A Non-Fiction Book

September 20th, 2012 | spirit tracks, Work

This was the post at Publishers Marketplace:

Author of RED, CROOKED LITTLE VEIN and forthcoming GUN MACHINE, Warren Ellis’s SPIRIT TRACKS, about the future of the city, the ghosts that haunt it and the science-fiction condition we live in, to Sean McDonald at Farrar, Straus, by Lydia Wills at Lydia Wills (world English).

That’s Farrar, Straus & Giroux, an incredibly impressive publishing house with an incredibly impressive list.  Lydia’s an absolute miracle worker.

SPIRIT TRACKS is the working title of a book based upon the talk I gave in Berlin last year, which appeared here, in its original waytoolong form, in twenty-nine parts.

So… this is happening.  I am writing a serious non-fiction book for a serious non-fiction list.  Which is kind of strange, isn’t it?  As I said a few weeks ago, the career’s gone in an odd direction again over the last few years.  Sometimes I wonder if people will look back over my CV and ask themselves what the hell I thought I was doing.

I start this book next year, after I finish the current novel.  It may or may not have the same title when it’s announced as going on the publication schedule.  Really looking forward to working with Sean McDonald, who’s edited some of my favourite non-fiction over the last several years, including Steven Johnson’s magnificent GHOST MAP.

I’m a novelist and a non-fiction author now.  Strange days.


29. Our Streets

May 20th, 2011 | spirit tracks

There’s no such thing as ghosts. UFOs are just lights in the sky. And vodka is probably not improved by strontium. None of that matters as much as the decision you have to make before you start to make the future, before you get carried away by the lights in the sky and the things you can do with your glowing boxes. Whose streets are these, that you’re going to be building your cognitive cities on?

Whose streets? Our streets.

Ultimately, this conference I’m standing at in Berlin, these people I’m talking to, might turn out to be a conference of people who are hunting a ghost.

It’s your job to make that real.

It’s my job to remind you that I’m haunting you.

Thanks for your time.

- end -


28. The Maiden

May 20th, 2011 | spirit tracks

Listen to what the ghosts are telling you.

A man called James Douglas gave the Maiden, an early form of guillotine, to the court of Mary Queen Of Scots in the 1500s. Legend has it that he was also the first person to be executed with it.

As a rule, Western societies tend to need people like you to give the concepts behind digital cities to them.


27. The Locks

May 20th, 2011 | spirit tracks

Governments and corporations colluded to shut off mainline internet and phone service in Egypt, but a couple of hundred people running TOR bridges kept the information moving. Now, maybe you’ve all been having conversations about tying countless services into a digital-city infrastructure and then giving them keys to someone else and how that would work when that’s centralised and some complete strangers now operate the locks.

If you really want to talk to digital ghosts on the streets of your cities, you may end up holding ad hoc digital seances. With your ghost boxes boiling your brains.

A bit of, in fact, radiation communism.


26. Best Case Scenario

May 20th, 2011 | spirit tracks

Ever been to Iceland? The Icelandic government spend a hideous amount of money on fireworks every year. But the road out of Keflavik is still a dirt track. These are the people who’re going to fund your new digital infrastructure? They can’t build fucking roads. Our authorities are sometimes at their most benign when they’re at their most incompetent.

As I was writing this, Laurie was sending through reports and photos of kids being beaten by police on the streets of London via her ghost box. Because Western societies don’t, yet, switch off the internet and the mobile phone network when they want to beat the shit out of their populace. And I often think that it’s not that they don’t want to, so much as they are old and slow and haven’t quite figured out the way the world works yet. Ten years ago in Britain, there was a great outcry when speed cameras became ubiquitous on our roads. Lots of talk of 1984, Big Brother. But the anger kind of died away when it was later found that, not only were the cameras not digital, but that most of them didn’t have any film in. The county of Norfolk had no film in any of its speed cameras for the whole of 2001.

And that might be the best case scenario.