Well, it's been a few months. I've been busy but I'm back to full-on WOT-Mania! At the moment I am:
1. Reading Book 4
2. Listening to Book 2
3. Re-reading the EOTW comic
Has anyone heard the news about Shannara? Elfstones of Shannara is being developed as a television series ala Game of Thrones. This should really put a fire under whoever has the rights to WOT, I think. I'm very jealous that GOT fans have their own magazine. I want my WOT magazine!
In other news:
My epic fantasy novel Carrot Field recently had its first review:
Over the 9th/10th it was offered as a free download & it had 1,111 downloads!!!
For some background on the book check out my Blog:
For the next 5 days Carrot Field will be available at half price! Carrot Field is a 150,000 word fantasy epic 20 years in the making. I think a lot of WOT fans would enjoy it :)
That's all for now. Back to The Shadow Rising . . .
Character & World Building
As very writer knows, without strong characters a story is dead. It’s dead to the author, who won’t be able to do anything with their story, and it’s dead to readers, who are unable to invest themselves in the narrative. I’ve read more nonsense about character-building than any other aspect of writing. For the benefit of the inexperienced writer, I’ll pass on a few things I’ve learned about developing strong characters:
Process: Writers, especially new writers, love process, mostly because it’s not writing but it allows them to say that they’re “working on a story”. This is BS of the first water. The first thing you can do to progress as a writer is to forget about “process”. I’ll give you something priceless for free: the best writing “process” is to write. That’s it. Marathon runners don’t prep for a race by creating a file of facts on running: they run. They run until they’re ready to run a marathon. No difference. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer, it’s that simple. There is no “process” for creating characters. Just write them until they come to life; if they never come to life, writer other characters. In a pinch, nothing works for writer’s block like quitting. Any time you hit a wall, make a big noise about quitting and never writing again. Convince yourself, tell your friends. It never fails to work. Within a fortnight you’ll be pouring out words again. And as we’ve often heard, there’s no sex like make-up sex!
Files: You’re a writer not a psychologist or FBI agent. Why are you working up huge dossiers about people who never lived? You can’t even get to know a real person that way, let alone an imaginary one. If you want to get to know your characters, spend time with them. The best way to do that is to write about them. Throw away your outlines and notes. Just write. Sooner or later good characters come to life. If they never do, drop ‘em and make up new ones. The other effective way to get to know them is to daydream about them; their everyday life, their thoughts and feelings etc. But not too much, just enough to give you some insight that is relevant to the story you’re writing. The last thing you want is to be burdened with massive files on each character. What’s their favorite color? Who cares?! Stop wasting time and get to work!
They won’t do what I want them to do: Good! That’s a good sign that your unconscious has gifted you with real characters. Listen to them. Stop trying to make them fit into the crummy outline you created in that stupid workshop you attended to get away from writing. Throw it all overboard: outlines, research, notes etc. They’re worthless the moment your characters come to life. You are now engaging in what Carl Jung called “active imagination”. This is deep stuff, way beyond your piddling outlines and character notes, you are now accessing the deepest and most mysterious parts of your consciousness, even hard science has zero idea what the hell’s going on down there. It’s the beginning of a journey. Stop telling your characters what to do and start running after them; if you’re respectful enough, they just might put on a great show for you, all you have to do is record it and polish it up, and you’re home! In other words, don’t be a historian or psychoanalyst, be a good journalist.
Are they deep? Are they meaningful? Who cares?! What is this, a college essay or a story? Don’t worry about interpretation. Think of all the memorable people you’ve ever met, the real colorful characters: did you understand them? Did it matter what their actions meant? Probably not, or not much. What mattered was that they broke the mold, challenged your convictions, acted out your fantasies, liberated parts of yourself that you usually keep buried, and were different from everyone else around you at the time. That’s deep stuff, there’s no need to underline it with bogus literary technique. Just step back and let it be. Nothing else matters but the end result in art. Process isn’t art, process isn’t story. Stop handcuffing your characters to your ego, your agenda. Let them be free. I absolutely promise they will reward you richly.
“World Building” (WB) was once the practice of only a handful of SFF-F authors. The necessary invention required to create a believable alien or fantasy species, or culture, was not really thought of as WB; that was saved for the really big, sprawling works of invention, like Dune (Frank Herbert) and Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien). It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the term came into general use in Fandom; and it was not until very recently that WB came to refer to any fictional environment-crafting.
In my opinion WB has become the tail wagging the dog. I’m seeing far too many meticulously or elaborately conceived “worlds” generated for novels that really have no story to tell or point to make. Even if every element of an author’s “world” is lifted wholesale from previous stories, they get credits for “world building”. At the moment the hot WB trend is Conlanging: inventing languages, like Tolkien did with Elvish. You can find Conlanging “kits” online and every new genre movie, tv or book series seems to come with its own language attached, in hopes of fans learning to speak it ala Klingon. A beginning writer might wonder just how much of their “world” needs to be built up before they can start writing.
My own epic fantasy novel, Carrot Field (published by Pressque and available from Amazon.com in Ebook format) features a lot of apparent WB: layers of history, culture, mythologies, geography, and yes, languages. But the truth is: I never set out to create such a detailed environment for my story! I had originally imagined a short, illustrated, fable-like story of around 70,000 words (think The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe). Unfortunately, the novel had a very long and complicated birthing process. I started it in 1994 and it didn’t get published until May 2013! Over the years, it accumulated detail. Technical problems and questions about the world of Carrot Field built up. Every time I rewrote the novel (I ended up with 10 complete drafts to work from) the story expanded a little. At one point I wrote a 150,000 word draft that only covered 1/3 of the first volume! In 2010 I decided to start reshaping the book, making it more readable, since it was clearly getting out of hand! Many of the rewrites were done at the behest of editors and publishers and I was happy to jettison all of the “foreign matter” that had crept into the text. The rest was streamlining and editing. The final text still ended up at 150,000 words: but I had managed to fit 2/3 of a trilogy into one seamless narrative with a beginning, middle and satisfying end, which I am very proud of.
My advice to any writer, experienced or inexperience, is to just begin writing! Don’t “build” your world, discover it as you create and explore it through your character’s eyes. This is especially important with fantasy: spontaneous creativity, improvisation, and pure whimsy are all important to fantasy, whether it is a juvenile book or an epic adult saga. Remember what it was like to “make pretend” as a kid? That sense of play is infinitely more effective and enjoyable than all the tedious fictional politics and economies ever invented. Keep in mind that you can always fix technicalities and do additional research after the fact. The important part is finding your story and telling it straight. What you don’t want is a daunting mountain of notes and restrictions facing you ever day. What’s the good of creating your own world if it has as many rules as our own? Trust me, your unconscious is way smarter than you are, it knows more than you do: some part of your brain is silently absorbing every bit of information you are exposed to 24/7, 365 days a year. Get the juices flowing and you’ll be surprised by how much you already know!
For the inexperienced writer the danger is always that you’ll spend so much energy building your world that there simply won’t be any juice left to write (and rewrite and rewrite) the novel itself. It is far better to have a first draft with some gaps needing to be filled than 1,000 pages of notes and no story to tell or energy to tell it. And you’ll never know how much ancillary information is necessary to tell your story until you know what that story is. I often find that my novels require less detail than I initially thought they would.
In short: a little research is good, but too much prep will burn you out and tie your hands when it comes to getting the job done, telling your story. When it comes to WB I think it is much better to let the dog wag the tail, not vice versa!
CARROT FIELD is available from Pressque Publishing in Ebook format from Amazon.com and in Hardcover & Trade Paperback editions in September 2013.
Well, the day has arrived! My epic fantasy, 19 years in the making, is at last available!
It can only be read as an Ebook for now. The print editions will be available in September.
But I am now an officially published author!
Hey all! I've been mondo-busy, but I thought I'd catch up with everyone here.
I am 400 pages into TDR and loving it! It's my favorite volume so far, easily. I'm really enjoying every page equally. My goal remains to complete the series in time for the release of the encyclopedia.
My fantasy novel "Carrot Field" is due out May 31st from Pressque Publishing! That's a mock-up of the cover. You can get it from any online bookseller or as a special order from any bookstore.
I handed over my new novel to my agent today. It's the first in what I hope will be a 6 book science fiction series. I've been working on it for about 28 years! I can't say too much except that it is set 4,000 years in the future and deals with artificial intelligences. I'll name drop some influences: Blade Runner, Isaac Asimov's robot stories & the original Dune. It's really epic!
I am also prepping a short story to be released as a Kindle Single. I hope that it will be the first in a series of stand-alone adventures. It's kind of a cross between Sherlock Holmes, James Bond & Indiana Jones in a steam-punk flavored, grown-up "Oz" - hard boiled detective story meets Victorian pulp adventure meets high fantasy. More on that as it nears. The cover art is knock-out!
That's all for now. If you have any questions about "Carrot Field" feel free to ask. Let me know if you like the cover!
100 pages into TDR. Wow, this one hits the ground running! Lots of Lan, Moiraine, Min & Loial means that I'm a happy reader right now! Was that Padan Fain in the Prologue? Love the "Rand Cult," and Rand responding so realistically. Great action sequence early on. I confess to being baffled by Perrin: you wouldn't have to ask me twice to become a Wolf Brother! Where do I sign up? Ha ha sounds awesome to me :) Overall, so far, so great! I also re-read New Spring & am starting the EOTW comics adaptation.
I am finalizing approval of the final typescript for my novel "Carrot Field." I sent it back with some corrections to be made and am waiting for it to boomerang back for final approval. I am reminded of Tolkien's travails with his copy editor wanting to change Dwarves & Elves to dwarfs and elfs. Some aspects of "world building" are hard for professional grammarians to grasp! But I am assured that we're in "home stretch" and on target for May.
I am almost finished my first rewrite of the new novel, book one of a six book sequence. This hasn't been acquired yet, it will go out through my agent this summer. But it's going amazingly well. I can't wait to talk more about this project in the future! It's a high concept blend of classic science fiction and epic fantasy that poses some heavy questions about human nature. I've been working on this since I was 12 years old! It's accumulated an enormous amount of detail and depth but the first volume is focused on the characters and story.
My hobby lately has been re-reading a huge stack of old Starlog magazines. For those who are too young to remember, Starlog was petty much all there was for sf-f fans to learn about upcoming genre film and television projects. It was the equivalent of all the blogs and forums we have now. I remembered it as a pretty cheesy glossy mag; but reading through the old 70's and 80's issues has given me a new appreciation for the journal. Yes, Star Trek was in almost every single issue, and it focused mostly on SFX movies and tv shows. But there were also a surprising amount of interviews with great sf-f authors and interviews with interesting costume, make-up, and fx artists, film and tv composers, screenwriters who wrote for classics like Twilight Zone and other vintage tv series, and long articles on pioneers like ER Burroughs and other pulp writers; not to mention illustrators, comic book artists/writers and fascinating profiles on "upcoming" films that never got made, like the 1985 Disney "John Carter of Mars" and the Star Trek Phase II tv series. Fun!
With my first novel, an epic fantasy no less, about to be published in May, I've been thinking a lot about how I define "fantasy"." It's a thorny subject and one that can never be closed definitively. But every author who ventures into the genre probably has a pretty well-defined, personal idea of what "fantasy" is or should be. More on that in a bit, but first a few updates:
First, the novel, Carrot Field (think Watership Down meets Tolkien), is definitely coming out in May (from Pressque Publishing). I'll announce the exact pub-date as it nears. The text is approved, the cover concept agreed on and the art almost finished; we're looking ahead to promoting the book over 2013 and into 2014.
In other writing news, I am 150 pages and 40,000 words into re-writing my next novel, the first volume in a six book, YA sci-fi/fantasy sequence. I can't wait to talk about this but I can't get into it until it is sold. Fingers crossed that it finds a publisher this summer!
Second, I finished TGH!! If you take a look at my blog avatar it has been duly updated. What can I say? WOT continues to blow me away, it is bar-none the best "epic fantasy" outside of Tolkien, as far as I'm concerned. Very few books in this genre - let's call it Post Tolkien Epic Fantasy - match up to what Jordan achieved. In (extreme) brief what I enjoyed most was: the melding of different elements, from the Disneyesque Ogiers to the elements lifted from great literature, history and myth, in particular the spectacular climax; the relationship between Moiraine and Lan; anything to do with Min; the way the world keeps opening up into ever greater vistas. Criticisms: parts of the book, especially in the second half, seemed rushed and/or abridged to me, particularly concerning the Seanchan, apparently a deeply imagined, complex culture that didn't get near enough page time. Ditto the Aiel. I am actually looking forward to later, more leisurely, less plot-driven volumes. The prose suffers most when RJ is pushing the story forward, or injecting "action beats" - which have not dated very well, they might have been necessary to keep readers coming off of Conan and other 80's sword and sorcery fare interested but fantasy readers have come a long way and pumping in movie-style "action" just isn't as necessary as it once was. Apart from those minor criticisms, I am eager to dive into TDR. I have a goal to read the entire series by the time the WOT Encyclopedia is released in 2015!
* * *
Now, just what is "fantasy"?
Here's what Webster has to say:
obsolete : hallucination
: fancy; especially : the free play of creative imagination
: a creation of the imaginative faculty whether expressed or merely conceived: as
a : a fanciful design or invention
b : a chimerical or fantastic notion
c : fantasia 1
d : imaginative fiction featuring especially strange settings and grotesque characters —called also fantasy fiction
: the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need <an object of fantasy>; also : a mental image or a series of mental images (as a daydream) so created <sexual fantasies>
This is a vast subject, I can't go into too much detail, but I'll give you my opinion on the matter and tell you in which way my tastes incline.
In terms of a literary genre, before 1977 and the publication of The Sword of Shannara (Terry Brooks) fantasy as a genre leaned toward Definition 1. It included Alice In Wonderland, fairy tales, re-tellings of myths and authors as diverse as Hawthorne, Poe and Irving. Even in the immediate Post Tolkien landscape this definition held true, as evidenced by Ballantine's "adult fantasy" line of reprints, which included authors as unlike each other as William Morris and E.R. Eddision. It was the publication of Sword of Shannara that created a label for publishers and booksellers: Fantasy. In the Post Shannara landscape, pale imitations of Tolkien proliferated. If you look at the immediate earlier period (say 1965-1975) authors were more likely to imitate E.R. Burroughs or Robert E. Howard than Tolkien (Michael Moorcock, Lin Carter, L.S. Decamp) - Shannara changed that.
If you look at earlier fantasy, the technique known as "world building" is relatively absent outside of Tolkien and Howard. Worlds were developed as authors moved from story to story, especially in the world of magazine publishing, where novellas and short stories provided the platform for new sf-f worlds to be unveiled and developed. Earlier fantasists such as L. Frank Baum invented their worlds as they went from book to book, not from a map or plan drawn up before beginning a project. What has become standard practice in the genre was, until very recently, the exception not the rule. The concept of an "arc" was particularly alien.
As much as I love WOT, I must confess that I am not a big fan of the "epic fantasy" genre. World building often gets in the way of creativity and imagination. Authors are worried about how many horses it takes to get from Place A to Place B, economics, medicine and other concerns that must be swiped from our own world and history. I find these insertions disruptive, they pull me out of a fantasy story and remind me of the world I live in. And the tropes are now set in stone: mysterious Oriental eastern counties, Islamoclone desert people, faux European medieval settings (perhaps with Renaissance trappings), stout Nordic northerners and automated feudal settings. Magic (whether of the Howardian or Wiccan variety) abounds and epic quests must be undertaken. Dragons, trolls, demons and unicorns are plentiful and plenty boring. Add to that the more recent trappings of sexual fetishes, gritty "realism" and political messaging and you pretty much describe over 90% of modern "fantasy".
I don't see where the "fantasy" comes in. All these authors have done is take aspects of our world and reshaped them, edited them, into a slightly new form. That's closer to abstraction than fantasy. For me true fantasy comes from the unconscious, it is the stuff of dreams, daydreams, superstitions and fleeting thoughts. The Yellow Submarine, Ponyo, Little Nemo In Dreamland, A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Oz books, the novel The Neverending Story and countless other stories, comics, books and films represent the true nature of fantasy to me. I see world-building as the trend that has destroyed, not legitimatized, fantasy as a literary genre.
My first novel, Carrot Field, represents my writing as it developed over the past twenty years. But I've come to a place where I no longer feel the need to "build" worlds. I much prefer to dream them. And to me, that is what true fantasy is about. Dreams.
Feel free to drop a comment & disagree with me!
This Friday, March 9th, my most anticipated movie of the year opens: "Oz The Great & Powerful", from Sam Raimi (Spiderman, Evil Dead) and Disney. It is the first big-budget Oz movie since 1985's "Return To Oz", which was also a Disney picture. RTO was unappreciated in its time but has gone on to be considered a fantasy classic (as directed by Walter Murch) and one of the finest adaptations of the original L. Frank Baum books.
I am a life-long Oz/Baum fan and have been waiting for another big budget, faithful Oz movie since '85. At first I was skeptical about this project; but from everything I've heard, this looks like a very respectful take on Baum's great fantasy world (my personal favorite).
One of the things I love about WOT is that it is like Oz in many ways: it is distinctly American in tone and style; female characters (both unusual and archetypal) feature prominently (unlike most fantasy); there are classic fairy-tale elements like the Ogiers and their world, and the creatures ridden by the Seanchan; and like Baum, RJ mingles magic with technology.
I can't help but look back to the release of "Alice In Wonderland" (2009, Tim Burton) also a Disney feature. I loved "Alice" as a work of visual art, and as an entertaining film, but the script was lacking; I am glad to see that "Oz" runs 130 minutes, which indicates a more fully developed screenplay. Anyway, the buzz for "Alice" started a full year before release, and despite lack-luster reviews, it went on to break box office records and to be embraced by a global audience.
But "Oz" has never been as popular as "Wonderland". More on that in a bit. I have already noticed industry bloggers/journos sharpening their knives, predicting a "John Carter" (my favorite film of 2012) sized disaster. Why? I think it comes mostly from a misguided devotion to the great 1939 MGM film we all know and love. There is a flat refusal to read the Baum books or think of Oz as we think of Middle Earth, Hogwarts or Narnia: unique literary creations. Oz is: Judy Garland, green faced witches with zingy one-liners, musical numbers and early technicolor. It is not allowed to be anything else. For us die-hard Baum Fans, this is disheartening. So, while "Alice" was greeted with eager smiles and open arms, "Oz" is being greeted with skepticism and lack of interest. I think that's sad.
To begin with, there are no characters in Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books, only caricatures. There is no story, no plot, and no drama. No one reads those books, if they did they would discover something extremely hard to enjoy on first encounter. I love Lewis Carroll and am a life-long fan. But the "Alice" books require annotation in order to get any of their humor - almost every gag is based in the everyday life of a middle-class Victorian child. Once you learn all this stuff, the satire is wonderful, brilliant. But you cannot simply pick up those books and enjoy them as stories. Over the years "Alice" has become associated with the underground and the counter culture. This began in the late 19th Century and continues to our day. "Alice" + Tim Burton promises something edgy, dark, iconoclastic. Burton kind-of delivered on that "promise", but the audience was already primed to love Alice and whatever adventures she was put in, as long as they involved Mad Hatters, White Rabbits, hooka smoking Caterpillars, and Red Queens screaming for heads to be lopped off.
Oz, on the other hand, has memorable characters (even ones most people have never heard of!), and wonderfully inventive plots often centered around very moving stories. But for some reason, people think that Oz should be more like Wonderland, that it is somehow missing the edge, the darkness, that make Wonderland so intriguing. I don't think Oz lacks for a little edgy darkness in many places; but it is of a different time and place. Alice comes from the claustrophobic, cloistered world of Victorian England. Oz was born of turn-of-the-century American optimism, it looks forward to a world where anything is possible, from air-travel (by bubble!) to robotics (Tik-Tok), artificial prosthesis (Tin-Man), and gender equality!
I hope "Oz" does as well as "Alice" did in 2009 and that a whole new generation will discover L. Frank Baum's wonderful American mythology.
WOT: Finished TGH!!! Need to absorb it before blogging. Am taking a short break before starting TDR. Overall impression: I am hooked!
NEWS! The publication date for my book (Carrot Field) is set (I'll announce it as it gets nearer). Work on the book cover (which I am art directing) has begun, I will have a concept drawing soon - it is looking absolutely spectacular, I believe the complete panoramic cover will be iconic. I received the Line Edit this week and am working on that; it's a good edit, I'm enjoying working on it. Apart from all that, web promotion will begin soon, along with a hundred other related details. I am also working on a new novel; but more on that in coming months...
What you see here is a rough concept for the finished logo. I'm really liking it. I hope the publishers decide to use it. They're a very small house, a start-up really, and their art department consists of one overworked person! I really wanted the Logo to be special, so I've been working on my own with a graphic artist. What do you think?
I met (by phone) my publisher this week and it went great. We talked about promotion and what comes next. They're really excited about the project. I am hoping to use an artist I know for the cover. He is extraordinary, and has learned the techniques of the master painters, his paintings look like photographs, and he can do anything in any medium. Fingers crossed.
We have a spring release date (more info as it gets closer).
"Carrot Field" is a cross between The Wind In The Willows, The Lord of the Rings, and 1984, with a touch of His Dark Materials. I have been working on it since 1994!!
In WOT news: I am less than 100 pgs from the end of TGH!
I went through a phase that lasted about eleven years during which I could not read fiction. It just didn't hold my interest. It followed a far longer phase of gorging on prose; I guess it was the lash-back. In 2008 I started to feel the hunger for prose fiction again, and that has turned into a ravenous starvation that cannot be satisfied. Recently, four authors have become an obsession, I thought I'd share!
LEO TOLSTOY: I read War & Peace in high school but that was the end of my exposure to Tolstoy. A few years ago a new translation was released; I was working in a bookstore and couldn't resist the beautifully bound book. Ever since, I have been engrossed in Tolstoy. Apart from discovering an endlessly fascinating man of his time, I have finally discovered the oceanic depth of his writing. My favorite story is "The Death of Ivan Ilyich".
DAVID FOSTER WALLACE: Back in the 90's I grouped Wallace with all other "post modern novelists", a genre that does not appeal to me. Recently, a friend insisted that I give him another try. I can now understand why his work is so highly regarded. Wallace is prose of the highest order, his work is life-changing. I'm slowly working my way through his epic "Infinite Jest" and reading short stories and essays. One of the most rewarding and humbling reading experiences of my life.
DORIS LESSING: I have always been intrigued by her five volume science fiction epic, The Canopus Sequence, and finally started reading it last summer. This is science fiction of the first order, an astonishing work of imagination and insight. The story is impossible to encapsulate, it has to be read. But the prose is as rich and evocative as prose can possibly be. Well worth reading.
ROBERT JORDAN: See my first blog post. In short, a revelation.
All of these authors are inspiring me to elevate my craft and write at the height of my powers, to dig deeper than I ever have before, and to commit seriously to the art of the novel.
I had an idea for my novel, "Carrot Field", to have a logo instead of simple title text. A friend is working on the concept with me. This is a really rough concept sketch. But it gives you the "feel". I'm hoping to have a next-stage version end of this week to pitch to my publishers (part of the contractual agreement was my involvement on the cover & interior book design). Like it?
I just finished "Stedding Tsofu ", my second favorite chapter so far. I love everything to do with Ogiers! Shopping around for a HC of TDR, as I reach the ending of TGH. Does anyone else have favorite chapters? (Beware spoilers, I am a 1st Time Reader!)
So, SW EVII has a director, and it is JJ Abrams. Sigh. He's Okay. I wanted Andrew Stanton but there ya go. What do you guys think? Any SW fans around?
Here's a promotional image a friend put together for me last summer. Before I found a publisher for "Carrot Field" last October, I was thinking of doing a Kickstarter campaign.
My friend took some old artwork someone had done and cooked this up for me. Some of the character designs are definitely out of date, this art is from 2006, and I rewrote the novel from the ground up 2010-211.
But it's a nice image & gives an idea of what the book is like.
I first encountered Robert Jordan in the mid 1980's. Both me and my older brother were obsessed with Conan. We read the comics, collected the "Ace" paperbacks, and spent endless hours debating RE Howard's mythology, drawing maps, and reading history to bolster our knowledge of Conan's world. We were intent on outdoing each other in the Conan-knowledge stakes. We were both wary when we discovered a series of orginal Conan novels, written by some author we had never heard of, "Robert Jordan". We were the kind of fans who believed that all those Lin Carter/L. Sprague DeCamp stories really were based on RE Howard outlines, ha ha! But we gave theRJ's a try and were both instant fans.
Come the late 80's, we were both intrigued by the rumors of a major fantasy epic written by RJ. When EOTW finally came out, I was the one who bought it and read it. I remember liking it alot, but it was at the tail end of my first wave of sf-f fandom. I was mostly reading poetry, religious philosophy, Russian and English novels & Medieval literature. I had discovered T.S. Eliot, James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. My tastes were changing. So I never followed up.
But my brother did. On my recommendation he read EOTW and continued on through the next 4 volumes. He was the first person I heard express "WOT Fatigue". Once he put it down, he had nothing good to say about the series. I was nonplussed - it couldn't have gotten that bad, could it? But time had moved on. I started to think that maybe those Conan novels weren't so hot after all, and maybe RJ was just another journeyman genre writer cranking out long books for a devoted fanbase. That's what you mostly saw in the genre, so it made sense.
And yet...every time a WOT book came out, I was intrigued. I would flip open the book, fall on a passage, determine the writing to be "bad" and shove the book back in frustration. Maybe I was randomly falling on weak passages, I don't know. But for some reason my curiosity about the series remained. Eventually, I got on the 'net, and I was fascinated by WOTmania, which seemed like some kind of group therapy session. There were dire warnings to the uninitiated about not getting "addicted". There were massive flame wars between true believers and fallen heretics. Eventually, RJ emerged on the 'net, and he seemed like a really nice guy, and highly intelligent.
Around 2006, my nephew discovered my brother's dog-eared paperback editions of the first four WOT volumes. He got into the series - Big Time. He kept telling me that I would "appreciate" the books. "These aren't the usual fantasy stuff," he'd tell me, "it's something you would really appreciate." Then came RJ's death. I remembered how much I had enjoyed his Conan novels as a kid, how much I had enjoyed EOTW in 1990. I was saddened by the news.
One day I was in NYC, killing some time at the Borders next to Penn Station. I knew all about the 1500+ 1 star reviews for COT. I saw the big fat paperback with its lovely DKS cover staring at me. I took the book down, sat down with it, and started reading the Prologue. I had no idea who the characters were, what the situation was, or what part of the gargantuan story I was in, but I couldn't put the book down. It was absolutely gripping. The writing was strong and fluent. I felt as if I'd entered another world. I read the whole prologue, then opened the book randomly to a scene. Again, I was hooked, and the writing was first rate. I found another scene. Same thing happened. I read a whole chapter, randomly selected. About two hours had passed and I realized that I was in danger of reading all of Volume 10, out of sequence! "If that's a bad novel, I don't know anything about writing!" I thought.
Things got busy, things went wrong, some time passed. Finally, summer of 2010, I decided to start the series. I read New Spring, and loved it. I re-read EOTW and started to get really excited. I started TGH, got stalled 1/3 through, and picked it up again this past December (2012). I hit Chapter 22 (where Lan and Moiraine discuss how they first met) and thought, "This is truly great novel writing!"
Since then, I have become a die-hard RJ fan. I am 2/3 thru TGH. This isn't about world building, fantasy stories, or getting to the end of the story for me. I have discovered a truly great novelist. I'm excited! And it's in my favorite genre, SF-F. A towering achievement, sadly not completed by the original author. But many ancient and Medieval classics were completed by different authors than the ones who started them. Even Shakespeare had collaborators! 11/14ths of the epic was written by one man, and the entire story is his.
This is all happening as my first novel, which took 20 years to finally complete & publish, is about to be released. I wonder if it will ever inspire the passion that WOT has, if it will still be in print 20 years on, if anyone will care. I take RJ as an inspiration, and it gives me hope.
I am 2/3 finished The Great Hunt. I thought it would be fun to chronicle my experience of reading WOT. I have been converted to full-on Robert Jordan fandom and I consider him to be a great novelist. I am excited to see the archives made available to the public and to see the series completed. I think a wave of serious RJ scholarship is going to appear in the future.
I thought it would also be fun to chronicle the publication of my first fantasy novel (hopefully the first in a 10 volume cycle) which will be available this spring. It's called "Carrot Field" and is a cross between The Wind In The Willows, Lord of the Rings, 1984 & His Dark Materials.
I have also come into peripheral contact with the world of WOT. I won't say anything now, but I might have some cool (extremely peripheral) WOT-related news concerning my novel.
Dragonmount.com is a fan-maintained website dedicated to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time fantasy series. It is an online community of people from all over the world who have come here to experience the series to the fullest.