A History of the Drabble

Drabble story telling - writing 100-word flash-fiction - is said to have been conceived by Rob Meades, David B. Wake and the UK Science Fiction Society at Birmingham University in the early 1980s.

The style of writing was inspired by Monty Python in their Big Red Book (1971), which describes a word game. The participants gathered around a fire, sipping brandy and partaking of pleasant conversation with friends and challenge each other to write a novel. The first to finish wins.

The first game of "Drabble" occurred much earlier and 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.

In order to make the game possible in the real world, the members of the UK SF Society agreed that 100-words would suffice. However, they we're students so probably didn't have a fire, and certainly wouldn't be able to afford brandy, though I'm sure there was plenty of "pleasant conversation with friends".

Those first games run by the Society became so popular that on April Fool's Day 1988, Rob and David, with Roger Robinson of Beccon Publications, published a book of drabbles, entitled "The Drabble Project", containing one hundred stories, each of exactly one hundred words, and costing one hundred shillings - it was largely SF based and won the British National Science Fiction Convention award in the category of Best Short Text.

They went on to publish two more Drabble books, each with a limited run of just 1000 copies each:

  • The Drabble Project (1988)
  • Drabble II: Double Century (1990)
  • Drabble Who? (1993)

The three books contain stories written by such notable authors as: Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Arthur C. Clarke, Brian W. Aldiss, Harry Harrison, Stephen Baxter, Bruce Sterling, and Isaac Asimov.

Rob Meades website contains some great examples by Terry Pratchett, Ray Girvan, Mike Ibeji, Alice Kohler, David Langford, and James Steel.

Throughout much of the 1990's and 2000's Drabble writing seems to have all but vanished from the public eye until;

  • 2011 - Wilfrid Laurier University launch a literary competition called 100 Words Centennial Drabble Contest.
  • 2012 - Book Hippo (formerly Indie Book Bargains), began running a Daily Drabble feature in their newsletter.
  • March 2013 - Michael Brookes introduces the Elite: Dangerous community to the Drabble, kickstarting the Abraka Drabble weekly contest.
  • July 2013 - Drablr.com launches.

Since then we've seen numerous Drabble books published by various authors (a few of our own drablrs have released books too) and on 9th - 15th November, 2015, Michael Brookes will be running the Festival of Drabbles; a week long celebration of drabbles and the art of drabble writing including some of the finest drabblists in the world.

Thirty years after the "invention" of the Drabble, the art of 100-word flash-fiction writing is still going strong.