May 18th, 2012 | FAQ

Okay, I’m getting asked this a lot, still. IRON MAN 3 is being broadly reported as using elements from the IRON MAN: EXTREMIS book I did with Adi Granov (years before the first IRON MAN film came out — they used Adi as a visual designer on the film!). I know Drew Pearce, the co-writer on the film, and he confirmed it a while ago. (I didn’t ask him for details, and he didn’t press any.) So I ran through this on Twitter the other week, and I may as well just copy it over:

Also I am shameless.

My Information Diet: Practical Website Capture

May 2nd, 2012 | daybook, FAQ

On Tumblr last night, someone asked me the following question:

you always find incredibly interesting info to do writing about. how do you find this stuff

And I gave it an answer, but on reflection the answer seems too brief and shallow to describe how I do this thing.  (And it also led to yesterday’s post, as a start to this trickle of thought.)

I’m not very good at it, any more.  I’ve let things slide over the last couple of years.  I was burned out for much of 2010, and 2011 was all about writing GUN MACHINE.  This year so far has been all about fighting bad habits and trying to be more present in the world and its information flow.  Some of what follows is in flux, because it includes things I haven’t fixed yet.

Websites: I manage all my blog reading via Google Reader, and the Reeder app for iPhone and iPad.  I will also sometimes skim via Flipboard, and sometimes throw up Reedlines on the iPad when it’s docked, using the device as a glanceable second screen. 

(I could be running Google Reader in a livestream column in Seesmic Desktop, but I’m currently not. Neither am I currently running Google Reader in a ticker on the side of my screen with the Snackr desktop app.)

I live in Chrome, and have an extension that allows me to subscribe to a site with Google Reader in one click.

Now, because someone else on Tumblr said “yeah okay but I am lazy so what do you actually read,” a selection of the 100 or so sites I currently follow:

All, Everyone, United - http://alleveryone.blogspot.com

BERG - http://berglondon.com

BLDGBLOG – http://bldgblog.blogspot.com

Chris Heathcote: anti-mega – http://anti-mega.com/antimega

Collapsonomics! = http://collapsonomics.posterous.com


Eye bloghttp://blog.eyemagazine.com

Fokkawolfe - http://fokkawolfe.blogspot.com

FP Passport – http://blog.foreignpolicy.com

Global Guerrillas – http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas

Global: James Bridle | guardian.co.uk – http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/jamesbridle

Informed Comment – http://www.juancole.com

Interconnected – http://interconnected.org/home

Jan Chipchase – Future Perfect – http://janchipchase.com

magCulture.com/blog – http://magculture.com/blog

mammoth – http://m.ammoth.us/blog

Near Future Laboratory – http://nearfuturelaboratory.com

Notes on metamodernism -  http://www.metamodernism.com

Open the Future – http://www.openthefuture.com

PhysOrg.com – latest science and technology news stories – http://phys.org

Religion News Blog – http://www.religionnewsblog.com

russell davies - http://russelldavies.typepad.com/planning/

Secrecy News – http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy

Sentient Developments – http://www.sentientdevelopments.com

The Mire – http://www.thewire.co.uk/themire

The New Inquiry – Shines Like Gold – http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/shines-like-gold/

Ultraphyte – http://ultraphyte.com

Urbanscale - http://urbanscale.org

Wired: Beyond the Beyond – http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond

I will just leave you to discover what these places are.  I realise, that, for the intrepid, the above list was way too exhaustive and dull, but I really do get asked this sort of thing.

I never clear Google Reader every day.  During any given week, I will read most of what Reader gathers in that week.  And that’s okay.  No dietician is going to bitch at you about leaving food on your plate.

For some people, a hundred-odd blogs is a very mild intake.  Back in ‘07, tech blogger Robert Scoble was scanning more than 600 feeds a day, and, according to this article, that was down from 1400 in previous years.  (He currently follows 32000 people on Twitter and has 5000 people in G+ circles)

Let me try this on you: the world was always bigger and denser and more eventful than mainstream media could ever communicate. 

I read a newspaper every day, and I watch a well-produced, intelligent news analysis programme every night, and I have been known to leave 24-hour news running in a video window all day, and that still doesn’t give me a world picture in the way that my blog capture does.  I don’t know how I did without Foreign Policy’s Morning Briefing for so long.  The music scene is so exploded now that whatever I do I’m barely scratching the surface, but if I was just reading the bloody NME or something I’d be clueless in comparison to reading All Everyone Uniited and Reynolds and Fokkawolfe and etc.

To answer the original question: the only way to find interesting things to talk about is to be open to the world as possible, and tune your machinery to bring as much of it to you as possible, without getting to the point where you’re getting no time to process it.  At some juncture, you have to stop reading and start writing.  You have to have it in yourself to know when to close the window and say, no, okay, I need to actually think about this now.  It is seductive to let successive ways of incident and ideation just wash over you, and a fascinating way to spend your time, but until you use the information, it’s not a productive lifestyle.

So, it’s a case of sitting on Google and searching keywords, and it’s also looking at what the interesting people you know or follow are reading.  And who the people they’re reading are reading.  Like anything, drilling down to find the good stuff is actually work.

If I had a better desktop app for Google Reader, I’d go for it in an instant.  Very bad.  But I would.  (I wish MetroTweet, my current Twitter client of choice, would hook into Reader.  I love their big bold update popup windows in the screen corner.)

Coming back to this.  Needed to ground it with the practical numbers and basics first.

FAQ 19apr12

April 19th, 2012 | FAQ

When scripting comics, do you prefer to provide a detailed panel layout and detailed descriptions of each panel, or give a more general description of what should be on the page and let the artist do the rest?


I’ve talked about this countless times, and some time spent with Google would probably find you a lot of it.  But let’s make it easy: here’s three of my comics scripts.  See for yourself.

If you grow a functional human brain in a jar, give it artificial stimuli capabilities (cameras for eyes, microphones for ears, etc.), and then give it  manufactured memories and a manufactured personality–assuming this would work–would that be considered Artificial Intelligence?



(Don’t ask me how this is a FAQ.  I have no idea.  But:)

There’s a lot of gimmes in there.  I think maybe I’d trade the word “artificial” for “synthetic”?  Which is a semantic handwave, I know.  I’m also reminded of the term “simulacra” – a copy of something that isn’t real, if you like.

Actually, try this: Cultured Intelligence.

FAQchive is here.  You can send questions to warrenellis@gmail.com or ask me on Tumblr.

FAQ 10apr12

April 10th, 2012 | FAQ

Do you usually know the heart of something when you start writing it, or do you have to have dig around to find it first?


What I always say is that the two things I first need to know are what the story’s about, and what the book’s *really* about.  That is to say, the basic plot, often very basic, and what I’m actually there to talk about, the themes and subjects of the book.  Story without theme is just a bunch of typing.  Often, the themes — the stuff I’m actually there to talk about — will assemble themselves before the plotline.

And, also, the end.  I do need to have a clue of how it ends.  I’ve been known to start with the ending and work backwards.  I mean, to the point where I thought of an ending first, gathered the themes that suggested themselves from the ending, and then plotted in reverse time up to the opening scene.

FAQchive is here.

You can send questions to warrenellis@gmail.com or ask me on Tumblr.

FAQ 2apr12

April 2nd, 2012 | FAQ

I see you have an iPad in your EDC, curious what apps you’ve found useful/productive?


This is going to be some deep dark tech nerd shit right here, isn’t it?

Managing information is a big part of my job.  So the topslice is:

Twitterific, for Twitter.  Flipboard.  Reeder, for reading Google Reader (which is wired into Pinboard for saving links and Instapaper for reserving long articles for later).  BBC news app.  Guardian for iPad in Newsstand.  Foreign Policy for iPad.  The Economist in Newsstand.  These are all daily, sometimes hourly checkpoints for me.  Can’t do without them.

For writing, I’m either in Plaintext or iA Writer — haven’t decided which I like better, a chunk of GUN MACHINE was written across both — or Quickoffice for iPad (which is currently being used more for reviewing documents).

Dropbox.  Dropbox Dropbox Dropbox.  All the writing programs hook into Dropbox.  It’s essential.

For sketching, I’m using either Bamboo Paper or Notes Plus.  Am test-driving Paper by FiftyThree right now.

For reference, I’m buggered without Wikipanion and Wolfram Alpha.

And, as I’m starting a new novel, I’m going to be living in Evernote more.

(For when the iPad is standing as a second screen, I use Trickle for Twitter and Readlines for Google Reader to use the iPad as a glanceable.)

And now we’re all in a coma.  THANKS.

Ask me a question at warrenellis@gmail.com or through Tumblr.