Friday, March 4, 2011


Recently, Author J.C. Hutchins posted the following:

Douchey and supercool, all at the same time. Perfect for the hipster in your life. The USB Typewriter:

Check it out; they're pretty cool. Part of me would really like one, but the rational bits of me know that I would NEVER make productive use off it. As Mr. Hutchins pointed out when I said it was cool that, “I think that, after likely more that a decade of you using a computer keyboard, you'd find this quite uncool to use :),” and of course he's right, but maybe....

This got me thinking about my old middle school days when I would use the school's typewriters to write some of my earliest stories on. We're talking decades before Mallville and Dax, before NaNoWriMo, and even before the series of novellas I wrote in high school and college titled “Lyfe and Deth”. These stories were written when the first Bush was president, and they were written by what would now be called a “tween”.

This isn't to say that the stories were about ponies and butterflies or anything; even at that age I was already reading Stephen King novels (and learned the hard way that “It” was not a good place to start with him), and watching horror movies on a regular basis. This showed in my stories, which generally featured the middle-school aged characters running from some monster and getting picked off like the cast of a slasher movie until only one or two remained.

The thing that seems funny to me now is that the characters were always based on real people in my classes. If a middle-schooler wrote stories in which their classmates were shot/stabbed/dismembered/burnt/crushed/electrocuted/etc today they would be expelled from school and labeled by the media as a potential school shooter. Things were different back then though; the early 90's were a different creature.

Far from having to write these stories in secret for fear of being punished if the contents were discovered, my teachers knew exactly what was in them, and so did my classmates, and you know what? Those stories probably made me as close to popular as I would ever get. Classmates actually wanted to be in my stories, even if their character died horribly. It amazes me to know that if I had been born just ten years later, I would likely have been expelled and treated as a criminal for writing the exact same stories. It's a funny ol' world, innit?

Unfortunately I do not have any of those stories anymore, but I do know that they were quite dreadful little things that make my current prose look like Douglas Adams by comparison. I can remember details of some of the stories though.

  • One story dealt with a PG&E worker who was turned into an electricity-spewing monster after being electrocuted.
  • Another dealt with the characters being trapped in a shopping mall and running from the evil that had the ability to, among other things I'm sure, bring toys to life (I would like to point out that this was well before I saw “Puppetmaster” for the first time), a very short car chase that ended with a van flipping upside down into the mall fountain, and bit about finding a barrel of artificial butter flavouring in the movie theater that had labels on it declaring it corrosive.

Of course these aren't the only horrible stories I wrote in middle school, just the two that I specifically remember doing in school.

After that I got an electric typewriter of my own, which was when the “Lyfe And Deth” characters were first put on paper (I mention them in particular as they lived on to appear again as minor characters in another story) in what was a blatant rip-off of “Terminator 2”. I don't recall writing too much on the electric typewriter actually, but I remember that one story (I also remember seeing “Casablanca” for the first time while working on it; my mind is a random scrapheap).

In high school I got my first computer, and I wrote a number of stories on that, include five or six “Lyfe and Deth” novellas, and a maybe novel length sci-fi comedy called “Spaced Out” which mocked such timely subjects as Barney and the Power Rangers, and had homages in it to “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” and “The Dark Tower”.

Obviously I am still writing today on computers, but it all really started with those old, ugly, clunky, nearly indestructible typewriters with a bottle of white-out close at hand to correct typos. I think there was a certain magic about them even though I did not have the skill to use it properly. I still believe there is magic in typewriters.

In my office is a “portable” typewriter (portable because it comes in its very own suitcase), but since obtaining it a long time ago it has just sat there in its case, waiting. I haven't even opened the case since after I first brought it home. I haven't checked to make sure it still works, or if it has a ribbon in it that can be re-inked, but it has not been relegated to the closet or garage either. It's right there next to my desk waiting for the day I am ready to try and wield its magic again.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll have to open it up this weekend, check it out, see what I need to do to make it usable. I've been dealing with a bout of writer's block lately (at least as far as writing new stuff goes), and have only been working on re-writes, but maybe flashing back to the days of the NES and cassette tapes will unlock something.


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