Saturday, January 08, 2011

Three sort-of reviews

I've been meaning to do a review of some friends' works on this blog for a while, but it's hard to separate their works from their personality. So I ended up doing a couple of biographical-reviews. Here they are anyway...

Bruce Gillespie
Bruce seems to know almost everyone, have read almost everything written by almost everyone, and self-publishes several zines with contributions written by almost all of these people. BRG is more personal, Steam Engine Time and SF Commentary are pure, unadultered SF fanzine. (There may be more - I still have no idea in what order they come out, if any, and if Bruce told me I'd probably forget anyway).

Bruce's opinions and interests are vocal, passionate, many and varied, and invariably entertaining. As might be expected, he is full of information and stories about the Melbourne SF community in the early days, and how fanzines used to be produced. (Prior to the proliferation of printing and photocopying software, zines were produced on tools such as the mimeograph machine.) I remember recently hearing an anecdote about a book falling into Bruce's hands from amongst his copious bookshelves, and him reading the title and saying in a wondering voice, "I haven't read this!" I can well believe it. You can find copies of his fanzines at Highly recommended.

Bill Wright
Every second month, Bill co-publishes, with Dick Jenssen (Dittmar), Interstellar Ramjet Scoop. It is a joy to behold, sporting a fantastic design on the cover by Dittmar, accompanied by notes in the zine about the cover (which may mention anything from string theory to dinosaurs to alternative dimensions in time and space - my favourite Dittmar cover is one from last year showing a dinosaur coughing up a furball, or the dinosaurian equivalent of a furball). Topics covered in IRS range from the geeky to the cheeky; in a recent issue Dittmar discussed 'dinosaur computers' - the early 1950s computers which were housed in gigantic warehouses, one of which Dittmar worked on. There is a regular section on clerihews, as well as the usual fannish letters.

At the bottom of every cover of IRS is a small photograph of Bill with lightbeams emerging from around his head, which for whatever reason makes me think of 1950s Scientology artwork. Bill, who I assume grew up reading copies of Astounding Science Fiction and Galaxy from around that time, is undoubtedly aware of this pictoral reference and is wonderful company. His eyes light up when he discusses tax laws or accounting procedures, a subject which will forever be beyond me, but is also not averse to simple punning. IRS reflects these interests, and - like Bruce's zines, can be found archived on that weird and wonderful site,

At some point in the 1970s or '80s - I've no idea when exactly - Komninos gave up a career in the sciences to take to the road and write and read poetry. Bad for science, maybe, but definitely good for poetry. Ever since he's been leading the life of a poet, with occasional non-poetry related activities on the side, occasionally taking to the road to read his poems. He's probably read in more pubs than most people have ever drunk in. Some of his books include Komninos, and the various Komninos Manifestos, and reading through some of them now I just can't help thinking of the politics of the 1980s and 90s - stuff like

it's great to be mates with a koori
to know a gay man or two.
to have five lesbians for dinner,
and to cook them a vegetable stew.

Komninos is still going strong, you can hear him read his stuff at Melbourne venues like the Dan or the Brunswick Hotel - the gravelly tones of his voice are unforgettable. His voice is so gravelly that when you hear him read his laneway poem

i am the laneway that no-one walks down unless they have good reason
i am the laneway that no-one ever find themselves in by mistake

you instantly believe him. Shoot him an email and get a few of his books, they're worth it.


Anonymous said...

sort-of accurate appraisal of an ageing performance poet, you are too kind

TimT said...

No no, that's quite all right. Now you've got me wondering which bits I got wrong though...

Email: timhtrain - at -

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