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 #12: G'wboe, Or The Woman-With-Blanked-Out-Eyes

Posted on March 15, 2008

A piece of esoteric tongue-in-cheekery provides this twelfth instalment of Michael J Weller's Slow Science Fictions series with a good humoured opening, but the resultant giggles are soon smothered in a sombre fug of nightmarish oddness as the unnatural success of author MY Jolly – the series' JK Rowling-like figure – is darkly investigated. The bizarre-o-meter reading goes off the scale when Jolly is seduced by the cunt-tinglingly mysterious Duke Valentine and exposed to the salacious Love Museum, where a deviant technology chillingly screens other people's dreams: cocks are taken in the mouth; a black girl rubs herself off with both hands as boys spurt semen in her hair; an old gash is moistened. The unearthly edginess and sinister quality further intensify as Weller pointedly puts Jolly through hell to realise her writing aspirations, and though there is some convolution-overload toward the end as story fabric flips and folds a la David Lynch, SSF #12 ultimately proves a captivating if insubstantial reading experience.

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