Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #66

Edited by Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood

My previous reviews of TQF are linked from HERE

Fiction by Amber Velez, Matthew Amundsen, Elaine Vilar Madruga, Mae Ashley, Teika Marija Smits, Charles Wilkinson, Walt Brunston, Drew Tapley.

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

21 thoughts on “Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #66

  1. Eresh Ashore Amber Velez

    “…the sea looked deceptively still, like a casual laugh hides heartbreak.”

    Engaging, evocative tale of sea-shifting ships and waves and the moon’s triangulating as an ancient seeming ambience, and a youth called Eresh, who gives me a sense of the callow and the fresh, naive, but cunning, too, if that is not a paradox, yearning to exchange this ashore community’s wiles for the ships and the sea, yes, Eresh, not sheer youthfulness, but more like a man who boasts loopholes instead of illegalities, and he is under a sexual matronage, ‘age’ in the person as well as the word anyway. Debts and costly coats and bright buttons and taverns and friendly whores and laddish scuffles and there is another youth called Tem who looks up to Eresh’s patronage, but he scorns Eresh, too. Scorns his laissez-faire, by saying “I don’t have an old lady setting my bedtime.”

    • ‘yearning to exchange this ashore community’s wiles for the ships and the sea, yes, …’
      I say above. In hindsight, this yearning central to this story is also central to the lockdown aspects of all these stories below that I later read.

  2. Swallowing the Sun Matthew Amundsen

    “If Maribel could endure this ride, she would save the world. Or at least put things back to the way they had been.”

    Swallowing the sun, but does that entail swallowing its coronas, too, or at least just its core? A glowing, inspiring story of an adolescent girl, wearing a farcical wig as subterfuge, escaping with an orb she discovered in the household, a family now isolated with surrounding publicity. She leaves on a tube train (“Every hiss when the train stopped or started was as welcome as a hoard of diseased rats.“) as a sort of pilgrimage to the sea where the orb is to be returned, in tune with Eresh yearning for the sea in the previous story. An orb that she used as a miracle cure for family ailments as well as for patients in a hospital, e.g. “an elderly man on life support suddenly removed his tubes, sat up, and breathed on his own.” But you will have to read the story to see what happens to “the fever inside Maribel” herself. She coughs earlier. And I simply sense by my knowledge of publication logistics that this story would have been written last year.

  3. A Star Is Born Elaine Vilar Madruga
    translated by Toshiya Kamei
    For Arianni and Amanecer, of course.

    “He had become obsessed with music.
    With doing something unique. One of a kind.”

    That sounds like me. When I first heard myself cough out my first breath, but it all changed after that.
    This is a remarkable treatise among eight such treatises from eight different realities, a Warhol moment of glorious fame for eight minutes, accompanied by a cat and a Beethoven, each famous for nine things, I guess. A story of a human who self-harms his own body to become a playable violin, gutted on struts … dabbling with Diabelli? Or simply the ninth life as a genius that each soon-to-be-intubated reader never lived?

  4. A Grandmother Paradox Mae Ashley

    “‘As soon as Dad finishes packing, we’re heading to the airport.’ Everyone still calls it that, even in situations like this, when we’re not flying anywhere.”

    An intriguing and, yes, inspiringly synchronous story, a mind-fazing patchwork of time-travel paradoxes involving a character called Lorena, and temporalnauts switching time-places, using phone Apps to track and trace amid coincidental exchange programme participants, welding an ice cream truck as an art installation while in lockdown, I seem to recall, a variety of today’s lucid vivid covid dreaming as “the laundromat incident haunts you in the way a dream experience can even after you’ve woken up. Simultaneously hazy and urgent.” A “sort of contagion between travellers and their counterbalances.” And “some worrisome stories in the news, about medical research indicating the experience might not be entirely safe.”

    “This whole business of travelling to the future – pah! – we’ll be lucky if there even is a future they haven’t destroyed.”

      • As it seems seminal to the synchronicity aspects of my Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing, I list below the submission dates when the stories were received by TQF, being data kindly supplied to me by its editor just now.

        Amber Velez (21/1/20), Matthew Amundsen (11/10/19), Elaine Vilar Madruga (7/10/19), Mae Ashley (30/11/19), Teika Marija Smits (19/11/19), Charles Wilkinson (22/2/20), Walt Brunston (Dec 2014), Drew Tapley (1/11/19).

        Perhaps I should try to do this regularly for my reviewing! Never occurred to me before.

  5. 05E472E6-7815-4C88-9C54-12167B424A98The Red Choos Teika Marija Smits

    “We’ll watch old movies and eat ice cream,” she said. “It’ll take my mind off this horrible throat.”

    This fable, I infer, of a Melania Trump character and a president just like her husband, is a telling tale of a woman’s fitted dress dummy as doppelgänger, and the nature of freedom versus lockdown. Which of the dummies was most likely to wear a garment saying ‘I don’t care, do u?’, I’ll leave you to decide. Jackie O is mentioned, too.

  6. Evening at the Aubergine Café Charles Wilkinson

    “…there’s now so little traffic that even a vehicle passing through is an event.”

    I have been reading through the gigantic slew of William Trevor stories over the last few months and reporting back upon them. There is more than a single Trevor trove where someone is sitting at a café table with a stranger because there is no room elsewhere. I feel I have sat at this story’s table, and it has allowed me to sit there and talk to it, it having just talked to me. Both once academics. It is probably the darkest, most attritional Wilkinson story ever written (so far). Clotted absurdism that outdoes Aickman and any East European texts of dream. I put my name in google and get nothing but potatoes. A vision of a university we both once knew now being pulled down. My writing hand gnarled with disease. Everything designed to appear normal, but really is an eggplant as a totem of John Barth. And a woman I once knew; I imagine her coming to be swived. Mental lockdown. Physical contagion.

    “There can be no flight to abstraction. He is marooned with nothing more than stubborn, everyday anxieties.”

    My reviews of Charles Wilkinson’s slew of stories HERE

  7. The Emperor of Pseudo City
    The Two Husbands
    Walt Brunston

    “He gets out of bed, goes over to the window, and looks out. A ragtag mob of musicians appears to be serenading the building.”

    But he needs “to check for biological hazards” first! They say that in our real-time today in UK, lockdown measures will be loosened at least this coming Monday. Me as Husband One in one of two times, will I be thus serenaded and enticed to go out? — leaving my time routines behind me, and they “do not even notice me at all. It is as if they are gripped by a kind of mania.” This is a hilarious story that I relished enormously – especially the joke about the statue of Lafcadio Popper. And the inTUBAted player in the band. And Husband Two being hit by a phantom brick and is now Emperor of Pseudo City, or believes he is, enough to summon this band. Meanwhile Husband One: “He will have to choose for today between the embarrassment of talking out loud to himself, and the problem inherent in never speaking at all.” Not to forget the wonderful list of musicians in the band up to the “pianists wiggling their fingers in the air.” Artificial companions or not. [See my own published story: “The Piano Player Has No Fingers” (1997).]

    And now just realised, upon checking, that I have reviewed a story by Bruiser Brunston before (in 2015), one subtitled “The Two Husbands #1”: And there I said ‘always think outside the boxes…’

  8. Space Cutlery Drew Tapley

    “The door sucked into the seamless curve above, and she passed beneath.
    It was a sparse room, surgically appointed…”

    Flattening the curve, as they say these days, the spoon curve, and this is a wonderful coda to all these loose lockdown associated stories. Great fun and serious business, too. An SF space opera of nations and societies, an SF dabbling in a spoon society and a fork nation, eventually blending into baby knives. A positive story for us today where our own plant “LeaveMeBe” has threatened us, but whereby our reactions to it and fears have “threatened to be as toxic as the plant itself…”

    Biosignatures and neogen. And other engaging characterisations.

    “‘Morale on the ship will suffer greatly if the crew assume the worst.’
    ‘With all due respect, sir, we are unable to prove that Spoonitor still exists. We are all tired of hope.’”

    “‘Ahdhdd ed’\d//‘ came the voice again.”


    The fiction in TQF66 takes up around 100 pages, while the rest of around another 90 pages has interviews and reviews.

  9. As confirmed earlier above, these stories as read were first submitted to TQF on these dates:
    Amber Velez (21/1/20), Matthew Amundsen (11/10/19), Elaine Vilar Madruga (7/10/19), Mae Ashley (30/11/19), Teika Marija Smits (19/11/19), Charles Wilkinson (22/2/20), Walt Brunston (Dec 2014), Drew Tapley (1/11/19).

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