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Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#1 Copy

Askhundel

Do you think once you're done with the Cosmere's main story (assumably Mistborn 4th era), if you're not tired of it by then, you might write more stories set in the cosmere (for added lore/backstory/immersion) ?

Brandon Sanderson

In this perfect world where I somehow manage to finish early, then yes, I'd certainly do more. But that's a LONG ways off still.

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

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
#3 Copy

Daedos

When did you develop your idea to have multiple series playing out on different planets? How many separate stories do you plan to tell in said universe, and will your Dragonsteel books be the last?

Brandon Sanderson

I started doing this early in my career before I got published, when I felt that writing sequels was not a good use of my time. Just look at the hypothetical; if I'm trying to get published and I write three books in the same, if an editor rejects book one, he or she is not going to want to see book two. But if an editor rejects book one but is optimistic about my writing, I can send them a book from another series and they can look at that.

During my unpublished days I wrote thirteen books, only one of which was a sequel. So I had twelve new worlds, or at least twelve new books—some of them were reexaminations of worlds. But I wanted to be writing big epics. This is what I always wanted to do; something like the Wheel of Time. So I began plotting a large, massive series where all these books were connected, so I could kind of "stealth" have a large series without the editors knowing I was sending them books from the same series. It was mostly just a thing for me, to help me do the writing I wanted to be doing. And then when publication came I continued to do that, and told the story behind the story.

I originally plotted an arc of around 36 books. The total has varied between 32 and 36; 32 would work better for the nature of the universe, but the question is whether I can fit everything into 32 books. I won't say whether Dragonsteel will be the last or not.

Miscellaneous 2012 ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

Calamity Seattle signing ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Questioner

Is there gonna be a union book or series?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, the final Mistborn series.

Firefight Miami signing ()
#6 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Fantasy Faction interview ()
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Fantasy Faction

Someone from Earth is about to be sent off to the cosmere. They've read your first Stormlight book, but they've never really taken time to really dig deep and find out about how it sits in the overall "cosmere", so they're totally unprepared. What basic concepts regarding shards, magic systems and world hopping do you think are most important?

Brandon Sanderson

The first, most important thing to say to the person who's being sent there is to enjoy the story you're in. All of the cosmere stuff, the interconnection between my books and all these wonderful little things, are right now mostly Easter eggs. Which means that if you spend the whole book only worried about that, you're going to miss the beauty and fun that is the book that you're part of. I often say to people, don't worry if you read them "out of order," because it's all Easter eggs right now. Don't worry and stress if you miss something about the cosmere, because while someday that might be important, you first need to enjoy the book that you're part of. But the primer I'd give to this person is that the worlds are connected. If you show up on a planet and there's a guy named Hoid around, then be very afraid, because you're someplace very dangerous.

Firefight release party ()
#10 Copy

Herowannabe's wife

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Herowannabe's wife

Is it anyone we already know?

Herowannabe

Does Hoid make an appearance in that one?

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid does not make an appearance in that one.

Herowannabe

What about Shadows for Silence?

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#11 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Cosmere.es Interview ()
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Cosmere.es

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

General Reddit 2021 ()
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marineman43

So the Lost Metal will be done by this August and then released 16 months later? Why is that?

Brandon Sanderson

In most of publishing, 24 months is average from turn in to publication. Revisions, designing the cover, proofreading, etc... They take time. In the past, because my books are so successful for the publisher, they've pushed hard to shrink that timeframe. But it's been really hard on my team, as there's so much to do.

I've wanted for a long time to start getting back on a more normal schedule. Maybe not 24 months, but closer to 14 or 16. This will relieve a lot of pressure on the revisions, and make it feel less like my team is needing to work break-neck to get things done.

marineman43

Does this new emphasis on the more normal schedule affect your roadmap for the Cosmere as a whole (like as it's outlined in 2020 SoS for instance) or was the switch to a more reasonable publishing schedule already part of the plan?

Brandon Sanderson

We'll see. Stormlight 5, for example, is likely to still be on a pretty difficult schedule for everyone--it depends on how long it takes to write, and how much revision it needs. 2023 is where we really want to hit, but I'd be more willing to let this one slide (as it's the last of the cycle, and I don't want to rush it) than I have been with previous Stormlight books.

That said, the main way I plan to get ahead on things is to start co-authoring more non-cosmere books, like the Apocalypse Guard series, which I'll likely try to release after Skyward is finished. Also, Era Three is going to have an odd publication cycle anyway, with me writing it more like I did Era One. So...who knows? It's too early really to say.

kthulhu89

What was different with the writing process between Era One and Era Two?

reuben-625

Not Brandon, but if I remember correctly, Era One was somewhat unique because he sketched out the entire trilogy before publishing the first book, which left room for some really cool foreshadowing.

Brandon Sanderson

/u/reuben-625 is correct--though it went farther than that. Because I was newer, and had lots of lead time to get books ready, I wrote the entire trilogy in rough draft form before polishing and publishing the first one.

Oathbringer Newcastle signing ()
#14 Copy

Questioner

Is Obrodai going to be the setting of Dark One?

Brandon Sanderson

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

Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

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

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#16 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Stormlight Three Update #3 ()
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wispirr

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

YouTube Livestream 5 ()
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Questioner

How do you decide which stories need to be told when as you work your way through the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Mostly which stories need to tell when in the cosmere is affected by what I'm most excited to write right now. The cosmere so far has been separated enough that I can look at what I'm really passionate about and write it, and there's been no reason so far to put those very out of order chronologically. The further we go, the more that'll have to be. Like, the Wax and Wayne books happen chronologically after Stormlight 1 through 5. So it's already begun a little bit, but for the most part it was "What am I passionate about writing? What do I feel like is the best book for me to write?" And then I make sure it fits into the chronology rather than otherwise. Again, the further we go, the more these things lock into place. Like White Sand is jumping backward in time, and when I do Dragonsteel, it's going to jump even further, so this will happen more and more as we go, but right now? I write what I'm passionate about.

YouTube Livestream 36 ()
#19 Copy

Mateo Fileti

Do you have any plans of writing coauthored stories for the Cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Basically, my coauthorship slate is full, right now. I've found about where I can handle it, and it's about three people. Right now, it's Steven Bohls, Janci, and the Dan Wells projects we're working on. That's about all I can handle, where I can get back to people at a reasonable time, and things like that.

That said, I have left one asterisk on there. Well, I guess I'm gonna put two asterisks. Two different, separate asterisks. Number one is that if this is successful and people like it, then probably. There's a reason I'm trying this out, that the first one I did was not connected to any of my worlds, at all. (That was The Original, with Mary Robinette.) And then eased into picking up a series that I was planning just not to be able to get back to. The finally easing into one I'm actively working on. And I kind of eased into that, just to see what people are enjoying. And they seem to be enjoying the active, working-on one the most, of all of those. Which is a plus for doing Cosmere-related things. But, again, it's kinda gonna be: do people like this?

The other askerisk is: I have told Isaac Stewart he is welcome to write, in the Cosmere, anything he would like to, and I will coauthor it with him. I will work on it to make sure. Because Isaac was there from almost the beginning. Peter was the person who was working with me before the Cosmere was released, but I met Isaac in 2004, and Isaac started working with me on Mistborn art right then in 2004. I've told Isaac he can do whatever he wants; he's got a blank slate to be involved in the Cosmere in any way he would like.

Janci Patterson

There's one he's had kicking around for a long time that I really hope he writes sometime.

Brandon Sanderson

We're trying to find time for him to be able to do that.

I would say that there's a good chance you get some Cosmere stuff in the future, but it's not near-future. Near-future, I want to make sure that I'm supporting the things that I'm doing. It would be very easy, I think, to go all James Patterson, where suddenly I'm not writing anymore, I'm only doing this. And I don't think I would enjoy that. Not a dig against Patterson, but I don't want to go that direction.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#20 Copy

Questioner

How are you going to finish the cosmere stuff? Like when you get to book 35, how are you gonna resist like book 36, we're gonna say "Courage is held by dude named Steve and according to Hoid he's pretty cool." Just extend it another ... how are you going to finish?

Brandon Sanderson

We'll see. We will see. The thing is there's a beginning, middle, and end to the Shattering of Adonalsium and the involvement there. More stories can be told in the cosmere, but there's a beginning, middle, and end to that. When I finish that, that is the sequence that I wanted to tell.

Questioner

And you have that outlined out?

Brandon Sanderson

I do.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#22 Copy

Questioner

From the very beginning did you already know-- like cosmere? Like was that your goal setting out?

Brandon Sanderson

It was my goal very early on. In fact, before I wrote any books I wrote a short story about Hoid. So he goes back to before the very first book that I wrote. So yeah it goes back pretty far. I can trace inspirations back to Asimov tying Foundation and Robots together and feeling like that was really cool and wanting to do something like that, if it makes sense. And so I would say that’s probably like the first seed was when I read the later Foundation books and they tied them together.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#23 Copy

Questioner

If I were to start reading your books, which you would recommend I start with?

Brandon Sanderson

Normally, I recommend that people either start with a book called Mistborn or a book called Warbreaker.  Warbreaker is a standalone.  It has a little more romance to it and it's a little lighter. Mistborn is a little more action oriented and a little more plot focused.  So it just depends what you're interested in.  

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

As the Cosmere gets a lot bigger, what is your biggest worry going forward writing the books?

Brandon Sanderson

Going forward, my biggest worry is making sure that I do things like get The Stormlight Archive done as a solid, complete whole, rather than letting it become... like, too distracted about the Cosmere. Like, I'm not worried about that for Mistborn, but I'm worried about that for Stormlight. Stormlight needs to be a self-contained whole, it needs to be a self-contained epic, and I have to be really careful not to-- in the later books in particular-- let it turn into the Avengers, something like that. So that's my biggest worry right now, is that I will let too much of that seep in. I'm being very careful about it.

Brandon's Blog 2015 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

As I was developing the Cosmere, I knew I wanted a few threads to span the entire mega-sequence, which was going to cover thousands of years. For this reason, I built into the outline a couple of "core" series.

One of these is the Stormlight Archive, where we have the Heralds who span ages, and which I eventually decided to break into two distinct arcs. Other series touch on the idea of long-standing characters. Dragonsteel, for example, will be kind of a bookend series. We'll get novels on Hoid's origins, then jump all the way to the end and get novels from his viewpoint late in the entire Cosmere sequence.

With Mistborn, I wanted to do something different. For aesthetic reasons, I wanted a fantasy world that changed, that grew updated and modernized. One of my personal mandates as a lover of the epic fantasy genre is to try to take what has been done before and push the stories in directions I think the genre hasn't looked at often enough.

I pitched Mistorn as a series of trilogies, which many of you probably already know. Each series was to cover a different era in the world (Scadrial), and each was to be about different characters—starting with an epic fantasy trilogy, expanding eventually into a space opera science fiction series. The magic would be the common thread here, rather than specific characters.

There was a greater purpose to this, more than just wanting a fantasy world that modernized. The point was to actually show the passage of time in the universe, and to make you, the reader, feel the weight of that passage.

Some of the Cosmere characters, like Hoid, are functionally immortal—in that, at least, they don't age and are rather difficult to kill. I felt that when readers approached a grand epic where none of the characters changed, the experience would be lacking something. I could tell you things were changing, but if there were always the same characters, it wouldn't feel like the universe was aging.

I think you get this problem already in some big epic series. (More on that below.) Here, I wanted the Cosmere to evoke a sense of moving through eras. There will be some continuing threads. (A few characters from Mistborn will be weaved through the entire thing.) However, to make this all work, I decided I needed to do something daring—I needed to reboot the Mistborn world periodically with new characters and new settings.

So how does Shadows of Self fit into this entire framework? Well, The Alloy of Law was (kind of) an accident. It wasn't planned to be part of the original sequence of Mistborn sub-series, but it's also an excellent example of why you shouldn't feel too married to an outline.

As I was working on Stormlight, I realized that it was going to be a long time (perhaps ten years) between The Hero of Ages and my ability to get back to the Mistborn world to do the first of the "second" series. I sat down to write a short story as a means of offering a stop-gap, but was disappointed with it.

That's when I took a step back and asked myself how I really wanted to approach all of this. What I decided upon was that I wanted a new Mistborn series that acted as a counterpoint to Stormlight. Something for Mistborn fans that pulled out some of the core concepts of the series (Allomantic action, heist stories) and mashed them with another genre—as opposed to epic fantasy—to produce something that would be faster-paced than Stormlight, and also tighter in focus.

That way, I could alternate big epics and tight, action character stories. I could keep Mistborn alive in people's minds while I labored on Stormlight.

The Alloy of Law was the result, an experiment in a second-era Mistborn series between the first two planned trilogies. The first book wasn't truly accidental, then, nor did it come from a short story. (I've seen both reported, and have tacitly perpetuated the idea, as it's easier than explaining the entire process.) I chose early 20th century because it's a time period I find fascinating, and was intrigued by the idea of the little-city lawman pulled into big-city politics.

Alloy wasn't an accident, but it was an experiment. I wasn't certain how readers would respond to not only a soft reboot like this, but also one that changed tone (from epic to focused). Was it too much?

The results have been fantastic, I'm happy to report. The Alloy of Law is consistently the bestselling book in my backlists, barring the original trilogy or Stormlight books. Fan reaction in person was enthusiastic.

So I sat down and plotted a proper trilogy with Wax and Wayne. That trilogy starts with Shadows of Self. It connects to The Alloy of Law directly, but is more intentional in where it is taking the characters, pointed toward a three-book arc.

You can see why this is sometimes hard to explain. What is Shadows of Self? It's the start of a trilogy within a series that comes after a one-off with the same characters that was in turn a sequel to an original trilogy with different characters.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#26 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Questioner

Is there going to be a crossover?

Brandon Sanderson

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

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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carnivorouspickle

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?

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Firefight release party ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

Is there ever going to be a mash-up where different magic systems are actually going to collide and--

Brandon Sanderson

The question is is there going to be a mash-up where different magics, from my books, collide. Yes, there will be. I came up with the concept of what I call the cosmere… Long ago, it was about 20 years ago now, when I wrote my very first story that was about a guy traveling between different planets in a magical universe. Where he would go to the planet, try to figure out how the magic worked, then just get it working, then see if it was something he wanted to learn about and know. And that grew over 20 years into what I call the cosmere, which is a collection of planets in a fantasy universe, in which all of the magics are interacting in interesting ways. And we will eventually have some cool crossover books but right now the series I am writing are about the series themselves and so we won't have crossover yet but it will happen eventually.

Chris King interview ()
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Chris King

When you reach the end of the Cosmere will there be something else? Or do you feel this will take most of your writing career to achieve?

Brandon Sanderson

Yah, I think this kind of the Story of my writing career. Now, who knows. As I plotted it, right around mid-Mistborn series time, I came out with thirty-six books, of which I've done what five or six? More than that--

Chris King

Three, four, five, six, seven?

Brandon Sanderson

Seven. I think there is plenty of time so ask me in thirty years.

Chris King

This one's kind of similar here: When or if you reach the end of that, were you planning on expanding more or were you going to get done with what you had planned and be done with it, or--

Brandon Sanderson

That's really a "ask me in thirty years" sort of thing. I want to see if I can get this whole thing done. I want to do it in— There's this sort of tension to it, in that I view this as— The arc is my life's work. But at the same time I don't want to be belaboring it. There are cool things going on that I want to get to and I want to tell people about. And so there's this push and pull inside of me, wanting to do this. We will see.

Boskone 54 ()
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Questioner

You have two characters, Hoid and Vasher, who really stand out even if you don’t know anything about the cosmere. Are people who aren’t cosmere-aware going to be left wondering what the heck is up with them?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, probably. But it’s okay to have some mystery, I figure, as long as I don’t let the cosmere stories really distract. If there are occasionally things where you think, “That was weird, I don’t get that” or “That guy’s kind of different.” That’s fine. It’s when you start to feel like everyone else is laughing at a joke you don’t know, when you’re not part of something and you can’t understand the piece of fiction because of it, then we’re in trouble. Unless it’s a side story. Like Mistborn: Secret History, you’ve got to know the cosmere to get most of that, and that’s okay. But the main line books I will write in such a way that… So the Stormlight Archive is the story of Roshar. It’s not necessarily the story of all the different elements influencing Roshar. Maybe someday I’ll do one that has that, but I’ll be very up-front about it.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
#32 Copy

Questioner

You have a couple of fantastic running jokes, such as the High Imperial.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

How do you think of those things and when do you decide to commit to a great joke like that?

Brandon Sanderson

When do I decide to commit to a running joke. See Spook doesn't consider that a joke, he thinks it's awesome. So with this, I love-- I'm kind of going to expand this to not just jokes-- Which, definitely-- It's the sort of insider things. I love, in series that i have read a lot of books on, when there is something you will only get if you have been invested in the series. I love this stuff. It is part of the seed of the Cosmere, this idea that if people are reading my books they will start to see and make these connections. It's important to me that it never becomes the forefront, at least until I'm very clear to people that this is-- now you have to have the background of all of the books. That hasn't happened. There will be series that I do that with but I want you to be able to read Stormlight and not feel like you have to know a thousand pages of the wiki behind-the-scenes stuff before you can appreciate it. But I do like these inside references and things like that, and so it comes very natural to me. Some of it's planned out, some of it is something that I think of as I'm working on the story. Some of it's seeded, some of it just works. So you do it as it works. I wouldn't say that I-- With like High Imperial. High Imperial I knew about the time when I decided Spook was going to be a larger character in the series. But if you know Mistborn, my original-- I wrote the first book, did a quick outline of the second two, and then wrote the second two and Spook was the big discovery written surprise. He wasn't intended to be the main character that he became in the later books. And so once he-- I was writing the third book, I'm like "Oh, I know what's going to happen here. I know where this is going." And High Imperial grew out of that.

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

Aethling

Is there a chance that any dead protagonists will miraculously come back (IE Vin, Elend, Lightsong) to help fight later battles? You have shown Kelsier having influence after he died, and Sazed makes a statement about keeping in touch with Vin and Elend.

Brandon Sanderson

I don't want to be unsympathetic to people's love for these characters, but I feel that as a writer I must resist the urge to bring back characters in this manner. I feel it would undermine my storytelling. I never want to get to the point where people read and the tension of a character being in danger is ruined by the thought, "Well, even if they die, they'll probably just be brought back in the future."

I'm not saying I won't ever do it, but I want to be very sparing. I like how Robert Jordan did it with a certain character's return in [Towers of Midnight]. It was foreshadowed, built into the story itself, and relevant.

There are characters--in the 36-book-cosmere-superoutline--who return when thought dead. Some have not met their perceived end yet, while others have. So it's going to happen, but I want it to be very rare.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#34 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

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

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

DragonCon 2019 ()
#35 Copy

Questioner

Is Khriss planned to be a major character in the future of the Cosmere, or will she be more of a behind-the-scenes source of knowledge?

Brandon Sanderson

I do plan some more--some actual Khriss stories. I mentioned I had a Silverlight story in the back of my head--she would have been one of the viewpoint characters of that if I ever get to write it. She will be in the background of most everything, but I do plan a few stories, that will have her. She will come the forefront the more the cosmere comes to the forefront, and more interaction between them.

For those who were curious, my plan for the Cosmere all along has been - now that I have something to point to, people say is it like the MCU? And, yes and no. I'm not developing specific characters to bring forward, some of them will of course will still be be around. My whole goal with the Cosmere is to push toward something a little bit more like Star Trek or Star Wars, in that lots of different cultures, lots of different things--more Star Trek I guess - interspace situation, the conflicts that come between cultures and ideals and things like that, is what I'm pushing for. Rather than taking like the champions of each book and having them. So the characters are important, certainly, but when you're reading a given book series, that's where your characters are important. If you're thinking about the future of the Cosmere, think more about the clash of cultures, is where I'm pushing that.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#36 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

BookCon 2018 ()
#37 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#38 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#40 Copy

Questioner

Had you planned to write... the whole Cosmere when you initially started?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I wrote Elantris, had a bunch of the ideas. I started planning right then, and it has evolved a lot since. A lot of Elantris kind of got retrofitted into the things I came up with over the next four or five years... By the time I did Mistborn, I had most of this in mind, but it changes so much, even while I'm writing it. 

Questioner

So, like, when you had Warbreaker, it was--

Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker, I wrote as a prequel to Stormlight. I had already written Stormlight One by that point, but I didn't like it, so I wrote about Kaladin's swordmaster, who was in the first book in that version.

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

Questioner

How does time work in the Cosmere? Or a better question to ask: are any of the books happening at the same time in the Cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm gonna have to look at the timeline. Most of them do not happen concurrently. Mostly they have been at distinct points. But the closer we get to modern and future era Mistborn world, the more overlap there is between them, just kind of by necessity 'cause they eventually start ramming together. So, the further we get in the Cosmere, the more likely things are overlapping.

So, I don't know that we've had anything actually overlap yet, in fact I'm pretty sure that we haven't, unless you count some of the short fiction might overlap. But even then, I don't think anything big overlaps, but it will start happening soon.

JordanCon 2014 ()
#42 Copy

Questioner

Concerning everything on Roshar, is it safe to say The Stormlight Archive will become the backbone series of the story of the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

There are three backbone series: Dragonsteel, Mistborn, and The Stormlight Archive. And Mistborn is past, present, future, Stormlight is the center, and Dragonsteel is the beginning. So really it goes: Dragonsteel, Mistborn, Stormlight, Mistborn, Stormlight, Mistborn is basically how this backbone sequence goes.

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

Questioner

Can we expect a Cosmere Avengers?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes and no. You can expect crossovers between the planets. My goal is not an Avengers-style, one character that you... like, if it were a true Cosmere Avengers it would be like, "Oh, we're going to have this character from this series, this character from this series," that's not what I'm going for. I'm going for more of a clash between the cultures and worlds. There will definitely be characters that you know that end up involved in that. But it's not, I'm not shooting for an Avengers-style thing, I'm shooting for more... It's more like imagine Star Trek, and retrograde back to all of the stories you're telling on the separate planets before they meet each other. Less Avengers, more "We're going to have an intergalactic... thing, going on." These are all of the origins of the cultures and peoples that are going to be involved in that. And since there are some immortals around, you will see people.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#44 Copy

Questioner

Is Hoid gonna get his own book?

Brandon Sanderson

So, here's the grand Cosmere timeline as I have it right now... I'm going to write Wax & Wayne 4 this fall. This will be the end of the Wax & Wayne sequence. They have been really fun to write, those books. And I've got some really good Wayne stuff in this one, so be excited. So, I'll finish that, and that is the next Cosmere book I will do. January 1st, my requirement is I-- What I'm trying to do now, is I'm trying to do half my time Stormlight, half my time other stuff. That's the kind of balance I'm looking to do for my sanity. So, January 1st is when it's been 18 months since I turned in Oathbringer, and at that point, I have 18 months to get Book 4 done. So, I will start January 1st writing Stormlight 4, rain or shine. Everything else kinda has to be put aside. And then, we'll go until that book is done.

After Stormlight 4; at this point, the Wax & Wayne books are done, so we finally have opened up room to do either an Elantris sequel or a Warbreaker sequel. I'll do one of the two of those in between. And then we will do Stormlight 5. And then, we have the first sequence of Stormlight books finished. And at that point, my goal is to do Mistborn Era 3. Three of those. 1980s level, spy thriller-ish Mistborn stuff. And then we will come back and start on Stormlight 6. 6-10, different cycle. This is how I make sure this all kind of fits together. So, we will do that.

And at that point, we will do-- plan is, right now, the Dragonsteel sequence. Which is however many books I decide to do about Hoid's backstory. He has shifted to be the main viewpoint character of those. He was a side viewpoint character when I originally wrote them, but now I've kinda stolen all the pieces of that story that were not about him and put them in other books. So what remains is his backstory. I plan those to be first-person stories that he's telling, if I can get them to work.

So, then, we wrap out the Cosmere with the Mistborn science fiction series, the kind of Dune-esque far-future science fiction Cosmere thing. That is my grand timeline. Somewhere in there, I want to get one sequel to Warbreaker, two sequels to Elantris, and one Threnody novel. So, that's my goal. And that, I think, is doable before I die. We're just gonna keep that as our goal moving forward, and try not to add too much more to it, though there will be novellas and things like that as they pop up.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#46 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Words of Radiance San Francisco signing ()
#47 Copy

Questioner

Are you ever going to expand on the cosmere in its own book or is it going to be a long *inaudible*?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, the thing that started it all, Dragonsteel, is going to be about the cosmere a lot more, and the third Mistborn trilogy will be also.

Questioner

I like how you have that background going through all your different cosmere novels, tying them together

Brandon Sanderson

I want to make sure that it never becomes the forefront until I am warning people, "Now, you need to know this stuff."

Alloy of Law York signing ()
#48 Copy

callumke (paraphrased)

Can you tell me something about the cosmere that you haven't told anyone before?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

There are inhabited planets in the cosmere that don't have any Shards there. There may be inhabited planets that only have a Splinter of a Shard. There are 10 core cosmere planets, which tell the overarching story of the cosmere.

callumke (paraphrased)

Are all the cosmere books so far set on these 10 core worlds?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes. 

callumke (paraphrased)

Are there any of the 10 core worlds without a Shard?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

All 10 core worlds have significant Shardic influence.

/r/fantasy AMA 2017 ()
#50 Copy

Job601

Your books are unusual for the fantasy genre in that they are interested in exploring traditional Christian values, usually coming down in their favor (especially faith in providence and the willingness to believe in a divine plan for the world and the individual, something which comes up again and again in your work.) At the same time, your characters have reason to be suspicious of the specific forms of religious practice in their worlds, and the cult of the survivor in particular can be read as a conflicted portrayal of religion: it's a kind of religious belief which works in some way for its faithful despite being based on a falsehood, and Kelsier is a kind of dark parody of Christ. The cosmere seems to have an implicit theology which separates the truly divine, which is fundamentally inaccessible even to the most knowledgeable characters, from the apparently divine shards and splinters. I guess my question is, how do you think about integrating religious themes into a fantasy universe, particularly given your systematic style?

Brandon Sanderson

There are a lot of things mixing here--more, probably, than I'm aware of myself. (This is the sort of area where I let reader analysis and criticism do the work, as they're probably going to be able to notice connections more explicitly than I will. Like most writers, I'm working by instinct much of the time.)

One element I can talk about is the need for the cosmere to have questions that will go unanswered. This is most expressly manifest in the "big" questions. Is there a God? What is the actual afterlife like, if there really is one? Is there such a thing as a soul, and are cognitive shadows the actual person, or a manifestation of the magic imitating a person's thought processes?

The reason I don't answer these as myself (though characters certainly have ideas) is because I feel it important the text not undermine the characters who choose not to believe in these things. Though I think I've found answers in life, people rationally disagree with me--and to express only my worldview in the books would severely hamper my ability to have characters who disagree with me, and other characters.

In short, if I were to say, "Yes, there's an all-powerful God" then it would directly undermine characters like Jasnah, who argue otherwise. At the same time, I want characters like Kelsier to develop naturally, and do things that are in line with how sometimes, religions develop on our world, without having it be a statement. (Or, at least one other than, "Hey, this happens some time on our world. It happened here too.")

Fantasy offers some unique opportunities to explore the human condition with religion, and I want to take advantage of that, to see where it takes me and to see what I can learn from the process.