Netherlands tour, Leiden April 2001 - report by Aan'allein
Preface by Isabel: I came to Leiden and met up with a (new) friend of mine. (Wolf Gaidin)
We came like 3 hours in advance, because I expected about 500 people. I heard about US signings and there could be 500 people there. I was worried about being at the back of the line and I didn't want that. Of course when we arrived no one was there yet. In the end the people from the bookstore said that they would reserve some seats for us. So we went to have dinner.
When we came back, there were some more people at the bookstore. I was a bit shy and was really nervous, so I didn't say anything. One of those people is now a really good friend of mine (Aan'allein). He had a tape recorder with him and subsribed everything. I will use his report, because my report wasn't worth much.
Anyway, we ended up sitting right in front of RJ. He was interviewed from someone from the bookstore.
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 :-)
Jordan was asked something and answered:
RJ: That's alright... I like blue. I was given a computer, somebody sent me to a computer site, where they had lots of tests, where there was a gender test. Where you'd to answer a series of questions and they'll tell you whether you're male or female. I don't know why people need to have this question answered, but.. anyway, I was talking of going to the site. And eh.. The questions were quite ...obviously, you could see which, which you like better, circle or square. I'm not quite sute what this has to do with gender, but there it is. What color bedroom would you prefer to sleep in? Eh.. And I was irritated, so it answered to the only 96% confidence that I was male [laughter] so this eh irritated me, but I think it was the bedroom, because apparently men are supposed to like sleeping in a white bedroom, rahter than a blue bedroom. I don't understand this. I see a white bedroom, and I think 'If I put anything down, some woman is going to walk in and tell me that I'm messing up the white bedroom.' [laughter] You know, I'm not even, gon.. I shouldn't touch anything in this room, so.. well, ... a whole different subject, it doesn't mean.. never mind.
Interviewer: We are gathered with some 80, 90 people, most probably big 'Robert Jordan fans', read the Wheel of Time. For the people who doesn't... do not know the Wheel of Time, sorry for my English, ...
RJ: It's better than my Dutch. [laughter]
Interviewer: I've 'prepared' a little something from the book, which should explain what is Wheel of Time.
He then went on to read that first prophecy from TGH ("Weep, ye people of the world, weep for your salvation.") in the most horrible English, not only because of his accent and how he pronounced the words, but mostly because of where he paused between words.
After this he started really asking questions.
Q: From your biography, I did a lot searching on the internet, there are lots of books about you... that you can't remember the timelines exactly.
RJ: Well, no, I can remember the time. The timelines? [sounding very surprised]
Q: Yes, or is it all in your head?
RJ: Yes, it's in my head. Ah, I was about eh, ... critical method flowpath charts. For the books.. by some engineers, it seemed to be obviously necessary that... but ... the flowpath charts were too complex to do on the computer. I finally figured out that doing the setup on the computer for the flowpath charts, which would have to be three-dimensional, at the very least, for the books, would take at least as long as writing one of the books, so it was easier to put it in my head, where I could at least have a better zoom facility than I could possibly have, ... a better resolution than on a computer screen.
Q: So you in your head you have a better capacity, you think, than on a computer?
RJ: Yeah, for my books that is, at least...
Q: I myself am a great fantasy lover, read Feist, Pratchett, Goodkind. Why should I read Jordan?
RJ: Well, I think I tell a good story, about people you will believe in. And.. sometimes people you will recognize. It's eh.. It's hard for a writer to produce characters people care about. I think that I have managed to write characters that people care about. They want to know what's going to happen with this person or that person.
Q: And that's what's so good about WoT?
RJ: Well, to some extent. There's more than that. I happen to think that they are good books.
Q: You were very young when you came in contact with the great authors of fantasy...
RJ: Oh yes, I.. Ah, I taught myself to read. Well, it was quite incidental. My older brother.. ah, he would be stuck sometimes, when my parents couldn't get a babysitter, he would be stuck with looking after me. He found out that he could keep me quiet by reading to me. Mainly to keep me from flying his balls, or his airplanes or whatever and to keep my pants out of his probably fishtanks [?? that's what it sounded like] , that sort of thing. Ah, and he read to me. but of course he wasn't about to read children's books to me, so he read the books that he wanted to read. Uhm, I remember... I don't remember when I began making making a connection between the marks on the paper and the sounds coming out of his mouth, but I do remember a day when I was four years old that... It must have been a weekend, because my parents came home on a day like.. and he took off; He put the book back on the shelf, and I didn't want him to stop with the story, so I took the book back down, eh, it was Jack London's White Fang and I managed to break through it... Ah, I didn't manage to understand every word, but I managed to make my way through the rest of the book with enough understanding to be able to pick up on the story. So I eh, I did start reading quite early.
Q: Is that also where you get your inspiration?
RJ: I don't know, I dont know where the inspiration came from. My favorite authors are ah... Bearly Whitespread [shame on me, this probably isn't the name, but it's the best I can make of it, not recognizing the name] , Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, John D. MacDonald, Louis L'Amour. Ah, these are not people you pick up as eh.. inspiration for writing science fiction or fantasy, although John D. MacDonald wrote eh, ...was best known for his travel [???] fiction, and did write a book called The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything which is a hilarious science fiction novel.
Q: You're a scientist, you have a degree in physics I saw.
RJ: Eh, yes. I'm not sure I'd call myself a scientist, but, my degree is in physics, yes.
Q: It'd be logical for a physicist to write science fiction, and not fantasy. How did you came to fantasy and not science fiction?
RJ: Because I write what I want to write, really, but I'm not certain I'd say that it would be logical for a physicist to write science fiction. Are you aware of the paradigm [and now I finally know how to correctly pronounce that english word] called Schrödinger's Cat?
Q: No. [This guy just lost all respect I could possibly have for him, and it's getting worse.]
RJ: It's a mind test in a way, really. If you can wrap your mind around it in the right way, believe it, then you are ready for higher physics. Imagine a cat, sealed in a lead box, and there's no way to look into the box. Inside the box there is a flask of cyanide gas. Attached to the flask of cyanide gas is a geiger-counter. The geiger counter is pointed at an atom. The atom has a 50-50 chance, in any given second, of decay. Now tell me, is the cat alive, or is the cat dead?
Q: He's fifty-fifty.
RJ: No, no, no, is the cat alive, or is the cat dead? I'm not asking you to give me odds. Is the cat alive, or is the cat dead?
Q: Ah, he's alive.
Q: Why not?
RJ: If you're an engineer... If you have an engineering mindset, you'll say that the only way to do it is to open the box and check. If you have the mindset that could take you into higher physics, you're willing to accept that the cat is alive and dead, both, and will be fixed in one state or the other when the box is opened. But until the box is opened, the cat is alive, and it is dead, simultaneously.
Q: Yeah, that's fifty-fifty.
RJ: No, it's not a fifty-fifty chance. A fifty-fifty chance says that it's fifty percent chance that the cat is one way, and fifty percent that it's the other way.
Q: So it's either way.
RJ: No, the cat is not either way, it is both. It is a 100% alive, and a 100% that the cat is dead, and both things are true. And must be acceptable as true. If you can not accept this as true, then you are not ready for quantum..., for the most basic quantum physics, must less getting into anything beyond.
But the thing is that if you can wrap your mind around Schrödinger's cat, you can also wrap your mind around fantasy. As a matter of fact, the thing that I find very interesting is that... I don't really follow theoretical physics to any degree now, and haven't for more than twenty years. But when I find myself talking to a theoretical physicist, I sometimes get stuck on panels with theoretical physicists. I'm always afaid that I'm going to be left way behind because I haven't kept up in the area, but I find that I can keep up quite nicely. As long as... while they're discussing theoretical physics, I discuss theology. And ah, I find myself able to keep up quite nicely, talking about the same thing.
Q: What other authors do you read yourself?
RJ: Oh, I read everything, myself. At the moment I read Stephen King's Dreamcatcher. I've read about half of it this afternoon and I'll catch the other half of it tonight when we get back to Amsterdam. I ah.. I read anything and everything. If you're talking about in the field... I would suggest people try err. John M. Ford. Who's just had another one come out the last time recently... And it's very good. He's a winner of the world fantasy award. Twice. Once for his fantasy novel Dragon Waiting, and once for short fiction, which he won with a long poem, he made them change the rules, so that he could enter poetry and be nominated for short fiction catagory. He is a stone-cold good writer. Uhm, beyond that... uhm, lots of people, uhm... let's see now.. uhm, I must start blowing names... uhm, Ah, the guy who wrote Mythago Wood... [I blinked at that; very strange fantasy] Err, Holdstock. Robert Holdstock, err Tim Powers, uhm, C.S. Friedman, J.V. Jones, there are a lot of good writers.
But I read everything, I read mysteries and western and history. Err, I don't read as much as I used to. I'm not certain I'm still averaging over one a day [damn, just met my match.. I haven't been averaging one a day since I finished highschool.] About half fiction, and half non-fiction.
Q: In Holland there is some contempt to the genre of fantasy.
RJ: Well, there's some contempt everywhere.
Q: Well, I can't speak for the rest of the world, but what do you think of that?
RJ: I think it's foolish. There are many more people who write fantasy than are tagged with the ghetto-phrase fantasist, or fantasy writer. If you read A.S. Byat, or 'The Magic Realists' you're reading fantasy. If you read any novel which has ghosts or spirits or time-weaving back and forward.. many, many supposed main-stream writers write fantasy. And they just don't call it fantasy, eh.. the worlds in their books are not set in reality at all, and that is fantasy. And... eh, Midsummernight's Dream, the epic of Gilgamesh, which is ... all over, it's a fantasy. I like to think of science fiction and horror as subsets of fantasy. They're particular sorts of fantasy.
Q: You're using many different nicknames and pseudonyms. You write under Reagan O'Neill - fiction, Jackson O'Reilley - westerns, Chang Lung ... why all those different names?
RJ: So people will know what they're getting. If you see something by Jackson O'Reilly you know not to expect a fantasy, you know that that's a western book. Although now my publisher is mixing that up. He's resissued some of my old books: 'Robert Jordan writing as' And I made them agree that they could only do this if they put the original penname on the cover in letter as large as they use for Robert Jordan.
(And then the first half of my tape was gone, and I decided to save most of the rest for the audience questions. )
Jordan mentioned all the different cultures and myths he used in WoT. That he'd mined everything from Europe and Asia and Africa etc..
RJ: [first sentence paraphrased.. only started taping again halfway through this] I don't know how it is in other places, but the best known legend for the american audience, that I had in mind .. when I wrote this for .. that legend is King Arthur. I would imagine that more people know the complete story of King Arthur and Guenever and the round table and the whole nine yards than know any other myth or legend, or perhaps more than know all the other myths put together. Now there are Arthurian elements in these books, but I had to try to bury them, for that reason, make them not so readily apparent. And while I had a particular part of the Arthurian legend mentioned form the first book, it was not until the third book that people began to realize what it was. In fact my editor, who is my wife, and who is a very very sharp woman uhm, had edited the book and was writing the first version of the flap copy for the book, when she suddenly shouted down the stairs to me (if you're young, forgive me):
[loud] You son of a bitch, you've done it it to me again! [laughter]
Because she had suddenly spotted, not until reaching this... not until reaching the cover flap, she suddenly spotted by a... chance connection of words, this one particular Arthurian thing. [Jordan never mentioned what this was, but the logical option is of course Callandor.] And that you see, to me it's very obvious that the Arthur Legend and all of the others are in there. If you spend time on the net, you find sites where they discuss these legends. [People sitting around me knowingly chuckle] I have to tell you that if you visit any of these FAQ's... I haven't seen one in a couple of years, but the last time I was sent copies, I've read the printout of the FAQ, and when I was through it. And about a third of the answers in there were correct.
[Turned the memo off here, this is well known. I did like the way he phrased the other two points here though. Something about "the second part was going in the right direction, but somewhere along the way they spotted something pretty which they followed and never arrived at drawing the conclusions they should have. As to the third part, I think it was written by people who didn't read my books at all."]
He also mentioned some things about the variation in his readers. This group of Hell's Angels a couple of years ago who came to him when there was some question about his health, telling him that they'd desecrate his grave if he died before finishing the story. Around the same time something was asked about him knowing the final scene (or maybe that was even earlier), because Rowling [the Harry Potter author; at least, I think it was her that was mentioned here] had already written the final sentence of her work. Jordan came with the usual story about him knowing the scene since before starting the series. He doesn't have it written down anywhere. Harriet already knows the final scene, she's very good at getting things out of him (at least, that's what I think I recall), but no one else... And then later he said absolutely nobody knew it besides him.
He also talked about how the early stages of the story evolved, about Rand starting out as Tam, coming back to Emond's Field (although it wasn't Emond's Field yet back then) after 20 years, realizing he'd outgrown it. And then prophecy tapping him on shoulder with the message that he was fated to save the world, and oh yeah, he'd die in the process. He went for Rand instead, because he wanted an innocent character, a character who could realize how little he knew, and thus could grow a lot more.
There was a question about the Tolkien movie and if anything similar would be done with WoT. Jordan mentioned the NBC miniseries, and the option to take options on the other parts. Also that each book deserved at least a miniseries. Perhaps New Spring could be done in a three hour feature length movie. "I'm not saying that it will be done, but it could."
He also said that his editor was telling him that perhaps it was "time to start shopping this around again. I didn't have to go to him to say 'hey you think anybody would be interested?' "
Another point he mentioned was that if nothing would happen he wouldn't mind it too much, he never set out to write movies.
I guess at this point we were some 40-45 minutes after Jordan's entrance. Time for the audience questions. Because there were so many people it would be a good idea for people to stand before asking their question so that there would be no confusion.
Jordan took the lead by first answering the common questions.
The next book will be out very soon after he's finished writing it. He don't know how many more books there'll be. At least three. If he can finish it in three, he will. (I think it was also at this point that he mentioned that if TEotW contained all that he had originally planned for it, it would go all the way to what is now TDR.)
Some pronounciations. Nine-eve. Schwan Sanche. [That surprised me.] Avi-endha.
RJ: Yes, Sammael is really dead [, and so is Asmodean. Asmodean's killer should be] intuitively obvious to the most casual observer. [He won't answer who it was, but he has] been trying to sprinkle around a few more clues, but I refuse to put up big neon signs saying 'here!' [sprinkling clues could point to Slayer, although the WH evidence (if that would be that) would be more like a neon sign, so I think this actually points to Graendal or another similar candidate. Have there been minor points pointing towards anyone in WH?]
%% I was really nervous and was almost ready to jump up and ask my question. RJ saw that and said something like: She is going to burst into flames. Of course I was a bit shy and didn't dare to ask my question after that :) So Aan'allein went first. %%
Aan'allein: In this same Age, in a different Turning of the Wheel of Time, could it be possible that it wouldn't be Rand's soul that was spun out as the Dragon, but for a different, female soul to take on this role? Jordan said "Yes" then maybe a few more words and only then did I remember to actually put the recorder on again. If I remember correctly Avaeus taped those first few words on his digital camera however, so I'll see if I can add those exact words here.
RJ: ...it would have to be. Err, in the differences between the same Age in different turnings of the Wheel, are that.. as for an analogy: imagine two tapestries hanging on a wall, and you look at them from the back of the room to the front of the store. And to look at them, they look identical to you. But as you get closer, you begin to see differences. And if you get close enough, they don't look anything at all alike. That is the difference between the Ages. Between the Age in one Turning and the Age in another. So it's quite possible that someone other than Rand could be the reborn soul of the Dragon Reborn. [And that's the phrase that ended my jubilation.]
Aan'allein: It would be the same soul, or it would be a different soul?
RJ: It would be the same soul. That is, that is the belief of the world that I've set up, that it's the same soul. It's a soul of someone bound to the Wheel, which is spun out for the purposes, for the Wheel's purposes really, to attempt to re-balance the Weaving of the Pattern. Aan'allein: But the soul would always be male. Souls don't change gender, so ...
RJ: ...so the soul of the Dragon Reborn is always going to be male, just as Birgitte's soul is always born as a woman, just as Ameresu's soul [He actually pronounced this as Amatherisu. Anyone else find it curious that Jordan would place her on equal footing with Rand and Birgitte? The way he said this reminded me of Mother Therese, just like 'Materese the Healer' (TEotW, Chapter 4). Amerasu could most definitely be the same person as Materese. And the "The Healer" tag suddenly gets a lot more meaning, when thinking about how important she is to Jordan...] is always born as a woman. There are divisions here, and they are not interchangeable.
That almost hyperventilating girl (%% ME :p %%) I mentioned before asked a question about how exactly Rand cleaned the Taint.
Isabel: Can you give some more details on how the taint was cleansed? I was sort of confused reading the book.
RJ: You don't think it's obvious? Err, let's see. You have.. You're using both repulsion and attraction of opposites here. Repulsion of things that are opposite and [attraction] of things that are the same. The Taint upon [saidin] as versus the conduit, which is made of saidar through which the saidin passes. The saidin and saidar, as men and women, are in many ways opposite. It repels one another. It is safe to make this conduit of saidar between saidin and Shadar Logoth, because there can be no mixing. As the eh.. as [saidin] passes through, as the taint passes through, the saidar actually repels it, pushes it away from [saidin]..., alright? Now, you have a taint on... the eh Source, the male half of the Source, you have the taint on Shadar Logoth. They're not the same, yet they are. The taint on Shadar Logoth did not come from the Dark One. The taint was created by humans, who believed that they must do whatever was necessary, anything that was necessary to defeat the Shadow. And because they would accept no limits to what they would do, to what could be done, to what needed to be done, they created their own destruction. Their evil is, or was, as great as that of the Dark One, but diametrically opposite. It is an evil created for the best of intentions, created for good intentions. So it is the opposite. So, this attraction created the conduit begins to pull the taint from [saidin] to siphon it off. Remember, it's always been described it's not at mixed all through [saidin], it is like a thin skin of rancidness, think of a thin skin of rancid oil floating on a pond, and if you get through it, you've got clean water, but you can't get through it without putting your hand in that oil. You're getting it on your hand...
To attract one another because they are opposites, but because even being opposite, they have gone far enough around the circle, they act to destroy one another. You see, it's not opposites along a straight line. We're actually talking opposites along a circle. Continuing the motif of the Wheel of Time, if you will. So you've got two things that are both opposites and the same. [He's been waving his hands in the air for this. Hands far apart for the straight line versus hands together, making a circle and coming together again] That will both attract one another and negate one another.
Do you understand better now?
Isabel: Yes, thank you.
RJ: Oh, and one last point: It's all imaginary my dear...
Someone asked if Jordan thought of himself as Thom, because of the white hair.
RJ: I think of myself as Lan. [laughter] The truth of the matter is that Lan... Lan embodies the ideals I was raised to aspire to.
He also mentioned Harriet thinking of him as Loial.
One standard question or another leading to the usual anecdote of him assuming the identity of his characters, getting inside their heads:
RJ: Before they saw me, they had assumed that Robert Jordan was the penname of a woman, because, they said, no man could write women that well.
Although I seem to remember an interesting bit here about you not wanting to meet him after he'd just written somebody like Hannibal Lector. Sometimes he'd come down for dinner and Harriet, without him having said a word, would say 'You've been writing Padan Fain again, haven't you?' And although it would not always be Padan Fain, it would be one of the non-pleasant characters.
Q: A question about how Jordan came up with his names.
RJ: Nynaeve is the name of the nymph who in some versions of the Arthur Legend, imprisoned Merlin. Amyrlin is of course a play on Merlin, as is Thom Merrilin, a play on Merlin, and Rand al'Thor is a play on Arthur, as well as on Thor, but then so is Arthur Hawkwing a play on Arthur, because as I said before it's not a retelling of the myths... As things are done by in the myth, in the legend, if things were done by one man, were actually in both done by several perhaps and had become inflated in time. But the names come from everywhere. I read the ... in the New York Times, or the London Times, or something mis-seen on the street, I see, I catch a sign from the corner of my eye, and I misread a word on the sign because I only see it out of the corner of my eyes. And I jot it down, because it sounded like a good name.
%% After the Q and A I went into the line to let him sign my books. I don't really know if I had a question as well :) I do know that he asked how old I was. First he asked if I was 10, but after a few seconds he gave me 12 :) I did told him I was 17 but he didn't believe me. :-) %%
This is Aan'allein's report about the signing.
KuraFire asked about... I don't precisely remember what Kura asked. Oh, but I do. Doing Nogling a favor, he talked about Ishamael's belief that Rand had fought him for time without end, and asked if it was perhaps not Rand's goal to take on the DO, but to only take on the DO's Nae'blis. Jordan gleefully answered "Read And Find Out."
As I approached Jordan I heard him telling that he'd already been in the Netherlands for a couple of days, and that after the next weekend he would still stay around for four or five days, sightseeing.
Getting my books signed, I gave him the 400 pages female dragon debate, telling him that this was the debate he'd just ended (I mentioned how long it had been going on, just after he'd answered the female dragon question), asking if he could perhaps be willing to take a look at it sometime. He said that he'd do that, but that he didn't know how much time he'd have, since he had to read something that didn't have to do with his own work before going to bed:
RJ: If I don't, I will not go to sleep. I will ponder all night completely about my own work. And about what I should be doing, and what I need to do in the future. So.. it's necessary to read other people.
While he was still signing my books, I decided to sneak in another question:
Aan'allein: Do Sarene and Corele have ageless faces?
He didn't seen to recall the names, so I said "at the end of Winter's Heart, the Aes Sedai with Flinn who attack Demandred..."
RJ: Uh yeah, uh well, no no. Uh, some of them do, yes, some of them have ageless faces, but not all of them.
Aan'allein: But do the two who were in the circle with Flinn have ageless faces?
RJ: Oh, let's see.. oh, the two who were in the circle with Min?
RJ: Flinn, ah... Just trying to remember which ones I had with which one...
Aan'allein: Sarena and Corele.
RJ: Sarene Nemdal does have an ageless face and ehh... I think Masuri... no Masuri was not.... I'm sorry, I actually forgot who I...
[And then the silly man who had done the interview interrupted us and talked about the time and that it was getting late. So I thanked Jordan and circled around the line to go stand close to the table where he was signing, see if I could pick up any more interesting tidbits. Well, at least we now know for sure that one of the Aes Sedai had an ageless face, so that Demandred should have seen this if he was as close to them as those opposing Taimandred claim.]
When the line was almost done I went back in line again, getting Jordan to dedicate the books to me (instead of just having his autograph in them.) The interview-man was not happy with it, but at least I managed to get through.. the people behind me who also were going for a second round weren't so lucky. (Of course, then the interview-man asked Jordan to sign a huge stack of Winter's Heart books for the bookstore, probably so they can sell them for a lot of money...)
While there I asked another quick question "Are Mat and Perrin Heroes of the Horn reborn?", which got RAFO'd, as I feared. Sorry Witte, I tried.
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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