Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #61


Edited by Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood

Cover Art: Howard Watts

My previous reviews of TQF are linked from HERE

Fiction by Allen Ashley, S.J. Hosking, A. Katherine Black, Tim Major, Douglas Thompson, Libby Heily, Jessy Randall.

When I review the fiction in this issue, my thoughts will be shown in the comment stream below…

7 thoughts on “Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #61

  1. Bound for Glory by Allen Ashley

    “We were all growing wild blackberries like we worked for a jam company. But trains hadn’t run here for decades. So why was I hearing the engine’s lonely whistle call?”

    A moving often rapturous tale of as yet unrequited death, as the elderly protagonist mourns his wife dead from cancer, and imagines or actually experiences the reprise of the good old days of the already dead railways and its sleek trains as they revisit his area with an Oh whistle and I shall come to you, a promise of transportation towards a marital reunion where all such good trains end their journey. Effectively peppered with conversational references to modern culture and its contraptions.

    “: we are all self-administering to get us through the day, the night, the hour.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  2. The Guidance Counsellor by S.J. Hosking

    “Then how about the Sky Arch?”

    From Romford to the Sky Arch where perhaps Allen Ashley’s wonderful train crosses the choices of points towards Heaven or where?
    This is an engaging fantasy in the HG Wells or May Sinclair school of posthumous choices, whereby a 91 year old man discovers he has passed across, and then taken by an anthro-pomorphing form of Death through the technicolor real-time review of his life and asked to choose what kind of After Life he wants or deserves. In fact, I withdraw the word ‘fantasy’, in real-time hindsight. It just seems perfect for its own sake and in synchronous tune with the Ashley story, perfect, yes, even eventually in its possibly everlasting dilemma that some call something else.

  3. Tether by A. Katherine Black

    “The sound of passing trains faded, replaced by the pounding of her heart.”

    There’s something tethering about the trains on the underground where the homeless woman called Tori resides, while imagining a purple spider on her knee, either that or it’s tethering’s opposite of resisting, throwing her off into a vision that encompasses her mental illness or some vision that is Death itself? If the former, this is a very disturbing story, because it would then ring so utterly true, especially if we believe what she says about having escaped the whitecoats at the Institute. Or if we believe in that old man and boy she seeks, people like us, all having their own glitches of mind, “s’onve us”. Each of us entering other people’s mental visions as if they are real. In many ways, death at the end of any envisaged train route of the soul would be better than such uni-versal or uni-visual dis-ease of the mind, I reckon. And I think of Tori’s I Rot or Riot of the archetypal mind. But that’s me, an old man, once a boy, now babbling of green fields (or sand). You see, I wore a purple jacket and cap as a uniform at secondary school all those years ago. Still the tether of tethers.

    “…to hover just below the sightline of regular people,”

  4. I note that somehow yesterday I wrote above: “But that’s me, an old man, once a boy, now babbling of green fields (or sand).”

    To Ashes, Dust by Tim Major

    “From this high vantage point the Mars surface is a caramel-coloured bedsheet. The hillocks hint at limbs beneath.”

    “He was brave,” Amblin continues, “but I guess cockiness comes with age. I should know. He never should have been out there, you see?”

    In a relatively short space, this moving story of a base on Mars captured me, even with its bespoke names for various factors, like the robots employed, and again, with this set of fictions, a treatment of old men and death, and an amazing concept of moving sand dunes that really NEEDS reading about to be inspired as I became by it and by what the dunes can contain.

    My previous review of this author:

  5. Yttrium (Part Two) by Douglas Thompson

    “Time dilation, Einstein’s theory of relativity, dictated that I had remained almost un-aged, while for Ellie more than fifty years had gone by.

    The interface here is utterly beautiful to let flow over you, tranches of text that ease through the system like philosophical balm, without always homing in on the past part, or the future whole. The interface between a dead man reyouthed and his once parallel young Ellie now much older, and the interface between humans and meticulously conceived aliens, evoking for me some of the interactions and potential repercussions of Brexit, all such interfaces evocatively conjured. The sparking off between them. I shall only mention two of such sparkings-off, those integral to TQF 61’s fiction’s perceived gestalt. The dust (the evolving dunes and what they contain) and the journeys of death and its implications. I beg forgiveness for quoting so much below from the text, but I could not resist doing so. I am ever reminded that Thompson is often matchless as a prose creationist.


    “through a valley suddenly came into view below us, filled with a bee-hive like structure, woven out of Yttrian dust by the indigenous people,”

    ‘We’re rather crap actually.”

    “Your leader, L-E… has told me about your orb. You call it Dirt, because that is what its ground is made of, the commonest of dull dust.”

    “Sometimes the only way to live is to die, so that others can start again and learn from your example.”

    “It’s quite a shock to see someone aged in an instant. At first sight I had felt dismayed at the change in her appearance, what time does to us all, without mercy, as dispassionately as a glacier scouring its way across a primordial landscape. Age is a caricaturist which exaggerates our most prominent features for the purposes of satire. God if he existed, would be a political cartoonist. I saw that everything pretty and open and optimistic in her features had been blunted towards the wistful, the regretful, the sad. But now as I held her in my arms and heard her talk again I realised that I could love this version more, much more. Youthful beauty is callous, unearned, but wisdom, experience, are the hard-won gifts of time, the paint-brush of Nature on the canvas of our flesh. She was alive and so was I again, however briefly. What miracles we are. Her voice quivered inside her body like a captive bird in a tower. Time had made her kinder. Time, for those who keep their eyes open to it, will always show the truth.”


    That long paragraph should be written everywhere where there is space to write it.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  6. I note that somehow yesterday I wrote above: ‘I note that somehow yesterday I wrote above: “But that’s me, an old man, once a boy, now babbling of green fields (or sand).”’
    Now I know where the green fields come in! And not just Falstaff.

    Regression by Libby Heily

    “I’d heard that long ago, green grass had grown in patches all over the earth and that humans had spent most of their lives attending to it […] But now, the lawns were nothing more than sand…”

    This nifty coda to this publication’s fiction symphony or gestalt has coincidental resonance with the humans/aliens interface in Thompson, and death as a progression through a possible regression blend of regeneration, resurrection or reincarnation, at least a part of such interfaces and processes implying journeys by starhoppers – or by Ashley’s earlier (or later) trains?

    A gestalt literally containing a sort of distilled DUNE that once laterally dealt with the politics of humanity?


    There is much else in TQF #61, including an essay by Jessy Randall about ‘The Language of ‘Battlestar Galactica”’.

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