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JordanCon 2018 ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

In reading about Adonalsium and Odium, I get the sense that it's more related to lerasium and atium than it is to, like, Preservation or Ruin. Because, sometimes it seems like we're identifying... Odium and Adonalsium as beings instead of, like, the body of--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it is a little confusing by design. The question is, like, telling the difference between the Vessel who is holding the power, the intent of that power, and the physical manifestations of that power as Investiture or as whatever, these things are confusing. And I did this on purpose. I like that blurring between them. One of the things I did when I was designing the magic for the cosmere, was-- you guys know this very easily from looking at the books, I love the ideas of quantum theory, string theory, all this stuff. And even, just looking at quantum mechanics as we understand them right now. And the further you get into the details, the more the rules that you built, everything you understand upon, become blurry. And we live in this world where certain scientific principles, like-- I was sitting at a writing group, talking to my friend who's a mathematician, and I'm like, "I really like math 'cause it is objective. One plus one equals two." And he's like, "Well, the further you get in math, the less that actually is true, and the more 'One plus one equals two' is a philosophical statement, not an actual objective truth." And we talked about the nature of, the further you dig into things--

So, I tried to build the cosmere magic-- For instance, how the Bands of Mourning work. We are getting away from Step 1, which is, "Metals push or pull." We can get that. Into Step 2, where we are building complex machines out of the interactions between the magic. And we will then get to Step 3, where it's like, we can explain the principles, but you need to be a computer engineer to understand exactly how the computer is working. And I wanted to be able to build to get to that point. With the philosophy of, "What is the power, what is the individual, what is the intent," and things like that, we're kind of going that direction, in a philosophical direction. What does it mean? What are the answers?

Humans like things to be divided and put in boxes, but in nature, these boxes are usually arbitrary, of our distinction. So, I like that aspect of our interaction with the real world. So, the answer to your question is, this is not a question for me, this is a question for philosophers. Where does the intent stop, and the being begin? And what does it mean to have a body? Is the body of the original person that has taken up the Shard, the Vessel, when that drops out when they die, is that their real body? Or is that just the power pushing out something that it absorbed and recreating it, and dropping a copy of it? What is that? What's going on there? What's it mean? How much can a Vessel influence their intent? This is all a question for philosophers, that I'm going to explore in the books, but it's not the sort of thing that you're like--

Does one plus one equal two? The answer is, one plus one equals two according to this proof that we believe explains the universe, but is a little fuzzier than you think it is.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
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Necarion

Do Vessels have any flexibility in expressing the intent of a Shard, particularly if the intent is open to many interpretations?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes they do. So, the Vessel's mind and how they perceive is going to have a large influence on how things are expressed and I think all of them have some wiggle room. But there are some deterministic things that are also going to push them.  You know, holding Ruin, Harmony may not go down the same path that happened to Ati.

Necarion

So Sadeas would express Honor differently than Tanavast?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes he would.

Arcanum Unbounded release party ()
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Questioner

Does Rayse have a personal... or did he have a personal relationship with the other [Vessels] before the Shattering?

Brandon Sanderson

Some of them, yes.

Questioner

So he doesn't personally know them all?

Brandon Sanderson

He knows them all, but "having a relationship with" is different. They were all in the same place.

Questioner

He knows who they are but he doesn't necessarily interact with them?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. Not necessarily. They weren't part of a homogenous group before this happened.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
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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?)

JordanCon 2018 ()
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yulerule

So, we have Shard names; Ruin, Preservation, Harmony, Cultivation, Honor, Ambition, Autonomy, Devotion, Dominion. Those are pretty much regular English words. And then we have Odium. That's a little more Latinate. It's not-- It doesn't fit the pattern.

Brandon Sanderson

So I don't really look as something as Latinate or Germanic, when I'm picking the names usually.

yulerule

But this one is more. Even in Devotion or Dominion, their more regular English. Why?

Brandon Sanderson

I just look for the thing that feels right. Remember, all these words are in translation. When you read the book, they were a word in the original language of the book, that then we have translated to English. And so, don't look to much about what's Greek, what's Latin, what's Germanic. I will mix those a lot. And that's just because I'm looking for the word that has right resonance in English, that I'm writing in. You might even find Latin and Greek mixes in some of my stuff. And that's not done to be like, "Oh, you should be paying [attention]." Usually, I'm just looking for a flavor.

yulerule

So is the flavor-- Because I actually did have *inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

Because Odium is cooler. It just sounds cooler. There is no answer other than "I like the word better."

yulerule

Is there any connection with the thought that it's not Hatred? Because in Oathbringer, he says he's Passion?

Brandon Sanderson

He would claim that he's Passion and not Odium. But that is part of why I chose it. Hatred felt too on-the-nose, because there is quite arguably that step toward just being all Passion, and that's what he claims that he is.

yulerule

His own perception of himself, can perception, in the cosmere, can that influence?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it can influence.

yulerule

So the Shard's intent can--

Brandon Sanderson

Can be influenced by their perception and the holder's, yes.

Oathbringer London signing ()
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Overlord Jebus

Is all Investiture in the cosmere associated with a Shard?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, well, okay. So this is a complicated one. *pauses* So, Investiture predates the Shattering of Adonalsium, all Investiture was from Adonalsium, all Investiture got assigned to one of the 16 Shards when Adonalsium was Shattered. Some of the Investiture was not on Yolen but location is irrelevant. So Investiture is related to Shards even on planets where none of the Shards are inhabiting. 

Overlord Jebus

Are they aware of that Investiture?

Brandon Sanderson

That's part of the whole seeing into the infinite, being beyond even the power of a Shard. So, technically you could make the argument that Harmony could feel the sense of Preservation on every world in the cosmere, right? Because the building blocks of all life and creation are these things.

Overlord Jebus

So the Shard of Preservation embodies all preservation in the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes but he just can't do that, right? Like, he's not infinite. The Vessels are not, even if their minds are enormously expanded by holding a Shard, they are not infinite. The Connection is all there in the Spiritual Realm

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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ckannan90

I have a cosmere question. At the end of Words of Radiance, Szeth receives Nightblood. The wiki told me it was a sword from Warbreaker, but I didn't realize how significant it was till I read the book. This, to me, seems like the first major cosmere crossover. All the other crossovers so far seem to have just been cameos (Hoid tells stories, or there are mysterious people hunting somebody, etc). I will RAFO, but it does seem like Szeth getting the sword means Nightblood will play a not-insignificant role in Stormlight 3. Does this mean the cosmere books are going to converge more going forward? Specifically, would someone need to have read Warbreaker to understand Oathbringer? Till now your different cosmere series have been readable in any order (and I didn't read them in publication order). Similarly, Mistborn: Secret History seems to be a prerequisite for at least the next Mistborn book.

Brandon Sanderson

One thing you have to remember is that in my cosmere outline, Warbreaker was a prequel to The Way of Kings, explaining Vasher's backstory. So I consider them more closely connected than some other things. But you could consider this the first major crossover.

Nightblood will be re-introduced, so those who haven't read Warbreaker will be brought up to speed.

Thoughtsunthought

Wow. Cool to see this.

One of my "concerns" is that eventually the cosmere stuff will overwhelm the individual series arcs.

Kinda like the Marvel Avengers movies, whilst they are great on their own, they lose some of the individuality that an Iron Man movie might have. If the overall story adds characters then you may end up with a Captain America: Civil War movie which whilst was amazing. Wasn't really a Captain America movie and would lose so much to someone who had only seen Capt America movies.

That being said I totally trust your judgement on this, I say concerns but I don't mean in a bad way.

That being said is any book flagged for an Avengers style "battle for the cosmere"?

Brandon Sanderson

I do have some plans for mixing later on, though I'll be very forthright about when those books come out. Meaning, so long as I'm not talking about these things as the main focus of a series, you don't have to worry about it taking them over. Conversely, you can be very excited when it does happen, as those stories will be very clear about what they're attempting to do.

One thing I do try to warn people is that the cosmere isn't an "Avengers" style concept--the goal here isn't to collect a variety of heroes from a variety of worlds and then throw them at a problem. It's more of a, "What if you could watch the world of something like Star Trek develop, by seeing individual engaging stories from various planets, then slowly watching them merge into a larger universe."

While some characters will, obviously, continue on through the series, and the Vessels of the Shards will be very important, the focus of the greater cosmere storyline is the cultures, the magic, and the evolution of the planets, while the individual stories are about the people who live on them during turning-points in their history.

Salt Lake City signing ()
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Questioner

I was wondering if Sleepless-- the Dysian Aimians-- if they could hold a Shard?

Brandon Sanderson

Could the Sleepless hold a Shard? Could they be a Vessel? Is what you're asking?

*hems and haws* There is nothing innate about the Shards that prevents any one with a-- I have to phrase this very carefully...

Non-humans can be Vessels. Non-humans have been vessels. Certain sapient creatures in the cosmere, could not be. But that's an asterisk, not the rule.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
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Questioner

I was just wondering if a Shard's intent can change over time without changing holders?

Brandon Sanderson

Without changing holders? The holder can have a slight effect on how the-- a big effect on how the intent is interpreted, but what the intent is stays the same. So it's gonna be filtered. The way it manifests can change, and you'll see that happening, but it is the same intent. When it was broken off, it took a certain thing with it.

JordanCon 2018 ()
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Questioner

So if a person's holding a Shard, someone like the original sixteen people. Some of the Shards got [Splintered], does that automatically kill the people? Or can some of those people still be walking around?

Brandon Sanderson

It does not automatically, because you can give up pieces of investiture and things like this. It did kill them, that was part of the point. But there are ways to conceive of this happening that it wouldn't. Technically what Endowment is doing is giving up pieces, intentionally splintering to form these other pieces and things, so yeah.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
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The Young Pyromancer

Theoretically, if the Dor-- ifSel became a Shard, would-- The biggest limiter on Shards is the Vessel's mind, would that be more limiting or less limiting?

Brandon Sanderson

...If the Dor were itself to become a Shard combining Devotion and Dominion, and were to pick up a Vessel? Because they're still Shards, they just don't have a Vessel.

The Young Pyromancer

So the land couldn't be Vessel?

Brandon Sanderson

The land itself? Of Arelon or of--

The Young Pyromancer

Of Sel.

Brandon Sanderson

The land of Sel would not count as a Vessel. You would say in terminology right now that Dominion and Devotion do not have Vessels in the same way that other Shards do.

Orem signing ()
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AllomancerSam

...When a Shard vessel dies and they've held the Shard for a thousand years, how much do they remember about what they've done?

Brandon Sanderson

Depends on the shard. Usually, everything or most everything. It is not implausible that there are Shards that don't want to remember certain things. They have a large and vast mental capacity <when it comes to> remembering things.

AllomancerSam

Would Ruin be one that would be more likely to want to forget?

Brandon Sanderson

I think all of them would have things they might want to forget. It depends on whose personality would be more likely to make that actually happen.

Alloy of Law 17th Shard Q&A ()
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Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Shards and Shard intents: Holding a Shard is a contest of willpower against the Shard that, over time, is very hard to resist.

Shards affect you over time, but your mind will not leave a permanent effect on the Shard. A holder's [Vessel's] personality, however, does get to filter the Shard's intent, so to speak. However, if that holder [Vessel] no longer held that Shard, the Shard will not continue to be filtered by that person.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
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Questioner

I was actually wondering, the epigraphs for The Way of Kings, that were talking about how the various Shardholders [Vessels] are influenced by their Shards over time—how does that impact someone like Harmony, with multiple shards?

Brandon Sanderson

The main effect it's having on Harmony right now is the inability to act sometimes, because his two sides are pushing, and so he is having trouble being proactive. It'd take a long time before it really becomes manifest, but he's had several hundred years, so it's starting to have an effect.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

In the Letter, in The Way of Kings in all the epigraphs. It was mentioned that the author of the Letter was accused of perpetuating grudges regarding Rayse and Bavadin.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

That being said, are there any Vessels or Shards i.e. Bavadin, sympathetic towards Rayse's cause?

Brandon Sanderson

There are some who are more li-- more willing to go along with it than others, yes.

Oathbringer London signing ()
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Questioner

For Adonalsium to create the universe, therefore he must have infinite power to create an infinitely sized universe. Therefore, infinity divided by sixteen is equal to infinity. Therefore, why don't the Shards have infinite power, which they clearly don't, because they can be killed?

Brandon Sanderson

The power can't be killed. The entity controlling the power can. Infinite power existing and being able to access the infinite power are different things, and a finite mind, even added to a very powerful sense of power, isn't necessarily able to tap all of that.

Questioner

What about Ruin and Preservation in Well of Ascension? We hear about Ruin using some of its power. Therefore, it must not have infinite power, because if you minus something from infinity, it's still infinity...

Brandon Sanderson

So, infinite power is changing forms. It's not going anywhere, right? So, the Investiture, the power, is becoming energy, which is doing work, which is being released back into the system. Nothing's growing or shrinking. It is simply changing forms, and potential energy is becoming kinetic.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Questioner

So I'm wondering, how omniscient are the Vessels?

Brandon Sanderson

This is a difficult question to answer because they don't know everything, but they could theoretically. And so, the actual Vessel needs to apply the power and learn things. And they don't know the future exactly. Particularly, you'll notice some hints of this in Oathbringer. There are certain things that really foul with their ability to see the future. It's whenever we kind of get the equivalence of an atium shadow right? Reflection that reflects that someone sees the future, and then suddenly you end up with this kind of difficult chain to follow.

Questioner

Can you tell me who might be the most all-knowing out of all of them?

Brandon Sanderson

I will say the older they are the more they generally know.

Questioner

So probably not Harmony then?

Brandon Sanderson

Probably not Harmony.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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Dragon13

Would it be possible to create a potential Vessel that has a Connection to all 16 Shards? Through a combination of birth planet, genetics, Hemalurgy--

Brandon Sanderson

You--  So, terminology. The Vessel holds a Shard. Lots of people have Connections to the Shards without holding them. So, I'm just gonna RAFO that. You guys got years and years left, before we're even gonna discuss things about-- But if I tell you now, like, what are you gonna ask?