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On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 17 no. 3 # 62 Fall 2005

01/04/2006. Contributed by Donna Jones

Buy On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic in the USA - or Buy On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic in the UK

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magazine: Copper Pig Writers Society. Price: $ 5.95 (CAN). ISSN: 0843-476X. Distributed in Canada by CMPA and the UK by BAR.

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I realise that fiction is subjective. One man's Shakespeare is another man's Mill's And Boon and that may be a good or a bad thing when it comes to the readers particular tastes. I believe that the kind of writing that falls foul of this kind of black and white treatment is poetry. I myself have been ignorant to its subtleties and its marvels.

The one great thing about 'On Spec' which I don't think is apparent is that its poetry is extremely good. I noticed in this particular edition a poem by Mary Soon Lee called 'Future Poetry' that got to me far more than any novel has ever managed. Taking an idea that poetry will be beamed into your retinas each day for you to read because it cannot be avoided was a little unnerving. Add to this the fact that it is from the Government, the President even, sent shivers down my spine. Words are more powerful than we realise, it would be like making millions of people potential time bombs.

'The Coming Years Of Good' by Robert Burke Richardson was like a weird revamped tale of 'The Borrowers', the issues on an apartment advert being little people who live in the wall. These little people keep the protagonist of the tale awake at night filming their specialist home movies. The tiny woman being able to make creepy-crawlies from nasty thoughts in her head and the tiny man whipping up the weather with a thought or a carefully twitched pinkie. Their only fear is fire which melts their insides which are made of Devonshire cream! This kind of Jackson Pollock meets the written word surrealism is something that the editors of 'On Spec' obviously embrace because at least one short story or poem each issue has this disturbed but imaginative undertone.

Going back to my new found appreciation of poetry, Mildred Trembley managed to put me off my food with her lengthy titled poem, 'News Release: Ninety Percent Of Dust Is Made Up Of Dead Skin'. While this didn't really come as a revelation to me, the way she described that dust in everything in our homes and, even dare I say, it before one of your meals, in our bowls of pasta! Sent the raging willies running for the hills. I don't know that I'll ever look at my food the same way again.

'Mollie Dreams Of Dolphins' by Laura E. Price was a very subtle but jerky story that threw you off balance from the beginning. It's set in what you come to realise is a post bio-terrorist attack when people have died and areas have been cut off because of the plague that results. The thing I enjoyed most about this story was the fractured way in which the character not only dealt with the here and now but how the past dribbled back in cold splats of back story. Facing death and the frightening experience of getting out of mass death populations to be clear of the contagion seemed a small triumph. A troubling story that I liked immensely.

Just to recap, for anyone who has never read one of my reviews for 'On Spec', it is a quarterly magazine of fiction and poetry spun out by the masterly and may I add voluntary people of the Copper Pig Writers' Society of Canada. We have already been through the stigmatism attached to that country so I won't go over them again, suffice it to say that the image they get is undeserved. There's a bit of SF, a bit of horror and even fantasy in different shapes and forms that genre boxes never dare to hold. No unnecessary glossy prints just the written word unadulterated. While I have always sung 'On Spec's praises, it's because for what it is, it is damn good.

So returning to my initial theme of subjectivity in fiction. I don't always enjoy every work. I sometimes have a false start reading these because of a damp squib that just doesn't do it for me in those first pages. But that's the beauty of subjectivity, you can't always please toe-rags like me all of the time and why the Hell should you have to?!!

Donna Jones

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