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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Apr 4th, 2001
I came to Leiden and met up with a (new) friend of mine. (Wolf Gaidin) We came like three 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 transcribed 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.
I am putting my own comments in between, so you will have some idea how I felt during it :-)
He then went on to read that first prophecy from The Great Hunt ("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.
No, the cat is not either way; it is both. It is 100% alive, and 100% that the cat is dead, and both things are true. And must be acceptable as true. If you cannot accept this as true, then you are not ready for quantum...for the most basic quantum physics, much 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 afraid 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.
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 category. 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 high school.] About half fiction, and half non-fiction.
(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...
[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 from 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 FAQs... 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.
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.
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.
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.
(transcription) ...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.]
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 as 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?
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.
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.
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.
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: