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On Spec 83

1/07/2011. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 22 no. 4 # 83 Spring 2010 in the USA - or Buy On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 22 no. 4 # 83 Spring 2010 in the UK

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On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 22 no. 4 # 83 Spring 2010. magazine: Copper Pig Writers Society. 130 page illustrated A5 magazine. Price: $ 6.95 (CAN). ISSN: 0843-476X. Distributed in Canada by CMPA and the UK by BAR.

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'On Spec' is a digest-size speculative fiction magazine published by the Copper Pig Writer’s Society of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Each issue features editorials, interviews and, best of all, lots of very good stories.

For generations the last breaths of all the Tavistocks have been saved in a special device for a special purpose. They are all precious, even that of Robert who isn’t a musical genius like the rest of the family. He is a gambler, a drinker, a wastrel and, occasionally, a painter. ’Chorus Of Final Sighs’ by Andrew Boden is a highly fantastical tale but has very human characters at its heart.

Invading aliens! Biotechnology! Colonization of far off planets! ‘Something To Remember You By’ is that 'On Spec' rarity, a Science-Fiction story. Terry Hayman’s tale of a young lad getting the last evacuation bus out of town features a dramatic clock-ticking countdown and the kind of harsh realities that old Analog editor John Campbell would have liked. Oh those cold equations! Terry Hayman is also this month’s author interviewee.

‘If Truth Be Told’ by Louise Moon has some great names for both places and characters: Hinterbog, Hodetta Smithsdoter, Cloweena and more. Quentin is the village truthsayer in the back of beyond but faces a moral dilemma when he gets his first big assignment. This was excellent.

In ‘Dreaming Of Jerusalem’, a group of modern American pilgrims set off for the Holy Land but most fall by the wayside. Our heroine, Miranda, dreams of Sir William, a melancholy Norman Crusader. Time travel of a different sort features in Michael Wojcik’s first published story and the characters are well drawn. Hopefully, he will produce more like this.

‘The Man Who Loved His Work’ is Elwood, a kind of park ranger in an infamous park where a pretty college girl mysteriously vanished years ago. Elwood loves nature and enjoys telling school parties how nothing really dies but is changed into new life - micro-organisms, bacteria and so forth. His sister thinks he should get married. Love comes his way in a fantastic form. Girls are nice and the story, my favourite this issue, was written by one, Kate Riedel, but surely the happiest man in the world is the man who loves his work.

The issue closes with three short-shorts (who wears them?). 'The Wind Man' is Skelly Gilgoohen an unfortunate Irish fellow cursed to wander the Emerald Isle according to which way the wind blows. This blarney was bought to us by Scott Overton and the narrative has the cadence of an old fairy tale, which it might be for all I know. An enjoyable yarn and he may be able to sell it again to an Irish magazine, 'Albedo One' or even 'Ireland's Own', to get a bigger audience.

'A Kidnapping' by Marcelo Adrián Lillo has a sort of twist in the tale and it would be a shame to give it away, even though it wasn't that great a twist. 'The Crystaiad' by Bruce Barber features a chap called Michael who is walking down the street when suddenly the whole world turns to glass and jewels! This is more of a prose poem than a story but it was pleasant enough.

Perhaps ‘On Spec’ pays well. Whatever the reason it continues to attract high quality material and every issue is a gem. Tastes differ so no one is going to love every story - indeed the editors are proud of its diversity - but it’s all good stuff. I still wish it had more SF though.

Eamonn Murphy

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