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Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#151 Copy

Questioner

Supposing that a skilled Hemalurgist got hold of some a Shardblade or some Shardplate, how would he best use it assuming that the best way isn't to put it on and kill people with it.

Brandon Sanderson

That's probably the best way, to put it on and kill people with it. I'm not sure why a Hemalurgist would want one more than anyone else would because the metal is already Invested which means its not useful to him.

Questioner

So there is no way that he could use a Hemalurgic spike to take some power from the Spren that's crafting it.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, that's what you're saying. You want to grab something off the Spren? That's gonna be way harder than grabbing one that's not already made into something. So I don't see why he would want the Blade, just go grab it from them. Even then its going to be worse then, probably in most cases, a person. Maybe its possible that spiking yourself with a Spren would be valid, but you don't want to take it out of the Shardblade. That's gonna be harder, but you would probably have to go to the Cognitive either way to make it work, so yeah.

Oathbringer Chicago signing ()
#152 Copy

Questioner

So, if you could take, whether capture or talk into a Radiant spren from Roshar that was no longer bonded to a Radiant, from Roshar to Nalthis, could you bond that spren to an awakened object? Could you take a spren from Roshar and either force it to or talk it into bonding an awakened object on Nalthis? 

Brandon Sanderson

Oh boy. That'd be really hard. 

General Reddit 2018 ()
#153 Copy

spookytus

I want to know if Shadesmar contains memespren or (since they're defined as idea viruses) memetic plague. If anyone can make literal meme magic, it'd be u/mistborn.

Brandon Sanderson

Ha. Yeah, that could probably become a thing in the cosmere, though I doubt I'd go there. (At least, if I did, it would have to be done very carefully.)

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#154 Copy

Questioner

So there's only one Honorspren that got power, and does that mean that no more can get out and are there only *inaudible* Cryptic?

Brandon Sanderson

Syl disobeyed what she was supposed to do. However, at the same time, she blazed a trail so there might be others. The Cryptics, on the other hand, they are totally fine with what's happening but Pattern was the one who was nominated, he lobbied for it, to go and be the guinea pig. So the Cryptics are totally all over doing this, they are eager for more. But a lot of them think it is a death sentence, but they're weird, they don't mind it that much.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#156 Copy

Questioner

I was wondering if there's any correlation between the spren in the Axies interlude in the Way of Kings with his faces, and what Shallan does in Oathbringer when she's going through the faces telling them it doesn't hurt? 'Cause it said the refugees saw her nature as a spren, and I made a connection there. Is it a coincidence?

Brandon Sanderson

I will call that mostly coincidence.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#157 Copy

Questioner

Could a higher spren manifest on a world other than Roshar in their spren form, not as a Blade?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, they would have to get off first.

Questioner

That doesn't answer my question!

Brandon Sanderson

A lot of these questions I have to be careful because they're presupposing things as foundational assumptions. A lot of time people-- The really sneaky ones will ask me these questions knowing if I answer the question, that there are three steps back assumptions that I am then canonizing, so I'm just going to RAFO that one, because I'm giving you the answer, "They would to have to get off first."

Words of Radiance Washington, DC signing ()
#161 Copy

Questioner

And I also have a question about the nature of spren being dead. Specifically about whether or not they can resurrected. Because ideas can never really die...

Brandon Sanderson

Ideas can never really die--

Questioner

... Cognitive creatures--

Brandon Sanderson

They are Cognitive creatures. This is theoretically possible but very difficult without the people who originally betrayed their oaths.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#164 Copy

Questioner

Do the spren that we know of as the Cryptics exist before Honor and Cultivation came to Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

Ah, good question! No. Cryptics would be one of the forms of spren that were a later creation. Creation is the wrong term, but yeah. 

Billy Todd, Moderator

Later development? Evolution?

Brandon Sanderson

All of the sapient spren are later developments. 

Billy Todd, Moderator

Are they evolved from the earlier spren?

Brandon

Evolution doesn't work the same way on the spren, right? The spren were created more than evolved, I would say.

Billy Todd, Moderator

Maybe cultivated?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, cultivated. *'aughter*

Skyward release party ()
#165 Copy

Questioner

If you write down a measurement of a firespren, it locks into that. If you write down a measurement that's not true, will that still work? Can you just write down the measurements of a firespren and quadruple its size?

Brandon Sanderson

Let me just say this. Human perception of spren has an intrinsic effect on how they act, react, and interface with the world.

Questioner

So if I were to take a picture of a firespren, increase the brightness on my phone by 5000, and then write down that recording, the firespren would multiply brightness by 5000?

Brandon Sanderson

I didn't say that. I said, "Human perception of spren influences their behavior and their form."

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#166 Copy

manugutito

Just remembered another physics-related question that has been in the back of my mind since forever! (And this one is no RAFO-candidate, in my mind at least)

The scene in question is that interlude on SA where two scholars measure the size of spren, and they find that the size oscillates until measured, and then it remains fixed at the measured value. This is totally equivalent to projective measurements in quantum physics, was that your inspiration on this one?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, quantum physics plays a role in the way the cosmere works, and this was partially intended to display that. However, we do take a different route, as thinking about something can directly influence it in the cosmere. So it's more a fantastical version of quantum physics.

General Twitter 2015 ()
#171 Copy

David J Foster

I name my computers and smartphones after spren. But I am out of names. Is there a name you wouldn't mind revealing?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, do you need good spren? Or is the occasional evil spren acceptable?

David J Foster

Your call! And evil spren would be fantastic for my new phone.

Brandon Sanderson

Ulim. (Also, the Unmade count as spren. You could look those up.)

johnny papshmere

I didn't think spren could be good or evil??

Brandon Sanderson

Most spren are neither. Sapient spren (capable of making choices) can be either one.

Writing for Charity Conference ()
#173 Copy

Zas678 (paraphrased)

A question related to that. There's an idea going around that all the spren that can Nahel Bond, all Knight Radiant spren are called honorspren, and then Nohadon talks specifically about honorspren. Is that the case? You know, is it just the Windrunner spren, or is it all the spren?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

I'm going to deal with this in the next book. So I'll just go ahead and let it be a literal RAFO. It is coming.

*interruption, leading Brandon to lose his train of though*

So what we are dealing with here is that all spren are indeed all pieces of the one who has gone, so those spren are all- except the Windrunner spren, the spren like Syl, have certain umm.

Zas678 (paraphrased)

Nohadon mentioned that "All the spren aren't as discerning as honorspren."

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

So there has been dissension among them about who gets to call themselves honorspren, if that makes sense, and there is some disagreement among scholars about which ones are really, you know "This is what defines an honorspren".

But the spren you are running into are all *inaudible* of either Honor or Cultivation, or some mixture between them. And you can usually tell the ones that are more Honor, and the ones that are more Cultivation. That should be able to be *inaudible*.

SF Book Review interview ()
#176 Copy

Ant

The use of spren are a brilliant idea, what was the inspiration for these creatures?

Brandon Sanderson

In part, they stem from the underlying cosmology and overarching rules, the dictates of the magic systems of my shared universe. I was looking for a manifestation of that in Roshar. I also was searching for something that would give Roshar a different feel from things that I'd done before. I wanted this book and this series – and everything about it – to feel different from fantasy worlds in the past. I wanted it to be fantastical, but I wanted it to be unique. I wanted something that could consistently remind the reader, "Oh, I'm in a different place. Wow. Their emotions manifest visibly when they feel them strongly. This place is bizarre." That was one of the main inspirations. Looking in our world, one inspiration is certainly the Eastern concept in Shinto mythology of everything having a soul, every rock and river and tree having something living inside of it that is a manifestation of it. Since I was working with the idea of Platonic realms and the like, I spun that off into the spren.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#178 Copy

Pagerunner

The cracked stone spren that we saw, we didn't get a name for them, are they the Stoneward spren?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes-- Oh wait, yes.

Pagerunner

Do they have a name you can canonize right now?

Brandon Sanderson

No, I don't.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#179 Copy

RobotAztec

can spren go thru walls like ghosts too?

Brandon Sanderson

Depends on the spren, and how strongly they've been pulled into the physical realm.

RobotAztec

so the ones that cant are the ones people can trap in gems for fabriels?

do they catch them with big butterfly nets and thrwo a gem into the netting? or is it like poekmon where they just throw gems and hope they hit??

Brandon Sanderson

Ha. No, neither one. This is a RAFO, I'm afraid.

Skyward release party ()
#180 Copy

JoyBlu

Both Tien and Kaladin are Radiant, you talked about how that wasn't hereditary, and how that was more because of where they were with association. Was it because they were associated with the same person, or the same place?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, Connection influences spren.

JoyBlu

Right, but was the Connection to a person that they were around?

Brandon Sanderson

Connection to people.

JoyBlue

So not necessarily the place where they were?

Brandon Sanderson

Right.

Joyblu

Because my way of thinking it might be with the people is because, like with the Purelake on the Cognitive Realm there would be more spren hanging out there because that was more land, right; so if you spent more time on that you would have more spren around you. So if you're closer to more water, you're closer to more spren.

Brandon Sanderson

That is not an irrelevant observation.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
#181 Copy

Avivsm

Can a Nahel Bond be stagnant because of a spren's inability to progress? If the spren has a character deficiency they cannot break through or something?

Brandon Sanderson

Can a spren cause the Nahel Bond to not progress? This is possible. Not very common but it is possible.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
#183 Copy

Questioner

What happens when a... spren picks up a Shard?

Brandon Sanderson

What do you mean picks up a Shard? Shardblade or Shard of Adonalsium?

Questioner

Picks up a Shard of Adonalsium.

Brandon Sanderson

A spren is a Shard of Adonalsium so it just--

Questioner

Picks up one of the big ones like could a spren do the same thing that Kelsier's spirit did after he--

Brandon Sanderson

*hesitantly* It's like you're asking if electricity can gain a charge of electricity and get electrified. Does that make sense? I mean-- It's a question that doesn't make a lot of sense.

If a Shard were to somehow-- They would just combine into a bigger Shard and get larger-- if that makes sense?

Questioner

The foundation of that question was I thought that maybe the Stormfather spren was basically doing what Kelsier's spirit did.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, um *sighs* Not really... It's really a not really There's some similarities but it's a not really. It's not quite a RAFO though. more of a--

Questioner

More of a "doesn't quite work that way".

Brandon Sanderson

--doesn't quite work that way but you're thinking along the right lines?

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#185 Copy

ceraius

Unless I have overlooked something, I have noticed that lifespren tend to show up only due to plant, or perhaps non-animal life. Is this a simple mislabeling by Roshar's inhabitants (vegetationspren?), or is there something significant to this discrepancy - and if so, is there any comment you can make on the subject?

Brandon Sanderson

Technically, you'd be right. Lifespren, as they are called, are more "things are growing here" spren. I mean, if you think about it, most emotion spren are "life spren" in that they're only around when sapient beings are drawing them.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#187 Copy

Argent

Spren grant control over surges because surges are perceived as fundamental powers on Roshar. Would other Cognitive beings grant different powers based on what they perceive to be fundamental? Such as electromagnetism is on Earth?

Brandon Sanderson

It is plausible, although this was set up in a specific way.

Argent

By Honor or Adonalsium?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO on that. Set up might be the wrong word. There were seeds that caused this to happen the way it did.

Argent

The Surgebinding thing?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, specifically... Those influenced what people perceived as fundamental forces.

General Reddit 2020 ()
#189 Copy

MoriWillow

So I was looking back through the scene where Shallan and gang is hunting the Midnight Essence and they come across that room covered in art, and I noticed something.

Shallan says there are murals that depict 10 kinds of spren and guesses they're for each Order. There's just one small issue. There's 12 Radiant spren. The Bondsmiths have 3 unique spren.

The passage in question with the relevant portion bolded.

Gorgeous, intricate pictures of the Heralds---made of thousands of tiles---adorned the ceiling, each in a circular panel.

The art on the walls was more enigmatic. A solitary figure hovering above the ground before a large blue disc, arms stretched to the side as if to embrace it. Depictions of the Almighty in his traditional form as a cloud bursting with energy and light. A woman in the shape of a tree, hands spreading toward the sky and becoming branches. Who would have thought to find pagan symbols in the home of the Knights Radiant?

Other murals depicted shapes that reminded her of Pattern, windspren...ten kinds of spren. One for each Order?

So what do y'all think? Is there a representation of just one of the Bondsmith spren? Is it an abstract representstion of the idea of a Bondsmith spren? Is this a writing error and there was supposed to be 9, with the glowing cloud, tree woman, and figure in front of a circle intended to be the Bondsmith spren? Perhaps the Bondsmiths were supposed to be unrepresented?

Brandon Sanderson

If you were to see this picture, the painting of the three spren to make Bondsmiths were made to make it visually clear they're the same kind of spren--and they KIND OF are.

The three you note above are not depicting the three spren of the Bondsmiths. One is depicting a perpendicularity, and the other two depicting Honor and Cultivation. These aren't the Bondsmith spren, but distinct and separate pieces of art.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
#190 Copy

Ben McSweeney

*in response to a discussion about RAFOs* There was the one about what painspren look like.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, what do painspren look like on the Cognitive Realm.

Ben McSweeney

That's a RAFO.

Brandon Sanderson

That's a RAFO because it is actually relevant to future stories.

Ben McSweeney

It'll be important.

Brandon Sanderson

Not that it's a big deal, but I got to hold some stuff back.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#191 Copy

Argent

Are mandras gravityspren?

Brandon Sanderson

*Very hesitantly* Nooooo? Kind of-- So the actual gravityspren, you're talking about the things Kaladin saw stuck to a wall? Those are not mandras.

Argent

Oh no, I was thinking about the ones that appear around dead chasmfiends.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, dead chasmfiends, yes. The arrowheads, yeah.

Argent

But you're saying those are not gravityspren? They're mandras?

Brandon Sanderson

So the things Kaladin saw stuck to the wall are not gravityspren, right. So I want to make sure.-- So arrowhead spren, that Shallan is philosophizing, theorizing about, are mandras.

Minicon 2015 ()
#192 Copy

Ruro272 (paraphrased)

Is there a separate "Shadesmar" for each planet or is it one big place that are all connected with different regions for each planet?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It's one big place with different sections.

Ruro272 (paraphrased)

So since its one big place, could spren travel to a different section that correlates with a different planet, such as the cognitive segment for Scadrial?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They could go there, but they wouldn't usually...

Ruro272 (paraphrased)

Is that because Honor's influence is only on Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

*Brandon gave sort of a noncommittal half nod, but looked doubtful himself. Maybe best to interpret this last answer as a RAFO rather than reading into it too much.*

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#196 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

When spren die, they kind of become part of everything, so why did, when the Knights broke their oaths, why did they stay as Shardblades?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They had been bound into that form by those oaths. The oaths are broken, but it's like they’re cracked. Does that make sense? Like, there's still something holding those spren and that's what made them *inaudible* It would have been better if they had actually died, does that make sense? But they couldn't-- they're bound in that form.

Questioner (paraphrased)

But their consciousness is still, like, gone?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They still have a consciousness, some of them. To an extent.

Questioner (paraphrased)

That's why the screaming happens.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes.

Footnote: The first part of this was transcribed from a separate recording, so it should be close to verbatim. However, the audio file has been taken down, so it cannot be verified exactly.
/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#197 Copy

Argent

On Roshar, certain people seem to be able to always see spren (Rock comes to mind). Are there people who can never see them? Similarly, can people from other worlds see them?

Brandon Sanderson

Those with Listener blood are more likely to be able to interact with spren who aren't currently trying to manifest.

If they appear on the physical realm, then they're visible to all who can see.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
#198 Copy

little wilson

Is the gender of a spren bonded to a surgebinder based on sexual preferences?

Brandon Sanderson

It-- A lot of people are curious about this one… Not strictly but there is an influence there. But it's not strict. In other words Renarin having a male spren does not necessarily mean--

zas678

What some think it means?

Brandon Sanderson

-what some thinks it means. How about this you are more likely to bond a spren of an opposite gender-- a spren who identifies as an opposite gender, because spren don't actually have gender. But you are also more likely, statistically, to like members of the opposite gender. Those things have a correlation. Whether they have a causation is not a thing I am canonizing.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#199 Copy

Questioner

Rosharans are good with math, because you did the whole... They're aware of the normal distribution and all that. So, do like, complex numbers, imaginary numbers, do they live in the Cognitive Realm? And would prime [numbers] be the brighteyes of the Cognitive Realm?

Brandon Sanderson

We will get into this. I would say--I've actually thought about this--that right now, there are spren that kind of represent abstract mathematics but not individual concepts within abstract mathematics. Like when you draw a spren that represents creativity, it's not necessarily divided into, "Painting," even though some of them may edge in that direction. So you could perhaps find a spren where you go, "Oh!"

Questioner

I just want to see pi and phi arguing.