George R.R. Martin reveals his ‘secret weapon’ to Conan O’Brien

When George R.R. Martin writes his “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, the basis for HBO’s megahit series “Game of Thrones,” he sends his mind to a fantastical pre-Internet world. But it turns out, he writes the novels without the Internet too.

Martin appeared on “Conan” on Tuesday and talked to host Conan O’Brien about his writing method, which involves two computers. There’s his everyday computer, which he uses for Internet, email, paying his taxes, etc. And then there’s his writing computer.

“I have my writing computer, which is a DOS machine, not connected to the Internet,” Martin said.

For those too young to remember, DOS was the Disk Operating System that ran most household PCs from 1981 until around the turn of the millennium.


“I use WordStar 4.0 as my word processing system,” he continued.

“Did you make this computer out of wood? Did you carve it?” O’Brien wanted to know.

Actually, Martin uses an old-fashioned computer for two reasons. First, by keeping it off the Internet, he’s free from the threat of hacking and viruses that are rampant online these days. And second, it just shows he’s loath to mess with success. The first novel in the series “A Game of Thrones” was published in 1996, meaning it was written back when DOS machines were the standard.

Martin gave O’Brien other reasons.


“It does the word processing I want it to do and it doesn’t do anything else,” he said. “I don’t want any help. I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lower-case letter and it becomes a capital. I don’t want a capital. If I’d wanted a capital, I’d have typed a capital.”

He also disdains spell check, which makes sense for a guy who regularly makes up words and exotic names. As O’Brien pointed out, with a modern system Targaryen, the last name of Martin’s dragon-wielding queen, could easily become “tire center.”