September 28th, 2012 | daybook
It’s turned into One Of Those Days, if not One Of Those Weeks, so we’re skipping today. Back Monday full force, as I continue to add more posts per day, and probably a SPEKTRMODULE on Friday. Have a good weekend.
September 27th, 2012 | comics talk
As I mentioned previously, Jonathan Hickman, who was an actual graphic designer before he got into comics, has done the lion’s share of the most striking recent use of infographics in comics. Check out his first series, THE NIGHTLY NEWS. This, which I think was his second or third book, dials their use back – but it’s worth looking at how he uses them here, folding them more sparingly, but more effectively into the service of narrative.
There’s a real fusion starting to happen here. He could have done this with Google Maps screenshots and some clipart, but the connective marks are clearly from infographics.
I don’t think I have a lot to say about this, as such: it’s more about looking at how he does this, how he creates graphical associations. It’s easier when you clip out things and place them together.
In this single image, an army is being sent back in time. The story to this point, and the narrative panels on either side of it, contextualise it so that he can do this work in a single panel.
(There’s probably a whole other conversation to be had about Hickman’s use of colour, too.)
And then, there are the maps.
I love books with maps. One of my favourite things about CRECY was getting to put maps in it.
This map gets repeated later in the book, changed, but that’s a spoiler. I mention this only because I want to get across that this is a narrative element. It repeats, with changes, in service of the story.
And then there’s this:
Note how the art element, the jagged stream, associates with the time-travel panel above.
I clumsily whited out a balloon here because it felt like spoiler. But, again, see: narrative element.
Everything connects, everything reflects something else, and the book develops its own smooth language. He doesn’t use these elements to jar. Except when, in my favourite bit of infographic fun in the book, he does. This still makes me smile. And, yes, it’s a mild spoiler, but fuck it, it’s glorious:
It’s a single panel, less obviously impressive than many of the pieces above, but this is the audacious bit: it’s beautifully presented, utterly playful superfluous information that yet somehow enriches the panel. This is the audacious bit, that harks back to Chaykin and Bruzenak, or Talbot in ARKWRIGHT: there is no need for it to be there, but it’s pretty and it adds something artistic and it makes me smile. There’s a little bit of baroque nuttiness in Hickman’s otherwise clean-lined designer’s mind that I greatly enjoy.
September 26th, 2012 | people I know
— Kevin Margo (@MargoKevin) September 24, 2012
Kevin Margo, as he notes, comes from my friends Blur Studio.
One astronaut’s journey through space and life ends on a hostile exosolar planet. Grounded is a metaphorical account of the experience, inviting unique interpretation and reflection by the viewer. Themes of aging, inheritance, paternal approval, cyclic trajectories, and behaviors passed on through generations are explored against an ethereal backdrop.
September 25th, 2012 | daybook
I think not all of my readers are aware that I have a Tumblr too. I use it as a visual notebook. If you’re on my Facebook page, you get most of this automagically thrown into your timeline anyway (at least, I hope that hasn’t broken for everybody there).
In some respects, Tumblr’s been turning into the new LiveJournal over the last year or two: there seems to be a lot more drama and crazy than there used to be. But it remains a marvellous service. It’s been weird to see it grow up as a spinoff from the original tumblelogs, and for a while there I wasn’t sure it’d stick around. Glad it did.
Anyway, it amused me to spend two minutes sticking together a mosaic of some of the stuff I’ve found and pasted into the notebook recently.
September 25th, 2012 | deep map pilots
Eliza Gauger’s DEEP MAP PILOTS illustrations are now available for pre-order as posters or postcards.
You can read or re-read all five DEEP MAP PILOTS pieces here. If you did miss them, these were five short text pieces I wrote for Eliza to generate illustrations from. The art was beautiful.
September 25th, 2012 | researchmaterial
A phrase I found in John Robb the other day.
…there’s a group of gardeners in San Francisco that are spreading organic graffiti across the city. How? By grafting branches from fruit trees onto ornamental trees that have been planted along sidewalks and in parks. They are using a very simple tongue in groove splice that’s held together with annotated electrical tape. Good luck to them.
September 24th, 2012 | people I know
Going into the police van, they snapped my picture on a Fujimax Polaroid knockoff, hipster party style. I gave them my best grin. A man in a suit passed by, looked us over, and said to the police, "nice work."
September 24th, 2012 | comics talk
Use of infographics in comics is hardly new, of course. And, in the work of people like Jonathan Hickman, still current. But I was interested in the way, in Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of the PARKER books for comics, he uses them to compress information.
This is from the most recent book, THE SCORE, and, in fact, is pretty much the only place in the book he resorts to the idea:
He kind of defeats his own point by describing the guns in the text, and really just gets a pretty picture out of it. But that is close to being very useful. It sometimes feels like he’s champing at the bit over his own inventions, not quite able to run with them. He does it better in the previous book, THE OUTFIT:
Some of these elements had been introduced before, but not all of them. Here, he’s done the work the comics adaptation of a novel needs. A novel radiates more information from a single page than a comic does. This sort of graphic action makes the comics page informationally denser. He’s working on a page size that’s smaller than standard, too, closer to prose-book size, so it’s a concern.
Cooke does a lot of work with maps. Each of the books has at least one map, used either to bridge scenes or quickly distil exposition. This and the page below are again from THE OUTFIT, the book richest with infographic practise (as well as shifts in illustration style).
It’s hard to make out (even in the original print object!) but the box marked MACE contains an explanation of that criminal term – “a stolen car with clean plates and forged registration.”
He’s trying to construct an infographic idiom using the available cultural tools of the period, while also trying to remain conscious of the narrative requirements of the comics page. And trying to do it all in a fairly holistic manner – there’s no diegetic breakdown, in these pages. (Cooke throws his hands in the air in a later chapter and does a sequence as magazine-typeset prose with a couple of spot illos.)
Again, he’s telling a little bit more than he’s showing – I don’t venerate “show not tell” to the death, but it’s a handy yardstick unless you’re after very specific narrative effects. But the page has a beautiful balance, and does the work of comics narrative – your eye is led in pretty much the way it needs to be, and you end up in the bottom right corner as you should.
It’s interesting to see him try and work this out for himself on the page over three books. Or, perhaps, two books, as it’s almost entirely jettisoned in the third book. We’ll see if he returns to it. But I wanted to get these samples out in front of me and think about them a little bit. It’s something that’s currently of interest to me – writing a couple of longer novels has got me thinking about pages and information.
September 24th, 2012 | station ident
STATION IDENT images can be sent to me at email@example.com. They must be your own work, legible at a width of 640px, and include the words “this is warren ellis dot com”. Otherwise they can be anything, including selfportraits and doodles on napkins. I run the ones I like best.
September 22nd, 2012 | spektrmodule
Up from the dirt, all the way out and back again.
Hello new listeners. Feel free to tell other people about this podcast for sleepy people if you like it.
2. “Methodist Bells” - High aura’d (album: Sanguine Futures)
3. “Congratulations, Here’s Your Mountain” – Herzog (album: first summer and the running)
4. “Astral Suture” - Pollux (album: Sun Ash)
5. “Soft Wave Continuum” - Expo ’70 (album: Soft Wave Continuum)
6. “Things Like Planes” - Adderall Canyonly (album: Asuuna)
7. “Gond Song” - members of the tribe of Gonds, Nagpur region (album: World Library of Folk & Primitive Music: India)
8. “Mountain Triple Ocean” - Sundog Peacehouse (album: Brosound)
9. “Arrival” – Visitor Seven (abum: Unsafe Patterns)
10. “Presentation One: Reel-To-Reel & Modular Synthesizer” – Guenter Schlienz (album: Tape Studies)
PREVIOUSLY: 1 – Fire Axes In Space | 2 – The Lane | 3 – Comfort And Joy | 4 – Long Count| 5 – Underfoot | 6 – The Chamber | 7 – Spark Gap | 8 – Death Is No Obstacle | 9 – Misty Eyed | 10 – Dirt Launchpad | 11 – Dreams Of The Woodland Cult | 12 – Dispatch Render Ghosts | 13 – Hull Oxide
All the SPEKTRMODULE logo pieces, by the way, are by Ariana, who also designed this website and all the other stuff we do.
September 21st, 2012 | ariadne and the science
There was lots of names for the thing Ariadne made: computational flora, iGrass, memory trees, That Damned Stuff. There were lots of names for Ariadne, too, because when she got tired of nobody being able or willing to answer her questions, she just released Ariadne’s Meadow into the world. Fields began thinking, and forests began processing, and the world discovered that Ariadne’s Meadow was actually quite a nice place that just wanted to help. So much so that seven years later, when everyone discovered that Meadow probes had begun to break up Mercury, Venus and Mars for power, living space and computing strata, nobody really minded very much.
Words by Warren Ellis, pictures by Molly Crabapple.
© Warren Ellis & Molly Crabapple 2012
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
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.
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.
September 19th, 2012 | daybook
A few people on Twitter have asked me lately what’s in my podcast list. The list is very short right now. (Also, can I say here how fucked Apple’s new Podcast app is? I’ve gone back to the podcast function under Music on my iPhone, syncing with iTunes on my computer every night, because the Podcast app is so broken.)
Given that most people now use a search function on their podcast app of choice, or know how to use Google, I’m just listing unlinked titles for the most part.
I am always looking for more suggestions for podcasts under these general headings. @warrenellis or firstname.lastname@example.org will get me.
General current affairs stuff:
Analysis (BBC Radio 4) – Center for Strategic and International Studies – Stephanomics (BBC Radio 4) – The Pod Delusion: http://poddelusion.co.uk –
Hidden History (BBC Radio Ulster): Irish history with Dr Éamon Phoenix – Composer Of The Week (BBC Radio 3) – Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg (BBC Radio 4)
The Cargo Culte Audio Field Report: thecargoculte.com/ – Broken20 – Dublab mp3 blog – At Water’s Edge (very long ambient shows)
Other things (sciences, philosophy, art, weird shit):
Psychedelic Salon (I like the Terence McKenna talks) – Philosophy Now – Little Atoms – Artbound Weekly (KCET)
September 18th, 2012 | stuff2012
Stephen Baxter’s NORTHLAND TRILOGY – made up of STONE SPRING, BRONZE SUMMER and IRON WINTER – tells an alternate history where Doggerland wasn’t swallowed up by the North Sea by 5500BC, because the people of Doggerland built a great Wall to keep the sea out.
Doggerland is a fascinating thing, because its lowlands surely would have changed the course of history if they’d gone unsubmerged. Ana, another of Baxter’s long line of sour autism-spectrum protagonists, leads the construction of a Wall that will eventually become a city in and of itself.
If Ana saw Zesi coming, she showed no signs of it. ‘This is the future,’ she said gravely. She held her own shovel over her head like a hunter’s spear. ‘The future.’
The first book is an amusing piece of world-building (quite literally), It’s a bit airport-novel in more than one place, but it does have moments in it like the above, which I love. The second book is a Ripping Yarn of the old school, with no real pretense of alternate-history beyond some dressing.
The third book postulates that the lack of agriculture in the Doggerland way of life, in this alternate world, allows a new glacial age to arrive. Baxter also cites the Younger Dryas glacial period as being triggered by icy floods chilling the North Atlantic and killing the Gulf Stream. Which is interesting, as a wall big enough to dam the North Sea would stunt the Gulf Stream all on its own, turning much of Britain and Scandinavia into tundra. All the way through the third book, I was waiting for someone to reveal the secret of the sudden “longwinter” as “you dammed the fucking sea, what did you think was going to happen?” But no, apparently some dodgy point about early anthropocene climate alteration was to be made. Which, regardless of its potential veracity, just seems a lot less interesting than “we built this fucking great wall to save our civilisation and now it’s killing the world.” Now that’s a ripping yarn. It’s also, of course, my projection on to the author’s work and intents, and deeply unfair. I remain disappointed with the last two books. But STONE SPRING is often thought-provoking, full of potential, and a book to contemplate.
September 18th, 2012 | comics talk
This comic, as you can probably make out, was released in 1977. I bought it the week it came out.
And I don’t remember thinking twice about the cover.
You’d think I would. I had persons of colour as my closest friends in infant and junior school, male and female, but this was the 1970s in south-east England: we’re not talking about a densely integrated area, and we are talking about a culture that was still very much casually racist. My dad, once a soldier and a sailor, was extremely well-travelled and didn’t have a racist bone in his body, so I probably have a lot of attitudes inculcated in me from such a young age that I didn’t even notice. But I’m not about to say I was colourblind, because I cannot possibly have been.
But I don’t recall this cover causing me to even blink. And, believe me, my memories of 2000AD, and much of the culture I consumed as a kid, are still vivid to me.
Going back and looking around at comics of the time, this cover seems to me like a remarkable thing. Totally understated, and yet saying a thing very clearly. Quietly, but firmly.
An early Trev Goring piece, I think. A marvellous object to find again.