Read For Pixels 2018

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Name Read For Pixels 2018
Date
Date Sept. 1, 2018
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Entries 21
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#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I had a lot of fun writing Spensa. She's a character I've been working on for many, many years. This very imaginative and passionate woman who wants to be a fighter pilot. And it was actually very tough to get right, it took me years to get right. And that first chapter is my fourth version of the first chapter. I should be... I'll probably post the other versions on my website once the book's out. But it is one of the hardest books to start that I've ever written. Just getting that tone down and getting it right and making her feel right was very, very difficult.

#2 Copy

David Zampa

Do you ever get so creatively exhausted from producing so much that your mind feels like an old wrung-out sock? And if so, what do you do to get yourself back on form?

Brandon Sanderson

That's an excellent question. I have an advantage over a lot of writers in that I was really bad at this when I started. That may not sound like an advantage; but what it meant was I wrote for a long time, trying to get to a level that I was equal to some of my peers, who were much more talented, I feel, than I was when I began. And because of this, because of these long years learning to be a writer... And certainly, I can't say I didn't have some talent. Some of what has happened is raw luck of the draw that I was able to learn how to write. What happened is, I got very accustomed to changing projects frequently and trying new things. And that process became very interesting and exciting to me and became the process by which I recharge. The way I recharge is by doing something new. And it has prevented, so far in my twenty-some years of writing, me from really ever experiencing severe burnout. Once in a while, I get really tired of the story I'm working on. Generally during the fourth or fifth draft of that story (or if it's Memory of Light, the twelfth draft). Sometimes, you get very, very tired. I do. But, because I have this sort of fallback method of "do something very different," that spark usually just lights me right back up, and I get really excited about doing something new.

And so this is why you see me writing a lot of different things. It's why you see me releasing Oathbringer, a large epic fantasy. Followed by my next book being the Legion book in about two weeks, which is a detective modern-day with slight science fiction elements. And then a YA space opera [Skyward]. This is why I hop between these different things. And really... I haven't gotten burned out yet. I'm always excited for the next things.

Cassie Roberts

How do you not get overwhelmed by all the books that you want to write?

Brandon Sanderson

There's a very good question in that also. Because, as I get older... When I was young, my brain, I could tell myself, "Well, I'll be able to write all of these someday. I just have to put them in order, and write the ones I'm most excited about right now." The older I get, the more I realize I'm not gonna be able to write every idea that comes to me. And I have this core line of the Cosmere books that I'm going to write. But a lot of times now, it is a little overwhelming to realize, "I have this really great idea for a story. But it's not quite as great as the other ideas in the list. And it just is probably never gonna get written." And there's kind of a story triage that goes on in that regard. And it can be a little overwhelming sometimes to realize, "I just can't do this story." And that's something I'm coming to terms with, the older I get.

#3 Copy

wiresegal

Could someone burn an Allomantically inert metal that was Invested, like Invested silver or Invested lead?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm gonna give you a no on this one. I rarely give straight up "no"s, but you've got to remember that the Allomantic metal is the key, and the power behind it is gonna be inaccessible without the key. Now, there are more things that are Allomantically viable than have been discovered or talked about. But that's the problem right there. If it's not the right metal, if it doesn't provide the right... I'll just stop at key. If it isn't the right key. We'll get more into this as the Cosmere progresses. That's a very rare no for me. Usually you're gonna get a "well, it depends."

#4 Copy

WeiryWriter

Are you planning on using what you learned from writing Renarin and Steris to improve the characterization of Aiden when you write Elantris 2?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Aiden is one of my... regrets is probably the wrong term. But I talked earlier about coming to terms with the fact that as you grow as a writer, there are certain things that you will have done less well then you can do them now. I consider Steris and Renarin my... Again, apologies in the long term. I tried very hard when I wrote Elantris. I was not the writer I am today, and I did not have access to the helpful readers who could point me... you know, by writing Aiden a little pop culture-y, the pop culture version of someone with autism, I was able to be told by people, "you know, this is kind of a stereotype." What Aiden is does exist, but very rarely, and if you wanna have a more complete picture of it, you should read this resource or talk to this person. That's one of those areas that, here I thought I was being all forward thinking. And I did something that perpetuated a stereotype at the same time. That's not something I think you need to be embarrassed of, as a writer, as long as you're willing to listen and do better.

#5 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Vin stands out to us at the Pixel Project because she went through a lot of abuse in her young life, physical and psychological, at the hands of family and people that she should have been able to trust. She is a survivor, and with the help of her new friends she eventually finds self-worth, she realizes she can overcome her past trauma, she grows as a person. The question is, why did you decide to write a character with this kind of background, and what kind of research did you do to write the character who is an abuse survivor?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. So, two part question. First up: How and why did I decide. There are two main parts to this. One is, I knew I was writing in the world of Mistborn, a very less than perfect society. Let's just put it at that. The pitch for myself was, what if Sauron had won? What if you had to grow up in Mordor? I felt that if I had a character who was untouched by that, that the story would lack sincerity. If the only main character was someone who had somehow avoided that, there would be a certain... like I said, lack of sincerity. There would be a certain, sort of... I feel that, when you're writing stories, one of the things you should be looking to is to let characters who are part of a problem, solve the problem, rather than people outside the problem coming in to fix the problem. It's generally stronger storytelling, and generally more respectful of people who have had these life experiences themselves. So, I knew I needed someone who had been through a lot of trauma, because of the things we needed to change in this society.

The other part about it was planning... I am an outliner, with my plots and my worlds and my characters, I discovery write. And oftentimes, what I'll do when I start a book is I'll start with multiple attempts at writing a person into that world. It's almost like I have a bunch of actors come in and try out for the part. I wrote three very different first chapters for that book, and the one that worked was the Vin you ended up with. What drew me to her as a character was the mix of strength and vulnerability at the same time, that she has. It's hard to explain why I came up with that, because really, as a writer, you're just kind of searching for someone whose voice works and whose soul matches that of the story. And it gets very mystical, for me, when you talk about characters, which I don't like, I like to be able to break things down, and talk about how it works and why I made the choice I did. But I made the choice of Vin because Vin was right. Part of that was, she was solving a problem that she had been directly... that had directly affected her life.

How did I go about doing it right? This is where the best research that I get is reading the stories of people who are willing to share them with the rest of us. Reading firsthand accounts from people who are willing, because that takes a lot of bravery. It takes a lot of... it's not something I could ever ask anyone to do, but it is something that people offer. On their blogs, and on forums, and spending your time listening to what people say, and trying to get the characters to express the way that people would express it if they could write that character in their story, is one of my main goals. In fact, I think that's my prime mandate as a writer, is, try to write the characters like the people who have their life experience or beliefs would write them if they had my skill as a writer. And, so I spent a lot of time on blogs, I spent a lot of time on forums, and I wasn't ever posting on these, I was just listening. And then I made sure I had some good readers. Shallan has gone the same way. I can directly credit some very helpful beta readers who have had life experience similar to Shallan's, which have made sure, at least I hope I do this right, and always do better, that I'm walking a line between not sensationalizing, and not glorifying, but using this person's life experience to help them become the person that they want to become.

Anushia Kandasivam

And is that why we don't learn about the characters abuse on screen - it's never on screen, it's always in their thoughts - did you purposely write it like this because you didn't want-

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. This was very, very conscious. I feel like one of the biggest traps that writers in fantasy fall into, is using abuse of women, specifically, but all people who are in positions of lacking power, as a means of proving how bad your villains are, or how heroic your heroes are. I think that there are certain authors who are really good at doing this without making it a sense that this is how the world is. So it's not me pointing fingers and saying you shouldn't do that, but I felt that if I was to put it on screen, I don't think I could handle it without sensationalizing it. And by making it there, but never explicit, I think everyone knows it was there, I think everyone knows that Vin suffered abuse, but I could write a story that can deal with overcoming these things without having to sensationalize the thing itself.

#6 Copy

Oversleep (as Droga Królów)

Do Heralds need to consume Investiture in order to stay in their body?

Brandon Sanderson

No. Good question. Excellent question. They're asking if they're like Returned and they need to consume a breath each week.

#7 Copy

TheMadLiteralist

Deep lore question: Why is the storm that goes backwards called the Everstorm and not the Reversestorm?

Brandon Sanderson

Heh heh heh. That is actually a RAFO, which stands for Read And Find Out. I can explain the terminology a lot better after upcoming books are out.

Anushia Kandasivam

Okay, cool, so you just have to wait.

Brandon Sanderson

You do have to wait on that one.

#8 Copy

MiToRo94

Honor has Stormlight and Odium has Voidlight, is there a Cultivationlight? If so, can an Invested person use it as a third magic on Roshar or is a boon/curse the only magic of Cultivation/Nightwatcher?

Brandon Sanderson

There is more! I’ll just say that, the rest is Read And Find Out. You are theorizing in an accurate direction.

#9 Copy

Ravi

Your Shardworlds have a lot of societies of varying social development. So, apropos of this charity, what would be the penalties of hitting your wife in various worlds: Roshar, Scadrial, Nalthis?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, wow. The problem with this question is that no world is a monoculture. There are going to be a lot of different cultures on a lot of different planets, and a lot of different social mores, and a lot of different laws. I'm not sure that that's a question I really want to delve deeply into. 

Footnote: This event was hosted by the Pixel Project, a charity focused on preventing violence towards women.
#10 Copy

Reilly Russell

Are kandra/mistwraiths naturally immortal? If so, is it magically sustained, or natural, like the immortal jellyfish? If not, what is the natural lifespan of a kandra/mistwraith?

Brandon Sanderson

No, they are not immortal, but they are very, very long lived. If you look at the First Generation, you'll see an example of aging happening. They will eventually die of old age. They don't suffer from some of the ailments that, say, humans do, and it takes a bit longer, and there is some magical sustaining of them going on.

#11 Copy

R'Shara

Brandon, you said we'd know by the end of OB what Gavilar's black spheres were, but we still don't know what they are. What are they?

Brandon Sanderson

People have guessed very correctly about this, so I think I am justified in saying that Voidlight will become an increasingly important part of the story as things progress. I think there are two main theories on what Gavilar's spheres are, and I think they are both very valid theories supported by the books. I'm not pulling something very sneaky. It is along the lines that you are theorizing.

#12 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

We've got three questions in one. Lots of people are asking, are you visiting Brazil, or Southeast Asia, or Hungary, or anywhere in the EU in the near future?

Brandon Sanderson

Okay. Alright, so the upcoming trips that I have agreed to... I agreed to Brazil, but we are deciding when the best time for me to visit. They are translating into Portuguese, Way of Kings, right now and I think it will be... I will go out to help when that comes out. I was going to do it this Christmas, but the publisher was like... we need to wait till at least Way of Kings is out. So it's going to get delayed a little bit, but I have said yes, just recently, to Argentina and Columbia, which have book fairs very close to one another in the spring of 2019, that should be my next international trip, is to Columbia and to the Buenos Aires book fair. I don't have the exact dates, but I think they're around April.

Oh, there's my wife, Emily, she has come.

Emily Sanderson

Hi!

Brandon Sanderson

She is the one who organizes all of these things and tells me when I'm going where. So, I think we said yes to Argentina and Columbia but we aren't 100% confirmed, correct?

Emily Sanderson

Correct.

Brandon Sanderson

We said yes to Israel's ICon Science Fiction Convention, which is probably next year but also not confirmed. There is a good chance I will be living in France for a month next summer, cause my dad is going out to visit and I'll come visit him. And I should be able to hop around and visit some of you in Poland, and in Spain, and in France, and, you know, the UK, which I make fairly regularly. 

2020, we have started exploring Scandinavia because I have a lot of invites from Sweden and from that region. So, theoretically I'll get back to Oslo, during that trip and that thing. So that's what I know for certain, internationally, that is at least on the table, that we're working on.

#13 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Let's talk about geek culture. So, geek culture in general, including science fiction and fantasy, has had its share of critics saying that it's still too male-dominated despite there being a rising number of prominent, well-respected, well-known female authors. Plus, there's still plenty of hostile misogynist and sexist behavior by male geeks towards female geeks. What do you think needs to be done to make geek culture as a whole, whether it's comics or gaming or books or conventions, more welcoming for women and girls?

Brandon Sanderson

Wow. I don't know if I'm the right person to ask, right? I am at the top of this social structure, and so asking me this question, I mean... I'll try to give an answer, but let's point out that I may not be the best person to answer this question. I see a lot in Magic: The Gathering circles, where you go to the game stories, and there are just so many guys who are...

I wanna say this the right way. I have had female friends, who when they visit, feel like they are being evaluated by everyone in the room based on their dateability, primarily. And I think this could be a big part of the problem, is that... maybe not emphasizing in your head, that when a woman enters our realm... It shouldn't even be "our realm," right? There's my bias speaking right there. But when we look at women who walk into an area that has a lot of male dominance, and then everyone hits on her? I can't imagine how off-putting that would be, right?

I think we need to listen. I think, when women explain their experience in some of these circles, we need to be less dismissive. I mean, these are, like, 101-level things. Oh, man, I see these posts, and the immediate explaining of why they're wrong, and I'm like, "This is a person's experience. Their experience can't be wrong. It is what they experienced in life." It's not there for argument. It's their expressing who they are, and what they've been through.

So, what can we do? Boy. We can certainly listen better. We can try to make these atmospheres less focused on, like I said... do a little less... You see how much I'm struggling with this? Because I feel I need to listen better on this topic myself. And I need to have other people telling me. I'm not the one who needs to be saying what we can do.

I do think there's still a problem. There's obviously a problem, because people who are writing about it are saying there's a problem. And they're the ones who have experienced it. And I think that Sci Fi/Fantasy, in particular, we like to pride ourselves on being forward-thinking. This is what Science Fiction's all about, let's look to the future and try to imagine a better world. Sometimes, we imagine that better world by displaying a terrible one and saying, "Let's not become this." But either way, it's kind of about trying to imagine a better world. And fantasy, I think, doesn't look backward. Fantasy is talking about the world we live in right now by using certain metaphors and storytelling.

So, yeah. We think that we're very good at this. And we need to be willing to acknowledge that we're not. And be willing to listen about how we're not. And be willing to change in the ways that people who are not me tell us we need to change.

So, I don't know if that's a good answer to your question. Because it's a hard question for me, specifically, to answer. My response would be, "Well, let's here what women who are having problems with... yeah. How can I even say it without...? Yeah, let's listen to the women, and see what they say.

#14 Copy

CrazyRioter

Have you ever considered writing more female friendships?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, you know, that's something that I noticed, right? That's another one of these things we do a bad job of in fiction. Particularly female friendships. Like, you see the bromances happening a lot, particularly in fantasy, but we tend to see, particularly written by men, a lot of the "one woman among a large cast of men", and this sort of thing. And certainly that's not to say that there aren't women who have a lot of friends who are male. But it is certainly something I think we get wrong a lot in fantasy. And it's one of those kind of things you don't notice. But I have noticed it about my fiction, that I'm really good at guy friendships, and I have kind of ignored female friendships. I actually took a stab at doing a better job of this in Skyward. So you can tell me if I've done a better job of it or not with this book.

#15 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Now, you have been so very incredibly supportive of our Read for Pixels campaign and of our anti-violence-against-women work as a whole. Could you tell us, why do you support the cause to end violence against women and what do you think authors can do to help with the cultural change needed to eradicate violence against women and girls?

Brandon Sanderson

I think that one of the main things we can do is something that I mentioned a little earlier. This is specifically to the other writers out there. Using violence against women, specifically because they are women, as a main plot point in your stories, is not just kind of creating bad stereotypes, it is often times lazy writing. We do it because it is the easiest answer, and because a lot of media takes it as the easy answer, because it elicits immediate visceral responses in an audience. Kind of in the same way that potato chips are bad for you, I think some of these things are bad for us as a society. They are unhealthy, but they are easy.

It is easy to beat up someone's mother, so that the male protagonist has a motivation to go about their life and their story. And this isn't to say we shouldn't ever have people in crisis and characters saving other characters. But what we need to do is we need to look at and say, "Am I taking the easy route? Am I doing this because I've been shown a lot of media, where the way to make a male character motivated is to kill his girlfriend and to give him a revenge plot? Am I doing this just because I've been told this is the way that media is? Or am I doing this because this is actually the story I want to tell?" I don't think any of us are saying that stories should not include women who are in violent situations.

We shouldn't stop writing female characters who get into violent conflicts who are not action stars and things like that. I think what we're all saying is, we should stop the lazy storytelling and we should stop using stories where violence against women because they are women is the way that we further our plots. And so I think as writers, we need to make better stories. We need to not reach for the easy answer, we... your stories will have more depth, they will be more interesting and they will last longer if you will reach a little further and you will find motivations for your characters that are different. And, I do not uphold myself as the ultimate paragon in this regard. I have a lot of characters who part of their motivations is based off of loss that they have experienced in the past. And you're going to write characters like this too, and it's okay, but examine it, and ask yourself. And, you know... remember that even if you're not writing for your story to be a... something that is upheld, as the way people should be, you are contributing to the climate of storytelling that people who read those stories will assume is the way that stories are to be told.

Why do I support this cause? Because I am... I feel very passionately that this is something that we need to step up on, as a community, as entertainers. And that we should stop using sensationalized violence against people, not just women, but children and people who are in weakened social-economic situations as sensationalized ways to make our main characters look awesome. So that's my answer on that, and we can also, like I've said a lot in this particular broadcast, we can listen a little bit better. And I think it'll make us better writers. 

#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

There's an okay chance I'll be at Worldcon next year in Ireland. Not guaranteed, it's gonna depend on when I'm in France and things like that, but yeah.

#17 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

So, Brandon, you just introduced a really amazing female character [Spensa] to us. Your female characters throughout all your books are resourceful and independent. Some of them are leaders, some of them go through very interesting journeys of growth and self-discovery. Some of your female characters, like Vin and Sarene, they have mentors and teachers who are men, but their decisions about who to be and what to do are always their own. They always have agency. Was it a conscious choice to write these female characters and their journeys like this, and can you tell us if the process was easy or difficult?

Brandon Sanderson

So, there are a number of different responses to this. One is, I came into fantasy by way of some excellent female novelists that I highly recommend. Barbara Hambly was my first experience with fantasy, and then Anne McCaffery, Melanie Rawn, and Jane Yolen were kind of my introduction to fantasy. It's how I got pulled into it. To the point that when I was first given a David Eddings book, I was hesitant, because I was like, "Is this a genre guys can write?" was my honest reaction to that. So, when I started writing my own books, I knew I wanted to do a good job with this, but I was really bad at it at the start. It was very embarrassing to me as a writer. And this happens to all new writers. There are things that you want do that, in your head, you imagine yourself doing very well, and then when you start out, you just do poorly. And the later in life that you start writing your stories, the more you're generally able to recognize how poorly you're doing things that you want to do well. And my very first book, that I didn't publish, particularly the female lead was very generic, and written very much to fill the role of love interest rather than to be a character. And I recognized it, even as I was writing it, but I didn't know how to do it differently. And it took practice. It took a lot of work. It really shouldn't, on one hand, right? Write the characters as people. rather than as roles. That's what you have to learn is: everybody is the hero of their own story in their head. They're the protagonist, whoever they are. And writing the characters so that they view themselves that way, and so they have autonomy, and they aren't being shoved around by the plot or by the protagonist, or things like this, but it's just very hard to do. I had a lot of early readers who were very helpful. I often credit my friend Annie as being one of the big reasons why Sarene eventually ended up working in Elantris. And she gave me some early reads, and things like this.

But, you know... it is hard to abandon our own preconceptions that we don't even know are there without practice, effort, and somebody pointing them out to you. And it was just a matter of practice and trying to get better. And I still think that there are lots of times I get it wrong. And you mentioned Mistborn. And I was really determined that I was going to do a good female protagonist. I try to stay away from the kind of cliched term "strong female character." Because we don't talk about "strong male characters." We talk about characters who are distinctive, interesting, flawed, and real people. And I was determined to do this with Vin. And I feel like I did a pretty good job. But, of course, I had a completely different blind side in that I defaulted to making the rest of the crew that Vin interacts with all guys. This is because my story archetype for Mistborn was the heist novel, the heist story, and my favorite heist movies are Ocean's Eleven and Sneakers and The Sting, and these are great stories. I absolutely love them. But they all are almost exclusively male casts. And that's not to say that, you know, someone can't write an all-male cast if they want to. But it wasn't like I had sat down and said, "I'm intentionally going to write an all-male cast." I just defaulted to making the rest of the cast male because that was the archetype that was in my head, that I hadn't examined. And so, when I got done with those books, I looked back, and I'm like, "Wouldn't this have been a better and more interesting story if there had been more women in the cast?" And I absolutely think it would have been. But becoming a writer, becoming an artist, is a long process of learning what you do well, what you do poorly, what you've done well once and want to learn how to replicate, what you've done poorly and want to learn to get better at. It's a very long process, I think, becoming the writer that we want to be.

#18 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Now you just talked about writing characters that are flawed. Your female characters are generally flawed in some way, as are all people, nobody's perfect. And of course there are women who are villains. So my question is, when you write female characters, do you ever feel pressured by gender and cultural stereotypes to make them likeable or relatable? Do you ever get any flack for not making a female character likeable enough?

Brandon Sanderson

I have not really gotten flack. I think these... this is the sort of thing that we worry will happen to us, and we use an excuse... it as an excuse, just kind of in the back of our mind without it actually really being an issue. I think, readers want interesting characters who are strong character archetypes, that doesn't mean unflawed. And I think, as readers that's what we want. But there are long standing sort of assumptions, that you can't do this, or can't do that.

One of the things that I kind of had to push through when I was writing, and again - I am not the perfect example of how to do these sorts of things. There are people, particularly women authors, you should listen to more than you listen to me, talking about things like feminism, right? Go watch Feminist Frequency, or something like that if you want to... if you want to get a real in-depth and well done look at it.

But I noticed at least for me, one of the things that happens is, you start off, determined to not fall into the stereotypes, whatever it is - you know, we'll talk about in terms of sexism, right. So what you do when... men do this a lot, but women do this with male characters also. This does happen, you just don't see it as often, where what happens, you say "I'm going to make sure, that I am writing this person who is different from me, in a way that's not going to be at all offensive." And so the first step you take is you make them just awesome. And you see this in a lot of media, particularly in a lot of media where there's an all male cast and they put one women in the cast. They make sure that women is good at everything, is really, really strong and is a great action hero and things, and this is like the step you take to make sure that you're not falling in the trap, which is a bad trap, of the women always needing to be saved.

But I think there's a step beyond that where you start asking yourself, "Well, how can I make all of my characters interesting? How can I make sure they all have a journey, that they're all flawed? That they.. that instead of... there's a certain level of sexism to putting someone on a pedestal, as well as to making them always have to be saved. And certainly, it's a step forward to trying to avoid fridging all of your female characters, or things like that, but if they don't have autonomy, if, you know the character is different from you, is only there to be in a perfect ideal paragon, then that's not doing a justice to your characters either. And that's a trap that I think, we all as writers, particularly male writers like me, fall into a little too often. 

Anushia Kandasivam]

So, I guess, do you just have to be brave, and do what you think is right?

Brandon Sanderson

You also have to be willing to fail, and that's really hard. And you have to be able to own up to doing something poorly, even something you thought you were doing well, you have to own up to the fact that you might have gotten some things wrong and that's hard. That's just super hard. We're all very sensitive about our art, and we're very sensitive about trying... we want to tell a good story and do well by it, and it's hard to listen to any sort of criticism and so... but the more you listen as a writer, the more, I'm convinced, you become a better writer. 

#19 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Now, parents are usually the most influential role model in a person's life. You're a father, Brandon - as a father, what do you think parents can do to help prevent violence against women and girls in future generations, and get boys involved in helping to do so?

Brandon Sanderson

One of the things that I've noticed, having three little boys, is the weird way we sometimes look at consent.

Just, as little boys roughhousing. And I'm not here to say, lets stop roughhousing and things like that. But I think it's a good general rule, that when your little brother is saying, "Don't tease... Don't tickle me, please stop." Then, we say, "Yeah, you stop." When somebody says, "Stop touching me," it doesn't matter if it's your little brother. It doesn't matter if it's your mother. It doesn't matter if it's your father. You don't say, "Stop touching me," number one, and not mean it. And when someone says that, you listen and you stop tickling them. You stop jumping on them.

My boys love to roughhouse and I love to play with them and have them jump on me and things like that, and there's nothing wrong with that. But when they jump on somebody else and they say, "Don't do that," we need them to know, at least that's what I feel, I need to let them know, "Listen, every.. other people have the right to tell you no and you have to stop, right away. That's not a thing that you, that you then giggle and do it again." And that's just one of the areas that I've seen, that... and the thing about it is, it's a bigger, bigger... It makes our home way more serene, when that rule, and my kids understand that rule and they know they can say, "Stop tickling me," and it means something, everybody's happier. Right?

And so, I don't know, that's one way, teaching my kids to respect everyone, right? Respect... When somebody expresses their opinion and their emotions and the experience they've had, your response, is not to say, "No." You can say, "Well my experience has been this," that furthers the discussion, but saying, "No, you're wrong about your own experience?" I think that is something, that we all as a culture need to start teaching people to pay attention to. 

#20 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

We have a lot of different characters in your books. There are, of course, misogynistic characters in your books, and there are storylines that feature violence against women. But generally, the male/female relationships between the main characters are quite equitable. The heroes are respectful of women in their plots and decisions. But oftentimes, the line between consent and coercion in fantasy isn't always clear. Whether it's epic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance. Do you think this is an issue that writers in the genre have started tackling successfully in recent years?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. I do think... This is an issue, at least in my culture, American media culture, that stretches back pretty far. We showed my kids the original Star Wars movies, which I still love. But Empire Strikes Back, you talk about a line between consent and non-consent, and there's a scene where Han Solo backs Leia into a corner and tells her that she wants him, when she says she doesn't. And it's really uncomfortable to watch in the current climate and realization that our entire society has emphasized a certain sense of masculinity through our media for many, many years. And it's not something that I would have ever noticed if people hadn't started pointing out, "Hey, there's a problem here."

And I do think people are doing a better job with it. I think we, as a culture, though, bear quite a burden for the way that we have glorified this kind of behavior, even in some of our best and most beloved media properties. And this goes back to my philosophy, though, that we try to do better. We don't... Pointing backward and vilifying the creators of Empire Strikes Back because they were part of it is not my goal. My goal is for us to say, "Hey, we can do better than this. We should do better than this.

And I guess one of my pet peeves, as a side topic to this, is that showing good relationships between people in committed relationships is just not a thing that media is good at, because media wants to have conflict. And conflict is story. But because of that, what we end up with is a whole lot of really dysfunctional relationships being held, and it's hard. Like, when I sat down to write Stormlight Archive, I wanted to write a misogynistic and racist culture that you didn't hate, but that at the same time, you're like, "Yeah, you know... it is." And how do you do that without setting it as a standard? You want to approach it and say, "Look, this is... through a lot of history and a lot of cultures, cultures that human beings have created have been pretty misogynistic."

So, how do you write a fantasy book that doesn't glorify this, but still says, "This is how cultures often are"? And there's a really fine line to walk there. And one of the things I think we, as a culture, need to do is, we need to get better about distinguishing between, "Hey, this is how this character is, and this is how people should be." And I'm not sure if I have the answers on that, at all. But one of the things I do like to do is to show, people can be in relationships that have some conflict, but still who genuinely love each other, and genuinely do work their problems out like rational human beings do in the real world. And you can still have conflict and a great fantasy story with people whose relationships are functional.

#21 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Stories are one of the most powerful ways of bringing about change. In your opinion, how can authors strike a balance in their storytelling between raising awareness about things like violence against women, while telling an engaging story, without being pedantic or preachy?

Do you think it's important for influential authors such as yourself, who are read all over the world, to make a conscious effort to include characters in your stories that show reinforcements of respecting women as people and as human beings?

Brandon Sanderson

Definitely a big "yes" to your last one.

This is a big issue, and I'm glad you asked it, because it's something I've thought about quite a bit. At its core, it comes down to, "How do you write a story that explores difficult questions without preaching." Because, at the end of the day, we're picking up an epic fantasy book because we want to go to a new world, enjoy this new world, and have an interesting adventure. And we're not picking up it up because they want Brandon Sanderson to lecture them. And certainly, there are authors I do read to be lectured. So it's not a blanket statement, "This is how someone should do something."

But for me, there's a couple of core tenets. One is the one I've already mentioned. Which is, if I'm going to put a character in (which I think I should put a wide variety of characters in) approaching questions from different directions, make sure that I am researching that person's viewpoint, people who have that viewpoint in the real world, and make sure I'm doing the job that they would want me to do with their position, their subculture, their belief structure, and things like this.

But that kind of plays into another big pillar of what I think my duty as a writer to do, which I've expressed it in the books, I've gotten it through things I've heard other authors write. Which is "Raise questions. Don't give answers." I believe that if you are raising questions, and having multiple people who are all sympathetic disagreeing on this question, or struggling with this question in different ways, it innately makes the reader start to say, "Well, what do I think about that? And is it something that I need to think about more?" And not dodging these topics, but also not coming down with long sermons about them, I think, is the way that I want to be able to approach them.

I often share this story, so I apologize if some of you heard it before. But the book that got me into science fiction and fantasy was Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly. And Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly, is criminally underread in the Science Fiction/Fantasy community. I have read it again as an adult, it holds up, it is a fantastic novel. What made Dragonsbane work for me? I was a fourteen-year-old boy who was handed this novel by his English teacher, and she said, "I think you are reading below your level. I think you would like something a little more challenging. Why don't you try one of these books on my shelf." And that's the one that I ended up picking up. This book should not have worked for a fourteen-year-old boy, if you read the Cliffnotes on how to get a reluctant reader to read books.

Dragonsbane, if you haven't read it, is about a middle-aged woman who is having a crisis as she tries to balance having a family and learning her magic. Her teacher has told her she can be way better at the magic if she would dedicate more time to it, but her family takes a lot of her time. And this is her main character conflict through the story. Now, it also involves going and slaying a dragon, and things like this. And it's a wild adventure with some excellent worldbuilding, and a really interesting premise. The story is about having to kill a dragon, her partner has been asked to slay a dragon, he's the only person who's ever slayed a dragon, but he killed a dragon when he was in his 20's, and now he's middle-aged, and he's like, "I can't do that like I used to anymore." And together, they go down and try to figure out how to kill a dragon when you're an old person. But this story should, on paper, not have worked for me, but it was the most amazing thing I'd ever read in my life.

Meanwhile, my mother graduated first in her class in accounting in a year where she was the only woman in most of her accounting classes. She had been offered, as she graduated, a prestigious scholarship to go become a CPA. And she actually turned that down because of me. She was having me as a child, and she decided that she would put off her education and career for a few years. She is now the head accountant for the city of Idaho Falls power plant, so she did go back to her career, but she put that off for me. Now, as a high school kid, a middle school kid, if you told me the story, I'd be like, "Of course she did. I'm awesome. I'm me. Of course she would do that. That's the right thing to do." I read this book, and I'm like, "Oh, ditch your kids, woman. You could be a wizard!" I got done with this book, and I realized: I just read a fantasy book about slaying a dragon. High fantasy, all the stuff that should have just been brain popcorn. And yet, I got done with this book, and I understood my mother better. And it hit me like a ton of bricks, that a story could teach me about my mom in some ways better than living with her for fourteen years, because I was a stupid kid who wouldn't listen, and assumed he had the answers. But when I saw through someone else's eyes, who was very different from myself, that changed the way I saw the world.

This is why stories are important. This is why it is important... if you're writers out there, it's why your stories are important. When you ask, "Well, what can I write that's new?" You can write who you are. And that will be new. And that is valuable in and of itself. Those stories have value because you're telling them. And this is what stories do. And this is how, I think, I want to be approaching telling stories. I want people to read the stories, and I don't want them to feel lectured to. But I want them to see the world through the eyes of someone who sees it in a very different way. Maybe that'll make them, make you, make all of us think a little harder about some of the things in our lives.

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Name Read For Pixels 2018
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Date Sept. 1, 2018
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Entries 21
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