We Live In A Dream World

Orbital Operations for 18 June 2023

Praise be. Hello from out here on the Thames Delta. How’re you doing?

  • notes from Mission Control

  • gin is poison

  • other newsletters

  • The White Album

  • Sigur Ros

We recorded our fifth episode of DEPARTMENT OF MIDNIGHT on Wednesday, and the final one is set for June 20th — two weeks before an anticipated SAG strike, phew. After that, it’s music and sound design. For various reasons, it’s been a longer road than we expected, but we’re nearly there now. And I’ve learned so much from this one that I’m going to do a full rewrite on the next one before we go to work.

Some other work stuff has been happening this week, but it’ll be months before I can talk about it. All good though, and I’m feeling a hair more relaxed about the immediate future. The boards are getting full, and I have a lot to do. Now, though, I can come off the 12-hour writing sessions and go at a more sane pace. I hope.

Due to the crunch that ended last Sunday/Monday at midnight, nine straight days of insomnia and having to stay on top of a lot of stuff (kid’s partner’s surgery has been scheduled and paid for this week, my partner’s close friend has been hospitalised and she’s keeping vigil while I’m dealing with the financials of their mortgage company deciding that them being in an induced coma is the perfect time to try and take their flat away from them), I’m a little lower energy than I’d like to be.

But the sun is out, plants are growing, and I have vodka in the freezer.

Why do I have vodka in the freezer? Because frozen vodka is great.

Vodka gimlet: one part frozen vodka to anything from a dash to half a part lime cordial. (I think the classic ratio is 1:1, but a good lime cordial is too strong for that, for me.) Stir and serve.

Vodka martini. Which is the best martini. Double shot of frozen vodka, teaspoon of dry vermouth (or just pour a little in the glass and swirl it to cover the inside of the glass), dash of orange bitters if you like, stir, twist a strip of lemon peel (to express the oils) and drop in the glass.

Always stir. Never shake with ice. It will dilute your martini. Especially if you’re making a gin martini - shaking gin and vermouth with ice changes the flavour profile and doesn’t blend the spirits properly.

Gin is poison. It’s made in bathtubs by mutants.

I never used to be able to keep vodka in the house. It was my daughter’s spirit of choice, and she used to snaffle the lot. I got bought a bottle of Crystal Skull Vodka, the one that comes in the actual glass skull? It strangely began to evaporate. This confused me until I noted the child was enjoying a glass of orange juice that I knew full well to be past its best-before date. “I’m dosing it with your vodka to make it safe. Science, old man. Science.

And then she moved to university, became an LGBTQ+ organiser (she came out around the age of 15) and switched to gin, which is apparently the preferred tipple of the glorious gay masses. That’s my little girl, who is also a beautiful giant woman bellowing “Cheers, queers” and necking bottles of bathtub gin, and she breaks my heart with pride every damned day.

I feel like I’ve been using the term Mission Control too long. Maybe I should change it. But I’m not sure to what?


I found this newsletter WALL TEXTS, about art and the art market, which I find weirdly fascinating. I learn about things and I get pretty pictures to look at.

FILM COMMENT drops several long essays as a newsletter once a week. Note: the newsletter is unreadable on a phone for me — your mileage may differ, but I save it until I can open it on the laptop. It’s proper muscular diverse cinema writing.

I don’t keep up with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project as well as I should, but they cover a lot of creepy stuff I don’t see covered in a lot of other places, and I have a bunch of their newsletters queued up to read next week.

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.beehiiv.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.



I’d read Joan Didion before, but had somehow never sat down with THE WHITE ALBUM, even though it’s the one all the famous quotes come from. I picked it up as part of my winter projects of filling in the gaps in my reading I’d never got around to attending to, and then didn’t actually open it. During the week’s insomnia, I opened it up just for something to do. I’d already read the opening essay somewhere, but most of the rest was new to me.

Joan Didion was a reporter, author and screenwriter. In a lot of ways, I think she was always a reporter first. In the Sixties and Seventies, she was labelled as part of the New Journalism crew alongside Wolfe and Thompson. She shares a lot of creative DNA with Hunter Thompson - they both typed out entire Hemingway novels in their youth to get a feel for how that language worked - and early/mid Thompson has a similar music. But Didion was always more subtle. No less a mythologiser, in her way, but in a very different register.

I have never been sure what the word “nouveau” can possibly mean in America, implying as it does that the speaker is gazing down six hundred years of rolled lawns.

The sentences are glorious. I don’t even want to quote the famous ones. All of them have the glow of inspiration and the shine of polish. I highlighted this one because it is so clear and so timeless:

There is one of those peculiar social secrets at work here. On the whole “the critics” distrust great wealth, but “the public” does not. On the whole “the critics” subscribe to the romantic view of man’s possibilities, but “the public” does not.

(Forgive her the “man’s possibilities,” she was writing here in a time when “man” stood in for “humankind.”)

I could go on at length, but all that needs to be said is that this is a classic collection of reportage and memoir with beautiful, resonant writing, and I wish I’d read the whole thing years ago,

THE WHITE ALBUM, Joan Didion (UK) (US)



New Sigur Ros record.

The second time I went to Iceland, I asked some locals ahead of time about what Icelandic music I should know. I was told about this new band, who at the time was really only known at home, and two of their CDs were put aside for me at a Reykjavik record shop. In those days, I carried a Sony Discman when I travelled, and I put one of them on just as the plane was taking off from Keflavik, rising up over the snow and ice and frozen ocean. And that’s the first time I listened to “Svefn-g-Englar.” I lost track of them over the last ten years or so, but I will always love them for that moment they gave me, all those decades ago.



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/ .

I’m off to get started on the day. Which will begin with hopefully fixing a printer. I hope you make time this week to do things other than the necessary work, to relax and just be in the world for five minutes. Because the world isn’t so bad, not all the time, and if you look, you can always find things in it to love. Be with those things for a little while. Take care of yourself. See you next week.