The LongPen: out of ink

Margaret Atwood isn't just the author of best-selling, award-winning novels like The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake — she's also the inventor of the LongPen, also known as Unotchit (pronounced you-no-touch-it), a machine with a transcontinental reach that's supposed to precisely transcribe words written on a special pad. When fans gathered at the McNally Robinson bookstore in New York City this past Sunday to snag an Atwood autograph, they were surprised to learn she was actually at the London Book Fair. Appearing on a screen via teleconferencing, Atwood attempted to put on the first LongPen book signing. Her invention, however, was out of commission. Developer John Wiltshire said it was working just half an hour before the scheduled event but couldn't get it up and running again in time for the signing. So instead of sharing in signature history, fans walked out with a receipt for an Atwood-signed book that the author would mail them from London, at least safe in the knowledge that the machines were not currently advanced enough to rise up and destroy them.