I’m gearing up to dive back into the Wheel of Time next month. To those of you who only check the blog for WoT news, I appreciate your patience with me. I do try to incorporate things into the blog directed at you. I’m sorry there isn’t more of it. This is partially because of the strict nondisclosure agreement I’m under. I fear saying much of anything because of how good the WoT community is at pulling meaning out of casual statements. And they’re right a shocking amount of the time. So I’ve held myself back. That, unfortunately, means I often end up posting things like this:
“Gearing up to write the next WoT section; emailing Mr. Jordan’s assistants about clarifications on some issues. Can’t say which ones. Sorry.”
That was posted to my Twitter/Facebook earlier today. (And note, if you’re starved for posts, know that I do update my Twitter and Facebook pretty much every day. You can read them on my main blog too; check the left-hand sidebar on the blog page.) Anyway, I don’t post such vague things to be annoying or teasing. I just feel compelled by Mr. Jordan and Harriet’s wishes to restrain myself. If I tell you what I’m asking about, you’ll be able to guess what I’m working on—and from that can guess what is in the second book, and from there guess the contents of the first book. Perhaps I’m too paranoid. But once the first book is out and you all know its contents, I’ll let myself be more open about what is in the second book in posts and tweets.
Recently, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the years when I was simply another Wheel of Time fan. This is likely due to the coming release of THE GATHERING STORM, which will be the first WoT book that I don’t get to experience with the rest of the world as it is released. That puts me in a strange position.
Actually, a lot of things about this project put me in a strange position. I’ve become the most direct face of the Wheel of Time, with my blogging and appearances. Because of that I find myself (by design) being an advocate for the series, rather than a commentator on the series. There’s a distinction there. It’s no longer my place, for instance, to offer criticism on the cover art. Perhaps some would call it two-faced of me to avoid discussion of things in the series that perhaps deserve criticism; I just feel that it is my job to stand in Mr. Jordan’s place, as best I can, and be respectful of his memory and the responsibility I’ve been given.
Still, despite this, I do find myself remembering the days when I was just a fan. I went through all of the typical WoT fandom emotions. There were times when I tore through the books, rereading them voraciously, loving every page. And yes—though I don’t now talk about it often—there were times when I was annoyed with the WoT. The speed at which the series was released, the quirks of Mr. Jordan’s language, the times he focused on a side character I didn’t want to read about.
There would be times when I would reread through all the books—taking months and months—in order to read a new volume that just came out. And then the next one would take just long enough to come out that I’d have forgotten the details of the books. I’d feel mentally fatigued and think, “What do I do? Do I spend all of that time reading again, or do I try to read the new one without a refresher on who is who, and perhaps lose some important threads?” During those times, I would think, “Why am I subjecting myself to this? This series is overhyped.”
And then I’d read the books and remember what I’d forgotten. Not just the names and plot threads; the love and the thrill of a purely majestic epic fantasy.
The Wheel of Time is one of the few series I read a lot when I was younger that made the transition to adulthood with me. Other authors—good authors—weren’t able to write for both the youthful Brandon and the adult Brandon. But Jordan could do it. There is something very special about these books. I think you’ll find it again when you dig back into the Wheel of Time for what is happening in October, whether you decide to read the entire series (I suggest at least reading KNIFE OF DREAMS again) or just grab THE GATHERING STORM.
Still, I guess I’m posting about this to say, “I understand. I don’t feel it’s right for me to agree with you most of the time when you complain. But I do understand. I’ve been there.” I understand that some are annoyed at there being three books instead of one, I understand that some are excited about getting three books, and I understand that most of you probably feel both annoyed and excited at the same time. (This series does that to people.) I understand what it’s like to defend the Wheel of Time vigorously to friends, but then find yourself saying, “I think I’ll wait to read the rest of them until the thing is finally done” to other friends later in the week. I’ve been there. I have a friend who—each time Mr. Jordan’s name was mentioned—used to raise his fist to the sky and curse. Partially in jest, partially to express his fascination and frustration at the same time. I empathized with him a lot.
But I’ve read the ending now. It works. It fits. A journey like this one hinges a lot on the destination. And that destination turned out to be everything I wanted it to be.
Some of you haven’t ever felt these feelings; you’ve loved the WoT the entire time, and haven’t felt a bit of frustration. Some of you have only recently discovered the series, and wonder what the fuss and frustration is about in those of us who have been reading for nearly twenty years now. To you who are like I was, I just say this. Give yourself a chance to discover the books again, and you’ll remember what this is all about.