James Rigney, better known as Robert Jordan, was the author of the “Wheel of Time” series of fantasy novels, which focus on the messianic figure Rand al’Thor and his struggles to save an alternative world, RandLand, from evil, embodied by “Shai’tan” or “the Dark One”.
Unheard of by most readers of mainstream literary fiction, the series (abbreviated by fans to WoTor, less commonly, tWoT), attracted a huge and dedicated following both in Britain and the US. Books 8-11 all reached No 1 on The New York Timesbestseller list, and the series spawned computer games and a soundtrack album. Only works by J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, C. S. Lewis and Terry Pratchett have outsold Jordan’s books in the fantasy genre.
Jordan wrote at a time, after the boom of fantasy fiction in the 1970s, when critics had limited patience with the genre, and on the rare occasion that his work was reviewed, it was often with hostility. “The book is strictly unreviewable, being bilge from beginning to end,” the TLS wrote of A Crown of Swords, an instant bestseller, in 1996.
Jordan – a kindly, courteous man – stood up well to such slights, and defended a genre that he felt made it possible “to talk about right and wrong, good and evil, with a straight face”. “So often in mainstream fiction there are no real value judgments,” he told one interviewer. “. . . Mainstream literature is often the literature of depression for the depressed, written by the depressed and read by the depressed. My characters have a difficult time, they are aware that there is something called ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and they have to struggle to figure out which is which. Morality in mainstream fiction is an amorphous lump of grey.”
In fact, the epic sweep, intricate plotting, constructed languages and intelligent character development of Jordan’s work won over many sceptics, and, some would say, helped to imbue his genre with a new respectability.
James Oliver Rigney Jr was born in 1948 and grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. From 1968 to 1970 he served as a helicopter gunner with the US Army in Vietnam, where he was shot down five times, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Bronze Star. After studying physics at the Citadel Military College, South Carolina he then worked as a nuclear engineer with the US Navy.
He had known from the age of 5 that he wanted to be a writer, and he began to write full-time in 1977 after a serious accident. His first novels, The Fallon Blood (1980), The Fallon Pride (1981) and The Fallon Legacy (1982) which he wrote as Regan O’Neal, were a trilogy of family sagas set in Charleston.
In his next seven novels he resurrected Robert E. Howard’s character Conan the Barbarian.
Jordan was fascinated by “what it would really be like to be tapped on the shoulder and told that you had been born to carry out a great mission, that this was your inevitable destiny no matter what you yourself wished”.
The first Wheel of Time novel was The Eye of the World (1990). A final volume, Memory of Light, was unfinished at the time of Jordan’s death.
Jordan was mobbed by thousands of fans when he went to readings and science fiction conventions. He kept in touch with his admirers via a website and blog, http://www.dragonmount
He was a voracious reader of history, enjoyed hunting, fishing and sailing, and collected pipes. He was a regular churchgoer who described himself as high-church Episcopalian.
He is survived by his wife Harriet and a son.
Robert Jordan, writer, was born on October 17, 1948. He died of amyloidosis on September 16, 2007, aged 58
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/commen ... 484987.ece
The first book in the series was published in 1990 and I think I must have picked it up in 1997 or so and followed all of the books since, despite not showing as much interest in fantasy as a literary genre, just to see how it would all end. I really hope that his wife and publisher decide to finish the last book A Memory of Light for all the many followers of The Wheel of Time worldwide. A sad loss, indeed.