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Sociological micro-fiction

I encountered the notion of the drabble through reading Rob Kitchin’s fiction blog. These short stories of exactly 100 words can have a strange power to them, as little shards of reality that can be thrown out into the world. This is how Wikipedia describes the origins of the drabble:

The concept is said to have originated in UK science fiction fandom in the 1980s; the 100-word format was established by the Birmingham University SF Society, taking a term from Monty Python‘s 1971 Big Red Book.[1][4] In the book, “Drabble” was described as a word game where the first participant to write a novel was the winner. In order to make the game possible in the real world, it was agreed that 100 words would suffice.

There are other forms of micro-fiction. One that interests me is the radical brevity required to represent a scene within the 140 character limit of a tweet. Even more than a drabble, this precludes narrative in a traditional sense and that’s precisely what’s so interesting about it for sociological fiction. It frees the fiction from the narrative demands which might otherwise conflict with sociological concerns, allowing little fragments to be produced which can have a life of their own.

This is one example I wrote earlier in the week, intended to illustrate a theoretical point without invoking theory, though I’m not convinced it does this particularly effectively:

His jaw clenched as he contemplated yet another all nighter.

It was difficult to remember when he’d last slept properly. But his work, the work, couldn’t wait.

Throughout each day, each and every hour, millions of communiques were issued from this control room. Each issuing was important, with potential geopolitical consequences. Not something one could rush. Yet there were always more issuings to come.

He wondered how life might have been if he’d turned down the Neoliberal Diktat Division. But who would do that? The system could not run itself.

He reached for an energy drink from the office fridge.

But I’m finding it really fun to experiment with this. If you’d like to join me, I’m guest-editing a special section of the So Fi zine presenting sociological drabbles. The deadline for submissions is September 30th.

Categories: Digital Universities fiction Organising Thinking

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