Are you planning some more books along the lines of the Legion.
The Legion books.
Oh Legion books. I'm not planning any more Legion books right now but it's not impossible.
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Are you planning some more books along the lines of the Legion.
The Legion books.
Oh Legion books. I'm not planning any more Legion books right now but it's not impossible.
I was just wondering if you had any plans for a longer Legion type work.
Plans for a longer Legion type work. The goal was for a long time if I could get a television show off the ground, I would write a novel to accompany it to kind of publicize the show. We sold the rights like two or three times, and no one ever got it off the ground. I still think it's possible someday, but I probably don't envision doing a longer one-- In fact, I'll say, I don't envision doing a longer one right now unless that happens. Though I do envision doing a third story at some point.
So you would say that Legion is best consumed in forty-four minute blocks?
Yeah, I mean, when I came up with the idea, I thought, this would make a great television show, let me write a few episodes.
With regards to Legion, are you planning on writing another short story?
I am planning a third Legion short story, and then I will probably let that one lay fallow for a while. I don't know when I'll do that, it might be next year. I usually do a novella every year. And so, we'll see, it might be Legion next year to kind of wrap that up, not that it's really gonna be an ending because those are kind of episodic, but it will be the end of writing those for a while.
How are you feeling now that you're near science fiction since you're known for fantasy novels. <inaudible> Young Adult?
Most of my books are what we'd call hard fantasy anyway; which is fantasy that uses science fiction's styling to build it's worlds. So I don't know that for me there's a hard line between science fiction and fantasy. There certainly isn't a hard line between my interest on one side or the other; I like all kinds of speculative fiction. Though I will say that I have trouble making anything normal. Legion is a good example which is a psychological thriller that ended up being science fiction and a little bit fantasy.
What technology that you have heard of recently in real life has inspired fantasy?
There's gotta be something in Skyward, right? Maybe?
Obviously, the Legion stories are, all three of them, inspired by real-world technology that I read something interesting about, and then go and write a story about. The first one, taking pictures of the past with a camera, not a real-world technology, but I was reading about photography and things like that. The second one, storing data inside of human cells, that's a real thing that lots of people are trying to do that, it's very interesting. And I didn't want to do a story about that, because I thought other people would do stories about that, so I did a story where someone storied data in a body and then lost it. And the third one is directly inspired by my kids love of their VR.
What was your favorite aspect from the Legion books to write? Who was your favorite character?
I would say JC was my favorite to write. I like humor. I like how unaware yet sometimes self-aware he can be. It allows me to play with character in an interesting way, so I would say him.
Do you actually know what's wrong with Stephen Leeds?
Do I know what's wrong with Stephen Leeds? I do know what's wrong with Stephen Leeds. Thank you for promoting that one. Legion's another of these novellas I did. It's got a fun story behind it.
So I was in a writing group with mutual friend Dan Wells, he writes twisted books about people who are messed up, and he was doing a book about schizophrenia. He was deep into a schizophrenic’s mind, Dan does a lot of research hits these things really well and meanwhile I'm over here being me and I’m like “Oh this would make a great magic system” *laughter* I'm like “No, no, no, really if you had a schizophrenic and what if they heard voices and saw hallucinations, but the hallucinations helped them. Like their superpower was seeing hallucinations." He's like "That's weird." I'm like "No, you should write this” and I tried to convince him to write it and I tried to convince him to write and finally he said “Brandon, write the dumb book, it’s not my book it’s yours” So I wrote it, it’s called Legion.
It is indeed about a guy who is a genius and he can become an expert in any topic but that knowledge manifests as a hallucination that he sees, which can than talk him through things. Like if he studies, say, computer programming, he can't program computers, but a hallucination could walk him through programming a computer...
I'm going to warn you, they only do limited editions of the hardcovers on most of these. So they're expensive. But if you buy that I will send you the ebook for free. The only thing I can do that on are my novellas, that and Emperor's Soul, but it is also online for a couple bucks as an ebook. Or you can buy the very nice edition by Subterranean Press.
So he gets worse...
*hesitates* Over the course of the series he is getting worse and worse, despite what he says.
In your novellas Legion and The Emperor's Soul, there was a common theme of a creation of character. Were you making a comment on that as a writer?
The Emperor's Soul was much more so, specifically dealing with the artistic process. That was part of the theme for me. Legion was more "Wow, this idea's awesome." I originally told Dan (from Writing Excuses) that he should write this, it's really quirky. He said, "I got my own ideas—go write it yourself!"
What are your plans with Legion?
We will eventually be doing a collection of those on my website, so if you want to wait on those, I'm going to do three novellas, and then we'll collect them into a three-novella thing, so it's a regular book size.
How much more do you want to write about Stephen Leeds?
How much more do I want to write about Stephen Leeds, from Legion? I want to write a decent amount more. I have finished Legion 2, which you may have noticed, which is called Legion: Skin Deep. I had a really great name for a title, but I don't know if I can use it because Skin Deep is a reference to beauty, right? But I thought a great title would be Legion: Lies of the Beholder. I like the pun on that but that is also "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" so I can't make them all puns off of beauty. The original concept with Legion was to do a short that would--I imagine being a television show, it's how I imagined it and I wanted to do future episodes, so to speak. I particularly love the episode format they are doing for Sherlock on the BBC, if you guys have seen that, where your season is three hour-and-a-half long mini movies basically. And I love that format for a television show, I wish we could get more television shows doing that. I would rather sink my teeth into an hour-and-a-half long episode that has character growth, real growth and development, progress and the next one doesn't just hit the reset button and say, another adventure. It is progressing the characters further. I'd rather get three of those in a season than a twenty-two episode where of those episodes eighteen are just yet another adventure with no progress. And so--anyway that's how I imagine that.
When Legion came out there was talk Hollywood was already interested.
Yes, we sold the rights and then they let them lapse. They kept the rights for two years and they let them lapse.
So my question is how'd you create the Legion *inaudible*?
Ooh! Good question! So, Legion is a lot of fun, and it's very weird. What happened is, I really do think, as a writer, I have all these weird voices in my head who are telling me to do different things.
One day, I was talking to a friend of mine who writes a lot of psychological horror, and I was talking about schizophrenia, and I said, "Hey, what if all those voices helped you out instead of drove you crazy?" And he said, "That doesn't sound like a horror story. That sounds like a fantasy story, you should write that." So I did.
I wanted to know the significance of the lemonade in Legion.
Oh the significance of lemons-- lemonade in Legion? He just really likes lemonade, there is no significance. He really does just love lemonade.
*Exact transcription impossible as everyone is talking over each other* Basically a couple of fans were talking with Brandon about making Legion into a TV series; one person thought that in the pilot, the aspects need to be actors, while the other thought that (for the pilot only) they should not be seen, so Stephen looks like a wacky eccentric talking to himself about solving mysteries, and then the episodes would reveal the individuality of the aspects.
*paraphrase* Brandon agreed that the second approach would be very clever, but that it would be very hard to convince (someone - not sure if it was himself, or the aspects, or who!) to do that, because he has them all cast in his head.
*verbatim* Normally I don't cast actors in the roles in my books, they're just who they are, but each of the aspects is an actor to me. If you look really closely, you might be able to guess who they are, because they're all famous actors.
We sold it to Lionsgate, and they never made it, and the option lapsed. We've sold it to somebody else now, but we’ll see if it ever gets made.
Also, why y'all are reading today's Oathbringer sample chapters, know that I wrote chapter one of the final Stephen Leeds (Legion) story.
Wait, the FINAL one? Are you really going to answer all the questions raised about his back story? Or is this just FINAL FOR NOW?
This one is back story focused.
Do Stephen's aspects exist in the way bonded spren exist (independent Spiritual and Cognitive aspect but tied to a human.)?
Legion does not exist in the cosmere, so Realmatic Theory is not at play in the story.
Did Razon's camera use the same Spiritual gravitational anchors as time bubbles?
How do you create such a complex character as Legion? How, where did you get the aspects from and did you consult any psychiatrists?
Legion came from a conversation I had with friend of mine named Dan Wells. And he loves to write stories about... horror stories about people who are dealing with mental disability. And I told him what if there was somebody who was schizophrenic and the people they saw helped them out instead of inspiring their paranoia. And he said "that doesn't sound like a horror novel, you should write that, Brandon; it sounds like your style of novel". And it's true: if you haven't read Legion, it's about a guy who sees hallucinations of people who all help him solve crimes. And the inspiration is really all the weird voices that authors have in their heads about all these characters.
To what extent can virtual objects be forced into Stephen's subconscious? Stephen says that "those who work closely with [him] know to just pantomime letting [his] mind fill in the details." Does there have to be a physical object present in order for it to interact with his aspects? JC conjures a virtual phone that clearly had no physical counterpart. Could someone lie to Stephen that they have a bazooka in a box, then pretend to pull it out and proceed to virtually blow holes in the room?
The object does not have to be present, but his subconscious has to see an idea as part of his psychosis for it to appear.
Before we jump in on the third installment [of Legion], can you tell me a little about where this idea came from and how it developed into this novella series?
I was talking with my friend Dan Wells, who was writing a story about a schizophrenic. I started brainstorming this idea about a person whose hallucinations helped them, kind of turning it into a super power. Dan laughed and said, "That’s much more a Brandon story than a Dan story," and he was right—so eventually, I decided to write it myself.
With the strength of The Stormlight Archives, the strength of the Mistborn series and Alcatraz, I find that Legion often gets overlooked, and it's a-- such a fantastic collection. And they just combined the two novellas into one actual novel, which is great cause the first novella ended and it's like, "Well that's like halfway through a book. Still going." Is there gonna be any continuation--
Yeah, I will write a third Legion story. The plan is to write that next year and to release a collection of all my non-cosmere stories. This year I released a collection of all my cosmere stories. So the plan is to do a collection of non and to write the third and final of the Legion stories. Chances are good I will have to rebrand them, because of the Legion TV show. Not that I couldn't release it, because they're different enough. But, like, when I first wrote Legion-- For those who don't know, Legion is about a guy who has maybe schizophrenia, except all the hallucinations help him. And they're very very helpful, useful people. And it's like-- they're like detective science fiction stories. And when I first wrote it, everybody in Hollywood wanted it. And then the project dried up like that. And it was right the moment that Marvel announced they were doing their Legion. So I'll probably rebrand them as just "The Stephen Leeds Stories", and do the third one. So that's the plan right now.
What has been the craziest, most off-the-wall, unexpected kind of feedback you've ever gotten--
Ooh. *crowd laughs*
...you know kind of how it sent you in the right direction.
Wow, craziest off-the-wall feedback I've ever gotten and what direction did it send me. I have so much trouble with these things. Some people ask me the line "what's the weirdest thing a fan has had you write in a book". And I know, if I took the time, I could think of it, but off the top of my head it's kind of hard. I'm not sure what the craziest, most off-the-wall sort of feedback I've gotten. I've given a lot of crazy, off-the-wall feedback. Legion... came about because I was trying to convince my friend Dan Wells to write this book. *crowd laughs* "Oh, you could do this thing, and it could be like schizophrenia but not really, it could be a superpower," and he's like, "Brandon, that's not a Dan Wells book. That is a Sanderson book". And so I ended up writing the book, but that has happened. I've given weird feedback. I'd have to think about that one a little more.
I just finished the Legion series and it was amazing. Do you ever think you'll go back to it?
So what my pitch for Legion has always been is me wanting to do a television show. When I conceived the very first Legion story, I wrote a series Bible to go along with it and this never has materialized. Now, it is still optioned by someone. It's our third or fourth option on it, which means that there is a company out there called Cineflix who has the option to make a television show, and as far as I know they are still developing that and hoping they can make that happen. But after a decade of trying to get a television show made, and realizing that I just don't have the resources to do this on my own, I have instead decided let's try doing an audio drama series using Stephen Leeds and his aspects. So we actually got together a little writers' room. Myself and a friend of mine that I started an audiobook company with. Max Epstein is my friend, and together we have an audiobook company called Mainframe, and we have been developing various projects with various people, mostly with me kind of trying to kick off things that'll feel more like television shows but audio dramas, and Legion is one of those. So if you really liked Legion, when we release that audiobook version, which theoretically we're going to do an audio original Legion thing that would be like a pilot for a series that we would do other audio dramas for, with a writers' room, just like a television show. If that comes out, give it a listen, and if you like it, let us know and let whoever we end up putting it with know so that we can continue doing them. So there's a decent chance that there will be a Legion one manifesting.
How did you keep Legion straight?
"I cheated a little bit in Legion and based each personality off an actor." He pointed out that his favorite personality was JC, who was based on [Adam] Baldwin from Firefly. He also related that Ivy was based on Gwyneth Paltrow. The fan commented that he envisioned Brandon having a folder on each personality, which Brandon confirmed.
When asked how he approaches writing a novella as opposed to an epic, Brandon reiterated that he was an "architect" style writer, and viewed novella writing as an opportunity to practice his pre-writing skills and his "discovery writing."
I really liked your Legion books. Is there any chance you would do a third?
I will do one more. And then if it takes off as a TV show, like I've been trying to make happen, we will do some more, but if not, then... yeah.
Do you know the part in Wheel of Time when Mat is-- seems to be trapped in his *inaudible* ways before he meets Verin?
In the town? I always think, when I read-- Every time I feel like-- Is it a <tone> war?
It is, yeah.
Writing the characters?
And is there any correlation between that and Legion and you?
Oh yeah, most definitely. Legion is... You know, I'm-- I don't actually hear voices or see things. But there is this sort of part of you that becomes a different person all the time. I can see if I were more unhinged I'd be like that or like Shallan.
I wanna know about Alloy of Law, if there was an actor who was going to play Wayne, who would you--
Oh who would I cast to play Wayne in Alloy of Law? I have no idea. I don't cast characters. I pay a lot of attention to directors but I feel like the best actors are the ones that always surprise you. Like if you were to tell me Matthew McConaughey was doing what he did these last couple of years, if you would have said that ten years ago, I would have laughed at you right, because the best actors can do so many different things. So I don't know, I have no idea who I'd cast. The only actors I've ever really cast in my books, if you guys have read... Legion, about a guy who's schizophrenic but not really, he sees hallucinations but they help him solve crimes; I cast all the hallucinations as actors, so if you pay close attention you can tell who each of these hallucinations are because a lot of them are famous actors. Except for Kalyani who's a friend of mine.
[Something about Legion]
I will eventually. I've got an idea for a third one. But I'm not sure when I'll write it. I've got something else I'm working on.
How many personalities does the Legion guy [Stephen Leeds] have?
There's a number in the last one. It's like 54, something like that? Yeah.
Will you ever consider writing more in the Legion world?
So, if I do any more Legion, they will be television scripts or audio originals. This is it for the books. But it's a springboard.
How long until the next Rithmatist?
Um, that's the slow one. Stormlight 3 taking as long as it has, that's what it has slowed down. I keep saying it's only gonna be a couple years, but-- I don't know, honestly...
My goal is to start closing up some of theses series in the next couple of years, so I'm hoping to finish off the Legion trilogy and Wax & Wayne next year, and just start closing some things off.
What is your favorite Aspect to write in /Legion/?
What is my favorite Aspect to write in Legion. It's J.C. by a mile. *laughter* Can you guess who J.C. is based off of? ...J.C. is based off of the actor Adam Baldwin, from his various roles. He's almost always played someone with the initials "J.C." Go look it up. That's Jayne from Firefly or from Chuck and things. I just think he is hilarious. In my head that is who would play J.C.
What was the very most fun writing Legion? Was it writing aspects, or creating each of the new aspects, or was it thinking up the twists, or maybe thinking up crazy stuff like a hallucination with a hallucination?
Right, so the most fun for Legion... I don't know if I can say specifically what was the most fun, there were a lot of things which I'll go into. One thing that was really fun to me was this idea of coming up with a detective who was themselves more of a middle manager than a hero. A lot of detectives or people are these action stars, these Tom Cruise types, and I instead wanted this guy to just be a manager who kept all these other crazy hallucinations targeted on the right thing. But I also wanted the Legion stories to have some sort of science fiction element to them. Because I always point out: "Why not have some sci-fi or fantasy?" They always make a story better to me. So I’d say the idea that first made me want to write the Legion story was the idea of a camera that could take pictures in the past.
So, your Legion series, where the guy has multiple hallucinations and everything like that-- Where did you come up with your idea? Was it just hanging out--
Where was the idea for Legion, which if you are not familiar with it Legion is this weird thing where I have a guy who's a genius, he can study any topic and learn that topic and become an expert in it very quickly but the information appears as a hallucination who can coach him in that information. So it's like he's a schizophrenic but instead of the voices telling him to kill people they tell him how to hack computers or things like that.
The idea came because I was actually working in a writing group with my friend Dan who was working on a book called The Hollow City which is about a real schizophrenic, not a super-powered schizophrenic in a weird Brandon-world. And I'm like "Oooh this would be so cool, what if his hallucinations helped him? What if--" and he's like "That's not my book, I don't want to write that book" and I'm like "But it's so cool!" and he's like "Then you write it!" So I did. And that's where it came from. A lot of time being a writer is realizing "Oh I wish someone would do this, HEY! I know someone who can do that, ME!" and then I write the books.
Do you ever have crazy ideas that are too crazy?
This happens all the time.
Greatness is often born of brashness. Of a reckless, bull-headed intent to do something everyone tells you is stupid. Sometimes, the best ideas are the ones you can't articulate in brief, because distillation ruins the very performance. Reduce a symphony to three notes, and it will seem pedestrian. Some ideas take to summary with ease. For others, explaining them is like trying to help someone climb Mount Everest after they say, "I'd like to take the quick route, please."
As a writer, you grow accustomed to saying, "It will work when I write it." You get use to saying, "I can do this, even if everyone tells me I can't." Becoming a writer in the first place is often done in defiance of rational good sense.
And sometimes, you're wrong. You try to prove that the idea works, you OWN it…and it's just not working. You're convinced it's your skill, and not the idea. If you could just figure it out…
This happened several times on The Wheel of Time. River of Souls, the famous deleted sequence from Demandred's viewpoint, is one of these. Perrin's excursion into the Ways in book 14 (also cut) is another. Early on, I pitched Perrin deciding to follow the Way of the Leaf to the team–but I wasn't actually serious on that one. More, I was in a brainstorming session with Team Jordan, and throwing out things that could possibly fulfill Perrin's arc in an unexpected way.
The 10th anniversary of Elantris has some deleted scenes, and the annotations talk about how in that book, I originally decided to have Hrathen turn out to be of a different nationality (secretly) as a twist at the end. The man who was doing all these terrible things was from Arelon all along!
That was stupid. It undermined much of his arc. It was a twist to just have another twist–in a book that already had plenty. Early reactions from Alpha readers helped me see this.
Lately, I've been trying to do some things with backstory and "cosmology" for the Stephen Leeds (aka Legion) stories, and Peter's not sold. We'll see if this turns into a "it will work when I write it" or a "That's a twist you don't need, Brandon."