Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #607 - Warren Ellis and Normal
I was gaming today, and I have been slammed with work and a virus, so I am re-posting again, but this is a REALLY GOOD re-post.
Until this morning, I had never watched a video or listened to a podcast with Warren Ellis. I had seen pictures, but I didn't know what his voice sounded like. I know Warren from his writings: his newsletter, his Twitter messages, his web sites, and of course his various fiction and non-fiction.
In his newsletter today, he shared that he had done this talk and the link, so I decided to feature it as today's entry, and so I started up the video, heard his voice, watched him talk. His voice is a bit different than I imagined in my head after so many years of just reading what Warren has written.
I am such a Warren Ellis fan that I had created a category in this (and the T-shirt blog, too) to collect entries related to his work (or that just straight up shares something he has written).
The interviewer here, John Little, claims to be a "huge fan" of Warren Ellis. I am always suspicious when people say that (even though I say it, too) because I wonder what he has read, how closely he follows Ellis. It's a strange geek cred issue. Is my geek cred higher, am I more of a "real" fan because I have consumed nearly everything, more of a fan than this poseur? It's a rather silly competitive thing because as a fan of Ellis I want more people to be fans of Ellis. I have been trying to get some of the people in the local comic shop to read Planetary for a long time.
This interview in the video is mostly about Normal, and I wrote about that book (novella) already here http://sensedoubt.blogspot.com/2017/01/hey-mom-talking-to-my-mother-551-end-of.html.
But here's the review I wrote...
Paperback – November 29, 2016
by Warren Ellis (Author)
4.1 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews
MY RATING: Normal = 9.6
AMAZON TEXT: A smart, tight, provocative techno-thriller straight out of the very near future―by an iconic visionary writer
Some people call it "abyss gaze." Gaze into the abyss all day and the abyss will gaze into you.
There are two types of people who think professionally about the future: Foresight strategists are civil futurists who think about geoengineering and smart cities and ways to evade Our Coming Doom; strategic forecasters are spook futurists, who think about geopolitical upheaval and drone warfare and ways to prepare clients for Our Coming Doom. The former are paid by nonprofits and charities, the latter by global security groups and corporate think tanks.
For both types, if you're good at it, and you spend your days and nights doing it, then it's something you can't do for long. Depression sets in. Mental illness festers. And if the abyss gaze takes hold there's only one place to recover: Normal Head, in the wilds of Oregon, within the secure perimeter of an experimental forest.
When Adam Dearden, a foresight strategist, arrives at Normal Head, he is desperate to unplug and be immersed in sylvan silence. But then a patient goes missing from his locked bedroom, leaving nothing but a pile of insects in his wake. A staff investigation ensues; surveillance becomes total. As the mystery of the disappeared man unravels in Warren Ellis's Normal, Adam uncovers a conspiracy that calls into question the core principles of how and why we think about the future--and the past, and the now.
I admit that this review will be very biased. I am a huge Warren Ellis fan. I subscribe to his newsletter. I take his music suggestions to heart. I follow him on Twitter. I have read most everything he has written. His comic Planetary is one of the single best comic books of all time. I loved his two novels. I loved his collected talks (which still sits in my currently reading list as I read and re-read them). I feel very connected to Warren and to his work.
So, I liked Normal before I even read it. I knew I was going to like it. There has not been a single thing by Warren that I have not liked.
This book was originally released in four weekly digital installments, which is how I initially read it. Loving the idea of episodic fiction as I do (otherwise I would not be a comic book fan) makes me drawn to this type of delivery, much like when John Scalzi released The Human Division in weekly installments. Genius idea and very fun to receive the weekly episode. With Ellis, four episodes felt manageable, and I managed to read each one each week. With Scalzi's many episodes, I fell behind, but this did not indicate lack of interest.
Ellis' Normal allows him to show off some good learning, such as his bit, through the character Lela, on New York's water pumping system: "...they pump more than thirteen million gallons of water out of New York every day just to keep the fucking subway running" (pt.2, location 297). "The five boroughs have to process a billion gallons a day. Remember Hurricane Sandy? Sandy took out half the pumps and almost all the treatment plants in a fucking second. And it was just barely a Category One hurricane when it hit. A thirteen-foot surge over the wall by Battery Park. That released ten billion gallons of raw sewage into the city and the surrounding waters..."
That's Ellis. He learns things; he shares them. But his work is more than that. I saw others reviewers call it darkly funny, abnormal, weird, but to apply such terms almost seems dismissive. Almost like those people don't "get" Ellis and what he's trying to explore and how he's trying to explore it. I don't want to call the story wonderfully weird either, which strikes me as both dismissive and yet approving of the dismiss. It's stupid.
This is a very good short novel about a bunch of things Ellis has been noodling on about lately, which you would know if you read his newsletter: doomsday scenarios, privacy, ancient nature magic, and futurism. But it's also a locked room mystery. Just the premise of an asylum for burned out futurists is a smart idea.
It's short, but it will open a wealth of ideas.
I liked this bit from the interview. It's true, innit?
"When thinking about prediction of technology, remember that Captain Kirk in Star Trek had to tune his fucking communicator...He couldn't even take a picture with it, let alone stick a sepia filter on it." - Warren Ellis
Thanks for making my morning so nice, Warren.
There are two types of people who think professionally about the future: Foresight strategists are civil futurists who think about geoengineering and smart cities and ways to evade Our Coming Doom; strategic forecasters are spook futurists, who think about geopolitical upheaval and drone warfare and ways to prepare clients for Our Coming Doom. The former are paid by nonprofits and charities, the latter by global security groups and corporate think tanks.For both types, if you're good at it, and you spend your days and nights doing it, then it's something you can't do for long. Depression sets in. Mental illness festers. And if the abyss gaze takes hold there's only one place to recover: Normal Head, in the wilds of Oregon, within the secure perimeter of an experimental forest.
Reflect and connect.
Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.
I miss you so very much, Mom.
Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.
- Days ago = 609 days ago
- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1703.05 - 10:10
NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.