FAQ: I Don’t Get To Decide What Gets Made Into A Movie Or TV Show

April 4th, 2013 | FAQ

What are the chances that Freakangels will get adapted to a TV show or film?


FAQ: I don’t get to decide what gets made into a tv series or film.  I cannot, I’m afraid, cause people to give me money for things by magic or force of will.  Because, let’s face it, if I could, you’d be part of the slave army building my hundred-mile-high golden revolving statue right now.

I’m glad we got that straightened out.

FAQ 30jan13: Answers To Random Questions Normal People Wouldn’t Ask

January 30th, 2013 | FAQ

How particular do you think new authors should be about which publishing house they get published through?


New authors should be more particular about how many complimentary copies of the book they get (and what it looks like), because that’s your calling card to other publishers, to show that someone else gambled their money on you.  That’s the trick.  Getting published once is often the biggest, toughest hurdle.

So, having just finished the slipcase/box-set of The Sandman that I got for Christmas… what are the chances Vertigo will do something equally lovely for Transmetropolitan? It definitely deserves the box set treatment.


You have to understand that I’m not the publisher, and I cannot cause these things to happen.  THE SANDMAN was a best-selling, critically-acclaimed work that forms the backbone of the mainstream adult comics canon.  TRANSMETROPOLITAN was a fairly obscure, nicely drawn container for a bunch of swearing.  I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Howdy. I just wanted to clamour about "How to Burn Water". After all, you are the reason why I own and enjoy using a mandoline. And why I always keep a small jar of fresh cow tears in my cupboard. So a proper manly cookbook with a beard that would curbstomp my wife’s namby-pamby jamieolivers would really be appreciated.


No plans for the occasionally joked-about cookbook HOW TO BURN WATER.  But I will give you this:


I had two skinless chicken breasts and no idea what to do with them.  So I did this:

Find a bottle of white wine.  Remember the rule: don’t cook with anything you wouldn’t drink.  So drink some.

Now get a roasting tin.  Throw a large glass of the wine into it.  Squeeze one lemon’s worth of juice into it.  Stir.  Throw some herbs in — I used thyme and chives.  I grab some chives and a pair of scissors and just snip half-inch lengths of chive in to the pan.  Stir it all again.  Lay the chicken breasts in.  Go away for five minutes and drink some more wine.  Come back.  Flip the breasts over.  Wow, that sounds weird.  Put them in the oven at 190 C (do the conversion yourself, you have the internet.)  Every five minutes, open the oven and spoon some of the liquid in the pan over the chicken.  And then drink some more wine. Until 25 minutes have passed.  At which point it is cooked.  It is not only stupidly simply, but you’re well on your way to being drunk.  Excellent.

Hello Mr. Ellis, I apologize if you have already answered this, but what was it that made you want to write comic books?


The riches, the glamour and the seductive charisma such a career supernaturally gifts one with.

However, back in the real world: I love visual narrative media, and comics are the purest kind.

FAQ: How To Write A Comics Panel

January 22nd, 2013 | FAQ

This is something I get asked A LOT.  It seems to be a thing that really paralyses a lot of first-time comics writers, particularly ones coming from other media. What is the picture?  How do I find the right panel to describe?

A useful starting place might be something the actor and comics writer Nick Vince said, back in the early 90s. It comes from cinema, as did Nick, and it goes like this: imagine the panel as your “print moment.” The frame that captures the essence of the moment. Imagine, say, thirty seconds’ worth of film, and that your job is to overlay those thirty seconds of dialogue over a single frame pulled from that ribbon of film that best encapsulates what’s going on.

That’s a very mechanical way of looking at it, but it might get you started. You’re looking for the image that captures the moment.

You’re also, wherever possible, looking for an interesting image. But don’t confuse “interesting” with “splashy.” You’re still trying to serve the demands of storytelling, telling the story as clearly and simply as possible.  In most forms of narrative, each panel must have a relationship with the panels on either side of it.  You’re plotting out a sequence of motion in a series of stills.  Imagine it like that, and you may be able to get a better sense of how a story in comics might flow.  It’s not a perfect analogy, but it might be worth considering if this is something you’re having trouble with.  You’ll develop your own view, approach and methods as you go.  Everybody does.

FAQ 3jan13: On Conservative Characters, Cyberpunk & Women Who Write SF

January 3rd, 2013 | FAQ

I’ve been enjoying Crooked Little Vein a lot, but I was wondering what motivated the narrative decision to make your protagonist be (and I hope I’m phrasing this properly) an essentially conservative character. By that I mean he tends to react with hostility to the oddballs his work brings him in contact with, and then defends people who, while seemingly being more socially typical, demonstrate close-mindedness.


The truth, I think, is that most people are essentially conservative characters, and I found it interesting to try and develop a character like that towards some kind of acceptance of the real face of the modern Western world without betraying his basic nature.  People can and/or should change during a story, but they shouldn’t transcend into completely new people, especially not in a short book.  My note to myself on McGill’s passage through the story was something like “Trix doesn’t magically fuck enlightenment into him.”

Aside from stuff Phillip K. Dick and Neal Stephenson, what’s on your must-read cyberpunk novels and comics list?


Okay.  Deep breath.

Cyberpunk, also known as Radical Hard SF or The Movement, was born around 1980 and didn’t survive that decade.  (Some people map the end to 1992, with Neal Stephenson’s SNOW CRASH.)  Philip K Dick had no affiliation with the movement, and was dead by 1982, two years before William Gibson published NEUROMANCER.  People tend to associate Dick with cyberpunk because of BLADE RUNNER, particularly its visuals, which had nothing to do with the novel, but were so strikingly of the speculative zeitgeist that in 1982 William Gibson had to get out of his cinema seat and leave the screening because it looked too much like what was in his head.

Phil Dick was pre-cyberpunk.  He, JG Ballard and Alfred Bester were major touchstones for the movement.  Ballard’s CRASH and Bester’s STARS MY DESTINATION and THE DEMOLISHED MAN are essential.  Also John Brunner’s STAND ON ZANZIBAR, THE SHEEP LOOK UP, and, most importantly for cyberpunk’s ancestry, THE SHOCKWAVE RIDER.

(EDIT to note: yes, and about a hundred others, I’m sure.  These are the ones that occurred to me that day.)

Of the cyberpunk period itself, you will need William Gibson’s first trilogy, NEUROMANCER, COUNT ZERO and MONA LISA OVERDRIVE.  Also, Bruce Sterling’s THE ARTIFICIAL KID and ISLANDS IN THE NET.  Richard Kadrey’s METROPHAGE.  Rudy Rucker’s SOFTWARE and WETWARE.  Pat Cadigan’s TEA FROM AN EMPTY CUP.  That should keep you going for a bit.

I couldn’t help but notice your recommendations of cyberpunk writers a couple days back were all men. Are there any female writers of cyberpunk (or sci-fi) in general you recommend? Are there any that have influenced your own work?


Um, Pat Cadigan is in that list, and she’s female.

A partial, off-the-top-of-my-head list of female speculative fiction writers whose work I’ve liked would include:

Ursula LeGuin, obviously, who’s influenced everybody.  Seek out and start off with THE LATHE OF HEAVEN, if you haven’t already.

Pamela Zoline.  Carol Emshwiller.  Mary Soon Lee (one of the single best short stories in sf in the 00s was her “Pause Time”).  CJ Cherryh’s early book DOWNBELOW STATION is warmly remembered.

Doris Lessing’s SHIKASTA had a *huge* effect on me.  Very influential, I think.

Cherie Priest, Elizabeth Bear, Cat Valente… I’ve written book blurbs for two of these, and those two have also written on my website, which it suddenly occurs to me you don’t read…!

Kate Wilhelm.  Mary Shelley counts.  Probably so does Angela Carter, at least in my head.

Lauren Beukes, of course, who is also a friend.

Obviously incomplete and written in two minutes, but a start.

FAQ 18dec12: An Angle Of Attack On Writer’s Block

December 18th, 2012 | FAQ

Sir, let me start by saying you are awesome. Thank you very much for giving Transmetropolitan to the masses. My question to you is this: How best do you deal with writer’s/artistic block and what tips would you give anyone going through such annoyances?



I don’t believe there is such a thing.  There is only being unable or unwilling to write the thing that’s in front of you, and, consciously or unconsciously, looking for ways to not write it.  Some people on the internet argue with me about this sometimes, or denounce me from the cheap seats.  All the fucks I give: see if you can detect them.

The trick — and it’s imperfect and can take a while, but — is simply to write something else.  Don’t let your hands go cold.  Don’t let yourself stop thinking.  Shift to something different.  I think it was Robert Silverberg who used to do his (type)written correspondence on bad days, and then “trick” himself into writing by slipping manuscript paper into the machine once his fingers were flying.

It’s about letting your backbrain chew on the problems while your frontbrain is amused by the new and shiny things.  Find an essay to write.  Do some flash fiction, or a short story, or a novelette about dancing gravediggers written in the style of Cormac McCarthy.  An audiobook about dirigible vampires who shit sexy babies down chimneys.  Whatever.  I’ve read of several writers from eras past who would type out passages from their favourite writers, to get a feeling of what it’s like to make sentences like that.

Write something else.  Anything else.  Either you’ll solve the problem in the background, or get the taste back for what you’re stuck on — or, guess what, maybe that whole thing was dead and you were just shoving electrodes up it to make it twitch in an awful semblance of life the whole time.  I mean, that happens.  It doesn’t mean you were blocked, it means that you were zapping a big stinky corpse with all your electricity and wondering why it wasn’t sitting up and calling you Mummy.  It was dead.  Bury it and never speak of what you did to it again.

You’re a writer — or an artist — or you’re not.  It sounds harsh, but, seriously, not everyone’s wired for this stupid life.  If you think you are, then you have to write around the block.  Anything that takes your fancy.  Just get words happening.  The rest will follow.  Best of luck.