The name James Rigney may be unfamiliar to some sci-fi readers, but Robert Jordan will certainly ring a bell. That’s the pseudonym Rigney, a Charleston resident, used to craft his epic The Wheel of Time series before his death in 2007. The story lives on, however, thanks to fan and author Brandon Sanderson, who has worked on the final three novels of the series. The most recent volume, and the last in the New York Times best-selling series, A Memory of Light, was released this month.
Sanderson, along with Rigney’s widow, Harriet McDougal, will appear at an event at the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library on Sat. Jan. 12 at 3 p.m, where they will sign copies of A Memory of Light. The event will also debut the James Rigney Collection, made up of first editions, props, video interviews, and even an Apple computer with 4,000 pages worth of notes Rigney used to compose his masterpiece. McDougal donated the collection to the college last fall, but it is currently being processed by archivist Josh Minor, who’s making his way through hundreds of boxes. The Wheel of Time series features thousands of characters, hundreds of villages, and meticulous research, so the library has a lot of work cut out for it.
“These papers document not just the context, contributions, and creativity of one very significant Charleston writer, but will be used by researchers exploring a popular global phenomenon,” says Harlan Greene, the senior manuscript and reference archivist of special collections at the Addlestone Library. He thinks this collection could have as much popular appeal as the books themselves. “One of the most interesting parts of archival life is not knowing how the materials we preserve may be used by researchers,” Greene adds. “Will fans want to touch the manuscripts? Will scholars want to see how plot and characters changed, or how Jim’s editor Harriet influenced him? Will students of Arthurian legends want to check out Jim’s sources? Or will others studying the effects of technology come to see if Jim’s writing style changed as he moved from handwritten script to typing to computers?”
Greene says the entire collection of material is 50 linear feet long and includes tens of thousands of pieces of paper. The library is working on an organization system and will set up online exhibits that anyone can access, but it may still be a few months before the collection really ready for research purposes (and that’s not very long, according to Greene). Right now, the public can visit the special collections section (on the third floor of the Addlestone Library) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through mid-February.
“We have on display right now the first pages of an early draft of the first novel in the series, which is sort of like ground zero for The Wheel of Time,” Greene says. “There are lots of interesting PR-related materials and photos of Jim, ephemera that show his humor and generosity, documentation of all the variety of spin-off materials, and copies of the books in over a dozen different languages, as well as the first graphic novel version.” And, of course, there are swords.
The library has also set up a blog dedicated to the processing process. Visit blogs.cofc.edu/thetruesource to see the state of the collection and some of its highlights.