Orbital Operations, 22 October 2023


Hello from out here on the rainy Thames Delta.

On deck:

  • Finishing a graphic novella script, as you read this.

  • Signed off the locked mix for DEPARTMENT OF MIDNIGHT 103. I should have something more to say about this next week.

  • Waiting waiting waiting on calls and emails and paperwork. This, by the way, is the eternal truth of freelancing. It doesn’t change, ever.

  • And yet, at the same time, I feel like I’m winding down for the year. I am therefore doing terrible things like making carrot juice and am forcing as many ideas down on to paper as possible.

  • I have A Plan for the next five years, and I need to keep focus on it, but the leaves are starting to drop, and my body is saying Hibernate, Gather Your Books And Films And Curl Up In Your Cave With Wine And Wild Meats

Also, my daughter is now 28 years old. Which is just stunning to me. And she still talks to me all the time!

It’s weird. There she is, tall and brilliant and 28, and I only feel old when I look in the mirror.

I bought this on vinyl when it came out, but I haven’t had a record player in years. I felt like listening to it again and found a YT copy:

This in turn put me in mind of the time Derek Raymond read his horrifying, searing London crime novel I WAS DORA SUAREZ over the music of Gallon Drunk, which I am certain I have on CD somewhere. Warning: the book is fucking disgusting, and you may not be in the mood. But nobody wrote crime novels like Raymond, unfiltered and bludgeoning. It was one of the touchstones for my approach to my brief stint on DC’s John Constantine comic HELLBLAZER.

I was once approached for a similar sort of project, but a live performance, and had many meetings about it, including a possible collaboration with the British Library, right up until the intended venue realised that I was not, in fact, the other Warren Ellis. But I did get to spend a day in the bowels of the British Library, and saw the special cabinet with a Mars-like interior environment where they kept a shellac record of James Joyce reading from ULYSSES in Paris, one of an edition of twenty.

I love this cover for the new Gazelle Twin record:

My copy is winging its way to me as we speak.

Also, this new piece by Jem Finer is wonderful.

Jem Finer is a founder member of the Pogues, and became a composer and artist-technologist, most famously in the creation of Longplayer for the Long Now Foundation. (Which I have as an app on my phone.)

Longplayer is a self-extending composition by British composer and musician Jem Finer which is designed to continue for 1000 years. It started to play at midnight on 1 January 2000, and if all goes as planned, it will continue without repetition until 31 December 2999.

I would like a construction that only swallows bombs, a poetic house that, when caught by the blaze, would rise from the dead in a new coat of feathers.


This is a hell of a book, by the way. Kluge is a German author I’ve recently discovered - which I feel fairly shameful about, considering the man is 91 years old and is a massive cultural figure in Germany, a contemporary of Fritz Lang and Adorno and a signatory of the Oberhausen Manifesto, recipient of the Buchner Prize and holding a lifetime achievement award for his work in television. There’s always something new-to-you to be discovered, right?

(Yes, I broke my “new book” moratorium. I also bought the new Mathias Enard, because of course I did, and bought Olga Tokarczuk’s FLIGHTS to go into after THE BOOKS OF JACOB.)

I discovered Kluge in, of all places, an article on the New Statesman, which I think I surfaced using Flipboard. That article is now behind a registration wall -- just register for your three free articles. Therein, Kluge’s style is described as “the information epic.” This is a thing I’ve been considering ever since.

This set of thinking can be compared usefully against FLIGHTS, which is described as a “constellation novel.” (I read the first few chapters when I bought it, because of course I did.)

Someone messaged me to let me know BBC Radio 3 are planning a Coltrane week in November - John and Alice. Put this one in your calendar to start with.

John remade jazz, Alice remade spiritual music. Alice is my Coltrane, but I know Eric Stephenson likes John, so, if Eric’s read this far, he will find this. Hi, Eric.


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.

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And I’m off. Take it easy on yourself, grab five minutes to sit outside and see the sun, and I’ll see you next week.