Friday, September 21, 2007

Goodbye Robert Jordan

I was 18 when 'The Wheel of Time' came into my life.

I was a freshman in college then, and I was hanging around the famous (or infamous, depending on how well you know him) Hyperion, and he bought me a copy of the first book of Robert Jordan's 'The Wheel of Time' series, 'The Eye of the World', and demanded that I read it. (And if you do know Hyperion, demanded is a nice way of saying it.) I seem to recall that he also bought me a stuffed moose as a bribe to read this book.

This is the copy that Hyperion gave to me 11 years ago. It's seen better days.

I dragged my feet on reading it for about a month or so. It was a fantasy novel, which I typically didn't read, and a serial fantasy novel, which only the hopelessly dorky and eternally un-laid liked. But it seemed important to him (and he was bugging me about it day and night) so one day when I was doing my laundry at school I sat on top of a washing machine to guard my clothes from being thrown on the floor and started to read.

It started off with a typical fantasy beginning: a gawky teenager named Rand al'Thor going about his life, unaware that he's probably going to be a hero later on. Other main characters are introduced. Rand and his father are sitting at home minding their business several pages later, and as the spin cycle kicked in I wondered why it was that Hyperion was forcing me to read this boring shit... then the Trollocs knocked on Rand's door, changing his life and mine as well.

From that point on, I've been a fan of the series. I finished the first book the next day and inhaled the rest of the novels in the following months. I stayed up all night before my Chem I final to finish the fourth book, which had an ending that was so incredible that I cried. In the past few years my initial enthusiasm for the series cooled a bit, but I'd be one of the first to pick up the newest book when it came out and I had recommended it often to friends and family.

I guess it was only fitting that Hyperion was the one who first told me that Robert Jordan had passed away Sunday. The greatest sadness here lies in the fact that he never completed the series, and that all the side projects and other stories he had planned on doing would never come to light. But Jordan left behind a wonderful legacy in the Sea Hag universe, and that is the knowledge that the gift of a good book is a rare and precious thing. Since Hyperion bought me my own copy of 'The Eye of the World' (which has been read so many times it's falling apart and has to be held together by rubber bands) I have, in turn, shared or bought copies for my stepfather, my wasband, several friends, co-workers, and many ex-boyfriends, who, in turn, have gone on to suggest it to others. Jordan left behind a body of work that is awe-inspiring not in just sheer volume and scope, but in the way that people love the characters and the story so much that they feel compelled to share it with others.

But most of all, these books helped me forge a deep friendship with Hyperion that has lasted nearly 14 years, and it's the one topic we can always come back to and discuss no matter how much time or how many miles have been between us. And I think that's a great thing to leave behind.


Sarge said...

Great post!

I turned my sons onto sci fi early and they've stuck with it. Jordan was one of my favorites.

A couple of years ago some relatives revealed something to me. They used to come visit when I was a kid and they got my room. There, on my nightstand and in bookshelves, were science fiction books and Mad magazines. They felt that this was what caused my atheism and other societal oddnesses which the churched and conventional found so vexing and fatiguing. They counldn't understand why my parents ALLOWED me to rerad such things as they were obviously messing me up.

I was most partial, back then, to Heinlein, Sturgeon, A. Bertram Chandler, and Burroughs. It didn't take long to figure out that Burroughs actually wrote one story, did it well, and just changed some details, but the books had these really great Frank Frazetta covers with girls and such...I knew (and know) guys who couldn't tell you there was a word between the covers...some girls, too.

Anonymous said...

Man, I didn't know he had died.

Sad on so many levels.