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 #21: The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell

Posted on January 27, 2009

The edgy immediacy of the Slow Science Fictions series continues as a melancholy chagrin further bulldozes into plot complications and sees both author and story unravel compellingly amid, amongst other heady happenings, a deconstruction of the plot of Brigadoon. This one might more appropriately have been titled Four Weddings And A Funeral: SSF #21 provides news of four marriages – included is that of American President Sam Poitier and celebrated author Michelle Jolly – and, in keeping with the central theme of recent issues (which revolves around the search for artistic identity and acceptance) offers a quasi-post-mortem of Michael J Weller's small press vocation.

A disillusioned, demoralised, rewritten Weller wrestles with a lack of validation, an abundance of self-doubt, and a sense that his writing is madness gone unchecked; but, conversely, still manages to vaingloriously recognise his salvation in a body of work produced well off the pandering path of artistic subservience. However, Weller is not immune from social expectations, still requires permission to be himself; and his bemused indignation of this self-satire is hilarious. Even Comics International reviewer Mike Kidson is to blame: Kidson had written that Weller is perhaps the most exciting British creator of comics at any level, but then insensitively disappeared from the comics scene. Ha! The cheek!

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