- Orbital Operations
- Little Stabs
Orbital Operations for 7 May 2023
Hello from out here on the Thames Delta, where I find that my hosting company has overhauled the writing system, and therefore I have no idea what this is going to look like.
This week has been a big thinking and invention week out here, and, as you read this, I’m going to still be very much in it. Also, the executed contracts for PROJECT LOST SIERRA came back, I just started talking to an artist about a possible new thing, and I’m behind on scripting. So this week’s newsletter is just a short collection of things I think you might be interested in.
First off, here’s another newsletter. Famed graphic designer in the comics field and elsewhere, Steve Cook, has his own newsletter, SECRET ORANGES, and it’s amazing. Graphic design history, comics history - as I noted on LTD, I actually owned this comic he still has when I was five years old:
For those not aware, US comics were repackaged in various European markets in local formats. In Britain, that was a roughly A4-sized weekly black and white or two-colour magazine with a colour cover. SPIDER-MAN was all newsprint, but THE AVENGERS has a glossy cover, as I recall: This sent me off to Google, because it made me suddenly remember something weird. British comics made their circulation stick by adding free gifts to the first couple of issues. Issue 1 of THE AVENGERS had a little set of transfers. The second had this:
A little cardboard catapult that used a rubber band to hurl little cardboard discs. But look at what some wit at Marvel UK called it. Wonder-Weapon. Or, as Nazi Germany’s ministry of propaganda had it, Wunderwaffe. The programme of fast-prototyping exotic super-weapons in the last act of World Wat Two. “Wonder-Weapon” is a very specific term, and I assume someone in that office was darkly pissing themselves with laughter at distributing cardboard Wunderwaffe to little British kids. Who probably spent weeks happily trying to blind each other with tiny cardboard discs before the Wonder-Weapon inevitably bent or tore.
Comics in the dark ages, people. Bring back the free gift!
Anyway. SECRET ORANGES is your new favourite newsletter, so go and take a look.
This is not hype. Molly Crabapple and the Center for Artistic Inquiry and Reporting have released an open letter on the subject of restricting AI illustration from publishing.
Two things about “artificial intelligence.” It’s not artificial - it’s built on as much human activity as can be shoved into a database. And it’s not intelligent - it is very fast manipulation of spreadsheets.
I’m not going to go off on one about this: read the letter and decide for yourself. And wait patiently for the day when really fancy chess computers start being used to rewrite scripts - probably later this year.
Additionally, a longread: artists are now suing AI companies.
Ron Cobb’s wonderful design materials for ALIEN are always worth revisiting.
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.
Quick note to recommend this graphic novel by Matt Kindt and Jean-Denis Pendanx. It’s a 1970s existential crime drama (signalled shamelessly in the opening, thereby destabilising the whole narrative) wrapping around earlier crime storyforms- a formally audacious mix of Borges and Welles at the heart of it - with a touch of 70s science fiction and all gorgeously illustrated in classic Franco-Belgian BD style by Pendanx. Mister Mammoth is the world’s greatest detective, and also its most famous pacifist. He’s nine feet tall and works out of a classic Thirties detective’s cold-water walk-up. He often solves crimes without leaving his chair. In this instance, he demands five thousand dollars a day for his time - but he points out that the job will only take him a day and his client can afford it. And so the trap it set.
It’s a clever, sustained, twisty and ultimately warm-hearted piece of work, with a quiet and intelligent finish. Probably the best thing I’ve read by Matt Kindt so far.
GOT MORE TIME?
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 I’m out. I have new ideas to come up with and new records to listen to. As I write this, I’ve just made myself an excellent lunch, I have fine coffee, and life is good. Do something for yourself this week that makes life better, because you’re here to live, not to survive, no matter how much it seems like it’s the other way around. Take care, hold on tight, see you next week.