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 #3: Addingcombe Calling Inspector Pannifer

Posted on March 10, 2007

So close to retirement, the last thing that ageing inspector Jim Pannifer wants is a hate crime perpetrated by Satanists, or tit-for-tat exchanges between the right-wing Social Order Movement and Islamic extremists. But, in an Addingcombe graveyard, a white cat's decapitated head, thirteen black candles and a twisted key with nine notches are found, and two headstones desecrated with black paint now bear the scrawled name of Mayor Biff Scourge – the "F's" in the shapes of swastikas, the "O" crossed like a Nazi wotan symbol.

Yes, a suit of respectability may cover Mayor Scourge's tattoos, but even occult seduction to the Otherworld and alliance with M'wboe (the Man-With-Blanked-Out-Eyes) can't suppress a racial prejudice founded in his days as a 1930s Nazi Blackshirt. When a polemical bullet is administered to his brain and, subsequently, an imam in Addingcombe – Sadar Saddubin – is found dead with a sabre knife up his jacksy, inspector Pannifer's desire to write an Agatha Christie style crime novel must simmer patiently on the backburner.

This is another state of the nation reconstruction fuelled by fantastical elaboration, which contains magpie-snatchings of found socio-political reality and popular culture, all charged with a supernatural current guaranteed to weird you out. Roses open for Christmas, a two-headed entity orgasms, and Grungehill Comprehensive ex-pupil Glenford Gates stammers. The push and pull of Mike Weller's prose is lent hypnotic clarity by an omniscient third-person narrative, and this Slow Science Fictions series is of- and out of- this world.

28 A5 pages, £2 inc p&p, available from www.homebakedbooks.co.uk