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1. Straight Answers Edit
At the book-signings and after his reading from A Crown of Swords, Robert Jordan answered lots of questions about the series so far. Here's a summary of what he said. These are not spoilers.
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.)
Berelain is Perrin's hawk (seen in Min's vision). I really don't know how anybody could have failed to make this connection, and Jordan was similarly incredulous when someone asked him. "What is the symbol of the Mayene?" he intoned heavily. "And who wears that symbol on crown, above her brow? Who is descended from Artur Hawkwing? And who is chasing Perrin like a bird of prey?" Those words aren't Jordan's verbatim, but they're close.
Halima is a man in a woman's body. I got Jordan to 'fess up to this one when he was talking about the new books-on-tape that will be coming out soon. He said that a male voice will read the parts that are from a man's point of view and a female voice will read the parts that are from a female character's point of view. "So, which one will read the passage from Halima's point of view?" I asked. Jordan sighed and said, "Halima's just weird." He went on to confirm that he/she is a male spirit inside a female body and suggested that he/she will change personality over time since the body affects the spirit (and vice-versa).
The Aes Sedai who beat Rand in Lord of Chaos did not necessarily violate the Three Oaths. Jordan explained that the Three Oaths are bound by literal intent and perception. He said that the Aes Sedai could have considered the beatings a just punishment rather than the use of a weapon. He also suggested that not everything that harms you need be considered a weapon. I think he gave the example of a whip used lightly not considered a weapon, versus a whip used to flay skin being considered a weapon. On the subject of the first Oath ("to speak no word that is untrue"), Jordan said that Aes Sedai can say something they believe to be true or something they don't mean literally. As an example of the latter, an Aes Sedai can employ hyperbole and say something like, "I'm going to tie yours ears over your head," when she means to do no such thing.
My Comment: I should also point out that at least two of the women who beat Rand are people we know to belong to the Black Ajah. On page 683hb (in Lord of Chaos), it is said that only Galina, Erian, and Katerine beat Rand more than once. We know that Galina and Katerine are Black Ajah, so they aren't bound by the Oaths anyway. Erian is the Aes Sedai whose two Warders Rand killed, so maybe she found some way to justify her punishment of Rand under the Three Oaths. I don't know who else beat Rand (i.e., who beat him only once); the book may say, but I can't find a quote.
Tam "knows" that Rand is the Dragon Reborn. Jordan said that Tam has all the clues he needs to figure out that Rand is the Dragon Reborn. Whether or not Tam will admit it to himself is another matter. Jordan said that Tam merely finding Rand as a baby on the slopes of Dragonmount wasn't enough of a clue -- even if Tam were familiar with that prophecy then, few people think about those things or expect them to happen literally to them -- but that, plus the fact that Rand has disappeared off with Aes Sedai who say he's important, and the fact that the world is going crazy, should give Tam enough information to make the conclusion.
Not all Red Ajah are misandrists. Jordan said that not all members of the Red Ajah are rabid men-haters, but pointed out that they will tend to develop a dislike/distrust for men as part of their job. To be Red Ajah means that your primary mission is to capture and gentle channeling males, so all men become potential enemies. After having this outlook for several decades, it will be hard to have a normal relationship with men.
My Comment: Something that I would personally like to add to this discussion is that all Aes Sedai believe in the importance of stopping male channelers, but the Reds are those who consider it more important than anything else they can do with their talents. This will tend to attract women who dislike men.
Verin is older than most Aes Sedai think, but not as old as some fans think she is. Jordan said specifically that she is not from the Age of Legends. Other than that, he was fairly vague, but he implied that she's no older than, say, 300. "There's a reason why Aes Sedai respect a sister with gray hair," he said.
Additional note: One fan claimed that, at the convention, Jordan said that Verin had never held the Oath rod. Jordan later denied having said any such thing.
2. Jordan's Writing Process Edit
Jordan spoke a bit and answered a few questions about his writing process. He said that he originally thought the series would be 3 to 4 books. When he was negotiating a contract with Tom Doherty, he told Tom that he didn't know how long the series would be, but that he did know the ending. Jordan says that writers seldom get contracts under those circumstances, but Tom signed him one because he like Jordan's writing. The contract was for 6 books.
After Jordan wrote the first book, he increased his estimate to 4-5 books for the series. After the second, he thought it would be 5-6, then 7 or more, etc. Now he does not give any estimate of the length of the series and is upset that the jacket of Lord of Chaos suggested that the series would end with 8 books. (Update: In an open letter sent courtesy of Tor Books, dated 19 May 1996, Jordan said that the series will comprise at least 10 books.)
Jordan says that the idea for Wheel of Time came to him about 10 years before he began writing. "What would it feel like to be tapped on the shoulder and told, 'Hey, you're the savior of the world?'" He began writing The Eye of the World four years before it was published (and I say that it shows).
Jordan has lots of notes for the series. He began by writing approximately 10 pages (of notes) of history about each of the countries in his story, more for the places he was going to use first. Right now his notes fill more pages than his manuscripts, he says.
Jordan said that many fans want to know what he'll write next, and many want to know if he'll ever write about the Age of Legends. He said that other than the Wheel of Time series and the forthcoming Illustrated Guide he's (probably) not going to write anything else in the same setting. The Illustrated Guide to the Wheel of Time will contain:
-The history and rise of Artur Hawkwing -The formation of the modern Aes Sedai organization (i.e., post-Breaking) -The Aiel War, especially the Battle of the Shining Walls (which will be told from several different viewpoints) -Some things about the Seanchan not included in the WoT story -Art by someone other than Darrel Sweet
This is not a complete list of what will be in The Illustrated Guide.
3. The Strike at Shayol Ghul Edit
Many people have asked about a short piece of writing called The Strike at Shayol Ghul. Most people want to know, Is it actually real, and if so, what does it say? First, it is real. Robert Jordan wrote it and it was included in the Balticon printed program. It's about four pages long in printed form, and is now available on the Web courtesy of Tor Books. Copies of the convention program, which includes the story, may still be available. See Colette Schleifer's announcement for information.
The free availability of The Strike at Shayol Ghul on the Web makes this summary rather superfluous (I wrote it when Strike was only available in printed form, in very limited quantity) but I'm keeping it here for completeness. Now on with my summary.
In The Strike at Shayol Ghul, Jordan describes the events leading up to the Sealing of the Bore from the perspective of a Third Age historian (at about the time of the story) who discovered some fragmented manuscripts that were written shortly after the Breaking. The single biggest fact revealed is that the during the War of the Shadow, the Aes Sedai were considering two alternate plans for defeating the Dark One.
Lews Therin proposed that the Dark One be resealed in his prison by plugging the Bore. The plug would be inserted by thirteen linked male and female channelers and would be held in place by the seven Seals, which were focus points of the weaving. Twenty thousand soldiers would accompany them to Shayol Ghul, where the Bore could most be sensed. Lews Therin's plan had supporters and opponents. Opponents argued that the Seals required precise positioning, and that any slight error would tear the Bore open wider.
The alternate plan, which also had its share of supporters and detractors, was to build two large sa'angreal (one for saidin, one for saidar) and use them to build a new prison around the old one for the Dark One. The sa'angreal were so powerful that special "key" ter'angreal had to be constructed for channelers to use them safely. Opponents of this plan expressed concern that the sa'angreal could fall into the control of channelers following the Shadow or be misused accidentally by channelers serving the Light. Either way, the sa'angreal were expected to be powerful enough to destroy the world and beyond. Opponents also worried that while the sa'angreal might enable the building of a wall strong enough to contain the Dark One's strength right then, the Dark One was gradually chipping away at the Bore and gaining more power in the world. At some point, he might become powerful enough to tear down the new wall.
Supporters of each plan began preparation, even though the Aes Sedai as a whole failed to reach a consensus.
Latra Posae, an outspoken female Aes Sedai, considered Lews Therin's plan so dangerous that she organized support amongst the female Aes Sedai against it. In fact, she obtained the unanimous agreement of every female Aes Sedai of significant power -- in other words, every female AS who could possibly be asked to assist in the force that would place the seven Seals into the Bore to seal it shut. They believed this effectively halted Lews Therin's plan, as the men who supported him could not link without any cooperating women. (It was believed that correct placement of the seals required a linked group of the most powerful male and female channelers.)
While the Aes Sedai were fighting over which plan should be used, the Shadow advanced rapidly. Lews Therin decided that something had to be done right away, so he covertly organized 113 male channelers who supported his plan (they were later called the Hundred Companions, a slight miscount) and over ten thousand soldiers who were also loyal to him. The force stormed Shayol Ghul, when all thirteen Forsaken were there, and put the Seals into place.
At the moment of the resealing, the Dark One drove all of the surviving Hundred Companions (about 68, at that point) instantly insane. The Dark One also tainted saidin, although this wasn't discovered until after hundreds of other male channelers had been driven mad from it.
Reads the introduction of the manuscript: "Whoever reads this, if any remain to read it, weep for us who have no more tears. Pray for us who are damned alive."
4. A Reading from A Crown of Swords Edit
Warning: Minor Spoilers for A Crown of Swords
Robert Jordan read part of a chapter from A Crown of Swords. I don't have an exact measure of the length, but I'd estimate it at about 1200 words given the duration and pace of his reading. It sounded like one of those sections in a chapter that covers scenes from different characters' points of view. The scene features Mat with a "here's where he is now" theme, sort of like the scene in Lord of Chaos where Mat dances with a tavern wench. The passage is fairly funny; during the reading, the audience erupted into laughter several times.
In the scene we find Mat at Queen Tylin's palace in Ebou Dar. Mat is turned off by the cloying opulence of his rooms. He's apparently been accorded status as a ranking diplomat from a friendly nation. He's also accorded some personal status with the Queen, we find out... Tylin pays him a visit and jumps all over him. Mat tries to fend her off (he's really scared by the prospect of a woman pursuing him) but to little avail; she paws him like an octopus and manages to relieve him of a few articles of restrictive clothing. Thom and Juilin save the day with a well-timed knock at the door to Mat's chambers.
Thom, Juilin, and Mat discuss how they're going to manage to keep Elayne and Nynaeve protected and out of trouble. They develop a list of demands to give to the two women. When Elayne and Nynaeve arrive, the men present their concerns... and the women agree, completely! Mat, Juilin, and Thom know that trouble's on the way.
(Report by Bill Garrett)