So Long, Friend

Two days ago, I found out that one of my favorite authors passed away. His name is James Oliver Rigney, Jr., but if you know him at all, it most likely by his pen name of Robert Jordan.

He wrote the amazingly rich and detailed series called The Wheel of Time. And if ever there was an opus that told of a fictional world, his main series of 11 novels, a prequel novella, and various companion pieces was near the top of them all. With nods to Tolkien, mythology, and world cultures, he borrowed familiar bits of what we know and wove them in with his own creations of magic, cultures, characters. Oh so many characters. No seriously. Lots of characters!

And while the series began to slow after the sixth book, the eleventh really picked up the pace. And RJ, always devilishly coy at book signings, would remark that the series would end with however many books it took to tell the story. As you may surmise, he had not intended it to last as long as it had. But after the last book, he had clearly stated that book 12 would commence the main series. And if it was a 2,000 page tome that required a hand truck, he said, that's what it would be. LOL

It would be the end of over 17 years of storytelling. But he never got to see it end.

See, RJ recently developed a rare blood disease, amyloidosis. And if ever there was a fighter, it was RJ. He kept in touch with fans via his blog. Fan support was incredible. But in the end, the disease caused complications that led to his death. We knew his time was limited, but the suddenness was unexpected.

It feels like a betrayal that a creator did not outlive his own creation. So often, you assume the person will keep going on long after the ink has dried and the paged dog-eared. But sometimes it isn't the case.

I remember at book signings how particular and funny he was. I'd drag my family and friends along to get the books signed. My friend Aaron and my step-dad Greg were hooked, too. So we had an entourage. RJ would always correct people for mispronouncing the names and terms he created.

My big bro, Jim, cracked us all up once when he turned to us and remarked, "Robert, you had me at Seanchan." You probably had to be there, but it was hilarious. And then you get up there and feel compelled to ask the big man something about the series as he neatly and purposefully signs his name. Every time, the old sass, he gave me his patented response, "Read and find out." Curse you, RJ! His slight smile would follow.

As I understand, the last book will be published. He's committed the bulk of it to audio tape or paper. Selfishly, I'm happy to hear that. Like any reader, I'm invested in the story, the characters, and the outcome. I want some closure!

But I keep coming back to the fact that, even though he had the final scene of the last book locked in his head all along, he won't get to see his readers respond. Or hear their thanks for the enjoyment he's brought. Or the ideas he's given. Or the inspiration for future storytellers.

I suppose he's stepped into the next room now. Wherever it is that everyone goes in the end of this life. Who's to say what that is. We all have to read and find out.

2 comments:

Army Mom said...

A very well written tribute to Robert Jordan, Army. I knew it would be the next blog that you wrote, knowing how much you enjoyed his books, which I believe all totaled (11 books) was at least 10k pages! I truly did enjoy going with you, though, to the book signings. RJ could always tell which of us were NOT his readers, and he'd joke about it. I still chuckle when he saw Amanda and said, "you don't read my books, do you?". I know he will be sadly missed, but I must disagree with you on one thing, I believe that he WILL get to enjoy the fruits of his works from above. His "Wheel of Time" may have come to a screeching halt, but his books and his memory will go on. Thank you for sharing him with all of us...

Bubz The Troll said...

Damnit. Well, I hope they find a competent co-author to finish the final book. I too invested a lot of time and money in the paperbacks alone reading this series. Of course this is all news to me so thanks for writing this blog I guess you're a bigger fan than I.