First off, Brandon Sanderson was at Worldcon this last weekend in Denver, Colorado, and there indicated he's roughly between one-quarter and one-third finished on his work on the final novel, A Memory of Light. He said the book will be longer than first thought, possibly as much as 600,000 words, and the chances of it being split in half are growing. That length is roughly what Tad Williams wrote for his final Memory, Sorrow and Thorn novel, To Green Angel Tower, so we may see a similar situation, with the hardcover coming out in one volume and the paperback being split in half. However, that's just a guess on my part. Sanderson said if the book is split in half the two halves should be published as close together as possible. More here from Worldcon and here from Brandon's own blog. Based on Sanderson's comments about Tor's deadline, we can expect A Memory of Light to be published, in whatever form, at the end of 2009.
Secondly, the big SF&F news roaring around the Internet today was that The Wheel of Time movie option has been picked up by Universal, apparently with the intent of making a single movie based on the first book, The Eye of the World, and see where it goes from there. The news has attracted mixed opinions. Robert Jordan himself was against a movie adaption, and said he'd only be happy with a TV adaption that would have time to incorporate most of the storylines and characters. In fact he rejected several movie offers for this reason and only agreed to a proposal for a sequence of TV mini-series based on each novel from NBC back in 2000, although this proposal never made it out of development hell and the rights lapsed. Some of Jordan's comments on this are noted here. The second major cause for concern is that Red Eagle, a rights development company that picked up the Wheel of Time resale rights several years ago and was involved in the unfinished New Spring comic adaption fiasco, is heavily involved in this project. In the last blog entry before his death, Jordan blasted Red Eagle and made it clear he no longer wanted to be involved with them, or for them to be involved in any Wheel of Time work.
Among other things they forgot an old dictum of LBJ back when he was just a Congressman from Texas, when he famously, or infamously, said “Don’t spit in the soup. boys. We all have to eat.” Worse, Red Eagle though they could tell me they spit in the soup, or pee in it, if they wanted to and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop them. You can’t apologize your way out of that with me, not that they tried. There isn’t enough money in the world to buy your way out of it with me. Not that they tried that either. So they get no further help from me. Once they are completely out of the picture, we’ll see what happens.Whilst the reactions of most fans has been cautiously positive, there seem to be concerns over Red Eagle's continued involvement in defiance of Robert Jordan's wishes, and the adaption of the books into a series of films rather than a television series, again over the author's wishes.
My thoughts on the difficulties involved in adapting the series for film, as originally posted here:
So the Wheel of Time has sold 44 million copies (he's catching up with Terry Pratchett, slowly but surely). That's A Lot. Obviously a TV or movie adaption would be popular and make a lot of green, so some producers want a piece of the action.
However, you then hit a problem. This is a series of 12-13 novels which will cross 10,000 pages before it's done. The books vary from 700-1,000 pages in length. As a rule of the thumb, a 2-3-hour movie can be based on a book of about 300 pages without losing any material at all. So for a faithful adaption you're looking at 2-3 movies per book. Obviously that's not going to happen.
So now you're looking at cutting the material. A lot. You're looking at maybe 30% of the printed story making it to the screen even if you make 12-13 movies. And you're not going to make 12-13 movies, you're going to make 8, tops, as Harry Potter has shown that's about the maximum you can push it. So now you're looking at 15% of the story making it to the screen. And if you decide to go for a Lord of the Rings-style trilogy, that's 7% of the entire storyline on screen (compared to the LotR trilogy getting about 85% of the book on the screen). That's going to tick off a lot of fans. In fact, if you're going to do that, you may as well not bother.
So you start looking at it as a TV adaption. Say five 22-episode seasons. Season 1 is Books 1-2, Season 2 is Books 3-4, Season 3 is Books 5-6, Season 4 is Books 7-9, Season 5 is Books 10-12 (seriously, you can do a lot of Crossroads of Twilight, the tenth book, in 30 minutes, maximum). That gives you some excellent cliffhanger endings and gets more or less the complete story out in a reasonable timeframe (we may have to skip some bath scenes in order to spend more times with Mat scything down Seanchan troops with cannons, but that's probably a cross we can bear).
There is a slight problem there though: the budget won't be very big. $2 million to $4 million an episode, tops. Great for scenes of characters talking, small skirmishes and politics, not so great when you want to depict the Second Battle of Cairhien or the Battle of Dumai's Wells. Flashbacks to the War of the Shadow? Brief clips, at best. The Last Battle? Offscreen, probably. And fans will get annoyed with that as well.
This paradox is precisely why it's taken so long for the project to get on the screen. Looking at the other fantasy series and novels to make it to the screen, Sword of Truth (soon to hit our screens as Legends of the Seeker) is made up of self-contained books (apart from the last three) with a few ongoing story threads in the background. If it gets cancelled after a few seasons that's fine, as long as they get a few episodes' warning to wrap everything up. George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is contained in length at 7 books, possibly 6 seasons (since the fourth and fifth books could possibly be compressed into one season since they won't want to lose half the cast for a year), and is being made by HBO with a giganormous budget. Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan (still stuck in development hell) is one book which can be pruned down easily.
The Wheel of Time is one massive, ongoing story which starts in The Eye of the World and ends 12/13 books later with A Memory of Light. And that makes adapting it an absolute nightmare. Only Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen - which is even more complex with even more characters and will be, probably, slightly longer when its finished - would present scriptwriters with an even bigger challenge.
I will be very interested to see how Universal proceeds, because I don't see any way it's possible to get the whole story on screen unless they go for a big-budget TV adaption, and the sources indicate it's going to be a movie series.