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Elantris Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Two

Raoden is an expert at manipulating his surroundings. This doesn't make him "manipulative," in my mind. (You can read about a real manipulator in my next book.) Raoden simply knows how to take what he is given and make the best from them. In a way, this is the soul of creativity. Raoden is like a master composer or an artist–except, where they take images or sounds and combine them to suit their needs, he takes the situation and adapts it to create something useful. Outside of Elantris, he took his father's edicts and turn them against the man. However, thrown into a terrible situation like the pit of Elantris, Raoden really has an opportunity to shine.

He's kind of like a magic unto himself. I've known people a little like him in this world–people who can defy convention and reality, and just make things work. Somehow, Raoden can make three out of two. He can take the pieces and combine them in new ways, creating something greater than most people thought possible.

In short, he's the perfect hero for this kind of book. When I was writing Elantris in the winter of 1999 and spring of 2000, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at BYU. The book I'd written before it was called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora–undoubtedly the strangest, most-un-Brandon-like book I've ever constructed. Pandora was a SFstory about a man made immortal though careful–and expensive–application of nanotechnology. The process slowly drove him mad.

Pandora was a dark, grisly book. The man character could withstand alarming injuries without dying. One prime theme of the novel was dealing with the psyche of a man who could slaughter thousands of people while being shot to pieces, then find himself reconstructed a short time later. It was a rather violent book–probably the most disturbing I've ever written.

When I got done with that book, I reacted against it by wanting to devise a plot that didn't depend at all on violence. Elantris was the result. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who could succeed without having to beat up on the people who opposed him. I took away his physical abilities and his royal resources, leaving him with only his wits and his determination.

RoW Release Party ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

What is the Sixth Incarnation of Pandora? You may think Pandora the planet, because of the movie. That's not... I was actually going for the myth. That in this society, we had opened up various Pandora's Boxes, and this was... In philosophy in the far future, the sixth one they'd opened was making people who were immortal. And this was a Pandora's Box that they had philosophically opened.

I often describe it as a cyberpunk. It's not actually a cyberpunk. It's not a true cyberpunk. It deals with some of those same themes. It has the kind of corporations-in-charge, and kind of a dystopian future, and things like this. But it is far future, and not near-future, as most cyberpunk is.

The story is about an immortal soldier who has been made immortal with this new process, which is still very rare and very expensive to do. And he is basically a one-person army, with all of these modifications and things, and is capable of destroying entire armies on his own, and is completely indestructible.

And I'm gonna read to you from Chapter One, which is not a good chapter for introducing that concept.

It has a little epigraph at the beginning, which I thought you guys would find fun, because I use those quite a bit now, and I didn't earlier in my career.

This book is unpublished. This is book number five: The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora.

Brandon Sanderson

From the moment the first primeval Neanderthal picked up a sharp rock and used it to eviscerate his prey, man has sought ways to use his surroundings to augment his own abilities. Not that much has changed over the millennia. Peg legs had become prosthetic limbs, and spectacles had been replaced with cyborg optronics. But the main ideas remained constant: displeased with what fate allots us, we bend nature before our will, becoming more than we were intended. Among all of God's creations, only man takes offense at his lowly state.

Along with our drive to change ourselves, there comes with true human paradoxical form the uncomfortable fear that we have gone too far. Through the ages, we have fabricated horrors to match our increasing supremacy over nature. Monsters, golems, mad robots, and horrors haunt our collective technological unconsciousness. Twisted mixes of flesh and metal, obscene misuses of nature and her creations. We push ourselves to be better and better, more in control and dominant. But at the same time, we sweat and worry that this time, we've gone too far.

We finally have. I'm the final step, the ultimate synthesis of what is natural and what is profane. One last grand adulteration. I'm the culmination of our feats, a Frankenstein's monster for the modern 23rd century. I am without parallel in life or imagination. I am <Xelian>.

Chapter One

The forest's silence was abnormal, almost uncomfortable. <Xelian> could feel the dew in the air. It hung as an unseen mist around him. The humidity was an unfamiliar companion, and he had to fight the impulse to wipe his brow. A damp, sweat-stained hand would do little good in drying a damp, sweat-stained forehead. He could feel the soft film of water on his skin, coating his entire body, making his fingers both slip and stick as he rubbed them together.

Also unfamiliar was the forest's shadowy illumination. Light, he knew. Darkness, he knew. The forest's unchanging twilight, however, was neither bright nor dark. It seemed to flow, rather than shift; live, rather than just illuminate. It was neither day, nor night. It was light, undead.

<Xelian> followed no marked trail. He had left that behind long ago. It was not difficult to move through the brush; tall trunks stood like jealous merchants, catching the golden light long before it hit the ground. What little light did pass through was formless and impotent. Few plants could squeeze enough life out of such meager helpings to survive. There were ferns, weeds, and the occasional sapling. Nothing so thick he couldn't walk through it without trouble.

Occasionally, <Xelian> reached out to brush a patch of soft, damp earth. It was odd that something native to his home planet would feel so alien to him. But it had been a long, long time since he had seen soil.

He continued on, making good time through the realm of the enormous trees and their tiny fungal blooms. Usually, he only noticed his surroundings if something was wrong. The forest was different, somehow. It was pervasive, omnipresent. Even if he closed his eyes, he could feel it around him. When he stepped, he would sense the soft, springy loam. With each breath, he drew in the odors of wood, decaying flora, damp foliage, and bitter earth. He could hear the crackling of leaves and twigs beneath his feet. The forest was not a setting; it was an experience.

No bugs, a voice in his head pointed out.

"What?" <Xelian> asked, opening his eyes.

No insects, <Xelian>. A forest this size should be brimming with them.

"They would be to hard to control here, Wire."

I know. I just think it hurts the authenticity.

"You wouldn't say that if you could feel it," <Xelian> responded, continuing his hike.

Well, I doubt that's likely to happen anytime soon. Wire's voice wasn't sarcastic, or even depressed; it was simply stating a fact. Wire could never feel the forest, as he could never feel anything. The entirety of the AI's physical being consisted of a CPU embedded beneath <Xelian's> left shoulder blade

We're running out of forest, Wire pointed out. <Xelian> nodded. He could see the treeline now, where the forest ended. A few moments later, he passed through it, and the world around him transformed abruptly.

Instead of soft earth, his foot snapped against rigid metal. He stepped out of the land of half-shadows into full daylight. The humidity disappeared, abandoned in favor of a carefully controlled, deliberately comfortable climate. <Xelian> left behind the canopy of leaves, entering a world where dark space extended forever in all directions. He stood on the edge of a sheer dropoff. The metal pathway that ran around the forest was only a few feet thick here where he stood. It also bordered the edge of the Platform.

<Xelian> looked up. High in the sky, he could see another enormous Platform like the one on which he now stood. A floating continent, with people inhabiting all of its six faces. Beyond the second Platform, <Xelian> could make out the tiny pinpricks of stars. Looking down over the edge of the cliff, he could see the exact same thing; hundreds of kilometers below lay the bottom of the Platform, and beyond that was nothing. Cold space, eternity. Fall off this cliff, and one could literally fall forever. It's said that the Platform's builders had tried to make it seem as if one were standing on the surface of a planet, instead of a gargantuan block of metal hanging in the middle of space, a ridiculous distance from any planetary system. They hadn't done a very good job.

<Xelian> took one look back at the forest park. Really, it was one of the few places on <Saj> Platform that was dedicated to reminding its inhabitants of their heritage. As if they hadn't intentionally abandoned such things as forests when they moved into the sterile vacuum of space.

"Remind me to come back here when this project is finished," he asked.

Is that a request, <Xelian>, or are you simply waxing hypothetical?

"No, really. Remind me."

Yes, <Xelian>. Wire would compute a likely date and time for the reminder.

<Xelian> turned away from the organic wall behind him and stepped off the cliff. He could feel the fall begin; the plummet that would carry him down along the side of the platform until he entered oblivion. Gravity would drag him downward, prepared to hurl him into the void.

But then it changed. His foot got caught in an unseen force, a pull that altered his momentum. His body followed, collapsing into the arms of the same force. Instead of plunging into space, <Xelian> swung in an arc around the edge of the cliff, his foot planting itself on the vertical wall below him. He reoriented himself, then pulled his other foot to sit beside its mate.

He now stood on the other face of the cliff. What had once been down was now directly in front of him. And when he turned around and looked down, he saw the space he had left, and it looked like a sheer vertical drop, the forest seeming to sprout from the side of the cliff. The Platform's gravity wasn't going to relinquish its grip on <Xelian> quite so easily. It pulled one down against the Platform, no matter which direction down happened to be at the time. One could walk on each of the Platform's faces and feel as if it were the surface of a planet.

I don't see why you have to be so dramatic about that, <Xelian>, Wire chimed in. What do you find so fascinating about changing gravitational surfaces?

<Xelian> continued to look over the side of the ledge, then tossed a small pebble off, watching it arc normally in the air for a moment, then change vectors suddenly to fall inward, snapping against the pathway and rolling to a stop at the edge of the forest.

"Is there anything we haven't mastered, Wire?" <Xelian> responded. "What is left to dominate? The very laws of nature bend before us. Where is the excitement in the universe that behaves according to our convenience, warping and changing until it twists to the will of the most fickle species?"

If you want excitement, you should try piloting a ship through the center of a star, Wire suggested. As far as I know, no one has managed to conquer that realm, yet.

"Maybe I will," <Xelian> mused.

Just make sure you remove my CPU, first, Wire said.

Brandon Sanderson

That was from 1999.

It is interesting, also, for me to look back and see which ideas I have thrown into the word chipper and recycled. If you've read Starsight, you'll recognize something very similar to those Platforms, which stretch back to a short story that I wrote called Defending Elysium. They showed up, probably first time here. And then I reused them for Defending Elysium. And then wrote the Skyward series in that same universe. So this is like a hypothetical book that could have existed in that same setting.

YouTube Livestream 16 ()
#3 Copy

Jake

Do you see yourself ever releasing any more Sanderson Curiosities? And if so, when?

Brandon Sanderson

Response to Way of Kings Prime was strong enough that I would at least like to release, in hardcover form, the good ones. The good books from the Sandersons Curiosities are: White Sand, Aether of Night, and Dragonsteel. They are all of an equivalent quality, I would say; as in being slightly worse than Elantris. Maybe significantly worse, but has similar problems. They're all good enough books that I don't think you waste your time reading them. They are just not good enough books that I would want to mass release them. They are, I think, great books to read as somebody who is like, "This is one of Brandon's early books that could have gotten published, good enough to get published, but didn't quite make it there." And I think people can have a lot of fun with those.

So I would imagine that we do one of these per Stormlight Kickstarter. Because we will probably continue to do... the Stormlight Archive books are just a big enough thing and require a big enough gear-up and enough funds that we'll probably continue to do one of those every three years. We will continue to do other leatherbounds, not as Kickstarters. They have smaller print runs, and we probably will continue to do all of those in bonded leather, and then do the Stormlight books in Kickstarters. And we will probably have a new Curiosity each time. So I would expect us to have White Sand, Dragonsteel, and Aether of Night curiosities in the next three of these Kickstarters.

And then we'll take a long, hard look at what we have left. Because after that, we go down another jump in quality. We have Mistborn Prime and Final Empire Prime, which are probably the next two in quality. Where they aren't bad books, and I think they're readable, but they're a little step further away from what ended up being my vision. But I think that White Sand, Dragonsteel, and Aether of Night are probably a little bit stronger of novels than Way of Kings Prime. So maybe Final Empire Prime and Mistborn Prime are both kind of equivalent to that.

Then, after that, we have another big dip in quality, and then you get things like Star's End, which was my second novel. You get things like Knight Life, which was my attempt at a comedic, sort of Bob Asprin adventure-style comedy. (Mostly cringe, with a little bit of actual comedy.) And the book I called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora, which is a cyberpunk look at immortality, where people have been turned into superweapons with nanites and stuff like that, and I have no idea how that book measures up anymore. It's the book I wrote right before Elantris. But those ones, I could even see releasing those.

Then, we have a huge dip in quality for White Sand Prime and Lord Mastrell Prime, which are the first versions, the first books I wrote, and are really bad. And Mythwalker, which is the one I didn't finish because it just wasn't any good. And those are the other Sanderson Curiosities. I would not expect us to ever release those. Those are just bad enough that they aren't worth charging you for. Whereas a lot of these books are things I was experimenting with and exploring with and getting better at, they're my journeyman works, the first version (White Sand Prime and Lord Mastrell) are the equivalent of the stuff you do as a filmmaker in high school with your parents' camera, your parents' phone, where you make your own Indiana Jones movie with your parents' phone when you're sixteen. That's the equivalent of what you would be getting, and I just don't know if I can charge people for that. Maybe we'll put 'em up free on my website, and if people really wanna complete the collection, they can complete them and have them bound themselves.

TWG Posts ()
#4 Copy

Peter Ahlstrom

Dark One. What is it?

Brandon Sanderson

YA novel I'm working on. I have a few sample chapters, if you want them. I may have to change the title, though, since a very dissimilar book just came out with a close title.

I'd rather not talk about the book too much, since I won't be able to get to it for a while, and I'd like to keep the ideas off the internet for a bit.

Brandon Sanderson

Well, anyone here can have the sample chapters if they want. In fact, anyone can have sample chapters of any of my books. I send those out pretty freely. I'm just not sure I want to go posting the ideas for this one about yet.

Also, if anyone wants any of my old books--anything pre-WAY OF KINGS--you need but ask. Most of them won't ever get published in their current form. So, if you're ever board, you can read an old, unpublished Brandon novel.

The complete Brandon Library is:

1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)

2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)

3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)

4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)

5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)

6) Elantris (You have to buy this one!)

7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic fantasy)

8) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt)

9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)

10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)

11) Mistborn Prime (Eventually stole this world.)

12) Final Empire Prime (Cannibalized for book 14 as well.)

13) The Way of Kings (Fantasy War epic. Coming in 2008 or 2009)

14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Coming June 2006)

15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Early 2007)

16) Alcatraz Initiated (YA Fantasy. Being shopped to publishers)

17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Unfinished. Â Coming late 2007)

18) Dark One (Unfinished. YA fantasy)

19) Untitled Aether Project (Two sample chapters only.)

Manchester signing ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

I wanted to ask, at the beginning you mentioned that you had twelve books written before your first book was published, can you tell us, or are you allowed to tell us how many have actually been published?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I can actually go down the list for you. It is somewhat interesting, I think, for people. My very first book was a book called White Sand, and it was basically kind of a Dune rip-off. Your first book is always  a rip-off, right, of somebody, as a new writer? And that doesn't count the one in high school, which was a SUPER rip-off, like a major rip-off, it was basically a Tad Williams meets Dragonlance. Full blown with elves and things-- Yeah it was totally--

White Sand is the first one I finished, and I actually then went and wrote a science fiction book called Star's End.  And then I wrote the second half of White Sand, because I just stopped and said "This is long enough to be a novel" and then I wrote the rest of it and called that book two, that's actually the only sequel in there I wrote. And then I wrote a comedy, where a lot of the thesis of that comedy came out in Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians ten years later, so that one's kind of half been published. White Sand and Star's End are not any good, they have not been published. And then I wrote something called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora, which was really weird and sci-fi-y and stuff, and that one hasn't been published because it's really bad too. And then book number six was Elantris which was pretty good. Book number 7 was Dragonsteel, which became my honor's thesis as an undergraduate and half of that book ended up in the contemporary Way of Kings, the Bridge Four sequence was all from Dragonsteel and I ripped that out when I re-did Way of Kings.

After that was a re-write of White Sand, with better writing nowadays, and that one we're turning into a graphic novel, that one's good enough to read-- The biggest problem it has is its a little too bloated.  The story-- It's like 300,000 words with 150,000 words of story. And so we are going to condense it-- into a graphic novel, so you will eventually see that one. The next one was called Aether of Night, that one didn't get published, it's really two decent books that don't work well together, like one half is a Shakespearean farce about a guy who takes his brother's place on the throne, they're twins, it's mistaken identify, yadda yadda; the other half is this dark brutal war book with an invasion going on, and the two halves never really translate well. People read this and they're like, that chapter is hilarious and fun, and OH MY GOODNESS, and yeah, so-- Maybe someday I'll do something with that.

After that I wrote a book named Mythwalker which became Warbreaker. I ripped out the good parts of that and wrote Warbreaker later on. Then I wrote a book called Final Empire, which is not Mistborn: The Final Empire, because then I wrote a book called Mistborn, and neither of those books were working very well. And then I wrote a book called Way of Kings and then I sold Elantris and I said "I want to take these two books that weren't working very well, and I think if I combine them--" because Mistborn had a cool magic system and the Final Empire had this whole thing about the Hero who failed and the Dark Lord took over and mixing these too ideas turned into a great book and that became Mistborn: The Final Empire.

And basically everything from then I've published, Warbreaker came next which was a re-write of Mythwalker. The Way of Kings, the one you hold, is a complete rebuild, I started from scratch, and added the Bridge Four sequence from Dragonsteel and some of these things... The only good one in there, that wasn't published, is White Sand I think, and I think it is going to make a really nice graphic novel because the story is really solid, the characters are really solid. I just wasn't a good enough writer to know how to condense where I needed to.

YouTube Livestream 2 ()
#6 Copy

Stephen Kundy

If you were to write Elantris now, with all the writing experience that you've gained over your career, would you change anything?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, there are a lot of things I would change about Elantris. I have an autistic character in Elantris that I did not do a very good job with. It's more of a pop science version of autism than it is an actual in-depth look at what it is to live with autism. My prose is pretty rough, back then. Prose has never been my strongest suit, granted, but I do think I've gotten a lot better over the last twenty years. (Published fifteen, but twenty years ago, I wrote it.) I think my prose has improved dramatically over the years, and I think my ability to do dialogue has improved, and a lot of things like that.

Would I change any major plot features of Elantris? No. I'm actually fairly pleased with Elantris, plot-wise. There are aspects to it, right? I mean, Raoden's character arc is primarily externally driven. He is not a character who is going through a big change internally. But that was intentional. When I sat down to write it, the book I had written right before was about a deep and angsty character who had one of these very, very dramatic character arcs. And I was tired of angst, and I wanted somebody who dealt with external pressure in a fantastic way and was put into a very extreme situation externally and was someone who was kind of a little more like me in that that didn't really faze him, and he did his best with the situation. And I like that aspect of it. It does mean that some people who read it think Raoden isn't as deep as someone like Kaladin. Which you are perfectly fine in thinking that, but I think they are just different types of characters. I wasn't trying to write somebody angsty in Raoden, and I am pleased with how he turned out.

Sarene, as a character, was always kind of me trying to write someone who was a little more confident than they, perhaps, deserved to be. And that's a personality trait of Sarene. I actually, when I was plotting Stormlight, I once described Jasnah to someone in my writing group as "the person that Sarene thinks she is." And I like that about Sarene. She's young. She's got gumption and grit. And she's not quite as capable as she thinks she is, but you know what? Thinking you're capable can get you a long ways, as long as you have a minimum level of capability. And she does.

And I'm very proud of Hrathen as an antagonist. It has taken me until The Way of Kings and Taravangian to find someone that I feel is as strong an antagonist as Hrathen from my very first book. I'm still very pleased with how he turned out.