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Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#1 Copy

Question

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

Miscellaneous 2017 ()
#3 Copy

Argent

Speaking of The Scar, all the other names on the map refer to a specific planet, right? Roshar, Sel, Nalthis, etc. The scar, as far as know, is more a region, yet it uses the same typography as the planets. What's up with that?

Isaac Stewart

Same typography because when I used other fonts, it looked way out of place. If there were more labels on this map, I would've used italics probably for this feature.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
#4 Copy

Herald (paraphrased)

Is Vax present (lurking) in any of the star systems explained in Arcanum Unbounded? Personally I think there will be more star systems that would be discovered in the future and Vax might be part of them. Comment?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

RAFO for Vax. Yes, there might be more stars. The picture on the cover is the sight observed from one particular place.

Herald (paraphrased)

Silverlight?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

RAFO. Let's just say that there are more planetary systems present in the existing star chart itself that you don't know yet.

Herald (paraphrased)

Is Yolen present in the dragon constellation?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

RAFO.

Miscellaneous 2017 ()
#5 Copy

Argent

Are all the constellations symbolic in nature? If so, can you fill in any gaps in my understanding of them (or expand on them, point out cool things I may have missed, etc)? I've got:

  • Roshar - Shardbearer (or maybe Herald). Pretty obvious, considering how dominant those are.
  • Nalthis - someone exhaling or giving Breath. Again, straightforward.
  • Threnody - a grieving woman? Because Threnody, like the other inner planets in the Threnodite system, all bear names related to grieving, mourning, that kind of stuff.

Isaac Stewart

All correct so far.

Argent

Taldain - a tree? Because of the importance of water on the world?

Isaac Stewart

A one tree. This is a symbolic reference to the Shard that resides on that world. The Coppermind says this: "Khriss writes that Bavadin supports a policy of strict isolationism for Taldain."

Argent

First of the Sun - a sailor? Because of how the natives live, traveling between the isles?

Isaac Stewart

A fisherman, actually. He's throwing his net out among the stars.

Argent

Sel - the lamp makes a lot more sense now, thanks! I don't think anyone had pointed out that Sel is inside the flame, not the lamp - but the lamp is so much dominant in the image, it was easy to focus on it :)

Isaac Stewart

Just repeating what I mentioned before in case I ever make this into a blog post. Sel's constellation is symbolic (as is the constellation Threnody is found in). As for the lamp, notice that Sel is not exactly part of the lamp. It's part of the flame. How does Aon Dor work? An Elantrian creates an opening for it to pour through and affect the world. Think of the flame as a symbol for the Dor. Does that make sense?

Argent

Scadrial - why is it absent? And is it really absent, or there but just not labeled (for whatever reason)?

Isaac Stewart

Scadrial's there. It's just part of the constellation I've been calling the Giver. Some worlds are closer together than others, so there wasn't room to give each world its own constellation.

FanX 2018 ()
#6 Copy

Questioner 1 [PENDING REVIEW]

I know I mentioned my tattoo that I wanted to get yesterday, and I was wondering what, cause I want the planets that feature in that system to be colored and everything is black and white, and so I was wondering what color I could get for each of them.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Wow, ok, I don't know if I can answer that right here, you probably want to email that to us. I can give you an off the cuff answer. I don't know if it'll be like a canonical answer or something like that. Give them to me and I'll tell you what my instincts say.

Questioner 1 [PENDING REVIEW]

Sel?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

I would do Sel as a blue color. Probably a light blue.

Questioner 2 [PENDING REVIEW]

Nalthis?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Nalthis i would do as like a vibrant pink, orange, or something like that.

Questioner 1 [PENDING REVIEW]

Taldain?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Taldain I would do as yellow.

Questioner 1 [PENDING REVIEW]

Would I do like the half and half or?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

I would do half and half, yeah, or if you wanna do black and white. Black and white would work very well for them.

Questioner 2 [PENDING REVIEW]

Scadrial?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Scadrial I would do as a rust red, like a deep red.

Questioner 1 [PENDING REVIEW]

Threnody?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Threnody, lets see. 

Questioner 1 [PENDING REVIEW]

I was thinking like a dark blue/green mix as well.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

The problem is you would want to do Roshar as either a brown or a Kholin blue. Probably a brown for the stone, so in that case you could Threnody as like a dark blue and you could do Sel as light blue. You don't have a green in there, so Sel could go green if you wanted it to.

Questioner 1 [PENDING REVIEW]

I forgot to ask about Sixth of the Dusk.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Oh, that would be mostly water, so that's a blue one.

Questioner 1 [PENDING REVIEW]

Like a vibrant blue?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Vibrant blue. So we've got three blues. But you can change one of those to green, and I would say Sel goes green.

Questioner 1 [PENDING REVIEW]

Like an emerald green?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Like a grass green. Because a lot of people are concentrating on the *inaudible*.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#7 Copy

Argent

I do have a follow-up on the map? All of the constellations-- Or most of the constellations seem fairly straightforward. The one containing Roshar has a Shardbearer or Herald…

Brandon Sanderson

Yep, mmhmm. There are a couple--

Argent

Yet Sel gets a lamp?

Brandon Sanderson

Sel gets a lamp, yes.

Argent

Why?

Brandon Sanderson

Ask Isaac about that, he came up with the symbolism. And I like all the symbolism. But I would go to him about the symbolism of that. Ask him to write an essay for my website about it, because he has really cool-- Cause again, cause I said to him, "I want a star map" and I wasn't gonna put constellations on it, right? Just, the one in the back cover that doesn't have constellations, that's what I asked for and he came back and said "I did a constellation map with these things, what do you think?" and I'm like "that’s cool! Can you explain these to me?" so I'm just gonna let Isaac go with that, he chose it, he chose the perspective and the point of view, so it's his map, and he's canon on that.

Miscellaneous 2017 ()
#9 Copy

Argent

I had been thinking about the Cosmere constellations map, and why certain constellations are what they are. Some look pretty obvious to me - of course the one that includes Roshar would be a Shardbearer, and of course the one with Nalthis would be somebody exhaling or giving Breath. But others? Threnody is maybe a part of a grieving woman, so that could kind of make sense, but Sel being featured in a lamp?! 

So I asked Brandon, and he said the constellations were all you. He also encouraged me to convince you to write an essay for the website about this map, but I wanted to see if you could answer some questions about this map.

Is this alright with you?

Isaac Stewart

Thanks for the email. I'll try to answer some of your questions, and you're right, an essay about the map on the website might eventually be the way to go. (Got to find time to write it.) The constellations weren't really all me. I had several discussions with Brandon, who made many suggestions. Maybe he forgets how much input he had. :) Unless he means the actual lines of the constellations. Those are purely me.

Sel's constellation is symbolic (as is the constellation Threnody is found in). As for the lamp, notice that Sel is not exactly part of the lamp. It's part of the flame. How does Aon Dor work? An Elantrian creates an opening for it to pour through and affect the world. Think of the flame as a symbol for the Dor. Does that make sense?

Send away with your questions. Maybe they'll help direct how I should handle the essay. :)

Miscellaneous 2017 ()
#14 Copy

Argent

Is the relative positioning of the constellations' images significant in any way? For example, the Shardbearer is pointing his blade at the dragon/serpent/monster of the Scar, while Nalthian lady looks like she is blowing Sel's fire out. Do we need to be paying attention to those?

Isaac Stewart

This is more compositional than anything else. Though I wouldn't discount their positions entirely.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#15 Copy

Questioner

How old is that picture that's hanging in Silverlight?

Brandon Sanderson

The picture in Silverlight is... Okay, so on cosmere-times it's very recent. But, the cosmere scale is very large. Khriss's essays are older than it, but not by much. She had that-- It is in existence when she wrote the essays, but the essays are much older than Sixth of the Dusk. Okay? Sixth of the Dusk had not happened yet, that story, when she was writing these essays. We're going to need some dating periods, we'll eventually get that.

Miscellaneous 2017 ()
#16 Copy

Argent

Do the constellations have actual names you can share with us?

Isaac Stewart

Clockwise from Threnody: the Mourner, the Dragon, the Fisherman, the Giver, the Lamp, the Knight, and the One Tree. The names are a bit generic, mostly because they are working names I used to refer to the different constellations during the process of painting the piece. It should be noted that the people from the spot in the Cosmere where the night sky does look like this would not see these pictures in the constellations nor give them these names. The pictures the patron saw in the stars here are based on their own observations and knowledge about the Cosmere as a whole. The locals would see entirely different pictures in their stars, for those who can even see the stars from their vantage.

One tidbit I should mention is that the lamp used to be a constellation called the Lover and was a man receiving breath from the Giver. I dropped it mostly because it's reference to Devotion wasn't working visually. Another thing to note: Not all the stars on this chart are physically within the Cosmere. Some are in the parts of Space beyond the Cosmere.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#17 Copy

Questioner

Does Silverlight have a permanent Perpendicularity on it?

Brandon Sanderson

Silverlight has weird. So I'm gonna give a RAFO to that.

Questioner

It's got a physical constellation map. So they've gotta go to the Physical somehow right?

Brandon Sanderson

No, no, no. That can be in the Cognitive Realm.

Argent

The constellation map can be a picture from the Cognitive?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, yeah, I mean, it can be a picture in the Cognitive. That is a picture that exists in Silverlight.

Argent

Right, sure, but they need to be somewhere to view those things.

Brandon Sanderson

Right, I didn't say that that’s from the perspective Silverlight, but what we say is the picture is hanging there.

Questioner

So that was a mis-interpretation on our part.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, the picture is hanging there in Silverlight. Okay?

FirstSelector

Is there actually anything on the Physical end of Silverlight?

Brandon Sanderson

That is-- That's the RAFO part... That's what I'm not answering. If there's anything Physical. There can't be a Perpen--well, there could be a Perpendicularity, but then you'd have to go someplace in the Physical, and it gets all-- Silverlight is really weird.

Shadows of Self release party ()
#18 Copy

Questioner

So I’m a big Terry Pratchett fan, and my dad, he got a Ankh-Morpork city map.  Do you have any large maps--

Brandon Sanderson

Large scale maps?

Isaac Stewart

You know we have-- I actually have that same Ankh-Morpork map and I'm like "We gotta do something like this" but it's-- that’s down the road because that is so detailed.

Brandon Sanderson

The thing that I would like to do would be a cosmere star chart, that’s large scale, but we have to get a little further, introduce you to a few more planets before we can do that.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
#19 Copy

Questioner

At the very front cover of the Arcanum Unbounded there is a constellation map, that has a lot of the cosmere stars on it. What point-of-view is that from?

Brandon Sanderson

So the question is, in Arcanum Unbounded... Yes, the cover of Arcanum Unbounded has a star chart in it, a map. And the question is, is this from a specific viewpoint, and if so, what is that viewpoint. So, yes, it is from a specific viewpoint. It's the sky as seen from-- Some of the stars are enhanced a bit-- But it's the sky as seen from a specific point of reference that Isaac came up with when I told-- gave him this assignment. He's my illustrator for a lot of the interior art of the books and he RAFO'd it when we were asked at the release party. So I'm going to RAFO it until he decides he wants to reveal it.

Miscellaneous 2017 ()
#20 Copy

Argent

What perspective is this constellation map seen/drawn from? Somebody from an earlier signing in this tour said they spoke with you about this, and you mentioned Silverlight, but not exactly... I got the impression that your reply wasn't transcribed verbatim  Can you address the perspective issue here? We now know that Silverlight is in the Cognitive Realm (where the stars don't necessarily match their physical arrangement, if they are visible at all), so if you worried about accidentally revealing that earlier, it's no longer an issue.

Isaac Stewart

The map was created to reside in Silverlight and represents a partial view of the night sky from a point we have not yet revealed. So, no, this is not a view of the night sky from Silverlight. This is a mural painted for a patron whose travels have taken them far far afield.