As I write this, we have officially locked the entire cast for THE DEPARTMENT OF MIDNIGHT. And oh my god what a cast. Next steps are paperwork and scheduling, and then the bit I'm both looking forward to immensely and dreading in my bones: the recording. I discovered on CASTLEVANIA that I really like working with actors, and that working with actors makes me a better writer. But recording is where I find out which bits of the dialogue writing are Wrong and Bad, and it's really embarrassing to learn that I've given great actors bad lines, and so I'm on all the recording sessions to rewrite on the fly when needed. So, yeah. Always a mix of feelings, and a lot of hard work. And really looking forward to a fun time with the cast. The advantage I have is the gap between casting and recording, so I can do a polish on all the episodes with the actors' voices in my head, to get me a bit closer to where I need to be on recording day.
Here we go. Hello from out here on the Thames Delta. And hello to all the new readers who subscribed over the last week.
And 2023 is not shaping up to be better. I mentioned that we had a family health crisis that made Xmas and New Year challenging. I woke up on Friday morning to news of an escalation on that front - short version, my daughter's partner has developed a currently not fully diagnosed medical condition that's put them in a wheelchair and features fun side journeys like debilitating constant pain. More tests are on the way, and we're hoping for a solid diagnosis very soon - right now it's all maybes and guesswork — but if there's not a newsletter next Sunday, it means we're on the road and I'll be back the week after that.
I'd actually written everything else in this newsletter bar the sign-off and the LTD links in the early part of the week, and I was going to amend it as I usually do towards the end of the week, but right now I just don't have the braincycles. Related: if anyone reading has experience managing the symptoms of early-onset primary hyperparathyroidism, hit reply and drop a note to the office if you can think of anything useful. The diagnosis isn't locked yet, but it's the most likely suspect so far.
In this epic longread by Cory Doctorow, I find this wonderful quote:
the internet has devolved into "five giant websites, each filled with screenshots of the other four"
Eight years ago, I had a newsletter called Ink Vault. It was a sort of sketchbook/ meditative road diary, that I loved deeply and then stopped doing when work came and ate my life. Now, I want to bring it back. The internet has changed so much in the meantime. Twitter ever more closely resembles a summer camp of the world’s most disagreeable boys. Instagram pivoted so hard to video it broke. Facebook? What do you need to say? And I’m not going to let TikTok train me like Pavlov’s dog. I find myself missing the old internet of words — of conversation, not decontextualized shrieking. This is my attempt to bring that back into my life.
Tiny crone comrade Molly Crabapple has moved her newsletter to Substack, where it is now more frequent and has free and paid tiers. The paid tier is worth it, because there aren't many world-travelling world-famous writers who are also world-famous artists, and her perspectives on the planet and the arts are always unique and valuable.
This one here , free to all, is probably a good place to start. My friend is mighty and fearless and amazes me all the time.
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.
sorry I have a coffee roaster now
I got this for Xmas. And a machine for cooling the roasted beans. And three 1kg bags of green Ethiopian coffee beans. So I've spent the last few weeks learning about roasting coffee beans. I like learning new things.
Lesson one: turns out you can do it in a frying pan. But this is me, and the chances of starting a fire in the kitchen from trying to pan-roast coffee beans are pretty high. I can burn water. So I was gifted this machine.
The process is a bit like this. Roast the beans until they go golden, which is called yellow bean. Keep going until you reach First Crack. First Crack is a popcorn-popping sound, it's percussive. You can stop at First Crack if you like a mild, mellow coffee. Otherwise, get through First Crack and keep going until you hit Second Crack, which is the softer snap crackle pop of Rice Krispies in milk. If you like a darker roast, what happens next is the Is Warren Going To Set His Christmas Present On Fire Zone: the space between Second Crack and "oh shit this looks and smells a bit like coal now and those might be flames."
The whole house smells amazingly good, and watching the beans turn and slowly roast is actually both fascinating and sensorially pleasing. I was once told that the sound of coffee beans turning has been used as a tinnitus masker sound, and I understand why. (I actually have tinnitus, and have had to spend a considerable while training my brain around it..)
Shop around, and you can find a kilo of good beans for ten or fifteen quid. For comparison, a basic Starfucks cappuccino is probably around four quid. Which is mostly why I mention this: if you can figure out how to roast your beans in pan or oven and then borrow a grinder, your daily cup becomes cheap, and tastes fresh and alive.
As I said last week. I got sent a bunch of proofs from upcoming issues of the British speculative fiction magazine INTERZONE, which just got new management in the form of editor and publisher Gareth Jelley. I am, of course, an absolute mark here, as I used to read INTERZONE in the 1980s and 90s and daydream about being published in those pages next to those writers.
THE DISAPPEARED, by JF Sebastian, is an absolutely searing horror story about small-boat migrants, loss, memory and being forgotten. It seems to be to be a fine indication of a broad spectrum of work to come - fantastika in all its shades.
That's interzone.press for the magazine's site and interzone.digital for its free online sister magazine. This new iteration of the magazine is very much worth your attention.
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/ .
Includes daily status posts so people can see why I'm not answering email.
THE DEPARTMENT OF MIDNIGHT - just in case you missed last week's announcement
Okay, I need to wrap this up and go and deal with stuff. So, please, take care of yourself, breathe through the stress, listen to the music you like, and do the things that make you feel better. You're allowed to. Hold on tight.