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Boskone 54 ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

How do you go about designing your magical systems? Do you come up with all the rules at the beginning, or is it developing as you write?

Brandon Sanderson

It’s a little of both. I have some essays I’ve called Sanderson’s Laws, because I’m a humble guy. If you google those and find those, you can read some essays about how I write magic systems. The answer to your question directly is, oftentimes I’ll come up with something really cool. Hey, you draw on the ground with chalk and play magical Starcraft against each other. Tower defense with chalk. What are some basic rules? Let’s write the book, and as we’re writing I’m like, this question arises, this question arises. How would I answer that? Let’s build in answers to it. With the Rithmatist, I already had the foundations of Cosmere magic, so I could say, “How does this work? Well, it works like this.”

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#2 Copy

Questioner

So what are the chances, once that last Stormlight comes out, that you might open up that worldbuilding wiki up for viewing?

Brandon Sanderson

You don't know, I might do that. That's feasible.

Questioner

It seems like it might be a cool way, other than like waiting another 3–4 years for it to be edited into 2 or 3 atlases or whatever, in this day and age a wiki seems like a good way to do that.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. The fun thing is, it's now like 15 years old, so it's got all the old stuff from the original write in it as well.

Questioner

Which would also be kind of cool to see.

Brandon Sanderson

Which would be cool to see how I've changed things. There's stuff in there before spren were even part of the world and stuff like that.

Oathbringer San Diego signing ()
#3 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Can you give us some of the magic systems that you've rejected?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Magic systems I've rejected. Rejects for me are kind of a weird thing in that they stick in the back of my brain, and when I reject something, it's more along the lines of "this isn't ready yet." And I'm constantly thinking, do I want to do this, do I not want to do this. I've wanted to do one with sound waves forever, visualizing sound waves and things, and I have not been able to write it in a way that either felt different enough from other magic systems that approached this, or that just worked on the page. It's very hard to take something auditory and make it-- put it into a book for some reason. Some things work, I mean, Pat [Rothfuss] has made an entire career of having music to his language... so it can work, but I've never been able to get a really solidly sound-wave-focused magic to work, but I think of and discard tons of these things everyday. Sometimes, I discard them, because I'm like, "No, that's too Brandon." It's like, it's too much, a challenge. "Can I make peanuts into a magic system?" That's one I haven't done.

By the way, I wanted to do a story about a leekromancer, who had power over legumes. Yeah? Uh-huh. See. That's just too Brandon. You can read that, and say, "He wrote this entire story just to make the leekromancer pun!"

Footnote: Brandon has mentioned a leekromancer character in relation to the potential story Mullholland Homebrew's Sinister Shop for Secret Pets.
Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

I'm working on being an author as well. How do you worldbuild?

Brandon Sanderson

You look for what is going to be relevant and importnat to your characters, and spend your time there. So don't, for instance, build a whole bunch of new languages for a world where all your characters are going to be from the same country, and the languages don't play a relevant part. That is what I would say, particularly in the beginning. If you feel you need more to help you make the world feel fleshed out to you, do that. But worldbuild in service of the story you want to tell.

Shadows of Self Lansing signing ()
#6 Copy

Questioner

The thing about women eating sweeter foods, and how sharp the gender divide was and-- I just found that worldbuilding really interesting, so how do you *inaudible*? 

Brandon Sanderson

So I noticed that a lot of cultures have these really stark gender disparities. And I think in America we don't—like even around the world we still have a lot of them—in America we kind of-- I'm glad we don't because I think it is actual progress to not [have these disparities]. But at the same time that's a really big part of so many different cultures that I wanted to play with that idea.

And I loved in The Wheel of Time how Robert Jordan had the magic word differently [...] and so I was looking for a long time for something I can do that plays with the idea of gender roles, and that's kind of what rose out of it. It actually came from when I was working on the history and the moment when the men kind of seized control of the Shardblades. You know about this?

Questioner

Yeah, I read about it online.

Brandon Sanderson

So that moment I'm like "alright, there's a divergence there. How do they strictly define the gender roles to maintain the power of these weapons?" And I think that's-- and I just kind of built from there.

Questioner

It's really interesting though that women in a way are actually the creative minds-- they're actually not suppressed, but they're *inaudible*.

Brandon Sanderson

It is, right. It's this weird repression where you can't do what you want, but they're actually in many ways the most powerful ones in society, but they're constrained by it.

Questioner

Yeah, they're the ones that are creative because men don't even read because they're not supposed to. I guess that's what's really interesting to me.

Brandon Sanderson

It was sooo much fun to figure some of these things out because it plays with expectations a little bit but also plays into them in really interesting ways.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#7 Copy

Jamester86

Is writing a full book with no magic system easier harder when compared to the freedom (and limitations) involved in traditional fantasy? (I haven't read the spoilers, so if there is a magic system, ignore this question :-)

Brandon Sanderson

Science in a book like Skyward tends to be its own type of magic--even the Legion books (taking place as the closest to our own world) really have a brand of magic, done my way. So I suspect I'd work this sort of thing into a story no matter what. I do tend to try to do a different tone or style in different genres.

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
#8 Copy

Ashley

Do you spend the most time on your magic systems, or do you find yourself spending equal amounts of time on other aspects of worldbuilding/plot such as religion/culture/language/geography? 

Brandon Sanderson

It really depends on the novel. With some I spend a lot of time on areas that in others I don't spend much time on at all. With every book I spend a serious amount of time on the magic system. That's consistent—it's just something I like to do.

For a given book or series I may spend more time on a given aspect. I'd say the other big aspect that takes a lot of time is characterizing the characters the right way. That takes a lot of work, but I tend to do that during my actual writing period, whereas I spend the planning period focusing on worldbuilding and plot. It's when I actually sit down to write a chapter that I explore who a character is, and so it's really hard to pin down timewise which one I spend more time on. And that varies based on the book.

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
#9 Copy

Laurel

You seem to purposefully invent a system of magic for each book/series you create. I think that Warbreaker was one of the most unique I've ever read. Do you have a reason or story behind this habit?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes—both. Back when I was trying to break in, I spent many years writing books and not getting published. I was under the impression (it's just one of my beliefs) that it would be easier for me to break in doing a lot of different standalone novels, or first books in a series, as opposed to writing all in one series and putting all my eggs in one basket. For that reason, I got a lot of practice finishing one book and starting a new one that was in a new setting in a new world.

For me, a new setting/world means a new magic system. Magic is part of what draws me to fantasy, being able to play with the ideas behind it. It's what engages me; it's what excites me. And so part of the real fun of starting a news series is developing a new magic system. In a way that's kind of like the little twinkie or whatever that I'd hang in front of myself in order to get me excited about a new series. I'd be just coming down off a writing high at the end of a book, and I'd still be excited about the old series, its characters and world. Creating a new world is a lot of work, but there's an excitement to it as well. I'd focus on that and say, "Look, I get to create a new magic system, let's see what I can play around with for this book." So because I got used to doing that, that became my modus operandi, my method of working. That still excites me. Oftentimes it's the opportunity to create a new magic system that gets me excited about writing a new book.

/r/fantasy AMA 2017 ()
#11 Copy

TheBlueShifting

As a writer I love world building. However the detail and culture of your stories are so incredibly thought out. Do you storyboard and document all the family lines, kingdomes, traditions, languages, ect before hand or do these things evolve as you write them?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on the book and the worldbuilding element in question. I do some of each, and do more for longer series. I've done a lot more work on the languages of Stormlight, for example, than did on something like The Rithmatist, where I outlined the magic in detail but discovery wrote other parts of the setting.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

Did serving your mission in Korea help you in, like, worldbuilding? Kind of give you-- get you out of your own mindset?

Brandon Sanderson

Getting out of an-- into another culture is the number one thing for helping me world build. And I still-- the linguistics of things I create are often influenced by Korea.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#13 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

How do you pick names?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It really varies based on the book. I'm often picking a linguistic paradigm. Alethi - there are two separate paradigms because I like linguistics to be messy. Usually based on symmetry being holy, so they'd pick names one letter off from symmetrical to avoid hubris.  Also suffix - like Kaladin is Kalak (Herald) + din which is a suffix, all of them mean things, like the old Hebrew names have "born of" or "comes through". Stick that on and drop the last letter. Dalinar, Elhokar, all of those have suffixes - nar, kar.  In Mistborn, I didn't want linguistics to be your focus, for in that I picked a simpler naming paradigm - I lifted linguistics from the real world. Central Dominance is French. The Germanic area, we have Elend and Straff, and then we have Spanish on the other area. I just kind of took Earth cultures and appropriated them. That's an easier way to do it, because Mistborn is kind of an earth analogue. But Roshar is very different. Mistborn I didn't want you to think of the difference, which is why I gave everyone nicknames that are easy to say.

Goodreads WoK Fantasy Book Club Q&A ()
#14 Copy

Flip

You have quite the world you have created. I look at the map and see a lot of different locations. How many of the named locations are actually going to be used? ... Anyway, I am always curious as to how much of one's world that has been built actually gets used.

Brandon Sanderson

You'll have to read and see what happens. I will say this: When I build a map, I don't consider it to be a to-do list. In fact, it makes a world feel unrealistic to me when every single place on the map ends up getting visited. So it's not a to-do list, but many of those locations are very important.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#15 Copy

Questioner

I wanted to ask-- So you--I think more than almost any other fantasy author--you create universes and then you leave them behind. Entire uni-- I almost feel like you could sit down-- you could have like pages of a physics lecture in each of your universes and you would have equations for how it works. Do you have-- Have you always had these ideas for these various universes with gods and magic systems and things like that, or are you always creating them, sort of as you go? 

Brandon Sanderson

It's yes and no. A lot of the ones you're seeing in the cosmere are things I created at the beginning to be kind of what the cosmere was. But I left some holes intentionally cause I knew I would come up with cool things that I wanted to add, and so I built in that wiggle room, and I'm always coming up with new ones. And there are way more that I want to do than I can write, like the one I keep wanting to find a chance for is--

Do you guys know how Nikola Tesla tried to create wireless energy? I think I've talked about this one. Like, he tried to create wireless energy, and I'm like "What if there were a world where that happened naturally?" Where you had a natural current going, and you could like set your lantern on the ground and it would create a current from the sky to the ground and your light bulb would just turn on. You don't need electricity. And how would-- What if we have giant toads that could shoot out their tongues that would create a current,  and they're like taser tongues? *makes zapping noises* Stuff like this. And so, I started jumping in to looking at electricity and things like this, and current and whatnot, and that's just all back there and I'm like "Aww, someday I need to be able to write this." But there are so many things that I want to write that I just don't have the time for, so it's a yes and no.

Questioner

So do you have, like, "what if" questions and then you build a universe from there?

Brandon Sanderson

Usually they're "what if" questions, but Sanderson's Zeroth Law--I've got these laws on magic you can look up,  they're named humbly after myself--so Sanderson's Zeroth Law is "Always err on the side of what's awesome". And usually it's less even a "what if?" and it's a "That's so cool, taser toads!" Like if you really want to know the truth of where The Stormlight Archive started, there's all this cool stuff, like part of it was like "What if there was a storm like the storm on Jupiter". And then I eventually changed it to a storm that goes around the planet, something like that, but the real truth was "Magical power armor. YEAH! Magical power armor is cool! Plate mail power armor! Why would you need plate mail power armor?" Y'know, and it starts with the really cool idea. Mistborn started by me drifting in a fog bank at eighty miles per hour in my car and loving how it looked as it drove past and saying "Is there a world where I can imitate this feel, where you look out and it streams by." It's those early visuals or concepts that make me say "Oh yeah, I wanna do that!". That is where my books really come from, and then I layer on top of them the "what ifs?" and trying to build a realistic ecology based around these ideas.

Boskone 54 ()
#16 Copy

Questioner

How did you choose Aztec culture as opposed to Mayan?

Brandon Sanderson

Because I like, I think it’s interesting. I’m really fascinated by the way that, in North America, Aztec culture was one of the closest things we had to an empire. Granted, the Mayans were similar too. This isn’t a good thing, but they were starting to be a colonial power in North America, they were just 100 years behind because, different people argue why. The argument of, they didn’t have good [not sure what he says here] animals like they had in Europe. Europe had access to horses and cows, and, particularly in North America, they didn’t have access to these beasts of burden. There’s also the argument that, through most of South America, the terrain was not really good for pulling carts and things like this. So no animals and not really good for the wheel makes communication between cultures difficult. Communications between cultures is what inspires technological progress most of the time. So suddenly, you have this, where they’re really advanced in some areas, like their mathematics and whatnot, but they don’t have the wheel. And that is so interesting, and the Aztec is really interesting. The idea that they came [...] they found Tenochitlan after leaving Aztlan and come to this place and they’re these people, and their god is the hummingbird and all this stuff and it’s just really cool mythology and culture, but all anyone knows about the Aztecs is, “Human sacrifice!”, right? That’s the thing everyone focuses on, when you’ve got this really deep and cool and rich culture as well. They didn’t even really sacrifice, according to most people, that many people, no more than in European wars, they would execute after you… but it’s got this really cool mythology around it. Anyway, it’s just a really cool culture, and being from North America it’s something I wanted to dig into and deal with. Plus you’ve got, this is kind of a minefield of stuff, but you’ve got this weird colonial thing going on that I wanted to play with. In the Rithmatist world, the Aztecs had unified into a colonial power and a lot of the North American tribes had unified beneath them. Some left happily, some not happily to fight against  the chalkling threat. They got pushed all the way back, fighting and fighting and fighting, and then the Europeans come in, and they’re like, “Great, this continent that there’s nobody in!” and they’re like, “Hey no, that’s ours!”. So you’ve got this really, at least to me, interesting interaction between, cause there’s all these myths that perpetuated in the 1800’s that there weren’t that many people in North America when we came in. It was just basically empty. That was the myth they were telling themselves to justify the wholesale conquering and slaughter of the people. A lot of times I’m like, so what if they got there and these people had been killed in a big war? You’ve got this colonialism and this cool power to the south who’s like “No, you’re stealing our land” but they’re like “No, you guys weren’t here” and they’re like “No, we were fighting there”. It’s a really interesting thing to deal with, and it’s exciting to me, but boy is it a minefield. Let’s hope that I can do the second book without being too offensive to people. But that stuff is fascinating to me.

Questioner

Do you think that the sensibility in terms of writing about Native American cultures has to do a lot with how times have changed, since you’ve written Rithmatist?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh yeah, definitely. Since I’ve written Rithmatist, my sensitivity to this has skyrocketed, I think everybody’s has. That’s a big part of when I went back to the book, and I thought in the sequel I was dealing with it sensitively and I’m like “Oh, no. I don’t think I’m approaching that sensitively at all”. That was part of the reason I had to drop it and revise it. Also, I just didn’t think it was doing cool enough things and whatnot. I’m glad I didn’t write it in 2008 when I’d been like“Aztecs are cool, let’s write a book that has Aztecs in it!”, instead of saying, “Let’s do more than Aztecs are cool, let’s make sure that we have actually done our research”, instead of just relying on it. There are some things you can rely on, like Kaladin in the Stormlight books. I know enough about field medicine and what it is like to be a surgeon in the pre-modern era that I could write a cool book where a guy was himself a surgeon in a pre-modern era, and then I just gave it to a field medic, someone who had actually been in battle, and said, “What did I get wrong?”. He’s like, “You got this, this, this wrong, fix those and it’s good”. I can do that. I can bluff my way through making Kaladin work and then find an expert to fix it. That’s what I would’ve done in 2008 if I’d written Rithmatist. I have a feeling it would’ve been so far off that I would’ve given it to them and they would’ve been like, “You can’t fix this. This is fundamental”. That’s a writing advice. There are a lot of things you can bluff your way through, if you get yourself like 50% of the way there and then find an expert to fix the really bad parts for you. But you have to be able to get far enough along that it’s fixable.

Goodreads February 2016 YA Newsletter Interview ()
#17 Copy

Jim

When doing your worldbuilding and plotting work prior to writing do you ever work with maps and soldiers? Do you build out your fights with models etc?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't build any of my action sequences with models, though that's an excellent question. I have a vivid imagination, and generally don't need to place things on a map to create an action sequence. In fact, I think doing so might be dangerous, as I'd be tempted to describe things happening across the action sequence all over, rather than what is immediately happening to the viewpoint character—which is where my focus needs to be.

Often, the only map-based worldbuilding I'll do is a general sketch of a continent or city so I know broadly how everything is related. But then I write the book, and let what has to happen in the book happen—good storytelling trumps cartography. I can always rebuild the map to be accurate once I write the book.

The exception is large-scale battles, like some of those in The Wheel of Time, where I had to involve real warfare strategy and tactics. In those cases, I need to know enough that it's best to draw it out and have a full battle map.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#18 Copy

BenFoley

One common theme in magic systems across fantasy is the use of artifacts to focus, increase or do something specific with the magic. Inclusion of artifacts is something you have avoided in your magic systems (although I will say I haven't missed them). Is there a reason for this? How has your writing changed with the 'forced' introduction of artifacts (i.e. finishing the Wheel of Time)? Do you plan on using artifacts in your own works after you finish the Wheel of Time?

Brandon Sanderson

I've not done artifacts for the same reason I've not yet done a lot of things—not because I don't want to, but because I like to keep the focus in a given book or books. There wasn't room for yet another extrapolation in that direction when writing the Mistborn books, and the magic system didn't really allow for it.

However, I think there is a lot of room to explore magic artifacts. I've long been wanting to do something that refines magic and uses technology based on it, in kind of a magic-punk sort of way. Kings, for instance, does use artifacts and magical items—very specific kinds, mind you, that are built into the framework of the magic system. But they're there. One of the big elements of this world will be the existence of Shardplate (magically enhanced, powered plate armor) and Shardblades (large, summonable swords designed to cut through steel and stone.)

This isn't really because of the WoT—I wrote the original draft of this book long before I was published, let alone working on the WoT—but I have always lilked the use of artifacts in the WoT world, and it has been fun to use some of them in that setting.

Words of Radiance Chicago signing ()
#19 Copy

Argent

In The Stormlight Archive there have been multiple writing systems, [which] as a part of a community effort we've translated, for the most part, the Alethi [Vorin women's script], the Thaylen. Can you talk about the technical details of the glyphs writing system?

Brandon Sanderson

The glyphs were designed by Isaac Steward. He is my scribe, artist, and cartographer. He is also the art director at my company. We sat down and I wanted something symmetrical, so actually half of the glyph is repeated. When you read into it, it's symmetrical, and you can read them by the points where they slant, but you will have to go talk to him about exactly how to do it, because I say "I want a glyph for this" and he designs it. So they are readable, but-- The thing that I used as a model is, I got Arabic art; if you guys haven't read Arabic word art it's gorgeous, it's really cool. And sometimes when it gets really distorted you have to know already what it says, and that's how some of the glyphs are.

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
#20 Copy

Jaz

When you're writing/planning a new series, how much time would you say you spend on world building? Do you like to have a good sense of the world before you starting writing or do you adapt and evolve the world as you write?

Brandon Sanderson

I do a moderate amount ahead of time, but it depends on the series--most importantly, the length of the book. If I'm writing a shorter work, I can develop more on-the-fly, knowing I can make it all consistent after the fact. If I'm writing in a series, I need much more ahead of time. Developing the world for The Way of Kings took years.

Warsaw signing ()
#21 Copy

Questioner

<How do you develop/create names?>

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on the book. Usually I develop the language and sounds that are going to be used in the language and then I try to build names out of it, but sometimes there is trick like in Alethi with symmetrical names and I focus a little more on that.

So it just depends on the book.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#22 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

I've lost track of the number of magical systems that you have created and I was just wondering if you could say a little bit about your process of creating magical systems.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

What I'm looking for is something interesting. It is kind of hard to explian, because to create a magic system, I've read a lot of fantasy, and personally I feel that one of my duties is to push the genre in different directions. There was a period where our worldbuilding was not as extensive as it should be. Stuck as we were for a while, it felt like the genre hit a bit of a rut, and I wanted to push it in different directions. The screwy magic systems I create are part of that. I feel excited about them, it's sometihng I feel ?? Google Sanderson's First Law.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
#23 Copy

Questioner

The character Spook, is there a pattern to Spook's street slang?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, but it's a really loose one. It was based off of some rhyming slangs, some street slangs, and some things that I researched, where it would evolve day by day, and they would throw in some extraneous words just to confuse people that weren't speak it. It was also based on Internet slang. And so, yes, there are rules, but the rules are kind of loose and free, and you can add weird words when you want to. You basically put everything in the past progressive and then you add lots of extra "to be" phrases. Then you reverse a few of your syntaxes, and then you go for it.

Questioner

So it's practicing a whole lot to sound improvised.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. [...] Wasing the being of complicated to be. No, complicated to see. Yeah.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#24 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

How has your worldbuilding changed over time to *inaudible*?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

How has my worldbuilding changed over time? So, it's become a lot more deliberate. And it has become more—one thing is I've let myself push further. I've found that worldbuilding is one of those areas in storytelling where I can let myself kind of off the chain, off the leash, and go steps further than I thought I could, and it still turns out well. A lot of times if you do that with story, for instance, if you do that with plot, the way to kind of go off the leash and do something unexpected with plot is to do something that's not foreshadowed and is not satisfying, which can make for a really interesting story. Go watch Into The Woods if you want to go see something that—yeah, half the audience groaned when I mentioned Into The Woods, for a good reason. That's not a reason to not tell those stories, but experimenting with plot can, in many ways, be something that fails pretty spectacularly. Good to do it, it's good to learn those things, but worldbuilding, I've found, I haven't found that I've gotten ever too far where it's failing because the worldbuilding is too different. I've failed with my worldbuilding because I haven't brought the elements together. In fact, Apocalypse Guard, one of the reasons I pulled it is the worldbuilding was not working. And I can't release a Brandon Sanderson book with bad worldbuilding, right? *crowd laughs* That's like the baseline, "No." It's not the only thing that was broken in it, but it was one of the things that was broken in it. So, more deliberate, allowed myself to stretch further, and I would say I'm always kind of looking for those conflict points, nowadays, in the worldbuilding. The points of conflict are really interesting to me.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#25 Copy

Joshua_Patrao

About research: What, if any, research for your novels have you done, and how did you do it?

Brandon Sanderson

The calling of a fiction writer, particularly a fantasy writer, is to know a little bit about a lot of things—just enough to be dangerous, so to speak. I tend to read survey books that talk about history—things that give overviews, such as the history of warfare, or the history of the sword, or navigation. That kind of thing. I would say I do a fair amount of research, but mostly it's an attempt to dump as much into my brain as possible for spawning stories and writing about things intelligently. For Mistborn, I researched canals, eunuchs, and London during the mid 1800's.

Boskone 54 ()
#26 Copy

Questioner

So North America being islands, was that just another bit of color?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. That was based around the idea of, I want to do this cool thing. I’m just going to do this cool thing. Peter did not have a chance to look at that and tell me if the physics of that planet work or not. But once we pulled it out of the Cosmere, we didn’t have to worry if the physics do.

Questioner

I wasn’t sure if it was tied to history of the magic or?

Brandon Sanderson

No, I didn’t tie it to the history of the magic. I just said, I’m going to do a small planet and we’re just going to make it a big atoll. You’ll see the same things in Europe if we ever do a map of that, which we probably won’t, but South America you’ll see similar stuff.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#27 Copy

Questioner

I wonder if you knew what color the stone was inside of Horneater peaks and the mountains around the Shattered Plains?

Brandon Sanderson

Depends if-- most of it's going to be cremstone. So it's going to be various shades of tanish brown. Very generic stuff, particularly around here.

Horneater peaks, you-- *pauses thoughtfully* Horneater peaks you're probably going to get into some more slate, some more dark grays and things like this, weathered stone that doesn't have the crem buildup because the peaks are gonna pop up above where the crem is building up, so.

So that's where you're going to get some real, untainted rock which otherwise on Roshar you've got to burrow to get.

Questioner

So the gray one is the untainted one?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

Boskone 54 ()
#30 Copy

Questioner

How do you do it? (after saying he likes the characters and societies that Brandon writes)

Brandon Sanderson

Lots of practice. Lots of reading in the genre and loving the genre. A little bit of talent, a lot of loving the genre, and a lot of practice for a long time.

Questioner

I haven’t read Mistborn, but I’ve read this one [Stormlight]. How do you come up with the culture, the society?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on the book. Stormlight is my best series. If you haven’t tried Emperor’s Soul, it’s the other thing that I think is on Stormlight’s level, but it’s a short. What I’m looking to do with something like Stormlight is to say that the fantasy genre should be the most magical genre, right? Classically, science fiction has done a better job with the worldbuilding, and fantasy has tended to do a better job with things like characters and story. Not that there’s not science fiction that has great, you know, but usually science fiction’s been about the ideas and the interesting settings, but in fantasy we play it safe with the settings and try to do interesting characters. Which I’ve always thought, “Why do we do that? Why do we play it safe with our settings? Why don’t we have really bizarre, fantastical settings?”. So for years, even before I became a published author, I was searching for ones that would have one foot in science fiction. I want to do something magical as an origin, like the highstorm, you know, the physics of the highstorm don’t actually work, but we take it for assumed and then we try to extrapolate a realistic extrapolation of the world from that. That’s just what I’m doing, I’m trying to set up some sort fantastical setting or environment and then let science fiction take over and try and build how it would grow. On the cultures, usually I’m taking things I’ve learned about our culture and I am just trying to [...] a fantastical version. Sometimes when you do that you can say something interesting about human society, removed from the baggage of human society. There was a brief time in the pre-Victorian era where, for women, showing your ankle was more taboo than showing your chest. In fact, they would have pictures painted of them, noblewomen, in a state of what you’d call topless. Not a problem; a little risque, like what wearing a low-cut shirt is now, but no big deal. That’s bizarre to us, because, our society that’s not how it is. But if I put that in, in a fantasy book as a safehand, I can say, look, human beings do bizarre things as far as gender roles, socialization of gender, and what we find attractive. This should be very bizarre to you, but the reactions are normal. That disconnect is what helps build a fantastical society and lets me say a few things about our society, I hope in interesting ways.