Another Year Wiser

Orbital Operations for 19 February 2023

Well.  We can hope, right?  Hello from out here on the Thames Delta.

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I have had, generally, a lazy week.  I blasted through to the first hurdle on the current consulting job, rewrote a document for a production company, did some middle-man work connecting people together... and then really just kind of stopped on the 16th.  Since then - and as you read this - I've been building out the garden, swinging the axe and planting trees and doing construction.  I'm back at work full-force on Monday, but I felt like taking a window of time for myself.  Call it practising what I preach for a change.

From Monday, it's sustained pace, rather than the crazy pace of the last two weeks.   Rewrite time!  DEPARTMENT OF MIDNIGHT, and WRITTLE  2 episodes, which we've been moving slower on because we're getting DEPT MIDNIGHT ready to go.  Rewrites are always slower, and can't be done in marathon sittings.  (Or they just feel slower, because they're not done in the messy forge heat of initial conception.) Rewrites need a different kind of thinking, more considered, and that will free some space for some other projects I want to start booting up.  I have been wanting for ages to do more in the digital-first prose space, as I did with NORMAL and DEAD PIG COLLECTOR among many others, and I think the time is approaching.

Anyway.  A structured week ahead.

I got gifted an ice-cream maker this week.  No, wait, hear me out.

Over the last couple of years, I have become lactose intolerant and gluten sensitive. This is very boring.  I've found medications that work for me in dealing with these things to some extent, because I refuse to live a life without cheese and cream, and because wheat, barley and rye get snuck into a lot of foodstuffs.  But if I don't take the tablets first, I'm in a world of pain.  Now, have you tried any dairy-free ice creams?  They are, to say the least, variable. I tried several while the temperature was 40 C this summer.  I mean, that's when you need a little bowl of ice cream, right?  I'd toyed with the idea of an ice-cream maker before, because it sounded like a fun thing to learn.  But probably a bit over the top.

So I got given one.  With the express instruction that I learn how to make interesting dairy-free ice creams with it for the summer.  I always have oat milk in the house, and I've been threatening to make almond milk since the good ones seem to have gone off the market. So, in theory, I can actually do it.  In practice, my daughter is skeptical of the likelihood that my experiments will produce anything edible.  But fuck it, right?  I learned how to roast coffee.


When I was talking about THE AUTHORITY last week, I forgot to mention this: I did a four graphic novel sequence for DC called THE WILD STORM, an updated take on selected pieces of the Wildstorm universe, which in its last half featured an alternate, more diverse version of The Authority, all masterfully illustrated by the wonderful Jon Davis-Hunt.  Pretty sure they're all still in print - comprising a single 528-page story, it's something I had a lot of fun with.  

The other thing I forgot to mention was that STORMWATCH, the book that preceded THE AUTHORITY, wouldn't have survived at all without the art of Tom Raney.  Google isn't showing me a decent home page for him, so here's his Twitter feed.

My name is Warren Ellis, and I’m a writer from England. These newsletters are about the work I do and the creative life I try to lead. I send them every Sunday to subscribers. Feel free to send your friends to , where they can read the most recent letters and subscribe for their own.

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This film got a bad rap in reviews, and I suspect it's because BULLET TRAIN is that rarity in action films: it's for writers and actors.  It's all about structure, in a very defined way.

Chekhov's gun is a writing principle that states that everything in a story should be there for a reason. Chekhov's famous example is that if we're told a rifle is hanging on the wall in chapter one, then someone needs to fire it in chapter two, otherwise why tell us there's a rifle there?  Chekhov tells us not to waste time with details that aren't important.  Talk about only what is in service to the story, no matter how irrelevant it may seem at the start.

Pretty much everything we see (and hear) in BULLET TRAIN is there for a reason.  Every detail fairly quivers with potential energy after a while, when we start to realise what's being done, and we wonder what's next to explode.  

It's based on a novel I haven't read, MARIA BEETLE by Kotaro Isaka, so I can't speak to how faithful the treatment by screenwriter Zak Olkewicz is.  Obviously, one assumes that almost all the original characters were Japanese, though Isaka himself contests that, and a big international adaptation means characters become international visitors to Japan.  My biggest takeaway was how odd it is, in a way we can usually only get away with in books or graphic novels.  If you came for a film by a JOHN WICK director (David Leitch) and got a mini-chapter about the adventures of a water bottle (!), you too might get a bit moody about it.

Brad Pitt has a whale of a time.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson is currently one of the best "supporting" actors of his generation - look how completely convincing he is in TENET - and Brian Tyree Henry pulls off a pretty good English accent as an assassin obsessed with Thomas The Tank Engine.  Nobody in this film looks like they're not having fun.  Pretty much everything in the script slots together so neatly that every scene is its own set-piece., the bridges between them held up by Pitt as a hitman with anxiety puking his trauma out to Sandra Bullock over the phone.  Immensely enjoyable, and enjoyed, performances with a script that's all about structure, revelation, surprise and clicking over a very carefully designed maze of dominoes.  It's really worth a watch, just to see how they do it.



I watched a very good documentary this week about Conny Plank, the German music producer who first came to prominence as the visionary facilitator for the experimental German music of the Seventies.  It was absolutely fascinating, and told me lots of things I didn't know - like he also produced "Vienna" by Ultravox!

Conny Plank was, obviously, working in the pre-digital space.  Mixing board settings couldn't be saved, even.  So he had Polaroid cameras hanging from strings over the board, and he'd take photos of the board every time he needed to remember the specific settings they were at.  He was an inventor, and artistic inventors fascinate me.

It's called CONNY PLANK: THE POTENTIAL OF NOISE.   I know it's on DVD and Amazon Prime Video (UK) (US), so it's probably available elsewhere too.  



WARRENELLIS.LTD is my personal notebook, in which I make new entries several times a day. Think of it as all the things I can't fit into this newsletter, from links and bookmarks to reviews, random thoughts and life notes. If you use a RSS reader, it generates a feed at . 

And that's me this week.  Hope you found at least one thing of interest in there.  Hope you can find five minutes for yourself this week to slow down and be yourself.  Hope next week is better.  Take care, hope to see you next week.

— W