Elf Fantasy Fair 8 April 2001 - report by Aan'allein
This report is written by Aan'allein.
Today Jordan would start with a signing session, having a public interview and audience questions in the afternoon. (Just the opposite of Terry Pratchett's schedule, so that they'd always manage to keep the number of people seeing the other small enough to actually fit in the rooms.)
At 10:00 I went up, seeing only one other person standing in line. In fact, when the doors opened half an hour later, there were still less than 50 people there, as opposed to the 150-200 people of the day before. Early mornings are good.
I liked how everything went today. I liked it very much. I actually got to talk an unblievable amount of time with Jordan...
Let's see, seeing how many people there were I'd already decided to just keep on going back to the end of the line each time, having yet another thing signed. The first time I came to Jordan (as the third person in line, KuraFire had managed to sneak past me earlier... ), the conversation went something like this:
Aan'allein: Good morning.
RJ: Good morning Sander, how are you today?
Aan'allein: Fine, thank you. And you? Slept well?
RJ: Well, no, actually not. I only got back to the hotel from the restaurant at 1 last night, after having been talked into eating traditional Dutch food. The food was very tasty, but that late at night, I think it was a bit...
... and on.
I don't know, maybe Jordan secretly thinks I'm a horrible person and would like nothing better than to scream at me to get away, but if he does, he manages to hide it very well... I like the guy. He's got a great sense of humor and can talk very interesting... Plus he's the author of WoT of course...
Anyway, getting back in line for the first time I noticed that Emma had finally arrived as well. Well, actually, she noticed and recognized me and said hi. As the line moved forward we talked and I began to like her. Now that she has left the nervousness of the first few days behind she's pretty cool. (Well, besides the tendency to still talk a lot about WoT related subjects using the translated words... *shivers*) Oh, and when she arrived at Jordan for the first time, he said something like "I'm sorry for teasing you so much", and then loudly stated that she really was 17, so we could all jump on her.
Ah, it's like the passport scene, something for which you should have been there to truly comprehend; it's hard to capture the humor in a report like this.
I also saw Iwitness again, and Beidomon Sedai and Lord Agelmar, two of my friends who very occasionally post here, showed up as well. Plus a few TFD members...
Emma, KuraFire, Iwitness and me made quite a few rounds, having something signed (I had a lot of cards from the card game with me), asking questions, moving back to the end of the line, discussing what questions we'd ask next and what the previous answers meant, and then all over again. I think we made at least 10 rounds, although the group changed every now and then with one of the other stopping for a moment, not making the round. And if people who hadn't been there yet showed up just as we stood at the back of the line, we let them go first, and waited on each other, and took pictures, and discussed WoT and talked more to Jordan and... It was just amazing fun. We got a few RAFOs here and there of course, but the amount of questions answered was really awesome.
Let's see what my memo-recorder has...
Q: Ah yes, KuraFire asked about the prologue of TEotW, where Ishamael traveled, but with a different description than that of usual Traveling.
RJ: Jordan said that that was because the Traveling was done by using the True Power. We'd seen the same since, when Moridin Travels somewhere... "The Pattern screamed."
Q: In The Shadow Rising, Lanfear mentioned two sa'angreal stronger than Callandor that a male could use. Is the second one ever going to appear?
RJ: Read And Find Out. (Of course, but hey, there's no harm in trying anyway...)
Q: In the Great Hunt, was Lanfear present to inspire the Dark Prophecy about "Daughter of the Night, she walks again"?
RJ: Of course she was about...
Q: But was she present in Fal Dara?
RJ: [after a weighing look deciding not to answer:] Read And Find Out.
Q: Emma asked Jordan to tell some things about Nynaeve which we didn't already know from the books but should know... [As I also found out later: these kind of open questions really don't work with Jordan.]
RJ: ... She was pushy even as a kid...
KuraFire asked: Can burned out channelers still sense the Source? (This was because of that debate that pops up every now and then, where because of that one glossary entry people just won't believe that buring out and stilling really aren't synonyms. From now on this should be settled forever.)
RJ: Ah, burned out? No. The difference between being burned out and being stilled.. We use the term as if it is interchangable, but they aren't. Technically 'stilled' means something that is being done to you deliberately. 'Burned out' is an injury that you received accidentally.
Q: Is it the difference between a clean cut and a cauterized wound? (From memory, the background noise here got too loud for my memo-recorder; a problem throughout this signing.)
RJ: Yes, and if you're burned out, you cannot sense the Source.
Q: An Asmodean question... [Yup, we really were that far gone. Who cared anyway, we could always get back in line for the next round. Although I now did regret I didn't print out every single question I received from you guys, but only went for one paper with those most important / least likely to get RAFOd questions. Especially because I couldn't remember what went before the 'pepsy monkey' question, so was incapable of making Jordan recall his line of thought there.]
RJ: Van Morrison... [laughter] No..? oh, okay. I thought that would be a good answer to the Asmodean question.
Jimi Hendrix? Or perhaps the... Actually: Mick Jagger for ... How else do you explain 'Sympathy for the Devil?' Aha. Ha!
Q: *finally managing to get the entire question asked* Just using the first five books, is the answer also intuitively obvious?
RJ: I think so. It seemed to me so. It seemed to me that there was no need to go into any more detail. I thought that if I went into any more detail, I was being blatandly obvious, and you know... what do I need to do? Caper around with a sign saying 'Here! Here! There he is, see?' I mean.., I assumed that the people who read my books are intelligent to a certain degree, have a reasonable level of intelligence, and are able to deduce things that you know... I mean, I don't have to tell them water is wet. They know that. I don't have to tell them that if they fall of the roof, it's gonna hurt when they hit, you know, they know that. So I... no, I... At this point, I must tell you: alhough I will continue to put clues into the books. Again. A bit here and there. If I see a spot where I can put a clue, for those who are slow of wits to catch up ... I will not tell you. For the simple reason I am enjoying watching you all try far too much to deprive myself of the pleasure of that.
more questions from our side...
RJ: Yes... I particularly like, actually, Mick Jagger as answer to that.
Emma: Did Slayer meet Asmodean before he was killed?
RJ: No.. am, no. Not in the books.
Q: Can you eliminate a few suspects of who killed Asmodean?
RJ: No. No, I refuse to... Well, I'll tell you this. It wasn't Rand. [Seems he isn't even aware of the idea that LTT taking over Rand killed Asmodean. Scratch one idea there.] But I have my suspicions about Nynaeve. And I've always thought that Elayne might have been covering up something that was going on at the site.
One of us: It was Bela...
RJ: Oh, you're one of those people who believe Bela is a Darkfriend, are you?
Us: No, she's the Creator herself.
RJ: No no, there's a whole body of thought, a whole body of writing on the net, proving that Bela is indeed a Darkfriend, and possibly an avatar of the Dark One himself.
Kura: We have the proof that Bela is the Creator.
RJ: You'll have to put it on the net then... (*blinks* Jordan isn't aware of Larry Homer's essay? What a pity indeed... Seems like he's still thinking as they did back when the "where was Bela during LoC?" contests were held in rasfwr-j...)
Kura: it is.
Emma: How about the idea that Moridin is the horse of Rand?
RJ: No, actually Moridin is hiding as Nynaeve. [And yes, choosing Nynaeve there was deliberate; poor Emma.]
Kura: Just one other question. Does Slayer know every Forsaken?
RJ: Yeah, he does.
Q: Have all the Forsaken heard of Slayer?
RJ: Yes, they've heard of him. Slayer is not old in the way they are. Slayer does not come the Age of Legends, Slayer is something much newer.
Slayer is also known by all Forsaken...
Q: In the Guide, there's this song from the Ogier... about clear the fields, smooth it low... ... here the towering trees will grow. Is this sung when stedding are created?
Q: So, when is it sung?
RJ: It's sung... uhm, it's just a work song. As it is now. It used to be something more. But now it's just a work song.
Q: What did it used to be?
RJ: Ah, you'll Read And Find Out [he said with a big smile at once again being able to answer that. Sometimes you just want to strangle him...]
Q: Is Sammael dead dead, or 'he will never return dead'?
RJ: Sammael? [pronounce something like Sammy-el] Sammael is dead. He's dead. He could be reborn. In another life. Without knowing anything of Sammael. He's not going to be reincarnated, he's not going to show up again.
Q: Do you ever talk to any other fantasy authors outside of work?
RJ: Well, sometimes... not often. They're a good distance apart. John M. Ford...
Then he looked very closely at the card I had him sign...
Me: It's supposed to be Graendal.
RJ: Yeah, well, it is... I just never knew that Graendal had nipple-rings, that's all. Now for once, it's just a thing I hadn't realized about a character in my book, that's all.
RJ: I see fantasy writers sometimes at conventions. And no, we don't sit around talking about fantasy. We sit around drinking beer, talking about contracts, mainly. And John M. Ford comes to visit me almost every Christmas, he's a close friend of me, uhm, almost as long as I've been married. [I think that was what he said]
And no, we don't talk about fantasy either. We talk about other writers, and contracts. When ... has his book finished, that sort of thing.
I think this was most of the important stuff from the signing. Emma mentioned that Jordan had become a member of the Nynaeve fanclub, and some of her friends presented him with a pipe they'd bought. (Did I already mention anywhere that he collects pipes? Well, he does.)
Hrm, but that wasn't all. I distinctly remember someone asking 'Did Demandred recognize Flinn?', getting answered RAFO, followed by a question 'Would Taim recognize Flinn in a similar circumstance?', being answered that 'yes, he should' if the distance wasn't too large or something. But then I mentioned that the distance wasn't all that great, just a couple of meters, he'd said so just a few days before, and he looked at me in a way that said 'you know all you need to know about this, I'm not going to make it any more obvious.' I know it isn't proof, and I hate my guts for not taping this so I'm capable of showing something tangible, but the way it was all said, the way it played out... I don't believe Taimandred anymore. Not just because of this actually. I already had the feeling last Friday, after another mention of the 'seen something pretty out of the corner of their eye / for the last third they must have read someone else's books' about the FAQ. Although there was something more, something about that he doesn't work 'that way.' Again it wasn't anything concrete, but at that point I began to doubt all our 'person x = person y' theories. Added to his look at my remark about the distance (which he told me himself just two days before; he really shouldn't have tried to evade the Taim question using that), I've stopped believing in Taimandred. I hope KuraFire has a good recollection of exactly what Jordan said here...
Oh, btw, it is pronounced Taa-eem, not tame.
Jordan would have another interview with audience questions at 14:30, so an hour before that I went up to listen to Brian Froud. That was pretty interesting actually. Some of you might know him from 'Lady Cottington's Pressed Faery Album,' or maybe a weird movie like 'The Labyrinth.' He's a fantasy-artist: painter and puppet-maker and pretty cool.
A while later I was joined by Emma again, and together we waited on Froud to end, so that we could rush towards the chairs on the first row which were vacated. Okay, I know, my bad, but still... *grins* it was fun always being there, close enough to sometimes see Jordan's eyes through his sunglasses. (Which, on retrospect, he only seems to wear when he's really interviewed. When only somewhere to sign, or when there are only audience questions, he doesn't wear them.)
Maryson would be interviewing Jordan again, and I almost sank through the floor when realizing he was just going to ask the same questions as the day before. Jordan seemed to feel the same way. Luckily there were some new questions thrown in the mix and those were fairly interesting, but the exact same questions as the day before got the exact same answers, although even shorter where possible. And Jordan said things like, 'as most of you will have heard me say before...'
Q: There was a question about if his characters ever managed to surprise him. [A pretty valid question, as authors like Maggie Furey and Robin Hobb are constantly brought in problems by their characters being so vivid for them that they do things the author doesn't want them to do.]
RJ: No. I'm thw writer. I'm supposed to be a professional at this. I am not tap-dancing around blind. I'm not like one of those tap-dancing chickens, you know.
You know, I am doing something that, supposedly, I am knowing how to do. And if I surprise myself in any but the most minor fashion, then I must have been asleep for the last few days. And writing as a somnambulant.
Q: A question about influences in his writing...
RJ: When I started writing I did not think of anybody as being an influence or an inspiration, in any way. There were simply stories I wanted to tell. Long before the Wheel of Time. I now believe I can see writers among my favorite writers, having certain influences on me, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, John D. MacDonnald, Lewis L'Amour. They certainly influenced me, but again not inspiration.
Q: I don't remember what exactly lead to the following two pieces... they could even be part of the same answer to one question...
RJ: Well, I read a lot of things. Just finished Stephen King's Dreamcatcher [guess this past week really is playing havoc on his 'one book a day' average.], just started Big Chief Elizabeth, about the development of the English colonies. Prior to that Sammuel's Lutbang [??? any suggestions for this?] about the development of the Dutch-East-India trade. The lutbang trade. [Ah, there's that word again. I know I should recognize this, but my mind still doesn't want to cooperate...] I read a lot of things. I was reading some... The stack of books that I've finished reading since getting to Amsterdam includes, let's see, four medieval mystery novels, one contemporary mystery of 'aran shames' [??? suggestions? I really know nothing about mysteries] And that's about it, because I haven't had that much time for reading.
RJ: It's hard really for a figure that I've been researching for the Wheel of Time. I see things, I notice things. I realize 'I can use this.' An example I've used to you before, but it's a good one, is that [after leaving Tanchico, Nynaeve and Elayne needed] traveling companions. I wanted them to travel with some people, rather than by themselves. I wasn't too sure exactly what sort of group I was going to use. And I happened to go to the circus.
And the circus happened to have a lot of acts that .. from Asia. I don't know why they seemed to have such a disproportionate number of acts from Asia. They were much different than most European circus acts and American circus acts, which are very similar to European circus acts. And when I went to my desk the next morning, I realized I knew exactly how Elayne and Nynaeve were going to travel. With Valan Luca's show. I have read for close on to fifty years, everything I could get my hands on. Various bits and pieces have been stuck in my head. And I use them. And sometimes... and if I see anything that's interesting, and a lot of things interest me, cultural anthropology, development of cities, how a windmill works, how does a waterwheel work? these things interest me, as much as how a modern day skyscraper is built, or how do you go about building a base on the moon, or how do you go about building an industrial facility in an L5-point. Sometimes I do research and then... Well, I know nothing about blacksmithing really... [followed by that story you've heard before]
No matter what you know, if you're an expert blacksmith, I want you to read right past that blacksmith scene, and believe it. And of course very few people will be expert blacksmiths, but that's fine. Because no matter what the scene is, I want you to believe it. No matter what your own knowledge is.
Q: Maryson asked the same question about inspiration versus hard work again.
RJ: ... muses are more fickle than the average woman. They tease and run away. What you have to do is say 'I'm not going to chase after her, and I'm not going to wait for her to come back. I'm going to sit down here and do some bloody work, until she gets back,' and if she doesn't get back, you know... 'damn, I've done a lot of pages, haven't I?' While waiting for her, you work. Writing is work, more than anything else. If you have the ability, you can do it well. It is a craft. It's like building cabinets, or building furniture.
Q: A question about if his writing improves.
RJ: Well, I hope to god, 'cause if I'm not, I'm a bloody hopeless case. I try to be better. I want each book I write to be better than anything I've done before. I don't always achieve it. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. [At this point my memo-recorder apparently began having troubles recording, cause playing it now, the speed just seems to keep on increasing. Hearing Jordan talk in this chipmunk voice may be very funny, but it plays hell on my ability to type it all out.]
At one point, obviously I will reach the end of my abilities. That is, I will plateau. That I will have gone as far as I can go. I'll still try. You never can tell... You might eek out another tenth of a second, you know.
Q: Talking about why the Tam/Rand main character became just Rand.
RJ: ...see this world for the first time, so that at the same time as the reader is seeing something for the first time, so are these people from this small town.
Q: A vague question I didn't tape nor remember:
RJ: Well, I don't know that I'm constantly searching for this sense of wonder. I just like stories, you know. I'm trying to tell interesting stories about people who I find interesting. And, well I hope other people find interesting, too. And a sense of wonder... well, if it happens it happens.
Then it was time for the audience questions. For once I didn't go first.
Q: How closely are you involved in the role-playing game of the Wheel of Time?
RJ: I assume you mean the work of Wizards of the Coast, the Dungeons & Dragon type game?
RJ: Uhm, I really don't know how closely involved I am, to tell you the truth. I told them I want to be..., I want to have approval. I want to be involved from the earliest stages and beyond.
As near as I can tell, so far that's resulted in me being sent a table of contents. I haven't seen anything else. We'll see what happens, I don't know.
So I had the second question:
Q: For the past few days I've tried to ask you many original questions, but I'm sure there must be things you're never asked at all, things we really should ask. Could you tell us something about these things, and if you want to go off on any wild tangents, please do so.
RJ: [Jordan was repeating every question because most of the audience couldn't hear the questions] He wants to know... [on a tone that set people laughing already, then: louder, with a malicious gleam in his eyes] _Sander wants to know_ whether there are questions that I think fans should ask me, and haven't been asking. [more laughter]
RJ: Sander... I am not going to tell you what sort of underwear I'm wearing. [spontaneous applause] There are very few questions that fans have not asked me. There are many questions that fans have asked me that I have not answered. There are a number of questions that fans have asked me that have made me blush. There are one or two questions that fans have asked me that have made me require smelling-salt to get out of the room on my feet.
No, I am not going to give you more ammunition. You know, this is like the Calvin & Hobbes strip. I've just been assaulted with snowballs all the way from the sidewalk, and when I manage to reach the door, a voice calls out to me 'Hey, come out here and help us make some more snowballs!'
Q: A question about how he formed the Old Tongue.
RJ: The actual words are based on many words. I have used Turkish, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and for a hint of the familiar, I used a little Gaelic, too. Because fantasy languages always have Gaelic in them. That's just the way it goes. But I made deliberately the grammar and structure complicated. [the Saxons and Danes story again] ... English is supposed to be the most difficult language to learn in the world as a second language. I think that that is pride speaking, but just the same... yes, well, 'my language is harder than your language.' I've been told it's true though, but whether it is, I don't know. ... [he once tried learning Cantonese] ... I'll tell you, there are eight tones in Cantonese. Mandarin isn't too bad, there are only four tones there, but you've got eight tones in Cantonese. And there are others that can get twelve or better in other dialects. You can as well just forget about it, unless you grew up jodling from the cradle...
Argh, this is bad. Most of the past few days I was unable to get anything from this tape because it played too slow, now it's playing too fast, with the voices becoming almost unrecognizable...
Q: Why did he start writing, and is that still the reason he writes?
RJ: I started to write because I'm crazier than ... and I still am. [laughter] ... I knew at the age of five that I would write one day. One day I always was a ferocious little monster. That is to say, when I was five year old, my world view was equivalent to that of the average of a twenty-two or twenty-five year old. I had the life-experience of a five year old, but I had the way of looking at things of a twenty-five year old, and I looked at myself and I thought 'well, I can't be writing.' No, I'll write one day, but for me to be writing now would be ridiculous. I'm a kid. and when I was a teenager, it was the same thing. I hadn't seen anything, I hadn't done anything.
Okay, this simply isn't possible anymore. I'll just tell in general what else he said... He finally started writing when he was in hospital some years later, realizing that life was too short. And that still is the reason he writes. Life is too short to waste on things he doesn't want to do.
He was talking about the ending again, and that nobody knows it except for him. But this time he once again said that not even Harriet knows it. If it wasn't for the fact that others also had heard him say last Wednesday that Harriet did know the ending I'd really be doubting myself now.
Ah yes, somebody asked about him comparing Randland with 17th century earth as it would have been without gunpowder, but said that there was gunpowder in Randland. Jordan explained that the development of something like gunpowder is not as natural as it might seem to us. They had fireworks for a thousand year in China before thinking of using it as a weapon (and then they only threw fireworks over the walls because they'd run out of rocks). Steel was invented time and again with never becoming widely known. Things like that. There's no reason for Randlanders to connect 'wanting to do things Aes Sedai do, but without using the Power' with fireworks. There are currently only a handful of people thinking about possible uses of fireworks as a weapon, and that only because they were around to learn about the damage of a chapterhouse blowing up or something similar. Besides this, Randladers aren't thinking about making weapons when dealing with fireworks, they're thinking about making money with it, because it's a luxury good. It's just as if caviar could be used as a weapon...
Q: Will there be more talk about necklines?
RJ: Jordan answered something about it only being natural that men will notice such things. If a man sees a woman, the odds are that he'll notice things like her legs, and her mouth and her bosom. And women will notice necklines as well, usually thinking other things like 'could I wear that?'
The reason he did New Spring was circumstance. Bob Silverberg called him and asked him to do it. He would have said no, except that he had just the day before finished his notes on Moiraine and Lan meeting each other. Those notes had to be shortened to write the story, though. If he'd written New Spring using everything from those notes, it would have been 90.000 words, rather than the 35.000 it's now. (And the idea was: if you get to more than 25.000 words, call Bob immediately!) He's not planning on writing other short stories, but things might just happen in such a way that he will anyway.
Q: What happened to Loial?
RJ: Read And Find Out.
Q: Have you visited many WoT websites on the internet?
RJ: ... I do not regularly spend time visiting websites, though. When I sit down at my desk, I'm looking at my computer. When I'm looking at my computer, I think of what I can do with the computer, how I can best use it, and the answer to all these questions comes back: write! So, I have visited some, but it's not a regular thing.
Q: A question about how autobiographical the books are.
RJ: There is nothing in my books that I can point to and say 'that happened to me,' but everything I write is talking about who I am. And who I am is a creation of all the things that have happened to me in my life. So you could say that everything I write was first shaped by my life's experiences. It's a rather tenuous connection, but that's the only one I can find for you, sorry.
Q: Do you have someone to advise you on writing sex scenes from a women's point of view?
RJ: No. And if I had she would lie to me. A woman is as likely to tell the truth about that as men are to tell them, and if you think about how many of that you would tell anyone on god's green earth about that. And if you come upon that teaspoon of liquified truth you would tell, know that that is five times the truth that she would tell you. No, what I do is, I eavesdrop. [laughter] One time when he was younger and eavesdropping on women, he received Veritas. He knew everything there was to know about women. And it turned his hair completely white, and beyond, so that most of it is dark again, except for that piece in his beard there, plus it also erased all knowledge he had gained straight from his head. [In other words, more and more he was really getting in a funny-story-telling mood. Maybe Jordan should have become a stand-up comedian. I don't know how much of the humor I manage to bring across, I can imagine it's very little, but if you were there you would have laughed at every other remark, just like the rest of us.] Once in all his books, he went to Harriet saying 'Okay, in this particular situation, this is how I think this woman would react, this is how I think she would feel. Do you believe it? And she said 'yes, I do.'
And then my tape ended.
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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