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Successors in Fantasy – Handing Over the Reins

A Memory of Light (cover)Like many of my fellow fans of fantasy I am going to be deeply enveloped in one of the most anticipated books of, arguably, all time. I’m referring of course to the final volume of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, co-authored and completed by Brandon Sanderson. This, coupled with the recent news of Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna, continuing his Discworld novels following his inability to do so, made me think on the role of successors and the proverbial “handing over the reins” of an author’s work to be completed.

Sanderson has garnered a lot of criticism over his additions to the series, I’ve heard notable complaints about his portrayal of Mat and his lack of descriptive prose, while others believe he was the best choice to complete the legacy of Robert Jordan and are proud to see the stories, and the characters they fell in love with, get the conclusion that they deserve.

Robert JordanThe Wheel of Time began in 1990 with the release of The Eye of the World and has since garnered thousands of fans in the 15 book long series, spawning its own convention, JordanCon, dozens of merchandise, and arguably one of the most fanatical fanbases of all. Unfortunately, James Oliver Rigby Jr., more commonly known as Robert Jordan, passed in the year 2007, leaving the fate of his series up in the air. Fortunately for us, his widow, and editor, Harriet McDougal was given strict orders by the passing Robert Jordan to find a worthy successor to finish his story with the mounds of notes and pre-written scenes he left behind.

Brandon SandersonHarriet had recently finished reading the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson and was impressed by the relatively new author’s skills and abilities. Brandon had also written a touching eulogy to Robert Jordan and Harriet was impressed with not only his love for the series but his respect and admiration of her late husband.

And so, Brandon was chosen to complete A Memory of Light. After reading the copious notes and plans laid out by Robert Jordan they made the decision to split the final volume into three, with The Gathering Storm released on October 27, 2009 and Towers of Midnight on November 2, 2010.

Terry PratchettTerry Pratchett is one of the premier names in fantasy literature. His Discworld novels are some of the most well-loved and critically acclaimed books and have the awards and accolades to prove it.

It was also in the year 2007 that Pratchett announced he had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. He persevered and continues to write to this day, mostly through dictation to his assistant or through the use of speech-recognition software.

Rhianna PratchettPratchett revealed in an interview that he intends for his daughter Rhianna to inherit the intellectual rights of Discworld and that she will be continuing the series after his passing. She grew up immersed in Discworld and is playing a valuable role on the current writing team for the City Watch saga. Pratchett has stated, “The Discworld is safe in my daughter’s hands.”

The choice of choosing a successor to finish or continue a series is one that needs careful consideration. In both scenarios I mentioned the successor was chosen by someone intimate with not only the world but also the author themselves. Who better to continue your legacy than your child? Who better to choose your successor than a spouse and your editor rolled into one? I have absolute faith in the ability of both Rhianna and Brandon Sanderson to do as their mentors would have wanted, deliver stories that stay true to the original author’s purpose and the creation itself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the conclusion to one of my favorite series of all time to get to. A Memory of Light and the Last Battle, Tarmon Gai’don, await.

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6 Comments

  1. Jo says:

    Todd McCaffrey took over from Anne while she was still alive, and they worked together on the first few books. I’m sad to say I wasn’t all that impressed…

    • Nicholas S. says:

      There’s no doubt it’s a fine line to walk. No mater how similar you may be, no two writer’s are exactly the same in their style, and while you can work hard and do a wonderful job, as I believe Sanderson did with Wheel of Time, there are probably plenty of examples of it not working out so well.

  2. Jenny says:

    Great article :)
    I think it’s a great thing if a child or someone close can take over a legacy like these, especially if they can start together, like Terry Pratchett and his daughter.
    While I’m relieved that we won’t have to say goodbye to the Discworld, I am worried about them having a different writer. The situation is desperately sad but it’s nice to know that something so important to so many people (including Mr Pratchett himself) will continue. I’m sure his daughter will do a brilliant job (I hope). I’m even a little bit jealous – what a massive weight to have on ones shoulders but what a massive honour.

    • Nicholas S. says:

      First off, thank you!
      Secondly, I have high hopes for Rhianna, not only did she grow up immersed in her father’s world but she is also a celebrated author in her own right, albeit for nothing quite like Discworld. As with any successor, I too have high hopes for their success, especially for a wonderful man like Terry Pratchett and the Discworld we’ve all grown to love.

  3. Owaynott says:

    Hi. Nice piece but I would like to point out to minor errors. One Harriet only read something like 50 pages of Mistborn before she decided Brandon was the best choice and I think she read Brandon’s eulogy for her husband as well.
    Also I’m not sure that it was really Brandon’s choice to split the book into 3 and I think he was correct in being hesitant.
    So he lacked a lot of control in finshing Jordan’s work and the books suffered a bit, a case if too many cooks maybe.

    Hopefully the Discworlds novels will not suffer the same fate and I am actually looking forward to a different voice holding the reins and at the same deeply saddened by the events that will lead to this.

  4. Steve A says:

    David Gemmell passed away before he had finished writing the third in his Troy series. His wife, Stella Gemmell, finished writing it to complete the series. Although she is not continuing novels set in worlds created by him, she is publishing her first solo fantasy novel this year from Transworld Books.

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