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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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Nov 14th, 1998
The Path of Daggers Book Tour
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 Path of Daggers was finished August 25th, and published in less than 60 days.
The usual "at least three more books" was mentioned several times in an increasingly loud voice.
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."
—Four years to write The Eye of the World; the next five took 14-16 months each.
—A Crown of Swords 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.
—The Strike At Shayol Ghul was written from the perspective of a scholar trying to attract funding for a more complete version (i.e., grant money) and was his first piece of short fiction.
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."
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.
—Aes Sedai: "I said eye."
—Nynaeve: "Nine eve".
—Tear: not "tire".
—"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."
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 six, 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.
—Guy Gavriel Kay
—Most Recommended: Guns, Germs, and Steel
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 had 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 Madagascar. 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 was succeeded by his son, who was young and had self-confidence problems. The palace eunuchs (evidently a powerful political force) grew concerned over the changes caused by outside influences, believing them to be corrupting Chinese culture. They convinced the Emperor to shut China off from the rest of the world by burning seafaring boats (including that huge fleet!), restricting foreigners to certain cities and killing them if they were caught outside, and killing Chinese who left to see the world and then returned.
It seems the Japanese also did this—twice, in fact.
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, Darrell 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 with different covers, perhaps by Whelan, once it is complete.
Some stores simply won't carry fantasy, so all the books have been issued without cover art to expand the market. This came up in response to the A Crown of Swords paperback being artless. Why we haven't seen any of these others without art, 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.
—The 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 two hours. The official plan was to head on to Cincinnati 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.