This past weekend was JordanCon in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been a huge WoT fan since I started the series back in 2003 or so. I had a great time, and wanted to recap all the things that went on.
I really wanted to go to this convention, even though it was pretty expensive for me to do so. Last year I didn’t go for that reason, and my name was drawn to be represented as an officer in the Last Battle. And I effin missed it.
I want to talk a bit about that, because I haven’t really made any formal mention of it. I was waiting for more information, which was a long wait. I got the notification that I won on Apr 24 (2009), and geeked out about it for a while. Things died down, and I sent an email to Melissa Craib of TarValon.Net (whom we met on the weekend, nice person who likes us Canadians). I received a response in the next week or so saying that things were hectic with Brandon, etc, which was understandable. A few hours later I received a response from Brandon Sanderson, which I’ll post here because it’s effin cool to get an email from him:
Sorry to not be in better contact. I’ve been doing prep planning and the like, and your appearance in the books will likely be most obvious in the third book. I’m not sure if I’ll be using you in the second or not.
But just so I have it, I’d like a picture of you and a short write-up of distinctive things about you. Your likes, your interests, if you were going to be from one of the groups in the books, what would it be. That sort of thing.
Now that I look back I think I emailed him like 2000 words… but hey, I was geeking out again. And… I hadn’t heard anything since. Which, again, is understandable, since I imagine Brandon’s pretty busy.
Fast forward through the rest of the year. I was debating going to JordanCon in 2010, and I seriously considered calling it off a few times. I eventually caved and booked the flight tickets though (since Laura paid for them…). I think the tipping point was the fat tax return we got this year (yay!). I was also reserved because I wasn’t sure if I’d even enjoy it. I’ve never been to a Con before, and I don’t really know anyone in the WoT community outside of the Dragonmount Yahoo! group. No one from there was going, and no one else even knows we exist! Anyways, I figured I’d survive… so after a waking up at 2:30am to try to catch an earlier flight, not being able to fit on it, and hanging out for another 5 hours, we boarded the plane and arrived in GIGANTIC ATLANTA. We didn’t get the the hotel until after 3:00, which meant I missed the opening and “An Hour with Brandon Sanderson” bit (which was a bummer, because I hear it was cool).
The first thing we did was go get our badges and sweet l00t bags, and hit the JordanCon Orientation panel, which declared it was the place to be for a first-time Con-goer. There was about six people in there, plus the two panelists. The panelists went over general Con related things, and what was going on all weekend. It helped us sort of settle in and get comfortable.
Next I hit the Mistborn Panel, and participated in a discussion about the Mistborn world (and other Brandon Sanderson worlds). I mostly just listened at this one, except I did chip in when no one could remember Hoid’s name. Again, I was still getting comfortable. There were some interesting things brought up. Someone suggested that all of Brandon’s books are in the same world, perhaps just different planets/universes/whatever. There was a lot of talk about how we’d like to have seen more about Marsh, and how strong of a female character Vin is (and how well she’s written by Brandon, a young male author).
At dinner we met up with a couple that had invited us to dinner on the forums (thanks for being friendly, Marty!). It was nice, because they was the first people we actually talked to. It was a great time and it was the first I thought “hey, maybe we’re not going to be outcasts at this thing after all”.
That night there were two events that were really exciting, and I had to pick between them. I eventually decided to go for Magic: The Gathering over the Seanchan Hold’Em charity poker tournament, and the main reason for that is Brandon Sanderson had organized a draft. I usually do horrible in MTG, but this turned out to be a really good event…
That’s because I ended up sitting next to Brandon at the draft table. I still hadn’t found a way to introduce myself, but he did it for me by asking my name. I said “Anthony Aziz” and he was responded in something like “oh, I remember you — OOOH, yeah! I spoke with you, you’re one of the winners that’s right! Me and you need to talk later!”. Or something like that. It was a pretty big deal for me so I don’t remember the exact conversation. (Was I gloating a bit this weekend? I hope not).
Anyways, we started drafting. With the last round of drafting, three of us at the table got a Mythic Rare card – pretty strong and valuable cards. Usually the rule is “pick the mythic over anything else” simply because it’s is valuable and really useful in a deck (if you have that colour). Brandon made a “hint” that I should pass it to him jokingly. I said “let’s see, take the mythic rare, or get bonus points, hmm” which brought chuckles (at least from me, maybe some others at the table). It was a White card, and I had already settled on Red/Green, so I didn’t need it, so I actually did pass it. To be honest, I probably would have passed it to anyone. I don’t play Magic enough to justify hoarding good cards to myself that I probably won’t use (I seem to never put White in my deck :/), and I’m just a nice guy.
When the match ups began, the guy to the right of me turned towards his right, which meant I was paired with the person on my left, which at this point is Brandon’s empty chair (he was standing up – organizing). At this point I have mixed feelings – as in Sweet, head-to-head with Brandon Sanderson and Holy Shit I’m going to get creamed by this guy (it’s well known that Brandon is a really good MTG player).
During the game we really didn’t talk about anything other than MTG. Which I think was cool, because it didn’t feel like he was just doing something he didn’t really care for just because. And it was pretty cool to have a normal (geeky) talk with him. I fared better than I thought I would. He did destroy me, while only taking minimal damage himself, but even he himself applauded my ability to stay alive several turns after I should have been dead.
Good thing there was a loser’s bracket. This post isn’t really about MTG, so I won’t go into it much, but I ended up winning my first game (barely – I was loosing 27-1 until I completely came back), and then the finals bracket I though I was going to lose except I pulled a really cool combo, and I ended up winning a promo card.
The best part of the event, however, was after the tournament. People played a few more games, and a bunch of us (including Brandon) sat around and talked about things and trading cards. Brandon was building an Eldrazi deck, so I traded him some of mine, in return for a nice Rare (which I got him to sign for me) and a bunch of commons. I talked computer talk with Jason Denzel of Dragonmount (and Steve of Portalstones), and learned that the entire website is run out of a server in his closet. Of course, he’s a professional, so I’m sure he can manage it. The night ended at about 2:00am, and I know Brandon was up even longer…
And the morning began with knocking on the door at 8:00am. If it was anything other than my breakfast, I would’ve been upset. But it was my breakfast, so I chowed down. The first panel of the day for me was WoT Games, in which we learned how to play Snakes and Foxes and stones (Go in real life). I couldn’t believe it, but there was a guy who was exactly like Olver, he just didn’t believe it was impossible to win and kept trying. Now I know what Mat feels like watching that big-eared kid.
At 11:30 was book signing with Brandon and Harriet. So I grabbed The Gathering Storm, Mistborn: Hero of Ages, Warbreaker and Elantris. My copy of Elantris is a beat-to-shit paperback that I picked up for a few bucks at Value Village. It was the first Brandon Sanderson book I read, and still is my favourite to this day (of his solo books). It was what first made me comfortable that he was finishing WoT.
I waited at the back of the line (because I had more things to get signed than most people), and chatted with a few folks in line with me. I finally reached the front of the line. Harriet signed TGS for me (I ordered it online signed from Brandon – so he didn’t sign it this time). Harriet, I discovered, is an extremely nice person! Brandon signed all the other books – and put nice quotes inside. I also convinced him to sign the MTG card I got from him (I’m such a goddamned fanboy). Laura was nice enough to run upstairs to grab her camera for me, too, so I got a shot with both of them.
At 1:00pm I participated in Illian’s National Trivia Bee (get it, because the nine golden bees? harhar). I was worried… but I got a pretty easy question for my first round: “What nation has the thistle and star on its flag?”. The answer was Amadacia, and the only reason I knew that was because the panel director (Shannan Lieb) had mentioned it earlier in the day. This round knocked out only a few people, but several had to use their pass. My second round question was something like “who used the alias XXX as an Aes Sedai?” which I completely did not know, thus used my pass. It turns out I really had no clue, and I don’t remember either of the names now. Third round did me in. The question was “What’s the largest size a circle can be with only 1 male channeler?” I knew 13 was max with only woman, and there was logic to it, so I was debating between 26 and 27… either the male means they can double the circle, or the male enables an additional 13 woman to join. I went with 27 and I was WRONG. Damnit. The answer was 26, so at least I feel good about that. It’s okay because the 4th and 5th round questions were ones that I had no clue about. It was all in good fun anyways, though I would’ve liked one of the JordanCon tees.
I was pulled into the bellydancing workshop at 2:30pm, and I don’t want to talk about it. NEXT. (Though I did get a good stretch…)
At dinner we were invited to eat with some more people, including Melissa Craib (the one who had originally sent me the “You have won!” email), Tricia Erickson, and others (who had some fantastic costumes – Moiraine was probably my favourite costume of the Con). We had a great time talking to other people here, probably one of the best parts of the event.
After dinner was the dance/charity silent auction. There was a cool performance by the bellydancing group, and people chatting/having drinks. We kind of fluttered around, not really talking to anyone (which was a bummer). I took a look at some of the stuff they had there. Mostly all of it was cool, and I considered bidding, but the fact was I really wouldn’t have anything to do with most of the stuff I actually could afford. Some of the things available:
- 2009 Calendars (very cool) with bumper stickers,
- 2009 Storm Leader T-Shirt (and Calendar)
- A print of each of the E-Boook covers
- A hand-made grolm plushie (signed)
- The first chapter of TGS on big paper (signed)
- Robert Jordan’s walking cane
- Advanced reading copy of The Way of Kings
- Some of Robert Jordan’s knicknacks (small stone figure, lighter, photo card)
While some of this stuff was extremely awesome, and I would’ve liked any of it, I didn’t have the money to bid on the things that I actually would want. The TWoK advanced reading copy went for something like $825, and RJ’s cane went for $600-700. Some of the prints (especially the Moiraine one) were up to $50 when I checked at 10pm (auction ended at 11, so I’m sure they close at a higher price), so it seems like they got a decent bit of change for the charity.
We got out of there and headed to play some games in the other room. We played a few card games (Guillotine and Saboteur), and some folks were playing MTG and others were playing Are You A Darkfriend (a game were everyone sits in a circle, and secretly the “Darkfriends” murder people off). Brandon Sanderson found his way down to the room to have some matches, of course… and then he asked me to come chat with him about my appearance.
This is the cool part. We sat down in an empty room, and he asked “first, I want to know about you. What you’re like, etc. I probably have it in an email, but tell me anyways”. So I described myself to him, my values, my personality and other aspects of who I am. He then asked who would I want to be in the WoT world. I assumed that the Two Rivers men / Cha’Faile were the ones chosen to be the military group (he confirmed this), and I said that yes, I’d like to be a Two Rivers person. I’m a family guy, and I like the down-to-earth, humble, stubborn Two Rivers folks. He told me that then I would likely be a Two Rivers Longbowman, and said “or you could be a channeler. Is that something you want?”. I told him that I would be fine being a channeler/Asha’man, that’s fricken cool. He said “because then you wouldn’t be in the Two Rivers, you would have uprooted your family and brought them to the Black Tower”, which was cool. As I told him, it’s something that needs to be done for the right reasons, I accept what I can’t change, do what needs to be done, and don’t worry about that which I have no control over (or I try to, anyways).
He said that was everything he pretty much needed. I did bring up the issue of a name. What would it be? We had discussed (in the newsgroup), and the best suggestion I’d seen was something along the lines of “Anton al’Ziz”. Brandon said that my last name would likely be what he used, suggesting something like “Azis” or similar. He’s a lot better at making up names than I am, so I told him my suggestions and that they were just what I had been thinking about, and that I trusted what he would come up with. Finally, he asked if my family was with me, so I brought him to Laura, whom he said he wanted to meet because he would might write something about my wife in the book. Which is really cool, because although we’re not officially married, we might as well be, and I think having a family to fight for is something awesome. For even if I die, I will do my best to die in service of saving the world from being remade in the Dark One’s image. We don’t have any children, but I wouldn’t mind if he did include children as part of our Randland family.
When I came back to the game room, I joined in for some Darkfriend fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to be anything cool (villagers are lame), but I did oust Laura as the last remaining Darkfriend (the scoundrel), which was balls-hilarious. Then it was really late so we got kicked out of the room and went to bed. Snore.
Sunday morning we went to the Georgia Aquarium. We wanted to go Friday morning, but that flight didn’t work out… so the best time was Sunday, when I wasn’t too worried about missing out of some of the panels. It was a cool place, and there was effing huge fish, but that’s not part of JordanCon, so I’ll skip it. We came back in time to catch the last round of the Blademaster Competition, which was fun to watch. People smacking other people with practice swords.
The last WoT discussion of the weekend was the Borderlanders discussion, which actually turned into a EVERYTHING discussion, as the panelist Jakob Ro gave us permission to ask anything, and Maria was there. There was a lot of interesting discussion here, and questions, some answered, some RAFO’d, but nothing really significant came out of questions. I had a few things to say here, and I was particularly interested in Mat & Perrin, and brought up that of course they’re going to do something at the last battle. They don’t “need to be there with [Rand]” just to look pretty, they have badassery to perform! And I asked Maria if we are going to see more information about the swirling colours, and what role they play. I got RAFO’d. Which is cool, because I got a RAFO card, but uncool because I want to know the answer damnit.
The last thing of the day was a Feedback panel. It seems most people didn’t like the hotel, and based on their stories I’d be pretty pissed, too, but I didn’t have a bad experience. Others wanted less conflict, for example Magic vs Charity Poker. Brandon draws a lot of people simply because he’s Brandon Sanderson. I agree with this – I do like playing MTG, but I would likely have gone in for the charity poker tournament rather than Magic if Brandon hadn’t been there (I suck at Magic usually).
Someone brought up having a dedicated gaming track, and someone refuted that then it would just draw the anti-social away from the rest of the panels, and it wouldn’t be WoT enough. Matt Hatch was bring up most points against this, or at least that they should be careful planning it. While I did defend the gaming panel (MTG) at one point, I actually agree with him a lot. He’s a big gamer, like I am, but I wouldn’t want to waste my weekend at JordanCon playing board games/video games/whatever. And for some people, it would be a retreat to not be social (it kind of was, for me… I felt the pull). I at least had the foresight to know that I would regret it, so I stayed away from gaming too much. The best parts of the weekend were probably talking with people and participating in the discussions, and if I had wasted that, I would have regretted it. I wouldn’t want others to feel like that.
So my suggestion would be to incorporate more WoT games, if they’re going to be doing a gaming track. Yes, there can be a Magic or Poker tourney, but the majority should be structure, WoT-related activites. For example, learning Snakes & Foxes, and stones was fun. Maybe we could play some of the card or dice games Matt plays, or some of the official WoT (or Mistborn) games. Are You A Darkfriend is a good game, because it actually involves a lot of laughs and interacting with a group. You kind of get to know people.
I just wouldn’t want to see a person who is shy and new to the WoT community (like I was) not get the same experience because they played games all weekend. And JordanCon is about The Wheel of Time, not playing games. I can’t think of enough activities to see a whole track filled, so that’s probably why I’m against the idea. Perhaps if they put in the 3 hour MTG draft, and the 3 hour (or so?) Poker tournament in there, that would take up some time blocks, and then you could of course consider weapons tournaments as part of that track, and the trivia. It’s mostly that the Con should be about discussing, interacting, and enjoying WoT, and I just don’t think a full day of gaming does that.
I could be wrong. I did have a lot of fun playing games on Saturday night (and playing Magic on Friday night), but I also had a lot of fun at the other activities, and I wouldn’t want to have to choose between them. But, that’s always the problem at a Con (as I’m learning)…
I’ll end this post off with a big Thank You to the organizers and volunteers of JordanCon. I was unsure about how much fun I would have, but the people I met were extremely nice and welcoming, the panels were fun, and everything was very well organized. It makes me really want to come back next year, which I didn’t plan on doing (it’s expensive!). Now I have to try to budget for it… and next time I’m coming a day early!