Cretaceous — Ashley Stokes


“…a simulation within that deep state of almost-death, fizzles in my brain…”

…and when I saw the word ‘dead’ five times in one sentence, I knew I was not a reviewer of this story but its carer. I was, by the way, one of this story’s “older folk [who] had starved because they would not open the door to delivery drones.” But now more a nurse with a syringe. If I live long enough to use it. This story has extended my life by giving me a new determination to cope with what life has crazed me with.

A story as capsule book that the narrator had written that would, he feared, affect his wife and ‘underkin’ daughters, stemming from or actually coterminous with some long-term lockdown they had suffered transmuted into a Hendrix ‘Purple Haze’ of spores, a plague called the Drift, global quarantine, unruly leylandii, the Swan with Two Necks pub, his neighbours, suspicions about his wife’s behaviour when playing away with pink furry handcuffs, a community called Gyddon, where this idea-crammed story big enough for a novel universe becomes an anaesthetised archaeology, all their bones as one massive Cretaceous creature in the pit in a wood, “the room no one sees”…

I cannot cover all the idea-crammings in this work, but they come out at you like the plague itself, but separately I relished each one as a creative projection of some super-sub-literature called survival. T.S. Eliot, eat your heart out. “Things break down where things break down.” And, just as a warning, some of the prose stuff about C-Rex and Vlox is what you’re up against if you submit yourself to this landmark collusive experience (sometimes addressing you as ‘you’)… at least do a ’find’ on C-Rex and Vlox and see if you can help me. Better, though, to dream of steak and pilsner, even burgers, I guess. “…with only our book as companion.”


This new story is available in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #72, first published August 2022.

My previous reviews of Ashley Stokes:

My previous reviews of TQF:

My ongoing reviews of single stories by living authors:

 TARTAN by Julie Travis

“He wanted to live long enough to see the human race destroy itself in a nuclear war. He imagined a moment before his own destruction where he would enjoy the end of the species and it would be a beautiful moment.”

This work is both hilarious and somewhat terrifying in its implications. Certainly, intriguing, too. 

Who is this Chrome fellow purported to be dead? — some of the story’s characters are  celebrating his death but also daring not to believe it isn’t fake news, celebrating  because of what evil he did to them and their kin, and there are other mad folk like a Lord in Westminster who wants to solve the mystery of the expensive coffin given to Chrome’s body but equally left to putrefy in it without embalming and also to summon any means to resurrect him — but is it indeed fake news, about someone who once seemed in life to have a tan, but is brought back to life from the tar in smoke that is derived as part of the need for nicotine backwards as it were into the body as well as into time, here blown into the orifice at the opposite end of the supine body to the mouth with which  he once mouthed off? See ‘Chrome (mineral) tanning’ versus ‘vegetable tanning’ in the conversion of animal skin to leather. Tobacco’s smoke-tar and its nicotine are derived from plant leaves. Not animal or mineral. A fable for our populist times. In Westminster, too. A story about the fundaments of shag, and our crazy desperations. As well as about this story’s  oft-called ‘bastard’. (my italics, my bad)

Without my conscientious, if preternaturally brainstorming, theories about this story, it can be appreciated on other levels, and ever remains  fundamentally what I said at the beginning of this review. 

“…when the bastard starts burning.” 


This story is available in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #72, published August 2022.

My previous reviews of Julie Travis:

My previous reviews of TQF:


LATER EDIT (6 Nov 22): The tar tan as the new embalming!

My ongoing reviews of single stories by living authors:

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…

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #60


My previous reviews of TQF publications HERE

Stories: “The Lost Testament” by Rafe McGregor, “Turning Point” by Nicki Robson, “Yttrium, Part One” by Douglas Thompson, “Amongst the Urlap” by Andrew Peters, and “Doggerland” by Jule Owen

When I review this fiction, my thoughts will appear in the comments stream below… (My reviewing queue of purchased publications is growing longer and I don’t expect to catch up until late October).

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #59


Edited by Stephen Theaker (my ‘links’ to the eponymous publisher too numerous to list) and John Greenwood

Cover artist: Howard Watts

Stories by Charles Wilkinson, Elaine Graham-Leigh, Rafe McGregor, Michael Thomas, Chris Roper, Jessy Randall and David Penn.

My previous reviews of TQF are linked from HERE.

When I real-time review this magazine’s stories only, my comments will appear in the thought stream below…