r/books AMA 2022

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Name r/books AMA 2022
Date July 7, 2022
Entries 16
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#1 Copy


You've teased that we might get movie/television news before too long...

With so much of the cosmere left to write, are you concerned about movies/shows catching up to you? Would you make them hold off on a Stormlight Archive show until you finish, or are you comfortable letting adaptations get ahead of you?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on how comfortable I get with the television and movie format. When Stormlight happens as a television show, I want to be deeply involved. I want to write some of the episodes, I want to be co-creator--and I am just not ready for that yet.

If that is the place where we are (me being that deeply involved) then getting ahead of me is not that big of a deal. If it is not, if I'm not so deeply involved, I think I would resist letting people get ahead of me. This is tied up with some intricacies of how I am creating the cosmere--which lets me play with this a little. For example, we aren’t calling the first 5 Stormlight books era 1, but there is a 10 year time jump between books 5 and 6. So if I were to sell Stormlight, I could conceivably sell the first five--which will be finished fairly soon. (Knock on wood.) Then we will see how things go with the back five, afterward. (If I'm done with them, for example, or if we need to wait between the two series.)

Regardles, jofwu, I am worried about this; it is something on my radar.

#2 Copy


Some very successful authors have difficulty in delivering books to wrap up the series. Why do you think this happens, and what is the best attitude and healthy behaviours die hard fans should use to encourage authors to deliver the books they are hanging out for?

Brandon Sanderson

Anytime you get into “should”, that is dangerous ground. I am a creator and I do not think I should be dictating fan behavior. That’s your world as a community to decide upon; I prefer to let the community do it's thing.

I do not think there is one good answer to this. (IE, why other authors are sometimes slow.) One common answer is that it has been a hard decade for a lot of people. Man, there are often difficult things about this last decade that have been draining to people. Then add on to that personal issues, and it is very hard for some of my colleagues to be creative in the way they have to be to write a novel.

Another big reason is that many authors tend to be “discovery writers.” Their biggest strength tends to lie in character interaction and believability in those characters. They give their characters so much volition. A discovery writer does not know their ending, they just start writing and let the characters interact. While those interactions often shine, the authors often have weaker endings. That is not to say that all discovery writers have bad endings, it just takes much more revision. It tends to be very daunting and slows them down towards the end. It is simply an outgrowth of their writing style.

Add on top of that expectations, and maybe never having finished something on this level before, and suddenly your stress is through the roof. These authors, I should remind, just started out like the rest of us. Unknown and just trying to tell a good story. To suddenly have the world watching can be extremely daunting, and there's really no way to practice for this. It can honestly be debilitating.

I think all the various fan reactions are understandable and in some ways they are necessary to the fandom’s psychology. I do not visit the places that exist to complain about me, to complain about my style and tropes. But those places existing is healthy. It is healthy to have a place to talk to people with similar opinions to you or to just post some memes and have some lols.

It can be unhealthy when it becomes harassing behavior. One thing I do not like is how our society treats people who like things. If you speak about liking something online, people will try to rip that away from you. This rubs me absolutely the wrong way. This isn't to say all criticism and disagreement should be done away with. I like is interesting conversations between people who disagree. I disagree wildly with Peter (this is Peter Ahlstrom, my VP of editorial at my company) about Into the Spiderverse. He could not stand it, while it is one of my favorite movies. (He didn't like the framerate of the animation; it drove him crazy.)

Fan criticism also becomes toxic when it becomes harassment to the creator. I do not know where these lines are, though. It's a tough one, because simply posting your opinion online shouldn't constitute harassment.

If you want my opinion, if an author says they are working on a book, they are. I know these people; they want to be done as much as you want them to be done. But there are mental, emotional, and sometimes physical difficulties preventing it. At this point, there really isn't much you can do. And I bet that the harassment of these creators has slowed the release of these books.

#3 Copy


Which of your worlds would you most and least want to live in?

Brandon Sanderson

Whenever I get this question, I say, “Can I go write quickly a short story in a really nice world where nothing is wrong, they have the internet, and authors can make a professional living as a novelist? Can I do that? I'll go quickly write one up and go live there." Because I don't really want to live in any of the worlds. I like air conditioning. Air conditioning isn't a thing in basically any of the cosmere worlds. You can make it work with various magic systems, but in most cases, to make it work with those various magic systems, you're going to have to be pretty high up in the social structure. Because most of these worlds have not gotten equality and things down, even to the level that we have. These worlds are not necessarily great places to live. And then beyond that is, generally there is some world ending event and/or disaster coming that I wouldn't want to be around for.

If I have to pick, I usually say Scadrial because they are closest to the tech level I want. But they are also the most commonly subject to world-ending things, because there's gonna be four series, at least, in the Mistborn world. Maybe Nalthis would be better, because the fewer books I write about a place, probably the less likely the world is to end anytime soon.

It is definitely not Threnody. We'll just say that.

#4 Copy


In regards to the perpendicularities in the cosmere, were you at all inspired by the pools in the Wood between the Worlds in C.S. Lewis’ “The Magicians Nephew”?

Brandon Sanderson

So it's gotta be back there in the back of my brain, but I so vaguely remember the Magician's Nephew that I didn't even remember these exist, when you're saying that. So the answer is a solid “maybe.”It might be there in the back of my head.

I wrote the pool into Elantris not even knowing what it did, because the cosmere had not been constructed at that point. And then when I was building the cosmere, I was writing Mistborn, I'm like, "All right, I know I want it to be some sort of portal." (I actually did know that, because I had put iconography in about it being a portal.) I'm like, "Where does it leave? All right, I'm going to build out the whole cosmere. I now know what these are." I had a pool like this in Aether of Night that I had as kind of a receptacle for a certain cosmereological things (or what became a certain cosmereological thing). I solidified that, but it's not like the pool that I wrote into Elantris when I put it there. Aether of Night was after Elantris; I just put it in there. "It's a portal to something" I had not built the cosmere yet. It is the first book where I started to think about that sort of stuff. Basically, you have a Hoid appearance, and that's it that was intentional; everything else was retrofitted onto Elantris.

#5 Copy


If you were to write Mistborn now, as an experienced author rather than as your first published series, what differences would you have made to the story/world/characters?

Brandon Sanderson

A couple things. There are 3 regrets, well maybe 4. I really wanted to write the first book about Vin and have a female protagonist and do a good job with that. It's something I'd done poorly in the past (during my unpublished years) and I really wanted to do a good job on this one. But then, I made her the only woman on the cast, really. So I would fill out the cast with more women.

I got tunnel vision and because all the stories I was using as blueprints (Ocean’s 11, Sneakers, the Sting, etc) had overwhelming male casts, I defaulted to that. This is the problem with bias--you end up perpetuating problems, just kind of going along with them because that's what you've always seen done.

That is not to say that having an all male cast is bad. In some cases, chosen deliberately, it makes sense. I would not change Bridge 4; as bridgemen, it makes sense to have an all male group. (At least at the start.) But with Mistborn, I was actively using Vin as a way to show that with the metallic arts evening out things, the difference between male and female strength was minuscule. By having no other women on the team, I undermined my own message.

Another one is that I think that I broke Sanderson’s first law. I used un-foreshadowed power in the ending and it led to a less satisfying conclusion than I would have liked. This is actually what taught me I needed to better with this, and if you watch my lectures on Sanderson's Laws, I lay it out more clearly.

Third, in the first half of Hero of Ages, I don't like quite how much traveling there is. I don’t think it gets across the feel that I want. I would have set more in Luthadel. It feels out of place in retrospect because that story (the story of Mistborn) is sort of the story of that city. I could had the same book, but set it in a fortress within Luthadel. That would make the city's "character" remain in the third book, and let you see the progress (or in this case, the opposite) of the world through the way the city looks.

When I make a film of Mistborn 3, I think I would move much of the action to the city. 

#6 Copy


If you could invite another author in to contribute to the Cosmere, who would it be or who would be on your shortlist?

Brandon Sanderson

To write in the Cosmere, I would have to pick someone I know very well. Isaac is at the top of the list, he knows Cosmere almost as well as I do. After that I would probably look towards my friends, like Dan Wells would be high on the list. It would be nice to have all these amazing authors write in it but I feel I need more of a solid base than what I have right now. Meaning more expansion, more experience of people who are not me writing in the Cosmere and guidelines on how to make a good Cosmere story. It would be very hard to go to some of the great Sci-fi authors and ask them to write in the Cosmere, like “you only have to read 15 novels!”

#7 Copy


This question concerns Mistborn Era 2. Aluminum at this time is supremely rare and quite expensive, and Wax is seen lamenting his profound lack of aluminum guns and bullets fairly often. However, couldn't he fashion a "Poor Man's Aluminum" of sorts by coating his guns (and potentially bullets) in a thin veneer of iron, then Feruchemically charging it? You've noted that metalminds can still be pushed, but much less than un-Invested metal. This could help him, in the absence of aluminum. So, is there a reason he has not done that?

Brandon Sanderson

The layer you would get by just that little coat would be so small that it'd have very little effect. Now, there's a pretty good argument for putting it into bullets. The problem there is: are the alloys that make good bullets going to work very well? Now, granted, aluminum doesn’t make for great bullets either. But any aluminum alloy kind of gets the property of aluminum. Where any iron alloy does not necessarily get the property of being able to allomantically or feruchemically interact with it in the right way. Can you get there? It's an excellent question that I perhaps should explore. I like this idea. But it's harder than you make it out to be. It is a good idea, though; it's a pretty good idea.

#8 Copy


How much of Roshar, its history and its magic system did you have developed before even writing the first book? I’ve seen so many inconsistencies from other authors when developing worlds over multiple books, but I can’t fault yours. How do you maintain that consistency when writing?

Brandon Sanderson

I actually did make some problems with timeline issues. That is a problem when you have multiple flashbacks, it’s like Tetris, a very complicated game of Tetris. Getting all these events in people’s pasts to line up with the time needed to get them where they are today is a big issue when telling this kind of story. For me, Stormlight is a different beast from my other books, my friends and I have an inside joke we call worldbuilder’s disease. It’s where an author spends so much time building their world that they don’t write the story. If you don’t sit down and write you won’t learn what the needs of the book are. Generally, your worldbuilding should be done in service of the story* (*: if that is fun to you). Generally you want to ask, what are the themes of my book and how is the worldbuilding going to help me. I tell you all this to say that I made an exception to Stormlight, I sat down for 6 months and wrote an extensive lore book which is now an internal wiki which we use. The only reason that this worked the way it did was that I brought on a great team quickly. Karen and Peter are the unsung heroes of this, they are able to spot these mistakes before they reach print. You’ll see in the next book that I have brought on people whom I am calling Arcanists. These are fans who I have asked to check over specifically world building. This is very important to me because epic fantasy is about making you believe that it is real while you are reading. I don’t want to be one of those people where this is an inconsistency and breaks like William Shatner on SNL.

#9 Copy


Will we ever see Marsh world hopping?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO, but good question.


I’d love to see a book with Marsh in Roshar. Any chance of it happening?

Brandon Sanderson

There is a chance, but I'll have to RAFO for now.

#10 Copy


With everything else you guys are doing next year, what is the plan for the Stormlight 4.5 novella?

Brandon Sanderson

Still on my list to do when I finish Stormlight 5. I think it needs to be written; I am excited by it. We will see what happens, because Stormlight 5 is almost assuredly 2024 now. And that's partially the Secret Projects, but not as much as you guys probably would assume.

The main reason has been movie and television stuff. As jofwu anticipated in the first question, I still can't say anything. This is the year the Hollywood came calling, and came calling in a very big way, even before the Kickstarter. They saw that, basically - all of Hollywood was watching and seeing that fantasy can work that is not Game of Thrones. The Witcher, and Shadow and Bone, and plenty of other excellent properties. I mean, Arcane is fantastic; another fantastic example. They're like "Oh, people like these and it can be done if it's not George R.R. Martin". And every one of those studio execs has had someone say "Well, get us one of these," or "get us more of these."

And every one of them went to BookScan, which is the ratings for how books sell. And every one of them sorted the BookScan and said, "Alright, what authors are there out there that have not had anything made?" And, far as I can tell, I am definitely the best selling science fiction and fantasy writer who's never had an adaptation. I might be the best selling author in the world who's never had an adaptation. That's hard for me to say, because it's harder to penetrate different subgenres and figure out where their sales factors are. And, you know, it depends what you count as adaptation.

Basically, they all arrived at the same name, and then the Kickstarter happened. They were already calling, and then they started calling more. And so this is the year where I've had to take numerous meetings with all of the streaming services and a large number of the various studios and producers and things. And that takes time. Just takes a lot of time to be on all of those meetings.

We will bear fruit from this eventually. But I'm being very careful. In fact, when I did my call with Netflix, I led off by saying to them, "I am both very fortunate and very unfortunate. Very unfortunate in that I've never actually had anything made. I've sold tons and tons of things, and nobody was able to get one off the ground. That's unfortunate because I'm an unproven quality in Hollywood, and I understand that. I am also very fortunate in that none of those things actually got made. So nothing bad got made." And all the rights have come back to me, basically. And here I'm sitting in a world where everyone wants fantasy and I have my rights and I can say yes or no. That puts me in a very good position also. Which lets... you know, then I don't need the money. Hollywood doesn't know what to do with people that don't need their money. It's very bizarre to them. So we get to be very discerning and picky with what we want to do.

#12 Copy

Starman of Admora

After reading Mistborn, Elantris, and Warbreaker, I couldn't help but notice some recurring themes. What is it that entices you so much about the concept of living gods?

Brandon Sanderson

The idea of the Cosmere, the fundamental idea of the Cosmere, was: power of deity put in the hands of ordinary people. That is the Shattering of Adonalsium; that is the origin of the Shards. So when I built the Cosmere, that became one of the key themes of the Cosmere. And so, to tie all of these different books together (that are happening on different planets with different themes and characters and plots), I wanted some few things to link together. And that big linking connective tissue is: what do people do when they have the power of a god? Or even just a little fraction of it. What do they do with it? What happens? How do we explore that? And that theme is a connective tissue binding the Cosmere together, which is why you see me coming back to it time and time again.

#13 Copy


In my country (Chile), rural folks use the word "gancho" in exactly the same way The Lopen uses it. Did you know about it and put it into Stormlight? Or was it a coincidence?

Brandon Sanderson

It's an absolute coincidence. This is like when I found out that Elend and Straff... I built them using morphemes out of Germanic, not knowing that they're actually words in German (or close to words). No, I just built it out of the morphemes that I was looking for in Spanish, 'cause Herdazians, I'm using Spanish (particularly South American hispanic culture) as kind of an origin, a little bit of Mexican in there, to build them. And I just built the words using the sound morphemes, not even the meaning morphemes. And I guess I did a good job.

#14 Copy


I have a question about Shadesmar, is the Cognitive Realm round? How are landmasses "projected" here? Could I walk in a straight line and end where I started or would I end up in another place entirely?

Brandon Sanderson

If you walk in a straight line, you're going to MOSTLY follow the land mass on the other side. With some weird space-time deviations in places. You would not ever end up where you started, though, which is one of the things that is most disjointed about the experience. I realize that's very strange, and it's something I'll delve into in the stories eventually.

#16 Copy


Why DIDN'T the Rithmatists in Nebrask create a moat of acid?

Brandon Sanderson

A moat of acid around such a large perimeter proved too difficult to maintain. Acid loses its, well, acidity when it becomes adulterated with other materials--like rain. A moat of acid is just super hard; harder than water. They do, in places, have at least things like that. However, manpower and battle lines have proven the most efficient method to them so far.

There are problems with this, and they're learning that they have underestimated their enemies. But the moat idea proved untenable, though it was discussed and tried in microcosm.

Event details
Name r/books AMA 2022
Date July 7, 2022
Entries 16
Upload sources