18 September 2007

Death not the end for popular authors

A few years ago, when Stephen King was struck and severely injured by a van, he had time to ponder his career. Beyond doing other things, he decided that he needed to finish his Dark Tower series before he shuttled off this mortal coil; if not for the fans, just for himself. He felt that had he died with the seven volume series unfinished, he felt that might be his epitaph. And that was not going to happen.

The death of Robert Jordan brings up some questions as to whether the proposed 12 volume series will see its final book, which Jordan claimed had a working title of A Memory of Light. When he revealed to his fans back in March of 2006 that he was suffering from primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy (cardiac amyloidosis), he said to them that he would beat the odds, as the life expectancy with this disease was four years.

Its been reported on blog entries he made a dragonmount.com that, while he was not working full force on the final volume, he was sharing and writing down significant plot details and passing that on with family and associates.

While Jordan’s death is a blow to fans and bookstores everywhere, the book industry will see his death as an opportunity to continue publish his works. Over the last few decades, publishers -usually working in tandem with the writers estate - have found that a popular series or franchise does not need to die with its author.

As an example, since her death in 1986, V.C. Andrews has 8 novels published (2 of which her own, six by a ghost writer). Robert Ludlum, who died in 2001, has since published several new works, including three new volumes of his Jason Bourne series, all written by another author. L. Ron Hubbard, who long before becoming the center of attention for his Scientology, was a science fiction author, and has had several books published under his name since his death in 1986. And lest we forget Brian Herbert picking up where his father left off, publishing multiple new volumes in the Dune series, and Christopher Tolkien helping finish his fathers The Children of Húrin.

So, I’m guessing that Memory will see the light of day eventually, as I don’t think Jordan -probably knowing he was not going to survive much longer - wouldn’t want to disappoint his fans, plus have that as a footnote in his biography. Another author, either selected by him or his estate, will probably write the final volume based on those notes, and maybe the two proposed prequels.

Or course, all of this could’ve ended years ago, as when the Wheel in Time series was first released back in 1990, it was only a proposed 7 volume series. Somewhere along the line, Jordan and his publishers got 5 more volumes, a short story expanded into a prequel novel and two more prequels.

Still, a prolific author like King, I’m also sure we’ll see s few more posthumous works carrying the Robert Jordan name.

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