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 #8: A Voice Inside

Posted on October 6, 2007

Ultimately the voice inside is that of author Michael J Weller, but at the funeral of the last Cosmic Crusader – Fay Fairweather – 3World In 4Time Mike Weller finds himself sat next to his detective character Jim Pannifer, listening to Rev Ian Beaumont recount an early story from Crusaders mythology – that of the Angel of Powers – in which the voice of an angel speaks inside the heads of Fay and the other Crusaders, signalling the advent of a force of great paranormal good in their world and, more specifically, the Otherworld.

Another voice inside is that of Sir Michael Spearate, the Satanic Whisperer, able to manipulate every thought, word and deed of his chosen-puppets for the purpose of directing the world into conflict, destruction and apocalyptic terror. His is the voice inside the Earth Corporation's ladder of organisation, the voice inside a backwards-Biff Scourge – now an inverted skinhead and white man in reverse – and a voice on-the-inside (Brixton prison) speaking as a sinister preacher to inmate Pugh, with lips/voice out-of-sync.

Hmm, this is a prose series out-of-sync with conventional storytelling and, at times, even with itself. Here, there is a mood of fatalism to the near-pathological insistence of Weller's narrative rhythms as a glimpse is provided of a tit-for-tat conflict between MJ Weller and his fictional self, and again as this latter Weller – in the funeral congregation – is confronted with not just a superhero team in extremis, but values too, and – fantasy reverberating into the realm of reality – this Slow Science Fiction series itself. Upending stuff.

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