On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 24 no. 3 # 91 (magazine review).

This is a particularly good issue of ‘On-Spec’, the Canadian magazine of the fantastic. The non-fiction is interesting but, as ever, it’s the fiction that makes it.


‘10 Thing I Know About Jesus’ by Stephen Popkes is narrated by a young lad who has been adopted by the eponymous hero of the tale. That Jesus lives in Highbee, Missouri and has a hundred acres of farmland is the second thing you learn about him in this short list. An interesting take on Our Lord and quite amusing. I don’t believe there’s anything offensive here but they might think differently in Missouri.

Although ‘Let There Be’ has a slightly biblical ring to its title and a Creator is mentioned who made the world for two types of being, it isn’t really set in that territory. The Corboran live by day and the Ghyan by night and they get along amicably enough. This little fantasy has a gentle pace and a very neat ending.

My favourite tale in this issue was ‘Sharali’ by Gaie Sebold. Charentin is an apprentice painter and his master urges him to paint the rising industrialists and bureaucrats that have money. Charentin prefers to paint the woodland but that may soon disappear under the burgeoning factories. At a party for the rich and famous, hunting commissions, he meets Sharali, the famous girl who has captivated high society. I liked the clever names for the guilds in this story, the fine writing and the slow pace and loved the ending.

‘Palimpsest’ by Kevin Cockle is a grim fantasy about using magic to get what you want, with unexpected consequences. He’s this issue’s author interviewee. It’s not my favourite of his but he’s done some other very good stuff, especially ‘Timeline’ in the last issue of ‘On Spec’.

‘Ghost Ride’ by Leslie Claire Walker has a man cursed to drive a station wagon in the service of Satan, picking up the dead to ferry them to Hell. An original idea, neatly executed and quite touching. ‘One Shoe Highway’ by Kim Neville has lone women disappearing on the road of the title and is grimly realistic about the hard life of poor women in contemporary America. I was reminded of Stephen King’s works by the characters, the setting and the writing, which was good.

The issue concludes with a gritty prohibition thriller,’ The Devil’s Eyes’ by Gordon Buresh. Johnny is a half-breed Indian working the docks in Chicago shortly before the Great War broke out. He meets Colm O’Reilly, an orphan and a bad man. A very bad man! Buresh grips you early on and you have to finish this to see how Johnny makes out.

This is a particularly good issue of the Canadian magazine of the fantastic.

I’ve said that twice now. Pay attention!

Eamonn Murphy

(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)

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Eamonn Murphy

Eamonn Murphy reviews books for sfcrowsnest and writes short stories for small press magazines. His works are available on Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited.

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