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Ad Astra 2017 ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

Do you have another magic system that you haven't written about yet?

Brandon Sanderson

I have a ton. And, yeah, so there's some that are in the cosmere that I haven't yet gotten to, that I've got planned out. And there's some that I started writing a story on and didn't have time to finish. And I've got some weird settings. And-- yeah. So yes, there are a ton.

Questioner

Wow, that's so cool. Would you be able to share a little bit?

Brandon Sanderson

Well the most famous one that I've talked about before, so fans already know about it, is the one where people-- you gain magical talents based on diseases you catch. Like you get the common cold, you can fly while you have it, when you get over it-- it's the bacteria and viruses have evolved to give-- to interface with the magic to try and, you know, they want to keep you alive to let you spread the disease so they-- you get these powers. And that one's going to be very cool when I can write it.

Stuttgart signing ()
#2 Copy

Paleo (paraphrased)

Are the Ashynite magic system, in which micro organisms cause diseases and bestow powers, and the Old Magic related? You could sort of see the powers and the disease as a boon and a curse. If so, does the "Old" part come from that?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes, they are related, but the name comes from the magic actually predating spren bonds.

State of the Sanderson 2018 ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Updates on Minor Projects

Potential Cosmere Stories

Keep the following on your radar, as they may happen someday. However, as I'll be knee-deep in Stormlight in 2019, don't expect anything to happen on any of them until it is done. The list includes: Dragonsteel/Liar of Partinel, Sixth of the Dusk sequel, Silverlight novella, Threnody novel, Aether of Night, Silence Divine.

/r/fantasy AMA 2011 ()
#4 Copy

phrakture

You seem to be adept at creating interesting magic systems for your worlds - what is your creative process for creating something of this sort? Any hints as to what the next one might involve?

Brandon Sanderson

Next two magic systems you might see:

1) Disease magic. Bacteria have evolved to the point that they try to keep their hosts alive by granting them magical powers while you have the disease. So, you catch a cold, and can fly until you get over it.

2) I've got a a very cool 'throwing spheres of light' magic that I'm working on...which, when you break it down, was inspired by seeing how accurate baseball pitchers were and thinking about how that could be weaponized in a fantasy world.

3) That guy with his ice soap has me thinking about "freezing stuff in water" magic. Like, potions that do things only after they thaw...

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

And [The Silence Divine] is a short story that I started working on right after I finished Words of Radiance. And I was going to finish this, but then Firefight really needed to be done, so I've only written about ten pages of this story. But it's partially inspired by my trip to Costa Rica. I usually write short stories based on places I've traveled.

Words of Radiance Los Angeles signing ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

<Eelyell> was awakened by the whispering of the dead child who followed him.

“Death and die. Death and die.” The girl’s words were often gibberish, though usually he could make out a few of them. Tonight, what she said felt eerie. It made the whispering in the darkness send a shiver up his spine.

<Eelyell> sat up in his cot, realizing that he had fallen asleep in his uniform again, and looked across the darkened room, seeking out the child. There, she hid in the shadows beside the wooden bin that held his canes. Small, maybe four years old, she had long straight blonde hair that hung down by her face, ears peeking out like rocks in the sand.

She met his eyes, “Death and die,” she whispered. It would be nice when that particular Echo passed.

<Eelyell> rose, tugging at his crumpled jacket, still enough of a soldier to feel ashamed at its state. His father would have had <Eelyell>’s head if he’d seen such a uniform. Climbing from bed <Eelyell> took the cane beside it for support, then walked out onto the balcony. He put his back to the dead child; she was a figment, an Echo, or a side-effect from an Incubation he’d done a few years back. It was so long ago that he was losing hope that the Echo would ever fade. He might be stuck with this hallucination, for good.

He stepped out onto the balcony, using the cane by habit though he was currently strong enough that he didn’t need it to walk. He was recovering from his Incubation two months back. The grind from that one had finally worn off. In fact he was probably too strong; he’d been getting too much sleep lately, he'd been eating too well. He needed to maintain a certain level of physical weakness so he could be open to Incubations, assuming he wanted to remain effective in his duties. And he did want to remain effective, for his own reasons, if not for the Corps themselves.

Outside on the balcony, the sky burned. It smoldered high above, deep red lines, the color of a serpent’s tongue, glowing like rips in the air. The magma cast a warm red light across the city of <Suigmaat>. As always the air smelled faintly of smoke, though he only noticed it when he was first stepping out of the building into the open air. He knew logically that the burning place he saw above was actually the ground. He knew <Suigmaat> flew in the air, a city reversed, one of the few bastions of life left in the burning land. <Eelyell> was the one who was upside-down, as were all of the city’s inhabitants. It didn’t feel that way to him; he’d lived here too long. Upward was towards the burning ground and the land, downward was toward the sky and the sun. Things he never saw except on the rare occasion when he was called upon to visit the farms and orchards on the city’s sunward side.

<Eelyell> stood for a time, holding to the cast-iron railing, staring up at swathes of burning ground high above. Molten rivers, a land destroyed. A warning flag, raised to them all. Omnipresent. Undeniable. The city itself slept beneath that scarlet glare, bathed in red. Sleeping.

“Death and die,” The girl whispered from behind. She’d crawled out onto the balcony and now crouched there, looking up at the air.

<Eelyell> glanced at her, “<Kareem’s> gaze, you’re a creepy one,” he whispered, “What must I do to be rid of you?”

“Death and die,” she whispered

He tapped his finger on the railing, then strode back into his quarters, splashed some water on his face, and checked the sword blade of his walking cane. Seconds later, he was out the door.

The offices of the Corps did not look as a police station should. A police station was supposed to be a box-like thing, stable and functional, designed to indicate to all who visited that this was not a place where nonsense was permitted. Those ornamented columns, etched with the silver serpents of <Mokdeelor>, those golden doors, those soldiers with ridiculous feathered helms. Those were not the symbols of efficient law-keeping. They were quite the opposite.

<Eelyell> walked up the steps and approached the guards, who were at least armed with functional halberds and two flintlock pistols at their belts. They saluted him by raising fists to their sides. As an Incubator, he outranked everyone in this building, except of course the ones who actually mattered. <Eelyell> felt a moment of lightheadedness at the top of the steps and was forced to stop, gripping the railing and leaning on his cane. So he wasn’t completely well. Good. Neither guard stepped to help him. Weakness was expected of Incubators, one of the marks of their station. And being near one of them at the wrong time could be dangerous. One need only look upward at the burning land to be reminded of how dangerous.

With his head cleared, he continued up the steps, cane clicking, and passed the men without returning their salute. He stopped just inside the building, however, coming alert. Motion. Lesser watchmen calling to one another in a large room, aides carrying stacks of paper. Reddened eyes and yawns accompanied both groups. Many of these people had been called up unexpectedly, despite the early hour.

“<Eelyell>?” A woman rushed up to him through the bustle. <Cual> wore the yellow and blue uniform of an Incubator, like his own but better fitting and far better kept. “You look like ash, man,” she said, “Are you still on a grind?”

<Eelyell> looked back at the hall, noticing the motion of the bodies. Nobody was going into the weapons locker, though riot gear had been set out at the side. Large metal shields and larg swords cordoned in rubber from trees on the sunward side. They were getting ready for something, but he didn’t know what yet. A prophecy, he guessed.

“I still can’t believe they called you up,” <Cual> said, “You deserve some relaxation after--”

“I will visit <Patseepa>,” <Eelyell> striding, striding through the room, leaving <Cual> behind. He tried not to let himself be carried away in the chaos. The event that he'd been waiting for would come eventually, but this might not be it. <Patseepa> made prophesies with some frequency; that was why the Corps maintained her, and why she carried her terrible burden.

It was difficult not to feel tense, however, in the room's frenzy. Nearby, a scribe turned and accidentally knocked over an hourglass, smashing it to the floor and spraying sand across it. He spared it a glance; sand always drew his attention. But he otherwise ignored it, focusing on a set of doors at the back of the room. This must have been an alarming prophecy indeed to cause such a fuss. The guards at these doors were even more flowery, with feathers on their shields after an old-fashioned style almost no one used any longer. The murals might depict men in simple wraps and women in nothing above the waist but necklaces. Those days had long ago passed, centuries before <Eelyell's> times. The <Moknee> people were as modern a one as he'd ever known. His own brownish-tan skin and dark hair blended in here well enough that he could have passed for <Moknee> himself, assuming he didn’t open his mouth. That was something he'd been better at when he'd been younger.

These guards let him pass too, and no scribes or watchmen beset the hallway beyond. Only Incubators were allowed in here. Unfortunately, while they presented a more solemn group, it was no less unruly in its own right. Some two dozen of them clumped together at the other end of the darkened hallway, like a clot of hair clogging a drain. <Eelyell> strode forward, passing doors on either side set with glass. The small, well-lit rooms showed in the glass that they weren’t exactly cells, just like their occupants weren’t exactly prisoners. They just couldn’t leave. With the hallway dark and the rooms lit, each window glowed, like they looked into other worlds. Other worlds inhabited by the sick.

It was hard to think of it that way anymore, after so long in this land. The people in those rooms weren't simply ill; they were Lay Incubators. Their job was to live in those little rooms, bearing their afflictions until they started to recover. Whereupon another individual could be brought in to catch their malady and take their place, ensuring the Incubation itself didn’t vanish. It was good money, assuming you didn’t mind the discomfort, which could range from the sniffles to deadly fevers, depending on the Incubation you agreed to receive. And of course there were... other benefits. In one room he passed, the occupant, a young man, hovered in the air reading a book; and in another, an elderly woman tapped on a cup, idly changing the color of its liquid inside with each tap. In <Suigmaat>, indeed upon on this entire land, every disease also granted a special capacity. That ability lasted as long as the ailment did. Many of these blessings were minor, while others were grand. Some few were very, very dangerous. And hence the existence of the Incubators themselves.

Words of Radiance Los Angeles signing ()
#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I did start writing on a new novella, just right after I finished Firefight. (Which is the sequel to Steelheart, which is done.) After I finished that, I started writing a little novella. I didn't finish it, but I got a few pages in. Just to try out something I've been thinking about doing for a while.

So, this is based off of one of the very cool ideas I've had for a magic system for a long time, in which magic is granted by bacteria and viruses. You catch a disease, and the disease has evolved to give you a magical talent for a short time while you have the disease. In order to keep you alive and encourage you to spread the disease. And then when you get over the cold or whatever you've gotten, you lose that power. Which is a really cool idea to me, and the idea of what you would do with that and what culture and society would do with that.

State of the Sanderson 2015 ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Projects in Development

Silence Divine

This story (which is the one about a world where catching a disease grants you magical talents) is another perennial State of the Sanderson participant.

I did some work on a short story in this world a while back, and liked it, but didn't have time to finish. (This is the thing I did readings from during the Words of Radiance tour, I believe.) It's set in the cosmere, and I have plans to someday write this—but I'm not sure when I'll do it. Could be a long way off still.

Status: On Hiatus

San Diego Comic Con 2012 ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

Over my life reading science fiction and fantasy, I've noticed the trend of books becoming larger and series becoming longer. As both an author and reader, what do you prefer? What do you think of this trend of large epic fantasy series versus things that are complete in one volume. And also, can we expect anything similar from you, like Elantris?

Brandon Sanderson

Good question. I (like I think most fantasy fans) have both a love/hate relationship with the big series. You don't grow up reading Wheel of Time without wanting to do your own big series, which is where Stormlight Archive came form. At the same time, big series have certain issues to deal with, such as the big plot sprawl. Which we love, but I think we all admit is kind of an issue related to that. Just like if you're gonna take up running marathons, you're going to do certain things to your legs and knees, there are certain costs to having the big epic fantasy. And so, I really do also love the self-contained works. One of my favorite novels of all time is Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. Brilliant single-volume epic fantasy; he does in a book things that other authors aren't capable of doing in fifteen books. And I really think that there's... single-volume epic fantasy is our version of short story for overly verbose fantasy writers. I really like doing those.

I do have a few more I want to do. The main one that I want to write as a standalone is called The Silence Divine. I don't know if I'll keep that title, but it's about a world where the magic is based on bacteria and viruses. So they have evolved to try to keep their hosts alive while they're inhabiting them. So what they do is, though they make you sick, they also give you a magical power while you have the disease. So, if you catch the common cold, you can fly. And then you get over it, and you can't anymore. And the story's about a kind of SWAT-team-type city guard, and all the things they set in place. Like, they keep people in quarantine so they can catch a disease if they need it. And they try to keep their immune systems really weak, so they can immediately catch these things when they need them, and a day later be able to use the powers. And it's about someone who invents penicillin. An ecoterrorist who will invent penicillin. It's an epic fantasy single-volume, I think it will be really cool.

State of the Sanderson 2014 ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Silence Divine (this will be renamed sometime)

I did readings from this on my last tour (you can probably find them on YouTube; it was the Words of Radiance tour). I only have a few pages done, playing with the primary concept. (Diseases grant magical talents for as long as you have the disease—you lose the power when you get over it.) This one has probably been downgraded from full novel to novella, as I feel that something more Emperor's Soul-esque will do a better job with the themes I want to explore.

Manchester signing ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

So what you've got there is the beginnings of me exploring an idea I had many years ago, about a world where bacteria and viruses would grant magical abilities in order to keep you alive long enough to spread the disease. It's this basic survival instinct, if they were somehow able to grant this. So you catch the common cold and you can fly, until you get over it and you can't anymore. I thought "Wow, you would need some super CDC soldiers--right? Center for Disease Control--to keep this from getting out of control."  his is kind of a cross between counter-terrorism and the CDC, in a fantasy world where when you catch a disease you get a magic power. Pretty weird.

Steelheart release party ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

What would you like to be working on? Do you have any ideas bouncing around in your head?

Brandon Sanderson

I would like to write the book I've wanted to write for a long time (I'll probably do it as a novella), about the planet where catching a disease gives you a magical talent. And I'm probably gonna do that one as my next novella, next year. So in between projects I'll write that one.

Brandon's Blog 2006 ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Idea of the day: Write a story about a doctor or healer in a fantasy world that combats a new disease, one that has several distinct stages that each have a different magical effect on the victims.

Someday I’m really going to write my ‘Disease magic’ book. I haven’t ever figured out how to make it work right, but it’ll click together eventually. This will be a book where you ‘catch’ magical powers from others. So, if you want to be able to fly, you go hang out with someone who has the flying disease for a while. People would do various things to lower their immune systems, which could have its own ramifications…. Anyway, I haven’t gotten that idea to a place where it won’t be silly, so perhaps you can do something with the more serious one stated above.

FAQFriday 2018 ()
#14 Copy

Questioner

What idea for a book you loved didn't work?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. It happens all the time, absolutely happens all the time. There's one that I did some readings from, that I got a scene written, where I wanted to do this cool book where I had this setting. The pitch on it was, what if viruses and bacteria evolved to give people magical talents when you caught the disease. This idea that a bacteria doesn't actually want to kill you, or a virus doesn't want to kill you. It wants you to live and spread it. You getting sick is a side effect. What if the side effect is, you got the common cold, all the sniffles and everything, but you could fly as long as you had the common cold? What would that do to society? What happens when someone invents penicillin and can wipe out half of these magical talents? What happens if people start catching a disease that makes everything they touch start on fire. So it was a story about basically fantasy Jack Bauer, who's a member of the fantasy CDC, who tries to stop diseases and things like this. But in order to do his job, he has to keep his immune system terrible, like this weakling who can barely get up the steps, so that he can quickly catch diseases to get the powers he needs to deal with outbreaks of these things. It's just a really cool concept that I've never been able to gel into an actual story. It hasn't worked every time I've tried to write it.

Shadows of Self San Jose signing ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I'm working on a story slowly about a world where diseases grant powers while you have the disease. The pitch is you catch the common cold, you can fly until you get it over. This is the idea that bacterial and viruses have evolved to grant these powers in order to spread themselves, and so I need some help with my immunology stuff. Even if it's just...

Questioner

No one ever needs immunologists.

Brandon Sanderson

Here. Give a list of good diseases that have a certain like how long it takes the average person to get over them, and I have to really work out the viruses that you don't ever really get over. Right?

Questioner

The chronic ones, like yeah.

Brandon Sanderson

Like how does that work with the magic, and cuz I actually want one plot point of the story for someone to invent penicillin. And its basically like a weapon, right? To knock out people's powers, and so, I have to make sure I can only use those for bacteria and I have to know how that's going to work and stuff.

State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Potential Cosmere Stories List

Here are things that at one point I've had in the works, and probably someday plan to do, in the 'osmere:

  • Dragonsteel/Liar of Partinel. (Hoid's origin story, to be written sometime after Stormlight is done.)
  • Sixth of the Dusk sequel. (I had a pretty cool idea for this last year. Nothing more than that.)
  • Untitled Silverlight novella. (What it says on the tin.)
  • Threnody novel. (An expedition back to confront the Evil that destroyed the old world.)
  • Aether of Night. (Still in the cosmere, and you can see the odd remnant of an Aether popping up here and there. Bound to be drastically different from the unpublished novel, which I allow the 17th Shard to give out to people who request it on their forums. Basically, the only thing from it that is canon is the magic system.)
  • Silence Divine. (Disease magic novella set on Ashyn.)
/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#17 Copy

DMTrnkers

Any other cosmere short stories in the pipeline?

Brandon Sanderson

I do have a couple more in the works! One perpetual one is the Silence Divine (which I'll probably rename, since I've used Silence in a title recently) about the planet where magic is tied to disease. But there are others!

Idaho Falls signing ()
#18 Copy

coltonx9

How are the floating cities in Ashyn held aloft?

Brandon Sanderson

By local magic... So basically, I can tell you how it works, because I'm not saving any secrets here.

One of the diseases gives this power. The reason it's called The Silence Divine is right now, the way I've devised it, is this power also causes hearing loss. So you have this virus that does this weird thing, but also gives you the power. And so there's a conclave of them, a chorus of them that keep the cities aloft. And that's why the book, if or when I write it, I guess it can't be a virus in this case. Whatever disease they have, someone develops penicillin and can potentially cause the city to come crashing down. That was the premise for me, but that means it needs to be a bacteria, not a virus but it needs to be a bacteria that stays with you long, so I have to work out exactly how I would make these diseases work.

Phoenix Comicon 2013 ()
#21 Copy

Questioner

So I’ve heard you talk about a book and as a nurse is really interesting to me, or the idea of the book. It’s the one where viruses not only make you sick but they also give you a super power. So I was kind of wondering on the list of when projects are being...

Brandon Sanderson

I originally called this book Silence Divine and the idea behind this book is—I’m always looking for interesting interesting Magic systems and I came up with an idea of “what if viruses and bacteria evolved in line with the magic on the world so that when you caught the disease you got a power” Like if you catch the common cold you could fly, as long as you have it. But when you get over the cold, you can no longer fly. So they keep you alive to help spread themselves and things like that. So when your immune system beats them you lose the power. The book will be about someone who’s basically like half-counter-terrorism, half-police force, where they keep track of these things because what happens when it moves through the city. Like half-CDC, half-counter-terrorism, half-police force. Where suddenly everyone in the city can walk through walls. What do you do, as the police force, when that happens? And things like that. And they keep special people incubating diseases that have come through before and they keep their immune systems low so in an emergency they can go in and catch a bunch of diseases and stuff like that. It’s going to be really awesome.

And the answer is, I have no idea when I can write this book. It is in the Cosmere, so it’s part of all that, but I have no idea because I really feel, coming off the Wheel of Time, the people who are fans of my work, everyone understands, at least I hope they understand, that the Wheel of Time was something I needed to do. But it did delay people getting things like Stormlight Archive and stuff like that. And I feel like right now I really need to dedicate myself to getting a few books out in the Stormlight Archive before I get too distracted by anything else, such as this, and I write books that are really cool but no one’s asking for, really, at this point. (Except for you so thank you.) So I will eventually write that book. I have toyed several times doing a novella in the world just to get that out of my system. So maybe eventually we’ll do that.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#22 Copy

Questioner

Silence Divine, are you allowed to talk about when it's going to happen in the timeline?

Brandon Sanderson

...It is late Stormlight Archive era. I image it being around book 8 or something like that.

Questioner

So it was after the Dawnchant was written.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. But since it hasn't been written yet, the timeline is not canon for that yet.