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Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#1 Copy


What was your design process for designing all of the star systems for each of the worlds?

Brandon Sanderson

I am lucky enough to have on staff one of my good friends, Isaac. He actually introduced me to my wife. He sent me on a blind date with Emily. He was one of my students, my second year teaching the class. He's a really good friend. At the time, he was an illustrator for a video game company who was just interested in fantasy books. And he saw that there was a class at BYU and he was like, "I'm gonna take that."

He now works for me full-time. Though, fun story on this. You know how some people joke that in their marriage there's one person they could cheat with, like a celebrity? When I hired Isaac, he was like, "I will come and do things for you full time. But if Tad Williams ever asks me, I'm doing something for Tad Williams," his favorite book series. This summer, Tad Williams needed a map for the new Osten Ard books. Isaac is like, "So, I do maps for Sanderson." He's like, "Sure, do one for me. Great!" So Isaac's been working on that and it has been a dream come true for him.

Isaac and I, we sit down and we do brainstorming sessions for the art. He's done almost all of the symbols and maps in my books, except the ones that he commissions someone else to do because he wanted to get a different style for it or the first book, Elantris, I did the symbols. That's why the Elantris symbols are not quite as visually interesting as some of Isaac's. They fit the world but I drew those and my artistic chops are... So Isaac and I sit down, we brainstorm and we say, "What do we want this to look like? What's the feel of it?" So I'll outline what the planets and the world are and then he will bring up historical- like he went and got Renaissance star charts and said, "Do any of these work? What do you like?" We kind of narrowed it down to ones that have the right feel but I said, "I want it more like this, more like this." He took that and ran with it and gave me iterations. He's like, "Here's four different versions of a map for Scadrial. Which one do you like?" And then I'll give him that and he'll then do four iterations on that, saying, "Here are different designs of this. Which one of these do you like?" Anyone who's an artist knows that illustrators, that's what they do. So we come up with it and then I say, "This style, go," and then he does all the maps.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#2 Copy


Is there any possibility of the novellas being released in like a bound--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, we will eventually do-- Tor really wants to do a collection of all the cosmere novellas. So like... *Brandon stumbles over the words* Shadows for Silence, The Emperor's Soul, Sixth of the Dusk. But I was trying to say Shadows for Silence but I almost said Shadows of Self, that's going to be a problem for me going forward, using "shadows" in two. But all of those in one collection is what we're probably going to see.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#3 Copy


I know there isn't a short story from Nalthis in the collection, but I still would have liked a Solar Map and Brief overview of the system in the Arcanum Unbounded. Maybe it could have just included the Warbreaker prologue and a link to the free download? The fact that even White Sand (an unpublished book/unfinished graphic novel) had one but Nalthis doesn't is a shame...

Brandon Sanderson

Truth is, part of me felt I'd find time for a Nalthis story at some point, but it never worked out. Edgedancer's length and involvement in the main Stormlight story sucked away the time for doing a Nalthis story. Maybe it would have just been better to stick one in, with no story, but it felt weird to me. Hindsight, looking at the book, I probably would do it if I had the chance over again.


Could the map and Khriss essay for Nalthis perhaps be released on your website/Tor's website sometime after Oathbringer's release or during the revision process for it.

Brandon Sanderson

I was thinking maybe we release it around the time of the paperback of the collection, if I can find time to get it done. But the Oathbringer release would be another good idea--maybe I'll do that instead.

State of the Sanderson 2015 ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Tertiary Book Projects

Cosmere Short Fiction Collection

For a while I've been thinking that I need to collect all the various pieces of Cosmere short fiction and put them into a single collection, for those who don't like hunting around for them.

This might be the year to do that. If Stormlight doesn't make it into 2016, we might be able to get a collection (with a Stormlight novella) out by the end of the year instead. Something to tide you over, at least, until book three comes out.

If we do this, my goal will be to have it include every piece of short fiction from every source up until now and bind it together in a handsome hardcover that will look nice on the shelf next to your other books.

This will give you multiple options for the short fiction, if you want to collect it. We will continue to do our little two-novella collections (like the Perfect State and Shadows for Silence double that we just released.) So if you'd prefer to collect those in the smaller size, I anticipate everything eventually being released in that format too. However, if you'd like one thick tome, every ten years or so you should see a bigger collection.

More on this as it develops. Right now I'm toying with the title Arcanum Unbound, and would love to include a star chart of all the cosmere worlds in it.

Skyward Anchorage signing ()
#5 Copy


Are there plans for another thing like Arcanum Unbounded?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. But it's gonna be a ways off.

Where Arcanum came from is the fact that, early in my career, I would have an idea, I would sit down, I would write a novel. That is how I trained myself to be a writer. That's where I came up with thirteen novels before I sold one. That turned into my greatest advantage, and one of my greatest liabilities as I have progressed as a writer. The reason it was an advantage is, having spent all those years learning to write and learning my process, I knew what to do when a book wasn't working. I knew what to do with a book when it worked, but I wanted to make it better. I knew how to build an outline that would really make me excited about a story. But I also was really, really good at telling a new story and opening things up, and I had not practiced closing things off. All thirteen of those novels were basically all standalones with series potential, where I was hinting at something larger. And so early in my career, I was very good at, "Let's write a book. And of course, because I know what came before and what'll come after, I will make those things open for me."

And then I ended up-- The Wheel of Time came along, and kind of slammed into me like a freight train, and left me with all these first books that I had started. The Rithmatist. I had started, at that point, working on Legion. I had been doing Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians. And I found that what I needed to learn how to do was write a self-contained novella to get some of these ideas out of my head, rather than writing a novel that promised sequels. Because I also had promised sequels to Elantris, and sequels to Warbreaker.

And so Arcanum Unbounded is my attempt to kind of do like the interludes in Stormlight in my own career. Little interludes where I take an idea and I dig into it and I explore some part, often of the cosmere, without promising sequels. And part of my goal right now as a writer is to make sure I'm closing off more things than I open, or at least at the same rate. So that's why I finished Legion this year, which is done, and why I'm trying to finish Alcatraz for next year. If you're waiting for Rithmatist--which is the one I get the most requests about--eventually. It's gonna take a little while. It's been a really hard one to figure out how to do the sequels to.

But, closing things off. What you'll see me doing are more novellas like that, as time progresses. Eventually, I will start collecting them, like I did with Arcanum. But it's gonna take me a few years to get enough of them written that then they'll be worth another collection.

Isaac Stewart r/Stormlight_Archive AMA ()
#7 Copy


Can you shed some light on how you went about designing Roshar's symbol?

Isaac Stewart

We knew that we wanted the Double-eye to be part of the symbol. So it was a matter of finding the right shape for the eye. We went through dozens of ideas of how thick the lines could be, what parts to emphasize, etc. We also knew we wanted swords to be a part of it, so we tried several ways of incorporating those until we wound up with what we currently have. Someday, I'll share the different iterations we went through to land on the current symbol.

JordanCon 2016 ()
#9 Copy


Will we ever see an entire map of how the different planets are spaced out in the Physical--

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, yeah, the Cosmere collection will have a star chart of the cosmere.


A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Cosmere, if you will…

Brandon Sanderson

Now, you've got to remember that at the point that this comes out-- The collection's been interesting for a couple of reasons. For one reason, the collection's coming out before Sixth of the Dusk happens in the cosmere, right? And so Khriss gives an introduction to each world, so you'll find her introduction to First of the Sun to be a very interesting introduction that doesn't know things that you know because of that. In addition, the star chart is a star chart created by people who are not spacefaring, right? And so it is a star chart more along the lines of-- It may not be one hundred percent to scale and things like that, like they've been able to figure out a lot of things by using the Cognitive Realm, so they'd be like "alright, here's the relationship", but it will be a while before you get what feels like a Star Trek star chart. Your star chart you're gonna get in this is a fantasy star chart, which will give you the relative positions and things like that, but it's not gonna be like you can measure exactly, which we do have! But I'm not gonna give you yet. *audience laughs*


Are you referring to Arcanum Unbound?

Brandon Sanderson

Arcanum Unbounded, yeah.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#10 Copy


I dont recall hearing about this anthology until recently. Did Brandon need a break from writing S3 and so [Arcanum Unbounded] was put in the schedule?

Peter Ahlstrom

This was put on the schedule when it was determined that Stormlight 3 wouldn't come out until next year. Brandon has been wanting to do something like this for a while, so we went for it.

The book is not just reprinting stuff you've already read. Aside from the new Lift novella (at 40,000 words it's actually a mini-novel), each story has a new full-page illustration and a postscript by Brandon. Each world section of the book has a planetary system map and an essay about the system written by Khriss, who writes the Ars Arcanum section at the end of the books.

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


Will we get more information like that about planets and stuff like that in the Ars.. *interrupted* ?

Brandon Sanderson

The Arcanum Unbound[ed] is... Yes, the cosmere collection. There will be little essays from Khriss on each of the planets. There will be stuff like that. You're going to have to wait until the science in-world approaches more of our science before I can get into some of the things you would want to know specifically. But, I mean, we are starting to get to an era where they can talk intelligently about these things. So yes, but it's-- Arcanum Unbound[ed] is kind of weird because I had to pick a date for her to be writing these essays, and the date that she wrote the essays is before some of the stories. For instance, Sixth of the Dusk, right? And so for that planet she's just like, "Hey, here's this place that something weird might be happening with. We don't know a lot about it, but it's got this one weird attribute that we're studying." The story hasn't happened yet. So you get a little bit of that. It's not all from the far future, when like Sixth of the Dusk is happening, because otherwise there would be way too many spoilers for what's coming in the future. So yes, there will be lots of cool little tidbits. The essays are meant for people who ask questions like that, and like this one, but I'm not answering everything.

Supanova 2017 - Sydney ()
#14 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

Do you every drop hints for things that never come to pass as you change and tweak the story?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Oh ya, all the time. Best example is Arcanum Unbounded originally had a different story that was foreshadowed through Mistborn Era 1, among others, but it just never fit in the story. It just didn’t jive once you start putting the jig saw together. You learn not to get too disappointed when that happens.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#15 Copy


The essays in Arcanum, how trustworthy are they? Considering--

Brandon Sanderson

They're pretty trustworthy, as much as you would trust a scholar nowadays who’s an expert in their field. Do know that they take place before Sixth of the Dusk occurs.


Before Sixth of the Dusk.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. These are contemporary with most of the books right now, not contemporary with all the stories in there.


Were they all written at the same time? Or across a--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, same time for a little thing she was doing about the worlds for people.

Isaac Stewart r/Stormlight_Archive AMA ()
#16 Copy


What was the process that you went through for designing the various "solar" system charts from Arcanum Unbounded?

Isaac Stewart

I loved making those star system charts for Arcanum. I found an old system chart that I thought looked really cool and combined it with the style of an old Arabic manuscript that caught my eye. I bought vellum, inked the start charts on there, and started painting them. It didn't turn out how I expected, so I scanned the inked lines, turned them into brushes in Illustrator, and created the charts again from there, painting them later in Photoshop and adding textures from the physical vellum projects I'd tried earlier.


Okay, that's just cool.

How accurate would they be in-world (they are obviously not to exact scale, but what about planetary colors and look)?

Isaac Stewart

I would say that they're relatively accurate when it comes to the big stuff, but they are also done in a style that would suggest the people of the Cosmere still have a lot to learn about astronomy. Some planetary colors are right, some are just guessed at, so the simple answer to this question is: Your Mileage May Vary.


The specific instance I was thinking about was the depiction of the 10 Rosharan Gas Giants. Discarding the glyphs and the names, were the colors of those giants in the star chart a cultural projection, or does it have physical basis in how they appear in the Rosharan sky?

Isaac Stewart

All these maps are products of the cultures and eras they came from. The mapmaker in this instance is probably using reference from all over the Cosmere, and the reference he used for this system came from Roshar itself. Since it's unlikely that the mapmaker has visited all the planets in all these systems, he has to rely on others for much of the information. I suspect he has the same questions you do about this particular map, though he rendered it based on the best information he could find. :)