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 #14: Hope Not Hape

Posted on April 23, 2008

Revisited here is the 70s' Social and Political Reality of the DisUnited Kingdom, as authoritatively touched by the meticulously researched contra-history of Mike J Weller. Wog workers fight wog bosses; tactics learned in Northern Ireland are employed by police to subdue protesting shop stewards; a dark cloud of racial tension is ever-present. With no work, no shops, no cheap housing, and with energy-banks exhausted by an oil crisis, the UK has been reduced from an imperialist empire to a rat-infested Euro slum. Albion resembles Dis, and the Duke of Hell, Sir Michaeal Spearate, recognises an opportunity to breed a class of people who know little and care about even less.

There's no hazy nostalgic glow to this 70s, its legacy the epoch of an apathetic and gullible society. But then, expectations are resentments under construction, and after a grand start as regular Oz magazine graphix artist and rep as England's answer to R Crumb, obscurity followed for Captain Stelling, one of the Weller characters in Slow Science Fictions. "Did I simply reach my creative peak at the age of twenty-five and finish?" asks Stelling. Weller continues to pick at his personal odyssey – and at the publishing world that abandoned him – trying to make order from the disorder that is his careering through creative life. It's a fascinating surrealist self-portrait embedded in fantastical elaborations.

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