Wednesday 29 July 2020

Archival Quality, by Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz (Oni Press) | review by Stephen Theaker

Because I read this 280pp graphic novel without reading the back cover first (“a surprisingly vulnerable, intricate look at mental health”, says Kate Leth), I thought it was going to be the story of someone who discovers weird things going on in a library. That does indeed happen, but this is really about someone who is depressed and doesn’t like the way her boyfriend handles it. For me that was somewhat disappointing, but other readers may feel differently.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Fear the Walking Dead, Season 5 | review by Stephen Theaker

Previous seasons of Fear the Walking Dead reminded me of the Fallout games, but this one really goes for it.

This is a show that never met a status quo it liked, and so the situation established at the end of season four is immediately gone: some of the characters have crashed their plane in a new area and all the roads out are blocked. It feels like a typical Fallout DLC adventure, a self-contained location where they have a few situations to resolve before they can escape.

Thursday 23 July 2020

Lone Wolf 26: The Fall of Blood Mountain | review by Rafe McGregor

Lone Wolf 26: The Fall of Blood Mountain (Collector’s Edition) by Joe Dever
Holmgard Press, hardback, £16.99, July 2020, ISBN 9781916268029

In my review of Lone Wolf 24: Rune War, I mentioned that I’d never played books 25 and 26 and although I’ve used Project Aon (see: to play books 27 and 28, it’s particularly gratifying to be able to play 26 using Holmgard Press Collector’s Edition hardback (available at: Lone Wolf 26: The Fall of Blood Mountain is the sixth (of twelve) in the New Order series of the Lone Wolf cycle. I won’t bore regular readers with details of either the cycle or its publication as they are described at length in my reviews of books 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, and 30, all of which are available on this blog. The New Order series turns away from protagonist Lone Wolf to focus on a new member of the Kai order, Sommerlund’s warrior elite, combining standalone with campaign adventures. The two standalone adventures are books 23 and 26. Interestingly, anyone who played the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons will probably notice a strong correlation between the shape of these two adventures and the Wilderness Survival Guide (1986) and Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (1986) respectively. The latter was the supplement that introduced the Underdark, a subterranean world consisting of a vast interconnected network of caverns, tunnels, and shafts, as a campaign setting. In the world of Magnamund, the Dwarven Kingdom of Bor has a foot both on and under the earth and the action of The Fall of Blood Mountain takes place in the latter.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #67: now out in paperback and ebook!

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

Welcome to Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #67, edited by Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood.

This issue features three science fiction stories. In "A Gift for the Young" by Elaine Graham-Leigh, a visitor from Chi!me visits a divided world. "The King of Nod" by Harris Coverley lets us join an extraction team on their way to retrieve a criminal, who was sent long ago to prepare a world for colonisation. And "Broken" by A.T. Sayre introduces us to some robots with significant issues.

In a thirty-page review section Stephen Theaker, Rafe McGregor and Douglas J. Ogurek consider books by Carlton Mellick III, Jessica Rydill, Joe Dever, Kim Stanley Robinson and Joel Cornah.

Plus comics by Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz; Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook; Zep, Lewis Trondheim and Dominique Bertail; Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col and Andy Belanger; Sarah Graley; Mike Mignola and Ben Stenbeck; Mike Butterworth and Don Lawrence; Mark Millar and Matteo Scalera; and Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard.

And the films Angel Heart, The Invisible Man and A Rainy Day in New York, and the television programmes Castle Rock season two, Fear the Walking Dead season five and Westworld season three.

This issue's cover features a gouache painting by a 19th century Tibetan artist, of a Tibetan demon devouring a human, from the Europeana Collections (CC BY 4.0).

Here are the tremendous contributors to this issue.

Harris Coverley has short fiction published or forthcoming in Curiosities, Planet Scumm, Horror Magazine and The J.J. Outré Review. He is also a Rhysling-nominated poet and member of the Weird Poets Society, with verse most recently accepted for Star*Line, Utopia Science Fiction, Awen, New Reader Magazine, Clover & White and The Oddville Press, amongst others. He lives in Manchester, England.

Elaine Graham-Leigh is a writer and campaigner based in London. When not bringing down the system from within, she writes speculative fiction and has had previous stories published in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, Jupiter SF, Bewildering Stories and The Harrow. Her website can be found at Her first novel, The Caduca, is planned for publication by the Conrad Press in autumn 2020.

A.T. Sayre has been writing in some form or other for over three-quarters of his life, ever since he was ten years old. His work has previously appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and StarShipSofa. A more detailed list of his publications can be found at Born in Kansas City, raised in New Hampshire, he lives in Brooklyn and likes to read in coffeehouses.

Rafe McGregor lectures at Edge Hill University. He is the author of two monographs, two novels, six collections of short fiction, and two hundred articles, essays, and reviews. His most recent work of fiction is The Adventures of Roderick Langham, a collection of occult detective stories.

Douglas J. Ogurek is the pseudonym for a writer living somewhere on Earth. Though banned on Mars, his fiction appears in more than fifty Earth publications. Douglas’s website can be found at and his Twitter account is at

Stephen Theaker is known for his watertight style and flamboyant plumbing.

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

Monday 20 July 2020

A Princess of the Linear Jungle, by Paul Di Filippo (PS Publishing) | review by Stephen Theaker

This novella begins with a quotation from A Princess of Mars (a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs), mentions in passing an exhibit called The Diaries of Cadwal Throy (referencing Jack Vance) and the lead character is called Merritt Abraham (a nod, as you might guess, to Abraham Merritt), which gives the reader an idea of what to expect.

Monday 13 July 2020

Joanna Russ, by Gwyneth Jones (University of Illinois Press) | review by Stephen Theaker

A new entry in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction covers the life and work of Joanna Russ in seven fascinating chapters. It also includes thirteen pages of interviews, a useful ten-page bibliography of her work, and an index (not available in the review copy, as is generally the case).

Friday 10 July 2020

The Art of the Tingle, by Chuck Tingle (self-published) | review by Stephen Theaker

A collection of book covers and plot summaries from the world’s leading purveyor of post-modern, metatextual, magical realist erotic literature for homosexual gentlemen. With titles like My Billionaire Triceratops Craves Gay Ass, Pounded in the Butt By My Own Butt, I’m Gay for My Living Billionaire Jet Plane and Angry Man Pounded By the Fear of His Latent Gayness Over a Dinosaur Transitioning into a Unicorn, and hilarious covers to match, this book is joyful and hilarious throughout. Stephen Theaker ****

Monday 6 July 2020

My Boyfriend Is a Bear, by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris (Oni Press) | review by Stephen Theaker

A woman falls in love with a 230 kg American black bear and he moves in to live with her. He doesn’t say much, but he’s cute, strong, huggable, and a good listener, and however much of her stuff he breaks, he doesn’t break her heart. But what happens when it’s time for him to hibernate? This sweet, romantic book reflects and models how people who are very different can get along in a relationship, dealing with roadbumps and individual needs. The art by Cat Farris is marvellously expressive. Stephen Theaker ****

Sunday 5 July 2020

Questions and Answers, 5 July 2020

Here are Stephen's answers to the less urgent questions that the world has been asking this week. Feel free to supply your own answers in the comments!

You've been given the power to instantly greenlight any sequel you want… What are you choosing?Fandom

So many to choose from. Bacurau 2. Annie Hall 2. Blade 4. Tron 3. John Carter 2. Riddick 4. Charlie's Angels 3. Assassin's Creed 2. The Thing (2021), which would be a sequel to both The Thing (1982) and The Thing (2011). But, if I could only pick one, it would be Spider-Girl, as a sequel to the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst returning as Peter Parker and Mary Jane.

How often would you say you fall asleep while reading?A Facebook user

Reading Washington Square by Henry James I fell asleep every forty pages, on the dot. It was bizarre. During the daytime, didn't dislike the book, it just made me sleepy! And if I'm listening to an audiobook and not doing anything else I'll be asleep within ten minutes.

Pick up the book nearest to you. Add 'Harry Potter and' as a prefix to the title of the book.Various Jams

Harry Potter and Why Women Are Blamed for Everything. Seems quite appropriate! Really was the nearest book to me – still on my desk after opening the parcel and reading the prelims. Runner-up would be Harry Potter and the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors.

Describe your own novel in as boring a way as possible.Nikesh Shukla

The one I'm currently writing: an assistant realises that his boss is still alive. Rolnikov the God, coming to TQF in about three years time at our current rate of publishing my novels!

If you could genetically weaponise one part of yourself (Hanna-style), what skill would you pick?Amazon Prime Video UK

I would want the power of Batroc the Leaper, to jump on things very hard. I have an idea for a more original superpower, but that one is staying in my file of story ideas.

Can you describe your favourite movie as boring as possible?Romina

A dog gets sick at night-time.

Are you the same person in real life as you are on Twitter?Super Mark

I would have said yes about myself, more or less, but then I created a private Twitter account for making review notes and the contrast made it obvious how polite (relatively) I am on Twitter about the stuff I don't like.

Shall we do our first official #TrueReadingName since reopening? Using your current book: AUTHOR'S SURNAME, followed by FIRST WORD OF THE TITLE (ignore 'the', 'a' etc).Waterstones Swansea

Dworkin Pornography? I think not. Far too disrespectful! It's a good book, though.

Saturday 4 July 2020

The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood | review by Stephen Theaker

The Hidden People (Jo Fletcher Books) is in my view Littlewood’s best novel yet [mid-2017]. While her earlier books from this publisher seemed to be aimed in part at the thriller market, this is a sustained and convincing work of traditional gothic horror. Posh Albie, who ran into his attractive cousin Elizabeth Thurlston at the Great Exhibition of 1851, is floored years later to hear that she has been murdered by her lower-class husband, and not murdered in any ordinary way, but roasted over an open fire, in the belief that she was a changeling and cooking the creature would bring back his wife. Albie travels to Halfoak (“our folk”) in Yorkshire to attend her funeral, and then, angered by the lack of respect he sees, stays to investigate her death, making the peculiar decision to live in her cottage while her husband and murderer sits in prison.

Friday 3 July 2020

Always North, by Vicki Jarrett (Unsung Stories) | review by Stephen Theaker

In the year 2025, Isobel is on board the Polar Horizon, a ship surveying for oil at the north pole. A nuclear-powered icebreaker joins them, to force a way through what ice remains. This first part of the book is exciting and tense, the atmosphere rather like The Thing on a boat, with a similarly characterful crew, and with a highly focused polar bear as the threat. It feels very grounded in reality, albeit with references to Where the Wild Things Are: “We’ll sail off through night and day, in and out of weeks for almost over a year. Only this time there will be no nights.”