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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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To the channeler, the flows seem to originate in his or her very immediate vicinity, not to emanate from themselves, although to another channeler, those flows do seem to be emanating from the channeler. The latter is the actual case, as the One Power is passing through the channeler, one of the reasons for individual limits on how much of the Power a particular person can handle. (And you have seen characters react as if to a blow from having a flow snapped or cut.)
A channeler sees the flows as colored very faintly, according to which of the Five Powers is involved (red = Fire, Blue = Water, green = Earth, yellow = Air, white = Spirit), although the "feel" of the flows are also different to a channeler, so that a channeler can tell one from another without actually seeing them. (That is how someone can tell that somebody else has channeled, say, Fire and Earth, in their vicinity without seeing the flows.) It isn't a physical feel; you might almost as well say that they have different flavors. They appear to be smooth and nearly transparent, tinged with color.
The first example given has to be treated separately, I think. A sword woven of Air—or Fire or any other of the Five Powers—could be wielded by a non-channeler if the weave had been tied off or the channeler maintained it. But that is a difficult way to acquire a sword and not really worth the effort unless there is great need for a sword and no other sword available. But in that case, why wouldn't the channeler simply handle things another way? To paraphrase Siuan Sanche, "It's simpler and easier just to use a steel sword."
As to weaves being affected by other non-Power, natural occurrences, no, not directly. Though an earthquake knocking an Aes Sedai off her feet and bouncing her around might put a crimp on her channeling for a bit. The wind will not move a shield woven of Air, nor will any other natural event affect a weave UNLESS it does so by affecting the channeler first and thus disrupting his or her ability for whatever period of time. If the channeler is being swept away down rapids, this presents problems. Not necessarily insurmountable problems, but being tumbled head over heels, bounced off boulders and half drowned makes the necessary concentration not easy.
Then, I asked my question, which concerned the Warder bond and the stedding.
What happens to an Aes Sedai's Warder bond if she enters a stedding? Can she still detect it? What if I tie off a weave, and enter a stedding? If the weave vanishes, will it reappear when I leave? If it won't reappear, why can't shielded/tied channelers such as Asmodean or Liandrin simply enter a stedding to have their shield dissolved?
Brandon, with you being a writer specialized in cool and unique magic systems, how was it to use and write with the magic system in Wheel of Time? Hard or easy? Did you have to come up with new weaves, or did Jordan already have unmentioned weaves written down somewhere? And how did it work for you to write channeling battles?
Well, the Wheel of Time magic system was one of those that inspired me to make magic systems the way I do. I've long loved the magic in Mr. Jordan's books, and think he does a very good job of walking the line between having it feel scientific and still feel wondrous. He does tend to go a little bit further toward wonder—as opposed to science—but that has a great number of advantages for his story.
In answer, I've come up with just a few new weaves, but mostly I wanted to use his weaves in new ways. I think there's a lot of room to explore the use of weaves and how people interact with the magic. Don't expect a LOT of this though. The focus is on the characters and the Last Battle at this point, but there were a few places where (mostly in throw-away, background moments) I was able to explore the magic a tad. I actually found it one of the easier things in the book, though I DID have to keep looking up how specific weaves were created. It gets confusing, particularly since men and women often do the weaves differently.
As for channeling battles...well, I can't really tell you if there are any of those in the book without giving anything away, now can I? So we'll have to RAFO that. ;)
There was a new weave used by someone in book 14; did anyone else see it?
"Yes"—and that's all that was spoken about it, since it contained spoilers.
Presumably this is in reference to the "Flame of Tar Valon" weave, which Egwene used in A Memory of Light 37.
I really have always liked, obviously, his system, which is part of why I love the books. His system had this nice mix between the visual aspect—I really loved the weaving, and things like this—and it had some interesting ramifications on physics and whatnot, and I also liked a lot of the sense of mystery to it, in that they didn't know everything, which is one thing that I like, when a magic system—you know, I like to write very rule-based magic systems, but I feel that, if you know everything...I mean, we don't know everything about physics; we don't know everything about science, and so how can you know everything about the magic, which is the science of a certain world? That said, Jim generally was more flexible with himself on allowing himself to do different things with the magic. He had a more open-ended magic system, I would guess. A lot more weaves were created, and things like that, and I tend to make my magic systems more restrictive.
Because of this, growing into the books, I worried that, working in a system where I was uninhibited in that way, that I would just go completely bonkers. [laughter] And so, when I sat down to work in this system, I decided it was...when necessary I would develop new weaves, but that I would resist the urge, and that there had been so much developed by Jim so far that I would use weaves either in the books or from the notes whenever possible, and I would prefer to take those and try to go new places with them as opposed to developing lots of new and different weaves, which is why you see me doing things like pushing gateways a little bit further, because I thought there was a lot of room to explore there, or pushing what Perrin does in the wolf dream, and these sorts of things, because these are established systems that Jim created for me, and for all of us, and I felt there was so much room to move in those that I didn't need to go other places. There are some places in the books where a new weave was appropriate, and we did that, but I tried very hard to cap that, because I worried I would just do too much, if that makes any sense.
I really enjoyed working with it. In fact, the Wheel of Time...in a lot of ways, the Wheel of Time doing what it did had prevented me in my career from ever approaching doing those things, if that makes any sense. Because I loved the Wheel of Time, I didn't want to be repeating something that...I didn't want to be, you know, accused of just copying Robert Jordan. And so, because of that, you don't see me writing a lot of the types of things that he did, like you know I'd always wanted to do a dream world, but I never did a dream world because the Wheel of Time had done one so well. And then when I was able to work on this, I got to kind of do all of those things that I'd made off-limits to myself because Robert Jordan had done them already, and done them so well, and it was pretty awesome to be able to do that. It was one of my favorite parts about doing this, is all these things that were on my list of "Robert Jordan did this so don't do it," suddenly became things I could do. So... [applause]
And as a follow-up to that, I think that, instead of just being the magic system guy, I think that Brandon has every right to be the good, quality compelling character guy. So... [applause]
It was witnessed. That's it.
There was a little more to the question above, but I left it out of this log for two reasons: One, I had a really hard time keeping up with the person asking the question, not to mention Brandon trying to answer, plus the guy who asked the question broke the "no spoilers in the Q&A" rule.
Since balefire strengthens cuendillar, what effect would Egwene's opposing "Flame of Tar Valon" weave have?
(But then we got interrupted and didn't come back to it, so if someone is curious, they could try again and get the rest of the answer. Related questions might be... Would Egwene's weave strengthen cuendillar simply because it is the One Power? If for every weave there is an opposite weave, could there be a weave that would turn the Tar Valon harbor chains back to iron?)
How did reading The Wheel of Time inspire his magic systems?
The first influence was Robert Jordan's focus on human characters over fantastical ones. He felt that Jordan's concept of weaving was complex and interesting, as opposed to magic systems of authors such as David Eddings. With the Wheel of Time, the rules and restrictions on magic made characters more clever and interesting. He didn't want to modify the WoT magic system but he did explore two aspects of it using ideas he had as a teenager: the World of Dreams and gateways. He avoided adding new weaves because the series was coming to a close.
Question about the anti-balefire weave. Balefire burns out the threads of the Pattern. The Flame of Tar Valon, does it put the same threads back in? Or does it put brand new ones in?
It does rebuild the Pattern.
If you could create your own weave that we haven't seen yet, what would it be?
I sure would like some more time to write more books.
I would like to destroy the federal deficit.
Can the anti-balefire weave restore threads to the Pattern?
Yes, it repairs threads to the Pattern. The threads may not be exactly the same, but it does repair them.
So does that mean Hopper could the next time in this cycle?
I can't speak for Hopper, other than, I have hope.
I'm assuming research; I don't know.
My theory was always eavesdropping.
Oh yeah, that's another good possibility.
And that would be a reason why she tipped Sammael off to her presence.
How did she rediscover balefire? Assuming research again?
That question always comes up, about whether you can learn a weave by reading about it.
Yeah, I think it can help, and then you have to experiment and hope for the best.
The Flame of Tar Valon—what does it do other than shore up the Pattern? Does it have effects also opposite to balefire? Was the weave related to the weave that Rand used to seek out Shadowspawn in The Dragon Reborn?
This is left for your consideration and discussion for now.
Androl and Pevara
In working on the Black Tower plot, one thing I realized early on was that I wanted a new viewpoint character to be involved. One reason was that we didn't have anyone to really show the lives of the everyday members of the Black Tower. It felt like a hole in the viewpoint mosaic for the series. In addition, each Wheel of Time book—almost without exception—has either introduced a new viewpoint character or added a great deal of depth to a character who had only seen minimal use before. As we were drawing near to the end of the series, I didn't want to expand this very far. However, I did want to add at least one character across the three books I was doing.
I went to Team Jordan with the suggestion that I could fulfill both of these purposes by using one of the rank-and-file members of the Black Tower, preferably someone who wasn't a full Asha'man and was something of a blank slate. They suggested Androl. The notes were silent regarding him, and while he had been around, he so far hadn't had the spotlight on him. He seemed the perfect character to dig into.
A few more things got spun into this sequence. One was my desire to expand the usage of gateways in the series. For years, as an aspiring writer, I imagined how I would use gateways if writing a book that included them. I went so far as to include in the Stormlight Archive a magic system built around a similar teleportation mechanic. Being able to work on the Wheel of Time was a thrill for many reasons, but one big one was that it let me play with one of my favorite magic systems and nudge it in a few new directions. I've said that I didn't want to make a large number of new weaves, but instead find ways to use established weaves in new ways. I also liked the idea of expanding on the system for people who have a specific talent in certain areas of the One Power.
Androl became my gateway expert. Another vital key in building him came from Harriet, who mailed me a long article about a leatherworker she found in Mr. Jordan's notes. She said, "He was planning to use this somewhere, but we don't know where."
One final piece for his storyline came during my rereads of the series, where I felt that at times the fandom had been too down on the Red Ajah. True, they had some serious problems with their leadership in the books, but their purpose was noble. I feel that many readers wanted to treat them as the Wheel of Time equivalent of Slytherin—the house of no-goods, with every member a various form of nasty. Robert Jordan himself worked to counteract this, adding a great deal of depth to the Ajah by introducing Pevara. She had long been one of my favorite side characters, and I wanted her to have a strong plot in the last books. Building a relationship between her and Androl felt very natural to me, as it not only allowed me to explore the bonding process, but also let me work a small romance into the last three books—another thing that was present in most Wheel of Time books. The ways I pushed the Androl/Pevara bond was also something of an exploration and experiment. Though this was suggested by the things Robert Jordan wrote, I did have some freedom in how to adapt it. I felt that paralleling the wolf bond made sense, with (of course) its own distinctions.
Finding a place to put the Pevara/Androl sequence into the books, however, proved difficult. Towers of Midnight was the book where we suffered the biggest time crunch. That was the novel where I'd plotted to put most of the Black Tower sequence, but in the end it didn't fit—partially because we just didn't have time for me to write it. So, while I did finish some chapters to put there, the soul of the sequence got pushed off to A Memory of Light, if I managed to find time for it.
I did find time—in part because of cutting the Perrin sequence. Losing those 17,000 words left an imbalance to the pacing of the final book. It needed a plot sequence with more specific tension to balance out the more sweeping sequences early in the book where characters plan, plot, and argue. I was able to expand Androl/Pevara to fit this hole, and to show a lot of things I really wanted to show in the books.