THE WEATHER FORECAST
First off: unless something remarkable happens - and I reserve the right to do an email blast if something gets announced — the next Orbital Operations will be January 15 2023.
Second: it's cold, I'm sicker than I was last week, and I'm calling this the end of the year. Hi. I'm actually writing all this on December 13 and putting it in the autopost scheduler for Sunday. It's been a long fucking year, and I'm grateful that I still get to write these notes to you. Thanks for reading. I'm also grateful that I have more readers now than I did when I moved to Beehiiv from Buttondown.
I've printed off next year's calendar from a free PDF from Vertex42, as usual. I need to hit the ground running on Jan 2.
(LTD will reactivate on Jan 2.)
Hello from out here on the frosty Thames Delta.
PROJECT MONTMARTRE, the two-book graphic novel deal, will be announced summer 2023, it turns out, so I won't be talking about them for a while. The PROJECT WRITTLE audio drama slate is full speed ahead and we're currently prepping for January announcements and recording.
But! It's now the holiday season, and we could all use a break from email, right? It's house clearing time here. Not complaining, though. Xmas used to be much more uncomfortable.
You see, when my daughter was very little, Xmas was a thing of logistics. And discomfort.
We had the bright idea of buying a polaroid camera and... an inflatable Father Christmas suit.
I do suspect this wasn't necessarily my idea.
And so, every Christmas Eve, I would be stuffed into the plastic Santa suit, a compressor would inflate the thing, the hat and beard would be attached, and I would be photographed bringing my daughter's sack of presents into the house and depositing it under the tree. The polaroids would be left out for her to find in the morning.
(We leaned into the magical side of childhood quite a lot. At one point we had to hold up our end of an impromptu correspondence between our daughter and the bloody Tooth Fairy.)
Thing is... that suit was uncomfortable. As the thing inflated, it basically compressed me. And as I say, it was plastic. With lots of sharp seams and creases. That were forced into me, in many places where you wouldn't want pointy bits jammed into you.
I was pronounced the grumpiest Santa who ever lived.
One Xmas, we went up to visit my dad. We stayed at a hotel about a half hour's drive away, which was one of my favourite hotels in the world. It was called Frogg Manor.
There was a sign - and I've just checked my memory and found the text online! - reading "WELCOME TO FROGG MANOR, AN OASIS OF NORMALITY THE MAD MAD WORLD IS NOW BEHIND, PASSPORTS AND VISAS NOT REQUIRED AT THE MOMENT"
The guy who ran it, John Sykes, was a genuine English eccentric who was generally known as The Chief Frog. He didn't especially like kids in the hotel, and tended not to take them as guests, and I had to talk him around over a long phone call. After our first visit, he took me aside and thanked me for bringing "your wonderful daughter" to stay and said she was welcome any time. So if anyone there ever wondered why a four year old was sitting on a stool at the bar and chatting with the staff...
In the mornings, the child and I would walk the grounds looking for wild rabbits. Our room had a secret door that opened into the bar area. In the evenings, people would be having a quiet drink before dinner when one of the bookcases would suddenly swing open and a gleeful little girl would emerge.
Anyway. Christmas Eve. Herself produced The Suit and proclaimed that Tradition must be upheld. I did protest, but nonetheless I was imprisoned in the suit, inflated, fitted with hat and beard and sent outside to enact Father Christmas basically breaking into Frogg Manor through an emergency exit door with a sack of presents.
But this was, of course, a hotel. So while I performed the various stages of entering the hotel, going down the hallways to our room and all that, there were other guests around. Quite a lot of them, it turned out. All highly amused, and there was much pointing and gathering of people to laugh at me as the suit alternately cut off my blood circulation and stabbed me in the soft bits. I winced and growled my way to the room door, and finally heard someone mutter: "Not a very happy Santa, is he?"
In the morning, my daughter was delighted that Father Christmas had tracked her to Frogg Manor and that her mother had covertly surveilled the act of breaking and entering once again. And I'm sure the other guests were telling stories of the evening they spent laughing at the world's grumpiest Santa.
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 orbitaloperations.com , 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.
END OF YEAR READING
THE WINTER READING PROJECT
Right now, I'm descending into Nabokov's PALE FIRE, which is nowhere near as forbidding as I expected, and often very amusing. Given that I slated this winter to read many old "difficult" books, I am surprised at how entertained I am by the insane, lying narrator.
I was going to go into NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND, but the lengthy and very dry foreword to my edition sapped my will to live. I think I'll go back and finish Kate Zambreno's THE APPENDIX PROJECT first. Although I do want to fill out my education, a media diet of nothing but dead white guys is no good for anyone. PIRANESI still awaits, and evenings by the fire will be spent with Jennifer Rampling's THE EXPERIMENTAL FIRE, an immense tome about English alchemy that I still haven't finished.
I'll start reading new books again in the spring. Right now, I want to educate myself. I've already been shocked, in the last year, by how MOBY DICK turned out to be the skeleton key for a whole section of American literary fiction, unlocking a new angle on Pynchon for me. I had a fairly basic education and didn't go to university, so most of my life has been spent trying to teach myself things, and some things I don't get to until much later than is ideal...
And so. I hope these next few weeks are kind to you, and that you can take a breath and recharge for 2023. I like to think of everything resetting on New Year's Eve, that click when we tip over into a whole new year with a whole new raft of possibilities. I like to pour a drink, afterwards, and watch the sky, stars wheeling around into a brand new world. Look after yourself, and I'll talk to you in the new year. Thanks for listening.