James Rigney died yesterday. Most people knew him as Robert Jordan. I always assumed that he picked the pseudonym from The Sun Also Rises. The Nielsen Haydens write it up here; if you want straight from the source, go to TarValon (the RJ clearinghouse, presumably, in this post-Usenet post-rasfwr-j age) or his own blog.
I first encountered him my sophomore year in high school, when I quietly noted what my sister's boyfriend (now husband) was reading; they were home from college for spring break or something, and I was very impressionable. I have very clear memories of lugging around The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, and the other really good first five, through the last two years of high school. In college, I discovered the Usenet group devoted to him, and that became a big part of my life for a while. I met a bunch of people from that group IRL, and still am friends with some of them, long after our active interest in RJ as an author, or Usenet as a medium, had petered out.
As that group grows up (and old) it's amazing to see what the folks who were on that scene are doing with their lives now. For some reason, while RJ was demonstrably not counted among the more literary of the sf set, he reached a lot of people, and had a pretty amazing talent for worldbuilding and character. He certainly got to snobby ol' me, that's for sure.
If you haven't read him, and don't have cognitive blinders toward sf, I strongly recommend his work. RIP.