Kate Elliott September 17th, 2007
News has spread quickly that James Rigney, aka Robert Jordan, best known as author of the massively successful The Wheel of Time series, has passed away after a struggle with a rare and difficult disease.
I am so very sorry to hear of his death.
I never met him, so his death does not touch me on a personal level in terms of friendship. But I do mark certain kinships with him:
He was a writer.
He wrote, among other things, fat fantasy novels (a term I use with affection, not disdain) published as installments in a long series. Indeed, one might argue that his monumental success with The Eye of the World and the volumes that followed made my career (and that of others) possible, much as – to use that well-worn phrase – a rising tide lifts all boats. Some years ago there was even a notable New York Times Book Review article by Edward Rothstein
calling him the American Tolkien comparing his work to Tolkien’s, in terms both of his influence on the market and his use of specifically American tropes and sensibilities in his writing.
Update: The article can be found here.
I read part (not all) of the first novel, and while I did not go on to read any more of the series, my gut instinct from reading what I did of his work was that it mattered deeply to him, as the work of writers does matter so very deeply to all of us. It’s part of us. It’s inseparable from us, from who we are, from how we live in the world.
Obviously it is a truism that we none of us know how long we have. And while some live a long life and come to its end feeling that they’ve accomplished everything they’ve wished for and are content with how things stand, many more go out with unfinished business or goals left unmet.
So I am saddened to hear of his passing. I am sorry about the bereavement of his loved ones and friends. I am sad that so many readers who got such pleasure from his work will not be able to follow the tale to the conclusion that only he could have written (I am sure that the story will be completed as faithfully as possible by another hand, but it can’t be the same).
But I tell you. As a fellow writer, it really hurts to know that this man who surely invested so much of himself, his passion, his skills, and his life into this series did not get to finish it, as he must have wished to do.
RIP, Robert Jordan, the writer, and James Rigney, the man