Are the entities meant to be the Worldsouls of dead planes?
Yes. That is exactly what they are.
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Are the entities meant to be the Worldsouls of dead planes?
Yes. That is exactly what they are.
Also, I really want Davriel to meet Liliana just to see how flabbergasted he becomes when he realizes how stupid her demonic contracts are in comparison to his own.
I will say that the entire time writing Davriel, I was amused thinking of how he and Liliana would interact.
Will these characters or places [from Children of the Nameless] get their own cards?
That's up to the card design team to decide. I worked primarily with the creative team, and can't really say when/if cards related to this story will appear in the game. (Though a little bird tells me that fans should keep an eye on upcoming sets.)
I have a couple questions about when Tacenda sang and played her song for the demons while Davriel Slept.
From the description it seemed like she was evoking her own story of loss and in so doing the demons saw visions. Miss Highwater was flying while Crunchgnar seemed to be seeing the fires of his home go out.
What was the magical song doing to the characters?
Part of Tacenda's power is to use music to enhance people's experiences, memories, and emotions. This song was exploring that power--and looking specifically at things they had lost.
Why did Miss Highwater see herself flying? Did she used to be able to or envy angels?
I'm afraid I'll RAFO this for now. But you are asking the right sorts of questions.
What did Davriel see?
Another RAFO. He was very disturbed by it, though.
I'm also just curious about the soul of the Nameless Angel. Do you have an in universe explanation for why Tacenda could see it yet no one else could? Or is it just a powerful moment that had something to do with the Bog being afraid of faith?
You're theorizing along the right lines, but I wanted to leave this one ambiguous. Suffice it to say that odd things were happening.
As far as I know, the Entities are new to the Magic lore. Were they your idea? What was the process like of working with creative to develop a new type of being within a very defined lore?
These were something I wanted to do and create, and a pitch I brought to the lore team. They were on-board from the beginning, though they did a lot of work to help me bring my idea into line with something that would work with MTG lore.
Are you able to comment on when [Children of the Namesless] takes place on Innistrad?
It is about a year or so after Eldritch Moon, though I section off my own little part of Innistrad that is off in the woods, without a lot of influence from places like Thraben. Though the story does touch on the social ramifications of some of the events in recent sets, it's mostly concerned with its own lore and history.
How is Davriel pronounced? I know how much you love your long a's like with Adonalsium and Adolin, but then there's Scadrial with a short a. Which one is Davriel?
Short a. Dav, like have.
Is Children of the Nameless accessible to readers who know absolutely nothing about the Magic: the Gathering world(s) and mythos? Are there any core concepts we should be familiar with before reading?
My goal was to treat this story so you could pick it up never having read anything about (or ever played) Magic. Judging by my writing group's reactions (few of them are familiar with it) this worked.
That said, I jump right into the story, rather than doing a big lore catch-up session, so there might be aspects that are a little confusing here and there.
Brandon, how was character creation different for Children of the Nameless compared to the rest of your other works?
Character creation wasn't that different--I start usually with a conflict or a theme. For Davriel, it was "Economist gets magical powers" mixed with "Person who uses contracts with demons not for crazy power, but to get good staff members."
For Tacenda, I was looking at her curse and the way she uses music. (Mixed with the conflict of being able to hear your entire village get killed--but not being able to stop it.)
From there, I did apply some MTG philosophy to the refinement of the characters.
Finished Era 2 of Mistborn again, I really can't get enough of Wayne and Wax. Will this 'secret project' effect the timeline of Book 4?
It shouldn't, but it depends on how long it takes. (I'm almost done with it, though.)
I'm confused of the book title. Isn't "Children of the Bog" more accurate?
It depends. Some of the characters were children of the angel, some were children of the bog (which also has no name), and some might be considered children of something else which has no name. Notably, Davriel doesn't speak of his actual name in the story, but only the various aliases he has made up.
If you hadn't had the opportunity to write for MtG, would any of these characters have made it in one form or another into one of your other books, or would they only fit in this setting? If they would have made it into a different story, which one?
I've wanted to do this story for a number of years, and it was inspired by me asking myself (after my first visit to WoTC a number of years back) what I would do if I were to write a story for them.
I didn't seriously consider doing this in another setting, since the concept of demons and contracts isn't really a Cosmere one--and the first ideas were for Davriel and Miss Highwater. That said, spren bonds have some slight similarities, so it's not impossible.
Tacenda seemed to Planeswalk at the end. Did she, or did she just "ascend" within Innistrad? Was she an unsparked planeswalker before she accepted the Entity? If she wasn't, did the Entity give her a Spark, similar to how Slobad was grafted one? And if that's not it, the third possibility... is the Entity native to the Blind Eternities, like the Eldrazi?
I will give you both the canon and Brandon head canon.
Canon is: ambiguous on all counts. It's not confirmed that Tacenda planeswalked at the end, or whether she (or Davriel) had sparks of their own--or if their planewalking powers are granted by the Entities. I can say, in canon, that the Entities are not native to the Blind Eternities--they are the souls of ancient, powerful planes that were destroyed, and their power harvested.
The Soul of planes sequence from m15 were their inspiration, though something special happened with these specific planes. I can't confirm or deny how many of them there were, but at least two.
Now, the Brandon Head Canon. (See my post at the top of this thread for an explanation.)
In my discussions with Wizards, they gave me leave to create one planeswalker--but in the course of the story, I decided to have Tacenda spark as well. This wasn't done with canon permission from Wizards, and I promised them that I'd leave it ambiguous in case they didn't want to have to deal with me playing loose and free with creating planeswalkers.
I personally imagine that the entities are providing the sparks for both Davriel and Tacenda. Davriel THINKS it's his own spark, and it ignited when he saw the true nature of the multiverse--and this is, right now, the canon answer. But I personally like the idea that one of the reasons these Entities are important is because they provide planeswalking ability to whoever holds them.
That has too much lore implication for me to canonize, however--and I didn't push Wizards to do so. (I also didn't ask them to make Tacenda a planeswalker; I simply wrote the story, and left them the option of using her in the future.) So take this part all with a grain of salt.
I have the last quarter of this year earmarked to write the final Mistborn (Wax and Wayne) novel, which leaves me around six or seven months to play with, and I'm hoping to finish another book in the Skyward series. However, before I dive into that, there's a certain novella I need to write. We're listing that as "Secret Project" and it's not anything you're probably guessing. I'll reveal it when the time is right, but for now, it's not cosmere, and is not something I've talked about before.
Will there an audiobook [for Children of the Nameless]?
I bet there is someday--but it wouldn't be for a long while if there is.
As a worldbuilder, I love digging into worlds I wouldn't experience otherwise - DnD setting guides, wikis and the like. From the chapter released on io9 already, and what I've seen on various reddits discussing your novella, it feels like MtG has a massive world behind it too (someone described MtG as very similar to the Cosmere?)
First off, will your novella be suitable for someone like me who has never actually dug into the MtG lore before? And secondly, where would you say a Cosmere fan should begin digging into the lore here? What are your favorite worldbuilding elements? Have any inspired elements in your stories? (Cosmere or otherwise)
Yes, this novella will be suitable for someone who knows nothing about the lore. I wrote it expecting most wouldn't know anything about it.
If you want to dig into MTG lore, the various MTG wikis talk a lot about the world and lore--but you could do worse than just reading the other stories on Wizard's website, as a lot of them are well done.
My favorite MTG worldbuilding elements tend to be their visual worldbuilding--they have a lot of artists, and much of what they come up with is beautiful. It's a lot of fun to just go to Gatherer (the website with all the archive of cards) and pick a Set (like Innistrad) and read the flavor text at the bottom of the cards. (They are quotes or things in-world. Not every card has them, but much do.) That, with the art style, can tell you an entire story on its own.
I've been playing MTG since I was in high school, so I'd say my writing was probably influenced by it a lot--but I don't know if I can name any specifics.
Did Tacenda and Willia start out as a pair of twins who visited the Nightwatcher in your head? Their background sounds a lot like a boon/curse pair. :)
More, I was looking for a curse to be involved in the story (because I liked the flavor of the curse mechanic in Innistrad) and curses/boons tend to be connected in my brain--probably from playing too many D&D games where I got a ring of wishes, and the DM was feeling grumpy.
So did the essence of the plane give [Tacenda] the ability to planeswalk, or did she have a spark already?
This was left vague on purpose, because I didn't want to put the lore team in the position of being saddled with a second planeswalker I'd created--or with the lore implications of the entities granting planeswalking ability. So yes, I intended her to become a planewalker, and the entity to be the source of that ability--but I don't consider that official canon. Only that Tacenda vanished at the end of the story, and nobody is certain exactly what happened to her.
Did you go into creating Davriel with the color pie in mind? What colors would you say he is?
I went into the story knowing I wanted to write a black-alinged hero. Someone who showed off the pragmatic side of black, and someone whose ambition was different from traditional black-aligned ambition.
I'd say that Davriel is black primary, with a strong secondary blue aspect. There is a slight white tertiary side to him, mostly in his belief in organized systems and society that makes sense. (Though he prefers these boundaries for others more than for himself.)
January-March: Skyward and Legion Revisions
I kicked off the year quickly doing a second draft of Skyward. Pulling The Apocalypse Guard from the publisher, then promising them Skyward to publish in the fall of 2018, meant that I had to scramble. It wouldn't do to pull a book I judged to be of inferior quality, only to replace it with a book that I didn't have time to revise up to my standards. So you'll see a number of months dedicated to Skyward. (Which, if you somehow missed it, did come out—and is still sitting quite happily on the New York Times bestseller list many weeks later, so thank you all very much!)
Another thing I'd been putting off for months was the necessary revisions of the third Legion story. Tor was quite patient with me on this one, considering the Legion collection was scheduled for publication in the fall as well. But during these three months, I did multiple revisions of both books, eventually getting Legion into a polished state. (There was one more draft of Skyward still to do.) Legion Three, Lies of the Beholder, can be found in the Legion collection that was published earlier this year.
Finally, somewhere in here, I squeezed in an outline and world guide for Death Without Pizza. (Yes, that's a name change—no it's not the final name, but just a placeholder.) More on that later.
April: Children of the Nameless
Sometime around March of last year, Wizards of the Coast sent me an exploratory email. It being the 25th anniversary of their card game, they were wondering if I'd be interested in doing a story with them. As most of you know, I'm quite the fan of Magic: The Gathering. It's my primary hobby, and I have way too many cards. (Which still aren't enough, of course.) I was enthusiastic, and you can read more about the process I used to approach the story in this blog post.
I knew that by doing so, and by writing the story as long as it ended up, it would make getting to some of my other projects later in the year more difficult. (Namely, the fourth Wax and Wayne book, which I'll talk about shortly.) But this was kind of something I had to do, so I ask your forgiveness in taking this detour to Innistrad. I'm exceptionally pleased with the story and the response it has gotten, so if you haven't read it, I present it to you here! Reading it requires no prior knowledge of the card came or the lore surrounding it.
May: Skyward Final Draft
How long it takes to write a story depends on a lot of factors, but in general, three months gets me around 100k words. Shorter stories, with fewer viewpoints, tend to be faster—while longer stories with more intricate plotlines (like Stormlight) tend to take longer. But that's just for the rough draft. Generally, doing all the other drafts takes an equivalent amount of time to the first draft. (So, if the first draft takes three months, the second through fourth drafts will together take another three months.) You can see this at play in Skyward, which took about three months to write in the end of 2017, then took three additional months of revision to polish up.
I did sneak in a little time to do an outline for a piece called The Original in here as well, which took about a week. I'll update you on that in the secondary projects section.
June–August: Starsight First Draft
And, speaking of three month first drafts, here we get me buckling down and doing the sequel to Skyward. It's finished in its first draft form, and dominated my summer. In here, I also did detailed outlines for the third and fourth books of the series. (And this is where I determined for certain that the series would need to be four books instead of three.)
September–October: Odds and Ends
In these months I had some travel to record episodes of Writing Excuses, I did a quick second draft of Starsight to send to my publisher, and I did some revisions to Children of the Nameless. I also did more work on The Original, Death Without Pizza, and Alcatraz Six (AKA Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians, or Alcatraz vs. His Own Dumb Self). Finally, I slipped in some brainstorming with Dan Wells on how to fix The Apocalypse Guard.
Basically, I knew that November would be mostly lost to touring, and I was scrambling to get some work done on small projects to clear my plate for 2019, which will be dedicated to working on Stormlight Four.
November: Skyward Tour
I spent most of November on tour for Skyward, and quickly finishing up final revisions on Children of the Nameless. I got to see a lot of you while touring for the book, and had a blast—but these tours get more and more difficult as the lines get longer and longer. The tour for Stormlight Four in 2020 might require me to do some things I've been dreading, such as limit the lines to a certain number of tickets. It makes me sad to contemplate, but I'll keep you all in the loop about what we decide to do.
December: Death Without Pizza
I needed a break from all the other things I've been doing, so in classic Brandon style, I worked on something fresh and new to give myself a breather. This was where I was going to do Wax and Wayne Four, but doing Children of the Nameless meant that instead of three months extra space at the end of the year, I only had one month. (As CotN had taken one month to write, and one month to revise.) I had the choice of pushing back the start of Stormlight Four, or doing something else for this month and trying to sneak in W&W 4 sometime next year. I chose the latter. It's important to me that I let myself do side projects to refresh myself—but I also think it's important to keep to my Stormlight schedule. It would be too easy to keep putting off the big books until they stretch to years in the making. I told myself I was going to divide my time in half between Stormlight and other projects.
The truth is, I'm getting really anxious about getting back to Stormlight. That's a very good sign, as once I finish a Stormlight book, I'm usually feeling quite burned out on the setting, and need a number of months to recover.
Introduction: The Longer Version
Back in January this year, Wizards of the Coast approached me. Knowing of my love for their game, Magic: The Gathering, they were wondering if I would be willing to write a tie-in story for them. They mentioned since it was the 25th birthday of Magic, they wanted to do something special—and might be able to splurge on a Brandon Sanderson story.
I was, of course, interested—but went back to Wizards with a proposal that I think surprised them. You see, I knew they'd been doing some very interesting things with their stories in recent months. (The multi-part Dominaria sequence by Martha Wells is a good example, if you are interested.) I liked how they were using free stories on their website to both enhance the lore and give some work to talented writers.
Way back in the beginning of my career, one of the things I liked to do was periodically release free stories. Defending Elysium, Firstborn, and even Warbreaker are examples. Over the years, though, I've gotten busy enough that I haven't found a good opportunity to do this again. I liked the idea of doing a story for Wizards in part for this reason.
So I went back to them with a proposal: I didn't actually want payment for this story. I just wanted them to put it up for free on their website, and then if (later down the road) it generated any money by being in a collection or in print on its own, I wanted my portion of that donated to charity. In exchange for doing it for free, I wanted to be allowed to write the story my way. That meant me picking one of their settings, then developing my own characters and plot to happen there. (As opposed to writing the story for one of their official releases, as most of the other writers they hired were doing.)
It wasn't that I had anything against writing one of the main-line-setting stories. I just felt that in this case, I wanted greater flexibility. Beyond that, for several years now, I've had a story brewing in my head that I felt was a perfect match for one of their settings—a story I couldn't make work in the Cosmere, but which I really wanted to write.
Wizards was on board immediately—and so, "Secret Project" was born.
Regarding the Story
Wizards has a lot of great settings for the card game, so I had plenty of options. The story I'd been brewing was specifically inspired by their Innistrad set—a gothic horror setting with some magepunk elements underpinning it. It has had a very interesting evolution over the years, and was the setting for one of the best Magic sets of all time. Ever since writing Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, I've wanted to do another horror/fantasy hybrid, and so I dove into what became Children of the Nameless.
I don't know exactly what Wizards was expecting of me, but I suspect a 250-page behemoth of a story wasn't it. (At 50k words, the story is roughly half the size of something like Skyward.) I have to say, though, working with them was an absolute pleasure. They jumped on board with the main character pitch I made, integrating him right away into the larger Magic story. They even went so far as to loop me in on conference calls, where I could explain my character concepts so they could develop art. I'd thought they might be worried about letting me go off on my own like this, but they were instead enthusiastic and supportive.
So, it is with great pleasure I present Children of the Nameless. Consider it a Christmas present from me and from Wizards of the Coast to you. I hope you enjoy it!
Are these characters yours, as in you have claims to them for future writing, or do you hope to see other authors take them and move them through the multiverse?
I absolutely want to see other authors do things with these characters. Part of the fun for me in doing an MTG story was the chance to do something like create a character for the Marvel universe--I wanted to add to the story, and throw some of my creativity into the mix, and hope to see them get used in the future.
I'd hope that if there's ever a main-line story involving Davriel or Tacenda that I get a chance to write it, or at least consult. But I don't consider them "mine." They were a chance for me to add to the lore of something I love.
Are there more entities? Is the powerstone that powers the Weatherlight an entity? Is Phyrexia an entity?
I can't confirm how many there are, but I think you'll see more from them in the future.
What challenges are there in writing for an already established IP vs something of your own creation?
The biggest challenge is always the push and pull between what the larger story needs vs. the little story I want to tell. For example, MTG has established rules about what the planeswalkers can do--and it's important to stay in canon for the greater good of the story. (Planeswalkers, for example, can't take people with them when they hop between worlds.) That limits me, for example, if I wanted to do Davriel on another plane--he couldn't take any supporting cast with him.
That's a rule you probably wouldn't set up if this were just stories about Davriel, as the supporting cast is what makes him shine as a character. But the structure of it is important for not breaking the larger stories the team is telling.
Is it a possibility that we in the future get to see the characters from Children of the Nameless represented on magic cards?
It is a possibility, but as the other responder mentioned, I don't have any control over this--I think it's likely, but I certainly couldn't say when. I think the fact that Dack got a card--after being created by the comic book team--bodes well for Davriel, at the very least.
If Angels were made from mana, how could Tacenda feel the Nameless One's soul at the end?
That is the big question, isn't it? That should not have happened. Something odd was going on.
Is the Nameless Angel the same missing W/B Nameless Angel sister of Sigardia, Bruna, and Gisela?
Wizards has asked me to RAFO. So read into that whatever you will.
Any word on whether [Children of the Nameless will] be coming out in physical form? Just curious. I know for a while the M:TG books were eBook exclusive and the story has been website-exclusive but they're also gearing up to start publishing physical books again next year so...haha.
There's a pretty good chance of this, but it will be a while. Maybe late next year?
Is there a specific plane that [Davriel] is from?
You mentioned in the article on your site that Wizards integrates him into the larger story, does that mean there’s a chance that he will show up again and things that happened here are related into the future Magic story?
Yes, though I've been asked not to confirm this for right now. He is from a known place in the multiverse.
Yes, he should show up again in the future, before I have a chance to write another story. So keep an eye out for him.
Davriel is UB just like Brandon's favorite colors.
Tacenda is probs WG before the entity but I guess we could see her Abzan.
I hope both of the demons get cards too.
As for color identities here, I'd mostly agree with you. I see Davriel as mostly black, but with a blue element to him. I could see him printed under mono black, UB, or even--under just the right circumstances--esper. (He believes in the structure of laws and society, though admittedly mostly as a thing for "other people.")
Tacenda has a strong red streak to her--in fact, my initial concept for her was a mono-red character, but one who expressed the red aspect through music, song, and passion. The entity inside of her is green, however, and the white/green nature of her society has had a big influence on her beliefs in fate, the needs of the many, and that sort of thing. So I'd make her RWG.
I was considering the same colors for both of them as well. Definitely black and blue for Davriel. I was personally leaning towards Esper, however. Like you said, he does believe in structure of law and society. Also, his ability to summon weapons seems like a white effect to me.
Well, he stole the weapon-summoning spell. I was told I could have Davriel steal and use spells of any color, so long as it was painful for him, and it was clear he was using them as part of a theft mechanic--meaning he only had access to them for a limited time.
Just a quick question, what colors would you think Davriel would be?
I think his first incarnation is likely to be mono-black--because I pitched him as a mono-black hero to the team.
Here’s what I was imagining while reading:
1UB, 3 starting loyalty
+1: Exile the top two cards of your opponent’s library
-1: You can play one card exiled with Davriel until end of turn, using mana of any color to cast it
-6: Exile your opponent’s hand
That's a great rendition of him. Nice work! The only problem with it that I can think of is that it feels a little like Ashiok, mechanically.
I would enjoy a Davriel who could thoughtsieze and cast those spells, as I think it aligns better--but this feels like a really dangerous ability to make repeatable on a cheap walker, but a weak ability on an expensive walker after hands are empty.
Did you consider other planes for the story, or was Innistrad your go-to?
Since this story had been brewing for years as inspired by Innistrad, I didn't really consider others. I'd say that if I hadn't done Innistrad, I might have done an old-school story about one of the legends from Legends (which is the first MTG expansion I ever bought) that doesn't yet have a story.
How would you compare writing this novella to the Wheel of Time books you wrote? Both have treasure troves of existing lore and characters and both are fantasy media that you're a fan of.
It was a similar experience in some ways--I had a lot of creative freedom in both cases, for example, and I had a lot of lore to draw upon.
For the WoT, though, I was very, very steeped in the lore--and made sure I did another deep dive before writing the stories. Here, I have familiarity with a lot of MTG lore, but there's a lot I don't know. I haven't read most of the fiction, particularly the older fiction, for example.
So for WoT I felt confident taking main storylines and resolving them, while for this, I tried to create my own sort of sectioned-off part of the plane to play in. Then I created my own lore for that area that I could control more specifically--traditions and lore that were related to the well-known places on Innistrad, but not exactly the same. That way, I could play with them, and undermine them, and do what I wished with them.
Are Vex and Cabralin meant to be the names of planes?
I didn't get specific permission to name any planes--so while I intend them to be planes, for actual MTG canon I believe they have to be taken as regions inside of planes (that haven't been named yet.) You'll be safer assuming that unless Wizards decides otherwise. I don't think we should go around adding them to lists of planes on MTG wikis, for example.
It is mentioned that the Entity is the compressed power of a destroyed plane. How does this happen? Why is it sentient? Why is one in a puddle on Innistrad? Are they related to the planar souls from M15?
Most of this will have to be revealed at a later date, but what I can say is that yes, M15 was the inspiration--and the creation of these entities happened through some very special circumstances.
I got to choose. I had built Davriel most of the way when they said, "Hey, we've got this blank slate planeswalker in our files. Do you want to make this your character?" It worked perfectly, as it let me fill out the lore for this person and have them work as part of the larger narrative.
Not a ton. I've read a lot of the more recent web-based fiction. I bought the early novels to get the sweet promo cards, and remember liking them--but it's been a while. Otherwise, little spots here and there. (I particularly liked the comics.)
Davriel is partially a contrast to Liliana, a main-line character who also has had dealings with demons (but has done it much differently...) and who is a necromancer (exactly of the sort Davriel would hate.) I think reading about her might make for a fun contrast. She's heavily involved in the previous Innistrad story, which you might enjoy if you liked this one. You can find it on Wizards site: https://magic.wizards.com/en/content/shadows-over-innistrad-story
When are you going to announce your Secret Project?
It should be soon. I don't get to choose when it's announced, I'm under NDA [non-disclosure agreement].
When will we get the sequel [to Children of the Nameless]?
I'm putting this question on here because, dear readers, I know you very well. But let's not put the cart before the horse. I would not be opposed to doing something more with these characters in the future, if Wizards is amenable, but I've also got a lot on my plate. I suspect that if I were to do something more with Magic in the future, it wouldn't be for several years. (I have Stormlight 4 to write, after all.)
You did tell us to keep an eye open for future sets. Well then, in your head, what are the colors of each main character (Tacenda, Highwater, Crunch, Willia)
Tacenda is GRW. The demons would be mono black, though Miss Highwater has some red and blue to her, while Crunchgnar has some red and green to him. Willia is White Green Black.
Is [Tacenda] still GRW at the end of novella, after picking up the entity?
I imagine that entity actually being green. A darker side of green, but still green. It evoked a feeling of destiny, and of putting it back together (which would be natural) and a kind of survival of the fittest attitude. You didn't get to see much of it, but this is my intention for it.
Think of the Entities as enormous mana reservoirs--the collected mana of a plane--that can be tapped to power spells, but with dangerous results. Davriel's Entity is pure black mana, while the entity of the bog is pure green. (Though in its shattered form, a lot of its instincts were about self-preservation, which comes across black in the story.)
Is the similarity between an entity and a Shard intentional? They both are objects of great power that allow their holders to move between planes and try to twist the holders personality.
Yes, this is intentional. When Notch designed a card, I liked that he had a nod to his own creation in it. I wanted to bring something that would have a "Brandon Sanderson Lore" feeling to MTG, kind of in the same way.
With your skills in world building, If WotC invited you to help design a new magic world what sort of world would you want to make?
Hmm... Something that interacts in an interesting way with the five colors of magic, like Alara did.
What was it like keeping this project a secret for so long, especially with so many people guessing it’d turn out to be exactly this?
So, it did grow kind of annoying to keep this secret--as I tend to be the type to think that a secret doesn't do a project like this very much good. The longer a project remains a (known) secret, the bigger the hype machine--and I knew pretty early on that people were going to blow this out of proportion.
So I hope it wasn't too much of a disappointment that it wasn't some huge film or video game project, like I suspect some of you were expecting. Fortunately, I've had secret projects before, and they tend to be novellas like this.
Either way, I do wish they'd let me announce it sooner. Not sure exactly why they wanted to keep it a secret. Announcing it in July and letting people anticipate would have been great for building interest--but I think they were a little wary since they really didn't know how big it would be or what it would be like, since they didn't commission the piece so much as say 'yes' then try to ride the wave that is Brandon creating a story.
Before we start, I wanted to say something about continuity and canon. I don't represent Wizards of the Coast, obviously. This was a very fun project, and I had a lot of freedom in developing Davriel, Tacenda, and the lore of the Approaches. However, I can't state or make official Magic canon, beyond the extent of what is in the text of the story.
So, when I answer these questions, I'll often have a couple of different terms. If I mention Official Canon, this is (by my understanding) the current canon of the Magic storyline--as explained to me by the local in-house experts. I could be wrong on this sort of thing, but I'll try to pass along my understanding of what the canon answer is in relationship to this story. (For example, I was assured it was okay to have female demons in my story, despite it not being something that Wizards has done very much in the past.)
I'll relate my own Head Canon on other items--things that I haven't cleared with Wizards. This should be taken as what I was going for, and can work for your understanding of the story, but it shouldn't be taken as gospel--and it could very well be contradicted by future decisions by the lore team. They take their continuity very seriously, and I am not up-to-date on everything they're doing with the stories of the other characters. I was pretty focused on my little corner of the multiverse.
In other places, I'll talk about decisions I made (or didn't make) in relation to the story--if I am talking about the process, you shouldn't infer too much from decisions I didn't make. I did a lot of this work before talking to the lore team about larger continuity, so things I considered (and discarded) before the story was finished shouldn't be taken as hints for the larger story. To be honest, I didn't know much about it at that stage anyway.
Some years ago I met you at a reading at Borderlands SF and asked if you'd ever write for MTG. If I may follow up -- why the change of heart? Was this a one off thing or will we see more things in the future?
I can't remember what point you asked me, but it might have been when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by my work load. This hit me right when I had enough space in my schedule, and they also were willing to let me do whatever I wanted with it. So it all came together!
This is intended to be a one-off. I'm not closing the door on doing more in the future, but the stars would have to align in the right way again.
And where did the essence [Entities] come from? There's like a million questions in that one question, everything from the specific plane, how did it gain sentience, etc, but is it possible to give us at least a brief overview of how it came to be?
I can't say too much on the second, though I can tell you that the Entities both came from ancient planes that were destroyed, their power condensed into these "entities." (The Soul cards from M15 were an inspiration here.) If I do another story in coming years, I would want to dig into this more specifically.
Did Davriel "kill" himself under controlled conditions so he could bamboozle a demonic contract, or was that a result of something going wrong?
I'm going to RAFO that--as it's something I'd like to reveal in a later story, if I have a chance to do one.
How did writing this differ from writing the Infinity Blade novellas?
The IB novellas were interesting in that I was specifically looking to explain game mechanics with a narrative, something that the Wizards people didn't want me to do. (That said, I slipped a little in here and there, such as Davriel "flashing back" many of his spells, using them again and again.)
I'd say that here, the biggest difference was knowing of an existing lore and mythos that I wanted to weave my story into, rather than creating it wholesale from the game. (Which is what I did with IB.)