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

Slow Science Fictions #2: Hannah Watts

Posted on February 7, 2007

In televised auditions to form a new four-strong superhero team, comic reading geek Dylan Wilson and hundreds of brave contestants re-enact past battles of the Cosmic Crusaders – against the Duke of Hell, Michaeal Spearate and The-Girl-With-Blanked-Out-Eyes. With phone lines open to vote, Dylan is convinced that university student, Hannah Watts, will see him differently as a superhero. But Hannah has changed, this sexy, beautiful girl no longer hidden behind a shrewish and caustic exterior of left-wing radicalism. As Dylan's mother observes, "That girl's been fucked; fucked good, by the looks of things."

Yes, the student's new, well-earned sophistication is the product of an intimate liaison – Dylan is not the only male caught in Hannah Watts' orbit. No, there's Jinkerman, the seemingly-flush, gold card-carrying leader of the Refounded Communists; there's George Bridger, the intelligent working class lad aligned with right-wing fanatics, the Social Order Movement (he'd been warned about going on a liberal Humanities course); and there's Dylan's professor father, David, who had always felt the urge to go from long-term pedagogic grooming in one-to-one seminars with Hannah, to quick fuck in the lift.

Daytime suds froth aplenty in this, the second of Mike Weller's Slow Science Fictions, which, typical of the creator's prose stories, is caught in a captivating tantalization of recycled anticipation. But is it about harnessing a particular political philosophy to pander to gregariousness? About how we're victims of our own needs, and in the absence of social rewards, our culture of instant gratification demands that we go elsewhere, adopt other 'beliefs'? Even a neo-Nazi white boy on his own at university finds black and Asian friends during the first few weeks of term. What does it all mean? You decide!

32 A5 pages, £1.50 - available from www.homebakedbooks.co.uk