The Ghost in the Machine
I once dissed Neil Gaiman, a hero of mine, for talking about his hardware on his blog. From memory he left a Macbook Air on the plane. It’s a tragic tale of woe indeed. Except it’s hard to feel sympathy for the protagonist when he is Neil Gaiman (who has since been immortalised in a Simpsons cameo or did he immortalise the Simpsons with his presence?). Anyway as sad as it is for any writer to lose a bit of work here and there, I would hope he had most of it backed up and in more than one place. I’m sure he did. What I’m getting at, slowly, is that no matter how many manuscript copies you have as a writer, you can never feel completely safe.
Of course the days of twine bound manuscripts would have induced a lot more worry. You would have to guard that one and only copy with your life and there were the elements to think of as well as fire, theft, water and vermin. Even a clumsily dropped cup of tea had the ability to destroy months of work. It would have been a different time for the writer too. More thought would have gone into each stroke of the fountain pen or each sent typebar of the Remington. Perhaps it gave the writer more time to appreciate that fine Bordeaux breathing beside them and perhaps that fine Bordeaux is why more time was spent on each phrasing. But when that bundle was complete it was probably akin to a new born baby. Keep it safe, warm, dry and…quiet.
The most interesting manuscript story has to be Charles Darwin’s. Who is Charles Darwin? Well he’s the ‘Father of Evolution’ and the man that claimed that Russell (a former Capital of New Zealand) was filled with ‘the very refuse of society’. I think Charles would be pleased to know that Russell is no longer all grog shops and brothels. The locals now drink champagne, play golf and only use the finest escort services that money can buy. There’s his evidence of ‘evolution’ if ever there was. When he got back from this round the world trip on the HMS Beagle he set to work compiling one of the greatest scientific texts ever written called – The Origin of Species.
This manuscript was essentially sketched out by 1844 but Charles knew that the content was controversial to say the least. He put that Manuscript away for a decade before expanding it and finally publishing in 1859. That’s fifteen years of mildew, fade and silverfish. That manuscript could well have evolved into dust in that time. When you consider the importance of its message, it’s hard to believe he sat on it so long. What’s even harder to believe is that his children later used some pages from the original manuscript for scrap drawing paper. Thank God for software ( or should I say thank our opposable digits for technological advances).
Now back to Neil and Me. My computers haunted. This isn’t some virus that’s going around. I think it’s truly haunted. So I’m thinking more of a spirit than virus – a ghost if you will. Jan has been telling me of many appliances around the town that have given up recently. As we are approaching Halloween and that connection to the otherworld becomes more defined and tangible, it could be we have an unwelcome guest. Should I have it exorcised? Well as this computer was at one time owned by the Catholic Church, I would think that wasn’t necessary. Surely the processor was forged in holy water? What’s that saying again? ‘Intel Lives’?, ‘Intel Saves’?…no, no it’s ‘Intel Inside’.
All I know is that I have all my stuff backed up in 3 or 4 places at any given time. In one day ‘the ghost’ took out my PC and External hard drive. Had I not had those other back-ups? Well the ghost would have won. The lesson here is: if you have files that are really important to you, you can never have too many copies. Oh, and be nice to your appliances.