The Department Of Midnight Is Assigned

Orbital Operations for 4 June 2023

Above, the logo for THE DEPARTMENT OF MIDNIGHT, as created for us by Fonografiks, who designed and lettered TREES and INJECTION for us and is currently the designer and letterer of SAGA by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples. I am very grateful to him for having found the time to do it, and to have produced such a wonderful thing for us.

(We have this logo in six different colourways, so this may not be the one you see most of going forward, it’s just the one I picked for today.)

We should have the final two episodes recorded by June 21 - that’s the current plan, but we’re working around availabilities, including James Callis (whom I wrote the show for) now shooting the next season of SLOW HORSES and all our other actors being brilliant and in demand. I’ve read all the Slow Horses books, and the idea of James playing that character (not sure it’s been announced yet who) gives me pleasure every time I think of it. Go and watch SLOW HORSES now, or read the books, and be ready.

On Friday, I had my commencement call with a games company on a creative consultation. I haven’t been near the games industry in many years, and they were all really nice people, so this should be fun. The last time I worked in games was a consultation on DEAD SPACE - I think Rick Remender was in before me, and as I finished I told them to hire Antony Johnston to land it. Which he did, to obvious and glorious effect. Games writing became a big part of Antony’s life after that, and to this day I don’t know if I helped him or cursed him.

I had some great times in games writing - I even got to work with Tom Baker for a day because of games writing, and he did not disappoint - so, even though this a tight-deadline job, I’m looking forward to getting into it.

The rest of the week has been eaten up by sudden home repairs and family stuff. For those keeping up (and whom sent best wishes and advice, for which thanks), my daughter’s partner finally got their tumours imaged and met with the surgeon, and we should have a date for their operation soon. We are, fingers crossed, in the last lap of that situation now.

That and bits falling off the house (and attendant flooding) has eaten up a LOT of time and brain cycles. My partner is travelling for ten days from Wednesday, so I should have a significant block of time to go full mad work hermit.

THE GALLOWS POLE, on BBC2, is a loose adaptation of the historical novel by Benjamin Myers, telling the story of the origins of a coin-clipping gang in Yorkshire during the reign of George III.

Coin-clipping worked like this: you clip the edges off ten coins, just enough that it looks worn down by use. You melt down the clippings, stamp the melt with a forged plate, and you have an eleventh coin for free. Do that often enough and you can save the community that’s been devastated by industrialisation. Keep doing it and you might fuck the national economy.

What caught me first was the very inventive and beautiful photography and direction. Then it was the writing and acting, which I tie together because director Shane Meadows loves improvising within the weave of the script. And it feels both strange and completely authentic, compellingly rewriting the rules of British period drama. The long conversation between David and Grace after the wake, sitting around the corner from each other, was some top ten television for the year. By which I mean, if you’re already missing SUCCESSION, watch this. It’s the real fucking sound.

And it has this pure vein of full-on British wyrd threaded through it. That beautiful authentic folk-horror note, which elevates the whole thing.

It’s on BBC iPlayer, which you can likely finagle your way into if you’re outside the US, and it’s probably available wherever else you steal your tv.

Oh, and, I’ll do a deeper piece another time, but if you get the chance to see the Finnish action film SISU, grab it.

You know how JOHN WICK refreshed action films and then three years later all action films felt a bit like JOHN WICK? SISU manages to feel fresh and yet go back to Clint Eastwood a little bit, and I also thought about Kitano’s take on ZATOISHI while watching it. A bit Tarantino, and, yes, you can find JOHN WICK in there, but it nails the mythic, fable-like atmosphere that the WICK films reached for and only intermittently grasped.

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.

I’m represented by Angela Cheng Caplan at the Cheng Caplan Company and David Hale Smith at Inkwell Management. Please add [email protected] to your email system’s address book or contacts.



Legend has it that one day in the early twentieth century, a friend found James Joyce in despair at his desk toward the end of the afternoon. He asked Joyce how much he’d managed to write that day. Seven words, Joyce replied. That’s not so bad, said the friend, adding, for you. But Joyce’s response is the real kicker: But I don’t know what order they go in!

Always been a fiend for process books. Sarah Stodola’s PROCESS: THE WRITING LIVES OF GREAT AUTHORS is really just a long list of short pieces condensing research into what writers have said about their processes into bite size. It’s light and fast, Stodola writes very readably, and the joy of these things for me is the small nuggets of interest they unearth. For example: I’ve never gone near index cards as a tool, but -

“This switch happened to coincide with (Naboov’s) decision to write on index cards, which enabled easy sorting and rearranging—and less rewriting to do if a “page” needed to be done over (three index cards amounted to one typed page) —as well as his switch from pen to pencil, which allowed for more orderly editing as he went along.”

That is kind of interesting to me. Especially if, as I’ve thought about over the last few years, I do a big picaresque “constellation"“ project of some kind.

Anyway. It’s a fun, light read, with lots of little things I didn’t know that I found fascinating. I’ve been quoting this one back at people, something Richard Price said about the scope of crime fiction:

The [murder] investigation can legitimately enter all the worlds down there to come to a conclusion.

PROCESS, Sarah Stodola (UK) (US)





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 .

Gotta go. I hope winter has finally passed where you are, and that you can either see the sun or that it’s warm in the dark, whichever you prefer. Do something good for yourself this week, keep yourself safe, keep the fine things close and lock the shitty things out, and I hope to write to you again next week.