Monday, February 25, 2002

From the In Box: Fast Fiction
The following appeared in Warren Ellis' Feb. 24 email column "From the Desk of." It is reprinted with Warren's permission and blessing.

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, the British small press movement was based around the Fast Fiction stand at the Westminster Comic Marts. The Comic Marts were super-mini convention dealers' rooms, basically, held once every two months.

Fast Fiction was a mail-order clearinghouse for small press publications. The Fast Fiction stand at the Marts sold small press comics. All comers. They took a percentage of sales to pay for the table. So a great many people's production time was based around the Marts. You'd have something out every two months.

It became the absolute focus of the British small press movement. They called it Fast Fiction because that's what they were selling, as far as they were concerned.

Small press self-publication is the fastest possible reaction to an idea in all of comics. You have the idea, you make it, you print it, you get it out there. The vast majority of comics Fast Fiction handled were whacked out on photocopiers the week before the Mart.

If I have an idea for a comic right now, the chances are that the earliest you'll see it is eight months from now. Maybe. Takes a year for a Vertigo comic to go from pitch to publication.

If you have an idea right now, you could complete it to the same level of finish and have it out two months from now. Can take a matter of days to do a minicomic (or a "stripzine", as they were called, back in the Dark Ages here).

The aesthetic is similar to a band turning an idea into a cassette or a CD in days. Fast Fiction.

Here we are, nigh on 20 years laters, and there are other options available. There's desktop publishing and printers. There's floppy disks and CD burners. There's cheap home photocopiers. And, of course, there's the Web. I could do a 12-page comic in a day, scan the bastard, and have it broadcast before I went to bed. (I'm not going to, but the
point is, I could if I felt like it.) That's beyond fast fiction. That's Superfast.

Superfast is primarily the speed from completion to broadcast. If you feel like being punk about it, it can also be the completion time itself. There have been a few fun pieces in the Superfast section that were whacked out while the idea was still hot, that still communicate the idea clearly despite the rawness of execution. But in giving yourself (as Larry Young suggested)
something like APE as a deadline -- which is what I think of when I think of Fast Fiction -- or in knowing that you can get it on the Web and in front of the world within moments of the piece's completion... that's what I think of as Superfast.

Nowhere Girl is Superfast. It was broadcast within hours of being finished.

Superfast; a thought.

The Superfast section at the Warren Ellis Forum is a free space for people to plug, annouce, and even display Superfast comics. 2,000 people go through the WEF each day -- and it's not the same 2,000 people every day.
-- Warren Ellis

No comments: