The Creator Spoke. I was there.

Robert Jordan was the Guest of Honor at Balticon XXX, April 5-7, 1996. During the convention, he participated in a few discussion panels, answered questions at book-signings, gave a (short) speech as Guest of Honor, and read a passage (less than a chapter, I think) from A Crown of Swords. This page summarizes what Jordan said at the convention.

Table of Contents:

  1. Straight Answers About the Series
  2. Jordan's Writing Process
  3. Summary of The Strike at Shayol Ghul
  4. A Reading from A Crown of Swords (very minor spoilers for ACoS)
Pam Korda and Hawk helped me remember many of the things I've written about on this page.

1. Straight Answers

At the book-signings and after his reading from ACoS, Robert Jordan answered lots of questions about the series so far. Here's a summary of what he said. These are not spoilers.

2. Jordan's Writing Process

Jordan spoke a bit and answered a few questions about his writing process. He said that he originally thought the series would be 3 to 4 books. When he was negotiating a contract with Tom Doherty, he told Tom that he didn't know how long the series would be, but that he did know the ending. Jordan says that writers seldom get contracts under those circumstances, but Tom signed him one because he like Jordan's writing. The contract was for 6 books.

After Jordan wrote the first book, he increased his estimate to 4-5 books for the series. After the second, he thought it would be 5-6, then 7 or more, etc. Now he does not give any estimate of the length of the series and is upset that the jacket of Lord of Chaos suggested that the series would end with 8 books. (Update: In an open letter sent courtesy of Tor Books, dated 19 May 1996, Jordan said that the series will comprise at least 10 books.)

Jordan says that the idea for WoT came to him about 10 years before he began writing. "What would it feel like to be tapped on the shoulder and told, 'Hey, you're the savior of the world?'" He began writing The Eye of the World four years before it was published (and I say that it shows).

Jordan has lots of notes for the series. He began by writing approximately 10 pages (of notes) of history about each of the countries in his story, more for the places he was going to use first. Right now his notes fill more pages than his manuscripts, he says.

Jordan said that many fans want to know what he'll write next, and many want to know if he'll ever write about the Age of Legends. He said that other than the Wheel of Time series and the forthcoming Illustrated Guide he's (probably) not going to write anything else in the same setting. The Illustrated Guide to the Wheel of Time will contain:

This is not a complete list of what will be in The Illustrated Guide.

3. The Strike at Shayol Ghul

Many people have asked about a short piece of writing called "The Strike at Shayol Ghul". Most people want to know, Is it actually real, and if so, what does it say? First, it is real. Robert Jordan wrote it and it was included in the Balticon printed program. It's about four pages long in printed form, and is now
available on the Web courtesy of Tor Books. Copies of the convention programme, which includes the story, may still be available. See Colette Schleifer's announcement for information.

The free availability of The Strike at Shayol Ghul on the Web makes this summary rather superfluous (I wrote it when Strike was only available in printed form, in very limited quantity) but I'm keeping it here for completeness. Now on with my summary.

In "The Strike at Shayol Ghul", Jordan describes the events leading up to the Sealing of the Bore from the perspective of a Third Age historian (at about the time of the story) who discovered some fragmented manuscripts that were written shortly after the Breaking. The single biggest fact revealed is that the during the War of the Shadow, the Aes Sedai were considering two alternate plans for defeating the Dark One.

Lews Therin proposed that the Dark One be resealed in his prison by plugging the Bore. The plug would be inserted by 13 linked male and female channelers and would be held in place by the 7 Seals, which were focus points of the weaving. 20,000 soldiers would accompany them to Shayol Ghul, where the Bore could most be sensed. Lews Therin's plan had supporters and opponents. Opponents argued that the Seals required precise positioning, and that any slight error would tear the Bore open wider.

The alternate plan, which also had its share of supporters and detractors, was to build two large sa'angreal (one for saidin, one for saidar) and use them to build a new prison around the old one for the DO. The sa'angreal were so powerful that special "key" ter'angreal had to be constructed for channelers to use them safely. Opponents of this plan expressed concern that the sa'angreal could fall into the control of channelers following the Shadow or be misused accidentally by channelers serving the Light. Either way, the sa'angreal were expected to be powerful enough to destroy the world and beyond. Opponents also worried that while the sa'angreal might enable the building of a wall strong enough to contain the Dark One's strength right then, the DO was gradually chipping away at the Bore and gaining more power in the world. At some point, he might become powerful enough to tear down the new wall.

Supporters of each plan began preparation, even though the Aes Sedai as a whole failed to reach a consensus.

Latra Posae, an outspoken female Aes Sedai, considered LTT's plan so dangerous that she organized support amongst the female AS against it. In fact, she obtained the unanimous agreement of every female AS of significant power -- in other words, every female AS who could possibly be asked to assist in the force that would place the 7 Seals into the Bore to seal it shut. They believed this effectively halted Lews Therin's plan, as the men who supported him could not link without any cooperating women. (It was believed that correct placement of the seals required a linked group of the most powerful male and female channelers.)

While the Aes Sedai were fighting over which plan should be used, the Shadow advanced rapidly. Lews Therin decided that something _had_ to be done right away, so he covertly organized 113 male channelers who supported his plan (they were later called the Hundred Companions, a slight miscount) and over 10,000 soldiers who were also loyal to him. The force stormed Shayol Ghul, when all 13 Forsaken were there, and put the Seals into place.

At the moment of the resealing, the Dark One drove all of the surviving Hundred Companions (about 68, at that point) instantly insane. The DO also tainted Saidin, although this wasn't discovered until after hundreds of other male channelers had been driven mad from it.

Reads the introduction of the manuscript: "Whoever reads this, if any remain to read it, weep for us who have no more tears. Pray for us who are damned alive."

4. A Reading from Crown of Swords

Warning: Minor Spoilers for ACoS

Robert Jordan read part of a chapter from A Crown of Swords. I don't have an exact measure of the length, but I'd estimate it at about 1200 words given the duration and pace of his reading. It sounded like one of those sections in a chapter that covers scenes from different characters' points of view. The scene features Mat with a "here's where he is now" theme, sort of like the scene in LoC where Mat dances with a tavern wench. The passage is fairly funny; during the reading, the audience erupted into laughter several times.

In the scene we find Mat at Queen Tylin's palace in Ebou Dar. Mat is turned off by the cloying opulence of his rooms. He's apparently been accorded status as a ranking diplomat from a friendly nation. He's also accorded some personal status with the Queen, we find out... Tylin pays him a vist and jumps all over him. Mat tries to fend her off (he's really scared by the prospect of a woman pursuing him) but to little avail; she paws him like an octopus and manages to relieve him of a few articles of restrictive clothing. Thom and Juilin save the day with a well-timed knock at the door to Mat's chambers.

Thom, Juilin, and Mat discuss how they're going to manage to keep Elayne and Nynaeve protected and out of trouble. They develop a list of demands to give to the two women. When Elayne and Nyaeve arrive, the men present their concerns... and the women agree, completely! Mat, Juilin, and Thom know that trouble's on the way.

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Bill Garrett