Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Eye of the World, ix to xviii, in which Will fails to keep a straight face

The first character we meet in The Wheel of Time has something in common with me, in that we both brought this suffering on ourselves.

Most of you are probably at least aware of WOT, even if you've never read it--the first book came out in 1990, which is notable for me as the first year that I was aware what year it was.  These books are old, given that the series only finally ground to its conclusion quite recently.  This brick of a book I'm staring at warily is 814 pages long and has a cover with one guy wearing vaguely samurai-ish armor on horseback (with a pair of vaguely Celtic swords strapped to his back in a questionable manner) next to a woman on a much smaller horse, carrying a staff and looking like she is small enough to curl up inside his ribcage.  If I hadn't already guessed, it became apparent to me on the first page that this book is sort of a fantasy Poe: if I were to make up a random phrase that was meant to sound like an absurd parody of sword-and-sorcery mythos, it would be indistinguishable from actual text in this book.

I am not necessarily opposed to this.

If I wanted to try to come up with objective criteria on the quality of storytelling, I guess I'd have two questions: 1) How well does the story achieve what it set out to do and be, and 2) What are the real-world implications of the story?  The works of Orson Scott Card do questionably on both these counts, because people act like they got something completely different out of the book than what is in there.  What little I know of Robert Jordan's works, and his immense, Card-eclipsing popularity, suggests to me that they succeed immensely on Criterion the First: if you want this kind of unabashed over-the-top megalomagical Epic Fantasy, they will fulfill your needs.

This blog, of course, is much more focused on Criterion the Second: who gets walked all over in the service of the story's ends?  Women?  People who are disabled?  People who aren't straight?  People who aren't cis?  People who aren't white?  Some beautiful and terrible Voltron of more than one of these demographics?

What I know in advance about WOT suggests that it's going to be heavy on the gender-essentialism and the heteronormativity.  Dunno yet about the racism, ableism, or anything else.  Dunno what kind of politics it pushes or values it assumes.  I am leaping into the unknown here.  Your fates are now bound to mine.  Let's bounce.

(Content: death, ableism, binarism. Fun content: the phrase 'Nine Rods of Dominion' is used unironically.)

Eye of the World: p. ix--xviii
Prologue: Dragonmount

The first thing that leaps out at me is that this prose is hard to read.  In my own fiction, I've been debilitatingly bare-bones about description in the past, and I think these days I still tend towards sparse narrative.  Jordan does not.  Jordan's prose is the purple of a twilight sky in the eyeblink past sunset when the reds have faded but the black of night is not yet swept over the world.  It gets distracting.  We're inside a ruined palace and I'm piecing together what's going on with the help of phrases like:
Bars of sunlight cast through rents in the walls made motes of dust glitter where they yet hung in the air.
Did you parse that sentence on the first read?  I did not.  I'm also a little fuzzy on the nature of the devastation in the palace,since "scorch-marks marred the walls, the floors, the ceilings. Broad black smears crossed the blistered paints and gilt of once-bright murals, soot overlaying crumbling friezes of men and animals", but also "colorful tapestries and paintings, masterworks all, hung undisturbed".  What kind of fire hits every surface of the room but misses all the art?  Is that supposed to be indicative of something?

Also there are corpses everywhere, all sorts, all kinds, and through it all a dude cheerfully skipping along looking for his wife.  (She's dead on the floor among all the others, naturally.  Fridged Women Tally: 1.)  He spots himself in a mirror, looking mussed, and cracks up.  There's more tons of description, including a blatant taijitu (yin-yang symbol) on his cloak, although his name is Lews Therin Telamon and his dead wife is Ilyena.  Samurai armor on the cover, taijitu on the white dude; is this a secret weaboo fantasy and no one told me?

A dude pops into existence behind Lews, wearing all black and thigh-highs, so it's safe to assume he's evil, I guess.  (Thigh-high boots, that is, but I wanted y'all to consider a different mental image first.)  He's described as "fastidious" about not wanting to touch the bodies, and I begin to wonder if this is going to be a series that requires frequent consideration of queer-coding.  He calls Lews "Lord of the Morning", and we are into Poe territory immediately, because Lews asks if the stranger has "the Voice", because it's almost time for "the Singing".

All-Black Dude immediately determines that "the taint" has taken Lews (no Significant Capitalisation?) and I'm fuzzy on whether he's the devil's lieutenant or not, because he says "Shai'tan take you" in a snappish way, but also calls Lews "Light-blinded idiot".  Shaitan is straightforwardly the Islamic take on 'Satan', though sometimes a whole class of spirits rather than one single adversary.  Guessing Shai'tan is going to just be the embodiment of evil for this world; easier to stab that way.

All-Black introduces himself as "Elan Morin Tedronai", now called "Betrayer of Hope", and I wonder why we don't get titles like that more often in real life.  We never get to say stuff like 'This is my friend Eileen, the Jailor of Infinity'.  We should start doing that.  Elan says that he's embraced his title, and it's no different from people calling Lews "Dragon", though he suspects that Lews will have some public relations problems once word gets out about the massacre--apparently Lews is the one who murdered everybody, including the wife he keeps calling for.

Let me again make the nature of this text clear:
"Once you stood first among the Servants. Once you wore the Ring of Tamyrlin, and sat in the High Seat. Once you summoned the Nine Rods of Dominion. Now look at you! A pitiful, shattered wretch. But it is not enough. You humbled me in the Hall of Servants. You defeated me at the Gates of Paaran Disen. But I am the greater, now. I will not let you die without knowing that."
I was so unprepared for this I cracked up.  THE NINE RODS OF DOMINION.  This book is amazing and I regret nothing and everything.

Elan blasts Lews with "Shai'tan's healing" which wracks him with fiery agony but finally leaves him lucid, and he notices his murdered Ilyena.  (Blonde, obvs.)
"You can have her back, Kinslayer. The Great Lord of the Dark can make her live again, if you will serve him.  If you will serve me."
There go my hopes that Elan was a third party or something.  He's just our evil god's field agent.  Oh well.  Lews says the big bad has terrorised the world for ten years, Elan snaps back that it's happened since the beginning of time, and it sounds like there's a reincarnation cycle or something, "You and I have fought a thousand battles with the turning of the Wheel, a thousand times a thousand, and we will fight until time dies and the Shadow is triumphant", so I'm vaguely intrigued by this.

Elan finally makes it clear to Lews that the big bad mind-whammied him into murdering his entire family, in revenge for Lews' last attack.  Killed his wife (Ilyena Sunhair, she's even named for being blonde), his kids, his friends, his servants.
Desperately he reached out to the True Source, to tainted saidin, and he Traveled.
One of the things about these kinds of fantasy novels (Jack Vance also reads like this) is that it can be very hard to guess when a mythical thing is plot-relevant and when it's just magibabble, since references to big arcane things are getting tossed around all over the place.  Are there a lot of False Sources?  This is that same sort of 'tell the reader nothing and let them figure it out by deduction' style of worldbuilding, which I generally like, but I'm still back wondering what the Rods of Dominion are used to Dominate and why there are Nine of them, and in fact why it's so important that there are Nine of them that the word Nine is in their name, and why they have to be summoned rather than kept in a secure closet or something.

But Lews has Traveled to a huge broad plain, where "he could sense there were no people within a hundred leagues", and begs the Light to forgive him, though he doesn't believe it can.
He was still touching saidin, the male half of the power that drove the universe, that turned the Wheel of Time, and he could feel the oily taint fouling its surface [...]
Oh.  Joy.  Our magical Source is split into male and female, in turn making those universal concepts.  Betting there's no room in there for non-binary genders (and probably not intersex people either, regardless of their gender)?  If they've determined that the Source has male and female sides, would they even be looking for one?  I predict that I will spend much of this book suggesting that each plot point would be a good time for an androgyne person to bust in with new magic and save the day.

Lews blames himself and his pride for making whatever attack provoked the big bad's revenge, trying to "mend what the Creator had made and they had broken", and he overclocks himself on magic until he turns into a colossal pillar of incandescence that raises up a huge volcano in the middle of the plain, shoving the river aside and splitting it around a new island.  Elan finally catches up and mutters about how the Dragon can't escape him so easily, et cetera.

Then we get a couple of excerpts from historical texts, talking about the end of the world, when "the living envied the dead" and the only enduring memory is of "him who brought the Shadow and the Breaking of the World. And they named him Dragon", while the second excerpt calls for "the Prince of the Morning" and the "Lord of the Dawn", and then we get what I know is this series' catchphrase: "Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time."

To sum up: big bad, eternal war, hero tried to seal big bad, fucked up, slaughtered everyone, world kind of ended but probably not really because there are fourteen books to go, and everyone is waiting for said hero's return.

Ooh, then we get a huge convenient map:

Will you look at the 90-degree angle those mountains take?  I would normally bet massive quantities of cash that nothing plot-relevant will ever happen more than an inch beyond the borders of this map, but surely with the millions of words that make up this series I'd be wrong about that?  Please?

I also have some huge questions about the borders as defined above.  Why are they where they are?  We have a lot of weirdly-bounded territories in the world, just look at the eastern US or Europe, but there's a reason for that--they're following rivers, or mountains, or some other significant geological feature.  When we don't need to do that, we end up with things like Wyoming and Saskatchewan, boxes imposed on the boredom of the ground.  Why in the world is Tear's curvy border swooping through that field?  Who owns the ground between Tear and Illian?  There are actually an impressive number of unlabelled swathes in there--is the lack of claim there going to be explained, or are they just international territory for some reason?  These are the questions that will trouble me for months to come.

That's followed by this magnificent creation:

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but this appears to show three rivers coming out of the mountains, and somehow the middle one shatters like a river delta in the middle of a field and branches out in dozens of different directions without ever meeting up with the other two rivers that are arcing together.  And eventually all those little streams just die out, in a presumably-damp region called 'the Mire', which I could sort of accept if not for the way there are still two massive distinct rivers bordering the Mire and cutting cleanly through the land.

I realise most fantasy authors aren't hydrologists, and if an actual hydrologist wants to correct me on this, please do because I love new knowledge, but I'm like 35% sure that is not how rivers work.

This is a bit of a short post, but that's all I can handle for now.  Come back next week for chapter one, in which we meet Our Hero, who at first glance looks to me like he's going to be a humble farmboy.  I should make so many bingo sheets.


  1. Ah, the Wheel of Time. A book series that always makes me feel slightly guilty. You see, back in the '90s, I worked at a mall bookstore and the Wheel of Time books were very, very popular and people kept suggesting I should try them. My response was that if the author lived long enough to finish them, I might.

    Harsher in Hindsight, it's not just for fiction.

    Maybe those are roads? Oh, no, wait, they're labeled as rivers. Damn. I'm not a hydrologist, either, but my mom's a geologist and I'm at least 35% sure that's not how rivers work. One of the rivers on the color map also does strange things. I vote we show the maps to a hydrologist, after taking bets on whether they laugh or cry.

    It really is the most generic of generic fantasy. I'm amazed. I've played in D&D campaigns less paint by numbers.

    (I don't necessarily mind generic fantasy. Put a bit of a spin on it or people it with heroes who aren't generic white dude #375 and I probably wouldn't mind at all.)

  2. "The first character we meet in The Wheel of Time has something in common
    with me, in that we both brought this suffering on ourselves."

    Oh, GOOD

    Fridged Women Talley: 1

    Begs the question, what did they call this before they invented fridges. In the same way that I wonder what tornadoes sounded like before the invention of the freight train.

    also: west coast, right handed map, probably the endpapers of the hardback version? Check. Lots Of Capitalizing Common Words? Checkeroonie. I'm guessing there's a glossary in the back? Check and mate if there is.

    To quote MST3K on seeing Bert I Gordon's name in the credits in several places before the movie even starts: "We are in deep, deep trouble guys...."

  3. I speak as someone who has read this entire series and thus has to try to avoid spoilering everything. Like anything, basically, it has his flaws, but I would say it has a lot of things which, especially when it started, were not common in fantasy. It responds to Tolkien as basically all epic fantasy has to, but his answers to questions are not the same as Tolkien's in a lot of areas.

    (Also, I love purple prose. But if you hate it, this series will drive you madder than Lews Therin.)

    I expect there's a lot of stuff in this series you will tear apart, but it takes on a bunch of stuff that the 70s and 80s cohort of fantasy novels did not, generally speaking, though it's lasted so long that stuff which was unique when Wheel of Time did it is no longer unique.

    Anyway, so much I wish I could say but can't without throwing spoilers like candy.

  4. "What kind of fire hits every surface of the room but misses all the art? Is that supposed to be indicative of something?"

    I think it's a clue that magic is afoot: a Magic Dude is Magic Enough to have a Magic Meltdown which blisters the walls and scorches the ceiling and puts an end to the Missus and the Extras but leaves his favorite bibelots untouched. (He was the one who picked out the paintings and the tapestries but it was Ilyena Whatshername who had the crap daubed on the walls. Just my guess.) At any rate, the fact that the fire left smuts all over the sides and top of the room but left the Masterworks unblemished is an indication that it was No Natural Fire. Again JMO.

    The right-angled mountains and the oddly-placed delta might be an indication along the same lines. I never got past book IV or so of the Wheel of Time (weariness overtook me) but when one comes across "natural features" in fantasy novels which show either a surplus or an absence of symmetry and/or which work in a way elements of the landscape simply don't work on earth it's often a clue-in that the "natural features," so-called, are in reality nothing of the kind; they didn't just happen but were engineered. (This happens in F&SF movies too and in Avatar it's made to apply to a whole world.)

    Anyway, it's all so suspicious-looking that the impression it makes on me is that it was intended to look suspicious, though I suppose plain old conventional ineptitude could be to blame as well. No doubt we shall see, if the author decides it's important enough.

  5. Rivers CAN spread out like that, a la alluvial fans and deltas, though why it would in this case I'm not sure. However this doesn't seem very likely for some other reasons as well. Where are the lowest points of the groundwater table here? If the mire is a swamp, that should mean that the water gets stuck in the ground there and has nowhere easy to flow out to-- but it's right next to rivers that are clearly flowing away from it. Is there some sort of impermeable layer just surrounding the swamp area? That impermeable layer would have to go around practically the whole watershed of the Winespring, because otherwise the water wouldn't get bogged down (ha) in the swamp area, because it would be moving faster if it went into one of the surrounding rivers. It's *possible* I suppose? Maybe? It's just... not likely.

  6. Weee, a book that I've read but hardly remember! I love decons that I'm coming to with no prior baggage (and I love revisiting books that I have no intention of reading every again)

    Wow, I had forgotten how purple that prose is.

  7. I think one of the reasons I only read the first book was that he kept making it longer and I also had a "if he lives long enough" kind of thing going. I'm still hesitant to read a series before it is complete.

  8. So, I took these maps to my mom, a cartographer with a degree in geography. Her verdict on the first map was: some of this is plausible. Tremalking is what you would expect to see in a volcanic caldera and is, in fact, very similar to Orcas Island. The peninsula nearest Tremalking could happen if an ocean current from the east was depositing silt there for some reason, but the coastline east of it is the wrong shape for that. The northern peninsulas could be reasonable outreaches of the mountain ranges leading to them.

    The non-plausible parts: too many mountain ranges in too many strange directions. you get mountain ranges at the edges of tectonic plates. Unless this is a continent spanning an entire hemisphere, this world would have to have teeny, tiny tectonic plates (with the resultant volcanoes that would be covering the land in lava). So a big nope on that. Also, mountain ranges do not form 90 degree angles. Acute V angles, sometimes. This? Nope.

    Also, the national borders that weren't tied to rivers (there are a few) made little sense to her.

    When I showed her the Two Rivers map, my mother, the woman who almost never swears, said : "What the HELL?" At first she thought the mire area was all of the tributaries feeding into whatever that river is called. When I said, no, as far as we can tell, the water is going the other way, she started laughing. The big curving river would have to be lower than the mire, and there is no way all those little streams in the mire wouldn't reach that river, which the map clearly shows they don't. She also thought that the north-south line near the mountain range was another river, which she said wouldn't happen. When I told her I thought it was a road, her comments on the quality of map-making (which should be making a clear distinction between river and road) were pithy.

  9. The purpleness of the prose is easier to handle when it is read aloud to you in a pleasant voice.

    The mountains aren't natural, though I'm not sure the right angle is explicitly explained.

    The cover art is a totally accurate depiction of the size difference between men and women as described, constantly, by Jordan. Most of the women are particularly small and most of the men are especially tall and broad. Only very small women and very large men ever do anything interesting, you know.

  10. "You and I have fought a thousand battles with the turning of the
    Wheel, a thousand times a thousand, and we will fight until time dies
    and the Shadow is triumphant"
    So this is just one more iteration of an endless cycle? And it's impossible for anyone but the baddie to make any kind of progress? Sounds like the smart thing to do is not worry about the latest run-around of the same meaningless cycle and put the book down now.

  11. Imo, the Wheel of Time does build to a pretty interesting and well-realized world. It sort of fleshes out a skeleton of Stock Fantasy with interesting stuff. On the other hand, we start in standardest of standard settings with the stockest of stock characters. And while that might be a good idea to ease an audience into a more complex setting, like everything in this series it just takes so damn long to get there. When presented with a series that could easily be arranged into a pretty solid wind shelter at short notice, "it gets better later" isn't necessarily a point in its favor.

  12. Oh Wheel of Time. Oh you. So many feminist intentions, so many botched executions. It's a bit like Joe Biden in that respect: solid on the core principles, but accompanied by truckloads of old straight white man privilege. I think the intersection of Jordan's ideas and intentions with the ways he fails to carry them through in the finished books are fascinating, but you can't really talk about that without spoilers, so. I will say it's likely to fail pretty hard on a line-by-line analysis, since the feminist intentions all live in the realm of theme and subtext while said botched executions spend most of their time in grating, in-your-face text.

  13. The metaphysics of this world are shot all to hell, even leaving aside the gender essentialism. There are alternate timelines such that if the Dark One is bound in one he is bound in all but if he's free in one he's free in all, so for all we know the universe could be destroyed at any minute regardless of the heroes' efforts in this timeline.

    (There's also the fact that the Dark One is both the only possible source of change in the eternal repetition of the turning of the Wheel, and (minor spoilers for First Age backstory) gur bayl fbhepr bs aba-traqre-frtertngrq zntvp cbjre, so... yay Shai'tan?)

  14. Just from the maps and the introduction, I think I realized that this series wasn't going to work for me, although I think I got a book in before chucking it across the room and moving on.

    That said, it feels like Chekov's Overloading Gun here, where not only will it fire, but in doing so, it backfires and spreads itself in all directions. I can only wonder what the rest will be like.

  15. That doesn't appear to be a river fanning out into the swamp, but a network of pathways. It's a road coming out of the mountains - you can see it has a name "xxxxx Road" - but even when I magnify the image the name is an early prototype of the invention of the capcha.

    I did read the first four (maybe) books but that was ten to twelve years ago. I remember little about it except much came back to me when I read the Sword of Truth saga. I might buy this book again so I can follow along.

  16. I'm guessing there's a glossary in the back?
    Boy howdy is there. Also, lots of fantasy words with random apparently-pointless apostrophes in.

  17. I see what you mean. There is a "Arglebargle Road" tag and it intersects with the other road at a dot which is a very odd thing for a river to do.
    Only, after it passes the dot it is labeled "The Winespring Water" which is a very odd name for a road, not to mention the splitting into a delta which is downright aberrant road behavior.

  18. I googled and found a clearer map at and it is clearer there it actually is a river, and apparently it springs from the ground at a town at the road intersection.

  19. Wait, what? Either "if he's bound in one, he's bound in all" or "if he's free in one, he's free in all" can be true. Not both. Because if he's bound in one, he's free in all the others.

  20. Even after one sorts out (probably) which lines are meant to be rivers and which are meant to be roads, there's a lot that doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense. I'm not sure why the road continues to the lower river after Deven Ride (?), or why there's not some sort of settlement at the river...assuming that's a river that can be used for commerce. (But, again, if it's not, why does the road go to it?)

    And if you look at the area on the big map (once you find it), it appears to be in an area where the Mountains of Mist are lower. I'm surprised there's no passage through them at that point, especially as the big map has the upper river continuing on through the mountains to the lake that doesn't seem to get a name.

    Not that real geography and town locations always make perfect sense at first glance, but it does seem rather odd.

  21. iirc, this was not so much addressed as lampshaded; apparently logic is the province of the Creator and paradox the province of the Dark One. (This was never brought up again, for obvious reasons, and the alternate timelines are pretty much forgotten after book 3, unless they showed up again after I'd given up on the series.)

  22. Former hydrologist here, although I studied glaciers, rather than rivers. Also, my research into the field of hydrology ended when I got my degree (in 1996), so I'm rusty and could be wrong. Here's my take on the map:

    The only way the disappearing rivers bit makes sense is if the river was flowing into a karst terrain. The limestone bedrock of those terrains is highly water-soluble, so rivers tend to disappear down sinkholes, where they make caves (which are way cool if you're not claustrophobic). Eventually the water flows out of the ground where the local bedrock isn't limestone.

    Karst terrains are usually lacking in marshes. As noted above, limestone is soluble, and water makes sinkholes and flows into caves beneath. What I'm thinking is that there are lots of water-impenetrable clay hardpans under most of the Waterwood, but these are not omnipresent-- each river meets its end where the clay hardpan isn't and the sinkholes take over. Yes, I'm grasping at straws here.

    As for why the river splits into distributaries east of Emond's Field: you got me. That shouldn't happen.

    One thing that I'd be sure to check if I were ever to visit Randland (some safe corner of the world where nothing is going to happen for a week or two, please): are there fossils? I'm guessing not. These would indicate a deep time that existed before humans, ogiers trollocs, Dark Ones, et cetera came into the picture. No fossils = no deep time = continental drift not necessary (because the world is Broken, then Fixed every few thousand years).

    Am I overthinking this? You decide.

  23. Actually, there are at least some fossils. In book 4, a character visits a curiosa collection/private museum displaying the skeletons of extinct animals, and magically (literally, using actual magic) determines that they are far older than recorded history (which is about 4 000 years).

    The first books also occasionally imply that they take place in the real world, but thankfully Jordan gave up on that fairly quickly.

  24. Bars of sunlight cast through rents in the walls made motes of dust glitter where they yet hung in the air.

    Did you parse that sentence on the first read? I did not.

    ...yes, sort of, in that I thought he was talking about a prison cell. (My eyes skipped to the blockquote, so I read it before the "we're inside a ruined palace".)

    I'm mostly confused by the "yet". It seems completely gratuitous. I'm not sure why it would even occur to anyone to put a "yet" there.

    When we don't need to do that, we end up with things like Wyoming and Saskatchewan, boxes imposed on the boredom of the ground. Why in the world is Tear's curvy border swooping through that field?

    Maybe they wanted a good outline to use as a symbol of the place? I know outlines of the state/province are used a fair bit in New Jersey and Ontario, and I always wondered how Wyoming and similar coped with having such generic ones.

    Wait, no, that only works if these are all subdivisions of the same country. If they're different countries (and this seems like the kind of genre where they would be), a desire for territory would probably beat out a desire for a recognisable shape. Although, that might lead to the same effect: Tear is that shape because their government has managed to hold exactly that much territory and no more. Hmm.


    Well, I think we're off to a good start. Looks like fun, though probably not in the way the book was intended to be fun.

  25. Yeeah, when you accidentally hand your epic villain the "I win!" button, it's probably best to pretend you didn't, sweep the whole thing under the rug, and hope no one noticed.

  26. "they yet hung in the air"
    I'm ok with the Yet. Yet can mean "still" (in its temporal sense), or "even now"....I suppose the context to be such that the observer has been there for some measure of time and whereas the dust might have been expected to have settled, it has not yet done so.

  27. The 'logical' nature of boundaries depends on the kind of settlement, governance, and property regime you have. If we're talking about 13th-century Europe, boundaries are pretty clear and well-defined (except in places like northern Scandinavia). If we're talking about 16th-century North America, there may not be solid boundaries in lots of places (think the Dothraki Sea). So the dashed line for Tear may simply indicate "we control some of the hinterland here, but not the interior".

  28. Only Some StardustOctober 21, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    Maybe the country shapes are odd because... magic? Like, your country is more powerful if it has a certain geometric shape.... okay that sounds stupid, nvm. Or maybe some of the countries were once part of a single kingdom that divided up peacefully between princes? Princes each inheriting parts of a kingdom instead of the whole is something that has happened in history before, it could work as an explanation maybe. "Daaaaddd, I want a giant half-circle!" "OK sonnie." Idk.

  29. Only Some StardustOctober 21, 2014 at 8:29 PM

    That wikia says the area is based on the author's home down, Charleston, SC. If it's accurate, then here's a map: The roads do look alike. It looks a lot like he took an area near the sea and splatted it next to some mountains instead and hoped no one would notice, and turned the sea area into marsh instead?

  30. Regarding the map: aside from the land stuff, why is it that the big, connected, in no way differentiated body of water around the land called 3 different names? Why is it sea twice and ocean once but there are no natural boundaries to make it need different names? Unless there is more land just barely off the map on the other sides of the "seas" and not the "ocean"?
    Or is it a polite map that is listing the local names for the water depending on which area you're in?

  31. I think there's a couple of options that would make those statements logically consistent, depending on the meaning of "one".

    Option 1: His containment status is constant across all timelines. Freeing him in any one timeline causes him to become free in all others; binding him in any one timeline causes him to be bound in all others. If there's a hero trying to bind him in one timeline and a villain trying to free him in another simultaneously, he pingpongs between states until one of the contestants gets bored or has to pee.

    Option 2: His containment status varies across timelines, and there exist two timelines which maximize his chance of freedom or his chance of captivity. He can be bound in the max-freedom timeline only if he is already bound in all other timelines; he can be freed in the max-captivity timeline only if he is already free in all other timelines. So they're like the end zones in the great interdimensional Mess-With-Shai'tan football game; flipping his containment status in one of those timelines means total victory.

    In either case, life sounds pretty annoying for Shai'tan and maybe that factors into his general bad attitude.

  32. The Great Lord of the Dark

    Dark always gets a bad rap. I'd like to see a story where Dark is unabashedly good, and Light is outright evil. (As opposed to all the stories where they're both neutral/dickish.)

    Chronicles of the Mole People or something.

  33. The problem with Option 1 is that freeing him is presented as an instant-destruction condition for the world, and in any timeline where he has influence, his freedom seems to be a natural consequence of entropy. The Creator doesn't seem to have been very good at his job...

  34. This is going to make less sense the more I think about it, isn't it. If freeing him is instant-destruction, then he must be bound in all (non-destroyed) timelines already, or the world wouldn't exist for the story to happen in. But what does freeing him and destroying a timeline do to the other timelines? And why would anyone want to free someone/something that would instantly destroy the world? (Not a problem unique to this story.) Do the people trying to free him not know (or not believe) that will instantly destroy the world? What do they think will happen instead?

  35. The Betrayer of Hope in this chapter is entirely on board with destroying everything because nihilism; the others seem to believe the Dark One will just take over and give them kingdoms and things.

  36. Of course, the usual reason people follow villains. Sign up with the Destroyer of All now and not only will you get your very own kingdom, but as a bonus, we'll throw in one indestructible skeleton army! Don't wait, this is a limited time offer!

  37. So if he's freed in any timeline then that timeline ceases to exist and he's still bound in all the timelines. It's starting to make sense!

  38. Welcome to Night Vale does it pretty well during their second year arc, with the titular town clearly associated with darkness, night, and the moon, and the villains from Desert Bluffs associated with the sun, yellow and orange logos, and a Smiling God that manifests as a blindingly bright light.

  39. This kind of thing is tricky to pull off, because you need to indicate what's happened is unusual (which doesn't seem to have happened here), but without specifically calling attention to it/how weird it is, which would rob it of its power.
    So "the fire started at the top of the wall" and then later the table starts burning doesn't work, but neither does, "the fire started at the top of the wall, and then it spread down! Fire is supposed to spread up, but this fire spread down!"

  40. Well, I'm not willing to issue the yr-doon-it-wrong ukase against Robert Jordan at this point, if only because no doubt there'll be lots of time for that later. Perhaps this passage is supposed to be one over which the eye of the casual reader is meant to glide and which is intended to deposit in that reader's brain only a mild sensation of uneasiness. (As in: "I know something's wrong here, but — I — can't — quite —put — my — finger — on it — ") But you're right, it's a difficult stunt to manage, and one of the things which makes good horror writers good is that they know how to do it.

  41. 1. In the House of Night series there are these two magical bulls which symbolize the total forces of creation. The white bull, which is all soapy/slick and awful-looking, is the one which is aligned with evil and the black bull is the one aligned with good.

    2. Isn't something like that the case in Recluce? (Correct me if I'm wrong.) I only read a book or two in that series and it was a long time ago but I seem to remember that the "white" magic there is the dodgy (chaotic) kind and that the "dark" magic is more orderly and reliable. (Though admittedly that's not the same as being "good" or "evil.")

    3. Lady Viridis's villains remind me of the Children of Light corps in this very series. Though it wouldn't right to call them flat-out "evil" (I don't think) they're still not most people's idea of good guys. What I mean is that though they're very light-aligned, their behavior is ambiguous.

  42. I've got a high fantasy setting where one of the major races doesn't do the light/dark thing. Instead of light, it's done by temperature: evil is cold, good is warm, and neutral is hot. The people is question are ectothermic.

  43. Aashyma Never WouldNovember 5, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    You should check out The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

  44. There's the Knights of the Ebon Blades, aka the Death Knights of Warcraft, who are associated with Dark, Unholy, Blood, and Frost, but are good-aligned, just extremely pragmatic, doing whatever it takes to protect everyone.