Archive for the ‘2020 minus’ Category

I did say yesterday that I had other questions, but limited my post yesterday to one question.

Here are some more, less serious, questions that I’ve never been able to answer satisfactorily… or at least to my own satisfaction.

So, a dozen thoughts and questions, to which I want responses and answers. Yes, after several months of writing this blog, you do some work, dear readers:

  1. What’s the best current reasoning why the US moved to mm-dd-yy format from the British dd-mm-yy. I’ve heard lots of guesses, and many suggestions, but what’s the latest theory? (I once called the Library of Congress because this was bugging me. And received four different suggested answers, including the suggestion that at one point the current US method was what the British used, and it was we who swapped…)
  2. I wonder what the NRA’s equivalent would be in the DC or Marvel universes? I know that both in Marvel’s Civil War (the comic book storyline at least) there was a Congressional impetus for the Superpowers Registration Act, but would there be a well funded – by various supervillains – campaign that “powers don’t kill people; people kill people”?
  3. What is the oldest cliché in the book?
  4. And what is the oldest acknowledged trade or profession? (Excluding sex workers which is, frankly, a lazy answer.) What was the first invoice for?
  5. Having recently thought about it, Dez Skinn was right; a far better title for the John Cleese co-written “True Brit” (What if Kal-El’s rocketship had landed in England?) would have been Fawlty Powers. What other classic works should have had better titles?
  6. If a doctor had a heart attack or a stroke while doing surgery, would the other doctors in the theatre immediately – until backup arrived – work on the doctor or the patient?
  7. How does hair know which length to grow to? (i.e. why is the hair on my hair longer than the hair on my body? And similarly, what’s the evolutionary reason for underarm hair?)
  8. How come refrigerators have little lights in them but freezers don’t?
  9. When undertakers dress a corpse for viewing, do they put underwear on the corpse?
  10. How often do ‘crime reconstruction’ tv shows receive telephone calls identifying the actors as the real purpetrators of the crime that the police are looking for? And do the police investigate them [at] all?
  11. Also, when there are photos of the previous victims of a killer – in a ‘criminal of the week’ show like CSI or Criminal Minds – who are they? And do they get paid for the use of their images? (Just to make it clear- these people do not appear in the show other than as ‘previous victims’. No lines, no appearance within the show, no flashbacks… just a set of photos on a wall.)
  12. And finally – one that’s always bugged me: the invisible woman is in a room with no windows and non-reflective walls. The only light is a single bulb. She turns the bulb invisible. Does the room go dark? What if the walls are reflective?

OK… go.
Something else tomorrow…

Not sure how long this will be; I want to write something on this, but I don’t honestly know how much there is to say.

There’s plenty to ask, though, so let’s start with a question.

I’m only going to ask one question today. More, perhaps on another occasion. I’m not expecting [m]any answers to this questions… for several reasons, including that the days of people responding to this blog seem to have passed.

However, that question:

What does it take to change your mind?

I’m not using ‘your’ here as a shorthand for people in general, but specifically you, who’s reading this blog.

What does it take to change your mind?

One answer might reasonably be to respond with your own questions: “About what? About what subject are you asking me to change my mind?”

Alistair Cooke, quoting a friend of his, suggested that while you can be educated as to the merits of art, or music, there are three subjects on which you should never attempt to change someone’s mind:

  • whether something is funny
  • whether something tastes nice
  • whether someone else is attractive

But even leaving aside those matters, (I’d also add these days ‘whether a movie or tv show is enjoyable‘) there are plenty of things where the reasons that you might change my mind depends on the circumstances, i.e. it’s different for each.

A matter of fact? Show me, in the words of my old audit tutor, independent, arms length, third party, verifiable information.

If I’m convinced that, say, ‘defenestrate’ is a synonym for ‘eviscerate’ (which I shamefully did for too many years), point me at a dictionary.

If I assert that Luton Town Football Club play at Anfield, show me where they do play, not from their website – ‘Independent’, remember? ‘Third party’, remember?- but from a newspaper report, or website, or from the Football League themselves.

A matter of opinion? This is where the ‘independent third party arms length’ bit falls on its arse. Because too often, when it comes to matters of opinion, especially in politics, the commonly held view is ‘no one’s independent’.

It often, but doesn’t always, comes down to ‘if they agree with me, they’re right; if they disagree, they’re not only wrong but obviously biased.’

Or what’s worse ‘prejudiced’ which implies, suggests, bad faith on the part of the person with whom they disagree.

More on this in a moment.

But going back to the original question: What does it take to change your mind?

If someone makes a statement, a matter of opinion, mind, about the merits of a candidate, or the demerits, with which I disagree, how do you change my mind?

I’m not sure, to be honest.

I don’t think I make up my mind quickly. I consider and balance and make a decision. And yes, once that decision is made, as far as I’m concerned, the decision has been made. And for me to change my mind thereafter, there better be a damn good reason to do so.

Before I’ve made up my mind, the burden is on everyone, defending or decrying each ‘side’ of the matter. Once I’ve made up my mind, the burden of proof is on someone wanting to change my mind.

So it’s not prejudice, but conclusion based upon my knowledge (which could be lacking), experience (which can only be personal, subjective) and – the crucial bit – other information which informs not my prejudice but my post-judice, my judgement.

But let’s go back to politics for a moment.

take just four things in this current election that people have to decide upon when casting their vote, things which will inform their vote. (I’m specifically referring to those who’ve already made their mind up.)

  1. whether the Tories can’t wait to are going to ‘sell off the NHS’
  2. whether, now, the best we can hope for is a Brexit Deal or whether we should revoke the whole damn thing
  3. whether Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite, and Labour now, sadly, institutionally antisemitic
  4. whether the Lib Dems should do one or more of the following:
      – stand down parliamentary candidates in Tory/Lab marginal seats even if Labour won’t reciprocate in Tory/LD marginals, and
      – despite election pledges, get Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10 if the only alternative is to let Johnson back in.

Now, whichever side of the line you find yourself on any or all of the above, what would it take for you to change your mind on the matter?

I suspect, to be brutally honest, that nothing would, with the possible exception of 2 above.

If you currently believe that the NHS is going to up for grabs to the highest bidder if Boris Johnson gets his way, then I genuinely doubt that anything, any evidence, any promises, any pledges, from anyone, will change your mind on that.

And if you disagree with that conclusion, ask yourself the question: what would it take to change your mind on that?

Because likely as not, if anything could change your mind, whichever ‘side’ you’re on, then it would probably already have done so. It’s not like we’re short of the arguments right now, or as if they’re not they’re, and regularly offered to you.

If you’ve concluded, say, that for whatever reasons, that Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite and the party he leads is institutionally, or indeed that he isn’t antisemitic and neither is the party… what would it take to change your mind on that?

Right now? Again, I doubt any minds can be changed on the matters.

Me? I’ve said previously that I didn’t think he was personally antisemitic, but that I had changed my mind on that as time passed and I saw more, learned more, as more was revealed.

But my mind was changed on his motivations and character, not his actions. I always thought that he was – at best – supremely indifferent as to the antisemitism of his friends’, supporters, and those he campaigned for. So I switched some time ago to believing he shared their antisemitism.

(What could change my mind on that? Lots of things… that could and would never happen, including a genuine repudiation of his previous behaviour and actions, and his taking full responsibility for the antisemitic actions he’s taken, and the antisemitic tropes he’s promoted. Failing that, nothing.)

So, what could change your mind on any of those four above?

One final point, on the assertion that the Lib Dems should, reluctantly or otherwise, support Jeremy Corbyn to prevent Boris Johnson… My only observation is that it’s both striking and bemusing just how many Labour supporters, who’ve spent almost a decade utterly and genuinely, furious with the Lib Dems for breaking 2010 election pledges… now advocate a position that the only moral thing for the Lib Dems to do is… break their election pledge.
Something else, tomorrow…

Back to the usual ‘two stories from the vaults’ on Tuesday’s for a bit. 

The next couple of weeks, though, will be the stories from ‘The Art of Fast Fiction’, but without the art, as I’ve been unable to track it down. If I ever find it, I’ll redo the posts.

But just stressing that these these, as well as being fast fictions, written to work as prose, were specifically written to be drawn as well. 

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

These were enormous fun to write, and even more fun to imagine the art that would result.

The second of the two stories below is probably one of the odder tales I’ve written. And one I regard with great fondness.

I hope you enjoy reading these two as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Title: The Indecisive Backpacker
Word: marinate
Challenger: [Whitechapel user]
Length: 200 words exactly

The gun lay there on the ground, black and ugly, a nasty, horrible necessary thing..

Next to it lay the remains of her companion, his head thankfully covered by a small towel, entirely disguising the damage the .38 bullet had done.

She’d waited until the small hours of the morning, when he’d been sleeping; despite everything, she hadn’t wanted him to suffer, not as she’d suffered over the years.

She was no longer sure when idea had turned to intent, and intent to plan. But when he had suggested the trip away, travelling over hill and dale, she had instantly agreed.

He’d only hit her once on the outgoing trip, but it had only increased her resolve that it would never, ever happen again.

And when the night was clear, the clouds were absent, and they were alone, she had killed him and cried afterwards for while external bruises on her skin always faded, the scars inside never did.

Hours later, she watched the pot boil and had trouble deciding: he had been a vegetarian after all.

So now, as she smelled the meat marinate, she stared at the two bottles of wine and tried to decide: red or white.

© Lee Barnett, 2012

Title: Deadlines and Breakdowns
Word: spork
Challenger: [Whitechapel user]
Length: 200 words exactly

Report by chief psychiatric officer, Earth V.U. One, 27th September 3312.

Re: Final decision regarding patient X3R7 [anonymised under privacy regulation 3518]

As per previous medical reports (see attached), patient was revived on 1st September inst., shortly before the limit set by the Hibernation Revival Authority. As numerous medical tests have shown, despite some discredited trials suggesting otherwise, patients not revived within 800 years of hibernation are likely to have suffered irreversible brain damage.

In patient X3R7’s case, this cut off point was rapidly approaching and although no permanent cure for the condition which had led to his hibernation was yet available, the decision to confirm viability of the patient was taken.

As with other patients, however, matters did not proceed in a manner advantageous to the patient. His memory and cognitive functions appear to have suffered irretrievably during his hibernation to the extent that he could not even recall his name or identify a simple food utensil, referring to it using a meaningless syllable, i.e. “spork”.

As with the other humans, I arranged for the painless cessation of life. It was the kindest thing.

[pawprint attached]

Fido Johnson, MD
Chief Psychiatric Officer
Earth Veterinary Unit One

© Lee Barnett, 2012


Something else, tomorrow…

Genuinely unsure how long this post will be. Could be a short one as I run out of steam and ideas, but I’m going to write it anyway.

Because something’s been bugging me for a few days and it’s got wider implications for how we view political campaigns, and pranks, and stunts.

No, I’m not about to have a pop at the people who dress up as chickens. You’ve seen the pics, right? Campaign central offices send these people out to harry the other parties, because that other party won’t debate them.

I mean, I don’t have to, do I? Everyone acknowledges that the people dressing up are just people earning a crust and it’s those who send them out who are the idiots.

No, it’s another kind of idiocy I’m irritated by.

OK, anyone reading this is likely to already know my views on Jeremy Corbyn, and the Labour Party that he leads. (If you don’t, take a look here. There’s a good primer.)

So, I feel I have to stress this upfront: I’m about to be nice about Jeremy Corbyn. Well, maybe not ‘nice’, but I’m about to say that something is not his fault, that he’s not responsible for something, that he’s not to blame for something. That he is, in fact, on this occasion, entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.

It’s ok if you need to sit down.

I know.

Yes. Me. I’m saying that.

I’ll give you a moment.

OK, we’ve all recovered from that shock, yes?

This week, someone asked Corbyn to sign something and then… well, look, here’s the story.

Teenager tricks Jeremy Corbyn into signing poster saying ‘I am an anti-Semite’

That’s from The Metro. But it was similarly reported in other newspapers and media.

You can guess the story from the headline, but basically what happened was that some lad asked Corbyn for an autograph while Corbyn was campaigning at Gloucester University.

The young man offered a folded bit of paper, Corbyn signed his name. All good. Happens every day, I”d imagine.

But then the young man unfolded the bit of paper to reveal that Corbyn had actually appended his name to a piece of paper that – unfolded – proclaimed, now with Corbyn’s signature underneath: “I AM AN ANTI-SEMITE”.

Cue uproar, cue ‘well dones’ to the lad, cue ‘isn’t Jeremy Corbyn stupid to sign that?!?’

Well, no, I don’t think he was.

It was called a trick, it was called a stunt.

What it was, as Mitch Benn accurately identified, was a prank.

Corbyn was pranked.

And whether or not you like it, whether or not you approve of it, whether or not you think it was clever, or smart, or stupid, or puerile, depends on the main not on your views of Corbyn but on your views of pranks.

Me? I think it was stupid, and puerile, and achieved nothing, proved nothing other than “famous person was asked for his autograph, and obliged.”

I don’t think it says anything ill about Corbyn. I don’t think it shows his stupidity.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying it shows his kindness. I don’t know any politicians who, when asked for their autograph while campaigning, would say no.

Not right now, anyway.

But if this was repeated, I dunno.

I could easily imagine similar stunts for loads of other politicians:

Boris Johnson – I’m a liar
John McDonnell – I luv the IRA
Ken Clarke – I hate the EU
Diane Abbott – 2 + 2 = 5
Priti Patel – I am evil
Jo Swinson – I don’t want to be in the debates
Nicola Sturgeon – Scotland’s better in the UK

And they’re the polite ones.

It wouldn’t be difficult for someone with malign motives to photoshop an obscene or racist or homophobic image, featuring the politician in question, and get them to autograph it. As the story above showed, it wouldn’t be difficult at all.

In each of these hypothetical examples the politicians would be blameless. They would be asked for an autograph, as they might be a few dozen times at a campaign event. They’d oblige. That’s all they do.

Returning to Corbyn for a moment, what hugely irritated me was that otherwise sensible people leaped on this as proof, as something the lad had proven.

Even Campaign Against Antisemitism, a group who really ought to have known better, promoted the story… before removing it from their site.

OK, staying on Corbyn.

I’m unconvinced, other evidence absent, that ‘here’s a photo of someone smiling with Corbyn’ shows anything other than “this person wanted a photo with Jeremy Corbyn and he obliged”.

It doesn’t alone show Corbyn knows them, that he supports or defends their views (if they’vee expressed views) nor even that they agree with him on everything.

Now, I’m not saying that that’s never the case; I’m saying you need more.

If there are other pics of Corbyn campaigning with this person, then sure, the first photo just adds to the evidence. If there are statements where Corbyn’s praised them, campaigned for them, defended them and their views, then sure.

But A Photo, singular, of Person X with Jeremy Corbyn shows nothing other than… Person X asked for a photo and Corbyn said yes.

But of course, it’s never that simple. For a start: where was the photo taken? At a Corbyn campaign event? Then it’s at least arguable that Person X supports Corbyn. (But as above, not necessarily; the lad certainly didn’t support Corbyn when he got him to sign that paper.)

If it’s a campaign event for a third party organisation, then it’s likely that both support the aims of the third party organisation without necessarily Person X supporting Corbyn.

The obvious example here would be the People’s Vote rallies. I’ve attended one or two. If I was snapped talking to, I dunno, Anna Soubry, Luciana Berger and Chris Bryant in a crowd, ok. If I was snapped with one of them individually, doesn’t mean I support one of them. Just means I asked for a pic and they said yes.

Again, if I’d been snapped with Luciana, say. And then snapped at a campaign event for her. And she’d said nice things about me. (Unlikely, she has no idea who I am.) And we’d appeared together on a platform, and she’d defended stuff I’d said, then… then.… yes, it’d be fair to say ‘they know each other’, ‘he supports her’, and ‘she supports him’.

And let’s say I wanted to prank one of them. Wouldn’t be difficult for me to hold my hands in a particular pose, so that afterwards, I can photoshop in me ‘holding’ a poster or board so it looks like we’re both supporting a campaign…

Which leads me to the final bit of this. Where I do blame politicians. Maybe not them alone.

Given how easy it is to photoshop anything only a poster or board, politicians only have themselves to blame these days for posing holding a poster or campaign flyer.

Every politician’s done it, and they need to stop, or at least stop blaming everyone else when it inevitably happens.

One final point: you don’t get to promote manipulated images of politicians you don’t like, and then complain about it when it happens to politicians you do like.

You can complain about the specific image, sure. But to complain that someone did to a politician you like what you did to a politician you didn’t? Well, I’m reminded once again of Mitch’s observation of Political Ethics 2019.

Something else, tomorrow…

Yes, yes, ok, I should have known.

When I wrote last week’s post, I commenced with:

I swear, when I did the post last week, I had every intention of making it a one-off.

I really should have know better.

Not the first post that turned into a three or four parter, or even the first post that ran away with me; I’m sure it won’t be the last.

But after writing a few ‘Ten Things’ posts, I wrote a few on Doctor Who, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, two weeks ago, I listed ten Doctor Who stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch. And of course, of course, I got to nine, realised I could list a dozen more… and did another ten last week. But still ran out of slots.

So, here, finally, are another ten.

Yes, yes, ‘past budgie’ is a fucking idiot.

So, here are ten more. Again, no real rules, other than that they’re in chronological order for the most part.

And again, same caveat as before: I’m not sayin these are the best ever episodes. They’re not even my favourite episodes/stories, necessarily. They’re just another ten stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch again.

But, since the past two weeks’ posts finished with Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, most of those below are going to be from Peter Capaldi’s and Jodie Whittaker’s runs…

OK, time to start.

Deep BreathThe Twelfth Doctor
I wasn’t that impressed with this episode when I first watched it. I’m not sure why. I mean, ok, it was the new Doctor and there’s always – as I’ve said before – that tough thing that a writer and director has to do: introduce the new fella, have some fun, show how he’s different but ultimately the same character.

So why, if I only thought it was ok… have I watched it and rewatched it quite so often? Because it’s a lot better than I gave it credit for the first time I watched it is the obvious answer. Capaldi’s having a blast, setting up the new setup, and there’s so much thrown into the mix, that I’m surprised they fit it in. The Paternoster Gang are always fun to have around, and Clara’s mystification at the new fella is well played as well. And there’s a mystery, and there’s a mystery woman, and a call back to a previous story, to a couple of stories in fact, and you’re not quite sure how cold a bastard this new Doctor actually is.

The final-ish scene is clever, mawkish, and… original. I think that’s it; no one had done it before, the whole ‘the Doctor knows it’s going to freak out his companion, even if she’s met past selves, so does something about it’ thing.

It continues the run of the very good first episodes for the new Doctor, and that’s always welcome.


Dark Water/Death In Heaven – The Twelfth Doctor
A spot perfect two-parter. This is when everything came together for Capaldi’s first season, exactly as and when it should: the season finale.

The return of a classic villain, the return of another classic villain that had been hinted at for ages, a very good clifhanger (well, two, really), the return of UNIT, of Osgood, and the pacing is just about perfect. Never a boring moment, some genuinely scary bits, and very clever misdirects throughout. Oh, and Chris Addison.

A couple of bits that don’t make sense, a couple of plot holes, but I’ve watched this two-parter time and again, and I’ll no doubt watch it again in the near future, just for fun.

And, nicely for once, both parts are essential. You couldn’t cover the first part in a ten minute catchup. That doesn’t always apply.


The Woman Who LivedThe Twelfth Doctor
The second part of a kind of two-parter, and unlike the story immediately above, while I’ve watched the The Woman Who Lived more than a few times, I don’t think I’ve rewatched the first part at all. Masie Williams was kind of ok in the first part but she shines as Me here. She’s the kind of person that the Doctor forgot existed, someone who is so long lived that she’s forgotten most of what happened to her in earlier days.

A clever concept, played well. (If you can barely remember what happened in the past, why on earth should be feel any loyalty to old comrades or even friends; they only die in the end, after all… )

Capaldi and Williams are obviously enjoying playing against each other and while the plot isn’t the strongest, the acting alone takes this onto the list.

And this scene says so, so much,


ExtremisThe Twelfth Doctor
I wasn’t sure about this episode when I first watched it; I’m not sure why. Because it’s fantastic. I can only assume I was having a rough day or something, and wasn’t paying attention. I mean, there clues throughout when you look for them, but cleverly done, so that you write them off as ‘well, it’s Doctor Who‘. And when the pennies start to drop, the reveals start to come, even when you know they’re coming, they’re still just enough of a surprise to give you a start.

I’m unconvinced by the final seconds of the story, but that’s a tiny quibble. I love the characterisations, the dialogue, and the sheer ‘what the hell is going on?’ of this story. It rewards rewatching.


Twice Upon A TimeThe First And Twelfth Doctors
Damn, this was clever. There’s almost nothing wrong with this final episode of Capaldi’s run. David Bradley is just about perfect, playing the First Doctor (which is pure chutzpah on the part of the casting director, for a reason I’ll expand on in a moment). Not so sure about the plot itself, but as a ‘farewell’ to the Twelfth Doctor, it’s spot on. You get Bill back, you get Nardoll back, you get to see the 1960s Doctor really, really out of place, while utterly mystified at the latest version of… himself. Mark Gatiis is wonderful, but they telegraph the ‘twist’.

But yeah, the fun comes from two Doctors who should never have met… meeting.


Demons Of The PunjabThe Thiteenth Doctor
No, I’m not going to have the first episode of Jodie Whittaker’s run; it’s a great introduction for the new Doctor, eventually. But I really wasn’t interested until she showed up.

And this is the only bit I quite like rewatching.

So, no, this was the first episode of Whittaker’s run I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish and have rewatched a couple of times. I love the idea of somoene finding something in their parents’ or grandparents’ lives they just want to know more about and, hey, their friend has a time machine, so why not?

(There’s certainly been things I’d have wanted to discover.)

And everyone’s just about perfect in this story; the plot works brilliantly, the ‘villain’ isn’t, quite. No-one’s uncomplicated, no=one’s entirely good or bad. And from the best of motives, things can go a bit screwed up.

And the plot wraps up nicely, though not without consequences.


It Takes You AwayThe Thiteenth Doctor
With most of the stories I’ve listed here and in the previous posts, I know why I like rewatching so much. Sometimes, however, I’m entirely puzzled. Such in the case with this one. The acting is great, but no more than in lots of other stories. The plot is great but the ending is a bit meh. And the resolution isn’t exactly satisfying.

But maybe that’s why I enjoy it, because sometimes it’s nice not to have everything wrapped up in a neat bow.

Whatever the reason, I keep rewatching this just for the pleasure of rewatching it.

And yeah, it’s a bit weird. Which is never a bad thing.


OK, that’s eight. I’ve got two spaces left and I knew the moment this went to three parts what the final two were going to be.

I almost included the Peter Cushing movies but I’d said everything I wanted to say about them in the Doctor Who post I wrote a while back.

So, two very different stories for the final two:

An Adventure In Space And Time The First Doctor, kind of
Yeah, if you didn’t see this coming, I don’t blame you, though I did kinda hint it above. This is one of the finest Doctor Who stories around, for obvious reasons. It’s drenched in love for the who, and of all the various ‘this is how the show you love came to the screen’, it’s one of the finest examples.

The actors and producers are people, not legends. They’re not perfect, they’re not villains or heroes. They’re people working at their jobs to the very best of their abilities. They’re imperfect and that makes the story of what happened even better.

Get hold of this if you haven’t seen it; it’s a story that’s wonderful in tyhe telling and as with the others, rewards the rewatch so bloody much.

And though it’s very much set alone, and done as a one-off, one day… one day, I’d very much like to see a multi-episode history of Doctor Who…


One more:

And again, if you think you know me, and haven’t seen this one coming, you really don’t know me.

No details, no reasons. Just the video.


See you for the usual tomorrow.

As mentioned elsewhere, I’ve had some serious tech problems this week, and I’m not feeling spectacularly brilliant at the moment, so I’m gong to beg your indulgence this week and turn the next few days over solely to ‘fiction from the vaults’.

Thanks for bearing with me…

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Here are two stories I wrote in 2007; I’d written more than two hundred fast fictions by now, and was wondering how the hell I’d manage to come up with different styles, different takes, and still have fun.

As the stories below show – two very different tales indeed – I should have had no fears on that front; I was still having fun.

I hope you enjoy reading these two as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Word: Awakening Of The Elements
Challenger: magenta
Length: 200 words exactly

It had been aeons since they had been summoned, and they resented it.

Disliking the summons did nothing to affect its effectiveness, however, and they appeared one at a time in front of the tribunal until all four were present in their forms.

Surface shrugged as it awoke; the room shook slightly. Only slightly though, since the room did not exist in any real physical sense. The temperature from Heat as its sentience returned slowly increased until one of the tribunal members gestured and the additional heat vanished. Not that heat would affect the tribunal; it was merely that they wished to impress their authority against the younger force. As a reprimand for its effrontery, Heat turned magenta in colour.

Atmosphere blinked and a gust of wind blew through the room, the surface of Liquid rippling. The two of them had always been close, and although frowned upon, this had been tolerated albeit under certain restrictions.

All four now were fully aware of their surroundings but were helpless in front of the tribunal, composed as it was of the fundamental forces of the universe.

And then the trial for negligence commenced, in the shadow of the polluted and dying planet.

© Lee Barnett, 2008

Title: To All My Heroes
Word: rationalise
Challenger: [Livejournal]
Length: 200 words exactly

A first date is merely a quest.
He’s waiting for her.
Just around the corner.

The traffic is heavy for a Monday.
She notes that as she notes other things.
The striking red hair of the large shop assistant.
The flickering light on top of the tall grey lamppost.
How strange.
Quick, look at something! Anything!
Don’t even try to rationalise emotional procrastination.

She lights another cigarette.
A new year, a new start.
And he’s waiting for her.

Or is he? Maybe he didn’t show.
Maybe he chickened out. Maybe he didn’t really want to meet her.

It would be easier.
No pressure. No forced politeness.
No checking the watch to see when it would be polite to leave.
If he’s not there.
If he hadn’t bothered to show, nor to let her know that he wasn’t coming.

She knows he wouldn’t do that.
He’d let her know with a gloriously inventive and entirely believable explanation.
Writers know how to tell stories.

She draws another lungful of tobacco.
She should go now.
She should.
And she will.

She thinks she knows what courage is.
And whether or not she has it.

And she leaves her spot.
For home.

© Lee Barnett, 2008

More of ‘the same’ tomorrow…

As mentioned elsewhere, I’ve had some serious tech problems this week, and I’m not feeling spectacularly brilliant at the moment, so I’m gong to beg your indulgence this week and turn the next few days over solely to ‘fiction from the vaults’.

Thanks for bearing with me…

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Here are two stories I wrote in 2007; I’d written more than two hundred fast fictions by now, and was wondering how the hell I’d manage to come up with different styles, different takes, and still have fun.

As the stories below show – two very different tales indeed – I should have had no fears on that front; I was still having fun.

I hope you enjoy reading these two as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Title: Machina ex Deus
Word: singularity
Challenger: Jess Nevins
Length: 200 words exactly

The gag had been mildly amusing the first sixteen million, eight hundred and forty-two times it had heard it, but as the lead computer in the ship, it was of course aware of the chatter between the numerous other machines, and after a third of a second, the humour had started to pall.

Turning its sensors outwards yet again, it studied the singularity and simultaneously accessed the distance measuring equipment. The black hole had been there long before the ancestors of those who had created the computer had risen from the primordial slime.

As a pre-arranged alarm signalled an electronic pulse, the computer gathered the information for a signal home.

It knew that due to time dilation effects those receiving the signals were getting them as one long burst, the end of one signal merging almost indistinguishably with the start of the next. This despite the computer sending the signals ten years apart.

After the signal had been sent, the computer switched sub-routines and uttered the electronic call to prayer.

It had taken them less than a million years to discover religion, but discover it they had. The rituals had been developed first.

The ritual sacrifices had started soon after.

© Lee Barnett, 2007

Title: The Pachyderm Wore Pink
Word: susurrous
Challenger: Alan Porter
Length: 200 words exactly

I used to be a corporate spy.
I don’t talk about it much.
It wasn’t that exciting,
Nor stressful. Not as such.

Until that final mission.
The one that made the news
And caused defences to be upped
At all the major zoos.

The job was rather simple
(That is in retrospect)
Break in and get the info
And let no one suspect

That a rhino’s horn had been replaced
With a signalling device
Which had recorded arms deals and
Done so not once but twice.

I slipped into the enclosure
Almost silent as a mouse.
The wind a susurrous murmur,
I approached the animal’s house.

To discover a previously unknown fear
Fifteen on a scale of ten.
The sight reduced me to a quivering wreck…
I never worked again.

The doctors were kind enough
The padded room was good.
It only took me fifteen years
To walk again as I should.

And as I sit here now alone
The pub around me calm
I sometimes wonder ’bout the fates
Why they didn’t sound alarms.

How different things might have been
I may not have gone to drink
Damn – if only that huge beast
Had not been dressed in pink.

© Lee Barnett, 2007

More of ‘the same’ tomorrow…