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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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First off, Dreadlords was the name given to men and women who could channel and sided with the Shadow in the Trolloc Wars. Yes, the women were called Dreadlords, too. They might have liked to call themselves "the Chosen," like the Forsaken, but feared to. The real Forsaken might not have appreciated it when they returned, as prophecies of the Shadow foretold would happen. Some of the Dreadlords had authority and responsibility equivalent to that of the Forsaken in the War of the Shadow, however. They ran the Shadow's side of the Trolloc Wars, though without the inherent ability to command the Myrddraal that the Forsaken possess, meaning they had to negotiate with them. Overall command at the beginning was in another's hands.
Forsaken was the name given to Aes Sedai who went over to the Shadow in the War of the Shadow at the end of the Age of Legends, though of course, they called themselves the Chosen, and despite the tales of the "current" Age, there were many more than a few of them. Since they occupied all sorts of levels, you might say that many were equivalent to some of the lesser Dreadlords, but it would be incorrect to call them so. At the time, they were all Forsaken—or Chosen—from the greatest to the least.
Some of those Forsaken the Dark One killed were every bit as high-ranking as the thirteen who were remembered, and who you might say constituted a large part of the Dark One's General Staff at the time of the sealing. With the Forsaken, where treachery and backstabbing were an acceptable way of getting ahead, the turnover in the upper ranks was fairly high, though Ishamael, Demandred, Lanfear, Graendal, Semirhage, and later Sammael, were always at the top end of the pyramid. They were very skilled at personal survival, politically and physically.
In large part the thirteen were remembered because they were trapped at Shayol Ghul, and so their names became part of that story, though it turned out that details of them, stories of them, survived wide-spread knowledge of the tale of the actual sealing itself. Just that they had been sealed away. Other Forsaken were left behind, so to speak, free but in a world that was rapidly sliding down the tube. The men eventually went mad and died from the same taint that killed off the other male Aes Sedai. They had no access to the Dark One's protective filters. The women died, too, though from age or in battle or from natural disasters created by insane male Aes Sedai or from diseases that could no longer be controlled because civilization itself had been destroyed and access to those who were skilled in Healing was all but gone. And soon after their deaths, their names were forgotten, except for what might possibly be discovered in some ancient manuscript fragment that survived the Breaking. A bleak story of people who deserved no better, and not worth telling in any detail.
Semirhage was present at Shadar Logoth, though not seen. You didn't see Graendal, either, though admittedly Moghedien thought of her, thinking it would be good if she or Cyndane died. If I always tried to show everyone who was present at a battle or the like, the books would be a LOT longer than they are now. And those battles would get rather boring, a list of names. Go down the checklist and make sure everyone gets mentioned. Boring. Anyway, Mesaana was the only one who tried to sit it out. By the way, Moridin also was not present, for reasons that will become self-evident as you read on.
By the by, Rand and his companions very likely would have been killed or captured if the Forsaken were not who they are, if they had been willing to form links and coordinate their attacks. But they suffer from a combination of arrogance toward the "ignorant peasants" of the current Age and distrust of one another. Forming a link is all very well, but who leads? Which of them would be willing to give up control over their own ability and put it completely under the control of another of them? Who are you willing to let get behind your back in a fight? Moghedien? Semirhage? I didn't think so.
Also, there's another (non-FAQ-related) note concerning the pre-Bore Age of Legends...
RJ had mentioned (in response to another question) that what the characters believe does not make it so (Moiraine's statements were used as an example), so I asked whether the pre-Bore Age of Legends was the Utopia that the characters believed it to be. His reply is paraphrased below:
Compared to their current world, it certainly would be a utopia. However, that doesn't mean that it wasn't perfect. Of course, outbreaks of diseases were kept to a minimum, but it and other disasters of that ilk still occurred. Evil still existed, as well.
The Forsaken, for example, weren't exactly a stellar bunch to begin with. Semirhage, for example, was a sadist. (I'll skip his description of what a sadist is.) She went into her profession (the equivalent of a surgeon) because it provided an outlet for her sadism. (He then cited some studies that showed that there were more people with sadist tendencies in the medical profession, and surgeons in particular, to support his point.) Aginor (whom he said after some prompting had several elements of the classic mad scientist type) was a biological scientist who never considered the consequences of his actions. Aginor would say, "I wonder what would happen if I took the ebola virus and altered it to be an airborne virus." He'd go ahead and do just that, all without realizing he'd be creating a potentially unstoppable plague. All Aginor would reply to that was, "Hmm. Interesting." (Jordan then mentioned Aginor's creation of the Trollocs, their defects, "It was strong, big, tough to kill, and...... stupid," and that it was the birth of the first Myrddraal that saved the Trollocs from being a complete failure.)
Even back in the Age of Legends, regular, ordinary folks could do some pretty nasty things. He then cited a study about a small town of ordinary Germans in WWII who did some pretty horrific things (I believe he was referring to the book "Hitler's Willing Executioners").
There was some confusion about Rand and the Dark One’s permission, so for clarification’s sake, did Rand have the Dark One’s permission to use the True Power?
I have not answered that. If anyone says that I have, I have not. What I have said specifically is, this is recording: generally one must have the Dark One’s permission to use the True Power. Semirhage believed that the Dark One had betrayed her by letting Rand use it. [...] It is good that you have asked this so I can make sure on the record that is the answer I have given.
Lastly I want to mention that in general conversation at the end, Brandon was very careful to state that we cannot assume that Rand drew the True Power through the link with Moridin; nor may we assume the opposite. (In other words, we're not supposed to have enough evidence yet to draw a conclusion.)
Furthermore, it seemed that he wanted to make it clear that we cannot discount the idea that the Dark One did indeed "set up" Semirhage (pretty much per Isilel's scenario). I'm not saying he's telling us that that is what happened, but he was almost insistent that we did not close the door on that line of speculation. Take it for what you will.
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.
It's very difficult (but not impossible) to channel the True Power without the Dark One's direct permission.
This led to lots of discussion about the whole Semirhage death scene. Basically, she felt betrayed by the Dark One, and Brandon says she's a very astute person. Brandon also said that Moridin and the Dark One are on the same page with most things, and that Moridin is the most trustworthy Forsaken for the Dark One.
He said that the scene with the Borderlander farmers in The Gathering Storm prologue and the one with the Borderlander Watch Tower in the Towers of Midnight prologue were written by RJ and that they were some of the last complete scenes RJ wrote (he mentioned this in earlier interviews).
He refused to say who wrote "The Last That Could Be Done" from The Gathering Storm.
He wrote the scenes of Egwene's dinners with Elaida in The Gathering Storm. RJ's notes suggested just one dinner scene but BS decided that it would work better if it was split in two.
Because of the nature of RJ's notes and writing process, there are a lot of things I can (and was told I should) change. Harriet didn't say specifically "Change this." She told me "Jim (RJ) would not have done it exactly like this. You do what you think is best for the story first—that is your primary charge. Don't feel completely beholden to his notes, but respect his story."
That's kind of how I've done it. If the notes say something that I feel needs to change, I change it, but try to be respectful. An example is Egwene's dinner with Elaida. RJ had this planned as a single event. I split it into two chapters, separated by further discovery by Egwene and growth to earn the second half of the dinner.
There are many things like that. Places where RJ said "I'm going to do this, or maybe I'll do this, or maybe neither." I choose what fits for the story. It's usually one of the two, sometimes neither one works. I can be more specific once the last book is out.
That said, I wasn't particularly hip on writing Cadsuane spanking Semirhage. There was no good reason to change it, though. Jim had outlined the scene, and it was in line with the characters.
No, that is correct. Rand caused the bruises, so balefiring Semirhage would not make them go away. Balefire only removes paradoxes caused by the direct actions of the one who is balefired. And the bracelets remained after Rand balefired [Semirhage and Elza] because they weren't really part of Semirhage or Elza.
(comment regarding the thread on Dragonmount where some are arguing that by balefiring Graendal's palace, the Compulsion disappeared since there'd never had been a palace in the first place, and others are arguing that it doesn't work that way, objects don't have threads).
Everything has a thread, not just souls. Even a stone in a wall has a thread in the Pattern.
From dinner re: balefire philosophy:
Talked to Brandon at the Stormleader dinner last night. He had a few things to say on this topic:
1. The bruises on Min's neck were not an error. After consulting with Team Jordan, it was determined that indirect effects remain. Rand was the one who strangled Min, not Semirhage directly, so the bruises stayed.
2. Brandon knows of two ways to destroy cuendillar. But he would not confirm if the Domination Band that Rand was wearing was made from cuendillar. He said it was not relevant to what happened.
3. The bracelets did not disappear when Semirhage and Elza were balefired because they were not considered to be intrinsic to their person. It would be the same if someone was holding a book and was balefired, the book would drop to the floor.
The real standout question for me was someone who asked if there was anything that Brandon found difficult or uncomfortable to write.
Brandon talked about going into the outline, finding a couple things that made him go "Huh, that's interesting," (making specific mention of a certain conversation involving dresses and the color thereof), but the one that really stood out was "Oh, come on, you're going to make me write a spanking scene?"
So, I got everything at once. There are two things that stand out that are moments when I was looking through the notes and I was like, "Oh!" And then there was one that I'm like, "Oh no." [laughter]
The two that were "Oh!" were, in Gathering Storm where Egwene gets a special visitor, and colors of dresses are mentioned. [laughter] That one was kind of mind-boggling, and that's one of the things that Robert Jordan had complete. Not—I had to write into it and write out of it, but the important parts you're thinking about were done. The second scene was in another section that he had complete, and this is where, at the end of Towers of Midnight, someone you haven't seen for a long time and someone else have a romantic moment together, and that surprised me. I was not one that was expecting that—it's well-foreshadowed, but I just hadn't been expecting it. I actually went to Team Jordan, and I'm like, "This? I—What?" And they're like, "No, it's in there; here, look at this, look at this," and all the foreshadowing, and I had just completely missed it. And so, those two were the surprising moments for me.
The kind of "Oh no" moment was when...he didn't actually write the scene, he just made a sentence that said—oh, someone's plugging their ears because they don't want spoilers; I'm trying to talk around the spoilers, so—in Gathering Storm, there is a scene where a certain member of the Forsaken gets spanked [laughter], and Robert Jordan wrote, "This happens, and she gets spanked." And I'm like, "I'm not going to write a spanking scene; I've never written a spanking scene before!" [laughter] And I was kinda like, "Come on, Jim, do you really have to do this?" But I was like, it was in the notes, and there was no good reason not to [?] that scene, so I went ahead and wrote that scene.