Warren Ellis on Commercial Storytelling


I am a proud and eager subscriber of writer Warren Ellis’ weekly newsletter Oribital Operations.  On a weekly basis (or therabouts) I can expect him to touch upon various topics that run the gamut of intelligent, thought-provoking, humorous and enlightening. A couple of weeks ago he stated something that really stopped me in my tracks, something I feel I must share with other writers.

“. . .thoughts about how commercial storytelling is changing. Look at the ructions television has gone through in the last fifteen years. The “endless” run (and the end brought by economics as much as anything) looks like an aged form now, and novels for television are where the important stuff is done. TRUE DETECTIVE, and the even more innovative AMERICAN HORROR STORY (and now AMERICAN CRIME) where the cast are a stable putting on a new play every season.

I think Jeff VanderMeer’s interlocking SOUTHERN REACH novels, all three released in the same 12 months, might prove to be a very interesting model for prose.

But it’s also a set of thoughts — and I haven’t nailed this down, I’m going to come back to it — about how narrative forms need to keep moving at the pace of the world to some extent, need to keep looking for new sounds. Also, going back to earlier scenes and digging through their rubble for something that can be mutated and gene-edited in a lab and bolted on to something else in order to make something modern. It’s not looking backward when you’re constructing something new out of the parts. Frankenstein wasn’t an archaeologist.

Keep building. Keep shooting lightning into things to see what happens. That’s what the narrative enterprise needs. That’s been my constant aspiration.”

— Warren Ellis via Orbital Operations. Who also writes most mornings (on British Summer Time) at Morning, Computer.

Warren Ellis

Photograph shot and copyright by Ellen J. Rogers

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