Saturday 31 January 2015

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #50 is now available for free download!

free epub | free mobi | free pdf | print UK | print USA | Kindle UK | Kindle US

Welcome to Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #50!

This three hundred and twenty-four page issue – our longest ever! – features fiction from many of our previous contributors, who have returned to help us celebrate fifty issues and ten years of Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction: Antonella Coriander, David Tallerman, Douglas J. Ogurek, Howard Phillips, Howard Watts, John Greenwood, Matthew Amundsen, Michael Wyndham Thomas, Mitchell Edgeworth, Rafe McGregor and Walt Brunston!

Plus reviews from Douglas J. Ogurek, Howard Watts, Jacob Edwards and Stephen Theaker. Stephen and members of the reviews team answer your questions in “Ask Theaker’s”! Cover artist Howard Watts takes us through his process in “Artful Theakering”! And there’s a round-up of everything Stephen Theaker read last year but didn’t have time to review! Happy fiftieth to us!

  • Fifty Issues! Stephen Theaker
  • Artful Theakering, Howard Watts
  • The Wrong Doctor, Rafe McGregor
  • The House That Cordone Built, David Tallerman
  • Dodge Sidestep’s Second Dastardly Plan, Howard Watts
  • One Is One, Michael Wyndham Thomas
  • Save the Dog, Douglas J. Ogurek
  • Heritage, Mitchell Edgeworth
  • A Murder in Heaven, Matthew Amundsen
  • A Mare’s Nest, John Greenwood
  • The Morning of Seventeen Suns, Walt Brunston
  • Love at First Sight, Howard Phillips
  • Crystal Castle Crashers, Antonella Coriander
  • Ask Theaker’s! with answers from Stephen Theaker, Douglas J. Ogurek, Howard Watts and Jacob Edwards
  • The Quarterly Review, by Stephen Theaker, Jacob Edwards, Douglas J. Ogurek, and Howard Watts, including reviews of As Above, So Below, Borderlands the Pre-Sequel, Doctor Who: Engines of War, Gatchaman, Happy, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, In the Broken Birdcage of Kathleen Fair, Interstellar, Invincible, Vol. 17: What’s Happening, Megalex: The Complete Story, Tusk and The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 1, plus ratings for everything else Stephen read in 2014
  • Also Received, But Not Yet Reviewed
  • Forthcoming Attractions

Here are the contributors to this grandest of issues:

Antonella Coriander’s story in this issue, “Crystal Castle Crashers”, is the fourth consecutive episode of her ongoing Oulippean serial.

David Tallerman writes “The House That Cordone Built”, which follows “Imaginary Prisons” (TQF29), “Friendly” (TQF31, “Glass Houses” (TQF34) and “Devilry at the Hanging Tree Inn” (TQF37). Angry Robot Books published his acclaimed Easie Damasco trilogy: Giant Thief, Crown Thief and Prince Thief. His excellent blog is called Writing on the Moon, and it’s highly recommended.

Douglas J. Ogurek lives in a Chicago suburb with the woman whose husband he is and their five pets. This time he reviews the films As Above, So Below, The Hunger Games: Mockinjay, Part 1 and Tusk, answers question in “Ask Theaker’s!”, and supplies a story too: “Save the Dog”, a sequel of sorts to “NON” (TQF33). See

Howard Phillips is a dissolute poet whose contributions to this zine have ranged from the mediocre to the abysmal. In this issue he begins a follow-up to the still unfinished Saturation Point Saga: “Love at First Sight” is the first episode of A Dim Star Is Born.

Howard Watts is a writer, artist and composer living in Seaford who provides the cover art for this issue, “Artful Theakering” (an article on his covers for us to date), a story (“Dodge Sidestep’s Second Dastardly Plan”), and a review of Borderlands the Pre-Sequel, as well as contributing to “Ask Theaker’s!”.

Jacob Edwards reviews Gatchman and Interstellar in this issue, and contributes to “Ask Theaker’s!”. This writer, poet and recovering lexiphanicist’s website is at, his Facebook page at

John Greenwood, co-editor and guiding ethical light, supplies this issue with the story “A Mare’s Nest”.

Matthew Amundsen follows up “House of Nowhere” (TQF35) with a new novella, “A Murder in Heaven”. He has written extensive literary and music criticism for various alternative weeklies. He now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.

Michael Wyndham Thomas writes “One Is One”. We previously published his novels The Mercury Annual and Pilgrims at the White Horizon, extracts from both of which are sprinkled through our zine’s history, beginning all the way back in TQF8.

Mitchell Edgeworth writes “Heritage”, sixth in the Black Swan series of stories, following “Homecoming” (TQF40), “Drydock” (TQF42), “Flight” (TQF43) and “Customs” (TQF46) and “Abandon” (TQF47). He keeps a blog at

Rafe McGregor provides this issue with “The Wrong Doctor”, which follows “Murder in the Minster” (TQF25), “The Chapel on the Headland” (TQF34) and “The Last Testament” (TQF37). Rafe is the author of over sixty short stories, novellas, magazine articles, and journal papers. His work includes crime fiction, weird tales, military history, and academic philosophy. This is Roderick Langham's fourth outing and takes place twenty-eight years after the misadventure in the Himalayas with which regular readers of TQF may be familiar.

Stephen Theaker lives with three slightly smaller Theakers. In this issue he reviews Engines of War, Happy, In the Broken Birdcage of Kathleen Fair, Invincible, Vol. 17, Megalex and The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 1, and rounds up everything else he read this year.

Walt Brunston, follows his adaptation of a Space University Trent episode (TQF13) – we still miss that show! – with “The Morning of Seventeen Suns”, the first astounding adventure of the Two Husbands.

Bonus! To celebrate our semi-centenary, all our Amazon exclusive ebooks will be absolutely free this week: 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, The Day the Moon Wept Blood, The Mercury Annual and Pilgrims at the White Horizon.

As ever, all back issues of Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction are available for free download.

Friday 30 January 2015

Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress / review by Stephen Theaker

Dr Marianne Jenner has discovered the thirty-first group of humans sharing a haplogroup of mitochondrial DNA, and though she’s very pleased to have done so it’s hardly the sort of thing that would explain her invitation to the Embassy, the mysterious home to the unseen aliens recently arrived on Earth. She’ll find out that the people of both planets share a common enemy, and potentially a common doom, and have much more in common besides. A major theme of Yesterday’s Kin (Tachyon Publications, pb, 192pp) is family, and Jenner has plenty of trouble with hers. Her husband died fifteen years ago, her three children are at loggerheads with each other and her. The youngest, Noah, habitual user of mind-swapping drug sugarcane, will also end up on the Embassy, though that’ll do little to bring mother and child any closer together. This is the kind of novel I thought they didn’t make any more. Short, but complete in itself, giving clever scientists an intractable problem and an impossible deadline. A fascinating alien culture, psychological insight into our own. And what seems like (to this non-scientist, at least) real science. It’s not a horror story, or a western, or a war story dressed in space clothes, but proper full-blooded science fiction, and I loved it. I get the feeling that I will be reading many more books by Nancy Kress.  ****

Monday 26 January 2015

Supernatural, Season 9 / review by Stephen Theaker

The ninth season of this long-running series about a pair of monster fighters begins with the boys – well, men now! – suffering the after-effects of their attempt to close the gates of hell in season eight. Sam is in a hospital bed, in a coma, and the outlook isn’t good. The other consequence of season eight’s conclusion was that all the angels fell from heaven, wings burning, thanks to Metatron’s betrayal. One of those angels approaches Dean with an offer. He’ll enter Sam’s body and fix it from the inside, but there’s a catch: Dean mustn’t tell Sam. And so the two brothers are back to keeping secrets again.

Friday 23 January 2015

World of Fire by James Lovegrove / review by Stephen Theaker

Dev Harmer has a new body, not for the first time: this one is heavyset and muscular, with nocturnal vision and hyper-efficient thermoregulation. Dev is a troubleshooter, sent by Interstellar Security Solutions wherever needed to combat the sneaky attacks of the machines. The overt war is over, but the covert one continues, as atheist Earth battles the religious AIs of Polis+ for control of vital resources. Dev died in that war, but his consciousness was saved and now this is his life, hopping from one body to another in hopes of eventually earning a new one to call his own.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Things making me happy in January 2015

A few small things that are currently making me happy.

Penguin Little Black Books: I love small books. I only read about twenty to thirty full length books a year, so the little Penguin books of the past have let me try a much wider range of authors that I would otherwise have got around to. And Penguin are about to do a new series of eighty-page classics for 80p each. I’m going to buy them all, no doubt about that. The only question is whether to buy the print copies, or the slightly cheaper ebooks, or to wait for April for the box set.

Monday 19 January 2015

The Forever Watch by David Ramirez / review by Jacob Edwards

First up, the funambulist.

Entrenched within the Noah, an unimaginably vast city-spaceship, the remnants of mankind trek obdurately through space en route to a new home-world. Adults labour for the common cause, enduring whatever stringencies are necessary. Children are raised by the state, the course of their lives determined by aptitude tests and the latent strength of their psychic abilities. Hundreds of generations pass. The mission is everything. Yet, for all she has been indoctrinated to believe that species survival is paramount, telekinesist Hana Dempsey, suddenly at odds with the power-elite who run the ship, finds herself embroiled in an unsanctioned hunt for a serial killer who shouldn’t exist but whose grisly touch ghosts across the Noah’s Nth Web, hinting at a conspiracy beyond nightmare.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Theakerly thoughts: resolutions, controllers and page sizes

Thought 1. The first in a new series: questions I have been asked by the radio. What resolutions have you made for 2015? Thanks for asking, radio, but none this year. There are things I’d like to do, like writing and publishing reviews more quickly after reading books. I’d like to get back onto my “small plate diet”, once the Christmas goodies have run out. I’d like to say no to more things, so that I can take the time to enjoy doing the things I choose to do. But no resolutions this time.

Thought 2. Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #50 is far too long. It’s taking me forever to get it done, and I got distracted for a while last year by helping out on the BFS Journal again. But it’s on the way, don’t worry. Proofs should be with all contributors this weekend.

Thought 3. I have been having great fun of late after hooking a wired Xbox controller up to my PC and using Xpadder to interpret its commands, e.g. using the triggers to page up and page down when proofreading. It’s very groovy in Word, where I’ve hooked up the controller face buttons to my favourite editing macros. For example, pressing Y highlights the next word and adds a “Look up and check!” comment to it.

Thought 4. I’ve been struck lately by the weirdness of doing so much on-screen editing work on an A4 page, when pretty much nothing I work on in Word ever gets printed out from there. (I’m not a fan of Normal view.) So when reading subs now I change them to a landscape 13 cm x 29 cm page to snugly fit my screen, and working on other stuff I default to A5. Free your mind, dude!

Thought 5. One day I’d like to meet a doorstep evangelist who doesn’t condone the killing of everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah. #kickmurderoutofreligion

Thought 6. A few years ago I had an email chat with an author who admitted using Fiverr to pay for reviews of her book, All My Love, Detrick. She told me that everyone makes mistakes, and the important thing is to learn from them. Well, the book is now up to 296 five-star reviews and 105 four-star reviews. Wonder how that happened?

Friday 16 January 2015

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar / review by Tim Atkinson

What’s the point of a text-only graphic novel?

I’ve enjoyed a few superhero stories in recent years – Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible being a good example. Yet I find they share a common problem: they try to tell the Pop Art tales of their greatest influences with solid but conservative prose. Competing with comics on comics’ terms, they’re always bound to pull up short.

Monday 12 January 2015

Zenith: Phase One by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell / review by Stephen Theaker

1987. Zenith is a pop star superhero who has never bothered learning to fight; there are no super-villains, so why bother? His closest friend seems to be his agent, and his power levels are determined by his biorhythms, so they are careful to schedule public appearances for the right time of the month. The only cloud in his bright blue sky is that he doesn’t know what happened to his parents, Dr Beat and White Heat.

Friday 9 January 2015

Turbulence (audiobook) by Samit Basu / review by Stephen Theaker

Turbulence by Samit Basu (digital audiobook, Audible Ltd, 10 hrs 18 mins) is read by Ramon Tikaram, so, of course, having theoretically appeared in one of his sister’s music videos I was well disposed towards it from the off.

Vir Singh, a young Indian pilot, has acquired super-powers, and as the novel begins we meet him flying through the air on his way to interfere with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme. He is not the only one with new powers. Everyone Uzma meets falls in love with her, and she hopes to parlay that into a film career. Aman, a young man who can interface directly with the internet; Narayan, a scientist who builds mad devices in his sleep; Tia, a duplicate-triplicate-infinite girl, and so on. (Apologies for any spelling mistakes – names are always tricky when reviewing an audiobook.) All must come together to fight Jai, a soldier who, like all the others, got exactly what he wanted, from whoever or whatever it was that gave them these powers: for Jai, that was to be the perfect soldier, powerful and indestructible.

Monday 5 January 2015

The Brenda and Effie Mysteries: The Woman in a Black Beehive / review by Stephen Theaker

A 92 minute audio drama (available to buy from Bafflegab Productions) about the new adventures of the elderly Bride of Frankenstein, now going by the name of Brenda and played brilliantly by Anne Reid. The story begins soon after Brenda buys her small bed and breakfast in Whitby, and the first scene proper is when she meets “spiky old lady” and future best friend Effie for the first time. Their friendship is rather forced by a musical feline haunting, thought to stem from the epic fish and chips war between Cod Almighty and A Salt and Battery – but other supernatural forces are at work. Written by Paul Magrs, it’s similar in style to the entertaining Tom Baker stories he wrote for BBC Audio, the story told on the whole by a first person narrator, with sound effects and snippets of dialogue when appropriate. The spirit of the novel series (reviews of Hell’s Belles! and The Bride That Time Forgot can be found in #34 and #38) is here in buckets. Though the novel didn’t knock me out, I still enjoyed this audio version. A good start to the series.  ***

Friday 2 January 2015

The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano / review by Stephen Theaker

The Seventh Miss Hatfield (Gollancz, ebook, 3320ll) is a novel by Anna Caltabiano, suitable for young teenagers, about a young woman who impersonates the niece of Mr Beauford, a wealthy steel magnate, in order to steal one of his paintings. The year is 1904. While undercover she begins to fall for the steel magnate’s son, Henley, who quickly rumbles her as an imposter, and what was originally planned as a quick theft turns into a months-long stay. Handsome Henley is promised in marriage to another, the vain and proud Christine Porter, and though the thief knows she cannot stay, and certainly cannot marry the man, the thought of separation is breaking both of their hearts.

Thursday 1 January 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies / review by Douglas J. Ogurek

Epic trilogy closes with brutality and finesse. If you’re seeing this film in the theater, do not buy a giant soda: there is no good time to go to the loo.

The dragon Smaug is pissed. The Dwarves have banished him from the treasure-filled Lonely Mountain that he stole from their ancestors. Now the fires rage in Smaug’s belly as he approaches the human-occupied Lake-town to take out some of his frustration. Thus begins a riveting opening sequence that will set the tone for the final installment of director Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy.