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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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Does evil need to be effective to be evil? And how do you define effectiveness? Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge managed to murder about 25-30% of Cambodia's population, destroy the country's agricultural and industrial base, fairly well wipe out the educated class inside the country (defined as anyone with an education beyond the ability to read; a good many of those went too, of course), and in general became so rabid that only China was willing to maintain any sort of contact with them, and that at arm's length. Their rabidity was the prime reason that they ended up losing the country. (though they are still around and still causing trouble.) In other words, they were extremely ineffective in attaining their goal, which was to seize Cambodia, remake it in the way Pol Pot wished (and still wishes), and export their brand of revolution abroad. Looking at the death toll, the cities emptied out (hospital patients were told they had one hour to leave or die; post-op patients, those still in the operating room, everybody), the murders of entire families down to infants because one member of the family was suspected of "counter-revolutionary" crimes, the mass executions (one method was for hundreds of people to be bound hand and foot, then bulldozed into graves alive; the bulldozers drove back and forth over these mass graves until attempts to dig out stopped)—given all of that, can you say that Khmer Rough's ineffectiveness made them less evil? Irrationality is more fearful than rationality (if we can use that term in this regard) because if you have brown hair and know that the serial killer out there is only killing blondes, you are safe, but if he is one of those following no easily discernible pattern, if every murder seems truly random, then it could be you who will be next. But "rationality" can have its terrors. What if that killer is only after brunettes named Carolyn? Stalin had the very rational goal (according to Communist dogma) of forcibly collectivizing all farmland in the Soviet Union. He was effective—all the land was collectivized—and to do it he murdered some thirty million small farmers who did not want to go along.
But are the Forsaken ineffective or irrational? Are they any more divided than any other group plotting to take over a country, a world, IBM? True, they plot to secure power for themselves. But I give you Stalin v. Trotsky and the entire history of the Soviet Union. I give you Thomas Jefferson v. Alexander Hamilton v. John Adams, and we will ignore such things as Jefferson's hounding of Aaron Burr (he tore up the Constitution to do it; double jeopardy, habeas corpus, the whole nine yards), or Horatio Gates' attempted military coup against Washington, with the support of a fair amount of the Continental Congress. We can also ignore Secretary of War Stanton's attempts to undermine Lincoln throughout the Civil War, the New England states' attempt to make a separate peace with England during the Revolution and their continued trading with the enemy (the British again) during the War of 1812, and... The list could go on forever, frankly, and take in every country. Human nature is to seize personal advantage, and when the situation is the one the Forsaken face (namely that one of them will be given the rule of the entire earth while the others are forever subordinate), they are going to maneuver and backstab like crazy. You yourself say "If ever there was the possibility that some alien force was going to invade this planet, half the countries would refuse to admit the problem, the other half would be fighting each other to figure out who will lead the countries into battle, etc." Even events like Rahvin or Sammael or Be'lal seizing a nation have a basis. What better way to hand over large chunks of land and people to the Dark One than to be ruler of those lands and people? The thing is that they are human. But aside from that, are you sure that you know what they are up to? All of them? Are you sure you know what the Dark One's own plans are? Now let's see about Rand and his dangers and his allies. Have you been skimming, my dear? What makes you think the Tairens, Cairhienin and Andorans are solidly behind him? They're plotting and scheming as hard as the Forsaken. Rand is the Dragon Reborn, but this is my country, and we don't need anybody, and so on. And then there are those who don't think he is the Dragon Reborn at all, just a puppet of Tar Valon. Most of the Aiel may be behind him, but the Shaido are still around, and the bleakness is still taking its toll, since not all Aiel can face up to what Rand has told them about themselves. What makes you think the Seanchan will fall in behind Rand? Have you seen any Seanchan volunteers showing up? Carolyn, half of these people are denying there is a problem, and half are trying to be big honcho themselves. Read again, Carolyn. The world Rand lives in is getting more frenzied and turbulent. Damned few are saying, "Lead, because you know best." A good many who are following are saying "Lead, because I'd rather follow you than have you call down lightning and burn me to a crisp!"
As for lack of challenge, I refer you again to the question about whether you really think you know what all the Forsaken are planning. Or what Padan Fain is up to. There is a flaw inherent in fiction, one that is overcome by suspension of disbelief. We do always know, somewhere in the back of our heads, that the hero is going to make it through as far as he needs to. After all, if Frodo buys the farm, the story is over, kids. The excitement comes in trying to figure out how he can possibly wiggle out, how he can possibly triumph.
In Rand's case, let's see what he still has stacked against him. The Cairhienin and Tairens are for the most part reluctant allies, and in many cases not even that. At the end of Fires, he has Caemlyn, but I don't see any Andoran nobles crowding around to hail him. Illian still belongs to Sammael. Pedron Niall is working to convince people Rand is a false Dragon, and the Prophet is alienating ten people for every one he convinces. Tarabon and Arad Doman are unholy messes; even if Rand manages to get in touch with all of the Dragonsworn—who are not organized beyond individual bands—he has two humongous civil wars to deal with. True, he can use the Aiel to suppress those, but he has to avoid men killing men too much; there are Trollocs waiting to spill out of the Blight eventually. We must always remember the Trollocs, Myrddraal etc; the last time they came out in force, it took over 300 years to beat them back, and the Last Battle doesn't give Rand anywhere near that. Altara and Murandy are so divided in any case that simply getting the king or queen on his side isn't going to work; remember that most people in those two countries give loyalty to a city or a local lord and only toss in their country as an afterthought. Davram Bashere thinks Tenobia will bring Saldaea to Rand, and that is possible since the Borderlands would be one place where everyone is aware of the Last Battle and the Prophecies, but even Bashere isn't willing to make any promises, not even for Saldaea much less the other Borderlands, and I haven't seen any Borderland rulers showing up to hand Rand the keys to the kingdom. Padan Fain is out there, able to feel Rand, and hating him because of what was done to him, Fain, to make him able to find Rand. The surviving Forsaken are out there and except for Sammael, nobody knows what they are up to or where they can be found. For that matter, who knows everything that Sammael is up to? Elaida, in the White Tower, thinks Rand has to be tightly controlled. The Salidar Aes Sedai are not simply ready to fall in and kiss his boots, either. Aes Sedai have been manipulating the world for more than three thousand years, guiding it, making sure it remembers the Dark One and Tarmon Gai'don as real threats, doing their best, as they see it, to prepare the world for the Dark One breaking free. Are they likely to simply step aside and hand over control to a farmboy, even if he is the Dragon Reborn? Even after Moiraine decided he had to be given his head, Siuan was reluctant, and Siuan was in Moiraine's little conspiracy from the beginning. And the Seanchan...The last we saw of their forces, they were commanded by a Darkfriend. As for the Sea Folk, do you know what their prophecy says about the Coramoor? Do you think working with them it will be any simpler than dealing with the Aiel, say?
Now, what and who does Rand have solidly in his camp? Perrin knows what is needed, but he's hardly happy about it. What he really wants is to settle down with Faile and be a blacksmith; everything else is a reluctant duty. Mat blew the Horn of Valere, but it's hidden in the Tower, and frankly, if he could figure some way to go away and spend the rest of his life carousing and chasing women, he would. He'll do what he has to do, but Light he doesn't want to. The Aiel are for Rand (less the Shaido, still a formidable force), but the Dragon Reborn and the Last Battle are no part of the Prophecy of Rhuidean. That is all wetlander stuff. Besides which, they are still suffering losses from bleakness, people throwing down their spears and leaving, people defecting to the Shaido or drifting back to the Waste because what Rand told them of their origins can't possibly be true and if it isn't then he can't be the Car'a'carn. Rand has declared an amnesty for men who can channel and is trying to gather them in; they, at least, should give their loyalty to him. But how many can he find? How much can he teach them in the time he has? How many will go mad before the Last Battle? There is still the taint on saidin, remember. For that matter, can Rand hang onto his own sanity? What effect will having a madman inside his head have? Can he stop Lews Therin from taking him over?
I know that was supposed to be a listing of what Rand has in his favor, but the fact is that he is walking the razor's edge, barely hanging onto his sanity and growing more paranoid all the time, barely hanging onto putative allies, most of whom would just as soon see him go away in the hope that then everything would be the way it was before he showed up, confronted by enemies on every side. In short he has challenges enough for ten men. I've had people write to say they can't see how Rand is going to untangle all of this and get humanity ready to face the Last Battle. What I say is, what you believe to be true is not always true. What you think is going to happen is not always going to happen. That has been demonstrated time and again in The Wheel of Time. You could call those two statements one of the themes of the books.
From the October/November 1994 issue of Sense of Wonder, a B. Dalton publication
It's an exciting fall for fans of Robert Jordan's phenomenal series The Wheel of Time. Book Five: The Fires of Heaven, which was a New York Times best-seller, finally came out in paperback this September, and the long-awaited sixth book, Lord of Chaos, will be out in hardcover this October. Since this series has captured the imagination of so many readers, I asked Robert Jordan to talk to Sense of Wonder readers about the inspiration behind his remarkable Wheel of Time series.
The first inspiration was the thought of what it was really like to be tapped as the savior of mankind. In a lot of books that have somebody who is the "chosen one" if you will, it seems that the world quickly divides into allies who are strongly behind the "chosen one" and the evil guys. It seemed to me that if somebody is chosen to be the savior, there is going to be a good bit of resistance, both "let this cup pass from me," and a lot of people who aren't going to be that happy to have a savior show up, even if they are on his side nominally. That established, I began to think about the world.
What I'm trying to do here is rather complex. The usual thing is to either tell a sweeping story that is, in effect, the history of a nation or a people, or to tell a tighter story that is very much inside the heads of individuals themselves. I am trying to do the stories of individual people, a large number of them, at the same time as I tell the story of a world. I want to give readers an entire picture of this world—not just its current history and situation, but its past as well. That's hard to do at the same time we're so deeply involved with individual characters. The complexity of that combination is one of the reasons the darn thing has gone on as long as it has.
There are a number of themes that run through the series. There's the good old basic struggle between good and evil, with an emphasis on the difficulty in recognizing what is god and what is evil. There's also the difficulty in deciding how far you can go in fighting evil. I like to think of it as a scale. At one end you hold purely to your own ideals no matter what the cost, with the result that possibly evil wins. At the other end, you do anything and everything to win, with the result that maybe it doesn't make much difference whether you've won or evil has won. There has to be some sort of balance found in the middle, and it's very difficult to find.
Another recurring theme is lack of information, and the mutability of information. No one knows everything. Everyone has to operate on incomplete knowledge, and quite often they know they are operating on incomplete knowledge, but they still have to make decisions. The reader quite often knows that the reason why a character is doing something is totally erroneous, but it's still the best information that the character in the book has. I like to explore the changeability of knowledge, the way that, in the beginning, characters see things in one way, and as they grow and learn more, we and they find out that what they knew as the truth wasn't necessarily the whole truth. Sometimes it's hardly the truth at all. When Rand and the rest first met Moiraine, they saw her as an Aes Sedai, and they thought of her as being practically omnipotent. It's only as they go along that they begin to find out that the Aes Sedai have limits. In the beginning everyone says the White Tower makes thrones dance and kings and queens play at their command, but the characters begin to find out that, yes, the White Tower has certainly manipulated a lot of thrones, but it's hardly all-powerful. Characters learn more about the truth as time goes on, and sometimes found out that what they knew before was only the first layer of the onion. That's a major theme, really, in the whole series, that changeability—the way something starts out seeming to be one simple thing, and slowly it is revealed to have a number of very complex layers.
But for all the grand events and great hoop-la and whoop-de-do going on, the things that really interest me more than anything else are the characters themselves. How they change. How they don't change. How they relate to each other. The people fascinate me. And, of course, there are things happening that major characters sometimes don't even see, and the reader sometimes does. There's a lot going on beneath the surface that major characters don't realize, despite the fact that they do see a lot of what seems very furious activity.
Jordan, a veteran of the Vietnam war, has definitely connected with his audience, both male and female. And he has some definite thoughts as to why fantasy literature is so popular.
Two things, really, I think. One, you can talk about good and evil, right and wrong, and nobody tells you that you're being judgmental. And the other thing is, in fantasy there's always the belief that you can overcome whatever obstacles there are, that you can make tomorrow better. And not only that you can, but that you will, if you work at it.
Do you remember when you conceived The Wheel of Time series?
The first thought that came to me was what would it be like, what would it really be like, to be tapped on the shoulder and told you were born to be the savior of mankind. And I then very quickly thought, what would happen if the savior of mankind really showed up and he was really there to save the world from impending doom, what would the real response of the world be? And after ten or twelve years of knocking around in my head, because I always give my books a long lead time, that turned into The Wheel of Time.
The interview then continued with the communication between the various characters, and Robert Jordan stated clearly that every person keeping a secret, or withholding information, has a good reason for it, even if it in many cases are very personal. He exemplified this with the relation between Birgitte, Elayne and Egwene, where everyone knew that all knew Birgitte's secret (or at least a large part of it), but due to Elayne giving her word, the situation could not be resolved. Robert Jordan also took this as an example of the very great significance on a person's word and on oaths that the people in TWoT places. A word given is something to be kept, at all costs, however the circumstances changes.
"Information changes, over time, distance and perception. Only way to see the truth is to oneself experience the event, but even then every person perceives it differently". Knowledge and information has an inherent mutability. The example he brought up was Birgitte's living of the history, apart from reading it, and the very different views it brought.
I started writing about eight years ago. The first thought occurred to me, oh, somewhere between 18 and 20 years ago. My books always bubble around in my head a long time before anything gets on paper. Actually, yeah, I guess it is about that.
The first idea that came to me, the first thought, was what is it really like to be the savior of mankind? What's it really like to be tapped on the shoulder and told you are the savior of mankind, and oh by the way, we expect you to go mad and die in order to fulfill prophecy and save everybody. That was the genesis.
Well, it's not all that hard in my head because I grew up in Charleston, which one writer once said makes Byzantium look simple. But I couldn't do it in a computer. I don't have the time to invest in that much effort on the computer simply to keep track of it.
There are a lot of layers—everything is an onion. And we're talking almost a four-dimensional onion here. Any particular point that you look at—almost any particular point—has layers to it. It's one of the interesting things to me, is how much can I layer things without making it too complicated. It's quite possible for somebody to read these books as pure adventure, and I actually have twelve-year-old fans who do that. I was surprised to find that I had twelve-year-old fans, but I do and they read it just like that. Other people spend quite a lot of time discussing the layering, and it's fun for me to do.
No, it's a product of growing up with strong women. All of the women I knew growing up were quite strong. All of the men I knew growing up were quite strong because any of the weak men got shredded and thrown aside. So it made for a certain viewpoint, a certain outlook in life.
Aside from that, the basic premise of the books, that 3000 years before the time of the books the world was essentially destroyed. The details don't really matter in the context of this interview, except for the fact that that destruction was caused by men, members of the male sex. A world that has grown out of that has to have a great deal of power for women, especially when the world has spent the last 3000 years being afraid of any man who has the ability to channel the One Power. You have to have a world where women have power. That's the way it's going to evolve. It can't go any other way. It's only a question of how much power they have.
Not really. What I do is have certain main points that I know I'm going to touch on. But I am flexible in the order that I touch them, and I'm flexible in how to get from one to the next. Think of it as traveling cross country, and you know that you're going to go to mountain A, mountain B, mountain C, and mountain D. But maybe you'll go to mountain D first and mountain A second, and then you'll slide back to C. And in traveling from one mountain to another, you can take a lot of different paths.
It becomes a little bit more complex because you have to imagine this whole piece of terrain is only one layer, and you have another piece of terrain stacked above it, and another stacked above it, and another stacked above it, and another stacked above that. And which path is taken on the first level influences which path can be taken on the second level, which influences which path can be taken and which can't on the third level, and so forth on down the line. But still, the main points are fixed. It's only the paths between that flex.
It is one of the themes. We like to believe in the United States that we're a nation of great individualists. And we do have occasional great individualists. By and large, we are a nation of people who bond together in groups and are generally suspicious of anybody in any other group. It's always been a struggle for Americans, it seems to me, what group to belong to and how far to submerge ourselves in that group. How far do you retain your own thoughts, and how much do you go by received wisdom? Sometimes received wisdom is true, and sometimes it's not. And it's difficult sometimes to tell the true from the false.
So, that is all part of it, that struggle, which I play out again and again. Because I'm not trying to give answers here, I'm basically trying to tell a story. And if in telling a story, I can make a few people think about this or that and ask a few questions, I'm really not that interested in what answers they come up with as long as I can get them to ask the questions.
It's not only an ancient structure like that. It's in places like, oh, say a country that has a tradition of the common man born in the log cabin and rising to the White House. You know, anybody can be President. And in recent years, anybody has been.
It's an old tradition, and it's not just American. I've seen it in Japanese and Chinese mythology and African mythology. In Asia and Africa, more often the fellow who's the commoner who aspires to greatness gets punished for it by the gods. It is more—I should say, not exclusively—but more of a European and Middle-eastern tradition that the common man can challenge the gods, the entrenched powers, and conquer, or at least work out some sort of rapprochement.
And yeah, I work with that. I've tried to mine myths from every country and every continent. And reverse engineer them, of course. The Arthur myths, the Arthur legends, are easily recognizable in the books. I tried to hide them to some extent, but frankly Arthur is, I believe, the most recognizable legend in the United States. More people know about King Arthur than know about Paul Bunyan or Davey Crockett or anything that we have out of our own culture. But the others—myths from Africa and the Middle East, Norse mythology, Chinese mythologies—those things I could bury more deeply, more easily, because they're not very much recognized here.
Well, more often they're trying to work out details of what I'm intending to do, and what I have meant by things that I've already written. I've been sent in some cases sheets of Frequently Asked Questions and the answers that have been deduced. The only thing is, they're right between 20 percent, and oh, 33 percent of the time. They're almost right maybe another 20 percent of the time, 25 percent. And the rest of the time, they've gotten off into an incredibly wild tangent that makes me wonder if I ought to re-read the books to figure out how they came up with this.
I do look at what they have said. And by that, I mean I look at it when somebody sends me a print-out. I'm not on the 'nets, normally. But sometimes people will send me a print-out of a couple of days of discussion, or a Frequently Asked Questions list, as I said. And I'll look at that, and it does give me some feedback.
There are things in the books that I have tried to bury very deeply. And if, from the discussion or from the questions, I can see that they're beginning to get close to something I want to keep buried, I know that I have to be more subtle from now on, that I haven't been subtle enough. Or, on the other hand, there are some times when I realize that they're spending a lot of time discussing something that I was certainly not trying to make obscure that I thought was perfectly obvious. Then it becomes plain to me that I've gone the opposite way. I didn't say enough about it for them to understand. So then I have to maybe reiterate a little bit.
But I certainly—I don't change the plots or anything like that. I'm certainly not going to alter the fates of major characters or anything of that sort, whether someone has figured out what that's going to be or not. I must say, they've not figured out very much of that accurately, but it's fun to see.
There are a number of characters reflected, mythological characters, reflected in each of the books. Because of the basic theme, if you will, of the books, that information becomes distorted over distance or time, you cannot know the truth of an event the further you get from it. These people are supposed to be the source of a great many of our legends or myths, but what they actually did bears little resemblance to the myth. That is the conceit, that time has shifted these actions to other people, perhaps compressing two people into one or dividing one into three as far as their actions go.
So Rand has bits of Arthur and bits of Thor and bits of other characters. And so does Mat and so does Nynaeve, and so do others. And yes Mat does have some bits of Odin, but not exclusively. He has bits of Loki and bits of Coyote and of the Monkey King.
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."
There are things I am saying, things I am talking about, but I try not to make them obtrusive. The necessity to struggle against evil, the difficulty of identifying evil, how easy it is to go astray, are very simple questions. In modern mainstream fiction, if you discuss good and evil, you're castigated for being judgmental or for being old-fashioned. Originally this was a way of deciding which was the greater wrong—'It is wrong to steal, but my child is starving to death. Obviously, in that situation it is better to steal than to let my child die of hunger.' But today that has been transmogrified into a belief that anything goes, it's what you can get by with, and there is no real morality, no right, no wrong—it's simply what produces the Platonic definition of evil: 'a temporary disadvantage for the one perceiving evil.'
In fantasy, we can talk about right and wrong, and good and evil, and do it with a straight face. We can discuss morality or ethics, and believe that these things are important, where you cannot in mainstream fiction. It's part of the reason why I believe fantasy is perhaps the oldest form of literature in the world, at least in the western canon. You go back not simply to Beowulf but The Epic of Gilgamesh.
And it survives pervasively today. People in the field of science fiction and fantasy are willing to accept that the magic realists are fantasy writers, but to the world at large, 'Oh no, that's not fantasy, that's literature.' Yes it is fantasy. And a lot of other things, that are published as mainstream, really are fantasy but not identified as such. We really have quite a pervasive influence.
If and when you start another series of books after the Wheel of Time series will you use some of the characters from that series?
No. Absolutely, positively, never under heaven! I have no plans ever to return to this universe once I reach the end. If I have such a compelling idea one day that I simply must go back, then I’ll shift the story so far in time that it might as will be a different universe. Anything else would be doing the same thing over again. For the next set of books, I will be in a completely different universe with different rules, different cultures, different people. I expect I will examine some of the same issues—the clash of cultures, the tide of change, the difficulty men and women alike have in figuring out the rules of the game—but I certainly don’t expect to chew my cud twice.
I had a lot of different ideas perking in the back of my head about the distortion of information. Whether you are distant from an event in time or in space, it doesn't matter. The further you are from the event, the less likely you are to know it actually happened.
At the same time, I was thinking about the source of legends, that some of them must be connected to actual events, actual people, but of course, would be distorted in that way by being passed orally for generations perhaps, before they were written down. Perhaps for hundreds of years.
I was thinking about what it would really be like to be tapped on the shoulder and told you were born to be the salvation of mankind, and oh, by the way, you'll probably have to die in the end...There's no rule book, kid, and you can't get out of the game. You've been drafted so get in there and win one for the Gipper.
And there were a lot of things perking around. The only odd point is, I guess, is that really at the same time, I thought of what had come to be the last scene of the last book and it seemed to me that it was very interesting, and I wanted to figure out how I could get to that last scene. After a number of years of poking this around in my head, I had a rough outline of The Wheel of Time.
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.
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 discuss 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.
There are an estimated 65,000 fan Web sites devoted to Jordan's work. But The Wheel of Time series has not been made into a film or miniseries. (In the 1980s, Jordan wrote a series about Conan the Destroyer of film fame. The character was first created in the 1930s by Robert E. Howard.) Jordan promises that he will write "at least" two more novels in The Wheel of Time series.
"What makes Jordan so popular, I think, is that everything he writes makes perfect sense," notes Swedish high school teacher Lars Jacobsson, 27, from Malmö. He has been a fan since 1995. "In most other fantasy books, there's always a point where you go, 'I don't buy that, that doesn't seem right.' In The Wheel of Time, that point has yet to come."
His answer was a description of his bookshelf at home, which begins at the left side with the Christian Bible, continues into more Judeo-Christian texts, then picks up with the Quran, with books on Hindusim (I got the sense he was referring to the Bhagavad-Gita, but would need to check with him to be sure), Buddhist texts, and then what he called various "discourses" on world religion and spiritual philosophy.
In short—RJ is a student of world relgion, which explains much of the religious diversity of his work, not just in terms of the many cultures of his world but in terms of the underlying metaphysical structure of his universe.
By the way, Robert Jordan also sent me an email recently further describing his book collection.
The bookshelf I spoke of is one bookcase that holds my books on religion. There are a couple of others for mythology, and a great many covering nonfiction and fiction. At present, the total collection is around thirteen thousand volumes in my study. That's the carriage house behind what is colloquially called "the big house" in Charleston, the main dwelling, whether it is all that big or not; books in the big house aren't part of this total since most of them are Harriet's, and she doesn't catalog her books. I'm trying to pare that number down because I don't have enough room. Unfortunately, as fast as I can give books away, I buy more. Oh, well.
Well, I don't know, it is a combination of things. I gave this recently, so it is probably already on the net. How did I come up with the division of the One Power, the male and female half? I had seen a novel, there are a lot now, but this was the first I had seen like this. Young woman wants to be whatever it was, a magician, whatever, but she can't because she is a woman, and women aren't allowed to do that so she is going to struggle through it.
I thought it was interesting, one of the earlier novels of the feminist struggle, and all that. I put it back, because it didn't seem something I cared to read, but I thought about it because the thought that occurred to me is okay, that's real easy, women aren't allowed to do this, it is historically based or grounded at least, what if it was men who couldn't, now how would that be, as my wife points out to me, we have the upper body strength, and she is convinced all of the inequities in the world vis a vis gender, are subject to the fact that we have all the upper body strength, and I am sorry about that baby, I ain't giving it up. So, how could there be a situation where men were not allowed to do this, and it does not somehow get itself reversed over time, add into this I wanted a near gender equal world as I could, and how could I have a situation where women could maintain gender equality?
Okay, now I split men and women, have different sources of power and the male source of power is tainted. Okay, you've gotta stop men and at the same time, out of this beginning came the division of the One Power, the White Tower existing as the political center of power for three thousand years, false dragon, the destruction of the world by men, false dragons arising periodically to remind humanity exactly why men can't be allowed to channel and why the White Tower must remain the center of political power. A lot of stuff came out of that one notion.
He confirmed that he's due to start working on "Infinity of Heaven" next. The next series will be set in a different universe, with different rules. He acknowledged that it would still have his main theme: "Men and women misunderstanding each other."
He also stated that he hopes to get better. One day he's sure to make it. To this proclamation a gent up front called out "you're great", to which he replied: "Thank you, thank you, yes, I thank you and my mother thanks you."
(for kcf) On the large scale, the gender relationships in the Wheel grew from the very beginnings of the books, really. I recall seeing a paperback book back in the 70s, a fantasy novel about a young woman who wasn't allowed to become a magician of whatever sort it was because she was a woman. The notion struck me as interesting, since it was the first fantasy novel with that theme that I had ever seen, but what really stuck with me was this. That novel was a simple reflection of the then-current mundane world, but what about if it were men who were not allowed to become whatever it was? Now that would be an interesting twist, and unexpected. Why would that be, and how could it be enforced? As Harriet has often pointed out, many of the world's gender inequalities stem from superior male upper body strength. (To which I usually say, "Oh, dear! Isn't that awful and unfair!" While pulling off my shirt and flexing my biceps, to be sure.) From that genesis grew the division of the One Power into a male and a female half with the male half tainted, giving a reason why men not only would not be allowed to become Aes Sedai, as they were not then called, but must not be allowed even to channel, again as it was not then called. From that, and from the history that I was even then beginning to put together for this world, though I didn't realize it then, came the result of 3000+ plus years when men who can wield the ultimate power, the One Power, are to be feared and hated above all things, when the only safety from such men comes from the one stable center of political, and other, power for those 3000+ years, a female center of power. The view I then had was a world with a sort of gender equality. Not the matriarchy that some envision—Far Madding is the only true matriarchy in the lot—but gender equality as it might work out given various things that seem to be hard-wired into male and female brains. The result is what you see.
Before I start a book I always sit down and try to think how much of the story I can put into it. The outline is in my head until I sit down and start doing what I call a ramble, which is figuring how to put in the bits and pieces. In the beginning, I thought The Wheel of Time was six books and I'd be finished in six years. I actually write quite fast. The first Conan novel I did took 24 days. (I wrote seven Conan books—for my sins—but they paid the bills for a number of years.) For my Western, I was under severe time constraints in the contract so it was 98,000 words in 21 days—a killer of a schedule, especially since I was not working on a computer then, just using an IBM Correcting Selectric!
I started The Wheel of Time knowing how it began and how it all ended. I could have written the last scene of the last book 20 years ago—the wording would be different, but what happened would be the same. When I was asked to describe the series in six words, I said, 'Cultures clash, worlds change—cope. I know it's only five, but I hate to be wordy.' What I intended to do was a reverse-engineered mythology to change the characters in the first set of scenes into the characters in the last set of scenes, a bunch of innocent country folk changed into people who are not innocent at all. I wanted these boys to be Candides as much as possible, to be full of 'Golly, gee whiz!' at everything they saw once they got out of their home village. Later they could never go back as the same person to the same place they'd known.
But I'd sit down and figure I could get so much into a story, then begin writing and realize halfway in that I wasn't even halfway through the ramble. I'd have to see how I could rework things and put off some of the story until later. It took me four years to write The Eye of the World, and I still couldn't get as much of the story into it as I wanted; same with The Great Hunt. I finally reached a point where I won't have to do that. For Knife of Dreams I thought, "I've got to get all of that into one book: it's the penultimate volume!" And I did. Well, with one exception, but that's OK. That one exception would probably have added 300 pages to the book but I see how to put it in the last volume in fewer.
I think I covered this one last year as well as I could. I'll add to my response that I think, in our hearts, every one of us fantasy authors wants to write this classic story. There's a piece of us who wants to emulate our masters, to do as they did, because they brought us such delight and emotion at reading. That's why many authors, when they first begin, tend to write works that feel heavily derivative.
Most of us never publish those novels. We move on, like a tottering child, searching for our own voice. Trying to find a way to bring those same emotions to people, but by telling our own stories. Our own way. It's the correct way of things. Telling the exact same story over and over again is an exercise in futility.
But I get the chance to actually do that, to be part of this thing that nurtured me through those years when I was a quiet fantasy reader who spent more time in his room with his books than outside with living people. I get to write on this story, I get to be part of the master's work. That's very humbling.
Robert Jordan dropped a bomb at the end of Knife of Dreams, with what Semirhage was saying about or to Rand, talking about his level of stability. I remember as a reader, going through as a kid—I think Robert Jordan blindsided me with Lews Therin, because I'd been told that "Rand will go mad, Rand will go mad," but I didn't accept that voice as Rand going mad. I accepted that as another person, inside of Rand's head, and not a delusion or anything like that. Across the course of the books, Robert Jordan brought together this thing that he'd promised: "No, look, this guy is just going crazy. Yes, he's seeing part of his past life, but he's going insane. It's the immense pressure that's doing this." In looking through the notes, and seeing what Rand has to go through, it's hard not to sympathize with the poor guy.
Robert Jordan once said in an interview, when someone tried to get him to boil down the series to its core—he first said, you can't boil down this series. I wrote it as long as I did because that's how long I needed to tell the story, and so boiling it down doesn't work. But he finally did say this: At its essence, this series is about what it's like to be told that you need to save the world, and that it's probably going to cost your life. Even all of the other characters, you could say that that is a theme for them, too. Egwene has had to give up the life that she'd assumed that she was going to live, and to adopt this other life in the name of the greater good. And that's happening to everybody. Kings and queens are being cast down, and people who thought that their lives were just going to be normal and stable, and that's all they really wanted, are being forced to take upon themselves these mantles of responsibility. And Rand is at the very heart of that. Rand is the center, the example for all of them of what they're having to go through, and it's the worst for him.
I commented on the Dragonmount forums when I found this interview that it seemed that Brandon had accidentally confirmed construct theory in this interview, and that I suspected someone on Team Jordan had said something to him about it, resulting in the vaguer answers that followed on the book tour. Luckers emailed Brandon and got this response:
Feel free to post this response from me.
"I stand by everything I said in those interviews; I did not make any miss-steps. However, there is one big misinterpretation. Terez says that I was asked by Team Jordan to be more secretive. That's not the case. There was one time when Harriet asked me to be more secretive, but that was in regards to spoilers about Towers of Midnight when I was working on it, and she felt (rightly) that I was hinting about too many things that would come in the book.
I have not settled, and do not intend to settle, this debate except in regard to the things placed specifically in the books. The Geekdad interview response is primarily talking about my own reactions as a reader the first time I read specific scenes, long before I saw what was in the notes. At that point, as a fan, my view of the books shifted.
Those views may have shifted again while looking at the notes. I have not said, and will continue not to say, what was in them on this point. There are clues in the text. That is always the way it has been, and I think that is sufficient for this conversation. However, I can explicitly say there was no "Team Jordan order of silence" on this particular point. In fact, there have been few (or none) of those except in regards to spoiling surprises for the books not yet in print. I prefer to keep it that way, which is why I generally ask interviewers to run my interviews past Team Jordan for clarification, and so that they know what I'm saying and can steer me if I do happen to stray into areas best left quiet."
Of course, the bolded bits (emphasis mine) are still telling, and there must have been some reason why he decided to be less open about his feelings after this point.
It was a theme for the book. And, giving no spoilers, we have known for a while that Cadsuane and the Wise Ones have been saying that Rand needs to learn to laugh and cry again. That was their big concern. The idea of laughter as a theme was an interesting one to consider.
I mean, there's never one main theme for a book, particularly one this long. And so when you sit down to look at it, you want to have a lot of different threads, kind of like the threads in the Pattern, weaving together to make the tapestry of a story. One of those was the idea of laughter and how different people found enjoyment and amusement. We have the twisted laughter of the Forsaken and we have the genuine laughter of some of the characters, and we have one character, Rand, who can no longer laugh—he is incapable of doing it, even of laughing in wryness. And so I could approach it from those three different directions. We've got the terrible laughter and the full, joyful laughter, and poor Rand's silence in the middle. I thought that highlighting it in other people would only make his excruciating inability to feel all the more obvious, all the more of a smack in the face.
That was in my mind, certainly. The Wheel of Time has always actually had quite an interesting relationship with political allegory. There was an article in the New York Times [I think this one—JBJ] a number of years ago talking about the Wheel of Time as a manifestation of interesting things that were happening in the world, which I think is fascinating. One of the reasons we like fantasy as writers is because fantasy is, at its very core, inherently representative. It is metaphorical. It is fantastical. It's wonderful to be able to write something that is so fantastical and use the threads of true personality, of characterization, of people that you sympathize with, to anchor it in the real world at the same time. So that was running through my mind. I didn't sit down and say, "I'm going to write a political allegory." And yet these concepts were so big in our culture at the time that they did influence me. In these scenes—it's even more interesting because I was working with direct comments from Robert Jordan in his notes mixed with things that had been said about Rand previously and trying to show both sides of the situation.
Robert Jordan had an interesting quote on this once. The interviewer asked him, "What are you trying to say with your stories? What are you trying to teach?" Robert Jordan took exception to that, and said: I am not trying specifically to teach anything. What he said, and the exact quote is something along these lines: "I love it when my books ask questions, but I don't want to give the answers. The answers are yours. My job is to ask the questions." And I see that. For many years I've thought that was a brilliant and poignant thing to say, and have used that as a guide in my own writing. I don't want to give you answers. I want to raise issues and have characters struggle with them, because that's what people do, and that's what we [as writers] do. But I'm not sitting down to say, I am going to tell you what is right and what is wrong. I'm going to show you that there are characters who have a belief in what is right and what is wrong, and you can agree or disagree with them. But, like real people, they have views on these issues. I'm not trying to say anything specific; I'm only reacting, I think, in part to what we're all saying, part of the cultural dialogue.
Yes! And the big thing about fantasy is that you can address questions of good and evil without making people run for cover and thinking, "Oh my God, he's going to turn into a preacher any minute now." But, making his great theme of making decisions without enough information is so true.
And, his early fan letters, I noticed, would come from two large categories of adult: people in law enforcement and people in medicine: doctors, nurses, policemen, district attorneys. What do these groups have in common? They're making life and death decisions, every day, without enough information. The policeman, should he draw his weapon? If so, he will probably be shot at himself. The doctor, dealing with a person who is dying, and you never have enough information.
The reason I divided the book the way I did was because of the way that I felt the themes would play well with one another. Towers of Midnight certainly has its own themes, and you will be able to notice them. There will be some carryover. But it's going to be a different book. We need to expand and look wider about the world to catch up with other characters we haven't seen for a while. And there are quite a number of them.
So, it's a yes and a no. The themes will be there, but there will be a lot more going on around them, so they'll be diluted in favor of scope. I've had to be careful not to make Towers of Midnight simply a "jump back in time and catch up" book. I don't want to do that. It does move forward.
Rand and Egwene will be there. But the themes are going to be different because of the different mix. We are going to see a lot more of Perrin, and we are going to see a lot more of Mat. And what's going on in their plotlines will influence theme in a different way.
Yes. The Wheel of Time is epic fantasy. If you're not familiar with epic fantasy, in that genre what we really try to do is, we try to tell historical novels that take place. . . we try to write historical novels that take place in worlds that don't exist, if that makes any sense whatsoever. Lord of the Rings is of course the classic example of a great epic fantasy. These are stories about the beginnings and endings of eras and ages. They're stories about people put through extreme pressures and into extreme situations. In fantasy, what we're really trying to do is, we're trying to explore the human experience by going places that regular fiction can't go because we have the freedom in this genre to ask the 'what ifs': what if this?, what if that?
And the Wheel of Time's big 'what if' is: what if you were told that you were the person who had to save the world? What if you were told that you would probably end up dying, but if you succeeded the world would continue to exist, and if you failed everything would end? And it follows one character, and then splits off from there. The first book, about the first half, is about a man named Rand, who's this person who's been told this. But it really becomes a sweeping epic that follows the lives of dozens of different characters as they're living through these experiences and dealing with them. And it's about their lives and their relationships, and really just digging down into the core of the types of emotions that people display during the most stressful moments that could possibly exist.
I began writing the Wheel of Time because a great many notions had been bouncing around inside my head and they started to coalesce. I wondered what it was really like to be tapped on the shoulder and told you were born to be the savior of mankind. I didn't think it would be very much the way it is in so many books where someone pops up and says, "Hi, I was born to be the savior of mankind, and here's the prophecy," and everybody says, "Oh well, let's go then." I thought self interest would play a big part, on other peoples' parts.
And I was also wondering about the source of legends and myths. They can't all be anthropomorphizations of natural events. Some of them have to be distortions of things that actually happened, distortions by being passed down over generations. And that led into the inevitable distortion of information over distance, whether that's temporal distance or spatial distance. The further you are in time or space from the actual event, the less likely you are to know what really happened.
And then finally there was the thought about something that happens in Tolkien and a lot of other places. The wise old wizard, or whatever—the wise old fellow shows up in a small country village, and says, "You must follow me to save the world." And the villagers say, "Right then, guv, off we go!" And well, I did a lot of growing up in the country, and I've always thought that what those country folk would say is, "Oh, is that so? Look here, have another beer. Have two, on me. I'll be right back. I will, really." And then slip out the back door.
There were a lot of things that came together, and even once I started, of course, a lot of things built in, and added in, and changed.
Hi, This is Laura Wilson of Audio Renaissance, and I'm speaking with Robert Jordan. How did you decide to start writing the Wheel of Time series?
I began writing the Wheel of Time because a great many notions had been bouncing around inside my head and they started to coalesce. I wondered what it was really like to be tapped on the shoulder and told you were born to be the savior of mankind. I didn't think it would be very much the way it is in so many books where someone pops up and says, "Hi, I was born to be the savior of mankind, and here's the prophecy," and everybody says, "Oh well, let's go then." I thought self interest would play a big part.
And, I was also wondering about the source of legends and myths. They can't all be anthropomorphizations of natural events. Some of them have to be distortions of things that actually happened, distortions by being passed down over generations. And that led into the distortion of information over distance, whether that's temporal distance or spatial distance. The further you are in time or space from the actual event, the less likely you are to know what really happened.
And then finally there was the thought about something that happens in Tolkien and a lot of other places. The wise old wizard shows up in a country village and says, "You must follow me to save the world." And the villagers say, "Right then, guv, off we go!" Well, I did a lot of growing up in the country, and I've always thought that what those country folk would say is, "Oh, is that so? Look here, have another beer. Have two, on me. I'll be right back. I will, really." And then slip out the back door.
There were a lot of things that came together, and even once I started, of course, a lot of things built in, and added in, and changed.
It's really hard to say. There's all sorts of things that come about before you start writing a series. You don't have "an idea" that becomes a short story, or a book. A short story is maybe hundreds of ideas that have come together, a novel is thousands of ideas that have come together. But The Wheel of Time—I was thinking at one point about what it'd really be like to be tapped on the shoulder and told "You were born to be the savior of mankind. And oh yes—you're probably going to die in the end and no, you can't resign—it's your job, you're stuck with it".
Then I had been thinking about the source of myths, the source of legends. About whether some of them might not have been personifications of natural events, the way we say some of them are supposed to be. What if some of them were things that people had done, and had simply been told and told until it became a myth and legend?
At the same time, I was thinking about the degradation of information over distance. The further you are from an event in either space or time, the less reliable your knowledge of the event. Information inevitably degrades over distance, whether it's spatial or temporal.
I was thinking about lots of other things too, and it began to coalesce. It was the beginnings of what would become the Wheel of Time. I let it mull over for four or five years, then I thought I was ready to sit down and write. But it took four years to write The Eye of the World because I discovered there were a lot of other things I had to think and sort out.
I'm not trying to create a philosophy, I'm not trying to create a religion. If people think that, they're missing the point.
What I'm primarily trying to do is tell a story. If I get to ask you a few questions along the way, that's good. And if I don't get to ask you a few questions, that's good also. If there are any messages it's that everybody has to struggle against evil, as opposed to good. Because you can't depend on a few heroes to take care of it. If you depend on heroes, evil's gonna win. Also, how it's not easy to tell the difference between bad and good sometimes. Sometimes you think a course of action is the right thing to do. And if you do it and a few million people starve to death somewhere, was it really the right thing to do? Unintended consequences too: every action you take will have at least two results that you never intended and one of them will be a result that you really didn't want. You have to contend with that under all circumstances. You can never figure out all consequences of what you do, and you can't stop them because of that. I'm fascinated by these ideas.
It depends on how that particular story works. I don't have a set of rules that I follow for any particular story. I look at the story that I want to tell and decide how best to tell it.
In this particular instance, especially since it's in part about the reader knowing more than the individual characters do in the story, I like to show things from different people's points of view so that we're not seeing someone with the same opinions always looking at what's happening. There are people with different opinions about everything under the sun who witness the events, take part in the event, and thus report them according to their own beliefs and prejudices.
On the question on the "alignment" of the characters, he said that there are no completely good character in the books, as he thought such a character would be completely boring (right—Galad is boring!—my comment), and would probably be killed rather quickly, like other fully good persons in the world. He took Jesus as example of this. Instead, every person struggles with the good and bad sides of his/her personality.
Another point he pressed was that "no one's going to rescue you", there are not going to happen any miracles. The Creator shaped the world and set the rules, but does not interfere. Humankind messed things up, and have to fix it too, as well as finding the truth themselves.
Here's a video I took at LibertyCon of Brandon reading the A Memory of Light opening again. No new text (he actually stops a few paragraphs short) but he does talk about about why he structured the scene as he did. Sorry for the shakiness, it was taken on my iPhone (my arms were pretty sore near the end!).
So, the last wind scene. I spent a long time thinking about this one, and what I would do with this, because Jim had intended one book, so from the notes you can guess that there was only one wind scene indicated, and I had three to do, because of three books, and it felt very appropriate for me, as I was going over it, to have the wind come out of the Two Rivers. It felt appropriate to me; it felt thematic with the first book—if you go back and look at the wind scene from the first book—and I actually had it blow across the course of book one, basically. We don't get all the way up where book one is, but we head out to Caemlyn, and then they kind of veer off. The point of this scene is kind of...again, it set everything that's been happening—where we are, and what's going on—but I also felt that this is a book of contrasts. This is a book of stark, stark whites and deep, deep blacks. It's named A Memory of Light for that reason, and so I wanted to end the scene at Rand laughing, with warm light spilling out of his tent, and that's kind of what we've got going on there—the contrast that's going on in this land—and there is this pool of light right there, represented in him, and that's our metaphor for this whole book: death, destruction, and the Dragon Reborn.
"The Wheel of Time" is in effect a recreation of the source of legends. I gathered together a lot of legends, fairy tales, and folk tales from around the world and stripped away the cultural references, so that just the bare story was left. The I reverse-engineered them.
You might recall a game: I've heard it called "Whispers," I've heard it called "Telephone"—a child's game. If you remember, the last child in the row stood up and said aloud, and what actually happened is what's on the piece of paper. So I've reverse-engineered to try and get back to something like what the piece of paper says. King Arthur is there, but most people don't recognize him right off. And there are a lot of other myths and legends too, although King Arthur is the most easily recognizable. As a matter of fact, I was shocked that some people didn't realize that Arthur was in the books until they read the third volume.
The story begins with The Eye of the World. That's the first book. And it begins in a very pastoral setting, with people who are very...well, innocent is the word. They are rural, they are themselves pastoral. And I tried to make the beginning almost Tolkienesque, as a homage, and as a way of saying, "This is the foundation that we're all jumping off from." But it begins to change, because I'm not trying to do a Tolkien pastiche in any way. And as we leave that pastoral setting, things begin to change. You begin to move away from the style of Tolkien. The characters begin to learn more about the world. They become more sophisticated, in the sense of having more knowledge, and thus they see the world in a more sophisticated way. They're not as innocent, as time goes on, as the books go on, as they were in the beginning. And so the tone of the books changes slightly with their worldview.
As to where the books are going—I know that exactly. I've known it from the beginning. I've known from the beginning what the last scene of the last book was going to be. I know how I intend to tie up the major threads. I know who's going to be alive, who's going to be dead, who's going to be married to whom, all these things. I know the details. I could have sat down six or seven years ago, and written the final scene of the books. And there wouldn't be a great deal of difference in what I'd write when I actually do reach that point.
So what can we expect?
"I can tell you a few things as Robert Jordan was once asked what the series was about and he said that 'It's about what it's like if you're a normal person who is told that the world is going to end unless you try and save it.' This end book is what everyone has been expecting. They call it the Last Battle, so it's the last showdown as there's this massive war going on. You can also expect the last chapter written by Robert Jordan himself. He always promised fans that he knew what the end of the series would be, so he sat down and wrote it before he passed away. It's gone into the book virtually unchanged by me. It's the goal I've been working towards all this time.”
He began all his books with the wind blowing. Breath, to instill life into his characters. In the Bible, Job 33:4 says, "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life." When other writers would talk of their characters taking on life of their own, and controlling the story, he said, "I am an Old Testament creator: My fist is in the middle of my characters' lives."
Oh, dear, dear man. And what a creator he was! And, as Scott Card said of The Eye of the World, what a powerful vision of good and evil.
On January 8 you will see the final turning of his powerful vision. It comes to you with his love. And mine.
It's here, it's here, it's here. It's A Memory of Light. It's the last Wheel of Time book, and it's in my hot little hands. True to form, it's enormous: two and a half pounds, two and a quarter inches thick, and 909 pages—all of it to tell the story of a backcountry farm boy who finds out he's the Dragon Reborn, a hero out of prophecies, destined to defeat the Dark One, and probably die doing it. Here is how author Robert Jordan described the story, when he was asked to summarize it:
Cultures clash, worlds change, cope.
If you had to sum up the series for people who hadn't read it, what would you say?
(laughs) Well . . . Gosh, I'm going to quote my husband, who was asked this. He said, "Well, I've written over a million words, and now you're asking me to summarize it in six words: Cultures clash. Worlds change. Cope." That's only five words, but he didn't want to be wordy.
That's good though. (laughs) That's right up there with 'baby shoes, never worn.'
Yeah, quite right. He did an amazing job of writing about real people in fantastic situations in which they had to make decisions on not enough information, and it might cost them their lives if they made the wrong decision. Well, when that is said, one would see that first responders—medical people, law enforcement people&mdashwere among the earliest group of identifiable fans. Fans in general range from geezers to 12-year-olds, both sexes.
I did meet a pretty big cross-section when I was at DragonCon this year.
The five-word summary of the series by RJ was given in an interview with Orbit in 2000.
I've never counted them! (laughter) I will tell you this, though, that peach pits do....someone wrote and said, "When did peaches become poisonous?" And I said, "You know, they're not." One of Robert Jordan's great themes was the unreliability of information, that we all think we know things that sometimes are absolutely cuckoo, and that's one of them. We do...if a child manages to eat a peach pit, chewing on it to get at the kernel inside, then you have to call poison control. That's true now, so that's why. I guess. (laughter) I don't know how many references there are.