January 15, 2020 marks the 30-year anniversary of the publication of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. Although there are neither beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time, this date does mark the official beginning of the book franchise.
After leaving a career as a nuclear engineer, Robert Jordan (a pen name for James Rigney Jr, who went by "Jim" to his friends and family) began a prolific writing career. He wrote in a variety of genres, using a different pen name for each one, eventually making a name for himself in the fantasy publishing industry primarily on the strength of his Conan novels. (Robert Jordan did not create the Conan character or write the original novels. He wrote later ones in the series over 50 years after the original author, Robert E. Howard died).
Originally pitched to Tor Books as a 3-book series, Tor publisher Tom Doherty laughed at the sheer scope of The Wheel of Time and instead offered Jim a 6-book contract. Tor believed in the first book so much that they did a heavy marketing push, going so far as to commission an alternative book cover and creating 5,000 advance reader copies, which was unheard of now, or then.
To celebrate this 30-year anniversary occasion, we asked Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan's wife and editor, what her memories were of that time in 1990. Here's what she sent us:
September 1989 brought Hurricane Hugo, which caused over $200,000 worth of damage to our house. It was awful. That December brought … snow. A tremendous rarity in Charleston. Now known as the Christmas Hell froze over. It even froze some of the city’s water mains. First, owing to the lack of water pressure, the third floor bathroom had no water. Then the second floor had no water either. The ground floor powder room slowed to a trickle. A good friend who visited from New York for Christmas (together with two other Christmas visitors) found me in the kitchen very sadly filling my mother’s big pickling kettle with water so we’d have something to flush the downstairs toilet with. He said,
“What are you doing?”
“I’m saving some water in case the city supply fails.”
“What’ll we do if it does?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh. Well we’ll just have to drink our own urine.”
This tickled my funny bone. “Yeah. Go get the empty wine bottles out of the recycling. We’ll label the bottles so we’ll each have our own private vintage.”
Then I couldn’t help laughing. So I got Christmas back.
And the water mains didn’t totally fail. So we didn’t have to establish our private labels.
So where was Robert Jordan? He was working flat out on The Great Hunt. Tom Doherty, the publisher, was insisting on publishing it within a year of Eye’s publication. This was really tight. So dear Jim would have Christmas Day away from the keyboard, but no other.
New Year’s Day came. We ate our hoppin’john, collards, and some pork, in order to conjure up prosperity in the new year. It worked!
And that, my friends, is about all I remember of that winter of The Eye.
- Harriet McDougal
We're also asking YOU to share your memories of how you found this special book. You can reply here to this article, or you can reply on our social media:
Tell us about the 1st time you saw, or picked up, The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. Then RT this. #eotw30#wheeloftime #twitteroftime #WoTcommunity #robertjordan #wot #thewheeloftime #WoTonPrime pic.twitter.com/wFbJrPlsJI— Dragonmount.com (@dragonmount) January 13, 2020
Edited by Jason Denzel