Today I was struck by a thought, and it made me realize the importance of stories. In this world where society has crumbled and the dead walk, sometimes they are all we have.
I was looking through my large collection of books, trying to find something to read, when I came across a book I had completely forgotten about. It is 'The Gathering Storm' by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. The importance of this novel is probably lost on those of you who aren't fans of epic fantasy, but I will explain.
This book was to be the last in the Wheel of Time series. The original author (Jordan) passed away in 2007 before he could finish the massive conclusion. Many of us as fans were heartbroken and worried that the story, so long a part of our nightly escapes into another world, would remain unfinished. But our fears were allayed--Jordan wanted more than almost anything to have his opus completed, because he knew what it meant to all of us, and of course, what it meant to him. Brandon Sanderson was chosen to complete the final book, which would eventually be split into three. Guided by a partially written text and thousands of pages of notes, Mr. Sanderson eventually put out the volume that would be the first in a series of three final novels.
I read it. I loved it.
And slightly more than half a year later, zombies destroyed society.
I hadn't thought about the Wheel of Time since the world started wearing apart at the seams, but as I stared at what would end up being the final book in the unfinished series, a sadness gripped me so deeply that I had trouble even looking away from the cover.
It wasn't just that one book, you understand. It was as if that one tome was every unfinished story, every jagged sentence broken off by the end of all we know. All of the cliffhangers and plots never resolved burst into my brain...
All those brilliant writers, whose talent with words made me laugh and cry, my heart slam against my chest and the pit of my stomach go cold--gone.
I would love to believe that Brandon Sanderson is out there somewhere, picking out the last two books on an old typewriter, determined to finish the epic. I hope that Patrick Rothfuss is filling page after page with longhand by candlelight, perfecting and ending the beautiful novels that sing the song of Kvothe.
But here and now, I realize the importance of our own stories. Not just those that tell our lives, but those we tell each other, truth and fiction alike, that say things we can't articulate any other way. Those tales create one narrative that simultaneously touches each person differently, yet draws all who read or hear it along for the same journey.
We read and share stories because they are the best and most enduring way to explain the best and worst parts of us. Sometimes there is no difference between fiction and non-fiction for highlighting those aspects of our nature that give us hope and fuel our determination.
Stories are entertainment, and education, inspiration and fear. They are mirrors of us and distortions all in one, but above all they are unique to who and what we are as human beings. Stories are creations of man, the only animal that lies, and thereby telling the deepest truths.