Tag: Warren Ellis (page 1 of 5)

Sitting staring at a wall for hours

Some wise words from author Warren Ellis, whose Sunday newsletter ‘Orbital Operations’ is well worth subscribing to.

Related: although she hasn’t specifically confirmed it, I get the feeling that Laura is working on a sequel to her novel Maybe Zombies. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend it.

I remember a piece by Harry Harrison – maybe in HELL’S CARTOGRAPHERS – where he had to explain to his mother in law that when he was sitting staring at a wall for hours, he was in fact working. I imagine most writers will tell you three things about thinking time – it’s the most valuable work, the most frustrating work, and the least billable. Very few people in this world get paid for the hours spent staring at the wall. And it’s always frustrating, because what you want is for the form of a story to just drop into your head after thirty minutes in the chair, and that very rarely happens. It’s days or weeks of wandering around inside your own head and its stores, which looks to the rest of the world like you’ve become a vegetable creature whose circumnutations do nothing but slowly capture and engulf pieces of chocolate.

Yes, we are all outwardly lazy bastards — and if you are entering the journey of a creator of stories now, then be advised — you’re allowed to stare at the wall for as long as you damn well like and need to. Those days and weeks of farting around within the walls of your mind are what every piece of art people love come from. Every story you ever adored? Someone sat around like a piece of meat propped on a sofa until it happened. There are no lazy writers. It just takes some of us longer to get off the sofa and put the pen “on the attack against the innocent paper.”

(That line is from Olga Tokarczuk.)

You have permission to dream other lives and whole new worlds for as long as it takes.

Source: Orbital Operations, 5 November 2023

Different levels of reading (technologies)

This post by author Nick Harkaway was shared by Warren Ellis in his most recent newsletter. It’s something that my wife and I have talked about recently, as she tends to print everything out to read.

I do occasionally, but only for things I want to read really closely. In fact, I’ve got three levels: deep (paper), medium (e-ink), and shallow (screen). Most of the work that I do doesn’t require super-close reading of the text but rather the general gist of what’s going on. I’ve got an A4-sized ereader so it’s easy to put stuff on there.

Previously, I have printed out things. For example, I printed out my doctoral thesis and put it on the windows of the Jisc offices to make tiny corrections when I was almost ready for submission. I think this is entirely OK and normal.

What I really want is a laptop screen where I can switch between a regular screen and e-ink. Something like this.

There’s a sense of reality in printing (and reading on paper) a finished novel. In theory, you can go through an entire creative effort without ever producing paper on your desktop, but for me there’s a separate space of “tangible book” which has a particular moment and a set of uses. This morning I printed the first two chapters to look at, and aside from the sense of pleasure in seeing a physical manifestation of work done (in this instance a sort of echo, because I held the whole book in A4 recycled a while ago) there’s a difference between words on screen and words on paper.

Holding paper, I notice different things. The work feels different – different tonal issues arise, new sections I need to rewrite. It’s akin to – but different again from – reading a book aloud and hearing the cadences, the unintentional repetitions and homonyms, the blunt force wrongness of an unmodified word. The text is not different, but the experience is, and of course it’s still the paper experience of my book that most people will have. (I think – a couple of my books were bigger sellers as ebooks than paper in some markets, but as far as I know, perhaps even moreso now than a few years ago, paper remains on the throne.)

There are actual science reasons why analogue reading is different – and as the writing process at this point is founded on reading and re-reading, those aspects must be interwoven with the creative edit, irrespective of whether the creative process of itself works differently in the brain depending on the medium in which it is iterated. Whether it’s an inherent quality in the combination of tactile experience and inert text, or whether it’s contingent on my knowledge that digital text is both infinitely editable and subject to sudden interruption when my desktop decides to notify me of something, I find there’s a placidity and a sense of authenticity in the work. I’m always wary of mystifying the tree’s presence in the printed book or the long inheritance of paper, but – be it a societal form or something more fundamental – paper feels more “in the world”.

Source: The Print | Fragmentary

The Atlantis of the North Sea

A couple of years ago, I started subscribing to Northern Earth magazine on the recommendation of Warren Ellis. It’s quirky and brilliant.

The most recent issue contains reference to Rungholt, which I then looked up on Wikipedia. It was destroyed in the 14th century due to a storm surge. Until excavations this year people weren’t entirely sure it ever existed but it turns out it was a flourishing port town.

Rungholt was a settlement in North Frisia, in what was then the Danish Duchy of Schleswig. The area today lies in Germany. Rungholt reportedly sank beneath the waves of the North Sea when a storm tide (known as Grote Mandrenke or Den Store Manddrukning) hit the coast on 15 or 16 January 1362.


In June 2023, the German Research Foundation announced that researchers had found the probable location of Rungholt under mudflats in the Wadden Sea and had already mapped 10 square kilometers of the area.


Today it is widely accepted that Rungholt existed and was not just a local legend. Documents support this, although they mostly date from much later times (16th century). Archaeologists think Rungholt was an important town and port. It might have contained up to 500 houses, with about 3,000 people. Findings indicate trade in agricultural products and possibly amber. Supposed relics of the town have been found in the Wadden Sea, but shifting sediments make it hard to preserve them.

Source: Rungholt | Wikipedia