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 #20: War In Heaven

Posted on November 21, 2008

Author Michael J Weller pumps enough whimsy into his odd-shaped fiction to gently bump the knobbly high ceiling of concept. Again, though, that sense of a perpetually inchoate central plot – fuelled no doubt by a prose writing informed by comic strip vocabularies and visual codes, which offers the presence of super-beings – albeit off-duty – but the absence of action-packed battle. In this one, menaced by the revenge fiction of Nibs writer Mike Weller, Michelle Jolly's impatient wait for her new dream of inspiration finally nears an end; a dewy-eyed Jim Pannifer must don tights if he is to maintain contact with local-writing-group-turned-amateur-dramatic-society; and the Council of God have been asked by the Archangels to forward nominations for the ninth Guardian to the Divine Assembly: Sappho makes the case for the Prophet Mahomet, Pythagoras for Charles Darwin, and Dante for William Blake, but who really could follow the eighth Guardian, Diando? (Diando: the composite Holy Spirit of ancient goddesses Ppamms, Dido and Diana, and of the lovely Jill Dando.)

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