Highlights and Heartwarming Memories from This Year's Much-Anticipated Wheel of Time Convention
This article is spoiler-free.
JordanCon 2022 is over a week behind us now, and no one is really over it. The mood can best be described as sad fans, wishing they were back in an environment where, at any given time, they could turn to the person next to them and talk about The Wheel of Time. Photo dumps and video montages continue to pop up on social media, as new friends and old friends reminisce about their favorite moments.
Many have admitted to feeling addicted to the dopamine rush that comes with the continuous barrage of notifications. Some, in true #ThirstOfTime form, are coping with their grief by admitting to having multiple post-Con crushes and discussing clever ways to flirt at next year’s Con. Others who can't wait for next year plan to reunite just two months from now in Columbus, OH at the inaugural WotCon.
Panelists from "The Music of the Wheel of Time"
Still others, well, we feel the urge to make lists. Based my own observations and interviews with JordanCon attendees (because I can't be everywhere all at once), I've assembled a list of the 10 best moments from this year’s convention.
The moments are listed in roughly chronological order to better convey a complete story of the weekend (definitely not to shamelessly avoid any decision-making on my part). And, fair warning, it gets a little emotional.
So take a deep breath, hug your copy of The Eye of the World tight, and read on if you dare. Here are the top 10 moments from JordanCon 2022:
You’ve probably heard of “CouchCon,” referring to anything happening in the hotel lobby (or on the patio) that isn’t an official program at JordanCon. This year, I noticed a variation of CouchCon which I can only attribute to the emotionally charged atmosphere of finally meeting with old friends and online friends after a long 2 years of isolation—a phenomenon I have dubbed "LobbyCon.”
LobbyCon consists of people flinging themselves at one another in giant, welcoming hugs as they meet for the first time at JordanCon. LobbyCon hugs are different from other hugs in that they are usually accompanied by screaming, crying, laughing, and smiling until your face hurts. Sometimes, even your body hurts. I am not exaggerating when I say that some of these hugs were so hard you could hear them.
Less aggressive but no less endearing were the delayed hugs, preceded by gasps of recognition when folks revealed their usernames from social media. One JordanCon attendee, Megan of the Spear, said her favorite moment was “Spiderman-pointing” with people as they simultaneously recognized each other from online interactions. (Word of advice: if you need to take it slow, introduce yourself with your real name first, and wait to reveal your handle.)
As LobbyCon greetings continued throughout the weekend, a perplexing question came to mind: is it better to be a hug-receiver or a hug-observer? When you’re in the hug itself, you don’t get to see the huge smiles and tears of joy. Observing the hug allows you to take on the important task of photographing it for posterity, but you miss out on the cuddling. Only one thing remains clear: nothing brings on the warm fuzzies quite like LobbyCon.
2. WoTonPrime Ask Me Anything
Knowing it was pre-recorded, it was tempting to skip the "Ask the Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime Anything" panel on Friday afternoon. Wouldn’t it be better to just hang out with friends in the lobby and catch the video later?
But as Friday afternoon rolled around, so did the FOMO, and the main programming room filled up quickly with an eager crowd. It only took a few minutes of staring at the blank projector screen, anticipation rising, to realize that attending the panel live was the right choice.
After some technical difficulties, Rafe Judkins finally appeared on the screen to announce the casting of Ayoola Smart as Aviendha—but not before the news had already been broken by Dragonmount. Still, the exhilarating effect of hearing such long-anticipated casting news in a room full of fans was not dampened one bit, as cheers and applause thundered over the sound of Rafe's voice.
Surprisingly, the casting announcement didn't overshadow the rest of the 34-minute video, which turned out to be a lot of fun. A sporty-looking Daniel Henney (Lan) charmed the audience by earnestly answering almost every question and remaining deadpan as he described some hilarious behind the scenes moments. Hammed Animashaun (Loial), with perfect comedic timing, responded that Loial’s theme song would be “The Golden Girls theme song.”
But the biggest crowd-pleaser was Kate Fleetwood (Liandrin). With her signature playful smirk and sparkling blue eyes, Kate took us to “Aes Sedai High,” teased us about Liandrin’s “dark side,” and, gifted us with a hilarious image of Liandrin taking out her braids, making herself a martini, and listening to “soft yacht rock”—specifically, “All By Myself” by Eric Carmen.
Who doesn't go to JordanCon hoping to see some talented cosplay? This year's cosplayers turned heads each day with new and cleverly-detailed costumes, some now inspired by the Wheel of Time TV show.
Favorite cosplays were Kritter XD’s back-to-back blonde bombshells (show Liandrin on Friday and Birgitte on Saturday), Kitsenugari as Uno Nomesta, KnoTaiShar as a knee-padded Siuaraine, and Ruth Camejo’s Egwene costume (spoiler warning for A Memory of Light). Also, two Aludras!
Although it did not place in the costume contest, a stand-out cosplay with staying power was this live-action Lord of Chaos book cover, submitted by Paul Bielaczyc and his fiancé, Cassi.
Not only was it a perfect portrayal of the classic bodice-ripper-esque cover by Darrel K. Sweet, it fostered community participation: the backdrop and draghkar prop were left in the registration area for attendees to pose with on Saturday night.
You can find a complete list of the official costume contest winners here.
4. Social Events
This year’s JordanCon saw the return of official evening social events. The most popular events, Friday night karaoke and Saturday night dancing, were a welcome way to unwind after a long day of panels.
Karaoke night had fans singing and dancing in the aisles until 3 a.m. One of my personal favorites was a live rick roll of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” performed by Daniel from the Black Tower Podcast.
For the official “All Stars” competition, the winners were Dane Pehrman (1st place), Jen Isgro (2nd place), and Dan Ferreira (3rd place). I personally was partial to Jen as Queen Morgase in sunglasses, singing Adele's "Rolling in the Deep."
Karaoke also provided the opportunity for live performances of Wheel of Time parodies only previously seen online. Alyssa from One Power Ballads warmed up the crowd with “I Love Wheel of Time”, and Rob from Malkier Talks performed his entry from the 2021 Wot Parody Challenge, “Lews Yourself.” And while it was not his first live performance, Innkeeper Hatch surprised everyone with a new and touching refrain to his signature parody, “Freak.”
The dance party was frequently mentioned as a highlight of the weekend. While formal attire is not required, Saturday night is traditionally the night when people going to the dance dress to impress. This year's 1920's theme inspired some to wear shimmering flapper dresses and accessories. Others chose their own theme, like the sexy Darkfriends of Randland TV Podcast.
Dance partygoers Kritter XD and Adelorna Sedai said they danced for hours, noting that the vibe was “inclusive.” Others chose head-banging with Josh from the Black Tower Podcast as their favorite moment from the dance, or the sing-along closer of the night, "Bohemian Rhapsody."
5. Late Night Panels
A newer addition to JordanCon this year were the raucous “after dark” panels run by Wheel of Time content creators. WoTionary, hosted by The Way of the Leaf, was by far the most frequently-mentioned favorite moment of the Con, with a good deal of praise for Ryan and Brother Dan, who kept the standing-room-only crowd enraptured despite poor visibility through their giant puppet heads.
Normally conducted virtually on YouTube, WoTionary was reformatted for an in-person crowd. Players who signed up were called to the front of the room and given the opportunity to guess what was being drawn by a rotating group of artists. A second round required players to determine if a certain word was an Italian village, a pharmaceutical, or from the Wheel of Time.
A highlight for Nerdygunz was the puppets “deep throating” their microphones in order to be heard over the crowd, while Jen from Talk’aran’rhiod enjoyed Brother Dan's punny hint for a drawing of Moiraine’s horse: “not SOME dieb—” to which the entire crowd roared, “ALL-dieb!” Rob from Malkier Talks described the whole event as “nutty and chaotic and f***ing magical.”
The rowdy momentum continued as The Master of the Deck joined forces with the threesome behind Tar Valon After Dark to host “Igloo, Bridal Wreath, or Balefire”—the Wheel of Time version of “F***/Marry/Kill.”
After spinning a wheel of brutally unfair 3-character combinations submitted by fans on Discord, each panelist had the opportunity to defend their opinion before the crowd voted on the best arrangement via level of applause.
Highlights included The Master of the Deck’s impeccable judgment on maximum f***ability and a pre-rigged combination specifically for Lezbi Nerdy, consisting of her crush, actor Jodie Whittaker, as all three options.
6. Live Shows
Live shows from the lobby began to pop up at last year’s JordanCon, which was a treat for participants who were unable to find seating in the socially-distanced panels. This year, with several content creators hosting pre-planned live shows, many attendees blocked off time specifically to join the audience.
The Dusty Wheel hosted two short livestreams, the second of which had audience members playing trivia for prizes. Three Fold Talk became the first to follow the Innkeeper’s footsteps in broadcasting a livestream from the lobby. The show gathered a crowd that was riveted by the Innkeeper and Taylor pouring water into a cup for a good 15 minutes to determine who was a Wetlander and who was Aiel.
Podcasts including Black Tower Podcast, Talk’aran’rhiod, Barside Chats, Fantasy for the Ages, and Tar Valon After Dark all recorded shows from the lobby, as well. The live audiences and bustling lobby background brought an energy to the shows that can't be captured in a typical recording.
Most content creators find audience participation in Chat to be a crucial element of any live recording on YouTube or Discord, keeping the energy flowing and adding new ideas or jokes to the discussion. Having that same crowd in person, together at a convention specifically about the Wheel of Time, dials it up to almost red-rod levels of excitement.
From the perspective of both an audience member and a live show participant, I can say that the feeling of camaraderie and joy among fans during these shows is profoundly uplifting, like a big warm hug for your soul.
7. Michael Livingston
If you don't know about Michael Livingston, you can find out everything you need to know by reading this article from Tor.com. In short, he is a novelist, scholar, Citadel Professor, and author of the upcoming book, Origins of the Wheel of Time: The Legends and Mythologies that Inspired Robert Jordan.
During the panel, Livingston revealed the book will consist of four sections: a full biography of Robert Jordan, an exploration of J. R. R. Tolkien’s influence on Jordan, a comprehensive review of Jordan’s notes (including previously unreleased notes), and a glossary of terms from the book detailing their real-world influences.
According to Livingston, Origins will include more information about the character of Nakomi, a new map of the world, and a photograph of Jordan’s earliest handwritten note. If gasps, cheering, and clapping are any indication, the idea of getting new Wheel of Time content from this book excited the crowd even more than the Amazon AMA panel.
Livingston himself was a charismatic and engaging speaker, teasing the crowd about topics he was forbidden to discuss, yet remaining humble about his mission for writing the book. His primary goal, he said, was for fans to feel what he felt while diving into Jordan’s notes, and to do justice to Jordan’s legacy. “I didn’t feel like I was doing this for me,” he said.
As Livingston read the glossary entries for “Nynaeve” and “the Eye of the World,” the room was completely silent, almost reverent. His words moved many audience members to tears and earned him a full standing ovation.
This isn’t exactly a moment per se, but a set of moments throughout the Con. When you’re not attending an official JordanCon event, the hotel is your playground to chat with others at CouchCon, deepen friendships, generate new inside jokes, and participate in all the general ridiculousness that happens when a bunch of fans get together to share something they love.
According to New Member Services Director Ebony Adomanis, “Shenanigans” is the catch-all term for such moments, and refers to “all the silly things that happen at Jordancon.” It would be impossible to capture all the Shenanigans that occurred at JordanCon 2022, but one that stands out is surely #PossumGate.
On Saturday night, a baby possum was seen lurking around the revolving doors outside the hotel. Attendees caught up in admiring the cuteness of said possum were shocked when it wriggled its way under the doors and took off across the lobby. Naturally, the correct response was for someone to yell “Badger on the green!” as Ian from The Wheel Reads captured the little guy and gently released him back outside.
One of my personal favorite Shenanigans was the very chill #PicnicTableCon, which consisted of a small group of people sitting outside on Saturday evening, sharing their Wheel of Time “origin stories.”
And the Shenanigans don’t have to end when JordanCon does. Ebony notes that Shenanigans include “things Jordanconers do for each other when not at Con,” including “sending support/gifts to Jordanconers when they need it.” I’m not crying, you’re crying.
9. Maria Simons
Maria Simons’s presence at JordanCon is a moment unto itself. Maria Livingston Simons (no relation to Michael Livingston, she tells us) is an editorial assistant for Team Jordan and a major contributor to The Wheel of Time Companion, which she signed for at least one fan, at his request.
But it gets better. During the panel discussing the Top 10 Moments from Season 1 of The Wheel of Time TV Series, Simons was asked to name a moment that should have made the Top 10. Her response? The Episode 1 bath scene featuring Daniel Henney's bare backside.
It would seem Maria is vibing with the collective crush everyone has on Daniel Henney. As further evidence, the name she chose for her pet 3D-printed rainbow dragon was—you guessed it—Daniel.
On Sunday afternoon, I had the privilege of speaking briefly with Simons. Wearing Daniel around her neck like a tiny boa, she recounted her suspenseful bidding war to win him in this year's charity auction. She brought tears to more than one pair of eyes when she remarked, “We have the kindest fandom in the universe.”
10. Sunday night
Sunday afternoon and evening at JordanCon brought about all the feels, as attendees began to bid each other farewell. Those who stayed behind on Sunday night were left to cry on each other’s shoulders over the absence of the friends who left, and in anticipation of their own departures.
The Last of the Michiganders
But it was a sweet kind of sorrow—a quiet, almost intimate night. With no panels to rush to, the main event became the people. Time seemed to slow down as people talked and hugged, cherishing each moment until it was their own turn to pack up and go.
Nothing can really prepare you for the post-Con transition back to reality, but lingering around on Sunday night does provide the opportunity to spend a little more time with the people you may have missed amid the chaos of the previous days.
With emotions high and hugs extra tight, Sunday night was a somber yet heartfelt end to a magical weekend, leaving fans with a few more memories to carry with them on the journey home.