As Terry already mentioned, Robert Jordan passed away this week. This announcement caught me by complete surprise. You see, I was one of those fans who visited his blog regularly to learn how his health was progressing. His (and his friend’s and family’s) optimistic entries gave me hope that he would pull out of the terrible tailspin that his health was in.
It really made me think about my own writing.
But this article isn’t about me (for a change). It’s about a modern writing master who never got the chance to finish his masterwork.
I wasn’t always a fan of Robert Jordan, the man. That was due to my own ignorance more than his lack. I remember reading the first book in his “Wheel of Time” series and thinking how great it was. I couldn’t wait for the next book. I never really considered the author at that point.
Several books later and I heard a rumor that he wanted to stop writing the series. “How could he do that when he hadn’t finished it?” I wondered (with anger at the time). He has a responsibility to me, the reader, to finish what he started and not leave me hanging.
It was then that I started to educate myself as to who Robert Jordan, the man, was. That’s when I started to become a fan. When I heard about his illness, I sought out more information which led me to his Dragonmount blog. I read comments from his friends, his family, his fans and himself. I saw how hard he was fighting and how he took the time to encourage those people who took the time to write him.
That’s when I truly was hooked. How many people try to provide strength to others when they themselves are dying? But he did and I am truly inspired by him.
So now you know why I’m a fan. Let’s talk about why I think he is a modern master.
Robert Jordan is one of the few writer’s I’ve ever encountered who really gets “culture”. Many of my observations on the topic owe some debt of gratitude to him.
His books are full to bursting with details that immerse you, the reader, in his world. The different cultures and peoples really become alive. When a character’s heritage is mentioned now, I can almost immediately start thinking about their cultural attributes. Such is the depth he has built into each.
His characters live and breath within their upbringing too, just like we do. You can feel their struggles when they are pulled away from their own “normal” way of doing things. It’s truly an amazing thing.
Some have said that his recent books are getting too complex. More plot lines and characters seem to be introduced with every book. I would agree with that, to a point. His “Wheel of Time” series is dealing with the end of the world on a global basis and how everyone is dealing with it. Both the good people and the bad. Complexity is inherent in it.
Tolkien’s genius was in linguistics. That brought “The Lord of the Rings” to life. Robert Jordan’s was in his understanding of the human condition. That is what makes him a Master.
I’ve gotten past the whole “he owes it to me as a reader to finish the story”. He fought the good fight and enriched many people’s lives in doing it. He owes me nothing at all. If anything, I need to follow his example.