Epic Fantasy and Plot Plumping
Jim Rigney, the real name of Robert Jordan (best-selling author of the high-fantasy Wheel of Time Series), died several years ago. Shortly after he did, one of his friends wrote:
“Subject: Re: Who Should Not Finish WoT for Robert Jordan
From: MikesMadhouse Listmanager <MikesMadhouse.listmana…@bar.baen.com>
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2007 06:36:49 -0400
To: (Recipients of ‘MikesMadhouse’ suppressed)
From: David Drake
What I said was that when Jim Rigney’s work became a significant part of not only the Tor but the Von Holzbrink bottom line, the plots for individual volumes were decided by very highly placed people in council with the author.
Business was expanded to a complete volume where it might originally have been one of several strands in a volume, and the action in minor theaters (so to speak) was followed when the author might have been willing to elide it.
I further said and will repeat: there were quite a lot of people who sneered at ‘Robert Jordan’ but whose own books wouldn’t have been published without the Wheel of Time to subsidize them. Since the onset of Jim’s (Jim Rigney’s) illness, he hadn’t been able to write–and a lot of those people are not being published any more.
Fantasy blogs have been debating whether Drake was telling the truth. Obviously, if he were, it’d go a long ways to explaining why the quality of the series (which was a precursor to the Game of Thrones, and its rival in quality at least when it started) declined so precipitously. It’s also quite irritating, and the kind of thing that makes me want to illegally download pirated e-books, or something.
But, it’s worth pointing out that despite the nastiness of this kind of publishing practice, I can’t imagine there is a thing about plot plumping which is legally actionable. That’s so even though 1) these books were extremely expensive; 2) Tor and Rigney allegedly made several million dollars per book in the series in hardcover sales alone; 3) consumers (like me!) would have been misled to think that the book was a substantial attempt to move the series forward, when actually it was just an exercise is cow-milking; 4) the purpose of this cow-milking was to profit Rigney and subsidize other authors in the firm’s booklist. Or to put it another way, fraud isn’t the same as sharp business practice.