Posts Tagged ‘Laurie penny’

To read the prologue, what when where, setting up why this took place, etc., click here.
To read about stories 01 to 04, click here.
To read about stories 05 to 08, click here.

So it’s nine o’clock in the evening, both Mitch and I are approaching the end of what would in normal circumstances be ‘an eight hour day’, and of course, we’re over – just over – a third of the way through this madness that are our individual twenty-four hour projects. Mitch has – from what I can gather from hearing him murmur away and playing his guitar – progressed well into the actual production and recording of the music; the vocals would come later. Oh boy, would they come later.

I don’t know about him, but I’ve probably already had too many coffees, but that’s not about to stop me having more, as future stories will probably reveal. I’d have been genuinely unsurprised if one of the stories, upon review, had simply read

coffeecoffeecoffeebringmecoffeecoffeecoffeecoffee
coffeecoffeecoffeeIwantmorecofeecoffeecoffeecoffee
coffeecoffeeIneedcoffeenowIwantcoffeeNoIhaven’thad
toomuchcoffeewhydoyouask?

Apparently not, though.

But yeah, eight stories down, sixteen to go. And for the first time, I’m beginning to wonder how the stories are going over; whether people reading them are enjoying them, whether the people I’m writing them for are enjoying them… I don’t know, I won’t know for hours yet.

But I’m taking a look at Twitter every so often, and the support that Mitch and I are receiving… to describe it as touching would be to understate it. And that’s not even mentioning those who’ve turned up to give us moral suppport… more about which later.

But time is passing, both now and then, so on with the stories.

Story 09
Title: Barry’s Massive Red Shoe
word: stammer
Challenger: Marcus Brigstocke

I’m not absolutely sure how long I’ve been a fan of Marcus Brigstocke. I’m pretty sure I discovered him when I started listening to The Now Show, and knowing that series as well as I do, that must have been about ten years ago. But from the moment I heard his gloriously original style and delivery – well I’d not heard anything quite like it before – I was hooked. I’m not usually a fan of ‘ranty’ comedians, and I guess the reason I like his work so much is because ranting is the very least of what he does. Ranting implies noise for the sake of it, and Marcus never does that – he makes very clever, very funny points with the accuracy of an SAS sniper. And he loves words. It’s a common theme, I’ve found, of people whose work I admire in both literary circles and comedy – the more you love words and language, the more likely it is that I’m going to enjoy your work.

I mentioned the other day, when writing about Emma Kennedy’s challenge, that one of the things that I hope mark out my particular style (if I have one) is that I rarely take a noun as offered and use it in perhaps the way that the challenger might have anticipated.

A massive red shoe? Well, fair enough, not sure I can do much with “massive”; only really one meaning for that. “Red”? Plenty of different uses, but “shoe”? I was pretty sure there’d be a dictionary definition for that word of which I was previously ignorant. And if I was unaware of it, then it’s a pretty good bet that others – perhaps the challenger – would be equally in the dark about it.

And so it proved, There were at least a dozen different definitions of “shoe”, several of which lent themselves to potential stories. But one of them leapt out at me; who knew that a shoe was the thing that held a girder in place on a bridge? I certainly didn’t. Now why would someone have a shoe they or anyone else would consider theirs? It’d be huge – obviously, pretty much by definition. Red? Not a problem.

So who’s Barry? And why would he – or did he – stammer?

I had a sudden mental image of a child, walking over a bridge, touching the ‘shoe’, proclaiming it his, and then the same child, many years later, walking over the same bridge.

You can read why here. (Story posted at 21:49 pm)

Yesterday evening, as in Thursday night, I want along to see a recording of the aforementioned Now Show, and was delighted to be able to meet and chat to Marcus Brigstocke, who was appearing on the show again after some time. It’s always a pleasure to discover that people whose work you admire and enjoy are as nice as you hoped they’d be. It was lovely chatting to him over a drink and to talk to him about the story I wrote for him. Thanks, Marcus – genuinely appreciated.

Story 10
Title: Box of Old SIMcards
word: longing
Challenger: Laurie Penny

I’ve told before on this blog how I met Laurie Penny some years back, at a drinkup arranged by a mutual friend, one Mr W Ellis of the principality of Southend. Although I’ve not always agreed with her writings, in both ‘print’ and person, she never fails to make me think, which is, after all, one of the points of writing for wider dissemination.

I was so very pleased she agreed to be part of this challenge, and hers was one of the few challenges that the moment I saw the title and word, I knew precisely the story I was going to write. If someone else had challenged me with this title, I doubt the story I wrote would have been the same – it just seemed so perfect for Laurie.

So of course, this turned out to be one of the toughest stories to get just right.

I must have completely changed one of the middle paragraphs a dozen times or more; trying to get the mixture of suspense, pathos and just plain weirdness just at the correct level.

I think I managed it at the end, but it’s always just so tempting to tweak it one more time…

But it all starts with questions: why would there be a box full of them? Why would anyone keep them? What would be on them, and who would want to go through them? Well, maybe no-one would want to – so why would someone be forced to, and by whom?

You can find out the answers here. (Story posted at 22:56 pm)

And suddenly it’s eleven o’clock, and we’re heading for midnight. And beyond midnight, there’s half-past midnight, and we’ll be half way through and… shut up Budgie – stop panicking.. write, dammit, write…

Story 11
Title: From Beyond The Indigo
word: breathless
Challenger: Sarah Pinborough

I’ve only met Sarah Pinborough the one time, but have talked to her on Twitter occasionally, read her writings, watched a screenplay she wrote, and on every occasion thought “this is a very, very smart person.” I’ve no idea why the following story was written in the format in which it’s presented. It didn’t start out that way, you know. It started in the third person. But the story just didn’t work like that. Haven’t got a clue why not, but it happens sometimes.

Now, usually, if an idea doesn’t work, it’s the idea that gets junked. But I really liked the take on the title I’d come up with, so I tried it in various formats: first person (better but not quite), rhyming (no, no, no – definitely didn’t work), I even played for ten minutes with… no, best not admit that.

Genuinely don’t have a clue what made me try writing it as an organisation’s internal memorandum, but the moment I did, it fell into place. “It”, of course, being a very silly tale, about a warning not to think you know more than you do.

You can read the story here. (Story posted at 23:54 pm)

And just like that, we were at midnight. I rewarded myself with a stretch of my legs; Phil had gone off to the station some time earlier; he’d be back tomorrow, and Gavin Taylor had turned up to give us some support over the night, as had some folks I only know from their Twitter handles, sorry… On the whole i was happy – things were going well-ish. I was still behind, but maintaining the level of ‘behind-ness’. If I could write the next one in 45 minutes, I’d have caught up a bit…

Story 12
Title: Charity Broke My Heart
word: possum
Challenger: Richard Curtis

You know what happened last time I thought that – I can catch up on the next story? Yeah…

Richard Curtis created Comic Relief. Just think on that for a moment – he bloody created Comic Relief. And when I cheekily asked them if Richard would care to make a challenge for this event, I genuinely expected a “sorry, but he’s absolutely snowed under, and couldn’t possibly pick one red nose day event over another to lend his support to.”

Instead the man not only gave me a cracking challenge, but was my first sponsor, chucking in £240 of his own cash. The man deserves a round of applause just for that. That, and my sincere thanks.

OK, as a friend of mine is wont to say, enough schmalz.

“A cracking challenge”? That’s one way of putting it. Another is that it took me five separate attempts to write a story for this challenge. Each previous story got about 150 words through the tale and then… and then… just petered out. There was nothing there… there.

By the time of effort number six, I was pacing around the room, muttering story ideas, and almost dictating them aloud just to see if the idea had anything. Ideas were flying in and out of what by that time I laughingly called my mind. (Strangely enough, one of the discarded tales came to light later on that day for another challenge.)

And then, literally, just like that, after an hour of wanting to tear my hair out… I had it. Just had it – the right story drove up, reverse parked, flashed its lights and said “OK, I’m here, what are you waiting for?”

I remember sitting down and typing solidly for about ten minutes. And then editing for another five. And that was it. It worked.

At least I hope it did. (Story posted at 01:22 am)

Yeah, you can do the maths; that story took me almost an hour and a half to write… I should have been about to post story 13, and I’d just finished story 12. I’d now written twelve stories in thirteen hours. And I had to write the next twelve stories in eleven hours. I was not pleased. At all. I was now almost an hour behind, furious at myself again, and wanting to write angrily. Fortunately, the next story gave me more than ample opportunity to do so.

But you’re going to have to wait a few days for that. It’s Good Friday, and I’m going to take off Easter from blogging about the stories. See you on Tuesday…

To read about stories 13 to 16, click here.

Title: Box Of Old SIMcards
Word: longing
Challenger: Laurie Penny
Length: 200 words exactly

The memories were the worst.

Once a day, she travelled to a vault. She was shown into the vault, and the door was sealed behind her, leaving her alone to stare at the sole items of furniture: a wooden table and a plastic chair, the latter deliberately uncomfortable.

Then there was the box. One box, out of hundreds, chosen at random, or so she’d been told. Like so much, she’d come to doubt the truth of that, but who was she to judge truth or falsity any more? She sat at the table, opened the box and found the old fashioned mobile telephone resting upon so many chips of plastic. She would not be allowed to leave until she’d inserted 50 SIMcards into the telephone and read every text, seen every contact, checked every item.

The new bomb had been the ultimate deterrent: instant destruction of biological tissue, no damage to non-biological materials. A deterrent: never to be used.

And she’d ordered its deployment.

And now she paid for that action. Every day. Longing to be forced to remember, she was scared she’d forget and use it again.

The memories were the worst.

But then they were supposed to be.

© Lee Barnett, 2013


This is the tenth story in The Twenty-Four Hour Fast Fiction Challenge. There will be fourteen others… Sponsor me to complete them!

I can’t remember when I first became aware of Laurie Penny as a writer – certainly it was some time before I met her in person and discovered that she’s as bright, intelligent, funny and passionate about her beliefs in person as in her writing for the New Statesman and The Guardian among others.

In all honesty, I should say that when we did meet, at a drink up with several other people, organised by mutual friends, it wasn’t an entirely delightful experience: after telling me that accountants in companies only cared about exploiting the staff, she was less than amused when I told her my job. An awkward few minutes followed, after which we chatted about something less… volatile.

I don’t always agree with her writings – let’s be fair, we were unlikely to agree if only because we hold vastly different political views – and there are times I think she’s naïve, to be blunt, and over romanticises “the struggle”. But as a general rule, I like how she writes, and she makes me think, something I can’t say about that many columnists. Her columns almost always make me revisit my own views and sometimes, rarely, she changes my mind on an issue.

I mentioned a week or so ago

Now I know that there are numbered rules of the Internet, but I’ve come to think there are only two that really matter: (1) Wil Wheaton’s “Don’t be a dick.” and (2) “Never read the comments.”

A look at the comments (or indeed twitter responses) after many of Laurie’s pieces will demonstrate the wisdom of rule (2) above. Rather than attacking her arguments (a valid form of discourse, I think you’d agree), so many of the comments tend to attack her personally, revelling in the insults, to the point where I begin to wonder whether ad hominem comments have become these writers’ first option rather than a last resort.

A piece she wrote in 2010, and reposted online this week, serves to illustrate the point. Laurie wrote about why she doesn’t wear a poppy. She didn’t say in the piece, but did say online later, that she donates to The British Legion, but I think that’s irrelevant.

Going back to my own writings for a moment, I also wrote that I loathe online emotional guilt-tripping, and the belief held by many that if you don’t positively protest against something, that inherently means you actively support it. I don’t think it’s too far a step to extend that to say that you can support something without explicitly saying so. Of course, if you don’t explicitly state that, you can’t expect people to guess that you support it. However, neither should anyone – as some with no justification often do – assume that you are opposed to “it”, whatever “it” happens to be.

In the case of Laurie’s article, I don’t for one moment believe that she has no respect for those who fought on behalf of this country; she just doesn’t believe that wearing a poppy is necessary, and indeed she believes (or so I infer) that it’s become a political necessity to wear one, and the hypocrisy of government ministers wearing poppies whilst continuing to treat the armed forces and those who serve with little or no respect demeans the respect held by others, and is sickening. And she does not wish to add to that.

Fair enough, that’s her view. As I said, I don’t always agree with her.

As it happens, I don’t wear a poppy either; however, unlike her, I’m not about to state whether or not I donate to The British Legion. That’s my choice, and I choose to keep my charitable donations to myself. I’m sorry, but you have no automatic right to know. However, I don’t feel it necessary to wear a poppy to respect those who served. Again, that’s my choice, and while I wouldn’t be trite and say “they fought so I could have the choice”, I still believe that I have every right to hold that opinion, and you have every right to criticise that opinion; however, you do not get to criticise me personally. Not and still maintain any self-respect. You don’t get to state that you wish nazis had bayoneted me, and you’d want to watch it. You don’t any justifiable defence when you write that I’m a hitlerite, or suggest that my face and my arse are interchangeable, or to describe me personally using short hand descriptions of the female genitalia.

But you know what? All of those were said about, and to, Laurie.

I wish I could believe that had the column been written by a male columnist, those who attacked her personally would have written the same responses, but you know what? I don’t believe it. Not for a moment. Oh, sure, the article would have been attacked, and possibly some people would have attacked the writer, but I don’t believe that the same level of vileness, of sheer unfettered nastiness would have been the result.

I don’t always agree with Laurie, but far more often then not, she makes me seriously think. And no one who steps forward with their opinions should be attacked personally. Attack the opinions, certainly, but not the person.

And even if there were no other reasons, for those reasons alone, Laurie Penny is worth supporting.