Writers: Clarion wants your dead keyboard!

Are you a pro sf/f/h writer? The Clarion Foundation, the 501(c)3 charity that oversees the original Clarion workshop wants your keyboard!

Like all nonprofits, we're always in fundraising mode, and to that end, I have a curious, easy-to-fulfil request for you for something that we're pretty excited about.

WHAT I'D LIKE FROM YOU IS AN OLD, BROKEN-DOWN KEYBOARD, from a desktop, laptop or even a typewriter. I'm guessing that you're like me and can't bring yourself to throw out your old keyboards even after they start sticking, lose keys, and are replaced by modern ones.

We're trying to get as many as 101 old keyboards from genre writers, and then we are going to send keys from each to Datamancer, a talented steampunk hardware hacker who builds beautiful retrofuturistic keyboards that normally retail for about $1000-$1500 (and he sells them as fast as he can build 'em!). Datamancer is going to build us a keyboard that we are going to auction off as the most totemic artefact in science fiction history, a keyboard whose keys have been used, in aggregate, to write hundreds of beloved novels, thousands of classic stories. A keyboard whose products have won Hugos and Nebulas by the bushel.

The keyboard will be auctioned off with a hand-bound book listing all the works written on its keys (so in addition to the keyboard, we'd like you to recall, as best as you can, which books, stories, teleplays, essays, etc you wrote on it).

Additionally, Catherine Cheek -- a talented visual artist who is also a Clarion alum and volunteer -- will be making a variety of sculptures and objets from the remaining keys, all to be auctioned.

All proceeds from all the auctions will go to the Clarion Foundation (naturally).

If you're game, contact Catherine at clarionkeyboard@gmail.com with the list of professional fiction and related works that you've written on your dead keyboard. You'll be in good company: we have keyboards in hand from Neil Gaiman, Kate Wilhelm, Ted Chiang, Nancy Kress, John Shirley, Richard Kadrey, Peter Watts, Spider Robinson, Pat Murphy, John Shirley, James Patrick Kelly, Lucius Shepard, Michael Swanwick, Ken MacLeod, Walter Jon Williams and several others!


  1. Ye gods! We throw them out all the time – occupational hazard of running a data center from your basement. I’ll see how many my husband and I can pull together.

    Jenise, Clarion ’95

  2. I’m not an SF writer, but this is a really terrific idea for a fundraiser. Collecting the writer’s “aura” in the age of mechanical reproduction, and all that… Nice.

  3. I think this is great, but I don’t see why you need to limit yourself to only one keyboard.

    If you get 50 or 100 writers to donate their keyboards and you only take one or two letters off each of them, then you still have hundreds of letters left to make similar ones. I don’t think the awesomeness of the keyboard will be reduced if you have 10 of them than if you just had 1.

    And anyway, 10 of them sold even at half the price is more money raised than 1 of them.

    …I also see no reason why only one lucky person should get to have such a cool keyboard!

  4. Knowing the states of mind that I get into when I’m writing, I suspect this keyboard will hunger for souls.

    You have been warned.

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