Holding Pattern

Orbital Operations for 21 May 2023

The next Orbital Operations will arrive on 4 JUNE 2023.

I need to focus on what’s in front of me, and there aren’t currently enough hours in the day, so I’m dropping out of sight and taking some things off my desk for a few weeks, including this newsletter. I have forgotten how to be good at doing all the things, so I’m going to do fewer things until I remember.

After that, normal weekly service should prevail until the end of the year.

What really threw me this week was this: on Sunday last, I woke up with a freakishly blocked ear. Stone deaf in my right ear, and my mild and managed tinnitus was about 10x normal. No balance, vertigo, the whole bit. Careful cleaning did nothing, olive oil did nothing, I got the over-the-counter earwax-cooking stuff and it did nothing. By Friday, the tinnitus was at a brain-splitting 50x, I was effectively as deaf as a post and walking in a straight line was more of a challenge than usual. This is why, late on Friday, I took what is basically a tupperware horse syringe with an orange tip shaped like the head of a 1970s television spaceship, and used it - with a degree of skepticism and fear of cracking something vital in my head, including, you know, my head - to fire a half litre of warm water inside my skull.

Oh my god don’t do that. I mean, do you need to be inside one of those Las Vegas jumping water fountains while it’s also full of crayon shavings, yellowed cobwebs, possible fossils and bits of old bicycle? While it’s inside your own skull? No. Don’t ever do that.

It’s nice to know that even at the end of a long life we can still have firsts. I have not directly irrigated my own brain before. I got my hearing back on the second try, and the tinnitus is now down to 2x normal, which is manageable. Which means, yes, production team, I can now listen to the build on DEPT MIDNIGHT 104.

This is, I am certain, the sort of classy material you subscribed to this letter for. It’s probably just as well I’m taking a couple of weeks off to catch up on other stuff.

Jason Howard told me he’s re-running our old webcomic experiment SCATTERLANDS on his IG account, @jasonhowardart . It was the first thing we did together: we did SCATTERLANDS to have some fun and find out if we could work well as a team. We went on to do three volumes of TREES and the graphic novel CEMETERY BEACH, and we still talk regularly about stuff, so it all worked out fine. Go and look.

Here’s a slightly depressing thought from Jan Chipchase’s newsletter:

My hunch is that it is useful to frame AI models as a form of belief system i.e. a thing that some people consider to be a source of “greater truth”, regardless of whether there is any evidence to support that point of view. …for some people, the AI will be considered a core foundation for their belief system, akin to religious texts today.

Developed as a short essay at this link here.

From the optional.is newsletter:

In 02003, the British Cycling Association hired Dave Brailsford as its new Performance Director. He initiated a regime of "the aggregation of marginal gains". These included hiring a surgeon to teach riders the best way to wash their hands to reduce the chances of catching an illness and determining the arrangement that leads to the best night's sleep. He even painted the inside of the team truck white in order to spot dust that would normally slip by unnoticed but could impact the performance of the highly tuned bikes

None of these changes alone make a huge difference or are hard to implement, but over time they add up to increased efficiencies!.

“Marginal gains.” The tiny tweaks that can add up over time.

Their newsletter goes out once a quarter, and can be checked out at this link here.

From the Daily Heller: Working Through Chronic Pain. Interesting to me, because it’s not a thing we normally talk about. I’ve been working through chronic pain on and off for forty years now. I don’t really remember my last four years of education because I was so loaded up on prescribed painkillers. But when we talk about this we sound like we’re crazy or we’re lying or we’re unemployable or some combination of the above that adds up to “get the hell away from me.”

I'm on the back half of the fourth season of the Lovecraft Investigations now. It always seems to be news to someone that there's going to be a fourth season, no matter how many times, and in how many places, I bang on about it. I suppose this is just an artefact of online life - author Joe Hill recently launched his Substack and his first post was about the trials and tribulations he'd been through writing his new novel, how long it was going to take and when it would be published. And the VERY FIRST comment under the piece was from someone saying "Any news on the new novel?" That's an extreme example, and Joe did well not to hunt this person down and murder them.

Okay. Now that I can stand up without falling down, have to go and wash out the chicken coop, because we have more rescue chickens arriving at the end of the month. Take care of yourself, take care of the people around you, enjoy your month, and I hope to be able to write to you again in a few weeks. Thanks for reading.


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.

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 https://warrenellis.ltd/feed/ .