Thursday, October 21, 2010

[Magazine Review] GUD: Issue 5

GUD magazine stands for Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine.

In their submission guidelines the magazine states:

"Our dictionary defines literature thus: written works, esp. those valued for form and style. And that is what we are looking for—form and style, though be sure there's substance as well. Any genre, including literary or mainstream, is acceptable. We don't back away from a fight—if your work screws with convention, breaks rules, makes demands of the reader, then we're equal to the challenge. Just please, by whatever you hold dear, give us some prize at the end of the fight."

This small paragraph defines what the magazine is looking for, what it promises to the reader and gives the magazine its identity. I read Issue 5 of GUD Magazine with this paragraph in mind as I wanted to verify if GUD really had that Greatest Uncommon Denominator. I also used it to give me a sense of direction for my review as I don’t regularly review magazines.

In short, GUD delivers what it promises. In this issue I discovered stories the type of which I’m not sure I could have read in most venues, while at the same time I didn’t encounter either weak or badly written pieces. The magazine is genre ambiguous as it hosted both excellent SFF shorts as well as strong and emotional literary pieces. I'd probably need a few two-three thousand words long posts to cover all the excellent material, which is why I’ll stop on the stories that left strong impressions on me, separated by genre.

In the SFF selection, I enjoyed "Imperfect Verse" by Rose Lemberg, which read much like an uncensored Grimm Brothers fairy tale had the Brothers traveled to Scandinavian countries. Lemberg tackles the old Norse legend of how Odin steals the mead of poetry, but told from the point-of-view of the giantess guarding the mead. The result is a lyrical and authentic sounding tale of magic and betrayal.

"Nature's Children" by T.F. Davenport won me over with its complex plot structure and references to Ursula LeGuin's "The Word for World is Forest". Davenport juxtaposes two races - indigenous inhabitants and outerworlders - both of which want to cultivate the planet, but with means that imply the destruction of the other race. It's a thematic short story touching upon topics such as the environment and genocide. What especially impressed me was how both races mimic each other. The majority in both societies gears towards war, while only few individuals speak of peace.

"Getting Yourself On" by Andrew Tisbert discusses what it means to be human, when a considerable amount of one's body is machinery and your work requires you to have your personality locked away. It's a touching story about how far a father would go in order to ensure his son has a life. All this is set in an intriguing future of cyborgs and technology that allows you to wear different personalities as if they are fashion statements.

Here I conclude with the SFF section, but there are other strong entries, which beg to be read such as "The Pearl Diver with the Gold Chain" with its always speaking narrator, who has developed radio-telepathy with the help of his gold chain and "Liza's Home", a lesson in why time travel is dangerous.

In the Literary section, I was consumed by "The Tiger Man" by Geordie William Flantz. Flantz mesmerizes with a bizarre tale of a couple, which invite a complete stranger in their homes and in their lives. The bizarre thing is that the man is taller than average, hairier than average and works as a trainer of tigers in a circus. This is a tale of an over-emotional wife, a passive husband, a pug with anxiety issues and a stranger, who doesn't talk much. It's a story about how sometimes life has its own inertia and outside the norm is better for everyone.

"Birthday Licks" by Kevin Brown is a heartfelt tearjerker about home abuse, which after years of intensifying ends with a well-deserved death. It's frightening to think that a father would punish his son, because his wife died during childbirth. Even more so, when the punishments not only involve degradation, but border on lethal. Brown's prose is raw. It conveys genuine pain and torment that made me flinch while reading.

"The Prettiest Crayon in the Box" by Heather Lindsay brings bizarre bar conversation to new heights as in this piece the characters discuss beets, betacyanin -the pigment that is responsible for the beet's color - and how some people cannot break down the pigment. The result is pink and magenda colored human by-products. The character with this condition says he doesn’t like beets, but eats them nonetheless, because then the world will be less brown [I know that you get it, so I phrase it as vaguely as possible]. In its bizarre way, this is a beautiful message.

I've concluded with the fiction section and now it's time to move on the other mediums featured in GUD. The magazine has an impressive amount of poetry, which I don't feel qualified to review as I don't read poetry in general, so I’ll skip the poems at large. I'll only mention that "Dead Man on the Titanic" by Alicia Adams and "7 Ways to Fake an Orgasm" by Melissa Carroll entertained me [but I fail to explain how, so I'll leave it at that as a task for those better versed than I].

Last but not least I'd like to comment on the comics, both of which are visually stunning, but I was more taken by "Ada Lovelace: The Origin" by Syndey Padula. It’s a very successful blend of historical facts, humor, superhero fiction and alternative history, which made me chuckle. If you thought that perhaps mathematicians were boring, then you’d be gravely wrong.

As far as the magazine itself goes, I thought the spread throughout the issue poems and images [I'd especially like to praise "Bust" by Jon Adlett] act as natural breathers for readers and add a rhythm or a flow to the issue, making it easier to read.

The Verdict: GUD Magazine is what your doctor has prescribed. Get a subscription now for a concentrated those of diversity, quality and entertainment.

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