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On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 20 no. 3 # 74 Fall 2008

01/06/2009. 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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Youth is the theme of this issue and its contents are the fruits of a competition for young authors. The opening story is 'Too Long To Forgive' by Brittany McCartney, winner of the 15-18 category. A spirit trapped in a tree gets out and wants revenge. It was okay but Brittany's twin sister, Ashlin, gives us 'With Love', a touching tale of a self-sacrificing canine creature which, frankly, I thought was better. I reckon they'll both go far though, like those Bronte women.

Any sentimental fool of a dog lover will enjoy 'Paddywhackers Come Home' by Don Norum and an evil feline features in 'A Cat Named Wellington' by Seanah Roper. I suppose pets are bound to crop up in stories by youngsters. Wellington moves in with the widow Dunsmire one day and she bequeaths him to old Mister Cobbit when she dies. Cobbit is not pleased because they really don't get on. It called him a 'stupid little man' first time they met! The true nature of their relationship is revealed in the original and startling conclusion.

Doctor Heinrich Von Munstergarten is about to cut the heart from a beautiful biology teacher and use it to animate a chesty metal woman he has constructed when her students burst in to save her. So begins 'Mad Science' a witty spoof of old horror films by S.R. Kriger.

'No Entry Signs And Other Cosmic Miracles' by Stephanie Gray features a fire exit door in a superstore with a 'Do Not Enter' sign. This makes no sense because the door leads out to the car park. It drives Janet crazy and on her last day she goes through it. Doors are not new to fantasy but the explanation for this one is nifty and says something about human nature, too.

Android human rights is an old theme in SF, from Asimov's robots to dear old Data in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' but for my money the best example is the novel 'Tower Of Glass' by Robert Silverberg. B.L. Trogen couldn't hope to equal that in a short story but his 'Burning Feathers' is an interesting addition to the lore and won him first prize in the 19-23 category. A youth is put on trial for the 'murder' of an android when he assaults her so badly that a human would have died.

She gets repaired but the case goes to court. Cue fanatical church members foaming at the mouth versus men of reason and science, another old theme. This is a well told tale with a twist at the end, rather a feature of the magazine. Stories that rely on a neat twist ending soon get dull (O. Henry!) but as a sort of bonus to a tale that would have been good anyway it's...well, neat.

Beside the assorted fiction there are interviews with Nicole Luiken, who I've never heard of, and Cory Doctorow, who everyone must have heard of because he puts himself about everywhere, especially on the Net. There is a poem by Brian Bosma entitled 'With Ray Guns Poised'. Apart from trying to set it to music it held little interest but the first three stanzas almost fit Gilbert and Sullivan's 'With Cat-like Tread' from 'The Pirates Of Penzance'. I'm afraid sincere SF poetry leaves me cold, though I enjoyed Asimov's light-hearted stuff.

I picked up this issue with a heavy heart, weary of fiction, a bit jaded about fantasy short stories and feeling there was nothing original to be said. I put it down with renewed faith in the genre. 'Youth!' as Conrad's old captain cries dramatically in the story of that name. They really can bring renewed freshness to old art forms. God bless them everyone.

Eamonn Murphy

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