Fantasy author Robert Jordan passed away on 16th September 2007. [Source]
Jordan was best known for his Wheel of Time series, which has so far spanned 11 volumes and 1 prequel. It was an epic fantasy tale where a world is threatened by the pending return of a Dark One, known as Shai'tan. Only the Dragon Reborn is said to have the power to turn back the pending evil. It's a good blend of cheesy sword-and-sorcery fantasy - one of the reason why some people despise the genre "fantasy" - but often, there's some interesting characterisation, politics and intrigue. Friends betray each other out of love - and because they believed they were trying to do good, to save the world. Robert Jordan understood the meaning of sacrifice, and how we often have to make choices for purposes greater than ourselves and all we care for.
I have a confession to make: there was a time when I was a big Wheel of Time fan. I would hang out at the newsgroup for all discussions on the series. One of my favourite character was Moiraine, who died in one of the books - although that was left ambiguous and we always suspected she would return. And Lanfear, the former lover of the Dragon Reborn in his past-life, and whom I suspect will be redeemed somehow at the end.
I first started reading the series when I was in the university - because a long epic fantasy series was more interesting reading than your textbook. My friend and I used to wonder - what if Robert Jordan was to die before he finished his series? We were concerned, and yet he continued to write, and the series continued even when I finally gave up waiting at Book 8: The Path of Daggers. I read how Robert Jordan promised he would finally end the series at Book 12. It was projected for release in 2009. But with his death, I guess time ran out.
Maybe someone will continue the series for him. But we know it's not going to be authentic Robert Jordan. He created an EPIC in the grand sense of the word. His imaginary world was rich and layered, with intricate social structures and characters that annoy you so much because they are so vividly written.
The only other contemporary author I can think of that can match Robert Jordan at his game (the sword-and-sorcery high fantasy) is George R. R. Martin. Okay, maybe Tad Williams with his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, or Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry. You know what - feel free to disagree with me. Feel free to suggest authors who worked with that kind of expansive vision. I'm sure I'm missing out some worthy authors.
Say, somebody should go check on George. Make sure he's okay. I would like to be able to see a satisfying conclusion to A Song of Ice and Fire, thank you very much.
Oh wait, I just checked out G.R.R.M's blog, and he wrote something about Robert Jordan's passing:
The world of high fantasy is poorer today.
James Rigney, better known to fantasy readers as Robert Jordan, has passed away. Although he had been fighting amyloidosis for several years, the news of his death still came as a shock to many, including me. He was so optimistic and determined that you had to think that if anyone could beat the disease, it would be him.
Jim was a good and gracious man, a pleasure to share a platform or a pint with, and his contributions to modern fantasy were many. His huge, ambitious WHEEL OF TIME series helped to redefine the genre, and opened many doors for the writers who followed.
He was also unfailingly generous towards other fantasists, always ready to offer them support and encouragement. My own ICE & FIRE series might never have found its audience without the cover quote that Jim was so kind as to provide, back when A GAME OF THRONES was first published. I will always be grateful to him for that.
The last time I saw Jim was at an Archon in Collinsville, Illinois. It was before his final illness. He was the convention Guest of Honor and I was the Toastmaster, and I introduced him by telling the audience that actually we were the same person. It was a gag that Jim himself had suggested in the Green Room beforehand. While I was doing the intro, and claiming credit for all his books, he slowly entered, walked up silently behind me, and stood looming over me, glowering like Zeus. We got a great laugh.
I had some great dinners with Jim and his wife Harriet there in Collinsville as well. We talked about other writers, editors, publishers, all the stuff that writers always talk about... oh, and a little about our own series as well... and Jim and Harriet invited me to visit them if I ever made it down to Charleston. Sad to say, I never did.
RIP, Jim. You will be much missed.
You know what's so karmic about this? Robert Jordan was the reason I picked up A Game of Thrones - the reason I became a G.R.R.M. fan.