On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 25 no. 3 # 94 (magazine review).

Here be stories. ‘Last Stand At Catesby’s Books’ starts with a chap with a rifle squatting by a pile of books, waiting to shoot. Dallas 1963? No, Catesby’s Books, an independent store in the middle of a city. Modernisers want to close it, use e-readers and save trees. The staff are prepared to defend paper to the death. I have some sympathy with this idea, writing the first draft of my review with a pen on paper, but I am old. Ironically, ‘On Spec’ is striving to be available electronically, too. Don’t tell Andrew Bryant ‘cause he wrote this.


Next up is ‘The Revenant Threat’ by R. Crowle Gray. Tristan’s mate, Darwin, is a bit of a fool and manages to get a curse put on him in a late night poker game. Tristan feels obliged to save him. This is one of those urban fantasies in which magic exists secretly alongside the real world we know. It was well wrought and concluded satisfactorily.

‘All’s Safe’ by Joseph C. Romano has Gleason O’Toole, Christian monk and former commando, stuck in a post-war scenario of toxic winds and deadly snow. He’s a man with a mission in a devastated world. The theme of monks preserving civilisation is similar to that of ‘A Canticle For Leibowitz’, the very famous Science Fiction novel by Walter M. Miller, Jr. and there’s good Irish whiskey to boot. Or drink. It starts slow but bear with it.

‘Bounded In A Nutshell’ by Mary A. Turrillo is remarkable. The fact of bored immortals in a future where science has given us long life is not new. The inclusion of the last boy on Earth, Jonathan not Kamandi in this case, is interesting. The addition of a troop of miniaturised actors in the National Portmanteau Theatre is a whole new twist, as is their dilemma. An excellent, moving and truly original tale. By golly, there can be new things under the sun if you try hard.

Rill, a Green Child, visits farmer Tilman and his wife Dima to rid them of a Withering in their fields in ‘Green Child’ by Amber E. Scott. Seeds glow with energy and radishes are filled with power in the epic struggle between Green Child and the root monster. Amber is the author interviewee this issue and reveals that she usually writes computer games. It shows in her very visual, action-packed mode of storytelling but the tale is quite strong. It would make a good CGI or animated film or a graphic novel with art by P. Craig Russell in glowing colours.

Howie Erikson comes up with a nice new euphemism for government agencies in ‘Intentions’. They are authorised to ‘inhibit’ the actions of Intents. ‘Inhibit’ means do whatever it takes to stop them. The Intents are people who can calm their minds, become one with the universe and make whatever they want happen. Intents who don’t want to work for the government are in ‘rehabilitation’ until they change their minds but the most powerful one, Zardot, has escaped their clutches. Unfortunately, this interesting scenario is cut off after very few pages. Maybe it’s the first chapter of a novel. I hope so. The mutable reality of this tale has a strong whiff of Philip K. Dick about it, which I like. I’d say it’s Dickian but that sounds a bit rude.

There’s a quirky, interesting and original bunch of stories in this issue of ‘On Spec’ with nary a zombie, vampire, elf, faery, orc or sword in sight, though there is a sorcerer. Those chaps are all jolly good fun, of course, but it’s nice to have something different. Well done, the Copper Pig Writers’ Society! (for it is them).

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/

2 thoughts on “On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 25 no. 3 # 94 (magazine review).

  • At the time I gave the interview, I didn’t write computer games. I write pen and paper RPGs (think old school Dungeons & Dragons). Since then I have actually gotten a job writing video games, which has been an amazing experience. Thanks for the great review!

  • Sorry for the innacurracy. Not a gamer of any kind myself I assumed the role playing games meant computers, which it probably does nowadays. When you assume you make an ass out of you and me – but me in this case.


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