"Night Shift on the Support Line" by Ian Creasey — story background


Yes, you're through to support.  What's the problem?

Doesn't work?  Are you sure you're pronouncing the words correctly?

Well, read the spell to me now.

Hmmm....  Your pronunciation's OK.  Just let me get my copy of the spellbook and I'll check you're using the latest text.

Sorry about the delay.  I've got it.  Can you repeat your version?

Yes, I'm still here.  I was just thinking.  You're doing the spell correctly, but is it the right spell?  What are you trying to do?

I see.  Are you sure they're wraiths?

Look, I appreciate that you're under attack.  But are you sure they're wraiths?

I don't remember any specific spark for this story, but I'm sure it ultimately derives from my stints working on a helpdesk and in a call-centre, two of the many crappy jobs I did while temping after university.  It's something of a cliché for "about the author" notes to include a colourful employment history, but there's no doubt that a lengthy CV can offer fertile material for stories.

Several years (and better jobs) later, I found myself thinking about the kind of wacky support calls that might be received by a helpdesk for magic.  To string the jokes into a plot, I boiled down the typical trajectory of a fantasy novel, with both Light and Dark sides phoning for assistance at crucial moments.  I ended up with a short comic piece in the form of one-sided dialogue, consisting entirely of the helpdesk operator's words on the phone to his various clients.

The story was fun to write, but being little more than entertaining fluff, I felt it would be a tough sell at the major markets.  Humour is always very difficult to place, as most magazines prefer to fill their pages with a relentless diet of grim, depressing fiction.  Luckily, at that time a new magazine launched with a mission statement of bucking the trend by showcasing light, upbeat, entertaining fiction.  I therefore didn't bother wasting postage shopping this piece around the established markets, and instead sent it straight to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.  They accepted it, but due to their system of rotating editors, I had quite a long wait before the editor who bought my story had an issue to publish it in.  When it finally appeared, "Night Shift on the Support Line" came joint top in a readers' poll for favourite story in the issue.

Because the story is all dialogue, I felt it was a natural candidate for recording, and you can download my reading of it from the Audio page.

Page last updated: 28 December 2018