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Shadows of Self San Jose signing ()
#1 Copy


So, Metalminds: if you store weight, how does that work, do you decrease your mass or...?

Brandon Sanderson

So, storing weight actually plays with your mass, because if you look at how we do the physics of it… This one is really screwy, because we are changing mass and playing with it. You watch, like with Wax decreases his weight while he's in motion he'll speed up, and if he increases it, he'll slow down. The conservation of momentum and things like that, but we'll doing really weird stuff. It's like, how can you store your mass… Well, in the magic system it works, but it’s one of the weirdest things we do. *pauses to sign book* We kind of play loose and free with the physics sometimes. Like the example that I often use is Wayne doing a speed bubble, the light that is trapped in the speed if he turns on a flashlight would actually radiate because of the redshift, and you could just kill everybody by flashing that. So, we make the speed bubbles not cause a redshift for that reason. We kind of work with what is good storytelling first, and then work the physics around it, but we have to put in all these little breaks and things like that in there regularity in order to actually have the story.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#2 Copy


I was wondering what made you so interested in the super rules-based magic system. Because you're probably one of the best at that, and in every different universe you manage to create a complete unique set of rules-based magic and they're all completely unique.

Brandon Sanderson

So there's a panel on magic tomorrow, so I hope I don't repeat myself too much. But the whole rule-based magic thing came about mostly because I was looking for holes in the market, right? Like, things people weren't doing that I wish they were doing. I often say to new writers, "Find the books that nobody's writing, that you want to read, and try to write those." That sounds-- I mean, that's just very vague. I don't know how useful that is, but that's kind of what I was doing.

But at the same time I like-- there are lots of soft magic systems I like. Uprooted which came out a couple years ago. It's a really great book with a very soft magic system. So it's not like I feel like magic has to be done this way. But I found something I was good at, that I didn't think people were doing enough of, that I felt like people would want to read, and so that kind of became my thing even before I published. Like when I was writing my books only for my fri-- I wrote thirteen before I sold one, if you guys know about that-- And so when I was writing those books it was, "What weird setting is Brandon going to do?" Because fantasy through the 80s and 90s-- I mean, there's lots of great writers. I love them. But I felt like they were really safe with their settings, and they didn't-- they explored other directions really well. But it-- we had a lot of these kind of faux-Medieval, elemental-base magic systems, and cultures that were very "England, but not England." And I'm like, "Well, fantasy should be the most imaginative genre. Where can we push it? Where-- what different things can we do?" And so I tried that during those years. The magic systems kind of grew out of that. Like, "What are people not doing?"

I will say there are some people who have done it even in the past. Melanie Rawn's Sunrunner books. I've really liked those. Those kind of have-- it's not scientific, but it's rule-based, which is kind of-- are two different things. Being consistent is one thing, and then trying-- like I try to play off of physics and make it feel like it's playing off of physics when it's really not, because I'm a fantasy writer, right? Like.--


In Mistborn it's pretty physics.

Brandon Sanderson

Pretty physics-- But even in Mistborn, right like if you-- the time bubbles-- speed bubbles. Like I have to fudge some things. Like I spoke with my assistants, like, "Alright, what would happen if we build these?" And we're like, "Well first thing would happen is that it would change the wavelengths of light and irradiate people." You know, like this sort of thing. We're like-- we just have to make a rule that it doesn't irradiate people. You can't just take a flashlight and melt people. Yes, you just have to come up with some-- And so for me, a lot of the big difference, I say, between a fantasy writer and a science fiction writer is, the science fiction writer is forward-- each step trying to be plausible-- and the fantasy writer a lot of times drafts it backward. "Here's a cool effect. Can I explain this in a way that makes it feel like it's real and logical?" But I'm working backward from the fact, not forward from what's happening here.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
#3 Copy


So I was actually wondering, I keep finding myself thinking of new and exciting ways to break science with magic. How do you keep yourself from doing that constantly as you're writing?

Brandon Sanderson

You write the book the best way the book can be. You give it to a scientist. You say "What does this break?" and then you either take it into account, if you think it is going to work for the book. If not you come up with an explanation in-world and you move forward. We're writing fantasy, we don't want the science to ruin our book, we want the science to be something we considered. Does that make sense? Like when I made speed bubbles and Peter's like "Red shift! You're going to irradiate people." I'm like "Alright we're just going to have to say 'Speed bubbles are not irradiating people' ". And just be aware of it and write the best book you can.

Miscellaneous 2010 ()
#4 Copy

Peter Ahlstrom

OK guys, help me out on this.

Let's take a bubble where time is sped up inside, maybe to 10x, maybe to 100x. I'm thinking that if there is no light source inside the bubble, but all light comes from the area outside the bubble, to an observer outside the bubble all light that goes inside and gets redshifted will get blueshifted back the same amount when it exits the bubble. So the outside observer won't see a color change at all. (I'm ignoring refraction for the purposes of this post, but someone else may elucidate.)

The person inside the bubble will see a redshift of all light coming into the bubble--but will also see far fewer photons per second, so the world will go dim or even black.

At low time-speedups, the person in the bubble will see UV light shifted into the visible range, so will start effectively seeing in UV. At very fast speeds he can see X rays or even gamma rays. (I don't know from Brandon what the max speedup is.)

If the person inside the bubble turns on a flashlight, this will be shifted into the UV or X-ray range when it leaves the bubble. You can fry everyone around you with deadly radiation this way.

When you have a bubble that slows time, the opposite happens. People inside can see in infrared or radio waves. And if they go slow enough, visible light from the outside is shifted into the X-ray or gamma-ray range and the person inside gets fried by radiation. If they turn on a flashlight, people outside get cooked.

Can anyone point out flaws in this analysis? Does anyone have magical suggestions for why any of these things wouldn't happen?

For practical reasons it looks like there will need to be a lot of handwavium burned.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
#5 Copy


As a physicist I appreciate you being so consistent with your magic systems.

Brandon Sanderson

It is something I try very hard to do, though I do recognize that we do bend a lot of rules. When we were doing the time-based one in this [The Alloy of Law], I'm like, "Oh, boy, redshifts. Oh, no, conservation of energy." We had to do some bending to make it so that the radiation from the light passing out of the time bubble wasn't deadly.