I was recently asked by Penguin to put together a story for a project they are doing in the UK called We Tell Stories, a series of short stories by six different Penguin authors, told over a period of six weeks. Each of us had to come up with something based on a Penguin Classic, and each story was told in an interesting way online somewhere or somehow.
My brief was to come up with a story based on Hard Times, the Dickens classic which illustrates the growing pains of the industrial revolution. My story was to be about the growing pains of the information revolution, the subject covered in The Pirate’s Dilemma. If that wasn’t an intimidating enough way to enter the world of fiction for the first time, the story also had to be told as an ‘info-graphic novel’, using mostly statistics and numbers, mirroring Mr Thomas Gradgrind’s (the main character in Hard Times) obsession with cold hard facts.
I didn’t end up writing a story at all. Try as I might, I could not get my head round creating a piece of fiction that worked in this way, using mostly numbers, that would somehow be comparable to the work of Dickens. That’s kind of a tough one. Instead I took some of the numbers and quotes from Pirates and tried to tell a factual story of change and revolution using as few words as possible. I was lucky enough to work with designer Nicholas Felton on this, famous for his incredible annual reports. Nicholas put the information together as a slick-looking statement, describing some of the changes we are currently experiencing as a society. It’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever written by a long shot, in fact it was more a case of quote and stat-pulling than actual writing, but I think Mr Felton’s sharp design looks pretty cool. You can download or view the finished article here. The other stories (which are all actual stories) are well worth checking out.