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Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#1 Copy

Questioner 1

You said that moving people like that [Cognitive Shadows] or spren off-world, from Roshar is difficult.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner 1

What about physically, say the Ones Above visit them, and they fly away?

Brandon Sanderson

So one of the things you'll have to be asking questions and theorizing on is what happens if you try to carry a spren around the planet. What happens to their Cognitive sense, right? So you're on Roshar, right? So on the Physical Realm what would happen-- Because on Shadesmar, you have a flattened version. So there are questions for you to be theorizing implicit in that.  And one of them is, what happens, you cross a threshold circling the globe, your spren, what happens to them? Because-- Okay? This relates to the question you’re asking.

Questioner 2

Wait wait, you have a three dimensional plain coexisting with a two dimensional plain?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, two dimensional is the wrong term, but basically...

Questioner 3

Can you specify the mathematically projection used to create this? *laughter*

Brandon Sanderson

We'll try to give it to you eventually, but this is the sort of stuff that I do that Peter's like "Oh man..." *laughter* "Alright give me the math Peter." "Ahhh what do you mean? I'm not a mathematician." "Eh, y'know. You're close." It is very convenient to have a physicist and a mathematician in my writing group.

Shadows of Self release party ()
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Questioner

Abstract concepts, have representations in Shadesmar. Fear, whatever. So, now we are going into complete nerd-land. I'm a programmer. the things that I program, the programs that I make, to me they are discrete things that kind of come alive. So the question is-- The first part of the question would those have a representation in Shadesmar?

Brandon Sanderson

So here's the thing. A lot of people have to collectively start doing this for it to come alive. And it's not just any abstract concept, it is an abstract concept related to the Shards that are there and Investiture actually actively coming to life bearing that sort of personality and attribute. So that's-- you see things relating to human emotions, you can see things related to nature, because of Cultivation, you see a lot of things relating to how people interact with one another, from Honor. So the answer to that is that seems-- That's not really what spren are doing, but programmingspren you could see something coming from

Questioner

Programmingspren, but not a spren for a specific program.

Brandon Sanderson

Unlikely, yeah to have a spren for a specific program. There are some really weird spren, that are different. So it's not impossible, but it's not likely either.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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Boogalyhu34

Can Nightblood be considered a Splinter and does it function like a spren realmatically, are there distinct differences is what I'm asking.

Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood is kind of his own strange thing. He's an attempt to use one magic to replicate something in another. He's closest to a spren, but kind of like a...robot spren, for lack of better words to use.

Argent

When you say that Nightblood is "an attempt to use one magic to replicate something in another," do you mean life in general, or are you referring to a specific effect in a specific magic system?

Brandon Sanderson

There are those involved who knew that Shardblades existed before they tried the Nightblood experiment.

uchoo786

So does this mean Vasher had knowledge of Shardblades before creating Nightblood?

Brandon Sanderson

It means what I wrote, and nothing more at this point. :)

wickedmath

Dude. That's the most tantalizing RAFO I've seen in awhile. Have other Shards made Shardblades besides Honor?

Brandon Sanderson

:) RAFO

Phantine

Is that why Vasher uses the word 'Investiture' instead of some personal term for it?

Brandon Sanderson

I could be wrong, but I think Vasher was the first one in any book I allowed to use cosmere-aware terms for speaking of things like the magics. (Investiture is one of these.)

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#11 Copy

Questioner

What would happen if a Parshendi were to attract a spren and bring it into the Highstorm? Like, an Honorspren of some sort?

Brandon Sanderson

Sapient spren have a choice of whether they get bonded or not, unless you entrap them some way. But simply attracting them...simply going into the Highstorm with one wouldn't work, what you said is 'attracted a spren', so, to answer that actually... The thing is, honorspren, all the spren of Honor and Cultivation, not honorspren capital, Honorspren or whatever... The spren that create the orders of the Knights Radiant have not, in the past, been attracted to Parshendi because of certain events in the past.

Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

You'll have to Read and Find Out.

DragonCon 2019 ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

The areas where you have [true spren] living, does it have a connection to <Stormwall?>

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.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#13 Copy

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.

Oathbringer release party ()
#15 Copy

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.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#17 Copy

Questioner

I'm a physical chemist and I'm reading your book [The Way of Kings] right now and at some point you have someone studying flamespren and what they saw, that's one of the fundamental tenets of quantum mechanics--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

So you got that from quantum mechanics?

Brandon Sanderson

I did get that from quantum mechanics.

Questioner

How did you come across that and decide to incorporate that into your epic fantasy?

Brandon Sanderson

Well The Way of Kings' magic systems are based on the fundamental forces. That was the original idea and the extrapolation from them. I'm fascinated by quantum mechanics and I have worked them into the way that-- Remember in my worlds, my books, the magics are a new branch of physics, in these worlds. And so they interact with our normal physics, it's not like they are ignoring them, so they obey the laws of thermodynamics, even when they appear to be breaking them, and they interact with quantum and all the stuff. It's just very natural that they are going to, to me if that makes sense? It would be weird if they didn't interact with them.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

Are Cognitive elements like spren and seons only present on physical planes or worlds where Shards have been [Splintered]?

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 [Splintered] by someone. Seons existed on, sorry, spren existed on Roshar before the Shattering. Not as many.

Words of Radiance Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

With all the spren, the ones that are developing thought and all that, are you going to have them interact, that we see-- Because you don't really have much interaction between them right now that we know of

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, we do not. I think it is safe to say that what Syl and Pattern say about spren in this book implies that there is between different spren that you can look forward to.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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mooglefrooglian

Shallan explains the theory that all spren can be divided into two categories (emotions and forces). Jasnah then links these to Cultivation and Honor, and also notes that voidspren are of Odium.

Is this theory maybe a little incomplete? Is there a third category of spren for "sensationspren" like painspren (which don't seem to involve emotions or forces)?

Brandon Sanderson

In Vorin thought, those would be emotions, but that doesn't mean that the scholars who think about these things are right.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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Only4DNDandCigars

I was reading Elantris, with my passive work being Jorge Luis Borges "Book of Imaginary Beings". The chapters are encyclopedic and short, and are meant to have a kaleidoscope style of reading. With Cosmere on my mind, I can across a really interesting entry:

Sylphs For each of the four roots or elements into which the Greeks divided matter there was a corresponding spirit. In the words of Paracelsus, the sixteenth-century Swiss alchemist and physician, we find four elementary spirits: the Gnomes of the earth, the Nymphs of water, the Salamanders of fire, and the Sylphs or Sylphides of air. The words are Greek origin. Litre has sought the etymology of "sylph" in the Celtic tongues, but it is most unlikely that Paracelsus would have known, or even suspected the existence of, those languages. Today, no one believes in Sylphs, but the phrase "a syphlike figure" is still applied to slender women, as a somewhat cliched compliment. The Sylphs occupy a place between that of material beings and that of immaterial beings. Romantic poetry and the ballet find them useful.

I don't think it is a far stretch or much of projection when I say that reminds me of a certain Spren. Either way, it made my day to come across this while reading.

Brandon Sanderson

If you poke around a bit, you can probably find where the names of some other spren (like Notum) come from. In a lot of their names, I'm looking for something similar to what I did with Syl. My rationale is that if you heard her name in-world (which might not actually be the exact sounds Syl) you'd have the benefit of local traditions, word roots, and mythologies. You'd hear it and say, "Huh, that sounds like a word for wind." So, when the books are "translated" to English, the translator creates names in English that evoke the same feel in readers here.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#23 Copy

Questioner

I heard earlier, through people I know, that Syl will eventually develop her memories from before the Recreance. Does that mean any spren that are alive currently have been alive for that long as well? Or are they--

Brandon Sanderson

Not necessarily. Some spren-- The thing about spren is that when does the energy become conscious? So yes they will have all existed before but at what point is consciousness attained. That's kind of their birth. It happens much more rarely than it does on the other-- on the Physical Realm, like regular people and things like that. But there can totally have been spren who have been born since then. And they would count most of the spren that you see as not being alive, well not being born. Not conscious. What's the word for the difference between humans and animals, it's not just sentience, there's another word. Starts with a C. Sapient, you're right it starts with an S.

General Reddit 2013 ()
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Nepene

And on an unrelated question, they have symbols on their heads. If Shallan managed to draw one of these would it be some glyph? Perhaps some glyph that we would recognize, like the glyphs in the artwork at the front?

Brandon Sanderson

As for the symbols making up the heads of the cryptics, those are not glyphs. But it's possible you would recognize them...

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
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Questioner

Do you get any of yours [inspiration from mythology]?  Like I know you mentioned sciences and physics. 

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah a lot of science and physics is where it's coming from.  A lot of, I mean, having lived in Korea for two years, and speaking Korean, a lot of my linguistics come from Korean, and the idea of Spren comes from Asian mythology: the idea that everything has a soul.  So that's an inspiration.  

Questioner

I want to look into ancient Asian culture, and it sound like something to do.  

Brandon Sanderson

There's that.  I would bet that the three kingdoms stuff has some influence on me, and Sun Tzu's Art of War has been an influence on me, and things like that.

General Reddit 2013 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

You got it wrong. I'm not busy because I'm writing other books, I'm working on the licensing deals! Cardboard shardplate! Official Bridge Four loincloths! "There's spren in my poop" toilet paper!

Rutthed

Serious question: are there poopspren, and how would they fare in indoor plumbing situations?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, it depends on how you're defining spren. In the books, they don't make a distinction, but there are several varieties. At the basic level, everything has an identity--a soul, you might say, but more than that. This is based on how it is viewed, and how long it has been viewed that way. Feces would have this, but wouldn't have a very strong cognitive identity because of its transitional nature.

Other types of spren, the type that characters see and interact with, are cognitive ideals or concepts which have taken on literal personification over time. These are usually related to forces or emotions, and don't relate to this particular topic.

And that's far more than I ever expected to say on this...

Words of Radiance release party ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

At one point, you said something about how the way that the humans on Roshar perceive spren, or how that's important in their <rough position> in the Physical Realm. So, going to the interlude where we have the two ardents, they do two tests. But it seems like there's a third test that they kinda, maybe should have done. And I want to know how that would have played out.

So, the two tests that they did were; he's measuring for real and telling her, and she's writing down what the actual measurements are, and it sticks. The second one is, write down something that's possible, and she knows this isn't right, so she writes it down and nothing happens. What would have happened in the case where she thinks she's writing down the right thing, but he's actually lying to her?

Brandon Sanderson

If she thinks she's writing down the right thing and he's lying to her, the first would happen. It would stick.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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Questioner

Are spren molecules and atoms that rearrange in our minds to create them?

Brandon Sanderson

A good question, are spren molecules and atoms that rearrange in our mind to create things. No, they're not. Spren are entities from the Cognitive Realm, who have gotten pulled through in Roshar. It is something that doesn't exist on Earth, the Cognitive Realm, pulled through by human intervention. The way we think about things and personify things.

MisCon 2018 ()
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Chaos

Do you need a perfect gemstone to imprison an Unmade or a powerful spren?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. Well, the stronger the spren, the better the gemstone needs to be. Those flaws in the crystal structure are going to lead to leaking if it's not. But an Unmade requires an extra-special level of perfection.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Questioner

When you get, like, bonded with a spren-- the type of spren that is bonded to you, it depends on your personality and beliefs, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, mmhmm. The spren kind of choose, but they-- It's not a hundred percent choice. More like if they're drawn to it, things like that. So who you are, what your beliefs are, what your kind of moral code is can influence what type of spren you would get.

Google+ Hangout ()
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Rick

1. Are there any other sentient spren like Syl, if not are there any spren capable of becoming sentient, or is she purposefully unique?

2. If so, what are the conditions that must be met for a spren to become sentient?

Brandon Sanderson

1. There are other sentient spren.

2. There are many more who could become sentient. There were choices that were made that we will get into that were made by some spren that, that involved... what is happening. There were certain choices that were made that influenced this, so yes, that was a very detailed and specific question, you did a good job and so I will give you your answer that there are others like Syl that could become, and there are some that are sentient already

Rick

Would that also mean that certain spren would have an alignment, or would some spren be tailored toward good and evil or not?

Brandon Sanderson

They're creatures of nature and so good and evil aren't as, as big a deal to them. Though there are some that may be put in that sort of alignment. Certainly honorspren are going to be of a certain type, but there are many spren of many different temperaments and they are kind of aligned to their temperament, having to do with who they are and what they are.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
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KChan

In your books, we see a lot of really interesting and diverse world elements that make these places and cultures really come to life. What are some of the world elements you've had the most fun creating, and what do you like best about them?

Brandon Sanderson

I'd say that the spren on Roshar have been my favorite so far--they are so different, but also so RIGHT. They have a mythological fae-feel to them, but also fit into the cosmere arcanum just perfectly. I also like writing them.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
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Macen

You've pretty much implied yes [to bonding more than one spren].

Brandon Sanderson

I did not say yes.

Questioner

You implied.  <What about> more than one type of spren?  Different types of spren?

Brandon Sanderson

Let's see what happens.  This is not impossible.  

Footnote: Brandon has also stated humans can theoretically bond multiple spren (http://wob.coppermind.net/events/156/#e2841).
Shadows of Self release party ()
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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.

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.

DragonCon 2019 ()
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DoritoJH

We that there are spren that are partially of Honor, partially of Cultivation, and Odium. Can there be spren made of any combination of Shards?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Well, you would have to call them... Under that definition if you call a seon a spren, then yes. If you don't call a seon a spren, if you define a spren as, "On Roshar, related to the natural world of Roshar," then no. Theoretically yes, but it wouldn't really work. But it depends on how you define spren. If a Shard were to come and reside on Roshar like the other ones have, then you could theoretically see other new spren appearing out of them.

DoritoJH

Could there be a spren of all 16 Shards combined all at once?

Brandon Sanderson

*hands out RAFO card*

EuroCon 2016 ()
#47 Copy

Questioner

Hi. I have two questions about the Cosmere. The first one is if a Radiant can have a bond with two spren, and the other one is if Truthwatcher spren are related directly with Cultivation or the Nightwatcher?

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, so RAFO on if a Knight Radiant can have two spren. But the second question was, "Are spren of Cultivation?" One more time?

Questioner

If the spren of the Truthwatchers are related directly with Cultivation or the Nightwatcher? Or both?

Brandon Sanderson

So, most of the sapient spren that form the Orders of Knights Radiant are related to a mixture of Honor and Cultivation. Some lean one direction much more than the other, and the spren of the Truthwatchers leans toward Cultivation.