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/r/books AMA 2015 () Copy
#2

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 () Copy
#3

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 () Copy
#4

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.

Ben McSweeney AMA () Copy
#10

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.

/r/books AMA 2015 () Copy
#12

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 () Copy
#13

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.

Salt Lake City signing () Copy
#14

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 () Copy
#16

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.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing () Copy
#17

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 () Copy
#18

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.  

Firefight Atlanta signing () Copy
#21

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.

Firefight Chicago signing () Copy
#23

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.

Shadows of Self London UK signing () Copy
#25

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 () Copy
#26

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 () Copy
#27

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 () Copy
#28

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?

Ben McSweeney AMA () Copy
#30

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.

Paris signing () Copy
#31

Narkac

KR seemed to have opposite gender spren. Why is Glys male then? Is there something hidden there?

Brandon Sanderson

More naturally, the spren is opposite gender but it doesn't have to be. It's not a indication necessarily of homosexuality, but sometimes it is, sometimes it's not. More often, you'll attract spren of the opposite gender, but spren genders are very fluid anyway. You're not supposed to read anything specific into that.

Oathbringer release party () Copy
#33

Questioner 1 [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

She was not able to hide from that spren.

FAQFriday 2017 () Copy
#34

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?)

Google+ Hangout () Copy
#35

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.

General Reddit 2018 () Copy
#37

holdencaufld

I feel like society on Roshar would develop a bit differently because of emotion spren. You'd have to be very careful talking/ interacting with people since you can't hide things like fear, anger, awe, anticipation, joy, passion and shame. Imagine going through high school having to deal with them...

The_Bravinator

I have to imagine it alters things like, say, the concept of masculinity. Obviously the alethi have very strong ideas about masculinity, but attracting fearspren/feeling fear doesn't seem to be a negative within that like it would be in our culture. Men attract fearspren all the time, and it's totally fine.

It also seems like it might be taboo to mention someone else's emotionspren. People are constantly noticing internally that other people are attracting them, but they NEVER EVER comment on it (until the part in OB where they're investigating it in Kholinar). There must be a really strong boundary around commenting on other people's spren.

It's one thing I did want to ask Brandon about if he does another AMA--how emotionspren affect Rosharan culture.

Brandon Sanderson

This is some good theorizing here. I'd agree with what /u/The_Bravinator says.

The effects are all over the place, but they are just how life is on Roshar, so I rarely point them out. For example, the classic Alethi sort of idolizing being "straightforward" with people. No assassinations. (Well, supposedly.) You're used to being able to see people's emotions, so you take it for granted that only hyper untrustworthy people do things in ways that don't expose emotions. Emotions aren't bad, they simply are, and everyone has them. Views of masculinity are certainly changed.

The_Bravinator

Is it taboo to mention emotionspren that other people are attracting, or do people just not generally think to do so?

Brandon Sanderson

Depends on the situation, really. Not exactly the same, but note how in Earth societies the different responses to something like passing gas, depending on context, culture, etc.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing () Copy
#38

Questioner

Are Cognitive elements like spren and Seons only present on physical planes or worlds where Shards have been Shattered?

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

17th Shard Forum Q&A () Copy
#40

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.

Shadows of Self San Francisco signing () Copy
#43

Questioner

Is it possible for spren to move from one planet to another?

Brandon Sanderson

It is possible for them to get to other planets. They are tied to certain realms… A lot of them reside in the cognitive realm and are pulled into the physical by their bonds--

Questioner

Would they bring the same magics?

Brandon Sanderson

That you will have to wait and see.

OdysseyCon 2016 () Copy
#44

Blightsong

Were the ideals of the Knights Radiant consciously chosen, or did they happen naturally?

Brandon Sanderson

*apprehension*. This is one of those vague ones in that yes and no. They are a natural outgrowth of the spren, but the spren are a natural outgrowth of human's perception of natural forces, but the spren are sentient, so I would say it's a little more by instinct than not. For example two Knights Radiant in the same Order might speak the words differently, but the concept is the same. You will see this happen in a future book, where a Windrunner will speak the oaths. It's a slightly different take on the same concept. Some are moreso, like Shallan's oaths are very individualized truths, so.

Words of Radiance San Diego signing () Copy
#45

Questioner (paraphrased)

It seems like a movie adaptation would have just constant spren everywhere?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

That's why I made it so that not every use of the emotion causes them-so it wouldn't get too crazy even when I'm writing them.  And what's happening is the spren exist on the Cognitive plane, on Shadesmar, so they have to be attracted, they have to be nearby enough to flock to you, so it depends on how common the spren is.

Firefight Chicago signing () Copy
#47

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.

Oathbringer Chicago signing () Copy
#48

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

So, if you could take, whether capture or talk into a Radiant spren from Roshar that was no longer bonded to a Radiant, from Roshar to Nalthis, could you bond that spren to an awakened object? Could you take a spren from Roshar and either force it to or talk it into bonding an awakened object on Nalthis? 

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Oh boy. That'd be really hard. 

SF Book Review interview () Copy
#49

Ant

The use of spren are a brilliant idea, what was the inspiration for these creatures?

Brandon Sanderson

In part, they stem from the underlying cosmology and overarching rules, the dictates of the magic systems of my shared universe. I was looking for a manifestation of that in Roshar. I also was searching for something that would give Roshar a different feel from things that I'd done before. I wanted this book and this series – and everything about it – to feel different from fantasy worlds in the past. I wanted it to be fantastical, but I wanted it to be unique. I wanted something that could consistently remind the reader, "Oh, I'm in a different place. Wow. Their emotions manifest visibly when they feel them strongly. This place is bizarre." That was one of the main inspirations. Looking in our world, one inspiration is certainly the Eastern concept in Shinto mythology of everything having a soul, every rock and river and tree having something living inside of it that is a manifestation of it. Since I was working with the idea of Platonic realms and the like, I spun that off into the spren.

Salt Lake City signing () Copy
#50

Chaos [PENDING REVIEW]

So, at the Forbidden Planet signing you said that when Adonalsium was Shattered, all Investiture in the cosmere was associated to one of the Shards... So, what happened with Adonalsium's spren on Roshar? Were those associated to Honor and Cultivation? What happened with them?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

So they were very-- They were already associated to certain parts of Adonalsium and they went with those associations. There's a lot of Cultivation in all of the spren, particularly the natural spren.