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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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Tell me about Elantris.
Elantris is an interesting book. In epic fantasy, it’s usually all about the big series. And I like big series. I love reading books where you can read book after book about the same character. But I also love the concept of the standalone. I particularly think that a single book that wraps up its entire plot-line is its own special art. I thought that, breaking in with my very first book, the thing I would want to do most is have it be a standalone so that people could give me a chance and try one of my books without having to get into something really big. They could try a single book and know how I would plot, how I can do a climax and bring things to an end. So it’s different in that it is a standalone, and there aren’t sequels to it: I later did a trilogy set in a different world, but this is a standalone. It also is interesting in that it doesn’t follow some of the standard cliché plots of the fantasy genre: There’s no quest, there’s no young hero searching for a magical object. It’s something different.
Elantris is the story of a magical city, “City of the Gods” it was called amongst these people. What would happen is, in this kingdom, there was this force that no one understands, but it would randomly choose people and grant them divine powers. Their skin started to glow; they could draw ruins in the air that would do these powerful magics. Once you were chosen by this force, you became one of the gods of these people, you move to the city of Elantris, which was the capital, and from there you would rule with all the other Elantrians, as they would call them: there were hundreds of them.
Well, the book is unique in that that’s not the story. The story starts ten years before the book actually start, and something goes wrong. The magic stops working. All these people, who had these divine powers, they lost them all. They caught this sort of “magical leprosy,” this disease, that turned them all into these poor wretches. They lost all their powers, and the kingdom just about collapsed. Imagine what would happen if not only your ruling class, but the divine gods of your religion, just suddenly were cast down: to a person, they all lost their abilities, just became the lowest of the low. So the common people and the merchant class took all of these people who were their gods, frightened that what they have might be catching, and they locked them in the city of Elantris and just tried to forget about them, turned it into a big prison city.
Well this force keeps picking people, and now it curses them with this disease. The book is about the crown prince of this kingdom, who catches this disease: whatever it is, the force chooses him and turns him into one of these poor wretches, this terrible disease. His own father covers up what happened, throws him into the city with all of these people who used to be gods. It’s the story of him trying to survive in there while also trying to figure out what happened ten years ago: where did the magic go? What when wrong? It’s his story and the story of his fianceé, who is living outside in the new capital city: she’s trying to figure out what happened to him because of the big cover up. So it’s political intrigue on her part: searching for what happened to him, trying to keep an invading force from conquering, and he is on the inside just trying to discover the secrets of what happened.
This is kind of a different story for the fantasy world. Instead of being about a peasant who becomes a king, it’s about a king who essentially becomes less than a peasant, becomes less than a beggar. His own religion says that he’s now damned for eternity, he’s lost his soul. It’s kind of the story of what it means to be a king or to be a pauper, what does it mean when everything turns against you? How do you see yourself in the world now? Can you be happy as one of these poor wretches or do you have to just give in to your fate?
It did very well, went through three hardcover printings—sold in I think fourteen languages—I was just incredibly excited about how much people have enjoyed it because it was a little bit risky, I thought, in a genre populated by the big twelve-book epic, to release a stand-alone. But we’ve been very pleased with how it was received.
Was the Reod natural?
The Reod natural? [Laughs]
Here’s the thing, you’ve answered this question for us already, we just need it on audio.
It wasn’t the Reod that was the question it was was the earthquake natural?
No, Eric’s asking if the Reod was natural.
To heck with Eric, we don’t care about him.
You’ve told us that the earthquake was not caused by natural events.
Yeah, it’s a complicated question because the earthquake was not caused by natural but the Reod was a natural effect of the earthquake, then... does that make sense? So the Reod is natural, a natural result of... does that make sense? That’s why it was a tricky question.
But the earthquake was not natural.
No, it was not.
So the Reod is a natural reaction to an unnatural occurrence.
And wasn’t it because there was like magical strain on the land?
That is certainly part of what was going on.
Let's go ahead and—Oh boy, Elantrian calendar—Is this Windy?
I don't remember who asked this one, I don't have their names written down here.
I don't have my wiki on me, I'm not going...