Robert Jordan: author, mentor, friend. To most, he was the mind and pen behind the critically acclaimed fantasy series, The Wheel of Time. To us, he was that and so much more. He was the reason we are here. He brought us all together, and influenced us both in life and beyond. Those of us who had the opportunity to meet him before his passing will always remember his vibrant personality, powerful voice and quizzical smile. To hear him narrate in person, weaving together his stories in full animation, was to see the beloved characters of The Wheel of Time come to life and dance before your eyes.
Born in 1948, Robert Jordan, pen name for James Oliver Rigney, was a native of South Carolina. He spent his later years in Charleston in a historic house with his wife and publisher, Harriet. His home was at the junction of the Ashley and Cooper rivers, nestled serenely in a lush wood--a place he affectionately described as the Two Rivers. Jordan spent most of his time writing in a carriage house on the property, surrounded by thousands of books, antique weapons, hats, and gifts given to him by fans.
Robert Jordan first got interested in writing at an early age. While growing up, his older brother often baby-sat and read to him. Rather than reading children's books, his brother chose authors who interested him, such as Mark Twain and H.G. Wells. Jordan was so captivated by the stories that he would often puzzle out the words to be able to finish the books by himself instead of stopping where his brother left off. Learning from these great authors, Jordan decided that one day he too would create stories of his own.
Though he knew at an early age that he would someday be a writer, Jordan did not actually start writing until much later in his life. He knew he lacked the life experience to write fiction like the sort he had read growing up. And so he waited, and kept telling himself that someday he would indeed write.
During that time, Jordan gained quite a few experiences. He joined the U.S. Army and served for two tours of Vietnam. In his time there, he acquired decorations such as the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star with V, and two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry. Jordan also earned a degree in physics from The Citadel, the military college of South Carolina, and went on to become a nuclear engineer. Finally, in his late twenties, Jordan was hospitalized for an injury and decided that life was too short to wait for "someday."
Jordan began thinking of the story for The Wheel of Time long before he ever began writing. He let it sit in his mind and grow until he felt ready to put anything down. As it was, he was not as prepared as he thought, for it took him four years to complete The Eye of the World. He kept finding more he had to establish within the world before being able to continue the main story, resulting in an environment so dynamic and complex it seems almost real.
After The Eye of the World was published, Jordan became an internationally acclaimed fantasy writer. His Wheel of Time series has been translated into many languages, including French, German, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, and Japanese. Though best known for The Wheel of Time, Jordan published in many other genres. He used different names for each genre; among them, Reagan O'Neal, Jackson O'Reilly, and Chang Lung. Under the name Jordan he also wrote a series on Conan.
In 2002, The Eye of the World was separated into two young adult books, entitled From the Two Rivers and To the Blight. From the Two Rivers includes a new prologue, "Ravens," written by Robert Jordan. He also wrote a prequel, New Spring, which first appeared as a short story in the fantasy anthology Legends and later was expanded to a full novel entitled New Spring: the Novel.
When not writing, Jordan enjoyed hunting and fishing, as well as playing poker, chess, and shooting pool. His favorite drink was cognac, and he collected antique weapons, swords, old muskets, hats, and Asian and African art. Jordan was an avid reader with a personal library of over 16,000 books, and considered himself a history buff.
Robert Jordan died on September 16, 2007 of the rare blood disease cardiac amyloidosis, for which he had been receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota for almost two years. His funeral service was held on September 19 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Charleston. Tom Doherty, founder and president of Tor Books (publisher of The Wheel of Time), gave the eulogy. Representing Jordan's fans at his funeral were Melissa Craib aka Eleyan Teyal Al'Landerin , founder and Amyrlin Seat of TarValon.Net, and Jason Denzel, founder and owner of Dragonmount.com.
On March 8, 2008, Jordan was inducted to the South Carolina Academy of Authors (SCAA) Hall of Fame. A memorial was dedicated to Jordan on April 8, 2008 at The Citadel, his alma mater.
Before Jordan's passing, when he and Harriet were working on an installment of The Wheel of Time, Jordan spoke words which Harriet found so beautiful she had to stop and jot them down. What he once used as a description of Rand, one of the main characters of The Wheel of Time, family, friends, and fans now use to describe Jordan himself:
He came like the wind, like the wind touched everything, and like the wind was gone.
And so Jordan is remembered, both as one of the most influential fantasy writers of the century and as a charismatic man dedicated to all those whose lives he has touched.