Posts Tagged ‘Tony Lee’

For various reasons, nothing new from me today; partly because I’ve been snowed under with other stuff, partly because I’m really not in the mood today, and partly because the low level headache I had throughout yeserday hasn’t completely gone, while my fucked-up-foot is still a bit ouch-y.

But since my friend Tony Lee is on my mind a bit — we met up for a delightful drink and catchup recently, for the first time in years — and he strongly suggested a potential new writing project for me, you can blame him for everything that follows.

Because Tony gave me what is possibly the hardest and trickiest and perhaps sneakiest fast fiction challenge I ever faced.

Harder even than when someone challenged me to use the top ten ‘words of the year’ in a single fast fiction story.

Because, in November 2005, I was due to answer the 100th fast fiction challenge that had been issued. The 100th story I was writing in this entirely daft, short lived (I thought!) project.

And Tony wanted to a) be the challenger for that story, and b) make it something… special, since it was, y’know, the 100th.

So he duly came up with somegthing… special.

Tony Lee, friend, writer, fella who knows how what I laughingly call my ‘mind’ works… knew how to make me stretch for the bloody thing, how to make me write a story that deserved being the one hundreth.

So the challenge: not only to use the word “sonnet” in the fast fiction, but also to write it in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet

Now, to be fair, there’s no way 200 words in a single 14 line sonnet is gonna happen. But 28 lines, split into two lots of 14 lines, in full iambic pentameter, with the proper rhyming format? That should be doable.

It took me a couple of hours to write and my brain was melting by the end of it, but here’s what resulted:
Title: Shakespeare On Summer’s Morn
Word: sonnet
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

They came to town that early August morn,
Ten strolling players come to ply their trade.
To Stratford Common, set up on the lawn,
But only once of course they’d all been paid.
So Master Oliphant, he thus arrived.
Pomposity itself, prepared to speak.
The critics hated him but he’d survived,
(He was perforce the local Shakespeare geek.)
The worst of actors any could recall,
He planned to show them all that very day
Bringing the Bard again to one and all
A playwright born so many years away.
And Oliphant took to the stage once more
As he declaimed “So shaken as we are…”

The opening to Henry Fourth Part One
Commencing with those very words that way.
Through his performance Oliphant did stun
Much nicer than the truth: he stank that day.
But nonetheless, there was no doubt at all
The audience, they left the Common fast.
Such an abysmal, laughable portray’l
Unanimous verdict: “Please be the last!”
So Oliphant slunk off to sulk alone
Performances of others carried on
Without poor Oliphant, they did atone
And slowly did the audience return.
Soon someone told Oli where he’d gone wrong:
“Stick to a bloody sonnet from now on!”

© Lee Barnett, 2005

Note to all: Tony Lee is a so and so.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.


Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction was written between 13th December and 24th December 2012, and even as the stories were being written, I was being asked whether or not the stories would be available as an ebook.

So, here it is, in two formats, both in ePub and Kindle (.mobi) versions, both free for download. [Click on the appropriate link.]

(If you’ve accessed the page via a Twitter client, the links work better from an external browser…)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t extend my huge thanks to all the friends and creators who challenged me to write stories for them, so an incredibly large truckload of gratitude to Neil Gaiman, Wil Wheaton, Jason Arnopp, Greg Rucka, Amanda Palmer, Warren Ellis, Mitch Benn, Tony Lee, Kieron Gillen, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jamie McKelvie – you’re all wonderful people.

And to those who’ve read them on the blog and those who download the ebook – I really enjoyed writing these stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them.

I’d like to extend the readership as far as possible, and I’d be grateful if you could spread the word.

There’s absolutely no obligation to do anything more, but if you think the ebook and stories are worth more than a tweet, feel free to donate a small amount via Paypal, using the donate button below.

Make a Donation

Tony Lee has written comics, screenplays, novels and short stories.

Although we only met about a decade ago, we both wrote for the BBC Radio show Weekending many years before that. The show is no longer broadcast. There is no causation there. No provable one, anyway.

Tony has the world’s largest collection of invisible objects.

Title: Away In A Manger
Word: stem-cell
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

For some, it was an annual pilgrimage. For others, it was their first time, curiosity prodded by media reports. Whatever the reasons, just before the year ended, the queues ran around the museum, all there to see one exhibit.

The Manger.

People had been trying for tens of thousands of years to recreate the authentic Scene at the Nativity; it eventually fell to scientists working in entirely separate fields (ethology, radiology, and the ancient almost trivial field of stem-cell research) to combine with a consequence entirely unforeseen: time viewing. You could now reach back, if only briefly, and actually witness events from the past.

It took only three weeks for the museum to licence the horrendously expensive equipment and then to recreate the scene they desired.

The museum’s owners were justly proud of the veracity of their nativity, witnessed so many millennia ago.

Their manger was real wood; the animals, though genetically engineered to be visitor friendly, appeared genuine.

Their actual baby Jesus was the highlight, however; that’s what everybody came to see.

And indeed, people cried when they saw it.

Real plastic, identical to the 1978 scene the viewers had witnessed.

It even said “mama” on schedule as well.

© Lee Barnett, 2012

This story is part of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction (More information on the Twelve Days here)
Day 01: Why Can’t Reindeer Fly? – challenger: Neil Gaiman
Day 02: Around and Around Again – challenger: Wil Wheaton
Day 03: Hell Comes To Greenland – challenger: Jason Arnopp
Day 04: It Shines Like Mud – challenger: Greg Rucka
Day 05: Frederick The Unopened Package – challenger: Amanda Palmer
Day 06: Under Hetty Pegler’s Tump – challenger: Warren Ellis
Day 07: The Impossible Box – challenger: Mitch Benn
Day 09: Typos and Typography – challenger: Kieron Gillen
Day10: Why Santa’s A Jerk – challenger: Ed Brubaker
Day 11: The Wrong Christmas Cookies – challenger: Matt Fraction
Day12: The Christmas That Wasn’t – challenger: Jamie McKelvie

“There are two hundred stories collected in this volume. They are funny, they are thoughtful, they are romantic, they are frightening. To me, though, they are more than entertaining. They are inspiring.” – Wil Wheaton, from his introduction to volume 2 of The Fast Fiction Challenge

Two volumes of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing 180 stories in Volume 1 and a further 200 stories in Volume 2, are available from, and in some countries on Amazon. ebooks available from the author; email for details.