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MisCon 2018 ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

Speaking of the cosmere, because it's this multiverse that's the setting for all these different epic fantasy series, do you ever feel restricted by the cosmere in a sense of sort of wanting to do with a plot or the magic or wanting something really epic to happen but be like, "Wait that's not legal in the system I've created?" 

Brandon Sanderson

It doesn't happen very often because, most of the times in my outlining process, I notice these things and I move something out of the cosmere. If it's just not going to work with the cosmere magic, it just doesn't have to be cosmere. And I'm really glad I gave myself that freedom because I think that you can get too locked in, right? If I'm like, "Everything has to be cosmere!" then either I'm going to break it, which is going to decrease the value of the continuity, or I'm just not going to be able to write some books that I'm excited about. And I don't like either of those options.

And so being able to say, "You know what? This magic that I'm working on for FTL does not match any of the ways that the cosmere FTL could work. I'm going to move this out of the cosmere." That's what happened to Skyward. Skyward was in the cosmere for a little while, but then I moved it out. I'm like, "No this matches other stuff better. I'm going to go with this FTL, that is not a cosmere FTL." That frees me like--

Skyward is a science fiction space opera, starship pilots and things like that. And if I would have done this in the cosmere, I would have just had to avoid talking about things that would be spoilers for other cosmere books, which would have been terrible, right? So either you have the Skyward books that have their hands bound so that I can't give spoilers, or Skyward gives all the spoilers, and then cool things happening in the future of the cosmere are just like, "whatever". I take option number three, which is I'm just not going to do this as a cosmere book because obviously it doesn't fit.

Oathbringer Houston signing ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

...[Skyward] is teen, 'cause it's in my Reckoners line, and it's a story I've been playing with for some four years now, and I built an outline, and it's kind of like a cross between How to Train your Dragon and Top Gun, with starfighters. A girl finds an old broken-down starship with a really screwy AI that she thinks she can get up and running. In the meantime, she gets into starfighter school and is learning to be a pilot, and there's all kinds of mysteries and things about the nature of really what's happening with the planet why they're being attacked, and things like that. It's a whole lot of fun.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

On Skyward, I love the Graphic Audio adaptations. Do you know if there's any plans to do a Graphic Audio recording on Skyward at this time?

Brandon Sanderson

There's not plans right now. I'm trying to talk Random House into it. I guess it would be Audible into it, 'cause they have the audio rights. They haven't let us do the Reckoners. It's tough because Audible bought the rights directly, and Graphic Audio is a direct competitor. Whereas with the Stormlight books, MacMillian audio is not the same. So, we'll try.

Orem Signing ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

Is Skyward the title or the series title and is Claim the Stars is the book title?

Brandon Sanderson

No, Skyward is the series title and the book title. Like I should have done with Mistborn because we had Final Empire in the first book, and people got so confused because, "Is this the last book? It says The Final." This time I didn't give a subtitle to the first book. It was just too confusing when I did it the first time.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#7 Copy

mikkomikk

SKYWARD QUESTION! I've just read the prologue, did you do anything special to get in to the mind of a 7 yr old girl? Any inspirations for Spensa?

Brandon Sanderson

This one took a few tries--you can probably find earlier readings of it where the age was different, and the speech style was different. As with most things, it's a matter of trying something out, then looking for feedback.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#9 Copy

Oversleep

At first [Skyward] was supposed to be in the cosmere. Were there any reasons you pulled it out of it besides not wanting to deal with spacefaring era of Cosmere yet?

Where was the planet supposed to be in the cosmere? Would it have had a Shard or would it have been a minor Shardworld?

Brandon Sanderson

When Spensa started life in my brain, she was late cosmere pilot character, from around Era Four. When I started to work on this as my next YA project, I decided I wanted to use a certain technological aspect from a story I'd previously worked on--something I touched on in a novella, but which was still very interesting to me all these years later. But it was something that did not work with cosmere technology, so it was a natural fit to port Spensa over to this new story.

It wouldn't have been planetary-based if it had been in the cosmere. Mostly, it was Spensa as a character. Once the story started transforming into a girl and her spaceship, the cosmere ties got severed quickly.

Brandon's Blog 2017 ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

On tour, I did a reading from what up until now was listed as "Mystery Project" on my website. If you missed the newsletter explanation, I've pulled the book I was going to release next year (The Apocalypse Guard) because it needs more work. Instead, I've turned my attention to something else—and after a furious bout of writing, I'm confident in where it's going. So it's time to announce Skyward.

Like Steelheart and its sequels, this is a kind of borderline YA/Adult project. In the US, it will be published by Delacorte Press (publisher of Steelheart) in the Young Adult section of bookstores, while in the UK it will be published by Gollancz (publisher of almost all my books) in my main line, shelved in the science fiction/fantasy section of bookstores.

I've mentioned Skyward before in summaries of stories I'm working on, but haven't said much about it. I started noodling with the ideas in 2012, I believe. (The year that the Write About Dragons recordings of my lectures happened, where I mentioned it briefly—but not by name.) The first outline thoughts are dated summer 2013. It's a book I've been wanting to write for a long time, and it finally came together this year.

It has its roots in some of the very first books I ever read as a young man getting into fantasy. Like many young readers, I was captured by books about dragons, specifically books about boys who find dragons and learn to fly them. These have been staples of the fantasy genre for some fifty years. For me, it was The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey and Dragon's Blood by Jane Yolen. For others, the "boy and his dragon" story that captured them was Eragon, or How to Train Your Dragon.

I've always loved this story archetype, but I've never written anything using it. This is in part because…well, it's a familiar story. Too familiar. I wasn't certain I could add anything new to it. So I left it alone, letting ideas simmer, until in 2012 something struck me. Could I mash this together with a flight school story like Top Gun or Ender's Game, and do something that wasn't "a boy and his dragon," but was instead "a girl and her starfighter"?

Skyward was born, much like Mistborn, with me taking two ideas and mashing them together to see where they went. And they went someplace incredible—I grew increasingly excited about the project, as I saw in it a chance to both play in a space I loved, and do some very interesting things with story and theme. It wasn't until this year that I got the personalities of the characters right, but I really got excited when I found a place for this in the lore of stories I'd been creating.

The official pitch is this: Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

As I've played with Skyward over the years, I tried to pull it into the Cosmere, then found it didn't work there. However, it is in the continuity of something I've written before. Something that isn't the Cosmere, and isn't the Reckoners. And no, I won't say anything more for now.

The goal right now is to have Skyward done in time for a publication date of November 6, 2018. We'll see if I can meet that deadline! I'm optimistic. As always, you can follow along on the progress bar on my website. Look for a cover reveal and chance to pre-order soon!

Skyward Anchorage signing ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

How do you go about jumping from something like Stormlight into a science fiction instead, of something like Skyward?

Brandon Sanderson

This is an interesting question for me because, as a writer, I don't look at genre trappings perhaps the same way that you might. I look at story structure and genre trappings as two very different things. Two very important things, but two very different things. And story structure is different.

For instance, the Bridge Four sequence from Way of Kings and the movie Hoosiers and the book Ender's Game are all what we call underdog sports stories. And those are three different stories in three different genre trappings. Modern-day, science fiction, and fantasy; and yet all three of them use the same plot archetype as the core of their story. And you'll find, for instance, that a buddy cop movie and a regency romance will sometimes use the exact same plot archetypes, despite being different subgenres. And so, as a writer, one of the things we do is we start to learn to divide plot archetype, character archetype, genre trappings, and all of these things to build the story that we want to with the feel we want to.

So that's kind of like, when people ask me, "Star Wars. Science fiction, or fantasy?" Well, it's a fantasy plot archetype. (Really, it's a western plot archetype, but they both use the same idea.) The plot archetype is fantasy, it's the hero's journey epic; and the genre trappings are science fiction. So I would place it in science fiction, but with fantasy underpinnings.

So when I'm moving from Way of Kings to Skyward, it's not so much about how the shift between fantasy versus science fiction is. Really, the things I'm looking for that are the big shift are: a narrow focus on one character, versus a wide focus on a large cast. That's the biggest difference for me. Also, the kind of setting-as-character in Stormlight Archive, where you're going to get to know this deep setting, versus setting-as-mystery, which is the setting archetype I'm using for Skyward. We don't know what the enemy is. We're trying to figure out what's going on. We don't know our past.

So those sorts of things, I look as very differently as a writer than I think maybe a reader might look at them.

MisCon 2018 ()
#13 (not searchable) Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I sought refuge in the silent caverns. I didn’t dare go back to my mother and grandmother. My mother would undoubtedly be happy. She’d lost a husband to the Krell, and dreaded seeing me suffer the same fate. Gran Gran, she would tell me to fight. But fight what? The military itself didn’t want me. I felt like a fool. All this time, telling myself I’d become a pilot, and in truth I’d never had a chance. My teachers must have spent these years laughing at me behind their hands. I walked through an unfamiliar cavern on the outer edge of what I’d explored, hours away from Igneous. And still the feelings of embarrassment and anger shadowed me. What an idiot I had been.

I reached the edge of the subterranean cliff and knelt, activating my father’s light-line by tapping two fingers against my palm. The bracelet glowed more brightly. Gran Gran said we’d brought these with us to Detritus, that they were pieces of equipment used by the explorers and warriors of the old human space fleet. I wasn’t supposed to have one of course, but everyone thought that it had been destroyed when my father crashed. I placed my wrist against the stone of the cliff, and again tapped my fingers against my palm, an action the bracelet could sense. This command made an energy line stick to the rock, connecting my bracelet to the stone.

A three-finger tap let out more slack. Using that I could climb over the ledge, rope in hand, and lower myself to the bottom. Once down, another tap made the rope let go of the rock above then snap back into the bracelet housing. I didn’t know how it worked, only that it needed to recharge it every month or two, something I did in secret by plugging it into the power lines outside the caverns.

I crept into a cavern filled with kurdi mushrooms. They tasted foul but were edible and rats loved them. This would be prime hunting ground. So I turned off my light and settled down to wait, listening intently. I had never feared the darkness. It reminded me of the exercise Gran Gran taught, where I floated up toward the singing stars. You couldn’t fear the dark when you were a fighter. And I was a fighter.

I was, I was going, I was going to be a pilot...

I looked upward, trying to push away those feelings of loss. Instead, I was soaring. Toward the stars. And again I thought I could hear something calling to me, a sound like a distant flute. A nearby scraping pulled me back. Rat nails on stone. I raised my speargun, familiar motions guiding me, and engaging a smidgen of light from my light-line.

The rat turned in a panic toward me. My finger trembled on the trigger but I didn’t fire as it scrambled away. Why did it matter? Was I really just going to go on with my life like nothing had happened? Usually exploring kept my mind off my problems. Today they kept intruding like a rock in my shoe. Remember? Remember that your dreams have just been stolen?

I felt like I had those first days following my father’s death. When every moment, every object, every word reminded me of him and of the sudden hole inside me. I sighed, then attached one end of my light-line to my spear and commanded it to stick to the next thing it touched. I took aim at the top of another cliff and fired, sticking the weightless glowing rope in place. I climbed up, my speargun rattling in its straps on my back.

As a child I’d imagined that my father had survived his crash, that he was being held captive in these endless uncharted tunnels. I imagined saving him, like a figure from Gran Gran’s stories. Gilgamesh, or Joan of Arc, or Tarzan of Greystoke, a hero. The cavern trembled as if in outrage, and dust fell from the ceiling. An impact up on the surface. That was close, I thought. Had I climbed so far? I took out my book of hand-drawn maps. I’d been out here quite a while by now; hours at least. I had taken a nap a few caverns back.

I checked the clock on my light-line. It had passed to the next day, the day of the test, which would happen in the evening. I probably should have headed back. Mom and Gran Gran would worry if I didn’t show up for the test. To hell with the test, I thought, imagining the indignation I’d feel at being turned away at the door. Instead I climbed up through a tight squeeze into another tunnel. Out here my size was, for once, an advantage.

Another impact rocked the caverns. With this much debris falling, climbing to the surface was definitely stupid. I didn’t care. I felt reckless. I felt, almost heard, something driving me forward. I kept climbing until I finally reached a crack in the ceiling. Light shone through it, of an even, sterile type; too white, not orange enough. Cool, dry air blew in also, which was a good sign. I pushed my pack ahead of me, then squirmed through the crack and out into the light.

The surface. I looked up and saw the sky again. It never failed to take my breath away. A distant skylight shone down on a section of the land, but I was mostly in shadow. Just overhead, the sky sparkled with a shower of falling debris. Radiant lines like slashes. A formation of three scout-class starfighters flew through it, watching. Falling debris was often broken pieces of ships or other space junk, and salvage from it could be valuable. It played havoc with our sensors though, and could mask a Krell incursion.

I stood in the grey-blue dust and let the awe of the sky wash over me, feeling a particular sensation of wind against my cheeks. I’d come up close to Alta Base, which I could see in the distance, maybe only a thirty-five minute walk or so away. Now that the Krell knew where we were, there was no reason to hide the base, so it had expanded from a hidden bunker to several large buildings and a walled perimeter, antiaircraft guns, and an invisible shield to protect it from debris.

Outside that wall, groups of people worked a small strip of something I always found strange: trees and fields. What were they even doing over there? Trying to grow food in this dusty ground? I didn’t dare get close. The guards would take me for a scavenger from the distant caverns. Still, there was something dramatic about that stark green of those fields and the stubborn walls of the base. Alta was a monument to our determination. For three generations, humankind had lived like rats and nomads on this planet, but we would hide no longer.

The flight of starships streaked toward Alta, and I took a step toward them. Set your sights on something higher, my father had said. Something more grand. And where had that gotten me?

I shouldered my pack and my speargun, then hiked the other direction. I had been to a nearby passage before, and I figured with more exploring, I could connect some of my maps. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I found the passage’s mouth had collapsed completely.

I saw some debris hit the surface in the near distance, tossing up a spray of dust. I looked up and found a few smaller chunks streaking down overhead, fiery burning chunks of metal. Heading right toward me. Scud! I dashed back the way I had come. No! No! No! No! No! The air rumbled, and I could feel the heat of the approaching debris. There!

I spotted a small cavern opening in the surface, part crack, part cave mouth. I threw myself toward it, skidding and sliding inside. An enormous crash sounded behind me, and it seemed to shake the entire planet. Frantic, I engaged my light-line and slapped my hand against the stone as I fell into the churning chaos. I jerked up short, connected by the light-line to the wall, as rock chips and pebbles flew across me. The cavern trembled, then all grew still. I blinked dust from my eyes and found myself dangling by my light-line in the center of a small cavern, maybe thirty or forty feet high. I’d lost my pack somewhere, and I’d scraped up my arm pretty good.

Great, just great, Spensa. This is what throwing tantrums gets you. I groaned, my head throbbing, then tapped my fingers against my palm to let the light-line out, lowering myself to the floor. I flopped down, catching my breath. Other impacts sounded in the distance, but they dwindled. Finally, I wobbled to my feet and dusted myself off. I managed to locate the strap of my bag sticking out from some rubble nearby. I yanked it out, then checked the canteen and maps inside. They seemed okay.

My speargun was another matter. I found the handle but there was no sign of the rest. It was probably buried in that mound of rubble. I slumped down against the stone. I knew I shouldn’t go up to the surface during a debris fall. I had practically begged for this. A scrabbling sound came from nearby. A rat? I raised the handle of my gun immediately, and then felt doubly stupid. Still I forced myself to my feet, slung my pack over my shoulder, and increased the light of my bracelet. A shadow ducked away, and I followed, limping only a little. Maybe I could find another way out of here.

I raised my bracelet high, illuminating the small cavern, which had a high ceiling. My light reflected off something ahead of me. Metal? Maybe one of the water pipes? I walked toward it, and my brain took a moment to realize what I was seeing. There, nestled into the corner of the cavern, surrounded by rubble, was a starship.

State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Updates on Main Projects

Stormlight

It's time to take a little breather. I've begun working on the outline for book four, which is kind of a mess right now because of things I've been moving around between books as I write. My goal this year for Stormlight will be to have rock-solid outlines for books four and five done by December 2018.

My current projection is that I'll spend half of my time writing Stormlight, and half of it doing other things. (I spoke last year about just how big an undertaking a Stormlight book is–and why I can't write them back to back.) I realize that many of you would prefer to have only Stormlight, but that would drive me insane–and drive the series into the ground.

I think this is a realistic schedule. So, I'm giving myself 2018 to work on Skyward (hopefully a trilogy) and other projects. Then on January 1st, 2019, I go back to Stormlight refreshed and excited to be back in Roshar, and I write on book four until it's done. (With a 2020 or 2021 release, depending on how the writing goes.) I do hope to find time for a novella, like Edgedancer, that we can put out between books. This one is tentatively called Wandersail.

For those who don't know, The Stormlight Archive is a ten-book series composed of two five-book arcs.

Status: Writing outline for book four.

Skyward Denver signing ()
#16 Copy

Kogiopsis

I really loved both Ender's Game and Anne McCaffrey when I was in early high school, and I felt like this book was in conversation with both of them.

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that that is a really, really accurate way of looking at it. Little Last Starfighter mixed in as well, a little Top Gun.

Kogiopsis

I just want to know how much were you thinking about Ender's Game in particular?

Brandon Sanderson

Ender's Game, I was not thinking about a ton. More How to Train Your Dragon. Because it really parallels How to Train Your Dragon. I was trying to make sure it didn't hit those beats too closely. I wasn't thinking about Ender's Game specifically, but the underdog sports story part of Ender's Game worms its way into a lot of my different writing. I was thinking more about Ender's Game when  I was writing Bridge Four sequences.

Kogiopsis

I felt like Skyward was a really interesting philosophical refutation to Ender's Game. Because Skyward is fundamentally a book where nobody is actually wrong, Ender's Game everybody is wrong.

Brandon Sanderson

That's a pretty interesting thing, yeah.

Kogiopsis

I really appreciate that. Also, the part at the end where Spensa did the navigation thing was so like Between, I almost threw my book at the wall in excitement.

Brandon Sanderson

I wanted for years to do a "Monsters live in the Between" story, which is what this is going toward. 'Cause I always thought-- Like, there's this one episode of Star Trek where someone sees monsters as they are being beamed. And it's one of my favorite Next Generation episodes, there are monsters when you are teleporting. That one stuck with me forever, so you can blame that as part of the inspiration.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#17 Copy

kakarotoks

As for Skyward, you said before that you got stuck because you weren't liking it, then you finally figured out how to fix it, will you write a blog post after release about how it was before and what needed to be changed to make it fit your standard?

Brandon Sanderson

Did I say that about Skyward? I got stuck on Apocalypse Guard, and pulled it for that reason. I don't believe I had any big issues with Skyward that weren't up to standards, just normal revision issues. The biggest hurdle came long before writing the book, as I was trying to figure out ways to approach this plot archetype in a way that wouldn't simply be a rehash of what people have done before.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#19 Copy

WritesGeekyStuff

I'd love to hear what some of your inspirations were for Skyward. I know you've listed How To Train Your Dragon and The Last Starfighter, but I'm curious if there are any books or movies that inspired you for the sci-fi worldbuilding and starfighter combat? As someone who loves pretty much anything starfighter, from Wing Commander to Stackpole's Rogue Squadron books, I'd love to hear how you approached it or if you have any reccos I'm not aware of!

Brandon Sanderson

I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching interviews and videos about what it's actually like to fly or take G-forces. Tom Scott did a nice one on centrifuges. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMKcO-T5Y4o

As for starfighter books, there really aren't a ton are there? Most everything in books focuses on the Lost Fleet/Honor Harrington/Vorkosigan style large ship combat. Stackpole is great, but you've already read him. A Fire Upon the Deep is great, but again, not a lot of starfighter battles. I'll have to think about it more--I don't have any that were specific inspirations for this series.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#20 Copy

6th_account_so_far

How much of an impact did interviewing professional fighter pilots have on the story? Did anything learned from them actually change parts of the book in significant ways? Did you learn anything weird or unusual that you found fascinating?

Brandon Sanderson

The pilots were a HUGE help. The biggest issue I had, which was really hard to get through my skull, was the different ways that G-forces interacted with the human body.

I knew the basics, and had flight suits operating correctly and was watching for people pulling too many Gs. But the fighter pilots kept explaining things like "eyes out" and how it wasn't just number of Gs, it was the direction they were pulling. It wasn't until I called one of them and had a lengthy conversation that it started to click with me.

From there, some of the direct feelings of pulling Gs--feeling like your skin is sliding off your body, or that you've aged a hundred years--I got from them.

As always with a sf/f book, one of my goals is to walk the line between realism and fiction. I tried to make the battles feel real enough to not kick an actual pilot out of the story, but at the same time, I specifically gave the fighters technology that we don't have, in order to spice up how the combat would work.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#21 Copy

KillerSlipper

What was your biggest challenge when writing Skyward? And possibly as a follow on - are there any new challenges or surprises that come to you as a writer even after all these years of doing it ?

Brandon Sanderson

The biggest challenge to Skyward was getting the actual fighter-pilot stuff right, followed closely by the fact that I didn't really have a safety net for this book. Having already pulled a book from the publisher, and having a very small time to get this one written, I felt I really needed to nail it on first try--and I did, fortunately.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#23 Copy

basham09

I am looking forward to picking up this new story and I had no idea it was coming out so soon! What made you decide to put aside all of your other stories to write Skyward?

Brandon Sanderson

I usually need a big break between Stormlight books to recharge, and I look for something different in style and genre. A space opera fight that really well, and gave me a much-needed breather.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#24 Copy

Questioner

Is there anything in particular that majorly influenced the path that Skyward took at any point?

Brandon Sanderson

There's a big reveal at the ending that, once I came up with it, made me really excited to write the book - but you'll have to read it to find out.

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
#25 Copy

Questioner

In Skyward, what is your callsign? And what was the process for creating so many callsigns?

Brandon Sanderson

My callsign is Mr. Prolific. That probably wouldn't work as a good callsign, but it was my callsign way back when I was in my writing group, my first writing group with my friends.

The process was, actually, I wanted to pick a callsign that used the same sound as their real name, to help people keep them straight. Because you basically have a double number of names in the book. So same letter or same sound, creating it. And I just started with that letter or sound. And then I wanted them each to feel distinctive. If they're all, like, initials. Or they're all one-syllable names, it can be really easy to mix them up. So I wanted some that were two or three syllables. Some that, they wanted to reinforce who the character was sometimes, things like that. That's where I went on that.

Skyward Denver signing ()
#26 Copy

Questioner

Callsigns. Did you come up with those yourself?

Brandon Sanderson

I did. The callsigns in the back of all the beta readers, they came up with their own. But I came up with all the callsigns. One of the things I was trying to do, I tried to make the callsigns start with the same sound as their real names. And that was what be guidance was so that it would be easier to keep everyone straight.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#27 Copy

Oversleep

I'm liking Skyward so far. I can't wait to read about using light-lances, they're rusting cool!

I gotta ask, though: what does "scud" mean? It seems it is an equivalent of "damn" but is there any etymology behind it? Cause, "scud" is also name of Soviet tactical ballistic missiles. Any relation?

Brandon Sanderson

Scud came from the Soviet missile, as a nod to some of my inspirations for the setting of the caverns.

Publishers Weekly Q & A ()
#28 Copy

Michael M. Jones

What kind of research did you do?

Brandon Sanderson

Mainly, it was about fighter pilots and what they go through, what g-force feels like, stuff like that. I'm indebted to a couple of real-life fighter pilots for helping me to get it right. Also, I had to research what it's like to live in societies where the machine of war grinds people up out of necessity to keep the country alive, what it does to them. I took inspiration from real-world regimes to create an amalgamation, which still doesn't go as far as it could have. I just included subtle markers to the reader to suggest the sort of stress they live under.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

So Skyward, do you consider it science fiction or science fantasy?

Brandon Sanderson

I consider it-- Is Skyward science fiction or science fantasy?

I generally separate the plot archetypes in my head from the genre trappings, and a lot of times people have plot archetypes that are science fiction. I do a lot of science fiction plot archetypes with fantasy settings. That's what Elantris is, right? The plot archetype is about information and researching information and coming to a scientific understanding of something that happened in the past so you can use it to fix the future; science fiction plot archetype fantasy setting for Elantris.

Skyward's backwards, right? It's the fantasy plot archetype. It is the the coming of age struggle against society through use of a fantastical boon to prove yourself, right? Very kind of classic fantasy thing but the trappings are science fiction. So I don't know that I look at these things the same way. Like, Stormlight, the Bridge Four sequence is an underdog sports story with fantasy trappings. That's the plot archetype...

As a writer, where I would shelve it? I would shelve it in science fiction because the trappings are usually-- And because of that. I would shelve Star Wars as science fiction, even though Star Wars is very much mystical, fantastical plot archetypes going on. Shelve it with where the genre trappings are, that's just for our sanity right? So we can know what box to put things in. Just for ease of discussing it and things like that. Nothing ever matches either genre trapping or plot archetype. It's just there for us to be able to have the framework to talk about it. 

Starsight Release Party ()
#34 Copy

Questioner

For the light-lances, where do they get their power from?

Brandon Sanderson

They come from the same sort of place that everything's getting their power. You know, little micro-engines that are basically fantasy-ish. They're... It's super advanced hyper-engines. I think I worked something out where they using acclivity stone in some way. They're like Brandon's versions of Asimov watches with atomic power. They're just fantastically far-future power sources. Otherwise, we couldn't make any of this work. Like, the whole shell around Detritus and stuff. We needed a cheap and powerful energy source.

Questioner

Exactly. They're just like little bitty things.

Brandon Sanderson

They're basically fantasy novels with spaceships.

Oathbringer release party ()
#36 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I talked a bit about it, in the Write About Dragons lectures at BYU, I just had the idea. I realized that a lot of my favorite stories were kind of like these boy-with-a-dragon-egg stories, right? One of my favorite stories of all time is Dragon's Blood, by Jane Yolen. Just, absolutely amazing book. And I thought, that's the kind of story I like, but it's been done to death. But then I thought, hey, I can do a different version of that. So, this story, basic premise is How To Train Your Dragon, but instead it's a girl who finds a spaceship, and goes to Top Gun school. So, it's like a mashup between Top Gun and Ender's Game and How To Train Your Dragon with an old broken down spaceship with a really weird personality. And I'm going to read you the prologue of this, which happens when the main character is rather young.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#37 Copy

Questioner

Did you know Hurl's fate before you started writing it all?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I built that all out in the outline... I needed somebody who was the image of Spensa who went the wrong way, as kind of like a model for what she would see herself in. And part of the inspiration for Skyward is Top Gun, which has that as a major theme. So it was a very natural sort of thing to weave into the story as I was going.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#39 Copy

Questioner

In this book [Skyward], you have a little bit of telepathy and teleportation. So, was that magic?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, absolutely.

Questioner

So it's fantasy and sci-fi?

Brandon Sanderson

What it is is, sci-fi trappings. But my science in this is pure magic.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
#40 Copy

Questioner

Can cytonic people potentially use all the abilities from Defending Elysium?

Brandon Sanderson

Potentially, yes. So mindblades and things like that. Mostly, I'm kind of pushing people into specialties a little bit more, like I've done with something like Mistborn where you're generally better at one thing than another. So you may see some divisions of powers, but they're all capable of it.

Skyward Denver signing ()
#42 Copy

Questioner

You were talking before about how, when a book's not working out, you moved on to something else, and then it started to come together in your mind. Was that something that you-- you were moving on to something else and all these other ideas started popping up? Or were you revisiting your other book every now and then?

Brandon Sanderson

Every now and then I'm revisiting it, and I spend a few days on the outline saying, "How is this going? Are things working?" With [Skyward], it was starting to click, so I went specifically back to this one as things were clicking. I keep a folder of these half-finished outlines that aren't working for some reason or the time isn't right yet. And every time it's time to start a new book, those are all in the consideration.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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tschan22

The one thing that impressed me the most [about Skyward] are the awesomely vivid and thrilling dogfight scenes. How did you come up with these dogfighting techniques? Any particular inspiration that you can share with us? Thank you!

Brandon Sanderson

So, one of the things I try to do in combat situations is define a few rules that are different from the way our world works, nudging the combat to be more fantastical. This (hopefully) allows even those who are familiar with the situation to better suspend disbelief--since the rules of combat are different, then battles can theoretically play out in (plausible) ways that I decide and present, rather than running into real-world situations.

For Skyward, I started with studying real-world dogfights, then added a couple big changes. One was some anti-gravity, the other was nudging the battles more toward the way they might work in a vacuum by removing some of the air resistance. The final piece was the light-lances, further pushing the combat into a direction where pilot maneuverability was enhanced. (And the battlefield could be different each time, allowing more variety.)

That all together gave me the way I went about these battles. But I will say this--watching what some fighter pilots can do with their jets was enormously impressive. I had no idea, honestly, the things they are capable of doing.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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SquishyMouth

How would you say Skyward compares to, say, Mistborn in terms of completion? By the end of The Final Empire you give us enough answers to leave us satisfied with just the first book, but the trilogy as a whole works without feeling like the story is stitched together - will the Skyward series have the same feel, or will the ending of book one immediately call for the next book?

Brandon Sanderson

The ending of Mistborn is one of the standards (in terms of how stand-alone the book feels, yet with promises of where we're going) that I try to achieve. I'd say that Skyward doesn't quite feel as stand-alone by the end as Mistborn or Steelheart, but more so than TWoK did.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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WeiryWriter

At one point in time you were planning for Skyward to be in the cosmere, which is no longer the case. If you were to pick a Shard, or Shards, that would fit Skyward what would they be? (Not necessarily the Shard that would have been featured in-cosmere, but a hypothetical Shard that fits the book/world in its current state.)

Brandon Sanderson

Skyward was more "The travels of Spensa, space pilot" than a true story back when it was in the cosmere. But as the story is right now, I'd say Autonomy would find it very interesting.

Legion Release Party ()
#50 Copy

Questioner

What technology that you have heard of recently in real life has inspired fantasy?

Brandon Sanderson

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.