Available Light

Written and Photos by Warren Ellis
Published by AiT/PlanetLar

Warren Ellis is perhaps best known for being a god amongst comic writers. He has created more than just great stories, he's created stories that have impact, something sorely lacking in comics these days. These are stories and characters that you remember. For all the hoopla of the last fifteen multi-title, multi-year story arcs that DC has run in the Bat-books, name one interesting moment that's occurred. Okay, one moment that's interesting because it was good, not because you cringed and beat your head against a brick wall because they completely blew their chance to do something cool. Drawing a blank, aren't you? Of course you are. But when you look back on titles like Transmetropolitan or Stormwatch, readers can rattle the damn things off like machine gun fire. Or, if you read his less "mainstream" work like the disturbingly brilliant City of Silence, you can't name a moment simply because the whole damn thing is cool.

If there's one thing that Ellis does not do enough of, though, it's just flat out write some prose. His series of Come in Alone columns was a new media manifesto delivered via staple gun to the synapses and if anything it made fans of The Warren desire more. Like oh, say, several novels. I don't know if he'll ever deliver on that, but in the meantime here's more, but it's not what you would think. He's not doing straight prose, mind you, there are pictures--but it's images taken by Ellis using a Eyemodule camera which he jacks into his Handspring PDA. Yeah, so they're images, but you may or may not be able to figure out what you're seeing.

Ah ho, but Ellis knows. Thus...the stories. Stories that don't run more than a page, except for the opening, "Lili," which forms the dedication to Ellis' daughter. Now, the best part about this is that you get a wide spectrum of Ellis' disturbed mania. A slight example: in between the commentary of "Grasslands" and the historical albeit ghastly backward glancing of "Lamp" there's the bizarre cannibalistic, wretched pseudo sci-fi of "Highrise." Each of these is paired with the picture that gave the initial inspiration, so it's a fascinating combo.

Any fan of short fiction would be hard pressed to find a better anthology than this these days. Trust me, I'm reading some of them. Ellis manages to, in 300 words or less, smack some impact where most people can't do it in a piece that runs into several thousand words. And there are nuggets in here that you'll be talking about after you put the book down.

One final note, a recommendation: first of all, to buy the damn thing. And second, to take it in small sips. Large gulps will not only blow the anthology out of the water (not that it's not worth re-reading, but we all know that when we take a book's virginity it's never restored) but will more than likely cause nosebleeds. For true fans of Ellis, we know that's a sign of literary potency.

Grade: A+

Review submitted by Widgett

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