A Memory of Light

Computers Made It Easier

Written by Harriet McDougal

Computers made it easier. Actually, first an electric typewriter made it easier. Robert Jordan was an engineer by training, and he really liked a clean typescript. He had begun by writing by hand on yellow legal pads, and when he switched to a typewriter he called his work “typing” rather than “writing.” This lasted for a while. He said, at one point, “The only difference between my work and that of a typist is that I have to make up what I type.” But of course he loved it.

And then computers entered our lives. I worked on a TRS-80, eventually adding an external drive; he cleverly bought an Apple III – a dog of a machine, which still contains some files we have never been able to access. Now that his papers and that machine are in the Addlestone Library of the College of Charleston, the archivists may be able to pry the information out.

Then there came the days of compatible laptops, so that he could finish a chapter in his machine and give me the disk to read in my machine. I recall one book we finished this way in the Murray Hill Hotel, an easy jump from Tor’s offices in the Flatiron building. When the chapter was ready I would jump in a taxi with my laptop to turn it in to Tor – then gallop back to the hotel for more editing.

We were doing that because the book was late. Weren’t they all? Tom Doherty performed miracles in getting the books produced in no time at all. But what Robert Jordan did under the pressure of deadlines – even if he missed them, the pressure was THERE – seems, as I look back, to be little short of miraculous, too.

He began all his books with the wind blowing. Breath, to instill life into his characters. In the Bible, Job 33:4 says, “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” When other writers would talk of their characters taking on life of their own, and controlling the story, he said, “I am an Old Testament creator: My fist is in the middle of my characters’ lives.”

Oh, dear, dear man. And what a creator he was! And, as Scott Card said of The Eye of the World, what a powerful vision of good and evil.

On January 8 you will see the final turning of his powerful vision. It comes to you with his love. And mine.

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From the Tor/Forge January Wheel of Time newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.

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