A Review Asks Only Whether One Can Live With It Or Die Of It

I've been reviewing small press publications on www.bugpowder.com for a few years now. Totemic small presser Andy Luke recruited me; he'd been impressed with my essay, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll, and was convinced that I could restore some cheer to the reviews section.

Ostensibly a scoff-mixture, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll discusses the pathogenic presence in UK small press of comics creators eager to produce work sterilized by an ambition to be adaptable to the strictures of an intrusive company bent on 'product development', and who derive a vanity-buzz of satisfaction from tucking themselves into deadlines and knocked-off scripts. "This budding hack is fuelled by little more than the desperation for a sense of celebrity," I wrote, "and must be destroyed."

My muscular reviewing-style grated with small press enthusiasts' indulgence in self-satisfied congeniality and writer/artist shape-throwing, but I refused to conveniently dismiss creators with throwaway compliments, employing instead a reviewing discipline based on four simple tenets: 1, perspective is to be achieved; 2, the standards by which one is judging the work are to be made clear; 3, credit is to be given where it is due; and 4, one should not be such a fucking misanthrope, you above-being-human narcissist.

Regularly achieving three of the four principles with my aesthetic evaluations, and quickly developing an obsessive-compulsive urgency for production of symmetrically paragraphed reviews, the meaningless absurdity of opinionative writing soon revealed itself to me. I was not deterred.

John Robbins

Albedo One #30

Posted on August 17, 2005

What better way to avoid friction in life than to spend one's time reading? In opening short story, Will McIntosh's absorbing Friction, the quest of intellectual Gruen is to read the complete works of the one hundred thirty-seven masters carved into the hopelessly long 'Wisdom Wall'. But his kind are delicate; particularly vulnerable to physical stresses - many before him have been reduced to stumps in their friction-fraught tackling of the wall. Worse still: a sither's scent history will be lost forever unless Gruen aids the distraught Western. Will he postpone his treasured reading to risk wasting himself through such pointless friction?

Albedo One hits 30 and loses some of the swagger and vitality of 29, but remains committed to conscientiously crafted prose. Indeed, with denouements in the form of satisfying reversals, Friction and Some Action, particularly, prove there's life in the old mag yet!

Between these bookends is Pushing Down The Tombstone by Ralph Robert Moore, a supernatural tale predominantly pedestrian, but with its suspenseful notes. Robert Neilson's wacky The Pope, Sonny Liston And Me mixes time travel with boxing, and the bollixed Pope (Uncle Bill-Pius XXI) asks the question "How many popely ways are there to go?" The effective Campion And Demon Boy by Geoffrey Warburton echoes Alan Moore's A Small Killing with no little style and a degree of dash. Patrick Hudson's affecting The Persistence Of Memory adds new meaning to acronym DNR as it chronicles-not the layered life of a haunted man with body clock repeatedly reset via an injected 'rejuve agent'. The promising, Kafka-like opening to Lynne Ann Morse's underdeveloped Two-Face fails to deliver as the sudden appearance of a second face on the protagonist prompts only inane banter. The Cripple by John Kenny is broody stage-play material that offers earnest glimpse into a Sarajevo-set relationship touched by the shared destructive experience of pathogenic war, and frozen in time and trauma by replayed video footage. David Murphy's lyrical The Wonder Of Rocks details one man's transcendental experience in sighting a presumed-dead rocker – unnamed in this mood piece penned with Murphy's trademark musicality, but no doubt a pal of Buddy's.

Also on offer: in-depth and instructive science-fiction, horror and fantasy book reviews, a striking cover by Steve Augulis, Sophia Drenth's congenial interview with Clive Barker, and an apologetic slap for Sword & Sorcery via the Severian opinion piece.

Closing the anthology is Benjamin Reed's irresistible Some Action, wherein the only female cybernetic sex partner which Pleasure Labs 'Tester', the perfectly average John Green, dislikes working-on is the 'Sentimental' variety - a co-dependent sex cyborg. The Lab's head isn't happy either: what use is a man who has not had sex with an actual woman in two years when the key to product development is this man's success in providing comparisons between intimate experiences with sexual partners of both the real and the cyborg variety? There's only one thing for it: John must go out and get some action! (Tell me about it!)

56 A4 pages, £4.95 / €5.95 - available from www.albedo1.com