Launched in 2001 by Editor Todd Zuniga, Opium Magazine's online aesthetic is contemporary and elegant; black brush strokes, rolled columns of paint for texture, and cloud crawling cherubs amid complementary shades of blue.
There are also hints of innovation and concern for user-ease; each entry is assigned an estimated time of reading, a viewer comments section, and a mercifully brief author bio at the bottom of each publication post. There are, of course, a few gripes begging for attention. The comment fields are often filled not with reader input, but with the intrusion of spam and random advertisements. There is also the want of organization by issue or edition; a history of entries can be found only either in a running archive or a "Last 5 Things" list which, oddly, generates posts not sequentially but randomly. Of course, these are minor, forgivable annoyances.
After digging deeper, discovering pages Zuniga would be wise to make more accessible, my feelings of tempered approval were instantly provoked into excitement. I was glad to learn Opium Magazine is also available as an iPhone application: an option soon to spread like wild fire among most online journals.
After downloading Opium's free application, it's obviously a work in progress. Readers must shake their iPhones in order to access actual entries, a feature that quickly wears out its appeal, generating more frustration than enjoyment. Additionally, the text for each entry often appears jumbled and misaligned. Regardless, I remain enthusiastic about Opium's iPhone app, being among the first online literary magazines to offer such an extension of platform.
I feel obligated to mention Todd Zuniga's most recent statement in which he promises a forthcoming redesign of the website, as well as larger plans for an upcoming print issue (which is typically offered semi-annually). As there is no specific date mentioned, one can only anticipate.
The quality of Opium's entries appear strong, most of the posts read were well written and always consistent in substance and rigor. Kseniya Yarosh's prose poem, Lemons, is full of readily accessible images that are delightful and enjoyable. In fact, after reading it for the first time, I chuckled like a doting grandmother reading a bedtime story for her sleepy-eyed, rosy-cheeked grandchildren. Yet, Yarosh's piece is so much more, repeat readings inevitably reveal Yarosh's clever subtly:
I stole the lemons you had been saving for your mother,
and peeled the skins off, so, even if discovered, their origin
would be uncertain and proof that they were yours
would be destroyed.
I suspect the narrator is an unappreciated girlfriend or wife looking for ways to annoy and, ultimately, end her relationship with her significant other. What makes this poem intriguing is Yarosh's ability to reveal the narrator's intentions through an inner dialogue of calculated scheming.
Rae Bryant's [Jeezus] Changed My Oil Today is also deserving of attention, an artful flash fiction entry about a woman's desire for her mechanic's systematic and thorough approach in servicing her car, even despite her husband's presence, who, sitting in the car, can't help but observe her barely concealed advances:
Jesus takes my money, smiles, gives me the change, waves me on my way. Have a good one, he says, then turns to the next car in line, pops the next hood, pulls out his oil wand to service another and I imagine he's cleansed my car saintly, extracted my sins and my guilt, my oily intentions like a drive-through confession. Bryant's piece is full of religious allusion, sexual fantasy, and marital ennui through the lens of a wife struggling to compensate for an otherwise sexually unfulfilled relationship with her husband. This is flash fiction at its finest.
So long as Opium Magazine maintains its momentum, conducts its contests in a fair and ethical manner, and accomplishes even half of Zuniga's stated goals, I foresee much acclaim and success in its future.