Netherlands tour, Amsterdam 5 April 2001 - report by Aan'allein
Preface by Isabel: While Jordan was visiting the Netherlands, there were railway strikes going on. So it was really hard to get to Amsterdam. At the end I and Wolf Gaidin arrived just in time. We met up in Utrecht and traveled to Amsterdam.
This report was written by Aan'allein. I have edited some comments out. (Isabel)
I am putting my own comments with %% %% in between, so you will have some idea how I felt during it :-)
I sat down in the back of the room, looking around, but spotted no one familar besides the 'Amyrlin' of that Nynaeve fanclub (why was I not surprised?). Jordan was the same as ever, except that this time he wasn't wearing sunglasses. Oh, and I think Harriet was there as well, or at least a woman who was very familar with him...
Anyway, there were a lot of standard questions again, and a lot of the standard answers. Several times word for word the same things I'd heard the day before, and read in transcripts before that. Still, a couple of interesting things came up.
Q: A: format lines are actual word for word quotes, the rest is what Jordan said exactly where I can manage, but often also heavily paraphrased by me.
The first thing I heard when I came in was a question about how he researched things. He talked about Perrin making that barrelstave in TDR, said that he'd done a lot of research into 18th and 19th century blacksmithing (and couldn't find anything from before). Then he wrote the first version and sent it to a blacksmith, who gave a lot of useful critique.
As answer to a question about his other writings, he mentioned once ghostwriting a *ponders* To my shame I must say I don't recall what he said. Either a mystery, a ghost-story, or a horror-novel I think... something in that direction anyway. It wasn't something I'd heard before. Westerns, historical novels, even the dance critiques, they're all known, but this was new to me. (You do all know what ghostwriting is? Somebody has a great idea for a book, but lacks the time or skill or whatever to actually write it. So a ghostwriter is brought in to write the book under the first person's name.)
Sitting in the back of the room, my memo-recorder didn't pick up very much, but the following is what I can make out of it and remember as answers to a question about how he created the Old Tongue (always a topic some people are very interested in):
- There is no simple standard way to make plurals, to shift the irregular verb, it's all adapted because of the merging of different languages (Just like around 900 AD when the Saxons encountered the Danes and began creating a lingua france, so the Old Tongue is also supposed to have been created by mixing different languages, and thus has a lot of the same sort of irregularities as english has).
- He started with that list of 880 English words with which you should be able to manage in 95% of English conversations, removed what he found unnecessary and added others he needed.
A pretty original question was about the Malkieri.
Q: In New Spring there were still a lot of them, but nowadays Lan is the only one around: how's that possible? Did they all die?
RJ: No, it's a matter of assimilation. All these people now think of themselves as part of the country they live in, they've taken on these new cultures. Lan is the only one who hasn't done this, who at heart remains a Malkieri.
Q: Hoe many times does Jordan rewrite each chapter?
RJ: As many times as needed. Each time he makes a major change, he saves the file with a new revision number. For Winter's Heart, the prologue had 97 revisions. This was by far the largest amount, most chapters only have 9 or 10 revisions.
Q: Does he use books to fix things from earlier books? (Clearly asking about the Shaido's attack at Dumai's Wells, although I'm not sure Jordan realized this)
RJ: No, he doesn't. He sometimes tries to clear up misconceptions that people have gotten (he does admit that there have been times that he has made mistakes [put down a wrong eye-color (probably a reference to the Faile/Moiraine gaze at Perrin in TDR) / blinked and missed an editor's typo], but this is not what he's talking about). But he does try to use things that have been there a long time, and he likes to plant seeds, so that things don't fall out of the blue sky (the major reason I love WoT so much). Giving us the little tidbits of information that don't mean anything now, but that in three books will come around again.
The question about how many of these seeds there are got RAFOd.
Q: Is Jordan's writing emotional or mechanical? Does he sometimes find it 'boring', wishes he could hurry it up, knowing where this or that will be going?
RJ: No, it's not mechanical, he has a lot of fun writing, trying to get into the heads of his characters.
The standard 'Harriet saying you've been writing Padan Fain again, haven't you?' anecdote came along, now I remember that the character he mentioned actually writing was Semirhage.
He again mentioned the list of writers: Holdstock, Powers, Ford, Friedman, Jones.
He likes George R.R. Martin's books, gave him a quote for his first book.
Ah, here the sound-quality suddenly increases tremendously. I don't know if these people also had problem with the strike, or if they were simply late, but others kept coming in, so we were all asked to move forward a bit (we were all sitting on the floor, with a wide open space in front of Jordan), and I once again ended up on the first row.
He begins to realize more things about a character as he writes it. The major characters were in his head from the beginning, the secondary level and even most of the tertiary characters as well. The minor characters you'll only see for a page or two are however often invented on the spot.
Q: So you don't consider Shaidar Haran a major character?
RJ: Ah, oh yes, he's a major character. Definitely a major player.
Q: In The Great Hunt, you showed us Trayal, the Ogier without a soul. And he could still walk. Barely, but he could still walk. So, the body retains some skill without the soul. How.. how's that.. divided?
RJ: Think of it as.. ah, as what is autonomic, nervous-system really, autonomic nerve reflexes. You still breathe, you still move, but I would not... I would not ask him to play the flute.
Q: Language skills?
RJ: Ehm.. no.
Q: Absolutely nothing at all?
RJ: Absolutely nothing. Unless it's done in the form of a Gray Man. Which is a voluntary ahh.. rejection of your own soul. In that case, there are other skills, higher function. That's a matter of making a deal with the Dark One, and there are other prices to be paid from that.
(Yup, that was me again. Olver-Cain suddenly begins to look dim to me. Kudos to Rando for not being swayed on this point. I always thought it a likely possibility that Cain's soul would be reborn naturally, but that in the last instance the Pattern gave him a yank to make him be reborn in an older body. Rando however pointed out that Olver had a lot of skills, while a newly reborn sould should be as a blank slate. I argued that the body of Olver could very well have retained the language skills from the previous soul, which could then quickly be acquired by Cain... That doesn't hold though, so I'm going to have to find a different explanation. How possible is that a one-year old soul, given input on and above the level of that of a 9-11 year old boy would rise to the challenge and acquire knowledge and skills fast enough to stay alive and become experienced enough to be this 9-11 year old boy?
Actually, I think that's very possible. And it would explain why Olver now is developing so rapidly. He has 'learned' to mature far faster than normal people... There, my belief in the theory is saved.}
Q: Are Whitecloaks based on the Klu Klux Klan?
RJ: Amongst others. Any group that believes to know the Truth with a capital T and want you to believe the same. Mostly it's based on groups like the Teutonic Knights, however, since they don't hide behind anything. The Church in the early Christian days, like the Taliban now, are people who know the Truth, and they will kill you if you don't believe the truth.
He did not pick up bits and pieces of groups like the KKK, but the Whitecloaks are simply that, a group of people who know the truth, Veritas.
Q: Don't you get totally absorbed in the books when writing them?
RJ: Well, I do... It's getting absorbed in the work, really, rather than getting absorbed in the world. I focus. When I used to play football, American football, we were calling it 'in the zone'. It's a total focus, so that eh... In football, American football, everybody else is suddenly moving half a step slower, almost as in slow-motion. Peripheral vision extends. I can see facial twitches. I know who has the ball. I mean, I can see him, it's almost as if a faint glow comes up, but I can't hear the crowd. It's all dead silence, but I can hear the other players breathing, and ... it's a very strange situation.
You get in the zone with the writing and here I am at my desk. My computer, the monitor. And here is a window looking into the side-garden [waving to the left], and over there [waving to the right] is a glass-paint door, looking into the long-garden behind our house.
Now we have had heavy rainstorms and windstorms that drenched everything, that broke branches, were beating bamboo against this window [the left], there had to be bamboo hitting against this window, had broken branches down on the driveway over there [the right].
[...] and he never noticed any of it when in the zone with writing.
Miss Nynaeve-fan asked a question, standing up very formal together with another girl...
RJ: Oh, well you're gonna sing...
RJ: No? what?
Isabel: Is Nynaeve self-assured?
RJ: Is Nynaeve self-assured?
Isabel: Or is she just pretending to be?
RJ: No, Nynaeve is self-assured.
Isabel: YES!! *almost bounces through the roof*
%% I had a bet with the other Amyrlin of the Offical Nynaeve Fanclub and of course I won. %%
Then the questions were over and it was time for signing.
A big triumph for me here. We were asked to write down our names beforehand, so that Jordan wouldn't waste a lot of time on asking for the spelling. When I got there, he barely glanced at the paper, looked at me and said "Hello, Sander".
Wheee! He remembered me. I'm going to have a problem tomorrow (err, today that is). I can only use one side of the tape in my memo-recorder, because I'm so not going to tape over those words now... I need a compu with a microphone very quickly, so that I can save those wonderful words. (On the other hand, he'll probably say them again at least three more times.)
Q: When Damer Flinn and Sarene and Corele attacked Demandred, how far away were they? In yards, meters, ...?
RJ: Ah.. no, they were eh... [long silence while he's thinking] no, no, no.. Damen Flinn and Corele eh... no, no, that's meters.. just some meters. Err, they couldn't have come face-to-face. That's eh... Yeah, it's not a short, not a really... not like you and me.
Q: ...he didn't see the ageless faces...
RJ: ... [nothing really, he was done signing then, but no contradiction either]
The general idea I now have is that it was something like 10, maybe 20 meters between them. Not the 100+ meters I'd kinda expected.
All in all it was a pretty short session, but well worth it, even with all the added travel time.
%% I don't really remember anymore what I asked RJ, but I do remember that me and Liandra asked if Robert Jordan and Harriet wanted to join the Nynaeve fanclub. They did wanted to join it :-) Now it's called the Official Nynaeve Fanclub.
We also talked about my age again and I told RJ I would bring my passport saturday, because I couldn't make it to the friday signings :-) %%
A note from the Aan'allein of the present: I wrote these reports a long time ago, when I was rather young and stupid. Rereading them now, I cringe at how opinionated I was, and I fondly remember how deeply I cared. As I wrote these reports for a very specific audience, namely fellow fans on the Wheel of Time Book Forum, you can expect a lot of in-jokes and references to people and discussions you're not supposed to know about. I hope you can see past these flaws and through reading these reports manage to share some of the sense of joy that was there in meeting Jordan.
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