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Reporting from Comic-ConEdit
Diomedes - 7/16/2005 6:42:03 PM
posted at wotmania.com
Freaks, geeks and nerds, oh my! I must say, I felt right at home
Yes, it's true. LitN and myself were mere feet from one another without ever realizing it. I suppose I should have posted a profile pic, or better yet, been paying closer attention late Wednesday night when John NB me that he would be in San Diego on Thursday. As it was, I didn't get the NB until I was almost ready to leave on Thurs, and thus missed the opportunity to arrange a meeting. Getting to spend some RL time with someone that I've come to consider a close friend at wotmania would have made the Comic-Con that much more memorable, and I can only pledge to make more of an effort to work out such a meeting in the future. Perhaps RJ will do a book signing in So Cal after KoD is released.
In any case, it was thrilling to meet RJ in person on Thursday during the autograph session, and I returned to Comic-Con on Friday to witness the Q&A session. I'm a little surprised at how nervous I was in actually asking RJ a few questions. Pounding heart, sweaty palms, a slight shake in the voice, and all that. He's only a guy that writes a few books here and there, right? What's so tough about asking a question or three?
Anyway, on Thursday, I steeled myself enough to ask one question while he signed my hardcover copy of New Spring. If I can remember correctly, I asked, "When a Warder's bond is passed is the original bond still intact or is it broken?" Not the best choice of words, I admit, but I was nervous. A problem that would repeat itself, unfortunately, the following day. In any case, RJ's answer was a terse, "No. It's a transfer. A transfer." Now, I'm sure everyone will have their own interpretation, but I still believe that he's indicating that there is only one bond, and it is passed from one Aes Sedai to another. That is, to extrapolate, Lan is not suffering effects from having his bond with Moiraine broken.
That's really all I have to report from Thursday. Like LitN, I was busy scanning nearby name tags hoping to see a familiar name. Also like John, my powers of deducing a man's outward appearance from his written words is clearly lacking. I'm sure I saw that hat and sunglasses a few times, but failed to notice his name tag. In any case, there really wasn't much opportunity to eavesdrop on anyone elses questions or comments to RJ, since even the front of the line was too far from RJ's signing table to clearly overhear anything.
Friday, of course, was a different affair. For the "Spotlight" on RJ, we were treated to an extended Q&A session. RJ entered and immediately rattled off some pronounciations. Those that have been to book signings, or read other accounts of events similar to these, will not be surprised that he ran through Nynaeve, Egwene al'Vere, Siuan Sanche, and Seanchan. I'm personally surprised at how closely Nynaeve is to naive in sound. After a few pronounciations, RJ described some of the original details about his contract with Tor. (At this point, let me say that I'm reconstructing RJ's comments to the best of my ability. I did take a few pages of written notes during the session, and the content should be accurate, but I'm forced to paraphrase the information since I don't know shorthand and didn't actually record his exact words.) RJ had his first contract with Tor in 1984. He expected to write about 1 book per year, and would need 5 or 6 books to complete the story. In fact, it took him 4 years to write EotW, and 16 months to write TGH, and about 15-16 months to write each subsequent book until ACoS. Up to LoC, Tor was trying to publish the books every 12 months. RJ turned in LoC in August of 1994 and the book was published in November of that year.
During this period of trying to maintain Tor's once a year publishing schedule, RJ said that Harriet was doing what he called "drive-by editing." That is, RJ would give Harriet chunks of chapters as he finished with them, and she would basically edit them on the fly. Once a book was finished, they would slap it together and send it to Tor for a barebones editing process and publication.
After LoC was published, RJ informed Tor that there was no way he would be able to provide them with the next book in time for a November 1995 publication, and Tor told him that he could take 2 years for the publication if he needed it. About a year after that, his Tor contact (Sorry, I didn't write down that name) came back to RJ and said something to the effect of, "We agreed you'd be done in 16 months, right?" RJ remained adamant about the two years for ACoS, however.
RJ then talked a little bit about KoD, saying that he was done writing at the beginning of April, which apparently means the end of April in author-speak. Which also apparently means in the middle of May in author-speak. That bit was fairly confusing, but I got the impression that he was basically finished in April, but Tor didn't really get the book to begin their editing process until May. Once Tor had the book in hand, they tried to push up the publication date to August, but RJ refused and insisted on the full editorial review and publication in October. RJ then said the result of that fully editorial was to add a single sentence to the book (This was actually quite funny and drew some considerable laughter from us in the audience.)
Wrapping up his initial comments, RJ reiterated that the 12th book would be the finaly book. I did write down the following quote: "If I have to make it a 1500 page publication it will be the final book." He then warned us that we might need to wheel this final tome around in a cart.
After these initial comments, RJ proceeded to take questions from audience members. I won't actually provide all the questions and answers in this post, since a large number are really questions that have been asked many times before, and many of us are already familiar with the answers. I'm fairly surprised that so many questions were reminiscint of questions that have been posed to RJ in the past, but I think it has given me some insight into our little community here on the wotmania MB, and the reality of RJ's fan base as a whole. The truth is that we represent a fraction of a percentage of a fraction of a percentage of RJ's audience. Most fans probably don't even know that RJ has numerous interviews posted online that could answer their question, and far far more fans are interested in who RJ's favorite character is, or what advice he might give to aspiring authors than they are about the minutiae of the series. The reality is that the vast majority of his fans are simply content to enjoy the story and wait for the next book without spending hours in discussion about plot points or combing though chapters in search of insights to the possible future the story holds.
So, I won't provide every Q&A, partially because I was in line for the microphone for some of them and unable to jot down the responses, as well as distracting myself with keeping calm and running through my head exactly how I would phrase the questions - not that that particularly helped - but also because some of it is information that has been reported before. I'll start with my own questions, since they were about the only story based questions in the whole lot. First, I tried to ask shannow's question about how the Forsaken compared to each other in their strength of the Power. Being nervous, of course, I managed to flub that as well by saying, "There's a lot of contradictory information in the books about how the Forsaken are ranked in their strength in the Power. Could you rank the Forsaken more explicitly?" (or something to that effect.) RJ than explained that the Forsaken don't rank themselves in terms of strength in the Power as Aes Sedai do. (duh! Looks like I used the wrong turn of phrase, or RJ deliberately misinterpretated what I was getting at.) He went on to say that the Forsaken do not like to think of themselves as weaker than anyone else, and, due to their arrogance and ambition, will tend to understate other's abilities and overstate their own. He concluded by saying that, given these weaknesses in character that the Forsaken possess, any information that the Forsaken provide should be considered highly suspect. I'm not sure how much this helps, shannow, and I wish that I had phrased the question somewhat differently in light of this response, but I do believe it indicates Rahvin is mistaken when he thinks that he or Sammael are strong enought to take on Lanfear. It's also led me to believe that RJ likes the confusion he's created about how the Forsaken relate to each other in regards to the Power, and he won't easily yield the explicit information that you're looking for.
Allowed two questions at the microphone, my second question had to do with In the Shadow, the prologue of TGH. I asked if he had particular characters in mind for all the people that he described, and if so, had he provided clues that would allow us to figure out who those characters were. RJ's answer was that he did have some specific characters in mind for some of those people, but not for all of them. He also said that he didn't write the prologue so that it would be easy to deduce who those characters were. Hopefully, this will provide some food for thought, but I believe it is confirmation that the "Shienaran" was not actually Ingtar, as that would seem to obvious in light of this response.
So, those were my questions, what follows are some of the other questions and answers. One guy asked whether RJ was disappointed with the New Spring novella that appeared in Legends since he expanded it into a stand alone Novel. RJ said that he wasn't dissatisfied, but that when he originally wrote the novella it was simply too long and had to be cut to fit the anthology. He approached Tor about doing a stand alone novel, and they agreed, so he was happy to do the full length novel as it gave him the opportunity to include information that didn't make it into the New Spring novella in Legends.
Another gentlemen asked about a WoT movie. RJ said that he had a meeting scheduled with Red Eagle that night (Friday night) and the following day (today, saturday) to discuss that very thing. He hasn't seen any script (perhaps it hasn't even been written yet) and that Red Eagle had an option for EotW only. He seemed to have a wait and see attitude about the whole thing, and he provided no definitive information about the how or when a movie would be in the offing. It seemed to me that this is still in the very early stages.
There was a question about how RJ felt about having WoT published in other mediums, specifically the NS comic by Dabel Brothers and a possible movie. RJ said he was excited but trepidatious. He described the process by which he was in collaboration with the folks at Dabel Brothers. He understood that certain cuts would need to be made as the story goes from the written medium into others, but wanted to insure that his vision was followed as faithfully as possible. RJ also indicated that he was confirming even minor details with Dabel Brothers, and one example he used was that the facial bars on a helmet were too thin, and that such bars would be ineffective against a sword swing, that they would crumple and crush the wearers face, and that the bars were then thickened in the comic book.
RJ was also asked about the WoT video game that Legend GTI produced a few years ago, and if there would be another video game in the future. RJ said that Legend GTI approached him about doing a video game, and RJ gave them a list of conditions that he wanted addressed. At one point, representatives from Legend GTI had a meeting with RJ in Charleston, and said we can't do everything that you want us to do, here's what we can do. RJ was not satisfied, and said they basically wanted to repackage their last game with the WoT logo on it. When he threatened to give Legend GTI their money back, something RJ doesn't believe anyone ever does in that business, Legend decided to attempt and meet RJ's criteria. RJ apparently believes that this gave them the impetus to research knew software engines for gaming (he mentioned the Quake engine, though I don't know enough about the details of gaming software to fully understand the reference) and they eventually provided the type of game that RJ was looking for. Some time after the WoT game was published, Legend GTI told RJ they were fairly excited and wanted to do some sequels, or do a modular publication. After some time with no more follow up, RJ got in touch with Legend himself. He was informed that the company had been bought by a French interest that wanted to take Legend GTI in different directions and he never heard back from them. RJ's not even sure if Legend GTI still exists, and that their liscense for WoT games has expired in any case. He also basically threw out an invitation for anyone that wanted to do a WoT game, so all you software engineer wotmaniacs, get busy!
RJ was asked a few questions about swords and fighting styles. Lan and Rand's swords are loosely based on the katana, and another style of sword I had never heard of before (sooba? something like that anyway. SilverWarder might know) and that others were based on medieval european styles. He said that blademasters don't follow one particular historical style of fighting, but that different blademasters have different styles depending on their culture of origin. At this point he went off on a little tangent about Miyamoto Musashi, a reknowned Japanese swordsman that developed a two-sword style of fighting that was revolutionary at the time. He related that Musashi developed his fighting style after fighting in the Phillipines against fighters (Dutch? Portugese? I didn't write their nationality down, but somebody here might know) that were using swords and dirks in a two-handed fighting style. In any case, I think his point was to demonstrate how fighting styles, like other knowledge, disseminates from culture to culture, but is changed and adapted into something unique in each locale. Another question asked about the fighting style of Far Dareis Mai, and the questioner referenced a particular form of martial art that I had never heard of. RJ responded that the Maidens fight with something that could be considered a cross between Tae Kwan Do and a third style that I had never heard of. It's a style that emphasizes the use of feet, legs and hips over the use of the upper body for obvious reasons. RJ felt that an all female community of fighters would naturally discover such a style since it focuses on a women's relative strengths and would help them overcome their relative weaknesses.
RJ was also asked about the replica swords and other artifacts available on the market. He said that he had worked closely with Museum Replicas to insure that their creations very close to RJ's vision. He rattled off some of their products; Shienaran swords, Fain's dagger, heron-marked swords and Aes Sedai rings. Apparently the Aes Sedai rings are no longer available, because there were too many other companies producing similar rings. He also said that Museum Replicas intends to let the production line lapse after the sell out of their current stock. And the heron marked sword is not supposed to be an exact copy of Rand's sword (the one he got from Tam) because the intricate style of Tam's hilt would have made it prohibitively expensive. Nor is it meant to be an exact replica of Lan's sword, which is not heron marked, but is power wrought.
Asked how he managed to keep track of all the characters, RJ replied, "I'm a genius." Then he talked about his database of characters which now exceeds 1.5 megabytes, apparently, and that he has them filed by which country they were last seen in. When he needs to use a character for a scene, he finds the ones that are in the geographic location that he needs, and then picks the one that will best suit his purposes from that list.
One person asked, rather impertinently I thought, if RJ had ripped off Tolkien's Middle-Earth map when he created his own. Of course, RJ denied that, and said that after he had handed in EotW, he was asked to provide a map. "Why do you need a map?" RJ asked, and he was told, "Tom Dougherty likes maps." So, RJ slapped a couple pieces of paper together and drew in the mountains, then scattered the countries around, added some cities rivers and other geographical features and sent it off to Tor. Tor revised it a number of times until Elise Mitchell produced the version that became part of EotW. RJ also stated that if you look at a map of southwestern Saudi Arabia you'll see two mountain ranges that intersect at right angles.
When asked how aware of geography he was while writing, RJ said that he created the city maps whole, but only roughed out the larger ones. The bigger ones were then polished by the people at Tor before being printed in the books. I took it to mean that he wasn't all that concerned with larger geographic features, which might explain some of the geographic discrepencies in the story.
One girl asked RJ which Ajah he would be if were ever, impossibly of course, an Aes Sedai. This one actually gave him quite a pause, and when he responded he said it would probably have to be the Red Ajah, since he couldn't imagine having an intimate Warder relationship with another man.
When asked about how he came up with the magic system for WoT, RJ said it began in kind of a strange way. He had read a book a long time ago, he didn't provide a title or author, where the women of that world were not allowed to use the magic. RJ said that started him thinking about a world where it was the men, not the women, that were forbidden magic. Then he needed a real reason for denying men the use of magic, and that the Source, it's division into male and female halves, and the taint on the male half all grew from that original line of speculation. As he was designing the concept, he tried to devise it as a science and engineering concept with the use of the different elements in weaving and such.
Asked about the sequel to the prequel, RJ reiterated that one would address how Moiraine and Lan managed to arrive in the Two Rivers in the nick of time to rescue Rand and the rest from rampaging Trollocs. He said the other would be about Tam, and how he rose from a simple groom to second in command of the Companions, and why he chose to throw away his successful carreer to buy a farm in the middle of nowhere. I think the groom bit is a small detail that hasn't been mentioned elsewhere.
One questioner noted that CoT was far more concerned with politics than action, and asked if the rest of the series would follow those same lines. RJ assured him that KoD would be considerably different, and said, "You'll be sweating by the time you reach the end of it."
Finally, one gentleman asked RJ if he felt it was a writer's responsibility to reinvigorate the genre that he's writing in. RJ said no. A writer's responsibility is create something that is fresh and new. It's his responsibility to provide the reader with surprises. To give the reader the sense that she or he is headed in one direction, only to discover that they end up somewhere else entirely, so that the reader can look back and think, "So that's where you were taking me all along you crafty bastard." This is something that I personally latched on to, because I believe this is really what RJ's writing is about. This is also the reason why I personally have gone so far afield in crafting the hypotheses I have about the direction the story and some characters are headed. Right or wrong my ideas may be, but I feel certain that this story is going to head in directions that none of us have ever suspected before it is finished.
Well, that's all I'm going to put in this post. It's not a complete account, and it's not in any particular order. If you actually managed to read this entire thing, I tip my cap to you. I have to say that I have a new respect for RJ after seeing him in person. He's obviously an incredibly smart guy, with a huge knowledge base. He's was also incredibly generous in his responses, and much funnier than I thought he would be. All in all, I had a great time, and if you ever have the opportunity to go see RJ speak in person, I highly recommend doing so.