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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.
Mat's amulet blocks both saidin and saidar. Jordan answered this one straight-out when asked. He pointed out that the amulet only blocks actual weavings of the One Power, not the physical effects that could be caused by a weaving. For example, Elayne was able to use the One Power to hurl a rock at Mat. Rahvin was able to create a bolt of lightning which struck Mat. (Jordan noted that Mat's death by lightning and subsequent undoing of his death when Rand balefired Rahvin, fulfills a prophecy about living, dying, and then living again.)
Then, I asked my question, which concerned the Warder bond and the stedding.
What happens to an Aes Sedai's Warder bond if she enters a stedding? Can she still detect it? What if I tie off a weave, and enter a stedding? If the weave vanishes, will it reappear when I leave? If it won't reappear, why can't shielded/tied channelers such as Asmodean or Liandrin simply enter a stedding to have their shield dissolved?
Not one-to-one. Not for any given cultures. Well, the Aiel for instance, there are bits of Berber and Bedouin cultures. Zulu. Some things from the Japanese historical cultures. From the Apache Indians. Also from the Cheyenne. I put these things together and added in some things that I also wanted to be true about the culture beyond these real cultures.
Then I began to figure out if these things were true, what else had to be true and what things could not be true. That can be very simple. If you have a culture living in a land where water is scarce, well, obviously they value water. It's necessary for human survival. On the other hand, if they live in the middle of a waterless waste, dealing with crossing rivers or lakes is going to be difficult for them. They don't know how.
No, I don't believe in magic, which is one of the reasons I structured the One Power very much as if it is a science. In fact, the technology of the preceding age was based on the use of the One Power.
As for how much of my spirituality is in my books, I leave it to anybody else to say whether I have any spirituality. I think I'm pretty grounded.
"The biggest single political power in their world is the great city of Tar Valon, home to the White Tower, which is the headquarters of the Aes Sedai, women who can tap into the power that drives the universe and turns the Wheel of Time, the One Power."
Men are not able to manipulate the power like women can, the dual nature of the power is often too much for them. "Men can't do that safely. A man who channels the One Power, which has a male half, saidin, and a female half, saidar, will eventually go mad and die," Jordan explained. "Only until he dies, he's a madman who can do horrific things with the Power. The fly in the buttermilk is this. Prophecy says that a boychild will be born who is humanity's only chance to win the Last Battle, when the Dark One breaks free of the prison where he was confined by the Creator at the moment of creation. And that boychild will be able to channel the One Power."
Well, I don't know, it is a combination of things. I gave this recently, so it is probably already on the net. How did I come up with the division of the One Power, the male and female half? I had seen a novel, there are a lot now, but this was the first I had seen like this. Young woman wants to be whatever it was, a magician, whatever, but she can't because she is a woman, and women aren't allowed to do that so she is going to struggle through it.
I thought it was interesting, one of the earlier novels of the feminist struggle, and all that. I put it back, because it didn't seem something I cared to read, but I thought about it because the thought that occurred to me is okay, that's real easy, women aren't allowed to do this, it is historically based or grounded at least, what if it was men who couldn't, now how would that be, as my wife points out to me, we have the upper body strength, and she is convinced all of the inequities in the world vis a vis gender, are subject to the fact that we have all the upper body strength, and I am sorry about that baby, I ain't giving it up. So, how could there be a situation where men were not allowed to do this, and it does not somehow get itself reversed over time, add into this I wanted a near gender equal world as I could, and how could I have a situation where women could maintain gender equality?
Okay, now I split men and women, have different sources of power and the male source of power is tainted. Okay, you've gotta stop men and at the same time, out of this beginning came the division of the One Power, the White Tower existing as the political center of power for three thousand years, false dragon, the destruction of the world by men, false dragons arising periodically to remind humanity exactly why men can't be allowed to channel and why the White Tower must remain the center of political power. A lot of stuff came out of that one notion.
For Infested Templar, two women linking have slightly less of saidar available to them than the two women would have individually. But it can be used much, much more precisely, and therefore more effectively, than they could manage working merely as partners. The reduction also occurs for men entering a circle. One man in a circle means that only the amount of saidin that he can handle, less the reduction for being in a circle, is available. Men can be much stronger than women in the pure quantity of the Power that they can channel, but on a practical level, women are much more deft in their weaving and that means the strongest possible woman can do just about anything that the strongest possible man could, and to the same degree.
And finally, the Old Tongue is written in a script that has more letters than the English alphabet, some representing diphthongs. That script will be in the Encyclopedia that Harriet will do, along with 950 or so words of the Old Tongue derived from what is called Basic English, the 950 words necessary to carry on a understandable conversation. Some words I dropped as essentially unnecessary to the books—electricity, for example—while others—such as sword and names of birds and animals—I had to add. The total might come nearer 1000 words by now.
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 Shiska, a mixed gender circle has X amount of saidin and Y amount of saidar available, set by the strengths of the men and women in it. Talents or special skills available to members of the circle other than whoever is melding the flows are not available to the person who is. If those Talents or skills are particularly needed, then control of the circle must be passed.
For Krassos, yes, a channeler could still channel wearing Mat's amulet. Cadsuane has one much like it. And I think that I will complete "Trust" eventually. I think about doing so every now and then.
For Anonymous-George, long ago I saw one of the first, I believe, novels about a young woman who wasn't allowed to use magic or whatever because she was a woman, and the thought occurred to me as to how it might go if men were the ones who were denied the right to do magic. Or whatever. I hate using the word magic. From that long ago thought grew the One Power divided into saidin and saidar with the male half tainted and the reasons for and results of it being tainted. Now in most of these societies—Far Madding is the obvious exception—I did not and do not view them as matriarchal. I attempted to design societies that were as near gender balanced as to rights, responsibilities and power as I could manage. It doesn't all work perfectly. People have bellybuttons. If you want to see someone who always behaves logically, never tells small lies or conceals the truth in order to put the best face for themselves on events, and never, ever tries to take advantage of any situation whatsoever, then look for somebody without a bellybutton. The real surprise to me was that while I was designing these gender balanced societies, people were seeing matriarchies.
As far as I know, only one person other than myself asked a plot related question. That question was if it would be possible to complete the cuendillar chain on the south(?) harbor.
RJ answered that the joining chain link (which would not yet be cuendillar) would have to be closed around the existing chain and then turned to heartstone, but the new link could not be touching the old at the start of the change.
Oh, the mayhem I can have with this little nugget.
small: This explains why the Reds haven't summarily tried to gentle every boy at birth or every man by 30.
big: If it takes an active link to the Source to slow, or to be stilled, then what about all those other attributes that sul'dam gain with use of the a'dam? Where do they come from? How did they get there?
bigger: Is it possible that those attributes are NOT directly linked to the Source? Could it be merely the exposure to the One Power that gives sul'dam that ability? What about a Warder? Could a same-sex non-channeling warder develop those attributes over time?
I need sleep now, I'll ponder this more later.
He sat and thought for a minute, still signing the book, pondered, then answered.
The One Power is finite but cannot be used up. When the weave is done, it returns to the Source. The way he put is was finite but infinitely reusable.
(for kcf) On the large scale, the gender relationships in the Wheel grew from the very beginnings of the books, really. I recall seeing a paperback book back in the 70s, a fantasy novel about a young woman who wasn't allowed to become a magician of whatever sort it was because she was a woman. The notion struck me as interesting, since it was the first fantasy novel with that theme that I had ever seen, but what really stuck with me was this. That novel was a simple reflection of the then-current mundane world, but what about if it were men who were not allowed to become whatever it was? Now that would be an interesting twist, and unexpected. Why would that be, and how could it be enforced? As Harriet has often pointed out, many of the world's gender inequalities stem from superior male upper body strength. (To which I usually say, "Oh, dear! Isn't that awful and unfair!" While pulling off my shirt and flexing my biceps, to be sure.) From that genesis grew the division of the One Power into a male and a female half with the male half tainted, giving a reason why men not only would not be allowed to become Aes Sedai, as they were not then called, but must not be allowed even to channel, again as it was not then called. From that, and from the history that I was even then beginning to put together for this world, though I didn't realize it then, came the result of 3000+ plus years when men who can wield the ultimate power, the One Power, are to be feared and hated above all things, when the only safety from such men comes from the one stable center of political, and other, power for those 3000+ years, a female center of power. The view I then had was a world with a sort of gender equality. Not the matriarchy that some envision—Far Madding is the only true matriarchy in the lot—but gender equality as it might work out given various things that seem to be hard-wired into male and female brains. The result is what you see.
Brandon, with you being a writer specialized in cool and unique magic systems, how was it to use and write with the magic system in Wheel of Time? Hard or easy? Did you have to come up with new weaves, or did Jordan already have unmentioned weaves written down somewhere? And how did it work for you to write channeling battles?
Well, the Wheel of Time magic system was one of those that inspired me to make magic systems the way I do. I've long loved the magic in Mr. Jordan's books, and think he does a very good job of walking the line between having it feel scientific and still feel wondrous. He does tend to go a little bit further toward wonder—as opposed to science—but that has a great number of advantages for his story.
In answer, I've come up with just a few new weaves, but mostly I wanted to use his weaves in new ways. I think there's a lot of room to explore the use of weaves and how people interact with the magic. Don't expect a LOT of this though. The focus is on the characters and the Last Battle at this point, but there were a few places where (mostly in throw-away, background moments) I was able to explore the magic a tad. I actually found it one of the easier things in the book, though I DID have to keep looking up how specific weaves were created. It gets confusing, particularly since men and women often do the weaves differently.
As for channeling battles...well, I can't really tell you if there are any of those in the book without giving anything away, now can I? So we'll have to RAFO that. ;)
Brandon explained that the True Power can only be used by someone that the Dark One has allowed to use it. The True Power is perhaps more powerful than the One Power in the way a drugged up person is more powerful than someone not drugged up. In the moment the drugged up person may be, but in the long run maybe not.
Further explaining the True Power, he said the Guardian in Far Madding cannot stop it.
I’m going to ask you a lot of questions about the Dark One and the Creator...
You are going to get a lot of RAFOs on this, because Robert Jordan often stayed away from, and in the notes I get the sense, the direction to stay away from questions that couldn’t be answered from someone in the world. Does that make sense? When he would like to answer the question, somebody knew that, even if they were dead, somebody in world knew the answer. When you would ask him questions nobody knows the answers to except the Dark One or the Creator themselves, he did not answer very often and that is why you don’t know very much.
Ok, that is absolutely fair, so you probably will RAFO, I would say, 90% of these...
Did the Creator or does the Creator use the One Power to create?
I know you’ll RAFO this one but I’ll ask it anyway. Does the Creator, for a lack of a better word, weave the One Power?
Ok. I’ll jump off the Creator for the moment...
How about this, I do know...Robert Jordan...there are answers to these things that you are wanting to know...
Do you believe they ever will be discussed, like Encyclopedia type of things or do you believe..
...he did not want to leave explicit answers about a lot of these things. There will be hints. So, they are a double RAFO because they are the sort of things Robert Jordan did not like to answer and they could spoil things [...] Double RAFO.
[Hah—I got a DRAFO]
Ok. So, obviously a channeler uses the True Power. We’ve discussed this before they weave the True Power just as they weave the One Power...
...they do and you don’t have to learn, and so that should tell you that the weaves are similar if not identical to the One Power. There are certain things the True Power can do that are different and it goes about things in different ways, but you don’t have to relearn everything.
Are there any other sources of Powers either within the Pattern or outside of the Wheel? Are there any sources like…
...sources much like the One Power and True Power?
I will have to RAFO that.
Ok, we’ll move on from there. Were male channelers across Randland able to feel Rand's use of the male Choedan Kal when he destroyed it atop Dragonmount?
I would certainly think they would have been able to, consistent with what has happened before.
But did they know that it was destroyed? Is that what they felt, or was it just the use of?
I do not believe the destruction of a sa’angreal would be the type of event that you would be able to notice. It is not consistent with what we have seen before.
I'm pretty sure she's stronger, but they are very close. RJ has a list of all the channelers' strengths. On that list, only six people are stronger than Nynaeve. It's such a rare event that pretty much anytime we meet someone stronger than her, it's explicitly said. There are two One Power strength scales—an 'old' and a 'new'. Nynaeve was the top of the female list for the 'old' list. Six are stronger on the 'new' list.
Brandon was pretty certain that Nynaeve is stronger than Mesaana, who isn't particularly strong in Forsaken terms.
Brandon was very open and willing to talk about this issue—people who care about these things should ask at every opportunity.
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.
(for WSB): The next question is from a Theorylander. Did Ishamael’s healing of Lews Therin back in the prologue of The Eye of the World create the same doctor-patient bond as when Nynaeve healed Egwene?
No, not that I know. I think that I would know, but no.
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.
The question that I have for you is, now that you know the ending of Wheel of Time, after the final book has been released will it be a world that you could set a game in? Or will it be like Tolkien where after the end of Lord of the Rings the world is pretty much over? I ask because it looks to be a great place to set an RPG and I want to know if I should be looking to a time before The Eye of the World or if I should run a new age?
I'm going to stick pretty close to things Mr. Jordan has said or implied regarding this. Things he has said have implied strongly that it is not going to be like Tolkien; though the Wheel will eventually turn to a point where the One Power is forgotten and the land becomes like our world, that is NOT the Fourth Age. I think it would still be a fantastic place to set an RPG game.
Tell me a bit about the idea of the One Power.
In these books there is the One Power, which comes from the True Source. And the One Power is what turns the Wheel of Time, the power that drives the universe. And the conceit is, is the One Power actually consists of two quite separate halves that work with each other and against one another to produce the driving force of the universe. Men can tap into one side, women can tap into the other. A man can't teach a woman how to use the male half, or how to use the female half for that matter, and she can't teach him.
There was a new weave used by someone in book 14; did anyone else see it?
"Yes"—and that's all that was spoken about it, since it contained spoilers.
Presumably this is in reference to the "Flame of Tar Valon" weave, which Egwene used in A Memory of Light 37.
Will the encyclopedia include only facts, or also speculations?
Everything will be things already known, or else more notes on the characters. And a few other goodies, like the Aes Sedai power scale.
*vague spoiler warning*
An audience member had, years ago, asked RJ what would happen if an Aes Sedai balefired herself through a gateway, and was told by RJ that she should find a man, a woman, or a dog to love and she should get a life. (heavily paraphrased). The same audience member was present at the signing and asked if the scenario played out in A Memory of Light was done in response to her question.
BS said that he has avoided gateways and balefire in his series because that type of magic belonged to The Wheel of Time, but he himself has had many thoughts on the use of balefire and gateways. So no, the scenes from A Memory of Light were not a response to her, but BS's own story. The audience member also added that she did find a guy to love, had a daughter, named her Aviendha, and the crowd clapped.
Since balefire strengthens cuendillar, what effect would Egwene's opposing "Flame of Tar Valon" weave have?
(But then we got interrupted and didn't come back to it, so if someone is curious, they could try again and get the rest of the answer. Related questions might be... Would Egwene's weave strengthen cuendillar simply because it is the One Power? If for every weave there is an opposite weave, could there be a weave that would turn the Tar Valon harbor chains back to iron?)
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.)
Vora's sa'angreal—was it always in the notes that it didn't have the buffer against over-drawing?
Yes, that was always its setup according to the notes, though Brandon gets credit for naming the thing.
How did reading The Wheel of Time inspire his magic systems?
The first influence was Robert Jordan's focus on human characters over fantastical ones. He felt that Jordan's concept of weaving was complex and interesting, as opposed to magic systems of authors such as David Eddings. With the Wheel of Time, the rules and restrictions on magic made characters more clever and interesting. He didn't want to modify the WoT magic system but he did explore two aspects of it using ideas he had as a teenager: the World of Dreams and gateways. He avoided adding new weaves because the series was coming to a close.
And the decision to exchange the bodies at the end?
That was his (Robert Jordan). And it began with the crossing of the balefire streams, way back when, and continued on through the series up to here. He actually wrote those scenes at the end himself.
Androl and Pevara
In working on the Black Tower plot, one thing I realized early on was that I wanted a new viewpoint character to be involved. One reason was that we didn't have anyone to really show the lives of the everyday members of the Black Tower. It felt like a hole in the viewpoint mosaic for the series. In addition, each Wheel of Time book—almost without exception—has either introduced a new viewpoint character or added a great deal of depth to a character who had only seen minimal use before. As we were drawing near to the end of the series, I didn't want to expand this very far. However, I did want to add at least one character across the three books I was doing.
I went to Team Jordan with the suggestion that I could fulfill both of these purposes by using one of the rank-and-file members of the Black Tower, preferably someone who wasn't a full Asha'man and was something of a blank slate. They suggested Androl. The notes were silent regarding him, and while he had been around, he so far hadn't had the spotlight on him. He seemed the perfect character to dig into.
A few more things got spun into this sequence. One was my desire to expand the usage of gateways in the series. For years, as an aspiring writer, I imagined how I would use gateways if writing a book that included them. I went so far as to include in the Stormlight Archive a magic system built around a similar teleportation mechanic. Being able to work on the Wheel of Time was a thrill for many reasons, but one big one was that it let me play with one of my favorite magic systems and nudge it in a few new directions. I've said that I didn't want to make a large number of new weaves, but instead find ways to use established weaves in new ways. I also liked the idea of expanding on the system for people who have a specific talent in certain areas of the One Power.
Androl became my gateway expert. Another vital key in building him came from Harriet, who mailed me a long article about a leatherworker she found in Mr. Jordan's notes. She said, "He was planning to use this somewhere, but we don't know where."
One final piece for his storyline came during my rereads of the series, where I felt that at times the fandom had been too down on the Red Ajah. True, they had some serious problems with their leadership in the books, but their purpose was noble. I feel that many readers wanted to treat them as the Wheel of Time equivalent of Slytherin—the house of no-goods, with every member a various form of nasty. Robert Jordan himself worked to counteract this, adding a great deal of depth to the Ajah by introducing Pevara. She had long been one of my favorite side characters, and I wanted her to have a strong plot in the last books. Building a relationship between her and Androl felt very natural to me, as it not only allowed me to explore the bonding process, but also let me work a small romance into the last three books—another thing that was present in most Wheel of Time books. The ways I pushed the Androl/Pevara bond was also something of an exploration and experiment. Though this was suggested by the things Robert Jordan wrote, I did have some freedom in how to adapt it. I felt that paralleling the wolf bond made sense, with (of course) its own distinctions.
Finding a place to put the Pevara/Androl sequence into the books, however, proved difficult. Towers of Midnight was the book where we suffered the biggest time crunch. That was the novel where I'd plotted to put most of the Black Tower sequence, but in the end it didn't fit—partially because we just didn't have time for me to write it. So, while I did finish some chapters to put there, the soul of the sequence got pushed off to A Memory of Light, if I managed to find time for it.
I did find time—in part because of cutting the Perrin sequence. Losing those 17,000 words left an imbalance to the pacing of the final book. It needed a plot sequence with more specific tension to balance out the more sweeping sequences early in the book where characters plan, plot, and argue. I was able to expand Androl/Pevara to fit this hole, and to show a lot of things I really wanted to show in the books.
In the Wheel of Time books, did the Creator have a power, similar to the True Power that the Dark One had?
I'm afraid I don't have the answer for this, not for certain. I think that readers of the text could argue both ways. For example, a certain event in the epilogue of AMOL could be interpreted this way—though everyone in Team Jordan seems to have a different opinion on what is going on, and RJ didn't leave an explanation.