art by Jake Johnson

Theoryland Resources

WoT Interview Search

Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.

Wheel of Time News

An Hour With Harriet

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.

The Bell Tolls

2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."

Theoryland Community

Members: 7611

Logged In (0):

Newest Members:johnroserking, petermorris, johnadanbvv, AndrewHB, jofwu, Salemcat1, Dhakatimesnews, amazingz, Sasooner, Hasib123,

Theoryland Tweets

WoT Interview Search

Home | Interview Database

Your search for the tag 'gunpowder' yielded 10 results

  • 1

    Interview: Jul 19th, 2005

    Week 18 Question

    How did the people of the current Age go three thousand years without discovering the military applications of explosives? Were the Illuminators just that ruthless?

    Robert Jordan

    The Illuminators were completely ruthless in protecting their secret. And they put about tales such as that exposure to air could sometimes makes the substances inside fireworks explode without fire, and even more violently than fire did, in order to discourage close examination. Then there is the fact that there hasn't been a single three thousand year climb from barbarism and disaster, but three roughly one thousand climbs, from the Breaking of the World, from the near total destruction of the Trolloc Wars, which either destroyed or doomed every nation then existing, and from the devastation of the War of the Hundred Years. As an historical note, fireworks were used in China for roughly a thousand years before someone decided to use gunpowder as a weapon. As a matter of desperation, they dropped large firecrackers on the heads of soldiers climbing siege ladders. And by the evidence I've seen, gunpowder wasn't used as a weapon again for several hundred more years after that. I can see the view. All right, they held off the assault, but firecrackers? Firecrackers?


  • 2

    Interview: Oct 17th, 1994

    Robert Jordan

    Language—It is planned. Based on Russian, Chinese and a bit of Spanish with a lot of Gaelic thrown in.

    Cultures of influence—he's real big on Chinese history right now.

    Why the swords?—As in Japan, gunpowder is suppressed so martial arts are developed and are based on the sword and on agricultural implements.


  • 3

    Interview: Apr 8th, 2001


    Ah yes, somebody asked about him comparing Randland with 17th century earth as it would have been without gunpowder, but said that there was gunpowder in Randland.

    Robert Jordan

    Jordan explained that the development of something like gunpowder is not as natural as it might seem to us. They had fireworks for a thousand years in China before thinking of using it as a weapon (and then they only threw fireworks over the walls because they'd run out of rocks). Steel was invented time and again with never becoming widely known. Things like that. There's no reason for Randlanders to connect 'wanting to do things Aes Sedai do, but without using the Power' with fireworks. There are currently only a handful of people thinking about possible uses of fireworks as a weapon, and that only because they were around to learn about the damage of a Chapterhouse blowing up or something similar. Besides this, Randlanders aren't thinking about making weapons when dealing with fireworks, they're thinking about making money with it, because it's a luxury good. It's just as if caviar could be used as a weapon.


  • 4

    Interview: Jan 7th, 2003


    How did you know when you’d done enough world building to start? When did you decide it was a fully realized world?

    Robert Jordan

    I’ve never thought that. I’m still coming up with things as I go. As for when to start—flip a coin. I read a book on the history of salt. Because of a particular purpose, I thought it would be useful. Also, I used a good number of articles downloaded off the net. Historical uses, production of salt, every scrap I could find, and in the end I used about six words of it. I didn’t need it, I had it in my head. I could have brought the story to a salt-producing town, and I wouldn’t have had to go into many details, and you still would have known it was a salt town.


  • 5

    Interview: Jan 16th, 2003

    Michael Martin

    That book about salt:

    Robert Jordan

    Salt by Mark Kurlansky. It is indeed about salt!


  • 6

    Interview: Mar 8th, 2005


    Jordan began by bringing those new to his work up to speed and pointed out that since New Spring is the prequel to "The Wheel of Time" series, the book is naturally new reader friendly.

    Robert Jordan

    "New readers don't really need to know anything beyond what they will get in the comic," Jordan told CBR News Monday afternoon. "I will point out that this is not another pseudo-medieval world. I like to think of it as being the late Seventeenth Century with gunpowder as the guild secret of the people who make fireworks."


  • 7

    Interview: Jan 20th, 2003

    Rick Kleffel

    Now, you have a neat solution to one of the old problems of fantasy, for me at least, which is the 'Why don't they have guns?' question. Could you talk about the society of Illuminators, and how that technology has played into your narrative thus far, and maybe give us an idea of how it will play out as the series progresses?

    Robert Jordan

    Well, I'm not going to give you any idea of how it plays out. If you spend any time on the net—at least, on any of the several hundred if not several thousand websites that discuss my books—you will have run into the acronym 'RAFO'. R-A-F-O. 'RAFO' means 'Read And Find Out'. Now, I postulated a world where gunpowder is the secret of a guild: the Guild of Illuminators, people who make fireworks. Nobody else knows how to make fireworks—knows how to make gunpowder—except this guild, and they have managed to preserve their secret for quite a long time. And I think part of the reason why I thought that this could happen were two things that I came across in separate places.

    One was evidence of discovery of steel, the first manufacturer of steel, which was discovered—we found countless places where the first smith discovered how to make steel, or at least a smith discovered how to make steel, and by all the evidence, no one else in that area had known how to make steel before him—but of course when he could make steel, his weapons were much better than anybody else's. He had provided steel swords to use against bronze, or iron,, he had sort of a magic sword here, didn't he? And he sure as hell didn't teach anybody else how to do it, so from the time that men began discovering steel, and the secret began dying with them, to the time when steel began to be manufactured semi-widely, was about a thousand years.

    The first time that gunpowder—that we can find evidence of gunpowder being used as a weapon—was in China, when the inhabitants of a besieged city made huge fireworks and dropped them over the wall onto soldiers trying to climb ladders, siege ladders up over the walls of the Chinese city. It's not a very efficient way to use gunpowder, but what's interesting is that it was something over a thousand years after gunpowder, by the evidence, had been discovered in China, and for all of that time, it had been used for nothing more than making fireworks, firecrackers, just...that was it. That was the whole use. So, we have a world where there are no guns because nobody knows how to make gunpowder, except for this guild, and they're not going to put the secret around.

    Rick Kleffel

    That's very clever.


  • 8

    Interview: Apr, 2001

    Robert Jordan

    The question why there wasn't gunpowder in 'Randland' got the simple "Because nobody's thought of the use of fireworks as a weapon, and there are only a handful of people who know of the power of gunpowder—only if you've ever witnessed a chapterhouse explosion you might start to think in that direction."


  • 9

    Interview: Jun, 2009

    Brandon Sanderson (15 June 2009)

    Guns and Words

    I can still remember the first fantasy novel I read that used gunpowder. It was one of the Robin McKinley books, the Blue Sword or The Hero and the Crown. I've mentioned before in one of these posts just how wrong that felt to me. And then, the fact that I felt it was wrong ALSO felt wrong to me. Shouldn't a fantasy author be allowed to play with any kind of technology and magic mix that they want? Shouldn't any time period be valid for creating the fantastic? And still, it felt wrong.

    Interestingly, many fantasy characters are anachronistic themselves. At least as much so as guns. One standard aspect of fantasy fiction is the idea of the 'socially progressive yet technologically slowed' society. Some fantasy authors tiptoe around it. I don't. I admit it straight out—I'm writing about societies where people, for one reason or another, are more like people in our world socially, even if much of their technology hasn't caught up to ours yet. Perhaps I can get away with this a tad more than most as I have yet to write a fantasy that takes place in what I envision as a medieval society. Elantris and Warbreaker are Renaissance, Mistborn is 19th century. Only in all three cases, there is no gunpowder.

    Perhaps this is my old bias influencing me. In the Mistborn novels, it's a world element and there's a very good reason why there's no gunpowder. In the other two, no explanation is given. I think it's reasonable to say that just because technology grew in a certain way in our world, it doesn't mean each and every world is going to follow the same path. And yet, at the same time, I doubt that adding gunpowder to either Elantris or Warbreaker would have changed the books in any great measure.

    What are your thoughts on these topics? Does gunpowder ruin a fantasy immediately, or is it just another element of technology and world an author can play with? Does it bother you that fantasy characters sometimes talk and act like more modern people, or do you prefer it? (I happen to like this last one both ways. I enjoy reading a book—like Doomsday Book—where the author tries to accurately portray the way people thought in previous eras. But I have trouble relating to those characters, and that inhibits my ability to get into the characters' heads. And so I generally gravitate toward books where the characters are much easier to relate to, and feel more like people from our era.)