Monday, September 17, 2007

"Baruch Dayan HaEmet" and "Urgh"

For the last several years, I've been reading a fantasy epic by Robert Jordan called "The Wheel of Time." At 11 books and counting (not including the prequel or other complementary works), the story has thousands of characters, countless tiny subplots, and a rich world with multiple countries and cultures, several different kinds of wizards/witches with different codes, good guys who sometimes act bad, good guys who turn out to be bad guys, and good guys who seem to be acting for some crazy agenda of their own. The characters are drawn so richly that I swear I would recognize any of them if I passed them on the street.

For a long time, fans have been after the author to finish the story, as it truly was becoming too unwieldy (more than twice the length of the Harry Potter series) and it was coming time to wrap it up. Jordan promised that he'd finish in one more book, and millions of people around the world looked forward to the climactic battle between good and evil.

Then Jordan got sick. Very sick. He kept a blog letting fans know how he is doing, and in between the bad days when he could hardly function, he kept working on the book. He knew how important this series is to his fans, and it seemed that the task of finishing was helping to keep him alive.

Yesterday, he died.

I have to admit that I'm very impressed by the level of maturity among the commenters at his blog. His fans have expressed sadness at his death, admiration of his character, and sympathy for his wife and other family members.

This is all true and appropriate, and I share it. Jordan was an extraordinarily imaginative and talented man, and the way he approached his illness was inspiring.

And, also, I am really really upset that now we'll never know how the story ends. Yes, I know this is selfish and all, but I think that I speak for thousands of others -- who are more tactful than I am -- when I say that I am so, so, so upset that now there is no chance for a proper denoument. It's as if Return of the Jedi ended just at the scene when Luke leaves Endor to go meet up with Darth Vader, and then the credits roll. What a tease!

What makes it even worse is the idea -- nay, the surity -- that dozens or hundreds of fans will write mediocre "fan fiction" endings. Ooog. I can't bear it.

I'm thinking about lovingly wrapping up all my Wheel of Time books and putting them safely into storage, since just seeing them on my shelves raises feelings of frustration.

Rest in Peace, Robert Jordan. You were a good man.

And to anyone else who writes epic fantasies: Always write an outline and put it somewhere under lock and key, in case you die!

UPDATE: According to Jordan's blog, before he died he gave a 2 1/2 hour verbal account of the entire rest of the story to two of his family members. I hope this is true and that they took good notes.

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