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Firefight Chicago signing ()
#1 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.
Skyward release party ()
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Questioner

If you write down a measurement of a firespren, it locks into that. If you write down a measurement that's not true, will that still work? Can you just write down the measurements of a firespren and quadruple its size?

Brandon Sanderson

Let me just say this. Human perception of spren has an intrinsic effect on how they act, react, and interface with the world.

Questioner

So if I were to take a picture of a firespren, increase the brightness on my phone by 5000, and then write down that recording, the firespren would multiply brightness by 5000?

Brandon Sanderson

I didn't say that. I said, "Human perception of spren influences their behavior and their form."

White Sand vol.1 Orem signing ()
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Questioner

So, the fan page wanted to know. Would it be possible for Hemalurgy to steal a living Shardblade? That was the top voted question.

Brandon Sanderson

Ok, so you're bonded to a Shardblade. You get spiked, then they spike off the bond so that the Shardblade is bonded to someone else.

Questioner

I assume so...

Brandon Sanderson

But can they do it with a living Shardblade? You can definitely do it with a dead Shardblade because its just stealing the Connection. With a living Shardblade, yes you could do that 'though the spren could break the bond at will.

Questioner

So the spren would survive? That was the second-- the corollary--

Brandon Sanderson

Ehhh. Would the spren survive? The spren would survive as long as the oaths were--

Questioner

Intact?

Brandon Sanderson

--the person didn't break the oaths. But you could theoretically steal the bond, break the oaths, and kill the spren. If you wanted to. Its a very convoluted to kill a spren, they are easier to kill than that, but yes. You could do that. That is a viable but twisted route that you can do. You would end up with a dead spren and a Shardblade, so there is that. But there are easier ways to accomplish that...

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
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Questioner

So, you spend a lot of time comparing lifespren and rotspren. They're complementary colors, *inaudible*. The rotspren can appear around animals, as well, whereas lifespren only appear around plants. Is that a misnomer? Is there something that we're missing?

Brandon Sanderson

No, there's nothing you're missing. It just takes a large number of organisms in the same place. So, in a herd of animals, you could find lifespren. They don't come to people as often. But, the thing you have to remember about spren is: spren are attracted by something. And they have to be nearby, and they have to make their way there. So, sometimes, you will have an emotion, and no spren will appear. Because there's not one nearby enough. Or they just didn't feel like this. I worked this in because I didn't want the spren popping up too much. They're a big symbol of Roshar, they're a way, in very early chapters, for you to realize this is a different place and a different world. But if every other sentence were, "And a spren appeared," it would go crazy way too fast.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
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Questioner

So far all the spren that have bonded to humans appear to be emotion-based as opposed to nature-based. Is that true for all the Knights Radiant?

Brandon Sanderson

Well it depends. For instance: how would you define Wyndle?

Questioner

I struggled with that one.

Brandon Sanderson

Uh hm. So I would say that you are on the right track, that there is a definite inclination that direction.

Questioner

Towards Honor?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. There is.

Questioner

Is there other surges then, that are more Cultivation-exclusive or other Knights Radiant that are...?

Brandon Sanderson

We'll RAFO that, but the original Knights Radiant are more focused on Honor and his spren.

OdysseyCon 2016 ()
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Blightsong

Can honorspren, or any other type of Knight Radiant spren, be evil despite their relationship to Tanavast or Cultivation?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, because I don't call the Shards good and evil. There are no good and evil Shards in my opinion, like and so, what's evil and what's not evil- you can totally have spren that are of Honor that you would consider evil. They have free will; they are much more strictly limited in that free will than we are, because of their nature as spren. It's very hard for most spren to ever break an oath or to lie. That's just like- as manifestations of laws of nature makes it very hard for that to happen, but they can be cruel.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

I don't even put spren in on the first draft, that's just too much to keep in my brain. Afterward, I do a draft where I just go in and add all that stuff. It's like adding the special effects to a movie.

Peter Ahlstrom

So, Brandon actually does put a number of spren in the first draft. But part of Karen's job as continuity editor is to find more places to add the spren and mark those in the document. Then on the next draft Brandon puts spren there if he judges them to be good places for spren.

YouTube Spoiler Stream 2 ()
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Doomslug

If Roshar progressed and industrialized, would caffeinespren come to existence with the advent of soda?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I bet they would, absolutely. I mean if you're getting alcoholspren, you're gonna get caffeinespren. They probably wouldn't be called that, you would probably call them like alertnessspren or something like that when you are alert beyond, you know… maybe not even alert. It'd be like a term for when you should be sleeping, but you can't because of stimulants. Stimulantspren? Wiredspren? Hyperspren?

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
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Arithered

What is your conception of how spren would appear to the average person? Do they have a solid physicality of some kind or are they more ethereal/ghostlike?

Ben McSweeney

Back during the pitch I did illustrate a few spren ideas for Brandon, but my understanding of them has expanded greatly since then. There's a lot I don't know, but I think I've got the basic idea down.

I see them as looking like they're made of Stormlight, sorta like many common sci-fi "holograms". I don't think any spren have physically solid forms unless the manifest fully, and the only examples we've seen of that so far are Blades.

In terms of their appearance, the text descriptions are always the first place I look. Never contradict the text, it's the common basis for all our interpretations.

General Signed Books 2016 ()
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WeiryWriter

While imprisoned Kaladin encounters a strange type of spren described as "taut wires crossing before him". When I first read this I instantly thought of the captivityspren Axies is searching for, so I was surprised when someone asked you about it and you were reported as saying they are not captivityspren. What kind of spren is it then?

Brandon Sanderson

I must have misunderstood. Those were captivityspren.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
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Questioner

*to be inscribed in a book* Could I have the name of an observed but unnamed spren?

Brandon Sanderson

Observed, but unnamed, spren? They’ve all been named.

Questioner

They’ve all been named that have been observed?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, someone will call it something so I will just say-- y’know. When they see them they refer to them by things.

Minicon 2015 ()
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Ruro272 (paraphrased)

Is there a separate "Shadesmar" for each planet or is it one big place that are all connected with different regions for each planet?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It's one big place with different sections.

Ruro272 (paraphrased)

So since its one big place, could spren travel to a different section that correlates with a different planet, such as the cognitive segment for Scadrial?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They could go there, but they wouldn't usually...

Ruro272 (paraphrased)

Is that because Honor's influence is only on Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

*Brandon gave sort of a noncommittal half nod, but looked doubtful himself. Maybe best to interpret this last answer as a RAFO rather than reading into it too much.*

Skyward Denver signing ()
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Questioner

[If someone were] born like Vin, could they bond a spren, before they're even cognizant? 'Cause it's about being broken, right? So, I don't know if it's the same brokenness that Vin had from just being born.

Brandon Sanderson

Different spren will view this differently, and different people view the way that the Nahel bond works differently. So, Vin would certainly have been of interest to a number of spren.

Chris King interview ()
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Chris King

Why can Rock see Syl?

Brandon Sanderson

Ooh, good question, why do you think Rock can see Syl?

Chris King

My personal theory here is because his people have such a strong belief and reverence in them it allows him to see them for that reason because his strong belief creates some sort of cognitive or spiritual pressure which allows them...

Brandon Sanderson

He would agree with that philosophy. I would say, usually when something like that happens there is also something physiological going on.

Salt Lake City signing ()
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Questioner

Why does the Shardbearer-- when they are dueling with Adolin and Renarin-- Why does the Shardbearer freak out when Kaladin grabs the sword? The <Shardbearer> like... He screams, and he's like, "I didn't kill you", and ran away.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Why does he do that?

Brandon Sanderson

Because when Kaladin was there, and they were touching it, they actually heard the spren that was inside of it. Right? Because when an--

Questioner

So it wasn't Syl that he heard, it was the sword.

Brandon Sanderson

It was the sword's spren... that Kaladin was touching it. When the Knight Radiant touches it-- You can see when other Knights Radiant pick up swords, they can hear the screaming.

DragonCon 2019 ()
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Questioner

The areas where you have highspren living, does it have a connection to <Stormwall? the rift to the former world?>

Brandon Sanderson

So where the highspren... specifically?

Questioner

Basically does it...for example, do honorspren have a--are strong in that area, because...?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh right, because they're living in like, Lasting Integrity? So... there are reasons why in Shadesmar the spren build the cities they do where they do. It doesn't always correlate one to one with the type of spren. Once in a while it does, but I would say as a rule of thumb, no. It's more about them finding a place that works for the geography of Shadesmar, and where they kind of just have political power and clout and things like that.

Good question.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

Spren. The phenomenon that creates spren. Is that Roshar-specific or is that a general effect?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, yes and no. So the question is, the effect that creates spren, is that Roshar-specific or is it general. The general fundamental rules that create spren are cosmere-wide. Spren are pieces of Investiture, usually pieces of Investiture that come straight from one of the Shards of Adonalsium, split off in some way, that because of human or other sapient creatures thinking about it or interacting with the power, the power starts to take on a life of its own. Develops personalities and comes alive, so to speak. And this can happen on any pla-- in any place where there is Investiture. So it could happen on any planet in the cosmere with significant amounts of free Investiture. The places you've seen this happen most commonly are on Sel and Scadri-- err Roshar. You haven't seen it on Scadrial, and you've seen little kind of hints at it on Nalthis, but not quite. And so-- But it's possible for it to happen anywhere. Seons and spren are basically the same thing with different powers-- powers kind of pushing them in different-- growth out of them-- That said, the non-sapient spren, so the spren that are not quite as-- They're not going to stand up and talk to you. Those all existed-- not all, but most of them existed on Roshar before the Shattering of Adonalsium.

Skyward Denver signing ()
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Alpharho

The metal of Shardblades. Cultivationspren versus honorspren, for example. Are they different metals?

Brandon Sanderson

No, but good question.

Alpharho

Are all orders the same alloy, essentially?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. There's a little asterisk on there, but not in the way you're asking... You could call those all the same alloy. Because the mixture to different spren is different, I think that you could argue that each one is its own alloy.

Alpharho

So, different proportions of tanavastium?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, but it doesn't quite work that way with these magics, right? I'm going to say that's up to the individual cosmerologist who is in the world, the arcanist, defining it. You would be able to find enough differences to legitimately call them different alloys if you wanted to.

Alpharho

Would you say different ratios of the same two metals?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. They are not going to have a third one in them, if that's what you're asking. But it doesn't quite work that way. Like, if you were going to take brass, you could measure the exact percentage. In this case, it is a thing; it's not like you could divide it up and split them apart, because they are a thing. And that thing would be called one thing.

Alpharho

But you won't say what that thing is called?

Brandon Sanderson

No, I won't say what that thing is called. But I think you and the 17th Sharders and folks that are dividing them would prefer to call them ten different things, and I think their nomenclature would be relevant.

Skyward release party ()
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Questioner

There are honorspren and cultivationspren on Roshar. The other spren that are tied to orders of Knights Radiant, do they have any relationships with any other Shards?

Brandon Sanderson

They are all going to be a mix of the Shards on Roshar. Some weight a little further one direction or the other. They are not off-world Shards. Good question.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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Argent

There's a scene in... Way of Kings, where Syl appears full-sized, like a human. It’s the only time she does that, why is that?

Brandon Sanderson

That was a very special moment. And there’s was some matters of Connection going on. In the Cognitive Realm she's full-sized, when she's there, and so this is echoing that. So that when, later on, if you were to see her in Shadesmar, and if you're like "Oh she's human sized!" Well--

Argent

That's how she would appear.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, you should know.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Questioner

Are the [singers] living computers, and are spren variables in a computer system?

Brandon Sanderson

Excellent question. The answer is: I would say no, I wouldn't consider this. But I have considered this idea, and there is a place in the cosmere where people are using spren-- not spren but something similar on another planet, for a little bit of computation. Which I want to be able to write that story some day, but-- It's a very fun thing that I dug down a rabbit hole in one time. You might see this somewhere in the cosmere, but it's not actually Roshar. I wouldn't call them that.

Warsaw signing ()
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Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

Yes that is common.

 

Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

 Will there be a what spren?

Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, yeah yeah yeah. So most of the spren are involved in either-- are kind of involved in all three. And so it's mostly Honor and Cultivation. But some lean one direction or the other: you'll see that lifespren will pop up more commonly around Wyndle then they will around <Sylphrena>.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
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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?)

Calamity Seattle signing ()
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Questioner

What can you tell me about where spren come from?

Brandon Sanderson

Spren come from where everything in the world of Roshar comes from.  The are a natural part of life there.  They come from the same place rocks and the wind and all of that...

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
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Questioner

Is it cold enough on Roshar for snow?

Brandon Sanderson

Only in the mountains.

Questioner

Do you get a highsnowstorm?

Brandon Sanderson

In the mountains, yes, it's very weird. And it's only in the tops of the mountains. There is. But you will see this when and if we visit the Horneater Peaks, which are covered in snow, except for the hot springs.

Questioner

Are there snowspren?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Skyward release party ()
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JoyBlu

Both Tien and Kaladin are Radiant, you talked about how that wasn't hereditary, and how that was more because of where they were with association. Was it because they were associated with the same person, or the same place?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, Connection influences spren.

JoyBlu

Right, but was the Connection to a person that they were around?

Brandon Sanderson

Connection to people.

JoyBlue

So not necessarily the place where they were?

Brandon Sanderson

Right.

Joyblu

Because my way of thinking it might be with the people is because, like with the Purelake on the Cognitive Realm there would be more spren hanging out there because that was more land, right; so if you spent more time on that you would have more spren around you. So if you're closer to more water, you're closer to more spren.

Brandon Sanderson

That is not an irrelevant observation.

JordanCon 2018 ()
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Argent

Are mandras gravityspren?

Brandon Sanderson

*Very hesitantly* Nooooo? Kind of-- So the actual gravityspren, you're talking about the things Kaladin saw stuck to a wall? Those are not mandras.

Argent

Oh no, I was thinking about the ones that appear around dead chasmfiends.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, dead chasmfiends, yes. The arrowheads, yeah.

Argent

But you're saying those are not gravityspren? They're mandras?

Brandon Sanderson

So the things Kaladin saw stuck to the wall are not gravityspren, right. So I want to make sure.-- So arrowhead spren, that Shallan is philosophizing, theorizing about, are mandras.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
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Questioner

*inaudible* with the spren, like, with the *inaudible* would it have infinite ink?

Brandon Sanderson

The way it works in my head canon right now, which I haven't written it so if it changes, no. The other thing is getting complex systems is going to be harder for a lot of Spren. There are legends that reference that they were able to do bows in the past, which includes a string. Everyone is like "but they're not metal, how does that work." Complex structures, even the mechanics of a pen is not something that we have proof that they could even do. If they did do it, they wouldn't have infinite ink, you would fill them up with ink.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner 1

So, spren can just manifest themselves to different people. Can they choose whether or not to manifest themselves to other spren? Does it depend on the kind of spren?

Brandon Sanderson

So, depends on the kind of spren. You'll get some hints of that in the third book. Or you probably have already, if you read the preview chapters.

Questioner 2

I read the preview chapters, but, like, the way Syl acted, is that, like, something that she's able to hide from them?

Brandon Sanderson

She was not able to hide from that spren.

JordanCon 2018 ()
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Questioner

Do the spren that we know of as the Cryptics exist before Honor and Cultivation came to Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

Ah, good question! No. Cryptics would be one of the forms of spren that were a later creation. Creation is the wrong term, but yeah. 

Billy Todd, Moderator

Later development? Evolution?

Brandon Sanderson

All of the sapient spren are later developments. 

Billy Todd, Moderator

Are they evolved from the earlier spren?

Brandon

Evolution doesn't work the same way on the spren, right? The spren were created more than evolved, I would say.

Billy Todd, Moderator

Maybe cultivated?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, cultivated. *laughter*