The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the First Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a man drove on the coast of North Carolina. The man was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But he was a beginning.
The man drove inland, away from the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean and into South Carolina. He exited onto I-20, and coursed his path into Georgia, past Augusta and numerous orange traffick cones, until he came at last to Atlanta. An early summer heat was on the land, and the merciless sun beat down on steel and pavement alike. The man turned before entering the city, and found his way to the Embassy Suites in Alpharetta. He found his way to JordanCon.
Day 1: Friday
I arrived around noon, picked up my badge, but alas not a room key because my room wasn’t ready yet. So, I went over to the restaurant and drank a soda while writing a bit on my laptop. I then happened to glance over and see Tom Doherty and Harriet Jordan themselves, sitting at a table and working on something. I respectfully kept my distance, but it was a wonderful indicator of things to come.
At one o’clock, we had the opening ceremony. Jason from Dragonmount created a funny, 40 page stage-skit that “recapped” all 11 books and introduced the Con. The actors were the Con guests, community leaders and some people from Tor, and... Yours Truly. There was a joke of Matt from Theoryland refusing to play Mat, so they needed a volunteer, and it got to be me. And I was truly a volunteer--my script cued me as “Volunteer Mat”, and I had not seen it until Jason handed it to me. Getting to be on stage with everyone else was the next great indicator of the weekend. I know there is at least one recording of the ceremony, and I hope to find it soon just so that I can see what it was like from somewhere besides stage left. (and so anyone who missed the live feed or wasn’t there can see it too).
After the opening ceremony, I worked three hours at registration, taking a bullet for the Con and missing the Harriet and Wilson panel and the “Big White Book-Worlds beyond the Westlands” panel. I did get to go to the sword forms workshop, though, which was fun. Jimmy from Age of Legends as done very well at recreating the sword forms, and supposedly Robert Jordan had said he did them right.
I went to dinner at Chick-Fil-A with a whole bunch of con-goers, where we confused many people with discussion of Asmodeon, TAR, Taim, and other fantasy series. We then went back, and I became one of the dealers for the Seanchan (Texas) Hold Em tournament. Proceeds went to the Mayo clinic (I believe) and the prize was a signed, limited edition, leather bound, mint copy of Knife of Dreams.
Now, the funny thing here is: I’ve never dealt or played or even watched Texas Hold Em. I volunteered to be a dealer just to help out and because I was gaishan to the Con. Frickin’ got touched while I was holding a butterknife, and I had to lessen my toh. Anyway, so I get a crash course in how to deal and start the tourney, and somehow, I ended up dealing the last table. Was great fun all told, though, and congrats to Matt from Theoryland (the same one that refused to be Mat) on winning.
After that, I had drinks with some other random con-goers and crashed around one AM.
Day 2: Saturday
I wake up at six AM (don’t ask why, I just did, no alarm), and get ready for the day. I then go down and eat breakfast with Jimmy, our blademaster and con security. From him, I learn that Tom Doherty is giving an interview for the Robert Jordan Documentary soon, and I weasel myself a spot in the room (only non-documentary staff in there) and take a listen. It was a wonderful interview, even with the falling light fixture, and I can say that when it comes out, it will be well worth the watch. I’m all the more glad to have seen this since I missed the pre-screening of other parts of the documentary later in the day.
So, after this I go and attend the Sanderson workshop on writing, where he had to fit into two one-hour sessions the fourteen week class he teaches at BYU. He did a good job of the summary, though, and gave some insight into the writing of A Memory of Light as well. I’ll get into that a bit later.
I run up and snag a fiber-one bar for lunch, then head back down at one o’clock and watch the Belly-dancing demo/class. Mmm, belly-dancers. It gives a really good idea of the Tiganza–poor Perrin.
Soon as that was done, it was time to “work” again. I was the gopher for the Rampant Theories Panel, which had Leigh, Matt from TheoryLand, Jakob Remick of theory panels at DragonCon (ack, didn’t catch which fan community he is on the most), and Bao Pham (see my description for Jakob). I commend all four on their handling of the frothing-at-the-mouth masses and keeping the discussion focused but at the same time broad. I will also note a big big big thing that was revealed by Tom Doherty, who was sitting in the crowd.
BIGGIE! The Seanchan will not be wrapped up by Tarmon Gaidon, and the three “outrigger” novels Robert Jordan wanted to do would be Mat and Tuon going back over to Seanchan and tying that up. And, before you ask, no one has even thought about whether or not Brandon will write those as well, along with Harriet, but in the Team Jordan Panel, it was said that they haven’t ruled it out, either. Tom did say he has the contract for these novels already and intends on seeing them safely to our hands.
So, next panel was Team Jordan, which I also gophered. Alan and Maria, RJ’s assistants, Wilson, Harriet, Brandon, and Tom all offered us some good logic and reasoning behind the split, what to expect in the writing, and told us that while they would not mind seeing the prologue e-pub’d over at Simon & Schuster, the agent is currently in England, and any exact details will have to wait. The reasons for the split are much as one might expect: the whole of A Memory of Light is starting to look more like it might be 900k words, so three 300k books just made more sense.
Also, Harriet promised us (to many applause) that we will not get just one very satisfying climax in Gathering Storm, but TWO! The whole A Memory of Light has 6 total, and they have organized the material and action to give us two in each book. To this effect, though, do not expect to see absolutely everyone. They had to save some stuff for book 2 and 3, so if the character/plot you are wanting the most isn’t in book 12, it likely will be in book 13. More on exactly why later.
After this wonderful panel, we had an amazing treat. As many of us know, before Robert Jordan died, he spent one evening and the better part of the next day telling his close family/friends exactly how AMoL goes, and they captured it on tape. Alan, being the computer whiz he is, cleaned up the first 17 minutes of audio, and we got to listen to it. Aside from Robert Jordan’s preamble that he would be talking mostly out of order as things came to him, he said “but I will start with the prologue.” We then were treated to the Great Bard himself telling us the first scene of Gathering Storm.
Now, I know exactly what people are hoping for here, and I am going to say: no. Aside from the fact that no recording devices were allowed in the room for legal reasons, I know that I myself could not do justice to what I heard. It would be a cruel parody and fall short. I trust Brandon will have translated the scene description we heard into wonderful prose, but what we heard was exactly that, a description of action and scene, not the text we will all see soon enough, and that should only ever be in Robert Jordan’s voice. So, sorry guys and gals, you had to be there.
But, I will tell you this: our reaction. When it was finished, the room gave a standing ovation. This, of course, was expected and not spectacular from us. What was, though, was that when the clapping stopped, we all sat down, and dead silence filled the room, even though we knew the reading/panel was done, and even still after Harriet and Alan said “that’s it.” We did not know what to do with ourselves, our brains were churning and wheeling and grinding over what we heard, and many people left with tears in their eyes. I still get goose-bumps just thinking and writing about it.
So, after we finally forced ourselves up, I had the wonderful and great treat of striking up conversation with Alan, a kindred computer wrangler. We then went to the bar (gratefully of the OPEN variety) and had drinks, and additionally were joined by Wilson. That was in general a wonderful conversation that covered many many many things, from all topics in life and WoT. I will tell you one thing though. What eventually came from the discussion and later into “the know”, we have deduced and decided the proper way for Asha’man pins to be worn. The sword is on the left collar, with the blade pointed towards your chin (and thus the curve of the blade opening up.) The dragon is on the right collar, facing your chin as well.
OK, so after our drinks, I changed into my poor-man’s Asha’man outfit (with pins, imagine that) and went back down for dinner, where I somehow ended up eating dinner with three of the Tor staffers that were at the con, including our own favorite Cylon, Pablo. Great fun.
Next was the “Cairhien Ball”, where The Lost Boys performed a wonderful set of music, and I even danced with Harriet. Eat your hearts out. The winners were announced for the Tuckerization auction and raffle, both of whom were not present and I cannot recall the names (the sound-system for the announcement mic was kind of bad anyway.) A costume contest was held, with many many wonderful costumes, from Aes Sedai to Asha’man to Faile to the High Inquisitor to one of Elayne’s personal royal guards.
So, after that, we had the Big City Burlesque show give us an, um, interesting? Yes, that’s the word, interesting, and entertaining!, interpretation of Valan Luca’s Show. It was great fun.
After that, ROOM PARTIES! Yes, we all were up quite late, and, I must tell you all, I am now a member of the Plaid Ajah. It is a secret organization led by our beloved Plaidmyrlin, and it has only two rules.
1) Never speak of the Plaid Ajah!
2) Tell everyone about the Plaid Ajah! What’s the point of being in a secret organization if you can’t gloat.
So yeah, I’m in. Haha! I crashed around two AM, after a wonderful discussion of Eddie Izzard and Denis Leary with Leigh and a few others. And no, Leigh isn’t in the Plaid Ajah. I guess she just isn’t cool enough.
Day Three: Sunday
I wake up at Seven. Again, don’t ask why. I get my things packed up and out to my car, then go and have breakfast with Alan and his wife. Much fun conversation and discussion. Oh, and I will stop being mean, no I did not learn any secrets that I cannot tell you during all my hobnobbing with Team Jordan. They are very tight-lipped, and even delighted in taunting us.
So yeah, after breakfast with Alan, I go to the gaishan/volunteer appreciation breakfast-thingie. I got a nice hookmark, with the Wheel of Time symbol on it. After the first wave of swag was given out, Tiff the Gaishan Coordinator used a random number generator to give out stuff randomly, including some nice shawls. Well, she offered up a shawl, hit the button, and my name came up. She said “um, you can take a con shirt instead,” to which I puffed up my chest and said “I’ll take the shawl.” I now own a wonderful yellow shawl, and I did wear it for the rest of the con. Alas, (or fortunately), I do not think anyone got a picture of me in it.
After that, I went, like a proper hobbit, and had second breakfast with–ready for it?–Tom, Harriet, and Wilson, amongst a smattering of others, including a few Tor.com readers/posters. That was great conversation as well, but hey, when is it not? After that was done, I sat in on another Brandon Sanderson panel, and now, finally, for “How is A Memory of Light being organized?”.
OK, I’ll start by saying Brandon did not tell us any names/characters who are going to be where, so I will have to be as vague as him. Although, I think I saw a chart somewhere that will give us an idea, if someone wants to be investigative.
So, the story as stands at the end of Knife of Dreams has four “plot arcs” that are more or less related through “geography, fate, thought, etc.” At the end of each of those arcs was a giant chunk of joined material that was “Tarmon Gaidon” and made up roughly 1/3 of the story. Brandon started writing these plot arcs like 4 separate novels with the intent to intersperse them. He had finished the third arc and hit 400k words when they decided they had to split it.
So, what they are doing: the first two plot arcs he wrote are going to be MOSTLY included in Gathering Storm, as well some set-up/teaser of the other two. Then, in the second book (Working title The Shifting Winds, by the by, but we were promised it is going to be changed) is going to continue from that set-up/teaser of the third and fourth plot arcs, and including the final setup of the first two so that everyone hits at the same point and is ready for Tarmon Gaidon. Book three (working title is Tarmon Gaidon, but it might be A Memory of Light), will be, yes, Tarmon Gaidon. So, there ya go.
So, after Brandon’s Panel, where he explained this, I made my goodbyes and made the drive home. Alas, it was a seven hour drive, so I missed the only other panel I was interested in with Red Eagle, where they were talking about–ready for it again?–a Wheel of Time live-action movie. I did chat with the producer some the night before, and I will tell you this: the man is a mega-fan. I have strong hopes for this.
I’m back in “The Real World” right now, putting off doing work while typing this up. I admit to feeling detached and listless, and my co-workers are poking jokes at my constant drifting off.
JordonCon was amazing. Thank you to the Liangs et al for their wonderful and hard work, to all the guests who came, and to all of my fellow volunteers who helped keep things moving. I look forward to seeing all of you again at DragonCon, and I will definitely be back next year for JordanCon 2010. RJ may have left us, but we shall ensure his legacy continues, and perhaps even beyond the WoT universe. I foresee a whole cadre of authors that, through their own writing and own worlds, continue the work and vision that Robert Jordan laid down not for a world and story, but for the very concept of what a fantasy can be.
Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of Time!
Photo by Amy Romanczuk, more WoT photos here.