WARREN ELLIS LTD Articles.
On French speculative writing in the 1920s:
In a 2009 book called Future Tense, the Canadian historian Roxanne Panchasi describes a curious feeling pervading writing on the future in France from around this time. She calls it “premourning.”
…there persisted, she claims, “a nostalgic longing for French values and cultural phenomena that had not yet disappeared.”
From that same book, more evidence for my thesis that James Bridle is a human superposition:
I had come to see a performance by the Tennessee-born artist Holly Herndon. She was billed as part of a digital arts festival called Némo. I had been intrigued by Herndon ever since her name came up in a Skype conversation I had with the artist and writer James Bridle earlier that same year.
I just found the following in a folder. In a docx file entitled “IMPORTANT.” It seems I wrote it in 2014. I have no idea what it is or why I thought it was “IMPORTANT.”
* * *
“It’s not right, you know. A man should be free to fly in the world without having to worry about burning death clouds.”
“Do what?” said a voice from under the table.
“The volcano in Iceland. Funny word. Began with a B.” He hunched a little and looked down, seeking the word. He gave the impression of peering down into the algae-smeared pool of his own memory, hunting something on the dark shallow bottom, among the rusted coins and fish shit. Finding the word, he pulled it out with a creak of his back and strangled it in the air, not leaving a single scale of Icelandic inflection in its production. “Bardabunga. That was the bugger.”
He sat at the table, in a mindful way, treating his spine like it was a string of unexploded bombs.
“Why are we even here?” said the voice from under the table.
* * *
Answers on a postcard to my doctor probably
I like trains. I like sitting by the window, the big windowframe of British trains, the glass panel that frames the outside world. Sometimes the train is still and another train clatters past, and my panel becomes a panel from “Master Race,” the short comic written by Al Feldstein and legendary for its illustration by Bernard Krigstein. One of the many effects in that eight-page comic that had never been seen before included a view of a slowing train, the motion communicated by slicing and repeating the view of people behind the train’s window glass, a convincing evocation of the experience in a static medium. A panel about a panel containing strobing strips of another panel.
Which is the sort of thing that, if you think about it for too long, makes a comics writer want to start drinking. But I seem to be on the train from Southend Victoria to Liverpool Street in London, and there’s no refreshments service.
The lights flicker. Bloody British Rail. As the lights brown out, there’s a strobing, transparent figure at the window, waving his arms. A black fringe of a beard, glasses with large black frames. Bernard Krigstein, circa 1955. I recognise him from photos with Harvey Kurtzman. He seems very concerned with the frame of the window, here in the flicker and strobe. This is what he says:
“Each panel must exist by itself. And the thing that makes a comic page different from every other day in the year is that each of these individual works of art, at the same time as they have a totally individual life of their own, also exist as a total group, as a unit. This was my inspiring motivation in doing comics. If you can pull out your panel and frame it, exhibit it as a panel, and then have the reader unconscious of that as he’s reading the totality, then you’ve done something, in my estimation. You’ve raised comic book art to the level of Goya, if you can achieve that.” *
(A fragment of a thought that I found in my files today. Probably ten years old.)
SLOW HORSES by Mick Herron. First of a series of (checks Wikipedia) five novels and two novellas.
Here’s the deal. The Security Service, known popularly as MI5, sometimes can’t outright fire people. Political reasons, operational reasons. But it would still like to get rid of them. So it puts them in Slough House, a dismal set of offices intended to make those consigned there so miserable that they just quit. Those people are known as slow horses. Slough House, slow horse. Slough House is run by Jackson Lamb, himself a slow horse of mysterious provenance, an impressively offensive creature who looks a bit like Timothy Spall if you stuffed Timothy Spall with old pork fat and left him out in the rain for six weeks.
(Side note: Herron “casting” Lamb as Timothy Spall is, in its own way, as devious as Jeffrey Deaver describing Amelia Sachs in THE BONE COLLECTOR as an impossibly hot actress/supermodel, thereby creating the space for the inevitable casting of Angelina Jolie in the film version.)
Herron likes an odd name. The lens for the book is a new slow horse called River Cartwright, for example. Herron enjoys himself immensely with names, and also details. The one thing you’ll take away from this book is that Herron is writing only to amuse himself, and having a whale of a time doing it. The twists and tangles of the plot, involving right-wing extremists and about twenty bad choices, propelled me through the book at quite a clip, but I always paused to admire the amount of fun Herron was having. Boris Johnson, or a legally deniable version thereof, shows up halfway through, pretty much note-perfect, and he’s there largely so Herron can hate him.
It’s got a big crowd-pleasing third act, the complex weave of plot threads is handled very well, and it’s basically an extremely skilfully tailored entertainment. If you ever liked a spy novel or a crime novel, you’re going to kick back with this, have a good time and wonder why it’s not on tv with Timothy Spall.