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On Spec magazine no. 80

01/10/2010. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 22 no. 1 # 80 Spring 2010 in the USA - or Buy On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 22 no. 1 # 80 Spring 2010 in the UK

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On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 22 no. 1 # 80 Spring 2010. 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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Here is another 'On Spec' with the usual mix of fiction, poetry and interviews. I will focus on the fiction, giving a brief review of the stories one by one so everybody gets a mention. This quarterly’s cover artist and interviewee is Aaron Parquette. There. He has not been left out. The poetry is by Saint James Harris Wood who I believe is doing hard time in an American jail for drug offences. On with the stories.

'A Thousand' by Leah Bobet is one of those dreamy fantasies that seem to be the mainstay of ‘On Spec’. Kato practices origami as a kind of street artist, making cranes and other things. His father is a grumpy Japanese man who owns a small business and his mother is a crane or has been reincarnated as a crane or was only a woman briefly. It's worth reading for the elegant language and evocative imagery, almost more of a poem than a story.

'Zebedee The Giant Man' by Tina Connolly concerns an eighteen foot tall tortua herder who seduces a normal sized banker’s daughter with a singing voice smooth 'like buttered waffles slick with maple syrup' as she cosies up to his five foot thighs. She runs off with him. ‘Time for bed!’ said Zebedee.

'Weeds In The Garden' by Meghan Dunn is Science Fiction, for a change. Ma and the kids are getting by in the post-holocaust world when a government man comes along interfering. Ma thought all government was finished in the war. He wants to decide who is fit to breed and who isn't as mutations abound. This was pretty good and the situation was put over subtly by the author.

'Walk The Wheat' by John Mantooth is told retrospectively by an old man who was twelve when it happened. The doctor stitches up Cody for the umpteenth time in the trailer but senses something wrong. Cody is dead, actually, which a doctor should notice. Once again a darned interfering government person comes along, a woman this time. She works for state family services and the doc notified her about the fact that Cody seems to get injured a lot. Then Mama gets a new boyfriend and he gets injured even more. This is another story set in that dusty, hick, wild west, outlaw setting full of inbred simpletons that works so well for weird tales. Alas, we don't have anywhere like that in England. Well, maybe parts of Somerset.

'Vanishing Woman' by Marcelle Dubé is about a faded woman in a photograph on a hotel wall and the cleaning lady's mission to find out who she was. A nicely delivered low-key piece by this month's author interviewee who says that Heinlein inspired her to write.

Tony Pi was a 2009 finalist for the John W. Campbell Award For Best New Writer so I suppose a good story from him is no surprise. 'Cygnet's Shadow' is about a princess and her bodyguard and her cousin who is secretly training her in combat. All of them can turn into swans at will. The premise sounds daft and the thing is confusing at the start but it was excellent. Probably the best story in this issue and that's against some pretty good competition.

'To Sleep In Peace' by Kate Reidel shows that real vampires, especially Greek ones, are not handsome devils in evening dress. Transylvania sort of took over the horror genre but no doubt all of eastern Europe is full of myth and legend. Does not the Golem hail from Czechoslovakia? This was an interesting variation on a theme.

‘On Spec’ keeps up the good work with this issue. Long may it continue.

Eamonn Murphy

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