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The Wheel of Time Sucks Cannoli Send a noteboard - 29/10/2019 05:07:35 AM

The Wheel of Time Sucks
by Garrett Robinson
Hi, Tom!

So someone on my Tumblr asked me:

Hi, so I just saw a post where you talked about the Wheel of Time Saga. I’ve been trying to convince myself to start reading the books, but now that I saw your commentary, I’m curious and apprehensive. I wanted to read them bc I’ve been told they have a lot of wonderful fleshed out, complex female characters. Could you tell me if you would recommend the books and, if not, why?

You know, I’ve heard this before (the “wonderful fleshed out, complex female characters” part) and I…I have doubts.

My answer turned into a post that was simply too long to relegate to my Tumblr, where I knew it would swiftly be forgotten about. So here it is, on Medium, where you can read it.
Ironically, unlike Tumblr, you have to sign up to Medium to read more than one article. And they say something about getting free articles, so there’s probably a paywall, too.
First factor: I have never heard a woman say this about the female characters of Wheel of Time. I’m a sexist pig and I have. Find more diverse female opinions. I DO NOT MEAN by this that no women enjoy Wheel of Time. I’m sure many do. I’m sure some of them will jump on here and tell me they agree that there are wonderful fleshed-out female characters. That is fine. The ONLY THING I mean by this statement is that I HAVE NEVER PERSONALLY BEEN TOLD by a woman that they enjoy the female characters in Wheel of Time, and I usually hear the exact opposite of that. Except you clearly know that other opinions are out there, so why be so specific, unless you are trying to head off citations to the contrary?

Second factor: I gave up on the Wheel of Time series in the middle of book…five? Six? Somewhere around there. I gave up on Star Wars halfway through Empire. But this is a factor why you should listen to MY opinion on the series as opposed to all the positive opinions from people that stuck it out. So it’s entirely possible the later books have excellent female characters. I have been told by several (dude) Shouldn’t male opinions be more respected when it comes to female issues, since they don’t have their personal feminine perspective muddying the picture? fans that I gave up too early and it gets really good later on and ends super well.

I still have my doubts.
I say this is bad. Other people disagree. I remain impervious to this datum and actually try to imply this somehow elevates my opinion.
Third factor: I have a long vendetta against Robert Jordan that is partially tied to his writing, but partially not. On what other basis could you have interacted with Robert Jordan? Unless you personally encountered him to derive a hostile opinion (spoiler: Robinson gives no hint of any such interaction), why would you have a vendetta for any reason other than his writing? I was reading Wheel of Time and, at some point, I realized what he was doing. He was opening up storyline after storyline and closing no loops. And I suddenly said to myself, “Holy shit. He plans to write this series until he dies, and then it will be ‘the great unfinished work of Robert Jordan!!!’ and that’s how he wants to leave this life.” Except he did not do that. The last book he published explicitly stated the climatic event of the series was almost upon it in more than one place, and he stated his intention to finish the series with one more book, BEFORE he was diagnosed with the terminal illness that killed him before he turned 60. That’s not the same as planning to end the series with his death or reasonably expecting his natural lifetime to end before the possible conclusion.

And that is exactly what the fucker did. And not in a Stan Lee sort of wayYou mean many many layers of corporate sell-outs, so Spider-Man, Wolverine and Iron Man could not be in movies with each other until they found a way to profit off of it?, where he knew the world would go on beyond the end of his life. He wanted to be the only one in control of the series, and to never finish it.

I think that’s a dick move and I have always been annoyed with him for this. And I guess it’s cool because it gave us Brandon Sanderson, but we could have had Sanderson regardless and then I wouldn’t have endless Jordan fanboys jizzing his praises every time I criticize him (which is whenever he’s brought up).

Fourth factor: Jordan was hopelessly derivative. As one example: right from the beginning, he introduces these creatures called Myrddraal. And they are just. They are Nazgul. That’s exactly what they are.

Except, like the worst kind of fanboy, he goes, “NO MINE ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE THEIR CLOAKS DON’T MOVE AND ALSO THEY’RE NOT WRAITHS BOUND TO A RING AND ALSO THERE’S A LOT MORE OF THEM AND THEY’RE, LIKE, BETTER.”

But that’s bullshit. Because they’re Nazgul. Citation needed. They both wear black and ride horses and threaten the protagonists. Based on that, Lee Van Cleef is derivative of Tolkien.

Fifth factor: Despite the entire previous entry about being so derivative of Tolkien and others, Jordan managed to miss out on what ACTUALLY makes fantasy awesome and worth reading. So…he’s NOT derivative enough?

He didn’t tell a story about hobbit-like characters — ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances Getting superpowers and ordered to save the world is not extraordinary circumstances? That happens every day? The interesting thing here, is I don’t care if WoT IS “ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances” nor do I see how that makes a work better. What that what the Illiad was about? The Odyssey? Gilgamesh? How many Shakespeare works dealt with “ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances” as anything other than comic relief? And yet, every time I apply Robinson’s argument to Spider-man, I get slapped down. How is Spider-man an ordinary person in an extraordinary circumstance, but Rand or Mat or Perrin are not? — he told a story about a character like Aragorn, except if Aragorn was also a more powerful wizard than Gandalf, and if on Aragorn’s journey he fell in love with AND got to bone Arwen, Eowyn, and GaladrielYou do remember claiming you bailed out by book 6, when Rand didn’t bang Min until 7 and Elayne until 9, right?, and all three of them were hopelessly devoted to him and would bone him any time he wanted Except after their sexual encounter Aviendha refused to get into any situation that might be construed as having sexual connotations, once even refusing to talk in a bedroom, preferring to have a dead body present instead of a potential sex venue. , but were ridiculously catty and bitchy towards each other because of their jealousy over having to share what must have been the most epic penis in the history of Middle-earth. And that never ever happened! Elayne, Min & Aviendha were never catty or bitchy toward each other. Aviendha and Min were suspicious of each other at their first meeting, but worked together and made up later in that same event. Each of them actively supported and abetted the others’ relationships with him.

Rand is the biggest Mary Sue I’ve ever heard of, and his only flaw is that he sometimes goes a little crazy because he’s JUST TOO POWERFUL FOR HIS OWN GOOD. He is not remotely perfect, is under constant criticism by both characters and the narrative and he is driven crazy because of the limitations on his power, and his insistence on trying to control things that are beyond that power. The limitations of his power and responsibilities was the major theme of Book 5. The last one Robinson claims to have read.

But maybe we’re supposed to pay attention to Rand’s best friends instead. Mat and Perrin. They’re our ordinary side characters we can relate to, right? Did anyone claim that’s what they are? Citation needed, or strawman argument.

Yeah, except then they become gods in their own right. My memory of details is hazy, but basically Mat becomes so lucky that he literally can’t lose battles because everything works out in his favor, and Perrin (with NO POWERS WHATSOEVER) Except for his superhuman senses, which include awareness of peoples’ emotions, the ability to summon large predators to attack his enemies, and the ability to enter a higher state of existence where he can fight witches on equal terms. But no powers worth mentioning. becomes such a mighty warrior from Blackmisthing Really Hard Internet pundit does not understand that repetitively lifting very heavy metal objects for one’s entire adolescence is a good way to become a very strong adult. that he crushes the heads of THREE MYRDDRAAL — the Nazgul analogues who were so powerful they spent the ENTIRE FIRST BOOK fleeing from just ONE of themDid they flee because their skulls were uncrushable? Because otherwise, those two data have nothing to do with each other. Also:
GR: Myrdraal are Nazgul
Reader: No, they are not.
GR: Yes, they are, your evidence does not matter. Because they are Nazgul.
GR: Also, Jordan sucks, because they don’t follow the rules of Nazgul.
— in a single swipe of his hammer.

Also let’s not forget that Perrin gets a Perfect Girlfriend who comes out of nowhere so hard, even nineteen-year-old me was like, “Whoah, wait, WHY would this girl ever be interested in such a goddamn dweeb?” Sixteen year old ME clearly could tell that this girlfriend was a creeper who came into her crush’s bedroom without permission to watch him sleep like some Twilight bullshit and that she was a poser, who spent the whole first book of their acquaintance insulting Perrin for not using her superhero code name, after she changed it in their first conversation over juvenile embarrassment. And “out of nowhere” is a weird way to describe someone who was prophesied in the first book and earlier in the one in which she appears.

Power creep, thy name is Wheel of Time. Perrin has NO powers. Perring gets a girlfriend. Clearly Perrin has too much power.” What the hell is this argument?

Sixth factor: You know the ridiculous fantasy tropes for which the genre gets made fun of all the time? If most of them didn’t come from Jordan, they were popularized by him.

You know the whole thing where characters’ names have, like, twelve apostrophes for no reason?

That’s…not really a Lord of the Rings thing, is it?

Look at the characters. Gandalf. Frodo. Bilbo. Aragorn. Arwen. Even slightly longer character names are extremely phonetic — Galadriel, Tinuviel. You can pronounce these words at a glance. Even when characters’ names are open to different pronounciations — Eowyn, Celeborn — you usually pick one and stick with it. You don’t sit there going, “What the FUCK is that supposed to say?” So is he derivative or not?

Now take a look at this major character from Wheel of Time: (Illustration of WoT wiki page for Nynaeve, with her full name "el,Nynaeve ti al'Meara Mandragoran" ) Two apostrophes, one of which is a title, in a long name. And she’s born in a region with lots of apostrophized family names, like, say, Ireland.

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, JORDAN.
(I actually forgot, until I looked her up, how FUCKING RIDICULOUS her name was and now I’m enraged all over again.)

You know the whole thing about the prophecied Chosen One? Yeah, that’s not a Lord of the Rings thing either. There is a passing mention of some ancient verses referring to Aragorn — but he’s not the protagonist of the story, is he? Frodo is. And there is NO prophecy about Frodo at all. So is RJ derivative or not?

The closest thing we get is Gandalf going, “Fuck it dude, I don’t know what’s going on. Bilbo was probably supposed to get the Ring because of fate or some shit, and if he was, you were, so that’s probably good, yeah? If you’re still freaking out, you should smoke some pipeweed about it.”

Meanwhile, in Wheel of Time…hoooly shit does it ever get tiring hearing about how Rand Is The One The Prophecies Have Foretold. I forget how early in the books we learn this, but we learn it EARLY. And from then on, it seems like there’s hardly a conversation that doesn’t bring it up, at least tangentially. Everyone knows Rand is the Chosen One. It becomes his driving force, his primary motivation, in a way it never did even for Harry Fucking Potter. How is this a good or bad thing? Jordan stated that one of the ideas he wanted to explore is this sort of hero, established by prophecy, on whom everything depends. Isn’t being fixated on the person who might save your world but destroy you or what you love more of a natural reaction than all the genre stories where no one really pays attention to the prophecy, which there more to show the readers how tricky the author is?

Maybe that’s why every woman in the world is so eager to bone him. Let’s get this straight. Rand is overpowered, but no examples of this are given by Robinson, aside from his power to attract sexual partners. Right before calling Perrin a case of power creep, the only examples Robinson gives are the unbelievable notion that blacksmithing builds strength, and finding a perfect girlfriend. According to Robinson, Perrin has no other powers. So … what does this say about his attitude toward women? He appears to directly conflate women’s sexual interest with male power. Maybe he just couldn’t stand WoT, because in book 6, the women wield almost all the good or legit power in the world, and the pendulum has not yet started to swing for the men.

Seventh factor: The moment you’ve been waiting for.

So how about those women?

You’ve probably caught hints of it in this post so far, but: no, the women of Wheel of Time are not complex and awesome, insofar as I have read them.

I mean, from the very simple perspective of the Bechdel Test, I would be incredibly surprised to find a single conversation in the five or six books I read that passes. And that includes the book I gave up on, which had hundreds of pages of three female main characters off on their own “adventure” with no male main characters around. This is objectively, factually, not true. Second of all, the point of the Bechdel Test is that women are portrayed as unrealistically or excessively fixated on men, instead of their own interests. You’d think that someone who believes Power=Having Female Sexual Partners, would be capable of grasping the point that very power individuals are subjects of great attention. Most of the women focused on what the main character is doing are interested because they are politicians with interests and agendas that he might threaten or abet. It has nothing to do with their comparative plumbing arrangements.

Virtually every woman character I met in the series was absolutely obsessed with having sex with boys. Across the board. They usually wanted to bone Rand, and when they didn’t, it was only after strongly considering him Eight female characters, out of scores, expressed sexual interest in Rand and half of them for reasons unrelated to Rand. Contrary to the adolescent assertions of Robinson, Rand’s love interests are set apart because they are the only characters to see him as a man, rather than a symbol or an object.
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The one character who seemed to avoid this trope was Moiraine, but even she eventually ran into a man who she quickly became preoccupied with, and I began to roll my eyes every time she’d have a conversation with another woman in the story and describe his “strong hands.” This is an outright lie. When did Moiraine ever discuss a man’s sexual or physical attractiveness? What man did she “quickly become preoccupied with” aside from Rand, which had no sexual or personal aspect, at all, and would have been the exact same if he were female or she was not androsexual.

It’s almost not worth mentioning how unfavorable this book is when it comes to the LGBT side of life. This was a different time, and Jordan was certainly no worse than Tolkien in this regard. But it does irk me in retrospect that it was specifically related that Moiraine had had a woman “pillow friend” in her early days learning magic, but that she DEFINITELY WASN’T INTO GIRLS, they were just boning to relieve their overblown libidos. Prison gay is not a thing. Garret Robinson has spoken,

And no, you don’t even need to ask whether the male main characters, like Rand or Mat or Perrin, ever boned each other when there were no women around for long periods of time to relieve THEIR overblown libidos. Of course they didn’t — Jordan wouldn’t have found that hot. A fan fiction website won a Hugo Award this year for basically being a place where people can insert their own sexual interests in other peoples’ creations. When you are filtering a search on said website, one of the filters is “Category” by which they mean “sexuality of the primary couple.” When you want to break down these stories that collectively won a Hugo by category, your choices of category are “Gen, F/M, F/F, M/M, Multi or Other”. Anything other than writing about sexual relationships is “other”. But Jordan is a straight, cis, white male, so his interests are not a worthy factor for consideration.

But here’s my final word on the matter. The women of the Wheel of Time series are WHY I gave up the series in the first place. It was the middle of whichever book I was on — five or six — that three main female characters were off on a little “adventure” together far away from the main plot. And the three of them WOULD NOT STOP bitching at each other and being the most pointlessly catty, useless, tropey stock characters. Citation needed.

It was like reading about a Man’s Man’s interpretation of what Mean Girls must have been like if he’d only ever heard of the movie title. Funny, the prior statement is a Man’s interpretation of an incident he could not even identify. Given the sheer deluge of positive and affirming feelings and opinions the female characters have toward one another, and given that two of the three main female characters spend the series constantly making new friends with other women, while putting their jobs first, second and third over their love lives, all that the one or two incidences of the female characters quarrelling or fighting does is prove there IS complexity to the series. The things that most come to mind as potential examples are the Black Ajah hunting trip to Tear in book 3, and the fucking circus interlude in 5. The character picking the fights in book 3 is suffering PTSD from being enslaved and is taking it out on the women who rescued her because she hates feeling helpless. Her arc in the book is overcoming the violent impulses that result from her trauma. In book 5, the cause was clearly cabin fever and was not gendered in its origin at all, and also resulted from combat-related trauma, and again, there was a reconciliation between them in the same book, not precipitated by masculine common sense, but first from a putting on a front in reaction to misogyny and later, by helping each other work through their issues.

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I wasn’t even “social justice woke” back then. It was just the most pointless page-after-page storyline I had ever witnessed in my life. Maybe you were supposed to be frustrated and annoyed, like the characters were? Maybe you were supposed to fume over your impotence to change the situation, like Egwene felt?

It was what made me realize that Jordan was filling pages until he kicked the bucket. And he seemed to think I wouldn’t notice.

So I opted out of the game. It made me sad. The first book, Eye of the World, was legit one of my favorite fantasy books ever. But it was all downhill from there. The women started having their own stories after that.

And even if the series has one of the BEST ENDINGS EVER, it’s not worth it to me to suffer through three or more thousand-page doorstoppers to get there. I’ll go through ONE mediocre book in a series, like the middle book of the Mistborn trilogy. :rolleye: What about the beginning of the first book? That’s what drove me away from Sanderson.

I won’t suffer through multiple books that are as long as multiple regular books. Fuck you, Jordan! How DARE you provide CONTENT!


TL;DR: No, you shouldn’t read Wheel of Time if you’re looking for awesome female characters. Even if they’re buried in there somewhere, you’re going to have to go through too much shlock to find them. There are tons of other books that give you awesome women right from page one.

Want some recommendations along that line?
The Deed of Paksennarion by Elizabeth Moon. Wasn’t that about a woman’s quest to prove how awesome a man is?
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

And if you want to read my own attempt at creating awesome women in a fantasy world, check out my book Nightblade for free.
(I give you the first one for free so you’ll pay for all the rest. Yes, it’s the drug dealer business model. No, I’m not ashamed.) It must kill you that Jordan was way more successful without needing tricks like that

I’ll be very happy when Jordan’s works have sufficiently faded from the zeitgeist that they’re no longer brought up to me and I don’t have to talk about them again.

Until then…these are my thoughts on the matter. Get bent.

Cannoli
“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesteron
Inde muagdhe Aes Sedai misain ye!
Deus Vult!
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The Wheel of Time Sucks - 29/10/2019 05:07:35 AM 147 Views
He hates it, but for all the wrong reasons - 29/10/2019 03:05:15 PM 35 Views
Did Jordan really say WOT was like War and Peace? - 30/10/2019 06:47:37 PM 28 Views
Yes, yes he did - 30/10/2019 07:24:30 PM 22 Views
Oh, the novel itself isn't that hard to read. Try the epilogue. - 30/10/2019 11:20:47 PM 20 Views
"waaaah, why won't anyone read my books?" *NM* - 29/10/2019 08:06:28 PM 5 Views

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