January 15, 2020 marks the 30-year anniversary of the publication of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. Although there are neither beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time, this date does mark the official beginning of the book franchise. After leaving a career as a nuclear engineer, Robert Jordan (a pen name for James Rigney Jr, who went by "Jim" to his friends and family) began a prolific writing career. He wrote in a variety of genres, using a different pen name for each one, eventually making a name for himself in the fantasy publishing industry primarily on the strength of his Conan novels. (Robert Jordan did not create the Conan character or write the original novels. He wrote later ones in the series over 50 years after the original author, Robert E. Howard died). Originally pitched to Tor Books as a 3-book series, Tor publisher Tom Doherty laughed at the sheer scope of The Wheel of Time and instead offered Jim a 6-book contract. Tor believed in the first book so much that they did a heavy marketing push, going so far as to commission an alternative book cover and creating 5,000 advance reader copies, which was unheard of now, or then. To celebrate this 30-year anniversary occasion, we asked Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan's wife and editor, what her memories were of that time in 1990. Here's what she sent us: We're also asking YOU to share your memories of how you found this special book. You can reply here to this article, or you can reply on our social media: Facebook Instagram Be sure to check out our Eye of the World info page, as well as our Book Summary and Chapter Recaps.
The 2020 Hugo Nomination period is now open. If you are a registered WorldCon member, you may be eligible to nominate notable written and dramatic works, as well as notable editors and other contributors in the field of science-fiction and fantasy. About the Hugos Awards The Hugos are the premier awards for science fiction & fantasy literature. Each year, awards are given in multiple categories such as Best Novel, Best Short Story, Best Series, and more. Written and dramatic works are awarded at the annual World Science Fiction Convention (“WorldCon”) by its members. Anybody can become a member whether you attend the convention or not. There are some notable benefits to becoming a WorldCon member, even if you don’t attend the actual convention. Not only will you have the chance to nominate your favorite written and dramatic works from the past year, but with your membership, you’ll also receive most of (if not all) of the nominated works. ie, You’ll get free books. (Good ones, too!) (NOTE: The Hugo Voters packet is entirely dependent on the generosity of the finalists (and their publishers). Some provide the entire work, others provide a sample, and some choose not to participate at all. To give you an idea, here's a breakdown of what was provided in the 2019 packet. Thanks to ElleKayEm for this info.) The Process There are several notable milestones for participating in the Hugos: Register by December 31, 2019 in order to nominate works. (Deadline past to nominate) Submit nominations (now through March 31) Nominees announced (early April) Voting begins (register now to become a voting member) Voting Ends Winners announced at the 2020 WorldCon in Wellington, New Zealand. (July 29 - August 2) It costs money to become a member, but remember that you will not only become of a proud tradition, but you’ll be able to nominate, vote, and participate in the 2020 and 2021’s awards, and you also receive all of the nominated books and stories in ebook format. That value alone pays for your membership. For Your Consideration Here, for your consideration, are eligible works related to The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan, Dragonmount.com, and some of our associates. You should only nominate works and individuals if you feel they are notable and worthy of a prestigious Hugo Award. if you're not familiar with our recommendations, links are provided to where you can acquire them or learn more. Best Series: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson This is probably the last opportunity for The Wheel of Time to win a Hugo Award. The entire Best Series award was created in large part due to the impact of this series. Read more about how WoT is eligible this year. Best Novel: Warrior of the Altaii by Robert Jordan Robert Jordan's "first and last" novel was published this past year and is eligible for awards. Read more about this book here. It's available as an ebook through our online store, and also available on Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookseller. Best Related Work: Dragonmount.com (website, online community) For over 21 years, Dragonmount has provided news and community for WoT fans across the globe. This past year was one of our finest, where we dramatically increased our social media presence, increased our news coverage, crafted full book summaries and chapter recaps, brought on notable bloggers such as Adam Whitehead, launched a YouTube channel, and overall have helped prepared as many fans as possible for Amazon Prime's upcoming Wheel of Time TV show. Best Fan Writer: Adam Whitehead Adam Whitehead is a prolific fan writer and WoT TV show blogger. His bi-weekly column here on Drgonmount, Adam's Wheel of Television, has quickly become a notable blog providing insight into Amazon Prime's Wheel of Time TV show. In addition, Adam has been covering the Science-Fiction & Fantasy genre for years through his websites The Wertzone, and the Atlas of Ice and Fire. Best Fan Writer: Sylas K. Barrett Sylas K. Barrett is a Tor.com blogger writing a blog series called "Reading the Wheel of Time" where he recaps each chapter in the series and gives his first-time-reader impressions of the series as it goes. Best Editor (Short Form): Shawn Speakman Shawn is the mastermind behind multiple anthologies including Unfettered III, the collection of short stories that includes "A Fire Within the Ways", the latest (and perhaps last) written WoT content. You can get the anthology on Amazon (print or ebook), on audio as an Audible.com exclusive, Barnes & Noble (print and ebook), or The Book Depository (for international readers). Best Novelette: "The Stone Golem of Qual'Jom" by Jason Denzel Dragonmount founder Jason Denzel's story about a lonely stone creature that lives outside of time is available as part of the Unfettered III anthology. (Note: at 8,800 words long, this story is considered a novelette and not a short story). You can get the Unfettered III anthology on Amazon (print or ebook), on audio as an Audible.com exclusive, Barnes & Noble (print and ebook), or The Book Depository (for international readers). Thank you for your consideration. Just a reminder: only nominate works or people if you think they are top-notch and worthy of a Hugo Award.
The latest episode of The WoT Community Show is now online. If you're not familiar with it, WoTCS is a variety-show style program featuring a handful of hosts who recaps the most recent Wheel of Time book, TV show, and community news. Visit the YouTube channel. Episode 7: "Interview with Clare Grant" SHOW NOTES Happy New Year! Our intrepid team kicks 2020 off with the following: * Kitty interviews actress, producer, and WoT super-fan Clare Grant. IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1740127/ http://www.claregrant.com * Thom discusses the new Wheel of Time cast members for Amazon Prime’s upcoming TV show: Alanna Mosvani will be played by Priyanka Bose. Ihvon will be played by Emmanuel Imani. Maksim will be played by Taylor Napier. More info: https://dragonmount.com/news/tv-show/alannawarders/ * Ebony discusses JordanCon early-bird registration and the new merchandise license issued to Valyrian Steel. https://www.jordancon.org http://www.valyriansteel.com/ ************** Love, Lanfear Do you want the Daughter of the Night to help solve your troublesome relationship issues? Email us: Show@dragonmount.com, or leave a comment in the comments or on our social media with #LoveLanfear ************** The WoT Community show is released bi-weekly and covers the Wheel of Time franchise and fan community. Since 1998, Dragonmount has been a top destination for anything related to Robert Jordan’s masterpiece. With Amazon Prime’s forthcoming adaptation, we’ll keep you up to date. The WoT Community Show is sponsored by Tor Books and our generous Patreon Subscribers. For more info on becoming a Patron, visit: http://Patreon.com/dragonmount Please leave comments and suggestions below. We love hearing from you!
Today, December 31, 2019, is an important deadline for the 2020 Hugo Awards. You can have a unique impact in being part of its tradition, and also potentially help The Wheel of Time and other worthy stories, earn a prestigious award. About the Hugos Awards The Hugos are the premier awards for science fiction & fantasy literature. Each year, awards are given in multiple categories such as Best Novel, Best Short Story, Best Series, and more. Written and dramatic works are awarded at the annual World Science Fiction Convention (“WorldCon”) by its members. Anybody can become a member whether you attend the convention or not. There are some notable benefits to becoming a WorldCon member, even if you don’t attend the actual convention. Not only will you have the chance to nominate your favorite written and dramatic works from the past year, but with your membership you’ll also receive most of (if not all) of the nominated works. ie, You’ll get free books. (Good ones, too!) The Process There are several notable milestones for participating in the Hugos: Register by December 31, 2019 in order to nominate works. (TODAY) Submit nominations. (Sometime in January 2020) Nominees announced (Spring) Voting begins (Spring) Voting Ends Winners announced at the 2020 WorldCon in Wellington, New Zealand. (Summer) If you plan on nominating for the 2020 Hugo Awards, today is the last day to register for WorldCon and be eligible to vote. Wheel of Time’s last chance Despite its popularity and far-reaching impact on the fantasy genre, Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time have never won a Hugo Award. In 2014 the entire WoT series was nominated for (but did not win) the “Best Novel” award. The "Best Series" category did not exist at the time. WoT’s nomination caused a controversial stir, as some people didn’t feel it was appropriate to consider the entire 15-book Wheel of Time series as one single work. This helped prompt the World Science Fiction Society, which awards the Hugos, to add a new category in 2017, the “Best Series” award. At the time, it didn’t mean much for The Wheel of Time, but it did enable several other long-running and popular series (including Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive) to be recognized with nominations and awards. And now The Wheel of Time will have one more chance to potentially earn a Hugo Award. Earlier this year, in 2019, Brandon Sanderson published “A Fire Within the Ways”, a short story that was included in the Unfettered III anthology from Grim Oaks Press. This written sequence contained a lng set of “deleted scenes” from A Memory of Light. With Harriet’s permission, the scenes were lightly edited and submitted for publication in the Unfettered III anthology, with proceeds going to support health care needs for writers in need. According to the WSFS bylaws, any new installment to a written series, regardless of length, makes The Wheel of Time eligible for the Best Series award. Therefore, A Fire Within the Ways makes WoT eligible for the first--and likely only--time. It’s unlikely that Harriet will ever authorize the publication of any further Wheel of Time stories. This could be our last opportunity to ensure that Robert Jordan’s work receives the recognition it’s due with one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a fantasy series. To nominate WoT, and any other work of eligible fiction from the past year, you need to become a member of the 2020 WorldCon to be held in Wellington, New Zealand this summer. While many of us will not be able to attend due to the distance and expense, but you can purchase a Supporting Membership. This gives you the right to participate in the Hugos, to nominated, vote, and receive convention publications. It also helps support WorldCon, which has a proud tradition of being one of the longest running fan conventions. It costs money to become a member, but remember that you will not only become of a proud tradition, but you’ll be able to nominate, vote, and participate in the 2020 and 2021’s awards, ad you also receive all of the nominated books and stories in ebook format. That value alone pays for your membership. What To Do Next If you want to be a part of this, here’s what you need to do: Register to become a WorldCon Member by the end of today, December 31, 2019. This will allow you to nominate WoT and other eligible works. Tell a friend! (Send them to this article for info) Submit your nominations when the submission windows open (sometime in January 2020). Vote! Optional: fly to New Zealand and attend the convention. Meet lots of amazing people and writers. What if I missed the December 31 deadline? No problem! You can still register for a membership and vote for the nominated works. You just won’t be able to submit nominations. If you’re a fan of The Wheel of Time, you know how big of an impact the series has had on the genre and on people’s lives. By becoming a Hugo Member, you can help WoT receive a special place in history, and also become part of a long-running tradition and receive some great books in return.
Deadline.com announced today, via an exclusive article that Amazon Studios confirmed to us, that the roles of Alanna Mosvani and two of her warders, Ihvon and Maksim, have been cast for the upcoming Wheel of Time TV show. Alanna Mosvani will be played by Priyanka Bose. Ihvon will be played by Emmanuel Imani. Maksim will be played by Taylor Napier. In the books, Alanna is an Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah who has a significant, and sometimes controversial, role in the story. She's first introduced at the beginning of book 2, The Great Hunt. Interestingly, in the books, Alanna has two warders, Ihvon and Owein. Of those warders, Owein has the lesser role and is only mentioned a few time before dying. It seems he's been replaced by a character named Maksim. It's unknown if these are intended to be the same character, or if Maksim is a replacement for Owein with the intention of having a larger role. From the Deadline article: Priyanka Bose IMDB entry Emmanuel Imani IMDB entry Taylor Napier IMDB entry
For the last couple of months, Dragonmount has produced a bi-weekly YouTube program called The WoT Community Show. It's a variety-show style program featuring a handful of hosts who recaps the most recent Wheel of Time book, TV show, and community news. Visit the YouTube channel. Episode 6: "New Actors & Pronunciations" SHOW NOTES Happy Holidays! In this week’s episode: * Kitty recaps each of the 12 actors that’ve been officially announced for Amazon Prime’s upcoming Wheel of Time TV series. * Thom and Kitty discuss the 4 newest cast additions: Alvaro Morte as Logain. Hammed Animashaun as Loial. Alexandre Willaume as Thom Merrilin. Johann Myers as Padan Fain. More info: https://dragonmount.com/news/tv-show/castinglltp/ * Ebony goes over the proper pronunciation of some common WoT names. * Special Guest: Graendal! The Chosen sits in for Lanfear, who got in trouble with the Greatd Lord of the Dark after her breakdown in the previous episode. Graendal answers a couple of fan-submitted questions. ************** Love, Lanfear Do you want the Daughter of the Night to help solve your troublesome relationship issues? Email us: Show@dragonmount.com, or leave a comment in the comments or on our social media with #LoveLanfear ************** The WoT Community show is released bi-weekly and covers the Wheel of Time franchise and fan community. Since 1998, Dragonmount has been a top destination for anything related to Robert Jordan’s masterpiece. With Amazon Prime’s forthcoming adaptation, we’ll keep you up to date. The WoT Community Show is sponsored by Tor Books and our generous Patreon Subscribers. For more info on becoming a Patron, visit: http://Patreon.com/dragonmount ************** Show Hosts: Thom DeSimone Kitty Rallo Ebony Adomanis Guest (Graendal) Amanda Producer & Editor: Kathy Campbell Executive Producer: Jason Denzel Social Media FB: http://facebook.com/dragonmount Twitter: http://twitter.com/dragonmount IG: http://instagram.com/dragonmount_ ************** Please leave comments and suggestions below. We love hearing from you!
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. 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. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. To everyone’s relief, Amazon have confirmed that four important characters from the Wheel of Time novels will be in the TV series: Loial, Logain, Padan Fain and Thom Merrilin have made the cut! The actors playing them will probably be not hugely familiar to audiences. Alvaro Morte (Logain) has appeared primarily in Spanish film and television whilst Hammad Animashaun (Loial) is a relative newcomer. Johann Myers, who is playing Padan Fain, has had a longer career and will be familiar to British viewers from series such as State of Play, Black Mirror and Luther. Most of the casting speculation for the last few weeks – including our own – has focused on Thom Merrilin. Some fans and commentators even mused if Thom could be cut from the show altogether, or perhaps introduced later on in a different context. Happily, it seems that Rafe Judkins and his team decided they needed the gleeman up front and center, and cast Danish actor Alexandre Willaume in the role. Willaume has appeared in films such as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and last year’s Tomb Raider, but is best known for playing Kjartan, one of the main antagonists in the first two seasons of the excellent historical drama The Last Kingdom (well worth catching on Netflix if you haven’t seen it yet). This is appropriate because some twenty years pass between Kjartan’s appearance in the first episode and his last appearance (note: both videos have violence and some strong language) in Season 2, and he is aged up for the role. This leads to an interesting and wider question about adaptations of the written work. Fans of all franchises appear to be constantly bemused that producers don’t cast actors more precisely based on their book descriptions, sometimes choosing actors of a radically different height, age, appearance or, in some cases, gender. This leads to frustration that the producers “don’t get it” or are “changing things for the sake of it,” and to be fair unsuccessful adaptations like The Shannara Chronicles or Earthsea show that this sometimes happens. In other cases – such as the currently shooting TV series based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, The Watch – the producers have taken the view that the source material is something they can mix and match to produce something new. This sometimes works (as with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) but sometimes doesn’t (like SyFy’s Dresden Files). Fans of Game of Thrones, particularly fans of the books who kept abreast of the casting news in early and mid-2009 as the show prepared to shoot its pilot, will remember this well. There was widespread dismay when it was announced that Mark Addy had been cast as King Robert Baratheon. Addy was a good ten years older than the character and, whilst Robert was six foot five and a giant of a man, Addy was almost a clear foot shorter. These concerns were eventually alleviated when the show hit the air: Addy received widespread praise for his dramatic, gruff performance. He made you believe he’d once been a powerful, formidable warrior now gone to seed. The reason for not casting strictly according to the books is mainly practical: if you get down to five or six on an audition shortlist, do you go with the actor who gave the better, more convincing performance or the actor who is exactly the same height as the character in the book but was a less convincing performer? Producers and casting directors will always follow the performance first, the details later. In some cases, they know these details can be taken care of through costuming, or getting the actor some bigger shoes, or (in extremis) they can stand on a box in some takes. In some other cases the author may give a description of a character in a book without fully thinking through the details: Tyrion Lannister is described as quite ugly in the Song of Ice and Fire novels, but he is also charming, charismatic, witty and good at talking to people and winning them over, all of which would be less convincing on screen if he was actively hideous to look at. The producers decided to the cast the decidedly handsome Peter Dinklage rather than staying true to the books. In the case of Thom Merrilin, the producers had to balance practical issues with storytelling ones with faithfulness to the book. They were also helped by Robert Jordan’s vagueness over Thom’s age. We are told that Thom has white hair and people express surprise at his spryness “for his age.” Morgase also muses that Thom was “twice her age” at one point in their relationship (The Fires of Heaven), probably – from context – during the year between Taringail’s death and Thom’s departure to help Owyn (984-85 NE). Morgase was 27-28 during that year, so Thom would have been around 54, and thus 70 when the events of The Eye of the World begin in spring 998 NE. However, The Eye of the World contradicts this by saying that Thom “was in his prime,” which I would submit would not be a descriptor for someone in their mid-to-late fifties. Robert Jordan’s voluminous notes, which he began developing in earnest around the time of A Crown of Swords, also show a later change of heart, noting instead that Thom is 19-20 years older than Morgase. This would have made Thom around 46 during their relationship and about 60 during the events of The Eye of the World. It may even be that Robert Jordan considered making Thom younger. Thom is physically very capable, still doing tumbling tricks and more than holding his own in battle. Rather memorably, he takes on a Myrddraal in hand-to-hand combat and survives, something not even Lan can boast off (true, the Myrddraal was in a hurry and had no time to stay and fight, but still a notable achievement). Thom is also a big hit with the ladies, having relationships with women not only in their forties, but, in the case of Dena in The Great Hunt, in their twenties. Are there charismatic, handsome men in their sixties who can pull those things off? Sure, but making him even a few years younger does make all of those accomplishments more plausible. It's notable that Team Jordan did not canonise the information in Jordan's notes in The Wheel of Time Companion, perhaps preferring to keep things vague and up to the reader's interpretation. In this case, the choice of actor is a good one. Willaume turns 47 this month and, as we saw in The Last Kingdom, can be aged up pretty well as required. More importantly, he’s a good actor and I’m sure will bring the required skills and more: he plays guitar and has been a musician in multiple bands. He’s also sung on stage in the Danish musical version of Shrek (he played Donkey), so he has those skills down as well. Until next time, peace.
Amazon Prime's @WoTonPrime Twitter account announced today that actors have been cast for The Wheel of Time TV show. Alvaro Morte as Logain. Hammed Animashaun as Loial. Alexandre Willaume as Thom Merrilin. Johann Myers as Padan Fain. ALVARO MORTE (Logain) Originally from Andalucía, Spain, Álvaro graduated from the Superior School of Dramatic Arts of Córdoba and ECAM (Madrid Film School) with a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts. After finishing his studies in Spain, UTA's Actor Training Department awarded him a scholarship to research interpretation techniques at the University of Tampere (Finland), where he worked as an assistant professor of stage management. Álvaro is an actor with a long resume of experience, but has most recently appeared in La Casa de Papel, Durante la Tormenta El Embarcadero and The Head. He also served as Theater Director for his own company, 300 Pistolas, which was founded in 2012 and brings Spanish classics, such as El Perro del Hortelano, Tres Sombreros de Copa, La Casa de Bernarda Alba and El Lazarillo de Tormes to high school students in the region. His work on El Lazarillo de Tormes was awarded at the Almagro International Classical Theater Festival in 2018. HAMMED ANIMASHAUN (Loial) Hammed recently starred in Fudge Park's feature film The Festival How to Build a Girl. His past television credits include Netflix's critically-acclaimed series Black Mirror as well as BBC's black comedy Flowers. Hammed is currently starring in Master Harold... and the Boys alongside Lucian Msamati at the National Theatre. Other notable theatre credits include the critically-acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge Theatre and the National Theatre's sell-out production of Barber Shop Chronicles. Hammed is represented by Lucy Middleweek at Middleweek Newton Talent Management. ALEXANDRE WILLAUME (Thom Merrilin) Alexandre Willaume trained at The Danish School of Theatre and has since enjoyed a varied career both on stage and screen. Alexandre’s most recent film credits include Tomb Raider, Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets, as well as lead roles in both Good Favour and Where Have All the Good Men Gone. Alexandre has played numerous roles in Danish television, including a supporting role in the award-winning show Rita (Series 2 & 3), a guest lead in Those Who Kill and roles in Follow The Money (Series 3) and Below The Surface (Series 1 & 2). Alexandre played series regular Kjartan in The Last Kingdom for two seasons. He has also had roles in Hidden, Deep State and Home Fires. Alexandre has provided voice over work on cartoons such as Batman, Megamind and The Lorax. JOHANN MYERS (Padan Fain) Myers’ recent TV roles include Small Axe, Temple, Man Like Mobeen, Guerilla, Snatch, In the Dark, Neil Gaiman's Likely Stories, National Treasure and Murder. His most recent film work includes Undergods, Yardie, The World We Knew, Mary Magdalene and The Lost City of Z. Johann also recently played Elwood in Small Island at the National Theatre. He is represented by Michelle Braidman Associates (UK). These actors appear to be talented and well-cast by the KVH Casting Agency in London. Fore more information on The Wheel of Time TV show and cast, visit our TV section. Tell us what you think of these casting announcements in the comments!
Tor Books launched a holiday sweepstakes today where fans from the U.S. and Canada can win some new and familiar books. Here are the details: Enter the contest at this link. Be sure to check out our review of Fate of the Fallen.
Filming is only two months underway for the first season of Amazon Prime's Wheel of Time TV show, but that isn't stopping the studio and showrunner Rafe Judkins from preparing for season 2. Earlier today, Rafe tweeted a photo and a caption showing that the "S2 writers' room" was being prepped. Amazon hasn't officially announced that season 2 has been greenlit, but this is a sign that the studio apparently likes what they've seen so far and are feeling confident enough to let Rafe gather his team of writers to prepare for season 2. It's not unusual for TV shows to get greenlit for a second season before the first season airs. Netflix's The Witcher, which is set to debut on December 20, just had its second season greenlit today, just a short while before Rafe tweeted his photo. This is all a very good sign for The Wheel of Time. It doesn't mean that a second season of episodes have been ordered yet, but it means that everything looks good so far, and the production is moving forward with some level of confidence. We'll report more once we have it. In the meantime, be sure to check out out TV section to see everything we know for certain about the show.
Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film, video games and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. 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. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. Way back in the day, the video game industry got surprising mileage out of video games based on novels. Cheaper than licencing actors’ likenesses for games based on films and not constrained by matching release dates (for “release synergy,” a term that destroyed many a promising video game adaptation during gestation), book-to-game adaptations provided a relatively cheap way of enticing fans to try out a developer’s latest project. One of the first licensed video games from a novel was The Hobbit, published by Melbourne House in 1982. Based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, this was a text adventure which cast the player as Bilbo Baggins, embarking on the traditional adventure to kill the dragon Smaug. The game was a huge success and also sparked some very early memes such as Thorin’s rather frequent tendency to sit down and start singing about gold whenever he was bored. The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, released by Infocom two years later, was in a similar vein but had greater kudos because Douglas Adams himself worked on the title as a writer and designer. Novel adaptations went huge in 1988 with War in Middle-earth, another Tolkien adaptation, this time by the visionary designer Mike Singleton. A dynamically-unfolding wargame, the title allowed players to refight the War of the Ring using a variety of different factions and characters, sometimes resulting in radically different results to the novel. The 1990s saw Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series adapted as a trilogy of best-selling games, as well as a version of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series that is best ignored. Arguably the most successful such book adaptation of the decade was Betrayal at Krondor (1993), based on Raymond Feist’s Riftwar series. An expansive, semi-open-world CRPG, it worked as both a very good video game and a very strong adaptation of the books (although, ironically, Feist’s own novelisation of the game is arguably his weakest book). It was in this time period that The Wheel of Time got its own video game adaptation. Released on 11 November 1999 by GT Interactive Software, The Wheel of Time took Robert Jordan’s expansive, vast world, cast of thousands and epic battles and turned them into a…first-person shooter? It was an interesting and bold choice, one that turned off a lot of fans who’d been hoping for a roleplaying game, but once they got over their shock at the design choice, they soon found a very interesting game. The game was developed by Legend Entertainment, who’d previously made relatively straightforward adventure games. The team at Legend decided to make a much more ambitious title and, after their company was slightly oddly bought out by Random House, they decided to focus on a novel adaptation (even more oddly, of a non-Random House series). The design team tore through The Wheel of Time and began to design an adventure game that would retell the story of the novels. It would be expansive and large. Robert Jordan had other ideas. He didn’t want the game stepping on his toes (he was still only halfway or so through writing the series) and he didn’t want the game to use other versions of his characters. The designers came up with the notion of setting the game in an alternate dimension, a Portal Stone world, where events could take place that echoed those of the books but were distinctly not the same. It was also decided to abandon the adventure design in favour of a first-person perspective similar to other games of the time, such as Doom. This was markedly ambitious for Legend, who’d never made such a game before, but they took it in their stride. Budget restrictions meant that they had to look around for a customer engine rather than designing their own, and after considering the BUILD and Quake engines settled on the engine for a game still in development that was extremely obscure, called Unreal. The Unreal developers were surprised that anyone would be interested in licensing their engine and the Wheel of Time team got it on extremely generous terms. As development continued, the Unreal team saw the development of Wheel of Time and some of the ideas fed back into their own game in development. Unreal was released to massive success in 1998 and quickly became the go-to engine for first-person video games. The Unreal Engine today powers a vast number of games, from indie hit The Outer Worlds to the epic Mass Effect trilogy to the mega-successful Fortnite, which have collectively sold hundreds of millions of copies. On its release, The Wheel of Time attracted glowing reviews…but not much sales. Barely 30,000 copies were shifted in the first three months on sale, shooter fans more energised by the then-recently-released Half-Life, SiN and Quake III. Legend’s expertise with the engine saw them hired to make Unreal II: The Awakening, which should have been a huge hit, but by then the excitement had moved onto the online version of the franchise, Unreal Tournament, and Unreal II was not a huge hit either. Legend shut down in 2004. The Wheel of Time game is an odd beast, but a strangely compelling one. It casts the player as Elayna, an Aes Sedai who can barely channel (think of Morgase Trakand) but whose powers have been augmented by ter’angreal. A trusted lieutenant of the Amyrlin Seat, she is dispatched to Shadar Logoth in pursuit of an assassin, the Hound, who managed to penetrate the White Tower itself. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that the Forsaken Ishamael is looking for the seals on the Dark One’s prison. At one point there is a coup by the Black Ajah inside the White Tower which results in the death of the Amyrlin and Elayna’s rise to replace her, along with the revelation that Elayna is really the most powerful Aes Sedai born since the Breaking, her powers sealed off to protect her until she learns to use them correctly. In a final battle, the Hound, now bonded to the dark power Mashadar, tries to kill both Elayna and Ishamael but is defeated. Elayna unlocks her powers and uses them to protect the Seals, ensuring the Dark One cannot escape his prison until the Last Battle and the arising of the Dragon Reborn. The plot is interesting but clearly at odds with the books, with the developers confirming that the game takes place in a Portal Stone world, a parallel universe similar but not identical to the books, and certainly the game is not taken to be canon in any way. From an architectural level, the game is phenomenally well-designed, with some fantastic locations that look like they’ve come straight from the books. The darkness-shrouded streets of Shadar Logoth and the gleaming white walls of Tar Valon are rendered well and the storyline is intriguing, although confusing given the game’s setting in a parallel universe to the books (not something that’s made hugely clear in the game, it has to be said). The cast of characters is well-drawn, and it’s still refreshing to see a first-person shooter based in a fantasy setting with a female protagonist. The use of ter’angreal instead of the normal array of guns from a shooter is something that does feel contrived, but it works quite well and makes for an exciting action game. Trollocs, Myrddraal, Black Ajah and Whitecloaks make for fun enemies to engage in combat with, and there’s a nice feeling of dread in the battle of wills with the Hound, your character’s nemesis. Originally there was going to be a whole “evil campaign” with you playing the Hound, but this was cut for time and budget reasons. The Wheel of Time is a surprisingly solid game (especially by the conservative standards of the time), but it can’t be denied that a Quake-style 3D FPS feel like an awkward fit for Jordan’s huge, narrative-driven fantasy epic. The game feels like it should have been an RPG with a lot more choice and consequence, drawing more on Jordan’s vast world. The ambition was there, but sadly the budget and required time was not. Arguably we wouldn’t get a novel-to-video game adaptation that really hit that spot until the release of The Witcher (based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s books) in 2007, and in particular its second sequel in 2015, almost certainly the greatest CRPG released this century. We must pause, of course, and remember that although Legend’s Wheel of Time was the first official, licensed video game adaptation of the series, it’s not the only one. In 1993 The Wheel of Time MUD (multi-user dungeon) was launched, a relatively primitive, fan-made dungeon game with a text interface. It was quite popular with the MUD scene. More recently there’s been a number of “mods” – fan-made modifications of commercial games – focusing on a Wheel of Time theme. The most notable is The Gathering Storm, a mod for Mount & Blade, and there’s been various mods for Skyrim, introducing weapons and armour from the Wheel of Time world. There’s also been a number of abandoned mods, such as ones that were in development for several years for Civilization IV and Rome: Total War, and rumours of one for Crusader Kings II. The completion of the books seemed to erode fan enthusiasm for more mods, and the scene has been quiet for a few years now. Of course, with The Wheel of Time now heading to the television screen, the question arises if a new video game could be on the cards. Given modern game budgets are now averaging towards the high tens of millions of dollars and development time is in years, it’s questionable, but if the Amazon TV series is a huge success it may be something we’ll see before too long. Hopefully this time it will be a game that gives the setting and Robert Jordan’s writing the scope and scale it deserves. Further Reading: The Wheel of Time video game producer (and budding fantasy novelist), Glen Dahlgren, has published several interesting articles about the game: a 20th anniversary retrospective, a very in-depth account of the making of the game and the game's original design document. All well worth a read.
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. 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. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. How do you transfer a story from the pages of a novel or comic to the TV or film screen? It’s an interesting question, one asked many hundreds of times over the last century or so, and one which has never really gotten a reliable answer. Some films have used the book only as light inspiration, with the same basic premise and maybe some character names but otherwise doing their own thing. This paid off with films like Jaws and The Godfather, but not so much with Shannara or Earthsea. Others have slavishly adapted the source text almost line by line, but this has also backfired with the likes of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. It appears that the best way of adapting a book to the screen is to take the story, characters and story and transfer them, but also being aware that a screen story needs to be more streamlined than a novel. Where a novel can sprawl luxuriantly and bring in dozens of new characters at will, a film or TV show can’t afford to do that. Where a novel can pause and delve deep into a character’s internal monologue to show their thoughts and reactions to an event, a visual adaptation can’t do that without resorting to cheesy voiceovers (viewers of David Lynch’s Dune will be aware that this doesn’t really work either). One approach, favoured by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens in their adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, is to strip the story down to basic tacks and then rebuild it for the screen. For Rings, they decided first what was the story actually about: clearly, this was the Ring and Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. That wasn’t enough story to fill a trilogy, so they began with this story as the core and kept adding more elements back in from the book. They needed a major subplot, so just used that from the books: Aragorn leading the people of Rohan and then Gondor into battle and his quest to become king. A primary cast was needed, so the cast from the books was added, with a strong focus on the Fellowship, and subplots for each character. In this way they rebuilt the story using the same ingredients, but being aware of the limitations of the medium. By the time they got to the Scouring of the Shire and Tom Bombadil, they were aware they were exceeding the time limit and budget of each movie and made the painful choice to remove them. They also simplified other elements for time, such as using the Army of the Dead to save Minas Tirith rather than using them to liberate the port of Pelargir and then transport Gondor’s southern army to the battlefield; the latter idea (from the novels) would have required considerable exposition, more time and more money to work on screen. This process was mostly successful, which makes it more disappointing that for the Hobbit trilogy it was abandoned (due to studio interference requiring three three-hour movies out of the very slim source material, to Jackson’s distress, according to some sources). A similar process was used for the early seasons of Game of Thrones, although this was complicated by the source material being incomplete. In the case of Thrones, it seemed that the first half of the series, which adapted the first three novels relatively faithfully, was very successful and the latter half, which was based more on very loose outlines and chose to mostly ignore the fourth and fifth books, was much more critically mauled. For such adaptations there seems to be a thin line between the necessary creativity and invention to transfer a story from one medium to another, and outright hubris where a scriptwriter feels he or she is better than a novelist who has already enthralled millions of readers for decades and starts making changes for changes’ sake and to put his or her stamp on the story. The upcoming Watch TV series, based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, has been open about using the books as a very loose inspiration for the show, which will feature Pratchett’s characters in dramatically different situations and roles to the novels. It will be interesting to see how both fans and general viewers react to such a reinvention. How The Wheel of Time handles this remains to be seen, of course. In other news this week, Amazon decided to confirm what they’d already revealed a few weeks ago, via the table-read for the series: Irish actor Ian McElhatton has been cast in The Wheel of Time. However, they also confirmed what role he will be playing: Tam al’Thor, Rand’s father and all-round good egg, a brave and honourable soldier, devoted husband and father, capable farmer and a skilled swordsman. It’s a nice reversal of roles for McElhatton, who for many years was best-known for playing the devious and sly Roose Bolton on Game of Thrones. McElhatton’s interpretation of the character was different to the novels (where Bolton is more clearly a villainous wrong ‘un, fond of being leeched to take away imagined toxins and treating everyone with disdain), but still a ruthless, amoral power-grabber whose biggest mistake was trusting his psychotic son, Ramsay, with too much power. McElhatton now gets to play arguably one of the most upstanding, honourable and capable characters in the whole series. It is interesting they went with a known name for the role, as, if true to the books, it may be a couple of seasons before we touch base with the character again. McElhatton’s profile has increased since Game of Thrones, with him being cast in HBO’s critically-lauded mini-series Chernobyl earlier this year and I imagine he could take his career in any direction he chose. Rafe Judkins did note that his first instinct was not to cast anyone who’d been in Game of Thrones, but he overrode that decision because McElhatton nailed his audition. Given how Thrones used up a sizeable portion of the English-speaking acting talent available in the UK (from where Wheel of Time is drawing a lot of its cast), it’s also unlikely this is the last time we see a doubling up of actors who’ll have been in both productions.