Author dies, work incomplete

One of the conversational points that regularly comes up during our Collection Development committee meetings when discussing weeding is the notion of “having a complete run” being meaningful.

I’m a native of our current dispersed and distributed information environment. I couldn’t care less about having a complete run for its own sake. Comprehensive access? I’m all for it. Volumes 1-216 on the shelf? Eh. Depends on the title. Some of my colleagues, here and elsewhere, disagree, as they should, if they believe in a different set of guiding principles about libraries than I do.

But today, as I’m prepping the agenda for our next meeting while also checking news feeds, I saw that Robert Jordan has died. He lost his battle with amyloidosis — he was fighting some long odds, and, sadly, he didn’t win.

Death is always a tragedy, and a loss, but right now there’s an entire marginalized segment of our society screaming in grief and horror (so much so that the official Jordan blog is crashed due to server traffic). Fantasy readers are all a-buzz over Jordan’s death — not because they knew James Rigney, the man behind the pseudonym, personally, or because the genre will never be the same without him, but because… he didn’t finish writing the series.

What’s it mean to Wheel of Time fans that the “complete run” can never be had?

From the perspective of the library absolutists who say that the complete run matters, what’s it mean if the run was never completed? Do the preceding 11 books not matter, since 12 was never written? Is the run complete even if it contains no conclusion, resolution, or ending?

I know. Geeky musings. Barely relevant. But as a librarian who thinks about collecting every moment of the day, and a fantasy geek who was really intensely in love with the Wheel of Time (right up to about book 6, where it all started going downhill for me…), these things are relevant to me.

And James Rigney, aka Robert Jordan, will be missed. He was a giant in his field, who redefined fantasy for many readers of my generation. Thank you, sir, and may you rest in peace.


  1. These are the kinds of questions I like. While it may not be relevant in the big scheme of things, our values dictate meaning in so many ways. It is sad that the last book was not written, but that should not take away from the incomplete series that DOES exist. We all lucked out with Firefly, which could have ended like Twin Peaks, but the value of a work, written or otherwise, should lie in its inherent merit, and not in its relation to the whole. Perhaps a contemporary of Jordan’s will be engaged by his estate to author a conclusion at some point. ๐Ÿ™‚ Would be interesting to see how fans would react to that. Would it be more acceptable if a family member wrote one?


  2. I’m going to leave my squealing fangirl reaction aside for a moment and instead leap on this bit: “the value of a work, written or otherwise, should lie in its inherent merit, and not in its relation to the whole”.


    That’s where I end up on the question, eternally posed, of “do we weed volumes out of a series classified serially, even though it leaves gaps in the series?” If the volume to potentially be weeded can’t stand on its inherent merit without the rest of the series to provide value for it, then get rid of it.

    As for the fangirly bits, I’d much prefer one of two scenarios re: tWoT. One, Jordan’s not dead, and he finishes the series so spectacularly that it makes up for all the dithering in the last half of the series. Or, Two, we call the series complete at Dumai’s Wells and let it go there. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  3. The Hollywood style answer is to change the ending to the way that sells the most tickets. If there is no ending, that’s better for Hollywood, since an “ending” can be contrived to help promote the money milking sequels. True fans could do better by getting together and sharing how they think the ending should be. After all, it is the true fans who understand the nuances better than the hacks who may try to cash in. And only true fans will recognize and appreciate that which rings true.


  4. I’m sad he won’t get to finish his series. I read a post at his blog months ago about how he really wanted and intended to write the end of the story.

    I printed his obit out and taped it up by his series in our sci-fi/fantasy collection. And just reordered one of the volumes (again) because they keep wearing out.

    I’m wondering now if he started #12? Maybe we’ll get a partial finish. I wouldn’t be surprised if they asked someone to try and write the last volume…


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