All the Minutes: A review of a procedurally-generated novel

The problem with computer-generated books is that they are almost never as interesting as human-written books. Most examples so far have been remarkable more for being made with software than because they are compelling works of literature. However, there is one computer-generated novel that I’ve read cover-to-cover and loved, and that is All the Minutes (which only appears to be available via the Internet Archive).

This book is built up from 1,440 tweets, one for each hour of the day. The makers looked for tweets that began with the time, and printed them in sequence. We’re not following a single person and skip between timezones, but the text still flows. It begins:

It’s 6:00AM and I’m wide awake. Good friday morning peeps. Its 6:01am and im sleepy… It’s 6:02am and I’m still up. I have no life. It’s 6:03am and I can’t sleep I think I might have insomnia and if I don’t than I messed up my sleep track.

Seeing the tweets in aggregate means certain patterns become obvious. Sleep is a particular obsession. One voice recurs, repeating how ‘Michigan still sucks’. There is mourning: It’s 1.28am and now officially the year anniversary of my friend Daniel Degale’s death. RIP hun xx. There’s a lot of booze and a lot of shaming people about the things they drink, alcoholic or not: It’s 1.30pm and I’m craving bubbles. Christmas has officially broken me :-S. Its 1:31pm and I just woke up lmfao. It’s 1.32pm and I’ve just seen two girls walk past me with a can of lager! Classy Plymouth.

Using an API to gather the data allows fragments of meaning from across the whole world to be brought together. It’s a chorus, but there’s also an impulse to see this as a character.

It’s 4:21am and i just got out of a meeting that started at 5:48pm. It’s 4:22 AM and I am up! Ready to leave baltimore. It’s 4:23am and the first “normal” passenger just showed up for the 6:05am flight we’re hoping to get on. It’s 4:24am and I still haven’t slept. I have been so sick all night. This is the most sick I’ve been in years. It’s 4:25am and the birds are already tweeting outside.

I read All The Minutes from start to end, just like any other book. I found it enthralling, and it also reminded me of Peter Manson’s long poem Adjunct. Being made up of social media posts, this book had the same raw energy as Darcie Wilder’s excellent Twitter novel literally show me a healthy person (which I reviewed in May).

All the Minutes captures a particular feeling of reading Twitter, how the site ebbed and flowed as the world turned. It would not have been easy to produce something like All the Minutes without the open APIs that Twitter was built on. These allowed artists and creatives to build interesting bot and works based on the site. Now the APIs are no longer free but costs an astronomical price to access. Works like this cannot happen now. Open systems and the gift of an API are incredibly important

Iteration 21: Meet Cute

On 1,238th March 2020, I watched Meet Cute. It was actually my second attempt at the film, as I gave up on my first watch. Something about this didn’t work for me. I’m not sure if it was the editing, script, choice of camera angles, or simply lack of chemistry in the leads. Maybe it was how the film seemed strangely empty, even in the outdoor shots of New York. Meet Cute was just missing something.

Sheila picks up Gary at a sports bar, where he is the only person not watching soccer. They have a long date, featuring food, vintage clothes-shopping, and a quirky ice-cream van. The date ends with a dark revelation, and then we find ourselves back in the bar, where Sheila picks up Gary once more.

During the dates, Sheila often explains to Gary that she is a time-traveller, being open about using a Time Machine in a nail salon to go back and repeat the date. I think this is the first film where the time loop is caused by the protagonist’s obsessive repetition. Like a lot of the ideas in the film, this had potential, but didn’t seem to lead anywhere.

The film deals with a lot of heavy themes around trauma and acceptance, but they never quite land. Also, each day, Sheila runs down her past self in her car, stuffing the body in the boot. This is played only as a gag, which is a problem in a film themed around trauma.

I hate being negative about a piece of art that people have worked hard on. The film has some positive reviews, but it never gripped me. It’s problems are underlined by the fact there is a five-minute montage of outtakes at the end, and the cut scenes seem stronger than some of those left in.

The voluntary time loop was an interesting twist – Sheila repeated the day hundreds of times, enough to have a ‘loop birthday’. This film had the elements of something great, and it’s a shame it wasn’t able to do more with its ideas around trauma, perfection and trying again.


  • Length of first iteration (in film): 18.5 minutes
  • Length of second iteration: 12.5 seconds
  • Reset point: time travel
  • Fidelity of loop: slow degradation as Gary starts to remember other loops
  • Exit from the loop: the characters stop using the time machine

Iteration 20: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

On 1,171st March 2020, I re-watched Edge of Tomorrow, aka Live, Die, Repeat. I last saw this in August 2020, so didn’t rewatch it as part of my initial time-loop movie project, which started in 2021. My original review was “started interesting but the contrived concept fell apart as it went on“.

Which seems fair. The film sets out a complicated scenario to explain why Tom Cruise finds himself resurrected every time he dies while fighting an alien invasion. The rules of this scenario are very much based around the needs of the plot, but this is an incredibly well-made movie, with some entertaining action and a fun script by (among others) playwright Jez Butterworth. Tom Cruise does some good acting and director Doug Liman apparently enjoyed making a movie where Cruise plays an incompetent hero.

In the film, Tom Cruise is military PR who is sent off to join the huge military push to retake mainland Europe from the alien hoards. These creatures are the usual fast-moving and shiny aliens that work well as CGI. Cruise restarts his day each time he days, making a little more progress each time. The mechanic is obviously similar to video games, but the film doesn’t develop this idea.

It turns out the ability to reset time is the aliens’ secret ability, which Cruise has been infected with. It makes no sense that this time-loop is carried within his blood, other than to allow a plot twist near the end. The film ends with a dramatic boss fight, after which Cruise wakes to an alternate timeline where the world has been saved.

None of this makes much sense, and the time loop is more of a dramatic device than a philosophical question, but this is a fun film. I’m not sure it belongs in quite the same category as Groundhog Day. Maybe there’s a difference between time-loop-as-existential-nightmare and time-loop-as-videogame.


  • Length of first iteration (in film): 16.5 minutes
  • Length of second iteration: 5.5 seconds
  • Reset point: death
  • Fidelity of loop: perfect repetitions
  • Exit from the loop: the boss alien is killed or the main character has a transfusion of the magic blood.

Monthnotes: June 2023

I started June feeling rough from a combination of caffeine, poor sleep, doomscrolling, bad food and illness. That slump lasted about a week, after which June rallied to become pretty good. I sailed on the Thames with Rosy, celebrated my birthday, spent some time in Wales, and ended the month in Blackpool. The week in Wales was particularly energising, spending time with friends old and new.

After a couple of high step-count months, June was calmer, with a total of 333,904 steps and a daily average of 11,130, the highest being on my birthday when I went hiking with Katharine and Helen. I’ve continued to put weight on, and am failing to muster any motivation to reverse that. I have, however, started seeing a local physio about fixing my hip problems so that I can start running again. I also wrote up the final stage of the Coast-to-Coast.

My writing was fairly scatty, but I have a number of projects moving. True Clown Stories, originally known as Clown Stories Volume 1, has been in progress for 12 years, but is set to come out in 2024 in association with Peakrill Press. I’ve also produced a short story collection for Peakrill, cramming 12 stories onto an A5 page (I’m particularly proud of a new six-word horror story). On top of all that, I’ve been working on Memetic Infection Hazards, a collection of horror stories which I’m, publishing and will likely be out in August. I’m enjoying working with self/small publishing, which is much more satisfying than submitting to online journals. I’ve just had a piece rejected after 13 months and, really, what is the fucking point? I’d rather sell my writing through etsy.

I finished a lot of half-complete books last month:

  • Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky was an interesting space opera, but was at its best when dealing with the intelligent spiders. The human characters just felt like they were in a science fiction novel.
  • I also read Tchaikovsky’s novella One Day This Will All Be Yours which was stuffed with clever ideas.
  • Death of An Author was produced using ChatGPT. While the novel itself left me unmoved, the afterword was exciting and provocative.
  • All The Minutes was a conceptual novel produced for NaNoGenMo, which was incredibly engaging.
  • The writing in Johnson at 10 was annoying, not least for censoring the swearing. It did a good job of describing Boris Johnson’s essential failure in winning an 80-seat majority and wasting it.
  • Andrew O’Neill’s History of Heavy Metal was engaging and helped me reclaim my 90’s self a little. I heard about this book through an excellent podcast appearance from O’Neill.
  • I also wrote a small blog post about The Virgin Suicides, which I read last month.

After a few failed attempts I finished watching Yellowjackets Season 2, although this involved a fair amount of double-screening. It’s tonally all over the place, with the lightly comic tone interrupted by some genuinely disturbing moments towards the end of the season. Black Mirror was, as ever a mixed bag, the highlight being Joan is Awful. The BBC’s documentary The Trouble with KanYe was a grim look at the West’s career since 2016. Such a waste of talent.

I watched a few movies but the highlight was Martyrs. It’s difficult to recommend such an unpleasant movie, and one that is based around women being tortured. It would be easy dismiss the film as ‘torture porn’, but I’ve been thinking about it for a month now. My strongest reaction has been a lingering sadness. This may be one of the best horror films I’ve seen.

A review of Martyrs from Letterboxd

Towards the end of the month I ran a workshop on AI and Creative Writing (details and links here). Running a two-hour online event on a weeknight was a bit much, but it was fun I’m still cynical about LLMs, but there is something important happening. At a neighbourhood barbecue someone was telling me about how his company is seeing impressive results through using AI to make unit tests and documentation.

I am totally going to win at Spotify Unwrapped this year – although no-one really loses, do they? My playlist of interesting songs for 2023 has now reached 104 items, mostly new music. Andrew O’Neill’s death metal recommendations have also added some interesting tracks. But it looks like the most-played song will be My Neighbourhood, a minimalist song from the Martyrs soundtrack that I can’t stop playing.

I ended the month in Blackpool, cat-sitting for Muffy’s cat Sashimi. On the last night in June, I went on the walk to the top of the Big One roller coaster. It was an amazing experience.

The month ended with an awful spell of insomnia. I function very poorly on low sleep, the nadir of which was managing to throw my Fitbit out with my lunch at the office.

  • I started playing the video game Alan Wake, but got bored when I reached the firsat boss fight. All of the combat elements made the story feel banal.
  • I’m still settling into the house, but I did finally get a couple of pictures framed. I’m still making no progress on putting up new curtains.
  • I published a blog post about my trip to Sweden in May.
  • I read a cache of blog posts from 2001/2 which I was considering importing to this blog. The posts were interesting but also very scrappy. I think I’ve improved considerably as a writer since then.

Links from my AI and Creative Writing workshop

Towards the end of June, I gave a small workshop about writing with AI. We looked at some techniques used to generate creative work with ChatGPT. During the session, I referred to a number of resources, which are collected below: