On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 30 no. 1 #111 (magazine review).

This is the eleventy-first issue of ‘On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic’ and contains the same mix of short stories, poetry and non-fiction articles as the other eleventy.

The first fiction is ‘Crimes Of The Genome’ by M.F. Westphal. Jean Green is what passes for a cop in the shade, a sort of underworld shantytown ruled by the Sisters who use the genome as the source of their income. She has some contacts with the sunlighter police of Winnipeg. Jean gets a new client, Ben, who has spliced illicitly with a sunlighter and doesn’t want his partner to find out. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the story and the setting was fascinating. The plot was resolved. Unfortunately, I wasn’t clear on what exactly was meant by splicing and why it was so sacred and bad and important.

There are shadowy creatures who cut your skin off, eat you up and inhabit it for a while, using it to go about looking normal until they find another victim. Two of them, a not so happy couple, feature in ‘What Little Remains’ by Paul Alex Gray, narrated in the first person by the female demon. Visceral and original.

Ifeyinwa is a powerful African magician. When she raids The House Of Cherry Blossoms in the garden of Nippon to steal a magic crystal, she must defeat her former lover, Kumiko, a sorcerer of even greater power. Neither one wants to fight the other so it’s a case of honour and duty versus love, for whichever nation has the crystal will be top dog. ‘Blue Crystal Shards’ by George Nikolopoulos has a rich, detailed matriarchal background and, though written in normal third-person point of view short story prose, somehow reads like a genuine tribal legend or fable with cosmic overtones.

An excellent piece of work as is his other story here, ‘The Sacred Order Of The Guardians Of The Last Door’. It’s a flash fiction piece about monks who communicate by tap-dancing while guarding the door of the title. Quite funny.

This issue’s author interviewee is Lynne M. Maclean who wrote ‘Cold War’. Anna is an ichthyologist and, while getting over the trauma of her best mate being eaten by piranhas, the last thing she needs is more fish trouble. Too bad. In Canada’s North Western territories she encounters a crazy old man who goes around reciting ‘The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ and a strange new species with sharp, pointy teeth. This flippant summary doesn’t do justice to a very good SF/horror story with sympathetic characters and some real drama. In the interview, Maclean admits to loving 1950s creature features, as who does not? ‘Cold War’ should be made into a film ASAP.

Long ago, human hearts were made of gold and so carefully spared any harm but one silly girl kept falling in love which always ended badly and her poor heart deteriorated. There was no whitesmith in her village, so she went to the blacksmith and his apprentice tried to fix it. ‘The Girl Who Loved Like Fire And The Blacksmith Who Was Afraid Of His Heart’ by Jennifer Bushroe reads like a very sweet fairy story. I admire the kind of mind that could come up with such a tale and believe Jennifer Bushroe must be a nice lady.

The final fiction in this issue in ‘Hospice’ by Leslie Brown. On a faraway world, Li’lall, is a second-tier female of the Li Clan of the Haleb. When a cub trips her on the stairs, breaking her ankle, she is cast out as useless and left to die in an alley. Normally, that would be the end of her but humans have come to the Capitol lately and the Regent let them set up a hospice. They take in outcasts and care for them. I enjoyed the story but, in retrospect, it’s very Trekky with a harsh, brutal alien culture being shown a better way by lovely old humanity. Lovely old fictional humanity at that because really we would enslave them and put them to work. Perhaps by the time we reach the stars, we’ll be nicer. Let’s hope.

The non-fiction includes two touching tributes to late author Dave Duncan which will make you want to read his work, the author interview, a couple of cartoons and a poem as well as notes on the contributors. The fiction’s the main thing though and I must say I liked every single story this issue. Well done Canada and Greece!

Eamonn Murphy

August 2019

(pub: Copper Pig Writers Society. 120 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 eBooks are available at all good retailers or see his website:

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