What: LibertyCon 25th anniversary.
When: 3 p.m. today through 3 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Chattanooga Choo Choo, 1400 Market St.
It takes a brave author to take over the reins of a fantasy series with as much history and fan support as Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time."
Jordan passed away in September 2007 before completing the final entry in the series, which started in 1990. After reading a novel by a up-and-coming fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, Jordan's widow selected Sanderson to co-author the series' conclusion using notes Jordan made before his death.
Sanderson will be the literary guest of honor for the 25th anniversary of LibertyCon, a long-standing science and science-fiction convention going on this weekend at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. As part of his appearance, Sanderson will be signing autographs, lecturing on writing technique and discussing the final Wheel of Time novel, "A Memory of Light."
Q: You have referred, somewhat elusively, to your "dreadful" first attempts at writing. How old were you when you wrote your first story?
A: When I'm talking about my dreadful stuff, I'm talking about my first serious attempt when I started when I was 19. It takes time to learn to do this right. Whether [writers] do it like J.K. Rowling did where they pick one story and slave over it for 10 years or if they do what I did and write book after book trying to improve with each one.
Q: What changed about you or your approach to writing that helped you cross the threshold from "dreadful" to "passable?"
A: I would say that there are hundreds of little Eureka moments all along the way. Learning to write a book is a lot closer to learning to hit a baseball than people realize. Yes, they've practiced the fundamentals and they've written a lot before, but when they sit down to write a story, they just let it flow and the muscle memory takes over.
Q: What sense of pressure did you feel when you were approached to take over The Wheel of Time?"
A: I was just hoping I wouldn't screw it up. Anyone approaching it was going to screw it up, to an extent. This is Robert Jordan's work, not mine, and ... my goal is just to screw it up the least of anyone who would have been given this job. I wanted the characters to remain themselves. I felt like if I could do that, everything else would fall in line.
Q: How would you characterize the series' ending?
A: I'm worried that anything I say here The Wheel of Time fans will read to much into. I would characterize it as the right ending for the series, and that's basically all I can say.
Q: You have written essays stressing the importance of innovation in fantasy novels. What is your take on the current state of innovation in the fantasy genre?
A: I think fantasy is pretty healthy right now. I think we've pushed past the part when it wasn't very healthy in the late '90s. Recently, there's been a lot of cool stuff happening, and I'm excited about it. I think there are lots of cool places we can go.
Literary guest of honor: Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson.
25th anniversary literary guest: Science-fiction author Timothy Zahn.
25th anniversary co-artist guests: Don Maitz and Janny Wurts.
25th anniversary science guest: NASA physicist Les Johnson.
25th anniversary special guests: Science-fiction authors Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.
Master of ceremonies: Alternate-history science-fiction author Eric Flint.