Not so far from home was this convention for fans of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (WoT) series, 14 books long (plus a prequel) that spanned publication dates over 23 years. The author passed away in 2007, and the series was completed in three (gigantic but relatively brisk) books by Brandon Sanderson, the last of which was in 2013.
For those who read this blog who are more familiar with DragonCon, below is a picture of the onerous registration line. Yeah, tough times.
I enjoyed the WoT series, to a point. Unlike many series that are too short, this particular series lost its stride early and wore on far too long. Still, it was a rich book for those willing to either embrace its minutiae or weather its tedium for the grander narrative obviously sustaining its fan base. On its own, I don’t know that a JordonCon would have attracted me. Though I liked the main characters, I lost track of the details over the duration (there are said to be 2,782 characters in the series).
But... Brandon Sanderson is an author I greatly enjoy, and he returned as a participant/Guest of Honor. I’m interested. Sealing the deal was another Author Guest of Honor, Patrick Rothfuss, who authored my favorite fantasy series (which remains incomplete at present).
A brief recap of the Con:
Friday, I was able to get Sanderson’s autograph on his latest book, the second in his own epic series called The Stormlight Archive. It was after work, and I headed home.
Saturday morning, we attended an author panel including Rothfuss, author Eugie Foster, and editor Harriet McDougal, also Robert Jordan’s widow. This was an interesting panel about writing “more than just prose,” which covered naming choices for cities and characters, cuss words in fiction, lyrical voice in prose vs. music vs. lyrics inserted as songs in fiction, the sound of words, the art of the tease, and... other tidbits which speak to the intent of experienced writers. It’s not for everyone, but I got a kick out of it. For Rothfuss, particularly, it was interesting to hear in very thoughtful terms his deliberate and exhaustively considered choice of words. This tendency is likely to “blame” for the duration between his books, but the quality of his writing bears patience.
The next panel featured Brandon Sanderson explaining his views on the use of magic in fantasy, known as, surprise, Sanderson’s Laws of Magic, of which there are three. No notes were used, just a two hour lecture delivered in an hour and fifteen minutes.
His final point, the Zero Law, was “Err on the Side of Awesome.” It was a greater point to consider what satisfies the author, and then change the story/magic/universe to get there. Kind of. An example was the Knights Radiant, who were the result of a geeky desire to include heroes with powered armored and swords and working backwards to figure out a way to make that happen.
Like Rothfuss, it was interesting. Unlike Rothfuss, it was the equivalent of drinking from a fire hydrant. The pace of their presentations mirrors the pace of their written output, and their styles obviously work for each of them.
This certainly wasn’t a large convention, but I have to note that providing a hospitality suite was unexpected and remarkable. Hot dogs, chips, salad, canned sodas and bottled water, cookies, and places to sit... Free. I don’t know what resources JordanCon has at their disposal, but I can’t help but wonder how they managed this, not to mention the permission of the host hotel given a loss of related revenue.
We chatted with Artist Guest of Honor Larry Elmore in the artists’ area, where he explained a collector’s ambition, and rather fanatical focus, to create a museum for the genre fantasy art genre. My wife then ventured off for a couple of panels featuring Elmore, including a sketching session followed by a “KaffeeKlatsch,” where 10 fans were able to chat about whatever around a table.
Meanwhile, I was interesting in a demo of X-Wing, a table top game, in a room dedicated to gamers. However, as one person was putting the contents of the game into a box minutes before the demo was to begin, I interpreted this as a non-event.
What to do... One, a trip upstairs for a free bottle of water and... maybe I could take pictures of people in costume in the meanwhile. JordanCon certainly has people who “dress up,” but its scale is dwarfed in comparison to DragonCon, and most attendees were actually in the panels, which is a good thing. So, there were few people wandering around for photo ops. Still, here’s two, both of characters in the WoT universe.
Aeil Maiden of the Spear:
The above is Paige Gardner, of costumeartist.com, who was well known to attendees and also works with the DragonCon costuming program track.
Again, one of the main reasons for attending was to meet Rothfuss, to whatever extent such events allow, and get some books autographed. The queue line was well managed, and Rothfuss was as personable and gracious as one might hope.
Signings... and then the fun breaks out:
It’s a three day convention, and somewhat to the organizer’s surprise and delight, attendance increased to over 600, which was uncertain considering last year’s Con celebrated the finale of the series.
We’ll see how long JordanCon can hold the attention of its fans. In any case, the intimate size of the event was refreshing, and there was plenty to entertain those who have invested themselves so heavily into the WoT universe.