Well, now I know what Warren Ellis has been up to. You know, when he isn’t penning mediocre detective novels and neglecting Doktor Sleepless. The favorite writer of mine has been slaving away on an original Avengers graphic novel. And yeah, while I’m pretty excited for it, I really wish he was spending this time and energy giving me more Doktor. Please. I beg you Warren. More Doktor.
[This! Is! Mad Men! recaps the newest developments of Don Draper and his ragtag group of cohorts. In the spirit of the show, it will often be sexist and drunk. Apologies ahead of time.]
I’m worried about Don Draper. He’s always bent the elbow liberally, but never before has alcohol been such a destructive force in his life. Sure, there’ve been plenty of drunks in Mad Men — Freddy Rumsen and Duck Philips spring to mind — but Don’s supposed to be the exception to the rule!
When we first learnt of Don’s exploits in season one, there was a certain charm to them. He drinks? He philanders? He steals identities? All right…That’s not too cool but I guess I can see where he’s coming from. He was sympathetic – coming from nothing, he sought solace in the pursuit of the American dream. And just like Gatsby and Willy Loman and Hunter S. Thompson, Don Draper found out the hard way that the dream is dead.
How do know that that Don Draper has hit rock bottom? He gave away his secret identity.
Warren Ellis is my goddamn hero.
In case you don’t have a clue, Warren Ellis is pretty much the comic industry’s best mad scientist. Not only is Ellis responsible for some of the best creator-owned properties of all time (Transmetropolitan & Doktor Sleepless come to mind), but he also pushes well-established properties into more compelling storylines. I’ve spent the last few years fawning over Ellis’ writing, going as far as to write a twenty-four page research paper exploring the implications of hyperreality in Doktor Sleepless.
But more than just the scribe behind some great funnybooks, Warren Ellis always has something interesting to say. Through his website, weekly columns and forum, the mad Englishman (aren’t they all?) offers a brand of insight that can only be understated as unique. Without reservation, Ellis tackles what he believes to be the trends/technologies/perspectives of the future while examining the precedents to which we so desperately cling.
For your pleasure, one of my favorite excerpts from Ellis’ 2001 collection of short essays/posts, Come in Alone:
Fuck superheroes, frankly. The notion that these things dominate an entire genre is absurd. It’s like every bookstore on the planet having ninety percent of its shelves filled by nurse novels. Imagine that. You want a new novel, but have to wade through three hundred new books about romances in the wards before you can get at any other genre. A medium where the relationship of fiction about nurses outweighs mainstream literary fiction by a ratio of one hundred to one. Superhero comics are like bloody creeping fungus, and they smother everything else. (p. 78)
Clearly, Warren Ellis is a creator devoted to the medium of comic books rather than the industry. And that’s a sentiment to which all artists should aspire.
Last week it was brought to my attention that pre-orders were being taken for Shivering Sands, Ellis’ new collection of essays, rants, reviews and other musings. At first glance, I figured that I would just snag the paperback at a bookstore; but then I realized that Shivering Sands is only available online. The author is experimenting with print-on-demand (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like) and therefore offering his newest compilation through Lulu. More than willing to give my (barely) hard-earned cash to Ellis, I ordered immediately and began anticipating the delivery.
My copy of Shivering Sands arrived last night. Despite being inundated with work, I have already blasted through the first sixty-some-odd pages. Seriously, I wish that I hadn’t already finished the media-component of my English degree because I would walk into the classroom wielding this book like MjÃ¶llnir and smashing shit up with a ferocity that would make Thor piss his God-sized underoos. The examinations of technology and media are fucking mindblowing, delving into the notion (also found throughout Doktor Sleepless) that we are actually living in “the future,” but are incapable of recognizing it as such.
Another early highlight is found in Microcast, a January 2004 theorizing of why 2003 was an absolute dud in terms of mainstream entertainment/art. Ellis posits that niche broadcasting and narrowcasting in the digital era allows for the user to reverse the once unilateral transmission of information; in other words, users are now looking for what they want to find rather than accepting what they are given.
The mass audience is breaking down into smaller sets; and beyond that, into what Dr. Joshua Ellis (no relation) terms ‘taste tribes’ — people whose group status is defined by their particular cultural apprehension. Where one says, I know and interact with this person on the initial basis that we share tastes. Not that we all trade notes on Star Trek — not a fan thing — but that we share a cultural sphere. This creates and defines a loose community of its own, stitched together by cultural communication. And with the net in place, taste tribes are borderless. (p. 40)
I’m not even finished with Shivering Sands but I’m going to suggest that you purchase it. If you’re at all interested in comic books, media theory, chemically-induced diatribes, supporting great artists or just finding something with which to pass some time, check this book out.
As I mentioned before, the “Welcome to the Future” category is based off of inspiration from reading Warren Ellis’ Doktor Sleepless. It seems fitting then, that it appears his crazy insight is about to become true. In DS, there is the Clatter. What is the Clatter? Peep it:
Clatter is a wireless IM Lens instant messaging system built on to a soft contact lens. Clatter differs from other, commercial lens services by being open source and “riding” other services to create free cross-platform access.
It was created by John Reinhardt/Doktor Sleepless before he left for the Amazon.
Shriekygirls piggyback their shriekyware connections on Clatter signals.
In other words, it’s an instant messaging system that you see in front of you. This is futuristic sci-fi nonsense, right?
Not according to this news article at the IEEE Spectrum:
In the Terminator movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character sees the world with data superimposed on his visual field–virtual captions that enhance the cyborg’s scan of a scene. In stories by the science fiction author Vernor Vinge, characters rely on electronic contact lenses, rather than smartphones or brain implants, for seamless access to information that appears right before their eyes.
These visions (if I may) might seem far-fetched, but a contact lens with simple built-in electronics is already within reach; in fact, my students and I are already producing such devices in small numbers in my laboratory at the University of Washington, in Seattle [see sidebar, “A Twinkle in the Eye”]. These lenses don’t give us the vision of an eagle or the benefit of running subtitles on our surroundings yet. But we have built a lens with one LED, which we’ve powered wirelessly with RF. What we’ve done so far barely hints at what will soon be possible with this technology.
Welcome to the motherfucking future. Where you’ll be able to see like the Terminator, and chat with your friends while you close your eyes waiting for sleep.