Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #50 edited by Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood. Zine review

THEAKER’S QUARTERLY FICTION #50 edited by Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood, Theaker’s Paperback Library, p/b, $7.63,

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

As you will no doubt find when you look at the cover, all the previous volumes of Theaker’s  are sprawled under the table with notable figures sat around it, this 50th volume is a landmark achievement as a publication. The article Artful Theakering is where cover artist Howard Watts recalls what TQF #50’s cover represents. Really, it is worth reading what the meaning behind this particular cover’s symbolism is, but also the article acts as a great achievement for this artist which spans several volumes, so he isn’t short on portfolio work if he needs it. One thing I’ve admired Theaker’s for are the covers, that there is no unnecessary text obscuring the artwork, unlike some magazines I’ve read. Even though it is considered a fanzine, fanzines in my mind still conjure up early 90s ideas of photocopied pages and badly drawn inked or pencil artwork, but TQF is none of these and should be thought of as more of a magazine than anything else. Artful Theakering is Howard Watts’s tale of his journey as an artist who first worked on the BSFA’s Focus Magazine. I liked that he’s been working so long at TQF that he doesn’t remember when he submitted them. It’s refreshing to see an artist getting so many pages to showcase their work as artists don’t tend to get enough space in magazines or fanzines unless they are famous (speaking as a former artist.)

TQF this time around is a bumper issue you could use as a paperweight (if you wanted to) and unlike TQF #49, there are eleven short stories including Beatrice et Veronique’s continuing adventures. Fiction wise, the stories are as much fun as the previous volumes with The Wrong Doctor by Rafe McGregor. This story is in the style of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s novels of the gentlemanly double act of sleuths Holmes and Watson; this is a story without Mr. Holmes solving the case as he is concerned that Holmes had wrongly declared someone else the killer of the Baskervilles. Holmes has since had a nervous breakdown and cannot be found, and it is up to Watson to seek someone elses help to find and arrest the real culprit. Mc Gregor succeeds in writing this as though it was straight out of a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short mystery. It is a brilliant “what if” tale that would make readers want to read the others. One is One by Michael Wyndham-Thomas. Here’s a dystopian tale of what one man sees when he is alone most of the time. There are unspoken rules of what to do if he meets any other human – if they are injured, he will help, if not, he will try not to let the conversation become too meaningful. So far he has only seen birds, ones that at first did not move and he hopes that what happened in the past won’t happen again in the future, at least not when he’s around. One is One is a strange story recounted by a man who could have rambled enough to go insane, but the ending is what makes the reader think of the horrible possibilities. Save the Dog: An Unsplatterpunk Primer by Douglas J. Ogurek. If anyone has ever tried submitting their stories to a magazine or novel anthology, this is for them. The idea that you as a writer have to sacrifice parts or key characters in your work is as depressing as it sounds, and to make it more interesting, the character who has to keep re-editing his work is Douglas J. Ogurek himself, and each time he, like most of us, edits his stuff trying to appeal to the editor in this case of Warp Fissure Magazine. In fact, this is the perfect story for anyone to read if they are considering sending their first story to any magazine or novel anthology, and though the ending is deliberately grotesque, it gets the message across perfectly. Love at First Sight: A Dim Star is Born Part 1 by Howard Philips. When our intrepid investigator and author see a man in an overcoat with a gun at his side, he sets about disarming him. In doing so, he takes the next step, sending him by force to a cafe where he pulls a photo from his coat pocket; it’s of a young man. A loo trip later and the man has gone but instead he trails him to where it leads through another dimension. The man he pursues is just as interesting as the investigator and I liked the first person perspective of the story and how eccentric Philips made him.

The last story is a short from the pages of Les Aventures Fantastique de Beatrice et Veronique called the Crystal Castle Crasher by Antonella Corriander. Here we edge ever closer to the reviews section of this bumper edition of Theaker’s, where Ask Theakers! is a new article where the panel consists of Stephen Theaker, Douglas J. Ogurek, Howard Watts and Jacob Edwards answering loads of questions. In The Quarterly Review, reviews range from short to medium length until they get to the Also Read section where Stephen catches up with his stack of review material and tells the world what he thinks of novels and comic books in as little words as possible. This means he caters to a much wider audience of people who have no time to read long reviews, and those who would prefer a standard review with a few paragraphs and starred. Stephen and co have done their readers proud with their bigger issue that marks their fiftieth anniversary.