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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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The Dark One doesn't care about his minions sufficiently to invest much time in their punishment except as it serves to correct their behavior or as object lesson to others, nor is there much in the way of gradation. Simple failure and outright betrayal might be punished equally, or one might result in death and the other in becoming an object lesson or in something else. (The mindtrap, by the way, could be called an object lesson only to the one so trapped; remember, none of the Forsaken know who is mindtrapped except Moridin and those who are trapped.) The decision, death or object lesson or something else, normally would be simply a matter of whether or not he believed there was any point to an object lesson and/or whether or not he felt there was really any further use in the individual. Or, for that matter, made for reasons unknowable to a human mind. Remember, the Dark One is NOT human and thinking of him in human terms just doesn't work.
But he also operates under a constraint that did not exist in the Age of Legends. At that time, about 3% of the population could learn to channel to some extent, though not all chose to—the training program took time, and being able to channel carried with it certain obligations that not everyone wanted to undertake—but that still meant there were, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of people in the world who could channel, and more likely millions. A large pool of possible recruits. Break a tool or decide it isn't working right and throw it out, because there is an endless supply of similar tools waiting on the shelf. That might be said to have been his attitude. In the here-and-now of the books, that figure is about 1%, and of that 1%, very, very few have any idea that they could learn to channel, much less have any training at all. Here-and-now, the pool of possible recruits is tiny.
Also, while the Forsaken themselves have realized that these primitives have discovered how to do things with the Power that they themselves cannot, or perhaps can once they learn how but never dreamed of doing until they found that the weaves existed here-and-now, they still think of people in the here-and-now as primitives, and their attitudes filter through to the Dark One, who believes that his people from the age of Legends are in all practical ways better—for which read better trained, more capable, and thus better able to serve him efficiently and effectively—than the people of the present time. And he is right. In a way. They are certainly better trained, with a much wider knowledge, at least in some areas. Some of their skills are absolutely useless in the society they are forced to live in. Aginor was a genius in biology and genetics, but in this world, he had no way to make the tools to make the tools to make the tools.... Well, you get the idea. Pity the poor chip designer dropped into the seventeenth century.
In any event, the Dark One tries to conserve his resources, using and reusing those he might have killed himself, or ordered killed, in a time where there were thousands to equal them.
To the channeler, the flows seem to originate in his or her very immediate vicinity, not to emanate from themselves, although to another channeler, those flows do seem to be emanating from the channeler. The latter is the actual case, as the One Power is passing through the channeler, one of the reasons for individual limits on how much of the Power a particular person can handle. (And you have seen characters react as if to a blow from having a flow snapped or cut.)
A channeler sees the flows as colored very faintly, according to which of the Five Powers is involved (red = Fire, Blue = Water, green = Earth, yellow = Air, white = Spirit), although the "feel" of the flows are also different to a channeler, so that a channeler can tell one from another without actually seeing them. (That is how someone can tell that somebody else has channeled, say, Fire and Earth, in their vicinity without seeing the flows.) It isn't a physical feel; you might almost as well say that they have different flavors. They appear to be smooth and nearly transparent, tinged with color.
The first people to discover the ability to channel learned through trial and error, with fairly high casualty rates until they learned enough not to kill themselves accidentally. Their appearance marked the beginning of the previous Age to that of the books, or at least the end of the Age before that one.
Yes, as I have set things up, there are Ages when no one has any idea of how to channel or even that the One Power exists. Our own, for one. (The Wheel of Time turns.)
The first example given has to be treated separately, I think. A sword woven of Air—or Fire or any other of the Five Powers—could be wielded by a non-channeler if the weave had been tied off or the channeler maintained it. But that is a difficult way to acquire a sword and not really worth the effort unless there is great need for a sword and no other sword available. But in that case, why wouldn't the channeler simply handle things another way? To paraphrase Siuan Sanche, "It's simpler and easier just to use a steel sword."
As to weaves being affected by other non-Power, natural occurrences, no, not directly. Though an earthquake knocking an Aes Sedai off her feet and bouncing her around might put a crimp on her channeling for a bit. The wind will not move a shield woven of Air, nor will any other natural event affect a weave UNLESS it does so by affecting the channeler first and thus disrupting his or her ability for whatever period of time. If the channeler is being swept away down rapids, this presents problems. Not necessarily insurmountable problems, but being tumbled head over heels, bounced off boulders and half drowned makes the necessary concentration not easy.
Channeling saidin and the taint:
As some of you know, there was a pretty big debate over this topic, especially whether Thom could or couldn't channel, which I participated in. Well, I'm happy to say that I was mostly correct in my theories.
Absolutely not. I never intended anyone to think he could.
Jordan also strongly implied that Thom was not Elayne's father. Oh, well, so much for all our beautiful net.theories based on those two facts.
On the second answer: RJ indicated in Sweden in 1995 that he does use a 21-graded scale to keep track of channeler strength.
The first answer appears to be an Aes Sedai answer (avoiding the question). The real answer (at least, the answer that is consistent with the rest of the books) is that RJ probably used a bit of hyperbole in the scene where Mat was Healed in The Dragon Reborn (or rather, Nynaeve did, and she even caught herself...but RJ wrote it in such a way that left room for doubt whether she was amazed at her arrogance or at her potential strength).
The woman with the shielding talent, at least as far as we were shown in A Crown of Swords, was in the Kin (Berowin), and not one of those holding Nynaeve when they went after the Bowl (Falion, who got away, and Ispan, whom they captured). They were linked, and they waited until Elayne went upstairs with most of the Kin, then caught Nynaeve off-guard while she wasn't already holding the Power, and they (rightly) believed the remaining Kin wouldn't interfere. (Erica noted when I interrogated her about this report that these were all quick questions which he answered while signing books, so he was probably too distracted to explain properly—all indications are that he truly enjoyed explaining such things when he had the leisure to do so, and that he also would have gladly admitted to the hyperbole so long as he had time to address the rest.)
I think one of RJ's main points in that scene was that Mat, not being able to see the weaves, wouldn't have any idea what was going on, and therefore neither should we, really. RJ even called our attention to this phenomenon in the battle between Moghedien and Nynaeve at the end of The Shadow Rising:
"A man who came in then, or any woman unable to channel, would have seen only two women facing each other across the white silk rope from a distance of less than ten feet. Two women staring at one another in a vast hall full of strange things. They would have seen nothing to say it was a duel. No leaping about and hacking with swords as men would do, nothing smashed or broken. Just two women standing there. But a duel all the same, and maybe to the death."
The scene in A Crown of Swords was a way of exploring that phenomenon. Presumably Nynaeve was strong enough to break the shield, but it was close enough that it came to a fight much like the Moghedien fight. Meanwhile, Nynaeve says aloud that Falion and Ispan are linked, and she chastises the Kin for not helping her. That tells us all we need to know.
Why did Mat think that someone was "holding" the True Source when his medallion grew cold? (That is I thought it only did this when he came in contact with an actual flow. This occurred on page 595 of A Crown of Swords, for reference.)
I'm going to quote the whole response again.
So, if Taim started at twenty or so, like Rand (actually, that's later than Rand), and channeled a reasonable amount, he would probably slow at twenty-seven or thereabouts. After all, Nynaeve started probably at sixteen or seventeen, and only channeled on the uncommon occasion that someone was dying in her presence of some disease, and slowed at twenty-three (that's the age Setalle Anan thought she was, but she's twenty-six). That's seven years or so.
Well, Taim looks thirty-five, according to Rand. He shouldn't. Even if he didn't slow until he was thirty-two, Rand still wouldn't have estimated him as being as much as fifteen years older than he was. So, my conclusion—Taim is Demandred. Only a Forsaken could look that old, given the slowing. Yes, I know it's not solid, irrefutable evidence, but it's still good evidence. That's my two cents.
Ryan R. "He Who Just Missed Coming With the Dawn"
Then I couldn't hear any other questions and I went back in line. I could only ask him one question. It's a discussion we had on Theoryland a while ago. Can the a'dam hold every sul'dam?
(He managed to get my question after a few times repeating it. I'll leave that out). Frenzy, you were right. (I hope I remember your stand on this issue correctly.)
Yes, she has the spark. The question seemed to me to be about the difference between the people born with the spark and those that aren't. Even people who are born with the spark are going to start channeling whether they want to or not. But Nynaeve did it through a conscious effort, really. It wasn't just happenstance that she began channeling at that point, she had a need to channel. Uhm, the same thing that would happen later to Rand, by the way.
Often the thing, that as I believe has been pointed out, often the thing that pulls someone that has the spark into their first channeling is a perceived need, when they channel without knowing they channel, not realizing what they have done, quite often.
The...the people who are not born with the spark, can they channel unconsciously, can they, that is someone who can learn but doesn't have the spark, can they channel unconsciously? No. For them, they must have a teacher to guide them, or make a conscious effort, which is unlikely to succeed, but might.
For Papazen, while I have spoken of souls being born with the ability to channel in response to questions, I think of it as being genetic also. In the Age of Legends, between 2 and 3% of people had some ability, following a bell curve distribution in strength. For over 3000 years, though, Aes Sedai have been removing men who actually learned to channel from the gene pool. They have been very efficient at this. As a result, the "present day" sees about 1% of the population who can learn to channel, with a much, much smaller percentage of that being born with the spark.
For Phil Reborn, Lanfear climbed onto the wagon to get the angreal. Rand was occupying her to the extent that she couldn't afford to just use flows of Air to bring it to her. And Lanfear being Lanfear, there was a touch of the dramatic in it. She was always a drama queen.
The above MAFO on Souls, Channeling and Talents [this can be found in the MAFO thread stuck at the top of The Gathering Storm Forum].
Beyond the MAFO, I was going to ask for a clarification on this. Firstly I would point out a curiosity—in KoD:23, Call to a Sitting, Tiana notes that many of the women who are strong in Nynaeve's method of Healing used to be village Wise Women. She wonders why that should make any difference, and indeed it does seem to imply that their life experience in some way affected their degree of Talent. How would this work out under the understanding of Talent as a soul-ability? Does life experience change the strength of the Talent, whilst soul-ability decides if you have it? Or should we make a distinction between Talents which are Skills—like Healing, or that Shielding Talent Berowin of the Kin has—and Talents which are Abilities—like Foretelling, Wolfbrothering or Dreaming?
Okay, let's look at this. Why did these women choose to be village Wise Women? Maybe they haven't sparked, but the Talent is there. They may not understand it, but they feel that they should be healing the sick. So, instead of life experience affecting the Talent, I think that it's more that the Talent affects the life experience.
Also, Aes Sedai have been taught that Healing is done one way, and that way is the only proper way. It's sort of like the gesture limitation; if an Aes Sedai learns to make weaves using gestures, she'll have a really hard time making the weave without making the gesture. I think that the former Wise Women are more open to learning the new way, and that gives them another advantage at it.
Robert Jordan's magic system is both hard and soft. It's similar to, for instance, the Harry Potter magic system, which I personally think is quite well done. Of course, I do think Jordan's system is overall more consistent and a much better magic system. This is partially because of the strength of its limitations; for instance, that male channelers go mad, and the chance of burning yourself out with channeling, make it for a much more interesting magic system narratively. The "going mad" thing is basically the best limitation that I've ever heard of in a book series.
People like Tolkien, for instance, didn't explain a lot of the magic, and so what the magic could and couldn't do leaves you with a lot of that sense of wonder, so there's something to be gained on that side from not explaining. Jordan, I would say, is about on the seventy-five percent mark toward a more hard, rigid magic system, and it actually tends to work really well, but you'll notice that he liked to introduce new elements to the magic quite haphazardly—you know, suddenly someone is able to do this. It happens actually pretty frequently in the series as new things are being rediscovered.
Balefire, for example, is manifested quite spontaneously by the characters to solve little problems, and then it becomes a tool to solve bigger problems later on. Just like in a lot of storytelling, in the first third of the story, you will often have a dynamic rescue by a character the reader or audience didn't know existed, and this is not a terribly satisfying resolution, but that's okay because in the first third of a story, you're not looking for satisfying resolutions, you're looking for satisfying introductions. That's kind of what the nature of storytelling is. So when the new character rides on screen and saves the heroes in the beginning of a story, and it's the old friend of the hero who they didn't know was in town, it becomes a very nice introduction for that character; we like that character, we're interested in him, and it can work very well.
In the same way, a character manifesting a power in the beginning of the story that kind of comes out of nowhere to solve a minor problem, is a satisfying introduction, but not a satisfying resolution. And then later on when a major character gets brought back to life by balefire, because it's used in a way that the audience could anticipate, suddenly we have a very satisfying resolution of a conflict, using a magic that we're familiar with.
It's the difference between Han Solo saving Luke by getting him off Tattooine by just kind of haphazardly being there in the right place at the right time, and then Solo coming back at the end of the movie to save him. In the first case, he just kind of drops into [Luke's and Obi Wan's] laps, but that's okay because we're introducing him. And then he comes back at the end to save them after great foreshadowing of all the changing he's done as a character, and we love it.
Yeah. One of the big complaints about fantasy as a genre is that "oh, that's the genre where just anything can happen, and so there's no tension." People complain that it doesn't matter what the characters do because they can always be saved by some magical whatnot. And that's actually a very poor way of looking at it, because if you think about it, regardless of what kind of fiction you're writing, you can always save your characters with a handwave.
Even if you're writing in "the real world," a character can win the lottery, and suddenly all their poverty problems are taken care of, or someone can suddenly dramatically change their mind and fall in love with the heroine when they weren't expecting to. Whatever it is, you can always just handwave to fix a problem. It's not a thing that can be relegated only to fantasy. The challenge in fiction is to make all of these things feel satisfying, even though in some ways they are a wave of the hand. And that's how I look at magic systems.
Exactly. And all of the laws I've come up with, which really aren't laws—they're quite arrogantly named, I realize—have more to do with just good storytelling than they have to do with magic, but I framed them in terms of magic because people always ask me how I invent these magic systems. Well, I do that by trying to make them good storytelling devices.
Sanderson's Second Law is that limitations are more interesting than powers. And this extends more deeply than in just magic, but if you look at magic, what magic can't do is going to be more interesting to your readers, and more useful to you as a writer, than what the magic can do. This is why channeling [in the Wheel of Time] tends to be such a great magic system, because the limitations are very well-executed; it's the part of the magic that shines the most.
But this is ultimately all a plot issue, because what a character can't achieve, whatever is holding them back, is generally more interesting than what they can achieve. This is just kind of a general storytelling principle across the board.
Ask him if the manner of the Aiel service to the Aes Sedai in the Age of Legends was just Singing, or if it was also domestic.
As a follow-up you could ask him if female Voices were also used in non-Earthy scenarios, i.e. to enhance saidar in particular?
And ask him if non-Aiel could really have the Voice (assuming the type that enhances channeling) or if Lews Therin was just confused.
Lews Therin was confused about time and place, but what he was saying was possible.
There was more than just singing, but Brandon wasn't willing to go into it. Unsure if that was RAFO or irrelevance.
Brandon said he wasn't willing to talk much about the Voice things. I got the sense it was a subtle RAFO.
I just ask because, like Nynaeve has been channeling longer, and Egwene was forced. And Rand likely was too, and as a man gains strength more swiftly...
Yeah, Elayne might not... I think she is, but she may not quite be there.
Well... (This is not quite verbatim.) You have to be human of course, and all the other things as with the One Power. I don't believe so, but I am not sure. (Don't take this last sentence as gospel as I may not recall it correctly.)
I think we need to clarify what sort of conditions so he can say yes or no to them. Maybe MAFO?
He also got into his own approach to magic systems, which lead to questions about how much of a challenge he found the One Power and how he prepared himself to handle it (and yeah, he admits being a One Power fan). Brandon explained researching and analyzing the One Power was one of his main focuses during his pre-writing re-read of the series (the other was analyzing the characters' "voices". He also said RJ left a massive amount of notes about the One Power, some of it he's read (he couldn't read everything, he rather relied on Maria to find him the exact information he needed when he needed it). I think he's said that before—or RJ did—but RJ's notes for WOT are longer than the series itself and he always kept adding to them, from back story and history elements to world building tidbits to creating hundreds of characters he could use to sketches for possible scenes. It was Maria's job to index all of this so if he was writing a scene he wanted to use backstory elements or a new weave in, he could have her look first if this already existed in the notes and what of it had appeared in the series already—or if he didn't already have it and needed to create something from scratch.
Sanderson said he resisted creating new weaves (beside introducing those Jordan planned to introduce) for the most part. His contribution will rather be to have the characters figure out they can use weaves they know in new ways—turn them into weapon etc., and for this he looked for details in the previous books. He mentioned one specific example: after Knife of Dreams, he thought characters figured out gateways and deathgates can also be used to slice non-Shadowspawn up in battle.
We also discussed a bit the 21 levels list, which Brandon used a lot. Jordan did start it just the way he described it long ago, that is as a way to keep track of who defers to whom among minor players etc. However, as of now, this document's scope goes beyond this (and it's quite big). The document assigns a rank number to each Aes Sedai referring to the twenty-one levels system, and it lists their personal weaves if they have any, and who knows and have the skills to use which weave and to what extent, their strength in flows if details in the series have blocked this up etc. Brandon confirmed Jordan developed a similar ranking system for the Asha'man as well, but couldn't recall out of hand how many levels there were for them.
This was my first RJ signing, at a Tower Books. While I was getting The Path of Daggers and Winter's Heart signed, I asked RJ how Narishma could have channeled inside Far Madding to set off their alarms (or was he outside but within the range of the detection ter'angreal)?
He corrected me that it was Flinn who channeled (I haven't reread that part of the book yet, and was taking the Seafolk channeler's word on it, as I recalled it), and that he did indeed do so outside the range of the blocking field, but inside the detection range.
Do we ever find out how strong in the power Tuon would be if she ever snapped and started channeling? Did RJ leave any notes about that?
Yes he did. The problem is that that's not the sort of thing I can work into the books very easily. The issue is that her strength would be tied to, well, people's strength go up they practice and things. Yes he has the notes, but there's no way the characters can know for sure. That would be something for the outriggers, which maybe we can get into the encyclopedia. He left a big list for everyone and a number for their power level, their strength in the One Power, just for comparison's sake, which was cool because it would also say 'Here's the threshold for creating a gateway and here's the threshold for this' and its a really cool list and I hope they put it into the encyclopaedia but I don't know if they will.
Ok, so she's not going to snap in the next one and start channeling?
Well. Even if she did, how powerful she would get would not be immediately evident. Does that make sense?
Some would like a definitive answer: Are channelers ever bound to the Horn? (Rand? Egwene?)
"They certainly could be." Brandon and Harriet agreed that, although the notes never specified any channelers who were so bound, there was nothing in the notes to indicate it couldn’t/didn't happen either, and they both believe it’s entirely possible.
(A follow-on question might be asked about whether Egwene might be a Hero, but they didn't give me the impression that they were hedging—which they probably would have, if that were in the notes.)
I'm assuming research; I don't know.
My theory was always eavesdropping.
Oh yeah, that's another good possibility.
And that would be a reason why she tipped Sammael off to her presence.
How did she rediscover balefire? Assuming research again?
That question always comes up, about whether you can learn a weave by reading about it.
Yeah, I think it can help, and then you have to experiment and hope for the best.
If full Dragon had the same amount of power as pre-Dragon with the access key, how much power was full Dragon holding with his power multiplied? Or orders of magnitude larger? Such as, how many people who can hold the power equal him, or what could he do with all of it?
One of the realizations that Rand came to in the books was that brute, raw power was of far lesser importance than he'd once imagined. Comparing his power post and pre access key is a moot point, as it wasn't power he was seeking. It was a method to accomplish what he needed to accomplish. But, to give you something more of an answer to the question you're actually asking, Rand post-epiphany is not more powerful than Rand with the access key. However, he was far more efficient, as he gained hundreds of years of experience with the use of weaves.Xx255q
Impressive using the sword with the power and skill like that.... He could do anything.