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Eric: There is life, and there is living. But they're best done together. In volume.

Robert Jordan is the pen name of a man named James Oliver Rigney, Jr. He is a science fiction and fantasy author, best known for his epic length The Wheel of Time. He also wrote a number of popular books starring Robert E. Howard's Conan. I have friends who adore his books. I have other friends who... well, don't. And one or two who adored his books until they felt they were unending.

Now, I suspect those friends hope they are unending.

In a letter dated March 23rd and published by Locus online, Robert Jordan disclosed that he has been diagnosed with amyloidosis -- a rare blood disease that can take many forms. In his case, the form it is taking is an accretion of misshapen proteins which are accumulating in his heart's cardiac muscle, producing a condition called cardiomyopathy. In his case, said cardiomyopathy refers to a stiffening of his heart muscle, leading ultimately to death, likely from a form of congestive heart failure. He has been told that untreated, he has a median life expectancy of one year. With aggressive treatment -- which in this case means chemotherapy that will destroy all his bone marrow, followed by a reseeding of his bone marrow through stem cells harvested from his own blood (so the Bush administration has nothing to fear in its use). If it works, his median life expectancy quadruples.

Which, of course, means four years.

This has had something of an impact on me, as you might imagine. It would have an impact on any of us. But it has more meaning for me than most.

Not because of Jordan's work, mind. I actually never read the Wheel of Time, though I own a copy of the first omnibus edition, and I've meant to get around to it. No, it's his situation that has resonance for me.

In late November and early December of 1999, I saw my doctor, complaining of feeling frighteningly out of shape. I got winded so easily, which I ascribed to how painfully fat I was. I couldn't go two hundred yards without stopping to catch my breath. I needed to lose weight, and I needed a doctor's help in doing it.

Only my breathlessness wasn't my being out of shape. As it turned out, I was in congestive heart failure. The habit I had of coughing my lungs out when I laid down wasn't a lingering cold or allergies, it was fluid flowing into my lungs because my body was hoarding it, thinking (because my heart rate had been steadily speeding up, which the kidneys interpret as low blood volume) I was dehydrated. I was in danger of drowning on dry land.

The cause was an enlargement of the left ventricle and atrium of my heart, causing it to lose cohesion and become unresponsive. The diagnosis was idiopathic cardiomyopathy. I, like the Grinch, had a heart that grew three sizes too large one day. And because it's not designed to do that, my ejection fraction -- the percentage of the blood in my heart that gets squeezed out with every beat -- was 12%. That instead of the 50% or so you should have. To compensate, my heart beat faster and faster to force the trickle of blood out. My blood pressure went up as my body tried to deal with the reduced blood flow. And of course, my kidneys overreacted and here we were.

Now, had this happened in 1989, my option would have been a heart transplant. Period. As it was, there were medicines I could take. Blood thinners, to help prevent clotting (you're in huge danger of having a stroke in those conditions). Beta Blockers and ACE inhibitors, to flog my heart back into normal operation. Diuretics, to get the fluid out of my body. (And sharp restrictions on sodium and daily fluid intake -- drinking too much could kill me.) And the clear, certain knowledge that I was fighting for my life.

The medication was horrible. I would lose days to fatigue and nausea. I would wrestle with incapacity -- I was on exercise restriction to, to the point that I had to drive to work (a walk of six minutes, tops). I had a handicap placard for my car. I got dizzy and lightheaded easily. And I was fatalistic at best.

It is 2006. My cardiomyopathy is in remission, at least for the moment. I'm vastly healthier than I was.

But I'm sickly. My health is fragile, at best. It takes me time to recover from things, and new things hit me very easily. I've had people say that my situation sucks.

But I know it doesn't.

My situation is great.

I'm not dead.

Each and every day I'm not dead is a precious gift. Being able to think in terms of my eventual retirement, as opposed to thinking I'm going to be dead by forty, is a gift beyond price. Between managing my heart condition and the gastric bypass, I am stunned at how bright and beautiful the simple joy of prospect is.

I don't think about my heart failure or cardiomyopathy, much. Not any more. It's still a part of me, but it's remote. But reading about Robert Jordan's cardiomyopathy... about his staring down at a death so close you feel like you should offer it tea like a good host... that resonates with me. That means something to me. I've been there.

And then reading his reactions to it meant even more to me:

In any case, I intend to live considerably longer than [four years]. Everybody knows or has heard of someone who was told they had five years to live, only that was twenty years ago and here they guy is, still around and kicking. I mean to beat him. I sat down and figured out how long it would take me to write all of the books I currently have in mind, without adding anything new and without trying rush anything. The figure I came up with was thirty years. Now, I'm fifty-seven, so anyone my age hoping for another thirty years is asking for a fair bit, but I don't care. That is my minimum goal. I am going to finish those books, all of them, and that is that.

[...]

If I get less than full remission, my doctor already, she says, has several therapies in mind, though I suspect we will heading into experimental territory. If that is where this takes me, however, so be it. I have thirty more years worth of books to write even if I can keep from thinking of any more, and I don't intend to let this thing get in my way.

And I thought Hell yeah! You tell them! You do it!

I was feeling my own mortality today, anyhow. One of my best friends spent the morning in surgery. (It was that best friend -- a guy named The Mason Kramer -- who (without telling me ahead of time) sent Scott Kurtz an e-mail saying "hey, this guy named Burns is writing about your strip in his blog." The reason any of you have ever heard of me is because of Mason Kramer.) He's come through it all right, but one thinks about such things.

Somehow, reading about Jordan's struggle -- and his sheer determination to live, because he has to get things done, means the world to me.

I haven't read him yet. But I'm going to. I have to make a trip down to Portsmouth tomorrow, and I'm going to buy his latest book while I'm down there.

And when it comes out, I'm going to buy his next, damn it.

And thirty years from now?

I'll make him a deal. He live to write and publish it? I'll live long enough to read it.

And then I'll loan it to Mason.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 28, 2006 7:26 PM

Comments

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 7:43 PM

The best part? The most recent book--Knife Of Dreams--is actually really good.

But...you'll be completely lost. Want a recommendation? Grab either Eye Of The World or New Spring (the first book in the series and the prequel, respectively) as well.

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 7:54 PM

D'oh...I just noticed the "I have the first omnibus" line. Oy.

Comment from: djcoffman [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 7:59 PM

"Just because you get through today, doesn't guarantee you tomorrow."

- David Letterman.

Comment from: Bahimiron [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 8:08 PM

Yeah.

If you just grab the latest book, you'll be so lost that the citizens of Lostville will be all 'woah, that dude is LOST'.

If you've got an omnibus of the first book or the first three books, go ahead and read 'em.

I'm one of those folks who liked Jordan, then sorta realized that the books were just gonna go on and on and then joined the peer pressure to slam him and his writing. Now I generally don't care. 'Cept I generally don't care and have a parking space that's a half-hour walk from where I sleep.

So I've taken to loading up my MP3 player with audiobooks. (By MP3 player I mean PSP. It's sad that I paid top dollar for the top portable on the market and there're no games for it, so I use it for audiobooks.) And when you've got a half hour walk followed by a half hour drive in the morning and a full hour drive in the evening (and another half hour walk!) the key is audiobooks that are LOOOONG.

So I did the entire Harry Potter series. Then the entire Song of Ice and Fire Series.

And now I'm working my way back through the Wheel of Time. So hey, give it a go, Eric. Let us know if you like it.

(Don't read New Spring, though. It's pretty much a mess of masturbatory fluff.)

Though if you want a totally different take on what Robert Jordan is capable of? See if you can't find yourself a copy of The Fallon Blood. He wrote it earlier in his career, but it still carries his style.

It's moving tale about a young indentured servant who comes to America to bear witness to the birth of our young nation and becomes a leader in the growing Revolutionary War. And while doing so he fucks everything that moves and RJ gives it up in shocking detail.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 8:09 PM

... I started reading the Wheel of Time when I was 21. I'm now 34. I got so exasperated with the way he drew out the last three or four books that I joked that he'd probably die before he finished writing them. Suddenly that seems less funny.

Comment from: Bequita [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 8:11 PM

When I was about 16, I dressed up as Nynaeve for Halloween. I owned that illustrated encyclopedia thingie. But by the time I was 21, I was sick to death of the unending countless plot twists, the bewildering cast of characters, and the almost two dimensionality that had developed, and gave up my eager waiting for new releases. I've actually skipped one or two of the books, and read later books and not really missed anything. I haven't picked up a copy of anything in this series in years. It was part of my adolescense and I just kinda outgrew it.

And yet, this is devestating for me.

I read this, and realized, whether he vows to beat his cardiomyopathy or not, there's a realistic chance that this story will never be concluded. And because I'm a story junkie, I need to know what happens, it's... devestating.

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 8:13 PM

Chris: For me, it was the official Tor bio for Jordan, which closes with "He has been writing since 1977 and intends to continue until they nail shut his coffin."

Not the image I want to be thinking about.

Bahimiron: I liked New Spring, but that's just me. (At the very least, the short story in the Silverberg "Legends" anthology, from whence the novel came, is worth reading.)

Comment from: Bahimiron [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 8:14 PM

So we shouldn't be blaming this on Ray and Roast Beef?

They didn't potentially cause Mr Jordan's blood poisoning?

Comment from: Bequita [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 8:17 PM

Oh, and I just want to touch on the audiobooks Bahimiron mentioned:

I got into this series because my dad read aloud to us (me and my younger brother and sister) every night before bed for at least 10 years. From when I was 6, until I was 16. When I was about 10, he started taping himself reading aloud.

And 2 years ago, he started dumping these tapes to mp3. I have mp3s of my dad reading the first 4 Wheel of Time books to me. I used to swipe the tapes (my dad made them to listen to in the car during his work commute) to take to college with me, they helped me through being intensely homesick.

And that's the other half of my devestation: these books are irrevocably associated with my dad.

Comment from: JoeFF85 [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 8:21 PM

Makes me think about how when Stephen King was almost killed by that van fans (including myself) went "Oh shit! If he'd died we'd never find out what happened to the Dark Tower!"

Comment from: Polychrome [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 9:15 PM

Wow. When Knife of Dreams came out he said the next book would be the last noreallyImeanit. I geuss he wasn't kidding.

Comment from: Ford Dent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 9:28 PM

Man, I should read some Robert Jordan. People seem to think that as far as authors go he is a bit of all right.

Comment from: Dave Menendez [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 9:35 PM

I'm another victim of Wheel of Time fatigue, but I figured I'd give it another shot once it concluded.

Medians can be tricky. I heartily recommend Steven Jay Gould's "The Median Isn't the Message", which looks into statistics and median life expectency in the light of his own mesothelioma.

The short version: A one-year median life expectency means that half the people die within a year. Depending on the disease, some of the rest may live considerably longer.

Comment from: Archon Divinus [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 9:58 PM

I tried to read the first Wheel of Time book, but it was so mind-numbingly boring that I couldn't even finish it, and I almost never leave a book I've started unfinished.

Comment from: aaronbourque [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 10:33 PM

Read the first omnibus first. It's what, three books? They're three of the best in the series. New Spring and Knife of Dreams are pretty good, but the former is a little bit spoilerish prequel, and the latter is the 11th book in a so far 11 book series. So . . . you might want to at least borrow the books between . . . although I'd recommend buying The Shadow Rising if it's not in the omnibus. Maybe The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos, too.

But definately borrow A Crown of Swords, A Path of Daggers, Winter's Heart, and Crossroads of Twilight. If you like 'em, buy 'em, but the quality generally goes downhill--in fact, it goes into a bit of a freefall--after Lord of Chaos. Knife of Dreams brings the quality back up a some, but it's still not as good as The Shadow Rising (imo, the best book in the series).

Some of the later books also have scenes that are better than the sum of the book they're in, but the rest of the book drags it down.

The Eye of The World also takes about 100 pages before anything happens, and then it's pretty much tense chase scenes punctuated by moments of terror and padded out by scenes of . . . other stuff. The Great Hunt is one of the best plotted books around, though.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque

Comment from: Montykins [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 10:54 PM

I've never even picked up a Wheel of Time book. My strategy is that I'm leaving them until the day that I desperately need a new series to read. And then: presto! Thousands of unread pages! Hooray!

Comment from: quiller [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 11:01 PM

There was a time when I was worried that the Wheel of Time books might go unfinished because I thought the author was older than he was, then I learned he was younger than I thought, now he has a fatal illness, and it is even more tragic because he is relatively young. You know, I don't want anyone to die in the specific (in the abstract the world is not prepared for no more death), but I'm certainly glad to hear that Robert Jordan has a fighting spirit, since that seems to be one of the bigger factors in longevity, and well, I really don't want to have invested this much time into a series that won't end. Yes, it is kind of selfish, but when it comes down to it I'm unhappy about the friends of mine that have died because I can't have conversations with them anymore, I can't hear their opinions on things, I can't work with them, not because I think they are feeling bad. I know Robert Jordan through his books, and it is the books he hasn't written that I will regret when he passes on, hopefully not in the near future. So if I am selfish in hoping he finishes writing the books he wants to write, I celebrate the selfless side of his wanting to write those books.

As for my opinion of Jordan as a writer, I think he is a little too obsessed with the men and women from different worlds thing, but great at creating worlds and making them logically. And aside from the men/women thing he writes excellent characters. Heinlein pretty much wrote the same characters over and over again, even great writers have flaws. I can take a little sillyness in characterization in exchange for a thoughtful writer, I just sometimes wish he didn't have 6+ protagonists in the story so it might be told a little faster. (I'm starting to feel the same way but even moreso about some of Harry Turtledove's series', I'm starting to wish he would write a few more books with just the one protagonist.)

Comment from: Kail Panille [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 28, 2006 11:28 PM

There should be some kind of Wheel of Time Geek Code, so people can quickly sniff out certain essential WoTfan info.

Things like:
What books were out when you started: (1 and 2)
Favorite book: (4)
When did it start going downhill? (8)
Still reading? (hells yeah)

New Spring is kinda fun, especially if you like Moiraine and Lan, but I wouldn't recommend it as a starting place.

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 1:20 AM

Isn't it funny how facing mortality forces a new perspective? Eric - thank you for fighting - back in 1999 I bet you had no idea you'd have such an impact on webcomics :)

When WoT came out I was the only one of my friends not reading it. I said then I wouldn't read it until he finished writing them, and I'll say it now. I plan to live to 125, so I figure Jordan should have time to finish them even if he makes a full recovery.

Comment from: Aerin [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 3:36 AM

Was there one between Winter's Heart and Knife of Dreams? I loved the series early on, like most people, but by the time we got to Winter's Heart, it seemed like there were so many characters that he could only devote a chapter or two to each of them so that everyone remembers that they're still alive, and thus the plot didn't move forward at all. I'm a sucker for endings, though, so I really hope he's able to finish it out...

Comment from: elvedril [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 3:49 AM

I'm another person that ended up dropping out of the WoT club. Couldn't stand Jordan's portrayal of basically every female character, it seemed really unnatural and sexist to me. I stopped reading when a friend admitted that the only character I really liked didn't even get a chapter to himself in the next book. Wow, that was a long time ago...

That being said, I'm glad that Jordan is fighting for his life and to keep producing his books. A lot of people are still reading and he is obviously still enjoying writing, so I hope that he and his fans can continue to enjoy his works for many years to come. I, however, am not going back into that series, it's just not my thing. I might pick up some of his other stuff and see if it works for me.

Comment from: HumanSockPuppet [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 3:58 AM

There's nothing like a good inspirational confession to get the juices of life flowing. And here I thought I was having a shitty week.

Thanks for sharing, Eric. This was a great pick-me-up, and your frankness is commendable.

Comment from: Merus [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 5:52 AM

I got sick of Wheel of Time long before you guys - book 4 was when I started feeling that they went downhill, and nowadays I ask other people to tell me what went on. My disappointment with the Wheel of Time is genuine, although I still think the first three books, taken as a trilogy, are really very good and mostly self-contained. The Great Hunt is the one that stayed with me the longest, even though in parts it seems awfully... synchronous... with Wizard's First Rule. The massacred village that appears in the first half is probably one of the most vivid images in fiction that I've read.

It's certainly not my favourite series - I've been finding some really good Australian fantasy authors, although it doesn't really surprise me that they appeal more than the Americans or the British fantasy because I'm Australian. But a world where the Wheel of Time series isn't ending in two books is somewhat alien to me, and it'd be a tragedy if he left the thing unfinished. Especially after all that work!

Comment from: Matt Buchwald [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 8:02 AM

Aerin: Between Winter's Heart and Knife of Dreams there was a book called Crossroads of Twlight (or to Twilight... or something). Rest assured that absolutely nothing happened in that book. Nothing at all. You could condense the book into about 100 pages and probably have the same meaning. The prologue of it was about 80+ pages... and it was all pretty much fluff.

Knife of Dreams was pretty intense though.

Comment from: Bahimiron [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 9:44 AM

My biggest, and I will even say my only real, beef with Jordan is that he creates these huge, complex female dominated societies. The aiel, with their wise ones and their roofmistresses. The boarderlands, with the chatayans. The Two Rivers, with their women's circle. The Aes Sedai, with their Aes Sedai. Andor, with its matriarchy. Tanchiko, with its panarch. Etc etc etc.

Then he turns around and he simply cannot write a female character to save his life, so every single one of them is the same shrewish, simpering, stupidly viperous one second, helplessly needing saving the next second, thankless, hellspawn bitch. He seems to honestly believe that when you get a group of women together, either they're going to turn into a pit of wild badgers tearing at one another 'til naught remains but blood and bone, or they'll bury one anothers faces between eachothers thighs and there's a happy ending for all.

So in the end characters like Egwene and Nynaeve aren't just unconvincing as women, they're unconvincing as humans.

Comment from: Stan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 10:38 AM

Never read WoT. Way back in high school, I read one of his Conan books. It was standard B-level fantasy with Conan's name attached. The author obviously didn't grok Conan, he was just a hack churning out filler. So I never had any interest in his other stuff.

But I still feel bad that he's sick.

Comment from: Dragonmuncher [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 10:48 AM

There's an omnibus edition!? *swoons* Even if it's just the first three books, that thing must be a few thousand pages long...

For the record, I never got bored with WoT, so THERE. True, Path of Daggers and Crossroads of Twilight weren't that great compared to the rest, but they were still interesing in their own way.

And New Spring is an awesome prequel, if only because it has a lot of insight into Moiraine's character and the White Tower.

So THERE.

Comment from: Bahimiron [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 11:03 AM

If nothing else, New Spring makes me look forward to the Harry Potter prequel featuring Minerva McGongagle and Lily Evans discovering love with one another late at night in the Gryffindor dorms.

Comment from: Prodigal [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 11:16 AM

BAck in 1993 or 94, I became a member of FIDONet's Order Of the Jordanless, more out of amusement at the idea of such a thing than any real animosity toward the man. What I've heard from people who've read his work has shown me that it's not to my personal taste, but I don't begrudge those who like his work.

I have made the occasional swipe at him, however, if only because some of what I've heard about him was so easy to parody - but with this news, I'm giving that a rest for the forseeable future.

Comment from: JB Segal [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 11:56 AM

The reason any of you have ever heard of me is because of Mason Kramer.

Nope. KJC. :)

Comment from: boojum42 [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 2:04 PM

For all that I've snarked about WoT books, I've also eagerly awaited the new ones. Knife of Dreams was a lot better than the ones immediately preceding it, and there a lot of characters whose plot arcs I'm excited about. It would be extremely frustrating not to see the end, especially now that it finally feels like it's in sight.

Also, of course, I'm sorry for Jim Rigney and his family, and impressed by his brave attitude. With luck he'll be well on the far side of that four-year median.

Comment from: Vanderath [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 2:59 PM

I learned of the WoT at about the time of book five or six, and they gripped me sufficiently that I had read the lot before the next came out, However there was a point that due to Mr. Jordan's health deteriorating, the space between publications increased dramatically. And once it came out, I'd lost track of who everyone was. I looked at the back catalogue on the shelf, Evaluated the plot progression over the last few books, and decided I no longer cared enough to re-read them.

I feel though, that no matter how long the work was intended to be, or how apathetic I found myself toward it, It is a tragic thing that the work may be brought to a conclusion early because the man is mortal, whilst his art may not be.

Comment from: Pooga [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 5:46 PM

Wow. I just finished re-reading the series two days ago. I have the full set at work, and had been reading them during lunch or breaks for the past few months. So far, I think I fall into the same category as several people here: series started strong and kept improving until it peaked at 4, maintained a more or less consistent level until 6, wobbled a bit in 7 and went into freefall from 8 to 10, finally stablizing a bit in 11.

I used to have a coworker who worried that Jordan would die of old age before he finished the series (I think the sketch portrait included in the earlier volumes gave people the impression that he's older than he is). Now there is this.

This is worrisome for the fate of the series because even before this news came out I felt there would be no way he could adequately tie up more than a fraction of the plot threads he's got dangling in one last book. Considering the many things that did NOT happen in book 11, I came to the conclusion that he'd either have to go back on his assurance that book 12 would be the last one in the series, or he'd rush things to a point where the resolutions would be very unsatisfying. He already did a bit of that in 11. Perrin & Aram, Rand's hand, and Loial & Erith come to mind, for those familiar with the series. When you consider how many prophesies/visions/fortellings/etc have been made over the course of the series, and how many are still unfulfilled, not to mention the large list of side characters that have now half-complete story arcs, you realize Jordan has his work cut out for him.

Trying to do that and battle a debilitating illness is more than I think many people could handle. I admire his courage in the face of adversity, and perhaps having a goal of living 30 years will give him the focus to overcome this. I hope he hangs on, because more than just about any other series I've read, I have been hanging on for the end. It's a series that made clear early on that while "there are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time," it will have an ending. I very much want to find out what that ending is.

Comment from: siwangmu [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 29, 2006 7:33 PM

WoTfan info:

What books were out when you started: (1-8)
Favorite book: (5)
When did it start going downhill? (6)
Still reading? (hells yeah!)

I don't really think in terms of the downhill thing, but I did end up starting book 6 three times before I got through it--life intervened, but it's probably also a comment on it not grabbing me as much as the others had. Haven't read the most recent, unusual for me, but still love the series with fierceness. It helps that I haven't had much time to get fatigued with it anyway--I could start the first book and somewhere in the middle go off and buy the next seven. Which I did.

One extremely weird thing is that I'm terribly feminist about most things, but, with isolated exceptions (I would give examples but my spoiler-phobia is pretty severe), the gender stuff, well, hasn't really bothered me. The female characters haven't struck me, en masse, as weaker in terms of characterization than the others. Nynaeve has idiosyncrasies and overcompensation issues that have always provoked odd behavior switches from her, but, well, Egwene, for example, just doesn't come off in my readings as flat or a failure as a human creation. The sense of huge fundamental gender divide is something I've always picked up in the worldview of many of the characters and cultures, but somehow it felt like a creation of a specific context and not like something endorsed by the author--for comparison, read Strindberg's "The Father" or "Miss Julie" for some great fundamental gender divide evocation stuff that put my teeth on edge because it is clearly and explicitly something the author believes (see Miss Julie preface)(HATE). For wot, I think it may come down to the fact that if Egwene and others did read as false and flat to me, that would reinforce the sexist aspects of the worldview presented, but since she doesn't, they don't really piss me off. The main questions: Are you writing about a sexist world? (yes) Are the characters socialized into that world? (mostly, yes) Are you writing the characters as if you believe similarly? (Other people are getting yes, where I'm getting not really)

As for loving the books in the first place: if you create people I love, I will forgive you pretty much anything else, including masses of details I can't keep track of or plotting things. And I have to say, actually wading through things, like the training of one character with the desert people (sorry, spoiler phobia again) may not be the strongest choice in terms of literary style, but it made for a really strong reading experience because it was a really intriguing alternative to the montage style of "we don't have time to show this adjustment so just take our word that there were gradual steps leading to this new prowess or character change." And yeah, obviously over the last few books I've lost the sense of urgency about getting to the next one, but even in the "bad" ones there have been events (for example the bowl) that managed to feel all the grander for the excessive buildups. So I guess I'm saying I've found advantages to the LET'S PUT EVERYTHING IN THAT WE CAN THINK OF OMG method.

Also I have a so far endless tolerance for Chekhovian "nothing happens except the whole world changes" scenes of banality, so the much derided "dozens of pages of taking a bath" scene from a recent book was actually engaging to me because I was totally willing to buy in, interestwise, to the deliberations, various relationships and petty negotiations transpiring. Then again, I've always hated the scenes where the characters are (obviously) in terrible danger because they made me horribly anxious 'till I got through them, so I think we can safely say my reading preferences are a bit juvenile.

The irony of writing a huge, rambling post partially in defense of an author's nattering on endlessly is not entirely lost on me.

And we can see how I am totally dealing with this "potential impending death" issue. Yeah, totally processing that. And this is way too many postscripts, but the real effect of reading this post?
"My situation is great.

I'm not dead."
Like a punch in the gut. But a bizarrely uplifting one.

Comment from: UrsulaV [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 30, 2006 12:40 AM

I got through maybe five of the books, because I am a grim completist under most circumstances, and then I just couldn't take it. I got serious Jordan fatigue, and it has resisted all my efforts at re-reading. The female characters got to the point where I would look up from the page and roll my eyes about once a page. It's a similiar fatigue to what I experienced with Goodkind's freaky little Ayn Randian fantasy, although that one took significantly less time to hit the saturation point (i.e. 2 books)

Nevertheless, the guy has a lot of fans, and is by all accounts a decent human being, and I wish him and them the best. Having the series languish unfinished would pain a lot of readers, and as things to live for go, there are much worse options.

Comment from: Yook [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 30, 2006 3:56 AM

I'm freakin' weepy here, Eric. You dastardly man, you, and your writings that are good. Thankeesai.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 30, 2006 8:28 AM

In some ways, people come to life the most when their lives are threatened. The closer you feel you are to death, and the more certain that death seems, the more a person apprciates being alive.

I will say this - the sweetest taste in the world is the first breath you take after you manage to survive. And if you hold onto the memory of that taste, you can drive yourself to things you've never imagined before. Good luck to Jordan in tasting that breath.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 30, 2006 9:38 AM

People are complaining about the female characters in the series, but no comparisons are being made to male characters for the sake of us who don't read the series. Are the male characters any better? Are there sufficiently prominent male characters for comparison to be made? I can't tell from comments so far. I'm left wondering whether he doesn't just write all characters like that.

Comment from: kellandros [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 30, 2006 10:06 AM

He has lots of male characters too. Most of them tend to be described by the women as pig headed and stubborn.

The first one that just dragged for me was Heart of Winter. I think this is when the prologue chapters started breaking 100 pages. The longer and more convoluted the series gets, the more he has to identify where the various protaganists are and what they are doing.

The early books often had the prologue just from a single point of view; one of the better ones was the meeting of Darkfriends where they were given orders to capture/kill the three Ta'verin(??). It introduced a new character, provided background on what a large group was doing, and pointed towards the original three protaganists.

I wonder what this story would look like if it got edited down to a single point of view. Almost every group and country gets seen from more than one point of view. The Seachan would either be horribly one dimensional or (following Mat) a hazy indistinct background to other events.

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 30, 2006 4:07 PM

I got hooked on the WoT back in college. My roommate had a bunch of the books. I read Eye of the World, then skipped ahead to the 4th book (he didn't have the 2nd or 3rd) and continued from there. I stopped when I ran out. Then I realized that the only reason I'd been reading was because of cliffhangers. I didn't care about the characters (except maybe Mat, who was fun but got less so as things went on), or really about the overarching plot. The last couple of books I read didn't even have story arcs of their own—they were just more stuff happening along the way, continuing stuff that'd happened before and would continue after. The whole thing was going nowhere.

Also, the fact that the names of the goblin tribes were all English words with Hs and apostrophes added kind of annoyed me. It just seemed so cheesy.

Much later I ran across an anti-WoT webpage that talked about the characterization of women in the series, and thought, "You know, I never really thought about it, but yeah, at least after the first book the women are all either subservient to the powerful men or 'being obstinate'. Or evil. And pull their pigtails a lot, which I guess is supposed to be cute."

I hope the guy doesn't die. But I'm never reading any of his books again.

Comment from: siwangmu [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 31, 2006 2:56 AM

Well, the women are being obstinate and the men are being pigheaded and stubborn--which means really they're doing what they want/think is important to do and disagreeing with others about what that is. Now if the men were always proved right by experience, then it really would mean the women were either subservient or obstinate. But they don't get it right any more often than the women (actually none of them tend to get it right, they have a sort of a "plot-stupid" problem collectively that always drove my sister insane).

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 31, 2006 7:25 AM

So the answer to my question is "he writes everyone like that"? If so, then why do people only pick on his women?

Comment from: aaronbourque [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 31, 2006 9:34 AM

Because, Paul, One look at my collection will show you how much I respect women.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque

Comment from: aaronbourque [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 31, 2006 9:35 AM

Er, http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33160

Crap.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque

Comment from: elvedril [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 31, 2006 2:43 PM

Paul:

It's been a long time since I read the books so I'm going only by vague memories. But I remember feeling that the male characters tended to be better written. They were sometimes written as if they knew what they wanted to do and were tying to do it. The women always felt like they were too busy bickering and complaining to get anything done.

Though after a while the male characters started to lose me too. The saddest thing was what happened to Perrin, though by the time I quit reading the only person I cared about was Matt.

Comment from: siwangmu [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 1, 2006 5:40 PM

Paul, I guess, for my case, the answer would be yes, but to be honest I share my readings of this stuff for pretty much statistical reasons--it's really hard for me to imagine that the many, many people who have issues with it are making it up. It's much more likely that I have some weird blind spot for it in this work (like the fact that I can read Little Women over and over without the gap in worldview bothering me?). I do tend to mention that I have a different experience of it, though, when the issue is being described for those who haven't read it.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at September 18, 2007 12:12 PM

And here we are. Sigh.

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