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Shardcast Interview ()
#1 Copy

Weiry Writer

Kelsier and Thaidakar. At what point did you decide Kelsier would be part of The Stormlight Archive?

Brandon Sanderson

Thaidakar isn't; his minions are! Pretty early on, there's a whole lot of Kelsier in Era 3 and as soon as I decided that when I outlined the original nine books as I was working on the original Mistborn trilogy I knew that there needed to be some more of him influencing the world/universe at large. He is a really fun character to write because he does not fit in boxes very well. He does like meddling. There are a lot of things I want to do with Era 3. 

One of my big concerns when I was building the outline with Kelsier, when I was building the outline for all 9 books before I added the Wax and Wayne books, back in 2004 when I was doing a lot of the big outlining for the cosmere - Emily's got to dig out that paper I once wrote out for her - I guess that would have been 2004 to 2006, because I got married in 2006, and it was 2007 where I drew that thing out for her. No actually it was summer 2006, because I didn't have my laptop with me which I wasn't allowed at the family reunion, so I instead had a notebook, because if I'm not allowed my laptop, I will have a notebook, and that's why we have a physical copy of this thing.

But when I was doing all that one of my big concerns was how to make sure people kept interested in Mistborn while I was potentially spending years and years away from it, at that point in the outline I was going to write Dragonsteel before Stormlight. And I started trying to do that in 2007, either way we're talking 5 to 10 years away from Mistborn at that point. How can I make sure that this stuff-? So I outlined Secret History that I could release in the meantime, and a potential Secret History follow-up. That I've mentioned before that I don't know if I'll ever write. It wasn't until 2010-2011, that I was like "why don't I write some short stories in this world to keep people focused on it?" And I tried one and it was bad, and I'm like "what if I just wrote a little novel?" I can do a little novel, right? And that's where Alloy of Law came from.

Technically speaking these are all solutions to the same problem, which is people can't forget about Scadrial it's really important. They can forget to an extent about Sel; it's still important, but it's not important on the level that Scadrial is gonna be. Scadrial has so many fingers in the technology of the future. So this was another method to make sure we had some Scadrian influence happening while I was in other worlds. Turns out we ended up getting ALL of them, we got Secret History, and The Alloy of Law, and the little fingers in The Stormlight Archive. But it was important to me that the fingers in The Stormlight Archive be through the frame of reference of The Stormlight Archive. 

Chaos

I definitely think Shallan learning about cosmere stuff is a good intro for Stormlight-only readers to get interested in the cosmere, kind of like Mistborn: Secret History is for Mistborn-only readers.

Brandon Sanderson

In Roshar if you learn, "Hey, there's more planets out there," and they see Roshar as something with a very valuable resource. That's enough of an intro to the cosmere to make it work in Roshar, and to make you prep for the future. That's why I did it the way I did. And also knowing people were more okay with this. But also I needed to get it in, I almost should have done it earlier. I saw people guessing that one by Words of Radiance. But by the time I was releasing Words of Radiance I was seeing fan theories that were like, "What if this."

Chaos

So like throwing darts on a dart board. "Ah, like this person's this other person."

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it might be that. The whole philosophy of the Ghostbloods was suppose to dove-tail with Survivorism. Survival of the fittest type stuff very much. I'm hoping from the things they've read in that they were able to connect the philosophies rather than throwing darts at a dart board, but it could have been the dart board thing.

FeatherWriter

It's funny because we already recorded the Kelsier podcast, but it's gonna come out after this one. You've put me in a very weird situation, because loved the Ghostbloods. I guess I still love the Ghostbloods, I have a terrible villain crush on Mraize, he's one of my favorite characters and Kelsier drives me crazy. So finding out they are intrinsically linked I'm like "Noo! Kelsier is ruining my favorite thing." But it does make sense I have to admit.

Brandon Sanderson

It's okay. Mraize does not have to do what he's told, and Iyatil who - that's the other thing once I dropped Oathbringer, and this is a southern continent Scadrian running around, this is pretty obvious connection to Scadrial. I had to eventually canonize that. Iyatil is - 

Don't consider people in the Ghostbloods flunkies. That's not a very Ghostblood-ish philosophy.

Chaos

I guess that makes sense, they're all trying to backstab each other. Well no I guess not.

Brandon Sanderson

No, they're not allowed to backstab each other. [too many people talking at once] [Ghostbloods have]? specific rules, because they need them to be very strong specific rules. If you have an organization of people who are drawn to the way Kelsier works you need some really strong rules. [Hosts laugh] When he is just with his crew, his force of personality, and the people he individually picks you're not gonna have that problem. 

I always imagine-you can relate it to Tor Books, they're all assassins. When Tor really functioned well, back in the 90s, it's because Tom Doherty could keep a close eye on everything. And he liked his editors being a little bit in competition with each other. And he structured his organization so that if you picked an author who did well, you got bonuses, based on how well the authors did which is just a way of working that could really lead to an unhealthy office environment, if you think about it. But if you have Tom there making sure that that doesn't become the case, and if you have Harriet watching and making it a good incentive, not a bad incentive, then it all works really well and you have one of the strongest sci-fi publishers that's ever existed, because everybody was incentivised to find really good stuff. But they were corralled by Tom Doherty and kept it from becoming toxic. But now that Tom retired I think they're changing a lot of that, because its grown too big for one person to watch over.

And it's the same thing with Kelsier, in an immediate organization of Kelsier's you're gonna find a well bonded crew of people hand picked who are going to work together as a team, and you aren't going to have to worry about too much about backstabbing - less than average for the type of organization that they are. But if his structure is outside of his direct manipulation, the type of people who would be attracted to the organization he makes...

Chaos

...Are not gonna be nice.

Brandon Sanderson

...You're gonna have some problems. Mraize would not say that he's not nice. [hosts laughs] Mraize would just say that his niceness is an analogous threshold that does not intersect with the threshold of competence and capability of things he's trying to achieve, those things don't need to overlap in his life.

He'd say he's a very nice person. He was very nice to Shallan by his definition. [hosts laugh] He was very nice to Lift by his definition of things. Think of all the things he could have done with Lift, and what did he do? He gave her as a present to an ancient being who ruled the tower, who could properly take care of one such as Lift.

Chaos

Mraize is very nice.

FeatherWriter

You heard it here, it's canon. Mraize is nice.

Brandon Sanderson

Mraize is nice, and he also wanted to keep his fingers and he felt that was a better way to keep his fingers, was to make sure Lift was someone else's problem. He got what he wanted, which was being able to capture her, which was not that easy, he would say. So he deserves to have whatever reward, because it was quite a difficult enterprise on his part. She is not easy to capture.

You know those Scadrians gotta keep an eye on things, they like to meddle.

FanX 2021 ()
#3 Copy

Questioner

Are the Ghostbloods good, in your mind, or bad?

Brandon Sanderson

They are neither, in my mind.

Questioner

Does their leader, Thaidakar, affect what they do a lot?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, but the Roshar branch is a little bit removed from him.

Shadows of Self release party ()
#6 Copy

Questioner

I cannot picture what the symbol for the Ghostbloods looks like.

Brandon Sanderson

Isaac?

Isaac Stewart

I've got it on Dropbox.

Brandon Sanderson

...Partially this is because I hadn't decided how I wanted it to look, so I didn't let Isaac put a picture of it until we got it. So I'll put it in the third book. That's partial-- And I imagined what I wanted it to look like and I said "Draw this" and Isaac came back with like five and I'm like "Oh… No, it's not any of those".

Isaac Stewart

We had done a bunch of different concepts, but that's the one we ended going with.

Questioner

Oh yeah!

Brandon Sanderson

And I was imagining something more like this or this originally.

Questioner

Yeah, that's kind of what I originally-- Yeah, that's awesome.

Isaac Stewart

But this one winds up being a little more distinct, I think, from the others.

FanX Spring 2019 ()
#9 Copy

Stormlightning

Would the Ghostbloods try to recruit [a Sleepless]?

Brandon Sanderson

Um, the Ghostbloods would not trust a Sleepless.

Stormlightning

They wouldn't? So they wouldn't even try to get one?

Brandon Sanderson

They would not. They would expect a Sleepless to take over their organization or try to. And try to stay far away from the Sleepless.

Stormlightning

What about the Seventeenth Shard?

Brandon Sanderson

There are members of the Seventeenth Shard who would be interested in recruiting one of the Sleepless. Generally they represent a wildcard faction that a lot of other people are wary of.

Stormlightning

I guess Khriss and them just know about them?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. The Sleepless are cosmere-aware.

Stormlightning

Are they worldhoppers?

Brandon Sanderson

There are Sleepless on many planets. They have mostly settled on Roshar for various reasons.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#12 Copy

Mister_Frodo

If Shallan's mother was a Ghostblood and Shallan is recognized by the ghostbloods in WoR is it safe to assume that they are aware of her role in her mothers death?

Brandon Sanderson

Not 100% safe to assume, but it wouldn't be an outlandish conclusion either.

Leipzig Book Fair ()
#13 Copy

Questioner

How would - just really generally - the Ghostbloods react if they found or met Hoid?

Brandon Sanderson

(laughs) They... Some people among them know of him.

Questioner

So they know he's around.

Brandon Sanderson

Some of them do, not everybody. But they are aware of his existence. At least in lore, they don't always... Not all of them have connected the King's Wit to this person's lore, does that make sense? So what would they know? They'd probably want to get him and interrogate him. They would want to know what he knows, but he is really slippery and it's hard to get out of him what he knows.

General Reddit 2021 ()
#15 Copy

Rayborne

From what we know, the Ghostbloods want a way to move investiture offworld. Could Thaidakar/Kelsier's reason for doing that be so that he can find a way to go offworld, given that he's Connected to Scadrial in (I assume) the same way investiture is Connected to a planet? Put in a more generalized way, is a cognitive shadow just investiture with a person's mind imprint, and if so would it be possible to move it (and the shadow themselves) offworld assuming the Ghostbloods find a way to do it?

Brandon Sanderson

Wow! Great question. RAFO!

Oathbringer Glasgow signing ()
#16 Copy

Questioner

Yes, or no. With all of the cosmere books that have been put out, do we have enough information to deduce the Ghostbloods' motives?

Brandon Sanderson

Ummm... *laugher* I would say yes, but it's not like you are a fool if you haven't gotten it.

Robert Jordan once answered a question like this saying, "Well, the answer should be intuitively obvious to the casual observer." Which I never thought was fair. Like, no, it was not. Szeth, some people guessed it. And some people will guess this. A lot of the foreshadowing in my books, it's this weird thing where, when you do proper foreshadowing, and then people have three years between books, they're gonna figure some things out. Which presents a really interesting challenge to me as a writer, because, like, there are big things that get revealed in Oathbringer, that people who have been steeped in the world for the last seven years... they kinda knew this would happen. We get the beta readers, and they're like, "So? Doesn't everyone know that?" But at the same time, the casual reader, beta readers were like "Holy cow! This is a huge revelation!" And books need to work both for the person who has been really steeped in it, and the person who's reading along that maybe doesn't want to go get all the spoilers from all the fan guessing. So it is this weird balancing act that, as a writer, you have to perform, particularly with the longer books in the longer series, where you want to make sure they're engaging to the hardcore fan, but not overwhelming to the person who maybe hasn't reread the books since the last one came out. And I don't know that I have that balance figured out, but it is something I think about a lot...

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#18 Copy

-lurcher-

"Ghostbloods" is an interesting name to me. Is that a name that originated on Roshar or somewhere else? Does the group have to do either with ghosts or blood? Or is it more a metaphorical name?

Brandon Sanderson

The name of the Ghostbloods has roots in specific cosmere events, and means something in world.

YouTube Livestream 23 ()
#21 Copy

Kimbobhi

Is it possible to Surgebind using gaseous Investiture other than Roshar's?

Brandon Sanderson

So here's the thing. It depends on your definition of Surgebinding. Surgebinding would be the Rosharan definition of all of the magics. They would call the Metallic Arts Surgebinding. You are binding the powers of creation, which the word "Surge" is that word translated from Rosharan into English, that's what the word means in Rosharan, is the powers of creation. The fundamental forces which inspired me to make this. So they would consider all of them to be Surgebinding. And that's just what you're doing, you are binding and using those powers.

Other people, including Khriss, would not agree with that definition. They would say: Surgebinding is specifically binding, through the Nahel bond, the spren, the specific manifestations of Investiture on Roshar, by using specific sets of oaths in order to gain access to those powers. So she would say: no, that is not Surgebinding when someone uses Allomancy. I would lean with her on that one, but the other one's a viable definition.

What you're really asking is, can someone, one of the Rosharan, the Knightly Radiant Orders, could they power that with a different form of Investiture from a different planet? And yes, this is possible, though there might be some difficulties in making it work, which I haven't explained entirely yet. But yes, this is possible. In fact, it is possible to power all of the different magics with the different forms of Investiture. That is a possibility

This is one of the reasons why Mraize and Thaidakar are so interested in Stormlight. Because if you could get Stormlight off, and you can crack that... just way easier to get Stormlight than it is to get the other ones. Like Breath, you could consider easy, but hard to morally harvest; in fact, perhaps impossible. If you want ethical, sustainable magic, then Roshar is a much better bet than some of the other places that you could...

Adam Horne

Does that mean Mraize and [Thaidakar] want an ethically sustainable...?

Brandon Sanderson

They're really interested in the sustainable part. I would say that they both would say "yes" to that question. They would consider their actions to be, on an ethical spectrum, at least in the neutral area, perhaps. Others would disagree with that.

Adam Horne

Where would they fall, philosophically speaking, like Kantianism, or?

Brandon Sanderson

I'd have to think about that. That's a good question. Certainly not as far on the utilitarianism side as someone like Taravangian, who's about as far as you can go. But Jasnah is pretty far on that side, also. Though she considers her version more of a "what is the greatest good I can do with any action I take?" (Which one is that? It's not Kantian, but you know what I mean.) That is a little on the utilitarian side. Not a little, that's... not as far as Taravangian, but that's definitely, yeah. They would maybe be in between those two, maybe. Depends. They're not the same individual, they would have different lines.

There's gonna be (let's just say) future books that explore Thaidakar's relationship with that. But you have seen in other books the lengths that Thaidakar is willing to take in order to achieve his goals. He is not far off from Taravangian in some of those things that he has done.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#22 Copy

chaplainchris

The Ghostbloods. Are they Kelsier's new crew?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, good question... Do I wanna answer this or not? *laughter* I'm gonna RAFO this one. Yeah, we're gonna RAFO this one. It is the RAFOlympics after all.

Billy Todd

Have there been interactions between Kelsier and the Ghostbloods?

Brandon Sanderson

I will RAFO that.

Skyward release party ()
#24 Copy

KING

What would it take for a member of the Seventeenth Shard Shard to convert over to a member of the Ghostbloods? 

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, the Ghostbloods would actively recruit from them. So, I think it would not be terribly difficult. It 's gonna depend on which kind of Seventeenth Sharder. Because there are a lot of non-field-agent Seventeenth Sharders, which would be less interesting. Field agents, they would actively recruit. 

JordanCon 2018 ()
#27 Copy

Questioner

Are the Ghostbloods affiliated with Autonomy?

Brandon Sanderson

"Affiliated with" is very wiggle-room-ish. And so I'll go ahead and give you a RAFO on that one, even though I can totally wiggle on this one. I'm just gonna say "RAFO"; I'm gonna do the ultimate wiggle. There have been dealings.

Billy Todd

Interactions?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, there's been interactions.

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

Andrew B

Was the symbol of the Ghostbloods the same symbol that you used to move between different scenes inĀ The Way of Kings' chapters (the three diamonds in a triangle pattern)?

Brandon Sanderson

The Ghostbloods' symbol has interconnected diamonds. I didn't ask Tor for a specific scene break character; that was a design decision on their part.

Stuttgart signing ()
#30 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

How do you choose worldhoppers to depict in your books?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

There's couple of ways I choose worldhoppers. The background story plays a big part, but some worldhoppers just want to be immigrants. Some people you meet, you'll notice they're from a different planet but aren't involved in any schemes. They just wanted to get to another planet.

There's groups like the Ghostbloods, but there's also just trade between places like Roshar and Nalthis. I have to be careful to not make everyone an easter egg from other worlds. That would strain plausibility very easily.

General Reddit 2021 ()
#31 Copy

PrincipleFriendly205

Mare's Flower.

*a tattoo of the Ghostblood symbol*

montezuma300

Can you confirm either yea or nay?

Ben McSweeney

I had not thought this was the case before, but Brandon don’t tell me everything and some of what he tells me changes over the years (we used to have a hard rule with fur on Roshar, for instance). And I was not part of the design process for this symbol, it was handed to me ready-to-go when I put it on the Shallan page.

I would not be surprised to learn what we have here is a symbol based on the picture of the flower, that whatever flower she had a picture of, it had three petals of a somewhat diamond shape.

But I don’t actually know, and I’ll have to ask around. Might be a RAFO.

montezuma300

What's the fur rule?

Ben McSweeney

Waaaay back at the start, the rule was "no fur" in designs, full stop. The idea being that any fur-bearing creatures were too rare to be used for their hides. At some point he relaxed that rule... fur is still relatively rare and expensive (I think) but it's not unheard of.

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

Questioner

I want to know if Taravangian, the Ghostbloods, Amaram, is there any kind of like connecting... are they working together or anything like that?

Brandon Sanderson

Taravangian, so the Diagram, the Ghostbloods, is that the two you mentioned? Amaram is Sons of Honor; Amaram and Gavilar are Sons of Honor. These are three different groups who are aware of what is happening and have different philosophies on how to deal with what is coming. They have opposed views, for example, the Sons of Honor are trying to bring back Voidbringers because they believe it will return the heralds as well. Where as the diagram has his plan... y'know, I wont give them away. Some of the are hinted at, you can read. He talks about it, but you can see what he's doing. The Ghostbloods, they have not talked about their motives very much. They have different motives. The Sons of Honor are the easiest to figure out and they are also the most wrong, right. If you read what Taravangian says you can probably see what the Diagram is trying to do.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#33 Copy

focoma

I may be pushing my luck a bit but I have another question, this time about the symbol of the Ghostbloods. In Way of Kings it was described as three overlapping diamonds, while in Words of Radiance it was described as "triangular". I also heard that recently a fan showed you what he thought the symbol looked like and you told him he was correct, but the picture he showed wasn't triangular in any sense.

Was the triangular description a mistake? Do the Ghostbloods have more than one symbol? I personally imagined it to be something like this, which sorta looks triagular since it has three parts sticking out from the center.

Brandon Sanderson

We'll release this eventually. Yours is not as I imagined it, I'm afraid.