Because every story needs a hero, the hero of this story is going to be Robert Gaskins, the man who invented PowerPoint.
PowerPoint, as you will almost definitely know, is the presentation tool that comes bundled with the Microsoft Office suite of programs. PowerPoint lets you create slide shows which can feature text, images, graphics and videos. You can use these slides shows to present business reports, financial plans, sales pitches, scientific findings and just about anything else.
Robert Gaskins is going to be the hero of this story even though this story isn’t really about PowerPoint. Or not only about PowerPoint. This story is also about Keynote, which is Apple’s answer to PowerPoint, and Google Slides, which is Google’s answer to PowerPoint.
More broadly, this story is about the context in which these presentation tools exist, and the context that these presentation tools create.
“Mark Haddon has chosen Owen Booth’s Frankenstein’s Monster is Drunk, and the Sheep Have All Jumped the Fences as the winner of The Moth Short Story Prize 2020, for which Booth will receive €3,000.
“This felt like a winner from the very first sentence – ‘They’d dug him out of the glacier in 1946, pulled him out of the crevasse where he’d crawled after his Hollywood career had given up the ghost.’ The language is confident. The idea is unexpected, eccentric and entertaining. And I could sense, already, the generosity which would underpin the whole story,” said Haddon…”
I’m thinking of you again tonight Vin Diesel, as I consider my dwindling options in a French seaside town, and the seagulls won’t let me sleep. The seagulls and everything else.
Vin, the Fast and Furious franchise has made you rich, with the eight films in the series having earned a combined worldwide gross of over $5 billion, but you didn’t appear in this summer’s spin-off Hobbs and Shaw, which was headlined by your F&F co-stars Jason Statham and Dwayne The Rock Johnson.
Vin is true about the feud between you and The Rock? Did you really refuse to play any scenes together during the filming of Fast and Furious 8: The Fate of the Furious?
[Re-published in honour of Mars Rover Opportunity – rest in peace little friend!]
We’re teaching our sons about Martians.
For the last few weeks a group of lonely billionaires have been all over the news talking about their plans to populate the Red Planet. They’re auditioning for brave and clever and able-bodied young men and women to help them build dynamic new low-tax civilisations on Mars and across the asteroid belt.
In return they’re promising adventure and excitement and the potential for heroic deaths.
Naturally, our sons are intrigued. For as long as they can remember they’ve been following the adventures of the unmanned Curiosity and Opportunity rovers as they roam the planet’s dusty surface. Those brave robots seem almost like family members.
Based on my years of experience in the writing game, I’ve come up with a list of 24 essential rules for creating short stories that will engage, entertain and enthral. Feel free to use them when inventing your own stories!
1. A good short story should not contain a single wasted word. The reader should feel confident that the writer is in complete control of the story at all times. There should be no mystery, no element of chance in the writing of a short story. A short story is not a journey of discovery.
2. In the short story, setting is everything. Appropriate settings for short stories include mountain tops, haunted council estates, low Earth orbit, enchanted forests, 1980s job centres, France, protest marches, swingers’ parties, alternate dimensions, a summer evening in the writer’s youth, The American West, radio newsrooms, and World War 2.
3. Avoid boring your reader. Consider breaking up long paragraphs with dialogue, or descriptions of the weather. If the scene you are writing doesn’t contain dialogue or weather, think about changing the location and adding extra characters. Or have someone go outside and start talking to themselves.
4. Always start a scene in the middle of the action. Or better yet, after the action has already finished.