Elf Fantasy Fair 7 April 2001 - report by Aan'allein
Preface by Isabel: Jordan started with the Question and Answer this day. The report is also again transcribed by Aan'allein. I was of course sitting on the front row. At first he looked at me while shaking his head saying 'Emma, Emma, Emma'. :-)
RJ: Fantasy is the literature of hope. In fantasy there is a belief that you can make a difference. Today may be bleak, but you can live through today. And tomorrow will be better. And maybe there'll be a different darkness tomorrow, but you can live through that, too and you can make the light come, and the darkness go away. It doesn't matter how many times the darkness comes. There is always hope for something better. I think that that is the central core running through fantasy. And having said that... I have to apologize, by the way, I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. I'm a bit groggy, a bit punchy. And I'm trying very hard to hold on to my thoughts and to my line of reasoning and not go off on strange and aweful tangents. I think what I'm going to do now is ask who would like to ask me a question.
Nobody was really going first, so he looked at the front row, and said:
RJ: Emma? [laughter from those who'd been to signings before] Actually Emma, why don't you just bring me your passport right now so I can see it...
Apparently Jordan didn't really believe her about her age either. If you remember back to my first signing report about when he was in Leiden, you might remember me saying that she probably was a lot younger than she looked like. Well, she really is 17 (which is why Jordan told the entire audience her passport said she is 13), and she looks like she is 17, but she behaves as if she's pretending to be a lot older than she really is (ouch... forgive me, Emma, if you ever read this).
After that little episode Jordan asked:
RJ: Okay, so who would like to ask me any questions?
People were still hesitant, so I was once again the first to raise my hand.
RJ: *smiling* Ah Sander.. Of course Sander has a question.
Me: You talked before about the same Age in different Turnings, you can compare them to tapestries, they look alike at first sight. I was wondering, when at first sight, what would make a difference... Two points I'm really interested in. [*grumble* A stupid mobile phone was apparently not switched off here; yet again... I think Leiden was the only question session not interrupted by this.] Level of technology and gender related... if for example the roles of men and women were switched between Ages, would the tapestries still look alike at first sight?
RJ: Ah, but you're not gonna have that sort of switch. In this Age, how can you have a switch? One of the things for instance in the Age that I wrote. One of the things...For instance, I've been accused by somer people of ignoring the feminist struggle. Well, there is no feminist struggle in this world, because there is no need for one. No one says a woman can't do this because she is a woman. A woman wants to be a blacksmith, she can learn to be a blacksmith, and she becomes a blacksmith, or a merchant or a wagondriver, or a worker on the docks, or wherever else. All of that took place, took place a long time ago. And they're very good at it. That sets the whole reasons why this should come about. Three thousand years ago the world was destroyed, by men. There is one group that has survived for that three thousand years, one organization that has managed to stick together for three thousand years, and have a great influence on history, and that is a group of women.
Okay, so you just don't have, you just don't have it. To have a reversal of roles means... absolutely nothing.
Me: Okay, so the sociological results would always be the same, every Turning ...?
RJ: Ah, that is one of the things, one of the things that would be a large, a very large change. Uhm, it's gonna be the smaller details, smaller things than that which change.
Q: Someone asked the regular question about the amount of books to come and why it's taking so long...
RJ: There are a number of storylines that I want to tell, a number of stories that I want to tell. Basically I think of this as a story of people surviving the upheaval of their culture. ... You know, when I began I knew the beginning, I knew the end and I knew certain major events that I wanted to happen in between, so that I would arrive at the proper conclusion, the conclusion of the story that I wanted to arrive at. And it simply wasn't possible to get everything in there as quickly as I thought. The people must all undergo changes. The cultures must undergo changes.
Q: Could it be possible that it will never end?
RJ: Uhm, no, there is no possibility that it will never end. I will wrap up all of the major storylines, I will wrap up some of the minor storylines, other minor storylines will be left hanging, and I'm going to do worse than that. I am going to set a hook in the last scene of the last book, that will make some people don't believe what I say, think that I am setting up a sequel. What I am doing, what I will be doing, is trying to leave you with a view of a world that is still alive. One hope that some fantasies have is that when you reach the end of the book, or you reach the end of the trilogy, all the characters' problems are solved. All of the things that they have been doing are neatly tied of in a bow, all of their world's problems have been solved. And there's no juice left, there's no life left. you think 'I ought to set this world on a shelf and put a bell-jar on top of it, to keep the dust off.
When I finish the Wheel of Time, I want to do it in such a way that you will think it's still out there somewhere, people still doing things. This story has been concluded, this set of stories has been concluded, but they're still alive.
Q: mumble-mumble on the tape, but the answer should give you a general idea of the question.
RJ: No, I will not continue writing it, I will be going on to something else, and nobody else will continue writing it, because I have an automatic contract set up that if anyone tries to share-copy my world, their knee-caps will be brought to me. [laughter]
Q: What will you write next?
RJ: Another fantasy novel, or a set of novels. More compact, I hope. That's.. I've been working on it, you might say, in the back of my head for five or six years. A different world, a different set of circumstances; different cultures, different rules, no connection really, at all, to the world ... I'm writing about now. [Heh, seems even Jordan might want to have given Randland a name in the beginning so that we could refer to it as something other than Randland.] I want to make things different. [strong] I don't like doing the same thing again. It's a trap that writers find it very easy to fall in to. Fans say 'tell me the story again, tell me more of the story' and the writer wants to do a different story. But the fan who loves this story says 'tell me this story again.' [loud] 'I want the story again, daddy!' [laughter] So you tell the story again. And it is very much like telling the story to your child, because if you always tell the same story when the child screams 'tell me the story again, daddy' you find out you can never ever tell a different story, that that is the only story that will be accepted. And I won't do that. I hope you come along with me, when I go on to different stories. But if you don't, I'm still gonna write the different stories. [laughter]
Q: Do warders have a regular lifespan?
RJ: Yes they do. They hang on to what you would call 'vitality' longer than the average man, but they live a normal lifespan. They do get things out of the bond, but not a longer life.
Q: This will probably be a RAFO, but I hope you can at least say something, or did you just forget about him? What happened to Sheriam's Warder?
RJ: Uhm... No, you'll read and find out.
Q: How much are you like the major characters?
RJ: I don't really think that any of the major characters are very much like me, although there's some bits in Mat that remind me of me when I was younger.
followed by the regular "I think of myself as Lan, my wife says I'm Loial."
Q: Are the parallels between cultures conscious?
RJ: Well, the parallels are conscious, but I've taken, I've tried to take come care that there's no exact duplication. There are bits from this culture and this historical period, and this sort of other culture and other historical period, fitted together to make this culture or that culture. You cannot look at the Sea Folk for instance and say 'Oh yes, ah well, that's from India. That is the culture of Japan, or India, or China, or England, or whatever.' Because there is no single culture in that way. The Aiel (eye-eel) for example have bits of Zulu, and bits of Apache, and bits of Cheyenne Indians, and bits of Bedouin and bits of Japanese cultures, and also some things that I simply thought would be neat. ... So I could fit them into the culture.
Q: Which cultures in the Seanchan? (based on things in the Guide)
RJ: The Seanchan also are the melting of things that have come from many different human cultures to make their culture. There have been many rigid stratified, rigidly hierarchal cultures. It's a very human thing. The concept of being able to climb above your station is a relatively new one in human culture. You were born where you were born for a reason, and that is the place you will stay, that has been the norm for human culture, for most of history. I mean, even thr groups.. the Whitecloaks are the people who know the truth. Not just truth, they know Truth, they know Veritas, they know Truth with a capital T, they're the Taliban, the Klu Klux Klan, they're the poeple who know the truth and you must believe their truth or they will kill you. but they're not the Taiban, they're not the Teutonic Knights, they're not the Klu Klux Klan. They are simply that concept.
Q: Oh, this was very interesting: a question about the artwork in the guide...
RJ: Well, the difficulty with the pictures was something that I did not discover until far too late, the artist who was hired to do the pictures... see, this was done by a packager. Someone who came to me, and done guides before, and came to me and said 'I would like to do this, and here is one I did for Marion Zimmer Bradley, and here's the one I did for Bob Silverberg, and here's the one I did for Jack Vance, and would you, you know..' I said alright, this looks good, and I called up these people and they said that things went well, but my publisher... the artist was hired to do a certain number of black and white drawings. And as soon as this guy got the package together he went to my publisher, my ... who said yeah, I'd like to publish this. And my publisher said 'No, I'd like to have color drawings, not black and white, and you want to do x number of drawings, but I would like five times as many illustrations'. And that was all good, except that the artist contract... what I did not know was that the artist contract called for a flat fee. And the man who put the package together did not increase the amount of money that he was going to pay the artist. The artist was then asked to do five times as many drawings, in color, instead of in black and white for the same amount of money. His enthusiasm dwindled. [laughter] Now if I had known about this, I would have given the artist some money out of my own pocket, to get better pictures. I couldn't understand why the man who had sat in my study, and drawn such wonderful sketches just from my off-the-cuff descriptions, was suddenly making drawings that seemed very... not very good. But... that was the reason.
At this point somebody from the audience asked Jordan to start using the microphone (which Jordan hates to do).
Q: A question about a WoT movie:
RJ: A japanese company contacted me about doing an animated movie. I told them no, because they wanted to do a movie based on two or three books, and I said 'no, I won't do that.'
Then he talked about NBC acquiring an option about doing a miniseries based on the first book and options to buy options on the other books, and that there was quite some progress made by the people involved and then "those people promptly left NBC" and NBC has let the option lapse...
RJ: It's a chancey thing. I would not support anyone doing a feature film of, say, The Eye of the World. I do not think it could be compressed into three hours. Certainly not into two. That would make it incomprehensible. But... [end of this side of the tape]
... the screenwriter makes further changes, because, although it's a collaborative effort, if the director says I don't like this, do it some other way, do it this way, and the screenwriter does that. And if the screenwriter doesn't do that, they'll get another screenwriter. And then the actor says 'I don't believe this character would say this.' And the actress says I don't want to do that, see, I want to do it this way, so they change the dialogue, and they change the scene. And the director, again, comes up and says 'I think it should be done in this fashion' and he shapes it.
Q: Which actors and actresses would you cast if a movie were made, and you had that power?
RJ: That power is never given to a writer of a book, believe me. I know that there are websites, more than one, that have sections or they have posts that this actor or that actress for this role or that role. I don't htink I've ever really thought about it. To me a movie is something that would be nice if it happened. A miniseries...
...if Thom should be Sean Connery or Patrick Stewart. I'm sorry, I simply have never thought about that.
Q: How much influence did you have on the WoT computer game, what is your feeling about the game, and what is your opinion about the community? And, within the community it is well known that a lot of readers got into the game, but the other way around as well: a lot of gamers tried the books, the Wheel of Time books and liked them and what is your opinion about that?
RJ: I saw the computer game as a way to attract people to the books. That's why I agreed, when I was approached by gaming companies, who started wanting the rights. But I also wanted it to be something that was going to be decent. So when I signed the first contract, I made sure there was a particular clause in the contract. And they brought me the plans for the game, now, they'd showed me a couple of games that they'd done previously. When they brought in the plans for the game. What they had done with that was file away the numbers off the previous games, took the files' serial numbers off, and put some whiteout over the names, and blacked out the names for my book into the ... over their old games. And I said no. I don't like that, I would like you to do this, and this, and this. I would like this to be possible, and that to be possible. And they said 'well, we can't really do that' And I said 'well, ah I guess.. well, there is this paragraph 24, subparagraph z, and I'm invoking that now, and here's a check, that's the money you gave me, goodbye.'
...go away. Here, I'm giving you back the money, go away. So they were shocked. And they came to me and said 'look, no, we'd really like to do this, and we'll do the things that you'd like to do. Well, they did. Took them over two-and-a-half years. they had to sell their company to a bigger company to get the money to finance it, [laughter] but that was okay. And I liked the fact that one review said that they'd used the UnrealEngine better than Unreal did. I liked the fact that they were hired based on my game, the game based on my books, that they were hired to write the next Unreal game, the sequal to Unreal.
I like the fact that although the Unreal Engine turned out to be incapable of doing some of the things that I wanted them to do, because they knew about these things that I wanted them to do, they were hired to rewrite the Unreal Engine so that it could do the things that I wanted it to do that previously it could not.
What is going to happen, I don't know...
... [asked Mike Verdu about this]
...to do more computer games. But then a French company bought Legend GTI and Mike said 'they've told us, we must go into a new direction' and I asked 'what is this new direction?' and he said 'I don't know, they won't tell us. They say we're supposed to wander around until we find it.' So I don't know what's going to happen there. I think maybe there's been too much wine before the meeting but I have no idea what will happen there.
I think the game is visually beautiful, but I've never played it, because I don't play that type of game. When I'm on a computer and I'm not working, which is not very often, I play chess, or perhaps a strategic simulation of a battle. Free-fight games for every war, that sort of thing.
Then there was a 15 minute break and afterwards W.F. Maryson, one of those Dutch writers, would interview Jordan a bit before more audience questions were allowed.
He started pretty badly by saying that he would ask only bad questions, because he'd been told that if he asked a good one Jordan would talk for half an hour, while that much time wasn't allowed him. So Jordan monosylabically answered the first few questions, and the poor guy Maryson began feeling very uncomfortable. (Luckily for him someone else had already asked the 'how many more books,' because in the discussion between Dutch writers that went before I'd learned that was to be one of his questions, and he didn't seem to heed my warning about it.) After a few questions things went better though.
Q: Maryson (once again mentioning his own writing and how he does that; but I guess that was to be expected) asked about if Jordan also liked to surprise his readers.
RJ: I do. I like to make the reader think that he or she knows exactly where I am going, exactly where I am taking them, and they're certain that I'm taking them to that corner of the room over there, and suddenly they blink and realize that I've taken them to that corner of the room instead, and yet when they look back, they see it was all there, yes, all of it, very clear that I was taking them to that part of the room, instead of that part of the room. So, it's like... it's like making your wife think that you're taking her to Paris, but in actual fact you are taking her to Rotterdam. [laughter]
Oh yes, Harriet was indeed there, and was there in Rotterdam (Jordan: "Somebody is rubbing my back, and I really hope that it's my wife") and Amsterdam as well.
Q: The balance between hard work versus inspiration... which does Jordan think is more important?
RJ: Oh, I think hard work plays a big part, I try to write at least 8 hours a day... [6/7 days a week, blabla] Inspiration comes from hard work.
Q: don't remember anything about the wording, but it should be clear from the answer...
RJ: There's a strict border between my writing and the rest of my life certainly, but the story involves itself in my head. And I continually think about it. I'm always thinking about how I'm going to structure things, how I want the flow of words to work, the rhythms and patterns of words. The difficulty is, I must... I have two rituals at night that are necessary. If I fail... The first is that I read.. someone else. And I must read for several hours. And then having read for several hours, work myself from the books, I must make sure that there... for half an hour or so, I won't drift back with my thinking to my own books. So I drink a very, very large brandy... Yes, 6 or 8 ounces. And just straight down. And this makes me sleepy enough that I will drift off, and that's the night.
Q: Is fantasy also disregarded in the USA?
RJ: Yes. There is an exception in ..., he works for the New York Times, a culture editor, not a literary editor. But that's very good. He seems to understand what I'm writing about. But fantasy is by and large dismissed as less.
Q: A question about other things Jordan would want to write.
RJ: I have a list of the books I might want to write. I continuously add things to it. I used to keep it on paper, in a notebook... and the notebook became full. That was just basic, basic plotlines of... thought of what I'd like to write here or there or the other thing. And I realized twenty years ago that the list of books I wanted to write, the stories I wanted to write was impossible. I would not live long enough. I would not live long enough if I lived three or four lifetimes. I would have to live at least five or six lifetimes to complete the list as it then stood. So, you make choices.
I don't remember too clearly what caused this, but suddenly he was talking about faking his own death and starting a new life. Either as a rockstar, or in the circus. Harriet was rooting for the rockstar idea. Yes, just faking his own death, putting a coffin full with rocks into the ground, and going to go off and start another career somewhere.
Hmm, and I managed to tape one line of Jordan suddenly starting singing: "Take me in pretty woman, ride the snake."
The next series, the one he's been working on in his head for a few years now, will have one culture that is ...
RJ: ...much more readily apparent as being 17th, early 18th century at technological level, cultural levels. I dislike the view of the world of the Wheel of Time as medieval. I think of this as the 17th century, as it would have developed without gun powder. Look at the things, I mean, moveable type and printing presses and books are not uncommon and mechanical clocks and a lot of other things. If you look at what's going on you'd realize that we're not looking at a medieval world. We're looking at the 17th century, minus gun powder.
Then it was time for audience questions again. KuraFire went first.
Q: What happens to the soul of someone when he becomes a Gray Man. Is his thread removed from the Pattern, or are threads and souls different things alltogether?
RJ: Err, they are... Oh, uhm, no, it is gone. It is gone. And it ceases to exist in any form that you could of as real.
Q: So threads and souls are the same thing?
RJ: Err, not the same thing, but they must coexist. The thread can be removed; you die in this world. You die and the soul remains to come again and begin another thread. The soul disappears from this Gray Man, it's gone. Think of the Dark One as having eaten it. It's a fiction, but a convenient fiction for the moment.
The thread of the Gray Man remains until the Gray Man dies, physically.
Q: And the rest of the Shadowspawn?
RJ: What? Do they have souls you mean?
Q: Yeah, and how do their threads work.
RJ: The threads work in the way, in the same way that the thread of any living thing works. It is part of the Pattern. They are not outside of the Pattern. Neither are the Forsaken. But the Pattern in a thing that is open, that's change. It is not a matter of the lives being forced necessarily. It's wide, you have the Pattern, the Heroes that are bound to the Wheel, they're not always heroes in the way of someone who rides in galloping with a sword, or carries out daring rescues. The people, the Heroes who are bound to the Wheel, are the corrective mechanisms. Human behaviour is throwing the Pattern out. It's throwing the balance off. And the Wheel spins out the proper correctives. Put everything back in the balace. So not even the Forsaken are apart from that, they're not outside. The only things that are outside are the Creator and the Dark One. Neither affected by the Pattern.
Q: A question about what interests Jordan most in his books:
RJ: In many ways I think of these books, I spy myself in any of these books as being a sort of Jane Austen, but I've added everything, all that stuff about battles and politics and what not more and the Dark One, and what's really fascinating me, what's really interesting is the people. Working on one another, and reacting to one another.
A general remark: I don't know if this comes across very well in these reports, but Jordan changes what he's saying a lot while halfway a sentence, probably already far ahead with thinking, wanting to say more and other things before even finishing what he started saying...
Additional comments by Isabel: That afternoon there was a signing session by Robert Jordan.
It was horrible cold, so me and Liandra, Wolf Gaidin and the rest sneaked into the signing room to warm up (that was one of the only places were it was warm).
Someone from the publisher also came in later, but she didn't send us away, because I told her RJ knows us. I didn't mention that we had no permission however to be there. :)
But RJ didn't seemed to mind. He signed a lot of books for us :-)
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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