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Bull Spec, #4, December-January-February 2010-11

Bull Spec, #4
Bull Spec
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandra Scholes

Already in its fourth issue, Bull Spec - A Magazine of Speculative Fiction has a great deal to offer the sci-fi and fantasy reader. There is an eye-catching cover, "Jet Packs!" by Jason Strutz and even more inside. This magazine is split into several sections; Fiction, Graphic Short, Features and Departments. Fiction has six of the best short stories that push the mind into their unusual and sometimes nightmarish worlds. There is at least something of the steampunk in many of them. "Graphic Short" is a comic strip, Features contains interviews and articles, while Departments offers the reader a whole host of in-depth reviews of the latest sci-fi and fantasy novels out there. With this, one of the largest sections in the magazine, there is also a poetry section that is worth taking a look at as it is like reading many mini-adventures in prose.

Of all the work in this magazine, the fiction stands out most of all. First up is "Freedom Acres" by Andrew Magowan where Carolyn, a neighbour in Freedom Acres notices a new man moving in over the road from her, and, from the moment she sees him she has a deep sense of unease. She does not know why she feels this way, but she fears for herself, her husband and their child while he continues to move in. Up until now, the place has been quiet, and uneventful, but a dark cloud has come over Freedom Acres now they have a new neighbour in it.

A large part of this story concerns her son Trevor. He acted like a normal kid before she got a device that changed his behavioural make-up. "Freedom Acres" is a story that is set well into the future where children's behaviour could be monitored and, in most cases altered. In Trevor's case, Carolyn could no longer have to endure his tantrums, irritability, and his grades falling at school, and not sleeping when he has to go to bed. It leaves the reader wondering whether Carolyn and many others in the neighbourhood are giving the best care for their children, or they want the easy way out of it to bring them up themselves. There is a much larger issue in this story that the reader does not realize at first until the very end. "Freedom Acres" is just what to expect from a writer who seems like he cut his teeth on series like The Outer Limits.

"O,Harvard Square!" by Nick Mamatas has kids Kelly, Logan and Smitty on the search of something new and interesting to take their minds off real life and its boredom. Kelly receives signals from a loose filling in her tooth, moving it sometimes to get certain cool radio stations, but this time she gets a voice in her head saying things she doesn't understand, it tells her to go to a certain place she doesn't know exists. It isn't long before she and her friends understand -- but by then it could be too late. Nick Mamatas weaves a fun and interesting story with kids who just want to have a great time out of their dull lives -- they get it with this one anyway.

In "The Burning Room" by David Tallerman, Miss Taversham is boarding in an attic room, and her landlady Mrs. Faraday whose odd behaviour is of deep interest to her as she surveys the room she will stay in for awhile. Mrs Faraday hides a secret about this particular room, though, and the new tenant must find out more about it, or risk losing her sanity. "The Burning room" is a haunting tale that seems to linger in the mind long after the reader moves onto another story.

Bull Spec - A Magazine of Speculative Fiction isn't just a magazine for readers interested in stories, there are other aspects of the magazine that are worth looking at. "Closed System" by Mike Gallagher is a short graphic novel, part four of a four part strip. Complete with this strip is an interview with the artist which expands on Gallagher's art and inspiration for why he delved into this profession. The issue also has an array of book reviews that are to be relied upon as the writers have a keen sense and understanding of sf and fantasy novels. And as if that wasn't enough, for the reader, there is a poetry page where the best six poets exhibit their poetry skills on the page.

Overall, this is a well put together magazine both sci-fi and fantasy readers will enjoy.

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Scholes

Sandra Scholes has her reviews in many magazines when she isn't de-pipping cherries. The Chronicles, Quail Bell and Love Romance Passion are another way to write about things she loves to write about.

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