Death: Robert Jordan
Fantasy writer Robert Jordan, born 1948, died today, September 16, 2007, at the age of 58. Jordan was the pen-name of James Oliver Rigney, Jr. He was author of the bestselling Wheel of Time series that began in 1990 with The Eye of the World and continued 11 volumes through Knife of Dreams in 2005, plus prequel volume New Spring (2004). A twelfth volume, A Memory of Light, remains uncomplete. Before that series Jordan wrote the Michael Fallon historical romance trilogy and seven Conan novels, from Conan the Invincible (1982) through Conan the Victorious (1984).
Jim and I criss-crossed at Mayo in Rochester two or three times. We never did meet. But when I heard he was ill and had been to Mayo I wrote him and we began exchanging e mails.
Both of us suffered from incurable diseases that the Mayo docs treated in hopes of giving us as many extra years as possible. Jim's diagnosis was more severe than mine. I have multiple myeloma, a cancer that has suddenly started getting some press. Jim's non-cancerous disease was rare and more difficult to treat. His initial diagnosis was grim. But his prospects seemed to get better a year ago. I believe the docs were saying he might live another three to five years.
In the five and a half years I've had cancer I've met maybe a hundred cancer patients. I've never met one who was as fiercely determined to live as Jim. Nor have I met one who spent half as much time trying to cheer up other people fighting for their lives. If I got a bad report and mentioned it to Jim, he'd write back and talk about how we were going to surprise everybody by living a lot longer than they thought. And he meant it. And he helped.
I also never met a patient who suffered as much as Jim. He went through a very difficult stem cell transplant that didn't do what the docs had hoped. He lost considerable weight, he didn't have much energy, he wondered what the next step would be since the transplant hadn't worked out. I don't have a list of all the various set-backs and serious troubles he endured. But I do know I couldn't have handled them with the grace and fortitude he did.
In one of his last letters to me he spoke of his deep love for his wife Harriet McDougal; of his hopes for his son; of his plans to start writing again, even if it was only a little bit at a time. And he invited me down to go fishing with him. In one letter he'd described his boyhood, a hardscrabble life that taught him some things he would always remember and a few he'd just as soon forget. In his description of his fishing site I heard how much he loved the land and the culture he'd grown up in and the values he'd learned both as a boy and a man, particularly during his service in Viet Nam.
Heroic as some of his characters were, they weren't any more heroic than Jim himself.
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What a moving elegy. Jim had a great friend. I am so sorry for your loss.
Harriet was my editor for a while, and a superb one. Jim Rigney, Robert Jordan, was one of the reasons Tom Doherty Associates achieved primacy in the field of fantasy and science fiction. His novels made the best-seller lists over and over. He had a huge following. Plainly, he was a man of courage and determination. My heart goes out to his magnificent and courageous wife.
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