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 #7: Frederick Burrell Possessed

Posted on August 14, 2007

Refounded Communist Party member Hannah Watts is convinced that Nazi thug George Bridger should have been strangled at birth, but relief teacher Margaret Cooper sits on him anyway and he comes inside her. Meanwhile, Professor David Wilson and son Dylan continue their lustful pursuits of Hannah; new world order capitalism carries on its destructive way; and something shadowy has got into historian, Frederick Burrell…

Once a brilliant scholar, but now jobless, homeless and living amongst an assortment of refugees and asylum seekers as he shifts from Salvation Army hostel to squat, Frederick Burrell has wound up on the 'wrong' side of the global division of rich and poor. It's the society he's compelled to live in, you see: Englishmen like him are ashamed of expressing nationalist pride and sentiments. What has the pursuit of democracy, freedom and prosperity achieved? Muslim settlers and a woman's right to wear the total burqa of Swabiastan, that's what! Is it any wonder Burrell finds himself following prostate-troubled imam Sadar Saddubin into the Gents toilet of the Drum And Billet public house, in his hand a sabre knife from a lost Afghan war, in his head the voice of Sir Michaeal Spearate, Duke of Hell?

A clear-sighted Mike Weller continues to track and backtrack the lives of his disparate group of characters, immersing them in a melting pot of psycho-sexual/political tongue-in-cheekery, emotional repression and demonic pathogens. Though not conducive to building a sense of momentum, the fragmented structure of the narrative remains compelling and agreeably off balancing, and enhances the quirky vitality of a dizzying, brain-adjusting read.

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