Meantime magazine explores the seven deadly sins in rebellious form
“Some have said that because of its shape, it is impossible to arrange Meantime properly on their bookshelf, but we like that it’s a mischievous object that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the books.”
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 15 June 2023
Since we last featured Meantime Magazine in 2020, shortly after the release of their second issue, founder and editor Pang Xue Qiang says the team, and the publication itself, have grown significantly. “It’s like we are this growing baby who has uttered our first words, and now we are hearing them properly,” he explains. “We have started to find our voice and form our identity, and while our core of telling personal stories about Singapore remains, we change with every issue in the print experiments that we do.”
Consistently aiming to push the physical boundaries of the medium in a way that aligns thematically with each issue they publish, all of Meantime’s releases thus far have featured truly unique design quirks. Their first issue on love stories saw them create a cover with torn pages; their second issue on ghost stories featured a colour changing cover reacting to the heat of the reader’s hand; their third on funny stories had a big bite taken out of it; and in their fourth issue, which was released in March and explores sinful stories, the magazine’s bottom right hand corner has been sliced off.
“We thought we would not be able to find new ways of playing with the format, but we surprise ourselves each time,” says Pang. “I guess we ‘shape shift’ with every issue of Meantime, because we never appear in the same shape!”
Issue four, however, playfully engages with its theme by using more than just its physical form. On the spine of the magazine are the words “Let that sin in”, alluding to the process of readers consuming content that revolves around sin and mischief. But this is also a play on the idiom “let that sink in” which, when written as “Let that sin(k) in”, nods to how the magazine appears as though it's sinking when stood up on a surface. Finally, to add yet another intelligent layer, the letters “SIN” are also Singapore’s country code. Interestingly, this was once also the most common way of shortening the country’s name, but following public upheaval about the negative connotations attached to the word, it was officially changed to “SGP”.
And herein lies the conceptual core of this latest issue: the refusal of people both inside and outside of Singapore to acknowledge negative aspects about the country and the city. Pang says this notion informed the direction of the content, which is composed of seven stories that each relate to one of the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride), revealing the presence of such misdoings through everyday occurrences and traditions. “Singapore has a reputation of being a ‘good’ place — it is safe, orderly, clean and efficient,” explains Pang. “So we thought it would be interesting if we offered a counter narrative, and see it through a ‘bad’ lens.”
Asked to pick out his favourite stories, Pang says: “There are two. One is a story about a popular Singapore pastime – gambling (in response to Greed). Singaporeans can be notorious gamblers and the young and the old enjoy buying the lottery. The story looks at the women who run the local lottery shops. Another is a story about Singaporeans taming some of the many wild animals that live here (in response to Wrath). There was a botanist who used to train wild monkeys to climb trees and collect specimens in the 1930s. He took care of them like pets and they were kept on a leash. It was fascinating to us that this happened in the past.”
Meantime #4: Bad Stories is out now and available to purchase through the magazine’s website.
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.