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 #6: Cliff Of Albion

Posted on July 15, 2007

As directed by Mike Weller in Space Opera, Dylan Wilson's fanzine script prepared 1970s frockstar Starman Jones as successor to Professor Fergus McQuigly, Commander of the Cosmic Squad. However, Jones isn't in the eternal cosmic plan of the Guardians of Life and Civilisation; in the hidden world of Dreamtime Reality, Cliff Richard is due another reinvention: the Anglo-Indian parochial Elvis copyist – and poet laureate under the Christian Democrats – has been chosen by the Guardians as new Commander of the Cosmic Squad. The Guardian's Divine Assembly meets to discuss what the Divine hand can do upon earth, and, in Common reality cognisance, comprises silvery-white ancients; amongst their number: Pythagoras, Dante, a co-opted William Blake, and the royal and televisual goddess Diando. When a dream takes Cliff to Neptune to meet with the Guardians, a messy business awaits: just whose side is Satan directing in the Eternal War? East or West?

As ever, summarising an issue of Slow Science Fictions requires a cognitive flexibility and coherent succinctness that is beyond me. Did I mention that in his laboratory in the eternal city of Dis, Micheal Spearate grows a new body – the fleshware of a Blackman – for dead Nazi Mayor Biff Scourge? Or that Professor Fergus McQuigly's life extension at the Kid Doctor Clinic comes with a penis transplant? Or that when William Blake speaks in the Otherworld his voice can be heard through the conduit of a little red-breasted English robin singing its song to an extremely touched Earthling holding a handful of milllworms light years away? Though abstract and surreal, Mike Weller's ever-expanding universe is a meticulously structured soup of culture and untethered imagination, with mischievous shocks aplenty and a gravity difficult to resist. Where else would you find Diando, a goddess possessed of the presence of both the dead princess Diana and tv presenter Jill Dando?

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