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Firefight Houston signing ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

From context and usage, it's fairly clear, sort of, what the word "slontz" means, but what exactly does it mean? Where does it come from?

Brandon Sanderson

Where does the word "slontz" come from? Alright, alright. Um-- *long pause* Boy, can I even dredge up where that came from? I like to use, particularly in certain worlds where it seems like it fits, I like the made-up swear words. And the made up names, just because I think slang evolves, and slang being individual to the world feels much-- And I know some people find them goofy, but it feels more realistic to me than them using our curse words. It just doesn't seem right. Now there are worlds where it was right, like in Mistborn I used our curse words because I was like, "These are a bunch of thieves living on the street," I wanted it to feel a little harder. Though, you know, it's me, so it's never gonna be that hard. But "slontz," I think I was like, "I wanna come up with some fake Yiddish word that sounds cool," honestly. I like the Yiddish. I hang out with my editor and my agent in New York, and they're both Jewish, and they use all these words that are so much fun. I'm like, "I want a word that sounds like that." I didn't spend too much time on the linguistics of that one, I'll be honest, it was just a fun word that I came up with.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#2 Copy

Questioner

I wanted to ask-- So you--I think more than almost any other fantasy author--you create universes and then you leave them behind. Entire uni-- I almost feel like you could sit down-- you could have like pages of a physics lecture in each of your universes and you would have equations for how it works. Do you have-- Have you always had these ideas for these various universes with gods and magic systems and things like that, or are you always creating them, sort of as you go? 

Brandon Sanderson

It's yes and no. A lot of the ones you're seeing in the cosmere are things I created at the beginning to be kind of what the cosmere was. But I left some holes intentionally cause I knew I would come up with cool things that I wanted to add, and so I built in that wiggle room, and I'm always coming up with new ones. And there are way more that I want to do than I can write, like the one I keep wanting to find a chance for is--

Do you guys know how Nikola Tesla tried to create wireless energy? I think I've talked about this one. Like, he tried to create wireless energy, and I'm like "What if there were a world where that happened naturally?" Where you had a natural current going, and you could like set your lantern on the ground and it would create a current from the sky to the ground and your light bulb would just turn on. You don't need electricity. And how would-- What if we have giant toads that could shoot out their tongues that would create a current,  and they're like taser tongues? *makes zapping noises* Stuff like this. And so, I started jumping in to looking at electricity and things like this, and current and whatnot, and that's just all back there and I'm like "Aww, someday I need to be able to write this." But there are so many things that I want to write that I just don't have the time for, so it's a yes and no.

Questioner

So do you have, like, "what if" questions and then you build a universe from there?

Brandon Sanderson

Usually they're "what if" questions, but Sanderson's Zeroth Law--I've got these laws on magic you can look up,  they're named humbly after myself--so Sanderson's Zeroth Law is "Always err on the side of what's awesome". And usually it's less even a "what if?" and it's a "That's so cool, taser toads!" Like if you really want to know the truth of where The Stormlight Archive started, there's all this cool stuff, like part of it was like "What if there was a storm like the storm on Jupiter". And then I eventually changed it to a storm that goes around the planet, something like that, but the real truth was "Magical power armor. YEAH! Magical power armor is cool! Plate mail power armor! Why would you need plate mail power armor?" Y'know, and it starts with the really cool idea. Mistborn started by me drifting in a fog bank at eighty miles per hour in my car and loving how it looked as it drove past and saying "Is there a world where I can imitate this feel, where you look out and it streams by." It's those early visuals or concepts that make me say "Oh yeah, I wanna do that!". That is where my books really come from, and then I layer on top of them the "what ifs?" and trying to build a realistic ecology based around these ideas.

Firefight release party ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

What inspired you to write that series [Mistborn]? It's amazing.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh good question, what inspired me to write Mistborn… A couple of things have to come together for me to write a book. Usually it is not one idea. Usually one idea is kind of the sparking point but then I file it in the back of my brain and wait until other ideas stick to it and work in really cool ways. Mistborn is a conglomeration of several things. First off it was watching-- I guess it was reading-- reading Harry Potter and being like "Wow these Dark Lords sure get a tough time of it. They're always beaten by these dopey kids." Right? *laughter* Like Sauron, there's this little furry-footed British dude who's like-- destroys your whole empire or things like this. And I was like "These poor guys, what if we had a book where the Dark Lord won? Where-- What if Frodo got to the end and the Dark Lord was like 'Oh thanks for bringing my ring back.' and then killed him and took over the world." It was really, I'm a fan of The Wheel of Time and thinking what if Rand got to the end of The Wheel of Time and the Dark One is like "Okay, I'm all powerful, you're not, end." And he won. Oh the Pattern just broke.

As an aside for Wheel of Time fans, I actually wrote that scenes for my own catharsis. I actually wrote a scene, I never let anyone else see it, where Rand lost *laughter* and it's actually like this dramatic moment and he's like "I could just destroy the world right now" And I just wrote "And so he did, The end." *laughter* I had a good laugh over it and then deleted it.

So, what if the Dark Lord won, but I figured that would be a downer of a story so I filed that in the back of my head and it melded with my love of heist stories. You'll notice Steelheart is also a heist story. It's one of my favorite archetypes, the gang who all have their individual talents and they get together to do cool things like-- I think one of my favorite movies in recent times was actually Inception which was a heist story using people's brains. So cool, such a great concept. But one of my classic favorite movies is Sneakers, if you haven't seen that. It's so good! So that genre made me want to write a heist novel in a fantasy world so I developed that independently. Allomancy and Feruchemy were developed independently as cool magic systems, that eventually started interacting in interesting ways. And then Kelsier was the other kind of linchpin, him as a character, wanting to tell this story about a guy who had been an upper-class thief, a con-man who then got motivation to go "No I'm going to do something good with my life. I'm going to change the world. It's kind of hard to explain.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#5 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Is the Cosmere, the thread connecting several of your series, something that came from the beginning, or something that kind of grew?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

What a great question! So the Cosmere, which is the thread connects a lot of my books together. All of my epic fantasies are connected in this world called the Cosmere. Was that from the beginning, or was it something that grew?

So I had, I often point to the fact that I had those years not getting published as a big advantage, because while I was working on those books, I didn't write the first ones as a connected shared universe. It was after I had done a number of them, that I'm like, "Hey, there's something here! There's a thread that I can weave together." But by the time I got published, I knew all of that right?

And so, like when I wrote Mistborn, which was my, the first book I wrote knowing it would get published. Elantris was my first published, it was number 6 in those years. I sat down specifically with Mistborn and built the Cosmere, using some of these unpublished books as the history of what had happened. So from the get-go of reading it, it was all interconnected. Elantris got retrofitted a little bit, to fit in with this. From Mistborn is where it all kind of starts working together and things like that.

I was inspired to do this by authors I had read who did this really well, that I liked. Stephen King did it. Michael Moorcock did it. It really kind of blew my mind when Asimov connected the robots and the Foundation books. Of course, you know, comics have been doing it forever. But when I saw authors doing it is what made me really excited. I would count those as inspiration.

 

BookCon 2018 ()
#10 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

How did you know that Stormlight and Mistborn were going to be the focus [of the cosmere]?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

A lot of writers figured out the *inaudible* exploration. And I had the advantage when I broke-in that I had written all these books before, and I was able to go back and say, "The Way of Kings, there's something special about--" right from the beginning, there's something special about that.

I was able to look back at say, Mistborn, which had I had tried the magic system. The magic system really worked, my best magic system. I know this has the best magic magic system, if I can match a plot to it that makes it a good book, I can make that magic system kind of the spine of what I'm doing.

...So I got lucky on that. In some ways, not publishing for a long time was the luckiest thing that could have happened to me.

OdysseyCon 2016 ()
#11 Copy

Blightsong

Would it be harder for Jasnah to Soulcast a Knight Radiant?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Would it be harder for her to Soulcast a Mistborn?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, investiture resists investiture. It's harder for her to even Soulcast a person than a rock, right?

Questioner

Is a Mistborn invested?

Brandon Sanderson

The Mistborn, how their burning the metal, you're right. They are not specifically invested when they are not burning. When the investiture becomes active, the yes. Before, no, you're right on that.

Blightsong

So Kelsier, he stayed around longer, not because he was invested, but because he had the potential to use investiture?

Brandon Sanderson

Over time using the magic will invest you, on Scadrial. Most of the power is not coming from, on Roshar the power isn't coming from the person either [he cut himself off, so I assume this is how it works on Scadrial even though he didn't finish his thought] so I'm going to have to back up on that one and say, yes, the Mistborn are as invested as a Knight Radiant, because in both cases the majority, bulk, of the power is coming from somewhere else, but there is the spirit web. Investing the wrong term, but you have all these connections in the spiritual realm, so yanking you away from them, or rewriting them is harder.

Questioner

Would they be harder with more Stormlight or metals burning?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes. That would increase the difficulty ratio. For instance, wearing Shardplate is gonna be a great barrier, right, and things like that so yea. The problem is like, Invested is the wrong term for that, their Spiritweb is connected in different ways.