Death Week rolls on:
The oft-reported death of magazines may be exaggerated, but the existence of at least three magazines about death is a confirmed reality.
Our far-flung contributors have interpreted “defunctness” in their own often idiosyncratic ways and have brought back the dead, salvaged the past, revealed their obsessions as writers do. We’re looking for reviews of everything that has had its day: defunct technologies, theories, fads, foods, religions, civilizations, etiquette, customs, slang, assumptions, or even things we wish would become defunct. Imagine a review of the Aztecs. Or a review of the Dodo. Or a review of the Eight Track Player.
The magazine is based in Iowa City and is staffed by university students. Does it pay contributors? Nope. Does it charge a “reading fee”? Yep. And that, I am sad to say, means that Defunct is Dead To Me.
(Defunct, by the way, comes from Latin roots that mean “discharged,” “finished.”)
Obit is an online magazine, launched in 2007, that, like Monty Python in Life of Brian, looks on the bright side. One of its taglines is “What death can mean to the living and what living may have meant to the dead”; its mission is “to begin a ‘movement’ of bringing death out into the open.” One section is punnily titled Mourning Roundup; another section, Best Sendoffs, looks at cryonics, cremation fees, and the social-media-afterlife site DeadSocial.
(Obit is an abbreviation of obituary, from Latin obitus: “departure, a going to meet, encounter,” which in ancient Rome was a euphemsm for death.)
More to Death, “the official magazine of the Natural Death Centre” (Twyford, Winchester, UK), offers upbeat fare like “Here Come the Girls: A Look at the Growing Number of Female Funeral Directors” and thought pieces like “What Happens to All the Pacemakers?” “Natural death” is a bit of a misnomer: it really refers to natural burial—coffinless or in a nontoxic box.
Then there’s the ghostly Good Bye!, “the journal of contemporary obituaries,” which shuffled off this mortal coil in 2002 after six years of quarterly publication: “But in the interests of history, this archive remains as a virtual tombstone to the days when a Xerox machine and a rudimentary knowledge of html were enough to earn the world's disregard.”
If it’s dead magazines you’re looking for, check out “The Twelve Greatest Defunct Tech Magazines Ever” (it was published in 2008, so the burial grounds may be a bit more crowded now), Magazine Death Pool, and the Wikipedia entries on defunct magazines of the United States (including GOSH!, Creepy, and Eternity, but mysteriously missing two of my favorites, Lear’s and Mirabella) and of the United Kingdom (including Modern Boy, Christian Remembrancer, Photo Bits, and, of course, Punch).
And from the archives: “Death to Branding!” my July 2012 column for the Visual Thesaurus (no longer paywalled).