I ended up feeling a lot quieter after I heard about Robert Jordan than I would have predicted I would.
Here’s what it boils down to, and why I don’t feel bad that my thoughts more or less immediately went to his unfinished book.
I never met the man. I saw him at World Fantasy once, but didn’t stand in the enormous line of people with wheeled carts full of eggcrates full of books for him to sign. I didn’t know him personally. All I knew were his books, and the occasional interview or blog post I came across.
The Eye of the World was the one book I took with me to Costa Rica. I took it because it was big and thick and looked like it might keep me busy through two and a half weeks of semi-rough living where I had to carry all my worldly possessions in a backpack for the duration (and I was a scrawny fourteen at the time). I left that book in Costa Rica after I finished it because the series didn’t grab me then (and see above about having to carry everything); later I went back, because my friends were reading it, and then it did grab me.
I know a lot of people got fed up with the Wheel of Time at one point or another, and I’ll cop to having my own problems with it. But ultimately? The core of the story was something I never stopped being interested in. Through all the subplots and complications and so on, I always was curious to see how the main stuff was going to wrap up. That was my connection to Robert Jordan: the story he was telling.
In a sense, then, the end of that story will be the end of my relationship with the man. Whether it ends here, incomplete, or whether they find someone to finish his work . . . either way, that’s how my connection ends. And I know which one I would prefer.
So I don’t feel bad that I’m wondering what will happen with the last book.
My sympathies, of course, are with everyone who did know him — the people who have lost James Oliver Rigney, Jr., instead of Robert Jordan. I don’t expect them to deal with this question any time soon. There are more important things for them right now.