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"After all, as some of you like to point out in your emails, I am sixty years old and fat, and you don't want me to 'pull a Robert Jordan' on you and deny you your book."[1]

George R.R. Martin on A Dance with Dragons

A Fandom's worst nightmare.

Sometimes editors go bankrupt, and sometimes authors die. Even more worrisome is when they do so before completing a series, leaving it orphaned. If readers are lucky, the author had enough warning or foresight to keep notes on his plans for the rest of the series or at least fill someone else in on the most relevant plot points, so that their work can be continued by someone else. This may result in the series Jumping the Shark if the replacement isn't very good, but at least you have closure. Worse would be if the series just isn't popular enough to justify going through the effort to find a new author.

This can also happen with individuals who play a major role in creating a group work; for instance, actors or directors.

If the author is still alive but decides to quit, it risks becoming a Franchise Zombie.

Please note that this trope applies when a creator (writer, director, etc.) ceases work on a project, not a participant (actor, well... mostly actors) unless they had significant input.

Not to be confused with the criticism trope known as "Death of the Author". Or Apocalyptic Log. See also The Character Died with Him, where the show goes on without the character a dead actor portrayed, and Fake Shemp, where there is an attempt to disguise the absent actor.

Examples of Author Existence Failure include:

Anime and Manga

  • When Osamu Tezuka died, he left his life's work Phoenix unfinished. Which is an absolute shame, as he quite clearly had great plans for it. Had he stayed alive to finish it, the separate stories of each time period in each volume would eventually converge at a central point, the "present", and tying all the loose ends of the Phoenix's story together. Now we can only wonder...
  • Many Berserk fans feared for years that author Keitaro Miura would eventually die before completing the manga, due to the fact that only a handful of chapters were released every year. Sadly, these fears came true in 2021, when he died from an aortic dissection at the age of just 54.
  • Noboru Yamaguchi tried to avert this trope by attempting to finish The Familiar of Zero as fast as possible while also undergoing treatment for cancer. He died in April 4, 2013. That said, the series was completed anyway between 2016 and 2017 via two additional volumes, based on Yamaguchi's notes.
  • Ken Ishikawa, the creator of Getter Robo. Though he did leave some notes behind, they were apparently only for Getter Robo Hien - a prequel. The cliffhanger ending of Getter Robo Āḥ, the latest series chronologically, has yet to be resolved.
  • The director of Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Takeyuki Kanda, died while the OVA was still being produced. One effect of that was that it took over three years to finish it, making it the longest-running single Gundam production until Gundam Unicorn, except the long running period for that has been planned from the start.
    • And then, a decade and a half later, the guy who took over for him died while working on Towa no Quon.
  • Guyver fans also fear this with Yoshiki Takaya. We don't know much about his habits and health but since he's been doing his great work since the 80s, works a monthly manga, has no assistants and takes breaks, we fear that he may cease to be before the manga ends. Up until a few months ago, some thought the manga was beginning to wind up for a climax when a new thread appeared that could be sign of the end being a bit further away than we thought.
  • Yukito Kishiro's Gunnm originally got a rather hurried ending because the author was seriously ill and didn't want to risk leaving an orphaned story behind. He later recovered and went on to continue the story, partly ignoring the original ending.
  • Trinity Blood's author Sunao Yoshida died of lung blockage in 2004 and the story was finished sometime later by other writers.
  • Tada Kaoru's manga, Itazura na Kiss, was left incomplete when she passed away after a tragic accident. Luckily, she had the ending semi planned out, and it was used for the anime.
  • Perhaps not a total Author Existence Failure, but what happened to mangaka Kyoko Okazaki certainly comes close - in 1996, she was hit by a drunk driver before completing the last few chapters of her Body Horror-esque cosmetic surgery drama Helter Skelter. The resulting accident left her quadriplegic and mute. The manga was finished in 2004, by her former assistant Moyoco Anno (yup, the wife of Hideaki Anno), working from Okazaki's storyboards and with her consultation, albeit on a Cliff Hanger. Poor Mrs. Okazaki's rehabilitation continues to this day - twenty-five YEARS later.
  • Takahiro Yamato of Kaze no Stigma is now dead.
  • Yoshito Usui. Tragically killed in a hiking accident in September 2009.
    • On the other hand, Crayon Shin-chan is more like a newspaper comic in terms of presentation (i.e., there's a "sliding timeline", and doesn't really have much of an overall plot; the anime is more like a Sitcom in this respect), so his death won't have that much of an impact on the original manga. The anime (which mostly uses original stories not found in the manga anyway) was put on hiatus for a few weeks after his death, but it was later announced it would continue. Now the word has come that (in another parallel with newspaper comics) the manga will also continue with a new author.
  • Keiko Tobe, the mangaka of With the Light, died of an unspecified illness in late January 2010, leaving the manga unfinished.
  • Satoshi Kon suddenly died while making a film called The Dream Machine, which he described as aimed at a younger audience but accessible for his older fans, with a cast made entirely of robots.
    • Kon learned that he had late-stage pancreatic cancer in April 2010, but initially didn't tell anyone because he didn't want to disturb them — cancer is still something of a taboo in Japan. He later regretted this decision and verbosely apologized to everyone in his farewell note (he ended it with an apology for "leaving while everyone else was still working") after his producer Masao Maruyama promised to him to finish the movie.
  • MM!'s author Akinari Matsuo passed away without warning on April 18, 2011. The phrasing of the letter, which does not mention accident nor illness, suggests suicide.
  • The 2019 massacre-and-arson incident that hit the Kyoto Animation studio impacted several projects like the second Violet Evergarden (finished by another team), the second season of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (delayed until 2021) and a new Free! movie.
  • Often happens in regards to voice actors:
    • Yasuo Yamada, most recognizable as the voice of Lupin III, died of a brain hemorrhage in 1995, a month before the release of Farewell to Nostradamus, the movie that would mark the series' return to the big screen in ten years. Fortunately, his will stated that, if he were to pass away, the baton should be passed to Kan'ichi Kurita (a popular comedian and impersonator), who currently voices him from that movie onwards. In honor of Yamada, a message was placed at the end of the film's credits: "To Yasuo Yamada, Eternal Lupin the Third: Thank you!".
    • Tomoko Kawakami spoke to Kunihiko Ikuhara to see if they'd work together again in Mawaru Penguindrum. Sadly, Mrs. Kawakami succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2011.
    • Miyu Matsuki, AKA Choppy from Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star, died of illness right before the release of the Pretty Cure crossover movies. She managed to record her lines as Chihaya from Persona 5, but was replaced by Haruka Terui for the anime and Royal.
    • In the case of the Inuyasha sequel Yashahime: Half-Demon Princess, Miroku's seiyuu Kouji Tsujitani died before its release and his English VA Kirby Morrow passed away after working on the first episode. Makoto Yasumura took over the role in Japan, and Ian James Corlett did the same in the West.

Comic Books

  • Comic book author Edgar P. Jacobs died while working on the second part of "Professor Sató's Three Formulae", the last volume of his Blake and Mortimer series. Unlike Herge, however, he had left plenty of notes and a complete outline of the story, which made it possible for another artist to complete the story... 13 years later. That's a cliffhanger for you.
    • Of course, because he suspected he wouldn't finish "Three Formulae", Jacobs left the copyright of the series relatively open so it would eventually have an ending. Which worked, but also led to new Blake and Mortimer adventures made by two different writer/artist teams. One team actively tries to ignore established canon. The other team is very good... but one of its members just died while working on the new volume "Curse of the Thirty Pieces of Silver", leading to new Author Existence Failure.
  • Steve Gerber died of complications from pulmonary fibrosis, after plotting the penultimate issue of his Doctor Fate story in the Countdown to Mystery miniseries in his hospital bed. The final issue features four hypothetical endings, written by some of Gerber's friends in the industry.
  • Drew Hayes, the author of Poison Elves, had been planning to create new issues of the comic after having had to stop working on it due to his poor health. He died of a heart attack in 2007 before he had a chance to create more than a few sketches for the new stories.
  • Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson had plans for one final Manhunter story. When Goodwin died before completing the dialogue, Simonson looked at the script and decided it could be done as a "silent story" as a tribute to Archie. The story is included in the Manhunter collected edition.
  • Rene Goscinny died of a sudden heart attack while working on Asterix In Belgium. It took a great deal of soul-searching by Albert Uderzo over whether or not to complete it. Uderzo did, and then as a tribute to Goscinny continued their work alone.
    • At a certain point in Asterix in Belgium it begins to rain and does not stop for the remainder of the story. The rain was added by Uderzo to mark the point in the work where Goscinny left off when he died.
  • Before he died, Mike Wieringo was in the planning stages of a collaboration with Warren Ellis. Ellis refuses to reveal any hints as to what the project was even about.
    • He died working on an issue of What If featuring the Fantastic Four, having only drawn seven pages. It was finished by a group of different artists doing a couple of pages each and published a year later, with the proceeds going to charity.
  • Although not really a death, Dave Trampier abruptly abandoned cartooning in the middle of the storyline for the popular gaming comic Wormy, which appeared in Dragon Magazine. Other than a brief article that implies he's driving a cab now, and a few curt but polite requests to be left alone, he's pretty much vanished.
  • A similar case happened with the Furry Comic Albedo: Erma Felna EDF: Steven Gallacci (the author)'s wife, died of cancer in 2006, causing him to stop drawing and leaving the comic book industry and fandom (seemingly) for good, and leaving the whole story unfinished.
    • Actually, as of 2011, Mister Gallacci has attended a few West Coast furry conventions and done some drawing. He's noted all the effusive praise he's gotten posting his work on Fur Affinity has really been so flattering that he's giving the idea of getting back into the comics game some thought.
  • Edward Gorey's death left his last work, "The Izzard Book" (a collection of words beginning with Z, with pictures) poignantly unfinished: The illustrations become increasingly (and randomly) rough and sketchy until there's nothing left.
  • Charles M. Schulz at least had the sense to declare that even if he'd lived forever, some things in Peanuts would NEVER be concluded. There was, thus, no carefully hidden strip in which Charlie Brown gets the little red-haired girl, or in which Snoopy finished off the Red Baron.
    • Nonetheless, he still only barely avoided this. He died the night before his final strip (written months prior) was released.
  • It's an artist example, not a writer, but compare this page to this one, both from the same issue of a Rogue Squadron comic. The reason for the abrupt shift into a fairly unpleasant style is because the artist, Edvin Biukovic, had to quit due to health problems, which he later died from.
  • Cerebus the Aardvark - Although Dave Sim did not die while making Cerebus (and is still alive as of 2010), he had "planned ahead" (and I'm using this term very loosely) in case this happened. He had mentioned in interviews that, if he DID die before completing the series, the series would continue all the way to issue 300, but all subsequent issues would only have the background art (by Sim's colleague Gerhard). There would be no characters nor text/narrative of any kind.
    • If they had both died subsequent issues would have been kinda dull.
      • No joke. Before Gerhard joined him (around issue 80) Sim had said that if he died, he had left instructions for all the remaining issues to be published blank.
  • Marshall Rodgers died in the middle of Cap'n Quick and a Foozle. The Captain's last known words: "Oh yeah. I forgot to tell you about this part."
  • Willy Vandersteen left very specific instructions behind for the continuation of his Suske en Wiske franchise after his death. No character could ever age, or change, no main character may ever be dropped or added, and sex is a taboo, and a number of situations may never be altered (Lambik and Sidonia may never wed). Vandersteen died in 1990, but gave up artistic control of the Suske en Wiske franchise in 1972, to this day his wishes remain the guiding principles of the comic.
  • Jack Kirby started a project called Phantom Force shortly before he died. Image Comics published the first two issues, with many of their top artists(Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Jerry Ordway, Jim Valentino and Keith Giffen, among others) inking Kirby's pages. The story arc was finished by Kirby collaborator Greg Theakston.

Fan Works

  • Brian Randall, author of Kyon: Big Damn Hero and many other fanfics, took his own life on January 17, 2014, leaving Kyon and all his other in-progress works incomplete.
  • SoulSonicResonace25, well-known for his Naruto crossover stories, was murdered in 2015. His brother, KingSora3, has since announced that he has taken over his account and continued some of his stories, including unpublished ones, while rewriting others and leaving some up to adoption.
  • Larry Huss, notable for his Harry Potter and Naruto fanfictions, lost his battle with cancer in January of 2016. His son and editor/pre-reader/beta/etc. of his fanfics, Nathan Huss, announced that his unfinished stories would remain as such.
  • Narrowly averted in regards to Worldmaker, the author of Origin Story. Shortly after his last full chapter was published, the writer was involved in a near-fatal accident. He spent two weeks in a coma and then spent further weeks learning to use his arms and legs again. Nearly two months after the accident, he finally posted a short note to his fans letting them know what happened and that, as soon as he has the time and energy, will be continuing his stories.
  • The Miraculous Ladybug fic author Maerynn died in a car accident in February of 2018, leaving a number of her fics incomplete. However, they were mostly collaborations and, in June of 2019, one of them, Under Lock and Key, was completed by the other author based on her notes.
  • While nothing happened to the author, we do have a meta version; the Glee fic Sister Directions was deleted after the murder of Christina Grimmie, whom the author had cast as main character Freya. To make matters worse, a new chapter had been scheduled for release on the same night the singer was shot dead by a deranged stalker.
  • In May of 2019, popular My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic author MythrilMoth passed, leaving many of his stories unfinished. His friends and close family either passed on what stories had outlines to other authors, or adopted them themselves, or simply left the stories in limbo.


  • It's more of an actor existence failure, but George Clooney has said that there cannot and will not be another Ocean's movie without Bernie Mac.
  • Akira Kurosawa died just before shooting for After the Rain was scheduled to begin, so the movie was directed by his assistant Takashi Koizumi. The Sea is Watching, another screenplay Kurosawa had written and intended to direct, was also filmed by another director in 2002.
  • Parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail; the knights were saved from a cartoon monster by the death of the animator (Not really, mind you, just in the movie. Terry Gilliam is still alive and well in Real Life as of this writing).
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame was the last film role of Mary Wickes; she played Laverne, the gargoyle. Jane Withers stepped in after Mary died of cancer.
  • A unique subversion with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Heath Ledger died suddenly while filming it. Since the film is set in a multiverse, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law portray him in alternate universes (they gave their paychecks to Ledger's daughter).
  • Star Wars:
    • Because George Lucas hated the process of script-writing he went through on A New Hope, he hired noted pulp science-fiction author and Golden Age Hollywood film scriptwriter Leigh Brackett to write the script for The Empire Strikes Back, based on ideas they came up with together in story meetings beforehand. She produced a first draft script, but Lucas wasn't completely satisfied with it. Sadly, though, Brackett died of cancer before she could revise her draft. Lucas was forced to write the next few drafts of the Empire story himself, after which Lawrence Kasdan came on board to polish the dialogue (Incidentally, the passing of Brackett and Lucas's subsequent return to the drawing board was what led to the famous Luke, I Am Your Father revelation: in Brackett's draft, Vader was not Luke's father, while Anakin was a Force ghost and best pals with Obi-Wan).
    • After Carrie Fisher passed in late 2016, The Rise of Skywalker underwent significant rewrites to fit Leia's reduced role (the film had intended to focus on her as The Force Awakens had focused on Han and The Last Jedi had focused on Luke).
  • A unique example would be actor Peter Sellers. In 1980 he was co-writing a script for The Pink Panther series for the first time, Romance of the Pink Panther, that he intended as a Grand Finale for his Inspector Clouseau character. He submitted a revised draft of it to United Artists shortly before his death in 1980. It ultimately was never produced. Blake Edwards, the director and co-writer of most of the previous entries, decided to continue the series his own way (he was quite specifically not to have anything to do with Romance), writing out Clouseau and introducing Replacement Scrappy character Clifton Sleigh over two films shot at the same time, Trail of... (which featured clips of Sellers from the previous films) and Curse of.... The results were disastrous.
  • Steven Spielberg brought A.I.: Artificial Intelligence to the screen after Stanley Kubrick's passing on; in this case, though, Kubrick had had him in mind to direct (or at least produce) from the start.
  • Kinji Fukasaku refused treatment in order to film Battle Royale 2, but died after directing only one scene. His son Kenta finished it.
  • Simultaneously lampshaded and subverted in Bob Fosse's All That Jazz; a fictionalized account of Fosse's own life story, including a serious heart-attack which occurred during one of the most stressful periods of his career — while producing both the film Lenny and the Chicago stage musical simultaneously. A heart attack that he survived; but which his Expy didn't. The question of whether the "play within the film" would ever be completed is left hanging; although previous scenes strongly hinted that it would be simply scrapped.

"You could be the first show on Broadway to make a profit without really opening."

  • The Polish film Passenger (Pasazerka) suffered AEF when director Andrzej Munk died suddenly in a road accident. The film is a series of flashbacks. When Munk died, many of the scenes taking place in the present day were unshot. His assistant decided to use still images for these scenes.
  • After Halloween Resurrection, series producer Mustapha Akkad died in a terrorist attack, dashing hopes for the original series to continue.
  • The script for a third Addams Family film (which would've served as an actual sequel to Addams Family Values) was being prepared when lead actor Raul Julia (Gomez) died suddenly that October of a stroke (after having been ill with stomach cancer for a while), at which point the idea of a third film in the series was scrapped.
  • Actor David Graf died suddenly of a heart attack in 2001, which means, unfortunately, Eugene Tackleberry won't be returning for the upcoming eighth Police Academy movie.
    • Bubba Smith died in August 2011, so we won't be seeing Moses Hightower either.
  • Jill Clayburgh died six months before Bridesmaids opened, so the planned sequel that is in the works will most likely write out Annie's mother (who played a major supporting role in the first film).
  • Bruce Lee created choreographed fights for Game of Death and had great plans for it, but one month after Enter the Dragon was finished came his untimely death.
    • And then his son Brandon died from an accident involving a prop on the set of one of his movies, The Crow. The film was finished using a body double, shot in shadows (such as when Sarah embraces Eric in his apartment), seen from the back (particularly noticeable when Eric is walking back to his apartment after his resurrection), or with Brandon's face added (in the fight scenes).
  • H.B Halicki, the man that gave us the original Gone in Sixty Seconds (the independent film made in 1974 on a shoestring budget, not the 2000 remake with Nicolas Cage), died while filming the now-unfinished Gone in Sixty Seconds 2, when a stunt sequence malfunctioned and he was crushed by a telephone pole.
  • Trinidad Silva died in an auto accident before he filmed all his scenes as Raul in UHF, so the movie had to abort his subplot before the poodles got their revenge. The film is dedicated to him.
  • Likewise, "Red" the fire truck is silent in Cars 2 as Joe Ranft, who voiced the character, had died in a car accident in 2005 during the first film's production.
  • Ernst Lubitsch died two weeks into shooting on That Lady in Ermine. Otto Preminger stepped in to finish directing the film; he had replaced Lubitsch as director of A Royal Scandal for similar but less fatal reasons.
  • The Black Panther franchise is in jeopardy after the death of the star Chadwick Boseman. Both Disney and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige have confirmed that they will not recast Boseman as Black Panther and instead the sequel will focus on the inhabitants of Wakanda.


  • W.E. Johns, prolific author of the Biggles series of books, managed to die not only in the middle of a book, but in the middle of a sentence. Johns's last novel, 'Biggles Does Some Homework', was thus abandoned in 1967 on the note: "With considerable reluctance Bertie backed away from ...' It was published, eventually, in 1997, still as incomplete as it had been at the time of Johns's unexpected heart-attack. Epic.
  • James Agee is generally regarded as one of America's greatest and most lamented writers after his second novel, A Death in the Family, was published posthumously (winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1958). Two novels, a handful of screenplays and some of the most influential film criticism of the 40's, cut short at age 45 due to depression and chronic alcoholism.
  • John Keats managed to become one of the most influential poets of the Romantic era by the time he died at the age of 25. Many believe he could have been among the greatest writers in history if he had lived long enough. One candidate for his potential magnum opus is The Fall of Hyperion, an epic poem left unfinished when he died.
  • H. Beam Piper committed suicide before he could finish Fuzzies and Other People. The manuscript was lost for 20 years (and thought destroyed), so they had two different authors write sequels, which were contradicted when Fuzzies and Other People was finally published.
  • Roberto Bolano died in 2003, shortly after submitting to his publisher the first draft of the novel that would become known as "2666". He had completed four and a half parts of the five-part anthology. This percentage of the novel being complete, as well as notes for the unfinished section that were found in his desk (notes that included the title of the story), allowed it to be published the next year. It has since been proclaimed by many critics to be Bolaño's greatest work.
  • Seemingly healthy Douglas Adams died completely out of the blue from a heart attack in 2001, aged 49, before he could make up for the Downer Ending of the fifth book in the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (which, by the way, is the Trope Namer). He never got to see The Film of the Book finally escape from Development Hell based on his scripts, and he was partway through writing the third Dirk Gently novel, The Salmon of Doubt, which was assembled into a relatively cohesive narrative from a number of early versions he left behind.[2] The book also has a collection of interviews, magazine columns, short stories, and many other otherwise-uncollected bits of Adams. To make it even more depressing, the third Dirk Gently novel was apparently planned to be a crossover between Hitchhiker's Guide and Dirk that was supposed to end both series together on a definitively happier note. Eight years later, the sixth book in the series, And Another Thing, was written by Eoin Colfer (of the Artemis Fowl series) with full support from the Adams estate.
  • Truman Capote had planned for Answered Prayers to be his magnum opus, but he died with only three chapters written. He seemed to have lost his will to write it in his last years, though there are still Capote scholars looking for any more of it that he may have had (while they have been unsuccessful, they did find the first novel he ever wrote, Summer Crossing, which he had claimed to have destroyed.)
  • Jane Austen first averted this fate for Persuasion: she originally planned it for the three volume length of her other novels, and one can even see her building up for what would probably have been the cliffhanger for the second volume, but then she became terminally ill and hastily ended the novel early. However, she left a fragment of another novel, Sanditon, unfinished. It's been completed by other people more than once.
  • When young adult author John Bellairs died, he left behind two unfinished manuscripts and outlines for two other stories. The finished versions of those four books, completed by Brad Strickland, were so well-received that Strickland has since been commissioned to write several more books in the series.
  • Olive Ann Burns wrote one novel, Cold Sassy Tree, and died after writing about fifteen chapters of the sequel. The existing chapters were published as Leaving Cold Sassy, unfinished.
  • Lord Byron died with his masterwork, Don Juan, unfinished. That the last completed canto is a return, after some that are a bit of a mess, to the narrative verve of the first couple makes this all the more annoying.
  • Albert Camus' quasi-autobiography The First Man was an unfinished manuscript in a briefcase in the car crash that killed him. There are also fragments.
  • Giacomo Casanova died before he could finish his 12-volume autobiography.
  • Raymond Chandler died after having completed only four chapters of the eighth Philip Marlowe novel, which he had given the working title The Poodle Springs Story. Thirty years after his death, mystery writer Robert B. Parker was commissioned to finish the novel, which was released under the title Poodle Springs.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer died after completing only a handful of The Canterbury Tales he had planned. He also quit working on several poems, any one of which could be considered a great and masterful work; in attempting to think past some medieval tropes, he made several stabs at collections of tales (usually older ones translated into Middle English, with his own embellishments), of which The Canterbury Tales were the latest and greatest, and experts (as is their duty) have several theories on why more than one of his earlier poems are apparently unfinished.
  • Dante is supposed to have died with the location of the final portions of the Divine Comedy unknown. His ghost is said to have appeared to his son letting him know where the manuscript was. In a strangely related example, Dorothy L. Sayers died before completing her translation of the Divine Comedy; it was finished by Barbara Reynolds.
  • Charles Dickens died before he could finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Since the book was published in serial form, a lot of people were left hanging on that one. A musical based on the story was later made, but rather than trying to figure out what ending Dickens had in mind, it just used Audience Participation to decide how things ended. There was also a novel called The D. Case which included the full text of the original book, with a Framing Device of several famous fictional detectives being called together to determine the ending. Charles Dickens allegedly told his son that Jasper did it before he died.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky intended The Brothers Karamazov to be the first book in an epic story titled "The Life of a Great Sinner," but died four months after publishing it. Given that The Brothers Karamazov is widely considered Dostoevsky's greatest work, the fact that more was planned has bibliophiles smarting to this day.
  • Claudia J. Edwards died shortly after writing the first of three books in the Eldrie the Healer series.
  • The eighth and final book in the Seafort Saga by David Feintuch was not published before his death. According to The Other Wiki, the manuscript was completed, but not published.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald died before finishing The Last Tycoon. It was finished from his notes and published the next year, in 1941.
  • Ian Fleming's final James Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun, is regarded as unsatisfying by many fans. It was the draft he had completed at the time of his death, and lacks many of the characteristic "Fleming" touches he would have added with subsequent revisions. Perhaps because of this, over the years a myth arose that noted author Kingsley Amis actually completed the book, but this has since been debunked (Amis did however go on to write the first post-Fleming Bond novel, Colonel Sun, under the pen name Robert Markham). It has also been suggested that the draft published was indeed Fleming's final approved draft.
  • David Foster Wallace committed suicide when his antidepressant meds lost their effectiveness and his depression became severe. He left his last novel The Pale King unfinished. It will be published in its current state in 2011. For several years before his death, Wallace published fragments of The Pale King as stand-alone short stories in several magazines. Given that Wallace's previous novel was a monster of a book, these fragments likely don't give much of the overall plot away (especially since, as mentioned before, many are presented as stand-alone stories, not pieces of a larger novel).
  • C.S. Forester died in the middle of yet another Horatio Hornblower story, Hornblower and the Crisis. It, too, was published by The Powers That Be, along with the author's notes on finishing it.
  • Historian Douglas Southall Freeman both exemplifies and averts this trope. He sent out the sixth volume of his biography of George Washington to the publishers on the day he died. Alas, there was a seventh volume (later written by J. A. Carroll and M. W. Ashworth) yet to be completed.
  • Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell died before completing Wives and Daughters, the book many believe was her best work. Her editor had to leave a note assuring the readers that the two romantic leads do indeed get together. However, he also told them that Gaskell was planning to separate them for a whole year before the planned happy ending. The BBC miniseries for the book took the shorter route of having the heroine run after the hero and interrupting his confession of love with just a "Yes".
  • English author David Gemmell died with his novel Fall of Kings only 3/4s finished. Fortunately he had made detailed notes on each chapter beforehand, and his wife was able to complete the novel (the finale to a trilogy) using them.
  • It is said that Nickolai Gogol wrote Dead Souls (his only novel) to be part of a series, wherein the characters are eventually redeemed. After completing the first book, he was so depressed that he felt he couldn't redeem these characters, took what he had completed of the second volume, threw it into a fire, then subsequently took ill and died.
  • Czech humorist Jaroslav Hašek died while writing part four of a planned seven volume novel series The Good Soldier Švejk, making it one of the few war novels where you never see any kind of war. Then Robert Kurka died before finishing his opera based on it. Moral of the story: don't work on Švejk.
  • Frank Herbert died in 1985, leaving his Dune series unfinished, though Herbert had been tacking books onto the series for some time. After his death, his son Brian Herbert, along with Kevin J. Anderson, wrote a handful of sequel and prequel books to the series.
  • Arthur Ransome had an unfinished Swallows and Amazons book when he died. Nicknamed "Coots in the North, it had the Blacketts meeting the Death-and-Glories, and makes one weep for What Could Have Been.
  • Robert Jordan died before he could complete the "definitely, probably final" 12th book of The Wheel of Time series, but he left behind extensive notes. Before his illness was discovered, he used to joke that if he died before the series was over, his will was going to dictate that his notes be destroyed. Fortunately, he relented, and Brandon Sanderson was been picked to finish the series. Sanderson is painstakingly working to fulfill Jordan's plotlines as the author wanted them; the introduction for "The Gathering Storm" classifies the book as something to the effect of "Robert Jordan's story as told by Brandon Sanderson".
  • A lot of Franz Kafka's stuff was unfinished, including the novel The Trial and a bunch of short stories. He still had fragments. What's more, he never intended to publish any of it; his papers were to be burned unread upon his death, and we only have them today because no one followed instructions. Many people have speculated that Kafka left his papers to Max Brod because he knew Brod would under no circumstances obey his request to have the papers burned.
  • Stieg Larsson died of a massive heart attack in 2004 after having completed the third book of his supposed-to-be-decalogy Millennium (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest). All of the completed novels were only published after his death.
  • Herman Melville died before completing his final novel, Billy Budd.
  • Vladimir Nabokov died before finishing The Original of Laura. What remains is a series of notecards with isolated scenes and plot which only his family and a few selected scholars have seen. He requested that the notecards be burnt in the event of his death, but his son, believing that the story was Nabokov's best, agonized for 30 years before deciding in 2008 to publish it.
  • Patrick O'Brian, author of the Aubrey-Maturin series, died after finishing the first three chapters of the 21st book. The Powers That Be published it anyway. It was surprisingly well-received. O'Brian had previously foreshadowed in his books that he had no intention of ending the series, with two characters discussing how many nearly-great stories through history would have been better off with no ending whatsoever.
  • Robert C. O'Brien, author of the Newbury Medal Award-winning Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, passed away shortly before finishing his post-apocalyptic children's novel Z for Zachariah. Luckily, his wife and daughter (authors themselves) finished it based off the notes he left behind and published it posthumously. His daughter, Jane Leslie Conly, went onto publish two more NIMH books.
  • Mervyn Peake died when Titus Alone, part three of his Gormenghast trilogy, was still in early drafts. His widow, Maeve Gilmore, submitted his manuscript to the publisher with notes on how it could be improved. Unfortunately, the publishers took these notes as the intended changes themselves, and published the novel as is. The novel was later re-edited by Langdon Jones into something (presumably) closer to Peake's intended version. In 2010, a manuscript of the fourth novel, completed by Gilmore, was discovered by the family. It was published in 2011 as Titus Awakes.
  • Nicholas Pekearo intended The Wolfman to be first in a series involving a "detective werewolf" and his unique crime-solving method. He was also a police officer, and unfortunately he was gunned down in the line of duty, chasing the gunman armed with nothing but his hands and courage.
  • Completing the wooden-navy trifecta (Forester, O'Brien), Dudley Pope, author of the Ramage series, died just after his eponymous hero's career had taken a fresh turn. Ramage and the Dido put Lord Ramage at the helm of a shiny new 74-gun ship of the line, and a strong hint at the end of the story that he was about to be sent on another mysterious adventure; but what that was will never be known.
  • Marcel Proust died before finishing In Search of Lost Time. The final book was published mostly unedited, and contradicts some things that happened in the earlier volumes. C. K. Scott Moncrieff then died before he could finish translating it, and Stephen Hudson had to finish the job. The last three books were all unedited and published posthumously. However all of them were in an almost-completed form, including the last page of the last book. Although some of the small contradictions went through as a result of Proust's death, at least we got a completed series written by his own hand.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers started writing Thrones, Dominations, a Lord Peter Wimsey novel, in 1936, but abandoned it with just a handful of scenes and notes written. Jill Paton Walsh completed it after her death.
  • Four of Dr. Seuss's books were published posthumously - he was able to write but not illustrate Daisy-Head Mayzie and the lesser-known My Many Colored Days, while Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! and Gerald McBoing-Boing were finished using the notes and fragments of rhyming verse Seuss left behind.
  • Shen Fu's Six Records of a Floating Life, the autobiography of a Ching Dynasty minor bureaucrat which also chronicles the life of everyday people during the period, was left unfinished by the author's demise.
  • Edmund Spenser died after completing only 6 of his planned 24 books of The Faerie Queene, meaning said queen never once makes an appearance.
  • John Steinbeck spent the latter years of his life creating a modern English translation of the original Le Morte Darthur, but died shortly after finishing Lancelot's story.
  • The Chinese novel The Story of the Stone (a.k.a. Dream of the Red Chamber) breaks off at chapter eighty, although it isn't entirely clear to what extent this is because the author died. Current versions usually use an ending provided by a different, somewhat inferior, writer.
  • In early 1990s, Arkady & Boris Strugatsky set out to write a final Noon Universe novel. Unfortunately, Arkady Strugatsky died before the novel could be completed. Boris Strugatsky chose to shelve the novel rather than finish it—as he explained in the subsequent interviews, he could not bring himself to complete it.
  • JRR Tolkien died with The Silmarillion, his life's work, in a fragmentary and unfinished state; his son Christopher polished it into a publishable work. The younger Tolkien additionally published the 12-volume History of Middle Earth series of drafts, poems, and notes from his father's collection, and most recently the novel of The Children of Hurin. Several statements Tolkien made during life would seem to indicate that he didn't want any of his other peripheral works (The History of Middle-Earth, et al.) to ever be published. Fortunately, his son disagreed and we now have a relatively good understanding of how incredibly detailed Tolkien's world really was.
  • This trope (and even the bad fanfic continuations) is Older Than Feudalism: The ancient Roman poet Virgil died before he could finish editing his epic poem The Aeneid. Some short passages and placeholder lines remain, as well as some incongruities with the characters. He left instructions for it to be burned, though a literate slave read it and saved it because he recognized the merit of the work. The ending is often considered contradictory to the hero's nature, resulting in medieval poets and scholars writing terrible conclusions with a "book 13."
  • Robert Anton Wilson died after completing only 3 books in his projected 5-book epic romance The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles. There has been some talk of that his friends and/or children might finish the story based on his notes, but only time will tell whether that's possible. Wilson himself refrained from publishing the fourth book even two decades after the third came out.
  • Although there wasn't much carryover between the Blandings Castle books, the death of PG Wodehouse left the aptly-named Sunset at Blandings—which he knew was going to be his last—completely unfinished. And, judging by how complicated the plot was getting, the ending was going to be great.
  • Japanese Sci-Fi writer Sunao Yoshida died from lung disease just after it was announced that his science fantasy series Trinity Blood would be adapted into anime. He left it in a completely unfinished state, with the last book ending on a major cliffhanger where main character Abel Nightroad apparently dies. He left enough notes for the next novel to see that He's Just Hiding, but it still gives little satisfaction to the fans.
    • His best friend Kentaro Yasui later stepped in to take over the novels, and the manga adaptation as well. Nobody ever bothered to continue the anime adaptation from its cliffhanger ending (closely related to that of Yoshida's last novel, but including the scenes showing that Abel isn't really dead), though.
  • Donnerjack and Lord Demon by Roger Zelazny. They were completed from his unfinished manuscripts by Jane Lindskold and published. The Book of Amber series remained unfinished (except for the prequels by another author).
    • And there's Changeling Saga, left unfinished after two books, Changeling and Madwand.
    • In a similar vein, Zelazny himself finished Psychoshop after the death of its primary author, Alfred Bester. The book was then published after Zelazny's own death.
      • Science fiction writers are apparently superstitious: it's rumoured that, given the toll the book had already exacted, the publisher experienced some difficulty finding a writer to pen an introduction for it. Greg Bear, who wrote the introduction, remains among the living.
      • Having read both 'Psychoshop' and 'Lord Demon', the first is remarkably Zelazny like, while the second ends on a jarring note (by being very different from his style). The changeling saga may feel unfinished but was finished in 81, which implies Roger wasn't keen on working on it further (which is a shame, since the description of a magician from earth coming to his powers is brilliant.). Finally, Amber was concluded properly with the 10th book. Any major additions would require at least a major novel (and a son to Merlin?).
  • The death of Ellery Queen collaborator Manfred B. Lee left a novel, The Tragedy of Errors, unwritten. The very detailed outline by Fredric Dannay was eventually published.
  • With the death of Kaoru Kurimoto, the Guin Saga fantasy series will never have an ending. However, fans can hopefully Archive Binge on the existing 126 volumes before having to face the facts.
  • Chretien De Troyes, medieval composer of Arthurian romances, died before finishing Perceval, notable for being the first appearance of the Holy Grail. There are at least three continuations to the original romance, and Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival is an expansion and conclusion of the story. This is interesting, because Chrétien's original ideas about the Holy Grail appeared to be quite different from what later writers envisioned and it's odd to wonder What Could Have Been if he had finished it.
  • Toward the end of Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, Chrétien de Troyes left his scribe Godefroi de Leigni to finish it. The reasons why he did so are unknown, but he may have fallen ill and been unable to complete it himself.
  • Andre Norton died with several unfinished projects. One manuscript, A Taste of Magic, was handed off to Jean Rabe before her death. The fate of others, including the Elvenblood collaboration with Mercedes Lackey, remains a mystery.
  • Octavia Butler hinted before her death that she planned to continue her Hugo Award-winning two-volume Parable series with several more titles, Parable of the Trickster, Parable of the Chaos, and Parable of the Clay. However, she died shortly after publishing one more novel, an unrelated standalone called Fledgling whose ending also left room for a possible sequel.
  • Michael Crichton was about a third of the way through a contracted novel with Harper Collins at the time of his death. The book is currently being completed from his notes, and any more information than that is being kept under wraps. He also had a completed manuscript, Pirate Latitudes, which was published a year after his death.
  • CS Lewis left unfinished upon his death a manuscript of The Dark Tower, which would have been a sequel of sorts to The Space Trilogy. It was published in its fragmentary form with some of his unfinished short stories.
  • Philip K Dick was working on a novel called The Owl In Daylight at the time of his death. His widow Tessa later published a book by the same title; notably, she ignored his sketchy notes on the characters and drew on his considerably more developed notes on the book's proposed themes.
  • A scene from Mark Twain's unfinished final novel The Mysterious Stranger somehow made its way into the 1985 claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain (the infamous "Satan" sequence.) Talk about your Small Reference Pools.
    • There were actually three unfinished versions of The Mysterious Stranger, referred to, in chronological order, as "The Chonicle of Young Satan", "Schoolhouse Hill", and "No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger: Being an Ancient Tale Found in a Jug and Freely Translated from the Jug". A version of the novel was published in 1916 by Albert Bigelow Paine as "The Mysterious Stranger", based on the first version, with substantial alterations and an ending taken from later versions. "No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger" is the only version where Twain actually wrote an ending, and is considered the definitive version. (It is effectively a full novel, but considered by scholars to not be as polished as Twain would have wanted.) All three versions were published, unaltered, in 1969; with the last re-published in 2005. The last version shows Twain at his darkest, clearly highlighting his growing depression, and hostility toward organized religion.
  • Lucan was still writing his epic Pharsalia (the Civil War) when he had a heavily foreshadowed Author Existence Failure. The first parts of of the epic are very heavily pro-Nero. Then he had a falling out with Nero, and the rest of the epic is very anti-Nero. Nero was not the kind of ruler who tolerated this behavior. He was part of Piso's conspiracy against Nero, and had to commit suicide at age 25.
  • Robert Heinlein started a novel in 1955 but never finished it. Almost 20 years after RAH's death, Spider Robinson finished the novel under the title Variable Star.
    • Though in the eyes of some the fans, it should have been left unfinished or been finished by an author with personal politics much closer to RAH's. The appearance of The Dukes of Hazzard and 9/11 in the same universe as RAH's Venusian dragons was rather jarring.
  • William Makepeace Thackeray left his final novel, Denis Duval, unfinished.
  • Nicholas Monsarrat left unfinished his two-volume historical novel The Master Mariner. The second volume was published incomplete.
  • Evan Hunter (also known as Ed McBain, the pseudonym he used for his crime fiction) left the novel Becca in Jeopardy, the second in his planned "Women in Jeopardy" series, unfinished at his death. The unfinished novel has not been published. Hunter's death also ended McBain's long-running "Eighty Seventh Precinct" series. Hunter had once expressed an intention to write a final 87th Precinct book called Exit, to be published after his death, but no such book has materialized.
  • Madeleine L'Engle left unfinished a novel called The Eye Begins to See about the adult Meg Murry O'Keefe. There has been no word on whether the incomplete novel will be published, or whether it sheds any light on the question of what happened to Charles Wallace Murry as an adult.
  • Chris Bunch, author of the "Seer King" and "Star Risk" series and co-author of the eight book space opera "Sten" passed away (fittingly for a soldier) on July 4, 2005. He left notes for the final volume of the "Star Risk" series and it was completed by Steve and Dal Perry, both known authors in their own right, as a tribute to Mr. Bunch.
    • Additionally, the ending of Bunch's "Corsair" leaves the reader with the sense that there will be an additional book forthcoming to explain some missing backstory. Unfortunately, this book was never published and it is unknown if there are any notes to enable another author to complete Bunch's vision.
  • Michel Foucault destroyed most of his unpublished manuscripts before his death from an AIDS-related illness in 1984, and his will prevents anything he missed from being published, most notably the fourth volume of his History of Sexuality.
  • Robert B Parker, writer of the Spenser novels (as well as 3 other series novels and the occasional western, plus the completion of Raymond Chandler's last novel, as referenced above) died in his office chair, at his typewriter, in January 2010. Parker was known to write very fast, and to write ahead, but there's not been any news from his editor at Putnam as to what might be on the spike. Since the series were mostly ongoing, there's nothing specific really missing, but those who were enjoying the various Spenser/Stone/Randall crossovers were hoping really hard for a nice three-way. Perhaps it's the Holiday Spenser Novel we're being told about by Bowker.
    • As of late 2010, what is probably the last Stone/Randall novel, a crossover, is out, and while as noted the works were all ongoing series, as a final book, it ends things well, with the two main characters, who had been struggling with personal issues, making a good effort to find happiness with each other much the way Spenser and Susan had in the Spenser novels.
  • Jack Chalker set up a huge cliffhanger with Horrors of the Dancing Gods, leaving his main hero (originally a Barbarian Warrior) now in the form of an immortal (even by immortal standards) wood nymph (oh, and she's pregnant by the Big Bad with who knows what), his son in love with a young girl with male genitalia, the second main character having switched to the evil side of thing...
  • Nothing else is coming out after Harlan Ellison dies:

"My wife has instructions that the instant I die, she has to burn all the unfinished stories. And there may be a hundred unfinished stories in this house, maybe more than that. There's three quarters of a novel. No, these things are not to be finished by other writers, no matter how good they are."

  • Gordon R. Dickson died after completing the 9th of an unknown number of books in his Dragon Knight series, leaving Jim Eckert's journey from 20th Century grad student to Master Magickian incomplete. The 11th book in his more famous Childe Cycle series, Antagonist, was completed by his assistant and friend David W. Wixon and published in 2007.
  • Pierre Bothero, a French writer of four seperate series that all intertwined, died shortly after writing a book introducing a fourth world, two new societies, and a plentitude of new characters to the mythos, and writing a somewhat cliffhanger ending at the end of this book.
  • Roots author Alex Haley passed away while writing Queen, a sequel to Roots. It was finished by David Stevens.
  • Z.A. Recht died with the third book in his Morningstar Strain trilogy unfinished.
  • Andrew Keith, who co-wrote the Wing Commander III Novelization and False Colors with William Forstchen, passed away in 1999 before he and Forstchen could work on a planned sequel to False Colors that would have bridged the gap between that book's end and the start of Wing Commander IV.
  • Diana Wynne Jones was working on a fourth book in the Wizard's Castle series before her death in 2011. Although series completion is thankfully not an issue with that series (like her Chrestomanci series, Wizard's Castle is a series of individual stories connected by a few recurring characters), it was nonetheless a disappointment, as the series had received a recent popularity boost thanks to Studio Ghibli's adaptation of the first book.
  • The Cat Who Smelled Smoke was to be the thirtieth volume in the popular The Cat Who... mystery series by Lilian Jackson Braun. It was to have been published in 2008, but was put on hold due to the author's failing health. When she passed away in 2011, the book was canceled entirely, and so the series will remain unfinished.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs' Skeleton Men of Jupiter, the last story in the John Carter of Mars series, was intended as the first in a series of novelettes with ongoing plot, so the story ends with the plot unresolved. The followups never got made, and ERB died a few years after the story's publication.
  • Averted at one point by Stephen King, who had finished only four out of seven books in The Dark Tower series when he was struck by a van and sent to the hospital with severe injuries. He later references this, at least indirectly.[3]
  • Cao Xueqin died before he could finish off and publish Dream of the Red Chamber.
  • Anne McCaffrey managed to avoid this with the long-running Pern series by collaborating with her son, Todd, on a few books before turning the franchise over to him entirely. So even though she passed away in November 2011, Pern survives. (YMMV as to whether this is a good thing or not.)
    • Their final collaboration has been finished and 'in the can' for quite some time. The publisher is sitting on it for unknown reasons, perhaps to avoid a Too Soon release that could be construed as capitalizing on her death. There's also the "final" Pern book she worked on for years, with a working/joke title After the Fall is Over. No word on whether or not Todd will finish it.
  • Shel Silverstein 's last poems and sketches have now been published, posthumously. Although he cannot see your face, as you flip through his poems a while, somewhere in a far off place, he hears you laughing — and he smiles.
  • Subverted in Jorge Luis Borges short story "Averroe's Search" : when Borges has a Creator Breakdown, he doesn’t believe anymore in the characters of this story, forcing a No Ending.
  • Ken Grimwood was reportedly writing a sequel to his 1986 Groundhog Day Loop story Replay when he died in 2003.
  • At the time of Reginald Hill's death in January 2012, one more Dalziel and Pascoe novel had been announced for release in August 2013.
  • Shirley Jackson died with her last novel, Come Along With Me, barely begun: after her death her husband published the existing material (six chapters, three in draft and three revised) along with several short stories and some non-fiction material.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh began compiling an anthology called The Historie of the World about the history of ancient Greece and Rome while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was successful in completing the first volume, but his execution in 1618 prevented him from ever finishing the series.
  • Kate Ross (Katherine Jean Ross) was a mystery writer/attorney in Boston, Massachusetts. She died of breast cancer at just 42, after publishing only 4 novels (and 1 short story) in her award-winning Julian Kestrel Regency-period mystery series. As one fan says in her Listmania description, "After revealing her hero's past with exquisite subtlety for 3 3/4 books, she suddenly tells us everything about him in the last few pages of the fourth one, because she knows she's dying. So this is a very short list of great books."

Live Action TV

  • Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes died while writing the concluding episodes of 1986's The Trial Of A Time Lord story. When the series' script editor, Eric Saward, quit afterward—mainly due to the fact that the show's producers pretty much rejected Holmes's planned ending (which featured the Doctor and the Junkyard Valeyard [or the Master] falling through a "time vent", with no way out) as being too risky, given that the show was hanging by a thread and that said ending would give the BBC the excuse to cancel the series, legal complications meant that the writers who eventually took on the job (Pip & Jane Baker) weren't allowed to be told how Holmes and Saward had planned to conclude the story.
    • Of course, misuse of Computer Slang and the last minute reversal of Peri's death aside, most fans are OK with Pip and Jane Baker's ending and agree that Holmes' ending would have been a disaster.
      • Holmes reckoned the BBC had already made the decision, and wanted to give the Doctor an impressive "Reichenbach Falls" exit. He was wrong, but only by a couple of years.
    • On a related note, Roger Delgado (the first Master) died before the last Third Doctor story featuring his character was made. Delgado's death ironically would have a reverse effect on his character, who would have stayed dead had the original story (which would have revealed that the Master was either the evil aspect of the Doctor's personality or the Doctor's secret brother) been made.
    • Howard Attfield, who played Donna's father in "The Runaway Bride", died mid-way through filming his second episode at the start of series 4. He was subsequently replaced with the newspaper salesman from "Voyage of the Damned", who was reworked into Donna's grandfather. Attfield got a brief dedication in the episode he was intended to be in.
  • Production of series 5 of The Sarah Jane Adventures (and indeed, the series itself) was cancelled after the sudden death of Elisabeth Sladen, who played the title character. Half of a planned six-story series was aired, but the BBC decided that recasting the beloved character or reformatting the show were not acceptable options.
  • Shotaro Ishinomori died while writing Kamen Rider Kuuga. He knew he would die soon, and wanted to get one more Kamen Rider out before he died.
    • In addition, he wrote the story-intended-to-be-series Onigeki Hibiki, which was only published posthumously as Kamen Rider Hibiki.
  • Kindred: The Embraced, a tv series based on Vampire: The Masquerade, was cancelled after 8 episodes. However, any hope that the series could be picked up again was lost when Mark Frankel, the actor who played the Prince of the City (and was considered one of the show's assets), was killed in a motorcycle crash soon after the final episode aired.
  • Riget ended after two seasons with many loose ends and at least one further season completely scripted, due to the deaths of three key actors: Ernst-Hugo Järegård (Stig Helmer), Kirsten Rolffes (Mrs. Drusse), and Morten Rotne Leffers (male dishwasher).
  • Father Ted just managed to avoid this. Dermot Morgan, the actor behind the titular character, tragically died of a sudden heart attack 24 hours after filming wrapped on the series' final episode. To quote Wikipedia, "The irony of Morgan's death, at a time when after twenty years of struggle, he had finally achieved financial and artistic freedom, was not lost on his family and friends and commented on by his colleagues in the media." It did however invoke this trope as a new series he was thinking of doing had to be scrapped.
    • This has actually led to a belief that Father Ted was cancelled because of his death, when in fact it was always planned to be just three series.
  • Treme writer David Mills, who had also worked on The Wire, died of an aneurysm while on set just days before the show's premier.
  • Rest in peace, Captain Phil Harris. He had a stroke, was put in a medically-induced coma, woke up, wrote to the film crew to keep shooting, and then died. In case you couldn't tell, he was something of a Badass. Phil was also the only member of the show who had previously come closest to dying (he broke a rib, which dislodged a blood clot).
  • Steve Irwin, aka the Crocodile Hunter, was killed in a freak accident with a stingray while filming the documentary Ocean's Deadliest with Philippe Cousteau Jr. He was posthumously featured in his daughter's show, Bindi the Jungle Girl.
  • An in-show example: The Supernatural series of novels by Carver Edlund (aka Chuck Shurley) is actually a written account of the lives of Sam and Dean Winchester, written by a divine prophet. The series ends on the sadistic cliffhanger that is "No Rest for the Wicked," with the publisher claiming Chuck died. He didn't, really, he stopped because Sam and Dean found out about it. "We have guns, and we'll find you." It's possible that the series through "Swansong" will be published posthumously. Unfortunately, this will not improve the cliffhanger situation.
  • News Radio continued after the tragic death of Phil Hartman but the show was never the same. It only continued for one season, and only because Phil wouldn't have wanted them to stop.
    • Same thing with John Ritter and the sitcom 8 Simple Rules..., only it lasted a bit longer.
  • The Sandbaggers' creator Ian Mackintosh died in a mysterious plane crash halfway through the third season. The season was finished with three episodes written by other writers, and the show wasn't continued after that.
  • A particularly sad example with Chico And The Man: Freddie Prinze killed himself towards the end of the third season. They wrote it into the script that Chico was visiting family in Mexico and then later stated that he died, and they tried to replace him with Raul, but ratings dipped in the final season and it was canceled. All the more disturbing and sad because he killed himself a few hours after taping his final episode, "Ed Talks to God."
  • Similar to the Father Ted example, narrowly averted by The Bill where actor Kevin Lloyd died only a week after being fired for his alcoholism.
  • Former Jackass cast member Ryan Dunn died in a car accident in June 2011, after just one episode of Proving Ground - a MythBusters inspired Experiment Show series he co-hosted on G4 - had aired. The show was pulled immediately, a presumed difficult decision for the network, considering that the series premiered to decent ratings and they had spent quite a bit of time in the preceding weeks promoting the series on their other programs. They eventually aired the remaining eight episodes later in the Summer of 2011, but the show's future without Dunn remains uncertain.
  • Pitchmen, a Discovery Channel show about finding (and shilling) unknown-but-great products and inventions, had as one of its costars legendarily loud huckster Billy Mays. After Mays' death, the show floated in limbo for a while, until it was eventually revealed (almost two years later) that his son would start doing the show.
  • The 1985 TV series Lime Street, starring Robert Wagner and essentially devised for Samantha Smith after her letter to Yuri Andropov brought her worldwide attention, ended even before it aired - with just eight episodes produced, the 13-year-old and her father were killed in a plane crash not long before the series premiered. Rather than recast her role, the series simply ceased production.
  • The Britcom In Sickness And In Health, one of two sequels to the classic Till Death Us Do Part (best known outside of Europe as the inspiration for All in The Family), was initially written to deal with the fact that Dandy Nichols, who played Alf Garnett's wife Else, was terminally ill and confined to a wheelchair. When Nichols died in real life, the character of Else died as well. (Ironically, the episodes concerning Else's very real death were adapted from the Archie Bunker's Place episodes centered around Edith's death - which only occurred on the show after Jean Stapleton quit.)
  • Andy Whitfield, who played the titled character on Spartacus: Blood and Sand, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2010. This caused production to halt while Andy went through treatment. During this time, Starz produced a prequel series Gods of the Arena. Andy gave his blessing for the network to recast his character so the series could resume. He was declared cancer-free two months after Gods of the Arena aired, but succumbed to a reoccurance disease in September 2011.


  • Depending on who you ask, there are between ten and two hundred unreleased Kurt Cobain and/or Nirvana songs (the truth, likely, is somewhere in between the two extremes). How "finished" the hypothetical tracks are is also a subject of some debate, with Grohl, Noveselic, Love, and any number of other people often contradicting one another, and occasionally, more often than that in Love's case, contradicting themselves. The only thing they all seem to agree on is that there are Kurt Cobain tracks the fans have not heard, and probably never will until Love dies, and even then only maybe.
    • The massive 2004 box set With the Lights Out which contains many unreleased Nirvana songs and demos alongside previously released rarities, is considered merely the tip of the iceberg of the Nirvana cache to fans. A previously unreleased but well-known late period Nirvana recording, "You Know You're Right", was attached to a greatest hits album in 2002 and (along with already released contemporaneous tracks like "Sappy") merely hinted at what directions a fourth Nirvana album could have gone.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach rather famously failed to finish the fourteenth fugue in his Art of the Fugue, cutting off right at the point where he introduced his own name as the subject (Bb-A-C-B, which, in the German way of naming notes (where Bb is B, and B is H), is B-A-C-H), although this was more a case of setting it aside for a while and not getting back to it before his death rather than dying while working on it. This is referenced in Gödel, Escher, Bach ("Contracrostipunctus"), where a glass goblet supposedly made by J.S. Bach shatters on the Musical Trigger of the Tortoise playing the four notes on a violin.
    • The fugue specifically cuts off after the first entrance of the "B-A-C-H" subject in counterpoint to the first and second subjects; the order in which the first three subjects appear in each of the four voices has led to speculation that Bach intended to make the final fugue a quadruple fugue, with the main subject from the previous fugues as the fourth subject. Some of the speculative completions of the fugue include the fourth subject (most notably that of Hungarian musicologist Zoltan Goncz), others only use the three already introduced by Bach.
  • Beethoven's 10th Symphony had a similar fate.
  • John Lennon recorded a large number of demos before his death in 1980 that were not used on Double Fantasy (his 1980 album with recorded with his wife, Yoko Ono).
    • Six were released after being polished by Ono in 1984, along with six of Ono's compositions and released as the album Milk and Honey. Four more were given to the surviving Beatles by Ono in early 1994. The other three Beatles and producer Jeff Lynne reworked the demos into new Beatles songs, and "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" were later released as singles and on "Anthology" albums.
    • These new songs - which rather split the fanbase - were parodied by Mitch Benn in "Please Don't Release This Song" in which John Lennon pleads for his unfinished music not to be re-recorded and released after his death.
  • George Harrison died while working on the album Brainwashed; it was completed by his son Dhani Harrison and former Travelling Wilbury bandmate Jeff Lynne. They made it considerably more lavish than George would have if he had lived—we have Word of God on that; Lynne felt that doing otherwise would've dishonored his memory.
    • On the subject of the Traveling Wilburys, the band averted this by continuing after Roy Orbison died shortly after their first album's release, but it severely shortened their intended plans, and they released one more album in 1990 before splitting.
    • George Harrison was also one of the producers of Cirque Du Soleil's Love; in the making-of special his wife and son are seen watching the troupe's dress rehersal some months after George died, and it's eerie seeing Dhani (with wide, bright eyes) looking through a giant projection of his nearly-identical father.
  • And speaking of Roy Orbison, he was in the midst of a major comeback when he died of a heart attack in 1988.
  • Jimi Hendrix died before completing a planned double album provisionally titled 'First Rays of the New Rising Sun'. It was subsequently released over three posthumous albums; Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge, and War Heroes. When the Hendrix family regained control of his estate in 1997 they withdrew these albums and released a re-compiled First Rays..., based mostly on Jimi's notes, as an 'official' Hendrix album.
    • The "non-family" posthumous albums featured various session guitarists overdubbed and intermingled with Hendrix's work, and given that Hendrix's guitar is pretty much why people listen to Hendrix, fans were not amused in the slightest.
  • Gustav Mahler dreaded the "curse of the Ninth", so snuck in an unnumbered symphony (aka the song cycle Das Lied von der Erde) after his Symphony no. 8, thought he'd beaten the curse by finishing his Symphony no. 9 which was in fact his tenth... and died before completing his next symphony. The drafts of the 10th symphony at least were worked through to the end, but they were only partially orchestrated and a little sketchy. Deryck Cooke's completion of the symphony was the first and remains the most popular, but even this is bitterly contested, since so much of the appeal of Mahler's symphonies lies in their orchestration.
  • Hideto Matsumoto (better known as "hide") from the band X Japan died before completing his third solo album, Ja, Zoo. It is still debated today whether his death was an accident or a suicide.
    • hide and Yoshiki had also planned, up until hide's death, to reunite X Japan with another vocalist than Toshi or with hide on lead vocals in 2000.
    • Former X Japan and Loudness bassist Taiji Sawada also died, becoming the second person out of both the original X Japan and the third formation of Loudness to die.
  • After the breakup of 90's alt-rock one hit wonders School of Fish, the band's singer Josh Clayton-Felt began an acclaimed solo career as a singer/songwriter and the success of his second solo album led to him touring with the likes of Tori Amos. While working on his third album, to be called "Center of Six", he was diagnosed with cancer, and died in 2000 before the album could be completed; he was 32. The songs eventually got released on two albums: one by Dreamworks Records in 2002 under the name "Spirit Touches Ground", and another under the "Center of Six" title by Talking Cloud Records in 2003.
  • It is hotly debated just how much of his Requiem Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart managed to finish before his death, and how much was done by his assistant afterward. Süssmayr claimed to have composed the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei from scratch, though it's been speculated he used some Mozart sketches. For instance, the second half of the Agnus Dei, the "Lux Aeterna" section, is just the first movement with new words. Which is a valid decision, but does damage Sussmayr's claims of originality.
  • Giacomo Puccini died before completing the opera Turandot; he had finished up to about the point of Liu's death and the rest was finished by Franco Alfano. At its premiere at La Scala, Toscanini laid down his baton here and said, "Qui finisce l'opera, perché a questo punto il maestro è morto" ("Here the opera ends, because at this point the maestro died").
    • Another recollection of Toscanini's statement is "Qui, il maestro fini" (Here, the master finished). This is more in keeping with Toscanini's terse, no-nonsense character.
    • Puccini also died before deciding on an ending for La rondine. This has contributed to it being performed so infrequently afterwards.
  • Jacques Offenbach left his opera Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) unfinished when he died in 1880. In addition, much of the music he did complete for it was long mislaid or omitted from performances, especially in the Giuletta Act. The original edition of the opera was completed by Ernest Guiraud, but editors and producers have continued to tinker with the work ever since; its acts are not even always performed in the same order. Two of the best known numbers in the Giuletta Act, the aria "Scintille, diamant" and the Sextet with Chorus, were not composed by Offenbach at all but merely based on his work, and were first performed as part of Hoffmann in a 1908 production.
  • Ferruccio Busoni left the opera Doktor Faust unfinished. Completions of it have been prepared by Philipp Jarnach, a pupil of the composer, and by Antony Beaumont.
  • Alban Berg left his opera Lulu unfinished. Although little work remained to be done to complete it, the composer's widow successfully vetoed any attempt to do so until her death in 1976, forty-one years later, after which it was successfully completed by Friedrich Cerha.
  • Dmitri Shostakovich planned to write a set of twenty-four string quartets, one for each of the major and minor keys. However, he had only completed fifteen of them (and had written a few sketches for a sixteenth) by his death in 1975.
  • Bela Bartok was working on his third piano concerto and his viola concerto at the time of his death from leukaemia in 1945; he had finished all but the orchestration of the final 17 bars of the piano concerto, which his student Tibor Serly polished off before the work's premiere (and which are now accepted as canonical in performances of the work). The viola concerto was in a much more fragmentary state, with much of the instrumentation and texture still to be completed; although both Serly and, fifty years later, the composer's son Peter (in collaboration with Paul Neubauer and Nelson Dellamaggiore) produced performance versions of the work, they are much more speculative than the performance version of the piano concerto.
  • Marc Blitzstein was working on the operas Idiots First and Sacco and Vanzetti when he was murdered. Both were subsequently completed by Leonard Lehrman.
  • More of Tupac Shakur's songs have been completed since his death than were completed when he was alive. (The mere fact that he left that much unfinished material behind when he died is impressive in and of itself.) They've even constructed a lifelike hologram of him as of April 2012.
  • Schubert left no less than four unfinished symphonies upon his death, including his 8th, the "Unfinished Symphony". He also left around half a dozen piano sonatas in partially completed states, most of which have been speculatively sketched to completion by some performers but all of which are generally either performed in their incomplete states or simply dropped from the repertoire. Schubert generally sketched pieces to the point where he could easily complete them if he found a publisher for them, but his success rate at finding publishers for his work during his lifetime was rather modest, meaning he left many unfinished manuscripts at his death.
  • The day before Brazilian satirical band Mamonas Assassinas were to start an international tour (which would be followed by a break to record their second album), they were killed in a plane crash.
  • The Visual Kei symphonic metal band Versailles had gone major in 2009, and was recording a new album and about to embark on its first tour as a major band when, on August 9, 2009, bassist Jasmine You (one of the band's most notable members and founding members) died (The cause is, as of yet, unknown). Understandably, the band's activities were, at the time, halted and the album postponed.
  • Michael Jackson died in 2009, weeks before the scheduled start of his planned This Is It concerts in London. He had been working on new songs in the last few years of his life as well; some were completed posthumously (with infamous Michael soundalike Jason Malachi reportedly handling vocals on several tracks), bundled together with unused songs from older albums, and released as Michael in 2010.
  • It didn't take Led Zeppelin long to decide to break up after John Bonham died. The Doors lingered a little longer...
    • Bonham's death was particularly ill-timed: it happened on the day Zep were rehearsing for a new US tour.
  • After their brief reunion at Live 8, it seemed like we might finally hear a new Pink Floyd album. Then Richard Wright died...
    • Not to mention, Roger Waters is retiring - The Wall tour is intended as his final hurrah. (Despite past squabbles, however, the three remaining members of Pink Floyd reunited at a Wall show in the UK, and performed "Outside the Wall" together.)
  • After Queen frontman Freddie Mercury died, many of his final recordings with the band were completed in 1995 for the Made In Heaven album. Particularly heartbreaking is his final vocal performance in the song "Mother Love," and how Brian May had to sing the final verse as Mercury was unable to do so anymore.
    • Although Freddie apparently gave Paul Rodgers his blessing to replace him, preventing total Band Existence Failure, it's still not quite the same. Considering Queen+Rodgers only has TWO of the original Queen members in it, it's not much of a surprise they don't live up to the original. Deacon (the bassist) practically retired when Freddie died, only doing two appearances under Queen label since. He officially hung up the bass in 1997.
  • John Paul Larkin, aka Scatman John sadly died of lung cancer in his Los Angeles home on December 3, 1999.
  • There's been speculation that Otis Redding intended "(Sittin' on) The Dock of The Bay" to be part of a Sgt. Pepper-like concept album, but he was killed in a plane crash 18 days after recording it, and he didn't record anything else before then.
  • Buddy Holly wrote a bunch of new songs [dead link] in the months leading up to his death (including "Peggy Sue Got Married" and "Crying, Waiting, Hoping") and recorded acoustic guitar demos of them. We'll never know how he intended to arrange them, but that didn't stop his label from overdubbing and releasing them on two separate occasions.
  • Former La Bouche singer Melanie Thornton died in a plane crash before her solo album could be completed. The vocals from two of her unreleased songs were used in a Posthumous Collaboration with the rest of the group.
  • Keyboardist Dwayne Goettel of Skinny Puppy died of a heroin overdose while the album The Process was in the works, and the rest of the group disbanded for several years. Cevin and Ogre reformed the group in 2003 with Mark Walk.
  • Run DMC producer Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell was murdered in 2002, and the group more or less died with him.
  • Influential Manchester Post Punk / Goth band Joy Division had just finished a well-received European tour, completed their second album, had just produced a promo video for their soon-to-be hit single "Love Will Tear Us Apart", and were poised on the brink of international recognition. The night before they were due to leave for a major tour of the USA, frontman Ian Curtis committed suicide by hanging in his home. His history of depression and severe epilepsy made suicide almost inevitable according to his friends and family; but no one expected it that soon.
    • The rest of the band changed their name to New Order, updated their sound to a more synth-based New Wave, and went on to greater commercial success.
  • Satirized by Peter Schickele in his Unbegun Symphony, which only has a third and a fourth movement; in his monologue describing the piece, he explains that he was born too late to write the first two movements.
  • T. Rex leader Marc Bolan was killed in a car crash, ending the band immediately.
  • After five years of rising success, three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were killed in a plane crash while the rest were seriously injured. The band's fifth album, Street Survivors, was released three days before the crash; the album cover art originally superimposed a group shot of the band onto a city street engulfed in flames, and had to be pulled from store shelves and replaced with an alternate version of the group shot on a plain black background (recent CD re-releases have restored the original cover). Eerily, Steve Gaines, who died in the crash, appeared to have his eyes closed and had his head surrounded by flames on the original cover.
  • When Jeff Buckley drowned in the Wolf River in 1997, he left behind an entire album worth of material that the producers had to guess the order of the songs that were going to appear. The double album Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk was released the following year, reflecting the album's Troubled Production - the first disc contained the basically finished songs he and his band recorded with Tom Verlaine as Record Producer, and the second disc is home demos made on a 4-track recorder.
  • The Exploding Hearts were a punk-revival band from Seattle best known for their catchy songs and melodies. They probably could have made it big if it weren't for the fact that in 2003 their van rolled over killing 3 of the members. This left behind only one completed album, Guitar Romantic, and several unreleased songs for a scheduled album for the following year, and very little live footage of the band. Shattered was released in 2006 with the songs and several remixes along with a DVD of probably the only recording of a live Exploding Hearts performance in existence. Pretty sad considering how great they really sound, probably could have been huge.
  • Heaven and Hell singer Ronnie James Dio (formerly of Black Sabbath) died of stomach cancer in 2010. Since Heaven and Hell only existed so the non-Ozzy members of Sabbath could play with Dio again, the band pretty much ceased to existed after he died.
    • Ronnie's main band, Dio, were working on two follow-ups to their Magica concept album prior to his death. The story will never be completed now. (Making the way he cuts off the narration of Magica's storyline with some teases cut off by a michevious "Ah! But that’s another story!" to make you wait for the next installment much Harsher in Hindsight.)
  • Randy Rhoads died at the age of 25, after just two albums with Ozzy Osbourne.
    • Although Ozzy continued to record and perform (obviously) the sound of the band changed after Randy's death, since he made significant contributions to the songwriting of the band at the time.
  • Milli Vanilli was planning a comeback with Rob and Fab as the actual lead singers, with the "Girl You Know It's True" vocalists as back-up singers. Their album, "Back and In Attack," was cancelled when Rob suddenly died of a drug overdose in 1998.
    • A few years earlier, Rob and Fab (who had already recorded as Empire Bizarre before the creation of Milli Vanilli) released a new album of their own performances, without the Milli Vanilli moniker. Despite a promotional appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, the album fell afoul of distribution problems, and very few copies made it to stores.
    • Since Rob's death, Fab Morvan has recorded as a solo artist, and has made European TV appearances singing Milli Vanilli's hits. Obviously, his renditions sound absolutely nothing like those of the original vocalists.
  • Jazz critics usually cite the 1961 live recordings by pianist Bill Evans and his trio at New York's Village Vanguard as Evans' Growing the Beard moment, but 10 days after those shows were recorded bassist Scott LaFaro died in a car accident. The incident traumatized Evans and worsened his already heavy heroin addiction. Evans himself died in 1980 (of a drug-related bleeding ulcer) just as he was entering a creative renaissance.
    • LaFaro is an interesting case because, due to his elevation of the bass' role to counterpoint to instead of solely support to the soloist, he is frequently regarded as being one of the three most influential bassists in jazz. The other two, Jimmy Blanton and Jaco Pastorius, also died at similarly young ages.
  • In another case of Author Existence Failure making an album possible, a Linda McCartney collection called Wild Prairie, which contained everything that she ever professionally sang lead on, was released in 1998 or 1999, after she died. Paul wanted the world to know she was a great musician, regardless of the evidence... The Wings-era works are mixed at best, but her most recent songs are excellent if you can get past the lyrics. "The White-Coated Man" (a collab. with Chrissie Hynde) is especially haunting.
  • George Gershwin died after writing five songs for the movie The Goldwyn Follies; when he died, he was intending to compose a ballet for the film's dancing star Vera Zorina to choreography by George Balanchine. After George Gershwin's death, Vernon Duke supplied the additional music necessary for the film.
  • Hard rock band Snot was receiving a lot of attention in the late nineties from their major label debut Get Some and their infamous antics on the 1998 Ozzfest tour. They were working on a second album until singer Lynn Strait was tragically killed in a car accident. Because Lynn died before he recorded vocals for most of the album, the band used the recorded instrumental tracks for the tribute album Strait Up with guest vocals. The only track that had Lynn's vocals, "Choose What?", was later released as a bonus track on the live album Alive. The band broke up immediately following his death, but a couple of the members started a new revision of the band ten years later called Tons.
  • Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele died of heart failure in April 2010, just as he was due to begin writing and recording for a followup to Dead Again. With his passing, the band ceased to exist as well.
  • A year after her only top-10 hit, "Lovin' You", Minnie Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer, and passed away three short years later at age 31. Her daughter, Maya Rudolph, has found success in Saturday Night Live.
  • Both Hank Williams and Patsy Cline died extremely young (29 and 30, respectively), leaving plenty of unreleased material behind and inevitably having several posthumous hits. Hank Williams, Jr. even overdubbed one of his dad's unreleased songs as a "duet".
  • E.S. Posthumus' Franz Vonlichten died in May 2010, effectively stopping the group.
  • Kino frontman Viktor Tsoi died in a car crash in 1990, and the last act of his band was to release the Black Album.
  • Rich Mullins died in a car accident in 1997 while working on The Jesus Record. It was released the following year as a double album - one disc of Rich's home demo recordings, the other disc featuring the same songs (plus one extra) given the full band treatment by Mullins' "Ragamuffin Band".
  • Averted by Behemoth guitarist and vocalist Nergal, who was diagnosed with lukemia and was initially told that it was too advanced to fight. He eventually beat the disease, but if it had proved fatal it would have killed Behemoth.
  • Chuck Schuldiner, the guy who pretty much invented Death Metal with his band Death, was diagnosed with brain cancer in late 1999 and underwent surgery and radiation therapy. Unfortunately the cancer recurred in 2001, and a series of chemotherapy threatments weakened his body to the point that he died of pneumonia in December 2001.
  • Rolf Kohler, the lead singer of Systems in Blue, died of a stroke in September 2007. The rest of the group still managed to produce a second album, Out of the Blue, the following year.
  • 80's Austrian pop singer Falco was working a comeback album when he was tragically killed in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic in 1998.
  • Back to Black is the last album we'll ever hear of Amy Winehouse. She was working on her third album when she died in 2011. Her last song, a duet with Tony Bennett called "Body and Soul", was released not long afterward.
  • Francisco "Frankie" Gutierrez, frontman and face of the Eurodance act Captain Jack, made famous by the Dance Dance Revolution series, died of a hemorrhagic stroke in 2005, ending the group for all practical purposes.
  • The lead singer of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, Charles Haddon, committed suicide just before the release of their first (and likely last) album.
  • TLC member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was killed in a car crash in 2002, during the recording of the group's latest album 3D. The album was eventually finished by T-Boz and Chilli (they were determined to finish it in Left Eye's honour), in some cases using Left Eye's previously-recorded rap solos.
    • There was also a posthumous album of unfinished solo material that was released in 2009 and was finished with contributions from many artists, including Missy Elliot, Chamillionaire and the remaining members of TLC, T-boz and Chili, as well as Left Eye's sister Reigndrop.
  • Mark Linkous, leader/only constant member of cult indie rock band Sparklehorse, had dealt with depression for most of his life and had notably attempted suicide in 1996 while his band was touring as Radiohead's opening act. That suicide attempt caused damage to his legs which never quite heeled. Linkous eventually took his own life in 2010, shortly before the wide release of his Dark Night of the Soul collaboration with Danger Mouse and David Lynch. Another project, Sparklehorse's fifth album, was left in a near-complete state after his death and has not yet seen the light of day.
  • The B 52s began recording their Bouncing Off The Satellites album in 1985. The album was originally recorded early in this year, but the record company rejected this version. The band starting rerecording the album with producer Tony Mansfield. Unfortunately, guitarist Ricky Wilson died during the sessions for the second version of the album, which meant that the songs he hadn't recorded parts for had to be overdubbed by session musicians. They were so short on material that one of the songs on the album (Juicy Jungle) is an outtake from Fred Schneider's 1984 solo album. Whilst Bouncing Off The Satellites and several singles from it were released in 1986, the remaining band members were too upset due to Ricky's death to tour or promote it. Luckily, it got better - drummer Keith took Ricky's place on guitar in 1988 and they started recording new material. They have been together ever since.
  • The sudden death of Peter Christopherson in November 2010 put an end to Throbbing Gristle.
  • Bradley Nowell, the singer, songwriter and guitarist for Sublime died a few months before the release of his band's breakout third album. This meant their label had a hit album, no band to send out on tour and no chance for a follow up album. Instead, the surviving two members and Brad's dog Louie starred in a series of music videos released for each of the three singles released for the album. The label proceeded to fulfill the rest of the band's record deal with an continuous (and morbid) series of rarity and greatest hits albums that continue to be released to this day. The two other members went on to a series of other bands of varying success before reforming as Sublime with Rome, which is legally not the same thing as Sublime due to Nowell's estate owning the copyright on the name.
  • Similar to the Shostakovich example, Claude Debussy planned a collection of six instrumental sonatas, but only completed three before he died.
  • The fate of Beastie Boys' final album Hot Sauce Committee Part 1 became uncertain with the death of Adam "MCA" Yauch in May 2012. Some of the songs were ultimately released as the album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, but any plans for a second part were discarded.
  • Harry Nilsson, who hadn't released an album since 1980 (and that album wasn't even issued in the United States), began recording a comeback album starting in 1993. He died on January 15, 1994, and it's been reported that he finished the album a few days before that. A few tracks have been leaked, but there's never been any indication that the album, provisionally titled Papa's Got a Brown New Robe, will ever be released.

Tabletop RPG

  • Gary Gygax left many unfinished projects behind for Dungeons & Dragons, including his oft-promised but never delivered Castle Greyhawk dungeon complex.
  • Carl Sargent, a popular module writer for TSR, disappeared suddenly in the late '90s, leaving many D&D fans wondering what happened (according to a fellow module writer and friend of his, Sean K. Reynolds, the truth is that he was involved in a car wreck in 1997 and has been unable to write due the severity of his injuries).
  • In 1995, Nigel Findley, game designer and novelist who wrote for Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, and other RPGs, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 35. His work introduced many key metaplot elements (e.g. bug spirits) to the Shadowrun game setting, which later authors expanded upon.
  • Dream Pod 9, the Publishers of Heavy Gear and Jovian Chronicles nearly suffered from this; most of the company's artists and writers left in short order, leaving both storylines in the lurch. Heavy Gear was picked up by Steve Jackson Games in 2008, nothing happened, and in August 2010, SJ Games handed the franchise back to DP9.
  • Similarily averted with Battletech - Twice; when Decipher shut down FASA (who they owned at the time), the Battletech fame franchise was inhereted by Wiz Kids who, in turn, leased them to Fan Pro, a German company who had been publishing localized Battletech material for years, resulting in the game being picked up in short order. Following the shutdown of Wiz Kids, the Battletech rights (as well as most of the writing staff) went to Catalyst Gaming Labs. Most fans feel that the Fanpro-Catalyst years have been some of the best the franchise has ever had. Shadowrun experienced the same fate moving to the same companies (though fan opinion as to the quality of post-FASA releases is far from a concensus).
    • However the video game series was effectively in Exsistential Failure as the new company making MW5 can't make a new game. This did not stop fans from working on a Total Conversion based on Cry Engine 2; Mechwarrior: Living Legends


  • Jonathan Larson, the creater of the Rock Opera Rent, died the night before opening night of an aortic dissection, thought to be caused by an undiagnosed case of Marfan syndrom. Despite his death, the cast performed half of the show sitting down before the high energy of the Act 1 closer, La Vie Boheme, caused them to continue the show as usual, minus costumes.
  • Late in his life, Eugene O'Neill began work on two massive drama cycles: A Tale of Possessors Self-Dispossessed, which was supposed to have as many as eleven plays, and By Way of Obit, which would consist of eight one-act monologue plays. He only managed to complete one play in each cycle, A Touch of the Poet from the former (the fifth play out of the projected eleven) and Hughie from the latter before illness prevented further writing. All the incomplete plays were destroyed, with the exception of More Stately Mansions (the sequel to A Touch of the Poet), which survived in draft form.
  • After Lost in the Stars, Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill began work on a musical adaptation of Huckleberry Finn. Weill died, and the project was aborted, leaving behind five songs.
  • Henry Mancini died not long before the Screen to Stage Adaptation of Victor Victoria was produced, so Frank Wildhorn was brought in to write the additional songs with Leslie Bricusse.
  • The death of John Latouche while working on the musical Candide with Leonard Bernstein is one major reason the show ended up having so many lyricists.

Video Games

  • Kaneto Shiozawa, the Japanese voice of the Cyborg Ninja in the first Metal Gear Solid, died from a traumatic brain injury after falling down a flight of stairs on May 10, 2000. As a tribute, his voice recordings from the original MGS were used in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty for the second Cyborg Ninja (who was actually another character), as well as in Super Smash Bros Brawl.
  • Gunpei Yokoi, producer of Metroid and developer of the Game Boy, the ubiquitous D-Pad and infamous Virtual Boy, died in a traffic accident while working on Bandai's handheld competitor, the Wonder Swan.
  • The Legacy of Kain series was supposed to have one more game to tie all the loose ends up. However, the departure of series writer Amy Hennig for uncharted waters and the death of Tony Jay, one of the major voice actors, means that the series is now in limbo.
    • Not only did Amy leave, but two of the other main writers (out of a group of four, with Amy being the lead and most well-known) left the company as well. The fourth? He passed away.
  • The death of lead developer Brian Wood of Relic Entertainment may leave the fate of Dawn of War in limbo, as well as the company itself.
  • Florian Husky, the creator of Super Mario War and one of the founders of 72dpiarmy, committed suicide before progress of the game was ever finalized. While others working on the project tried their best to keep it alive, development has officially ceased, with only a single bug release update left that has yet to show.
  • RPG developer Nautilus, creators of the Shadow Hearts series, dissolved sometime in 2007. This means no possible anachronistic Lovecraftian adventures set in World War II, the Cold War and many other possibilities.
  • In a non-death example, with the sacking of Keiji Inafune from Capcom, the Mega Man Legends series is, for all intents and purposes, finished. Guess Roll and Tron never were able to finish that rocket. Doesn't make the fans any less pissed, though.
  • Downplayed in the case of Merlin's Revenge, where the creator was forced to permanently abandon the series due to medical problems, explaining the whole situation in a seriously Tear Jerker speech.
  • A sequel to PS1 shooter Blasto was considered after development finished, but dropped after the murder of Blasto's voice actor Phil Hartman (it was his final work). As Hartman's ad-libbed dialog was considered to be the heart and soul of the project, both by staff and reviewers, it was deemed impossible to continue.

Web Comics

  • Joe D'Angelo, creator of webcomic Pirate's Cove, decided to avert this trope and created an "ending" that would be revealed if he died prematurely.
  • Similar to the above, the writer of Looking for Group and Least I Could Do has mentioned keeping a special script which should resolve things, and his notes on future plots, in a safe in the event that he passes away before his comics finish. Either the artist has the combination, or one of their wives do.
  • Paul Gadzikowski of Arthur, King of Time and Space is another example - his plan involves synthesising the many Arthurian legends into an overarching story to be told in "real time" over the twenty-five years of Arthur's reign (although he has jumped forward by a couple of years and has hinted that he will probably do so again). He has stated on several occasions that he has kept detailed notes about the rest of the story in case he passes away before the comic is due to finish in the mid to late 2020s.
  • Every so often, Megatokyo's Fred Gallagher will poke fun at his sometimes-glacial update pace, and on one occasion kinda hinted at this trope.
  • Scott Kuehner passed away in January 2009, leaving the world of Look What I Brought Home with a bunch of unanswered questions. Now we'll never know what happens with Bess or Kunky.
  • N-Fans: The Series began to flounder in 2007, when creator Webster Swenson passed away unexpectedly. The people who inspired the other characters made a few attempts to revive the series and keep it going in his memory, but the entire website has stagnated since early 2008.
  • Angel "Inqy" Yates of Wicked Alchemy wrote on her LiveJournal about her declining health not long before her sudden death in the summer of 2009. In addition to the webcomic, she also had a slice-of-life comic strip, Onna Chance, and a pirate avatar game. Sadly, Onna Chance and her original site Mutedfaith are both down, a more than a year after her death.
  • Bad Bunny After doing a reprint of a classic set of strips for Pennsic, it looked like the author Wolfie was going to get back to the original strip's storyline of pants too tight (this is a strip where the mundane becomes insanely funny). Unfortunately Wolfie - real name W. Michael Dooley - contracted H1N1, and died aged 41 in December 2009.
  • Tom Siddell, of Gunnerkrigg Court, joked that due to his strip buffer, if he were to keel over and die this instant, we'd still get about three months worth of strips.
  • The creator of Just Another Webcomic passed away after coming out of a coma. He was only 9 pages into the third volume of his work, which he was unable to continue after the coma because he had lost a lot of sensation in his drawing arm.
  • It's a common joke among the Schlock Mercenary fandom that no one will notice when Howard Taylor dies, due to his perfect update schedule. At the end of the universe, there will be a few scattered neutrinos, some clumps of exotic matter, and Schlock Mercenary, still updating every 24 hours without fail.

Web Original

  • Spoofed in PRIMARCHS, where the Emperor of Mankind! obliterates the writer at the keyboard for back-chatting him. He gets better.
  • SuperPie suffered a (fortunately non-lethal) version of this in Game 11 of Comic Fury Werewolf.
  • The Gungan Council has had two confirmed deaths of writers: Skelosh Delaroch and Raven Darkness.
  • Eddsworld creator Edd Gould died after a long fight with cancer in March 25, 2012.

Western Animation

  • Just barely avoided by Brittany Murphy's character in King of the Hill, which ended in September 2009 - Murphy died of exposure to toxic mold in December of the same year. Especially with Luanne becoming a mom.
    • There are four episodes that were finished but did not make it into the final season of King of the Hill. These, aired in May 2010 on Adult Swim, were specifically held over just in case another network planned on picking it up. But now...
    • Didn't stop the series when Victor Aaron, the original voice of John Redcorn, died in an auto accident after the first season. He was replaced by Jonathan Joss.
    • And the death of Tom Petty, the voice actor of Lucky, makes a revival even more unlikely.
  • Phil Hartman's characters Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure on The Simpsons were retired out of respect, and though they have occasionally been seen in the backgrounds of scenes, neither have had speaking appearances since.
    • Similarly, he was the original choice to play Zapp Brannigan on Futurama, but died before the first episode aired. Billy West based parts of his performance on Hartman's, and the creators then named Philip J. Fry after him.
    • Also, a number of scenes in Small Soldiers, released later that year, involved guns being aimed at his character. These scenes were removed because the creators realized that it would have been in poor taste, especially considering how he died.
    • Similarly, The Simpsons retired Lunch Lady Doris for many years due to the death of her voice, Doris Grau, but in recent years she's speaking again (courtesy of Tress MacNeille), unlike Hutz and McClure.
  • Kathleen Freeman, the voice of Ms. Gordon in As Told by Ginger, died before she finished her role in the episode "No Hope for Courtney". As a result, the character she played passed away instead of getting out of retirement. The whole episode was dedicated to the voice actor.
  • Mary Kay Bergman, who originally voiced most of the female characters on South Park (including Mrs. Marsh, Mrs. Broflovski, Mrs. McCormack, Mrs. Cartman, Wendy, etc.) had suffered from depression for years and committed suicide just after finishing recording her parts for the show's third season. "Starvin Marvin In Space" and "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" were dedicated to her memory.
  • Tony Jay was the voice of Megabyte, ReBoot‍'‍s Big Bad. The series ended on a cliffhanger with Megabyte in the Principal Office, and then Tony Jay died. Who knows what Rainmaker will do if they continue the series.
    • Long John Baldry was the voice of guest star Captain Gavin Capacitor, and he died as well.
  • Toy Story 3 and 4 features Slinky Dog, formerly voiced by Jim "Ernest P. Worrell" Varney, who died in 2000. Varney's friend Blake Clark supplied Slinky's voice for the third and fourth films.
    • Also, Wheezy the penguin doesn't feature in both films: both his speaking (Joe Ranft) and singing (Robert Goulet) voices had died by the time the films was made.
    • Mr Potato Head lost his voice actor Don Rickles during early production of the fourth film. With his family's blessing, Disney were able to use achieve recordings of his character's lines from previous works. This explains why Mr Potato Head and the rest of the other Toys (with the exception of Buzz) were demoted to extra in the fourth film.
  • Lyricist Howard Ashman died in the middle of the production of Aladdin, leaving Tim Rice to supply lyrics to "One Jump" and "A Whole New World." Tim Rice was called on for the Screen to Stage Adaptation of Beauty and the Beast for the same reason.
  • After Mako, the voice of Aku in Samurai Jack and Uncle Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender died in 2006, Greg Baldwin took over as the new voice of the character in the darker and edgier 5th season on Adult Swim.
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender was able to get by with Baldwin doing a quite good impression of him for Uncle Iroh. Rather eerily, the show's creators claim that they had always planned to have Iroh not speak in his first couple appearances in season 3, which ended up giving them some extra time to find a replacement, which they eventually found with Baldwin.
  • After the death of Fred Willard, who voiced Pop-Pop in The Loud House, Pop-Pop's fate was left up in the air for a while. It was eventually resolved when the character had his first speaking role since his death in "Resident Upheaval", where he was voiced by Christopher Swindle. The role was then permanently recast to Piotr Michael starting with "High Crimes".
  • It's unknown who will take over from the late Joe Alaskey as the new voice of Plucky Duck for the Tiny Toons reboot on HBO Max. For his role as Grampa Lou Pickles in the Rugrats reboot on Nickelodeon/Paramount Plus, Michael McKean took over the role.
  • Will Ryan, the longtime voice of Willie The Giant, died on November 19, 2021. It's currently unknown who will replace him. In an eerie coincidence, an episode of Mickey Mouse Funhouse aired that day where he reprised the role.


  • Walt Disney. Though, contrary to certain urban legends, he did not cryogenically (or otherwise) preserve any part of his body and did not tell his employees exactly what to do after he left. The last Disney film to ever be made during his entire life was 1967's The Jungle Book.
  • Reuben Kee was working on making a Samus Aran for Mugen before his boating accident.
  • Mechaspyder is a cute, fairly-popular 3D Flash browser game where you are a spider and you jump on squares to get to the gold square. The game ended with a note indicating a sequel in the works. Unfortunately, the game's creator, Richard Barron, died in a car accident before work would be started on the sequel.
  • MULE was a classic of early computer gaming. Its creator Danielle Bunten was working on an online version when she died in 1998, and the game has sadly been officially out of print ever since.
  • Robotech: Crystal Dreams became Vaporware due to the folding of Gametek.
  • A planned sequel to Twisted Metal Black called Harbor City was scrapped, but four completed levels were included in Twisted Metal Head On: Extra Twisted Edition along with a documentary claiming that Harbor City was canceled because six of the developers died in a plane crash. However, this was Based on a Great Big Lie; the "documentary" was part of an Alternate Reality Game hinting at the development of a Play Station 3 Twisted Metal game.
  • Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War breaks off abruptly partway through the eighth book. Fortunately Xenophon picked up where Thucydides left off, so we know how the war ended. Athens lost.
  • WWE superstar Michael "Hawk" Hegstrand appeared with his partner Joe "Animal" Laurinatis on the May 17, 2003 WWE RAW and despite his history of severe drug and alcohol abuse, performed exceptionally well, as he had finally gotten completely clean. According to those who knew him, Hegstrand had dedicated himself to staying drug-free for the rest of his life; unfortunately, his years of drug abuse had taken such a physical toll on his body that he died of a heart attack six months later.
  • Bil Keane of The Family Circus. His son Geoff Keane is continuing it.


  • Weremonkey Gus, one of the founders and original host of The Other Tropes Wiki was reported to have died at some point around the beginning of 2009. (However, after ATT forked from TVT in 2012, evidence came to light which suggested that Webmonkey Gus, Fast Eddie, and several other TVT staff members were all Sock Puppets for a single person—a fellow by the name of Gus Raley—and the "Gus" persona did not so much die as was retired.)
  • Danny Lilithborne, aka Dasrik, JuJube The Tree, blankpage, and Ricardo Arturo Lafaurie, Jr., passed away January 2nd, 2010 after several weeks in a persistent vegetative state. In his last days, he was continuing work on his highly regarded Yu-Gi-Oh! fanfic "Negative Zero", as well as a series of novels called Chateau Aensland. Rest in Peace.
  1. Someone created a cartoon pretending that he's deliberately planning to do exactly that. "They think they hate me now... wait til they see who I kill off next!"
  2. There is no point at which the text breaks off — the published book contains only fragments, though you can figure out some of the links and where the story was going if you look for it.
  3. After he is written into the story, fictional King says he became motivated to finish the story after coming so close to death.