YouTube Livestream 2

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Name YouTube Livestream 2
Date Jan. 20, 2020
Entries 26
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#1 Copy


Let's use a time machine and change the past. Let's say you aren't asked to finish the Wheel of Time, and instead fix Liar of Partinel. How do you think the Cosmere fan experience would have been different if mysteries like Hoid and the Shattering had been explored earlier?

Brandon Sanderson

Boy, this is an excellent question, and it's hypothetical enough that I can ignore my cheeky answer to time machine questions, [which] is always, "Don't go back in the past. I've seen that story too much."

In this case... Liar of Partinel. Liar of Partinel did not work. I had already abandoned it and started working on The Rithmatist. So, if I had not been asked to finish The Wheel of Time, most likely I would have thrown myself into The Rithmatist more. And then, the question becomes, would have I decided to do Way of Kings? Or would I have gone and taken another stab at Liar of Partinel? And for your hypothesis, I will say that I did that. I don't think I actually would have. I think that I was disappointed enough in Liar of Partinel and realizing that this wasn't the right time, that I would have gone a different direction.

But, for the hypothetical, let's say I did. What would it have changed? Certainly, I don't know that I would have gotten all the way through the Hoid series before starting Way of Kings. More likely, I would have done Liar of Partinel as a standalone, then done something else, and eventually released Book Two of that. Because, remember, back then, I had envisioned this as a seven-book series. I was looking for a big epic to do, and I thought, "Let's do the Dragonsteel series. And I'll do several books about Hoid. And then I'll do the full story of Bridge Four," which was then on Yolen, not on Roshar. So, you would have gotten that story on Yolen instead, and then, who knows where that would have gone. When I release Dragonsteel itself (which won't be too much longer), you guys will be able to read the earliest version of Bridge Four, back before Kaladin was involved, and it was on Yolen. So, I think, at that point, we would have learned more about Hoid, but we probably wouldn't have pushed all the way to the Shattering, I don't think.

But, hypothetically, let's say I do. I don't know how much of a change that makes, honestly, over Stormlight. Knowing the personalities of the three Shards involved and a little bit more on Hoid certainly would change your perspective on them, but Stormlight, assuming... I mean, it's so hard to go into these hypotheticals, because if I write Dragonsteel with Bridge Four, then Bridge Four isn't in Stormlight. It's very hard to imagine where Stormlight goes. It's possible that I make it completely Taln's story, and Stormlight becomes a five-book series, which focuses on what's going to be the back five. That would be my best guess of where that would go. So, instead of ten books, you get five books, and we focus on Taln as a main character. And Kaladin just vanishes. We don't have Kaladin as a character. He's replaced by whoever takes the lead in Dragonsteel. But, of course, the flip-flopping, what actually happened is, Dragonsteel shrunk to three books that focus on Hoid, 'cause I realized I was doing in Stormlight all the things that I intended to do in Dragonsteel, and they were working better in Stormlight, and I no longer needed that Bridge Four sequence in Dragonsteel because it worked so well in Stormlight.

So, it is hard to say what exactly would go on. You would know the personalities of the Shards, how about that? You would definitely know who they are. You would know a lot more about Hoid.

#2 Copy


Did you write Amaram as an opposite of Dalinar or was he simply a bad guy meant to spur Kaladin?

Brandon Sanderson

I meant Amaram to be the representation of the corrupt side of the Alethi. Meaning they are all talk and very little heart. Very little of what they say, to the worst of the Alethi, gets to who they really are. They would rather be known as someone honorable than be actually honorable. And this I consider a major problem with their society, and I needed somebody to represent this. Part of it is, to represent a contrast to Kaladin’s ideals. This belief that lighteyes were these paragons of virtue. But I also needed somebody, you may say an opposite to Dalinar. In a way, he is an opposite to Dalinar, but more he just represents Alethi society. And I did want it to be that he wasn’t just all the way corrupt. When he makes his decision in Book One in the flashbacks, he is making a decision. There is a moment where he is considering. By the time you are seeing him in later books, that decision has taken him down a path that leaves him very far from any sort of redemption. But it was a choice. And he wasn’t just corrupt from the get go. But yeah, he represents what I feel would be bad about Alethi society. A kind of honor society that is more about looking honorable than being.

#4 Copy


Is Lift a translation of a Rosharan word for lift, or is "Lift" the actual sound people make when they say her name?

Brandon Sanderson

It is in translation. Most of the time you will be able to assume that a name like that is in translation. Wax and Wayne probably isn't, it's probably just their names. That one's the hard one to decide on, because I like the pun, but they don't have a moon on Scadrial so waxing and waning is not part of the conversation as much. But I always imagine that the languages on Scadrial kind of sound Earth-y, even though they have no relation to Earth whatsoever, because that's just how I built Scadrial, as kind of an Earth analogue. But most of the time, if you run into a name like Lift, it is in translation.

#5 Copy

Zin the Poet

Will we ever see Sixth as a main character again?

Brandon Sanderson

I have written the opening to a sequel to Sixth of the Dusk (which I will not call Seventh of the Dusk, though people like to joke about that). The problem is, Sixth of the Dusk takes place far enough forward in the future of the cosmere that writing stories about him is really tough without giving major spoilers to other cosmere series. In fact, I wrote this opening, and it has huge spoilers for other cosmere series. And so the question for myself is: do I try to write around the spoilers? Or do I release it with the spoilers? Or do I just wait until it's no longer spoilers to release it? I really like the story, the outline for it is sharp. I know where Sixth fits into all of this, even though he was a discovery-written character.

So yes, most likely you will, but I can't say when exactly.

#6 Copy

CH Braun

Can you lock a Shardbearer in a suspended cage, so they can't break out?

Brandon Sanderson

You would have to do one of several things. 1) Put them in a material that cannot be cut by their Shardblade. So that is going to come down to highly Invested materials, most of the time, or aluminum. So, put them in there. Or, you can... it depends on of they've got a living Blade or not. If they don't have a living Blade, you can theoretically (actually, it wouldn't be too hard) bind them in such a way that they just can't move the sword. If you can tie them against the wall, and you make the ceiling really high, so if they summon their Shardblade, what can they do? They can't get it around. You'd have to get it so the chain wouldn't be swipable up above, somehow. I can imagine that you could get them. I mean, classic ways to deal with Shardbearers is just to tie them up in a net and put them in a place where if they summon their Blade, it just is not leveragable to get them out. That would work.

Those are your two best bets, other than taking the Blade away and unbonding it from them, which is not too hard to do, depending on the situation.

#7 Copy


Is there anyone in the cosmere capable of winning a fight against Lan Mandragoran without Investiture?

Brandon Sanderson

No. I would not say that there is. Lan is the best swordsman I have ever written. Adolin, of the people I have written about, would be the closest, but Lan would win.

#8 Copy

Cody Skomauski

I've struggled with mental illness my whole life. Reading about your characters like Shallan, Kaladin, and Dalinar, that all have some degree of mental illness, start their path to recovery after forming a Nahel bond is very interesting to me. Is it a requirement for a Knight Radiant to be broken in some way prior to the bond? Where did you get this idea? Or was it just how it turned out?

Brandon Sanderson

There's a bunch of different answers to this, a variety of directions I can go. Part of it is, this is how it turned out. As I was developing the characters, I knew very early on, after the 2002 version didn't quite work, I knew what I wanted to do with Kaladin. And Shallan's character has always been a central feature of who she was, even before I came up with her modern version of the character. So there was a theme building there on its own. And when I notice a theme, I ask myself, "Is there a reason I'm looking at doing this? Why is it a theme?" And I realized this is something that was very interesting to me. I have several loved ones who have mental health issues that they deal with. It was something I didn't see done a lot in heroic or epic fantasy, and it felt very natural as a place to go. That the Knight Radiant bond is about making this bond with this spren and striving to become a better person.

It is not required in-world. A lot of people, even in-world, think that it is, because it was so common. My kind of external answer to that, even though they don't know this in-world, is that people who have struggled with these kinds of problems are more open to walking the path that one needs to walk to become a Knight Radiant. The two go hand-in-hand, the kind of self-awareness, and the ability to see yourself, to be reflective, just goes hand-in-hand with working on some of these issues. And at the same time, I felt it just worked really well with the themes of the story, the themes that Dalinar has of redemption. And also, I think that the extreme circumstances that a lot of characters put through stories like the ones I write do lead people to have some difficulties, right? Even PTSD, and things like that. There's just a lot that goes hand-in-hand together with this.

So the answer is, yes, it happened to be that way. But once I noticed it happened to be that way, I asked myself, "Is this a theme I'm doing on purpose, even if I haven't noticed it?" And the answer to that was, "Yes, it is."

#9 Copy


If you had to write a nonfiction book, what topic would it be about?

Brandon Sanderson

Writing. That is a bit of a softball.

I have considered it. One of the reasons I do things like Writing Excuses and my class is because they use different parts of my brain than writing does. If I sat down to write about writing, I could just be working on one of my stories, most likely, and I'm most likely going to just start doing that, because I'm behind on everything. So, a writing book is unlikely to happen. But if it did, it would be a writing book of me talking about motivation, and stuff like that, which I don't know if anyone wants to read, but I find very fascinating.

#10 Copy


Does the term Brightlord/Brightness have anything to do with eye color? Or is it related to the fact that money and artificial light are synonymous?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. The problem here, answering this, does it have only to do with eye color? No, of course not. But eye color, and the fact that money glows, are both things that have been themes in Vorin culture for thousands of years now. And because of that, the two are very closely interlinked, it would be hard to pick which one is causing this and pull the other one out.

So, it is both. If you would an Alethi, they would probably say it has more to do with eye color. But culturally, the fact that money glows is just really deeply embedded into the way they think about light and the way they think about wealth and that sort of thing.

#11 Copy


What changes, if any, would you like to see in the fantasy genre for this upcoming new decade?

Brandon Sanderson

I get asked questions like this on occasion, and I do have trouble answering, because if there are changes I want to see, I just kind of do them in my writing. And it's hard for me to feel that I should speak for an entire genre, particularly one so varied as fantasy.

I have been very interested by some of the trends that have been happening lately in fantasy. I think fantasy has gone some really interesting places, with different types of stories and different types of backgrounds leading to fantasy novels. I would certainly like to see that continue. It's been very good for the genre, I believe. But I don't have, really, any axes to grind about where the fantasy genre should go. Which is very different for me now than when I was young, trying to break in.

Maybe that simply comes down to the fact that right now, I am the establishment, rather than the person looking to buck the establishment. So, for someone like me, the fantasy genre seems like it's in a great place, because people are buying my books! But, when I was young... I don't want to say I was more self-righteous, but I think in my desire to see my style of fantasy do better, I was less willing to acknowledge that, as far as taste goes, it doesn't matter what you love in stories (within normal limits), as long as they are books that people are writing with passion and you're enjoying reading, right? So, when I was younger, I might have said, "There are too many Tolkien-esque fantasies being published!" Where now, I say, "Hey, people, they like Tolkien-esque fantasies. That's great! Everybody loves Tolkien!" What's wrong with fantasy being Tolkien-esque if people enjoy it?

So, I'm much less likely to try to say what fantasy should be, and just more enjoying the fact that I feel like we have, in fantasy, the single most interesting and diverse genre on the vast face of the planet. It is the genre where anything can happen, and your imagination is unlimited. And I love that about the genre, and I certainly would like to see that continue and to see where it goes.

#12 Copy

Deana Whitney

Why aren't there more pets in your worlds? Will we get more in future books?

Brandon Sanderson

One of the reasons there aren't more pets is because my main series is The Stormlight Archive, and there's just not room for both spren as companions and pets. They kind of lfill a similar roll. You can say, for the same reason, we don't have them in Elantris. And in Mistborn, we basically have OreSeur the wolfhound filling that role. And so, I kind of slotted into that role in the story these sapient companions to the main characters. And there're just too many things to juggle sometimes by adding too many (even characters that are obviously just pets) into stories.

Now, that doesn't mean I won't do it now and then, but that's the main reason you're not seeing as many. But, I mean, you could argue that the aviar are pets. But you could also argue that they're not, that they are these sapient companions, because aviar have more than animal intelligence. But, at least I've written a couple of stories with pet-like entities.

#13 Copy

Glen Castergene

Where did you research addiction, and what made you put a character into your books who was battling addiction?

Brandon Sanderson

So, this character that was battling addiction actually started, first appearance was in Mythwalker, which is the book that became Warbreaker. It was my ninth novel. (During those days, for those who don't know, I wrote thirteen before I sold one.) This character really stuck with me; it was me trying to do something that is very different from my own personal experience, looking to try to make a character sympathetic who struggles with something that a lot of people struggle with in our world. And one of my goals in putting characters like this into my books is to try to help humanize, because we all have these issues we deal with, and we all have different things to our psychology, and some of them can be pretty difficult to deal with. Some mental illness can just be a real kick to the head. And I see a lot of fiction that does a poor job of humanizing people like this.

And this was a character that, when I wrote him, I didn't know what I was doing, but the character really connected with me. And so, I put the character back in, I added them to the Stormlight Archive, and then I started to do my research. You can read, in the acknowledgements, some of the people that have been very helpful in me understanding addiction to the point that I hope I can get it right in the stories. But it is really important to me. There was something about writing this character that made me understand addiction, and people who were dealing with addiction, in a way I hadn't before. And that's something that I love about writing.

The other thing is, I didn't want magic to become a panacea, to get rid of hard things in people's lives. That's kind of important to me, because I think it can be very dangerous to write, "Well, the way to get over this sort of thing is just to get some magical powers!" (Which, of course, doesn't work in real life, in the real world.) And I don't want to not give people who deal with things like this the escapism that some of us will get my being able to read a book about someone who has a magical cure to an affliction they're dealing with. That is part of why they read, is this ability to escape from our problems into a world where the problems become different, and perhaps more surmountable. I acknowledge that what I'm doing does make that difficult, but I feel like the humanizing of people who are, maybe, not psychonormative or who deal with serious issues like addiction is more important to me.

And the writing felt right. At the end of the day, there's all these reasons that we can give for why I do things, that are intellectual reasons. But at the end of the day, it just feels right. The characters I'm writing feel like themselves, and that's who they are. And to not write them well would be a betrayal of trying to tell this character's story.

#14 Copy

Eric Culver

How do you feel about fans naming their kids after your characters? My wife knows two people with kids named Kaladin?

Brandon Sanderson

I find it a mark of great respect and honor that people are naming kids after my characters. It also means that, maybe, some of my names aren't terrible. My very first book, Elantris, when I published it. Elantris was the book where I kind of went out there with my linguistics. And several of the reviewers noticed. They were like, "These names are just so hard to say and so weird. Sanderson needs to calm down on the naming!" So, when people name their kids after characters then I'm like, "Oh, good. At least they're not so weird that people won't name their kids after them."

It's really cool. I remember when I met my first Rand, my first Perrin, which both happened before I was working on The Wheel of Time. It's always been really cool to me. I like it. I like meeting Arwens. I wish that fantasy names were a little more frequent in our society. I think that they're very cool.

So, it's awesome. I will try to live up to the respect you have shown me by naming children after my characters.

#15 Copy

Bruno Veil Fernandez

Which character had an easy concept, but was harder to translate onto paper?

Brandon Sanderson

Sazed was harder to translate to paper. I often go back to him, because his arc in the third Mistborn book is one of the hardest that I've ever writen. It took a lot of revision. And on paper, it was pretty easy. "Character gets depression, because everything he's believed in turns out to potentially be a sham." That is really hard to write. Turns out that a mental affliction that encourages you to not get out of bed, not do anything, and tries to push you to be inactive meshes really poorly with trying to write characters in a novel. Getting depression right can often be soul-crushing for the reader and really boring, which is quite a challenge, because we do want to get it right if we're going to include characters with depression. But, at the same time, a person who has trouble getting out of bed every day can wear on you to read. And it's one of those things where being realistic adds a whole host of challenges.

And my advice, if you are doing this, is to make sure that there is either some external force forcing them to keep going, or some sort of sense of progression, even if it's downward progression, that the reader can watch and feel a sense of motion to the character's arc.

#16 Copy


If you had to choose a creature from Roshar to be your pet, what would it be?

Brandon Sanderson

It would be a larkin, obviously. This was the little beasty that was given to Rysn in the second book. They are very cool in that they feed on Investiture, and that turns out to be a really handy power to have. If you're not going to have magic of your own in the cosmere, then having the ability to eat other people's magic is really handy. Plus, they are the closest thing that I've had appear on-screen in a non-humanoid form to a dragon so far in the books. They're little lizard wasp dragons. Yeah, wasp-dragon, I would say, is what a larkin is. And that would be a really cool thing to have.

#17 Copy


If you could have one of your characters made as an android and unleashed upon the world, who would it be?

Brandon Sanderson

That's an interesting phrasing.

Lift. Unleash Lift upon the world, and see what she does.

#18 Copy

Untamed Banana

I'm very curious about who writes the Ars Arcanum?

Brandon Sanderson

Ars Arcanum are all written by Khriss. She is a character from White Sand, which was my first novel. Never got published, but we did the graphic novel versions of it. She appears on-screen at a party with Wax in the third Wax and Wayne book. She dances with him.

#19 Copy


If you were basing a magic system in part on real-world physics or chemistry, how far down the rabbit hole of science would you go at making it?

Brandon Sanderson

Most of mine are based on real-world science and physics, but with a hefty dose of fantasy.

The Rosharan magic systems are based on the fundamental forces, right? That's where they started. That's not where they ended, right? You can really only recognize gravitation from the fundamental forces as actually still being a thing in the Rosharan magic system. But the idea of fundamental forces. I'm like, "Well, what would the weak force look like as a magic system?" And I just kind of went crazy off from that.

So, I tend to use the real-world physics as a very squishy springboard from which I go some direction off on some weird tangent and come up with a magic system. Allomancy was based, in part, off of vector physics. But, I mean, I write fantasy. I do not write hard science fiction.

And so, if I were gonna take one and really try to stay close, then I could see myself going pretty deeply down the rabbit hole. But then, I just kind of ask myself, "What am I breaking? What am I changing? What am I trying to achieve? What's the affect I'm going for in doing this?"

#20 Copy

Stephen Kundy

If you were to write Elantris now, with all the writing experience that you've gained over your career, would you change anything?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, there are a lot of things I would change about Elantris. I have an autistic character in Elantris that I did not do a very good job with. It's more of a pop science version of autism than it is an actual in-depth look at what it is to live with autism. My prose is pretty rough, back then. Prose has never been my strongest suit, granted, but I do think I've gotten a lot better over the last twenty years. (Published fifteen, but twenty years ago, I wrote it.) I think my prose has improved dramatically over the years, and I think my ability to do dialogue has improved, and a lot of things like that.

Would I change any major plot features of Elantris? No. I'm actually fairly pleased with Elantris, plot-wise. There are aspects to it, right? I mean, Raoden's character arc is primarily externally driven. He is not a character who is going through a big change internally. But that was intentional. When I sat down to write it, the book I had written right before was about a deep and angsty character who had one of these very, very dramatic character arcs. And I was tired of angst, and I wanted somebody who dealt with external pressure in a fantastic way and was put into a very extreme situation externally and was someone who was kind of a little more like me in that that didn't really faze him, and he did his best with the situation. And I like that aspect of it. It does mean that some people who read it think Raoden isn't as deep as someone like Kaladin. Which you are perfectly fine in thinking that, but I think they are just different types of characters. I wasn't trying to write somebody angsty in Raoden, and I am pleased with how he turned out.

Sarene, as a character, was always kind of me trying to write someone who was a little more confident than they, perhaps, deserved to be. And that's a personality trait of Sarene. I actually, when I was plotting Stormlight, I once described Jasnah to someone in my writing group as "the person that Sarene thinks she is." And I like that about Sarene. She's young. She's got gumption and grit. And she's not quite as capable as she thinks she is, but you know what? Thinking you're capable can get you a long ways, as long as you have a minimum level of capability. And she does.

And I'm very proud of Hrathen as an antagonist. It has taken me until The Way of Kings and Taravangian to find someone that I feel is as strong an antagonist as Hrathen from my very first book. I'm still very pleased with how he turned out.

#21 Copy

John Robert Dax Dyson

Where did the inspiration for Kaladin's fighting style came from?

Brandon Sanderson

Classic spearman fighting is based off of rank and file spear formations. Nothing too spectacular. I did mix it with a little bit of Eastern spear-fighting, specifically some Chinese spear-fighting, but really your classic spear-fighting technique is pretty multicultural, what you're gonna want to do with a spear. I add flourishes, which come more from katas now and than than they do from actual real-world fighting.

Though a good resource for this is Matt Easton's channel on YouTube, Schola Gladiatoria, because what he will do is he will have people doing historical martial arts, and they will do ten bouts of a person with a spear versus a person with a spear. Most of these are European, but spear-fighting tends to be pretty similar across cultures. And just watching some short spear fights, or spear versus sword... I specifically watched a bunch of those bouts for Adolin's spear-versus-knife fight that we had in Oathbringer. Just really handy, the fact that he films large bouts like that and puts them on the internet.

#22 Copy

Austin Alager

How much of the cosmere did you plan ahead when you started? What advice would you give for writing an extended universe, aside from making each book stand on its own?

Brandon Sanderson

You've got the most important one there already, so good for you.

I did not have most of the cosmere (in fact, any of the cosmere) really ready when I wrote Elantris. I have a big advantage in that my early books were terrible and didn't get published, and so when I did get published, I knew what I was doing, I had already written a bunch of these books, I had already started putting them in the same universe, and I was able to do a reboot, basically, from the beginning by releasing Elantris and Mistborn. If those early books had been published, then the cosmere would be a lot less cohesive than it is, because I was able to say, "Wow, someone bought Elantris (which was the first book I wrote back in the Cosmere sequence, back before I really knew it was going to be the Cosmere sequence)." When I put the pool in, I had no idea what the pool was. I just put it in. I'm like, "This is a cool thing. I'll figure out what to do with it." But, by the time I was writing Mistborn, I had put pools into things like Aether of Night, and I had the whole of Adonalsium (I came up with that while writing Dragonsteel, which was the book I wrote after Elantris). So, it was really fortunate that I was able to basically do a reboot and restart continuity by publishing Elantris and then writing the Mistborn trilogy, knowing by then about the whole cosmere and things like that.

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Blaine Lasarr

How did you decide which human personality aspects to assign to Shards? I feel like there's a real-life story here.

Brandon Sanderson

It's a little less real-life story, and a little more like how I divided up the metals in Mistborn. More along the lines of, "I need each of these emotions or attributes to be distinctive, and I need each of the characters, the Vessels, to be distinctive who hold them." And so, because I am building sixteen of these things, it means that I have to do a lot of work to make them all individual, and things like this. And my worldbuilding in that area was less along the lines of "story I had in my life causing me to do this" and more "man, I have to do sixteen of these, let's try to make them all distinctive. No, those two seem too similar; let's do a different one there." And lots of trial and error along those lines.

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Emma Mensinger

How did you decide the forms that spren will take when they appear? For example, rainspren looking like melted candles?

Brandon Sanderson

Part of this is just, I wanted interesting visuals. Part of this is kind of playing a little with mythology. So, the spren started as personifications of weather, and things like that. The earliest version of Syl, she was just the personification of the East Wind, and there were four Winds, which is a very classic idea. And that evolved over time into all of these spren taking a little more of a shinto approach to it than a classical Greek mythology approach to it, where it started. But a lot of these were then me looking for things that would be bizarre, interesting visuals, and somehow reinforce what I was trying to do.

For example, rainspren are a great example. The way they stare up and look like a candle are both reinforcements. During the Weeping, when they are most common, spheres stop working, and you've gotta start using candles. The way they stare at the sky unblinking, it's unnatural. You're staring at the sky, and the rain hits your eyeball, you're going to blink. And they just look up at it, and I like that kind of contrast, that dissonance.

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Kai Ellie

If you bonded a spren, what do you think its personality would be like?

Brandon Sanderson

Boy, I have no idea. I like it when spren contrast. So it would probably be hyper-emotional, would be my guess. 'Cause it would make for better storytelling that way.

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John Dean

Inquiring about the possibility of new things coming to the Reckoners world?

Brandon Sanderson

Actually, yes, I am working on something new with the Reckoners right now, that I can't quite announce yet, but it is likely to be audio original. I think I talked a little bit about that in State of the Sanderson.

Event details
Name YouTube Livestream 2
Date Jan. 20, 2020
Entries 26
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