On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol. 30 no. 2 #112 (magazine review).

‘On Spec’ is a small-size magazine out of Alberta, Canada produced by volunteers on a tiny budget that consistently punches well above its weight. It’s mostly short fiction.

In ‘Mindwig’ by Al Onia, James is a teacher at a liberal college surrounded by Christian fundamentalist institutions and he’s pondering the existence of extra-terrestrials. This might upset some people. But would God create a whole vast empty universe just for us to look at in awe? A piece to provoke thought not emotion or adrenaline rushes. I loved it.

Scattered through this issue are three yarns about parental love. Bratati has been serving the Duchesse forty years when she finds a door in the pantry with an inscription on it. The grand chateau has many rooms and many doors that her ladyship used to wander before age limited her physical strength and clouded her mind but this one she would not miss. Through the door is another world. ‘The Door Not Taken’ by Tyler Goodier is a sweet, clever fantasy about family, loyalty and saying the wrong thing, especially to imps.

In a similar vein but darker, ‘A Child Is Light’ by Michael Johnstone concerns a noble lady about to give birth. Brotta the sorceress had predicted that the child will be born with a temak, an absence on its body, and such children are given to the Pristers for disposal, as recommended in the Book Of Aldin. Like any mother, Lady Langel isn’t happy with that idea. Some clever twists and the setting could be used for a novel.

There’s another different child in ‘Library Time’ by William A. Turley, set in our world. Sandy is seven and lives with her Daddy ‘Do you remember tomorrow, Daddy?’ she asks when he picks her up from school. Obviously, he doesn’t but when it comes around he learns that her grammar wasn’t at fault. This is another heart-warming, clever tale of parental love, almost a theme in this issue.

Wider family loyalty is also important. It’s Christmas and John the Magic Mennonite has to beat the devil at Solitaire to make sure his family comes to no harm. ‘Cheating The Devil At Solitaire’ by Chadwick Ginther is one of those stories where the real meaning is just hinted at but the hero is a likeable rogue and his family are down-to-earth characters so it kind of works.

‘L’Orangerie’ is a story whose release has been perfectly timed for the age of coronavirus, God save us all. Marseau lives in a derelict house in a Paris depopulated by plague, staying alive in hard circumstances and sometimes wondering why. Author N.M. Billon is interviewed by Roberta Laurie in her regular feature and mentions that he was intrigued by how people behave in desperate times and how quickly the veneer of civilisation falls away. A grisly but well-told tale.

Two hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, Frank Dugas has retreated from the world to a small quiet house far from civilisation, a low grade fortress of solitude for he is really the mighty super-hero Paragon. Cat-O-Nine Tails turns up to ask him a favour. Azul Diablo has kidnapped Kismet, the super-hero who replaced Paragon in her affections and she wants Paragon to rescue him. Bloody cheek! Still, Frank can never resist Kat so he goes on another mission, despite the terrible cost of using his powers. Things don’t turn out as expected. I really prefer my super-heroes in comicbook format but prose works when done well and this is an excellent example.

Another fine issue of ‘On Spec’ from the distant shores of the Commonwealth. God save the Queen!

Eamonn Murphy

March 2020

(pub: Copper Pig Writers Society. 130 page A5 magazine. Price: $ 6.95 (CAN). ISSN: 0843-476X.)

check out websites: www.onspec.ca and https://onspecmag.wpcomstaging.com/current-issue/

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: https://eamonnmurphywriter298729969.wordpress.com/

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