Miscellaneous 2016

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Name
Name Miscellaneous 2016
Date
Date Jan. 1, 2016
Entries
Entries 10
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#1 Copy

Questioner

How does electrum work?

Brandon Sanderson

Electrum can see future shadows only as far in the future as is done with atium in the books. They use it to counter atium in that they see their own future shadow fighting, and if they see their shadow get hit by an attack, they know to avoid that attack, and they change their own future. This compounds the future shadows they see, which makes it practically as effective at countering atium as atium itself.

While the scope of an electrum shadow is very limited, it could be useful in many situations. Like if you were playing tennis, you’d be able to look at your shadow and tell if you managed to hit the ball or not, and adjust accordingly. That would still take a lot of practice to master, but it could be very effective.

#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Warning, Evgeni. I'm really considering doing a backpedal on savants. The more i think about them, the less I'm not liking how my current course has them being treated in upcoming books. I think it deviates too far from my original vision.

Argent

Hey, I wouldn't normally contact you directly like this, but given that you thought it important enough to reach out and let me know you might change how savants work, I figured you probably wouldn't be too upset by this message. I replied to your Facebook comment, asking if you could clarify a little bit which aspects of savantism you are thinking of keeping and/or cutting. I don't need an essay on the topic (though you know I'd love one!), just some details on what we can consider canon for theories, and what we should be careful around.

Brandon Sanderson

Evgeni,

So here's the problem. The more I dig into savants in the later outlines, the more I feel that I'm in a dangerous area--in that I'm disobeying their original intention. (Which is that using the power so much that it permeates your soul can be dangerous, a kind of uncontrolled version of a spren bond.)

And so, I don't want to let myself just start making people savants right and left. It needs to be a specific thing. Wax is the troubling one, as I have him burning so much steel that he's well on his way, but isn't showing any side effects. If I'm going to give him savant-like abilities, he needs savant-like consequences.

That's the danger, just falling back on savanthood to do some of the things I want, so often that it undermines the actual point and purpose of them in the cosmere lore.

So if I backpedal, it will be to contain this and point myself the right way, sharply curtailing my desire to make people savants without their savanthood being an intrinsic part of their story and conflict in life. (Like it was for Spook, and is for Soulcasting savants on Roshar.)

Feel free to share this.

Argent

Okay, so - if you do decide to go this route, I see the story implications (larger focus on consequences, less easy to get to the point where a character can be considered a savant). What I am not sure about is the potential for a mechanical change. Would a backpedal on your side cause a conflict with information you've shared with us, in or out of your books? Are you saying that it's possible that Wax won't be considered a savant (if you can't squeeze a good ramifications plot for him that doesn't contradict the apparent lack of consequences so far, for example)?

Brandon Sanderson

I haven't decided on anything yet. It's mostly consequences for the future--just a kind of, "be aware I'm not 100% pleased with how Wax turned out, re: savanthood and Allomantic resonance."

The idea of resonance is that two powers, combined, meld kind of into one single power. This is a manifestation of the way Shards combine. Wax was intended as a savant of the two melded powers. But without consequences in his plot, I'm not confident that I'll continue in the same vein for future books.

Footnote: The first message comes from Brandon reaching out to Argent (Evgeni) on Facebook with a follow-up regarding this entry. This rest is from a Reddit PM exchange between Argent and Brandon.
#3 Copy

BlackYeti

If you remember from the original version of Words of Radiance, Kaladin rammed a Shardblade through Szeth’s chest, after which Nale found Szeth and healed him with a fabrial. However in Edgedancer Lift tries to heal a girl who had also had a Shardblade rammed through her chest, and it didn’t work. Wyndle then explains that since she was killed by Shardblade, she cannot be healed at all, unless she is healed right after it happened. Since Nale was obviously not with Szeth and Kaladin to heal him immediately, this appears to be a contradiction.

Therefore, either Nale has some way to remotely heal someone (of which we have no evidence), "right after" is being used very loosely, or when Brandon changed the scene to have Szeth fall to his death instead, he also changed the rules governing what can or can’t be healed.

If so, what other rules could have been changed at the same time? Is there some additional significance to the change in wording from fabrial to Surgebinding for instance? Moreover this would be a somewhat significant precedent that Brandon is setting, and I’m not sure what to make of it.

Peter Ahlstrom

The way it worked in WoR's first draft is still canonical. There are subtle things that make the two situations different.

#5 Copy

Questioner

Can you put the Cosmere books into [chronological] order?

Brandon Sanderson

Here is the order that I have publicly confirmed. There are obviously other books and stories fitting in there. For those, you’ll just need to RAFO.

  • Elantris
  • The Emperor’s Soul
  • First Mistborn trilogy (The Final Empire)
  • Warbreaker
  • Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell
  • The Stormlight Archive
  • Wax and Wayne Era Mistborn (Alloy of Law)
  • Sixth of the Dusk
  • Future Mistborn trilogy
#6 Copy

Questioner

How do you make up names and words for your fantasy settings?

Brandon Sanderson

Mostly, I choose an earth culture (or two) to base my linguistic influences on. For instance, in the Mistborn books, I used French. It's obvious in words like Fellise, Renoux, Blanches, Delouse and Demoux. Less obvious is Kelsier, whose name would be pronounced in-world without the last R sound.

Questioner

Do you think you'll ever develop a language like Tolkien did?

Brandon Sanderson

Maybe. I did a lot of that in White Sand, which didn’t get published. I’ll do more for other books.

Questioner

Do you use Hebrew words?

Brandon Sanderson

The name Adonalsium is derived from a Hebrew name for God, Adonai and Aharietiam was derived from the Hebrew/Jewish term for the end of days acharit hayamim or אחרית הימים

#8 Copy

Peter Ahlstrom

The [Scadrian] calendars don't appear in Arcanum Unbounded, but they're mentioned on the map as old calendar/new calendar. Since the Lord Ruler actually kept the calendar the same, what this is referring to is only the placement of seasons, since those have to change from year to year because of the orbit.

#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

[Discussion of Lightweavers manipulating other forms of electromagnetic radiation]

But the ultimate form (That Brandon said would be too much to be practical both in needed stormlight and application) would be the control of Gamma Radiation. If this could be harnessed, Lightweavers could literally become mini nukes, or death guns. The biggest downside to making Gamma radiation would be the damage the lightweaver would most likely suffer. So gamma radiation is impractical but its a fun thought experiment. 

The best part of this whole speculation was how excited Brandon was about my train of thought. I don't know if anyone had brought up this train of thought before. But he was happy to remind me that things will get pretty interesting when Lightweavers discover lasers and start using them in combat.

#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Every Newsletter, I like to sit down and write something for you that will be a little different. Something that gives a window into what I’ve been doing lately, or things I’ve been thinking about.

Today, because of the White Sand release, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between Brandon the writer from the late 90’s (when the book was written) and today. I was 19 when I wrote the first draft of White Sand, and 24 when I wrote the second version (the one that was turned into the graphic novel.) Looking through it again, there is a lot about me and my writing that has changed.

The magic system is one. White Sand has a very cool magic system, where people control sand with their mind. The magic is powered by the water inside the person’s body, which is a neat system. You need to drink a lot in order to have power over the sand--but it’s on a tidally locked planet, where the sun never sets on that side of the world. (In fact, the sun recharges the sand’s power.) So everything is connected in a cool way. Sunlight recharges the sand, a person gives water to the sand (it’s actually a microscopic lichen-like substance living on the sand, and giving it its white color, that creates the magic. The Sand Master gives water to the lichen, fueling its magical life cycle, which in turn releases power that allows the Sand Master to control the sand.) But the sunlight also makes you more likely to dehydrate, which in turn stops you from being able to power the magic.

And then, it has the oddball--Sand Masters ALSO have the power to turn sand into water. I did this because it was cool to my then-writer brain. What if people who lived in a giant desert could make water? Wouldn’t that be useful? I use this to great effect in the story, and yet, it doesn’t fit the narrative. The modern me would never have added this power. It doesn’t fit into the entire system in a cohesive way. The rest makes logical sense; this (though I tried to justify it with worldbuilding behind the scenes) just doesn’t.

But in some ways, the old me was more willing to take chances. This is important to realize as well--I can't become so certain I know the way that things SHOULD be done, that I fall into doing the same thing over and over. I don't think the power to turn sand into water, ultimately, works in the novel. (Let me know what you think, if you read it.) But the fact that I was willing to add screwy, out-of-the-box powers to magic systems back then is a reminder that not everything in life is neat, able to be tied up with a bow. As much as I like playing video games, I don't want my books to feel like a video game--and that's a danger when every piece of the book, magic, and setting fits together to the point that it loses any sense of feeling organic.

A good lesson to learn from my old self.

I find a lot of the things I do in my writing now were there in these older books like White Sand, they just weren’t fully formed yet. I can also see my early self striving very hard not to fall into cliches, or to do just what was safe or expected. One of the book's two main protagonists, for example, is a black woman. I was trying hard to make sure my books weren’t only about white dudes. And yet, I was still young in my understanding of how to make a book feel real and vibrant, full of people who see the world in unique and different ways. For example, while I have a strong female protagonist, in the first draft she was basically the only only major female character. I did this a lot in the past--focused so hard on doing one thing well that I forgot to expand it to the greater story. (As a note, we changed one of the characters in the graphic novel version to be female, to help balance this out. It worked very well, and she's now one of my favorite characters in the whole book.)

It's hard to see past your biases in books though--and this is still something I fight against. I think great fiction somehow expresses the way the world truly is, the way the writer sees the world, and the way that people NOT the writer see the world, all at once. In this book, one of the main protagonists is dark skinned,. And yet, if you read the book, you’ll find that some of the villain groups are stereotypical, faceless, dark-skinned savages. While that same culture has some main characters who have real depth and characterization (thankfully) that didn’t stop me from relying on tropes for some of the broad brush strokes of the story.

Writing is a constant struggle of managing clichés and tropes, and figuring out when they serve you, and when they don’t. And the more you write, the more you become aware of things you lean upon--not just tropes like the ones I mentioned above, but things that are individual. I’ve been wondering a lot about these things with my own writing. At what point does, "Inventive magic system, religious politics, and people faced with difficult moral decisions" become a cliche to me any my writing? How can I push in new areas, doing new things, while preserving what people love about my writing?

Well, I'm still thinking about all these things. I'm very fond of White Sand, and when I was going back through it, I often found myself smiling. remember with great fondness the time I had back then to just write. There were no tours, no interviews, and nothing to distract me. I wouldn’t go back for anything, (I like actually having people read my books!) but there was something pure about that time, when I wasn't writing to deadline, I was just writing whatever I felt like at the moment. That's another thing I try to preserve today, the freedom to do odd projects now and then. Without it, I think I'd get very boring, very quickly.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy White Sand! This book needed far less revision to bring into graphic novel form than I thought it would. The dialogue was snappy, even after all these years, and the world was one of my more inventive. 20-years-ago-me wasn’t nearly as bad a writer as I sometimes pretend he was!

Event details
Name
Name Miscellaneous 2016
Date
Date Jan. 1, 2016
Entries
Entries 10
Upload sources