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ccfinlay

James Oliver Rigney, Jr. (Robert Jordan) 1948-2007

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Sep. 17th, 2007 | 08:41 am

I come not to bury Robert Jordan, but to praise him.

It is has sometimes been the habit among writers I know to knock Robert Jordan for his prose, his characterization, or his inability to bring the Wheel of Time to a conclusion. But when I was starting out, I learned so much by studying Jordan, simple things like three characters in a scene gives you more tension than two, that every house divided provides more twists and reversals, and cinematic openings allow readers raised on visual stories easier entry into scene or chapter. Jordan also transformed the Tolkienesque subgenre by letting men and women protag equally on a big scale. From Eowyn to the Aes Sedai is a giant step that high fantasy needed to take. Other writers were making the attempt, but Jordan's was bigger and bolder and resonated with more readers. Seventeen years after the first book, this is so common now that it's hard to remember how fresh it felt in 1990.

Coming out of the short story world, where we're taught to pay attention to every detail and to take care with each brushstroke, it's easy to underestimate Jordan's strengths. He painted on a big canvas, as big as any popular fantasy writer before him, and for all that the plot seemed to bog down sometimes in later books, he knew the elements of a good adventure story and how to use them. I will miss his writing. I am sad that he won't get to tell all the stories that he wanted to tell. Tonight I plan to sit down, crack open The Eye of the World, and remember how much fun it was to read that book the first time I followed the wind as it came down out of the mountains to ruffle the hair of a farmboy named Rand al'Thor.

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Comments {22}

Sherwood Smith

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from: sartorias
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 01:19 pm (UTC)
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He gave a lot of readers a good deal of pleasure--not so bad a thing. I just wish the poor man had had another twenty years to do it in.

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C. C. Finlay

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from: ccfinlay
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 01:22 pm (UTC)
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Exactly. It's a gift to be able to entertain people, to pull them out of this world for a little while and into another. He had that gift, and it will be missed.

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C. C. Finlay

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from: ccfinlay
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 04:50 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. I'm sure Tor and his estate will find someone to finish the last volume. It should be great fun for the writer who does it (I mean, what a challenge!) but I hope it's done well enough to satisfy the committed fans of the series.

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(no subject)

from: ellameena
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 02:16 pm (UTC)
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OMG, no! I can't believe it! What happened to the poor man? I gave up on the Wheel of Time series a long time ago, but I always planned to read it in its entirety when it was complete. But the worst thing is that his death is terribly untimely. He was young!!!

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C. C. Finlay

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from: ccfinlay
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 04:51 pm (UTC)
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He'd been fighting a very rare and mostly untreatable form of cancer for over a year. And yes, he was less than 60, I think. Yet another reminder to do what you want to do with your life right now, instead of putting it off.

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Steve Nagy

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from: stevenagy
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 07:58 pm (UTC)
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that was my thought as well

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scbutler

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from: scbutler
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 02:48 pm (UTC)
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I agree with sartorias - giving readers pleasure is a gift. Wish I had it.

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C. C. Finlay

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from: ccfinlay
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
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If you didn't have it, I doubt that Jordan's publisher would have given you that three book contract. But it's not bad to be humble and keep working at it.

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karen_w_newton

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from: karen_w_newton
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 03:02 pm (UTC)
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Why does it seem like there is never a shortage of sad news? When an artist dies (I include writers, actors, directors, and the like, as well as painters and sculptors), the temptation is to say, "At least we still have the books/movies/paintings." I don't think his family finds that much consolation, but it is a consolation for the rest of us.

Nice write-up, Charlie.

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C. C. Finlay

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from: ccfinlay
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC)
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I think even his readers will be unconsoled here, since they're unable to finish his major series exactly the way he would have written it.

And thanks.

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C. C. Finlay

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from: ccfinlay
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 04:56 pm (UTC)
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The fourth book was a bit of a mess, and the prologue to Lord of Chaos (was that six?) made me want to throw the series against the wall over and over and over again.

But for all that, I still reread the books to enjoy his imaginitive energy, as well as the scope and richness of his constant, restless invention.

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karenmiller

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from: karenmiller
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
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Beautifully articulated, Charlie. He was a giant, who gave pleasure to millions of people. Those of us who follow him should be so lucky to touch the merest fraction of hearts. 58 is way too young.

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C. C. Finlay

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from: ccfinlay
date: Sep. 18th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
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"Charles Coleman Finlay - He Pleasured Millions" would be a fine epitaph... if people didn't take it the wrong way.

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Rae Carson

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from: raecarson
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 08:26 pm (UTC)
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Excellent post. It saddens me when people pass on when they still have stories to tell.

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C. C. Finlay

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from: ccfinlay
date: Sep. 18th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. You were very kind to put up with my rereading of EotW last night too.

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Rae Carson

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from: raecarson
date: Sep. 18th, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)
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Well, yes, but you ran to the store for me, so it's all good.

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Jason Venter

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from: honestgamer
date: Sep. 17th, 2007 09:05 pm (UTC)
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I am extremely depressed right now, but I take from this a lot of the same things you all did. I definitely have stories I want to tell, more than I can ever tell in my lifetime if I start writing right now and don't ever stop. It was obviously that way with Robert Jordan. He was an inspiration to me even when I stopped reading his series for a time--at book seven--and I will go through and read all of his series one day, I'm sure. You never know when life is going to throw a wrench in your plans, as it did his, so I guess the big point here is to get to work immediately and tell the stories you want most to tell.

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C. C. Finlay

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from: ccfinlay
date: Sep. 18th, 2007 05:01 pm (UTC)
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Yee-up.

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gabriel_writes

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from: gabriel_writes
date: Sep. 26th, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
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Very sad news indeed. I remember balancing a heavy library copy of a "Wheel of Time," against my pregnant belly whilst waiting for my husband in Chillicothe. That's the half-way point for TOSRV.

I only got thru book four or five before giving up. My favorite characters were Lan and Nynaeve(?) can anyone tell me what became of them in later books?

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C. C. Finlay

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from: ccfinlay
date: Sep. 26th, 2007 02:50 pm (UTC)
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They fall deeply in love but continue to act like emotionally-arrested adolescents. But I can't help myself -- I still like those parts of the books.

Now Rand and his harem....

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