The Path of Daggers Book Tour

Report from John Novak - Northern Virginia (Bailey's Crossroads), 21 November 1998

There was a signing at a local Borders very close to my apartment. Kate, myself, and the Dilicks attended. The signing began at 1:00 PM. We showed up separately between 11:00 and 11:30 AM to find ourselves close to the front of the line. Such paranoia was justified, as the line grew very swiftly and to great length.

As the time approached, the cafe area was cleared and chairs set up auditorium style so that those of us who had been waiting were able to sit down and enjoy. This was cool. Those of us in the cafe area (and maybe others) were also given a complimentary cup of spiced cider-- to bring to mind the idea of having a mug mulled wine in front of us. This was cool. There was also an amazing-looking layered sheet cake with a truly impressive Wheel of Time design drawn on the top. I never got the full story on where it came from-- if Tor arranged it, or if a fan owned a bakery or what. It was divied up into small pieces and given to the fans as we went through line.

Jordan began with a reading, which was fairly short. He read the first few pages from chapter one of tPoD. I think I'm happier narrating them in my own internal voice. He then commenced with about an hour and a half of rapid signings. I asked politely if I could stand off to the side and record the answers to any questions that he gave. He and the Borders staff were very gracious. They seemed to expect it, somehow... I will make one comment about Mr. Jordan: he seems like a very nice man. He was obviously tired (he commented at one point that he had hit some 27 cities in 32 days) but was cheerful, engaging, willing to chat and banter and seemed generally pleased to be there.

I did my best not to be completely underfoot, getting out of the way of photographs, keeping relatively silent while people were chatting to him and asking him questions. On a personal and weird note, a lot of people seemed to recognize me, too. (Of those, I recognized only Amy and her man.) This is unsettling and weird. And I am not nearly as approachable as I may have seemed to be-- but I would have felt like a heel for bitchslapping people who stood behind me trying to talk to me or at me or near me as I was busy listening and jotting and dodging out of photographs, while Jordan was being so nice about letting me hang out there.

Here's what I learned:

(Bear in mind that while there were stretches while I wasn't writing anything, when I WAS writing, I had to write fast. I hope I didn't mistranscribe anything.)

Balefire: I'm right. (This was my question) What this means is, if someone is Balefire, the Dark One can't reincarnate them. But they CAN be spun back out into the wheel as normal. Balefire is NOT the eternal death of the soul. He also made a comment to the effect that even in the absence of balefire, there may be circumstances where the Dark One cannot bring someone back. There was a long line, so I didn't press.

The Bowl: Someone asked him whether, if men had helped the Aes Sedai and Windfinders and Kin channel through the Bowl, the One Power would still have been screwed up. His implicit assumption was that the Bowl screwed things up. I expected this to be a sheer RAFO. I was surprised. He went into a relatively detailed explanation to the effect that the Bowl was stressed far, far beyond its original design parameters because of the advanced knowledge of the Windfinders. It was affecting a global pattern, when it was designed for only a small region. Men helping would not have changed anything, and the effects linger most strongly near Ebou Dar, but also along the "spokes" which radiated from that place. (I should have asked if a spoke went out over Tear.) My comment: Nyah-nyah.

Moiraine lost her list sometime between NS and tEotW. By the opening of the story, all she could remember was that there had been a name >from the Two Rivers.

On the subject of a story set in the Age of Legends, most probably not. The Age of Legends was entirely too boring to write about, up until the time it became too interesting. And at that point, it became too gloomy because it was a long, drawn out apocalypse.

He has no particular real world inspiration for the One Power, at least not that he knows of. He admits that he's read a lot of stuff and at times forgets a source here and there.

At one point, he looked at me and added (with no prompting or questioning) that no, Mat is not Cyndane. He explained that at another Signing, he had a string of ten or so people in a row ask him about Mat, and he got frustrated and belted out, "What if Mat is Cyndane?" He claimed he then recanted, but couldn't tell if the guy he told that to believed that he was joking. I admitted that I had heard the story, but it was okay-- we got the joke. He then added that while he likes Chalker's and Varley's works, he does not intend to emulate them. "Not at all like Balthamel becoming Aran'gar?" I quipped. He retorted to the effect that was one character, not a whole host of characters.

He is already thinking about his next work. He has been thinking about it for five or six years now. It will definitely be a fantasy, definitely not Wheel of Time, and will spend a lot of time in a culture that somewhat resembles the Seanchan. Ie, the Shipwreck thing is still going strong. Someone standing behind me commented about the Seanchan being a bunch of sociopaths, and Jordan returned that the Seanchan system is a reasonable response to the conditions they found. I opined that we could have a serious debate in ethics over that point. I expect that in other circumstances we could have rolled up our debating sleeves and gone at it, but there were more books to sign and I didn't want to get in anyone's way.

If an Aes Sedai becomes Black Ajah, the Warder would know instantly that something was up, but wouldn't know exactly what. The Black Ajah has three choices, then-- hope the Warder is a Darkfriend or amenable to being one, hide the affiliation, or arrange for an accident. Yes, this would be painful for the Aes Sedai, but it might become necessary. The process of becoming Black Ajah is evidently quite painful in its own right and thus probably involves more than just swearing new Oaths on the Rod. (I submit that this is why he Red Ajah is rife with Black Ajah-- they have an easier time actively recruiting >from that pool. By the same token, I claim that the Green Ajah is more pure than the others.)

Asmodean is, and I quote, road-kill. And he still claims there are many indirect clues from tFoH on about who killed him. He also claims that very, very few of the fan letters he gets are correct about it.

Will more heroes be bound to the Horn? RAFO.

Who or what is the Tamyrlin? RAFO.

(RAFO sometimes means that he intends to reveal it later. Sometimes it means that an answer is not consequential, but it's logical implications ARE consequential.)

He really hopes to get the next volume out faster.

His plans have not significantly altered from the time of conception. No major scenes have been inserted or left out or substantially altered.

Apparently a Dorset House (?) is currently planning to produce replica of jewelry (such as the Aes Sedai rings, Moiraine's forehead jewel) and articles of clothing (like the Shawls) for the market.

Does the Snakes and Foxes game played in the Two Rivers have anything to do with the 'finn? RAFO. (My answer: Duh?)

A calendar for next year seems like a very possible thing. So does the encyclopedia concept we've heard about-- he already keeps a running compilation of invented terms anyway.

There were a lot of amusing personal remarks as well, which I won't try to capture. He seems to have a half a dozen answers for the question, "Where do you get your ideas?" The one that tickled me was that he sends off to a mail order company from Trenton, NewJersey (I think) for some large amount of money, at three ideas per page. I looked askance and remarked that Ellison gave the same answer, except his ideas came from a warehouse in Peoria (which I'm sure I've read somewhere. Think it was Ellison.) He shot back, "Yeah, but did you notice that mine are more expensive?"

And at one point, while posing for a picture, he asked if should appear pensive? Or perhaps Byronic? I shot back, "Byronic, or ironic?" "I can do ironic, too, but it costs more."

And my favorite fan comment: "No questions. Just, 'Thanks.'" Dunno who that was, but if you're reading, I thought that was cool.

So that's that.

Last signing of the tour.

(I left out a bunch of shit we already knew about how many more books, how does he title things, who's his favorite character, what's his daily schedule, etc.)

Two more tidbits.

There was one piece of information that I _thought_ I heard correctly, but didn't want to relate until I was sure it made proper sense. Thanks to Rich Boye for confirming the text of NS (which I don't have) and that the following makes sense:

One person asked whether Romanda was the Aes Sedai that Cadsuane referred to as being nearly as old as she was. Jordan answered in the affirmative. I was distracted by someone at the time and _thought_ I heard that correctly, but wasn't quite sure. (And I gave the guy who asked the question a really weird look, because the answer didn't seem to make sense-- why was everyone surprised about Cadsuane's being alive, if Romanda was just about as old? Apparently because Cadsuane is so much more heroic than Romanda.)

And another tidbit that I meant to mention, but neglected. Someone actually asked Jordan whether a hermaphrodite would channel Saidin or Saidar. Jordan was... non-plussed. "A hermaphrodite?! I dunno. I'd have to sit down and figure that out." He shot the guy a funny look as he walked away, then remarked to the next group of people in line that he put that in the same category as the person who wrote to ask him what Donald Duck would channel.


John S. Novak III

Link to signing report:

Alternate link:

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