OR: On Spec #51

A review that originally appeared in The Fix #7:-


Edited by Diane L. Walton

This Canadian magazine of the fantastic is a publication that continues to do good work, with estimable productions standards and artwork to complement the stories that it contains. Leading off and easily the best thing here is ‘More than Salt’ by E. L. Chen, whose young heroine is accosted by a tramp who thinks he’s Lear and she’s Cordelia, but as the former English professor’s personal tragedy is revealed the girl’s life also starts to unravel, his fantasies spilling over into her reality and giving perspective to the things she is learning about her own absentee father. Beautifully written, this coming of age drama wrings every emotional nuance out of the situation it so deftly brings to life, blending fact and fiction and using each to highlight the other, making us care about and feel for all of the people involved, even as secrets are revealed and they spit hate at each other. Excellent.

Steve Mohn’s ‘What Part of “Forbidden Planet” Did You Not Understand?’ plays games with the Science Fiction classic, itself based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, by revealing that Robby the Robot was responsible all along, a witty and engaging piece that cleverly blurs the boundaries between human and artificial intelligence while remaining true to the spirit of its source material. Leslie Brown’s ‘Fox and Otter’ is a bit more mundane, with two magical sisters summoning up supernatural lovers for themselves when faced with an arranged marriage and finding they’ve maybe bitten off more than they can chew. I think I saw the plot on Charmed this one time and it’s at about that level, competently written and mildly entertaining but with nothing to challenge the reader’s expectations. Brandin D. Rabin’s ‘Speak for Yourself, John’ is equally slight though written in a stream of consciousness wannabe style that I didn’t really feel appropriate, the story of a courting robot, used Cyrano style to conduct romance for those too shy or busy to do it themselves, and finding that, after an upgrade, he falls in love with the girl he is sent to woo. The story touches on issues to do with artificial intelligence, but only uses them as the backdrop to a comedy that simply isn’t all that funny.

In ‘With the Help of Your Good Hands’ by Leah Bobet, Prospero’s island is visited by a man seeking his future and finding love, a finely written story, well paced and surprising with the ambiguity of the ending, but for all of that seeming somehow vague and insubstantial. Kate Riedel’s keenly felt ‘Chasing Chickens’ has a woman finding a young boy who adopts her, and as a result of this she gains a clearer understanding of her own daughter, a gentle story that deftly plugs in to emotional resonances that we all somehow share. ‘An Instant Remedy’ by Holly Phillips reprises the Lear theme, with a put upon daughter showing the old man she’s every bit as good as anyone else and striking a blow for sexual equality when his court is visited by the agent of a Power. The relationship between father and daughter seemed rather too much old hat to me; what really interested was the backdrop, with its talk of cursed wanderers and Powers, an intriguing scenario that I wish the author had made more of. This felt very much like a slice from some longer work. Finally there’s Catherine MacLeod’s ultra-short ‘Yorick’, a deliciously macabre depiction of Hamlet’s fellow of endless mirth and a fitting note with which to bring down the curtain on an excellent issue of this rewarding magazine.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s