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/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#1 Copy

Thadamin

How important are Bonds like the Nahel Bond and a Seon bond in the Cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

I'd say very important.

Thadamin

Is this kind of bond relatively common or is what seons, spren, and night blood do little more rare among splinters. I'm specifically talking about the act of making bonds not a giving of magic powers really, that appearing to be function of Roshar. Also regarding your post about storm light 3 I am personally ok with 2000 pages if need be so make the chapters as long as you want.:)

Brandon Sanderson

The bonding is basically the same mechanic, regardless of the world, just with different flavoring. Roshar isn't the only place where the bond gives powers; it's a matter of what's stuffed into the soul, and how.

Elantris Annotations ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Raoden's memory of Ien at the beginning of this chapter pretty much sums up what the seons are. A lot of readers have asked me for more on them, and I'll give it eventually. However, in this book, you simply need to know that they are what they appear. Servants bound out of love, rather than duty, force, or pay.

The original inspiration for seons came, actually, when I was in high school. Visually, I was inspired by the Passage series–a collection of paintings by Michael Whelan. Every painting in the series contained little floating bubbles with what appeared to be a candle flames at their center. At the same time, I was getting the idea for a story. When I wrote it, I included a group of sentient balls of light.

Well, that story didn't go anywhere. Six years later, however, I started Elantris. I wanted a sidekick for Sarene, and I knew I needed someone wise and cautious to off-set her sometimes reckless personality. I had already decided to use the Aon characters, and I considered transforming my old idea of balls of light into glowing Aons. As Ashe's character began to develop, I realized I had something quite strong, and I began to build the mythology and magic behind the seons. 

The latest addition to the story regarding seons is the idea of "Passing." I only speak of it a few times, but in earlier drafts, I didn't have any definite indications that a person and their seon were bound. The only hint was what happened to seons whose masters were taken by the Shaod. When Moshe asked about this, I decide I'd include a little more information, and added a couple references to "Passing" seons in the book.

Elantris Annotations ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hrathen

So, Hrathen wasn't really dead. (Ironically, while many of you are probably saying "yeah, yeah. That was obvious," I actually didn't have him appear here in the first eight drafts of the book. I'll explain later.)

I think this is my favorite scene of this chapter. Not only is it written a little better than the rest of the book (I added it quite late–just this last summer) but it gives final closure to the Hrathen-Dilaf relationship. It uses Hrathen's time in Dakhor as an ironic twist against Dilaf. In short, it is a pretty good scene. Fulfills character, plot, and theme at the same time–while giving us a nice image to boot. (Though I do hate to do the "Hey look, a guy we thought was dead is really alive" twist.)

The story behind this scene is pretty recent. One of the original rewrites Moshe asked for was a fix of the ending, which he thought was too Deus Ex Machina. (Which, indeed, it was.) I don't think I'll go into the entire original version here–it was quite different. You can read the alternate ending in the deleted scenes section, when I throw it up next month. The short of it, however, is that Ien (Raoden's seon) showed up to save Raoden and Sarene from Dilaf. I used a mechanic of the magic system that I have since pretty much cut from the novel (since it was only in the book to facilitate this scene) that allowed Ien to complete his Aon, "healing" Dilaf. Except, since Ien's Aon was broken, it turned Dilaf into an Elantrian instead. (A non-glowing Elantrian. One like Raoden the group used to be–like Dilaf's own wife became after she was improperly healed in Elantris.)

I know that's probably confusing to you. The scene, over all, was just kind of weak. It relied on a barely-explained mechanic mixed with a tangential character showing up at just the right moment. When Moshe asked for the change, I immediately saw that I needed to bring Hrathen back to life for a few more moments. Letting him die on the street just wasn't dignified enough (though originally I wanted him to die this way because it felt more realistic.) I wanted a final confrontation between Hrathen and Dilaf, since it would give most people's favorite character a heroic send-off, and would also let me tie in the aforementioned Dakhor irony.

In the end, I was very pleased with the rewrite. It's good to have an editor.

A Memory of Light Milford Signing ()
#5 Copy

Viper (paraphrased)

At one point someone [on 17th Shard] asked you if seons were Shards of--

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Aona.

Viper (paraphrased)

Devotion ... yeah Aona, and you said that was close. My question is: are the Aons at the HEART of the Seons Shards of Devotion?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

No, but close.

Viper (paraphrased)

But... I was sure... the floating Aon at the heart, that's not a Shard...

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

*taking pity* You're close but a word is wrong. You're using the wrong terminology.

Viper (paraphrased)

SPLINTER. Are the Aons at the heart of Seons SPLINTERS of Aona?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
#7 Copy

Oudeis

Can seons be harmed by a sword-blow?

Brandon Sanderson

Regular sword, no.

Oudeis

There’s a point where Ashe is distracting some soldiers and they’re swinging their swords, and I was wondering was that clever of him or was that legitimately brave. Like was he actually risking himself.

Brandon Sanderson

He was not actually risking himself. He’s the same...it wouldn’t... Yeah.

Elantris Annotations ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

And, as for the seon explanation here. . .well, I'm afraid that's all you get for this book. I think this is the last (or, rather, only) discussion the characters have about the origins of the seons. It's not much, but that is intentional. When I wrote Elantris six years ago, I wasn't sure if I'd ever even sell the book. Therefore, I didn't want to invest too much thought into a sequel right then. I wanted the book to stand alone, yet I wanted to give myself plenty of room to do interesting things in a series, if it ever came to that. Therefore, I intentionally left a few open spaces in the worldbuilding–things the characters didn't even know.

One of these holes is the origin, and even workings, of the seons. I have some ideas, of course, but you'll have to wait for another book before they get explained. (You can thank Moshe for what you got in this chapter–he was very curious about seons, and he wanted a little bit more. That's why we had the discussion of Passing, as well as the explanation that you don't have to be noble to have a seon.)

/r/fantasy AMA 2011 ()
#11 Copy

RankWeis

You've also mentioned that in Elantris, there was more to Seon's than what came out in the book (as far as a magic system, I believe). When you have to omit something like this, do you still consider it canon to the story? For example, if you were to write a sequel, would you feel obligated to stick with the original magic system you put into place (but never published), or would you be fine with drawing up a whole new one?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I consider the ideas around Seons to be canon, though I don't always canonize something that is not in the books. If it isn't on paper, I'm usually willing to change it as it needs to in order to fit. One issue, however, is that things like the Seons are part of the greater magic system of the Cosmere (which connects many of my works.) I can't change things too much, or I'll start contradicting myself. (Which I don't want to do.)

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

Seons are Splinters?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Splinters of Devotion.

Questioner

Um, Splintered...Honor is the *inaudible*...the stormwall...

Brandon Sanderson

The Stormfather?

Questioner

The Stormfather.

Brandon Sanderson

The Stormfather is technically a Splinter of Honor, but it was an intentional Splinter, that Honor did himself.

Questioner

Does he have another Splinter?

Brandon Sanderson

So, all of the honorspren are Splinters of Honor, but this is a different situation because he actually did this intentionally.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#13 Copy

Questioner 1

When you were talking about spren being bound to the Cognitive Realm of their planet. Are seons similarly bound? Especially with-- Because the--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner 2

Could you also pull them off, with the knowing how?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, but you’d have to get through the Cognitive Realm, on Sel. But yeah-- Yes, that is possible.

TWG Posts ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I intentionally left Seons--their origin, their connection to AonDor--a little vague in ELANTRIS. The reason for this is that I intend the secrets of the Seons to be a major plot element in a sequel to the book.

I didn't want to put very much about them in because I knew that it would be years before I got to do an ELANTRIS sequel, and I wanted to give myself enough 'wiggle room' to not confine the second book, which isn't fully formed in my head yet. Anything I say now could ruin the plot for people before I even write the book--or, it could end up being untrue, as I develop my ideas further.

Eagle Prince

Can they go through walls? Are they incorporeal like a ghost? I'm guessing they can't move stuff around, because Ashe says something about the Elantrians wanting him to bring them food but he couldn't. And then when Serene was on the wall, he just shouted at her, like he couldn't just knock her back or anything. But then several times it talked about them going through windows, and some of the Elantrian seons bouncing around like drunks.

Brandon Sanderson

Good question, EP.

I answer this in the text just briefly, but it doesn't come up a whole lot. At one point, Raoden's mad Seon tries to float through a wall, and he bounces off of it. I wished to imply that they did have substance, but they were very light, and therefore unable to exert any great amounts of force.

White Sand vol.1 Orem signing ()
#15 Copy

Questioner

I recently reread Elantris and I came to an interesting conclusion: that the seons are similar to the spren.

Brandon Sanderson

They are.

Questioner

And are they Servitude, broken pieces of Servitude.

Brandon Sanderson

So, they are actually broken pieces of Devotion, which is a similar concept, but yes.

Questioner

And then the Elantrians are based off of Dominion then?

Brandon Sanderson

Dominion are the skaze. They are referenced briefly.

Questioner

Then Hoid talks to them, or--

Brandon Sanderson

Hrathen references the skaze in his thoughts. I show a skaze I believe in the extra bonus scene, don't I?

Questioner

Where Hoid is going to jump into the well?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, there is a skaze there, that's a skaze.

Questioner

...I'm assuming then, we can look forward to the skaze!

Brandon Sanderson

You can look forward to the skaze being involved in things, definitely .

Skyward Houston signing ()
#17 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

What's the relationship between spren and seons?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

They are the same thing from different magics.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Okay, exact same thing from different magics?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

"Exact," might be a little too strict, but yeah.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

So a seon can be transferred to another person, right?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yes.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Can a spren?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yes.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#18 Copy

Questioner

You said in an earlier interview that the glittery things in Elantris...

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, seons.

Questioner

I believe that you said that the seons on Roshar would bond similarly--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes

Questioner

Would that work in the opposite direction?

Brandon Sanderson

Meaning what? Someone from Roshar could they bond a seon? Oh, would spren bond-- Yes that could happen.

Steelheart Chicago signing ()
#19 Copy

Argent (paraphrased)

Ashe says to Sarene "your god". Do seons (and skaze) have a religion/god?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They have an inkling of the nature of their original Shards, which they would consider their gods.

Argent (paraphrased)

Kind of like a first, a prime, a parent?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes. They kind of know what happened that created them, and they also know this is not the god being worshiped (by Sarene), so...

Elantris Annotations ()
#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I've spoken earlier about how fantasy books tend to place modern-like characters in more archaic settings. The seons in this book are one of my rationalizations for the way that people act. I believe that a lot of our civility and maturity as a global culture comes from our ability to communicate quickly and effectively with one another.

Instantaneous communication changes the world. It makes countries seem less distant, and it allows for faster resolution of problems. Often times, when I'm creating a magic system, this idea is one of the first that I consider. Can this magic provide for instant communication or travel? If it can, I can use that to shrink the world, allowing me to place characters in more distant settings and still have them tied to the plot. (This isn't something I have to do often in this particular book. However, the ability to communicate with Wyrn and Sarene's father does have the effect of shrinking the world, making it easier to plot such drastic events in such a short period of time.)

Elantris Annotations ()
#25 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Showing Roial's seon was important, I think. First off, I wanted to give some evidence that there are indeed seons in Arelon who aren't mad. (So far, I believe that the only named seons we've seen in the book are Ashe and Ien.) Secondly, Opa is a nice little foreshadowing–it's through him that Ashe manages to contact Sarene's friends. Actually, Sarene's interaction with Ashe is quite interesting in this chapter, as it's somewhat more strained–and therefore a bit more true–than what we've seen before. When under stress, Ashe isn't quite so accommodating and straightforward as normal–but he still does retain Sarene's best interests at heart.

Holiday signing ()
#28 Copy

little wilson

Are Ruin and Preservation separate in Sazed or are they fully combined together like can he give one of them, or does he have to give both.

Brandon Sanderson

They are not fully combined. I mean that's not the way this works. He could pull off a piece of one even and make-- stuff like that. That's totally, totally viable. I mean it's basically what happened with the spren. The spren existed before even Honor was destroyed and things like that.

little wilson

So, did the-- my gosh, on Sel-- the Aons-- not the Aons-- the seons did they exist before the Splintering?

Brandon Sanderson

They did not. That's a good question. But they are not the majority of the power. They're just little pieces, they are like the sparks when something gets destroyed. The sparks are not the majority but they are the sparks that were thrown off, if that makes sense?

General Reddit 2013 ()
#33 Copy

sufficientlyadvanced

It says that it's dangerous to travel to Shadesmar on Sel. Why?

Brandon Sanderson

It has to do with the Dor and the lack of an entity controlling much of the power Odium left in his wake on Sel.

Phantine

Woah, that's interesting. I had no idea Odium left little bits of his power on Sel... I guess it kinda makes sense for evil monks to be powered by pure hate, though.

Brandon Sanderson

Odium did not leave his power behind, one should note. He left several other powers which are now, to a large extent, mindless...

Windrunner

If you wouldn't mind answering, does Roshar have a similar problem, with Honor being Splintered?

Brandon Sanderson

No, Roshar does not have the same problem. There are some differences going on. (One reason being that the spren are far more extensive on Roshar, and provide something of a "release valve." The seons and the skaze on Sel are not numerous enough to fulfill a similar function. Though, of course, that's only one part of the puzzle. Raw power is dangerous.

It's one reason everyone should be thankful Kelsier was around on Scadrial.

Chris King interview ()
#34 Copy

Chris King

Did seons exist when the Aonic peoples discovered Elantris?

Brandon Sanderson

When the Aonic peoples discovered Elantris, did seons exist-- Okay let me go back to my timeline... It kind of means you have to define what you mean by Aonic. The problem is if you dig back too far in history it's kind of like asking "What's a German?" You know what I mean?

Chris King

Because the Aons are based upon Elantris itself and so they don't become Aonic until they are writing the Aons.

Brandon Sanderson

And Aonic is also-- You are talking about the people and so it's like are the Normans Brits? Or are they Vikings? Or are they Frenchman?

Chris King

Why don't we phrase it as the people of Sel when they discovered Elantris.

Brandon Sanderson

No, no, that's getting, okay-- Let's go ahead and RAFO that one, just because the history of Elantris is very interesting to the cosmere. When people are starting to get an inkling of that.

Chris King

Odium was there once upon a time.

Brandon Sanderson

Yah... And the question of who built Elantris and how they built Elantris. What's going on with the Elantrians back then and things like this. So let's just RAFO that.

Shadows of Self release party ()
#35 Copy

Questioner

[Spren] are used to Invest a lot of things, fabrials, they turn into shardblades. Are we ever going to see something similar with the seons, from Sel?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, they are basically the same thing. They're a little more formalized, a little more structured but they are basically the exact same thing so yes. Some of the things you see spren doing seons are capable of, some things that seons do spren will be capable of.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
#36 Copy

Questioner

Can holders of Shards give them up voluntarily? If so, what would happen?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, a Vessel for a Shard of Adonalsium can give up their power if they wish.

As for what would happen...well, there are some variables in there. Kind of like the variables in what happens to a bucket of water if you dump it out. Depends on where it falls, how strong the wind is, what the air is like.

Power dropped like this, if left alone, could end up Splintering and turning into something like spren/seons. It could become something more like the Stormfather--a large, self-aware entity. It could become something like the Dor or many of the Unmade--something proto-aware, but not truly an individual. There are other possibilities as well, depending on lots of factors. (Are sapient beings involved? what is being done with the power--is it concentrated in the Spiritual Realm as normal, or is it being pushed somewhere else?)

Elantris Annotations ()
#37 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-Two - Part Two

Raoden's Teleportation

I had to work very hard to make this one work. I think it turned out, but it is a little bit of a stretch. Hopefully, readers will go with me on this one because of the climactic feeling of the near-ending.

Regardless, I do think I gave Raoden all the pieces he needed here. Adien always existed in the book for this one moment–to give Raoden the length measurement he needed to go try to save Sarene. I've established that seons have perfect senses of direction, and I've talked about how to use Aon Tia. More importantly, I think I've established that this is something that Raoden would do. He gets just a shade foolhardy when Sarene is concerned. (It's all her fault.)

There is another important element to this teleportation. I thought it important to involve deity in the climax of what has been such an overtly religious book. You may not believe in God, and it is never my intention to belittle your choices. However, the format of this book has been one that dealt with religion and the way that people interact with their faith. And so, I took this last moment of the book, and gave Raoden an opportunity to call upon the aid of providence.

Raoden arrives safely, despite the odds against his having gotten the distance, direction, and other factors right. You are free to simply think of this as luck, if you wish.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
#40 Copy

Questioner

Are Cognitive elements like spren and Seons only present on physical planes or worlds where Shards have been Shattered?

Brandon Sanderson

No. But it does require <Cognitive *inaudible*>. Alternately the Shard would have to give up pieces of their power for that. But it doesn't have to be that they were Shattered by someone. Seons existed on, sorry, spren existed on Roshar before the Shattering. Not as many.