Writing days . . . .

1. Spring 1970.  Writing on THE FOREVER WAR at the outdoor hot dog cafe in Brooksville. It opened at 9 in the morning and had ice-cold beer. Outside of town, on the road to Ocala. Biked there with the Olivetti Valentine strapped on the bike, maybe a half-mile. They had great foot-long chili dogs!

But I'd start my day before that.  I'd usually get up around 4 and have a quick shower while the espresso machine perked. Wake up with a triple espresso and then decelerate into deceptively strong Luzianne (half chicory).

Best writing days . . . 

Writing at home before dawn, while our Manx Petie (named after Heinlein's Petronius Arbiter) sat and napped in the bookcase overhead. Once she started make retching noises, and I just managed to snatch the typewriter away in time!

2. Same machine, an Olivetti Valentine,  writing in the bodega across the alleyway from our little hotel in Sevilla, Old Town.

(On perhaps the same machine, I wrote a story about a storm to end all storms, typing in the most pleasant environment imaginable -- on the fragrant veranda of a motel in Montego Bay, surrounded by humid darkness.  Quiet surf  under a crescent moon.)  

3. Pounding away on WAR YEAR on the new Smith-Corona electric, present from my mother, in College Park,  Maryland; my last year in college. Think I started the Attar series a year or so later, in the side room in Big Red's. (A small upstairs apartment with a bright red door -- we'd lived there some months when we found out it used to belong to a prostitute named Big Red.)

4. The confident hum of the Olivetti Praxis -- I think Roger Zelazny talked me into getting it, when we were visiting Jay in Baltimore. The keys couldn't jam, and the type face was Wide Elite Victorian, a pseudo-weighted font. The motor burned out twice, but I loved the feel of it. (Though it didn't help my typing ability, since there was no penalty for errors.  It stopped rather than jamming.)

5. Bought my first Selectric discounted through Analog/Conde Nast. Picked it up at the Analog office and carried it home on the commuter train. While brother Jay and I were waiting (drunkenly) at the commuter station, a cop came up to interrogate us about the obviously stolen machine! (My mother luckily drove up, probably not too sober herself, and rescued us.)

6. First computer, an Apple //. It came with Dr. Memory, and I used it with a couple of upgrades over the years. I gave it lower-case by soldering in an extra third-party chip, which worked with AppleWorks.

7. Apple ][+

Writing at home there before dawn, while our Manx Petie (named after Heinlein's Petronius Arbiter) sat and napped in the bookcase overhead. Once she made retching noises, and I just managed to snatch the typewriter away in time!

8. First MacIntosh Powerbook. Carried it to the South Seas, where a line of ants invaded it for some reason!

9. Toshiba and Tandy "laptops," primitive machines with little static RAM memory. Bought my first one on the road, with blackjack winnings from a Louisiana casino.

10. Little Red, an antique Royal (I think 1929) manual. A beautiful little workhorse that I saw in a typewriter shop window in Iowa City while the city was deserted during a football game, cheers echoing from the stadium. Carried it to most of the Apollo launches. Keys covered with isinglass, I think.

I wrote a lot of the first Attar novel on this machine in Ocean City.

In 1983, the same time we moved into Eastgate housing at MIT, I started writing my novels in fountain pen ink in bound ledgers or blank books. Some of the blank books are pretty fancy, though many are plain Moleskine-type books. Somewhere I have a picture of them stacked in order. <Insert here when I find it.>

11. Mostly MacBook Pros from the 90s on.

12. Can't remember which machine was attacked by ants! We were somewhere in the South Seas, maybe Aitutaki. We had a cabin just up a short gravel road from the surf. We spent the morning snorkeling in the shallow reefs just beyond the surf, in  mostly knee-deep water, and when we came back I found a long line of tiny black ants leading from the kitchenette baseboard up the table leg and into my computer. We sprayed them to oblivion and I took the computer apart; no obvious sugary substances in evidence.  Never happened again. I've never found out what inside the computer might have triggered this pheremone-like response. Some lubricant or adhesive, I suppose.


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