Tag writing

warren ellis on ideas

Because of a computer problem, Warren Ellis hasn’t been able to update his (excellent) free weekly webcomic, Freakangels, this week. So instead he wrote a little note explaining this, and tacked on the end as a bonus was this answer to an old FAQ:

I still get asked with appalling regularity "where my ideas come from."

Here’s the deal. I flood my poor ageing head with information. Any information. Lots of it. And I let it all slosh around in the back of my brain, in the part normal people use for remembering bills, thinking about sex and making appointments to wash the dishes.

Eventually, you get a critical mass of information. Datum 1 plugs into Datum 2 which connects to Datum 3 and Data 4 and 5 stick to it and you’ve got a chain reaction. A bunch of stuff knits together and lights up and you’ve got what’s called "an idea".

And for that brief moment where it’s all flaring and welding together, you are Holy. You can’t be touched. Something impossible and brilliant has happened and suddenly you understand what it would be like if Einstein’s brain was placed into the body of a young tyrannosaur, stuffed full of amphetamines and suffused with Sex Radiation.

That is what has happened to me tonight. I am beaming Sex Rays across the world and my brain is all lit up with Holy Fire. If I felt like it, I could shag a million nuns and destroy their faith in Christ.

From my chair.

See, this is the good bit about writing. It’s what keeps you going. It’s the wild rush of "shit, did I think of that?" with all kinds of weird chemicals shunting around your brain and ideas and images and moments and storyforms all opening up snapsnapsnap in your mind, a mass of new and unrealised possibilities.

It’s ten past two in the morning, and I’m completely wired, caught up in the new thing, shivering and laughing and glowing in the dark. Just as well it’s the middle of the night. No-one would be safe from me right now. I could read their minds and take over their heartbeats with a glare.

Faster than the speed of anyone.

That’s how it works.

ellis in oslo

It’s just a little bit of twittering from a mobile phone, but this is why we love Warren Ellis:

Unerring Pub Sense brings me to the platz at the top end of Karl Johans Gate, where I now have an outside table, cigarettes, and a glass of the local energy muck, Batteri. Cloudy and cool – a lot of people acting like it’s early summer. Folkie-hipster dude in an unfortunate hat is trying to sell a plastic-wrapped magazine to passersby. Quite a few tourists: Germans with insane moustaches, Danes in waterproofs, a shivering Japanese couple, an enormous black man in pink shirt and powder-blue tanktop photographing everything in the square. A plalanx of six women working the square with flowers, crooning "Romani. Please give. Romani." They have hard eyes, years past the point where you just resent people for having coins in their pocket. A lone military officer strides past, wearing one of those peculiar caps with the tassel hanging in front. The back of his shaven head prickles with the chill wind now driving into the square.

That is just a perfect vignette.

Patterns for personal websites

A pattern language for personal websites. Possibly useful, I don’t know, I don’t have time to read it just yet. Possibly a bit out of date :)

“The hacienda must be built…”

Formulary for a New Urbanism by is the Situationist work by Ivan Chtcheglov in which Tony Wilson found the phrase which inspired his choice of name for Factory’s famous nightclub. Both beautiful and beard-strokingly pretentious.

And you, forgotten, your memories ravaged by all the consternations of two hemispheres, stranded in the Red Cellars of Pali-Kao, without music and without geography, no longer setting out for the hacienda where the roots think of the child and where the wine is finished off with fables from an old almanac. That’s all over. You’ll never see the hacienda. It doesn’t exist.

The hacienda must be built.


Lovely weekend in Shrewsbury, staying in the charmingly slightly shambolic Lion Hotel. Then again they were under a lot of strain with Christmas parties – particularly the Friday night when some character called Luke, dressed like Austin Powers, kept staggering around shedding vomit and electronic gadgets with alarming regularity. He had to be ejected from the place several times.

Lovely place though, with a pleasantly seasonal Dickensian vibe, and a very good place to just unwind and have a quiet read in the lounge – in this case, the slightly over-hyped Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. It really is worth the hype, though. Marvellous, clever, thoughtful, rollicking roller-coaster of a story. Jorge Luis Borges meets John Buchan.


A quote from the Russian writer/critic Viktor Shklovsky, found in this post about Zamyatin:

You have to store up books, becoming acquainted with human experience; let them lie around your thoughts, becoming yours – ring upon ring, as a tree grows, let them rise up from the depths like coral islands.

If it gets crowded with all the books and there’s nowhere to put your bed, it’s better to exchange it for a folding bed.

Alan Moore

There’s an interview with the Wizard of Northampton in (of all places) the Telegraph, about (of all things) Lost Girls, his pornographic magnum opus with Melinda Gebbie. The interviewer is Susannah "Norrell and Strange" Clarke, although her style is fairly transparent in this piece (thank heaven), and there’s even a helpful list of Moore quotes at the end, and this isn’t from that section:

I did Voice of the Fire, which was set in the county of Northamptonshire. But with Jerusalem, I thought that that was probably far too cosmopolitan and far-reaching and that I ought to concentrate upon a couple of square blocks of Northampton, where I actually grew up. This is a half-million words, so the next book is obviously just going to be a couple of million words long; it’s just all going to be about one end of my living-room. I suppose it’s having started out with fantasies about the farthest reaches of space and time and the human world, I suppose it’s a gradual realisation that the actual place where I’m sitting is about the most fantastic spot in my universe.


From Dan Crisper, posted on Tuesday:

Sometimes, I still wake up in the middle of the night with that horrible image replaying over and over in my mind, of the second plane crashing into the Archduke, and the immediate realization that the Continent would never be the same.

The Old Faith of the Precursors

Dan Crisper has done it again, with a wonderfully inventive cultural archeology of the next thousand years or so, viewed from an unimaginably far future:

Originally worshippers of simple Nature, protohumans recognized the existence of, and divided their Universe into, four primal Elements: Energy, Gas, Liquid, and Solid. It was their belief that these "elemental states" represented a progression or procession of "refinement", from lowest Solid to highest Energy, to which all materios should aspire – and through which, if left to its own devices, all existence would invariably descend. It is important for the reader to understand that this was not merely a metaphorical model for personal self-improvement, as it so clearly appears at first glance. No, the Ancients actually believed this was how molecules worked. To be fair, they recognized the existence of shades and nuances within this simple structure, and they did apply fairly sophisticated rituals to its philosophical exploration. And before one dismisses this proto-belief out of hand, be aware that application of this simple model was sufficient to get them to the culminating revelation of Elementalism, the fission reaction, that process by which (in their eyes) crude, banal, degraded Solid could be transmuted instantly into bright, enlightened, perfected Energy. This direct experience of the divine as they understood it was so profound that, in their first wave of interplanetary transit (so far as we can determine) they predominantly relied on atomic drives, forgoing any number of obviously superior alternatives, carrying their precious Transmutative Process with them like a superstitiously-held good-luck charm.

And after that it gets really strange, culminating with the fantastic pantheon of Old Precursor Paganism:

Vortosk – God of Time, Inventions, and Absence. Patron of Scientists and all who have lost something. According to myth, entirely lacked outward-facing senses of any sort. Followers typically practiced potlatch-charity and self-amputation.

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Things to read later: How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later by Philip K. Dick. Lovely essay on the man over at Suicide Girls (I only go there for the articles) by Warren Ellis.

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