Kaleidoscope Speed

Orbital Operations for 30 April 2023

in residence

Hello from out here on the Thames Delta.  I have a bunch of things to do, and I've absolutely forgotten how to work.  My brain is apparently still on that slow and easy pandemic pulse, and the old 1000mphclub muscle memory has died off.  I've gotten relaxed and lazy.  I have a short stack of half-read magazines, a reading queue as long as your arm, various dead devices laying around the house, a bizarre fascination with Forged In Fire and a burning desire to know why Calum on Beechgrove isn't subtitled for speaking accent with a trace of English.

I have a long list of things to do in the garden, and so, as you read this, I'll be taking a long weekend of outdoor work.  My spine is compressed from so many hours in the chair.  And I need to get away from screens and the boards, clear my head and get straight for the new week.  I'm actually knocking this bit of the newsletter in on late Friday and I already have holes in my head from whipping branches and falling wood sustained while swinging an axe.

Above: a photo from 2014 I found while sorting folders, from the days when I travelled a lot.  I was actually looking for some of the photos I took while at the Juvet Landscape Hotel five years ago, because the new episode of SUCCESSION turns out to have been partially shot there:

juvet 1

Rewatching some episodes of SUCCESSION the other day: there's a bit where Logan Roy tells someone to pencil in a phone call for midnight.  It gave me a sudden cold shock of "that used to be me." You don't think about how lunatic your life is getting while you're slowly getting boiled in it.

I figure there has to be a better way of doing all that, that doesn't drive me slightly crazy, stress me to the point where I'm making dumb choices because I'm not thinking properly, and have me waking up in fear of being eight hours behind whatever happened overnight. While also allowing me to speed up a bit and be more engaged.  So I'm reviving and reconfiguring a couple of old devices, writing myself a new schedule and looking for spaces to add in the things I really need to do for my brain, from additional engagement with new culture (something I really let slip over the last year) to enforcing meditational and reflectional work time.

DOM 104 build

First full build of the first episode of DEPARTMENT OF MIDNIGHT we recorded.  Due to actor avails, we're recording out of order.  But we've all done this before.  We now have three episodes in the can.  James is off to shoot some SLOW HORSES for a week or two, and then we come back and record the last three.  It has been such a great time so far.  I was saying to an artist friend the other day that I almost feel guilty for how much I'm enjoying it.

Also now on deck: we closed and signed the contracts for graphic novella project codenamed LOST SIERRA.  2024 release.  That will be the first announced of my new publishing slate, but we're waiting a beat before we start talking about it.  My artist/co-creator and I are burning up a messaging app with planning and details, and she's shooting over development art every day.  My long weekend outside is partly to clear my head and preparing to start scripting next week.

Moving slowly, but codenames PROJECT STOCKHOLM and PROJECT EXPLOITS RIVER should arrive behind LOST SIERRA.

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.



For I do not exist: there exist but thousands of mirrors that reflect me. With every acquaintance I make, the population of phantoms reflecting me increases.

 — Vladimir Nabokov, The Eye

This is flat out one of my books of the year.  Ian Penman sat down to write a book about the director/writer Rainer Werner Fassbinder, couldn't get going, and decided to blast the book out in four weeks the way Fassbinder used to blast out everythibg.

How to recapture him in all his stubborn, unyielding, messy glory? How to proceed in the spirit of? I decided to try and write the way Fassbinder himself worked: get straight to it and get going right away. The very opposite of what Robert Musil called an aesthetic of postponement.

In something like four hundred numbered pieces, some no more than a few lines long, Penman creates a kaleidoscopic view of Fassbinder and that which surrounds him.  Perhaps you, like me, only have a glancing familiarity with his work.  Doesn't matter a bit.  Because it's the story of a creative life and creative acts.

Also, related to notes above:

Everything in excess: food, sex, drinks, drugs, cigarettes; but also work. Fassbinder gives the lie to the idea that productivity is in itself a ‘healthy’ thing. There is nothing necessarily ‘healthy’ about the pursuit of any demanding or difficult or very personal art. There may be cruelty involved, to self and others. It throws into question what we might consider a ‘healthy’ productive life at all. The line between self-medication and lethal dose become increasingly thin. The same thing that cures you of one malady exacerbates another.

Life lived at a hurtling rate: beyond a certain point impossible to tell whether it’s speeding up or skidding down or whether finally these now amount to the same thing.

It's an insanely quotable book - "such palm-smoothed coin-words."  It's an absolutely thrilling consideration of edge culture and edge creativity, time and place, damage and achievement, art and life.

Yet again, another winner from Fitzcarraldo Books.  What an amazing house they are.




Band name of the week:


Their incredibly bleak, desolate ambient music can be heard here.  Just in case you were somehow feeling too happy today.

I rebooted that old Amazon Fire Eight tablet that turned out to still have an active subscription to THE WIRE magazine on it.  It's not perfect for reading THE WIRE?  But I spent a nice evening with the tablet in one hand, reading THE WIRE's wonderful reviews section, and Bandcamp open on the phone in the other hand, creating a listening queue from the things in the review section that looked interesting.  I use the Bandcamp "wishlist" as my bookmark system - if you're curious as to what's in my queue, the list is here.  Click over to "collection" to see what I actually bought from that list.



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/ . 

And that's me for the week, riddled with aches and pains and rackety allergen-wracked lungs but generally happy and mobile and peaceful.  Finding moments of peace can be hard fucking work these days, but if you've got the energy to find just five minutes of your own peace this week, do it.  It's good for you and it'll keep you around with us longer, and that's what we want.  Take care of yourself.  See you next week.