For those of us waiting for the Wheel of Time television series to arrive, the wait is starting to feel a bit interminable. Production on the first season began almost two years ago and we still don’t have a final air date or even a full-length trailer, although Amazon have started recently posting very short clips to kick off the marketing excitement for the show. At this point a recap of the status of the show might be in order. A Wheel of Time adaptation, based on the fourteen-volume book series by Robert Jordan (published between 1990 and 2013), has been in the works for over twenty years. NBC, Universal and a Japanese animation company all took various tilts at the idea before finally Sony Television brought the project to life in conjunction with Amazon. Showrunner Rafe Judkins, a veteran of shows such as Agents of SHIELD and Chuck and a lifelong Wheel of Time fan, has adapted the show with a team of scriptwriters from the fields of television, film and stage plays. Robert Jordan’s widow and editor, Harriet McDougal, and author Brandon Sanderson, who completed the novels after Robert Jordan’s sad passing in 2007, are advising on the project, as is Wheel of Time superfan Sarah Nakamura and Maria Simons, one of Robert Jordan’s researchers and assistants. Production of the show is based in the Czech Republic, with filming studios in Prague serving as the primary base for shooting. Location filming has taken place across the Czech Republic and also in Slovenia and Spain. The first season consists of eight episodes and will adapt the first novel in The Wheel of Time series, The Eye of the World, although some story elements from other novels may be introduced earlier than anticipated, and some storylines, locations and characters from The Eye of the World have been dropped for time or cost reasons, or delayed until later seasons and storylines when they have more to do. With the show unlikely to last fourteen seasons, it is likely that the show will take a somewhat looser approach to adaptation than, say, the Lord of the Rings movies or the early seasons of Game of Thrones. The show’s production has been, regrettably, extended by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Six of the eight episodes had been shot to completion when the Czech Republic imposed a lockdown on filming in March 2020. Shooting was able to resume in early September, but shut down again in November when a second wave – and, for the Czech Republic, a much worse one – of the pandemic hit the country. Some additional filming did take place in December in Spain. The current status of the show is that the overwhelming majority of footage needed for the first season has been shot and is in the bag, and the vfx and post-production teams are hard at work on inserting music, sound effects, CGI and graphics for the final product. However, several scenes from the last two episodes remain to be shot and it sounds like they need to be finished off before the season can be said to have fully wrapped and a release date set. There are some rumours that the production team may be able to shoot the last footage they need in the next couple of months, opening the way for the show to air in late 2021 through to early 2022, but that has not yet been confirmed. Of course, The Wheel of Time is not the only fantasy show to be adversely affected by the pandemic. The second season of Netflix’s The Witcher had a similarly protracted filming period, with repeated shutdowns due to COVID outbreaks in the UK and even among the cast and crew (a problem that Wheel of Time at least seems to have dodged). Fortunately, that show was able to conclude its filming last week and now seems firmly on track to air later in the year. The Wheel of Time does have a slight issue in terms of internal competition. Amazon Television is also producing a Lord of the Rings TV series based on the forging of the Rings of Power, set in the Second Age of Middle-earth (roughly five thousand years before the events of The Lord of the Rings itself). Filming in mostly COVID-free New Zealand, the show has largely escaped the delays and problems that have beset Europe-based productions. Filming is expected to continue for some months, but some reports and rumours suggest that the show is filming its first two seasons back-to-back, and filming of the first season material may have already concluded and be in post, with a view to airing in very late 2021 or early 2022. That could lead to a time issue where Amazon are perhaps reluctant to air two superficially-similar epic fantasy TV shows in the same window (and with both shows likely to air weekly, maybe simultaneously), resulting in further delays to one of the projects. That’s only a theoretical issue for now, but one to keep an eye on if the delays continue. The wait is of course frustrating, but we can hope that the end product will be worth it. In the meantime, keep an eye on Dragonmount’s news page and casting page for the latest developments.
Good news, everyone! JordanCon announced earlier today they are hosting an in-person convention over the summer! Details are still being solidified, but we can confirm a few things: JordanCon 2021 will be held July 16th through the 18th at the Crown Plaza Ravinia in Atlanta, Georgia. All attendees, staff, guests, and volunteers are required to have the COVID-19 vaccine. Masks will be required during the event and CDC guidelines will be observed. More details are coming soon, but this is an amazing opportunity to see our fandom family and keep JordanCon going strong! To read the rest of the JordanCon 2021 FAQ, you can click here.
Recently, as has become tradition, along with the Wednesday Wheel of Time TV show teaser, Rafe Judkins answered some fan questions about the show. In amongst his answers was one that, while I fully anticipated his answer, I was still pleased to see. A fan asked him if there would be LGBT representation in the show, and in response Rafe said “there is rep in the books and the show”, and alongside his response, he included both the gay flag emoji and the trans flag emoji. This was a very heartening response, in particular the inclusion of the trans flag. As some of you may know if you watch my videos, I have long said that I think the show will need to include trans characters, not only because more diversity that reflects reality will only serve to deepen the world that Robert Jordan created, but I think the very nature of the magic system practically begs the question of where and how trans people fit into this world. But when I read Rafe’s response, I couldn’t help but think about the queer representation that exists in the book and how… lacking it is. And I mean that more than numerically, although simply statistically speaking, the number of characters that are canonically queer is way lower than they should be if the story is actually reflecting reality. And it is noteworthy that of the queer characters that Robert Jordan himself included, not a single male queer character exists. The gay male characters were written in Brandon Sanderson’s final three books of the series. When people talk about queer characters in the books, the term “pillow friends” gets mentioned quite a bit. But, for the most part, the pillow friends that Robert Jordan wrote about were not particularly queer. Their time of having romantic/sexual relationships with people of the same gender (again, exclusively between women) does not read to me as truly queer. It reads to me as the “just a phase” that often gets thrown in the faces of queer people when we come out. These women have sexual encounters with each other during times when men are not available to them, but when they are once again able to interact with men, they naturally move away from their relationships with women to the more ‘mature’ relationships with the opposite sex. In fact, it is rather explicitly hinted at in the narrative, that these ‘pillow friend’ relationships are an expression of an immature sexuality – something I can tell you from firsthand experience is a real thing that used to be said (perhaps still is). That everyone goes through a homosexual phase of attraction, but you’re supposed to mature out of that. Gay people are supposedly stuck in that immaturity. I do not know if Robert Jordan actually believed it, but he did include this very odd and inaccurate narrative about queer people in his books. And this is not even speaking of the women who, in canon, are shown to be exclusively attracted to other women. Recently, when discussing these women with a friend, I described it as “his representation of lesbians reads like a man who has heard tell of lesbians via legend and myth”, an analogy I was quite proud of, given the themes of myth and legend that run through these books. The lesbians in these books are angry, cruel women who hate men and/or want to be just like men. Their desires seem more focused on what they don’t like than what they like… it is lesbianism defined by its relationship to men, and how it is perceived by men. I do not expect every queer woman in these books to be a paragon of virtue, far from it, but when every example of a specific group of people is painted with the same brush, it ceases to be a personality trait, and instead is a stereotype that should be examined. And of course, this isn’t even touching on the “trans representation” that exists within the books. I put that in quotes because whenever I bring this topic up, the character Halima is mentioned, but I feel that Halima is evidence that Robert Jordan was…ill-informed, to put it mildly, on the subject of the transgender experience. I, myself, do not think I am an expert by any means, but it is easy to see how Halima is almost a personification of the very 90s (and probably decades earlier, but I remember this from the 90s) fear that straight men had that transgender women were going to somehow ‘trick’ them. Halima’s whole plotline revolves around deception, and they revel in the knowledge that they are fooling people, despite the fact that being in a female body is a punishment for them. Additionally, many things in Halima’s narrative indicate that Robert Jordan appeared to think he was describing the experience of a trans woman. While there are many trans people who reject the ‘born into the wrong body’ narrative, the experience of being a female soul forced into a male body would be more akin to the experience of many trans men, not trans women; something I know from multiple conversations on this topic is a point of confusion among fans. If, in fact, Halima was Robert Jordan’s attempt at trans inclusion, then, much like the lesbian representation, Halima is a character created by someone who seemed to not understand the group they were attempting to represent. All of this to say that yes, there is queer representation in the books, but I am hoping for more from the show. But, beyond the queer characters in the books, I think that there are queer themes layered throughout the story. I don’t think it is possible to know if these themes and moments are intentional, but I know that as a queer person reading this series, there are moments that likely resonate with me differently than they would a straight person. The first of these moments for me comes in Eye of the World. Our party has been separated by Mashadar at Shadar Logoth, and Nynaeve has found herself joining with Moiraine and Lan. And at this moment, Moiraine reveals that Nynaeve can channel. And here we get to see Nynaeve stripped of the mask that she wears to protect herself, and she is vulnerable for the first time. Moiraine has exposed this truth that Nynaeve desperately wants to not be true. That desperation that Nynaeve feels, the way she wrestles with it, sees the obvious truth in it, all while hating it and trying to deny it. That moment feels so familiar to me. And when she quietly asks Moiraine to not tell anyone, my heart breaks for her. The shame that Nynaeve feels in that moment, I know that feeling, I wore that feeling for so much of my life. And then there is Egwene. It never occurred to me to read a queer theme into Egwene’s storyline until I had a chance to interview Enn and Matt from the Cool Story Podcast (A Wheel of Time New Reader podcast), and Enn spoke of reading queerness in Egwene. Egwene is, to me, the inverse of Nynaeve. Nynaeve reflects my early journey, I was a person with a secret that was so deep, I sometimes was able to hide it from myself, and when it came to the surface, I tried so hard to suppress it. I was prepared to live my entire life denying this part of who I was, or at least I thought I was prepared to do that. Egwene, on the other hand, her story reflects the story of the brave kids that know and accept who they are, and know that if people don’t accept them, that’s their problem. Egwene does not know that she can channel until Moiraine reveals it to her, but from the moment we meet her, she knows that the Two Rivers is not enough for her, that she is destined for more. It is the story of so many gay kids growing up in places where they not accepted, and they are eager to strike out on their own, move to ‘the big city’, where they can finally be their full and complete selves and come into their own. In that same interview; Matt, the other host of the Cool Story Podcast, mentioned seeing queerness in Perrin’s storyline, something that feels so obvious to me now that I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. One of the most frustrating things, to me, in Perrin’s character arc, is his indecisiveness when it comes to his relationship with the wolves. He will accept them, and then block them out, and then embrace them, and then suppress them. As a reader, I find myself so frustrated that he can’t commit to moving forward with this part of his identity. But when Matt brought this up, I couldn’t help but look back on my own journey with accepting myself as a gay woman, and the multiple times I came out and then went back into the closet. I imagine that if anyone had been reading my story as a narrative, they would have been equally frustrated. Now, when I think of this aspect of Perrin’s character arc, I identify with it. It is realistic. There are beats in there that are, once again, depressingly familiar. When Perrin “comes out” to Ingtar, he expects rejection, or even to be accused of being a darkfriend. Ingtar’s reaction is not rejection, but it is not full acceptance either. He urges Perrin to pretend to be something other than his true self, because the others will not understand. This is, almost verbatim, what I heard from several members of my family when I began to come out to them. There is also, for me, one of the biggest ways I see queerness in the story – the ability to channel itself. Often, when talked about, the ability to channel is said to be akin to an addiction. I do think that this is an accurate analogy for channeling as described in the books, but I personally see it as more akin to sexuality. I do not mean that in a salacious way at all, I am not likening channeling to the act of sex, but instead to sexuality as a part of one’s identity. Part of this, I do feel, is very deliberate in the narrative. The way the ‘spark’ is discussed as happening earlier in women than men, the steady growth rate of ability in women versus the sporadic nature of the increase in strength in the power with men, it is an obvious parallel to physical puberty. However, it is more than this parallel that strikes me with the ability to channel. In fact, for me the aspect of channeling that most resembles sexuality is the fact that once you start channeling, you will continue to channel, it is inevitable. This feels like a reflection of the truth that you cannot deny who you are. As I mentioned previously, I came out multiple times before finally fully embracing who I was. Each time I went back in the closet, I was determined to be straight. I was certain that I could do it. But it was impossible. Experiencing even the briefest moments of being honest with myself and others made living in the closet impossible. There is also the way that people react to being gentled or stilled - they lose their will to live. Again, this is a feeling I am well acquainted with. When something so central to who we are as people is being buried, and you are expending so much energy lying to yourself and everyone around you, it is exhausting, and it can make it hard to see any beauty in the world. So, when I read these books, and see Logain, walking around the Tower grounds, dejected and empty, I understand what he is feeling and it resonates with me. And finally, there is Rand. I think it is impossible to talk about queer themes in these books and ignore this aspect of his storyline. Rand, much like Perrin, has a part of himself that he wants to reject and hide. But, unlike Perrin, Rand has no choice. He cannot reject his ability to channel because he has ‘the spark’, and he cannot hide because he is the Dragon Reborn. And he knows that men like him hurt and kill people around them, and if they aren’t stopped, they rot to death. It is a horrible fate. This aspect of his story very much mirrors the experience of living through the AIDS epidemic, the stigma that people living with HIV/AIDS had at the time - and in many places still do. The fear that just by existing, these men would cause harm to those around them, and eventually die in a very undignified way. And unlike the previous moments or story arcs I mentioned, I feel fairly confident that this one is intentional. Given when Robert Jordan started writing this series, the fact that the taint and its effects are very gender specific, and knowing that, at the time HIV/AIDS was thought to be a gay male disease, the parallel is almost too perfect to be accidental. Earlier, I criticized Robert Jordan’s portrayal of queer characters, but I do very much believe that his missteps were borne out of ignorance rather than malice. I always want to acknowledge his good intent, and I do very much believe his intent was good. And in this part of Rand’s story, and the story of male channelers in the Wheel of Time, I see this good intent. I see Robert Jordan exploring the journey of a character who, through no fault of their own, finds themselves “infected” with something that everyone fears, and no one understands. No one can help him, many won’t even try, and he has to figure it out on his own. And in light of this interpretation of this aspect of Rand’s story, I think it is beautiful and hopeful that part of his journey includes the cleansing of the taint, and the ultimate acceptance of men who can channel. So, while the queer representation in the books may have fallen short for me, these are the moments where I was able to read queerness into this series and find my story and the story of those like me in this world that I love. Are there moments for you that resonate in a way that may not be common among the fandom? Leave a comment and let me know!
JordanCon has been a staple--if not the staple--in the Wheel of Time fandom since its founding in 2009. The outbreak of COVID-19 canceled the event in 2020 and the tentatively scheduled weekend in April 2021, causing the non-profit organization is calling on fans for assistance. A GoFundMe has been set up for JordanCon, a 501c4 charity, to help off set the costs associated with canceling the event and to help with planning any future conventions when it's deemed safe enough for us to congregate. On the GoFundMe site, JordanCon states: "JordanCon is a tax exempt 501c4 non-profit organization that holds a yearly sci-fi and fantasy literature convention to honor the late Robert Jordan by supporting the Mayo Clinic. But we're also so much more than that. JordanCon is a family of incredibly diverse people who come together to celebrate not just their love The Wheel of Time, but also the many lifelong friendships they've made over the years. JordanCon often feels more like a family reunion than a convention, and we wouldn't have it any other way. But Covid-19 stopped us from gathering last year, and we all felt the effects. We weren't just missing an event (though the event itself is fantastic); we were missing each other. JordanCONine allowed us to interact as much as we were able, but we missed the hugs, the high-fives, the dancing, the costumes, the panels, the… the things that make JordanCon so special. We missed being together in one big space, enjoying our favorite weekend of the year as a family. Now 2021 is here and it's clear that Covid-19 is going to continue to cause disruptions for events and organizations moving forward. We already had to postpone our usual weekend in April, and now we're working hard to try and figure out how to continue to bring you the best JordanCon experience we can. But we can't do that alone; we can't do it without our family. So as much as we didn't want to ask, especially since we know many of you are hurting financially during this time, we find ourselves in a situation where our operating costs are much higher than they've ever been. Like many organizations, especially non-profits, we're worried about the future. JordanCon doesn't make money. We've always focused on using the funds we receive to make the convention fantastic, and more importantly, to support charities such as the Mayo Clinic. Because of that, we don't have an emergency fund. And who could have possibly anticipated a global pandemic and the increased operating costs associated with it? If you can't afford to help financially, we completely understand. Times are hard. But if you have some money to share, we would definitely appreciate any help you're able to give. We just want to make sure we can keep hosting this incredible family reunion (that is technically a convention) and donate to charities like the Mayo Clinic for as long as we possibly can." There's a fantastic list of rewards for those who can contribute! If you can, please donate to this cause and help us keep this family get-together going strong!
Amazon Prime revealed a first glimpse of Rosamund Pike as the iconic character Moiraine Damodred in the upcoming Wheel of Time TV show. They revealed a 5-second video via their official social media accounts and YouTube: This is the first official character reveal that the show has provided fans. Tell us what you think of the video in the comments below or on social media. Learn more about Amazon's Wheel of Time TV show.
Most Wheel of Time fans begin their experience with The Eye of the World. But there are several other places a person could begin the series. In our latest episode The Wheel of Time Community Show, Kitty describes all the possible entry points for Robert Jordan's epic masterpiece. Check out the video below, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Rajiv Moté is Dragonmount's book blogger with a lens on the craft of fiction writing. When he's not managing software engineers, he writes fiction of his own, which can be found cataloged at his website. The Disney+ show WandaVision just ended, and I’m coming down from a high. It’s not that the Marvel Studios program paid off its every promise--the high had little to do with the ending at all. WandaVision set up a model of intense engagement that reminded me of some of my favorite stories, including The Wheel of Time. I watched, re-watched, theorized, discussed, dissected, and thoroughly immersed myself in WandaVision. There are a few story similarities with Robert Jordan’s epic--a history that spans centuries, pocket realities, glimmers of a multiverse, witches with a prejudice against Wilders--but there’s a recipe both tales have in common that fires all my taste buds and draws me in completely, always chasing that next bite. It goes without saying that a good story, with characters I care about, are prerequisites. But I watched each new episode of WandaVision the way I read each new volume of The Wheel of Time--by revisiting previous installments, asking questions, and speculating what those answers would be. For both I found a community of the like-minded to go deep, to challenge the story and each other. When you do it alone, it’s an obsession; when an entire community does it, it’s a fandom. But what is the recipe that elicits this behavior? Mysteries and Prophecies WandaVision started with the question “why did they make a show with two superheroes starring in a Dick Van Dyke/Bewitched remake?” Each episode added layers, until Agent Jimmy Woo helpfully started listing the pertinent questions on a whiteboard. He hung a lampshade on the show as a puzzle box. We should be asking these questions. The show promised answers. I remember reading the “Dragonmount” prologue in The Eye of the World with the same off-kilter sense of being dropped into something unexpected. It was the aftermath of a cataclysmic war, with a hero taken by madness and a tooth-gnashing villain. They slung around titles and names without explanation, mentioned artifacts like the Ring of Tamyrlin, and then declared that no matter who lived and who died, their battle would rage on until the end of time. It was a lot. Then we got an excerpt from a history, or a prophecy, before we found ourselves in, if not quite the Shire, then a place with enough similarities that we could ground ourselves. Slowly, we found out how Lews Therin Telamon and Elan Morin Tedronai connected to this story, and what it meant for their fight to continue until the end of time. Questions led to answers, that led to more questions. The Wheel of Time hung its own lampshades using symbolic prophecies, dreams, visions, and foretellings. They were promises about the story. Figuring out how they would be fulfilled (or whether they had already been fulfilled) became an intellectual game to play between books. Replay Value In WandaVision, there was an episode that stepped out of the show-within-the-show where it started, to focus on the characters trying to understand the inner show. We watched them react to the scenes we’d already seen, recontextualizing them and inviting us to go back and watch again with our new knowledge. Later, there was an episode that revealed someone pulling strings behind the scenes. Then, yet another episode took us through the parts of the main character’s backstory that informed the show-within-the-show (and its commercials). We saw previous episodes--and even earlier movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe--in new ways. (Avengers: Age of Ultron and Doctor Strange both became more interesting in light of WandaVision.) Some of us even wondered if movies outside of Marvel Studios were being recontextualized. I started reading The Wheel of Time when the fourth book, The Shadow Rising, came out. Thereafter, I reread the series before each new book’s release. Robert Jordan rewarded the rereading. He used third-person limited, and confined the early chapters to the perspective of the hicks from the Two Rivers, so what we learned about the world through their eyes was usually wrong, especially when they encountered new cultures, complicated politics, or the metaphysical underpinnings of reality. We realized that Aes Sedai, under their outward serenity, were as uncertain and desperate as everyone else, and not at all monolithic in their motives. We learned that nine of ten parts of folk wisdom about the Dragon, the One Power, and the Forsaken were myth and superstition, and that the nature of the so-called Last Battle was not what we’d believed. And rereading uncovered so much foreshadowing in the most innocuous passages, a reassurance that this story was carefully planned, and paying attention would be rewarded. A Rich Story World What makes this continual recontextualization work, of course, is having a rich and detailed world for the story. WandaVision had the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as the decades of comic books and even a different movie studio’s franchise to draw from. Sometimes that knowledge was a benefit (like knowing who the comic book characters Agatha Harkness and Monica Rambeau were), and sometimes that knowledge led down false paths (the astrophysics engineer and Evan Peters). But it created a “scholarly” space to answer the questions raised by the show, and to understand the meaning of the many details. There was satisfaction in guessing right. And sometimes disgruntlement in being wrong. Fans of The Wheel of Time are no strangers to a rich story world. While it’s possible to spot inconsistencies, strange one-offs, and missed opportunities, for the most part the Wheel’s cosmology is coherent and even predictive--a hallmark of solid construction. If a technology exists in one place, like a foxhead medallion or an Ogier stedding, it’s likely to be found elsewhere, like a gholam or the city of Far Madding. If there’s a discrepancy in details, like Aes Sedai achieving an ageless look from using the One Power, but not Wise Ones, Windfinders, or damane, there’s probably a discoverable explanation, like the use of the Oath Rod. Healing weaves can be modified to do harm, and Pattern-destroying balefire suggests a Pattern-strengthening Flame of Tar Valon. A trip backwards through the generations of Aiel history not only helps to understand their culture, but the Tuatha’an, the Green Man, the Whitecloaks, Warder cloaks, and even Lanfear’s role in freeing the Dark One. (But yes, I felt miffed that Adeleas’s murderer was not the one who flinched when someone mentioned that a woman could not be brought into a circle against her will, because the Black Ajah know about involuntary rings, after all...) The Wheel of Time lends itself to scholarship--and the wistful sense that if we could apply this much brain power to things that pay the bills, we’d be much better off. Refractory Periods WandaVision released on a weekly cadence. It was not amenable to binge watching, especially for people who wanted to avoid spoilers online. Marvel Studios was excellent about locking down leaks about the show before it aired, which meant that I had a week to think about the latest episode, and speculate about its cliffhangers and mysteries. It turns out that having that time to think is immensely enjoyable and intellectually engaging. Deciphering mysteries, reviewing recontextualized episodes, and the scholarly mining of a rich story world makes engaging with the story an active pursuit, where binge-watching is passive consumption. Given this time, I became a participant in the storytelling, not just a recipient of it. I began writing blog posts to refine my latest theories, and regularly engaged with friends (something I’m normally bad at) to theorize and discuss the pressing matters of the latest episode. It was joyful, and it only happened because I had time between each installment. The pause between books in The Wheel of Time was much longer than a week, and afforded a similar pleasure. Back then, I found like-minded folks on Usenet, and an old friend and I, who had moved to separate cities, carried on an old-fashioned correspondence about The Wheel of Time. When the last few books came out, we booked hotel rooms between our cities, left our families at home, and went on retreats together, reading a chapter, discussing, and then reading the next. It became a pursuit both intellectual and social, and remains among my fondest memories. I’m convinced that a story world can appear to be far richer than it actually is, given a dedicated fandom and time. The Star Wars saga built a galaxy by dropping casual mention of events, places, and characters that became fodder for head-canon and volumes of fan fiction, both paid and unpaid. It’s hard to find a corner of the Star Wars universe that hasn’t been thoroughly explored, and even the nonsensical-sounding “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” found a canonical explanation. A few details go a long way for pattern-hungry brains. Sticking the Landing Inevitably, a story--by definition--comes to an end. Well, this isn’t strictly true for comic books and franchises, but as we know from The Wheel of Time, if it isn’t the ending, then there must be an ending. “Sticking the landing” is a matter of paying off the level of engagement the work elicited. Attention and engagement is currency on credit, and the ending is when the bill comes due. The work doesn’t need to validate every wild theory, but it needs to emphasize which details were important, and how they came together for a surprising-yet-inevitable conclusion. An ending works in competition with each fan’s head-canon. Did WandaVision’s series finale stick the landing? A Memory of Light? The answers will vary, and may even change with time. Both are topics beyond the scope of this discussion, because if anything, the recipe for joyfully obsessive engagement truly is about the journey. I occasionally write fiction, and though my current discretionary time means it’s short stories, my daydream is to someday write a world that could give readers the sort of joy The Wheel of Time gave me. It’s instructive to draw parallels with other properties that have sparked similar joy, be they epic fantasy series, long-form television shows, movie or comic book franchises, or computer games. It starts with the story, but by no means ends there. The world building must imply so much more beyond the scope of the story. There should be secrets that have a payoff if uncovered by intrepid fan-sleuths. New information should recontextualize what came before. If possible, it should be doled out in doses, feeding the fans without sating them. Create something that’s the fodder for endless daydreams, something that lives on after the last page is turned, or the credits roll.
Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. At some point in the hopefully-not-too-distant future, Amazon Prime’s Wheel of Time TV series is going to hit the airwaves, and the question arises on how are they going to get the show before as many eyeballs as possible? The current television market is glutted with more network, streaming and cable shows than ever before. More than five hundred scripted series – that’s not episodes, that’s series – will air in the United States alone in 2021, and that’s not counting English-language shows from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere. Getting eyeballs on the show is going to be essential to ensure it survives, but that’s harder than it ever has been before. Fortunately, The Wheel of Time has some help. Almost 100 million copies of the books have been sold worldwide since 1990. The Wheel of Time is one of the highest-profile and best-known fantasy series in the world, with a vast, international fanbase. Fans have already been talking excitedly about the series for around eighteen months, ever since the first casting and production information began to trickle out, and various Wheel of Time-related phrases and hashtags have been trending on social media. Multiple, high-profile booktubers have been discussing the adaptation for over a year, and high-profile geek websites like Tor.com and io9 have been spreading news as it breaks. Like Game of Thrones before it, Wheel of Time benefits from a passionate fanbase keen to spread the word of the TV show before it even airs, with the bonus that Wheel of Time has a much larger reader base than the Song of Ice and Fire novels had in 2011. But for the show to be a hit, it has to reach out beyond the core fanbase. Some of the high-profile casting will help. Rosamund Pike (Moiraine) has had a long career in hit films from Die Another Day through Pride & Prejudice, Jack Reacher and The World’s End, through to her massive hit role in Gone Girl (which garnered her an Oscar nomination), and she has plenty of fans willing to check out any project she’s involved in. Rosamund's profile has risen even higher thanks to her Best Actress (Musical/Comedy) win at the Golden Globes last weekend for I Care a Lot. Daniel Henney (Lan) likewise has a keen international fanbase of his work in both American and South Korean cinema and television, particularly his popular stint on Criminal Minds, whilst Maria Doyle Kennedy (Ila) has a strong fanbase from her work in The Commitments, The Tudors, Outlander and Orphan Black, as well as her singing career (among many other projects). The high-profile end of the casting will certainly draw eyes onto the project. Álvaro Morte (Logain) also has a strong following from his work, and recently spoke about his role. Amazon’s relatively small slate of original programming, at least compared to competitor Netflix, will also help with this: Amazon can afford to put more resources into marketing the show and making people aware it’s on its way, rather than risk the show getting lost in a morass of other shows coming out at the same time. For a long time, it looked like Amazon was lagging a little in the streaming race with Netflix, but recent breakout hits like The Boys and the hugely increased viewership and awareness of The Expanse after it moved over to Amazon have shown it can now produce great shows with large audiences. One question we’ve touched on before is whether the show will launch weekly or all at once. Given Amazon’s move to a weekly release schedule for many of their original shows, I think it’s probably more likely than not that Wheel of Time will hit the airwaves one episode at a time, possibly after the first two or three episodes are released at once. That will give The Wheel of Time more than a month of having people talking about a new episode every week, that will hopefully get people excited and willing to watch more. Amazon has already, of course, started drip-feeding us some marketing already, with a short look at the Winespring Inn, a look at the show’s swords, a tease of an infamous dagger and a brief glimpse at Thom’s new musical instrument, as well as unveiling some impressive concept art. At the moment these sneak peeks are aimed more at book-readers than a general audience, but that will change. I suspect a short teaser of some kind will be aired first, maybe 3-6 months out from airing, with a longer and more substantive trailer a few weeks out from transmission. These trailers will have to nail what makes The Wheel of Time different from other fantasy projects like Game of Thrones or The Witcher, or Amazon’s own upcoming Lord of the Rings show, so I’d suspect some display of the One Power in full force and a focus on Rosamund Pike’s star power as Moiraine (especially since early blurbs suggest the show will re-focus on Moiraine as a protagonist to keep the identity of the Dragon Reborn more in question than it is in the books). What will be interesting is if some kind of supporting website is launched as well. The world of The Wheel of Time is complex, with fourteen distinct nations in the Westlands alone, numerous competing factions and a detailed backstory unfolding over almost 3,500 years. Existing references are heavy on spoilers for the books, so a TV-specific website with maps, histories and descriptions of factions like the Aes Sedai, Tuatha’an, Aiel and Children of the Light could be a great reference, especially if it’s only updated to the latest episode to avoid spoilers. It’s also likely we’ll get some kind of aftershow to discuss the latest episode in detail with guest stars and comparisons to the books. There’s certainly plenty of Wheel of Time talent out there knowledgeable enough to make such a show engaging. There may also be featurettes and documentaries expanding on what happened behind the scenes on the making of the show. There’s also merchandising to consider. We’ll likely see The Eye of the World at least – if not the entire series – reissued with a TV tie-in cover, and we already know that Valyrian Steel are working on replica swords based on the TV designs. We’ll also probably see the soundtrack released commercially. More detailed merchandising – statues, action figures, a pop-up guide book to Tar Valon, and, of course, the inevitable Narg’s Cooking Masterclass cookbook – may wait on people seeing how successful the first season has been. One thing that is for sure is that when Amazon decide on a release date for the show, they’ll make sure as many people as possible know about it. As usual, hit us up in the comments with your thoughts and keep an eye on the Wheel of Time TV News page here on Dragonmount.
It's #WoTWednesday and @WoTonPrime didn't disappoint. A new video released today showed us our first look at Mat's ruby-hilted dagger. Here's the clip: The script says: "He moves toward it, blowing dust away. The iron is rusted and decayed, and CRACKS away as he OPENS the case -- -- and inside, he sees something protected from the ravages of time -- A RUBY-ENCRUSTED DAGGER. It must be worth more than anything he's seen before. He picks it up, looks at it, and then --" Here's an image of the dagger from the clip: Jason Denzel posted some commentary on Twitter, outlining the differences between the description in the book, as well as the chapter icon featuring the dagger. We can see some changes in the designs. This is the Museum Replica, approved by Robert Jordan: And the chapter icon looks very similar: Jason's arguments for the changed position of the ruby make logical sense. The thing that gave me chills was the voice of Barney Harris--who plays Mat Cauthon--saying "Alright, let's make a deal." Who is he talking to? Mordeth? If so, he doesn't sound scared. Also, it seems the dagger isn't in the treasure room as it was in the books, and it wasn't grabbed almost by accident when Mordeth blows up. Mat taking the dagger here is more calculated and intentional. And what type of deal is he trying to make? Is he willing to give up something in exchange for the dagger? Does he know the dangers that come from it in this turning of the Wheel? I think I speak for a large portion of the fandom when I say how much Mat grows on the reader. Hearing his voice makes the television show so much more real to me. I will die on the hill of worshiping Daniel Henney--I'm a Lan girl, through and through--but Barney Harris is an incredibly close second. How do you anticipate Mat's taking the dagger will change events of the story? If he knows the cost of the dagger, would he still take it? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Welcome to 2021, the year that, all things being equal, we should see the Wheel of Time TV series finally hit our screens. It’s been a long road, both in terms of the thirty-one years the series has been in print and the sixteen months that have passed since shooting of the first season began on location in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. As transmission draws nearer, Rafe Judkins and the Wheel of Time publicity team have started teasing images and videos from the series, such as the show’s version of a heron-marked blade and Thom Merrilin’s musical instruments. These have been useful for showing the series’ production values and also hinting at creative decisions that are being taken which will mean things are different to the books. Differences between books and their screen adaptations are of course nothing new, often driven by a combination of budgetary restraints, time pressure and maybe the TV scriptwriters spotting good story changes that the original novel writer may have done themselves if they’d had the luxury of writing the entire story before publishing it (as George R.R. Martin has recently said, “Five Kingdoms” sounds as good as seven, and would be a lot less work). In some cases, some of the biggest changes from book to screen have been carried out or approved by the original novel author themselves: J.K. Rowling signed off on all the Harry Potter movie scripts and Frank Herbert approved of the idea of the “weirding module” sound weapons for David Lynch’s version of Dune, when Lynch rejected the original novel’s hyper-fast kung fu as being too difficult to realise with 1984 technology. Such changes can take place even in very faithful adaptations: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is, by normal movie standards, very close to Tolkien’s novel, but fans to this day debate the merits of changes such as removing Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire, having Legolas shield-surf into combat, over-using the Army of the Dead or having Aragorn randomly knocked off a cliff by a warg. Game of Thrones started off extremely faithfully to George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels, but even in those early days fans still questioned the lack of violet eyes for the Targaryens, not showing a major battle sequence or casting a short actor as the supposedly-towering King Robert Baratheon. The Wheel of Time finds itself in a difficult position in that it is entirely possible that the series will have less time than Game of Thrones to tell a story almost twice as long (so far). The Wheel of Time tops out at fourteen volumes (not counting the prequel) totalling almost four and a half million words, compared to A Song of Ice and Fire’s projected seven volumes and around two and a half million words. The Wheel of Time’s first two seasons are expected to come in at eight episodes apiece (as compared to Game of Thrones’ first six seasons of ten episodes apiece). With the show unlikely to last more than Game of Thrones’ eight seasons, that means Wheel of Time will almost certainly come in with a fair few less hours to tell a much longer story. And yes, The Wheel of Time has a lot of descriptive passages which can be skipped over with simple visuals, but that’s not going to be enough to make up such a huge difference. That means changes, and compression and a substantial number of changes are coming to the story we all know and love. Some of these changes will likely be widely well-received – it’s a rare Wheel of Time fan who won’t admit to some subplot or tertiary character that doesn’t feel totally necessary to the story’s narrative, or eagerly asking for more scenes of Faile as a captive of the Shaido – and others will be more controversial. In a recent Q&A, Rafe Judkins addressed the issue of changes. He notes there are no 100% original-to-the-show characters, but some book characters and character names may have been repurposed, and some characters combined so one character is now doing the role of three or four smaller roles. He also noted that in some cases, extras or background roles may not speak or be identified in dialogue, but will nevertheless be based on character descriptions from the novels. Rafe also notes the perennial weakness of book-to-screen adaptations. In novels we can spend time inside characters’ heads and hear their thoughts and learn their motivations. On screen we can’t. The few times that shows or movies have tried doing this, it hasn’t really worked: the awkward voiceovers to describe character thoughts in David Lynch’s Dune comes to mind. As a result character motivations now have to emerge naturalistically through action and dialogue, and that can often be difficult and more time-achieving to show. Changes in the show also have a vetting committee of sorts, starting with Rafe himself and creative consultant/superfan Sarah Nakamura and then going to Brandon Sanderson (who completed the Wheel of Time books after Robert Jordan’s sad passing), Harriet McDougal (Jordan’s widow and editor) and Maria Simons (one of Jordan and Sanderson’s assistants and researchers). This won’t stop major changes being made where necessary, but will ensure that each change has at least been stress-tested by a number of book experts to see if they are at least in the spirit of Robert Jordan’s writing. There are several key changes likely for the first season. The first is that major characters who make their first appearance in The Eye of the World but then do not return for a long time, will not appear in the first season for simple practical reasons. The season already has an enormous cast with the characters who play a major role and adding in other characters who only appear for one scene and then don’t show up again for two or three seasons would risk being confusing as well as dangerous, since the actors might get other gigs in the meantime and not be available when they need to come back (this problem blighted Game of Thrones repeatedly, resulting in two actors playing Lord Beric and three playing the Mountain). Fans seem already resigned to key characters like Queen Morgase, Gawyn and Galad, and possibly Elayne, not appearing in Season 1 (although it is still possible some more roles will be announced), and other characters such as Elaida, Elyas and Mordeth have not been confirmed yet either. Another problem that epic fantasy often has is the travelogue aspect. Fantasy novels often have characters travelling from place to place to have adventures, rather than staying put in one location. This is great for a novel but bad for television, which likes to have a relatively small number of regular standing sets the characters can be based around. Game of Thrones was lucky with the source material which often established bases of operations for characters, such as the Red Keep in King’s Landing, the northern court at Winterfell, the Night’s Watch stronghold of Castle Black and the various cities Daenerys conquers in the distant east. Wheel of Time does not do this for a long, long time. Eventually the story settles down and the royal palaces in Caemlyn and Cairhien, the White Tower in Tar Valon, the Stone of Tear and various inns in Ebou Dar become such bases, but not for a long time. Filming a travelogue is very expensive and challenging even for big-budget films. The Eye of the World is a constantly-moving travelogue which moves from the Two Rivers to Taren Ferry, Baerlon, Shadar Logoth, Whitebridge, Caralain Grass, Arien, Four Kings, Breen’s Spring, Market Sheeran, Carysford, Caemlyn, Fal Dara, the ruins of the Seven Towers, the Eye of the World and Tarwin’s Gap. The TV show sounds like it will be adding scenes set in Tar Valon as well. Rafe has indicated that not all these locations will appear on screen, necessitating some changes to the story. The cost of building an elaborate, expensive outdoor set which is going to be used for a single ten-minute on-screen sequence may not be worth it when you can set those scenes elsewhere at a cheaper cost. Rafe’s answer to this does seem to add fuel to the widespread rumours that Baerlon will not appear in the first season, and that we will be meeting Min and the Whitecloaks (who have been cast) elsewhere, as an example of a practical change that may be unavoidable but will no doubt have some fans declaring the story to be “ruined forever” before seeing a single second of footage. Other changes will come from casting. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins is 50 years old and a mature Hobbit by the time the adventure starts, but Elijah Wood was only 18 when he was cast in the role. Hardcore fans complained about the casting, but Wood’s performance was later widely praised and is now considered iconic by many people. In Game of Thrones, the writers and casting producers realised that casting thirty-somethings for the roles of fathers and family men didn’t look quite right by our modern sensibilities and thus aged up characters like Robert Baratheon, Catelyn Stark and Eddard Stark to their late forties or early fifties, and this was widely accepted. For The Wheel of Time, the producers decided that Alexandre Willaume was the best actor they’d seen for the role of Thom Merrilin, even if he was around twenty years younger than Thom in the books. Casting an actual sixty or seventy-something for the role of Thom was unlikely to happen given the vigours of long-term, location filming. It also seems to have influenced the decision to change Thom’s instrument of choice. A harp is a large and unwieldy instrument to be lugging around a continent, and reducing the instrument to a half-sized harp or even a lyre may have felt a bit demeaning given Thom’s exacting standards. Switching to a guitar had several advantages, since it was more portable, better hinted at the setting’s more modern aesthetics (The Wheel of Time looks like a medieval fantasy, but more accurately is a 17th Century-style setting, lacking gunpowder) and it allowed Alexandre Willaume, who is a professional guitarist (even booking his guitar its own seat on the plane to the start of filming), to play the instrument live on set. These advantages were weighed as being more worthwhile than sticking to book accuracy. There is of course a sliding slope when it comes to such decisions. Terry Pratchett fans are very unhappy with The Watch, a TV adaptation of the Discworld novels that has abandoned event the vaguest pretence of adapting the novels faithfully in favour of creating an original story with almost no influences, characters or settings from the book even present. Many adaptations have suffered death from a thousand cuts, where small changes for good-intentioned reasoning has led to massive shifts over time that made people wonder why the writers even bothered adapting the story in the first place. These are valid concerns but, so far, it appears that Rafe Judkins and his team have made changes and choices for the best. We can – hopefully – judge how successful they’ve been later this year. As usual, let us know what you think and stay up to date with the latest news right here at Dragonmount.
Rajiv Moté is Dragonmount's book blogger with a lens on the craft of fiction writing. When he's not managing software engineers, he writes fiction of his own, which can be found cataloged at his website. First time readers of The Wheel of Time can be forgiven for thinking that Rand and Egwene will end up together as a couple at the end of the story. Robert Jordan introduced the two with a well-worn trope that fantasy readers recognize. In the eyes of their village, they’re all but betrothed. Rand is tongue-tied and awkward around Egwene. Egwene says and does things that challenge Rand’s entire world view. They bicker, Rand expressing a clumsy protectiveness, and Egwene chafing against it. But underneath, we know that they really care for each other. All they need is to go their separate ways for a while, grow up some, and realize that despite how they’ve changed, they remain meant for each other. Reading The Eye of the World, I remember feeling the vibes of Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain, with its coming-of-age romance between Taran the farm boy and Eilonwy the nascent sorceress. Confusion, bickering, then love. Expectations led me to overlook details as obvious as Min’s prophetic warning (shown above), so I was shocked when Egwene told Rand, in The Shadow Rising, that she didn’t love him, and he told her the same. Both Rand and Egwene have atypical heroes’ journeys. Unlike “there and back again” fantasy epics, Rand and Egwene never return to Emond’s Field. Theirs is not a story about the promise of young love fulfilled. Their story--along with a great deal of The Wheel of Time’s--is about leaving old things behind and embracing new ways. Growth is forward, not circling back. Egwene telegraphs her intent in an additional prologue at the age of nine, and also when we first meet her in the first book. While the rest of the Emond’s Fielders are reluctant heroes, dutifully refusing Joseph Campbell’s Call to Adventure, Egwene is fueled by curiosity and ambition from the very beginning. The heart of the bickering between Egwene and Rand is Egwene’s eagerness to surpass the boundaries life set for her, and Rand interpreting her rejection of old ties as a rejection of him. Correctly so. In the world of The Wheel of Time, gender essentialism is a reality, and though men and women can both rise to high positions of authority, their paths and spheres of influence are separate. There are Wisdoms and mayors, Wise Ones and Clan Chiefs, Amyrlins and the Dragon Reborn. During Egwene’s test for Accepted in The Dragon Reborn, Egwene sees glimpses of other possible lives. The test is designed to wash her clean of crimes committed and suffered in the past, false pride and ambition, and false ties that bind her to the world. Each of the three trials requires her to reject Rand: as a husband and father to her daughter, as a friend desperate for help, and as a prisoner needing her merciful judgment. To be Aes Sedai, fate and the Wheel demanded Egwene walk away from Rand and pledge her loyalty to the White Tower. Sadly, that is precisely what the Pattern demands, at least until the very end. In every other alternate world, the Dark One won. Rand saw those other realities, those other failures, as he flickered through the mirror worlds connected by the Portal Stones. Only in the fullness of a series re-read did I see that, by the time they reunite in The Shadow Rising, Rand and Egwene have both seen that they literally have no future together. Rand was the Dragon Reborn. Egwene’s path lay toward the Amyrlin Seat who would unite the White Tower to oppose the Dark One. If Rand represented saidin, Egwene represented saidar, the opposing principle that pushed against Rand and was pushed by him, like the black and white parts of the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai. They were forces in dynamic opposition, keeping the Wheel turning. There was a parallel dynamic in the Age of Legends, between the previous Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon, and a powerful and influential woman named Latra Posae Decume, also known as Shadar Nor, or “the Slicer of the Shadow.” While there’s no definitive evidence that Egwene is Latra Posae reborn, there’s a symmetry in the tipping point as Rand attempted to negotiate The Dragon’s Peace before he went to Shayol Ghul. As Amyrlin Seat, Egwene was Rand’s equal in stature, just as Latra Posae was an equal of Lews Therin’s, and Egwene was prepared to oppose Rand’s plans to break the ancient seals on the Dark One’s prison. Only Moiraine’s intervention made this turning of the Wheel one where men and women worked in concert. If the original sin in The Wheel of Time cosmology was the schism between the genders enacted by Lews Therin and Latra Posae, the eleventh hour accord between Rand and Egwne grants the world absolution, and heals the rift. And as Rand realized in his long, dark night of the soul atop Dragonmount, this was the entire point. To try again, and do better.