Orbital Operations for 19 March 2023

NOW HEAR THIS: I am taking two weeks off from ORBITAL OPERATIONS. The next edition will be sent on 9 April 2023.


Hello from out here on the Thames Delta, where I need to batten down the hatches a bit and go full focus to the end of the month.

Basically, it's like this: my daughter's partner got their confirmed diagnosis, and now we need to move fast to get them scanned and operated on. The longer we wait for that, the sicker they will get, as the condition is progressive and fast-onset osteoporosis is next up. This means that I have to pay for them to have it done privately. Not ideal, and against both my nature and theirs, but the clock is ticking really fucking fast and the NHS have not been able to help at all so far. SO I have a bunch of things to take care of, I have to prep DEPARTMENT OF MIDNIGHT for recording, finish WRITTLE 2 and get that set up and I have some more consultancy work to handle relatively fast, and all that's easier for my brain if I press pause here for a couple of weeks. Unless something interesting happens that I need to do an email blast on.

Therefore, here are some things that have happened this week.

Renee French, the galleried artist and writer/illustrator of such remarkable works as THE SOAP LADY, THE TICKING and MICROGRAPHIA, is a genius as far as I'm concerned. One mark of my respect and admiration for her work is this: when I heard she'd left a message for me on Instagram, I reinstalled the cursed app so I could reply to her.

Renee wanted to tell me about what she's been doing since lockdown. Which is making animations and convincing actors and performers to voice them for her. Penn fucking Jillette did at least one that I've seen. And she's been putting them all on Instagram, using it as a little theatre. They're amazing. Very short, exquisitely drawn, professionally voiced, and deeply strange. If you haven't encountered Renee's work before, it's like transcribed dream spaces, and the shorts have that quality of that one bit of a weird dream you remember on waking up. You can probably draw a few comparisons - Lynch and Beckett have been suggested over the years - but there's nobody quite like Renee, and she moves in territories those two never set foot in. If you're on IG, go there today and immerse yourself in her dream pools.

http://reneefrench.tv/ redirects to her YouTube collection. She hasn't loaded them all up there yet, but this is a brilliant thing for anyone who prefers not to go near IG. And when she does load them up, it's going to be a library I'll want to visit again and again.

Is anyone else just made tired by constant talk about Chat GPT-whatever and "AI"? Does anyone else get that reaction of "I don't care and you can't make me"? I was going to do a whole (tired) rant about it, and then it turned out James Bridle had, as ever, done it first and done it better.

And finally: Lance Reddick passed. He was in CASTLEVANIA season 3. When Meredith suggested him for The Captain, I didn't think there was a hope in hell of getting him. I'd known his work since OZ, SVU and THE WIRE and loved his skills. He signed up immediately, and the only time he needed a second take was when we discovered I'd left a typo in the script. He was a warm man whom I knew to be fundamentally decent, immensely intelligent and empathetic, and, of course, one of the best actors of his generation. He elevated every word I wrote and gave us an amazing performance in the sort of frame you didn't often see him do in tv and film. After we wrapped, he said he had one more thing he wanted to say: that he knew my work, owned a lot of my books and took the part to work with me. I was speechless and spent the rest of the week walking on air. I am horrified and heartbroken that he's gone so soon, and he will be dearly missed.

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.



Steve Erickson has a weird tempo as a writer. He will slip into ponderous longeurs, and then blast you out of your seat with a violent pivot. He doesn't sustain: RUBICON BEACH has long sections that are hypnotically wonderful and then it's like he slips below the surface and sinks into ocean mud for what seems like ages. The only one I've read that doesn't do that is THE SEA CAME IN AT MIDNIGHT, which is a thrilling piece of work. TOURS OF THE BLACK CLOCK doesn't have the wide dead spaces of RUBICON BEACH, but tests the patience here and there. You have to hang in there and wait for Erickson to set off another of his bombs.

It has the scent of fable, beginning with the boy who tries to leave the island he was brought up on, after witnessing a terrible act, but ends up as the ferryman taking tourists to and from the island. The island's dreamy gravity never lets him go. His story launches the second story - the truth about that terrible act, and its victim, and his role in the splitting of timelines.

It's also about the man who wrote Hitler's porn.

It has its slow parts: but when it's moving and inventing, it is magnificent and magnificently strange.




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/ .

While I'm away from the newsletter, I'll still be updating every weekday there, as I like to keep that chain going, even if it's just a status post.

Okay, that's all I have this week: I need to get into three outlines and two rewrites before the end of the day, and signs of spring mean that I need to tend to plants, shovel more catshit out of the garden and try to squirrelproof some containers. Always be ready to drop out of the world for a while if there's shit you need to attend to. Your own peace and health come ahead of everything else. If they don't, then we lose you too young, and we don't want that. Take care of yourself, hold on tight, and I'll see you in April.