Waterstones Cytonic Release Party

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Name Waterstones Cytonic Release Party
Date
Date Nov. 23, 2021
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Entries 11
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#1 Copy

Argent

Without spoiling Cytonic itself, there appear to be certain parallels between the Nowhere and some of what's going on in the Realms of the Cosmere. Was that a leftover from when Skyward could have been in the Cosmere? And can you talk about how the story was going to slot into your primary universe?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that is a leftover; you're noticing something there that is correct. I can't say how it would slot in, because back then, before I moved it into the cytoverse (and really created the cytoverse, when I started to connect it back then), when it was in there, it was far, far from what it is now. And basically, all I had was some of the mechanics of the Nowhere and the kind of general framework of the story. I didn't even ever outline it that way.

But there are things I can't do in the Cosmere that I can do here that I think are fun, and so I am doing them.

#2 Copy

Christian

With the worlds expanding so much in book two and then even futher with the novellas you did with Janci Patterson, do you have almost like a cap in your head? Like, we can only go this big? What is the potential for this cytoverse in your head at the mometn?

Brandon Sanderson

One of the things, as I've been writing on the cytoverse, is I've wanted to have a good science fiction space setting to tell stories that don't fit in the Cosmere. So one of the goals of the cytoverse is to give me that receptacle for stories that I want to tell going forward. And so, where is the limit? I'm not sure that I've put a boundary on it. I know what Spensa's story is, if that makes sense. And that's where my eyes are right now. Like all of my settings, even with something like the Cosmere, the goal for that is always to give me the means to tell the stories I want to tell. And where I place a story is really depending on, as it grows and develops, what sorts of themes do I want to deal with, and things like that. If you read through the Skyward series, there are some story hooks for things that I might tell or I might not tell, going forward, if those stories decide that I need to write them.

#3 Copy

Christian

In Skyward, there was some of the most unique alien designs I have, at least, read. I don't think anyone else has done a smell that's sapient. It was just so unique. And I loved it because, after I read about the figments, then I would smell something in real life, and it just starts to infect your world. And especially with the Diones and the whole birthing process and kind of testing out having a child, it's just so unique. I wanted to ask if you have any stories about how you came up with any of the races in Skyward.

Brandon Sanderson

Sure. The Diones came from the weird idea... Like a lot of things, it's just like, "What if you could audition for having different children? What if you could pick which one's personality's gonna fit in your family really well?" I audition characters. Like Spensa (we are gonna release these with the collection of the novellas), I did three different versions of Skyward before I settled on, I think, the fourth one for how her personality was going to work. And that's not uncommon for me, just be casting different characters. And as I cast those different characters, I'm like, "What if you could do that for your family?" That's obviously horrible; as authors, we are horrible people, we think of things like this, and we probably shouldn't. But the whole point of sci-fi/fantasy is to be able to ask those what-ifs, to deal with a society built around this sort of idea. So I run with it and hope that people understand that I'm not actually saying you should be able to boot your children out if they don't match your personality. It's more like, "Hey, what if this existed?"

On a more serious note, that's kind of what science fiction is about. Let's do a dry run on what would happen if we had this experience with an alien race. We've gotta think about these things. Not necessarily the weird stuff I come up with, but what happens when we meet an alien race, and they're like this or like that? How do we treat them? All of these sorts of things are worth exploring, I think.

With Starsight (and we have a little bit more of this in Cytonic), I just, again, wanted to expand the world and kind of kick Spensa in the face with how different the universe is compared to what she was expecting. So I forced myself to stretch a little bit extra on some of the alien races, where I might not have in another context. But I just wanted her and you to be like, "Oh wow. This is not as simple as I was expecting it to be." And anytime you can reinforce that with something as simple as adding a character who acts very different, that's the sort of thing I want to do.

#4 Copy

Christian

One thing that I've enjoyed through your books is the cheeky, sassy sidekick style of character. In the Stormlight Archive, it's usually the spren; or you've got Nightblood in Warbreaker. And, of course, in Skyward, it's M-Bot, and to a lesser extent Doomslug at times. But I feel like, going into Cytonic, the M-Bot storyline and the M-Bot relationship with Spensa is getting a little... I don't wanna say "deeper" to discount the other ones, but it's getting more interesting. Can you talk a bit about what you wanted to do here with M-Bot?

Brandon Sanderson

M-Bot is a mystery. M-Bot is a mystery specifically set up to be used in future books. In the first book, M-Bot is a companion, but also kind of a tool. The story is about finding this spaceship and fixing this spaceship and using it to achieve what Spensa wants, which is to become a pilot. And getting a friend out of the deal is like a side benefit that she was not expecting and that we weren't expecting. But that friend comes with a lot of mysteries. What happened? Why is he like his is? And things like that. And that's a Chekov's Gun, that's a gun on the mantle of me promising "look, we're gonna get to this eventually."

And one of the kind of key tenets for my storytelling is to always remind myself that whatever the character, whoever they are, in their heads, they are not the plucky sidekick. They might be a friend, they might know that they are helping someone with a larger story, they might see themselves not necessarily as the central hero of whatever. But they also don't see themselves as a plucky sidekick; they see themselves as a person living a life, and they're the protagonist of their own story. And that's something that I constantly want to keep in my mind, and be giving hints and expansions where it's possible in the narrative. And so these two things are colliding: M-Bot is a mystery, and M-Bot also is a protagonist. But he's a protagonist that doesn't accept that he's one. And this source of tension is what's driving us toward Cytonic, which is much more about M-Bot than the previous two books have been.

#5 Copy

Christian

In terms of foreshadowing (and you are a planner), when you were starting Skyward, did you already go way to the end of book four in your mind? Or how far did you go?

Brandon Sanderson

What works best for me for a series like this is to make sure book one is working, and then build the series. And that's what I did with Skyward. Skyward was a specific idea; I knew that I was setting up the cytoverse, and I had ideas of where I would have gone with, for instance, Jason's story in Defending Elysium, and things like that. So that was a backdrop that I had for the general setting. But Skyward itself, I wrote the book, and then I sat down and said, "All right, what is my outline for my series? Now that I really have a good handle on who this character is, what is her arc?" And that's where I decided how long the series is. That's why Skyward is four books instead of three; it was the right length at that point for this series. And I usually do a pretty decent outline of the rest of the series at that point, while I still have a chance to revise the first one to make sure that everything is consistent and fitting.

Going into the fourth book, I still had that in line. It's mostly where I placed it, just with some... Cytonic was one of the hardest writes of my career. This is partially Covid. There are other things playing into this. This is kind of a domino effect, also, of how I changed Starsight, and all of these things coming together. But it looks vaguely like the thing that I imagined it being when I started years ago, which always feels nice.

#6 Copy

Carrie Griffin

Did you intend, when you started the Skyward series, to have the first three books in completely different settings? Will the fourth book also be in a different setting, back on Detritus, or in a mixture of settings?

Brandon Sanderson

I like to go new places in my books. You see this in the Mistborn series. By the third book, we're not in the same setting. You see these even in the Stormlight books, we move... I don't wanna always be in the same place. We're slowly evolving the setting. Now, it's slower in those other ones; these are more fast-paced and a little more jarring. That was done intentionally, for that reasons we've talked about already, that I needed to kind of kick Spensa in the head a little bit. But the fourth book is going to kind of come back full circle, if that makes sense without giving too many spoilers.

#7 Copy

Marvin Rosh

Are all the cytonic abilities form Defending Elysium still canon?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, they are. And some of those, one of the things that I've done is making it so that different people who are cytonic have different weights of talent in different areas, if that makes sense. So things that you're not seeing are things that Spensa's not good at, but you might start seeing as we explore more characters in the setting.

#8 Copy

Lews Therin

If I remember correctly, Janci mentioned that guys had wanted her to help with Skyward for a while. Did you approach writing it any differently with the idea someone else might be coming in later in mind?

Brandon Sanderson

I really didn't, honestly. I'd like to say that I did, but when I was writing Skyward, it was all hands on deck, we have a problem: Apocalypse Guard has failed, and if I don't turn in a book, it's gonna throw off a whole bunch of scheduling things. And so because of that, I just wrote the best book I could

Now, when I started working on the sequels, I had it in the back of my head, because originally I had talked to Janci years ago about the idea of "what if I wrote the first book and then you wrote the sequels?" And that was kind of the original idea with what I might have been doing with Skyward back then. But this is, again, before I had even an outline. This is back when it was a lot more vague. And I always felt bad that we had talked about doing that, and then I needed to accelerate it; because Skyward was gonna come after Apocalypse Guard, the whole series. And after jettisoning that, everything kind of went crazy. And that's why I went back to her and said, "I knew we talked about this; do you still want to be involved? I've got this idea for novellas." And Janci has been delightful to work with in that regard.

#9 Copy

Argent

Starsight introduced us to several interesting alien species, the figments being among the most outlandish of them all. Can we expect more lore about them, especially given their connection to a certain spaceship's tech?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. We are gonna do more about the figments; it may not be in the main-line series. It's probably going to be in future explorations of the setting, where we kind of get into the ideas behind that tech and where it came from and why, and that sort of thing. Doesn't quite fit into this narrative. So, don't expect that in book three or book four. But we are going to probably do more novellas, and things like that.

#10 Copy

Marvin Rosh

With "cytoverse" being a fan-coined term, are there any other instances of terms from the fandom that you have adopted yourself?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm sure there are instances, but I bet the fans are better at picking them out than I am. Not sure. I don't think I was ever called BrandoSando before the fandom got a hold of me, and I know I've used that occasion. But I wouldn't say that I normally think or refer to myself in that regard. But a lot of times, I get things from the fans who are like, "Will you please just canonize this so that the wiki can have a page?" And so occasionally I canonize things because they are bugging me about it. I'm sure there are other ones, I just can't think of it.

#11 Copy

Shaun

Are there any genres you haven't published in yet that you would like to try in the future? I would love to see your take on a horror/thriller, maybe even a collab with Dan Wells.

Brandon Sanderson

I actually outlined (briefly; it's, like, one-page outline) a horror story, a straight-up horror story. A Junji Ito-style horror story, actually. Whether I'll ever have time to write that or not is a completely different thing. So yeah, I totally would love to do a straight-up horror if I can find the time, but it's in that slot of the Brandon what-if universe, so to speak. Where do I find the time? But it's real cool; it's real cool. I think people would love it.

Event details
Name
Name Waterstones Cytonic Release Party
Date
Date Nov. 23, 2021
Entries
Entries 11
Upload sources