In the 21st century we were connected, interconnected. We had efficiency, convenience, escapist entertainment as real as life. We soared through a glowing cosmos of information, faster and faster. We knew it all, saw it all; we were everywhere at once, and nothing seemed beyond reach.
And then it all went away.
A deafening silence followed like a sleep, a seed gone into the ground. A death and rebirth. In the stillness, the isolation, we learned to see and hear again, to think and feel as if for the first time. The way forward was the way back. In the strange new world, our fingers found the old keys; the typeslugs found ribbons newly inked, and words formed again.
Cold Hard Type, a two-volume fiction anthology just released from Loose Dog Press, depicts a changing season for humankind. Volume 1, Paradigm Shifts: Typewritten Tales of Digital Collapse, imagines the end of the internet, the demise of smartphones, and the impact of this new reality on those determined to survive. Volume 2, Escapements: Typewritten Tales from Post-Digital Worlds, continues to follow the inhabitants of the new analog age in their struggles and triumphs.
The twist: all the stories and poems in these books are typewritten — on typewriters — by contributors from coast to coast and from around the world. Each manuscript page was scanned, so that the pages themselves are works of art — each a personalized and nostalgic window into the past of the printed word. Even the page headings and cover lettering were mechanically typed. Stark grayscale photos and artwork illustrate this imaginative portrait of a future that may be arriving even now. Format underscores content, for the unifying element in the stories is typewriters — typewriters clacking again in the post-apocalypse.
The twin volumes of this anthology are a labor of love. In order to keep the books easily affordable (less than $7 per copy) they were produced — writing, editing, layout — through volunteer work. Here is a wide array of voices: young and old, male and female, writers seasoned and freshly emerging, all passionate about their typewriters and the tales they tell.
Cold Hard Type is the inspiration of its chief editor, Dr. Richard Polt, philosophy professor at Xavier University and author of The Typewriter Revolution. He was assisted by co-editors Andrew V. McFeaters, writer and English professor at Broward College, and Frederic S. Durbin, writing instructor and author of A Green and Ancient Light (Saga Press). Author, editor, and book-designer Linda M. Au expertly managed the layout.
Individual writers were given free rein to imagine the nature and extent of the digital collapse, and their various approaches are both innovative and fascinating. The stories are dark, spirited, whimsical, compelling, gritty, frightening, poignant, thought-provoking… and, like their authors, disarmingly human.
A native of rural central Illinois, Frederic S. Durbin was writing before he could read (though that period of his work is largely misunderstood). In school, he loved English, acting, singing, and band; in college, he devoured mythology and English literature and majored in classical languages. He spent twenty-two years in Japan teaching ESL and writing, mostly at Niigata University. Recently returned to the U.S., he is a writing coach and continues to spin tales of fantasy for children and adults. He is the author of Dragonfly (1999), The Star Shard (2012), and A Green and Ancient Light (2017).