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Zen Virus.

28th October 2003

Hugh Cook is a writer. He must be, he's had books published. And he writes on: www.zenvirus.com.

So what does it take to be a writer then? Hmmm? One writes, that's all there is to it. No skill, no style, no success is needed. Simply put pen to paper, or open up Word and you're there. No you say, a writer is someone who makes a living from writing. Someone who has adequate command of words and ideas to  WRITE, be it creative, reportage or otherwise. Picking over this website for the first time I saw little to prompt me give it a full review here in Worst of the Web, but having delved a little deeper into the world, and indeed mind of Hugh Cook I slowly became convinced it had to be done. What looked like just a fan fiction site written by a caffeine-fuelled 16 year old slowly reassembled itself into a website written by a fully grown adult who had actually taken money from people for his stories. Stories that are, not to put to fine a point on it, crap.

"Another bloody werewolf!" said Doctor Blix. Where the hell were they all coming from? "Okay, give him the usual, and I'll take a look at him tomorrow."

Excerpt from "Statistical Evidence" Flash Fiction

So browse around the site but prepare to be galled. Like a gawking passer-by after a car-crash I found myself looking too long at this site, FAR too long. But then again I'm weird like that. So is Hugh though, which probably explains a lot. Hugh loves alliteration and the letter W. This is evident in the titles of his published novels: "The Worshippers and the Way", "The Witchlord and the Weaponmaster", "Wizards and Warriors", "The Wazir and the Witch". Get the picture? Hugh has written so many quality works of fiction that he loses count on his FAQ page: "Q: You wrote the ten-volume series Chronicles of an Age of Darkness. Wasn't it originally planned to be twenty volumes? What happened to the other twenty? Do drafts exist/ Are we going to see any more?" Count with me Hugh, 20 minus 20 equals 0, not 10. A writer does clearly NOT need to be any good at maths.

" Sex metal zex metal zow metal zap metal -
Look, George, look!
Deadline, D-line, V-line, launch line.
Tank metal, flame metal, bomb metal, launch metal.
Bomb baby burn baby come baby scream baby
Burn baby kick baby launch baby die baby .... "

Excerpt from "Sex Metal" Poem (sic)

Of course, a badly-written but well-designed website can sometimes be excused if it's a breeze to browse, so-to-speak. But zenvirus.com is less breeze and more breeze-block. It's just plain ugly. Tables with large borders, unnecessarily large text, and stupidest of all, a counter-intuitive colour scheme for links. Browse more than 2 websites in your entire life and you come to learn, albeit unconsciously that blue is an almost standard colour for links that you have not yet visited, like this one. Generally, convention is to use an  intuitive colour-scheme; a visited link will be less vivid than an unvisited one. For some reason, Hugh has decided to turn this helpful reasoning on its head, which means the reader ends up re-visiting pages. A bad enough sin on a good website, let alone here...

" But, while the adoration of the armpit had its consolations for the adored, Harriet really didn't like the way that Jack's ragged fingernail cut into her flesh. Any time he chose to molest her armpit, he always used the ring finger on his right hand (the only finger he had on that hand, all the others having been cut off) and that digit terminated in a long, vicious fingernail which was never manicured into an acceptable smoothness. "

Excerpt from "Harriet's Armpit" Flash Fiction

A good few years ago, whilst rummaging around at a car boot sale I came across a cheapo adventure game for the Commodore Amiga going for the bargain price of 50p. The game was called "Mind Fighter" and came with an eponymous novel written by, if I remember correctly, a 14-year-old girl called Anna Popkess. It was without exception the worst piece of published fiction Nici or I have ever read in our entire lives, in any language. All very interesting Tone, but what has that got to do with this, zenvirus.com? Well, I have a theory. I think Hugh Cook WAS Anna Popkess. As soon as he turned 30, Hugh no doubt realised his career was at an end. No longer could he get by, entering Junior Writers competitions. No longer could he rely on the swell of ego gained from publishers telling him, "Not bad for your age Hugh - keep it up and you may turn out to be a good writer." So he faked his age, and just for good measure, his gender. If you ever have the rare opportunity to read "Mind Fighter" by Anna Popkess, I urge you to do so. If, like us here at 2atoms you are a connoisseur of the darker, seedier, low-quality side of life you will savour every badly-chosen word, every poorly-constructed sentence and every mixed-metaphor. It's like Alan Partridge gone Sci-Fi, much like Hugh Cook.


Many thanks to Sam Roy who suggested this site for review. Please use the email link below to submit a worst website you've seen and we may choose to give it the full Worst of the Web treatment! Who knows, maybe we'll get some T-Shirts done or something - or would that be too naff?

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