Word Processor of the Gods
This article does not cite any sources. (October 2008) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|"Word Processor of the Gods"|
|Published in||Playboy (1st release),
|Publisher||Playboy Media Corp|
|Media type||Print (Periodical)|
|Publication date||January 1983|
"Word Processor of the Gods" is a short story by American writer Stephen King, first published in the January 1983 issue of Playboy magazine under the title "The Word Processor", and collected in King's 1985 collection Skeleton Crew.
A middle-aged writer is disenchanted with his tyrannical wife, his disrespectful teenage son, and his life in general. His teenage nephew suddenly dies in a car accident caused by the writer's abusive brother, who was driving drunk, who dies as well along with the nephew's gentle, kind mother. Amongst the boy's effects, the writer finds a word processor, seemingly cobbled together from a dozen different sources, with the startup message stating "Happy birthday, Uncle Richard", revealing that it was intended as a birthday gift for the main character. At home, the writer discovers that the processor has the mysterious ability to affect reality, but the electronics in the patchwork machine are brittle and will not function for long.
While in the middle of testing the processor, Richard's son Seth returns home alongside his obnoxious band members. Overhearing his son badmouthing him, Richard deletes him, which retroactively erases his existence. His bandmates are gone, his room is empty, and every trace of him ever living there is gone. When his wife returns home, he finds she is now even fatter than when she left, the result of never having any children. After she vocally abuses him, he deletes her as well.
With the processor now rapidly deteriorating, Richard impulsively rewrites reality, making the nephew his own son, and his sister-in-law his wife, moments before the processor irreparably breaks. He turns around, finding the nephew alive once again, and now calling him Dad.
"Word Processor of the Gods" was adapted for an episode of the Tales from the Darkside TV series, first broadcast November 25, 1984.
A 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone, "A World of His Own", features a dictation machine that can bring things into existence. In another episode, "Printer's Devil", a devilish typist modifies a newspaper's linotype machine so that whatever is set in type subsequently happens.
A 1991 episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, "The Tale of the Dream Machine", features a typewriter that brings dreams into existence.
A 1991 romantic comedy/fantasy film, Delirious, starring John Candy, featured a TV soap opera writer who finds himself in the mythical town from the TV show, and uses a typewriter to change the characters and real-life story.
King himself revisited this theme in "Umney's Last Case," in which a hard-boiled private investigator discovers he is a fictional character whose creator plans to write him out of existence in order to take his place. The story ends with Umney exiled into the "real" world, which he considers a realm of horrors, while desperately trying to write himself back into his fictional life. "Umney's Last Case" appeared in the 1994 collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes.
A 1997 book in R. L. Stines' Goosebumps series, The Blob that Ate Everyone, has a typewriter that writes things into existence.
A 2006 film, Stranger than Fiction, has the main character's life directed by the manuscript of a novel as it is typed up.
A 2010 game, Alan Wake, features a writer going on vacation, only to find out that the lake he lives near has the power to turn everything he writes into existence.