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Idaho Falls signing ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The two woman loaded up their single pack animal. A short creature that looked kind of like a camel, but was more the size of a llama. It eyed me lazily, chewing quietly on its cud. After their packs and bed rolls were tied in place, Echo placed a curious item on top. A long tube, wrapped in cloth. It was almost five feet long. A map tube? If so, those maps would be the size of walls. Once that was done, the camp cleaned, Echo looked me over with a critical eye. I looked down at my ripped slacks. Though my flats were sensible business shoes, they weren't intended for extended hikes. She dug in her pack and came out with an extra pair of boots and a pair of trousers. "Uh," I said, taking the trousers and looking them over. Echo was lean and athletic, and I was... not. She noted my hesitance and said something that sounded like agreement, but I did try on the boots. It took several pair of socks to make them fit, but the end result was better than the flats. I didn't much look the part of a heroic Apocalypse Guard member - my jacket was too big, my business slacks ripped, and poorly matched by a pair of hiking boots. But it wasn't like I needed to appear in any company photos. "I'm good," I told them. "Let's go." Echo looked towards the last thing on the ground, near the center of camp. The shadow rig. Right. I considered putting it on, but was instantly reminded of that melting world where everything became paint. Let's pass on that for now, I thought, packing away the rig beside where Echo had put the trousers. After that, we started walking.

Emma's Instructions for hiking. One, wear comfortable shoes, so when your feet hurt anyway, you can at least feel like you tried. Two, remember tons of bug spray, so you smell like a vat of cleaning liquid. Bonus points if it makes the dirt stick to your skin while walking. If you can, wear a backpack filled with things that you won't end up using, but which will somehow always manage to arrange inside so they can poke you in the gizzard. Four, return to your sweet air conditioned, bug free, shower containing home, renewed and reminded how nice it is not to be a caveman.

People always assume that I'm inexperienced at outdoorsy stuff, just because I tend to throw things at them when they suggest camping. Truth is, I'm very experienced with camping. I spent countless nights with my family, huddled up in the cold by a barely working fire, listening to Father tell stories of when he was a kid in Iona. Shockingly, it had been even more rural back then! Nowadays, we have a stoplight. It's practically cosmopolitan! So yes, I've done lots of camping, and hiking, and canoeing, and backpacking, and skiing. I kind of like that one, but don't tell anyone. Truth is, there's not a lot to do in Iona that doesn't involve pretending to be a caveman. Back when I was little, and apparently brain dead, we kids would spend two entire weeks every summer up at Scoresby's Ranch without even running water, let alone wifi. In my later years, my family and I had even kind of come to a truce on the matter. I pretended to look forward to our yearly camping trip, and they pretended not to notice the phone I always brought along. Or the sets of instructions I may or may not have posted relating to the experience. None of this meant I was prepared for the extended hike through the wilderness with Echo and <Whisprien>, but at least I knew how unprepared I was. I could spot the warning signs of a blister forming, and do something about it. I knew how to pace myself, and how to let others know when I needed a break. These two were obviously experienced survivalists, so even <Whisprien>'s endurance put mine to shame. I tried not to focus on my embarrassment at that, instead studying the landscape. Strangely, it didn't look that much different from Idaho. Mostly filled with scrub grasses and weeds. More of those were brown then back home for some reason, but they seemed healthy anyway. It was a lot more humid than home was, and less dusty. There was real dirt here, not just powdery dried clay and Iona topsoil, also known as rocks. And then there was the sky. Any time I was feeling a sense of familiarity with the hike, I caught a shimmer on the ground, or a shadow passing overhead. Then I'd look up, and my brain would break anew. There was a freaking ocean in the sky. Despite the distance, I could see ripples and waves from passing wind. The things that moved within it were mostly just shadows, but I got a sense of darting schools - not just noble leviathans. Were there sharks? Sky-sharks? The idea made me smile. My adopted brother would have found that incredible; I'd have to tell him. If I survived. Don't be like that, I thought, you'll get out of this. Look, nobody has even tried to kill you all morning.

We stopped for lunch, and they gave me more guard rations while they ate something that looked like beef jerky. Nearby, a strange herd of animals passed through the brush. How to explain them? They were big, almost as tall as a person. And covered in armor that almost looked like a football helmet. Seriously, they had this ball of a body, and a little flat head stuck out the front, with a stumpy tail and flat beak. I'd have called them dinosaurs, except for the face. I was pretty sure they were mammals, like, prehistoric armadillo turtles. Echo didn't seem concerned about them, so I just perched nervously on top of my fallen log and watched them wander by, then felt stupid. I'd faced the <Hex>! I could face an armadillo or two, even if they did seem to be on the wrong side of a radioactive spill.

Echo was obviously a practical woman. She didn't smile often, but it wasn't that she was stern. Maybe just straightforward? Compass in hand, she calmly picked our heading after each break. She would occasionally try to draw her daughter into conversation. <Whisprien> resisted these. The thin girl trudged along in her rugged backpack, eyes down. I never heard her speak in anythingbut  a whisper, and her attitude seemed to be more then your average "sullen tween resents life" sort of thing. But who knows? Maybe she just really hated camping. 

Echo would periodically seek a tree or something to climb so she could check to make sure we weren't being followed. Her voice was always upbeat when she came down, and I could sense a lingering concern from her. She was very worried about those soldiers. One of them had a rig, I thought again. It didn't take a math degree to notice that a lot of things weren't adding up. Part of the secret perhaps lay stowed away in that camel-llama's pack. I walked up beside the animal, who walked placidly beside <Whisprien>, and placed my fingers on the partition that held the shadow rig. I had the distinct sensation of blending realities, of the grass around me melting into colors, like a wet watercolor painting left in the rain. I snatched my hand back. <Whisprien> looked away, and grumbled something, falling back in the line. A short time later, I caught her glaring at my back, eyes narrowed. 

When the sun finally settled beyond the envelope of water, I was exhausted. But it was more a wholesome exhaustion kind of exhaustion than I felt yesterday. It was the exhaustion of having been forced to weed an entire potato field. 

Echo chose a camp that looked like it had been used by other weary travelers. A forested nook beside a weathered section of rock. I heard water gurgling somewhere nearby, which seemed like a good sign that I might actually get to take a bath. Echo unpacked the camel-llama, then grabbed her large water jug and moved off towards the sound of the stream. When she returned with a filled jug, I held out my canteen eagerly, but she shook her head and gestured towards the fire pit. "You have to boil the water first?" I asked, "Probably a good idea."

Fortunately I'd been immunized from all the local viruses, both from here, and from a host of other planets that the Guard was working with. That was standard procedure. I wasn't certain how the Guard prevented themselves from carrying diseases to the worlds they worked on. I hoped I wasn't the latent carrier of, like, smallpox or something. Accidentally harboring the advent of an all-consuming pestilence would be super embarrassing.

<Whisprien> started working on the fire, and she gave me a glance that distinctly seemed to say "Isn't there anything useful you can do?" So I powered up my phone for today's ration of power and snapped a picture of her for my blog. I snuggled back against a comfortable looking log (it wasn't) and ate up a little of my batteries working on some instructions, hoping the whole time my distress beacon would bring a response from those looking for me. No such luck.

About halfway through my allotted half hour, I brought up the map and had Echo point out out current location. She noted a very small distance traveled. Crap on a stick. (I got that one from one of my Iona friends.) Was that really the only progress we'd made? How were we going to reach the Guard outpost in three days? It didn't seem possible. Particularly because we were going the wrong direction. "Echo, isn't that the wrong way?" I tapped the map, then tried to make myself understood by pointing. The outpost was north of where we started, but we'd been walking west. I suppose I could've told that from the sun, if I'd thought about it. Echo said something in her language, then pointed at something on my map. Not a town or an outpost, but a little spot of brown. It was hard to tell what it was on the two dimensional map, only barely touched on topographical features. "Okay...." I said, "I guess I'll trust you know what you're doing." She nodded and went back to working on the fire, which was crackling nicely and boiling our water. She could be leading me into a trap, of course. Perhaps she hadn't saved me out of goodwill, but to gain a potential hostage against the Guard. But it wasn't like I could do anything about that. I'd be laughably ineffective at trying to sneak off. Echo would track me down with little effort, assuming I wasn't immediately devoured by some prehistoric carnivorous elk or something.

I moved to sit on a rock that looked somewhat comfortable (it wasn't) and continued working on my blog, trying not to think too hard about how sore I was going to be from. A harsh whisper hissed from behind me. I jumped, and turned to see <Whisprien> standing behind my seat. She pointed at my screen and hissed something angry. I glanced at what I had been working on. The picture of <Whisprien> I had taken with some handy instructions about living in the wilderness. I switched off the phone, but <Whisprien> reached for it. I barely kept it out of her reach, worried she'd shatter the screen. "Okay, okay," I said, "Sorry, no pictures. I'll delete it, chill!" I tried to do so, but <Whisprien> kept hissing at me and reaching for the phone. The scuffle drew Echo, who barked a question. Finally <Whisprien> backed off, and I reluctantly showed her mother the screen. Echo just nodded. Again, it didn't seem like she was unfamiliar with technology. She didn't demand I delete the photo or anything, but she did pull her daughter over and have her help make what appeared to be an evening soup. Great job Emma, I thought, I apparently needed a set of instructions on not being a giant idiot.

"Hey," I said, walking over to Echo, "is it alright if I go take a bath?" I pantomimed swimming, and washing my hair, then pointed to the water. "Is it safe?" Echo said something, then dug from her pack an old-timey bar of soap and a hairbrush, which she handed to me. I nodded in thanks, then made my way over to the small river. It was more muddy then I'd hoped, but I supposed I couldn't expect something out in the middle of these plains to look like a Grand Teton Mountain spring. I made sure I had line of sight to the other two, just in case, then I stood there, holding the bar of soap, uncertain. Was this a good idea? Taking a bath in the middle of the wilderness on a foreign world, while potentially being chased by mercenaries? I was basically guaranteed to be attacked by, like, a dinosaur or something the moment I stripped down. But what was I gonna do? Go the entire way without ever washing off? I was still bloodied and smudged with ash from the explosion, not to mention caked with sweat. Perhaps taking a bath was tempting fate, but this way if a dinosaur did eat me, at least I'd taste like soap. Truth was, it actually felt empowering to take that bath, like this was my choice. Getting clean was something I wanted, and I wasn't going to let myself be too scared to accomplish it.

That said, I did still watch my surroundings with keen attention as I quickly bathed in the cold water. Unfortunately, once finished, I was left with the same dirty clothing I had taken off. Lance's jacket, my incredibly wrinkled blouse, and the torn slacks. Quite the inspiring uniform. Still, I felt a ton better as I put it all back on. Echo offered me some thread as I rejoined them, and I thankfully started working on sewing up the rips along my leg.

The stew was kinda good. And I turned in feeling kinda clean, kinda full, and kinda not in extreme danger. I woke up the following morning to shouting. Echo called me in her native tongue, and I shook awake, then scrambled to my feet. "What?" I said, "Dinosaurs? It's dinosaurs, isn't it?" I paused. "Do you have dinosaurs here?"

Echo gestured toward the sky. Morning at dawn, and through the branches above, I could see an enormous disturbance in the waters, like ripples of a dropped boulder, only moving inward in a ring. The center of that shrinking ring of waves looked like it was just above our position. Great. I had been starting to feel ignored.

Chapter 13

"The flood can't be happening already!" I shouted as I scrambled back into camp, "We're supposed to have weeks before the apocalypse!"

Echo shouted something back as she grabbed the llama-camel's harness and towed it after her through the trees. <Whisprien> had climbed on its back. "Wait," I called after them. I waved toward the bedrolls and boiling water, "Our stuff! What about..." I trailed off as <Whisprien> looked toward me from the camel's back. The girl's face was still blank of emotion, but her eyes were glowing. They had a ghostly cast to them, pupils melded into the white, shining forth like something bright was behind them. It reminded my of the floodlight eyes of the <Hex>. I stumbled to a stop, gaping, until Echo sent the animal and the girl on ahead, then looked back to me, waving urgently. Above, the sky darkened. The sun faded behind the ocean, as if growing suddenly distant, or as if the water were somehow growing deeper up there, thicker. Echo shouted something at me that sounded a little like "Run", so I ran. I grabbed the shadow rig from inside my bedroll, and left everything else, dashing after the two of them. Once I was past the tree, Echo fell into place beside me. The llama-camel ran on ahead with a loping gait. <Whisprien> clung to it's back.

I wasn't in nearly as good shape as Echo, nor was I, shockingly, a camel. But I made a pretty good showing for myself, and didn't lag behind too much. At least, not until I glanced over my shoulder. The sky rippled, and then broke. Water crashed downwards, the front edge fuzzing, like mist. The enormous column of water seemed to drop in slow motion because of the distance. It wasn't as nearby as I first assumed. Man, it was big. A ring of water the size of a small village just dumping billions of gallons of water down from the sky. I stopped in place, jaw dropping, staring until Echo grabbed my arm and towed me away. What good would it do to flee? We were three little specks before an ocean of destruction. We couldn't outrun the end of the world.

Still, Echo seemed determined. I started running again, but I was built to deliver coffee and the occasional sarcastic quip, not run across the freaking wilderness. Pain seared up my side. I slowed, gasping. A violent crash suddenly washed over us, an engulfing sound that made the very air vibrate. Holy heck. How much water had to fall before it hit the ground with the sound of a bomb going off. Echo looked back at the sound and hesitated in front of me, as if torn between protecting me and running after her daughter. She lingered, urging me on, and I did my best. "What," I said, panting for breath, "What's the use?" Sweat streamed down my face. Echo gestured in front of her, then made a raising motion with her hands. High ground, I thought, She's saying we need to get to high ground. And considering it, the direction we were running did seem to have a gentle slope to it. It wasn't like we were running for the mountains or anything, but maybe this would be enough? If this really is the end though, the high ground won't matter. Most of the planet will end up submerged.

Still, I broke into a weak jog. Ahead, I saw our goal: a rise in the grasslands, a kind of ridge, like a long low hill. <Whisprien> had stopped there with the camel-llama. A cracking sound behind along with the low roar of rushing water made me glance over my shoulder. Water flooded between the trees of our camp, first slow, then in a rush that ripped away branches. Another surge of muddy water engulfed the entire stand, shattering the trees.

I forced myself forward, practically crawling the rest of the way up the hilltop. Water flooded the plain we crossed. It looked deceptively lethargic, like seeping tar, until you focused on something like an individual sapling. On the smaller scale, your mind could comprehend that this was an enormous river, rushing with might and power, pushing debris before it.

I reached the top and collapsed beside <Whisprien>. The waters came, and I realized, I'd just let them swallow me, if it came to that. I couldn't move another step. Blessedly, the rise was high enough. The front of the wave turned aside and fled the other direction. In the distance, the spout of water from the heavens slowed to a mist, then to rain, and finally stopped altogether. This wasn't the end of the world, not yet. More like a warning shot. I lay on the rough grass, listening to the sound of the water growing below. I already felt sweaty and dirty again - so much for my bath. Of course, if I wanted another one, it didn't look like I'd lack for water.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#2 Copy


Where did the idea of spren come from?

Brandon Sanderson

Comes from two primary inspirations. One is my perhaps too-much fondness for things classical philosophy. Specifically some of the ideas that Plato talked about with certain Ideals, and the ideal picture of something, the theory of the Forms, and all this stuff. Mixed with the idea of, in the Eastern religions and mythology, you have the idea of the kami, or things like thsi, in which everything has a soul. A rock that you pass has a soul to it. And these two ideas kind of mashing together is where the spren were birthed out of.

I can also point a little bit at The Wheel of Time. One of the things I always liked about The Wheel of Time is, there's a character named Perrin who can smell people's emotions. And as a writer, when I was working on The Wheel of Time, I'm like, "This is so convenient!" Super convenient as a writer. Because it gets really cliched to use the same sort of phrases to indicate emotion. If you're always having somebody smirk as they talk, it starts to really stand out. But since, when I get to Perrin scenes, he can describe emotion in a completely different way, because he was using different senses, almost a synesthesia sort of thing where he would catch scents and know someone's emotion, it was a really cool writing tool. And I think the spren popped a little bit out of that, the ability to show emotion in a different way in my narrative, and that would change society in some (I thought) very interesting ways, made for a really interesting narrative tool for me as a writer.

Words of Radiance Los Angeles signing ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

<Eelyell> was awakened by the whispering of the dead child who followed him.

“Death and die. Death and die.” The girl’s words were often gibberish, though usually he could make out a few of them. Tonight, what she said felt eerie. It made the whispering in the darkness send a shiver up his spine.

<Eelyell> sat up in his cot, realizing that he had fallen asleep in his uniform again, and looked across the darkened room, seeking out the child. There, she hid in the shadows beside the wooden bin that held his canes. Small, maybe four years old, she had long straight blonde hair that hung down by her face, ears peeking out like rocks in the sand.

She met his eyes, “Death and die,” she whispered. It would be nice when that particular Echo passed.

<Eelyell> rose, tugging at his crumpled jacket, still enough of a soldier to feel ashamed at its state. His father would have had <Eelyell>’s head if he’d seen such a uniform. Climbing from bed <Eelyell> took the cane beside it for support, then walked out onto the balcony. He put his back to the dead child; she was a figment, an Echo, or a side-effect from an Incubation he’d done a few years back. It was so long ago that he was losing hope that the Echo would ever fade. He might be stuck with this hallucination, for good.

He stepped out onto the balcony, using the cane by habit though he was currently strong enough that he didn’t need it to walk. He was recovering from his Incubation two months back. The grind from that one had finally worn off. In fact he was probably too strong; he’d been getting too much sleep lately, he'd been eating too well. He needed to maintain a certain level of physical weakness so he could be open to Incubations, assuming he wanted to remain effective in his duties. And he did want to remain effective, for his own reasons, if not for the Corps themselves.

Outside on the balcony, the sky burned. It smoldered high above, deep red lines, the color of a serpent’s tongue, glowing like rips in the air. The magma cast a warm red light across the city of <Suigmaat>. As always the air smelled faintly of smoke, though he only noticed it when he was first stepping out of the building into the open air. He knew logically that the burning place he saw above was actually the ground. He knew <Suigmaat> flew in the air, a city reversed, one of the few bastions of life left in the burning land. <Eelyell> was the one who was upside-down, as were all of the city’s inhabitants. It didn’t feel that way to him; he’d lived here too long. Upward was towards the burning ground and the land, downward was toward the sky and the sun. Things he never saw except on the rare occasion when he was called upon to visit the farms and orchards on the city’s sunward side.

<Eelyell> stood for a time, holding to the cast-iron railing, staring up at swathes of burning ground high above. Molten rivers, a land destroyed. A warning flag, raised to them all. Omnipresent. Undeniable. The city itself slept beneath that scarlet glare, bathed in red. Sleeping.

“Death and die,” The girl whispered from behind. She’d crawled out onto the balcony and now crouched there, looking up at the air.

<Eelyell> glanced at her, “<Kareem’s> gaze, you’re a creepy one,” he whispered, “What must I do to be rid of you?”

“Death and die,” she whispered

He tapped his finger on the railing, then strode back into his quarters, splashed some water on his face, and checked the sword blade of his walking cane. Seconds later, he was out the door.

The offices of the Corps did not look as a police station should. A police station was supposed to be a box-like thing, stable and functional, designed to indicate to all who visited that this was not a place where nonsense was permitted. Those ornamented columns, etched with the silver serpents of <Mokdeelor>, those golden doors, those soldiers with ridiculous feathered helms. Those were not the symbols of efficient law-keeping. They were quite the opposite.

<Eelyell> walked up the steps and approached the guards, who were at least armed with functional halberds and two flintlock pistols at their belts. They saluted him by raising fists to their sides. As an Incubator, he outranked everyone in this building, except of course the ones who actually mattered. <Eelyell> felt a moment of lightheadedness at the top of the steps and was forced to stop, gripping the railing and leaning on his cane. So he wasn’t completely well. Good. Neither guard stepped to help him. Weakness was expected of Incubators, one of the marks of their station. And being near one of them at the wrong time could be dangerous. One need only look upward at the burning land to be reminded of how dangerous.

With his head cleared, he continued up the steps, cane clicking, and passed the men without returning their salute. He stopped just inside the building, however, coming alert. Motion. Lesser watchmen calling to one another in a large room, aides carrying stacks of paper. Reddened eyes and yawns accompanied both groups. Many of these people had been called up unexpectedly, despite the early hour.

“<Eelyell>?” A woman rushed up to him through the bustle. <Cual> wore the yellow and blue uniform of an Incubator, like his own but better fitting and far better kept. “You look like ash, man,” she said, “Are you still on a grind?”

<Eelyell> looked back at the hall, noticing the motion of the bodies. Nobody was going into the weapons locker, though riot gear had been set out at the side. Large metal shields and larg swords cordoned in rubber from trees on the sunward side. They were getting ready for something, but he didn’t know what yet. A prophecy, he guessed.

“I still can’t believe they called you up,” <Cual> said, “You deserve some relaxation after--”

“I will visit <Patseepa>,” <Eelyell> striding, striding through the room, leaving <Cual> behind. He tried not to let himself be carried away in the chaos. The event that he'd been waiting for would come eventually, but this might not be it. <Patseepa> made prophesies with some frequency; that was why the Corps maintained her, and why she carried her terrible burden.

It was difficult not to feel tense, however, in the room's frenzy. Nearby, a scribe turned and accidentally knocked over an hourglass, smashing it to the floor and spraying sand across it. He spared it a glance; sand always drew his attention. But he otherwise ignored it, focusing on a set of doors at the back of the room. This must have been an alarming prophecy indeed to cause such a fuss. The guards at these doors were even more flowery, with feathers on their shields after an old-fashioned style almost no one used any longer. The murals might depict men in simple wraps and women in nothing above the waist but necklaces. Those days had long ago passed, centuries before <Eelyell's> times. The <Moknee> people were as modern a one as he'd ever known. His own brownish-tan skin and dark hair blended in here well enough that he could have passed for <Moknee> himself, assuming he didn’t open his mouth. That was something he'd been better at when he'd been younger.

These guards let him pass too, and no scribes or watchmen beset the hallway beyond. Only Incubators were allowed in here. Unfortunately, while they presented a more solemn group, it was no less unruly in its own right. Some two dozen of them clumped together at the other end of the darkened hallway, like a clot of hair clogging a drain. <Eelyell> strode forward, passing doors on either side set with glass. The small, well-lit rooms showed in the glass that they weren’t exactly cells, just like their occupants weren’t exactly prisoners. They just couldn’t leave. With the hallway dark and the rooms lit, each window glowed, like they looked into other worlds. Other worlds inhabited by the sick.

It was hard to think of it that way anymore, after so long in this land. The people in those rooms weren't simply ill; they were Lay Incubators. Their job was to live in those little rooms, bearing their afflictions until they started to recover. Whereupon another individual could be brought in to catch their malady and take their place, ensuring the Incubation itself didn’t vanish. It was good money, assuming you didn’t mind the discomfort, which could range from the sniffles to deadly fevers, depending on the Incubation you agreed to receive. And of course there were... other benefits. In one room he passed, the occupant, a young man, hovered in the air reading a book; and in another, an elderly woman tapped on a cup, idly changing the color of its liquid inside with each tap. In <Suigmaat>, indeed upon on this entire land, every disease also granted a special capacity. That ability lasted as long as the ailment did. Many of these blessings were minor, while others were grand. Some few were very, very dangerous. And hence the existence of the Incubators themselves.

Firefight release party ()
#4 Copy


Where did you get the idea of gloryspren and fearspren showing up when people feel certain emotions?

Brandon Sanderson

So spren in The Way of Kings where did I come up with these ideas for things that physically manifest people's emotions. So I honestly think the earliest seed of this, years and years ago, was reading Perrin in The Wheel of Time where he can smell people's emotion and I thought that having an actual different sense to recognize emotion was so cool I think that is what planted the seed in the back of my brain. The other thing that that is mashing-up with though is kind of Shinto ideas, because I was relying a lot on some Eastern philosophy when I was building Roshar and The Way of Kings. And the Shinto believe that everything has a soul and a spirit, a kami as they call it, and things like this and wanting to expand that into not just the rock but your emotions have a soul and they manifest and things like that. And then I was working in the cosmere and all this stuff but in the end I think it is a mash-up of those two concepts. Wanting a cool way, a different way, a way that changes society that emotions play out mixed with this idea of the kami and the Shinto beliefs.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#5 Copy


Rock sounds Hawaiian.

Brandon Sanderson



Hawaiian royalty. Is that a pun on Dwayne ["the Rock"] Johnson?

Brandon Sanderson

*laughs* No it's not. 


So if you have a book on Rock, you can get him to--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, that's a coincidence. 


Dwayne Johnson is a prince, Hawaiian prince.

Brandon Sanderson

Is he? Really?


Yes, he is. He is from a royal family, a Hawaiian royal family

Brandon Sanderson

He's from a royal family? I didn't know that!


So, get him to pay for the movie. And star as Rock!

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


How would you pronounce Rock's full name?

Brandon Sanderson

I usually get this wrong. *apprehensively chants the name* I think, but there might be something in there. It actually means... in Horneater you don't have to use a pronoun at the beginning, which is one of the weird things, you usually start with a verb. It means something along the lines of "I saw a beautiful wet stone that no one is paying attention to, but it was really cool because of the water pattern on it." Right, like, that's what his name means, and it kinda just means "Hey, appreciate the beauty of nature." Its kind of a little Horneater, their version of the haiku. The meaning is "Nature is beautiful, don't walk past the beauty of nature and ignore it." But his name actually kinda means "lonely, or forgotten rock". But "I saw a beautiful rock washed by rainwater that everyone is ignoring." Anyway, it doesn't translate all that well, I'm using a bunch of weird Asian and Indo-European language structures for this so its not real easy to translate to English.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#8 Copy


Rock is taller than the other bridgemen. When he gets under the bridge, will that make it more difficult for him? Wouldn't he have more load on his shoulders than the guys next to him?

Brandon Sanderson

Um, yes, though you will notice that I equalized for height with the pads on the shoulders. And a bridge that will run-- yeah, they will use pads and things like this. And you can customize your bridge over time. The fact that most bridgemen die before that's necessary... um, yes. But it would mean he would end up having to stoop for part of it unless you wanted to carry a lot more of the weight. Being next to Rock would probably be a fun thing. But then there are the pads, and things like that, so. *brief pause* And once they really got it going, they could re-- they could really customize that bridge. Like, you know, take off pieces underneath and things like that so that it fit everyone really well. But in Sadeas's army you don't really get to that point.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#9 Copy

Deana Whitney

What would Rock's favorite vegetable be in a soup? Like the Earth equivalents?

Brandon Sanderson

Ooh! Well, see, Rock is gonna base it based on the soup, because he's a chef. But if it's his perfect favorite, he's gonna want something crunchy, so he's gonna want like—

Deana Whitney

Well, I know he'll want the, the essentially the equivalent of crawdads.

Aubree Pham

She's trying to write a cosmere food article...

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, yeah. But there are-- like, if you can get like a... radish, that's going to crunch, he's probably going to look for that in a soup, because that's going to be closer to what he likes. Something that's got some variance in the texture.

Oathbringer Portland signing ()
#11 Copy


In Herdazian, is there no personal pronoun, and that's why Lopen always refers to himself as "The Lopen"?

Brandon Sanderson

No, that is his personal thing. In Rock's language, most nouns are gendered, masculine, which is why you always see him flipping-- screwing that up. But Lopen, just his thing. Just his thing.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#12 Copy


How about the Iriali and Alethi mix we have going on with Adolin and Renarin? Where would this put them within the chibi figures? I have always had a hard time trying to figure out how they would look like due to their mix ethnicity. I have ideas... of course, but I'd be great to have confirmation.

Brandon Sanderson

They're gong to have lighter skin, but skin tone isn't something Alethi pay much attention to. Hair and eye color is what draws their attention. Dalinar and Kaladin will be darker than Adolin and Renarin, though none of them would look Caucasian to us. Of course, Caucasians have varied skin tone as well, so it's hard to say specifically what they'd look like. (As a note, Renarin/Adolin are a Riran/Alethi mix--not exactly Iriali/Alethi, as there's some slightly different genetics going on there.)


Oh I thought Riran and Iriali were the same... Where did I go wrong?

Brandon Sanderson

I can't say much without giving spoilers, but there are small differences.


Would be cool if you ever got the chance to sit down with a sketch artist to put out images of your visualization of how some of these characters look.

Brandon Sanderson

It would be fun, though I've done this (in a small way) with Ben McSweeny, who does a lot of art for my books. I have semi-official character sketches I use for my own descriptive purposes, but I don't consider them close enough in some ways to be canon, so we don't release them or put them in the books. That said, some of them might be floating around on the internet--I'm not sure.

One thing I wish I'd done was nudge Michael Whalen to push his Kaladin on the cover of Words of Radiance a little further to be a little more ethnically Alethi--as I think it would help people's visualizations of him. But the one we ended up with is already the third version of Kaladin he did for that painting, and each one was increasingly better--I felt bad pushing him further.

As a side note, I've always loved this fanart for Rock. I don't know if there's a more on-target picture of one of my characters out there:

Skyward release party ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

So I have never read this to anyone before. In fact no one has seen it in ten years. It is not canon, but it is where Taln as a character started. If you're not familiar, Taln is the crazy guy that shows up at the end of Way of Kings. And here is how his first scene went in the original Way of Kings.


Taln awoke from a dream of agony and screams. Two things occurred to him immediately. First, as a Herald, he should not need to sleep. Second, as a Herald, he definitely shouldn't dream.

He frowned, sitting up. The last few days were a blur in his mind. He had come to the city, and he remembered his arrival and his bursting in on some sort of feast or party. Beyond that, the Sign hadn't worked.

Taln hissed in surprise, thrusting forward his hand, trying to manifest the Nahel bond within him. Nothing happened. What of his other powers?

He analyzed his surroundings with a quick glance. He was in a long rectangular chamber set with beds along both walls. The room was set with stone pillars and the windows were shaped with triangular peaks. In fact, the architecture had a great number of angles and lines. He was probably in the Alethi section of the city.

Many of the beds were occupied with the lame and the sick. And the men tending them wore undyed tan robes, some with the glyph Ele, the mark of the priesthood. There were two long doors leading out of the room and the windows provided an alternative exit. They looked wide enough to be broken with relative ease. A table would probably do it.

There was a small chair beside his bed, and a chest with amber knobs. He reached out, blessing his fortune. He had the sourcestone of Stonewarding. He touched the amber, seeking to draw upon its power, and again, nothing happened. Taln withdrew his fingers, frowning. Something was very, very wrong.

Why won't my Stonewarding work, he thought with frustration. And the Sign. I need information.

He scanned the room again. His mind was far less fuzzy than it had been. Images, places, and thoughts were all becoming more clear. There were only two monasteries in this section of the city, unless new ones had been constructed. Lighthome and Mercyhome, of which Lighthome was a female monastery.

One of the attendants noticed Taln was awake, and the man waved over an older monk. The elderly man regarded Taln with a displeased expression, whispering to his companion in a voice most men probably wouldn't have been able to overhear. But Taln was not most men.

"Where's Brother Lhan?" the elder monk hissed. "He should be here!"

"I'll fetch him," the other monk promised, bowing his head in deference, then rushing off.

The older man cleared his face of displeasure, smiling reassuringly toward Taln. He had a large nose and grizzled features and his hands were callused.

"I see you finally awoke from your slumber, traveler."

"Yes, holy one," Taln replied, still bothered by the fact that he had fallen asleep in the first place. "Thank you for caring for me." He flexed his arm, testing his muscles against their extended immobility. "It seems I've been out of sorts these last few days. How long was I asleep?"

"Four days, off and on," the senior monk explained. "You were awake for much of the time, but you seemed unable to focus."

Four days. Taln shook his head. Yet he could feel the weakness in his mind, the whispers at the edges of his sanity. It was getting worse each return. Perhaps that was the reason for his apparent slumber.

"I must say, traveler, you seem far more lucid than you were when we first brought you."

"I feel far more lucid, holy one," Taln said with a smile. He raised his sheet, noticing he was still naked. Hopefully the monks would loan him some clothing, though he doubted anyone was going to give him a weapon any time soon.

"Tell me, traveler, what do you remember of yourself?"

Taln raised an eyebrow. "Are you asking if I still think that I am a Herald?"

"In not so many words."

"My problems of the last few days were not related to my identity, holy one," Taln said. "I am a Herald. I will not lie to you. That would do us both a disservice."

"I see," the monk said, his disappointment apparent.

"However," Taln continued, "I don't expect you to believe me. The Sign did, after all, fail. I'll have to solve that problem before I can move on to other items. For now, let's suffice to say that I was a traveler in need of your assistance and you provided it. The Almighty bless you for that."

The monk smiled, glancing to the side as another brown robed form, looking a little disheveled, entered from the north hallway. "You're welcome to stay with us as long as you need, friend," the elderly monk said, gesturing toward the newcomer. "Brother Lhan has been assigned to care for you. He will travel with you and make certain you are acquainted with the city."

In other words, he'll make certain I don't get in trouble, Taln thought, smiling and nodding his head as the elder monk backed away to care for other patients. Taln was pleased to note that this Brother Lhan was carrying a folded pile of clothing for him. Lhan was a younger man, probably in his early twenties. A bit on the pudgy side, with an unconcerned oval of a face.

Lhan blinked tiredly as he approached, and his left cheek was still imprinted with the lines of whatever he had been lying on before they woke him. Lhan yawned as he pulled a stool up beside Taln's bed, resting the clothing on the floor in front of him.

"Greetings traveler. Welcome to the glorious Mercyhome monastery."

"Thank you," Taln said, reaching immediately for the clothing. "I assume these are for me?"

Lhan nodded, yawning again.

"I'm sorry they woke you," Taln said, picking through the clothing.

Lhan shrugged. "It's my own fault, I really should get a better place to hide."

Taln raised an eyebrow at the comment as he examined the clothing. The cut was unfamiliar to him, though fashion changes between returns were normal. The trousers were loose through the legs and ended in wide triangular cuffs halfway down the calf. The shirt was equally loose, probably intended to be worn tucked into the pants and tied with a sash. There were undergarments as well.

The most important article, however, was the thick brown cloak. A piece of Rosharan fashion that would never change. Cloaks were necessary even in the summer to ward off highstorm rains. All the clothing had been crafted from <shanaw>, a plant whose bark was stringy and fluffy enough to be spun. It made for rough fabric. Fortunately all of the cloak had been treated in such a way to make it soft to the touch. Taln nodded in satisfaction.

"Brother Lhan," Taln said, "Please run and fetch me some thread and a needle."

"Excuse me?" the monk asked.

"You and I are in a forced relationship,"Taln said. "Your superiors obviously expect you to keep me from causing serious trouble. If you want my cooperation in this, you'll want to make yourself useful."

Lhan raised an eyebrow. "How very economical of you."

Taln sighed, regarding the man. "I'm not trying to be difficult, Lhan, I'm just trying to save the world. A needle and some thread would be very helpful."

Lhan rolled his eyes, rising from his stool. "All right."

"Oh and bring me some rocks," Taln added. "Small ones, maybe half the size of your fist."

"Rocks?" Lhan asked.

"Yes, rocks. This is Roshar. Last time I checked, which admittedly was several centuries ago, they were fairly prevalent here."

"Rocks," Lhan mumbled again as he walked off.

Taln was dressed by the time Lhan returned. He accepted the thread, needle and rocks from the monk, and began sowing the flap of the hem of his cloak.

The monk sat down, regarding Taln with curiosity.

"The second thing I'll need from you, Brother Lhan, is information," Taln said, pulling the thread tight.

"Ask away."

"What year is it?"

"Tenth Epoch, 980," Lhan replied.

Taln paused, needle halfway through his stitch. "980?"

"Yeah," the monk said. "Not that I've seen the daylight for the last ten years or so, but at least that's what they tell me what year it is."

980. Nearly a thousand years since the last return. That's a long time. Something must have happened to the <cofen> That was the old name for the voidbringers]. They had never waited that long between returns before. "What happened to the epoch kingdoms?" Taln asked

Lhan didn't respond immediately. "You're kidding, right?"

"Pretend I'm not."

"They fell, right after the beginning of the tenth epoch."

Taln closed his eyes, sighing to himself. He hoped it wasn't true but.. "What about Alethkar," he said. "It obviously still exists."

"Well a lot of the kingdom is just a name," Lhan explained. "It's always a good idea to use one of the old names when you found a kingdom. Makes you seem more legitimate."

"Which ones still stand then, even if only in name?"

"Alethkar, of course." the monk said, "And as the king told you, we've expanded a bit over the last few years. Thaylenah still stands, by itself on that island over there. So its borders stay pretty stable. Vedenar is now called Jah Keved, though it's ruled by three Veden houses with a figurehead as its leader."

"That's it?"

"Well Shinovar is still there. But no one really pays much attention to them. The rest is gone. Kingdoms sometimes try to claim their names, but mostly they're uninhabited. Especially <Rianat>. There's enough bandits over there to form their own kingdom."

Taln nodded. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but... "Vorinism is still strong, I assume?" Taln noted, reaching for the rocks that Lhan had brought him.

"Always will be, Almighty willing," Lhan said in a beautiful monotone, his piousness weakened slightly by the extended yawn he made in the middle of the sentence.

"If the Vorin religion is still in power, " Taln said, "How is it that no one takes my claim to be a Herald seriously? Have you forgotten about the cycle of returns, the coming of the cofen? The religion was founded to prepare for such things."

"Well, we've kind of had to change our focus during the last epoch. You did, after all, promise that you weren't coming back any more."

"What?!" Taln froze, glancing up.

"At the end of the last return," Lhan explained. "The Heralds disappeared and said they weren't coming back. That the cycle of returns was through and the cofen had been defeated."

"That's not possible."

Lhan raised an eyebrow.

"I wouldn't be here if the cycle of returns were over." Taln explained. "Trust me. Which of the Heralds proclaimed this?"

"Well I'm not sure. It didn't become the official doctrine until about the fifth century, I think."

"Why so long?"

"You're kind of asking the wrong monk, actually. Actually, the wrong monastery. The order of Ishar contains all the history experts. This all happened a thousand years ago."

"But it's your theological heritage!" Taln said.

"So the senior monks are fond of telling me."

Taln stood, putting on the cloak.

"You sewed rocks into your hem. How very odd of you."

Taln spun, turning a few times to judge the motion of the cloak. Then he turned to the side in a quick motion, pulling the garment off with a smooth gesture. He nodded to himself, putting it back on. "For weight." Taln explained "A weighted cloak is more easy to position in battle and more easy to remove quickly." You could also use it as a surprise weapon, though he didn't offer that bit of explanation.

"Oh," Lhan said.

"What did you think I was doing?" Taln asked with amusement, sitting down on the bed without removing the cloak.

"I wasn't sure," Lhan replied. "I figured you were confused. You are, after all, crazy."

"You're not a very subtle one, are you, Brother Lhan?"

"I make up for it in sheer laziness," Lhan replied. "What are you doing now?"

"Pockets," Taln said, getting out of the cloak again. "Do you mind if I cut up this blanket?"

Lhan shrugged. "It's the kind of thing they expect crazy people to do, so I guess it's okay. But you'll have to tear it. I'm certainly not giving you a knife."

Taln frowned but did as requested. "You seem surprisingly flippant with regard to my supposed lunacy. Aren't you afraid I'll become violent?"

"You're not the violent type. I've seen your type come through the monastery a lot. I also know you can't be talked out of who you think you are. My job is simply to make certain you don't accidentally hurt yourself or anyone else, especially not me."

"You have experience with my type, then?" Taln asked.

"I tend to get the more undesirable assignments"

"I wonder why." He fell silent as he worked, turning his thoughts to a topic he'd been avoiding. What was he going to do? Normally he had the other Heralds to decide the plan. But he appeared to be the only one who'd reached the city. He needed to find the others and that required one thing. His sword. It had been taken from him. He remembered that night of the feast only vaguely.

"My sword..." he said.

"That was confiscated," Lhand said. "You didn't exactly make a good impression on the king. Enduring perhaps, but definitely not good."

"There was a woman," Taln said. "She saved my life."

"Lady Jasnah" Lhan agreed. "The king's sister. Don't assume she protected you out of fondness. Lady Jasnah is about as compassionate as a sleeping chull. Even her breathing is politically motivated. No one's certain why she pled for you, but most think it was some kind of stunt."

"Either way, I owe her my life," Taln said. The loss of his weapon was troubling. With it, he could sense the location of the other Heralds. It would be the easiest and fastest way to find them. Assuming, of course, he thought, that the Blade's power still worked.

Taln paused. A feeling of dread struck him. Stonewarding didn't work, and he couldn't manifest the bond. If he'd lost the sword as well...

The window light turned red. Taln gasped, feeling dizzy. An expression of concern actually crossed the monk's face.

"Are you all right?" Lhan asked.

The monk burst into flames. The windows melted. Bloodred fire ripped up the sides of the building, pooling at the top and bearing down on Taln with its heat. Smoke rose from the suddenly ignited beds, curling ominously, bringing with it screams, sudden, formless screams, that came from the far edge of the room.

Taln looked up. Fire roared and something moved within it, something dark. The screams mounted, pulsing in his ears, searing him, flaying him.

"What's wrong?" Lhan asked, still in flames, his flesh melting from his face.

Taln closed his eyes, grabbing the sides of his bed, pushing the screams away. He shivered, exhaling a long, demanding sigh. When he opened his eyes, the room had returned to normal. He sat for a few minutes, breathing deeply.

"I'm fine," Taln finally said, forcing himself to stand up and look at his new cloak. It had one large pocket and two smaller ones, and a small ribbon at the back to hold a hidden dagger, if he ever managed to get his hands on one.

"I assume I'm allowed to leave the monastery?"

"So long as you take me with you," Lhan said, "but.."

Taln raised an eyebrow.

"You're kind of expected to go work in the royal mines, "Lhan explained. "To help pay for your keep."

"No one is going to force me?" Taln clarified.

"Well, no."

"Good," Taln said. "We're leaving."

"Umm...Where are we going?"

"To get some information."

"Oh, you mean my wealth of accumulated wisdom isn't good enough for you?"

Taln turned, eyeing the monk with a suffering eye, then waved for him to follow.

MisCon 2018 ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I sought refuge in the silent caverns. I didn’t dare go back to my mother and grandmother. My mother would undoubtedly be happy. She’d lost a husband to the Krell, and dreaded seeing me suffer the same fate. Gran Gran, she would tell me to fight. But fight what? The military itself didn’t want me. I felt like a fool. All this time, telling myself I’d become a pilot, and in truth I’d never had a chance. My teachers must have spent these years laughing at me behind their hands. I walked through an unfamiliar cavern on the outer edge of what I’d explored, hours away from Igneous. And still the feelings of embarrassment and anger shadowed me. What an idiot I had been.

I reached the edge of the subterranean cliff and knelt, activating my father’s light-line by tapping two fingers against my palm. The bracelet glowed more brightly. Gran Gran said we’d brought these with us to Detritus, that they were pieces of equipment used by the explorers and warriors of the old human space fleet. I wasn’t supposed to have one of course, but everyone thought that it had been destroyed when my father crashed. I placed my wrist against the stone of the cliff, and again tapped my fingers against my palm, an action the bracelet could sense. This command made an energy line stick to the rock, connecting my bracelet to the stone.

A three-finger tap let out more slack. Using that I could climb over the ledge, rope in hand, and lower myself to the bottom. Once down, another tap made the rope let go of the rock above then snap back into the bracelet housing. I didn’t know how it worked, only that it needed to recharge it every month or two, something I did in secret by plugging it into the power lines outside the caverns.

I crept into a cavern filled with kurdi mushrooms. They tasted foul but were edible and rats loved them. This would be prime hunting ground. So I turned off my light and settled down to wait, listening intently. I had never feared the darkness. It reminded me of the exercise Gran Gran taught, where I floated up toward the singing stars. You couldn’t fear the dark when you were a fighter. And I was a fighter.

I was, I was going, I was going to be a pilot...

I looked upward, trying to push away those feelings of loss. Instead, I was soaring. Toward the stars. And again I thought I could hear something calling to me, a sound like a distant flute. A nearby scraping pulled me back. Rat nails on stone. I raised my speargun, familiar motions guiding me, and engaging a smidgen of light from my light-line.

The rat turned in a panic toward me. My finger trembled on the trigger but I didn’t fire as it scrambled away. Why did it matter? Was I really just going to go on with my life like nothing had happened? Usually exploring kept my mind off my problems. Today they kept intruding like a rock in my shoe. Remember? Remember that your dreams have just been stolen?

I felt like I had those first days following my father’s death. When every moment, every object, every word reminded me of him and of the sudden hole inside me. I sighed, then attached one end of my light-line to my spear and commanded it to stick to the next thing it touched. I took aim at the top of another cliff and fired, sticking the weightless glowing rope in place. I climbed up, my speargun rattling in its straps on my back.

As a child I’d imagined that my father had survived his crash, that he was being held captive in these endless uncharted tunnels. I imagined saving him, like a figure from Gran Gran’s stories. Gilgamesh, or Joan of Arc, or Tarzan of Greystoke, a hero. The cavern trembled as if in outrage, and dust fell from the ceiling. An impact up on the surface. That was close, I thought. Had I climbed so far? I took out my book of hand-drawn maps. I’d been out here quite a while by now; hours at least. I had taken a nap a few caverns back.

I checked the clock on my light-line. It had passed to the next day, the day of the test, which would happen in the evening. I probably should have headed back. Mom and Gran Gran would worry if I didn’t show up for the test. To hell with the test, I thought, imagining the indignation I’d feel at being turned away at the door. Instead I climbed up through a tight squeeze into another tunnel. Out here my size was, for once, an advantage.

Another impact rocked the caverns. With this much debris falling, climbing to the surface was definitely stupid. I didn’t care. I felt reckless. I felt, almost heard, something driving me forward. I kept climbing until I finally reached a crack in the ceiling. Light shone through it, of an even, sterile type; too white, not orange enough. Cool, dry air blew in also, which was a good sign. I pushed my pack ahead of me, then squirmed through the crack and out into the light.

The surface. I looked up and saw the sky again. It never failed to take my breath away. A distant skylight shone down on a section of the land, but I was mostly in shadow. Just overhead, the sky sparkled with a shower of falling debris. Radiant lines like slashes. A formation of three scout-class starfighters flew through it, watching. Falling debris was often broken pieces of ships or other space junk, and salvage from it could be valuable. It played havoc with our sensors though, and could mask a Krell incursion.

I stood in the grey-blue dust and let the awe of the sky wash over me, feeling a particular sensation of wind against my cheeks. I’d come up close to Alta Base, which I could see in the distance, maybe only a thirty-five minute walk or so away. Now that the Krell knew where we were, there was no reason to hide the base, so it had expanded from a hidden bunker to several large buildings and a walled perimeter, antiaircraft guns, and an invisible shield to protect it from debris.

Outside that wall, groups of people worked a small strip of something I always found strange: trees and fields. What were they even doing over there? Trying to grow food in this dusty ground? I didn’t dare get close. The guards would take me for a scavenger from the distant caverns. Still, there was something dramatic about that stark green of those fields and the stubborn walls of the base. Alta was a monument to our determination. For three generations, humankind had lived like rats and nomads on this planet, but we would hide no longer.

The flight of starships streaked toward Alta, and I took a step toward them. Set your sights on something higher, my father had said. Something more grand. And where had that gotten me?

I shouldered my pack and my speargun, then hiked the other direction. I had been to a nearby passage before, and I figured with more exploring, I could connect some of my maps. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I found the passage’s mouth had collapsed completely.

I saw some debris hit the surface in the near distance, tossing up a spray of dust. I looked up and found a few smaller chunks streaking down overhead, fiery burning chunks of metal. Heading right toward me. Scud! I dashed back the way I had come. No! No! No! No! No! The air rumbled, and I could feel the heat of the approaching debris. There!

I spotted a small cavern opening in the surface, part crack, part cave mouth. I threw myself toward it, skidding and sliding inside. An enormous crash sounded behind me, and it seemed to shake the entire planet. Frantic, I engaged my light-line and slapped my hand against the stone as I fell into the churning chaos. I jerked up short, connected by the light-line to the wall, as rock chips and pebbles flew across me. The cavern trembled, then all grew still. I blinked dust from my eyes and found myself dangling by my light-line in the center of a small cavern, maybe thirty or forty feet high. I’d lost my pack somewhere, and I’d scraped up my arm pretty good.

Great, just great, Spensa. This is what throwing tantrums gets you. I groaned, my head throbbing, then tapped my fingers against my palm to let the light-line out, lowering myself to the floor. I flopped down, catching my breath. Other impacts sounded in the distance, but they dwindled. Finally, I wobbled to my feet and dusted myself off. I managed to locate the strap of my bag sticking out from some rubble nearby. I yanked it out, then checked the canteen and maps inside. They seemed okay.

My speargun was another matter. I found the handle but there was no sign of the rest. It was probably buried in that mound of rubble. I slumped down against the stone. I knew I shouldn’t go up to the surface during a debris fall. I had practically begged for this. A scrabbling sound came from nearby. A rat? I raised the handle of my gun immediately, and then felt doubly stupid. Still I forced myself to my feet, slung my pack over my shoulder, and increased the light of my bracelet. A shadow ducked away, and I followed, limping only a little. Maybe I could find another way out of here.

I raised my bracelet high, illuminating the small cavern, which had a high ceiling. My light reflected off something ahead of me. Metal? Maybe one of the water pipes? I walked toward it, and my brain took a moment to realize what I was seeing. There, nestled into the corner of the cavern, surrounded by rubble, was a starship.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

It's not every day you get you get to help save the world. Around here, it only happens about every six months.

I stood in the Apocalypse Guard command center. The screens displayed Erodan, a planet threatened with destruction by a passing asteroid. Today, the Guard would save that planet, and I got to be part of it.

"Emma," Commander Visco said, waving her cup toward me. "This coffee cup won't refill itself."

A very small part.

I seized the Commander's cup and hurried to the small kitchen beside the command station. As painful as it was to miss anything, particularly now that the asteroid was getting close to Erodan, I had a job to do. Commander Visco couldn't spare the time to fill her own cup. That's why you had interns like me.

A pot was brewing on the counter inside the small kitchen. But just in case, I got a second one going in the other machine. Truth be told, I was a coffee-making genius. Everybody said so, and I took their word on it, because... seriously, why would you bother lying to the coffee girl? Granted, I had to take their word for it, as I didn't drink coffee. My skill was due to my secret weapon: I knew how to follow instructions. I flipped through pictures on my phone, finding the instructions. The other interns said they'd been making coffee for years and didn't need instructions... but they then seemed shocked when they tasted how great my brews were. Odd how it was, when you measured exactly and read by the manual, how things turned out better than when you did by instinct.

New batch brewing, I filled the commander's cup, then took the rest of the pot with me as I rushed back into the main room of the command center, which was occupied by some forty people. We weren't actually on Erodan, the endangered planet; our command center was on the space station Charleston, which was in orbit around Terra, my home planet. We used specialized technology to look through at Erodan and manage the operation there.

When most people think of the Apocalypse Guard, they imagine the Riggers and their fantastical powers. Most people forget that the Guard also includes hundreds of scientists, engineers, explorers... and office interns. A magnificent force united by a single goal: save planets from destruction.

I delivered the Commander's cup, glancing at the command center's large main screen, which had shifted to a view of the asteroid. One of the technicians had nicknamed it "Droppy." The people on Erodan called it "Calamity." That was a bad name by our metrics for various reasons. Droppy didn't look that dangerous to me; more majestic. A grand oblong chunk of space rock tumbling quietly in the void, trailing a brilliant line of debris. The Apocalypse Guard had been working to stop it for two years now, ever since first discovering Erodan and making contact. That had been long before I had joined them, but I had read all of the mission briefs. Well, the ones that interns had clearance for, anyway.

Commander Visco barked an order, checking on the Sapphire Riggers who were watching along the Erodan's eastern sea. Because of the Guard's actions, Droppy should miss the planet. But after that, the planet would pass through the debris of the asteroid's tail, and that would cause meteor showers, and some larger chunks of rock might prove dagneorus. The Sapphire Riggers would use their powers to stop any tsunamis.

As the screen switched, I jumped, remembering where I was. Step one of not getting fired, Emma. Do your freaking job. Coffee pot in hand, I turned toward the rows of people seated in cubbies beneath the main screen. These scientists and operators supported the Riggers, who were our field agents. Filling empty cups wasn't glorious work, but it was my work, and dang it, I was gonna do it well. If Erodan fell, it wouldn't be because our command team lacked proper caffeination.

The screen switched to another image of Droppy. From what I'd read, saving planets from asteroids was standard work for the Guard. They'd done it some six times now. I would have expected them to use nukes, or more dramatically, the Steel Riggers, who could shoot bolts of energy from their hands. Instead, the Guard had painted the asteroid bright white. That meant more sunlight bounced off Droppy, which, remarkably, had nudged it off its course. Two years later, it was barely going to miss Erodan.

My pot ran dry, so I went to fetch a new one. On my way back to the kitchen, I hesitantly stopped the room's Firelight Rigger, who sat in a command chair off by himself. The man wore a bright red headpiece, kind of like a futuristic crown, and a similar chestpiece under his loose jacket. I wiggled the coffee pot, but he just stared forward, fingers laced with the index fingers tapping. The air seemed to warm around him. Looking in other dimensions, I thought, shivering. Technically, Erodan wasn't simply another planet; it was an alternate dimension version of Terra. There were technically infinite dimensions, but most weren't stable. They were wild half-realities, full of oddities and bizarre visions. Erodan, however, was what we call a Stable Node, like Terra. Or Earth, the Hidden Node. Erodan was a real world, full of living people, civilizations, and cultures.

"Looking good," Commander Visco said as reports flashed on the main screen. She had a voice that tasted like fudge brownies. Oh, right, I kind of taste sounds sometimes, particularly peoples' voices. It's called synesthesia, and it's a totally cool thing that scientists find super interesting and not weird at all. I don't mention it to people very often. "Emerald Riggers," Commander Visco said, "Report."

I trotted away from the Firelight Rigger (who was, admittedly, very creepy) and started scanning for other people who needed coffee refills. The main screen turned to a shot of a line of Emerald Riggers floating up above Erodan's atmosphere, each surrounded by a protective green forcefield. They were spaced out, watching the asteroid from a safe distance, a line of sentinels between it and the planet. "Asteroid pass is looking clean, Commander," said Captain Choy, an Asian man. His face, shaded green from his forcefield, appeared in the corner of the main screen. His voice tasted like brown beef with onions. "How are the tides?"

"Sapphire Riggers report they are manageable," a scientist replied. "Everything is as projected."

"Doesn't even look like there's much debris in the tail," Choy said. "Emerald Riggers standing by."

I filled a few more cups, moving down a row of operators wearing headsets. Each of these would be in contact with a specific Rigger. I didn't know most of them, though Billy, who was the last in the row, gave me a grin and held up his cup. "Thanks, Emma," he said, pulling off his headset. His voice tasted of mint asparagus. Yes, I know. Billy took a sip of coffee, and then handed me the headset. "Hold this."

"Um... sure."

Billy slipped off his chair. "I'll be back in a sec. Have to hit the restroom. Cover for me."

"Co- co- cover for you?" I just about dropped my coffee pot. "Billy, I'm not trained for this! Billy!"

"It's fine," he said.

"Where are the instructions?" Billy just left me there. He wasn't the only one getting up. Others would occasionally run to the restroom or something. A mission like this could take hours. But none of the others left an intern holding their headset!

I looked around in panic. An Indian man two seats over glanced at me, then shook his head, as if in disapproval. Right, right, cover for Billy. Step one, put on the headset. Step two... look like you know what you're doing? "Hello," I said into the device?"

"Hello, beautiful," a familiar voice said. "Glad Billy finally got your attention. Hovering up here is getting boring."

Lance. Emerald Rigger, and the reason I had gotten this internship in the first place. My boyfriend, a man I could have freaking strangled right then.


Lance's voice tasted like my favorite peanut cluster candy bar from home. A familiar, comfortable taste, sweet and salty at the same time. "Lance," I hissed, sitting down. "You're not supposed to be Billy's Rigger!"

"Billy and I got it swapped," Lance said. "If I'm going to spend hours flying up here in a bubble, I can at least have someone fun to talk to."

"You're doing important work," I said, hunkering down. What if the Commander noticed that I was shirking coffee duty to talk to my boyfriend? "Super heroic stuff."

"Boring," Lance said, then yawned audibly into the microphone. At twenty years old, Lance Stoddard was two years my senior, which had caused some consternation on the parts of our parents when we were in high school. He was the Apocalypse Guard's star rookie, having mastered the Emerald Rig after just one year of practice. He'd been on active duty every since, saving planets. That wasn't enough, of course, for Lance Freaking Stoddard. "They refused to put me on the dangerous missions," he said. "I had a chance to be on help of Zima five months ago, but they-" Do I have to listen to his again? "They pulled me for no reason! Now here I am, staring at a rock! Important work. The Hex were on Zima, Emma."

I shivered. The Hex. I wasn't allowed to read about our intervention on Zima. The reports were classified. But I did know we'd failed. The Hex had destroyed the planet. That made four planets so far they'd claimed in the eight years since they'd been discovered. People called them the most dangerous threat to the Knowns we'd ever encountered, a fact that I knew intimately well.

Lance sighed again, loudly. "You're so aggravating," I said, fishing in my pocket.

"You're getting out your phone, aren't you?"

"No I'm not," I said, getting out my phone.

"You're looking for that picture of me. The one you wrote instructions on."

"Don't be silly," I said, pulling up that exact picture."

"Well, if I'm supposed to be offended, I'm not. I think it's very cute, the way you talk. Very Idaho."

"I work for the Guard, now. I've become very cosmopolitan." I lowered my voice, thickening my real accent. "So stop teasin' me, Lance Stardard, you flipping idiot."

"I love the way that sounds! So pastoral!"

"Hush," I said. "You're from Idaho, too."

"I lived there for three years." Lance was originally from New York. He implied to others that he'd grown up in the important part, but I knew he'd lived in a town just as rural as Iona, Idaho. "I'm telling you", he said over the line, "I'm capable of more of this. The Pangaea mission will be even more boring. A flood? Scientists can solve that."

"I'm sure everyone we save on Pangaea will be comforted to know they were almost killed by a boring apocalyse."

On the screen Droppy drew closer and closer to Erodan. Sometimes, it was hard to remember that the screen was looking between dimensions, at another version of our world. Our history deviated from Erodan's some two thousand years ago, so they didn't seem very similar. Erodan's technology was stuck somewhere around the 1980s, and all the nations had different names from ours. They'd never heard of people like George Washington or Joan of Arc. Those people simply hadn't been born on Erodan. That was different from Earth, though, the Hidden Node. Apparently, that planet was so similar to Terra that there were alternate versions of most people living on it. Crazy. Fortunately, nobody could get to Earth these days, so it didn't really matter.

"You're supposed to be keeping me company."

"You're supposed to be staying focused. How long is Billy going to be gone, anyway?"

"Someway, when your internship is done, you'll be my operator. Then we can work as a team! Think of it. Me, risking my life on daring adventures. You, admiring how well I do it."

"You, tripping over your enthusiasm," I said. "Me, saving your heinie at the last minute, like in physics class, and in chemistry class, and in calculus class." I smiled. I did like Lance. He was like a big, barking Labrador. A little loud, maybe a little full of himself, but sweet at the same time.

"Admit it," he said, "You're glad I suggested that you apply."

"Suggested? You practically forced me into it."

"All I did was give you a list of instructions for submitting an application!" His candy-bar voice sounded intentionally innocent.

I sighed. It wasn't that I had minded getting out of Iona. But, well... Riggers gave me the shivers. It's just hard to explain. Our lives had seemed planned out, simply. But then Lance, instead of taking the football scholarship, had applied for the Guard. And he'd gotten in! And then when I graduated two years later, he nagged me until I applied. He pulled some strings, and I was really good at following instructions. So three months later, here I was, serving coffee to the Apocalypse Guard itself. Eh... when Lance let me do my job.

"Do you ever wonder," I said over the line, "why we have to do this in the first place?"

"Talk?" Lance said.

"No, save planets."

"You'd rather just let 'em be destroyed?"

"No," I said, "not that. I mean, have you wondered why? We found like, what, forty different stable nodes?"

"Yeah, something like that."

"And Erodan will be our twentieth intervention," I said. "So, like, half of all the planets we discover need to be saved from some imminent catastrophe. None have their own Apocalypse Guard or their own Riggers."

"Eh, some people from other planets do have weird powers. Jank is from Triveria; he can make things dry by touching them. He doesn't need a rig or anything."

"That's beside the point. Why, Lance? Why are so many planets facing life-ending threats?"

The Guard had a great track record. Of its twenty interventions so far, only six had failed. Four of those to the Hex, but that was still six entire planets we'd lost. with, in most cases, only a small percentage of people escaping to other dimensions.

"Best not to think about stuff like that, Emma," Lance said.

"I wish we had more answers," I said. "It..." I trailed off. A number on my monitor was flashing. The monitor had all kinds of readouts and things I didn't understand, since this wasn't my freaking job.

"Just a sec," Lance said. "Something's happening." That number on my screen, I thought. It's Lance's heartbeat. It skyrocketed. Feeling a growing panic, I looked up to the large main screen, which showed Droppy in all its glory. It seemed to be wobbling in a different way than before. Though the control center, scientists and operators hushed. Commander Visco looked up from her tablet at the back of the room, lowering her coffee mug from her lips. The asteroid wobbled once more, then started breaking into smaller chunks.

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
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Is there anything more significant to Tien's obsession with rocks? Or is that just an example of him being a unique kid?

Brandon Sanderson

There is a little bit to the way he's seeing color in mundane things. It's less the rock, and more the things about the world he finds interesting. So I'm going to say it's the second. It's an aspect of who he is; the rock itself is not the important thing.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Are most kandra comfortable in any body configuration, or is MeLaan being comfortable in any gendered body an outlier? (i.e. do female kandra usually prefer female bodies, etc). And if this is common among kandra, is it because their long lives lead to introspection and self-examination, or is it just part of the species psychology?

Also, it's mentioned that kandra can "smell" whether another kandra is male or female, biologically. Does a transgender kandra have a different "scent?" What about nonbinary? And if they don't smell different, can they change what they "smell" like? (without using any magic beyond their shapeshifting)

Brandon Sanderson

You find a lot more kandra like MeLaan in the later generations. Generations who were allowed to develop a stronger, independent kandra culture separate from always being integrated with human culture. However, I'd say that almost every kandra, by nature of their physiology, spends a good time exploring both genders. I wouldn't call MeLaan an outlier.

Kandra learn very extreme control over their bodies, and can choose which scent to express and which gender (even to other kandra) to present. This includes a neutral scent, or some mix or something new, if they so decide. Remember that a kandra who wants to hide who they are, even from other kandra, is fully capable of doing so. Under current in-world technology, even blood tests would not be able to distinguish a kandra from the form they have decided to take.

General Reddit 2015 ()
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I was just listening to Darn Carlin's Hardcore History podcast and Dan Carlin was talking about Genghis Khan's habit of seeing the potential in anyone, even an enemy. He was specifically going over the story of Jebe, a soldier who shot Genghis Khan in the neck and was recruited by the Khan because of his skill. This, at least to me, bears a striking resemblance to the final scene in the first flashback of [Oathbringer]. [Brandon] can you confirm or deny my suspicions that this scene was directly inspired by the real life event?

Brandon Sanderson

Yup, that's where it came from! I read a history of Genghis a number of years back, and loved this story, which was included there (though said to be just a legend.) Since I based old-school Dalinar on Subutai, a Mongolian general, I thought that this would be a perfect inclusion.

The origins of the Mongolian-Dalinar link, by the way, can be traced back to a friend of mine, Bat-ultzi, a Mongolian who went about always claiming to be "The Great descendant of the Great Genghis Khan." He'd throw his shoes at people if they offended him. He was such a character that I got very interested in Mongolian practices and history.

More tidbits. Rock and his culture started Mongolian long, long ago. (98-99 era, when I first wrote him.) As Roshar in general (and the Alethi in specific) became more Asian in look and less Semitic (though they are still a mash-up) I decided to push Rock's people in the direction of a human/parsh hybrid strain. This also was part of moving Rock himself from Yolen to Roshar, following after Dalinar and some other characters, who came earlier during the original Dragonsteel / Stormlight split in the early 2000s.

These changes drove the Horneaters away from Mongolian influences, though I can't say specifically where the Polynesian/Russian mashup came from. I liked how it read, and felt the linguistics supported the accent. These changes, of course, had a domino effect that resulted in the Veden people gaining their occasional red hair and fair skin from Horneater relation, which means Shallan is part parshman--though the relation is distant at this point.

Chris King interview ()
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Chris King

Why can Rock see Syl?

Brandon Sanderson

Ooh, good question, why do you think Rock can see Syl?

Chris King

My personal theory here is because his people have such a strong belief and reverence in them it allows him to see them for that reason because his strong belief creates some sort of cognitive or spiritual pressure which allows them...

Brandon Sanderson

He would agree with that philosophy. I would say, usually when something like that happens there is also something physiological going on.

Legion Release Party ()
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What can you tell us about food in Arelon? Is there a specific Earth culture that it resembles? Because in Elantris, we only really see cooking an eating when it's Kiin's cooking. And he kind of has a mishmash.

Brandon Sanderson

I was looking at Renaissance Europe, maybe Spanish...with the coastline...Let's go with Spanish-esque. So some olives, something close to a paella. I would imagine it being somewhere along those likes, probably. The problem is I don't really know what they ate in Renaissance Spain. I only know what they eat in Spain right now. But I was looking at it like a Renaissance Mediterranean for Arelon when I was building it.

SpoCon 2013 ()
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Shardlet (paraphrased)

You said previously that a slider's bubble is anchored to its position on Scadrial rather than on the slider's position or on the train (if the burner was on a train). If the slider was on a rock in space, would the bubble be anchored to a position relative to Scadrial, the rock or something else?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)


17th Shard Interview ()
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17th Shard

You've told us that you took the idea of the Shattered Plains from Dragonsteel into Way of Kings and reading Way of Kings it's hard to imagine the book without them. What did Roshar look like without them? Can you walk us through the process of moving that concept from that series to this one?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it looked pretty much like it looks in the books, but Way of Kings Prime takes place mostly in Kholinar and in a location that has not yet been talked about in the books.

Ah…it took place in another location, how about that?

One of the big things with this book is, as I was saying, that I think I started [Way of Kings Prime] in the wrong place. I moved some things back in time and some things forward in time. For instance, if you ever read Way of Kings Prime, the prologue to Way of Kings Prime is now the epilogue to The Ways of Kings. You know, the thing that happens in the epilogue with the thumping on the door and the arrival of a certain individual? That scene is now from Wit's viewpoint which it wasn't before. Pull Wit out of that scene and you'll get almost exactly [what happened] in the [original] prologue. So, the timing has been changed around a lot.

As I was playing with this book I found that, like I said, one of the big things I had a problem with was that I felt that Kaladin had taken the easy route when he needed to take the hard route. I was really looking for a good plot cycle. I needed something to pull this book together. I had characters but I didn't have a plot and I've mentioned before that sometimes things come [to me] in different orders. In this book world and character came to me, in fact character came to me first, world came second and then I was building the plot around it. I knew the plot of the entire epic and the entire series but I needed a much stronger plot for book one. Because of the various things that are happening I wanted to deal with a war.

So I was planning a war away from Alethkar, and I'm trying to decide what I'm going to do with this war. Meanwhile I have Inkthinker, Ben McSweeney, doing concept art for me to use in my pitch to Tom Doherty at Tor and he says, "Hey, I just drew up this sketch of some creature that lives at the bottom of a chasm, what do you think?" And he showed me this.

I told him that we were looking for kind of above water coral reef formations, and he sends me this brain coral, which is essentially the Shattered Plains with a big monster living at the bottom and I'm like, "Wow!" I actually did a book where this was essentially the setting. I looked at that, and that's actually what made me say, "Wait a minute, could I transpose this and would the Shattered Plains actually make more sense on Roshar than they ever did on Yolen?" I started playing with that concept and I absolutely fell in love with the idea. Unfortunately for Dragonsteel, that was the only really good plot cycle from that book.

So, I ripped it out of that book and I put it here, and that means it brought with it a few side characters who no longer live on Yolen because they now live on Roshar. Rock is one of them, though he's been changed. When he came along the Horneaters were born; they had not been in the books before. For those who have read Dragonsteel, he was Ke'Chan in that book. I couldn't bring that culture because that culture is extremely vital to [Dragonsteel]. I can bring a plot cycle or a little region, and there's certain things you can pull out of a book without ruining the soul of what the book is. I couldn't take the Ke'Chan out of Dragonsteel; they're just part of what that book is and so Rock had to change nationalities. I had to build him his own nationality, a new culture essentially just for him. And yeah, it worked wonderfully.

Someday I'll let you have that art, and if you remind me to ask Peter you can probably post it with the interview. As you can just see it's not the way that it ended up being because it looks different from how the Shattered Plains turned out, but it was the spark that made me say, "Let's move this over."

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
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Noah Hill

Is there any chance we will have a deeper backstory for Bridge 4 members? Maybe an anthology or something with short stories that detail backstory for Rock, Lopen, etc? That would be amazing!

Brandon Sanderson

I do intend to dig into some of them a little. (Rock, for example, is currently plotted to have a viewpoint sequence in a later book.)

Supanova 2017 - Sydney ()
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Darkness (paraphrased)

Further on in that… do different gemstones hold a different flavor, or different "frequency" of Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Umm…. Nnnnnnnnooooooo… But kind of? Here's the thing: So with the gemstones on Roshar… scientifically some of these gemstones are just really close to one another. Like chemical formula and whatever. But, their cognitive selves and their spiritual selves are gonna be very different because of human perception, right? (sure) And so, the answer is both a no and a yes because of that. So people's perception has sort of changed how the magic works, to an extent… but it's the same amount of investiture, just with slightly different flavorings.

Darkness (paraphrased)

Right, so… is it easier for a Soulcaster to turn rock into smoke with a smokestone as opposed to a ruby?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

So… Soulcasting… is gonna really depend on whether you're using a soulcaster.

Darkness (paraphrased)

First is for a Soulcaster, second is for a Surgebinder.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

A Surgebinder is far less constrained than someone using a device accessing surges, right? A Knight Radiant is far less constrained than somebody using a mechanical means of accessing magic, and I would include Honorblades as a mechanical means of accessing a surge.

Darkness (paraphrased)

Cool! So with the whole Jasnah scene, she inhales Stormlight, for using Soulcasting. So how is it the Soulcaster appears to glow more fiercely instead of growing dimmer in that scene?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Um… heh heh heh… So… this is perception on Shallan's part, watching and kind of resonating with the Soulcasting, and some weird things are happening that she sees, and not necessarily anyone else is seeing.

Darkness (paraphrased)

I love that! Alright… Also, did Taravangian recognize that Jasnah was not Soulcasting traditionally? Like was it the hand sinking into the rock that gave it away?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Taravangian knew and already suspected.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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In chapter 37 [of Oathbringer], as Rock is looking for his family after the Voidbringer attack, he notes an arrow fletched with goose feathers.

Was this intentional? Should it be chicken?

Peter Ahlstrom

Horneater language has a word for goose, and they have them in the Peaks. I'm pretty sure geese used to be mentioned another time by Rock in an earlier draft, but that might have been cut.

Idaho Falls signing ()
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Something I've noticed, 'cause I've been watching your videos, which I'm super grateful for. What I was wondering is, something I've noticed is that you're very good at asking the right questions. Like, when you're teaching your class, then you ask questions that garner great ideas. So, this is probably a really hard question, but how do you get your questions?

Brandon Sanderson

Instinct, I think. Looking for the questions that are not yes-or-no questions, that's certainly part of it. Practicing deconstructing stories, so that you start to learn, like the whole chef versus cook thing. It's very cook question to say "Why does this tastes good?" It's a chef question to ask "What does putting this spice in do."


Like, "Why does this work?"

Brandon Sanderson

"Why does this work?" I think that really leads you on the route to the right questions. A lot of instinct, a lot of practice. Practice makes instincts. The hardest thing about teaching my class is acknowledging that a lot of what I do, I do by instinct, and breaking it down may not be that helpful, even though it sounds really smart, if that makes sense?


And something that you said is that a lot of it is just sinking into your unconscious, because you do it so many times?

Brandon Sanderson

Putting things into your unconscious so that you can consciously think about new things until you're familiar enough with those that they sink into your unconscious, and you can focus on something else.

Orem signing ()
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How does an object in the Cognitive Realm view itself if there are competing viewpoints of it? Like if two kids view a toy as their toy, how does the toy view itself?

Brandon Sanderson

There is going to be often, things are going to be in a position of change. And usually it will have one thing. You will say, "What am I?" "I'm Brandon's toy." Then a little later it might be you say "What are you?" "Well, I'm Brandon and Joel's toy." And then at some point it might just become "Joel's toy." There's-- It's kind of the "When does a pile become a heap?" and that sort of philosophical question. At what point do you transition between one and the other? It happens, but it's fuzzy and it's vague. And it also influences what you can do to it and how to change it and things like that. Like a rock viewing itself as a rock changing into sand, there's some fluidity there.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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So basically a Thunderclast is a rock giant. I thought it was a rock monster. Same difference I guess?


I got the sense in the prologue of Way of Kings that the dead Thunderclast there was quadrupedal. So maybe it's more the class of monster, with different shapes?

Peter Ahlstrom


Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#35 Copy


So we know some people can survive going through perpendicularities.

Brandon Sanderson



But we also know, like, when Rock talked about the lake that people swam in, that Hoid came out of, he said that some people who swam in it died. So, who can and can't survive a perpendicularity?

Brandon Sanderson

So, you should not take much of what Rock says. When he says they swim in it and they die, they have gone through the perpendicularity. They just don't come back. What would you think if someone swims and doesn't come back? They have drowned. Right?


So pretty much anyone can?

Brandon Sanderson

It is not traumatic to go through most perpendicularities.


So it depends on where, who and when?

Brandon Sanderson

Uh huh.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
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So my friend wanted me to ask, after we both read Firefight, is there anything you can tell us about Instabam?

Brandon Sanderson

Instabam, oh. What do you want to know about Instabam?


Powers or anything.

Brandon Sanderson

See facetiously in my head I had Instabam have power over instant potatoes, but I'm probably not going to do that. But that is what I had in my head when I wrote that name. Yeah, instant potatoes, "Poom". Can cook food at the snap of fingers. I don't know what their powers are. I didn't work that out.



Brandon Sanderson

You can say instant potatoes if you want.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
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In Words of Radiance and The Way of Kings, was there something important about the stone and the herald <in> the *inaudible* <scene> that has to do kind of with the stone, and maybe Tien giving him rocks?  Am I reading too much into that?  

Brandon Sanderson

Some of that is reading too much into it and some of it is real. I'm not going to tell you what is what. But the st-. . . there is definitely something about that.  

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#39 Copy


Why do female*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

Well, there are several answers to this. The Alethi would say it is because it is the only way to be modest. But that's not the real answer. The writerly answer, which is also not the real answer, is that I grew fascinated by interesting social taboos by traveling to other countries where, for instance in many countries showing the bottom of your feet to people is insulting, and stuff like that. But the actual answer is that, you saw the events after the Recreance when the Knights Radiant abandoned their shards and, at that point, some people in power realized that if they could eliminate women from picking up the shards then it was twice as likely that they would get one. And so they started popularizing a work, an essay by a woman who had talked about feminine arts were one-handed, painting and things like this, and masculine arts were two-handed, breaking rocks and fighting and stuff like this, and they popularized that and some of the women who were involved in this seized writing, in this division, as a feminine thing. So there were both men and women involved in this sort of split that was kind of a conscious attempt to struggle power, or struggle the power in different ways, and that became not just a thing that people talked about, but an actual feature in the society moving forward.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
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In Stormlight, with Kaladin and his brother Tien, is there a connection or a reason why, whenever his brother finds a rock, that keeps coming up several times?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. So, there's a couple themes going on here. One is just the subtle theme that Tien tends to find beauty in things that Kaladin finds dull. That's, of course, kind of the metaphor. But Tien also was a budding Lightweaver, and he saw color and light a little bit differently than other people did. And he has the same general effect that you'll see Shallan having on people, which is how the Lightweaver views you influences a little bit more how your mood is, and things like that... And there is a magical element to that, as well. There's both a metaphoric reason and an in-world reason.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
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Cheese Ninja

Do you ever plan to continue "I Hate Dragons"? I have a theory that Skip does not have a separate knack to make him smell delicious to dragons, but rather that he is high in levels of human magical potential, which the dragons need in their diet.

Brandon Sanderson

Perhaps. I've got a few more chapters than I've posted. Including some viewpoints from the most powerful magical sword ever created. Most that he has the most powers. Thousands of them. All useless.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
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Szeth-son-son-Vallano is one of my favorite characters and I was wondering how-- He's so complex, right, which is why I love him. What was your inspiration for him, and how did you get all those amazing layers of--

Brandon Sanderson

What was my inspiration for Szeth? Boy. Talking about my inspiration for characters is one of the hardest things that I do because, while I plan my settings a lot and I plan my outlines a lot, I do not plan my characters in the same way. I actually discovery-write my characters and this is something I do very intentionally because I feel like if I plan the character too much, I plan the life out of them basically. So when I have a plot I basically cast a bunch of people in it. I'll write a chapter with someone in it and I'll throw it away, and I'll a chapter with a different personality, and I'll do that until somebody clicks with that plot. Once I know who they are I'll usually rebuild the outline to fit them, kind of the character has veto power over the plot that I've designed for them. But I just keep casting people in the roles, and with Szeth I think it was the whole idea of when I was building Roshar and I'm like, alright, I know there's going to be a place where there aren't any rocks, the rest of the world is all about this kind of stone sensibility to it so what if it's reversed, what if these people worship stone. What if stone were holy. And so I kind of built out of that, it was his religious ideals that came first. 

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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If you were going to make Horneater stew here on Earth, how would you go about it?

Brandon Sanderson

If I were going to make Horneater stew, on Earth, how would I go about it. It's going to be a spicy seafood stew. When I think of Horneater stew I'm actually thinking of Yukgaejang which is a Korean dish. Or Haemultang is what I mean. Haemultang is a spicy-- spicy seafood-- it's basically whatever thing from the ocean-- I don't eat things from the ocean personally-- but everything from the ocean they want to throw in there with some spices. They stir it up and give it to you and if you like fish in there and there are like crab claws and full clams in the shells. You're like "Really guys?" But Rock would just be munching those down and being happy.

Hero of Ages Q&A - Time Waster's Guide ()
#45 Copy


So I have a couple of questions....

I loved the book, it was all great UNTIL Vin and especially ELEND died. I can see why you did it, but I was crying so hard when Vin confirmed Elend was dead. I actually had an urge to burn the books right then and there and pretend it had never happened. Either way, I continued reading and then found some sliver of hope when Sazed said he hadn't figured out how to restore the souls YET, he said he would get better at it.

1)Does that mean that he might someday, maybe, hopefully (pretty please) bring them back to life? I suspect that you might not answer, but can I at least hope? Cause if anyone deserved to live a full NORMAL life it was Vin and Elend. Besides, it would ROCK if Elend and Kelsier ever got to meet each other......

Aw man.....I'm still crying over Elend....Is it wrong I get so attatched to characters? Its just that Elend and Vin got so little time together. It's so sad. Which reminds me: You mentioned, when someone asked about Sazed meeting Twindyl again, that he hadn't because he hadn't reached that space where souls were and the ones that were trapped in the in between were the ones that had a connection with either the physical or the concious world. Those weren't the exact words but it was something like that that IMPLIED that Vin, Elend and Kelsier were somehow still connected with the earth because unlike Twindyl the hadn't progressed past that in between place.

2) Am I right and maybe going somewhere, or am I talking total nonsense and simply trying to cope with the loss of Elend?

Brandon Sanderson

One of the reasons for that line at the end is to give you, the reader, the power and authority to bring to the characters the ending you wish. I may do more in this series, but until then, please take the future of the characters wherever you want in your own mind. (Also, you mention that they had such little time together—which is true, but also remember that there was a year between books one and two, then another year between books two and three. They spent most of this time together.)

The door is open for a return of Elend and Vin. Will I write it? It isn't likely to be soon, if I ever even do. Does that mean it won't happen? No. Not at all. If I write more Mistborn books, they will be hundreds of years in the future. During that time, Sazed could have learned to get souls into bodies, given Vin and Elend a life together somewhere away from the others, where they wouldn't have to struggle quite so much like they did through their lives, then ushered their souls on to the beyond. Or they could hang around with him, working with him as he takes his next steps to shepherd humankind on Scadrial. Or neither of the above. Imagine it how you wish, for I'm not going to set this one in stone for quite some time, if ever.

Oathbringer Newcastle signing ()
#46 Copy


So, I was wondering, as a dyslexic, when you were designing Thaylen names, was that intentionally a massive practical joke on your part?

Brandon Sanderson

No. Though I will admit, when I was designing Thaylen names, I had a little bit of Welsh going on, and things like that. Now, one of my good friends, actually, the person this book is dedicated to, Alan Layton, is dyslexic. He was one of the people I brainstormed Stormlight with, but he listens to them all on audio. It's more a practical joke on the people who read the audiobooks, because I don't know how they read those names sometimes. But they also have to do Rock's name, right? Numuhukumakiaki'aialunamor. I make them do stuff like that.

Oathbringer Portland signing ()
#48 Copy


A friend of mine wanted me to ask: Was the cataclysm that rocked Ashyn and forced its inhabitants into the flying cities Investiture-based, and if it was was it Shardic in nature?

Brandon Sanderson

The same cataclysm that the-- did you finish [Oathbringer]?



Brandon Sanderson

The same cataclysm that they were fleeing, that they caused, is the one that forced people into the skies...

SF Book Review interview ()
#49 Copy


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.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#50 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


Just like the other two books, the maps in this volume are brought to you by the talented Isaac Stewart—video game designer, writer, and all-around great guy. Isaac is a member of my writing group, and he started work on the maps for Hero of Ages early, since we knew we'd want maps of Urteau and Fadrex to replace the map of Luthadel (which doesn't have as big a part in this book as it did in the others).

I'm curious to know what people think, opening this book and seeing these two cities instead of the familiar Luthadel. Part of me still wishes I'd been able to set the book in Luthadel.

And yet, I worried that that setting was played out. In book two, the action came to the characters—but I wasn't certain I wanted them to still be sitting there, dealing with the problems life threw at them. I wanted them to be out proactively seeking to head off the end of the world.

That required them to leave Luthadel, and while I did find opportunity for a few scenes in the city, they aren't the focus of the book.

I like how both of these maps turned out, as they both have visual elements that were challenging to describe in the text. For Urteau, the streetslots are an unusual image, and I think the map helps get across the idea of the empty canal streets. Fadrex was an even bigger problem—it was tough to get down the descriptions of the rock formations around the city that provide natural fortifications. I think that the map here gives me a leg up on description, as it adds a visual image I can work from before I even have to begin describing.

I know some readers complain about how fantasy writers feel a need for maps, but for me it's always been a vital part of the experience. The map is an initial visual image that begins to pull you away from our world and deposit you someplace else. David Farland always says that one of the goals of fantasy—and reading in general—is to take you somewhere new. Maps are the gateway into doing this, and I'm happy to include them in my books.