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The Path of Daggers Book Tour
Report from Matthew Hunter - Louisville, 14 November 1998
There was an early rush of signees (an hour and a half or so), followed by about half an hour of questions and answers with little plot-related info, but a lot of other interesting tidbits. Someone asked about the cover art and got a surprisingly informative answer. There are some pretty substantial sections for Flavio and the rest of the military buffs, too.
I was able to ask a few questions, and listen in to a few others. We got three of the "it should be intuitively obvious to the intelligent reader" answers, and one other that told us a bit more... but not much. The Creator was pretty tight with his plot information this time around, according to him, because "certain readers have built up these huge logic trees," and "can figure out way too much if I say anything at all."
The first "intuitively obvious" question was from someone else: The old standby, "Who killed Asmodean?" He added that there have been clues in (at least some, maybe all of) the books published since then. I take this statement to mean that Graendal is the killer; she's the only one for whom the case could be called "intuitively obvious", as it is mostly built up through a process of elimination and a few supporting comments.
The second was mine: "Do you consider the identities of Moridin and Cyndane to be intuitively obvious?" He said yes, they should be fairly obvious by now, in many more words. To me, this means Ishy and Lanfear respectively.
The third was someone else again, and I didn't hear the question clearly, but I think it was about the weird Power effects. Assuming I heard correctly, this should support the Bowl theory, due to the lack of effects in Andor despite the gateway detonation and the timing of the effect first showing up. Of course, he didn't say so explicitly, but that is what would seem to be the intuitively obvious explanation.
I chimed in later on to ask if "there was a physical resemblance between Cyndane and a certain height-challenged Aes Sedai". He said "We don't know yet." I think that means yes, which is interesting. If there hadn't been one, he could have said no, and he has written the descriptions of Cyndane ambiguously enough to prevent any proof either way.
My last question concerned the glossary -- the bit about "speculation is futile." I asked, "Do you really expect that to stop us?" He said of course not.
Background and Personal Information
After the early rush of signees was over with (there were 162 people with tickets, and quite a few without), about 20 people settled in for a bit of discussion without the pressure of signers. Plot-related information was sparse, and there were relatively few questions, because the answers were long. There were a few tidbits thrown to the slavering hounds, and a lot of exposition.
• The Aiel were based on bits of the apache, zulu, bedouin, and arab(?) cultures. Nothing starting here, but I don't think we've had this one answered as a complete list before. It was fired off really fast, so I may have missed some...
• Path of Daggers was finished August 25th, and published in less than 60 days.
• The usual "at least 3 more books" was mentioned several times in an increasingly loud voice.
• Who killed Asmo?
- - It should be "intuitively obvious".
- - There ARE clues in later books. They may not be necessary, but they are there. I am not sure if he said "later" or "latest", though.
- - He does indeed mean "intuitively obvious" in the sense that his math teachers would use when describing a proof, as speculated on rasfwr-j. "I always hated that."
• There were some jokes about the sheer mass of the books -- "There will be a boxed set when the series is complete... on wheels."
• The Museum Replica weapons are good. The design work (some of it at least) was done by the same person who did the maps, for a somewhat unusual price. I don't quite recall their name, and can't decipher my handwriting now.
• "I grew up around strong women; weak men were pickled and salted. The women wouldn't waste time raising a weak boy."
• Evidently, Jordan didn't like being taught cursive, but showed otherwise by a teacher at a young age. "A gentleman's handwriting is always round and legible, always clear, no matter how drunk, how tired, or how busy he may be. This I require of you." Being "required" to do something by that particular teacher was evidently a big deal.
• Someone asked about multiple books. Jordan said that the rule was that you had to go through the line for every two books, and that he would "enforce the rules with my bullwhip if necessary"; a bookstore employee(?) commented that it was more of a guideline really. General laughter and bullwhip comments ensued, culminating with "Just so no one asks, 'Can I fondle your bullwhip?'" from Jordan. (I didn't catch all of this. I regretted it. Oh well.)
• Book timings:
- - 4 years to write Eye of the World; the next 5 took 14-16 months each
- - aCoS took 22-23 months to write.
- - The Guide to the Wheel of Time took 5-6 months; there was a lot of work he had to do on it that he didn't expect to need to do. I think he expected a few weeks of work from him directly, with it mostly being done by others.
- - New Spring took 2-3 months
- - Strike At Shayol Ghul was written from the perspective of a scholar trying to attract funding for a more complete version (ie, grant money) and was his first piece of short fiction.
• Where did ideas come from?
- - "What if you were tapped on the shoulder and told you had to save the world?"
- - What are the sources of myths? "reverse-engineered" legends.
- - The game of "telephone" (he calls it "whisper").
• Proud of the little things that slip up on you, like Callandor being "The Sword in the Stone."
• Path of Daggers could have been longer, but he had to take out events he had intended to include because including them would have required another month of Randland time, and that would have made the book "twice as fat."
• Jordan likes his fans, because:
- - We don't ask for autographs in blood (his, or theirs)
- - We have never given him a gift of a dead cat's head on a stake. At least not in public.
• On Pronunciation:
- - Aes Sedai: "I said eye."
- - Nynaeve: "Nine eve"
- - Faile: "FAI-eel"
- - Tear: not "tire".
• Lots of minor comments thinly veiled towards the net-jordanites. I got the impression he thinks we're a bit obsessive but appreciates it. Some of the more interesting ones:
- - "I like the idea of Bela as a Darkfriend."
- - "There is an alphanumeric code in the copyright page." He expects us to decode it shortly. Let's get cracking!
- - "How do you know Mat isn't back as Cyndane?"
- - "Any crazy rumors I can start on the Web are good."
Started off thinking there were at least 3-4 books. By the time he got to the third, he knew it would be at least 6.
Learning to read
It seems Jordan learned to read by having his father read to him constantly (when he was being read to, he wasn't messing around with expensive "toys" that broke easily). They started out with children's books, until Dad found out that it didn't matter whether Jordan really understood or not, and started reading books that Dad wanted to read instead. This went on for a while, until the night Dad put a book away before it was finished, so Jordan grabbed it and struggled through it on his own, figuring out what he didn't understand through context. (The Maltese Falcon was mentioned, but I don't recall how, other than as one of the books that he liked.)
When Jordan was 6, he got a library card -- like "the keys to the city". The librarians didn't want to let him out of the kids section, so he learned tricks. If you shelved books in the reading room, they would stay there, so you could pick them up again later, whether they belonged there or not. And kids could go to the reference section. "I discovered the encyclopedia."
The library at the time was in a mansion -- the "Miskelle house", I think. He spelled it for me (without being asked; by that time there had been more than one comment about the lunatic scribbling notes on everything), but my notes were rather cramped by that time.
"Reading is like breathing. If you take it away, first I become antsy, then violent."
Other Favored Authors
I missed quite a few of these while I tried to scribble it all down.
• CS Friedman
• Guy Gavriel Kay
• Most Recommended: Guns, Germs, and Steel
Historical Tidbits and Background Information
When China Ruled the Seas
Evidently, China was a real behemoth in the middle ages, right on the track to world domination, until they decided they didn't really want to rule the world. The following is a summary from hastily scribbled notes on a subject about which I am relatively ignorant; if I fuck up, it means I can't read my notes.
In the time before Columbus...
China has a huge fleet of ships (3000 of them, half-million crew), printing presses, generally huge technological advantage over everywhere else. The fleet is commanded by a name that translates as "Three-Jeweled Eunuch" (although he was evidently not a eunuch??). The fleet had superior logistics (well, something about logistics right about here) and had reached Madasgascar. They were planning to round the Cape of Good Hope and see what they found.
The year they would have reached Europe... and overwhelmed it.
Unfortunately, bad things happened. The current Emperor died and wassucceeded by his son, who was young and had self-confidence problems. Thepalace eunuchs (evidently a powerful political force) grew concerned overthe changes caused by outside influences, believing them to be corruptingChinese culture. They convinced the Emperor to shut China off from the restof the world by burning seafaring boats (including that huge fleet!),restricting foreigners to certain cities and killing them if they werecaught outside, and killing Chinese who left to see the world and thenreturned.
It seems the Japanese also did this -- twice, in fact.
This was a very long spiel coming from the nonfiction military history books he recommended. There was a lot more detail than I managed to capture, but one thing that stood out in my mind was that he had just told us the origins of Shara and the Seanchan. Or some of them, at least.
Someone asked how he chose the cover artist, and we got a nice long spiel with some previously unknown information. Jordan and his wife went through bookstores picking out books based on their (if they liked it) cover art and finding out who did the cover. It came down to two artists, Darrel K Sweet and Michael Whelan. The deciding factor was that Whelan wants the manuscript to read for a year before he will deliver a cover, and they just couldn't wait that long.
They are apparently considering a later reissue of the entire series withdifferent covers, perhaps by Whelan, once it is complete.
Some stores simply won't carry fantasy, so all the books have been issuedwithout cover art to expand the market. This came up in response to aCoSpaperback being artless. Why we haven't seen any of these others withoutart, I don't know.
Sweet Criticism and General Commentary
• Rand is NOT tall enough.
• The Path of Daggers details are mostly right, at least.
• Rand has a different face on each cover.
• DKS has never done the trollocs right: "They are NOT hairy men with animal-like helmets."
• Detail problems with Sweet are due to communication difficulties; there is not much time or opportunity for input.
• Path of Daggers: "The Elvis cover."
• A Crown of Swords: "The pugilist cover."
• Lord of Chaos: "Take my room key, please!"
The signing was held at Hawley-Cooke booksellers (a locally-owned store, very nice), and lasted about 2 hours. The official plan was to head on to Cincinatti immediately afterward in preparation for the next day's signing. As noted before, Jordan's wife was not present (she had to leave earlier on the tour for unspecified reasons). There was at least one person from Tor (a publicist IIRC) and perhaps two, both women. Jordan travels in a stretch limo, with what looked like a chase car, but that could be coincidence.
Link to signing report: http://linuxmafia.com/~pam/POD_signings.html#louisville