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On Spec: Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic 79

1/09/2010. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 22 no. 43 # 79 Winter 2009 in the USA - or Buy On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 22 no. 43 # 79 Winter 2009 in the UK

author pic

pub: Copper Pig Writers Society. Price: $ 6.95 (CAN). ISSN: 0843-476X. Distributed in Canada by CMPA and the UK by BAR. Now available as a download.

check out website: www.onspec.ca

'Orchids' by Christopher Johnstone provides a pretty good opening to the fiction in this edition of the Canadian magazine 'On Spec'. A dryad, it seems, is a creature shaped like a lovely woman but 'she' is actually a kind of fruit, attached to her tree by long, green hair. Physical pleasure is possible with a dryad and some men keep going back for more until they are nearly mad. Not our hero, though. A philosopher-scientist, Abramalin Da Viadro, hires two woodcutters to chop the dryad loose then puts her hair in a bucket of water. This keeps her alive temporarily, like a cut flower and he takes her back to his room at the inn to study her. The event is narrated from the perspective of his old age. He is cool and clinical. I didn't like him much but the story was well done.



Carter Hall is a much more loveable character, an honest ice-hockey fanatic who occasionally gets mixed up with magic. In 'Carter Hall Judges the Lines' by Marissa Lingen he is press-ganged into teaching the peewee league and life gets complicated when three gorgeous goddesses who have youngsters on the team press him to decide who is the most beautiful. Though not bookish, Carter Hall is vaguely aware of the judgement of Paris and how it turned out bad, the Trojan war and all that. This lively, amusing tale was probably the best this month. I've come across Carter before in these pages and I hope I will again.

'Commonplace Sacrifices' by L.L. Hannett was so constructed that it was hard to fathom what was going on at the start but the situation and the protagonist slowly became clear and a bit nasty. A leprechaun or similar is involved in trying to save a nice lady from a nasty husband. An odd combination of everyday reality with fantasy that leaves you sad, mainly because too many women live the reality and have no way out.

Fraser Ronald is the author interviewee this issue and the chat is preceded by 'For Simple Coin', a sword and sorcery tale set in the city of Hadrapole in which mercenary Caspan tries to save the witch woman Elnya from her enemies. He is aided by Terqmar, a mysterious blind man who has magic of his own. This was enjoyable enough that you could imagine a novel set against the same background. The ending was a surprise. The interview reveals the Fraser Ronald's favourite writer is Josef Conrad, which is unusual for this genre.

'The Meditation Machine' by Jamie Mason concerns a super-computer in an interstellar future that runs everything, from space traffic control to lawn sprinklers. It becomes self-aware. Nothing new there: Asimov's Multivac ran everything and Heinlein's Mike, the super-computer in 'The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress' became self-aware. However, Jamie Mason's computer gets depressed so a psychiatrist is bought in to help and recommends counselling from a Zen Buddhist master. The consequences are interesting. Mason's story shows how old Science Fiction concepts can be given a new twist and it's jolly good fun to boot.

'The Deer's Thorn' by Esther Rochon is a wistful, low-key fantasy translated from the French as part of a story trade deal between 'On Spec' and 'Solaris', a French-Canadian magazine. The cross-cultural pollination is an excellent idea and the story is pretty good, too. It reminded me slightly of Juliet Marillier's books in which the Otherworld with its full of fantasy creatures is very close to ours.

'Perfect Day' by Chris Wroblewski is about a couple waiting for the last bomb to drop in a post-catastrophe landscape, I think. It was a low-key, slice of life thing written in the present tense. Not really my cup of tea but brief and painless.

The author interview was reasonably interesting and as usual there is also an interview with the cover artist, Justin Pasieka. There is poetry, too. 'Big Fat Egg' by Jennifer Footman didn't rhyme and made no sense. It's modern, some striking images put together in a sort of poetic way. 'Happy Homicide Bugs' by Sheila E. Nefertiti Morrison didn't rhyme neither but did make sense. It's about scabies. Actually, it was quite clever.

A pretty good show, as usual, from the Copper Pig Society. I'm pleased to say that the magazine is now available on-line which should broaden its audience. I've been reviewing this splendid little publication for a while now but I never know if anyone is able to buy it.

Now you can at: http://www.onspec.ca/
The site allows you to read a free issue before committing to purchase.

Eamonn Murphy

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