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Orem signing 2014 ()
#51 Copy

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Another thing he talked about was some common themes that appear in fantasy. One of them is that Rennassaince air of the Rise of the Common man. You see that in Mistborn for example. The great writing question of the Cosmere, the underlying theme is, What do men do when given the Power of the Gods? How do they act? What do they do?

Cosmere.es Interview ()
#52 Copy

Cosmere.es

We are more or less sure that, once you finish the last book from Wax and Wayne, this is going to have kind of an impact, maybe, on everything?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes and no. Wax and Wayne as a series, entirely, is more focused on the characters than the cosmere. Which is different from Era Three. Era Three, while it's very focused on characters, is more cosmere-focused. Remember, Wax and Wayne is the series I interjected. And I realized, as I was writing it, there were a lot of things I needed to do in it (that's good I started it), but they are mostly setup. You will get done with Wax and Wayne Four, you will know who Trell is. You will know what trellium is. You will know what's been happening there. But what it's not gonna do is give you definitive, cosmere-wide, large-scale changes. It is more going to be setting up and building for the big things that are coming next. So don't put too much pressure on the poor little Wax and Wayne series; they really are about Wax, Wayne, Steris, and Marasi, and kind of uncovering this stuff. You could consider it the buildup and prologue to the second large era of the Cosmere, if that makes sense. (Which, the second era of the Cosmere is basically going to be: third era Mistborn, second era Stormlight.)

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#53 Copy

Questioner

Secret history gave a lot of answers but a lot more questions. Will we get more answers in the next Mistborn book?

Brandon Sanderson

The next Mistborn book will have some answers but not Secret History level answers. It is still mostly focused on Wax and Wayne, Steris and Marasi, and finishing up their stories. By the time we get to third era Mistborn we are gonna start seeing a lot more creep in of some of this stuff. Its really fourth era were gonna see the most. The further we go in the Cosmere the more things will creep in. Mistborn; there be a lot more creeping in than in Way of Kings.

JordanCon 2016 ()
#54 Copy

Questioner

What was the reasoning behind there being many, many years between different stories in the different parts the cosmere, like the huge gap between… Warbreaker and Way of Kings. Like why is--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, why are there some huge gaps in the length of the cosmere. There's-- I want the cosmere to be more than just a little blip of time. The concept for the cosmere was never something, to me, like the Avengers for instance. Which a lot of people kind of view it that way, particularly because the Marvel movies have been so big, and that's good. But it's not like all these concurrent stories with the same characters converging. That's not how I have ever planned it. Now there are certain people who are functionally immortal or close to it that will be involved in things across time, but this is-- I'm telling an epic story, right? And I knew we needed thousands of years between some of the events. For instance, Roshar, we start in the Prelude at 4500 years or whatever before the book starts. It's like, if I didn't have some big gaps, then what are all the stories that are happening in between? It feels illogical and false to me to have all the stories happen in a short time period. Now as certain part of the magic allow more communication and connection, then we will have to, by nature, kind of accelerate some of those things. But I feel like if I spent, you know, ten thousand years or whatever, and only had all the stories happen in the last 50, it would feel really weird. So that’s why.

BookCon 2018 ()
#55 Copy

Questioner

How did you know that Stormlight and Mistborn were going to be the focus [of the cosmere]?

Brandon Sanderson

A lot of writers figured out the *inaudible* exploration. And I had the advantage when I broke-in that I had written all these books before, and I was able to go back and say, "The Way of Kings, there's something special about--" right from the beginning, there's something special about that.

I was able to look back at say, Mistborn, which had I had tried the magic system. The magic system really worked, my best magic system. I know this has the best magic magic system, if I can match a plot to it that makes it a good book, I can make that magic system kind of the spine of what I'm doing.

...So I got lucky on that. In some ways, not publishing for a long time was the luckiest thing that could have happened to me.

Stormlight Three Update #6 ()
#58 Copy

Talbertross

Do you have the "end state" of the Cosmere in your mind? Do you know where, thirty years or so from now, where the main characters will be once all major Cosmere series are finished? Or do you plan on having them end at all?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I have a plan--but remember, we'll be dealing with a lot of new characters by then. The goal is not to take everyone you're reading about now, and have them appear in the final books. Some will persist, but my end game is more focused on events.

Oathbringer Newcastle signing ()
#59 Copy

Questioner

Is Obrodai going to be the setting of Dark One?

Brandon Sanderson

Excellent question. That is also a RAFO. Sorry, sorry! This is partially because Dark One pops in and out of the cosmere a lot, depending on which version I'm doing. It's been the hardest book. For those who don't know anything about, this is a book I talk about in my blog once in a while... It's like the Harry Potter story, except you get told "By the way, you're the Dark One who's gonna destroy the world, so we're gonna assassinate you while you're a teenager, so that never happens." It's a really cool story that I have never been able to get to work.

Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, and Obrodai is one of the Shardworlds, but I keep popping Dark One in and out of the cosmere. Sometimes it feels too self-referential to the fantasy genre to actually be in the cosmere. Because I don't want the cosmere to be self-referential, right? Whenever something gets even a little too silly, I'm like, "Nah, this can't be in the cosmere anymore." So, we'll see what happens.

Firefight release party ()
#60 Copy

Herowannabe's wife

In this one [Sixth of the Dusk] is the guy he [Dusk] finds dead, is that Hoid?

Brandon Sanderson

They guy he finds dead is not Hoid. Good question.

Herowannabe's wife

Is it anyone we already know?

Herowannabe

Does Hoid make an appearance in that one?

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid does not make an appearance in that one.

Herowannabe

What about Shadows for Silence?

Brandon Sanderson

In Shadows for Silence he does not make an appearance. I established with those two, my goal was, he-- I found that if I just shoehorned him in it didn't actually fit the narrative. Like I want this to not just be a cameo, he's actively doing things. Does that make sense? He's not just there for cameos... he's actively up to something.

Now he has been to Threnody. Threnody is very interesting to him for certain reasons. He hasn't been to First of the Sun, he's never visited Sixth of the Dusk's planet, yet.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#61 Copy

Questioner

This cosmere that you have is gigantic, enormous, and wonderful, by the way. But, it's one of those things... how long has that been kicking around in your head before you started putting it down on paper?

Brandon Sanderson

For those who aren't aware, and might just be here having read the Reckoners, all of my epic fantasy books are connected. But they're all connected through little cameos. And I did this before Marvel movies, let's just point that out! They're copying me, I'm sure. I'm sticking to that. But there's little cameos for the various things because there's a story behind the story. I started doing this because I knew, in my career, I was going to have to... just the way I am, I need to jump between worlds to keep myself really interested. But I also like big epics. So it's me trying to have my cake and eat it, too, right? Lots of little things, but a hidden big epic. Right now it's all cameos, you don't have to worry about it, it's never really relevant to the story. Each story is self-contained. And then, if you want more, you can dig into it, and... it goes pretty deep. The guy who bought the Emperor's Soul movie rights was like, "Oh, I hear that this is connected," so he went and started reading. And, like, a few months later, he called us and said, "Uhhh, I just read the whole Cosmere. Uhhh, my brain is breaking." So, you can jump down a rabbit hole with the Cosmere if you want.

So, how long has this been kicking around? I can trace it back to a couple of events in my youth, as a budding writer. First one was, I've talked about this idea that you're the director of the book when you read it. When I was a kid, what I would always do is, I would want to have some sort of... it's hard to explain. I wanted some control over the story, even though it was a book I was reading, I wanted to participate, and so I would always insert a character behind the scenes. Like, in the Anne McCaffrey books, when there's somebody who's a nobody, I'm like, "Actually, this is some secret agent type character," and things like this. And I would always insert these characters into the books. But I would even be like, "Oh, this is the character from this other book, that I'm now reading." I would have my own headcanon, is what you call it, that would be parallel to the book canon, with this story behind the story happening. I also remember really being blown away when Isaac Asimov tied the Robot books and the Foundation books together, and thinking that was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. Where I'd loved these two book series, and the conclusion to them is interwoven, and at the end of the Foundation books you kind of get a conclusion for the Robot sequence as well. That kind of blew my brain, and I'm like, "I need to do this."

So that's the origin, and that's kind of really the origin of Hoid. He's in the first book that I started writing, in very proto-form. He's kind of the same character who had been hanging out in Anne McCaffrey's books and other people's books as I'd read them. And that was it for a while, until I became a better writer, and then started actually building an epic. So, it's been around for a while. I would say the actual origin of the Cosmere was when I wrote Elantris, and then jumped back and wrote the book called Dragonsteel, which was this next book that I wrote after that, which was the origin of the Cosmere, kind of the prequel to all of it. And then I went and wrote White Sand. And those three together were my beginning. Only Elantris, of them, got published so far, although White Sand does have the graphic novel.

Miscellaneous 2012 ()
#62 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Okay. The overarching story of all of my novels. I wrote thirteen novels in different worlds, all with their own different magic systems and own characters. But secretly I loved the grand epic, and so I started connecting all these worlds during my unpublished era, and telling a hidden epic behind them all that I was setting up for.

Well, eventually I sold book number six, and embedded in book number six was a bunch of this stuff for the hidden epic, of course, and six is actually one of the ones where I first started doing this. My first five were kind of throwaway novels. It was six, seven, eight, and nine that were really involved in this. Six was Elantris; seven was a book called Dragonsteel; eight was a book called White Sand; and nine was a book called Mythwalker, which eventually became Warbreaker, which I eventually rewrote and released as Warbreaker. So that four-book sequence was very ingrained in this kind of hidden story behind the stories. When I started publishing these books, I just kept it going, the hidden story, the hidden epic.

Words of Radiance San Diego signing ()
#64 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

When are we first getting a look at the cosmere coming together?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

The third Mistborn trilogy is going to involve--it's the first one I planned to do a lot with. I doubt I will do much in the second Mistborn trilogy, more than I probably have done [so far]. It's fun for me, so I'll keep including things in. You'll notice that Hoid is a bigger part of the Stormlight than previous ones, but I still don't want it to come to the forefront quite yet.

Orem signing ()
#65 Copy

Questioner

Do you have intentions to have a conclusion to the Cosmere, or is it something that's going to be ever expanding?

Brandon Sanderson

I did build a conclusion in, and I will write toward it. My goal is to get to it before I get too old. And then if I want to still noodle in the cosmere, do planets that we didn't get to or things like that. So the cosmere main timeline that I'm working on, my plan is to try release a book every year or so in this main timeline. Depends on how long the Stormlight books are. *laughter*

Oathbringer rough draft was 540,000 words. A normal novel is considered 90,000-100,000. The Way of Kings was 300,000. This happens to us fantasy writers. It depends on how long the Stormlight books take. But the main line is 10 Stormlight books in two 5 book arcs. First 5 book arc, then there'll be a break in-world of about a decade. So it won't be as big as the Mistborn jumps. But there'll be a break in world and then we'll come back to it in book 6. And book 6 is where we kind of refocus on different characters, some characters go through the whole thing. Some characters kind of fade more into the background and new characters become the focus. So you can imagine it as two series set in the same world.

We have the mainline Mistborn series, which is taking Mistborn through a bunch of different eras, eventually landing us in science fiction, space travel. I originally plotted those as 9 books, but then I wrote the Wax and Wayne books as more part of that... But the ending of the Cosmere is the science fiction Mistborn trilogy. Chronologically, that's the last thing I have in the plot. That science fiction Mistborn trilogy is space opera. It's Star Wars meets the cosmere. That's our endpoint. 

Right before I write that I will do Dragonsteel, which is Hoid's backstory. Which is flashing back to the beginning of the cosmere, before Adonalsium was Shattered. So that's our time line. You'll get that-- So right now, it's finish the first 5 Stormlight books, do the 1980's level Mistborn books, next 5 of Stormlight, Dragonsteel, ending.

I'll probably work some Elantris books and a Warbreaker book in there but that's my main line. Anything that's not in there, like the Threnody novel and things like this, I plan to do but they have to fill a slot of a side project when I have extra time. Might be pushed to be a novella, instead. That's my main line plan. And that's plenty for me to do. And granted, I just finished book of mine number 42 or 43 or something like that, that I've written since I turned 21. So in 20 years, I wrote 40 books. That sounds like a lot but it depends on how long Stormlight books are.

*laughter*

Like, last year, I basically only did one thing. I had Snapshot and then Stormlight. Those take a lot of work.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#66 Copy

Questioner

And are there parts-- Are the cosmere novels chronological so far? So when you eventually go back to Warbreaker the effects of Vasher being on Roshar...

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, no, they are not all going to be chronological. Most of them have been chronological so far, but we are getting to the point where they're stopping to be because like Way of Kings was before Alloy but now we've gone back and done Words of Radiance which is a jump backward and then we are going to be jumping to the next Alloy which is a jump forward. I'm pretty sure that's how it goes.

Manchester signing ()
#67 Copy

Questioner

Do you ever find it difficult writing for two kinds who read your books, the kind that only want to read it and have a lot of fun and take nothing away from it, and the people who obsess over every sentence for hidden cosmere-ic meaning?

Brandon Sanderson

Right, right, right. For those of you who don't know, though I'm not sure there are many who don't know still, all of my epic fantasies are in the same universe and there are characters in each book who are interfering with each other's stories. There are characters from Mistborn in Way of Kings, and there are characters from Elantris in Mistborn.

This was done, for a little bit of backstory, I love big epic fantasy works, if you can't tell Wheel of Time is one of my favorites ever, I like the big things. Breaking in I felt that it was a lot to ask new readers to take a chance on me as a writer by saying "it's book one of 25" I felt it was better to say "here is a standalone novel, self-contained that you can enjoy reading and kind of figure out who I am as a writer." That's kind of my purpose for Elantris and Warbreaker, and lately Emperor's Soul. "Here's how to try out my writing style to see if you like it." But loving these epics I couldn't help connecting them and hiding an epic behind the scenes. This was partially inspired by Asimov, who later in life joined his two main series, the Robot books and the Foundation books in what I felt was a clever way. But it had some problems in that he had to juryrig it after the fact. He'd been writing these books for decades and then he brought them together and I thought "wouldn't it be cool if someone were to take that idea and start it from the get go." It's this whole shoulders of giants thing, people try something out and you go "that was awesome, can I improve upon it?" or "whoah I'm not ever going to try that because that had certain issues" Book 10, the Wheel of Time fans know--

Robert Jordan actually talked about that book about how he wish he hadn't written it the way he did.  I have the advantage of having read Robert Jordan, so I can see how that book went wrong and I can avoid making that pitfall. I went ahead and did this hidden epic because I thought it was really interesting, I did not expect it to come to the forefront as much as it has. Which is awesome, people started peeking these things out. Secrets that I embedded in Elantris, That I didn't expect to come out for another ten fifteen books people are already asking me about. Which means I kind of need to step up my game to make sure that all this stuff is very subtle. The whole idea is that you don't have to have read Elantris to read Mistborn, you don't have to have read Mistborn to read Way of Kings, they are all easter eggs right now. Eventually I will write a series that ties them all together in a direct way, that's many years off, and I will be very upfront with "You have to read all the others, you will be very lost if you aren't familiar, at least go read the summaries of the books before you start this one." We are far away from that.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#68 Copy

ckannan90

I have a cosmere question. At the end of Words of Radiance, Szeth receives Nightblood. The wiki told me it was a sword from Warbreaker, but I didn't realize how significant it was till I read the book. This, to me, seems like the first major cosmere crossover. All the other crossovers so far seem to have just been cameos (Hoid tells stories, or there are mysterious people hunting somebody, etc). I will RAFO, but it does seem like Szeth getting the sword means Nightblood will play a not-insignificant role in Stormlight 3. Does this mean the cosmere books are going to converge more going forward? Specifically, would someone need to have read Warbreaker to understand Oathbringer? Till now your different cosmere series have been readable in any order (and I didn't read them in publication order). Similarly, Mistborn: Secret History seems to be a prerequisite for at least the next Mistborn book.

Brandon Sanderson

One thing you have to remember is that in my cosmere outline, Warbreaker was a prequel to The Way of Kings, explaining Vasher's backstory. So I consider them more closely connected than some other things. But you could consider this the first major crossover.

Nightblood will be re-introduced, so those who haven't read Warbreaker will be brought up to speed.

Thoughtsunthought

Wow. Cool to see this.

One of my "concerns" is that eventually the cosmere stuff will overwhelm the individual series arcs.

Kinda like the Marvel Avengers movies, whilst they are great on their own, they lose some of the individuality that an Iron Man movie might have. If the overall story adds characters then you may end up with a Captain America: Civil War movie which whilst was amazing. Wasn't really a Captain America movie and would lose so much to someone who had only seen Capt America movies.

That being said I totally trust your judgement on this, I say concerns but I don't mean in a bad way.

That being said is any book flagged for an Avengers style "battle for the cosmere"?

Brandon Sanderson

I do have some plans for mixing later on, though I'll be very forthright about when those books come out. Meaning, so long as I'm not talking about these things as the main focus of a series, you don't have to worry about it taking them over. Conversely, you can be very excited when it does happen, as those stories will be very clear about what they're attempting to do.

One thing I do try to warn people is that the cosmere isn't an "Avengers" style concept--the goal here isn't to collect a variety of heroes from a variety of worlds and then throw them at a problem. It's more of a, "What if you could watch the world of something like Star Trek develop, by seeing individual engaging stories from various planets, then slowly watching them merge into a larger universe."

While some characters will, obviously, continue on through the series, and the Vessels of the Shards will be very important, the focus of the greater cosmere storyline is the cultures, the magic, and the evolution of the planets, while the individual stories are about the people who live on them during turning-points in their history.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#69 Copy

Questioner

How many of the worlds in the cosmere do you eventually plan to talk about that we don't know about?

Brandon Sanderson

...From what's been released, you've gotten almost all the important ones. There's, like, two or three ones I would consider relevant to... for instance, the planet that the Aethers, from Aether of Night, which is an unpublished book-- that's still part of the cosmere, I'm gonna do some stuff there. There are a couple of other worlds, one is mentioned in Oathbringer, just very briefly, in one of the epigraphs. There are others that I'll get to. But, when I designed the cosmere: Scadrial (Mistborn), Sel (Elantris), and Roshar were my pillars of the Cosmere story. With Yolen, the planet where it all started, just kind of being behind-the-scenes relevant. Those are the pillars of our story. Other planets will come into it, but those three-- there's nothing more important than the ones you've seen already.

Calamity Seattle signing ()
#70 Copy

Questioner

So, one of the things I know, you have your own universe that you've produced, and it's fantastic. what's the series you're gonna create or have created that's the cornerstone, that will have the largest impact on the universe.

Brandon Sanderson

I would say Mistborn going all the way through is probably the most impact. Stormlight is gonna have a decent one, so is the Elantris world.

Questioner

Is there gonna be a union book or series?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, the final Mistborn series.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#71 Copy

Questioner

In the early 2000s, you started toying with this idea of the cosmere, these interconnected stories that are separate, but you've got your little Easter eggs. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Marvel movies started coming out. Were you like, "Wow, I can't believe this got so popular, this idea of--"

Brandon Sanderson

Like, it had always been in their comics. I didn't invent interconnected universe. I didn't even invent them in books. Like, Michael Moorcock, I don't know if you guys have read Michael Moorcock, but I really like Michael Moorcock's work, and he connected a bunch of his things together. And Stephen King famously did it. I think the one that first blew my mind when someone did this was when Asimov connected Robots and Foundation together. 'Cause I had read the Robots books, then I read the Foundation books, and then I read the later Foundation books and I'm like, "They're the same world?!?" That was a very mind-blowing moment for me.

But when I was writing a lot of this stuff in the late 90s, early 2000s, the rule of thumb was, "People don't want continuing narrative." Like, I still remember watching the DVD extras on the Deep Space Nine DVDs. (Which is the best Star Trek, fight me.) And in Deep Space Nine, they would talk about how they would have to-- they had this big arc they wanted to do for seasons. Go listen to it, it's hilarious. They're like, "But we couldn't tell the executives about that, because they would say 'People don't want continuing story arcs, they want individual adventures.'" So, they would write the Ferengi episodes, which were standalones that were goofy and funny, and sent those as their samples to the studio execs, and hide the fact they were making this big, interconnected epic out of Deep Space Nine. And that was the conventional wisdom. That's just where storytelling was going. So, I'm like, "I have to be really hidden about this, everybody's gonna--"

But, Marvel wasn't the first case we have. It was the television show 24. When 24 came out (this is old news to a lot of you, it's like 20 years ago), but when that show came out, people were like "Wow, a continuing narrative. Some people really like this." And then Marvel did their thing, and Marvel became Marvel over the next years. And that was, like, a thing. And then Netflix started doing stuff where it's like, "We're releasing a whole season at once so you can binge. It's like a nine hour movie." And meanwhile, this whole time, I'm like, "Yes! I was born at the right time!"

I will tell you that when DMG came to buy the Cosmere, it was with stars in their eyes, because shared universes were suddenly the thing, and I had the only one on the market for sale. They're all really really stretching, they're like, "Universal Monsters universe?" They're always trying to make some shared universe. And meanwhile, they're like, "There's a guy who already has one. We'll just go buy it!" That was a big part behind them grabbing that. I think that now, people are more wary, because so many of them that they tried to make failed. But the reason they failed, at least in my opinion, is because they did it the wrong way. Instead of starting with something great, that people would want more of, they started saying, "You are going to get 30 of these. You'd better like the first one. Oh, you think it's mediocre? Well, you'd better like the second one, right?" Where this has always been a theme for me with the Cosmere, that I really want each individual story to stand on its own, and if you want to dig into the connections behind them, there is that depth for you to dig into, and you can start making all of these connections and being part of the fandom. But if you just want to read Warbreaker, it is a standalone. You don't need any of this other stuff, it's all Easter egg, and I think that is part of the issue with some of these. It's this thing I told the writers the other day. This magic phrase of, "Everybody wants to start a book thinking it's a standalone and wants to finish it thinking, knowing it's a series." Like, you want to pick up that first book, or whatever it is, and have it be so good that it wraps up and just knocks your socks off. And at that point, you want a sequel. You don't really want the sequel when you start, you just want a good well-told story. So, I tell a lot of writers, try to make sure that first story is really good, and then worry about sequels. So, that's been my philosophy, and hopefully it has worked out.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#72 Copy

B-more_freshout

I think [Brandon] would benefit a lot from finding some kind of way in-universe to convey when we can be certain that the character is dead. Something like what we see of Vin and Elend in Secret History after they die. I think that he was trying to prove how definite their death was.. I don't know how he could realistically or smoothly accomplish this, but I think that until we see some proof beyond what is normally expected to see for a death, we can't be 100% sure that anyone is dead.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I've been thinking about this. Spoilers below.

The issue is, resurrection is a major theme of the cosmere. The very first line of the first chapter of the first cosmere book starts with someone dying. The story is about his return to life.

The death of Adonalsium, and the questions surrounding the persistence of his power, is THE single pervasive theme of the works. And so, I've returned to this theme multiple times--from Sazed's more metaphorical rebirth in Mistborn Three to Syl's more literal one in Words of Radiance.

At the same time, the more this theme continues, the more it undermines the reader's ability to believe someone is really dead--and therefore their tension at worrying over the safety of characters. So we need a better "Dead is dead" indication, otherwise every death will turn into Sirius Black, with readers being skeptical for years to come.

So, let's just say it's something I'm aware of. Josh, of the 17th Shard, was the first one to raise the issue with me years ago. We need a balance between narrative drama and cosmere themes of rebirth.

dce42

I figured Nightblood was your answer to dead is dead.

Brandon Sanderson

He's certainly AN answer. But there are way more ways to kill someone in the cosmere--I just need to be more clear on how that works, giving the right indications to readers.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#73 Copy

Questioner

*inaudible* this thing I have fallen in love with *inaudible* when you're the only one that knows that you can only talk about...

Brandon Sanderson

I end up RAFOing a lot. "Read and find out". I do a lot of that.  

Questioner

Will it ever be in print or will it always be a backstory...

Brandon Sanderson

There will be several series about the cosmere, but they're a little ways off.  

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#74 Copy

Questioner

I was actually wondering if you'd do space opera? *audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

There will be space opera in the cosmere. There'll be quite a bit of it actually. The only space opera I've written currently has not been true space opera. I don't know if you've read my two science fiction stories. They're both free on my website. And they're a little more social science fiction, though they take place far future, kind of space opera-y. They're not cosmere right now-- Err they are not cosmere. But I will eventually write full-blown space operas. They're going to be awesome.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#76 Copy

Questioner

Do you ever find you own stories, your own characters, coming back and influencing you?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.  More, it's like I have these things I'm really interested in.  And so I find myself rounding those things again and again.  And I've actually started a list of 'You've covered this thing, Brandon.  You can't do this one anymore'.  Just because I work in the cosmere where everything is connected, so the underlying physics of the books are sometimes very similar.  And so I just have to be very careful not to repeat myself too much.  

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#78 Copy

Questioner

I heard a rumor that the universes of all your books are interconnected?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Most of my books, not all of them. If a book mentions Earth, it is not connected to what I call the cosmere, I kind of made this decision early on. So for those of you who don't know, my epic fantasies are indeed all connected. There are characters who cross over between them. I've been planning this for twenty years so I've got this intricate thing going on. There will eventually be big crossover books but for right now I don't want people to feel like they have to read everything in order to understand what's going on, and so for right now each of the books are only cameos. But you will be able to notice characters crossing between and there will be big crossover books eventually.

White Sand vol.1 release party ()
#79 Copy

Questioner

I've also heard rumor that there's a chronology? <On the cosmere?>

Brandon Sanderson

On my computer, yes.

Questioner

No, that was going to be in [Arcanum Unbounded] or *inaudible*.

Brandon Sanderson

No, not a chronology. Not a timeline. I've been preparing one that eventually I'm going to release. But I don't think I'm *inaudible*. I did consider it, but...

General Reddit 2016 ()
#80 Copy

yahasgaruna

I have to say though, I don't get annoyed by the fact that you want to write the side projects, but I do get perplexed by how big the State of the Sanderson is getting. You keep adding more things that I want to read, and it gets no closer to getting written! I've been waiting for a sequel to Warbreaker for 7 years now, and a sequel for the Rithmatist for over 3 years, and I've been getting excited about Silence Divine and Dark One for years just reading the chapters or descriptions you've read out at signings. Now you're adding a novel set on Threnody, and one on Silverlight?

DEAR GOD MAN DO YOU WANT ME TO DIE OF ANTICIPATION?!

Brandon Sanderson

Original Cosmere sequence (from around 2003 or so.)

Core books:

Dragonsteel (7 books)

Mistborn (9 books)

Stormlight (10 books)

Elantris (3 books.)

Secondary stories

Unnamed Vasher prequel (1 book)

White Sand (3 books)

Unnamed Threnody novel. (1 book.)

Aether of Night. (1 book.)

Silence Divine (1 book.)

This version was after I decided I'd trim back Aether of Night, but felt confident that Dragonsteel would be coming out soon. (I tried a rebuilt version of it in 2007.)

By 2011, some things had changed. First, I'd rewritten Stormlight, and had sucked Bridge Four off of Yolen, following Dalinar (who had been moved to Roshar for the first draft of TWOK.) Warbreaker had been given a sequel. Dragonsteel, having lost the entire bridge four sequence, refocused to be more about Hoid and shrunk from seven books to between 3 and five, depending on what I decided needed to go there. Silverlight had grown from just a place I referenced to a place I wanted to do a complete story for. And, of course, Mistborn got another era. (Dark One also moved to the cosmere somewhere in here.)

So, a lot of these have been brewing all along, and I haven't really been adding that many books--I've actually been shrinking the numbers as I feel certain things combine, and work better together than alone.

I still suspect we'll end up in the 40 book range, but most of the new ideas for the cosmere I have, I try to limit to novellas so that we don't end up with too many promised books.

yahasgaruna

Thanks for the answer! I'm going to go ahead and believe there are even more books hidden in your outline you've never talked about because that makes me feel better, especially something like Skyward (since I remember you saying that was YA).

Brandon Sanderson

There are, but I'm very aware of how much I've put on that list so far--so I've been trying to combine stories, or make others into novellas.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#81 Copy

Questioner

In a lot of your books there are, like, things that make them seem like they might be connected...

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, "in a lot of my books there are things that make them seem like they might be connected." *crowd laughs* What's that?

Questioner

Is there going to be a crossover?

Brandon Sanderson

"Is there gonna be a crossover?" So for those who don't know, my books-- my epic fantasies are all connected. There's a hidden epic happening behind the scenes. There will be someday that I will do crossovers, but I am not doing it right now. The focus right now-- I don't want people to like read the books and be like, "I am so lost." I don't you to feel like you have to read my whole body of work to appreciate what's going on in one of them. So while there will be cameos, and sometimes they will be moderately relevant to the plot, it's only gonna remain mostly cameos for the moment, until I do a series which is upfront going to be, "Here's the big crossover. You have to know all eight magic systems or you're gonna go crazy."

JordanCon 2018 ()
#82 Copy

Questioner

At what point did you go, "Elantris was good, Mistborn was good, now let's do 40 more books"?

Brandon Sanderson

So, a brief, brief history (writer's side, not the in-world side) of the Cosmere is this. So, Elantris was written without the cosmere in mind. This was-- Elantris was the first, kind of, book in my--

So, the way my history works, I was told early on that your first five books are generally terrible. And this was actually really relieving to me, because I'm like "Oh, I don't have to be good until book six." So I wrote five books as, just, lots of experimenting. Lots of different types of stories. And I didn't really even try, I sent one or two of them out, but I didn't really aggressively try to publish them. They were White Sand--not White Sand that you can get from my newsletter signup, an earlier version--which is my first book. And then Star's End, which was a little science fiction book, and then a sequel to White Sand, and something called Knight Life, which was a comedy. Yes. But bits of that got repurposed into Alcatraz. And then The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora, which was a weird cyberpunk, far-future thing. And I got done with all of those, and I'm like, "All right. I kind of know what I want to do. I thought it was epic fantasy. I now know it's epic fantasy." And then I wrote Elantris. My next books were Elantris, a rewrite of White Sand, and Dragonsteel. And this was kind of me exploring "What do I want to do? How do I want to-- What is my-- What do I want to add to this genre?"

But the idea of the interconnected universe grew out of doing these things, writing these books. I started planning The Way of Kings then, I started planning the book that became Warbreaker then. It was called Mythwalker at the time. And I wrote a book called The Final Empire and a another one called Mistborn, which are neither of the ones that you guys actually have read. What eventually happened, is when I sold Elantris, this whole thing of the cosmere had really come together, this is what I wanted to do, I was really excited by it.

And so, the first book that I wrote knowing about the cosmere was Mistborn. And Elantris got retrofitted into this as I was writing the Mistborn trilogy. And it was while I was working on the Mistborn trilogy that I made the nine book arc that is kind of the core, though-line of the Cosmere, the past/present/future Mistborn. I called my editor in... 2005 with a really big, exciting, sort of huge outline for 40 books (it was 32 back then), I'm like, "It's gonna be this, it's gonna be this, it connects here, and all this stuff--" That's when it all kind of happened, and I built that all out. It was the process of working on the Mistborn original trilogy and building out the nine book arc for those that really solidified a lot of these ideas. By then, I had written Dragonsteel, so I knew--- Dragonsteel was book number seven, so I knew about Adonalsium and all of this stuff, but it was really kind of in Mistborn where I decided how I was gonna incorporate all of that. And even then, even in Mistborn, there are still things that I was still putting together.

So, yeah. There's a brief history of it. By the time I had those three books done, 'cause I wrote them in a row, I was pretty solid on how all of this was gonna come together.

Starsight Release Party ()
#83 Copy

Questioner

Do you have the endings of all of your books already pre-planned or does that kind of evolve as you go along?

Brandon Sanderson

I have the ending of Stormlight 10. I have the ending of the Mistborn series. But I don't have all the endings of all books.

The main core line of the Cosmere, I do have, but those are subject to change as I go. I don't necessarily have the ending of the Threnody book. Like, that I would have to outline and sit down.

Idaho Falls signing ()
#84 Copy

Questioner

Before you started on all of your books, did you already have an idea of how they all came together or was it a sort of--

Brandon Sanderson

I did by the time I was writing Mistborn. But the thing you have to know about my career is that I wrote thirteen novels before I sold one. So, in a lot of those early novels I had no idea what I was doing, that's how authors are. By the time I wrote Mistborn, which was book number fourteen--it was the second book published--but I really had an idea of what I was doing then. Elantris had to be retrofitted a bit to fit into it, because Elantris had been written when I was still figuring things out, but by Mistborn the whole thing was coming together and I had quite a good idea of what I wanted to do.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#85 Copy

Questioner

I really enjoy things like Alloy of Law and Emperor's Soul, do you see yourself doing any more of those in-universe novellas? Maybe more tightly cobbled to the stories they're from?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes I do see myself doing many more novellas. I enjoy the process, it helps me get stories out of my brain that are itching at me without having to start another 7 book series or whatever. What I'll be reading to you tonight is from a novella though it is not cosmere. Though I do have several more cosmere novellas going. If you haven't read the ones I've released, there's one called Sixth of the Dusk which is ebook original and in the Writing Excuses anthology, and then I have another that is in George R.R. Martin's Dangerous Women anthology... called Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell. And that is the other weird place you can get one of those. I'm planning to do many more, I really enjoy it.  I think short fiction is fun and exciting and I'm-- short for me

Stormlight Three Update #3 ()
#86 Copy

wispirr

Given that these Stormlight books are (understandably) taking longer than you originally planned, have you had to re-outline your plans for the Cosmere overall to keep it from getting too big to finish? If each Stormlight book were to take 3 years going forward, then after Oathbringer it would be 7x3=21 years before the whole series is finished, and then all the Mistborn sci-fi and Dragonsteel books would have to happen, in addition to any other projects you're planning. At least that's the plan as I understand it. I definitely admire your ambition!

Brandon Sanderson

No revision plans right now, but I am watching. Considering my career so far had only been about ten years, and I've made great progress on the Cosmere, my instincts say I will be okay. But it is worth considering.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
#87 Copy

Arcanist

When will be see the whole Cosmere-concept (Shards, the plans of Hoid) at the level of the books? In the third Mistborn trilogy or earlier? In which books do you plan to finish the "hidden story" which connects all your earlier books?

Brandon Sanderson

Third Mistborn Trilogy will certainly include some of this. We shall see if I do any of Hoid's stories before then.

Hal-Con 2012 ()
#88 Copy

Lance Alvein

To get us started, Brandon, do you want to give everyone a quick idea of what the cosmere is?

Brandon Sanderson

*laughs* Okay. So, here's what's going on: When I first was trying to break in—this was over ten years ago now, like fifteen—someone told me that your first five books were generally unpublishable. That was fairly good advice; I found that for most people it's really just your first novel; your second novel tends to get really good. For me, I did end up writing five experimental books that I never published; Elantris was my sixth book. Another piece of advice I got while I was working on it, however, was: you don't want to start with a big epic, the reason for that being is that you want to give a chance for readers to read something, you know, a single volume, or maybe one or two books before—so they can see, so they can trust you to finish a story before you jump into a big epic. It actually seemed like pretty good advice to me; it also works very well with publishing because approaching editors and things like that, you want to be able to send them a book, and if they reject it, but say, "Hey, I'd like to see something else by you; this wasn't the right project for me, but I like your writing." You can't really send them book two of that series, right? Because, you know, they want to see something new, and so I sat down to write a sequence of three or four standalone epic fantasy novels that potentially could have sequels maybe, but the idea was to make them standalone. But, kind of in my heart, I've always loved the big epic. You don't grow up reading Robert Jordan and Tad Williams and Melanie Rawn and people like this, without saying, "I want to do that." And so, what I started doing was actually building a hidden epic behind the scenes with all of these books, the idea being that there were characters who were crossing between the worlds that would have a story that someday I would tell that wouldn't be directly important to the book itself, but would lay the groundwork and give foreshadowing to something very large coming.

And so I designed this thing—you know, I'm a worldbuilder—I designed this thing with a sequence of planets and a story behind the story, and people crossing between them. And so, when I wrote Elantris, I embedded all of this in there, and then my next books were in that sequence jumping around—some were before, some were after—and things like this, so there are these continuing characters. Well, years and years later, I decided I would finally start writing something big and epic; I was tired of not getting published; I was tired of all the advice people were giving me; I had written a couple of books that were not very good based on the advice that people had given me. I said, "I just want to write my big epic," and that's when I started Way of Kings, and wrote that. And I'm like "I'll the launch into the big epic, some of these things are going to be more important to the series" It was kind of me honestly giving figuratively the bird to all of publishing, saying, you know, "You've told me that my books are too long, that two hundred thousand words is too long; I'm gonna write one that's four hundred thousand," so, you know: "I don't care; it's gonna be big and awesome and it's the book for me." I spent eighteen months working on this book, and right after I finished it, I sold Elantris. It sat on an editor's desk for a year and a half. He finally picked it up and read it, and tried to get a hold of me the next day wanting to buy it.

And so, suddenly I sell Elantris which I had written like five years before, which had all these things embedded in it, and I sent that editor The Way of Kings, because you know he wanted to buy two books from me. He's like, "Alright, the standalone is great; what else do you have?" so I sent him Way of Kings, and he panicked. *laughter* He was like, "Ahhhhh, this is huge, and what are all these illustrations that you're talking about, and I don't know if we can-- can we break this into like four books?" And I'm like, "No no, it's gotta be one book." And he's like, "Ahhh...." But fortunately for him, I didn't feel the book was ready at that point, otherwise I might have forced him to publish it. I felt my skill wasn't up to the task of doing that since I'd practiced only doing standalones up to that point, and so I said, "I want to do a trilogy so I can practice the series format; I've got a pitch on this book called Mistborn that I want to write for you." And Mistborn was the first book that I ever wrote knowing it would get published. So when I sat down to write Mistborn, I had already sold Elantris, and Elantris was coming out, and it all of this stuff embedded in it, and I'm like, "Do I keep going with that or not? Do I just go all in?" And so I decided to go ahead and do it, and so Mistborn has all of this behind-the-scenes sort of story things built into it, and there's a character from Elantris—it's the beggar that Sarene meets near the end—who is also in Mistborn, who is the beggar that Kelsier talks to, that they wanted-- pretending to be blind, that he gets information from, and then this character keeps appearing in all of the books as kind of a little Easter egg that was not so Easter-eggery because the fans found it right away. *laughter*

And so the cosmere is my name for this big universe, which is actually, you know, just a play on "cosmos"—it's not the most original word—but it's something I had actually come up with when I was a teenager, so, it's one of those relics that's in there that if I were to do it now, I might name it something a little less obvious. I don't know; it does work, and it is a fun name, so that's there. The character's name is Hoid, and there are other characters moving between the planets, and so there is a buried, deeper story to all of my big fantasies. The thing that I want to tell people, though, is that you don't need to read them in order because these are just Easter eggs; there's not a story there that you can really piece together yet. I don't want people to feel they have to read Elantris before Mistborn, or they can't, you know-- If you read them all, at some point you will have some little extra tidbits of information, but there's not something there that's going on that's chronological that you need to know about right now, but that's in a nutshell what's going on there; there is an underlying theory of magic for all of the epic fantasies that they all follow. I love the concept in science of the unifying law, right? If you guys have studied physics, there's this belief that somewhere out there there's a unifying theory that will unite all of physics, and because right now, you know, the things that happen on the macro scale don't really match what happen on the quantum scale, and you kind of have to have two sets of equations, and people believe that someday we'll find that link that'll put them all together, and that's fascinating to me, science is, and so I have a unifying theory of magic for all of my worlds that people in-world on various planets are figuring out with regards to theirs, but if they had all of the pieces they could kind of put it all together.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#89 Copy

Mondoodle

Do you have future intentions of grouping characters or descendants from across the Cosmere together against a common foe?

Brandon Sanderson

The future of the cosmere does involve much more crossover between the worlds, but don't think of it like the Avengers--the goal isn't to bring together a group of heroes, but to show the intersection of cultures and ideals, told through the eyes of those who live them.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#92 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I've watched this conversation with interest, and wasn't planning to step in, as it's exactly the sort of thread that's generally better without me. Author intervention can derail a good discussion.

But after considering, I decided I did want to talk about this topic a little. There are two things going on here. One is the mistake I made with Jasnah in Words, which I've mentioned before. One is a larger discussion, relevant to the cosmere.

Warning, WALL OF TEXT. This is me we're talking about.

You see, Jasnah wasn't originally meant to be a fake-out. Jasnah originally was going to go with Shallan to the Shattered Plains--but she was really messing up the outline, diverting attention from Shallan's character arc and pointing it toward Shallan/Jasnah conflicts instead.

My biggest breakthrough when outlining the book in detail was the realization that the book would work so much better if things I'd planned to do with Jasnah in it were diverted to later books. When that came together, WORDS really started working. Hence her jaunt into Shadesmar. I initially wrote the scenes with it being pretty clear to the reader that she was forced to escape--and it was super suspicious that there was no body.

In drafting, however, early readers didn't like how obvious it was that Jasnah would be coming back. I made a crucial mistake by over-reacting to early feedback. I thought, "Well, I can make that more dramatic!" I employed some tools I've learned quite well, and turned that into a scene where the emotion is higher and the death is more powerful.

HOWEVER, I did this without realizing how it mixed with other plotlines--specifically Szeth's resurrection.

We get into sticky RAFO areas here, but one of the biggest themes of the Cosmere is Rebirth. The very first book (Elantris) starts with a character coming back from the dead. (As I've mentioned before, a big part of the inspiration for Elantris was a zombie story, from the viewpoint of the zombie.) Mistborn begins with Kelsier's rebirth following the Pits, and Warbreaker is about people literally called the Returned. (People who die, then come back as gods.) The Stormlight Archive kicks off with Kaladin's rebirth above the Honor Chasm, and Warbreaker is meant as a little foreshadowing toward the greater arc of the cosmere--that of the Shards of Adonalsium, who are held by ordinary people.

Szeth's rebirth, with his soul incorrectly affixed to his body, is one of the things I've been very excited to explore in The Stormlight Archive--and the mistake with Jasnah was letting her return distract from that.

That said, you're not wrong for disliking this theme--there's no "wrong" when it comes to artistic tastes. And I certainly wish I'd looked at the larger context of what happened when I shifted Jasnah's plot in book two. (Doubling down on "Jasnah is dead" for short term gain was far worse than realizing I should have gone with "Jasnah was forced to jump into Shadesmar, leaving Shallan alone." I consider not seeing that to be the biggest mistake I've made in The Stormlight Archive so far.)

However, the story of the cosmere isn't really about who lives or dies. We established early on that there is an afterlife (or, at least, one of the most powerful beings in the cosmere believes there is--and he tends to be a trustworthy sort.) And multiple books are about people being resurrected. What I'm really interested in is what this does to people. Getting given a second try at life, being reborn as something new. (Or, in some cases, as something worse.) The story of the cosmere is about what you do with the time you have, and the implications of the power of deity being in the hands of ordinary people.

More importantly (at least to me) I've always felt character deaths are actually somewhat narratively limp in stories. Perhaps it's our conditioning from things like Gandalf, Obi-Wan, and even Sherlock Holmes. But readers are always going to keep asking, "are they really dead?" And even if they stay dead, I can always jump back and tell more stories about them. The long cycle of comic books over-using resurrection has, I think, also jaded some of us to the idea of character death--but even without things like that, the reader knows they can always re-read the book. And that fan-fiction of the character living will exist. And that the author could always bring them back at any time. A death should still be a good death, mind you--and an author really shouldn't jerk people around, like I feel I did with Jasnah.

But early on, I realized I'd either have to go one of two directions with the cosmere. Either I had to go with no resurrections ever, stay hard line, and build up death as something really, really important. Or I had to shift the conversation of the books to greater dangers, greater stakes, and (if possible) focus a little more on the journey, not the sudden stop at the end.

I went with the latter. This isn't going to work for everyone. I'm fully aware of, and prepared for, the fact that things like Szeth coming back will ruin the stories for some readers. And I do admit, I've screwed it up in places. Hopefully, that will teach me better so that I can handle the theme delicately, and with strong narrative purpose behind the choices I make. But do warn you, there WILL be other resurrections in my books. (Though there are none planned for the near future. I took some extra care with the next few books, after feeling that things happening in Words and the Mistborn series in the last few years have hit the theme too hard.) This is a thing that I do, and a thing that I will continue to do. I consider it integral to the story I'm telling. Hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to achieve these acts with the weight and narrative complexity they deserve.

If it helps, I have several built-in rules for this. The first is that actual cosmere resurrections (rather than just fake-outs, like I did with Jasnah) can happen only under certain circumstances, and have a pretty big cost to them. Both will become increasingly obvious through the course of the stories. The other rule is more meta. I generally tell myself that I only get one major fake-out, or one actual resurrection, per character. (And I obviously won't use either one for most characters.) This is more to keep myself from leaning on this narrative device too much, which I worry I'll naturally do, considering that I see this as a major theme of the books.

...

(Sharders, please don't start asking me at signings who has had their "one death" so far. This is me drawing the curtain back a little on the process, I really don't want it to become an official thing that people focus on. Do feel free to talk about the mechanics of resurrection though--it should be pretty obvious now with Elantris, Warbreaker, Szeth, and a certain someone from Mistborn to use as guides.)

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
#93 Copy

Questioner

Where in the publication sequence did you realize everything was going to be part of the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, when I wrote Elantris I’d already written a draft of White Sand, so I set them in the same universe. And then when I wrote Dragonsteel I told the pre--so these were all unpublished. So by the time I was publishing it was all very well set.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#95 Copy

Questioner

Do you have a plan for the entire concept of the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes I do.

Questioner

Do you have an Allomancy dude fighting a Surgebinding dude?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh yeah it's going to be cool. It's going to be super awesome. The Allomantic space battles are really great. It's going to be like 15 years, sorry. But they are really cool.

Firefight Miami signing ()
#96 Copy

Questioner

When is the official timeline gonna get released for the whole cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I only gave it to Peter, who is my continuity editor, like, in September. And that's the first time he'd seen it. I think it's gonna take a little while, he says he wants to go through in minutia and make it work. Plus there's major spoilers for things that Odium has done, and stuff like that.

Boskone 54 ()
#97 Copy

yulerule

In the annotations for Elantris, you were talking about the shardpool. I know that it was the earliest one of three, and the cosmere wasn’t fully developed.

Brandon Sanderson

I have expanded it since.

yulerule

So that annotation felt a little odd.

Brandon Sanderson

I’ll have to go back and look at it. I knew that they were going into the cognitive realm when I wrote it, but I had changed… Roshar for instance, did not have the spren when I wrote that. And Mistborn was only in the outline stages. No, when I wrote Elantris I hadn’t even written Mistborn. I also, you have to remember, early in my career I was being very vague about all of this. Because I was worried that people would get distracted by this and it would hurt my career. So you notice in the early appearances of Hoid, I used pseudonyms for him. Even in unpublished books where it’s obvious it’s him, he’s got a pseudonym and you never know. Because I didn’t want people to get this and be like, “He’s trying too much.” So I was really coy about a lot of things. But other things I didn’t figure out until later on, when I’m like “How exactly is this going to work?” It really helped once I had Peter to help me work out the physics of it and I could bounce ideas off of someone who knew enough about realmatic theory and stuff like that.