Successors in Fantasy – Handing Over the Reins
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.
The 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.
Harriet 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 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.
Pratchett 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.