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 #13: Lucky For Some

Posted on April 8, 2008

Like an equation consisting of complex narrative elements, the potted evolution presented in Slow Science Fictions #13 clarifies the intricate workings of the Wellerverse and thematically focuses the author's eccentric struggle for creative identity. Found here are fictions within a fiction, storytellers within a story, where writer and written sit face to face and the written becomes the writer, and where ambition and desire are irreconcilable for a writer thwarted by his own universe. Get writing or get written was the Shawshanked phrase introduced in Mike Weller's seminal work, Space Opera, but here again this sentiment is agreeably undercut with a sense of the author's stubborn fatalism as the first-person narrative voice wrestles with a personal odyssey driven by irrational forces and odd, obsessive desires, but with a niggling perception of success that is conditioned by yearned-for approval; or not, as the case most likely is – as ever, any attempt to fix Michael J Weller's prose series to convenient definitions is no more than a reductio ad absurdum of the work. What's certain is that it remains a joy for me to watch this mad series accrue.

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