Very soon, the solar system was a mass of warm and grassy island computers. But Ariadne was far from finished. The best machines ever should be able to answer all the questions, and she knew there was more to see. And so there were soon trees that stood so high and strange that their silver tops crested up into the universe next door. Ariadne grew bridges across the multiverse, the set of all possible universes, just to see what she could see, which is of course the best reason of all. And, on the foot of every bridge she crossed, she gave Meadow to every Earth she found. As did Meadow itself, when it explored on its own, as it was a friendly kind of Damned Stuff, and also because weeds get bloody everywhere.
Words by Warren Ellis, pictures by Molly Crabapple.
This is Warren. Eliza Gauger and I had been vaguely kicking around the notion of adding to our five-piece DEEP MAP PILOTS series, under the subtitle XFL – eXtended Flight Log. And then Eliza wrote and drew what follows, yesterday, just for the hell of it. So here it is. You can find Eliza at tumblr and @3liza.
Kuiper homesteading program, 2176 AD: start life anew in the off-off world colonies. Smiling posters, Leyendeckeresque, urge the new generation of hopeless intelligentsia to never go home again; There Are No Jobs, anyway, so bootstraps yourself right out of Sol and claim your slice of the diamond studded garter of our mother system. Join the space cowboys, rolling in the deep. Billions of ice and mineral bodies are loitering unclaimed in the deep system! The United States Federal Homesteading Office is prepared to award low-interest loans to every hopeful who has the cojones to shuttle hop to Styx Station 14 and hire a charon to buzz them into the denser regions of the Disk–maybe the site of a recent collision’s debris field, or the rumored location of a really big body, maybe a comet or a big iceball–the kinds of tips you pick up in mining canteens a little farther in, from men too old or too smart to go after it themselves. It’s the closest you get to a sure thing, and its better than trying to claw a smaller, surer claim away from someone who got there first, in one of the already-plumbed regions. You’re sick of neighbors. So you cram into the tug with the stinking pilot who doesn’t bother learning your name (he learned his lesson about that early on), clutching your Homesteading Kit™ in your lap and your scanner on top of that, and he flies you out in the direction of your choosing until you tell him to stop, and lets you out.
The kit’s autodrills will bite into almost anything, kicking up little jets of dust or vapor. You pick something mostly spherical, a few meters across, an object the scanner tells you is made of something that won’t shatter if you hollow it out, and when the drills are done they ping your HUD and you squeeze yourself, in your long-haul sumo suit, into the tunnel they dug for you. The homesteading kit’s cabin bladder is rubbery and flexible, some kind of self-repairing plastic, about as thick as a gym mat. It unflops fatly into your rock’s empty belly, and when you find the airlock attachment you stuff it through best you can into the hole, pull the long neck (like a balloon) back out into space, and then turn around and climb inside, pushing your canisters and flashlight ahead of you. You’ve heard this is when most of the freakouts happen, the rubber cabin bladder and the sumo suit and the vast, vast emptiness all pushing in on you at once–people can’t handle it; tear their suits off, scream into long range channels, kick off from their rocks and throw their kit components away from them, one at a time, just to get some extra velocity in the direction of "home". They never make it, of course.
The atmo canisters strain at their leashes, gouting oxygen and your other favorite gasses, and gradually inflate the bladder from a body bag into something like a "room", but you wait many minutes after your HUD gives you the go-ahead before you dare to take off your helmet. Your ears pop painfully, your sinuses empty, the smell of new plastic is almost overwhelming, but you’re breathing. Exhausted, you decide to rest before you set up your rocket crawlers and dashboard. The silence is deafening, but it means you aren’t hearing leaks, and the wet throb of your heart in your ears keeps you awake for a long, long time.
I am causing a book trailer for GUN MACHINE to be created. On the left, we have my old friend Ben Templesmith (I have no explanation for the hat), and on the right you see new friend, director Jim Batt.
Book trailers are often fairly shabby things. We’re trying something else. There is a third element to this trailer, which we haven’t announced yet. If you’re on my newsletter you’ll learn it first.
All of these photos were kindly provided by Ben and Jim. Work should be done by the end of November, I believe.
These are just the parts. It will be something other than the sum of its parts.
ponyenglish asked: Would you ever want to write an episode for Doctor Who? I often think about it what it might be like.
I get asked this a surprising amount. Here’s why I don’t think about what it might be like. One writes for DOCTOR WHO by invitation. To be invited, one must either be an extremely well-regarded, trained and qualified television writer known to the showrunner, or Neil Gaiman, who is a previous television writer and also Neil Gaiman. This is because it is an very important and intensive show that doesn’t have time or money for on-the-job training or second-division writers. So it doesn’t matter if I would ever want to write an episode of DOCTOR WHO, because I never will.
urlnamegoeshere asked: Firstly, Transmetropolitan is my favorite book/narrative/comic by a long margin, so thanks very much to you and Mr Robertson. My question regards writing style- when I write I seem to unconsciously pattern myself on writers I like. Content and plots and ideas are all easy enough to hammer out, but finding my own voice (as inherently wanky as that sounds) is very much a struggle. How did you in about finding yours? My back-up question is what is your favorite kind of delicious baked good?
I try to avoid delicious baked goods, because I already weigh eight hundred pounds and have to wedge a unicycle under my gut just so I can move around like a normal person.
Stephen King has this adage about voice, which goes something like: “open milk always takes on the flavour of whatever else is in the fridge.” I’m mangling that, but it gets the sense across. His example was that if he reads too much Harlan Ellison, he starts writing like Harlan Ellison, not least because Ellison is a strong flavour.
The trick, perhaps, is to work out what it is that you like so much about your favourite writers — pick apart their work, find out how they achieve their effects — and take the things that feel most comfortable to you, and the things that you think will help you say what you want to say. Because “voice” starts with deciding what you want to say in your fiction. The things you really want to talk about. What makes you angry? What things do you want to explain your love for? How do you see relationships working? How should the world be? Answer these questions for yourself — or write fiction in which you can discover these answers for yourself — using the tools that look useful from your favourite writers — and you should be on your way to finding your own voice.
Also? An imperfect trick, but one perhaps worth trying: read your own work aloud. Does it sound like you talking, or you doing an impression of someone else? If the latter, bring it back to the sound of you talking.
differentdoorknobs asked: I was wondering if you had any advice regarding making ideas more important. I have pages of different events + characters that I can only develop so far because, after a time, all I can add to them are "WHO CARES?" and "WHY DOES THIS MATTER?" (I’m talking about events characters will go through. "Statues come to life all around Greece" is immediately followed by "WHO GIVES A FUCK?") Does this ever happen to you? Thank you very much for your time, and sorry if you’ve answered a similar question!
Ungh. This is a really tough one. There are two ways, maybe, to attack this.
1) One way of doing it, and this works okay for standard dramatic storytelling, is this: what do your characters WANT? The secondary questions are, what stops them from getting what they want, and how far are they prepared to go to get what they want? But start with the simple first question. What your character wants defines how we perceive and feel about them in the story. Find one thing they want, and see how that feels to you.
2) From a certain view, stories are two things. There’s what the story’s about, and what the story’s REALLY about. Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS is about a Martian invasion of Earth. But it’s REALLY about something else entirely. There’s a subtext: there’s the thing Wells wrote the story toactually talk about. What you may be encountering is having a story that’s all surface, or a story with a subtext that isn’t working out for you. Find out what you really want to say with your fiction. If it matters to YOU, it’ll matter to other people.
This is all a bit clumsy and off the cuff, but maybe something in there will give you something to think about. I hope so.
Stories from the New Aesthetic: James Bridle on Vimeo Stories from the New Aesthetic: James Bridle Stories from the New Aesthetic took place at The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City on October 11, 2012. The New Aesthetic is an ongoing research project by James Bridle, investigating the intersections of culture and technology, history and memory, and the physical and the digital. For this event, Bridle will be joined by Aaron Straup Cope and Joanne McNeil to discuss stories related to these ideas. James Bridle is a writer, publisher, and technologist. He writes a regular column for the Observer (UK) and his writing has also appeared in Wired, Domus, Icon, and widely online. He speaks worldwide on the intersections of literature, technology, and culture, and writes about what he does at booktwo.org. Aaron Straup Cope is currently Senior Engineer at the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Before that, he was Senior Engineer at Flickr focusing on all things geo-, machinetag-, and galleries-related between 2004 and 2009. From 2009 to 2011, he was Design Technologist and Director of Inappropriate Project Names at Stamen Design, where he created the prettymaps project. Joanne McNeil is the editor of Rhizome. She is a 2012 USC Annenberg-Getty Arts Journalism Fellow. Her writing has appeared in Modern Painters, Wired (UK), the Los Angeles Times, and other web and print publications. Organized by Rhizome, the New Silent Series receives major support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts. Rhizome (tags:iftttvimeovideo )
Google+ is apparently a success, according to many tech reporters. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most people are using G+ to post inside Circles. Some 11,000 people have added me to G+ circles – but, apparently, none of the ones they post to. Of the 150+ people I had in circles, precisely three of them posted content I could see. When I posted content, only a thin fraction of those 11000 people could see it, because at some point I got tuned out by the system. G+ is therefore useless to me, and I just nuked my circles.
Facebook Pages allow some 16% of the people who clicked Like on a Page to see the posts from that Page. Regardless of whether or not those people specifically requested those posts in their News Feed. If a Page owner wants to access the eyeballs of more of the people who clicked Like on a Page because they wanted to see that Page’s posts, that Page owner has to pay to Promote those posts. I would currently have to pay USD $10 to ensure that all the people who Liked the official Warren Ellis Page on Facebook actually saw one single post. Facebook Pages are therefore useless to me.
(Of the 150+ people I had as Friends on my personal page, maybe five people were aware I was actually there, so I’ve nuked my friends list there, too.)
None of this is important, you understand. But I’ve not been paying a huge amount of attention to social media this year. Until it became time to start thinking about raising awareness of GUN MACHINE. So I’ve had to dig into this a bit – I’ve been talking about this in the newsletter, too.
Facebook, in search of monetisation, has killed engagement – unless your brand is so big that you are in fact desperate to pay for connection. Because small brands like me can move around, but big brands have to be seen in the big places. The Facebook Page is now completely broken unless you open your wallet.
And who the fuck even knows how Google+ works now. It is, in its way, the most “service-y” of the social network sites – now the dust has settled, it really seems to be a souped-up version of Google Groups, with built-in discovery and significant tech enhancements like Hangouts. A service, not a network.
None of this is important, but it is interesting to me.
Facebook will have to rely on big companies for one of its revenue streams, driving the small-fry like me out of the Pages system and possibly off Facebook entirely. People like me will probably keep a FB account alive, though, and maybe even use it to log into things, thereby sending data back that they can sell in another revenue stream. FB won’t care that I’m not running a Page. In theory, by usurping the “single sign-on” role that things like OAuth were supposed to fill, Facebook gets data to sell without even having to run a social network.
Google doubtless gathers enough data about me in other ways that my non-use of G+ won’t matter a whit. They felt that they had to have a social network, but they are not a social network company, and don’t need to run a social network in order to do their business.
Perhaps you could add “the death of the social network” to “the death of blogging” in the media-headline scare list. Replace it with pervasive digital loyalty, maybe.
Whatever it is, it’s no bloody use for hearing from people, or talking to a crowd.
This is Warren. Allow me to present the video for Kim Boekbinder’s new song, “The Sky Is Calling." Everything that follows is by Kim, and the video’s director, Jim Batt.
Inspired by NASA, the Universe, and Carl Sagan.
I’m standing on a street corner in New York City with a bit of metal shrapnel clasped in my hand. It feels heavy and important. Once upon a time, billions of years ago, this small piece of 93% iron was the core of a planetary-sized body that collided with another planetary-sized body. These massive, heavenly orbs broke apart on impact, sending pieces of themselves careening through the universe. Some time ago one of these pieces came screaming through our atmosphere, exploding into smaller shards before reaching the Earth.
But before it was an exploding meteor, and before it was an exploding orb, this metal was forged in the nuclear heart of an exploding star.
Everything that our world is made of came from the cosmos. The iron in my blood came from supernovae; my heart pumps through me the violently catastrophic deaths of stars.
This knowledge makes me feel so small. And so big. So many things had to go so perfectly for me to be standing on this street corner, holding the metallic heart of the sky.
And perhaps even more staggering is the fact that I am a member of the species that can leave the planet. A species that can look up and think: Yes. We will go there.
A species that can look down and know that our world is unique in all of the known universe. For thousands of planets, millions of stars, billions of light years.
And whether looking up or looking down, in the deep darkest parts of ourselves is a force pushing us further, better, more.
The video is primarily made up of individual frames of raw data sent back from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, currently orbiting Saturn. The eerie monochrome glitch aesthetic is the result of various technical factors – data artefacts, exposure calibrations, environmental conditions, and cosmic rays hitting the sensors. The main exception is the stunning footage of the sun, which was captured by another spacecraft.
NASA carefully clean up and calibrate their images before releasing them, but there’s an inherent beauty in the unfiltered footage, driven by the aesthetics of how this spacecraft watches the solar system. A machine-vision perspective on the cosmos.
The overlays are diagrams of humanity’s attempts to understand the universe throughout history, from astrology to the astronomical calculations of Copernicus and Kepler: early attempts at flight to blueprints of the spacecraft that now enable us to reach the sky.
For the final sequence I used footage of the Russian Soyuz capsule resupplying the International Space Station, largely because the Russians are damn good at making a rocket launch look starkly dramatic and appropriately science fictional.
ALPHA is a little bit like someone suffered toxic levels of exposure to the bad Manly Thrillers that pollute the shelves of every airport in the Western world, and instead of just dying of The Shitty, said to themselves, “what if one of these things was actually good?”
Greg Rucka is greatly admired, in my circle of writer friends, for the absolute egolessness of his writing. There’s no signature, no telltale quirk or tic. Every sentence is in absolute service to the narrative and its needs. To those of us who can’t help but cough our stylistic phlegm over our work, Greg comes off like a wizard. The great watchmaker. We just watch his stuff spin in its perfect selfless engineering and wonder how he did it. I remember, after reading SHOOTING AT MIDNIGHT, emailing Greg after I finished the last page and saying, simply, “what a bloody good book,” because I was still processing some of the things he did in there.
So, his new book’s called ALPHA. First of a projected trilogy, I believe. And it feels like Greg’s trying to engineer a fresh start. It’s got every cheap trick you’d expect from one of the Manly Techno-Thriller people. The protagonist is some hot-shit special-forces shoulder, there’s a pretty ex-wife, a kid who is not only cute and has a cute nickname but is also deaf, there’s laconic fellow soldiers and a spooky Colonel, and for Christ’s sake the action is set inside a terrorist-struck theme park full of vulnerable kiddies. You could stick six airport thrillers in a blender and pour this plot out.
And then what Greg does is he takes these pieces, and he very carefully pins them to wheels and springs and trains, and he spins them. This is the point where ALPHA becomes very much more than the sum of its parts, and where a Dale Brown fan who picked this book off the shelf starts wondering what exactly they’ve done to themselves.
It’s a very commercial book, to be sure, and a proper Yarn, but once it gets spinning, you realise the appeal to Greg of setting it in what is basically a downmarket Disneyland. He’s that writer who walked through a theme park, looking around, and working out all the ways in which people could be killed there. And therefore it’s also kind of eccentric. It’s fun stuff.
In fact, when you come down to it, it’s a bloody good book, and I hope it does for Greg what he wants it to do.
I’m down with a horrible case of the Man-Flu today, and don’t have it in me for writing a decent piece (that isn’t AAARG SOB WOE BE NICE TO ME I HAVE MAN-FLU YOU SCUM). But I’ve been dredging and annotating the site for a bit of a redesign, and have assembled these links to the texts of talks I’ve given. Maybe there’s something there you haven’t read before.
Obsolete Airbases « fringejoyride "Ultimately, these hard-shelled aircraft shelters holds the two most commonly wanted superpowers: Flight vs. Invisibility. In John Hodgeman’s ‘informal’ survey, the desire for flight was really an ‘inflated mythical, heroic” image that people only aspired superficially. Ultimately, nobody wanted to use the powers to fulfil our traditional sense of ‘good’. As it turned out, being a Superhero was no fun." (tags:architecturewarhistoryruinporn )
Inky-Linky – Roo Reynolds "Inky-Linky makes web pages 100% more useful and irritating when printed. It’s a bookmarklet that adds a QR code to the margins for each external link in the page." (tags:webpapernetcomms )
Astrobotic Technology assembles prototype of lunar water-prospecting robot "Astrobotic Technology Inc. has completed assembly of a full-size prototype of Polaris, a solar-powered robot that will search for potentially rich deposits of water ice at the moon's poles. The first of its kind, Polaris can accommodate a drill to bore one meter into the lunar surface and can operate in a lunar regions characterized by dark, long shadows and a sun that hugs the horizon." (tags:spacerobots )
Need more STATION IDENT images. They can be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
See you next week, folks. I leave you with the new record by Dirty Knobs, optimised for your Halloween enjoyment. Click through and buy the whole 90-minute ambient soundtrack of skulls being slowly and loving crushed in hell wonder for a single Yanqui dollar.
WARREN ELLIS is a graphic novelist, author and columnist. His new novel, GUN MACHINE, available now from Mulholland Books, is being developed for television by Chernin Entertainment and FOX. His first non-fiction book, from FSG, is due in 2014. RED 2, the sequel to the Bruce Willis-Helen Mirren film RED based on his book of the same name, will be released in August 2013.