Orbital Operations for 23 April 2023
Slowly, gently reconnecting with the outside world.
Hello from out here on the Thames Delta: it's Tuesday as I write this, and I'm walking around the house putting the heaters back on because there is an Arctic wind ripping across the coast. This is my fault - I started putting my winter clothes away on Monday, thereby jinxing the entire enterprise.
On Monday, we recorded our first episode of DEPARTMENT OF MIDNIGHT, with James Callis and Actor 4 Yet To Be Announced - we're going to announce the entire cast when the show's ready to go - and on Friday we did our second, with Actor 5. It's been a few years since I've been on a show recording, and frankly it's been delightful. I haven't had so much fun in ages, thanks to our actors and Meredith Layne, our director. When I nervously logged into the studio, the first thing I heard was her voice chiming "Warren! It's been a hot minute!" Which made my day.
The image up there is from WORLD ON A WIRE, by the way - Lordess and I were talking about it a few months back, which made me revisit it and then put it down partway through. And then a terrific book by Ian Penman surfaced about Fassbinder, which I'll talk a bit about when I've finished it, which has sent me right back to WIRE and his other work. Fassbinder made over forty films, a bunch of tv series, and died at the age of 37 from a coke / barbiturate sleeping pills OD.
Pulse Track from Composition 108B, Anthony Braxton
I've also been talking with publishers and filling notebooks with crazy-wall scribbles about new ways of approaching serialised comics. Pretty sure the ideas don't make sense to anyone but me, but it'd be nice to try them one day. The problem I have had throughout my career is finding artists to work with. I don't make people rich or get them prizes. I just present them well enough that their next job is the one that makes them rich and wins them prizes! And, in this instance, the approach is wonky enough that most people will assume I went insane during lockdown and will move quickly in the general direction of Away. But it's been a fun thing to think about, even though I am now going to bed half-blind every night because of it...!
Image above borrowed from Erica Dicker's piece on Braxton's Ghost Trance Music, because I couldn't be bothered to go looking for my own copy of the notes right now. Rhythm in comics has always been an interest of mine - I always think of it as the drumming - but usually within the page or the scene. I'm of the particular generation of writers who tends to consider page-as-stanza (an Eddie Campbell coinage). I'm now looking at pulse in a wider context.
(The wonderful thing about Braxton's music theories is that, like Braxton's music, it often makes sense only to himself - there are videos of him playing where he's nodding his head to a beat that quite obviously only exists in his head - but the mass/mess of ideas in there can be applied anywhere as inspirations or analogies.)
Also went back to Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore's THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE. I'm in that blending mode where I'm putting together my ideas with ideas from other arts to see if they support each other or germinate something different.
I don't know if I have plans, as such? But I do have intents for 2024.
Oh, and: the contracts arrived for graphic novella project codenamed LOST SIERRA. More on that in the near future: my collaborator and I are very excited, and she and I will both be shouting across the rooftops about LOST SIERRA when we and our publisher are ready to go.
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.
BEYOND THE REACH OF EARTH
Last year, I pointed you at BEYOND THE HALLOWED SKY, the first of a new science fiction trilogy by Ken MacLeod. It was a lot of fun. The sequel, BEYOND THE REACH OF EARTH, is now out, continuing the adventures of socialist Scottish shipbuilders and their yellow submarine in space. Yeah. Really. MacLeod is really good at taking these little jokes and spinning huge, clever stories out of them.
Getting into details would require spoiling the first book for you. I will say that it fills the "middle book" space well, piling a bunch more invention and a lot more stakes into the story. MacLeod is a better-read, more worldly and more devious writer than the majority of his peers in the Big Science Fiction Story space - he doesn't lose the dash of the genre, but there's always the sense that you're with more wily a storyteller than usual. It's that slow-moving edge of suspicion that helps to elevate it.
If you haven't read the first one, read it. If you have, be advised the second one may not have the immediate charms of the first, but has complexity and invention that build smartly on the first.
Speaking of books: if you want to have some book-related fun, look at all the weird old paperbacks in the Wyrd Britain shop. I lost nearly an hour to paging through it all the other day.
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/ .
I actually took the week off from LTD - I needed some head space to reconfigure some stuff. Resumes Monday. The way it usually starts is a link post first thing in the morning, then a personal status note (people I work with actually use it to see where my inbox and cognitive load is at), and then just drop things in during the day. When it's working properly, it's a steady pulse of notebooking.
Apparently, if you have a WordPress blog yourself, there's now a plugin to syndicate your blog across ActivityPub-driven federation social media platforms. I myself am unlikely to activate it in the near future, but you may want to.
That's about it for this week. I hope you're doing well. And if you're doing otherwise? The bad times and the sad days don't last. Even the bad sads fade away. The good things we've had always last longer in our minds. If there has been joy before, there will be joy again. Take care of yourself. See you next week.