Posts Tagged ‘fast fiction’

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…

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:
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.
Thinking.
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.
Maybe.

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…

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 2006, still having fun with the different formats, still enormously enjoying defying the expectations of the challengers.

I invite you to njoy them as much as I enjoyed writing these two.


Title: Computers Do Bite
Word: random
Challenger: [Livejournal]
Length: 200 words exactly

“I’m not a robot, you know.”

My client looked ostensibly human, but there was a sheen to its skin than was off-putting.

“I don’t suppose it makes much difference to him….”, I said, referring to the alleged victim.

“Oh, but it does,” insisted the machine, “I’m an android. That’s why you’re allowed to be my lawyer.”

I nodded slowly, in understanding. Robots were deemed to be objects under the law, and immune to prosecution for criminal acts; but they were also able to be destroyed by their owners with no more consequences than disposing of a calculator. Androids, on the other hand, were in a constantly shifting legal limbo, but crucially protected from what the court described as “needless and random harm”.

There was a faint whine of servos moving followed by the clink of chains. The handcuffs were silver, the wrists they surrounded only slightly less so.

“We weren’t doing wrong,” it insisted. It knew the law against prostitution didn’t apply to machines. And as I thought of the victim who’d been taken to hospital, his hands clasped over his groin, I looked at the machine with silver teeth, still tinged with unwashed red, that gleamed in the light.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


Title: And Then She Left
Word: consistency
Challenger: [Livejournal]
Length: 200 words exactly

They looked so good together, that was the thing.

If I’d had to lose her to someone who I didn’t like, or who I thought would treat her badly, that’d be one thing. I knew that in the dark hours of the night, I would then rail against the curve balls that life throws at you. But not here, not now. Looking at them, I knew he wanted her with a joyous passion I could barely remember having.

There was, I supposed in the final analysis, a certain consistency in the manner of her departure from my life, since I’d taken her from someone who had once loved her equally as passionately as I then did.

I’d already said my farewells, and watching them leave together would be too painful.

I walked into ‘our’ room, the one in which we’d spent so many hours together. It seemed empty, far too big for just me, and it was only then that I knew that I would never replace her in that part of my heart that still, secretly, loved her deeply.

I heard them drive away, then I turned to my wife and said, “I’m really going to miss that car…”

© Lee Barnett, 2006


 
 
More of ‘the same’ tomorrow…

As mentioned elsewhere, I’ve had some serious tech problems, 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 of the odder stories I wrote, very early on in the project, both from late 2005. I was still figuring out how far I could push each genre, and just generally having a blast writing them. I think it shows.


Title: Just Another Symbolist, Detective
Word: portfolio
Challenger: Chris Siddall
Length: 200 words exactly

I looked around the murder room with new eyes, trying to spot what seemed out of place.

When I’d first come into the room, what had hit me immediately was the uniformity of colour. The choices had obviously been deliberately picked, all specific shades of red, the blood of the victim perfectly complementing the various daubs of scarlet, crimson, vermilion and burgundy.

The strange dripping symbols on the wall, smears of dark ruby against the faint cream background of the wallpaper, also told much to the onlooker, as long as he knew what he was looking at.

I opened the portfolio and checked again. Yes, they were all as expected, and matched the symbols found at other recent murders. On the opposite wall, however, those symbols matched not the recent killings but one committed over a decade ago, a murder that had never previously been associated with the three local deaths.

I examined the pentangle, carved into the victim with a knife left at the scene of the crime.

That was what seemed out of place. I knew I’d missed something!

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the knife. I placed it carefully by his side, and left.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: Vary Gates
Word: vaginate
Challenger: [Livejournal]
Length: 200 words exactly

The hero looked at his leather folder. He unfastened it and took out the vaginate paper: The Sheet, an heirloom that contained The Riddle of The Quest. The Sheet had been handed down from father to son over many, many generations, each succeeding scion of The Realm attempting to prove his inherent worth to others by solving the puzzle.

He had fought his way past the Montoom of Mallaby, had conquered the Dranagie of The Depths and had not once questioned the coincidence of alliteration that tended to accompany such quests.

He had slowly and carefully walked down the well trodden path surrounded by large trees and had found himself in an area of beauty marred only by three doors, gates really, each one decorated: the first seemed to be covered in tools, another beautified by every known type of jewellery, and the third had drawn upon it jars of every shape and size.

The hero read from The Sheet: “When is a door not a door?

After a while, when the tears had stopped, like his father before him, and his father before him, he returned home, defeated.

The hero’s family were, it had to be admitted, exceedingly stupid.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 
 
More of ‘the same’ tomorrow…

Hip deep in serious tech problems today; literally haven’t got time to write anything new.

So, here’s a ‘fiction from the vaults’ to tide you over…. an odd, but fun, fast fiction.

Sorry…


Once upon a time, Craig McGill sent me an email. He’s a nice guy, Craig; a friend. Or so I thought before I got the email.

The email read as follows:

From: Craig McGill
To: Lee Barnett
Subject: fast fiction challenge

Can you get a fast fiction out of the top 10 words of 2009:

[This came from a published list]: ‘Twitter was followed by Obama, H1N1, stimulus, and vampire. The near-ubiquitous suffix, 2.0, was sixth, with deficit, Hadron, healthcare, and transparency also in the top 10.’

See what I mean about liking him previously?

So, did I do it?

Naah.

I wrote one with the top fifteen words:

Title: Logophilia
Words: Twitter, Obama, H1N1, Stimulus, Vampire, 2.0, Deficit, Hadron, Healthcare, Transparency, Outrage, Bonus, Unemployed, Foreclosure, Cartel
Challenger: Craig McGill
Length: 200 words exactly

He swiped his security card, heard a sound much like his twitter client, and watched the code flash up briefly: H1N1, a joke that had long ago ceased to be amusing, a deficit of humour that permeated his life these days.

Walking along the corridor, his anger grew, an outrage fuelled by unemployed facilities lying idle. Knowing that this should be a working organisation, a stimulus to growth, the transparency of emptiness hurt more than he’d expected. The foreclosure had killed this place; it would soon vanish like a hadron in CERN.

There was nothing more he could do; he knew better than most the sort of vampire it took to suck life from a business.

He stopped at the door to an office on his left, seeing a woman seated in front of a computer, staring at a document: the woman’s termination notice, listing among other things when her healthcare would cease.

Economy 2.0, they called it; a modern nomenclature for destruction. Obama could complain, but this was the American way: success… at someone’s else’s cost.

And he, who had done the deed for the cartel, hated himself just a little more as he looked forward to his bonus.

© Lee Barnett, 2009
 
 
Back to the usual ‘something else tomorrow’, hopefully… tomorrow.

Yes, I’m keeping with the fast fictions on a Tuesdays for a bit, but something a bit different for the next couple (or longer) weeks.

When the estimable Si Spurrier took over Whitechapel (a now sadly long gone message board) from Warren Ellis, he and I came up with what we thought was a neat idea: The Art Of Fast Fiction

As you saw three weeks ago, occasionally, someone – the wonderful Bevis Musson on that occasion – would want to turn the fast fictions into a comics page. Now, most of them – to put it mildly – weren’t written to be turned into comics.

However, I was aware that some of them could be. And I was always happy to give my permission for them to do so, to use something I wrote to do so.

But this was different; I wrote these stories deliberately to provoke artwork.

So, as I said last week “for the next couple of weeks, I’ll put a story up, together with the art that resulted. For the first two, the art will be by the inimitable Ollie Redding, whose creations saw print in the Thought Bubble anthology programme.”

If I can find the artwork for the other stories, I’ll put them up as well; if not, well, you’ll get the story, and you’ll have to imagine the art.

Oh, the idea was that I’d choose the ‘winning’ art, and that person got to issue the challenge for the following week’s story. Which I’d write, and then we’d ask for submissions, and start the whole process over again. We started with the second story in this post, and moved on from there.

The challenge, of course, was the same as usual, with the same rules:

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.

You saw one story, and the art from Ollie that resulted, last week.

Here’s the second,


Title: Rain Falling Like Hammers
Word: waiting
Length: 200 words exactly

It was raining the day he left.

I remember it quite clearly, the certainty of finality. It was done. I didn’t care any more. Nor did he, and we both knew it.

And the Rain fell; I suppose it should have mattered, but it didn’t. Not at that precise moment. Not any more.

He stumbled at the door, and looked back, a world of thoughts in those hazel brown eyes. He didn’t say anything; we’d had too many conversations already where we’d talked a lot and said fuck all.

And there wasn’t much to say anyway, I suppose. My world was ending and I didn’t care enough to stop him leaving.

I turned my head away, waiting a few minutes, and when I looked back, there was only the Rain.

I waited, then looked out at the ruins of the city, half covered with debris, the other half submerged under the waters that had arrived with inevitable force.

I looked up to where the Moon had once been, then down to where car sized fractions of it still hit the city daily.

He left when he knew there was no hope of survival. I stayed because I knew the same.

© Lee Barnett, 2012
 
 

 

Something else tomorrow…