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 #22: Kid Cartoons Parts I & II

Posted on September 28, 2009

This, the penultimate issue of the Slow Science Fictions prose series, comprises Michael J Weller's customary re-refractions of self-mythologising deprecations, of socio-political reality and popular culture, and of the ordered disorder that is his measured tangle of fictions within a fiction.

Within: the ninth Guardian of Life And Civilisation is chosen, he is the cartoon character Hanthala with the spirit of young Iranian student Neda Agha-Soltan (the correction of Hanthala Neda's stunted growth can be achieved only with a final solution of peace, security and prosperity for both mideast Jew and Arab). Else-where/time: in the Billy Crombie Chiselwood College Of Dreaming Theme Park children should be thrilled by commodified health and safety regulated fear, but not scared shitless. Built in Florida by EarthCo, this theme park utilises technologies engineered by computer gaming and platform inventor Alpha Zee; most notably the iMager, a device which plugs into the frontal lobe of the player/visitor to make the Wellerverse real for them. With said device attached, retired policeman Jim Pannifer of Social Reality Earthtime 2018 returns to the Nibs writing group of 1997 to be introduced to himself as a character in Mike Weller's reading of his sci-fi serial. Offers Pannifer (in 1997 for real and in 2018, theme-parked virtuality): 'I would have left me out.'

Defiant to the near-end, Michael J Weller's writing continues to evince an oddly personal richness and piquancy that must contend with an ingrained against-the-grain narrative structure that's not exactly hoi polloi-friendly, but which offers a playful elusiveness that is both mysterious and singular.

40 A5 pages, £3 inc p&p, available from www.homebakedbooks.co.uk