How do you do it? (after saying he likes the characters and societies that Brandon writes)
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.
I haven’t read Mistborn, but I’ve read this one [Stormlight]. How do you come up with the culture, the society?
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.