The Land of Madmen - An Australian Wheel of Time Convention
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to attend a Wheel of Time convention or meetup, you’ll know just how much fun these events can be. Conferences such as JordanCon, as well as TarValon.Net’s own Anni, Fall Ball and European parties, provide opportunities for fans to congregate to discuss the books, share experiences, and make new friends.
In 2015, a new Wheel of Time convention was born. Held in Australia, and (quite cleverly) dubbed “The Land of Madmen”, this convention is bringing local and international fans together, while also helping spread a love of the Wheel of Time series amongst the Australian community.
I had the privilege of being able to interview Eleanor, Russell, Linda, Amanda and Nyn, the team behind The Land of Madmen, to learn a bit more about this growing Wheel of Time convention.
How do you all know each other? Were you all Wheel of Time fans before you became involved in running the Land of Madmen convention?
Russell: I knew Eleanor a tiny bit, being married to her, and also knew Linda (in fact, if I remember rightly, I outright fanboy gushed at Linda the first time I met her). Amanda and Nyn were new to me, although I think Eleanor knew Amanda.
Amanda: I met Eleanor at Supanova on the Gold Coast in Queensland. Nyn and I met through the Wheel of Time Facebook group and hit it off, becoming close friends. Linda and Russell, I have got to know through organising the convention, though I have been a fan of Linda’s 13th Depository for years.
Eleanor and Linda: We were indeed all fans! It’s a bit hard not to know Linda T (13th Depository). Amanda and Eleanor had met at Supanova in 2012, when Brandon Sanderson had come over, and we knew Nyn via one of the Facebook groups. Russell and Eleanor had met on Theoryland and by that stage were married. We coalesced in the Facebook group, split off into what became “The Hub” with some other keen Aussies, and then solidified our core team.
Nyn: I’d chatted with Amanda in the Facebook group, and we hit it off as sister wives very early on. It was a thrill to get together in person for the first time at the inaugural Land of Madmen convention!
What inspired you to start an Australian Wheel of Time convention?
Amanda: I have always wanted to attend Jordan Con, and watched on, green with envy, as my online friends attended. In jest, I posted in the Wheel of Time Facebook group that I was going to organise an Australian Con... It was taken seriously by Eleanor, and so it snowballed from there.
Linda and Eleanor: We have a good fan collective here, and international travel is… inconvenient… Down Under. With feedback in the Facebook groups, we saw it was very much desired.
Nyn: I was keen to be able to attend a WoT (Wheel of Time)-specific convention, yet the travel to the US made it virtually impossible in the immediate future. I saw discussion in the Wheel of Time group on Facebook which seemed to be focussed on the intent to create an Aussie WoT-con, so I jumped on it.
Russell: My wife made me do it.
Seriously though, having met Eleanor due to the Wheel of Time series, there was basically no way I could not be involved once the idea was started.
Who came up with the name, “The Land of Madmen”?
Eleanor and Linda: I think that sort of appeared from the hivemind. Cheesy, perhaps, but it stuck.
Amanda: My close friend Edward and I used to joke that I was from the Land of Madmen, since both Australia and the Land of Madmen are large islands off in the middle of the ocean filled with dangerous things. When the topic came up in conversation on Facebook, I posted in jest that I was going to start my own Australian convention and call it the Land of Madmen. The idea took off and the original group was born.
What is your favourite thing about running an Australian Wheel of Time convention?
Eleanor and Linda: The excitement – not just seeing everyone enjoying themselves and learning on the day, but also the planning of it.
Russell: My favourite thing is probably the intense discussion that comes out of the panels. Not to brag, but I think we’ve all spent a lot of time thinking very hard about this series, and getting to share that with other likeminded people in roundtable discussions is very rewarding.
Nyn: I love the efforts attendees have put into the costumes; there have been some wonderful examples so far. I also really enjoy the trivia, even if I am nowhere near an expert, because it became quite comical early on and that feeling of jovial answers has flowed through to the social event at the end.
Amanda: I just love a chance to geek out on the series that has defined my reading life – to spend time with other massive fans, discussing and comparing thought processes. The Wheel of Time is in my blood and soul after countless re-reads over the last 20-something years. It will always be my favourite series.
What makes The Land of Madmen unique among fantasy conventions?
Russell: I think being very committed to an inclusive approach is something that permeates everything we do, to the point where we deliberately try to schedule panels and workshops around each other or double up so everyone gets a chance to be included in every activity we offer. I’ve often found at other cons that it’s necessary to make hard choices when there’s a lot going on, which is something we can avoid by having a more specific focus whilst still being welcoming to more casual fans – or even just interested passers-by!
Nyn: I believe The Land of Madmen encapsulates how a convention can be an intimate and nurturing experience for the fans. Attendees are all friends by the end of it, with significant memories to hold onto until next year. This is a rare value which cannot be mimicked by the more commercially-driven conventions.
Eleanor and Linda: We wanted to be a fan convention for the fans, rather than very commercial. The first step of this was to refine our policies to zero tolerance for discrimination against various groups. The second step was going out of our way to ensure we always support smaller, local businesses (or fan ones) first.
We actually had our “coming of age” with regards to this a short while ago; previously, we had just stated our values as, well, something obvious – just general common sense, be nice to each other, and so on. Finding out the misogyny affecting [a very large convention operating in Australia] made us sit down and actually discuss this in detail.
What role do you each perform in bringing the event together each year?
Eleanor and Linda: We share a fair bit of it, and brainstorm about the program. Eleanor does the graphics and design for the website and program, and also scouted and booked the venue. Amanda and Nyn organise the workshops, and Russell and Linda work on the panels.
Russell: In addition to working on the panels, I try to keep Eleanor sane throughout all the other organisation work, which involves looking after our daughter, Nynaeve, and lots of snuggles. I also try to help out with marketing and sponsorship, and am responsible for writing up the convention reports.
Nyn: Currently we all also work together on the logistics of the event as it is occurring.
What is the most unique or interesting story of something that happened at a Land of Madmen convention?
Russell: The first year we ran it, someone let me have a microphone. All will attest that that was a big mistake.
Nyn: Haha – we shall always have a timer on hand since then!
Last year, our guest of honour, a Blacksmith with amazing work, chose to stay for the remainder of the convention and contributed to the panels. It was wonderful to think that although he had not finished the series, he left with the indication that he was going to pick up the Wheel of Time again. Such a great reward!
Amanda: I conned my husband, Pete, into attending the first Land of Madmen convention with me by calling it a child-free weekend. Then, much to his angst and against his better judgment, he let me harass him into an Asha’man costume. For a man who reads little, but has put up with me listening to audiobooks in the car and before bed so he never quite gets the whole story, he has become an integral part of running the convention. He helps us all with anything we need on the day, from set-up, to errands, to coffee-making, to pack-up. He’s only too willing to enable we geeks to have our special day run smoothly.
Has the fan community surprised you? If so, how?
Eleanor and Linda: The dedication our attendees show, not just to the series but to the convention, is always so heartwarming.
Amanda: The fan community has been incredibly supportive of the Land of Madmen convention; without them we would never have come so far.
If each of you were Aes Sedai, which Ajah would you belong to?
Eleanor: I’ve always said I’d be a Brown or a White.
Nyn: I’m dominantly Blue, with a taste of Red and White.
Linda: A non-docile Brown.
Amanda: I’m a Red – Pevara-style, not Elaida! Strong, independent woman, not afraid to risk herself to do the right thing or find the truth.
Russell: Greyish Blue.
What are your plans for the future of The Land of Madmen?
Eleanor and Linda: Plans for 2018 are already underway, with another change in venue. We are also in the preliminary stages of courting our 2019 Guest of Honour – I’d say they’re particularly exciting, but all our Guests of Honour are!
Russell: We want to expand the convention to include more book series and some of our other fandoms, whilst always remaining true to our roots as a convention for the Wheel of Time.
Nyn: I can see a regular Land of Madmen con being held in each of the major states of Australia, like a travelling road show. But that is an idea which may or may not come to fruition – as the Wheel wills. Continuing to build on our attendee base over the next few years is the first step.
Amanda: I would love for our convention to become as big as JordanCon someday!
Is there anything else you would like to tell the Tar Valon Times readers?
Amanda: If you can make it to our convention you totally should! We have an awesome day filled with Wheel of Time, fun and laughter!
Russell: If you are in Australia in September, and anywhere near Brisbane, come on down. It’s a great day and we can guarantee you will have fun.
Nyn: Keep connected to The Land of Madmen!
The 2017 Land of Madmen convention will be held on Saturday, 30 September 2017, at the Airport International Hotel in Brisbane, Australia.
For more information about The Land of Madmen, including event history, programs, and ticketing information, please visit www.LandofMadmen.Com. You can also receive regular updates and stay in touch with other attendees via the Facebook group, at https://www.facebook.com/TheLandofMadmen.