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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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(And then the first half of my tape was gone, and I decided to save most of the rest for the audience questions.)
Jordan mentioned all the different cultures and myths he used in WoT. That he'd mined everything from Europe and Asia and Africa etc...
[first sentence paraphrased...only started taping again halfway through this] I don't know how it is in other places, but the best known legend for the American audience, that I had in mind ... when I wrote this for ... that legend is King Arthur. I would imagine that more people know the complete story of King Arthur and Guenever and the round table and the whole nine yards than know any other myth or legend, or perhaps more than know all the other myths put together. Now there are Arthurian elements in these books, but I had to try to bury them, for that reason, make them not so readily apparent. And while I had a particular part of the Arthurian legend mentioned from the first book, it was not until the third book that people began to realize what it was. In fact my editor, who is my wife, and who is a very very sharp woman, uhm, had edited the book and was writing the first version of the flap copy for the book, when she suddenly shouted down the stairs to me (if you're young, forgive me):
[loud] You son of a bitch, you've done it it to me again! [laughter]
Because she had suddenly spotted, not until reaching this... not until reaching the cover flap, she suddenly spotted by a... chance connection of words, this one particular Arthurian thing. [Jordan never mentioned what this was, but the logical option is of course Callandor.] And that you see, to me it's very obvious that the Arthur legend and all of the others are in there. If you spend time on the net, you find sites where they discuss these legends. [People sitting around me knowingly chuckle] I have to tell you that if you visit any of these FAQs... I haven't seen one in a couple of years, but the last time I was sent copies, I've read the printout of the FAQ, and when I was through it. And about a third of the answers in there were correct.
FINALLY done with the through line I've been working on for weeks now. Progress bar moved to 70% done.
I've mentioned that it's sometimes hard for me to remember which events happen in which book. Obviously, I knew going into this one that I'd be reading about the fall of the Stone of Tear—the cover gives a handy hint on that. However, some of what I'd THOUGHT happened here—the pages and pages of Egwene being held by the Seanchan, the training of the three in the White Tower—all was covered in the last book. (Man, he packed a lot into The Great Hunt.) And now, it turns out that another big event (Rand using the lightning to clear the Stone of Shadowspawn) is actually in the next book.
So, I went into this one a little bit confused, trying to remember what exactly happened in Book Three. About a hundred pages into it, I suddenly remembered. This is the one where Rand disappears.
As if in foreshadowing of future books in the series, where side characters become main characters, this is the book where we only get brief glimpses of Rand. I remember being annoyed by this when I was younger. Oddly—this is another change between my young self and my older self—I didn't feel that any more. I've grown, over the years, to see the WHEEL OF TIME less as Rand's story, and more of the story of the end of an age. It's the story of the entire world and the people in it, not just the story of one person. And so, I actually enjoyed reading the different viewpoints, which allowed me to get to know the world and setting better. Perhaps that's just the writer in me knowing that in another month or so, I'm going to have to write in this setting, and so anything that shows me more viewpoints, more characters, and more places is going to be well appreciated.
All admit to a slight longing, however. Not for more Rand viewpoints specifically, but a longing to know him better. The man whom we read about at the beginning of this book has changed a lot since the end of the second book. That progress, that change, is trapped between books, lost to us. A friend recently explained to me that Mr. Jordan looked at Rand's changes during this book as a metaphor for the way he himself changed during his years in Vietnam. That same friend suggested that maybe showing those changes explicitly might have been too close to home for Mr. Jordan. I'd never heard that before, but it makes a whole lot of sense.
My only other complaint about this books is Moiraine. She's always been one of my favorites, but she got on my nerves here. It's okay to push around Mat—he deserves it. Rand is fair game too; he can blow up cities. He needs direction. But why does she have to pick on Perrin? He doesn't deserve it.And, speaking of Perrin, my favorite moment in this book came when Perrin entered the blacksmith's shop near the end and worked the forges. Something about the beauty of the writing there, mixed with Perrin's inner turmoil of the surrounding chapters, worked for me. It was one of the most amazing moments in the series so far for me, and reminded me why I like Perrin as a character so much.
I believe, but am not taking the time to look it up, she used means more mundane than you're probably expecting.
Melissa Craib, this year's JordanCon master of ceremonies, asked the Team Jordan members which parts of the story they had been surprised about.
Harriet told about an incident she has described before from when she was writing the blurb for the dust jacket of The Dragon Reborn and finally realized that RJ intended Callandor to be an analog of the sword in the stone. She yelled down to RJ, "You son of a ****, you've done it to me again!"
Maria said that she was surprised... well, actually I've forgotten what Maria was surprised about. Maybe somebody else remembers...was it from Knife of Dreams when Semirhage blows Rand's hand off? That's what comes to mind, but I don't remember any details about why that surprised her, really, so maybe that's not it. :s
Alan at first said that he wasn't surprised by anything; he had figured it all out, of course. Then he owned up to being a little surprised about the scene in Crossroads of Twilight in which Perrin chops off the hand of one of the captured Shaido, because it showed the depths to which a person could go when pushed to the brink.
Peter said he was surprised when it was revealed that Demandred was... (yeah, he was messing with us).
Nalesean at Theoryland pointed out that Maria said that she was surprised by the death of Rolan during the battle of Malden.
Was the "innocent" foreshadowing in early The Great Hunt—that you mentioned on Twitter when you were doing your reread—do you remember that?
Yeah, I do remember it, and people have asked me this, and I can't remember what it was! (crosstalk)
And you don't remember what it was. And then there's the one in The Dragon Reborn Chapter 27.
Yeah. Oh, I can probably remember that one.
Can I email you about those two?
Yeah, you can email me about that one, because I can find that one. Because I know which one that one was, but I can't remember the other one. I feel so bad! It's like...
Well, was it Leane and Perrin, with the crown and the High Chant?
Like, she said something about, "Next the blacksmith is gonna be wearing a crown and speaking in High Chant..."
Ohhhhh, yeah! I bet it's that one, because...yeah.....
It's kind of an innocent foreshadowing....
...No, you're right.
I think you kind of avoided my question, and then you later kind of...
Yeah, I think it's that one, because it's Perrin becoming king.
Which finally happened in this book.
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.
I am assuming so, but again, I don't know.
I got the impression (because of this conversation) that Brandon kinda tried to explain that one.
The Flame of Tar Valon—what does it do other than shore up the Pattern? Does it have effects also opposite to balefire? Was the weave related to the weave that Rand used to seek out Shadowspawn in The Dragon Reborn?
This is left for your consideration and discussion for now.