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back to article Game of Thrones written on brutal medieval word processor and OS

That Game of Thrones author George R R Martin writes his tomes and scripts using WordStar has been common knowledge for a while: he blogged about it back in 2011 . Yesterday the chronicler of the cruel pseudo-medieval Seven Kingdoms popped up on US chat show Conan and explained why. As you'll see in this excerpt from the …

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Do you think someone should tell him you can turn those options off?

Though I guess not having the option to browse the internet and stare at cat pictures all day helps with the focus, all that incest* doesn't write itself..

(*I've only watched the first episode of GoT but presuming it's a common theme judging by it being the majority of the pilot)

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Or type it in Wordpad. No spell check, minimal formatting, and output to RTF, so can be read with anything. Though yes, not having the internet is probably the most work-inducing feature of the DOS box.

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...not having the internet is probably the most work-inducing feature of the DOS box.

I realize there's no actual cable plugged into the box, but I still shudder to think what would happen if someone told him of the Arachne browser...

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Stop

Real men run WordStar 3.3 on a CP/M 2.2 box.

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Anonymous Coward

And as for the spellcheck, that's where user dictionaries come in. Plus, you can always tell it to simply indicate, not auto-correct.

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Anonymous Coward

"Though I guess not having the option to browse the internet and stare at cat pictures all day helps with the focus, all that incest* doesn't write itself.."

It is also the only way to really secure your system from outside attacks. If you make your living writing books then you REALLY don't want people to steal them. So securing your work in a system not connected to any network is a really good idea.

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Headmaster

No, spellcheck is done with a spell book. Spelling check is done with a dictionary.

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Ah but the thing is, when you're writing you don't want to be distracted by petty things like spelling and grammar. That's something you worry about when you're editing afterwards (before you send it to the editor for ritual dismemberment).

Writing and editing are fundamentally different modes of thought. When you're writing you don't want to be interrupted, and the squiggly red lines and things are all distractions that interrupt the flow of your thoughts.

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Real men run WordStar

Pah! I set this reply in hot metal on a Linotype then uploaded it by bicycle

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WYSIWYG is the problem

Those of us who remember 16 bit / 8 bit word processing know what he is talking about. Modern word processors take up your time and intrude on your concentration with a thousand formatting trivialities. In a way they make you do more work, not less.

I wonder what El Reg writers use. Formatting is a non-issue for them I guess. And why should professional writers also be professional formatters ? Personally I do it all by sense of smell.

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@big_D

Well played; here, have an +5 on your next Intelligence roll upvote.

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Re: WYSIWYG is the problem

I was told to just write the content and worry about formatting it later, but yeah, you can be distracted.

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Re: WYSIWYG is the problem

For just entering and reviewing text, you only want a good keyboard and an uncluttered display. If I had only to transcribe my imagination into text, I would be happy with GRRM's setup. Internet is a distraction.

Does Wordstar have an 'autosave' feature'? I would just have to get back into the habit of using a keyboard shortcut at the end of every paragraph.

Though I do rather like the 'document map' feature in Word, I understand that GRRM employs a super fan to help with character continuity and the like.

The author Will Self uses a typewriter. He explained that if he were the write "A maroon car sped by..." he won't be tempted to waste time by popping back to make it a "burgundy car", as he might if he were using a word-processor. He doesn't need a UPS or autosave feature, he can't accidentally save an edited version over an original etc... True, he might lose his draft in the case of a house fire or burglary, but these events are rarer than a BSOD or a file management error on the part of the user.

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I still have my original installation disks for WS ... and I agree with his choice. When you are a writer (as opposed to some hacker who grew up on Word) then WS allows you to just write - it does exactly what you ask it to do.

Suddenly my interest level in Game of Thrones is increased ... I might even read one of the books - but watching it ... that's a bridge too far at this point.

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Good Advice,

@ AC just before @Big_D, So why the AC.

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Re: WYSIWYG is the problem

I had tried convincing the OpenOffice folks (pre-LibreOffice) to include an "unformatted" editing option in the wordprocessor (and even spreadsheet) modules. Something like the "text-only" editing mode in WordPerfect 5.x for Windows. In WP5.x it was a mode that would look like the old DOS non-GUI version, where you had simple monospaced text, and the only clues to formatting were text/background colours.

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"all that incest* doesn't write itself"

Nah, that's not the core of the plot, it is more about paedophilia and reinforcing the misguided notion that teens getting married was the norm in days gone by. It was picked up by the producers for the amazing number of scenes containing nude or partially nude under-age girls (even if the actresses actually aren't, the characters they are portraying are = a very weird kind of paedophillia).

I think the books would have been 1000% better if he had used a more up to date word processor that auto-corrected the names, his character names are often just ridiculous corruptions of modern names that just make reading them awkward.

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Re: WYSIWYG is the problem

Those of us who remember 16 bit / 8 bit word processing know what he is talking about.

Indeed. When I'm writing creatively I use Sublime (with syntax highlighting turned off, naturally) for the same reasons he uses WordStar. Granted no one's ever going to buy the stories I write even if the few people I share them with enjoy them, but the point still stands.

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Re: Real men run WordStar

>uploaded it by bicycle

Luxury! I had to hand-assemble the metal atoms into viable form then persuade 500 cats to carry them to El Reg!

How many I'll get back after the Vultures have finished with them is anybodies guess. Or how many less vultures El Reg will have after meeting the cats..

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Nah.

REAL men use COPY CON FILENAME.ZIP

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JLV
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@Badvok

>the misguided notion that teens getting married was the norm in days gone by.

Strangely enough, I remember one person coming up with this same dumb argument on rec.arts.sf.written

Easy enough to check, at least for the nobility, so I went and looked up Wikipedia entries for French kings and queens in the 1400s. They indicate date of birth and marriage date.

Not unexpectedly, your opinions notwithstanding, there were lots of early teen marriages. I did not, but it would be easy to do, think of looking up the birthdates of the resulting children, which would indicate a minimum for when the marriage was consummated.

Given a fully hereditary dynastic political system must have been tremendous pressure to have children as early as possible.

Dani getting married at 13 is not really unusual for the times. Anyway, a significant component of the plot is that Viserys is really being a bastard marrying her off that early. Having her get married at 20 would kinda nullify that component.

Last, getting married at 13 when the average life expectancy is 35 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy#Life_expectancy_variation_over_time) makes a fair bit of sense.

Even if a good chunk of deaths probably happened at childbirth as well. Waiting till 25 for would mean you might very well not rear your children to adulthood.

Very happy that childhood is better protected now, but mores and circumstances were different then so nothing wrong with a work of fiction depicting things as they were. Though there would be plenty wrong with graphic descriptions of the ensuing sex.

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"the misguided notion that teens getting married was the norm in days gone by".

How do you figure that? There's still plenty of places on the planet where it is *still* the norm. I was staying in such a place in 2005. There was some disapproval of a wedding going on in the next village. Because the bride was twelve, IIRC. They felt that was too young. But fifteen would have been seen as perfectly normal. Eighteen probably counted as "stuck on the shelf". Meanwhile I think that boys were expected to become working adults at about sixteen, the Big Men of the village were in their late thirties, and anybody over about fifty was past it.

In short, everything happens much much sooner. Maybe it's because of the low life-expectancy alone, or perhaps the subsistence agriculture and low levels of education come into it too.

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"Nah, that's not the core of the plot, it is more about paedophilia and reinforcing the misguided notion that teens getting married was the norm in days gone by."

It may not have been the norm in the general population but it certainly was in the aristocracy. Most marriages of the upper classes were made for political or business reasons.

Paedophilia is a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Most of the teenage marriages in the books in the books show people as being unhappy with the situation but going through with it because it is their duty. As far as I can remember there are only 3 characters who are sexually attracted to their teenage brides:

- Craster, who has a hareem of his own daughters and is reviled by all the other characters in the books.

- Walder Frey, who is married to a 14 year old and regarded as a lecherous old man.

- Khal Drogo, who marries Daenerys.

Of those three only Khal Drogo is portrayed in a favourable light. This is only because most of what we know about him is relayed to us through the eyes of Daenerys who is likely suffering some form of Stockholm syndrome. Khal Drogo is by no means a nice person, he just happens to treat her better than her brother did.

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@Mike SMith

REAL men use COPY CON FILENAME.ZIP

Well played.

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I started out on WordStar, but my favourite text based WP was Protext from Arnor. I used that on my CPC6128, Amiga and under MS-DOS.

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Anonymous Coward

Turn them off?

Why not have it the other way -- if you really want them turn them on?

Just as with Unix if you want the system to delete /tmp when you reboot you can tell it to -- not let it quietly delete what you've saved in there.

I hate all these fucking 'friendly' settings. Pile of shite.

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Real men use ed

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Protext

was good. A proper word processor in 8 bits, especially when combined with 80-colun text eg. on the Amstrad. I wrote a final year project on Protext, splitting it across 2 floppies (simply 2 documents concatenated).

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Re: @Badvok

The 'age' of the characters is irrelevant, the book is set in a fantasy world where there are dragons and magic and shit, there is no reason why their years == our years.

Timing is weird in Westeros - a good definition of a year is the time passing between seasons until you return again to the same season, and it has been "summer" for (at least) the past "15 years", so how a Westeros Year is defined is unknown.

Arya is 9 at the start of the books, Jon Snow 15. Do either Maisie Williams (17) or Kit Harrington (27) look 9 or 15? By the end of book 5 (maybe equates to season 5/6), they should be 11 and 17.

My conclusion is that Westeros years are longer than Earth years.

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Re: Turn them off?

We all (most of us) remeber the paperclip atrocities.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifleu0VVAc0

Lest we forget.

I expect Mr Martin has been subject to similar annoyances and has decided: Never again.

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@Version 1.0

RE:"Suddenly my interest level in Game of Thrones is increased ... I might even read one of the books - but watching it ... that's a bridge too far at this point."

Beware. I resisted this pathetic fad until season 3 had ended. I looked with pity and condescension, and a small amount of derision, upon all those gullible fools who sat glued to their TV screens and filmed themselves doing so. I watched the viewer reactions to the "Red Wedding" episode with amazement and incomprehension. WTF is wrong with these people?

Then, out of curiosity, I watched episode 1 of the first season. Hmmm. Just one more perhaps. Before I knew it I was at the last episode of season one and desperately seeking the rest.

This thing is extraordinarily involving and addictive. Now I watch season 4 as it happens then go and read what other afflicted have to say about it on my favourite Guardian blog. Oh, the outrage when spoilers were emitted after... And the joy of those who have read the books watching the reactions of their spouses to certain events and claiming it as the highlight of their week. And... Ahem.

Beware. Its a virus and it will infect your brain regardless of your resistance to such societal phenomena. I am a pathetic husk of what I used to be and will sit discussing it with my wife, who has read the books, trying to goad her into spouting spoilers and sticking my fingers in my ears when she bursts and cannot help herself any more...Very sad.

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Real men use ed

No, no, it goes like this:

Real men use ed.

!q

/q

/quit

.quit

.

Q

~$ ed

a

Real men use ed.

.

w reply.txt

Q

~$

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@Blane Bramble

WS3.3? How effete! I remember in WS 1 having to hex-edit a few bytes near the end of the program to determine which (dot-matrix) printer it would output to.

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Re: Protext

I wrote my project on the CPC6128 in Protext as well.

It was either that of DisplayWrite IV on the PCs in the labs.

Later on I had to do a migration from DW IV to WP 5.1 for a company. It is amazing how hard people will fight to stay with what they know. The finance department complained about the high level of support calls the company were being charged for. We then pointed out that the Finance director's PA was responsible for 70% of the calls and it was always the same thing - the converter was US based and converted all documents to Letter sized paper.

She had a training course, where they were told about this and told to set it to A4 the first time they edited the document (the company chose the tool, so it wasn't "our" problem), but the PA thought that if she made enough support calls, they would switch back to DW IV. Funny, after the director had a quiet word with her, the support calls dropped of by over 60% the next month.

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Re: WYSIWYG is the problem

"I wonder what El Reg writers use."

Can't speak for anyone else, but I can tell you what I use. 50% of my writing is done using my personal Server 2008 R2 VM with a heavily customised version of Word 2010*.

The ribbon bar was completed excised from the application. I have disabled most "features" and "formatting" bits. For all intents and purposes it is an instance of Notepad with spell check, a decade's worth of custom dictionary, word count (very important!), version control and the ability to pass the document back and forth to my colleagues and get feedback via comments, change tracking etc.

About 30% of my writing is done in LibreOffice writer 4.2, which is what I run on my netbook. In every way that matters to me it is identical to Office 2010, and superior in a few ways. The only reason I haven't switched away from Office entirely is apathy. Office 2010, modified to meet my needs, works and works well. A properly set up LibreOffice would work well too, but that would require reconfiguring what I have, so I'll probably just run both on different machines until end-of-support for Office 2010 makes me switch.

The other 20% of my work occurs in Google Docs, though this is increasing. To put it bluntly, if there is going to be collaboration outside of my company, it's almost always going to be Google Docs. It seems to be what my clients use.

I should probably point out that the peculiarities of The Register's CMS mean that it is simply cheaper (time-wise) and easier to write everything in HTML. I don't use features like "bold" or "italics". I write my formatting in raw HTML for every single article, whitepaper and so forth.

Maybe these newfangled productivity suites with their newfangled interfaces and auto-helping default settings have a purpose for some/most/everyone-who-is-not-me. Can't speak to that. What I can say is that I've been using productivity suites since I was three years old. I cut my teeth on things like Wordperfect 5.1. When I write, I want to write. I don't want to think about "where is command X?" or "why is it doing that now?".

I want to know where my controls and commands are. I don't want it to auto-format or reconfigure a single thing. If I want formatting, I'll code it. If I want a command, I'll go where I have gone for the past 30 years of my life.

The future and all it's touch-enabled, auto-assisting, Clippy-friendly 0.8px-after-your-paragraph interfaces belongs to a newer generation. It is for people who are not me; those who grew up mashing txt msgs into their keypads and relying on T9 predictive text. Those who instinctively trust the computer to "get things right".

I don't. I can't. It's not in me. So what do I write on? That which feels familiar, comfortable and safe**. The future and all it's children can have the rest.

*I upgraded from Windows XP and Office 2003 only about three months ago.

**The religious wars are for those who don't make a living off of their writing.

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Re: WYSIWYG is the problem

What do Reg writers use?

I use OpenOffice 4.0. Previously I used Lotus Symphony. Once that code went into OpenOffice and MacOS X Mavericks borked Symphony, the jump was easy.

I spent years in MS Word: it crashed very regularly about six hours into my work day, mangled text formats, was horrible to use with columns or images and generally made my life miserable if I tried to do anything more than just type. In other words, WYSIWYG made my life hell.

Having said that, I no longer try to do any WYSIWYG. So maybe OpenOffice is just as bad once I push it beyond basic text.

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Whereas today...

...Macintoshes are brutal and clunky. Seriously! I let the design department talk me into installing two teaching labs of the maliciously-crippled things (on the - obviously outdated - assumption that an OS was an OS and it really wouldn't matter much), and am now stuck with them for another 2 years (well technically, the students are stuck with them - it took me 2 weeks to get sick of the one in my office and have it replaced with a Win7 machine - and those who know me know I am a Linux fanGrrl).

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Re: Whereas today...

Nonsense. The good author needs to witness the power and ease of use a Macintosh 128K. The 512x382 screen resolution in black and white will please him and the sturdy 400K floppies (if he can still get them) will hold many, many pages of text.

To make it even sweeter, it comes with its own writing program, MacWrite.

He's to get in contact with the charismatic young Steven P. Jobs in California. Now, there's a go-getter if ever there was one.

Once Martin has used a Macintosh, he'll never go back.

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Re: Whereas today...

I won't argue with that, deadlockvictim! Macintoshes /used/ to be phenomenal. I would use nothing else. But that was last century.

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Re: Whereas today...

Up-voted for superb fanbois trolling...

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Re: Whereas today...

Floppy 1 - OS

Floppy 2 - MacWrite

Floppy 3 - Documents

Floppy 4 - Backup Documents

Ahh, it was all so easy then.

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Re: Whereas today...

I agree. I have a couple still at home for nostalgia purposes and my favourite is the IIfx.

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Re: Whereas today...

Macintoshes are brutal and clunky. Seriously! I let the design department talk me into installing two teaching labs of the maliciously-crippled things (on the - obviously outdated - assumption that an OS was an OS and it really wouldn't matter much), and am now stuck with them for another 2 years (well technically, the students are stuck with them - it took me 2 weeks to get sick of the one in my office and have it replaced with a Win7 machine - and those who know me know I am a Linux fanGrrl).

I'm inclined to agree. The learning curve on a Mac is pretty brutal by comparison to the one on Linux or even Windows. Add to that the fact that Apple assumes all their users are idiots and you've got a recipe for a terrible OS, at least for those of us who are used to being able to dig into our machines as deeply as we choose.

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If he's into self-flagellation

...someone should point him towards LaTeX

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Re: If he's into self-flagellation

I was sitting next to a young lady on an airplane who was writing an academic paper in Latex, it certainly didn't seem comfortable!

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Re: If he's into self-flagellation

I was sitting next to a young lady on an airplane who was writing an academic paper in Latex

I bet you never wanted to leave that flight, did you ;-)

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Re: If he's into self-flagellation

I use Latex a lot. Turns out to be a much faster way to get things on paper than most of the alternatives (Wordstar surely excepted). The initial learning curve is a bit painful though.

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Re: If he's into self-flagellation

LaTex?

Surely that kind of stuff is what editors and type setters are for?

I think the WordStar thing is perfect - he puts down the text in as minimal a way possible and those people paid to convert that into a published work, well, convert it into a published work. That seems and efficient and sensible division of labour to me.

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Re: Next to a young lady ... in Latex

Mmmmm.

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Re: If he's into self-flagellation

I'm quite fond of Lyx - the LaTeX word processor - myself. Lovely output, and free.

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