George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series on which the HBO hit Game Of Thrones is based, recently had a minor mishap with some writing. If you’ve ever used a computer to write anything much longer than a Facebook post, you’ve probably experienced this particular disaster at least once — a data loss.
It happens often enough that most readers who’ve ever typed up a term paper are wincing at the mere thought. A program glitches, the power goes out, or a pet pulls the computer cord from the wall outlet, and all your work is lost. Of course, it happens less frequently today, with the many auto-save features incorporated into blogs and word-processing programs, than it did a decade ago. Still, it does happen, and it happened yesterday, as the Game of Thrones author composed a long blog post about the past year.
Yes — it was only a blog post, not the Winds of Winter manuscript, or even a chapter or portion of it. It was certainly a loss for fans, who would certainly have enjoyed Martin’s musings on the Game of Thrones series, his books, and his travels, and especially those fans who are waiting for any hint of when Winds of Winter can be expected. Still, it was only a blog post, and doesn’t seem to spell any additional delays in the publication of that book, or any loss of show content.
However, rather than breathing a sigh of relief, Game of Thrones fans began to express concern. Some were in milder, good-natured jokes, and some appeared to be more sincerely aghast expression of fear that a similar horror could befall Martin’s more serious writing.
After all, LiveJournal has an autosave feature, and in this case, it appears to have failed the author, who said in a comment, “Well, the system does have regular saves, and usually ‘Restore’ will bring them back. But today, for whatever reason, it does not bring back today’s post but the one I aborted last night.”
Fans began to wonder if any of the tales that inspired Game of Thrones had ever suffered — or might in the future suffer — a similar fate, and began to ask questions.
Martin responded, saying that no, he had never lost a chapter of Winds of Winter, but the reason he stated left fans in an even greater state of shock.
“Never. And you know why? Because I write my fiction with WordStar 4.0 on a DOS machine. Stable as a rock, with none of the glitches of Windows-based systems.”
Wordstar 4.0 hit computers in the late ’80s. Granted there have been updates and newer releases, but the very name sounded like ancient technological history for some readers, who responded with questions that referred to a “20 year old machine” and “word processors way back then.”
It wasn’t exactly news to all Game of Thrones fans — according to Slate, the author explained the same fact in an interview back in early 2014.
The author explained further, saying that newer systems are actually a problem for him, particularly certain automatic functions, like spell check, which he says gets in the way of a lot of names and terminology associated with Game of Thrones.
“More modern systems have too much ‘functionality’ for me. They get in my way, and there are so many bells and whistles I can figure out how to do the things I want them to do, and make them stop doing the ones I don’t.
“For instance, I don’t WANT spellcheck. Spellcheck has fits over words like Targaryen, maegi, anything in Dothraki or High Valyrian, etc etc”
Well, certainly no one would want Daenerys to get less page or screen time because Martin wanted to avoid battling spellcheck. Still, he had more to reveal and fans were in for another shock.
How does George R. R. Martin back up his copies of the Game of Thrones books? A floppy disk.
At this point, we know there are hard copies, and presumably digital copies, of a lot of what’s yet to come in Game of Thrones and the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels. Salon reported back in April that the HBO crew has already been apprised of the ending, and clearly the show’s creators have outlines and other information that passes what has been printed in the novels.
Thus, even if all of Martin’s computer systems crashed, and all his disks were destroyed, large portions of the story line could surely be recovered. Still, the image of Winds of Winter stored in a medium that could be lost to a strong magnet is a little frightening.
As for hints and spoilers, readers needn’t worry too much about the lost blog post: the Game of Thrones author has already released a shorter “Cliff’s Notes” version, broken into smaller posts starting here, and has assured readers that no major information about Winds of Winter was in the original post.
Game of Thrones season 6 premieres in April, and Winds of Winter, the sixth novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, still has no projected release date.
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]