Posts Tagged ‘Robin Ince’

There aren’t many blogs I read on a ‘whenever they’re posted’ basis. Most of my reading is ad hoc; I see a link on Twitter or on my feedlist of choice, I click on it, read it and am amused, shocked, horrified or – sometimes – bored. Those last tend to be the rarest not because I’m particuarly discerning in my reading, but because recommendations from people I respect tend not to bore me.

That’s not a guarantee, of course, but it’s uncommon at the very least. 

But there are two blogs I read regularly, definitely on an ‘as posted’ basis. Both are written by very intelligent people with whom I disagree about any number of things, but their writings – esecially when they’re blogging – never cease to interest me.

One’s a long-standing friend, so long-standing in fact that our friendship predates the birth of our respective children, both of whom are now in their twenty-first year of life. (Oh gods, they’re 20, boss…) His name is Warren Ellis and his daily, or near as dammit, brain dump is called Morning, Computer. It was the inspiration for going cheep but as you’d expect, it’s far more sensible, far better written and far, far stranger.  (Oh, and Warren has a weekly newsletter which is unique among such things in that I actively look forward to it arriving. Warren will no doubt take this as proof that I am doomed. You can subscribe to Orbital Operations here.)

The other is someone whose brain and intelligent comedy I’ve long admired. I’ve only met him a couple of times and briefly then which is a pity, since he’s one of those people I suspect I’d get more intelligent by osmosis just by hanging around him. His blog entries are as much stream of consciousness as anything else; they’re whatever he was thinking about right at that time, often written in a hurry when he’s on the way home from a standup gig, or in a dressing room. He’s Robin Ince and he blogs here. People on Twitter are, I suspect, fed up of me pointing them towards his blogs with an accompanying though entirely redundant “this is very good, by Robin Ince”.

Both of these gentlemen share one further shame; they’ve both partaken in The Fast Fiction Challenge, Warren several times (he never learns), and Robin was kind enough to give me a challenge when I wrote 24 short stories in 24 hours for Conic Relief in 2013


I might as well say here and now that yes, it’s probable, but not definite, that Twelve Days of Fast Fiction will happen this year. I’m still mulling it over but at the moment, there seem more reasons to do it than not. And people are starting to ask about them. So that’s nice. 

To read the prologue, what when where, setting up why this took place, etc., click here.
To read about the stories, click on the links 01 to 04 05 to 08 09 to 12 13 to 16 17 to 20

Pride goeth before a fall, they say. It’s not true. Pride goeth before a wall.

The Wall.

You know? “The Wall”, the thing that marathon runners talk about. Well, not really talk about. They grimace while confirming its existence, and how – although they got through it – the memory of it hurts still, maybe years later. Now, I’m not a runner. Even before I buggered up my foot, I was never a runner. Seemed far too much hard work for me – I’d rather have walked it and arrived a bit later.

And this event was not the first time I’ve stayed up through the night working on something. Far from it. But this was the first time I’d done it publicly, having to exercise that bit of my brain labelled ‘come up with another story… NOW’.

And I hit the wall. Obviously, unlike with running, there was no physical effects; my legs didn’t figuratively turn to jelly. No, my thought processes did.

Now, remember, when we left me yesterday, I’d just completed story 20, for David Arnold, and I was feeling pretty good – I was actually ahead of schedule by about an hour. And it was half past seven.

Story 21
Title: A Forgotten Spider Remembers
word: monkish
Challenger: Robin Ince

I remember wondering at one point whether I could get away with two hundred words of “All Work And No Play” and try and pass it off as a meta-fiction parody.

I also recall considering whether it would be possible in the next few hours to invent a time machine: whether to blackmail Robin Ince into giving me a different title, or persuade ME not to undertake this DAMN FOOL thing in the bloody first place was still up for grabs.

By half-past eight in the morning, an hour after starting this story, I was ready to maim anyone in the room who, seeing that I was having problems, came over to try and “help”. I didn’t want help – I wanted to quit.

A forgotten spider? Who the fuck forgets a spider? And then they remember. No, it’s the spider who remembers. Remembers monks. No, something monkish. I’m struck my a sudden memory of a favourite ’round’ from I’m Sorry I haven’t A Clue, The Uxbridge English Dictionary, and a particular definition:

slippery, adjective. A bit like slipper.

Don’t know why that struck me. Yes, I do – it’s because of monkish. What the hell can be described as “monkish”?

Oh, I know. I stand up, start pacing. Carry on pacing long after that idea has been discarded as unworkable, another idea has taken its place, been similarly discarded, and so on.

Then I stop, stride to the keyboard, start typing. This is it, this is the story, this is the…

FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK

This ISN’T the story – this isn’t the one. The story doesn’t fucking work.

Back to pacing.

At some point, I descend into genuine loathing for Robin Ince.

Robin Ince doesn’t deserve loathing. He’s a smart, clever, brilliant comedian who doesn’t suffer fools at all, let alone gladly. His radio programme (The Infinite Monkey Cage, with Prof Brian Cox) is essential listening, and if you’ve ever seen him live on stage, you’ll know how privileged you are to have seen one of Britain’s smartest premier comedians.

But at quarter to nine on a Saturday morning, after twenty hours of writing and one of not writing anything of use whatsoever, my dislike for the man was reaching apocalyptic levels. I started wondering if I could express that dislike in a story, maybe an acrostic based tale, the first letter of every sentence spelling out…

I think it was at that point that both Clara and Phil started taking the piss out of me, trying to get me out of the funk I was descending into. I kind of remember threatening to throw various things at them: the bright orange marker pen I was using for the whiteboard. The whiteboard. A laptop computer. Possibly a table.

And then it came to me. At ten past bloody nine. A hundred minutes after the previous story, a neat little tale that answered the challenge, and had enough creepiness in there to match my mood.

Twenty minutes.

That’s how long the story actually took to write, edit and post up.

Twenty minutes. After a hundred that were, quite frankly, horrible. Twenty minutes to write a story.

You can read it here. (Story posted at 09:35 am)

I needed a break. Badly. But I knew if I took one, it would be even harder than before to write the next story. I think I said something like “OK, if I can write the next one in under an hour, I’ll see about a break”. Truth was, of course, I was scared shitless I’d hit another wall.

Story 22
Title: Dancing Upside Down
word: flannel
Challenger: Jenny Colgan

OK, remember my oft stated preference for ‘never writing the obvious’; well, sometimes the challengers make it easy for me. The title and word are so obvious, that any potential story ideas along that obvious path evaporate leaving room for other idea to take their place.

And, thank you Jenny Colgan, very intelligent and lovely writer that you are, for making this an easy one.

Flannel made me think of water. “Dancing upside down”? If there’s been a better description of synchronised swimming, I’ve yet to hear it. (“Drowning to music” doesn’t count.)

So no synchronised swimming for me, or for the story. Was tempted to make it about a ballroom dancing team in Australia, but the idea was too similar to a tale I’d written before, long ago. Where else?

The following is true, I promise. I tipped my head back, to stretch my neck and ended up looking straight at the ceiling. And imagining ‘out there’, past the ceiling, past the atmosphere, out there.

And imagining how people dance in zero gravity. And whether thirteen year old Jewish boys still have to practice for their first barmitzvah dance with their mother…

Start to finish, the story was written, edited and posted in a little over half an hour.

And you can read it here. (Story posted at 10:11 am)

When I checked the time that story was posted, for the first time in almost three hours, I relaxed. Genuinely relaxed. I had two hours 19 minutes left, and two stories left to write. And the last of them I’d pretty much known what I was going to write the moment I saw the story word, let along the title. But first I had to write the penultimate tale.

Story 23
Title: I’m Going Offline
word: narcissism
Challenger: Robert Llewellyn

As I’ve mentioned before, Mitch Benn collated these titles and words for me prior to the challenge commencing, and I only saw them after the clock had ticked 12:30 pm, some 22 hours ago.

However, the previous night, Clara and Mitch were looking at the titles, laughing away. And although Caitlin Moran’s title “These Aren’t My Breasts!” was without doubt their favourite title, Robert Llewellyn’s was the one that had them going “whoa…”

I don’t know Robert Llewellyn. To describe him as an actor is to underplay his skillset. He’s a great presenter, clever interviewee, but it’s fair to say that most people who know do do because of his portrayal of the character of Kryten in Red Dwarf. But what got both Mitch and Clara was how he knew to use that title, something that I’m known (among friends, anyway) for doing, and saying, on a not exactly seldom basis. Sometimes, I need to get away from online life, and I’ll go offline for a few days or a few weeks. I’ll usually let folks know.

But yes, I go offline for a bit.

Hopefully, though, never for the same reasons as the subject of this tale…

You can find out here. (Story posted at 11:14 am)

And, suddenly (suddenly? ha!) I was there. One story away.

I remember saying as much to the room, hearing a round of applause start, then shushing them, saying ‘not yet, not yet’. Mitch had, at some point in the past hour, finished the album and was listening to the tracks, tweaking here and there, improving the sound here, quietening another bit there.

And then out of the blue, he announces that he’s just going to do one more quick song because he’s thought of a lovely lyric for it… and sings it there and then. He’s done vocal recordings through the night, and played songs on occasion. You know what? I can barely remember them… they kind of fade a bit into the whole thing. I remember walking over to his cam every hour or so, with the next challenger’s name written upon it.

Slightly different feel as I walked over to him this time and brandished the whiteboard to him and the webcam. This time it had Mitch’s name on it.

On the front at least. On the back, it had something rather different. As I recall, it went something like

hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

erm, anyway…

Story 24
Title: Option B Remains Open
word: declamatory
Challenger: Mitch Benn

Mitch Benn is one of my closest friends; no news there. Another friend, however, was recently surprised to learn that we’ve only known each other for under three years, despite having mutual friends who we’ve each known for far longer.

It’s true – I met Mitch for the first time, as I did Clara and their daughters, on the ‘set’ (if one could call it that) of a thing entitled ‘I’M PROUD OF THE BBC‘. You can click that link and see a second and a half of me and much more (in every sense) of Mitch. Roughly 160% of him, I believe, since the video was shot before he undertook his weight loss programme and lost over ten stone (151 lbs, was, I believe, the final number).

Now, me and Mitch share many enjoyments together, including, obviously, spending 24 hours raising money for charity exposing our creative endeavours to the world, and somehow not falling apart while doing so. Lots we disagree about, by the way – just ask us about Game of Thrones sometime…

However, it wasn’t until just before this twenty four hour madness that I discovered, with delight, that Mitch is an I, CLAVDIVS fan. I could have guessed though – who but a fan of the series would use the word declamatory? To me?

Heh. I pretty much knew this story before I wrote it. I knew what would happen, how it would happen, and who would be be involved. It was a genuine pleasure to write.

I hope you like it. (Story posted at…)

Now, take a look above. You’ll see I haven’t put when that final story was posted. Not yet. A bit of explanation.

Mitch, as I said, had finished his album an hour or so earlier, and was just about to upload it, for that had been his challenge: to write, create, record and upload the album. Mine was merely to write the stories; I’d always planned to upload the ebook later, after the challenge had been concluded.

I finished Mitch’s story, announced it to the room, to huge cheers, and got ready to post it… at about 12:11 pm, 20 minutes early.

And then I paused. Sod it, I had twenty minutes or so. I was going to take fifteen minutes just to relax, to take chill out, to enjoy not having to write another bloody word today.

I’d done it.

Twenty-four stories. – I’d written twenty-four original stories, of exactly 200 words, each, the titles and words for which I hadn’t had a bloody clue a day earlier.

In twenty-four hours – Sure some stories had taken well under an hour, three of them had taken substantially longer. But yeah, all twenty-four stories had been written in under twenty-four hours.

Far, far too many coffees… – I think there was probably some blood left in my caffeine stream, but I wouldn’t have bet money on it.

At 12:25, I hit “post”, and the final story uploaded to the blog.

There’s just one more blog entry to write… and you’ll get that tomorrow.

Title: A Forgotten Spider Remembers
Word: monkish
Challenger: Robin Ince
Length: 200 words exactly

By the time the intern had been fired for incompetence, seventeen experiments had been ruined, a further six had been compromised and then, of course, there was the spider that no-one knew existed.

Discovered two years later in a clear plastic network of tubular connecting tunnels, it appeared that the intern had on this occasion excelled in his uniquely egregious patterns of what, for want of a better word, they called “work”; no paperwork had ever been filed, nor grant applications made, nor any records kept.

Discussion with the intern’s colleagues revealed no further information; indeed, it appeared that where this spider was concerned, the intern had been almost monkish in his apparent vow of silence. It was with further astonishment that they realised the arachnid had survived solely upon the flies and small insects trapped in the filters built into the tunnels.

The spider dimly recalled training the large creature before it had left; afterwards it had to fend for itself. This was less than ideal, and it newly remembered hunger, and not being hungry. It preferred the latter. It now saw the curiosity on the faces of the giants and was satisfied. They would be easy to train…

© Lee Barnett, 2013


This is the twenty-first story in The Twenty-Four Hour Fast Fiction Challenge. There will be three more stories… Sponsor me to complete them!