Reviewed by Lawrence R. Dagstine

What happens when you take the online component of 3AM Magazine, the speculative works and wonder of Zahir, the artistic equivalent of Juxtapoz Magazine, and throw in something new, fresh, dark, gritty, hip, surreal, poetic, and themed? You get Polluto: The Anti-Pop Culture Journal.

The premiere issue of this quarterly UK journal proves its worth and then some; I was very impressed by it the moment I opened my mailbox. The line-up of authors, poets, artists, and counterculture columns presents a nice template, too. First, prospective buyers should be aware that Polluto is rather “genre-eclectic”, and that this particular issue challenges the reader with various erudite yet bizarre premises. The running theme for Issue One is Post-Natal Depression and The Mysterons. Polluto is laid up with eighty pages of fine semi-gloss paper. American sizing brings it in at 6.5 x 9.25, and the interior and cover quality is like one of those collectible New Yorker-esque spec-journals you would find in an independent bookstore.

Polluto offers up surreal drawings and other creative artwork by Dave Migman (in the art department, he dominates the issue), Luke Drozd, and Vince Locke (former illustrator for The Sandman) among others. R.C. Edrington and Billy Cryer's poetry selections were a delightful mix between stories, and the non-fiction columns offered some interesting social commentary. Most of all though, there was fiction. Names in fiction. Fine names. Now I won't give out details to every story, but I will offer up snippets of a few that I thought were worthy of mention.

Deb Hoag's Werewolf of Sappho shows us the confused life of Kate Mosby, a simple diner waitress who's been battered by her boyfriend for quite some time. She meets a most unusual customer on more than one occasion, Fay, and they become involved. Fay proves a saving grace when it comes to Kate leaving her boyfriend and going with her instead. But she possesses a lot of mystery that even Kate can't comprehend, only that she feels good when she's around her. The plot takes a major hormonal U-turn though, and leads up to a somewhat dull climax of a lycanthropic nature. However, the language was very vivid and there are some very good descriptive scenes.

There's a novella by the extremely talented satirist Rhys Hughes, Mr. Gum, The Creative Writing Tutor. The piece is written from the point of view of Mr. Gum, a teacher, and it is played out in five parts. He dictates his lessons and the writing life, along with some of his hysterical misadventures, to the infamous Postmodern Mariner; and this piece is postmodern indeed. We also get to see the ridiculous side of writing's 'musts' and 'must nots', too, and it's obvious that Mr. Hughes makes good fun of it. The homoerotic imagery was hilarious and ironic beyond words. There's a host of nonsensical characters and silly but enjoyable Monty Python-like instances between parts such as: the demon-possessed hymen, the ship captain named Fellatio Nelson who has a long penis that strangles snakes, and the sexual innuendos of Mr. Gum's other aliases, such as Mr. Umg and Mr. Gmu. There's a lot to love in this story.

Steve Redwood offers us To Die With Dignity. Redwood incorporates non-fictional and historical elements about euthanasia into this piece about physician-assisted suicide in the not-so distant future. The premise sets us off in a European society where hospices and hospitals are overpopulated with the elderly and sick, and the only affordable means to curing the problem is by eradicating them forcefully. First these techniques are used in Holland, and then eventually places like Britain. Spain seems to be the only neutral country in this dark future where doctors get to pick off patients on roadsides and people have to live in fear of their sixtieth birthdays, whether they're terminally ill or not. Through all of this, we get the tale of two characters, a brother and sister on a fishing boat who, with their ailing father, are trying to help him escape the unnecessary persecutions.

There's a tasty little story for the journal's debut, too, written by speculative fiction icon Jeff VanderMeer. VanderMeer's Finding Sonoria is a detective story. John Bolger is hired by a crackpot stamp collector and widower to find a missing country. The country doesn't exist on maps, it doesn't exist on the Internet, doesn't exist in the entire world. Only on the face of an old Nippon-like postage stamp. But the crackpot insists it exists. Bolger's character, incredulous throughout most of the story, eventually becomes a believer, too. He begins to have the same strange dreams of this place as the person who hired him. That Sonoria exists. Toward the end though, we see a change of events between both men, when some evidence does turn up.

Adam Lowe--who is also Polluto's editor-in-chief--presents us with Singer, a surrealistic tale about someone who is part Singer sewing machine and part female. The cover art should help you envision the character better for what I felt was an intriguing Impressionist era short, only it takes place decades after. Singer is multi-talented and very well-liked, regardless of the way she looks. She can play instruments, and she is guardian and friend to a hyena child. Together they go to environments which are very reminiscent of that old HBO series Carnivale. We learn more about Singer's character toward the end, where she becomes depressed with her life and about to give it all up, but the one thing she has always wished for, throughout most of the story, finally comes true.

All in all, a great new publication with lots to offer. I recommend giving this one a try.

Polluto, edited by Adam Lowe. 6.5 x 9.25, 84pp, £8 or £30/4 (also available in electronic format). Published by Dog Horn Publishing.

Websites: - www.doghornpublishing.com and www.polluto.com.

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