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Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
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Questioner 1

That question I asked, I've been wondering about it a lot, how do you do misogyny *inaudible*? I think the message of the book...isn't really right wording.

Brandon Sanderson

No, I know exactly what you mean. How do you write misogynistic characters without writing a misogynistic book? That is tricky. You know, one thing that I didn’t bring up a lot is to have people on a spectrum. If every--‘cause even if you go back to, for instance--if you went back to 600 BC, there would be certain people who think different ways than everyone else. We think that cultures are monolithic, but they're not. And if you go back most of my characters are not acting like they would in the mid-1800’s. If you went back then you would find people who are anti-racist, even back then. So it’s legit that you can have certain...

Yeah. The trick is you can’t make anyone just a super paragon, like Ghandi was racist but he was really powerfully influential in what he did.  Everyone has got their biases and so if you make someone with no biases then they’re a bad character, but if you make people’s biases shine a light on each other you’ll have a stronger story.

Questioner 1

*inaudible about Kaladin* He does have that deep-seated prejudice against the lighteyes, but in every other way as with everyone else its a subtle reminder.

Brandon Sanderson

Except the Parshendi.  He’s been getting better.  But that’s the whole point of relaying this. This person has.

Questioner 2

Like you said, there's the stereotypes about Herdazians.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. Herdazians. And most people don't pick it out that there's like this deep racism against the Herdazians.

Questioner 1

Do people ever accuse you of being <misogynistic>?

Brandon Sanderson

Not yet. I know it will happen. It probably has happened and I haven't seen it, but no, I haven't been upfront accused of it. My worse thing is there's some unconscious sexism in Mistborn. Vin works very well but there aren't any other women. I kind of fall into the one woman in the whole world sort of thing. But part of learning about this is we all have these biases, we're all going to these make these mistakes. You have to be okay to fail. Better that than wrong. Why is that wrong? What about is it? In what way?

Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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Are Parshendi/human hybrids possible?

Brandon Sanderson

They are. In fact, both the Horneaters and the Herdazians are descendants of human/Parshendi, human/listener hybrids. And there's very, very small remnants of it; they are mostly human. But they have a bit of listener heritage, just like a lot of us have some Neanderthal heritage. They, perhaps, have a little bit more in their past.

So, yes, this is possible.

JordanCon 2014 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

With Lift part of the inspiration was-- Boy, what was the inspiration for Lift? When I was building The Stormlight Archive I said, "I want the Knights Radiant to run the gamut of different character styles, ages, and types of story." And when you say "knight"--when I say knight you imagine one thing. What you don't imagine is a thirteen-year-old Hispanic girl, right? And I said "I want to have the people that are in the Knights Radiant to not be the standard what you think of." They are the entire world's cultures having different people. And so I said "Well, what is somebody who does not fit that mold?" That you would say is not a knight. Lift was partially developed out of me wanting to build a character who was awesome but was so different from what everyone would think of. 'Cause you say knight and they think of white dude in armor, and I wanted something very different from that. And that's where she came from. It also came partially from my wife reading a lot of fantasy and complaining that she's like, "you know the Asians show up in fantasy a lot, Asian culture inspires a lot. European culture of course does. You see a lot of these things but where are the Hispanics?"

*audience laughs*

...Yeah there's one. So she challenged me to put a Hispanic culture in my books because I had never done it before, and so Lift is an outgrowth of that, so are the Herdazians. They are meant to be sort of in the same way that the Alethi are inspired by Korean culture, mashed up with this sort of concept of medieval knights. The same way Shallan is based a little off of Western American/Europe culture. The Herdazians are launching off some of the original Hispanic concepts. So the thing is, you want every culture to be new and original but you are working from somewhere. And the problem is we all work from the same stories for so long that is part of the reason why fantasy is starting to feel so stale.

Tampa Bay Comic Convention 2023 ()
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I'm here as an "ambassador" of Cosmere Argentina, so, we as a community have a question that we'd like to ask. Have you taken inspiration for a character, a place, community, or whatever on a Latin American society?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. So the main Latin American inspiration would be the Herdazians, but the secondary would be: Lift and her people are based on Bolivian indigenous peoples and kind of what is going on down there, so both in the Stormlight Archive is where I've kinda taken my Latin America inspirations.

So, I mean, Herdazians is more Mexico than South America, but Lift is Bolivia. Kinda looking into some of the Bolivian Indigenous, and what they would look like and things like that. Obviously, I'm not saying they all act like Lift, but Lift is her own person.

Shadows of Self Edinburgh UK signing ()
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You've said before that the Horneaters are hybrids, half-human--

Brandon Sanderson

Not really half any more, but yeah.


Are there any other hybrid creatures, would you consider the koloss to be this? Koloss-blooded.

Brandon Sanderson

Not really, I don't consider them, but the Herdazians also have a bit of Parshendi in them.

White Sand vol.1 release party ()
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I really like how you have different fingernails. *inaudible* Because I barely noticed, rereading for Stormlight, you've got the He--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. Herdazians. 



Brandon Sanderson

That's because Herdazians are-- have Parshendi blood. Parshmen blood. They're one of the halv-- they're one of the mixed breeds. Horneaters *inaudible* too.


Horneaters, um.. they're not *inaudible* with Parshendi are they?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, they are.


That's where they get the red hair then.

Brandon Sanderson

That's where they get the red hair. And they actually can-- they call them Horneaters because they eat shell, and they actually can metabolize it which humans can't. Yeah. They've actually got, actually-- they've actually got different teeth than humans have.

General Reddit 2015 ()
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I didn't realize Horneaters had parshmen blood, didn't even realize that was possible. How closely are humans and parshmen related, do they have a common ancestor? Or is one an artificially created version of the other?

Brandon Sanderson

There was intermixing long ago. Horneaters and Herdazians are both a result. (Signs of this are the stone carapace on Herdazian fingernails and the Horneater extra jaw pieces--in the back of the mouth--for breaking shells.)

Humans and parshmen don't have a common ancestor. And as a side note, both of these strains of humanoids predate the ascension of Honor, Cultivation, and Odium.


Are there Aimian-Human hybrids as well? (Either type of Aimian) If so, are the Thaylen people one of these?

Brandon Sanderson



*via private message*

Some of us believe that you are saying that humans and listeners existed pre-Shattering while some of us believe that you are saying that Horneaters and Herdazians existed pre-Shattering (you have mentioned that humans had been on Roshar since before the Shattering recently). What were you trying to say here?

Brandon Sanderson

Humans (other than those on Yolen) existed pre-Shattering, as did parshmen.

YouTube Livestream 14 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Horneaters are capable [of drinking the Horneater White]. They actually are human-singer hybrids, like the Herdazians, but in a different line. And they have a different physiology. And they actually are not 100% human and are capable of eating and ingesting things that would kill a person.

Isaac Stewart

Can singers?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, singers can drink the Horneater White.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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Rereading Words of Radiance... Are the Herdazians a caricature of Mexicans? Is that ok?

Brandon Sanderson

Parts of their culture are inspired by Mexican culture in the same way the Alethi are inspired by Mongolians, Lift's origins are indigenous Bolivians, and the Final Empire (Central Dominance) was 1800's France. Human beings need a launching-off point for creativity to work.

I don't consider them a caricature. Lopen is extreme to say the least, but I made sure to include Palona, Huio, and others as a balancing factor. That said, I don't get to decide if what I did works--I get to try, and explain my motivations, but the decision on whether or not I succeed is not in my hands. Many a writer has had the best intentions, but has failed anyway.

I think it's important to diversify my inspirations, and push myself. If I were going to say the true inspirations for Herdazians, it would be a Mexico mashup with Korea (where I lived for several years.) The smaller country that has long been overshadowed by a dominant neighbor is a very common thing in our world, and it really felt like Alethkar would have a similar effect on kingdoms around it.

I will take a moment to note that chouta wasn't inspired by burritos, really, but more the "street food" explosion that accompanied the industrial revolution. I took what they had in the society (flatbread and Soulcast meat) and tried to build something that would replicate the things I've seen and read about in our world during that era, because it fascinates me.

YouTube Livestream 1 ()
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What inspired Lopen?

Brandon Sanderson

A couple things inspired Lopen. The first, and kind of most important thing, that inspired Lopen, was: I knew Bridge Four needed more light. Like, it needed somebody who just refused to be beaten down at all. Because things were so dark in the Bridge Four sequences, I knew I needed to add in somebody who just had a different personality. And I developed Lopen around that idea. Lopen is the guy that's going to be shoved into Hell and be like, "Hey, guys, what's going on? Wow, it's kind of hot here, huh. Well, we'll deal with that!" Just refuses to let it get him down.

The Herdazians, in general, came from me wanting to reach to other cultures that aren't often seen in fantasy novels for some of my inspirations. So a few of the Herdazian inspirations come from Hispanic culture. I think that's probably pretty obvious. But just not something that you see a lot in epic fantasy, for whatever reason. If people are writing epic fantasy, and they're reaching for cultures to base things on, they are usually going to go to Europe or to Asia. You're going to see a lot of Japan and China. You're going to see a lot of Germany. You're gonna see a lot of classical Europe, Hellenistic, things like that. You'll occasionally see the Persians because of like, the accumulated Persian inspirations and things like that. Then we have a "Cyrus the Not So Great" earlier - that was the Persians, right? Yeah ... But you don't see Mexicans, right? You don't see South Americans. And there's a lot of really interesting things to go there.

Now, it strays into dangerous areas when you're just like, "I'm going to lift this culture wholesale" and plop it in you're book, which is dangerous because you risk, really, misrepresenting that culture, appropriating it, things like that. But I think where fantasy comes from is going and actually doing deep dives into Earth's history and looking for inspirations for cultures. And with the Herdazians, I spent a lot of time in that direction. Because I was already reading on some of that for Rithmatist.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Why can Rock see Syl?

Brandon Sanderson

*pause* Okay time to pause the record-- This doesn't go online, okay? *Audio paused*


Thank you sir.

Brandon Sanderson

Maybe you already knew that.


Do you ever get annoyed with us?

Brandon Sanderson

No. I thought I talked about the--



Brandon Sanderson

Yeah the-- So I mentioned both of them?

Footnote: When Brandon asks if he "mentioned both of them" he is referring to the fact that both the Unkalaki and Herdazians have listener blood.
Oathbringer release party ()
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The Lopen's cousins? Is there any significance to them, or are they just--

Brandon Sanderson

No, they're just, like, his cousins and his distant cousins. He just is somebody who knows everyone and is related to half the Herdazians around. There's no secret, they just really are.


When they show up, ever time, I'm like, there's gotta be something with these guys.

Brandon Sanderson

They're a tight-knit group, those Herdazians.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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You said earlier that Parshendi are primarily asexual, does that extend to all Listeners -- parshmen, and those descended from Listeners, like Horneaters and Herdazians -- or is it just the Parshendi?

Brandon Sanderson

Most Listener forms are asexual, but several forms are different, including slaveform. Horneaters and Herdazians are not, as a rule, though there are higher instances of asexuality among them.


I was actually wondering about how Parshmen would reproduce if they are only in slaveform? I thought one had to be in mateform in order to reproduce?

Also, could Horneaters and Herdazians change forms as well?

Brandon Sanderson

For the first, mateform is not the only form capable of producing--any more than warform is the only one capable of swinging a sword. The forms are specializations.

For the second, RAFO.

Liverpool signing ()
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Ayende87 (paraphrased)

I asked if the Aimians as a race were, as I suspected, closer to the Cognitive Realm, and whether they are somehow related to the Parshendi.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Brandon started by saying there are 2 sub races of Aimians for a start, and Axies the Collector is of 1 set, we have yet to meet the other but we will!

He did say there is 'Something' going on with the Aimians and their interaction with the Cognitive Realm but wouldn't elaborate on that point.

He then went on to say that Aimians are not in fact related to Parshendi at all, but the Horneaters and Herdazians are!

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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What are your thoughts on Kramer's depiction of a Herdazian accent? Is it what you were trying to go for or no? When I read WoK I thought they had more of a Mexican accent but Kramer has brought me over to his, what I believe is, Australian accent.

Brandon Sanderson

It makes me laugh, and I like that there are other interpretations out there--since it's a fantasy world, and their accent doesn't have a 1-to-1 correlation with our world. That said, the were originally Hispanic inspired, so you were on the right track.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
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What is a sparkflicker and what are they used for?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh good question... You'll be interested in this. Sparkflickers are-- Herdazians, their fingernails are stone. A sparkflicker is so they can start fires. They're actually flint-and-steel-ing. So a sparkflicker is a fire-creator using their actual fingernails.


So they don't have a martial application?

Brandon Sanderson

...Not really. I mean the sparkflicker, no. The nails? Yes, if your fingernails are rough. But there is a deep implication to that that I don't think people have quite picked out yet.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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Have you included (or do you potentially intend to include) any asexual characters in your published works? Asexual characters don't seem to be very common in fiction, and I'm sure it would be fantastic for people that identify as such to feel in any way represented by one of your characters!

Brandon Sanderson

I originally conceived the asexual nature of most Parshendi (from the Stormlight Archive) forms after reading a very thought-provoking article written by someone asexual. The idea of a primarily asexual race was a fascinating idea to me, and you will see this more in future books.


can somene be born half-parshnedi or maybe even half-spren??

Brandon Sanderson

The Horneaters and the Herdazians are both descendants of Parshendi/human interbreeding.

Spren do not reproduce biologically. As such, the term "half-spren" is basically meaningless. You could argue that the Parshendi, when bonded to spren, are part spren--as are many creatures on Roshar, if they have a spren symbiosis.