Tuesday, November 09, 2010

True to Type

We all know about Ray Bradbury's first typewriter. One of those toy dial devices, where you painstakingly line up a pointer with the letter you want to print. This isn't the exact model, but I believe Ray's is something like this:

He still owns the Deluxe Toy Dial machine, but probably hasn't written with it for over seventy years. Of course, Ray didn't ever do any professional work with this device, but he supposedly wrote an Edgar Rice Burroughs-inspired novel on it when still at a tender young age. In later years he progressed to more sophisticated machineries, some of them electrical.

And has even been known to Skype:

All right, he has some help when he does this, but it proves he's not quite the luddite some people would have you believe.

What of other writers? Where did they first tap out their tales?

Harlan Ellison began on something rather more professional than Bradbury: a portable Remington, bought for him by his mother when he was fifteen years old. He wrote his earliest stories on this machine, and produced his fanzine Dimensions on it up to about 1954.

Harlan is now looking to sell this historic item, and the current asking price is a sweet $40,000. In case you doubt the significance of Ellison the writer, I remind you that this man has won (deep breath):

  • 8-and-a-half Hugo Awards from the World Science Fiction Convention
  • 3 Nebula Awards from the Science Fiction Writers of America
  • 5 Bram Stoker Awards from the Horror Writers' Association
  • 2 Edgar Awards from the Mytery Writers of America
  • a George Melies Award
  • a Silver Pen Award for Journalism
  • 4 Writers Guild of America Awards for screenwriting

He is, without doubt, one of the most significant 20th-century American writers of the literature of the fantastic. That old Remington may not be the machine upon which he wrote of the Harlequin, or Jeffty, or Vic & Blood; but it's the machine that first allowed him to unleash his astonishing literary muse.

Have a spare 40k? What a magnificent Christmas gift this would make:

Read more about Harlan and his typewriter at the official Harlan's Typewriter For Sale site.


Muriel C. said...

Hello Phil, great post about amazing news! Why would Harlan sell such a treasure? I heard he's been quite ill lately, but I didn't know the poor guy was that bad off. Still I hope the right collector comes along to buy it and preserve it. $40,000 for an important museum piece like this sounds like a bargain. Didn't Cormac McCarthy's typewriter sell for like a quarter million earlier this year? I'd have to say Harlan ranks right up there with McCarthy. Best of luck to him. Harlan is probably the most important fantasist of the 20th century...next to Ray Bradbury, of course!

Phil said...

Hi Muriel. I gather that Harlan has been thinking about how things might be for his wife Susan if he should shuffle off this mortal coil. That's all I know.

David Silver, who is managing the sale, has posted more information in a series of posts on Harlan's own message board:

(Unfortunately, it's impossible to link to individual postings within that board, so you have to plough through the pages of previous messages.)

Brenda Balin said...

Hi, Phil!
Nice post about Harlan Ellison's typewriter.
For those who are interested in more about the machine and its history, David Silver has posted this page:

David is accepting all serious inquiries.

As we speak, I am trying to find the formula to turn lead into gold, so I can afford it myself.
So far, I own too much lead, not enough gold...