I’m getting ready to write an essay about Warren Ellis. No, not the composer who works with Nick Cave, but the novelist and comic book writer Warren Ellis. Because of this, I’ve been revisiting old favorites such as Planetary and the subversive Transmetropolitan (By the way, is anyone else of the opinion that Spider Jerusalem is a thinly veiled version of Alan Moore?), and his first novel, Crooked Little Vein. I’m not really having to delve too deeply into the new stuff such as Trees, Injection, and his more recent novels such as Gun Machine and Normal (which is probably one of the funniest books I read in 2016, and one of the most prophetic). I haven’t had to delve too far into these new works because I’ve read each as they’ve come out and are fresh in my memory. And to be blunt, I don’t really have to read the old comics and books, either. I’m just doing it because I love them.
The one thing I’ve noticed in the preparation of this essay is how much Ellis has seeped into my own work over the past decade. Currently I’m working on two separate long projects (I know, I should only be working on one, but I’m the type of writer who’s been conditioned by freelance work and having to work on multiple projects at a time. Plus, the fact is I get bored, so juggling multiple projects is the best way for me to keep myself interested in writing.). Both projects are best described as science fiction, both are somewhat politically motivated (Another little something I’ve rediscovered about myself, I am very much a political creature and I tend to become more creative and motivated when I feel repressed and downtrodden. You know, being American.), but in the same breath, I don’t consider them science fiction because I’m utilizing crime and romance fiction tropes in both along with the other elements and stirring and mixing them up.
No, this is nothing new, it’s nothing ground breaking, it’s all things Warren Ellis and dozens of writers have employed over the last fifty years. But the thing is, when I read through my pages from the day before (One piece is being written entirely on the computer, the second—which I tend to work on the most—is being written on yellow legal notepads with occasional notes in a loose outline I keep stored on my hard drive.), I’ve begun to notice that the style I’m working in is becoming increasingly weirder, Ellis-esque, so to speak, and that this strange Englishman has become, perhaps, the storyteller who has influenced my work the most. And the fact is, I like it, I flat out love it because it’s encouraging me to get as weird and irreverent as I want while still crafting a highly readable story.
At least that’s what I hope I’m doing?
A View From The Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction By Neil Gaiman
“Toss out the worst elements of genre and literary fiction–and merge the best. We might then create a new taxonomy, so that when you walk into a bookstore, the stock is divided into ‘Stories that suck’ and ‘Stories that will make your mind and heart explode with their goodness.'”
Evening Soundtrack: A Seat At The Table By Solange Knowles
“I seriously doubt that some slave ship ancestor, in those idle moments between being raped and beaten, was standing knee-deep in their own feces rationalizing that, in the end, the generations of murder, unbearable pain and suffering, mental anguish, and rampant disease will all be worth it because someday my great-great-great-great-grandson will have Wi-Fi, no matter how slow and intermittent the signal is.”
“When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will use any means necessary to get what she has in this horror thriller from Nicolas Winding Refn.”
I’ll get right to the point: Refn’s erotic thriller (And it is a thriller. Yes, there are horror elements, but they’re fleeting), The Neon Demon is his weakest film in an otherwise impressive filmography. Now, with that being said, Refn’s worst is still 90% better than just about everything being released into theaters.
The Neon Demon is deeply atmospheric (Perhaps too much so?), and like the much maligned, Only God Forgives (Which I consider to be one of Refn’s best films), it is a love letter to David Lynch and his films such as Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive.
As with all Refn films, The Neon Demon is visually stunning and is like a living, breathing surrealist masterpiece. The problem is that most of the characters are just as two dimensional. There’s no meat to their actions, all style and no substance. But maybe this is the effect that Refn was going for? Young women obsessed with only two things: Beauty and how to make money from that beauty.
I can’t say I would recommend The Neon Demon to the casual viewer (Just move along, casual viewer, go find some super hero movie to occupy your time with.), but if you’re a fan of Refn’s films or enjoy subtlety crafted horror thrillers, it’ll be right up your alley.
I’ve been listening to Mos Def’s 1999 album, Black On Both Sides, a lot lately. It’s a great album, powerfully written and performed, it sounds like it could have recorded and released yesterday as opposed to seventeen years ago.
And that’s a problem.
The same problems, the same issues are still around, and chances are, if Mos had recorded the album in 1989, he’d still be singing about the same shit that plagues the black community and the poor of America.
Shit never changes and because of this, our country is in a cultural and creative malaise, and this ennui is crushing, constantly pushing us backward in time, or more accurately, keeping us in one place, our wheels spinning and burning rubber.
Anyway, along with Black On Both Sides, I’ve also been listening to A Tribe Called Quest’s first album in twenty years, We Got It From Here, Thank You For Your Service. It’s a great album and probably my favorite hip-hop record of 2016. Here’s ATCQ performing on Saturday Night Live this past weekend.