Literary magazine Bad Form sets out to celebrate non-white literary voices, in the process reminding us of the joint hypocrisy of the magazine and book publishing industries.
Despite the publishing industry’s self-image as a liberal, even radical, environment, it continues to be an almost exclusively white one. Here at magCulture we’re proud to have a diverse group of customers, and when we want to put together a window display of non-white faces on magazine covers we can – people of colour are better represented in that respect than before. But behind the scenes the vast majority of publishers and creative staff are white.
This is something that the Bad Form founders were all too aware of when they created the journal, carving out a space devoid of tokenism and interruptions, completely removing the opportunity for white commentators to edit over non-white experiences of literature. They don’t accept white contributors, though they do review books written by white authors. As the introduction to the issue says – ‘We review books by people of all colours because if we did not then there would be very few British books for us to review. Take from that what you will’
Issue three interrogates Crime. Rather than limit this to the literary genre, the editors have considered all angles of the word. ‘Isn’t colonialism a crime? What impact has that had on British and international literature?’ It’s a brilliant subversion of what could be a tired theme, creating room to investigate the impact of crime in communities – Monique Mcpherson’s poem ‘Bulletproof’ does this beautifully – as well as the very modern preoccupation with ‘true’ crime – an opening essay by Cordelia Lam explores Hong Kong’s fascination with its gory history.
A piece by Kaeshelle Rianne about the UK government’s 2019 #KnifeFree takeaway chicken boxes is another response to the theme. Rianne’s article questions the placement of literature, the implications attached to it and the motives behind it.
Fiction is also reviewed and discussed. Sophie Marie Niang’s review of ‘The Herd’ by Andrea Bartz is as funny as it is critical – ‘it was very conventional, and therefore quite entertaining’.
A special mention must go out to the front cover, a painting by Rachel Rodrigues of a white man in 20th century attire, gun in one hand, a glass of something in the other. I’m struck by the implied violence, it’s an image that needs no explanation.
The inside is monochrome and makes good use of relevant illustrations; the editors understand that the visual weight of a portrait can easily be matched by a screenshot from the Mail Online or a grab of an impactful tweet in the simple, zine-like format they’re employing.
Bad Form has begun the much needed work to fill an enormous gap in the lit mag scene. It’s rare for a new magazine to come along and genuinely disrupt a space, unafraid to directly criticise their contemporaries. Three issues in, the review seems to be finding an audience and developing rapidly – the last issue was more pamphlet than magazine.
Next up: the Romance issue.
Editor: Any Baxter
From the Bad Form website – 10% of every sale will go to The Black Curriculum, a social enterprise committed to the teaching and support of Black history all year round in the UK.
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