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 #15: Tomorrow People Mixdown

Posted on May 27, 2008

A cyberspace data-encoded cipher, which mixes a Hebrew tetragrammaton and Kabalistic numerology, is solved by the Man-With-Blanked-Out-Eyes; his reward: a Bent Key to the Universe and access to the minds of the Guardians Of Life And Civilisation. The Wellerverse turns, and the Weller of this verse drinks himself silly and couldn't give a flying fart if nobody enjoys his slow fictions. Who exactly then is planting themselves into the hearts and minds of the Cosmic Squad, exploiting their doubts and confusions? The Duke and Duchess of Hell, or Weller himself?

Comics, television shows, websites and computer games featuring four Islamist superheroes – the Pioneers of Tomorrow – have been launched, and their packaging dazzles the youth of Syria, Iran and Swabiastan. Seduced by the glamorous depictions of the supermartyr team, conditioned youths are eager to play their part, gain celebrity, and see battle lines of cosmic war drawn between Jihadist new dreamers and the Cosmic Crusaders. The magical ancients call upon the martyrs to sacrifice life on earth for eternity in paradise.

Michael J Weller is up against it, and here, as he flashes the world a gimp of displeasure and continues to convert to creative matter the alarming stuff constantly streaming in from the environment, I'm reminded that the inability to properly "filter" incoming or internal stimuli and information sources has been linked to psychosis, and that the same processes that lead to madness in some, may result in extraordinary creativity and inventiveness in others. Weller possesses clarity of cognisance but writes like a madman. The result is a story of uncommon shape and oblique pertinence.

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