Skip to content →

IGNITION CITY Workblog: July 17

My muse on this project has been my friend Magdalene Veen, singer and bellydancer with the band Abney Park. In her work with the band, and in various of her other secret identities, she has a uniquely retro vision of science fiction. It was her look that gave me the visual hook for IGNITION CITY. The flight helmet.

(Our mutual friend Zoetica Ebb rocks a flight helmet too, as seen in her Mercury Vagabond shoot with Vladimir Perlovich, but the end result has a forbidding chill that I decided to avoid. Too knowingly 21C. Also, Zoe is unmistakably Russian, and I knew I wanted an American girl as a lead. Also also, I didn’t want anyone to have anything in common with the Russian character I already have in the settlement, poor old Yuri.)

There’s a perfect fusion about Magdalene’s look here — antiquitous yet timeless. There’s 18th and 19th centuries in there, and also the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s. An ideal figure for a story that mixes and matches times and fictions (IC opens in a 1959 Berlin that looks like Lang’s METROPOLIS, but also contains the concrete modernism of Tegel Airport).

She even named the protagonist’s beautiful lost rocketship, The Perpetual Teatime. Which has just the right surrealist storybook quality for me.

Magdalene sends me one-line non-sequitur Onoesque notes every day, about being an asteroid gypsy, a Kuiper Bedouin.

The flight helmet speaks to American pulp sf, evokes the beautiful lost word “aviatrix”, summons early Russian film (in his short ode to Russian sf, THE HEART OF THE WORLD, Guy Maddin has his scientist heroine wear a flight helmet, because it simply had to be done)…it was the key to Mary Raven, the protagonist.

(Mary was the most popular name for baby girls in 1930s America.)

And so we meet Mary Raven in 1959 Berlin, talking to Lionel Crabb in the bar of the Explorer’s Club — and I need the German term for “The Explorer’s Club,” please — when a telegram from New York City arrives for her…

Published in Work


  1. mike black mike black

    Your killing me, Warren. Seriously.

    I have a loaded Smith & Wesson Full 1911 .45 pointed at my hard drive at the moment. I’ve already put an end to the three other PC’s in the house, and I’m a shot of vodka away from sending another to hell. I just wanted you to know that the Second Amendment has yet again saved a young American citizen from the ravages of English intellects. Or atleast from embaressment by an English intellect.

    Your putting me out of work before I even start, Mr. Ellis.

  2. elodie elodie

    Oh dear.

    I really cannot WAIT for this…

    And Mike, god damn it stop shooting your machines. We have discussed this.

  3. Apheks Apheks

    Die Forscher-Verein – The Explorer’s Club

  4. Andres Andres

    “The Explorer’s Club” = Der Klub der Forschern. (Although, in modern daily *speech* it would probably be Der Klub von der Forschern.)

  5. Darius Caine Darius Caine

    Der Vorscher Verein, as the term “Verein” is male. Otherwise you could eventually go with “Der Vorscher Klubb”. “Klubb” being an old German word similar to the English “club,” obviously. Or maybe “Die Gesellschaft der Vorscher,” or “Die Vorschergesellschaft.” “Gesellschaft” being the German word for “Society.” The second and the last suggestion sound most probable, given the sound of them.

    P.S. Don’t let yourself fool by the name, it’s just a pseudonym I’m going to write under eventually. I’m quite German. Blonde hair, blue eyes.

  6. Andres Andres

    Hmm… Sorry, I wrote “explorers'”, plural. It should be Der Klub des Forschers. Apheks’s suggestion seems more elegant, although I am not sure Verein is the word here (it is more “association” (YMCA= CVJM, V for Verein) or “society” than club, but I may be wrong).

  7. Darius Caine Darius Caine

    My inadvertent capitalisation of “society” is proof.

  8. Perhaps you people could agree on a language first.

  9. Apheks Apheks

    wow. just wow. perhaps I should have let on that I only spent 30 seconds finding that translation…

  10. Darius Caine Darius Caine

    “Der Club der Entdecker” basically works. Except for the spelling of “club,” which I’m sure wasn’t adopted into the German language at that time.
    “Entdecker” is atually a better translation. Shoulf have thought of that.
    So it should either be “Der Klubb der Entdecker” or “Die Gesellschaft der Entdecker.” I’m sadly not sure when the c-l-u-b spelling first took hold, nor where to find the information. I’m guessing gradually after WWII. Which is the easiest answer. Depends on how exact you want it to be. Personally I’d just like it to be grammatically right for once.

  11. tom tom

    another artist inspired by a bellydancer and “The Heart of the World” is like how porn should be

  12. Okay, the first few suggestions aren’t even grammatically correct, so I don’t know where they’re coming from. Also, there is no such word as “Vorscher” in current German. It’s spelled Forscher.

    Just to clarify: Forscher means researcher. What you want is Entdecker, which actually means explorer.

    “Klub der Entdecker” means, literally, Club of Explorers, but is usually translated as Explorer’s Club.

    “Gesellschaft der Entdecker” means Society of Explorers.

    A “Verein” is an organization of athletes, car enthusiasts, or the local soccer fan club, stuff like that.

  13. FatFred FatFred

    Abenteurerklub (Adventurer’s Club) or: Der Klub des Forschers.

  14. Ralph Ralph

    Stanoje’s right.

  15. I don’t have anything to add on the German part, but I just have to say.
    “You have the best fucking inspirations/muses in the world. Period.”

  16. Jim Tuck Jim Tuck

    Anything with Klub in it is probably post WWII. I recall reading a paper on the organization of Social Democrats in the 1920s. Google fails me in finding it now, but as I recall everything from choirs to stamp collecting enthusiasts were being referred to as gesellschaften.

  17. Emily Emily

    Magdalene sends me one-line non-sequitur Onoesque notes every day

    Ha ha ha: you will now be deluged daily by thousands of attempts at such stuff from those desperate to become your next muse!

  18. Lindon Lindon

    You should listen to mid-late period BeBop Deluxe(“Live In the Air Age”) for the sound track to the world you describe. Bill Nelson was infatuated(at the time) with this 50’s sci-fi/Fritz Lang mix.

  19. Will 1930s vintage rocket experimenters, be they Russian or German or poor spat-on Goddard, be honored members of the Adventurers’ Club?

    From the Amazing Shit file:

    Hermann Oberth, the whiz kid German rocket theorist who helped put together Lang’s Fraum Im Mond (and kinda had a nervous breakdown trying to build an actual rocket to publicize the feature), lived until 1989.

    Just long enough to see pictures come in from Voyager as it flew by Uranus. (Stupid jokes to /dev/null.)

    I am utterly amazed and gratified by that.

  20. I’d love to see a parallel history visually based on the idealized SF futures of given decades. Start with a Vernesian steampunk city, then move forward to a Deco metropolis, then the sparse utilitarian concensus future of the fifties, then the domed cities & epilets of the Unknown Worlds era, then the cyberpunk 80s, ending up with a nano-drenched singularity.

    I second the Bill Nelson suggestion. His Buddha Head and Atom Shop are pop music for the shiny future that didn’t happen.

  21. carolyn carolyn

    You are a terrible tease, Mr. Ellis.

  22. Your friend is a gorgeous creature. And, I look forward to Ignition City…

  23. Darius Caine Darius Caine

    I must have been very tired yesterday, to not catch the misspelling of “Forscher.” But as Stanoje said, it’s the wrong word anyway. And the word “Klub” could very easily have transitioned to the spelling with one “b.” Which is a possibility that escaped me yesterday. Reading the word “Klub” in an American comic book wouldn’t make me smile quite as much as reading the word “Klubb,” but the former is really more likely in regards to the time period.

  24. Paul Paul

    Warren, have you read a short story by JG Ballard called Low-Flying Aircraft (in a collection of the same name)?

    It’s set among the rusting ruins of Cape Canaveral and is full of melancholy for the death of the space race. If it’s rust and melancholy you want – Ballard’s your man.

  25. I’ve read pretty much all of Ballard.

  26. Paul Paul

    Should have guessed you might.

    My copy’s gone AWOL – and now I’m in the mood to reread it.

  27. Jacob Jacob

    Fucks sake you’re all arguing over translations…I can barely stop staring at the gorgeus redhead long enough o read the post.

  28. Jacob:
    1) Who’s arguing?
    2) Some of us have enough blood to keep both ends running simultaneously.

  29. allana allana

    mmmmmm the heart of the world. my favourite short film of all time (well, top five, at least).
    how much would a vintage aviator helmet like that go for these days, anyways?
    am i the only one that thinks “the perceptual teatime” is a bit over-the-top, though? it reminds me of the long dark teatime of the soul, which just puts me in a silly mood, and then i think of the heart of gold, and that “blood” book by michael moorcock, and then … yeah. this better not turn into an Invisibles-esque time-warp-mind-fuck.

Comments are closed.