Herman Melville began his writing career in Troy, New York, a city that has bee the basis for my own fiction. His story is interesting, and has resonated with me, and maybe a few others in the writing community. While considered renown for his writing during his active years, he wasn’t financially successful. On top of that, his books went out of print by 1876, fifteen years before he died. He became a minor footnote in American literature, until the 1910s and 1920s, when his work was “revived” in the Melville Revival.
That story paints me a picture, as it should you. If not for the revival, “Moby Dick” wouldn’t be a ubiquitous name in public. Even people who haven’t read the book know the story of Ahab and the white whale.
I have six books right now; not much. But times are changing. There are millions of books out there today, and 1% of those books “make it.” Renown is held by a few, though talent is held by many. But a sea of even talented voices is still white noise at full blast. I may not “make it” in my lifetime. So I’m thinking of ways to hedge my bets – technologically.
I keep up with all the cool techie shit, and when I came across an article on the M-Disc, a DVD or Blu-Ray Disc that can preserve data (my writing) for over a thousand years, I was intrigued. The M-Disc optically burns your data into “stone” (a synthetic mineral layer). This got me thinking about archival storage, and I did some digging.
Archiving your work is not the same as backing it up. You archive your work to form a permanent record. The media you use will be obsolete in ten years, and you can only hope that in the future, technology will exist that can read and decode your data by another method. Backing up is what you must do when you’re alive to do it, and there’s some helpful info below on that.
M-Disc, if it holds, has the longevity that nothing else does. Physical books are durable, but they aren’t made like they used to be. Any number of things can destroy them, and they’re bulky. Hard to store for centuries. DVDs start to lose data after six months. External hard drives, three years. Flash drives, five years. And gold archival discs? fifty- to one-hundred years. And the cloud, theoretically forever, is only as good as the company that stores it. Will Google be around in five hundred years? (Think of these timelines when you’re backing up your work).
Now, why talk of five hundred, or a thousand year? Because it’s likely that there is, and will be, such a glut of work out there digitally that it will someday get purged, or just lost. A solar flare, a big one, could devastate society for years, and wipe everything digital off the map. Work that’s been durably archived will last. M-Disc is good, but it’s a disc, that can get cracked. Maybe something better will come along.
But when the future is trying to figure out our time, I’d like to know my take has a chance of being heard.