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Our favourite magazines of 2017
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Our favourite magazines of 2017

As 2017 comes to an end, we can look back on another busy year at magCulture. Our regular magCulture Meets evenings are now well established, and ModMag moved comfortably to a bigger new venue. The Journal is being read by more people and the magCulture Shop is busier than ever, both in London and online.

But none of this would mean anything without the magazines. Here are the team’s favourites from 2017.

Jamie Atherton, magCulture Shop manager
I’ve been watching a stupid amount of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ recently, a show that has — in addition to an excess of high-camp costuming — a deep seam of optimism running through it: a continuation of its sixties predecessor’s utopian vision with the very 1990s addition of an onboard counsellor and a remarkable amount of conflict resolution through dialogue and diplomacy.

There really isn’t anything to connect this piece of nostalgic, fin de siècle cult television to Migrant Journal (beside perhaps the lovely, shiny sci-fi quality of the metallic ink running through each issue), but quite unexpectedly I’ve found that looking at these disparate cultural artefacts as two points in history has revealed something of what it is that makes Migrant feels both important and thoroughly of its time.

Migrant Journal has come into being at a moment when the borderless, unified humanity depicted in the Star Trek universe —convinced of the follies of war (and, arguably, capitalism) — seems to lie along a different timeline to the one we currently find ourselves on, where flux and fluidity — the constant ebb and flood of people, animals, plants, goods and ideas — has become anathema to an ideology that believes in rigidity: in culture, language and walls set in concrete; in glorified eras of empire, or times when things were simply “great”.

What Migrant works so hard and brilliantly at reminding us, however (and I'm recognising one of the themes that emerged in the first issue of my own publication — Failed States — here), is that movement — from refugees to fishermen, from coconuts to whales, or from drones to birdshit is, and always has been, a far more useful way of seeing and attempting to understand the world.

Stephanie Hartman, Producer
For me, it has to be the sixth issue of Rubbish Famzine, ‘An emojious odyssey of the gluttonous omnivores’. It’s created by husband and wife duo Pann and Claire and their two children Renn and Aira in Singapore. This issue is dedicated to the family’s relationship with food and employs a healthy helping of emojis to convey their love for the dishes and restaurants inside.

It’s packaged like a traditional takeaway, complete with chopsticks, food ticket and plastic spoon, and comes in a Rubbish Famzine plastic bag. Once unwrapped, the box opens up to the sight of Yangzhou fried rice with Chinese sausage. Flip the image over and the editor’s letter in printed on a pattern made by Renn and Aira who used their fingers to splatter soy sauce across the paper. The attention to detail is crazy. A booklet of food emoji stickers is followed by pages of photomontages of the family cooking and their favourite eateries, with spreads peppered with inserts that include the business card for Pann’s heart surgeon slipped into a family recipe for ‘Heart Attack Bee Houn’.

My favourite section is a series of haikus written by Renn and Aira about the family’s top pick of preserved foods. Each is accompanied by a sweet illustration of the food in question. Nutella, corned beer and jars of olives are all perfectly summed up in three lines.

S&W Olives
Olives my dearest
Drowning inside a glass jar
I shall rescue you

If that little collection of poems wasn’t a gift enough, Pann and his family contributed to a secret zine my boyfriend Sam made for my birthday back in June. They created a haiku about pineapples (king of all fruits), presented on a sea of tiny pineapple emojis.

✏️ + 🍍 = 😍😍😍

Anya Lawrence, writer
has long been a personal favourite. It labels itself as “a smart magazine for women,” and since it launched in 2013, has provided a consistent offering of relevant and important features that speak directly to women. There is no bullshit. Subjects discuss their high points, but also their lows, and in doing so Riposte presents women that its readers can actually relate to. It was issue eight, however, released in May, that confirmed Riposte as a standout publication fearlessly challenging the tired homogeneity of glossy women’s mags.

I heard about the issue before I saw it. Its cover was the magazine’s boldest yet. There stands breast cancer warrior, sex educator and author of Sexualising Cancer, Ericka Hart, topless and baring the scars of her double mastectomy. There is a lot of magazine editors that would talk about these kinds of features. Very few, if any, would be bold enough to put Erika, and her bare breasts, on the front cover. Issue eight marked a turning point for Riposte. While its long been a celebrated women’s magazine, with this issue, Riposte became necessary.

Jeremy Leslie, director, magCulture
So many great mags this year! But I already picked out Buffalo Zine for best magazine at the Stack Awards, where fellow judge Gail Bichler and I were unanimous in our choice of the London-based fashion magazine. Always enjoyable, this particular issue was outstanding for its complex approach to place.

The magazine usually parodies another medium – newspaper, book, catalogue — but this issue arrived in an outsized magazine format packed with introspective takes on the team’s Hackney Road location. Staged rooftop protests and the mistreatment of interns mixed it with David Bailey’s reflections on local gangsters the Kray Twins and historical references to seventies rent strikes.

It was a rich, dense and anarchic soup of an issue that flies in the face of my usual belief in simplicity and clarity. Everything is here – fun, laughter, politics and, sweeping through the pages, fashion. The new Mushpit might come to match it once I’ve read the whole issue, and the soon-come issue five of MacGuffin is much anticipated, but for now Buffalo Zine remains my gold standard for 2017.

Sarah Roberts, writer
Having arrived on the literary magazine scene in 2014, Somesuch Stories has since established itself as a pocket-sized gem amongst more established publications like Granta and The Paris Review. Helmed by Suze Olbrich, the biannual magazine invites contributors to submit essays and short stories that focus on contemporary experiences spanning culture, nature, politics, sex and society. The result is an engaging, clever collection of stories that feel urgent and challenging.

The magazine has been brilliantly conceived, purposeful in its commitment to building a space for proper storytelling, and ‘deep reading’, both online and in print. Somesuch Stories came to print in 2016, after having existed solely online. Its third issue, ‘Disorientation’ was released in August, which means another is hopefully on its way to us soon.

Liv Siddall, ModMag host
SHUT UP, I KNOW. But listen, I’m only allowed to say my own magazine is my favourite magazine of 2017, because it folded this year, and it deserves some attention, because it was fucking epic. It’s literally the Tiny Tim of independent magazines. Rough Trade magazine WAS a 64-page monthly music magazine which was fun of sweet friends, funny people, excellent writing and insanely good photographs of the best bands and musicians around.

Stopping on its 18th issue because the company wanted to use the budget for digital marketing instead (fair enough tbh) I like to think that it died in its prime, at its peak, and at its most popular. Not all magazines can last – in fact, only a few magazines on this earth have not died a death. The independent magazine gang don’t dwell too much on the publications that did not withstand the bitter environment of publishing in 2017, mainly because uttering the words ‘print is dead’ is annoying and makes people dislike you.

But sometimes print is dead. My magazine certainly is. It died an early death at the tender age of 18 issues, before it had won any awards or made it past a 5000 copy print run. But while it lasted, it was my favourite magazine of 2017, and will probably be my favourite magazine for the rest of my life. Long may it go mouldy in attics. Long may its pages crinkle next to cisterns in toilets all over the land. Rest in peace my love. In the wise words of Nelly Furtado, ‘flames to dust, lovers to friends, why do all good things come to an end?’

Thea Smith, magCulture Shop
It took me a while to become a convert to the sports section at magCulture. For ages I assumed that those covers displaying immodestly healthy, outdoorsy people would hold little for bookwormish me in their pages. Yet, as I gradually became more obsessed with cycling and running this year, I turned to that shelf with its promise of self-improvement. By far the best read I have come across is Like the Wind.

I like its catchy, memorable name. I like that it seems genuinely egalitarian and heartfelt. I like that it opens its pages to anybody to write creatively about the why of running, not the how – you’ll find no jargon or advertorials here. It’s imagery delights: brilliant illustrations responding to the writing light up the matte pages, and are interspersed with photography that tends toward the epic.

What is special about Like the Wind is that for the most part the writing manages to avoid being solipsistic, nerdy or instructive, not an easy task when talking exclusively about a largely solitary pursuit. Each issue provides page-turning anecdotes, reportage or features of surprisingly variable focus. Like the Wind is at once engaging and, to its testament, inspiring enough to make you want to pop in a bookmark, lace up your shoes and get outside to put one foot in front of the other, whatever that means for you.

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