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Default WoT Q&A and signing reports: JordanCon 2014

We finally finished transcribing Friday's Q&A with Brandon.

This panel had strange rules. They tried to mix it up a bit by disallowing WoT world-words, proper nouns and the like, so all of the questions beat around the bush. But Brandon was allowed to say whatever he wanted. We missed recording the intro commentary, my question, and the beginning of Brandon's answer.


Terez: [You said that RJ wrote the scene where Rand comes out of the mountain, but you said you based Nakomi on something "deep in the notes". Did you add anything to the scene RJ wrote?]

Brandon: [RJ wrote the woman in the scene. I had to dig deep in the notes to figure out...] ...who this person is. It is something that I had to put together myself.

Terez: So you had didn't change anything about that scene.

Brandon: I don't believe that I changed anything about that scene. You will have to compare it to the original if that ever comes out in the notes—I don't know whether that's in the stuff that was released to the [library]—but I don't believe any changes were made except for perhaps proofreading and editing changes as we went through. The big changes I made to the epilogue were the addition of certain viewpoints, but were not changes to what was written. Some of these scenes we have in the epilogue were some of the cleanest scenes that we got. And sure, we had to clean them up in some ways, but I don't believe that scene had any major edits to it, but it's now been quite a long time since I worked on that scene, so take that with a caveat.

But that was one of those scenes, when I read, you'll have to remember, it was 2007 when I went to Harriet's house and I got handed this stack of paper, and I sat down and I read it, and I started with that scene. That was the first thing that I read, because that was the completed—like, I wanted to read the ending, right? There was stuff written before that, but [...] the ending to me that I read started right with what you're talking about, that exact moment with him stumbling out, and the things that he's kind of mumbling, and the things that he's hearing and saying and stuff. But, you may have to—I honestly, it's so hard for me, some of these things, it's so hard for me to remember because we're going back seven years, where I started working on that outline, right after reading what he'd written it—and started building it, and over the years, we get a lot of questions, was this you? was this him? I've forgotten. [laughter], you have this whole thing and you're working on it for seven years, and what was him and what was me stopped really being that important when we're building the story. Granted, there are certain things we really wanted to preserve of his because we wanted the actual writing he completed, but you know, which themes, and which concepts—there are things where I'm like, "Oh!—I was looking back through my outline, and I'm like, "Oh, I put this in. Why did I put that in? Oh, it's because of this," and then I went back into his notes, "No wait, no he said to do that!" And he wrote that! And they blended together quite a bit. Like, that scene, over the years, I thought, "Oh, I added some stuff to that scene." And then I went back to the original when I was going to put it in, and lo and behold, I hadn't added anything to that scene, is my recollection. It was there, and I'm like, "Oh wait, no that was him, and that's what sparked me to do this other thing," which then, we turned into this other scene, and...but it gets really hard for me to parse without having, in front of me, to say, "Okay, did I change any words?" So...

Question: What can you tell us about that woman?

Brandon: That right there is one of the two main things which I have said I'm not going to say anything about. So I'm not answering...that's...that's one of the big...I feel that the notes indicated that this should be a mystery that he wanted to be left, and...things that...there are actually very few of those that we haven't said anything about, and I think this is the one that I'm just not gonna talk about. The other one of course is the pipe, and that's because we don't know. That...the woman you're talking about, I do know things about, but I'm just not...that' know, this is the mystery that he wanted us to have, and the pipe is another one. Those are the two big things I can't give you answers on, one because I won't, and one, because I can't. The other thing I haven't been answering is I haven't been answering who made the decision on every specific character, who should live and who should die, and I don't think that focusing on that is really productive, and so I haven't been telling people who, except for one character [looks at Harriet; audience laughs] that I didn't want to die [awws], that Harriet decided needed to go, of the four-hoofed persuasion. [laughter] In general I just don't talk a lot about those, so I'll just give you a warning, those are things I'm not going to answer. I am pretty free about a lot of other things, but I don't answer those.

Maybe better addressed to Maria, but . . .

Yes, Maria help me! Where are you?

How pregnant do you think the two wives are at the end of the Last Battle?

Buzz. You're out. Next person.

There's a certain Ajah unacknowledged by the White Tower . . .

You said Ajah. (Question was disallowed.)

[WSB asked this question later because he didn't realize the Black Ajah oaths were already made public, in the Waygate Foundation Q&A.]

A certain male channeler who liked portals—how much of that was you just thinking of portals?

(laughs) So I had not played Portal at that point (laughter), which is actually very advantageous. I've told this story before, so I apologize if this is a repeat. Growing up reading the Wheel of Time and being a magic systems guy, certain aspects of the Wheel of Time magic system were very evocative to me. And I would list the two that were most interesting to me being the World of Dreams and portals themselves, gateways. These were two things know when you... We've all done this, we've read these books. You put down the books and you keep dreaming, right? You keep thinking. And for me it was often what would I do if I were there, and devising aspects of the magic. I often inserted characters of my own into books I was reading as a kid, very frequently. I think I can trace back Hoid, one of my character's origins, to my always kind of saying, "Well there's a character behind the scenes who's doing all this."

And imagining what I would do with gateways...Actually, it's one of these things that I sat down and started devising a magic system based around for a book. And eventually I did all this work and decided I just can never write that book because it's too similar to Robert Jordan. As I've said many times, I wanted to be very conscious of staking my own claim in the fantasy genre in doing different things because I feel that one of the places that the genre went in the late 90s was very much trying to mimic and copy Robert Jordan, who did really awesome things and I felt had covered the area, right? And I said I don't like that this is where the genre is going. I want to be covering new ground, be doing new things.

And so reluctantly I kind of put aside some of those ideas, and then I got asked to work on the Wheel of Time. And I said, "Well, guess what I have in my little quiver back here is a desire to really play with some of these magic systems." And so the meeting I did during my second visit to Charleston was in April or May of 2008, where we sat down. You guys remember that—we got out the butcher paper. I asked for butcher paper. We gotta see if we can dig those out. But I like sometimes to do visual outlining, and I took these big sheets of paper and wrote down character names and started making connections and building an outline. Wrote Team Jordan saying, "What if we did this? What if we did that?" It's where I threw out some of my weirdest ideas and I think terrified them, sometimes. Some things worked. Some things I threw out there, and there were like the whites you could see around their pupils. They're like, "What have we gotten ourselves into?" I'm like, "What if Perrin adopted the Way of the Leaf?" I remember Maria just flipping out about that. She's like, "Please, please don't do that!" (To Maria: Yeah, you remember that one, don't you?) And throwing out all kinds of things because I feel that being brought on, one of the big dangers in working on the Wheel of Time books would be to play it too safe. Robert Jordan would have expanded the world, and the characters would have taken risks, and things like this. And one way we could fail is by not following his vision. But another way we could fail would be by creating bland books. And I think this is where a lot of media properties, like people who write on some big television movie—these books are really bland. Where they fail a lot is because they can't make any changes. They don't feel they can change the canon, they can't take chances, they can't push the stories In new directions, and the books often because of that will end up very bland. And I said we can't fall into that trap. We have to be willing to shake things up. We have to be willing to do things on the level of the things Robert Jordan did, where you know, look at Rand cleansing saidin and things like this. We have to be willing to do this.

(indecipherable)... One of the things I said I really want to do is, I said I want a character who has a talent for gateways, because I love gateways and I want to play with them. And I also kind of want to add a new character—well, do a Robert Jordan and take a side character and make them more a main character for these last books because I feel he would have done that with somebody. It's what he does. And so, Androl was... I said, "Is there an Asha'man I can have?" And I think...was it Maria? It was either you or Alan said—I think it was you—who said, "What about Androl? We know almost nothing about him. How do you feel about him?" And I said, "That's perfect, exactly what I was looking for." And I took him. And so this is kind of a place where I was allowed to take some of what I like to do about fiction in the fantasy genre and play with it in a way that wouldn't dramatically change a main character, and which would allow me to push the magic system in some new and interesting directions without overwhelming and dominating it. One danger I felt for me was if I took the whole magic system and dealt with it, it would go too off the wall. But taking one little aspect and kind of doing what I love to do, and really explore the ramifications of what this would do to a world, was something that really excited me and I felt would allow me to have some fun, but not take over too much. And Androl filled that perfectly. I really am pleased with how he turned out. And all these things that I dreamed of as a kid: "Ooh, if I had gateways, here's what I'd do. Oh, I'd do this. I'd use them as a weapon. Ooh, bottom of the ocean—what do we do if we go to the bottom of the ocean?" You know, and things like this, and whatnot. And it was just a lot of fun.

So yes, that's what it was. And I give a lot of credit to Team Jordan for things like this. When I was doing this, I felt part of my job in these situations was to be the one pushing this toward that level of let's not play it safe. During this time, Maria and Alan kind of became the ones to say let's make sure we're not going too far. And that balance worked really well. They let me get away with on gateways a lot of stuff that I appreciate them letting me get away with. I know at some points, they were like, wow, I'm not sure if this is...yeah, this is a lot of gateways. I remember you [Maria] saying to me once, "This is a lot of gateways, Brandon." But I think in the end that push and pull between us ended up making the book very strong. And Androl became a really great character to add to the Wheel of Time canon, and so I'm very pleased with how that all turned out.

Devon Wolfman Starr
What was your experience like working on specifically tactics of the biggest military engagement of the last novel?

So this is another one of those places where it required a lot of push and pull between us. This is something that Robert Jordan had more talent for than I have.
He was a military tactician and military historian, and I am not. I am an action movie buff, and a Chinese Kung Fu movie buff. And I love vibrant, engaging visual action sequences. And large scale battle tactics are something I usually go to other people to use as resource on. And so on this one, we made Alan Romanczuk our Great Captain who was going to define our tactics....(indecipherable)...There was a lot of conflict between he and myself—good-natured, but sometimes heated—because I kept pushing toward more cinematic and more character focused. And he kept pushing toward more realism and more focus on the tactics. And that was a lot of push and pull between us. We did go to some people starting out to ask for advice on what we should use as patterns for this. And we got some great advice there on which real historical battles would make great models for us to follow. We felt that was one of the things that we should do is rather than try to come up with this from scratch, we really should use something which happened in our world as a patten because that would help us from making any big blunders. And then Alan would say, "This is what the tactics would be here." And I'm like, "That's not dramatic enough. This is what needs to happen to make the story go." He'd be like, "That violates these rules of tactics." And I'm like, "All right. What can we do in between these two that is still dramatic and still tactically sound?" And we went back and forth a lot on that.

In the final confrontation, the reality healing crystally stuff—was that something demanded by the notes, or just a spectacular way for that girl to deal with that guy?

Without delving too much into specifics, because I'm not sure exactly what's going to end up in the encyclopedia and what's going to end up in the notes, and things like this. Without going too much into specifics, for the Last Battle itself a lot of what Robert Jordan left me are concepts: concepts on this is how I want this to feel, the big crux of the Last Battle comes down to this question, this is where someone's crowning moment is—these sorts of emotions. It was like he was laying down the emotional beats, and the actual how to put it together—a lot of that was left in my hands. He did have some brainstorms on that, but some of those brainstorms were from years ago, before he wrote... For instance, I've mentioned before that there is a brainstorm we have on "here's how Rand is going to do it"—here's a brainstorm that Robert Jordan had left. But he'd written this brainstorm around book 7 or 6 or something, and it involved the Choedan Kal—both of them. And we're like, well he obviously threw that out the window and decided not to go with that. But some of these brainstorms that he'd had, we can say, oh this is the emotional resonance he's going for. Looking at the idea between we want to have the different powers work together, to work in this way from his brainstorm, even though we can't do it in the way that he was thinking of doing it ten years ago, we can still see the sort of thing that he was going for.

And the scene that Terez mentioned at the end mentions Rand's big revelation that needed to happen so that the last moments could occur—he's reflecting on that when he comes out. And so we knew this emotional resonance that Robert Jordan wanted. And we had all these sort of other things where he talks about just the feel he wants and things like this. And so a lot of the specifics—how to put these things together—were things that I pitched to Team Jordan to fit the framework of the notes, and then we tried out and saw if they worked. Which is kinda how you do writing, at least if you're an outliner like me. I pitch ideas at myself, I build an outline out of it, and I try it out and see if it works. And what ended up in the book are the things that did work. What didn't end up in the book are the things that didn't work. For instance, 'River of Souls', which was in the (Unfettered) anthology, is one of the things I mentioned—that's the sort of thing that we tried that doesn't work. And the reason a lot of times that these things are being cut is because we are striving for that balance between "let's push the story in new and innovative ways" between "let's make sure we're not straying too far from Robert Jordan's vision". And something like 'River of Souls' strayed too far, and also kind of was distracting from the main point of the book—there were two big reasons to cut that sequence. But you see us doing things like that, and so the ones we end up with... A lot of these things about the actual Last Battle are me looking to put together what I feel creates the emotional resonance and the plot structure that Robert Jordan wanted for this ending.

I've said before that the main bulk of the writing we had for this last book involved three main areas: the Epilogue, the scene at the Field of Merrilor where Moiraine shows up and things like this, and the scene at the beginning in the Town, the village in the Waste—what does he call it? Does he call it the Town? The Town is what he calls it. Yeah. And those are three places where we have kind of unchanged Robert Jordan writing. Granted, all through the books, each of the books, you'll find sprinklings where I'm able to use a paragraph or two, or a page, or something from his notes that spawns a chapter, but that's where we have untouched Robert Jordan writing in this last book—I think those are the three main places.

Leigh Butler: Hi. Um, so I [?] question, I'm still kinda curious about this...

Panel: Hold on, hold on. Were you in here when we went over the rules?

Leigh: Jason explained them to me very incoherently; I'm assuming [?]

Jason: Incoherently to everyone.

Panel: No proper names...

Brandon: No proper nouns...

Panel: No city names, nation names; you can't say "Red Ajah"...

Brandon: You can't say "Ajah"...

Leigh: [?]

Panel: You can say "group the color of blood"...

Leigh: Okay. Okay, so alright. Once upon a time, I edited an article on a certain very large website that provides answers to questions people ask a lot, and one of the articles was called "50 Ways to Kill A Squishy Invulnerable Assassin Creature"...

Brandon: Right. [laughter]

Leigh: And, you know, there were many lists, and most of them were sort of facetious; some of them were, you know, less so, and I was just kinda wondering, when we did actually kill the Squishy Invulnerable Assassin Creature in, I think it was the second-to-last book.....

Brandon: Yes, mmhmm...

Leigh: ...where did the inspiration for that come from? Was it maybe from that site? Because there one there that... [laughter]

Brandon: I will say that I am, with a lot of things in fandom, I am...was familiar with that list, and I did, after I had built the outline, go to the list and say, "How did they suggest doing these?" It had been a long time, but I was familiar with the list.

Leigh: Alright.

Brandon: And so I can't say that I said, "Oh, I should do it this way." But I can say that this thing and some of these, like a lot of the Asmodean theories—which, by the way, I didn't have to choose on [laughter]—but, things like this were in the back of my brain. It's part of being part of fandom.

Leigh: Yeah.

Brandon: Like, I'm not the only one that theorized about gateways, right? Fandom had been theorizing about gateways forever; it's one of the things that drew me to fandom, is when I come on...I had been dreaming about what to do with this, and I'm like, "Ooh, here's other people who are magic system people like me!" and this is a magic system thing, right? How do you kill this thing. And so, this... So, yes, I was familiar with them, but I can't pinpoint and say, "This is something that inspired me."

Leigh: Okay.

Brandon: Um, but it definitely was in the back of my brain. The entire FAQ is something I had read, at various points in its development, and so, yeah. It's hard to say what of the FAQ, over the years, seeped in there and got in my brain, and, you know, it's only things like the...some of the really tough stuff to talk about with the Wheel of Time is, when you start reading a series when you're 15, and you read it multiple times, certain things get cemented into your head that aren't actually part of the books, and some of them are, but they're your own weird interpretation, and...

Leigh: It's called fanon vs canon.

Brandon: Yeah, yeah. And when you...being brought on as the writer, I tried to become aware of these, and say, "Okay, what are my own biases?" But I couldn't separate them all. Working on one of the books, I remember this scene—I've told you guys this story before—where I wrote this whole scene, happening with the bridges going into Tar Valon, and Maria's like, "They can't see. This is like a mile-long bridge." And I'm like, "A mile-long bridge!? Not in my Tar Valon!" [laughter] I imagined it perfectly! And nope, going back there, these enormous bridges that I had not imagined, even though they're pivotal to Tar Valon. I have a good friend who insists to this day that Thom Merrilin does not have a mustache. That's pivotal to the character, right? But each of us are going to have these things...when we are reading, our initial impression of the character becomes canon in our own head, and shaking us from that is very difficult sometimes to do. And so, bringing the legacy of all of this with me to writing the books means that you sometimes end up with me being unable to trace where an idea came from. Is it, when I was reading and I was 17 saying, "Oh, I wish this will happen." Is that the origin of the scene, you know, when we bring Tam and Rand back together? Is that the origin of that? I mean, how long had I been thinking about that? Is the origin of that when that meeting with Harriet in April where she said "I have one big request, and it is that you find a way for Tam and Rand to meet again early in one of these books." Was that...? You know. How much of it was that, how much of it was my own fan desire, how much of it know, it's so hard to trace these things and break them down, but I suspect it's a bit of everything.

Question: Why was the answer to who killed you-know-who buried in the back of the book?

Brandon: Oh! So, this is a great story; some of you have heard this one before. So, when I got there—this is the 2007 visit, so this is December 2007, right before [?] was announced and my inbox exploded, right before the interview with Jason went live that preempted the [?]—I got the notes, and stuck on a post-it note on top of the notes was the answer to who killed Asmodean, and it isn't the answer you think it is. I don't even know—[to Harriet] was this Robert Jordan's writing, or was this yours?—there was fan sheet that was printed out—there was a fan theory, and a post-it note that said "this is right". And I don't know who even wrote the "this is right".

Someone: (?) I think it was Jordan.

Brandon: You think it was Jim, yeah. Robert Jordan. And so, anyway, we had this thing with the "this is right", and the only thing I had really from him was the "this is right". And I kind of felt like the fandom, like "Well I've got my answer but there's no explanation; it's just "the fan theory is right", that it was this person, and so, as we were doing our brainstorming session months later, I said "You know what would be funny? Is if we made...we forced the fans to feel like we do," because we don't really know much about this answer, and we just...we put it in the appendix because then, they would have to, you know, they would found it like we found it. I got a post-it note; you got an appendix item, and Harriet loved this idea. She thought it was awesome. She has, you know, I think she, over the years, got infected by her husband and transitioned from nice editor to mean author [laughter], because we authors love to be mean to readers. Those provoking strong emotions in readers is one of the things that we love to do, and so sticking it back there, I actually when I was writing Towers of Midnight, I was...there was a sentence I wrote where I made it a little more clear in text, and Harriet was like, "No, this is going in the appendix; strike that sentence out." And I was like, "Alright! She's on board with this." So that's...and it know, a lot of what we do in writing, at least in my vision, is to try to make sure you feel like the characters feel, like the Last Battle. Why is it 90,000 words, or whatever it is—that chapter. It's because the characters can't put down their weapons. They are back-to-the-wall, this is the End, and I don't want you to feel like you can put down the book. I want you to be like, "I'll read to the next chapter." [laughter] All they're thinking is, "Well, I'll try and make it to the next day." Well, that's how you have to feel too; this is using the form of the story to try and evoke the right emotion, and putting [?] in the back was to evoke for you the same emotion that we felt in finding just the post-it note answer.

Question: Okay, so before you got the note, who did you think killed that appendix item?

Brandon: Here's the story of appendix-item man: Like, when I...and I found since that this was actually pretty common. I didn't really care until I started reading fan theories, right? Like, this was not one of the questions I had. The questions I had were things like, "Oooh, what could you do with gateways? Ooh, what kinds of Talents exist out there and what could they do? Ooh," you know, "what kind of weaves exist in the Age of Legends and how did they develop into the contemporary weaves?" These are the things I was really interested in as a reader, and then, you know, you get Asmodean, and like, "Who cares about him?" I mean, yes, he was a fun character, but he's dead, probably one of the Forsaken. And then, you start reading the theories, and then you go through this thing where you're like, "Wow, this is actually really a mystery. Oh, I really want to know!" And then you transition into the, "I'm so tired of people talking about this." [laughter] "Can we talk about something else?" And so, by the time I was working on those, I knew all the theories, and I didn't...I had transitioned out of that caring too much. I'm like, "These are all good theories, and I have no idea which one is right." And so, I didn't know, I was more interested in, you know, "Which of the women is Rand going to end up with?" That's a really...that's a question I wanted answered. "Will he survive the Last Battle?" "Who killed Asmodean?" was not a big deal to me at that point, though there is a fun story. Matt Hatch, who runs Theoryland, or founded Theoryland—I don't know if you run Theoryland any more—but Theoryland kind of runs on its own...

Matt: Theoryland has always run on its own.

Brandon: Yeah, you're just the unfortunate person who started it and got trampled by the masses. So, um, he came to me—when was it? JordanCon? No, it couldn't be JordanCon. DragonCon?

Matt: JordanCon.

Brandon: It was JordanCon. Okay.


Brandon: Yeah, something like that. The book wasn’t out yet—Towers of Midnight—but I had mentioned that you will eventually, in one of the books, get the reveal on who killed Asmodean. And he pulls me aside, and he says, “All right, I’m not going to ask you who it really is, but I just want to say, it’s not Graendal, right?” And I didn’t say . . . I didn’t say anything. But he’s like, "Okay, if it’s Graendal, just don’t tell everybody. Just make it remain a secret forever. I would rather it remained a secret forever than you actually reveal it. Just so you know, If you’re gonna throw me a bone, don’t reveal it if it’s Graendal.” Sorry, Matt. My duty to the entire Wheel of Time fandom was greater than my duty to you.

Matt: So my side of the story is, I said Brandon—I was watching his face—and I said, I did add in there, “I will kill myself if it’s Graendal,” because if you say crazy things to people, they get human for a moment for your health. And so I swear, and I told everyone this on Theoryland after I asked Brandon that question, I’m like, "It’s Graendal, and it’s pissing me off”. It’s his look of concern like, “Oh, I don’t want Matt to kill himself”. Just momentarily a blip across his face like, “Oh. oh, okay.” After that point, I just, I knew it was coming.

Brandon: On The Gathering Storm tour, we did dinners with fans before each signing, which was wonderful but exhausting because it just added an extra hour or an hour and a half to each signing. But at one of them, I wrote “Graendal” on the tablecloth because it was one of those paper tablecloth things at one of those Italian restaurants in Korean, and then scribbled it out. And then said, “Hey I just wrote down who killed Asmodean right here.” And they’re all like, “What?!?” And so someone actually cut that piece of paper out and took it with them. But I’d scribbled it so well they couldn’t figure it out, and I didn’t tell them it was in Korean. Somebody’s still got that thing, I’m sure. Did they scan that and post that online and stuff?

Matt: I was there, I don’t know . . .

Jason: Yeah, I was there, too. You scribbled both sides of the tablecloth, just to make sure. [. . .] He was panicked that someone would figure it out. He was terrified. He was like, “I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have done that."

Matt: Okay, so I had to write this down because . . .

Brandon: Oh yeah, so you’d make sure.

Matt: We know there are spirit-like entities tied to the call of a musical instrument. And we also know the mechanism Robert Jordan created—a super AI-like system, if you will, to guide the outcome of the many variations of all worlds. Finally, we know this super AI can upgrade the status of spirit-like entities as it needs. Therefore, has the super AI tied any female spirit-like entities of individuals who died during the fifty years prior to the final military engagement of the final book to the call of this said musical instrument?

[Much clapping.]

Jen: Arbitrary decision . . . you win!

Leigh: Matt, you have to send that to me . . . [?]

Brandon: So, as a subset of paragraph 3, subsection B on the R. A. F. O. Rules of Engagement, this is definitely a Class A Read and Find Out.

Jason: Does he get a card?

Brandon: Yeah, I’ve got a . . . he’s got so many cards. Yeah, I cannot answer that.

[Question about what Matt asked]

Brandon: As I interpreted it, he asked if any women have been tied to the Horn of Valere in the last fifty years. Any women who were not previously tied to it. And so, I can speak of only one person that has been tied to the Horn of Valere in the last fifty years. Male, yes.

Question: Who is that?

Brandon: That was Jain Farstrider.

Question: You’re not allowed to talk about it?

Brandon: I can’t talk about it. You can interpret that as . . . Now I did preface this all by saying, “Here are the things that I won’t talk about.” So, you can kind of assume that if I can’t talk about it it’s because I don’t know, or I’m holding it back because it might be in the encyclopedia, or things like this.

Question: Can I reference a book name, or no?

Panel: No.

Brandon: You can talk around it, though.

Question: I’ll do that. So a certain world traveler who’s renowned for his world travels in a published book within the stories becomes a more prevalent character as we progress. And it’s uncovered who that guy is in the second-to-last book. Is that more you or more from the notes?

Brandon: Oh, that’s one of the scenes that we’ve been upfront that Robert Jordan actually wrote before he passed away. He wrote that exact sequence and there was very little touched, specifically to the dialogue. Like, some of the things around the dialogue we changed, but the dialogue itself, a lot of it he had written before he passed away. So the answer is, that was one of the things that was most prominent in the notes.

Molly Weiss: All right, so there’s this lady, she rules the people who came from over the sea, married a gambler—kind of a big deal. There’s this dude who appeared when a musical instrument was blown, perhaps the leader of them, perhaps the ancestor of this lady. And they had a conversation at the end. What might have happened in that conversation? What did they discuss?

Brandon: So, a lot of people are very curious about this conversation, rightfully so. They had many interesting things to say to one another. And I didn’t put that on-screen on purpose because I think that there are . . . Number one, I feel like it was the wrong place, narrative-wise, to have a break for something like that. And it’s also one of these things that I feel is going to work better in your mind than it might have worked on the page because there are so many places that conversation could have gone, that locking it down into to one of them would not have . . . I don’t think would have fully accomplished what we needed to accomplish there.

Beyond that, the conversation that they have would be directly tied to the sequel series, which is not going to be written. And, you know, I feel that if Robert Jordan were still with us and were going to write that sequel series, that scene would have appeared. He would have had them talk, because that would be important then for character motivation, or at least would have been referenced in the sequel trilogy. But since we’re not doing the sequel trilogy, doing that makes promises, also, that you’re not going to get fulfilled as a reader. And so, leaving that off-screen, I felt, was very much the right move.

That said, a lot of people make the assumption that Artur Hawkwing would be—and I’m not sure why they make this assumption, but I do get this from people—that he would be upset, that he would quote/unquote set her straight, or things like that. I think the conversation would have gone in a very different direction. In a, “You;re doing a good job. There are certain things that I would suggest to you, but you need to conquer the work. That’s what your job would be. And here’s some advice on going about it.” Rather than a setting her straight. I think personally he would be proud of her. Granted, you know, now that he has all of his memories back, and he’s no longer under the dark influence that he was under during certain parts of his recent mortal existence, he will not be the exact same person he was back then. But he still is a conqueror, and that’s part of who his make-up is. And so, just keep that in mind as you imagine that scene however you want it to go. And I am still adamant about the fact that I think he would not like Aes Sedai even without the influence upon him. They are not his . . . yeah, he would not want to be involved with them.

Amanda McTaggart: This is a follow-up to that. We have a certain tall red-headed lady who goes through a magical object that shows what the future is. Does that future take into account the conversation that would have been had between the leader and her ancestor? Or is that something outside of the overall scheme of the world, and therefore would not have been taken into account in the future that was presented in that magical object?

Brandon: So the future that was presented is—I think people are clear about the idea that this is a possible future. And that is not . . . You know, some of the things that we get as glimpses of the future in the Wheel of Time are set in stone, and some of them are not. And this is one that is not. And so that conversation could have been part of that, but could also not have been part of that.

Question: In the sister world, where the Gambler and some of his friends had some problems with people or persons that resembled foxes or snakes—did you develop that society? Did it have rules? Did it have similar rules of magic that you created or that were so originally created in the real world? Or was just left open for interpretation? And what did their government and society look like?

Brandon: So that area is an area that Robert Jordan did a lot more work on than I did. And I used his notes and his scenes and relied upon them and did not add very much to those sequences by way of lore in specific. So, I would say in that case I was doing what Robert Jordan had set out, and I think he did a lot of work on this, but I did not.

Question: You don’t have any . . . When you were writing it, you didn’t have this backstory of what was happening?

Brandon: Well, he had some of that, so yes. But I didn’t create a new backstory and things like this.

Question: As a follow-up to an earlier question, what real life battle or battles did you use as a framework?

Brandon: So we went to . . . his name always escapes me . . . Saxon Chronicles.

Harriet: Bernard Cornwell.

Brandon: Cornwell. Bernard Cornwell . . . and asked him, and said, what battle do we want? And his big suggestion was . . . Oh, I can’t tell you? Oh, okay. Harriet says I can’t say. It’s all right—you should be able to figure it out. You should be able to figure it out.

Harriet: Actually, hats off to Bernard Cornwell. He came over and gave me the answer for the price of a glass of cheap white wine. But what we did was to . . . well, this is a helluva hint, but I’m going to give it to you. We took the terrain, and turned the page over.

Brandon: Yeah, we mirrored it.

Harriet: We mirrored the terrain.

Brandon: We mirrored the terrain, and we did some other things, too. What you do in writing . . .

Harriet: Yes, we did. Brandon would have something happening, and I said, “But Brandon, they’re not there!” There was trouble making the characters hold still on the map.

Brandon: Yeah, yeah—getting them to hold still.

Harriet: So things did get monkeyed with.

Brandon: One of the things you do as a writer is you learn when you want to take something real life and do what we call "filing the serial numbers off”, and making use of it. And when doing that is inappropriate because it . . . Learning to adapt something real life and learning what is actually a bad idea if it runs you into copying and plagiarism and these sorts of things is a skill you learn as a writer because every writer bases on things and uses them. The Wheel of Time fortunately we had precedence throughout the entire series that the Wheel of Time is about a version of our world, or maybe our world, or you know, these sorts of things—things from our world—show up and are used again. And so using a famous battle from our time felt in-theme with the idea that the Wheel of Time is cyclical. Now granted, this doesn’t fit into the mythology exactly the same way as the Dragon Reborn is cyclical, but taking things like this and using them felt like a very appropriate use for the Wheel of Time.

Harriet: [The battle] is not in copyright. [laughter]

Brandon: Yes, the battle is actually not in copyright.

Jason: I'm gonna claim executive privilege here, and ask a question.

Brandon: Okay.

Jason: your opinion, Brandon...

Fan: Proper name.

Panel: Proper name! [laughter, applause]

Jason: Aww! You're killin me!

Question: Okay, so...that evil dude that's an amalgam of two different dudes...

Brandon: Uh-huh.

Question: Um, yeah. Do we know anything about how that happened?

Brandon: Um, I think the fandom knows some things about how that happened. I don't think...and I do think...and I do know some things, also. I am going to RAFO that in favor of the potentiality of that being in the encyclopedia. I'm not going to promise it is, but I think that is the prime real estate of the sort of things that might end up in the encyclopedia, and so I'm not gonna step on that.

Amanda: And actually, Jason, I would executive privilege myself for a question if I were you.

Brandon: Well, I think he has to go back to other people that buzzed first before he's allowed to. [laughter]

Jason: No, no, I've lost it.

SBC: Following up on that, in regards to you not getting into it, that ever-present evil being...was he aware that other meldings were occurring in the world, for example, the curly-haired youth and an animal, and the main character and the main evil guy.

Brandon: I would think that you would be hard-pressed to find anything he was not aware of. However, know, he did need eyes and ears to know details, so, I mean, you could find specifics, but I interpretation is, he knew a lot more than he let on, and a lot of the fighting that was going on was interpreted by the way that his minions saw the war needed to be won, where he knew that for the war to be won, others things needed to be accomplished. And, you know, his goal all along was not necessarily that his minions wanted to, for instance, kill Rand. His goal all along was not to kill Rand; he knew that to win he needed to break Rand. That's how he is victorious. And so, these larger concept things were a part of his real goal, to put him in a position where Rand came there and he could break Rand. That's how he wins. And so a lot of what he was doing was trying to make sure that happened, that that position occurred, and this isn't the sort of thing that he's telling his minions, and I don't think he would care to, because he doesn't know, he's outside the Pattern. Even applying "he" to the Dark One is really a misnomer. It is our method of interpreting something that is uninterpretable to us. So I think you would be hard-pressed to find things like that that he's not aware of personally.

Question: So, I've often wondered if all the different cultures that we meet in the world of all the books in some way reflect the cultures that we find on Earth, or are they all just purely fictional, cause I see some resemblances there.

Brandon: There are most certainly intentional resemblances, and there are most certainly purely fictional components to all of them as well, and so I would say every Wheel of Time culture is a blend, just like every character that a writer will write will be a blend of themselves and something different, and new, and not themselves. But yeah, the things you are noticing are, you know...Robert Jordan loved history, and loved this idea that the beauty of the Wheel of Time is the worldbuilding, and what makes it unique to me is the way that he blended our world with the fantastical, and so yeah. I love that the Seanchan are Asian-Texans, right? Like, this is one of the things when I was reading these books, that I'm like, "They're Texan...but they're Asian!" And this amalgamation is like..."Wow!" That's part of what I love about the books. They're Asian, they're Texan, and they're neither. And they're something new.

Fan: How are they Texan?

Brandon: The accent. Their accent is actually a Texan drawl. Kind of a Texan drawl.

Question: Hi. In the first book, a wife was killed. I was wondering if in the last book, if one of the wives was a rebirth of the first one that was killed. Do you know?

Brandon: Um...I will say this. One of the characters in the books wonders whether they are, if any of them are. Wonders that same question. That same question is a question that characters in-world are curious about.

Question: She wonders in the book?

Brandon: No, one of...Rand wonders if any of them are. And his determination, if you'll read, is that it doesn't matter to him.

Jason: Alright, Terez.

Jen: She's gonna burst.

Jason: I know!

Terez: So that woman that we were talking about earlier, on the mountain...

Brandon: Yes.

Terez: When she appears in the dry, arid place, she does some things that one might call supernatural...

Brandon: Yes.

Terez: And a fan asked you about this a long time ago, and asked you if the powers that she showed there were the same as the pipe, and you said absolutely not. And then later you said, about the pipe, that you don't know anything more than the fans know about that.

Brandon: Yes, but I know what her powers are.

Terez: But, you don't know what those powers are, so how can you know?

Brandon: Okay. I know enough, but I will have to go, instead of saying "Absolutely not," I would have to say 99.99% sure, because there is the one little percent chance that I'm interpreting things completely wrong, and what's happening with the pipe is what's happening with her, but that would be a really different book if that were the case, and a very different series, and so I think it's highly, highly unlikely. So, I have to say "highly, highly unlikely". I really don't think...

Terez: I'm gonna have to ask you about that again. [laughter]

Brandon: Okay.

Question: So, in the earlier books, we got to see some rocks that sort of serve a purpose similar to what I'm standing in (doorframe). [laughter]

Brandon: Oh, nice!

Question: And, not much is explained about the mechanisms behind that, it's just sort of shown to us, and we're left to puzzle about it, and later on, there was a discussion about another object that also facilitates a sort of transit, but it's a one-way ticket. Are any of these things tied together? Do they lead to the same thing?

Brandon: I'm not sure what the newest one you're talking about is.

Panel: Can you give some descriptives on the newest item?

Question: A bunch of really, really tall people that like trees use it.

Brandon: Okay, okay. Okay. [panel advises] Right, okay. [laughter] That's a fantastic question to which I don't know the answer. [laughter] Um, the Book of Translation is what we're talking about, and I have no knowledge about what the Book of Translation is. That doesn't mean it's not in there somewhere. That means she [Maria] might know, but I do not.

Jason: Matt, and then one more.

Brandon: Oh no. [laughter]

Matt: It's a simple one.

Brandon: Oh, okay.

Matt: It's a really short one. Has the magical object mentioned by a prior question to the panel ever been used to see variations of the future prior to the instance that is seen by the tall red-headed woman?

Brandon: Ohhhhhh, so...okay. Wow, ever. Ever? I would say that it is.....likely.

Jason: Last question. Ted. Second try.

Ted: In the sequel to the first book, in the beginning of it, there was a party attended by people of various nationalities. It's a two-part question: can you tell us anything about the people that were there that we never heard of their identities before, and can you tell us about the setting of that place which didn't seem to be a regular place in the world?

Brandon: Um, on the first one, um...not specifically. That would be a wonderful thing for the encyclopedia, because I know a lot of people are curious about that. On the second one, I did give some strong hints about that in the books that I worked on.

Amanda: Are these like the hints that Jordan said that we should just automatically know ...?

Brandon: Oh, I don't know, you know, I never said that...

Terez: Dreamshards!

Fan: Thank you.

Brandon:'s intuitively obvious, you know, but, I think that there are hints in place, and I've learned not to underestimate what you people are capable of figuring out from me saying a couple of words. [applause] So...

Fan: Whether it's right or not.
Qui nos rodunt confundantur, et cum iustis non scribantur.

Last edited by Terez; 04-16-2014 at 12:42 PM.
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