Rob and I have finally gotten the Season Five Dr. Who discs, with Matt Smith, so I’m catching up with the rest of the world. After seeing the first episode here are my quick reactions.
What have they done the theme song? I mean… lightning? Really?
Did the entire episode have to be dialed to 11?
I think I’ll like Matt Smith once I get used to him.
I like the steampunkish TARDIS interior.
An Olympia SM3 typewriter on the console? Really? The logo is held on with a little stud. You couldn’t knock it off and replace it with something else? Really? And the grey model? It doesn’t even match the color palette of the rest of the set. You couldn’t get the caramel with burgundy keys if you liked the shape so much?
But in general, I was happy to see the show and look forward to more of the Doctor’s adventures.
Several years ago, I turned my computer into the Kowal Portable Typewriter and Adding Machine, basing the design on some of the typewriters my husband and I collect. When I had to replace that, I was sad and planned on modding my new computer. I got as far as making the stickers and then we moved.
Over a year later… May I present the Kowal Portable Typewriter and Adding Machine No. 2. The Deco model.
For the most part, I did this one the same way as the original one, but with some important changes that made the whole process go much, much faster. The first version took a couple of weeks to mod. This one took a couple of hours. Continue reading ›
Gloria flexed her wrists trying to work some of the tension out of them while she waited for the propmaster to reset the scene. How had secretaries used typewriters like this for hours at a time?
Her left hand was captured in a strong, masculine grip. Gloria followed the arm up to meet Chance Hendrix’s eyes. He smirked at her with all the wattage of the dark eyes which had given him one of the highest recognition credits in his day. God. She’d had such a crush on him when she was a teen — but then so did all the other girls and most of the boys in her creche.
Interesting trivia: I wrote the first of these stories entirely on manual typewriters. At one point while writing the second two, I had to switch to the computer because I was traveling. Can you spot the point where my style changes?
What we have here is a short film in which Michael Winslow (Man of 10,000 sound FX from Police Academy) “recites” the history of typewriters. Watching him listen to the sound of a typewriter and then recreate it is strangely compelling.
So, you may have noticed that I have a thing about typewriters… Years ago I passed up a typewriter described as Ox-blood red and have regretted it ever since. When I made the Kowal Portable, I based it on the Ox-blood red machine.
This is not the exact model typewriter that I passed on, but it has the same paint job. It is a thing of beauty and will be arriving at our house next week. This is a Duotone Royal from, probably, the 1930s.
One of the very cool things about it is that it has sans serif type. I think all of our other machines are serifed.
Am I a geek? Yes, I am.
Do I mind? No, I do not.
The paper rollers are a little flattened but we have a good repairman who can probably swap them out. As I was telling a friend, the silly thing is that I don’t actually compose fiction on these although I keep meaning to give it a try. I just love the way they are beautiful and utilitarian at the same time.
We aren’t bidding on it, but I hope it finds a good home.
Cormac McCarthy, author of cheery favorites such as The Road and Blood Meridian, is about to trade in the typewriter he used to write them. The Olivetti Lettera 32 has been in his care for 46 years, since 1963, and it wasn’t even new then — McCarthy picked it up for $50 from a pawn shop in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Sometimes I think about trying to write an entire story on one of our manuals. I’m pretty sure that it would change the way the words flowed in the same way that writing longhand has an impact just because it changes the speed between the time it takes to think of a sentence and to record the thought.
Modern Mechanix posted this old ad for Corona typewriters. We have a slightly later model and I have to say that their claim that it’s the “finest, the fastest, the smoothest and easiest-running” is pretty darn true.
It’s the machine that we are most likely to pull out when we need to type something because its action is so nice. So, if you are looking for a typewriter for someone, and can find a Corona from the thirties, I highly recommend it.
Since I have all of these new folks stopping by to look at the typewriter mod, maybe one of you will have an idea of how to do the other nifty thing I want. I want a USB carriage return. You know? I mean, how perfect would that be to be able to plug that in for those occasions when I need a hard return.
On the whole, I must say that having this at Readercon is very strange. I had it out today because I needed to print out the story for my reading, and people stopped with a double-take, pointing, because they had seen it on BoingBoing. (For my regular readers, be patient, the surge in traffic will die down shortly.)
I’m heading up to Readercon for the weekend and will be taking the Kowal Portable Typewriter and Adding Machine with me. I’m already getting double-takes from passersby as I sit at the coffee shop, so I think it is a success. That, plus the sudden surge in website traffic…
We picked up the last of our typewriters (portable Smith-Corona with black pebbled finish) from the repair shop today. It has a smooth and lovely action. I typed a letter to celebrate. I think that, once we are in New York, I want to write a couple of short stories on our typewriters.
I was thinking about doing some sort of contest and giving the winner an original typewritten story. You know, you’d get the actual original manuscript–after I made a copy, of course. It just seems like, if I’m going to type it that the manuscript itself should be part of the package.
So the question is: What nifty contest can I host?
Really. What girl wouldn’t want one of these? Such a cool gadget.
Although, it does make me very conscious of all the retyping people used to have to do. I dimly remember this from when I was typing on our IBM Selectric, but we had some sort of special eraser tape that would either lift the mistake up or paste something over it. It only worked really well if you spotted the typo as you were going. If you had to correct something later, it was a pain to get the page to line up again.
I like my computer. Such a cool gadget. But I still want one of these.
Rob and I collect typewriters, and the Oliver, featured in this 1922 ad on Modern Mechanix is the prize of our collection. The visible action is beautiful and smooth. It’s so nice to see the original ad copy for it.
Narrating is at once the easiest part of reading aloud and the hardest. It is the easiest because you don’t have to worry about character voice or distinction–or do you?
You do. That’s why it’s one of the hardest parts. The narrator is a character in your story and is the one that needs to connect to the listener. The voice needs to be distinctive enough that when you say a line of dialogue and then return to the narrator, the audience recognizes the voice. At the same time, it cannot distract from the story by being so distinctive that it overshadows the words.
The initial instinct is to use your own voice. This is a good instinct, but I’m going to suggest that you use a specific form of your natural voice. When we’re talking, there’s a number of different shadings that happen with our voice most of which have to do with Attitude. Your voice changes, subtly, depending on whether you’re talking to your mother, your boss, your lover, or answering the phone.
Your phone voice is a really, really useful voice. It will probably sound professional, fairly neutral, and slightly more modulated than your hanging-with-chums voice. You know the one I mean, right?
So let’s take that voice out for a spin. I’m going to give you a chunk of text to play with from Ray Bradbury’s The Fruit in the Bottom of the Bowl. Read this silently first.
William Acton rose to his feet. The clock on the mantel ticked midnight.
He looked at his fingers and he looked at the large room around him and he looked at the man lying on the floor. William Acton, whose fingers had stroked typewriter keys and made love and fried ham and eggs for early breakfasts, had now accomplished a murder with those same ten whorled fingers.
He had never thought of himself as a sculptor and yet, in this moment, looking down between his hands at the body upon the polished hardwood floor, he realized that by some sculptural clenching and remodeling and twisting of human clay he had taken hold of this man named Donald Huxley and changed his physiognomy, the very frame of his body.
Here are very rough, basic rules to start with.
Speak slower than you think you should. As you become more familiar with text you will naturally speed up. This is the first time your audience has heard the words. You should be painfully slow, in your own ears.
A period means pause and count to 2.
A comma means pause and count to 1.
Go ahead and read through it, just thinking about that.
Now, the fun stuff.
Each sentence has a word or phrase that is the most important thing in it. Take the first sentance of the second paragraph. “He looked at his fingers and he looked at the large room around him and he looked at the man lying on the floor.”
What’s the most important thing here? “the man lying on the floor.” Underline it, so that when you get there you put a slight emphasis on it. Now in that phrase, what’s the most important word? Man? That would be my bet. So a slight line goes underneath it, but you don’t want to do too much or you’ll break the rhythm of the sentence.
Placing emphasis can be as simple as putting more stress on that part of the sentence, the same way you put more stress on the accented syllable of a word.
There’s a simple exercise to make you more concious of using stress in a sentence to change the meaning. Say “The ball is on the table.”
Now I want you to answer each of these questions with the same sentence, changing only the emphasis of one word to answer.
What is on the table?
The ball is on the table.
What is the ball on?
Is the ball under the table?
The ball is not on the table, is it?
There are other ways to do it as well. You can use a vocal tremor, a dimenuendo, a crescendo, tempo, aspiration or a dozen other tricks. The key is to decide how your character, the narrator, feels about the moment. Remember Attitude? Go through this block of text and mark the attitude that you think your character feels. The deeper the penetration into the POV character, the more attitude your voice should display.
Bradbury uses the word “looked” three times in that sentence. The echo of the word can be powerful if it’s used right. Take a minute and think about how William Acton feels about each of the things he’s looking at. Perhaps the emotions could be wonder, disorientation and horror.
Another section to pay special attention to is this bit, “he realized that by some sculptural clenching and remodeling and twisting of human clay”
The verbs “clenching” and “twisting” are particularly visceral. When I was talking about words that were almost onomodopaeic, I meant words like this. When you clench something it doesn’t really make a sound, but you can manipulate the word to create a vocal description of it. If you tighten your throat–clenching it–the sound of the word will change. Find words like these and see if you can wring the vocal description out of them.
So read that chunk o’text again–after marking it–and see how much emotion you can get out of it.
What we’ve done with this exercise is gone from an emotionally neutral narrator to an emotionally invested narrator. There are times when each will be the most appropriate choice. Remember when I said about each sentence having a word that’s the most important in it? When you are using these ornaments try to pick only one per sentence, otherwise it’s like having a superflity of adjectives. It’s very easy to tip from emotional investment to verbal pyrotechnics. Make certain that you are making choices that advance the story.
(Tor Books – July 14 2020) Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon. The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and […]