In case you haven’t heard, over the weekend, Wheel of Time author Robert Jordan died. With him dies the secrets and resolution of his series of novels, giving fans more than one reason to mourn. Here passes a good man and the end of a good story that has been almost a dozen years in the making. Meanwhile, millions of Harry Potter fans take comfort in the fact that it wasn’t their franchise that was prematurely ended.

Except we all know the story won’t end with Jordan’s passing.

Extending the story beyond an author’s domain is something that’s been more and more popular in recent years, and I’m not talking about fan-fic. Timothy Zahn picked up Star Wars and began the story anew in novel form, with great success (Yes, I know Lucas isn’t dead in that case, but given the prequels, some fans wish he may have been). Frank Herbert’s son started playing in the world of Dune along with Kevin J. Anderson. J.R.R. Tolkien’s family saw the massive appeal from the movies and started extending his legacy. Anne McCaffrey is still alive and already her son Todd is messing with her dragons. I could go on and on. Somewhere, some fan is waiting for Stephen King to keel over so they can hopefully get an invite to write one more Dark Tower book and fix the less-than-satisfying ending provided by the original author.

Part of the reason for this, in my humble opinion, is thanks to the efforts authors have gone through to keep the copyright on their properties in place. See, copyright is binding for the author’s life plus 75 years. But, if the copyright is held by a company instead of the author, that copyright is extended for longer amounts of time, protecting the author’s work from winding up in public domain. Typically the company falls down a family line, but suddenly when the great-grandson of an author realizes he can make more money by cashing in on great-granddad’s vision, the franchise can be reborn (yes, I’m exaggerating slightly here, but the premise is sound).

So, fear not Jordan fans. You’ll probably get the end of your story. After all, it’s hard to believe that Jordan didn’t leave ample notes about the direction of his series, especially knowing how limited his time might be. The question is: will you get a worthy writer to finish off the series? Will you get a Timothy Zahn who actually improves upon the source material, or a Brian Herbert solution; one that is somewhat satisfying, but not nearly as good as the source material?

Actually, I guess there’s one more question: do fans want to see the series closed by another author? Is it better to see Jordan’s series untainted and untouched, sitting as an unfinished masterpiece? Or should someone come along and continue Jordan’s legacy down the path of Dune, Middle Earth, Pern and other worlds?

What do you think?

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