Theaker's Quarterly Fiction 28
This version of our website has now been mothballed! Please follow us over to the Theaker's Quarterly and Paperbacks blog.
You can get this issue free from us as usual by clicking or right-clicking on the cover to the right. Paper copies are available to purchase from Lulu. They also host a higher resolution version of the pdf, downloadable for free. See Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #28 on Lulu. It's also available from Feedbooks for free download in various formats to read on your Kindle, Sony Reader, iLiad, etc, and even in a simplified pdf that might be handy for anyone reading the issue onscreen.
This is one of our most interesting and varied issues yet. It starts in the best possible way with "Quadrant Five" – a bunch of people on a spaceship going who knows where. That's followed by the next riveting instalment of Newton Braddell and a short-short from Josie Gowler, "Soldier", before things get rather literary with the double-barrelled strangeness of "Breaking Out of Sleep" and "Anatomy of a Wounded House", from Barry Pomeroy and Douglas Thompson respectively. Then John Hall wonders whether you dare descend "The Stairs in the Crypt", and Jason Hinchcliffe tells the saga of the "Bloodbegotten". I round out the issue with a bunch of my famously perspicacious reviews – what have I decreed to be "well-written", "brilliant" and "superb" this time around?
In Love Again
When I first saw the Sony Reader in Waterstones I was really impressed by the e-paper screen, the way the text looked as if it was printed on the surface – it looked really easy to read. But I wasn’t impressed by how sluggish it was – it took ages to move from one option to another. And I made myself look a bit stupid by trying to choose options by touching them with my finger (the Rocket eBook has a touchscreen).
I decided to wait for the Kindle. And wait… And wait…
Eventually my patience ran out and I spent some money I don’t really have on a Sony Reader. It’s turned out to be the best money I shouldn’t have spent since I got a TiVo!
I absolutely love it. What makes all the difference is that where the Rocket eBook was heavier and more cumbersome than most books, the Sony Reader is lighter and less cumbersome than most of them.
The bundled software from Sony is pretty much unusable, and gave me a few early jitters of buyer’s remorse, but once I downloaded Calibre the love affair was on. It’s now stuffed to the gills with classics from the free CD from Sony, creative commons and out-of-copyright sf from Feedbooks, newspapers created from The Guardian and BBC websites via Feedbooks, epub files from Project Gutenberg, submissions and proofs for TQF and Dark Horizons, pdf review copies from PS Publishing and Eibonvale, ebooks from Fictionwise, not to mention a bunch of music and photos.
I’m stunned at how brilliantly it handles pdf files – I wouldn’t have thought it possible. At the smallest magnification setting it shows the pdf as is, and then at medium and large it blows up the main text, doing a marvellous job of ignoring white space and page numbers. It even manages to deal pretty well with a multi-column layout like the one in Dark Horizons.
One of the other brilliant features is the ability to have collections, dividing up the files by keywords so you can quickly find any of them. The Sony software doesn’t work well with them, but with Calibre you can just edit the keywords of the files on the Reader itself to sort them out directly.
Very happy with it indeed…
And then I found the Baen Books free library! Well over a hundred books (many of them omnibuses and gigantic collections) for free download. It left me in tears of joy. I ended up downloading half a dozen books I already own, just because it’ll be so much easier reading them this way. See http://www.baen.com/library.
If I’d found those same books going cheap in a bookshop, I admit that I would still have bought them. But I would have had a problem finding somewhere for them to go. I long ago reached the point where I had no more room for books in the house. I’ve got (checks Goodreads) 1,131 paper books to read, and another thousand or two that I’ve already read. There’s nowhere to put any new books, and any time I do put a book down, chances are I’ll lose it. For example, I’ve got a review copy of Conrad Williams’ One to read, but I’ve lost it half a dozen times already… On the other hand, I can find any ebooks on the Sony Reader in about ten seconds, and store unlimited numbers of books on the computer.
I’m now free to buy and collect books again without worrying about where to put them. I can donate a lot of the classics I own to charity shops, since they’re all on Gutenberg. It’s really nice, too, to be able to request review copies and not worry about what it costs someone.
I wrote a bit about this in my editorial for the new Dark Horizons (see here) – before I got my Reader – and I do still agree with what I said there, that for most people this’ll be a solution to a problem they don’t have. But for me personally, it’s a huge improvement in my life – a lifehack as big as getting TiVo or buying my first PC.
The other day I went over to my wife’s parents’ house with it, and started reading a book. Then two kids jumped in my lap and I switched to Little Wizard Tales of Oz from Gutenberg and read that to them. Then my father-in-law came in, so I let him read the BBC news on it. Eventually the room was empty apart from me so I could concentrate properly and I got started on reading some submissions. It’s every book I need it to be…
I’ve even got the perfect bag to put it in – the Bagbase mini reporter. It’s like I’m wearing a tricorder…
Some people talk about the feel and smell of paper books. I can understand that to some extent, but that isn’t a love of the literature within those pages: it’s fetishism for the way they are presented. The story counts more than the format. The question about the format is how much of a barrier it puts between me and the story, how much it gets in the way, how it holds up my reading. We’re used to the inconveniences associated with paper books, but, really, they are anything but comfortable and relaxing. Think of all that bother holding the thing open, for starters, especially when reading in bed… Trying to find the right angle to catch the light properly… Keeping your place in the book… Peering at the words sinking into the spine…
After using ebooks for a while even turning the page seems like a time-consuming chore! Reading an ebook (on the right device) can be much more immersive and quite a bit quicker than reading it on paper – it’s just you and the story, with no hassle. I’ve found I read things about 20% faster on the Sony Reader, and it’s not because I’m rushing, it’s because there are fewer distractions from the actual reading.
I doubt anyone would really find reading a 500pp+ paperback, let alone hardback, more comfortable than reading the same thing on a Sony Reader. Look at it this way: anytime you find yourself needing two hands to read a book, that’s a hand more than you need for the Sony Reader!
Another point is that books, just like music, tv, films and photographs, are so much more accessible as files. Then think about the ease of actually buying the books that you want to read. Within a year or two buying any book ever published could take just minutes, instead of years spending trawling second-hand bookshops and eBay.
As far as cost goes, taking into account things like Feedbooks, Project Gutenberg and Google Books – plus initiatives like the Baen Books free library – the average cost of an ebook is much lower than paper books, since anything published more than a hundred years ago is totally free.
The one thing I miss is being able to add notes to what I’m reading (which I could do on the Rocket eBook), but apparently you can get some special accessories for the Sony Reader – a “pen” and “paper”. I’ll report back on these novelties in a future editorial, though at first glance they seem much more awkward than using a keyboard…
News & Comment
The Quarterly Review
Here are the people who made this issue so enjoyable to put together…
Anne Marie Gomez owns a business that designs custom gardens for people’s homes. She also raises a variety of flowers from seed and enjoys sharing the seedlings with other home gardeners. Her free time is devoted to writing, writing, and then more writing.
Josie Gowler has had short stories published in Delivered and Linkway
magazines. Her specialties are weird tales set in the East Anglian Fens and
science fiction short stories; sometimes the two overlap.
John Greenwood propped TQF up for many years, keeping the magazine going with his generous contributions until it was ready to take its first steps into wider world. His stories can be found in most previous issues.
John Hall is best known as a Sherlockian scholar, and a member of the International Pipe Smokers’ Hall of Fame. His numerous literary interests include Raffles, Sexton Blake, H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James. He is the author of Special Commission, a medieval murder mystery. Previous stories by John appeared in TQF23 (“Shaggai”), TQF25 (“In the Vale of Pnath”) and TQF26 (“The Burrower Beneath”).
Ever since Jason Hinchcliffe was a kid growing up in the middle of a forest in Cayuga, Ontario, he’s had dreams of becoming a writer. Not much has changed since then, except instead of being a geeky and funny-looking child, he’s blossomed into a geeky and funny-looking adult. To support himself, Jason works as an editor at a legal publisher in Markham. If it wasn’t for the Bank and all their pesky rules (pay the loans, pay the mortgage), he’d spend his time reading Dickens novels, writing, and watching all the movies that having a job tends to prevent a person from watching. This year has been an incredible writing-year so far – stories are forthcoming in Kaleidotrope, 580 Split, the Nashwaak Review, and also Candlelight, a Dark Anthology of Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. Jason owns two cats that sleep way too much.
Barry Pomeroy is an itinerant English professor, boat designer and builder, traveller, carver, sometime mechanic, carpenter, and web designer. As a writer he is responsible for Multiple Personality Disorder, a long poem in dialogue, and the novel Naked in the Road, and his shorter work has been or will be published in magazines such as Cosmetica, Bards and Sages, Insolent Rudder, Tart, Tiny Globule, Writing Shift, Ulterior, Oddville Press and Word Catalyst. “Breaking out of Sleep” is from the short story collection Isolates and Survivors.
Douglas Thompson won the Grolsch/Herald New Writing Award in 1989, and second prize in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition in 2007. His stories have been widely published in magazines and anthologies, most recently Ambit, New Writing Scotland, Subtle Edens and Dark Horizons. “Anatomy of a Wounded House” is from his first novel/collection Ultrameta which will be published in August 2009 by Eibonvale (see www.glasgowsurrealist.com/douglas).
Stephen Theaker is the eponymous editor of Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction. He wrote all of this issue’s reviews, which explains their reliance on words such as superb, exciting and well-written. He is also the editor of Dark Horizons, the journal of the British Fantasy Society.