On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 25 no. 4 # 95 (magazine review).

This issue of ‘On Spec’ features two post-apocalypse stories, two sad stories and a pair of lightly amusing fantasy tales. First up is ‘When Soft Voices Die’ by Harding Young. In a city full of people sick and dying of a new influenza bug, Perry finds two pretty girls with a nice apartment and food. They throw a party, advertised by lights in the window, for anyone who can get up the stairs. The sick cannot. When the apocalypse comes, apparently, our biggest problem will be fear of commitment. An odd story with disturbing underlying values. Are we really this self-centred now?


‘A Place To Be’ by Adria Laycraft is about Dreya, a ranger in Canada tasked with hunting for food and stopping any strangers who might discover her home community, the Wind Farm. The clean water ran out and society fell apart. When an American comes her way, she should kill him lest he be a spy for another group but she hesitates. The plot twists according to the character of the characters, as it should but ‘On Spec’ writers seem to be pessimistic about human nature post-disaster. Given the state of it now, they’re probably right.

Staying with the grim stuff, ‘Remembrance’ by Brandon Crilly is about a wounded ex-soldier coping with PTSD by interacting with his old buddies in virtual reality form. Unfortunately, he spends hardly any time in real reality, which bothers his daughter. A useful reminder that escapism should be a part-time hobby.

‘Double Vision’ has a background similar to the film ‘Chocolat’, with the righteous mayor commanding the town and writing the homilies for the catholic priest. When his daughter is accused of stealing, and then lying about it, he takes her to a man called Chartrand who is reputed to see the truth about people. Things don’t quite turn out as planned in this interesting, dark fantasy.

On a lighter note there’s ‘The Marotte’ by Tony Pi. The Tsarina is deathly ill and Patriarch Damascu blames the Lord Conjuror, Vod, and has his head cut off. This should be a very short story as Vod is our hero and gets decapitated on page two but happily his spirit hangs around to inhabit a cloth puppet used by the court jester. This odd team then try to save the Tsarina. The whole thing was clever, amusing and well-constructed.

Even better is ‘The Young Necromancer’s Guide To Re-Capitation’ which might have been handy for Vod. Marissa Lingen teams up with Alec Austin to give us a charming yarn about a youthful wizard and his entourage of talking pets, a griffin, a tiger and a hydra. He has just nabbed a dragon but some fool hunter cut its head off and he must get it back. Many splendid moments of humour herein, especially the book titles.

Perhaps, because the majority of tales were downbeat, I didn’t enjoy ‘On Spec # 95’ as much as ‘On Spec # 94’. However, we have it on good authority that sad songs say so much and the same could be true of sad stories. It’s a shame that ‘On Spec’ isn’t bigger so we could have more of it but publishing anything nowadays is a battle. The quality continues to be good. The cover art is excellent, too, especially this issue as it’s actually little sculptures of ‘bots photographed.

Eamonn Murphy

April 2014

(pub: Copper Pig Writers Society. 130 page A5 magazine. Price: $ 6.95 (CAN). ISSN: 0843-476X. Distributed in Canada by CMPA and the UK by BAR)

check out websites: www.onspec.ca and http://ca.zinio.com/search/index.jsp?pageRequested=1&showTitles=limit&newsstandSearch=true&predict=true&flag=home&s=On+Spec&button.x=14&button.y=10

Emag: http://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/the-copper-pig-writers-society/

Eamonn Murphy

Eamonn Murphy reviews books for sfcrowsnest and writes short stories now and then. Website: https://eamonnmurphywriter298729969.wordpress.com/

2 thoughts on “On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 25 no. 4 # 95 (magazine review).

  • Thanks for the nice words about the cover, Eamonn. My wife makes the ‘bots and I do the photography, backgrounds, etc.

    I’ll be following SFCrowsnest from now on.
    –Steve Fahnestalk


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