Keepalive Signal

Orbital Operations for 25 February 2024

Hello from out here on the Thames Delta. Welcome to the newsletter that doesn’t have any news in it. I’m dead beat. Cue theme music.






  • LTD

Image above from LA ANTENA, a film I’m currently a little obsessed with.

Last week, I tried out the new “table of contents” function on my newsletter hosting system: but the links it generates don’t work inside emails. Which was frustrating. However, seeing a table of contents up there again convinced me to bring the idea back for a while. Haven’t used one since the days of Lordess Foudre and Roger Strunk and various others helping me populate these letters, bringing ORBITAL OPERATIONS closest to the magazine format I envisioned. I do kind of miss that, but let’s see what’s next.

I was always fascinated by how, for decades, the covers of LES TEMPS MODERNES were just tables of contents.

Picasso designed that masthead. I had to make mine in some Adobe logo generator. And they kept that same cover design from 1945 to the end of the publication in 2019.



  • Contracts have been executed on graphic novella PROJECT EXPLOITS RIVER, and now the artist is now just waiting for me to write the script.

  • I’ve broken ground on script for PROJECT RED HOUSE, an ongoing series. I’ve spent so long farting around with the full outline that the artist probably thinks I’ve died

That makes six active projects on the 2024 status board, and seven or eight on the Schrodinger’s cat-box that is the PENDING board.

I am in solid scripting mode for the next two weeks, and I’d like to come out of the other end of that with at least 64 pages written, and in an ideal world 80. But it is not an ideal world.

Around the edges of that, I have some half-notions forming that I need to notebook intensively. I have artists in mind for one or two of them, but I also want to write some scripts without specific artists in mind (not my usual method) just to see where I go when I’m going there on my own.



The synopsis goes like this:

An entire city has lost its voice. Mr. TV, the owner of the city’s only television channel, is carrying out a sinister plan to control all of the city’s inhabitants. He kidnaps a singer, the only one who still has The Voice. An inventor witnesses the kidnapping and flees to thwart approaching doom.

Written and directed by the Argentine filmmaker Esteban Sapir in 2007. Nobody has an audible voice but their words hang in the air as typography. It has a “Guy Maddin making METROPOLIS” vibe, but with a higher speed of visual invention. I watched it on MUBI, it’s probably floating around elsewhere, and I know there was at least one DVD release. But right now I just want to show you pictures from the film. Maybe you’ll fall into these images the way I did.

“TV Foods” - real Cronenberg VIDEODROME kind of note.

“City Without A Voice, Year XX”

Bonus round: Maddin’s HEART OF THE WORLD (six minutes):

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.



“Art and science work in quite different ways: agreed . But, bad as it may sound, I have to admit that I cannot get along as an artist without the use of one or two sciences. This may well arouse serious doubts as to my artistic capacities.”

Real innovations attack the roots.

First thing: if you see that particular cover for the Brecht book, don’t buy it. It turns out to be a bad OCR scan of the book, and it’s riddled with typographic failures. I will end up buying the 2018 Bloomsbury edition (UK) (US+) to get a clean copy.

Second, it is extremely quotable. There seems to be a question about the veracity of this particular Brecht statement, but it amuses me nonetheless:

I don't let my feelings intrude in my dramatic work. It'd give a false view of the world. I aim at an extremely classical, cold, highly intellectual style of performance. I 'm not writing for the scum who want to have the cockles of their hearts warmed.

Bertolt Brecht was a writer and producer best known for his theatrical works such as THE THREEPENNY OPERA, from which we get the famous “Mack The Knife.” He generated a lot of theory around theatre, writing and art in general, including the development of “the learning-play.

For me, there is always something fascinating about seeing a writer write about their writing, their thought processes and experimental notes. And that’s what this is: Brecht developing his approaches to his work, on paper. Thinking out loud.

…emotions will only venture on to completely secure ground, and cannot survive disappointment of any sort.

I also get to fill in a few of the many many gaps in my education, and see some connections I wasn’t well-read enough to make previously. Always be learning.



“Bedtime stories for adults” is how she describes it. I think we all know by now that I tend not to listen to too much stuff with lyrics, as it pulls me out of whatever I’m writing (unless I’m chasing a specific effect.) But this collection of fragile midnight confessions and pleas was a necessary purchase.



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 .

This letter has been zapped to you via Beehiiv.

Are these newsletters too long or too short? Who knows any more.

The next edition of ORBITAL OPERATIONS will be sent on 10 March 2024. I expect to resume weekly sends after that.

And that’s it for this month. I need to sleep for a couple of days and then get back to it. Do what you need to do for yourself: doesn’t matter what the world tells you, you can actually get off the turn of the world and rest for a bit while it keeps on turning. You can get back on at the stop of your choice: the sun’s still going to come up. Take care of yourself, and I’ll see you at the next stop.

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