they run to their destination. The Billy Badasses who constitute this faction are every parent’s nightmare, and every sixteen-year-old girl’s dream! Tris wants to break free of the faction that has quashed her individuality.

Nevertheless, Tris makes a choice, and she must accept the consequences. That she does, and actress Shailene Woodley offers an admirable performance in which she effectively transfers her emotions to the viewer, especially in the film’s most tragic scene.

“Faction Before Blood”

On its surface, Divergent is about a young woman’s struggles to overcome her fears and defend herself from those who are out to get her because of what a test reveals (or doesn’t reveal). On a deeper level, it’s a cautionary tale about what happens when people lose their ability to think contextually and divide into groups with neatly packaged philosophical systems. We can’t make moral choices with a checklist.

Then there is the inevitable Hunger Games comparison. Yes, Hunger Games offers a more complex lead and makes the viewer feel closer to what’s happening on screen, but which future is more likely: one in which an oppressive leadership sponsors an annual tournament in which kids kill each other, or one in which a city divides into factions?

Today’s children, fussed over by their helicopter parents, aren’t likely to be sent to the killing arena anytime soon. We do, however, have a tendency to identify strongly with the group to which we belong. Divergent has its factions. We have our departments and teams.

The credo that drives Tris’s society is “faction before blood.” Some might believe that a society that goes to such lengths to support a narrow ideology is a thing of the past. However, Chicago Cubs and White Sox fans consistently pummel each other. If people are willing to beat each other to a bloody pulp over baseball, what will they do to support an ideology?

The critics can denounce Divergent as silly, but aren’t we all? - Douglas J. Ogurek

Friday 4 April 2014

BFS Journal #11: out now!

Sorry that things have been so quiet on the TQF blog this year – paying work has been keeping me very busy (can’t and won’t complain!) but work is progressing on the next issue of Theaker's Quarterly Fiction – and about 25 reviews I have at various stages of unreadiness.

One distraction has been that I was asked to help out on the BFS Journal for a couple of issues after it had stalled, to give the new managing editor time to train up. You can only get this 184pp paperback if you’re a BFS member, but we’ve ordered a handful of extra copies, so if you join today there’s still a chance of getting it.

Sarah Newton is the editor of this issue’s fiction:

  • The Switch, Mark Lewis
  • Electricity, Gary Couzens
  • Pawnarchy, Mark Huntley-James
  • The Eden Paradigm, Allen Ashley and Madeleine Beresford
  • A Barrow on the Border, Rima Devereaux
  • The Need to Create, Emma Newman
  • The Lost Name, Sandra Unerman
  • Baby 17, Jonathan Oliver
  • The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, M.E. Lerman

Stuart Douglas edits the non-fiction:

  • Jennie Gyllblad, interviewed by Max Edwards
  • Freda Warrington, interviewed by Alex Bardy
  • The Adventures of Brak, Mike Barrett
  • Tim Powers, interviewed by Stuart Douglas
  • Nick Campbell on The Child Garden
  • Forbidden Fruits, Ray Cluley

And Ian Hunter edits the poetry:

  • Cybernetic Mary, Deborah Walker
  • Protecting Veil, Megan Kerr
  • A Paranormal Romance, Allen Ashley

There’s also a controversial editorial by Max Edwards, a controversial chairman’s chat by Mark Barrowcliffe, and a BFS news section that has not yet attracted any controversy (but maybe no one has read it yet). Cover art by Jennie Gyllblad.