On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 26 no. 4 # 99 (magazine review).

The fiction doesn’t start until page 32 of this issue of ‘On Spec’, when you have ‘My Pink Galoshes’ by Krista D. Ball. (Is that a pseudonym?) Galoshes, I believe, are what we in England call Wellington boots, waterproof footwear named after the Duke of Wellington who whupped Napoleon at Waterloo, albeit with rather more help from the Prussians than we learn in schoolboy history. Anyway, the boots of the title are getting dirty with oil because a slick has polluted Newfoundland after an accident. A short tale written by the author in her lunch hour. It’s okay. Krista D. Ball is this issue’s author interviewee and reveals that she writes a lot, self publishes her novels as e-books and is now doing well enough to give up her real job. Good for her.


Mike Rimar does a nice old-fashioned Science Fiction story about colonising new planets. Machines have been terraforming Gliese for years and now it is ready for humans. They arrive with the settlers in cold storage, but Captain Charles Barris finds the planet occupied by aliens. ‘Squatters’ Rights’ takes a light-hearted view of this tricky problem and has the aliens use 1950s jive to communicate, radio signals from that period having just reached them. Good fun for six pages but the ending might have been stronger.

‘Turnip Farmers Are Heroes, Too’ by Siobhan Gallaher is mildly amusing and very short, three pages. ‘Demonic Intervention’ by Peter Charron has a denizen of Hell, Mabiralec, corrupted by modern consumer society. Six more pages of humour. This was starting to look like a comedy-themed issue, enjoyable but lightweight.

Tyler Keevil rode to the rescue with ‘It’s In You To Give’. I know the NHS is in dire straits at the moment but employing vampires in the blood donation field shows a real lack of scrutiny, even if he is a qualified doctor. It’s set in Wales, where the author lives, and written in the present tense and it’s about a good vampire. From this description, many editors would set fire to the manuscript. There are myriad submission guidelines online that tell you they don’t want any more vampire or zombie stories. Happily, Tyler Keevil writes with a nicely understated line of prose, a strong sense of place and has interesting characters. Pity, if not terror, is evoked and it’s all wrapped up neatly. I guessed the ending, actually, but I’m an old hand at this short story lark now and know about Chekov‘s law: If a photon torpedo is mentioned in a story it must, at some point, be fired.

In the near future, rich people will have synthetic children as toys. No nasty toilet training and you can get rid of them when you’re bored or stash them away in the wardrobe when you want to do something else. They are the latest fashion accessory. Sounds ideal. ‘To The Farm’ is told in the first person by Gerry, chauffeur to the wealthy Collodi family and often to Petie, their toy child whom he gets attached. Author Aliya Whiteley takes a single new idea and tells a story about it in terms of human beings. That was Robert Heinlein’s formula for the Science Fiction short story and he borrowed it from H.G. Wells. It still works.

Jasper wears a long coat, a fedora and a scarf, like he’d stepped out of the 1930s and doesn’t really belong in this world. He meets a girl on a park bench sketching passers-by with a fountain pen. She draws a symbol on his wrist. The writing later runs up his arm and when he touches it he is transported to another world, an older more elegant world. He sees the girl there who tells him he must find a story for himself. As I waded through pages of lush description, I knew how he felt.

’Ink Skin’ by Michael Wojcik is a stylish fantasy but it wasn’t really my kind of thing. Scoring ’Ink Skin’ as a miss, ’It’s In You To Give’ as a hit, and the rest as sort of middling this comes out as an average issue of ‘On Spec’ so far as fiction goes.

Non-fictionally, there’s an interesting interview with author David Mitchell that is probably even more gripping if you’ve read him. Concerned with the environment, Mitchell thinks that all ethnic and other divisions are irrelevant and there are only two types of people: those with children and those without. Contentedly without, I’m inclined to agree. Certainly, those with kids should be more concerned about the future. The irony is that having children is probably the worst thing you can do for our overcrowded planet, population pressure being the main cause of increased consumption.

There’s an editorial pondering freedom of speech in the wake of the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ massacre in Paris. There’s also that author interview with Krista D. Ball and one with cover artist Billy Toufexis. The cover’s pretty good actually. As usual, ‘On Spec’ is worth a look but I’m hoping they’ll pull off something special for the grand 100th issue.

Eamonn Murphy

May 2015

(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 website: www.onspec.ca

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