Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #45. Book review

Edited by Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood
Theaker’s Paperback Library, p/b, £2.28, LINK
Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

Theaker’s is an eclectic mix of fiction and reviews in a magazine that concentrates on publishing sf, fantasy, horror shorts and one that is noticeably longer; “We Slept Through the Apocalypse,” by Howard Phillips (not a relation to Lovecraft). In the editorial section, Theaker talks about how useful Scrivener is for reviewing, and how he’s started writing again after a long break, all us reviewers all have to have them so you can’t blame him.

The main point of Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction is to continue being published with the help of their contributors and reading public, and after 44 issues already, Theaker promises that there will be another due out after 2013. In 2012 they reached the same number of issues as Mc Sweeney’s Quarterly Concern, so are pretty confident they will go on to be as good as before, if not better. Theaker’s has a bold line-up of authors; Howard Watts, Howard Phillips, Katharine Coldiron and Robin Wyatt Dunn. The reviewers are a similar bunch, Stephen Theaker, Jacob Edwards, Douglas J. Ogurek and Howard Watts who show they are multi-tasking in that they are just as good at writing fiction as they are reviewing it.

In this 45th issue the staff at Theaker’s review movies, books and comic books. Some you will know, others you might only have seen in passing. Watt’s story “The Colour of the Wind Erodes the Shape of Time,” is a journey into one old man’s room where it is believed a black hole has appeared. It’s all mentioned in a heartfelt way by a woman one night after being out at a club, but what if what she thinks about him is right? Liz seems like the usual punk type with a nose stud, fishnets and Doc Martens, but she doesn’t think like her friend and wants some explanation as to what goes on in the old man’s flat late at night. This is where an ordinary person is brought into a science fiction story and is given hope that everything in the street where she lives isn’t as ordinary as she might think. Howard Phillips’s “We Slept Through the Apocalypse,” mentions popular band Vampire Weekend, the NME and life on a Yorkshire farm. People living in a commune lives through the apocalypse oblivious to the fire and eventual contamination until it’s too late. Phillips makes light of what could have been a dreary end of the world story. Instead he throws in pop culture references and some fun shenanigans from the likes of Jack, Prince Vann and Veronica. Katharine Coldiron’s “Kingdom Automata,” is a series of diary entries about how an automaton is operated on to make it as good as homo sapiens. Robin Wyatt Dunn sends us into a more fantasy/science fiction zone with “Carcosa Found.” I liked that Cassilda was once a man, and even as a woman was enraged and dangerous. It reads like the sort of story I would love to read if it became the basis for a novel.

The Quarterly Review takes a look at “Arctic Rising,” by Tobias S. Buckell, “Finches of Mars,” by sci-fi veteran Brian Aldiss and “The Resurrectionist,” by E. B. Hudspeth. We find that Theaker liked Saga Volume 2, but Elysium, Man of Steel and Star Trek: Into Darkness all received an especially mixed reception from other reviewers. With a cover based on the short story “The Color of the Wind Erodes the Shape of Time,” by Howard Watts, its photograph is of a city block of flats in negative and is unusual enough to give the reader a reason to wonder why there is a cat in the window and a huge glowing light in the top right hand corner window above. I’m not surprised Theaker’s has been going for 45 issues. Let’s see what else they have in store for us in 2014.