Netherlands tour, Rotterdam April 2001 - report by Aan'allein
Preface by Isabel: This report is fully written by Aan'allein. I coudn't make it to this signing, because of the strikes and school. But it is so fun to read :-)
Anyway, Jordan arrived, telling us that he wanted to make an announcement. We'd come for Jordan and Pratchett, so there he was. He was both people, had a split personality and all. I'm sorry, I'm incapable of bringing it across as well as Jordan did, but it was funny, especially knowing all the rumors about Jordan being either George R.R. Martin, or Pratchett, or Goodkin, or any of the other bearded fantasy writers.
Then Pratchett arrived, wearing Jordan's hat.
The interviewers were the Dutch translators of the Wheel of Time, and no matter what I think about their translations, they at least know about WoT. (In fact, the Dutch translators are the only translators ever to have sent Jordan mail asking him questions.)
The first question was for both authors to give us some introduction, tell a bit about how they liked it in the Netherlands.
Jordan: I must say it's a pleasure to be in the company of so many Discworld fans. [laughter]
Basically this set the stage for the rest of the evening, with Jordan and Pratchett continuously outdoing each other with funny remarks, but also responding to each other and continuing line of thoughts where the other left off. The interaction between these two truly was great to behold. Even though Pratchett began by saying that it had been a long day for the both of them (there were apparently a lot more people in Den Bosch the same afternoon (the one occasion I couldn't attend) than anticipated), I hardly noticed it in them.
Pratchett also told about the bad plane flight he'd had, in an airplane full of football fans. And how fantasy was considered less in the UK, because people wouldn't be enthusiastic about anything, except for football.
And that through careful purchasing you could wake up in a Manchester United bed, wear Manchester United pyjamas, and have a Manchester United alarm, and that this was perfectly acceptable, but that if you replaced Manchester United by Star Trek you'd suddenly be a freak.
Science Fiction and Fantasy fans are better than football fans because Star Trek fans don't get in huge fight with each other.
Jordan: Well, that's not entirely true, I remember one occasion where a group of Klingons and a group of Romulans at one convention got into such a big fight that they'd actually needed to call the police to break them up. [laughter]
Pratchett: Star Trek fans don't get into heated battle with Babylon 5... well, nevermind that. [more laughter]
The first specific question for Jordan was asked why he chose to write a fantasy series, instead of going for historical novels.
RJ: Well, in terms of history, I see some similarity to the writing of a fantasy novel and the writing of a history novel. In both cases you are presenting a world that is totally strange and alien to the reader. And if you don't believe that, read a good novel set three hundred years ago, one that really describes the life and you'll find very little recognizable in it.
So there is a great deal of similarity there. The major difference is that if you're writing a good historical novel you must place the historical events where they actually happened, not shift them about at your own convenience. In a fantasy novel you can shift history for your own convenience. It's a great..., a great aid.
Q: And that's attracted you because you felt your hands free to...
RJ: That's, that's a part of it. Another part of it is that I felt I could discuss things writing fantasy that I couldn't dicuss writing in other genres, things that I would have to... sidestep. There's a great deal of the struggle between good and evil. I'm trying to decide what is good, and what is evil, what's right, what is wrong, am I doing the right thing? Not by preaching; simply the characters keeping face with a situation or they're gonna make a decision; they don't know enough, don't have enough information, and they don't know what the results are going to be; oh they know what the results are gonna be and they're wrong. We'll give them that. At least wrong a lot of the times. And they have to blunder on and blunder through anyway, cause that's all there is to do. But if I wrote about that, if I tried to say that there is a right, there is a wrong, there is good, there is evil, it's tough to tell the difference, but you really have to make the try. ... it's worth the effort to try. If I said that in a mainstream novel, it would be laughed out of town.
Pratchett was asked about words, sentences, playing with them, being a carpenter of words etc..
RJ: I'll take a nap while he answers that. [laughter]
Pratchett: Well, I'll try to give a thorough and witty answer, but first I want to continue a bit about what Robert said... and he talked about us being in an Alzheimer age, not remembering our history, and how much history he used in his books, how rarely he had to make things up. Then he went on to say that he did indeed not see himself as an artist with words, but preferred to think of himself as a craftsman instead of a carpenter. He talked a bit about his training as a journalist, and about medieval guilds and masterpieces.
A question followed for Jordan, asking if he considered WoT his masterpiece.
Jordan stated that the interviewers had misinterpreted what Terry said about masterpiece, because the definition of masterpiece was not the most magnificent work. The masterpiece is the proof that you have the skills to work alone, and he considered his first novel to be that...
The role of the editor is the first set of eyes, to tell you what you are too close to the book to see. The person who tells you that yes, you made a beautiful leg, and yes the it is perfectly, but you're ignoring the fact that it's longer than the other three legs on the table.
Oh, Rando, I'm really sorry about this, but Jordan overthrew your toh-toes argument.
Pratchett was talking about you having to take care in fantasy not to use words like sandwich, unless you had the sandwich guy appear in your story.
Jordan disagreed: the writer is simply translating... And their word for a bit of unidentifiable meat wrapped in between some... two slices of greasy bread would translate as 'sandwich.' But that's not what they call it at all, that's just what you call it in English.
A question was asked: how afraid are you to read something a fan wrote and see that it has become part of your book?
Pratchett said things about the people no longer knowing the rules of the game, about the suggestion that ideas are worth money etc.
The talk continued in the direction of fanfiction, with Jordan talking about stacks of paper he sometimes received. Sitting there I felt certain the female dragon debate I'd given him was doomed, but listening to this again now, I have better hopes.
RJ: ... people occasionally send me various compilations of FAQs and things of that sort they've done about the books, or analyses of the books, and I will occasionally read that if I have time, but fanfiction, or other fiction, or 'I've read this book and would you please tell me what you think of it?' or stories, it gets returned to them.
I do not read it, I'm sorry. It's not because I think that anything is going to compete with my works, it's not, but it's because what Terry said, there are bozos out there.
I was accused in an anonymous letter to my publisher, of plagiarizing. That The Dragon Reborn was plagiarized. Now this infuriated me to such an extent that I'm going to incredible efforts to find out who'd written the damned letter. I knew it was a nutcase bozo somewhere, because I knew that every word was ripped out of the inside of my skull. And I'm going to find him, and push him into a corner, and beat him half to death with my walking stick [laughter], because he made me that mad, that he would make this accusation against me. And this was ... in an anonymous letter, who is not making any effort, he's not trying to make any money out of it, he just wants to cause trouble.
There are guys out there who I know who said 'you know, I have this great idea' and the great idea they want to share with you is worth about as much as 'let's write a book about pilots' and the worst case is when they see something in the book and say, and they think that they can claim it was stolen from them. So I will not read fanfiction, I will not read anything that somebody sends to me. The only things I read are the books I buy.
He ends very definite about not reading anything, but he's really only talking about fanfiction, and the first few remarks about reading analyses give me hope again.
RJ: Following very carefully, because the guy is apparently a very professional hacker, and for some reason the first six of my books, and the last the text are posted in English translation on this Russian site.
Pratchett: On a Russian site? [half-laughing.. on a tone of uh-oh, no way to do anything about that]
RJ: Yes, and I'm not the only one up there apparently, a lot of guys, and I mean, I've gone after, I've gotten shut down other sites, people who had been posting a translation in Russia and other places, what this guy is doing I don't know, except that I was cautioned to not visit the site myself, and it's not apparently as simply as say 'stop this.' It would be quicker to get a contract with the Russia mafia. [laughter]
This is of course (which books are up there proves it) the same site as was once posted here, which I mailed the Haydens about, thus making Jordan aware about this. Hmm, I wonder if I should mention that to Jordan. Would he even believe me? Could he perhaps be thankful enough to decide to change the way his world works so that a female dragon would be possible? ;)
Jordan was very angry about such things and hackers in general. He'd like to have a virus that anyone who'd penetrate his firewall (so he really is online nowadays! not just sometimes when someone gives him a computer to take a test to see which gender he is, ;) but at home as well... and he knows the vocabulary) would get a package that would blow up his monitor for starters, to create a distraction so that the virus could continue to wipe out the harddisk and simultaniously cause power overloads to set fire to and fry every piece of electronic equipment that is attached to this computer. [laughter]
Q: If one character from Pratchett's and Jordan's worlds could come to this one, who would they like it to be?
RJ: The most interesting characters I write about are the ones you really don't want to meet. This is like the 'what one thing would you change about the world?' that would lead to far too many unforseen consequences. So I'd say 'thank you very much, I'm going fishing that day'.
Pratchett: [lots of talk], eventually he'd really like to see Death when he was 150, because he is such a nice chap and would say to him it's been fun, hasn't it.
The audience questions only went on for a very short while. I came first. (300 people, and I went first. Again. I like this.) :)
Silly me decided on one of the probable RAFO questions however...
Q: How are stedding created?
RJ: Read And Find Out.
I really should have phrased it differently, talking about the presence of the Ogier infusing the land or something.
The signing began, and all 300 people rushed forward. Heavy press there, luckily I was close to the authors, so out soon again.
Just before getting to Jordan, I heard a question about him once having trouble with his arm or something, and how he got over that.
RJ: I worked very hard with grip-exercises. Now I no longer have pain while writing or grasping, or ...
Sometimes he does still wake up in the middle of the night with shooting pains though, end then has to do excersises until it's passed.
We could only have one book signed, so I went for New Spring in Legends, then I moved sideways to Pratchett. I really like how he signed his story 'The Sea and Little Fishes' in Legends:
"The big sea does not care which way the little fishes swim..."
Obviously a play on how hard it would be to leave the mass of people behind me. Still, cutting sideways I managed to get out, shortly afterwards being joined by KuraFire and Iwitness. KuraFire and I had probably already missed the bus back, so we had a long time to idle away, talking about anything and everything and seeing the mass of people continuing to stay huge. Some 30 minutes later there were only some 30 people left who wanted books signed by Pratchett, and hardly any for Jordan (unbelievable enough there were actually more Pratchett fans there), so we got back in line again to have a second book signed. (And my first one personalized.)
Q: Does Perrin still have Moiraine's coin?
RJ: Read And Find Out.
Q: Does the Black Ajah contain all Aes Sedai who are darkfriends?
Then KuraFire asked his LTT's palace question:
Q: Are the ruins of Lews Therin's palace still in the current world?
RJ: Ah, no.
Q: They are really gone?
RJ: They are really gone.
Comment from Isabel: Here below a small report from I believe someone from Dromen and Demonen. Sorry I forgot who wrote it :(
Anyway, for people who cannot read Dutch:
During signing a man wanted to sign his books for his daughter. RJ asked her name and he said Emma. RJ looked at him and ask how old she was. The proud father said two months and explained that it would be a while before she read the books.
Jordan knew enough and said: Oh, that's someone else. See, there was this girl called Emma the other day, and she claims she's 17 but I think she's only 12. She's going to show me her passport tomorrow. She nearly fainted...
(I didn't faint :) )
Quite funny to hear this.
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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