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YouTube Spoiler Stream 2 ()
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Do Rosharans believe that their planet is flat?

Brandon Sanderson

Rosharans do not believe their planet is flat. 

You could find Rosharans who believe that, but most of them that you had talked to would just be like, "What's a planet?"

Because if you go to rural parts of most of Roshar and you're like "What do you think of your planet?" They'd be like "What do you mean by planet?" You'd be like "Well, the thing you live on", they're like "I live in Bavland". They're not viewing a planet. They don't understand that, but like sailors all know that Roshar is a sphere, and you know the educated would definitely know. This is not a question. But even talking in terminology of a planet I feel is hard for the Rosharans because when you say "The world," that they can grasp, right like, oh just everything. When you say "Your planet," or "This planet," it makes you have to be like "Wait. There are others? I suppose there are but ramifications." And so, yeah.

Words of Radiance San Francisco signing ()
#2 Copy


How did you decide that you were going to tackle racism, classism, gender, all those things in The Way of Kings? What sort of things went into how you decided the various ways...?

Brandon Sanderson

One of the things I like about Fantasy is the ability to tackle things like this in a way that removes the baggage from our current society which is why you see me doing things like the gender relations based around whether the hand is sleeved or not; what are feminine and masculine arts... I want to do something that's one step removed—not too far removed, because I want it to be pertinent—but removed enough that we can remove some of the baggage and talk about things like this. That's where the lighteyes and darkeyes came from.

I just decided to do it because I felt it's an important part of who we are, and something important to discuss. Beyond the fact that the Parshendi-Human thing is going to be a big deal for this series so I wanted to introduce it early on in the book to let you know this is something that we're going to deal with. 

Calamity Austin signing ()
#3 Copy


I would like to know how do you make cultures so vibrant?

Brandon Sanderson

So, dig deep rather than go wide. One or two cultures that play off of each other in an interesting way, where you've considered a lot of the ramifications, are gonna to be better than trying to create thirty different cultures. Try to keep focused on what's going to be important to the characters and the books, and try to spend your worldbuilding there. So like if the characters are going to have conflict over religion, spend time on religion. But if instead they're going to have different linguistics and that's a source of conflict to them, spend time on the linguistics.

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
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I'd like to ask what led to this decadence in the Iridescent Tones, what were the social causes? It started out as the Cult of the Returned, and a simple faith in caring for the Returned so they'd live long enough to fulfill their purpose. And I assume the Voice even sends them back without memories exactly to foster this faith and hope in people, so that mortals can be part of their salvation instead of just getting divine hand-outs. That sounds really nice. But by the time we reach the events in Warbreaker, a lot of corruption and cynicism has found its way in, no?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it has. Part of it is something that Lightsong points out. Their religion encourages the best of the Returned to give up their lives for their people, and they hit a patch where a lot of the best of them have already given up their lives. The rest have their needs and wants seen to. Beyond that, remember this is a society in which they're living in a very temperate climate where there isn't very much harsh weather at all; they're very sheltered, they have an extremely rich resource, and they have a lot of leisure time. So we're mixing leisure time with a somewhat selfish batch of Returned in control, and we're mixing that with a religion that focuses on art and beauty and that sort of thing.

I think one of the dangers this society would have to be worried about would be for this decadence to creep in as has happened at various points in various cultures around the world. The society certainly isn't irredeemable at all, but it is going through a patch of these three concepts aligning in some of the worst sorts of ways. But there are some better Returned than we focus on in the book, and there have been much better Returned in the past.

Goodreads WoK Fantasy Book Club Q&A ()
#5 Copy


Did I miss the explanation for why women have a safe hand and why they must keep it covered?

Brandon Sanderson

No, you haven't missed it. People have asked about this. There will be more explanation in-world as it comes along, but it's for much the same reason that in some cultures in our world you don't show people the bottoms of your feet, and in other cultures showing the top of your head is offensive. It's part of what has grown out of the Vorin culture, and there are reasons for it. One of them has to do with a famous book written by an artist who claimed that true feminine pursuits and arts were those that could be performed with one hand, while masculine arts were those performed with two hands, in a way associating delicacy with women and brute force with men. Some people in Roshar disagree with this idea, but the custom has grown out of that foundational work on masculine and feminine arts. That's where that came from. One aspect of this is that women began to paint one-handed and do things one-handed in upper, higher society. You'll notice that the lower classes don't pay a lot of attention to it—they'll just wear a glove.As a student of human nature and of anthropology, it fascinates me how some cultures create one thing as being taboo whereas in another culture, the same thing can be very much not taboo. It's just what we do as people.There's more to it than that, but that will stand for now.

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The violet eye color in The Way of Kings. We got to know that Dunny had violet eyes and Sigzil said the color wasn't native to Alethkar. Navani also has violet eyes, Jasnah too, and Tanalan from The Rift. So, is Navani or her family line not Alethi? And is there more to this specific eye color than we know so far?

Brandon Sanderson

There's a little bit more there that I will talk about eventually. You should not look at Navani and be like, "Oh, they're not native" in that I designed the Alethi as a race of conquerors who also--like I said before, one of the inspirations for the Alethi were the Mongols and particularly how the Mongols ruled after they had their empire. They were perfectly willing to incorporate anybody. The Romans did this too, "If you want to be part of our empire, great. If you're not gonna rebel, great. We will, to an extent, respect your religions and your ways and if you're willing to integrate then we're not gonna treat you terribly."

The Alethi have this history of being one of the, in that way, most multi-ethnic cultures on Roshar. Now, the sad thing is, the reason some of those ethnicities are there is due to brutal conquest and treatment of the world. But regardless, the Alethi have--most of them have no kind of pureblood sort of perspective, they don't care. They don't care what you look like, they care about whether you act like as part of their culture, whether you're integrated.

Emily Sanderson

As long as you have light colored eyes.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, well, they'll still accept you as Alethi.

Emily Sanderson

That's true. You just don't get to be the ruling class.

Brandon Sanderson

You just don't get to be highborn. So, this is just a hint much like you will see the Alethi have a very varied skin tone, they have lots of varied hair colors. You know, you're going to see mostly the kind of traditional Alethi black, but you know, there are multiple main characters in the series [where] that is not their hair color despite being considered one hundred percent Alethi. They would not look at Adolin and say he's half-not-Alethi, he's all Alethi even though one of his parents was raised in a different culture, he's one hundred percent an Alethi. And that's just how they look at things. So that's how you'd read into that, though there is a little bit to the eye color that maybe I'll get into some day.

ICon 2019 ()
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We've heard a lot about the lighteyes' ranking system, but less so about the darkeyes. I would like to ask if you can tell us more about what happens at, like, tenth nahn, the lowest of the lowest.

Brandon Sanderson

So, tenth nahn is easy, because that's the slaves. So, it's the middle ones that get really interesting. And actually, in some ways, the top ones are interesting because the nahns, the top of the Alethi darkeyes, would be analogous to how in the early 1800s, you saw a rise of a merchant class -- that actually started back in the 17, maybe 1600s -- but the rise of a merchant class who were not noble, but more powerful or richer than the nobility in almost every situation except for some legal situations. And that's what you're seeing there. That's really interesting.

The middle nahns are also interesting because they have the right of movement, which is an Alethi right that you can leave a city and move to another city. You basically can't be a sharecropper, you can't be required... you can't be a serf. And that power can be wielded over the lighteyes, by -- if the lighteyes is terrible, they can call upon the right to move, leave to a different city and that lighteyes is demoted, right? Because your lighteyes rank can be influenced by how important the people... your civic rank, you could actually become a lower dahn because of that, or at least lose a lot of prestige because of that.

And then the lowest of them are basically serfs, they don't have the right of movement, and the right of movement is a big dividing line. There is a nahn that doesn't have the right of movement that isn't a slave, also, and these people have pretty dismal lives.