Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #46


Having just purchased its latest edition from Amazon, I am pleased to be in a position to start a real-time review of TQF#46 (edited by Stephen Theaker & John Greenwood): a paperback book that seems to be a neat pocket version when compared to the previous editions that I have seen.

TQF website

Stories by Gary Budgen, Mitchell Edgeworth, Josie Gowler, Stephen Palmer, Jessy Randall, Charles Wilkinson, Ross Gresham.

My previous reviews of TQF publications: Real-Time Review of TQF #37 & Real-Time Review of TQF #39 & Real-Time Review of TQF #40 & Real-Time Review of TQF #41 & Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #43 & Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #44 & The Mercury Annual / Pilgrims at the White Horizon by Michael Wyndham Thomas & Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #45.


14 thoughts on “Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #46

  1. Black Ribbon by Gary Budgen
    “‘The black ribbon must be transcribed,’ he said again, ‘All life must become text.'”
    Like this physical book itself, a neat pocket tale that tantalises us with its various vintages of reel-to-reel, cartridge or cassette recording tape as the form of a Noumenon of self that some people harbour, real-to-real, within their bodies (as others harbour microdots or crystals) and it needs to be harvested by the female protagonist – or ‘transcribed’ as the Captain puts it – in some aftermath of a just completed war and as some means of granting memory to God Himself. Or that is how I interpret this fascinating work.

  2. Customs by Mitchell Edgeworth
    “War’s a bit more complicated than that.”
    Customs as frontier checks as well as the multicultural customs of a far future that is breathtaking – for this reader at least – as the various interlinking contraptive craft and universal worlds and wars and other backstories accrete effectively from the author’s words — ‘the gravity spine’, later zero-gravity bodily curvature, as ‘The Black Swan’ craft docks at one such world to seek legitimate cargo to transport for money. And its captain has indeed been struggling to keep this craft afloat both in business and gravity terms, struggling, too, against his crew not to break the rules of commerce. But he ends up bending (curving) them instead, I guess, in an engaging smiley way – which I hope is not a spoiler. (This captain’s various life’s wars and their black ribbons are an inspiration to transcribe, one could say, in the light of the previous story).

  3. The Lazarus Loophole by Josie Gowler
    An ingenious two page story that should place the expression ‘The Lazarus Loophole’ into common parlance, particularly in the hindsight context of the earlier ‘Black Ribbon’ story. If I said more about it, I would probably spoil it, but please don’t cryology over spilt milk.

  4. imageThe Mines of Sorrow by Stephen Palmer
    “…he felt his grief return, strengthen, as if conducted like electricity through the cable of sadness that snaked out to him from subterranea.”
    A conscientiously engaging ‘cool and calm; emotionless almost’, deadpan fiction that successfully conveys another ‘war’ in this book (reminiscent also of the earlier cryology engineering in the previous story) by means of the battle being between two sides: Happiness (firing guns with white butterflies for example) and Sadness (with mines and miners of sorrow) – a metaphor, for me, of today’s debate between anti-natalists and pro-natalists (‘a particle meets an anti-particle’), threaded through with a brother against brother scenario and a Romeo and Juliet love interest.

  5. The Night of Red Butterflies by Jessy Randall
    “Euphoria. Gladness. Singing.”
    From the white butterflies of happiness aimed at sadness in the previous story, this two-pager has red ones. I am still working on understanding the constructively tantalising ending, but this story also seems to fulfil its own “story we’re still telling” by dint of the above butterfly retelling but also obliquely and intravenously retelling the story ‘The Sweetest Skin’ that I reviewed here in May 2009. The Randall piece, meanwhile, stands distinct and discrete and different.

  6. Petrol-Saved by Charles Wilkinson
    I first encountered the sartorially stylish prose-work of this author in a TQF edition and it has become a firm favourite reading of mine ever since. This story is more idiosyncratic than how I remember his previous stories being, a cross between the Welsh scenario of a Rhys Hughes (“After a month, the westerlies were packed away for a week, stored safely out at sea where the worst gales blew.”) and a strange township from a Robert Aickman and ‘The League of Gentlemen’ and an old-fashioned Ionesco or BS Johnson form of absurdism plus a no doubt pure Wilkinsonny element, here concerning accretive cyborgism. It all seems to blend well and the ending is strikingly good. It tells of a Mr Tipley (who becomes Tipton for some reason on two occasions) and there is also a decided connection with this book’s black ribbon and cryology engineering ethos.
    “…he could touch the truth of the weather, feel the words emerging from blindness clearer than anything he could ever see.”

  7. Wild Seed by Ross Gresham
    “Impossible not to be disturbed, to find oneself the object of sincere disgust.”
    This seems to me to be a highly complex SF story that I shall need to read again if I have any hope or fear of cracking or spoiling its mysteries with clarification. I always try to base my real-time reviews on the first reading of a story. It is of a seed that lands on a planet, one that sets off a potentially auditable trail of cyborg accretive images that echo themes from the rest of the fiction. I know there are many out there who are suspicious of my form of spiritual gestaltation (conjured interconnections between separately written fictions by separate authors as a means of appreciating and supporting the people who work in fiction creativity), so please turn away. The next bit is not for you. Plant cyborgisation, accreting human and animal. Earlier a postman’s metal hand, here a cuff. Weak battery, wires plunged (see my fortuitous photo above of the wires and the ‘human skull’), the cryology engineering now plant cyborgisation, ribbons of grey film and other black ribbon resonances, banks, previously the One Life building society, banks that change their debt provisions or are insecure as financial institutions as that previous story, bending (curving) legitimate terms of commerce like the Black Swan’s captain, cables that can tighten and pinch, now the Bending and curvature of gravity also here again as before in this book, embraced by the planet’s gravity, the stent from the vintage car man now another explicit stent here, ‘her calmness, the calmness’ of the sorrow mine situation… And more. A wild seed indeed!
    “Famine has made it feminine.”

    I am agog. Another great set of TQF fiction that promises or threatens fathoming again. You it. It you.

    But the fiction only represents 56% of the contents of this TQF edition, the rest being book reviews. None like this one, though.


  8. Pingback: DF Lewis on Theakers 46 | stephenpalmersf

  9. Pingback: Review of my story ‘Black Ribbon’ | Gary Budgen

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