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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher and Denth's Climax

I wanted to offer Denth the chance for redemption here, though there was no way he was going to let himself take it. His response is honest. He doesn't feel he deserves it. He has done terrible things; to wipe away the memory of them would be cheating. Better to just get it over with.

There's a very good chance that after killing Vasher, Denth would have walked over, picked up Nightblood, and let the sword drain his life away. He wouldn't have been able to live with the guilt.

But that doesn't happen. When I first designed this magic system, I added to it the idea that taking a lot of Breath shocks you and sends you into a small seizure of pleasure. This is lifted from the magic system in Mythwalker, the story from which I drew Siri and Vivenna. I added the component to Awakening not only because it fit, but because I liked giving one more little nod to Mythwalker.

However, the moment I began writing it, I knew that this twist of giving someone Breath, then killing them, would be an awesome way to pull a reversal with the magic. So I built into the story the entire arc of Vasher beating Arsteel mysteriously, and Denth wanting to duel him to prove that he couldn't win a duel.

Denth was right. Vasher cheated.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher is wrong about Arsteel, by the way. Arsteel didn't need to be killed; Vasher misinterpreted the man's motives in joining with Denth. It's unfortunate that the two came to blows, but Arsteel never intended to kill Vasher in the duel, just subdue him and talk some sense into him. ("Sense" as Arsteel saw it. He wasn't actually right in what he was doing—he didn't understand Vasher's reasoning either. All I'm saying is that Arsteel's motives were, in fact, pure.)

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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FirstSelector

I read that you had said if you had written Khriss' essay on Nalthis, it would have been more or less that she was talking about the magic, and then mention that there were scholars on this planet that were spitting distance from, like…

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, yeah.

FirstSelector

So, Vasher, and maybe some of the other ones have been off world--

Brandon Sanderson

Shashara has been, yeah.

FirstSelector

...Are they known to the people at Silverlight? Like--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, yeah.

FirstSelector

Like does Khriss know Vasher?

Brandon Sanderson

Know Vasher is a different question than know of Vasher. But they are widely regarded as early cosmere scholars... They are pioneers of this sort of stuff. So yes.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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awakenedtassel

My wife really wants to know whether Vasher has had children, or wants to have children. It would mean a lot to her to find out from you!

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher doesn't have kids, but he really does want them. Or, at least, he has wanted them at most points in his life.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
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Questioner

My brother and I disagreed, at the very end of Words of Radiance, the sword that-- Is it the same as in Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes it is, in fact Vasher is in the book.

Questioner

Is that Vasher?!?

Brandon Sanderson

No, look for somebody making color metaphors and when they are waking up they feel like they can sense other people's presence and things like that. There is one character who is Vasher. He doesn't go by that name anymore.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Rainier [PENDING REVIEW]

Can you tell me anything about Zahel / Warbreaker / Vasher? I was very disappointed I didn't see him in Oathbringer. I was waiting for him.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

He's in there. Briefly.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Him and Vivenna and Szeth. I want the three of them and Nightblood together. I want that scene, I'm waiting for it.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

You will see some good things from him.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Kalad's Phantoms

Kalad used to be Khlad, by the way. I didn't want his name to sound so Pahn Kahlish, which I signify with the extra h sounds to give them an airy feel to their words. I added the mythology of Kalad's Phantoms to the book late in the process, wishing to give some more depth to the superstitions of the world. And perhaps do some other things too. . . .

Oathbringer Portland signing ()
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ShadowSgt [PENDING REVIEW]

The history of Nightblood, we know that it's created by knowledge of the Shardblades. Would you say that Vasher's first trip to Roshar coincided with a certain individual that tried to take over all of Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

You're talking about Sadees?

ShadowSgt [PENDING REVIEW]

The Sunmaker?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

...I'd have to look at the timeline, but it was not-- it is not something I have present in my mind. It could have overlapped. So, it might overlap, but there's not a cause-and-effect there.

ShadowSgt [PENDING REVIEW]

So, Sunmaker and Vasher are sep--

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Are not the same people, good question. Sunmaker is legitimately Dalinar's ancestor.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Uses Straw Figures to Find the Tunnel

I wanted to bring the straw men back into the book, as I felt I needed to show you—and Vivenna—just how capable Vasher is with Breath. He's leaps and bounds above most people. I think this book gives a skewed perspective, since we don't see any ordinary Awakeners. We see those just learning (Vivenna) and we see one of the greatest masters of the art to ever live (Vasher).

With his practice and years of Awakening, he's able to get Awakened objects to do things that others wouldn't be able to. The straw men are a good example. As for why he apologizes, well, he doesn't even know that himself. I think it's because he realizes that Breath can make something sentient and aware, like Nightblood, and worries that the straw creatures become (even just slightly) more than just mindless automatons.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Explains Some Things, but Leaves Some Things Hidden

I'm worried about leaving Vivenna's two questions unanswered. One is pretty obvious—how Vasher can hide how he looks—but the other is unintuitive. I wish I could explain better in the book, as I said above, but I decided in the end to just leave it hanging. It's a bit of a violation of Sanderson's First Law, but not a big one. The reason I feel I can get away with it is because Vasher didn't use his nature as a Returned to solve any problems. It is more a flavoring for his character than it is important to him getting out of danger or fixing things. He could have done everything he needed to in this book without being Returned. So I feel it's okay not to explain why he can be Returned and not die when he gives away his Breaths.

Can Vivenna change her appearance more? She can indeed. She could actually stoke that fragment of a divine Breath inside of her and start glowing like a Returned. She can't change her physical features to look like someone else, but she can change her age, her height (within reason), and her body shape (to an extent). It takes practice.

And yes, the scraggly miscreant is how Vasher sees himself. Not noble and Returned, which is part of how he suppresses his divine Breath.

Events in the second book may change that.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
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Questioner

So, it's not a "why." But how in the world did Vasher get to Roshar. Because I know about Kelsier not being able to really travel too easily outside of his realm, so how did this happen?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, yeah, you're asking, because he's heavily Invested, with Investiture from uh-- yeah. So that's actually a RAFO. I thought you were going to ask a much easier question, this is a much harder question. It's a RAFO that I promise to answer. The books will dig into it, okay?

White Sand vol.1 Orem signing ()
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Questioner

So we already know that Vasher was Kaladin's trainer with a Shardblade, 'cause you told me that last time I asked you. So does Vasher just have a large mass of Biochromatic Breaths and that's how he's surviving, or is he somehow feeding off Stormlight while he is there?

Brandon Sanderson

He is feeding off of Stormlight, which is the primary reason why he came to Roshar. Investiture is easy to access in plentiful amounts.

Questioner

How did he know how to use Shardblades so well when he got there, is that related to how they created Nightblood

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, he has experience with Roshar from hundreds of years ago.

Salt Lake City signing ()
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Questioner

Is the sword at the end of Words of Radiance, is it the actual Nightblood from Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

It is, actually. It's fun because when I first wrote Way of Kings in 2002, Vasher was one of the main characters. And then when I wrote Warbreaker in 2006, I wrote a book about him to do his past. And then when I re-wrote Way of Kings it's like, "Well, time for Vasher to come back." So he's been in Roshar, in my head, since the beginning, for some 20 years. But he wasn't-- He didn't originate there, but... He was one of the worldhoppers that I hid in the very first version. Which was a lot of fun to then be able to go write a book about him and come back.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#25 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher the Hero

We finally start to get a sense here of Vasher's true motivations. When designing him as a character, one of my goals was to force myself to stretch. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who was very different from my standard. A person who wasn't glib, who wasn't good with people. The opposite of Kelsier or Raoden—a man who had trouble expressing himself, who let his anger get the better of him, and who was rough around the edges. You really get to see who he is in this chapter as he shoves Vivenna around and bullies the Idrians.

Vasher tries, and his heart is good, but he just doesn't have a delicate bone in his body. He doesn't know how to influence people. He made for a fascinating hero to write for that reason, but it also led me to want to keep him more mysterious from the beginning. I felt that if we spent too much time with him, we wouldn't be as interested in him. The way people who read the book kept crying for more Vasher and more Nightblood made me think I was right in keeping their chapters sparse—it meant that by the time you reached this point in the book, you were (hopefully) very interested in what he was doing.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
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Questioner

Are you going to make a sort of [Mistborn: Secret History] for Vasher?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, you’ll get some more Vasher stuff. I will write a sequel to Warbreaker that shows Vasher kind of bridging--but you’ll also see some more of the stuff behind the scenes that he did.

General Reddit 2015 ()
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Phantine

By the way, if "Awakeners" were something different back then, what did you call Vasher? Or was he just "some guy from another world, I'll explain his magic later".

Brandon Sanderson

The latter. There are hints he has a mysterious past, but not much more.

#tweettheauthor 2009 ()
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onelowerlight

What first gave you the idea for Warbreaker? What was your first inspiration for it?

Brandon Sanderson

WRBRKR came from a lot of sourcres. Siri and Vivenna were side characters in a book I never finished.

Vasher came from the line that starts the book. No space to post it here, but give it a read.

Nightblood came because…well, I just wanted to have a talking sword.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Notice how he grows in size here when he isn't paying attention. That's his Returned nature beginning to manifest, much like Vivenna's hair reacts to her emotions, because of the moment of great passion from him during the fight.

In this chapter, we also get the first hints that children and animals like Vasher. That's another hint about his nature—though a very, very subtle one, since I haven't talked about how animals and children all like Returned. They can sense the divine Breath within him, and it comforts them.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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Iceblade44

Something that i've been wondering, you said before that Nightblood was modeled after Shardblades intentionally so my question is, did Vasher create his Phantoms with Shardplate in mind?

Brandon Sanderson

He was aware of Shardplate, but I wouldn't call them a conscious influence.

Phantine

Any sort of influence from the Soulcasting-to-Stone burial customs?

(If Vasher were a little more sneaky I'd think he had created the custom in case he needed a ready supply of Phantom material)

Brandon Sanderson

Let's say that yes, Soulcasting was very interesting to Vasher.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Had you planned to write... the whole Cosmere when you initially started?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

So, I wrote Elantris, had a bunch of the ideas. I started planning right then, and it has evolved a lot since. A lot of Elantris kind of got retrofitted into the things I came up with over the next four or five years... By the time I did Mistborn, I had most of this in mind, but it changes so much, even while I'm writing it. 

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

So, like, when you had Warbreaker, it was--

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Warbreaker, I wrote as a prequel to Stormlight. I had already written Stormlight One by that point, but I didn't like it, so I wrote about Kaladin's swordmaster, who was in the first book in that version.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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Cheese_Ninja

Kaladin: “Have you ever had to choose between two equally distasteful choices?” Vasher: “Every day I choose to keep breathing.”

Does that mean he needs to consume Stormlight on a daily basis rather than weekly?

Brandon Sanderson

This is more mundane than that. Vasher is indicating that not letting himself die is a tough choice for him.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#36 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Kills

As I said, he has a temper. He tends to lose it when he fights. He's not a berserker or anything like that; he simply lets his passion get in the way when he's in battle. It makes him worse at fighting, particularly when dueling. It also makes him a lot more dangerous sometimes.

Vivenna looking back at him, his hand on Nightblood's hilt, slowly pulling it forth as the bodies lie around on the ground is one of my favorite scenes in the book.

This is how Vasher lost his Breath before, by the way. If you recall, he began the book with barely enough to Awaken in weak ways. He remembers having much more Breath. Beyond feeding on one Breath a week, slowly eating away his supply, he drew Nightblood a few months back. That drained away his Breath and left him with only a few remaining. As for who he killed that time . . . I'm going to hold off on saying, just in case I decide to incorporate it into a future book.

Holiday signing ()
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chasmfriend

*written* Why did Vasher Return? What did he want to accomplish?

Brandon Sanderson

You know what you’re going to get in this one.

chasmfriend

I have a feeling. That's okay.

Brandon Sanderson

Come on, someone I'm going to write another book about?

chasmfriend

But that's in the past though, right?

Brandon Sanderson

It is, but his past is-- It is a good question. It is an important, relevant question, relevant to who he is.

Calamity release party ()
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Zas678

Did Vasher visit Roshar before the Recreance? Because he had-- *Brandon mumbles question* Because he had to see Shardblades, and... presumably live ones.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah... I'll RAFO that. I'll RAFO that. It is an assumption that he had... He doesn't necessarily have to have seen alive ones. He could have heard records of them.

Zas678

Okay. Because I've tried to make out a timeline, to be like, "Okay, if this is here..."

Brandon Sanderson

Kara has a timeline-- Not Kara-- Karen has a timeline in hand. But I would have to look at it to give you exact dates, but yeah.

Zas678

Okay. So you didn't have to see...

Brandon Sanderson

He did not have to see.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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Jeremy_Carroll

Can you give any history on Denth? I don't know what he did as one of the Five Scholars. What was his roll during the Manywar?

Brandon Sanderson

Boy, you know, I'd rather leave the history of the Five and the Manywar for the sequel. Denth was there, and at first he tried to stop it, work as a peacemaker, and eventually took Vasher's side. Until the death of his sister.

/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.)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#42 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The contact Vasher mentions in this scene is Bluefingers. The little scribe is working very hard to push the court toward war, and he thinks that if Vasher sneaks into the hidden tunnels, he might do something dangerous like kill a few guards. More than that, Bluefingers is hoping that by giving away that tidbit of information, he might be able to get Vasher to trust him, and therefore get the chance to manipulate him toward fomenting the war.

At this point, Vasher has contacted Bluefingers pretending that he's interested in the politics of the court and the war. Bluefingers inaccurately assumes—from intelligence he's gathered, from what Denth has said, and from some faint awareness of who Vasher might be—that Vasher wants to drive Hallandren back to war with Idris. At the very least, Bluefingers assumes that Vasher will want to kill and destroy, since death and destruction have often been his wake.

And so, Bluefingers sells to Vasher a little tidbit that he assumes is innocent (the presence of the tunnels). This gives Vasher an unexpected edge. He now knows that it's possible to get to the Lifeless garrison, and into the court itself, through ways nobody knows about. That makes him suspect that something greater might be going on, perhaps a coup of some sort.

I apologize for only showing little pieces of this in the book. But, to be honest, I don't think it's that interesting—mostly because everybody is so wrong about what they're assuming. And the assumptions are rational enough that I think it would be confusing in the book. Vasher is wrong about the coup, and Bluefingers is wrong about Vasher's motives. Denth only cares about getting a chance to punish Vasher for the death of his sister.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

What planet is Vasher from?

Brandon Sanderson

He did originate on Nalthis, which is the Warbreaker world, but he worldhopped very early in his life.

Questioner

And what planet did he get the ability to change his shape, or is that because he's a Returned?

Brandon Sanderson

That's because he's a Returned, yes.

Questioner

So it's not because he's a Lightweaver?

Brandon Sanderson

Nope. That is a great question, though. He is mostly what he appears to be, with some hidden parts of his past.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#44 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Vasher Meet with the Idrian Workers

Now we get to see the other part of what Vasher has been doing all this time—the part that I couldn't show you earlier, since it would have made it too obvious that he had good intentions. (And that, in turn, might have spoiled the surprise that Denth was manipulating Vivenna.) He's been trying very hard to convince the Idrians not to get themselves into trouble. He's been only mildly successful.

Vivenna listening here has some things to work through. Some alpha readers had difficulty with how easily she started helping Vasher, so I've reworked that in the final draft. Hopefully you now see her struggle and her reasoning.

What she sees here is something real. She notices that most of Hallandren doesn't care about Idris or the Idrians. When I lived in Korea, I sensed a lot of resentment from the Koreans toward the Japanese. The Japanese had done some pretty terrible things to the Koreans during the various wars throughout the history of the two countries, and the anger the Koreans felt was quite well justified. The thing is, most Japanese I meet are surprised to hear how much resentment there is. It's kind of like Americans are sometimes surprised to hear how much dislike there is for them in Mexico.

When you're the bigger country, the one who historically won conflicts and wars, you often don't much notice the people you've stepped on along the way. While the smaller country may create a rivalry with you, you may not even realize that you have a rival. This is what happened with Hallandren and Idris. While some people push for war, the general populace doesn't even think about Idris—except as that poor group of people up in the highlands who sell them wool and do jobs they, the Hallandren, don't want to do.

This can be very frustrating for someone from the smaller country, like Vivenna, when confronted not with anger, but with indifference, about your feelings.

Manchester signing ()
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BlackYeti

In Words of Radiance, we have Vasher showing up... One of his aliases on Nalthis is Kalad, which is very similar to the name of one of the Heralds on Roshar. So I was wondering how far back this connection between him and Roshar goes.

Brandon Sanderson

It goes pretty far back, in fact when I wrote Way of Kings, the 2002 version; he was a main character and was Kaladin's swordmaster. I wrote Warbreaker to jump back and write out his backstory, Vasher's. So to me Warbreaker actually came after Way of Kings. But the connection goes back pretty far, further than you would first guess.

BlackYeti

Did he actually come from Nalthis and not Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm not going to actually answer that one-- Well I can answer that: yes he does come from Nalthis. It's pretty obvious that the way that the Breath's working, the reason he moved is because it's easier to get Stormlight than Breaths, and Stormlight can fuel being a Returned like him. And so yes, he was born on Nalthis. Becoming Returned without being born on Nalthis would be really hard.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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Snote85

Did Vasher do to himself something similar to what Cultivation did to Dalinar, with his memory? I know in Warbreaker he says he knew the commands to take Denth's memories of things they'd done in the past away. Is there a chance he is not "whole" in his ability to recall his past?

Brandon Sanderson

It's safe to say that Vasher's memory has a few holes.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#49 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Naming Vasher

Vasher's name has interesting origins. I first began toying with the ideas that became Warbreaker back in 2005. I was hanging out with my then girlfriend (not Emily, but Heather, the girl I dated before I met Emily). We were up at Heather's family's cabin in Island Park, Idaho, and I had just met her father for the first time. His name was Vance.

The name intrigued me. Yes, I'd heard it before, but for some reason at that moment it struck me. Later that day, sitting on the dock of the lake, I pulled out my notebook and began to play around with ideas for a story. I tweaked the name to Vancer, but that just didn't sound right, though I used it for a while. The next incarnation was Vasher. [Editor's note: Brandon had earlier used the name Vasher in 2003 for a different character in the draft of another novel, but he had completely forgotten that by the time he wrote this annotation.]

I began doing some preliminary prose writing, plugging in a magic system I'd been working on. (I'll talk more later about how I came up with Awakening.) It became a story about a guy who was thrown into prison, then used his Awakening magic to get out of it. (Along with the help of his longtime sidekick, whose name escapes me right now.)

It wasn't very long. I'll have to dig it out sometime—it's only handwritten and wasn't something I ever intended to publish. Just a quick character sketch. It did have the first line, however, of what eventually became this book: "Why does it always have to end up with me getting thrown into prison?"

Footnote: The accuracy of this story is somewhat in doubt as it is known that Vasher was a character in The Way of Kings Prime, and that Warbreaker was designed, in part, as a prequel to his apperance there.
Warbreaker Annotations ()
#50 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Explains the Different Kinds of BioChromatic Entities

This is a scene I'd been waiting to write for almost the entire book. Not just because I wanted to get into the scientific rules for Awakening, but because I wanted to pull a good reversal for Vasher. When he begins talking like this, I hope that the reader responds like Vivenna: Who is this guy?

A lot of readers, my editor included, resisted the term BioChroma. They wanted me to simply use Breath, as they thought BioChroma was just too scientific sounding. I like this concept, however. I want people to read the book and think it sounds scientific. My novels, my magic systems, have a kind of "hard magic" sense to them. I want there to be an edge of science to them, a feeling that people are studying them and trying to learn about them using the scientific method.

Vasher's explanations here are dead on. He's got a lot of good information, and he has a handle on what he doesn't understand. That alone should be a big clue about who he is. The fact that he never has to trim his beard is another one.