Lab Mode

Orbital Operations for 28 April 2024

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Hello from out here on the Thames Delta. Spring is coming back, after a few grim weeks, I’m sowing seeds in a rush as the cold snap is passing, and rapidly filling another notebook. Here’s a few things I thought were worth sharing this week.





Letters about the creative life by Warren Ellis, a writer from England. Was this forwarded to you? Subscribe.


📖 “Look for what you notice but no one else sees.” Rick Rubin’s THE CREATIVE ACT (UK) (US) is a book of aphorisms on the creative life, sometimes obvious, sometimes penetrating, sometimes exactly what you need to hear.

🎙️ “Lost In The Abyss…” is an amazing seven-hour mix from Dark Ambient Noisescapes, which I’ve been disappearing into for days.

🎞️ A 15-minute (French, English subtitles) portrait of composer Eliane Radigue, towards the end of her electronic mad scientist phase. I love seeing how people in creative fields other than mine do their work.

💭 “Comic books was telling about all kinds of inventions that they’d done today. I used to read them all the time. I go by the Bible in a lot of things. It says God takes foolish things to dumbfound the world. So I consider comic books as foolish things so I read all the comic books. Sure enough, they wrote about the first atomic bomb in a comic book, TV wristwatch, all these things in the comic books were happening.

Sun Ra, in conversation with David Toop, OCEAN OF SOUND



I’ve been in what I think of as Lab Mode for the last week. In theory, I should switch over into Production Mode next week, but I think production will get put in a four-hour daily block and the rest of the time Lab Mode will persist. I was contacted the other day by a comics artist I admire about doing something together, and I have half-baked notions for other things piled up that I need to experiment upon.

Lab Mode is the space where I invent shit. To the outside world, this looks remarkably like being in a trance. Harry Harrison:

Joan's mother, a paragon of virtues in all other ways, does not realize the basic needs of a writer or she would not have opened the door when I was writing, as she did once years ago when we were staying in her home, and say, 'Harry, since you aren't doing anything, would you go to the store for me.' A writer's family understands; my daughter knows when I have that glassy look in the eye and am staring into space that I am not to be disturbed because I am 'working'.

(From the book HELL’S CARTOGRAPHERS, this piece preserved online here)

This is where you sort through all the stuff you’ve shovelled on to the compost heap in the back of your head. The whole point of reading as widely as you can is to enrich that compost. If you want to write comics, read anything but comics, because comics are for studying. You need to drill down into comics to learn their tools and effects.

The thing you notice may be the thing nobody else sees.

That’s how you learn how to operate the medium. Everything else, you get from other artforms. Sounds counter-intuitive, but think about this: the formative influences on Brian Bendis were David Mamet and Aaron Sorkin.

(Same applies to artists: I spent half my time working with Tula Lotay talking about Tarkovsky.)

I’m running on internal resources, as it were: I’ve banned myself from buying new music or books (with specific get-out clauses for a few certain things), I’ve deleted a bunch of feeds out of my RSS reader and got rid of some newsletters. I’m mostly listening to what I already own, and my Kindle reading list is so long (and so riddled with half-read books) that I probably don’t need to buy another book all year anyway. Disconnecting and working with what I’ve got is much more interesting to me right now than having my head out in the streams all day looking for shiny new fish.

Lab Mode splits between contemplative work and furious experiments. Both of which require you to stay the hell away from everyone else. This is a feature, not a bug. Kraftwerk’s studio lab, Kling Klang, didn’t even have a working phone in it. This is what I want for this year.



By our friend the Grammy-nominated artist/designer Lordess Foudre and musician Le Destroy, a new graphic novel: TRASHUMANISM, “a narrative art book set in a future world where human DNA is a commodity, and a select few reign supreme. Developed to parallel its namesake, “Trashumanism” - the album by Le Destroy, this silent graphic novel-meets-classic art book offers a glimpse into the world built around the pillars and ideas presented on the album.”

…the World Hospital Corporation is now the only sanctioned healthcare system in the world. Its main tenet is that no healthcare, doctor visits or medications will be offered unless residents provide a sample of their genetic material and give up complete rights to their genome.

Lordess has been killing herself on this book for many months. As you can see, she’s gone even deeper down the retro cyberpunk k-hole than usual, this time. I love this little bit for what I think of as Amstrad Green.

This is the world of TRASHUMANISM – are you in or are you out?

The “silent” mode is really interesting: I haven’t seen a good silent graphic novel since, I think, Peter Kuper’s THE SYSTEM, so I’m looking forward to this.

It’s up for pre-order, with a full synopsis and more art - take a look and support our comrades.

Bonus round: the first single off the related album.


Old Japanese train tickets! Ours never looked that good.

WARRENELLIS.LTD is my personal notebook, updated daily. If you use a RSS reader, it generates a feed at .

This letter has been zapped to you via Beehiiv and MOOD:

This cannabis startup pioneered “rapid onset” gummies

Most people prefer to smoke cannabis but that isn’t an option if you’re at work or in public.

That’s why we were so excited when we found out about Mood’s new Rapid Onset THC Gummies. They can take effect in as little as 5 minutes without the need for a lighter, lingering smells or any coughing.

Nobody will ever know you’re enjoying some THC.

We recommend you try them out because they offer a 100% money-back guarantee. And for a limited time, you can receive 20% off with code FIRST20.

The above is both an experiment with Beehiiv’s new ad capability, which I was interested to test, and also a response to Beehiiv jacking my costs up by 50%. I’m sure some of you people like reading about drugs, so it’s not all bad.

And so we come to the end of another pre-senile ramble that you subscribed to for no good reason. It’s nice to be kind to the infirm, isn’t it? Look at you. You’re practically fucking Gandhi.

Thanks for sticking around. I really appreciate it. Now go and do something for yourself, even if it’s just switching everything off and sitting in some peace and quiet for five minutes. Honestly, it’s good for you to just be somewhere and look around without talking to anyone or looking at your phone for just five minutes. Give it a try if you haven’t already. Sit here with me for five minutes, and afterwards I’ll leave you alone until next Sunday. Take care.


I’m represented by Angela Cheng Caplan at the Cheng Caplan Company, Joel VanderKloot at VanderKloot Law and David Hale Smith at Inkwell Management. Please add [email protected] to your email system’s address book or contacts and move this to your primary folder when you get a minute, thanks.