280 Stops

A novella for the Internet about the 11 bus.

What is this?

This is a tribute to two wonderful things: the 11 bus route which runs through Birmingham (oh, and bits of Solihull and Sandwell), and Geoff Ryman's novel/website 253.

Some of us were talking about 253 and thought it'd be nice to make an homage to it. This was a week or so before the 11th November, which has been used a few times now to throw attention onto the charms of the 11 bus. A week seemed just long enough to get 11 characters written up in time for 11/11 so we got to work.

How it works

A group of us each wrote an entry for a passenger riding all or part of one circuit of the 11 bus. An entry is 280 words, including headings, based on the following structure which was used in 253:


So this is how we worked out the rules of the game.

The point of the exercise is one of constrained fiction. 253 constrained itself by the numbers relating to the "perfectly" filled tube train, which gave 253 characters, each given 253 words. We need to follow the numbers too.

11 characters seems an obvious place to start. That's also handy because we can do it quickly. Word count is trickier.

11x11 would give 121. Enough for "thinking and doing"? With perhaps 11 words each for "outward appearance" and "inside information"? That's tight on all counts.

In 2009 Pete Ashton counted all the bus stops and come up with 280 (apparently no one knew prior to that). That seems like a good number for us to play with, and so, our rules:

Oh one last thing with the numbers: character 121 in 253 is Who? - something of a stand out character in that book. 121 is of course 112 - we can't ignore those numbers, and so an homage to Who? is included in our project.