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Brandon's Blog 2006 ()
#1 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.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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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!

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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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.

FAQFriday 2018 ()
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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.

Words of Radiance Los Angeles signing ()
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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.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

It is late Stormlight Archive era. I image it being around book 8.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

So it was after the Dawnchant was written.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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

State of the Sanderson 2015 ()
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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

/r/fantasy AMA 2011 ()
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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 ()
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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.

Manchester signing ()
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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 ()
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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.

Phoenix Comicon 2013 ()
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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.

State of the Sanderson 2014 ()
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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.

State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
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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.)
San Diego Comic Con 2012 ()
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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.

Shadows of Self San Jose signing ()
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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.