Robert Jordan -- RIP

Hard to believe that it actually happened. . .

It should come as no surprise that James Oliver Rigney, jr., aka Robert Jordan, succumbed to the terrible and insidious illness that afflicted him. The author had such a positive mindset that we all believed he could beat this thing. Sadly, after a long and arduous struggle, he finally passed away.

Jordan's approach to his daily combat against his illness reminded me of two WoT quotes:

"Death comes to us all. We can only choose how to face it when it comes."

The other one is the popular Aiel oath:

"Till shade is gone, till water is gone, into the Shadow with teeth bared, screaming defiance with the last breath, to spit into Sightblinder's eye on the Last Day."

Say what you will, Jordan never stopped believing that he would beat this thing, and his attitude made everyone believe that he would come out on top. He never gave up, even during the most difficult episodes. He had the heart of a true champion, and he went down swinging, fighting every step of the way.

There is very little I can say that can possibly do justice to the man and the writer he was. Many have done so already, most more eloquently than I could ever hope to be. Jordan's death leaves me numb. I never thought it would have that sort of impact on me. . .

I'm not surprised by the outpouring of love he's been receiving from around the world. Few authors can claim to have touched as many lives as Jordan. The legacy he leaves behind is a testimony to the sort of person he was. All who knew him say that he was a gracious and unassuming man. In spite of his immense success, he remained an affable individual till the very end, a great friend to those around him, and, more importantly, a loving husband.

Words are inadequate to pay tribute to him. After all, what can I possibly say that has not already been said? I guess the only thing I can do it tell you how it all began for me. . .

I started reading The Wheel of Time in the fall of 1991, which means that the saga has been a part of me for nearly half of my life. I was only 17 years old, beginning my first semester of college. Authors such as David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Raymond E. Feist and Margaret and Tracy Hickman were fantasy's biggest draws at the time. The Dragon Reborn had just been released.
Oh, I had heard of Robert Jordan before that, mind you. There was a buzz surrounding the release of both The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt in 1990. We're talking about a pre-internet buzz here, which was quite something, considering that it was all word of mouth. And yet, from the height of my 16 years, as well as the wisdom or lack thereof that could be attributed to the adolescent dumbass that I used to be, I opined that this "Conan guy" couldn't be that good.

But when The Dragon Reborn hit the NYT bestseller list, I decided that I would give Jordan a shot. In retrospect, I must admit that The Eye of the World didn't quite do it for me. It showed a lot of promise, but I felt that it fell a little flat. Re-reads showed me how good and how deep the story was, have no fear. So it's a good thing I had a paperback copy of The Great Hunt to read immediately afterward. That book blew me away! Jumped into The Dragon Reborn right after that, and the series blew my mind!

In less than two years, Robert Jordan had redefined the genre. The Wheel of Time was so vast in scope and details, it dwarfed everything else on the market and made those bestselling writers (my favorite fantasy authors at the time) look like a bunch of amateurs. In the wake of the following WoT volumes, Jordan took epic fantasy to new heights, demonstrating that there was something beyond Feist, Brooks, Donaldson, Eddings, Kurtz, and the rest. Robert Jordan's popularity helped paved the way for other multivolume fantasy epics. Without Jordan, there's no George R. R. Martin, no Steven Erikson, no Scott Lynch. There would have been no Terry Goodkind (he did "borrow" several ideas from Jordan, after all), either, which would be no great loss to the genre. . .

Somehow, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos raised the bar even higher. Like most, I agree that the series peaked with that 6th volume. I mean, what an ending! "Fuck me" moments are few and far between, especially for someone who's read as much SFF as I have. But Rand's kidnapping, with Perrin going after him, and the battle that ensued made for one terrific ending. And then Mazrim Taim materializing on the battlefield with the Asha'man, thus engendering a veritable carnage, made me close the book and shake my head in wonder. Reading, I felt quite certain, was not supposed to be this much fun. And when the Aes Sedai tried to give shit to my man Rand, my favorite line of the series so far came from Taim, an unlikely source: "Kneel and swear to the Lord Dragon, or you will be knelt." I feel giddy just to think about it and what it meant at the time!

It was inevitable that such a big saga would require a number of transition books to bridge the "opening" of the series with the ending sequence. Like most, I never expected that this transition phase would require four volumes. And yet, I could live with that. After all, at that point Rand, Mat, Perrin, Lan, Nynaeve, Egwene and the others were like old friends. All I wanted was for the story to move forward. And we were always learning new things about the Forsaken, so I was more or less satisfied.

It was around that period of time that publishers realized that the internet could be a great tool if utilized properly. Do you guys remember those early AOL live chats with Jordan!?! For Christ's sake, I changed ISP just so I could attend those chats! One hour with our favorite author, with everyone groaning in the comment section when an idiot went ahead and asked a stupid RAFO question! Man, it feels like a lifetime ago. . . People posting transcripts of book signings, so that we could debate what Jordan had revealed, made for hours of discussion online. Those were the good old days of the internet, when I used to make a hobby of heckling Mercedes Lackey and R. A. Salvatore. . .

A Crown of Swords was delayed twice, raising the interest level for the 7th volume to a frenzy. Why the hell did Tor decide to scrap the cover on which Rand had his sword? I can still remember when Tor put the cover blurb on the internet! Brief, of course, but no one cared. Heck, we had just learned that Rand would go mano-a-mano against Sammael, in Shadar Logoth of all places! People were speculating on message boards like crazy. And then the prologue was posted online the following spring, driving us all out of our minds!

The Path of Daggers, Winter's Heart and Crossroads of Twilight are easily the weakest volumes in the saga, and the author's decision to explore many of the less interesting subplots instead of concentrating on the main storylines alienated some fans. Still, important events such as the Dragon Reborn driving the Seanchan back and defeating them, the cleansing of saidin, Mat meeting the Daughter of the Nine Moons, and many others maintained my interest in the series. The story was moving forward, even though Jordan took his own sweet time.

Knife of Dream was the best book since Lord of Chaos. We could sense that the end was near, and boy was it cool to read. I had to drive 25 miles to get this one on the pub date, because the staff at my local bookstore were too anal retentive to get the novel out of the boxes in the back store and "could I please come back later this week, it should be available then!" Reading that book filled me with excitement, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on A Memory of Light. . .

There's a selfish part of me who's happy that the author, on his death bed, took the time to record everything, so that A Memory of Light will one day see the light. Because, like it or not, I'm buying this, even if Robert Stanek writes the damned thing. I would ask people to please stop with the Kevin J. Anderson jokes, as they're not funny. At this juncture, we have no idea just how far along Jordan was with this final WoT volume. It might take a while for us to find out. . .

Countless people are wondering and bitching about that fact. As for me, I simply wish to say thank you. Thanks for the countless hours of unadulterated reading and re-reading pleasure your books provided for nearly two decades. Thanks for creating something that became a living and breathing entity, something that elicited countless hours of debating and speculating on hundreds of message board. Thanks for remaining accessible, even though your popularity attained a level that made this well nigh impossible. And thanks for letting me be a part of it. As I said, WoT has been a part of my life for 16 years now. Robert Jordan touched the lives of many different people, in a myriad of different ways. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if it weren't for him.

When my fantasy debut is ultimately published, there were two people who have had such a big influence on my writing that I wanted to send a finished copy to: George Lucas and Robert Jordan. It didn't matter if my agent/editor/publicist/etc wanted to or not, these two were getting a copy, even if I had to pay for them and ship them myself. A simple package with a brief note thanking them and letting them know how much their creations meant to me, and my hope that the book they held could possibly entertain them for a few hours. I can never repay them for the positive influence they've had on me. They were such an inspiration to me, and I could only hope that they'd enjoy the novel. Unfortunately, I'll never get to send that little note to Jordan. Which is a shame, really. . .

James Rigney: Thanks for the memories, my friend. As I mentioned before, I'll be eternally grateful for what you have done and what you leave behind. However, it saddens me that you couldn't complete your life's work. As was the case with Frank Herbert, this is as big an injustice as I cant think of.

The adventure began 16 years ago for me in Emond's Field, with trouble brewing in the Two Rivers and Moiraine and Lan showing up to set in motion events that would reshape the world, and I'm looking forward to see how it will end. Your death is a great loss to the genre. You will be missed. . .

You've had your share of haters and detractors, of course. But in this house you will always be respected. Your books will forever hold a special place in my heart and on my shelves. In spite of what anyone claims, like Tiger Woods, at his best Robert Jordan was almost untouchable, as demonstrated by The Great Hunt through Lord of Chaos.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family. James Oliver Rigney, jr., may you rest in peace. I can almost see you smirk when you realize that you never did tell us who killed Asmodean!

21 commentaires:

John (Grasping for the Wind) said...

A touching and eloquent tribute. Thanks for the call to simply remember why we enjoyed Jordan's writing so much. His books hold pride of place on my shelves as well and will do so for a long time to come.

David Forbes said...

Nice tribute, Pat. Heartfelt and sincere. I didn't follow him much as an author, but I had heard about his illness and his own comments about it made it sound as if he would easily beat the thing. I didn't realize it was so serious, and was surprised when I read about his passing on your blog (that's where I heard it first).

Again, very well done.

Mihai said...

Well I'm very much a beginner in fantasy literature. In my country, Romania, this genre is not developed and is at the very beginning. I discovered the genre, until then I was a huge SF fan, 5 years ago with, obviously, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and with the change of job I could buy books from the Internet. So I became a huge fan of fantasy.
Last year I received "The Eye of the World" as a Christmas gift and read it immediatly. Well if I can put it in one word it was breathtaking. I loved it. I heard of Robert Jordan's illness but I hoped for him to beat this. For him and for his family.
I'm very sorry for his death, but I'm sure that he will live on in the hearts and minds of his fans.
Rest in peace, DRAGON.

Matt said...

Touching indeed. Thanks for the remembrance.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for sharing your connection to, and feelings about, the books and RJ in your life. For many fans, RJ opened up fantasy in ways we all dreamed it could be opened but hadn't yet seen. Like you, I feel numb at his passing, and though it seems strange, it is what it is; I have lost myself for hours and even days in the world he created, and the real world seems a bit smaller and meaner without the Dragon.

Send Harriet a copy of your book with a note (or a copy of today's blog) when the time comes; she will appreciate it in ways too many to number.

Thanks again,
Cynthia

Chris, The Book Swede said...

An excellent post, Pat. Your response to his writing reminds me of how I felt when reading those scenes.

And yes, the bit where Taim says "...kneel or be knelt" was f*cking awesome! WoT has been part of my reading experience since as long as I can remember. A great one has passed and already the world is a darker place.

It's sad - two days before his death, I'd had the sudden idea to do a complete re-read of the series back-to-back. I guess that will never happen now, but I too will buy "A Memory of Light: The Collective Notes of Robert Jordan" or whatever they call it.

My thoughts to Harriet, the rest of his family friends and fans.

A fitting tribute.

~Chris
The Book Swede

Libbie said...

A very touching tribute. Reminds me a lot of the first time I read the series!

Elisabeth said...

I was completely astounded when I read about his death on his blog. I really and truly thought he would beat this disease, that he would be able to finish his book and the series he spent so much of his life writing. It is a tragedy that he was unable to. But, the Wheel weaves and the Wheel wills.

I've thought a little about this over the last few days and it seems to me that he was so determined to finish this book that he may have had a plan in place for if he didn't. I have wondered if someone else might finish the book, if maybe he indicated who he'd like to do that. It would never be as good as the Dragon could've made it of course....

I had forgotten about the whole Asmodean thing. Damn. It still doesn't seem obvious to me who killed him! Jordan is probably laughing himself silly about that, wherever he is.

Jak said...

Thanks for sharing your words and feelings Pat, they mirror mine in many similar ways.
The two main things I will always cherish are the great impact his writing had on my life and others, and the joy he made it to read.
I feel his impact throughout Fantasy as a whole and attribute his contributions in shaping a genre I now enjoy immensely. Had I not picked up Eye of the World and got pulled in to the epic story it is, then likely I would not be here today as a fan of the Hotlist, likely I would not have moved on to read Guy Gavriel Kay and the many other wonderful and entertaining stories being told by an ever expanding list of writers I now read. I'm sure many others also have stories of their own impact that Robert Jordan as the writer, or Jim Rigney the man had on their lives. He was a stepping stone, or pathway to things fantastical for a great many people. I grieve the loss but am thankful that the impact was made.
With all the distractions we have in this world it was through the books of The Wheel of Time that helped shape and develop a love of reading that has lasted over the years. For that priceless gift I am extremely grateful.

Aidan Moher said...

Terrific tribute, Pat. I was waiting to hear your words on the subject.

I gave Jordan a hard time from time to time on my own blog, but in the end I always called myself a fan of Jordan.

I was waiting for his final volume to be published so that I could finally do my complete, bum-rush reread of the entire series. Now, though, I think that my reread may come sooner than I had expected.

I've tried to put off the urge to read it, I have other books to read and review, but reading your thoughts, and reliving the scenes you mentioned, have brought the itch back full force. I'm planning on going out and buying a new copy of [b]Eye of the World[/b] to replace my ratty, falling-apart copy at home.

Thanks Pat,

~Aidan
A Dribble of Ink

Sinister_Saint said...

Don't kid yourself, Pat - this was very well done. As a life long fan of RJ I've been in bits these last couple of days, reading nearly every post about him I could find. GRRM's was good. Neil Gaiman nearly brought a tear to my eye.

You made me remember what it was like, being there and reading his books. Thanks for a wonderful blog post. A fitting tribute if I ever read one.

Sarah said...

Very similar to how I feel. Without Jordan, I'd have missed Hobb and Martin... whom I could NOT have lived without. And I still followed WoT, even though I eventually found others I liked more. I was looking forward to the end.

Anonymous said...

Great tribute, I felt much the same way about jordan touching my own reading life.

I have to disagree on one thing though, I think one of the best things about jordan is how real and 3 dimensional he made his people,
and like great friends I never wanted the series to end, even onto book 50
:)

-MD

Ilya the Recusant said...

Good words, Pat, good words. It's frighteningly impressive, to consider just how many people Jordan affected. Meanwhile, I must ask: an alternate ACOS cover, Pat? First I've heard of this. Anyone else know anything about this?

RobB said...

Nice words, Pat. Very nice. A lot of us, that is people who drifted away from WoT, are now recalling how much we enjoyed the books when we first read them.

Michèle said...

Superbe et émouvant panégyrique, Pat.
Robert Jordan nous manquera .
Merci de l'avoir si bien évoqué!

Saladin said...

Pat said: "I started reading The Wheel of Time in the fall of 1991, which means that the saga has been a part of me for nearly half of my life."

I started reading WoT when I was 17 and now I'm almost 32. So I guess it's been nearly half of my life, too. Crazy...

TK42ONE said...

This is a great post. Thanks.

jeff hotchkiss said...

That was very nice. You may have convinced me to take a look at the series which I had been averse to from all of the negativity I've heard about the later books (ignorance on my part, I know). Thanks.

Kiper said...

Thank you for this post, Pat.
I wrote a more eloquent comment before but Blogger doesn't seem to like me.
I found The Eye of the World, 1993 when I was backpacking through India buying it from a street vendor without knowing that I'd struck gold.

Dave said...

...like it or not, I'm buying this, even if Robert Stanek writes the damned thing.

Can't decide whether to fall on the floor laughing or burn you at the stake!