On Spec: The Canadian Magazine Of The Fantastic vol 27 no. 1 # 100 (magazine review)

September 20, 2015 | By | Reply More

Feel lucky, punk? This here is a ‘punk’ themed anthology of fantastical stories to celebrate the 100th issue of ‘On Spec’. In the opening editorial, Diane L. Walton lists the various sub-genres that now come under that label. They are: cyberpunk, dieselpunk, biopunk, bugpunk, transistorpunk, nanopunk, decopunk, atompunk, teslapunk, clockpunk, splatterpunk, mythpunk and spacepunk. Feel confused, punk? I certainly am but what’s in a label, after all? What counts is the quality of the story.

OnSpec100

The ‘Roundheels’ of the title in Carrie Naughton’s piece is Tracey Hawthorne, singer in a rockabilly/metal band (not punk?) who picks up a hunk in a bar and lets him take her home. Waking for a midnight snack, she meets his mom and, eventually, dad. This was a clever haunted house yarn with a likeable, tough female protagonist.

There’s another tough lady in ’Serenade On Lake Ontario’ by Mike Rimar. In an alternative world, Queen Elizabeth, England’s child monarch, has ceded Canada to the Nazis and they’ve taken it over. She didn’t have much choice. Our hero, Tony Puma, used to run bootleg whiskey to Capone in Chicago but now he’s smuggling a more important cargo to the U.S. government. His most able assistant is the deadly Susana. Coincidentally, I read this the day before Her Majesty broke Queen Victoria’s record for non-stop monarchy. ‘Long to reign over us’ indeed. It also comes a couple of weeks after some cad released photos of child Elizabeth learning Nazi salutes from a wicked uncle, obviously not knowing what they meant. The premise is good and the story was an excellent ripping yarn in the pulp tradition but I don’t think the U.S. would let the Nazis take Canada so easily, even preoccupied with Japan as they were. Powerful countries make damn sure the neighbours are friendly, often by conquering them.

‘Relocation’ by Rich Larson is presumably fairypunk. It’s set in a recognisable version of our world but there are faeries who swap their own offspring for human ones from time to time. The Folk, as they are also known, have been doing this for centuries and just can’t break the habit even though the government has a breeding program for them. Anyway, Dominique works in the relocation department but her usual partner has been injured and, like Clint Eastwood in that film, she has to break in a new one. Detling is boring and mildly irritating but, hopefully, she’ll get her old buddy back soon. This turned into a tightly plotted tale with a couple of unexpected twists and the main female character was quite likeable in that new tough female way.

‘The Secret Dragon Of Imperial Power’ by Claude Lalumière is an exotic eastern fable. Karim Khalil is a spy from Venera (Venice? It’s somewhere in the Mediterranean in a time soon after Leonardo Da Vinci), who has endeared himself to the court of a foolish and corrupt Chinese emperor. The story is told via his messages back home, sent by mechanical pigeon. The Secret Dragon of Imperial Power are a sect who guard the Emperor and the Terrestrial Phoenix of Utopian Anarchy are ‘terrorists’ who try to kill him. Florid names for everything suit the eastern atmosphere of this steampunk story and it had some good plot twists. Clever but not my sort of thing really.

The Association of North American Magnetic Levitation and Self-propulsive Detached Residences recommends that all mag-rez owners conduct uprooting drills regularly. In ‘Shriek Season’, the mag-rez is a very portable home. It can fly. Not everyone has one and the poor schmucks left on the ground just have to put up with the weather, which is always terrible. I assume this is environmentalcatastrophepunk. Author Wes Smiderle shows an interesting future with many well thought out details and also gives us a moving story of family values. Undoubtedly, they change in the face of harsh conditions but I don’t think they’ll change this much. I hope not.

The featured art this issue is by James Beveridge and depicts fantasy scenes in a clear, attractive pen and ink style. Illustrations suit this sort of literature and as ‘On Spec’ is forking out for them anyway perhaps it might be better to commission them to match the stories rather than having them as a separate portfolio. Just an idea. I recently found a cheap (£2.00) remaindered hardback edition of ‘War Horse’ with colour pictures added and it reminded me of the beautiful books of my childhood.

The 100th edition of ‘On Spec’ maintains the high standard we have come to expect. Three out of five stories this issue were Science Fiction, a pleasing ratio. The times they are a changing and the mag-rez homes may soon be blowing in the wind, especially if we cut down all the trees to make pretty children‘s books on real paper. Silly idea.

Eamonn Murphy

September 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 websites: www.onspec.ca and to buy the digital version:

http://weightlessbooks.com/format/on-spec-magazine-1-year-subscription-4-issues/ and https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/emagazine/onspec-24

Category: Fantasy, Magazines, Scifi

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About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy lives in the west country and grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, lots of other old SF and Marvel Comics. After many years hard labour he has settled down to a quiet life with a nice lady, two rescue dogs and four ducks. He writes reviews for crowsnest and a few short stories, some of which even get published in obscure magazines. His self-published (Beware!) horror novel 'Arnos Hell' set in a Bristol graveyard is available on Amazon as a kindle book. His YA novelette 'The Brigstowe Dragons' will be published shortly by Alban Lake. He seldom blogs at https://eamonnmurphyblog.wordpress.com/

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