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On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 23 no. 1 # 84

01/11/2011. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 23 no. 1 # 84 in the USA - or Buy On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 23 no. 1 # 84 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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‘On Spec # 84’ opens with ‘The Guardians’ by Kate Riedel. At twelve, a girl needs a best friend and Jeannie finds Mellie who lives in a big house down a path that is hard to find. Jeannie goes there often, evenings, weekends and holidays, but Mellie never leaves the house and is phenomenally good at swimming. Lisette is a mysterious older woman who looks after Mellie. In the end, this is a fantasy about being used but not minding much because of the fringe benefits.

Wracked by guilt and cancer, Helen Crook’s last days in hospital are painful and filled with memories of water and her dead son. ‘Skipping Stones Until Nightfall’ by Stacy Sinclair has a fairly predictable ending for a North American magazine, think ‘Gladiator’ with Russell Crowe, but she pulls it off well enough.

‘The Birds Of Floor Number Forty-Seven’ by Matthew Marinett takes place in a skyscraper where a black market ruffian named Rufus runs a local store. This is a life-goes-on, slice-of-life, coming-of-age tale with an original post-apocalyptic setting with talking birds. I'm not sure if the birds actually talked or it was someone's delusion but the yarn was pretty good. Marinett is this issue’s author interviewee.

A glittering diamond ring found on a beach shows elements of his past life to Edward when he gazes into its facets in ’Of Diamonds And Facets’ by Bruce Taylor. Trying to find out what went wrong with his life our hero realises that all relationships end in death or separation. I liked the anti-romanticism of this in an age when many stories are like suffocating in warm, sentimental mush. Romanticism is super but a cold look at rates of depression, divorce and family break-up in the western world show it up for a delusion. Usually.

On the other hand, warm, sentiment can be nice if done well. The eponymous ‘Happy Elephants’ in a charming story by Robert P. Switzer who come to Earth by spaceship and communicate telepathically with those humans, quite a few, capable of receiving thoughts. One such is Leslie Murphy, a teen-age girl who lives with her grumpy parents in suburbia USA or maybe Canada. The space elephants use her to translate their wisdom for one Marcel Levack, a mugger they want to put on the track to happiness. They want to do the same for all humanity. This was a nice story in a Frank Capra/Walt Disney kind of way and Spielberg could make it into a good film.

More grimly, a hover cam and a brain monitor track a zombie child in a garden in ‘Walled Gardens’ by Angela Dorsey. What seems like a fantasy with gadgets in the opening paragraphs turns out to be pure Science Fiction. A good yarn with a couple of surprise twists along the way. ‘Harry’s Mermaid’ by Steve Vernon concludes the fiction this issue with a downbeat and wistful tail of three men fishing who make a strange catch.

‘On Spec’ continues to offer quality and variety enough for a number of tastes.

Eamonn Murphy

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