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On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 20 no.1 # 72 Spring 2008

01/10/2008. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy On Spec in the USA - or Buy On Spec in the UK

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magazine: Copper Pig Writers Society. Price: $ 6.95 (CAN). ISSN: 0843-476X. Distributed in Canada by CMPA and the UK by BAR).

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More good stuff from the colonies. 'Aesop's Last Fable' by Tony Pi is an untold ancient Greek story about Aesop's death, based on fact and his afterlife, which is not so well documented. The Delphians killed him on trumped up charges of stealing a sacred cup after he lambasted them for being greedy thieves. They chuck him off a cliff and his body dies but his spirit is captured by the Sphinx. He has to solve a riddle for her before his soul can be released and go off to the Elysian fields. This is quite good fun.

A cocky young man mocks curling and falls foul of Granny Lesovna in 'Carter Hall Sweeps A Path' by Marissa K. Lingen. She promises not to kill him if he can beat her at the game. He then finds out that curling is very difficult and only has two weeks to get his act together. Coffee helps in the end. I couldn't quite figure out the setting in which modern life was taken for granted alongside immortal Russian witches. In Finland, I think. I liked the story, though.

In 'Jakkar's Servant' by Marion Bernard, Kirdan is apprenticed to Warl as an adolescent when his skin fills with the pus-filled blisters that are the mark of Jakkar's, a God. He has to leave his family and go off righting wrongs in the God's name, taking his payment in blood. This was a really good story set in an original fantasy world setting that is probably strong enough to take a novel. I'd really like to see more in the same vein from Marion.

I thought we were in 1950's Cuba at the start of 'The Masque Of The Red Clown' by Tyler Keevil, with rich businessmen being entertained in a Havana hotel as in 'The Godfather II'. It turned out to be modern Cuba and the story turned out to be...well, odd. I'm not even sure it was fantasy but it was certainly nicely done and resonated in the old grey matter for quite a long time afterwards.

While yanks clown in Cuba there is a monster in 'The Sea At Bari'. Like 'Controlled Release' in the last issue of this estimable magazine, Claude Lalumič re's tale featured a chap with no empathy. This seems to be a recurring theme in Science Fiction, from Mister Spock on down. Maybe Geeks feel guilty about not emoting more but should they? We live in a touchy-feely age at present but we British, at least, once knew the value of a stiff upper lip and dignified reserve. Times may change again.

My favourite story in this issue was 'Trickster' by Steve Stanton, about Union graffiti artists in a shipyard on the moon tagging colony ships just before they set off for the stars. Derek Thundersky is one of the artists and is madly in love with Susan Quiznichuk, who procures things for the Union. Derek is half-Navaho, half-Cree, an exotic mix. Meanwhile, Colonel Woodsworth Dunfield, late of Windermere-on-Avon and pilot of the latest departing colony ship, is a rather stodgy Englishman who is madly in love with Linda Evans but has rather fluffed their sexual compatibility test. She is a yank and he thinks perhaps he should stay Earthside and marry one of the 'noble and predictable gentlewomen of his homeland'.

Despite this Ealing comedy view of English persons, which may be deliberately ironic, the story was good fun. The two men and their separate romantic problems are neatly introduced and their destinies intersect in the oddest way. It is rare to find trade unions in Science Fiction but in a week when crooked corporate America has just been bailed out with a trillion dollars of the working man's money they will, hopefully, persist into the future. The hardware and the humanity of this story reminded me of Heinlein's 'Future History' series about the early days of spaceflight, some of his best work.

There's an interesting interview with cover artist Luke Ramsey who runs a sort of art commune called Island's Fold. I can't say I'm crazy about Luke's art but this kind of small scale, local way of doing art - of which 'On Spec' is itself a fine example - is refreshing in the face of world-wide conglomerate ownership and control of the media. It allows for the quirky and independent voices to be heard. Keep up the good work, people.

Eamonn Murphy

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