Friday, 25 February 2011

Everything grinds to a .

Oh dear.

 Apologies to anyone who may have been expecting something approaching a regular update schedule from me. Unfortunately it doesn't seem like I'm quite up to that just yet. My plans for the week had been to take you through the print process step by step, with Photos, documentary, witty riposte! Sadly, it was not to be. Certain print technicians who will remain nameless, have abandoned Wimbledon for an all-expenses paid trip to New York, and the Print Studio remains locked without them. Production of TEETH grinds excruciatingly to a halt.

Oh well.
The whole process of silkscreening covers has been nothing but trouble from the start, and now it seems my beloved prints are bowing and warping from the ink. Some time clamped flat in one of the studio's huge binding presses ought to set them straight. I am constantly beset by vexing issues, but for you, my reading public, I soldier through.

So with that all on hold for the indefinite future, I've had to find ways to occupy my time this week. Mostly, I've been researching for an essay I'm hoping to write, which has changed from a single, simple essay, to a grandiose and overarching one, to a small book of interrelated essays I'm thinking of publishing in time for the London Comics and Small Press Expo.

The central topic will be the Future of Print, and my central essay will be a largely speculative work gazing towards publishing trends of the future. You could question the use of such an exercise (or my qualifications for actually writing it) but it's something I want to get off my chest and I feel that it really forms an important influence in terms of the direction my work follows. I feel like it's really important to study the situation in Print today for anyone who has aspirations of being a Printer or a Fine Artist in general (your work will end up in Print at some point).

Issues discussed involve the rise of the e-Reader, escalation of print costs, developments in Small Press and the possible emergence of a counter-culture of Bespoke Printed Novels. An extract;

With sweeping economic change comes a genuine threat to an established literary culture. Since the launch of Penguin books in the 1935, inexpensive mass printing has been the cornerstone of literary society, almost synonymous with Books as a cultural item. The influence that the Penguin model has exerted is hard to overstate; bringing classic fiction within the price range of the common man has increased literacy rates and championed egalitarianism and democracy, and allowed a wide dissemination of ideas. Since Sir Allen Lane’s success in the Thirties, the Mass-Market Paperback (MMP) has become an industry standard, the technique of “Perfect Binding” becoming almost universal. But with increased costs of production, this entire culture could become unsustainable. 
An important question to consider is what the fallout of such a collapse may be, or more poignantly: whether to allow it? Is the trade of cheap paperbacks relevant in the contemporary era? You could easily argue that the beneficial and ethical facets of the MMP as espoused by Penguin stem from it being the cheapest, quickest method to disseminate information at the time. In this sense, the Internet hopelessly outflanks the Paperback. Developing Environmental politics could soon make the book industry seem hopelessly wasteful and decadent to societies of the future. But will an online culture that replaces it, powered electrically, really represent any greater saving?   
Counter cultures will rise! Publishers will fall! Books will burn and e-Readers will freeze! (you may have to reboot them, I hear that usually works). Will unfettered publishing swamp us in an endless sea of Tabloid garbage and celebrity biography, or will fiction retain some kind of value? Will elitism cause a divide between the classes? Will we become as 19th Century Dandies, prizing our "hard format" book collections, or embrace a system where literature has no mass other than the flow of electrons through a processor? To find out, you will have to purchase "Books and the Digital Era!" (working title.)

The other small essays and discussions I have planned for the book include a dark journey into the dynamics of Fan Fiction, and a related study of Meme Theory and the Internet. Next up is "Lost in Scantlation" A look at the bad grammar and syntax that plague Manga scans and translation engines and how this harks back to a 16th century culture of literary piracy. A rousing roundtable discussion "What makes a  Book?" involving some interviews and then a flirting look at what irregular format webcomics have to offer the world of comics in general. Wow!

Is the Medium the Message? Find out soon!

Before I move away from magazines and books entirely, there is one other thing I'd like to share- I recently rescued a  bounty of old magazines from my college library that were slated for the recycling bin. Among them were these fantastic old Wimbledon Art College Magazines which draw most of their visual aesthetic from a certain Flying Circus if you know whaddi mean.

Absolutely classic, although it does make me worry that one day my printed work will have exactly the kind of camp look that I'm mocking here. It's a crime they were thinking of throwing this out, So i'll take you all through it with me later in the week. Until then, 

E x

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

TEETH Update: A Hundred is Actually Quite a Big Number.

Just a little update to showcase some of the glamourous behind-the-scenes work at Serotonin Studios. (NB: not actually a physical studio) The Covers for TEETH are all going to be individually screen printed by yours truly, and this is the first step towards printing the whole damn lot of them. Did I mention this is a numbered Edition of 100? It turns out that a hundred is actually quite a lot when each cover has to be screened by hand. But I'm doing it anyway and it's gonna be a nice touch of class.  

The main benefit of silkscreening is that I get to choose exactly what shade of purple to print the covers in. It's stupidly hard to get a comic to print off the exact shade that it appears on your computer screen, and this is an elegant way around all the various strife inherent in digital printing. Today we are going with this rather fruity shade! The finished comics will probably actually vary from one to another due to ink mixing, which should be really interesting!

A couple of the first prints! Don't they look great? Next comes the layer of black ink on top. Hopefully I should get the bulk of these done by the end of the week.

One final note: the retail price for TEETH is still up for debate, but we're probably looking at something in the region of £4. I don't want to go to far over that. If you are interested in reserving a copy, do drop me a line and we'll work something out. 

That's all for now! Elliot x

Monday, 14 February 2011

Smile Please: TEETH UPDATE

Big news! My first Graphic Short story TEETH is finished and ready to go to print! TEETH is a twelve page b&w comic and this edition also contains the short two-page comic Yesterday, a collaboration between myself and a promising young talent by the name of Charlotte Bronte.

The covers will be silkscreened later this week, and should hopefully turn out a lot better than the cruddy laser-prints I've been playing around with, adding a touch of class to an already exciting publication! More on this and photos of the work in progress to follow.

I'm hoping to print up a large batch of comics this weeks so that there's plenty to sell at the Small Press Expo  taking place on the 12th of March at Goldsmiths College, where you will be able to find myself and a wonderful young Parisien woman by the name of Laura N-Tamara selling comics for fun and profit.

More news on this and other upcoming events soon to come; until then, satisfy your curiosity with some exclusive TEETH previews! E x

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Mathematically Generated Folk Tales

Work in progress for my elective unit about Fairy-tales. This is a bit of an ongoing process but I am essentially writing my own fairy-tales mathematically, using the constraints they give me as a jumping off point to set out the plot. I basically got interested in this type of work from working at the college library. In an art library, the Dewey Decimal system is split down into increasingly lengthy decimals to account for all the similar art-related books there are. You would not believe how many authors thought "Perspectives on Perspective" was a witty title and naturally there has to be some way to distinguish them. This leads to most decimals being about 6 digits long, indicating the subcategories; Art->Artists->Monographs->Painter->European->British->Abstract etc.
I got to thinking that with a designation in the Dewey system gives you a pretty good idea exactly what the book is about, and that you could theoretically write a book to fill a vacant slot as it were. I liked the idea of the system designating content rather than cataloging it.

Fairytales are a pretty good place to start off because they've been elaborately analysed by generations of Western Literature Theorists, as have the conventions of storytelling themselves. Because critics have this penchant for dividing plots into ever broader categories and types, it was fairly easy to organise them into some kind of coherent diagram.

It's a mess of cultural theories lashed together, but it actually seems to function pretty well as a prototype! The user randomly selects one option at each stage (number between 1-3/ number between 1-8, etc) and at the end selects a position in the Aarne-Thompson index, a fantastically arbitrary system that gives Folk tales a position based on genre-type, principal characters, interactions and plot-lines. The Wikipedia article is worth a look, just for how entertainingly obscure the whole list is.
It's been an interesting experiment, and it's made great steps towards what I was aiming for, which was an uncanny, unnerving story; something that riffs off the same rules and formulae of a folk story, but combines the elements in unusual ways, jarringly, disconcertingly muddling archetypes into a story full of symbols but seemingly devoid of meanings. I suppose this is quite a psychoanalytic take on the Fairy-tale as a cultural item, but approaching it from the angle of a rigid structuralist.

Well, whatever.
I'm not completely happy with it yet, and I have a horrible feeling that I will have to add whole new levels of complexity to get the type of results I want, probably involving Tarot cards and and a great deal of shuffling and relocating and those polygonal-dice most commonly favored by Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts. Which I'm cool with, I guess, I'd just prefer it if it didn't have to be this huge dramatic undertaking with all the paraphernalia. I'd like to keep it simple, like a computer program, but would this ruin the cobbled together aesthetic? More work needed.


An Apology

I'll not mince words; my neglect for this website has been terrible. I realise too late that I have fallen into the classic trap of blog posting, and risk becoming "that guy".
"That guy" who spent an idle afternoon causally setting up his blog and tweaking the settings, before embarking on a blatantly unsustainable schedule of posting. "That guy" who made, like, four posts before burning out, returning occasionally to wince at what could have been.
The internet is clogged with "That guys" blogs, useless flotsam of the information age, selfishly hogging all the good domain names.
We have all been "That guy".

So I'm back, with a series of guilt-induced mega-posts to welcome you belatedly into the New Year. Or Chinese New Year, I guess? Anyway, I was never entirely happy with the layout of the blog and the thought of slogging through miles of HTML to tamper erratically with the settings filled me with dread. So expect changes, frequent changes. The banner ought to be changing soon too, and with it, perchance a wallpaper? Who can say. It'll be an adventure, a glorious exciting adventure into dull coding. Do feel free to get back to me with advice and criticism too. Let me know what you think about the layout.

No apologies, though. I'm not going to wriggle out of this one. My lack of updating has mainly been due to my own laziness and it's only through the persistent nagging of my doting boyfriend that I was able to get going again. Thank you Sean, but please never drive me mad like that again. And thank you, loyal readers. Do I have loyal readers? Again, please feel free to let me know. It would make this all just a little more worthwhile.