December 8th, 2010

Summary: On Spec, 2010

Summary: On Spec, 2010

On Spec is a quarterly magazine based in Canada that has now been running for a very impressive 82 issues (over 22 years -- I suppose a couple of years had less than four issues.) This year they published 32 pieces of fiction: 2 novelettes and 30 short stories (two of them short-shorts), for about 145,000 words total. (A couple of short stories were close to the novelette borderline, so as always I caution that my numbers might be off a bit.) There were also a few poems, and some interviews and other non-fiction. (All these numbers are consistent with the magazine's history -- its format has remained very steady over time.) The managing editor is Diane L. Walton, and the fiction editors are Walton, Robin S. Carson, Barb Galler-Smith, Ann Marston, and Susan MacGregor.

(I'll note that the Winter 2009 issue is included in these counts, as I have done for years. I didn't see it until well into 2010, and I'm not sure if that's because the post between the US and Canada is very slow (which it is, I must note, quite unexpectedly so); or if they purposely give the issue a 2009 date because that's when winter started, even if the issue might not appear until 2010.)

Stories I quite liked this year included Esther Rochon's "The Deer's Thorn" (Winter), originally written in French, in which a woman comes to Quebec City and discovers that her apartment leads to other times; Tony Pi's "Cygnet's Shadow" (Spring), in which a princess's bodyguard is trapped between her duty to her charge, and the princess's desire for more freedom; "Still", by Greg Wilson (Summer), about a puppet child and a rather sinister music teacher; and a couple from the Fall issue: Scott A. Ellis's "The Big Rock Candy Mountain", about a couple of hoboes right after World War I who encounter an odd hobo on the run from an equally odd "bull", both of whom it turns out have been fighting a quite different war; and T. T. Trestle's "Axioms + Ecstasy", about a young man with something close to Asperger's who nearly falls under the dire spell of his girlfriend's spooky mother. Other fine stories came from Marissa K. Lingen, Fraser Ronald, Corey Brown, Tina Connolly, and Ian Donald Keeling.

I counted 13 SF stories out of 32 (41%), less than last year but still a high proportion for the magazine (though as with last year, a couple of cases were decidely ambiguous). Also, 14 of 32 stories were by women: 44%, a fairly typical proportion for On Spec.

Summary: Zahir, 2010

Summary: Zahir, 2010

Zahir underwent a radical change in format this year. Previously it was a thrice-yearly print magazine, always very attractive. Now it appears quarterly on the web, still quite attractively presented. At the end of the year, the stories are issued in a trade paperback anthology. The editor, as ever, is Sheryl Tempchin. This year there were 24 stories, four of them short-shorts, for a total of roughly 80,000 words. (The shortest of the stories was a reprint from 2009.)

My favorite story this year was probably Richard Wolkomir's "A Remnant Man Rode a Linguahorse Across the Plain of Conn" (January), a strong sharp SF story about a genetic engineering dominated future trapped in stasis. I also liked Sarah Cornwell's "The Blind Man Dreamed of a Vestibule", a sweet story about a blind man dreaming himself rooms and then a wife and a child; Alexander Weinstein's "Saying Goodbye to Yang" (April), about an android "Big Brother" for a little girl; John Zackel's "The Circus of the Body" (July), about a technology to switch consciousness between brains; and "The Ring Reclaimed", by Jeffrey Greene, about an encounter -- a couple of encounters -- between a man and another person on the Appalachain trail, and the man's dreams. Stories by Vishwas R. Gaitonde, Susannah Mandel, Kevin Frasier, and Roderick B. Overaa were also nice.

Statistics: Women wrote 8 of the 24 stories (33%), lower than usual. And I counted perhaps 8 SF stories, 33%, a bit fewer than last year.