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 #19: It's The Power, Man

Posted on October 8, 2008

In Social Reality Earthtime 2008 it is personalities not policies that celebrity culture demands in electoral voting markets. What voters don't know is that Sir Michaeal Spearate, the Duke of Hell, now operates in all ten Realities with his bent key to the universe, and that Samuel L Poitier – new Commander of the Cosmic Squad, Democratic candidate for the American presidential election and possessor of feminine upper figure – had been built and animated at Spearate's laboratories in the depths of Dis and is the intellectual property of global corporation Earthco; senator Poitier is a world leader born to be cloned for all continents and all nations in multiple simulations. Meanwhile in Britain, Conservative leader David Eton-Trifle stirs, and Prime Minister Gordon Scott's Presbyterian leadership style proves unpopular. (Come back Tony Blandford, all is forgiven!)

Just as the curtain closes on jostling for a Way Out West Wing, it opens again to reveal author Michael J Weller furiously tugging at the levers of his Wellerverse selves and at characters that are simply aspects of a fragmented personality: dead novelist MJ Weller confronts Mick Weller as he sells his home-baked, cock-eyed booklets at Camden's London Underground Comics; Michelle Jolly refuses to be written into the nasty, horrid, paranoid drivel of a nutcase – she is doing something else. Here the exploration of the author's troubled interior universe veers toward self-indulgence – his career dyspepsia and resultant creative-deprecation overtly communicated through dialogue too on the nose – but the narrative counters with some existential comment on the substance of what we do to confer meaning on our lives. (Hang in there, Mikes!)

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