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Happy New Year from the Team at On Spec

As we end 2018 and look forward to a new year, there is time to contemplate the highs and lows of the past year.  For us, the lows have included the loss to our writing community of such great authors and editors as Dave Duncan, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Gardner Dozois, Stan Lee, Kate Wilhelm,  William Goldman, and others. We also mourned the passing of Stephen Hawking, whose contribution to the world is unparalleled.

There’s good news to report as well. On Spec continues to publish in print form, thanks to our funding from the Government of Alberta’s Media Fund, as well as our generous monthly donors who sustain us through Patreon. We’d love to see our digital reach increase through online distribution of On Spec by agents such as Weightless Books for subscribers, and EBSCO for libraries and institutions.

During the year, we do our best to engage with our readers by attending conventions and other events, and we love to talk with people who come by the booth to chat. While we don’t have many retail outlets, we’re thrilled to be included among the works carried by the Myth Hawker Travelling Book Store to conventions we cannot get to.

I am eternally amazed and grateful for the superb volunteer efforts of the editorial team that works with me to get On Spec into the hands of our readers. They read the slush pile; select and edit the stories; proof the issues; and above all, promote On Spec with their own social media at every opportunity.

If you subscribe to this blog, you are a reader, perhaps a subscriber, a friend, and definitely someone who wishes us well, and for this we thank you today and every day.

Have the best 2019 you can possibly have. We will continue to work to bring our writers and readers together. Thanks for being such a great community.


Diane Walton , Managing Editor



Dave Duncan, 1933-2018

The leading story on the Table of Contents for On Spec Vol. 1 No 1. tells it all.

“Boy at Heart”, a work of short fiction by Dave Duncan.

His bio note in that issue said:

DAVE DUNCAN lives in Calgary, Alberta. He is the author of the fantasy novels, Shadow, A Rose-Red City, and the epic and quirky Seventh Sword Trilogy. He reports that, for a change of pace, his next two books, West of January, to be released in August, and Strings, due out early next year, are both science fiction. “Boy at Heart” is his first published short story. 

Dave’s prolific writing career began after he retired from his first career as a petroleum geologist. He worked tirelessly, even after suffering some mild strokes in recent years, and more than 60 books bear his name on their covers.

When we were thinking of starting On Spec, we put out a call to our fellow members of Canada’s SF community, asking them to take a chance on this upstart magazine by sending us a story to publish. Dave could have graciously declined the request. He was already widely-known as a novelist, not a short fiction writer. But he sent us a story, nonetheless. We will always be grateful for his trust.

Since Dave’s tragic death, many of his fellow writers have written of their long friendship and professional association with Dave. He was a regular guest at regional SF conventions; he was always happy to give of his time and knowledge; he was always ready to help a writer who needed advice. Dave was probably one of the most generous souls we’ve ever known.

Fare thee well, Dave. You were a fine man to call our own.

On Spec # 108

In case you missed it, Issue #108 , Volume 29 No 1 is now available in both print and digital formats.  You can order your print copy by contacting us at onspecmag(at), or using the links on the Subscribe page of the web site.

Digital copies of this issue and others are available from Weightless Books, and this is a reminder that you can also set up a subscription there, and get your new copies sent to you automatically.

In this issue, you’ll find the first work of published fiction from our former editor, Robin S. Carson, plus an essay on writing  “Dark” fiction by Calgary author Sarah Johnson. A.J. Wells gives us an interesting discussion on the use of  “tragedy porn” in The Last Jedi.

New fiction comes to you from Timothy Reynolds, Sean Robinson, Allison Floyd, Marcelle Dubé, David Versace, Chris Kuriata, and Lisa Carreiro.  Poetry from Mark McCutcheon.

Editorial by Barb Galler-Smith on the dilemmas we may face as readers, when our idols prove to be more flawed than we are perhaps comfortable with.

Cat McDonald and Roberta Laurie bring us their interviews with cover artist, Bill Tracer, and featured author, Tim Reynolds.

Do not go gentle…

The editors and staff at On Spec are heartbroken to learn that Harlan Ellison passed away this morning. Our condolences go out to his family and to his many loyal friends. He will be missed and mourned by generations of readers and writers who have admired him, learned from him, and on occasion, even fought with him.

Congrats to Eileen Bell!

We just received the wonderful news that former On Spec editor, now murder mystery author Eileen Bell (writing as E.C. Bell) is this year’s winner of the annual Bony Blithe –  The Bloody Words Light Mystery Award!

Her book, “Dying on Second“, is the 4th in the continuing series of Edmonton-based mysteries, featuring the amateur sleuth and “speaker to departed spirits”, Marie Jenner. If you aren’t intrigued yet, you should be. And she’s working on Book 5, so you have some catching up to do!

Editors and the slush pile

At the moment, the editors of On Spec are busy reading the 500 + stories that were sent in during our open submissions period. Some will be short-listed for further discussion, and many will not be. The process is lengthy, because we’re all doing this in our spare time. It goes without saying that we appreciate the patience of writers who trust us with their work.

If you are new to this business, you need to know that writers have to develop a thick skin, and forge ahead in spite of the setbacks. This article by editor, Barb Galler-Smith might shed some light on the life of a magazine editor, valiantly trying to find the right stories for the reading audience.