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JordanCon 2018 ()
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Questioner

Rosharans are good with math, because you did the whole... They're aware of the normal distribution and all that. So, do like, complex numbers, imaginary numbers, do they live in the Cognitive Realm? And would prime [numbers] be the brighteyes of the Cognitive Realm?

Brandon Sanderson

We will get into this. I would say--I've actually thought about this--that right now, there are spren that kind of represent abstract mathematics but not individual concepts within abstract mathematics. Like when you draw a spren that represents creativity, it's not necessarily divided into, "Painting," even though some of them may edge in that direction. So you could perhaps find a spren where you go, "Oh!"

Questioner

I just want to see pi and phi arguing.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

Lift as an Edgedancer. Doesn't seem very coordinated, which seems to be the preeminent part of being an Edgedancer. Was Lift actually maybe better for another Order?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that, in the eyes of some of the spren, taking somebody who maybe doesn't quite fit the mold for your Order but has the heart that fits it is a better choice. And I think Lift and Wyndle and some of the texts may be comparing what someone at the beginning of the journey to someone near the end of their journey. So let's just give her a little time.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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Sharadee

I am going to shamelessly take advantage of the fact that you are still answering questions here (and wow ! thanks for that). It's about the sprens. Isn't it inconvenient in some social situations if sprens can give away people's emotions? For example, if someone is working hard to hide their anger and angersprens appear... Can people have any kind of control over them appearing ?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it can be inconvenient. And you'll see more about this in future books.

Orem signing 2014 ()
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Questioner (paraphrased)

How do spren choose what human they'll bond with?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Well, it depends on the spren type. There's some spren that choose on their own, while there's other spren where it's done by committee. Wyndle, Lift's spren was placed with Lift by a committee. It's a culture difference. Some are free-spirited, others more organized.

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.

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.

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.

Orem Signing ()
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Questioner

Can Hemalurgy be used to steal other...like, the Stormlight...

Brandon Sanderson

It could. It's very complicated, particularly with surgebinding, because the bond with the spren is a voluntary thing. So, you could steal the power, but you would also be stealing the sprenbond which the spren then has autonomy over. So, it might not turn out really well for you. It might not turn out well for anyone involved. Much easier to steal things where there isn't an autonomous being involved in your gaining of the magical powers.

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.

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
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Sciencetor2

The gems on Roshar, are they the same as the gems you and me know, or are they a byproduct of Investiture?

Brandon Sanderson

For the most part they are the same as the gems we know, which will ask the question, "Since most of them are chemically identical, other than color, what differentiates them?" and in the cosmere, color is very important, so I'll just leave you at that, but most of them are going to be gems like we have. If you took a ruby from our world to Roshar, it could be Invested by the highstorm.

Sciencetor2

And spren?

Brandon Sanderson

We will RAFO that for now.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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focoma

Are the Essences strictly just a Roshar thing, or are they also connected to the manifestations of Investiture on other Shardworlds? For example, is the Essence of Foil in any way connected to the Metallic Arts of Scadrial?

Brandon Sanderson

The idea that things exist on three realms is not unique to Roshar.

That those things are self-aware is a Rosharan thing, though other places in the cosmere have similar beliefs.

Brandon's Blog 2014 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

What Is Altered Perceptions?

This anthology will collect "altered" versions of published stories—deleted scenes, alternate endings, original concept chapters, and that sort of thing.

For it, I'm letting people see—for the first time—a large chunk of the original version of The Way of Kings, which I wrote in 2002–2003. This version is very different, and involves a different course in life for Kaladin as a character—all due to a simple decision he makes one way in this book, but a completely different way in the published novel.

These chapters are quite fun, as I consider what happened in The Way of Kings Prime (as I now call it) to be an "alternate reality" version of the events in the published books. The characters are almost all exactly the same people, but their backstories are different, and that has transformed who they are and how they react to the world around them. Roshar is similar, yet wildly different, as this was before I brought in the spren as a major world element.

Orem Signing ()
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Questioner

Fathers of spren are mentioned twice. When spren talk about their fathers, are they usually talking about the person who raised them?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Or the person who gave them life? Like, their offspring?

Brandon Sanderson

Those are usually the same person, right? Depending. But not always. But usually... it would vary if they aren't the same person. But I would say, normally it's the same individual. "Person" may be the wrong term. But I think they would say they're people, so "person."

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.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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drabgod

In Words of Radiance we find that Pattern is very literal-minded (at least until Shallan corrupted him), and mathematically-inclined. Even his real name is just a mathematical construct. And his head is a fractal. When I think of Pattern, I think "logic" and "truth", not "art" and "lies".

If all Cryptics are like this, then I wonder why they (and not artistic spren like Wyndle) are the ones attracted to the artistic Lightweavers. Is this just a matter of "opposites attract"? Are spren naturally drawn to people with personal qualities they themselves do not have? I am reminded of the Divine Attributes, and it seems like Shallan has the "Creative" side while Pattern has the "Honest" side. Is that a coincidence?

Brandon Sanderson

These things are not coincidences.

I have some very interesting rationals why certain spren are involved with certain orders. I never wanted it to be so straightforward as, "Oh, you control pressure? Here's a spren dedicated to that power." I feel there is more intricacy, and honesty, to a system that isn't so "on the nose" as we say in writing.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
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Questioner 1

Can people not from Roshar bond with spren and get the Shardplate and whatnot?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO. Well, okay. You don't need me to RAFO on that. You have seen someone not from Roshar bond a spren. You have seen that much happen.

Questioner 2

We know for sure that Hoid is a Lightweaver.

Questioner 1

Do we know that?

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid has bonded a spren.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
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Dragon13

Syl identifies herself as an honorspren.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Dragon13

Would Wyndle identify himself as a cultivation spren?

Brandon Sanderson

He would definitely... Yes. I think you could say that he would.

Dragon13

By the same logic, would a voidspren follow the same naming convention, so to speak?

Brandon Sanderson

Here's the thing. Certain spren have decided that they are the most pure forms of Honor, or that they are the most pure form of whatever, where all of them are kind of... Syl's got a good argument for what she is. But there are other spren that would be like "well, I'm an honorspren too, I'm just this variety of honorspren." Does that make sense? Syl's like "I'm an American!" and I'm like "I'm an Nebraskan!" Yes, you're an American. I'm an American too. It's kind of similar to that. But she would be the most pure... many would view her as the purest form. Wyndle would view himself as the purest form of a Cultivationspren.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
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Questioner

So in the first book, there's a chapter where you have some scientists talking about spren, and they seem to be describing <superposition> and science.  I was wondering, does that actually play into the books?

Brandon Sanderson

It does, but it's just really behind the scenes.  This is just helping you understand the nature of spren and kind of their relationship to sub-atomic particles and quantum theory and things like this.  There are relationships there, but it's even one or two steps further than what you see in actual Quantum Physics, Right?  

Questioner

Will it play in more?

Brandon Sanderson

It will.  In this book, you get even a discussion of the theory on spren that should relate right back to that.

Questioner

Oh good!  I can't wait.

Brandon Sanderson

Watch for stuff that Jasnah says about Spren and things like this.  It does relate.  But this is all kind of world-building stuff.  It's not part of the main story.  It's fun for scientists.  

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.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Kurkistan

So, could you give us some examples of how the ideals that spren represent work in other magic systems, like we have Forging where you get plausibility, or Returned how they're beautiful or any other systems?

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, one more time on that.

Kurkistan

Okay, so you know the ideals the spren are manifestations--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Kurkistan

How-- Do those have impacts on other magic systems?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes, in the same way the Returned- that's the exact same system at work there.

Kurkistan

Is it the same reason why the Lord Ruler has to die of old age, and why you can't heal yourself into being an octopus or something?

Brandon Sanderson

Um... Yes, that is all connected in the exact same way.

Kurkistan

Okay, so it's all like these highfalutin Spiritual ideals?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Kurkistan

And are there like, median Cognitive ideals that gradually kind of influence these, or--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, they transcend between the three. I mean the original concept for the Three Realms is Platonic philosophy.

Kurkistan

So it goes up *makes absurd reverse-waterfall hand gesture*

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it goes up and it comes back down. A lot of the Cognitive is-- So like, the Cognitive has a bigger effect on how you can heal and things like that. Does that make sense?

Kurkistan

Yeah.

Brandon Sanderson

But the power to heal is a actually a Spiritual thing.

Kurkistan

So it's like the Spiritual says "I want to be like this" and the Cognitive is like "Okay I'll try really hard to be like that, but I have a limit."

Brandon Sanderson

Right. Right. Filtered through how you see yourself, yeah.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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Ben McSweeney

*in response to a discussion about RAFOs* There was the one about what painspren look like.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, what do painspren look like on the Cognitive Realm.

Ben McSweeney

That's a RAFO.

Brandon Sanderson

That's a RAFO because it is actually relevant to future stories.

Ben McSweeney

It'll be important.

Brandon Sanderson

Not that it's a big deal, but I got to hold some stuff back.

Shadows of Self London UK signing ()
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Questioner

Why are there so many Kholins that are Radiants? Is there a story reason or...

Brandon Sanderson

There is a story reason, kind of. So the Kholin family is in Alethkar, which was the hereditary-- one of the homes of the Knights Radiant. It's still kind of in the forefront of the-- how shall we say-- the collective unconscious and things like this. Plus there's--

Questioner

And then they are on the forefront of that.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. I mean-- Yeah. And so the spren, some of them are naturally looking for where a lot of Radiants used to be. So it's just a higher concentration of spren around the area, if that makes sense?

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
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Questioner

After Kaladin challenges Amaram, and he gets thrown into prison, are those incarcerationspren that he gets stuck with?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. I'm being recorded, so I have to know if I want to canonize this. Yes. There's nothing more to it than that, I'm just not sure if I've been asked that question straight-up before. I just want to make sure that I've got the name right.

Arcanum Unbounded release party ()
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Ward

At the beginning of Way of Kings, when Kaladin thinks he's being irritated by a windspren, he's like, "Oh, windspren are all like this." Are there other types of spren that have similar personality quirks, that elemental spren...?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, there are, like flamespren. A lot of the elemental ones have quirks, you'll see more quirk to them than the emotional ones. And the difference between them will come up a little more obvious as the series progresses. You're more likely, for instance, to find quirk to a riverspren or a flamespren than you are to a fearspren.

Holiday signing ()
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little wilson

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

little wilson

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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.

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.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
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russki516

Hey, thanks for doing this!

My question is how developed are your ideas of what Spren look like and how they behave? I would love to see some illustrations of them in the future.

Ben McSweeney

There's some early illustrations of them in the original pitch package, where they look very Miyazaki if I say so myself, but my understanding of them has widened considerably in the time since then.

I usually envision (and illustrate) them as ghostly, glowing shapes of infinite variety, a lot like the classical interpretation of a hologram. To the best of my understanding, spren appear to be made of stormlight when they're made apparent at all. Some have more detailed features than others, but I don't think any appear solid unless they actually manifest in the Physical Realm, and the only manifestations we know of are Shardblades (living blades have freedom to reshape though, so who knows what that could mean).

As to their details, if you take the few descriptors that Brandon gives and let your imagination run, you probably can't go wrong... even among the spren, two of the same type might look very different in detail. And an awakened spren has a lot of mutability, Syl is changing shape all the time.

As with all concepts, the text rules. So angerspren is gonna look like blood-red pools boiling up from the ground, and gloryspren will look like tiny translucent globes of golden light. Brandon wrote it, so that's what it is.

But you can translate "blood-red pools [of light] boiling up from the ground" in a few creative ways, and any of them might be equally valid. As the Interlude suggests, the appearance of spren is kinda quantum... fluid until/unless observed. I have a lot of fun seeing how creative I can get with the description while making sure I'm staying true to the text.

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.