One of those SoundCloud regulars I enjoy so much. Nice to find a piece by the Monk at the end of my day.
WARREN ELLIS LTD Articles.
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.
I always wore a watch, until I didn’t.
I remember spending birthday money as a nine-year-old buying one of the first digital watches, Star Wars-branded, where you pressed a button to bring up the red-LED time. I wasn’t allowed to wear it to school because it was too expensive and precious. I think most of my young life was counted on a basic Timex with luminous dial.
I started going without a watch when featurephones and smartphones became small-size with an always-on or one-touch clock front. It’s the “smart pocket watch” thing – really, all we were missing were fob chains for our phones. I personally am prepared to hold out for fob chains, pinstriped waistcoat with a long phone pocket, and Google Monocle.
And then — I think for an article? – I got myself a Pebble Steel smartwatch. And not only did my phone’s battery life literally double because I wasn’t always taking the damn thing out to read notifications, but I got used to having that weight on my wrist again.
When Pebble threw in the towel, I caved and got an Apple Watch. Which is both far more functional – in terms of the number of things it can do — and far more poorly designed. Having to learn that weird arm-lift hitch-and-twist to get the watch to accept that you want to look at it and see the damn time. The “digital crown” that basically does whatever it fucking wants. But it does mostly succeed in keeping me off my phone and pushing the notifications and actions I need to my wrist when I’m in deep with the work.
A while later, I fell into an article about micro-brand watches. This one crew, Trifoglio, were selling a watch based on a Fiat 500’s speedometer, the Veloce. It was going on Kickstarter for something like a hundred and fifty American. The article was clear that something like that would usually go for 750, and in fact Trifoglio now sell it for $435. So I bought it. Just for the hell of it, really — if nothing else, it’d be a nice curio for a shelf, with its strange disc movement.
It sits on my wrist really nicely. It gives me pleasure to look at it. It’s unusual, the modernist styling amuses me, and Lush’s “500 (Shake Baby Shake)” goes through my head.
The watch pictured above arrived today. For a similar amount to the Veloce, I bought the Dan Henry 1939, which came with a leather-and-canvas watch roll for three devices. It’s inspired by pre-WW2 air and navy chronographs. I’m not A Watch Guy. I’m really not. I own three now, including the Apple Watch. And, don’t get me wrong, I love the powers of the 21st Century that the thing can afford me. But you know what? I’m at the point where I’m okay with putting the phone in my pocket and having a solid piece of art on my wrist that just tells me the time. I may finally have reached the point, here in my dotage, where just putting on a nice watch is a statement of escape from work.
(Also, inescapably, a statement of privilege, I know, I know,: just as owning the Apple Watch is a statement of successful capitalist embedding, muting the phone and putting on an analogue watch is a statement about not having to be always-on, fuck it, look at the nice watch some people made just because they think everything should be beautiful.)
(This is definitely more of a jotting-down. Never knowingly not not-fully-baked, here,)
I just sent the script for the fifth and concluding part of Volume 3 of TREES to Jason Howard. I think he’s finishing up issue 3 right now.
I imagine that once Jason’s well into issue 4, the serial will be solicited by Image Comics, so we’re probably looking at an autumn release date.
Here’s one of the covers Jason has already done. I am having a drink.
I decided last year that I was no longer accepting public speaking gigs. It’s on my identity site’s contact page. I still get the occasional request, and, sometimes, a query as to why I’ve decided that.
Well, it’s a big time sink for me, and right now I have to calculate everything I do against production schedules and writing time. And, frankly, there’s not enough money in public speaking to make me want to adjust my career balance. More often than not, there’s literally no money. Unless you’re famous, with a non-fiction book on the shelves, with a speaker’s agency behind you — and I ain’t none of those — public speaking is a thing you do for your own interest.
For me, that was meeting people, sometimes helping out (I’m never going to be anyone’s first choice, but sometimes events and festivals get stuck, so it’s nice to be able to get them out of a stressful bind), learning how to work to an audience and listening to new things.
It, however, ended up much like my experience of comics conventions, which I no longer attend. You show up, do your bit, and then everybody leaves and you sit on your own. Public speaking, for me, is mostly about losing three days of work and undertaking yet another adventure in room service food.
The audiences are very kind, and generally laugh at the bits that are supposed to be funny. But I increasingly found myself just sitting on my own somewhere, looking at my watch and counting down the time until I had to leave for the airport. It stopped being edifying or fun, and, honestly, if I’m just going to sit around alone for hours and days on end, I can do that much more comfortably at home.
And now I have a FAQ post to point to for the next time someone asks.