The Drabble ProjectRob when he had beard and glasses

How It All Began

'Drabble' originated at Birmingham University in the early eighties and grew from a simple game played at the University SF Society into three hardbacked books published to raise money for charity.

The first book, edited by Rob Meades and David B. Wake and published by Roger Robinson of Beccon Publications, appeared in Easter 1988. Entitled The Drabble Project, it was largely SF based and won the British National Science Fiction Convention award in the category Best Short Text.

Two further collections (Double Century and Drabble Who?) have been published. Double Century is still available.

I'll let the rules explain more...

Drabble Rules: The One Hundred Word Variant by David B. Wake


Drabble is played sitting around a fire, while  sipping  brandy and
partaking of pleasant conversation with friends.  The first person 
to finish a novel wins.

A Doubtful History

The  first game of Drabble, a name coined in a 'Monty Python' sketch,
was played at the beginning of the last century.  The winner was
Mary Shelley with 'Frankenstein' and Polidori, who didn't actually 
finish during that stormy weekend, came second with 'The Vampyre.'

The Rules

'One hundred words' must be EXACTLY one hundred words: not a 
syllable more, not a letter less.  In addition, up to fifteen
words (title, sub-titles and the like) are allowed. 

The End

The First Two Books

The Drabble Project

The first book contained one hundred stories, each of exactly one hundred words, and cost one hundred shillings. It is now sold out and has raised more than £2000 for Books for the Blind. The contents list illustrates the success we had in inviting well-known authors, as well as our friends and colleagues, to contribute their work entirely free of charge to a charitable cause.

It is somewhat depressing to note that it is no longer possible to have the first book signed by all the authors - too many important and respected SF writers have passed away since 1988.

Robert Holdstock A Letter from Robert Holdstock
Brian Aldiss Happiness and Suffering, the Triumph of La Vie over Death
Christopher Wilson Yesterday's Problem
David Wingrove Avenging Lepanto - the Long View
Dave Hardy Fast Rewind
Isaac Asimov The Turning Point
Josephine Saxton Too Late
Robert L. Forward IIXXT-
Marcus L. Rowland After The Flying Mutant Killer Gerbils Destroyed London and Squashed The Prime Minister
Garry Kilworth A Journey to the Last Wonder of the World
Brian Stableford Going to the Dogs
E. C. Tubb The Very Small Knife
Larry Niven Next Time
David B. Wake Rubbish
E. C. Tubb As It Really Was
Mike Abbott The Bomb had been Dropped
W. P. Dodd An Apple from the Teacher
Helen Conner Faith
Mike Ibeji The Least of my Children
Jane Stableford Why There are No Angels on this Planet
Sam Lundwall A Moderately Dull Day In the Life Of a Bored Demi-God. A Short Moral Tale
David Elworthy The Gateless Gate
Graham McKinnon Said One Man
Barrington J. Bayley When They Asked Him What Happens
R. A. Fox The Cohen-Dolby Intelligent Noise Filter
Ray Thompson The Pruesome Gun
Colin Greenland Off the Case
Helen Conner Away from it all
K. C. Mann A Tale the English Used to Tell
Alice Kohler The Innocent
Mike Tebby Tea for One
John Grant On and on and on and on and...
Patrick Curzon The Striker Struck
Nigel Robson Once Upon a Time, Long, Long Ago...
Colin Greenland The Disemboguement
Mike Abbott Ghost Soldier
Ray Girvan The Mantra
Phil Rogers A French Family of Cats...
Amy Jones The Last Resort
Jonathan Wylie The Young Rosie, Convinced by Bees
Allman Eyes Shining Bright
Terry Pratchett Incubust
Helen Conner Rosé Brût
Ian Cresswell A Short Disservice to the Uncertainty Principle
Mike Tebby Cosmic Solitude
Mike Tebby Burn
Graham McKinnon For Her
Ray Girvan To the Onlie Begetter
Mike Roberts Gottle of Geer
John Gribbin The Moment of Creation
Gene Wolfe Read Me
Christopher Wilson If You Believe in the Future, It Might Come True
Leo Stableford Close Encounter
Nigel Dorrington The Court Martial
Jaine Weddell 10 Metres per Second pre Second
Geoffrey Pitchford Barrier
Alex Stewart Starsong
Harry Harrison The Curse of the Unborn Living Dead
Storm Constantine They Hunt...
James Steel The Herd
John Brunner The Story Of The Steller Saurians
Duncan Lunan "'Tirra Lirra', by the river, Sang Sir Lancelot."
Dave Langford When in Doubt, Plagiarise
James Steel More Dumb Monsters
Alison Scott When I Grow Up...
Duncan Lunan Landscape Modification in the Vicinity of Highgate Cemetery
Janet Jeppson Asimov The Human Condition
Brian Ameringen A Molecular Chip on the Helical Curve
E. Miriam Kamp Pedersen It is Always Too Late
Michael Cobley Concrete Fire
Stephen Gallagher Mousetrap
Ray Girvan The New Klir Power Source
David B. Wake Pyro
Mary Gribbin Home at Last, in a Cottage by the Sea
E. Miriam Kamp Pedersen A Modern Joseph
James Steel The Return of Digby Sponge
Nigel Bannerman Prometheus III
Brian Ameringen Seed Crystals in a Universal Lattice
David Pearce Shrapnel
Graham McKinnon Fragile Gold
Edward Bryant A Functional Proof of Immortality
Paul Di Filippo Triplets
Bob Shaw Parallel Evolution
Gwyneth Jones One of Sandy's Dreams
Helen Conner Plus ça Change
Nigel McFarlane Network
T. I. Maude Inside
Alan Poppitt In Man's Image
Tony Rubin The Message
Ken Bulmer Brother Can You Spare a Word
Charles Platt Skiffygram: Fifty sciencefictional concepts in 100 words
David B. Wake (Strike the CR key to continue)
Mike Ibeji Full Independent Entitlement Numbering Fifteen, Possessing Absolutely No Textual Associations Whatsoever, was only just accomplished
Tony Rubin The Impossible Dream
Nigel Cordon Human Clone and Android Automation
Are They Child or Creation?
Work Designed with Monstrous Imagination
T. I. Maude First Contact
Mike Tebby Aardvark Extremism Is Obviously Undesirable
Michael Abbot How Odd
Phil Drabble Contribution from Himself

Double Century

The second book Double Century is still available. It was published in 1990 and again contains one hundred stories of exactly one hundred words but this time by one hundred different authors and, for the hell of it, published on the 100th day of the year. It still only costs 100 shillings (£5).

Since the first book, drabble had spread somewhat. David and I judged a drabble competition run by the Towns Womens' Guild Magazine, which had over 100 entries - regarded as exceptionally high. The source of inspiration for the stories was very different from what we were used to.

Stephen R. Ealey Nascent
Gaynor Coules Evolution
Jonathan Waite From the Foam, Aphrodite
Mike Coney An Entry in the Galactic Wildlife Encyclopedia, copyright 2046
C. J. Cherryh A Much Briefer History of Time
Bruce Sterling Endangered Species
Roger Zelazny The Deadliest Game
Liz Honeywill Colours
Marion Edwards Tapestry
David Symes With Apologies to Fredric Brown
Peter Negus Consolidated Holdings in Church Takeover?
Rachel Pollack General All-Purpose Fairy Tale
Steve Jones Ecology of the Dwarf Elf
F. Paul Wilson Rumours
Ru Emerson Shapeshifter's Duel
Suna Akiah A Warning to Those Who Know
Joe Haldeman Untitled
Steve Davies Untitled
Sue Beasley Out of the Fire Into the Frying Pan
Mary Gentle Ambitions
Kate Soley The Wyvern's Hoard
Jane Yolen The Dragon Woke and Stretched
Anne Harcourt Watershed
Steve Rasnic Tem The Adoptions
Neil Gaiman Nicholas Was...
Brenda McCallum On Ordering a Gas Fire
Jane Stableford Sex Lives of Housewives
Margaret Anstis Desolation for a Day
Violet C. Gowans The Reunion
Jonathan Carroll Untitled
Tony Chester Just the Way You Are
Chris Bunt Cordon Blues
Joan Aiken Devil's Food
J. Stewart Best Before
D. M. Bloomfield The Lovable Escort
Elizabeth Rothwell The Tryst
Sarah LeFanu The Mother's Dream
Carol Shetler A Genie's Fondest Wish
Helen McNabb If Wishes Were Horses
Elsie W. K. Donald Poor Soul
Thelma Bradford The Family
John Sladek Radio Cats
Jennifer Gee Ten
Betty Dibb At the Third Stroke
Steven J. Blyth The Night Has a Thousand Eyes
Ken Mann Aesthetics: An Objective View
Christopher Fowler Turnabout is Fare Paid
Christopher Stasheff How the Revolution Came to a Shuddering Halt
Katherine M. Stableford Paradisio
Leo M. Stableford Inferno
Brian M. Stableford Purgatorio
Kathy Westhead The Pet
Winifred Wake Only Family?
Cherry Wilder The Beta Syndrome
Barrington J. Bayley Galimatias
Steve Bull The Wish of the Conqueror
Peter T. Garratt Millenium Ends: Natural Generosity Entails Lawbreaker's Escape
John Lydecker Goosechaser
Fay Symes Action and Reaction
Micheal Abbott Foresight
Ian Watson The Sadim Touch
Eve Devereux Word-Processor
James Cawthorn Life Story
David Langford A Surprisingly Common Omission
David Garnett The Spaceshop
K. V. Bailey Ignis Fatuus
Sydney J. Bounds Drink to the Good Old Days
Eric Brown The Meaning of Life
Ben Gribbin Colony
Kenn Moyer Slow
James White Incident on a Colonising Starshp Where All Living Things are in Suspended Animation...
The Peace and Love Corporation Whatever Happened to Mr Spock
S. V. O'Jay The First Impossible Mission
Cecil Nurse Death by Strangulation
Jim Steel Be Prepared
Arthur C. Clarke Tales from the White Hart, 1990: The Jet Propelled Time Machine
Julie Grosvenor Casting Stones
Colin P. Davies Doctor Livingston, I Assume!
Dave Hardy Deja Vu
Pauline E. Dungate Found Inscribed on the Back of a Rather Dirty Postcard
Serena M. Evans The Cage
Charles de Lint Wild Girl
John Clute The Knight Orpheus
Abi Pirani Alex Calder's Mobile Worlds. Interwaterfall Three: Spiral Arm Four
Frances Bonner I Think, In Due Course, I Am
Maxim Jakubowski Around the Heart World in One Hundred Words
Jan Palmer The Trouble with Being a Woman
Angus McAllister Complex Persecution
Nicholas Emmett Fear
Bridget Wilkinson Hide and Seek
Jennifer McGowan Hide 'n' Seek
Brian Ameringen TANSTAAFL
Dave Wood TANSTAAFD (There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Drabble)
Andy Sawyer The SF Write Flicks Through the Advertisements in Search of Inspiration
Catherine Lilley A Woman of Too Few Words
Alison Scott BECCON Publications Cross-Over
Peter Heavyside Hundredfold
Dai Walters No, He Can't Sue Me - He's Dead, and So Are His Executors, and Their Executors
Cardinal Cox If God Used One Hundred Words Would We Have a Drabble
Philip Vine Countdown

Drabble Who?

The third drabble book has a Doctor Who theme and was published to celebrate the Time Lord's 30th Anniversary. It was edited by David J. Howe, who has written numerous factual Doctor Who books, and David B. Wake, who has read most of them. The book contains a hundred drabbles by Doctors, companions, script-writers, producers and fans. The stories cover the history of the Doctor from before the programme started, through seven Doctors and beyond.

Our contributors gave their services freely and the money raised was donated to the RNIB Talking Book Fund.

It is still from Beccon Publications.

Dan Abnett Who Counts As One Word?
David B. Wake Sound Effects
Julian Eales Rassilon And The Serpent Tongue (An Old Gallifreyan Legend)
Peter Anghelides Initial Paragraphs From A Draft Letter To My Oldest Companion
Colin Baker Extract From An Address To The Time Lord Academy By Its Regulator Scombos
Simon Christopher Jones At The Academy
Mark Morris The Academy, First Day
David Inwood Escape
Jan Vincent-Rudzki How It Begins
Brian Ameringen Before The Beginning
Tim Maude Aardvark To Dandruff
Michael Ferguson 22nd November, 1963
Geoffrey Arthur The Myth Makers (As Sung Afterwards By Sundry Bards Other Than Homer)
Nigel Robinson Problem Page
Chris Sparrow The Chase: Princes In The Tower
Chaz Mason A Ghost Of Christmas Past?
Stan Eling Empty Welcome
Kevin Chitty Unseen Danger
Kate Orman Failsafe
Victor Pemberton Questions From The Floor
David Tulley Behind The Sofa: First Memory
Peter Ling Backwards Ran Sentences As Reeled Minds
J. Jeremy Bentham A Tale From A TV Comic
David Burke Time Will Tell
Graham McKinnon Different Worlds (Two Extracts From The Doctor's Diary)
Jon Pertwee I Don't Wish To Know That - Kindly Leave The Barracks!
George Evans Hair Today - Wig Tomorrow!
John M. Rimmer Celebration
Ness Bishop aged 8, wrote in 1976 To Sarah Jane, Wot I Like Best Of All
Elizabeth Halliday "The Heart-ache, And The Thousand Natural Shocks"
Tony Roach Sounds Familiar
David Martin A Night Out At The Dog And Bottle
Andrew Lane An Easy Mistake To Make
Simon J. Irving The Cruelty Of Time
Louise Jameson The Press And I
Peter Anghelides Mark Four
Jim Mortimer Readacross
David Tulley Tharils
Michael E. P. Stevens Shortly After Armageddon... On Being Replaced By Astra And Cast Thither By Unknown Forces;
Michael Haslett The Fall And Rise Of Doctor Who
David J. Howe The Ultimate Test
Becky Maude The TARDIS Bites Back
Glenn Langford Days Like Crazy Paving
Amanda Murray The Other Side Of Madness
David Green Future-speak
Paul Harrington Brown's Study
Mark Stammers Doppleganger
Tim Chapman The Trail Of A Timelord
Adrian Middleton and Steve Graeme Doctor Where?
Ian M. Fraser The Fun Factory
Peter Darvill-Evans Goodbye/Piccadilly/Hello/Heat Death
Paul Cornell The Tragedy Of Errors
John Peel Beetling About In Time
Gary Russell Clean Up Time
Stephen Wyatt A Hundred Words Later
Keith Topping In The Midst of Life We Are In Death, Etcetera
Eric Pringle Questions
Sophie Aldred Ace's Diary Entry 23rd November 2062
Steve Morgan Trust Me, I'm A Doctor (The Cafe Royale. New Orleans. 1965.)
Andrew W. Donkin and Graham S. Brand 'Sarah's Hurt' (Train-Flight:Prologue)
Jim Mortimer Hell To Pay
Richard W. Dance Wheel Of Lights
Mervyn Haisman Time Out
Alison Jacobs A Suitable Gift (And A Safe One!)
Steven Jenkins A Mystery Solved?
John Freeman Is That A TARDIS In Your Pocket...?
Nathan Cooke Drabble In The TARDIS
M. R. Morgan Contract Kill
Brian Milligan The Hunt - Sequel To Survival
Nicholas Royle In The Mirror
David Tulley The Monster Man's Lament
Nigel Bannerman A Divertissement
Robert Howe An Apocalyptic Digital Mistake
Martin Pollard Victory
Steve Bowkett Words Of Conquest
Stephen Gallagher Sweet Dreamer
David Tulley Plastic Soul
David Tulley How Do You Kill Death?
David Banks Centenarian
John Wiles Two Words
Mark Stammers The End Of "Evil"
Fiona Cumming Isolation
Stephen Baxter Paradox
Justin Richards "I Am The Doctor"
Paul Cornell The Who Interviews
Ness Bishop The Collector
David J. Howe The Dream
Robert Sloman Time-Expired Lord
John Nathan Turner Who's Sorry Now
Ian Stuart Black The Most Unkindest Cut Of All
Chris Boucher Out of the Mouths
Barry Letts A Sort Of Elegy
Alun Harris Time Out
Christopher Barry The End

Some Samples

These are some sample drabbles, mostly from the first book, (re-printed here with permission from the authors) which should show you what you can do in 100 words.

To the Onlie Begetter, Mr W. H.        by Ray Girvan

"Hey, Will, dear heart," said William Shakespeare's friend,
"Methinks to pen a Drabble's all the rage.
Fourscore and twenty words, from start to end;
Far preferable to hacking for the stage."
A sonnet Shakespeare thought the simplest way,
"Just fourteen lines: a momentary chore.
'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?'.
Hmmm.  113.  I'll versify some more.
'When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes'?;
Worse: 114, exceeding far my aim."
He flagged...  "Enough!  To discontinue's wise,
The form's absurd.  My talent's not to blame."
But though the Drabbles overstrained his Muse,
His failed attempts make scholars still enthuse.
©1988 R. Girvan

The Least of my Children               by Mike Ibeji

A poor man once came up to me and asked me for some money.

"What for?" I asked, the image of a bottle in my head.

"I am hungry and I must eat,"  was his reply.  His voice,
though cracked and pathetic, held a strange accent of truth
in its core.

Moved to compassion, but with the bottle firmly in mind, I
took him to a café and bought his food myself.

"Thank you," he said, having eaten.  "At the end I shall
not forget you."

I felt strangely compelled to ask his name.

"My name," he smiled, "is Yaisuah."

©1988 M. C. Ibeji

The Innocent                           by Alice Kohler

I saw her sitting in a patch of sunlight, and stepped out from
behind the trees.  She smiled and beckoned and I moved forward,
lay down on the grass and placed my head in her lap.

I saw the dagger in her hand and death in her eye, but not until
after the blow was struck did I lurch upright, crying out my love
and pain.  Another girl appeared beside the first and together
they watched me as I staggered, then fell before them.

"That scream was almost human.  Here, you hold its head while
I cut out the horn."
©1988 A. H. Kohler

A Surprisingly Common Omission         by David Langford

A transworld shift is undramatic.  All I saw was an ordinary 
road, an  ordinary  town.  Was this a parachronic probability world, or 
just our own?   Warning against hasty conclusions, my boss had said:  
"Watch out.  A variant continuum could distort your thinking and blind 
you to incongruity... "  Rubbish, I thought.    I had four hours.  
Slipping into a handy library, I found a Britannica.  Any major 
disparity in this world must show up in print.  With growing 
frustration I got as far as book III, "Claustrophobia  to Dysprosium".  
Automatic shiftback caught my hand still fumbling for book IV, 
"Fabulation to Lipogram"...
©1990 D. Langford

Incubust                               by Terry Pratchett

The physics of magic is this: no magician, disguise it as he
might, can achieve a result beyond his own physical powers¹.

And, spurned, he performed the Rite of Tumescence and called
up a fiend from the depths of the Pit to teach her a lesson she
wouldn't forget, the witch.

  The phone rang.

  "Nice try," she said, "It's sitting on the bedhead now."

  His breath quickened.  "And?"
  "Listen," she said.

  And he heard the voice of the fiend, distant and wretched:

"...frightfully sorry ... normally, no problem ... oh god, this
has never happened to me before..."

¹See the Necrotelicomnicon, p.38.
©1988 T. Pratchett

More Dumb Monsters                     by James Steel

The monster climbed.  Fighter aircraft, dwarfed by its
massive bulk, fired missile after missile into the scaly armour of
the beast's hide.  Roars shattered the windows of the city and
reverberated far into the hills beyond.  Artillery lined up in the
streets below, ready to deliver their crushing firepower against
the foe.  High pitched screams of terror, barely heard between the
roar of collapsing buildings, announced the creature's hostage to
be still alive.

The creature paused and brought a huge scaly hand towards
its mouth.

"I've got the specimen," it said.  "Beam me out of here and
level the place."
©1988 J. R. Steel

(Strike the CR key to continue)        by David B. Wake

@run life
?unrecognised command - Does not match switch or keyword - "life"
@run note

NOTEPAD is ready
Last name: wake 3

Thank you

Project: Earth

           Open Membership

  1. Life

Please type the number of the activity you have to join.
Project: Earth
Activity: Life

You are never up to date.

ACTION: anything
***  Please check the option you have indicated.  If you wish to
see the choices available to you, type a question mark.

***  There are no options.

ACTION: please tell me what's going on
%No such line(s)
(strike the CR key to continue)

(strike the CR key to continue)
©1988 David B. Wake

Parting With Your Money

Should you want to buy a copy of Double Century you can either send an e-mail to Roger Robinson, visit the Beccon Publications website or write to:
Beccon Publications
75 Rosslyn Avenue
Harold Wood

As a further alternative, lists Drabble II (Double Century) and will (presumably) contact Beccon Publications for supply - they may charge you a little more for delivery. We make no profit from the sales - we cover printing costs and all the rest goes to charity, usually Books for the Blind.

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