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Now, if I could just keep these snarks down to 101 words, we'd really have something.

Since having it brought to my attention, I've been thinking quite a bit about Anacrusis. You should know by now that I'm interested in how people use the web (particularly content management software) to work creatively. Sure, most of the time it seems it's webcomics I talk about when I bring it up, but there's a lot to be said for textual experimentation. In particular, there's something fascinating about the short scenework that's being done. I've mentioned Hitherby Dragons before, and I've mentioned Pulp Decameron (which itself is muddling through some unfortunate technical problems, but seems to be producing on schedule regardless).

Well, running almost as long as Hitherby (it's just passed its one year anniversary) is Anacrusis, and there are ways it stands out even in Rebecca Borgstrom's illustrious company. Brendan (I don't have a last name... or first name, if Brendan turns out to be a last name. I mean, how would I know?) writes five entries a week, one each Monday through Friday, and if he's missed any days I can't find them on casual examination.

What makes these entries stand out is their format. He describes them as webcomics without art, and I think there's something to that -- instead of being bound to a four panel a day strip, he holds himself to the absolute constraint of one hundred and one words a day, period. No more, no less. 101. Just like the room where everyone's fear can be found in 1984, though I don't think that's what Brendan has in mind.

The results are profound, in the best sense of that word. There's almost a metrical quality to the work -- as though Brendan were working in a new kind of poetry instead of prose. Many (most?) of the entries have a strong sense of imagery as well, which also reinforces the almost poetic sensibility going on.

And really, that makes sense, if this is a textual webcomic. Poetry and visual art are very closely related, thematically. Both operate in the world of image instead of narration. And Anacrusis steeps itself in that tradition. Here's Friday's entry, "Dresden", as an example. (Please note I reprint this under the terms of Brendan's Creative Commons License, and the reprint is bound by his license, not my own CCL.)

Dresden feels things turn inside out. His vision's broken and he can't walk. He braces himself against the wall and tries to vomit, managing only a mouthful of sour bile. He spits on the ugly carpet; it's the same ochre yellow as the drink AJ handed him at the bar, calling it a Pissguzzler. He smiled. He had green eyes. Dresden wanted to show off, so he slammed it, then another, and not long after he was feeling much too drunk, too heavy, and as he felt the air cool on his sudden legs he wondered what "AJ" actually stood for.

See how the economy of words acts like a crucible, burning away the dross and excess words and leaving an almost pure sense of image? Dresden's nausea is evoked, not implied. The sentences are short -- staccato, almost Hemingwayesque, conveying a sense of mood and scene and making every adjective carry its own weight.

It occurs to me that in my snark on Pulp Decameron's self-described microfiction, I compared that work to poetry as well. Perhaps the paring down to the very basics involves blurring the dividing line between poetry and prose. Looking at Hitherby Dragons, which also works in short fiction and vignette, one sees similar elements -- short, simple sentences, with heavy imagery -- applied with completely different intent. As my father, the English Professor, was fond of saying... there's probably a paper in there somewhere.

I don't mean to pigeonhole Anacrusis. It works within its firm limit very well, and there is a real sense of experimentation. At the same time, it's not experimenting for the sake of experimenting. Brendan is really trying to tell stories, working within his limits but not letting his sense of ambition be limited.

In the end, like he said... it's a webcomic made up of words. I can really see that.

I actually had thought, about a year ago, to reprint my old Superguy stories one post or part at a time, three times a week, using KeenPremium's software -- as though it were a webcomic without a graphic. After all, in the preWeb days, Superguy is what we had for webcomics. But I think Anacrusis gets closer to the idea than our stuff ever would.

In any case, I'm enjoying reading it... and I'm looking forward to reading more.


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