Although this is the 3rd Annual Random Acts of Publicity, this is my first time taking part in any way. The yearly event was started as a way to make promoting a friend’s book (or just your favourite book) fun and interesting. And I sort of dig (yes, I said “dig”; don’t harsh my mellow, man) personal forms of marketing like this. Quick show of hands: how many of you have read a book strictly because of an ad for that book? And how many of you have read a book on a friend’s recommendation? Exactly. So I couldn’t pass up a chance to take part in something like this; I love books, I have friends, and I even have friends who write books (which I love).
So all week I am going to post some thoughts on the work of my friends, ranging from novels to RPG books to periodicals. As a matter of fact, I’m going to start with that last one. Settle back while I tell you a story about a little periodical called On Spec…
When I moved to Edmonton, lo those many moons ago, I took refuge in and got drunk on the many book stores available. Growing up in Fort McMurray I had one book store, Coles Books, and they had an anemic selection of sci-fi and fantasy at the best of times. Comparatively the booksellers of Edmonton were a treasure-house of the stories and tales I craved. Why, the second-hand seller alone kept me…but I digress.
I first came across On Spec in the Smith Books in Southgate Mall. Of course I had read Asimov’s and other Sf periodicals before. But it had never occurred to me there might be a Canadian one available. And not only Canadian, but produced right here in Edmonton, by something called the Copper Pig Writer’s Society (why Copper Pig? It’s a secret known only to a few…). Intrigued, I pulled a copy from the shelf, which happened to be the Fall 1994 issue. It had a snappy little picture of a young boy in a cowboy hat riding a dinosaur (by Tim Hammell), and featured stories by, among others, Spider Robinson (No Renewal) and Charles de Lint (A Tattoo on Her Heart). Given that these were (and still are) two of my favourite Canadian authors, I really had no choice but to pick it up. And I grabbed a few other quarterly issues just for good measure.
Now, I’d like to say that this led me to faithfully picking up a copy every quarter from then until now. And I’d like to say that, because it would mean I’d have those issues to re-read. Alas, it was not to be. Don’t get me wrong; I loved what I read. On Spec featured thought-provoking and entertaining short SF fiction, as well as great artwork and interesting non-fiction articles. Robert Sawyer’s articles on how to write SF fiction are probably some of the best ones out there, for instance, and you could only find them in On Spec. But life, she is fickle, and truth be told I didn’t have the wherewithal to subscribe like I wanted, and couldn’t always track down a copy around town. (Which still puzzles me to this day. Hey, bookstores and magazine shops: this is a unique Edmonton publication, sort of a no-brainer to carry it, don’t you think? Support local literary work and all that?)
But I read On Spec every chance I got, and I have never regretted it. Not only did I get exposed to a plethora of writing talent I might otherwise have missed, but in truth On Spec inspired me. Seeing that much Canadian talent in one place every issue gave me permission to consider that I too could write something. And though I have yet to make a foray into fiction writing, On Spec is at least partially responsible for my love of writing non-fiction, like this blog you are reading now. I can’t honestly be sure I’d be blogging, or working at RPG writing, if it wasn’t for the unintentional nudge that On Spec gave me.
In more recent times, I was lucky enough to meet and become friends with Diane L. Walton, Barb Galler-Smith and others whose names I had only encountered in the pages of On Spec. Given my love of SF it is quite possible I’d have met these people anyway, but it is unlikely I would have had the same feeling of familiarity upon doing so, had I not first read On Spec for a number of years. Turns out they are every bit as amazing in person as I thought they would be. Nice how that works out sometimes, isn’t it?
Even more recently, I’ve become a volunteer editor with the publication, as well as their Twitter gatekeeper (you can and should follow them @OnSpecMagazine, by the way). And I have to admit, I’m more than a bit honoured to help even a little with a publication I have come to love as a reader.
So if you are looking for a good dose of short SF, On Spec is the publication for you. That it is a Canadian publication is just icing on an already delicious cake.
What are your thoughts on On Spec? Comments await you below…