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    General Reddit 2020 ()
    #1 Copy

    Jurble

     Are Bondsmith spren created as a matter of intent by Shards or are they 'natural' insofar as any spren made of enough Investiture would create a Bondsmith bond? That is, for example, the Everstorm is clearly a giant mass of Odium's Investiture, if someone were to bond its spren (which is presumably very young and insensate currently), would it form a Bondsmith bond as a matter of (super)natural laws or would Odium have to tweak something on a metaphysical level to allow a Bondsmith bond to form?

    An additional question, though one I think might border even further on RAFO - in RoW, Dalinar accepts Kaladin's Fourth Ideal. I'm wondering, is it possible for Dalinar to... power-level a Radiant up to the Fifth Ideal by just accepting all their Oaths without regards to, you know, underlying fitness? Danger and safety issues aside. The Stormfather's comments on Ishar's powers being beyond the scope of what Honor allowed makes me assume he can.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It wouldn't naturally become a bondsmith spren, as it's not JUST the amount of investiture that makes one. (For example, there's that odd spren in Iri that has a ton of investiture, but didn't become a Radiant spren.) To become a Radiant spren requires some different things.

    RAFO on the next question, as you expected. But without Honor around, some of the things he could do are kind of up for grabs.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Is Wax a Cognitive Shadow, or did he really heal and come back?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Wax is not a Cognitive Shadow, good question. Wax did not every fully leave... the soul didn't leave the body. He didn't die, in other words. I should say that he didn't die and leave behind an imprint as a Cognitive Shadow. He could have been Invested in that moment enough to make one, so it's a good question; but he did not.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Any teases on upcoming LGBT characters?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I put some hints in Rhythm of War. I should be making those canon by Book Five for you. But it wasn't quite time. I actually tried writing them harder into Rhythm of War, and they felt like it stood out too much; it was unnatural. So go ahead and begin your theorizing. It's not gonna be a big surprise; I think that people will figure it out pretty easily. But I'm not intending it to be a big surprise; I'm just trying to let things like what happened with Jasnah in this book come out naturally as they fit the characters.

    No big surprises, but for those who would rather read about it in the book when it happens, then I will leave it to Book Five.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Are Intention and Intent the same thing? And how does it work?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I consider them the same thing; those are synonyms in cosmere terms.

    I added this aspect to a lot of the cosmere magics relating to Intent. Meaning you have to be wanting to do things to make a lot of the different magics in the cosmere work. Why is this? Well, there are narrative reasons, and there are writerly reasons (for a lot of the things I do).

    The narrative reasons are: because I did not want the cosmere magics... it's just safer, it's a lot safer for people. And it allows those who are experts in the magic and who actually work with it to become better. Knowing what you're doing, and knowing and learning; I want there to always be an aspect of learning and practice to a lot of the magic systems.

    A more narrative reason (that's kind of a narrative reason) is that there are a lot of things I want to do with the cosmere magic that, when they interact with the physics of the real world, I need some wiggle room. You see this with destructive interference in sounds in Rhythm of War. Where the way that it would work in the cosmere, thinking of something as destructive interference actually creates for it a feeling, an Identity, as destructive interference. Where, in reality, destructive interference, there's nothing inherent to it being destructive interference. It's the same sound, just played in a different way. But in the cosmere, we can add this element of Identity to it, through Intent, that it is specifically made to do something. Which just allows me more gears and levers to play with as a designer of a magic system to make the physics work. And, basically, a lot of these things are... Imagine Intent, narratively, as the converter between real-world physics and cosmere physics, the little adapter that you stick between them. By adding Intent, I have an adapter.

    That works really nicely; it's very writerly to try to explain this, but it works really nicely for smoothing the line between real-world physics and cosmere physics in a way that makes it much more fun for me to write, and much more consistent with both things, real physics and made-up physics.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Does Gallant's eyes being rainbow have any cosmere significance?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is an indication of his spren bond; it's a way that I was getting across that. A lot of times, when you see kind of mother-of-pearl or a rainbow shimmer of luminescence, that is an indication of something happening with Investiture in the cosmere. You'll see it in White Sand being used; you see it periodically in manifestations of the Nahel bond, and that sort of thing.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Any other cameos we didn't know?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There are minor cameos to future important people in the cosmere that will eventually be made known. Those are all RAFOs.

    If you're talking about friend cameos, I do write a lot of people who are friends, or people in the company, in. I think we've talked about most of those on the streams, so I don't think there are any that you can't find out about very easily. My favorite one is still Dan Wells, who I periodically write into the Stormlight books as a guy who miraculously survives really dangerous encounters. Since his books are all about killing off his friends, I figured I'd let my friends survive, that that would be somehow thematically appropriate for Dan.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Is Hoid your cameo character in the cosmere?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Good question. No, he is not. I'm actually not very much like Hoid. The thing I share with him is a love of stories. So the closest he will be to me is when he's talking about storytelling; that's the part of me that is in him. But personality-wise, we are very different. He is a main character in the cosmere; I don't consider him... he's done cameos in other books, but I don't consider him to be an author insert character.

    The closest I've come to an author insert is probably when I put my sword into the Wheel of Time, the one that was given to me by Wilson, Robert Jordan's very, very close cousin of his who was taking care of the armory that Robert Jordan had. I wrote my sword into it, like Robert Jordan wrote himself in as a ter'angreal in one of the books. And I could see myself doing a cameo for myself in that sort of manner. I probably wouldn't do a human cameo. Though I do that for a lot of my friends, is I write them into the books as cameos. So who knows.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Can some spren fully form and become human?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No spren becomes human; they are a different race. And so, no, that is not a thing that happens.

    But there is some stuff in Rhythm of War along the lines I think you're asking, that I will not talk about because of spoilers.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Are Parshendi/human hybrids possible?

    Brandon Sanderson

    They are. In fact, both the Horneaters and the Herdazians are descendants of human/Parshendi, human/listener hybrids. And there's very, very small remnants of it; they are mostly human. But they have a bit of listener heritage, just like a lot of us have some Neanderthal heritage. They, perhaps, have a little bit more in their past.

    So, yes, this is possible.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Could there be a cure for diabetes in the cosmere?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, there very much could be a cure for diabetes in the cosmere. Right now, if you become a Knight Radiant, that would be a solution. That's not a solution for everyone; that's a very narrow solution. But there would be other solutions.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Have you plotted Lost Metal yet? Is that still its name?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Lost Metal is still the name. I have my original one-page outline from my first plotting session, when I built Era Two to actually be an Era, rather than a little dalliance. I do not have the full multi-page outline, which I will probably be doing while my editor is editing Skyward Three early next year. And I'll get the Wax and Wayne Four book really into good shape with the outline, and then I'll go back and do the last revisions on Skyward Three, and then I'll start working on Wax and Wayne.

    I'm guessing that the Wax and Wayne book, I won't start it officially until, like, March or April, will be my guess. Just because we need to immediately go into revisions on Skyward Three if we're gonna have it out for next Christmastime. (Which my publisher was very hesitant about agreeing to. But I really like to have at least a release every year. I don't like to skip years, whenever I can make it happen. So they agreed to, instead of doing it the following spring, to do it next year around Christmastime.) Which means that I need to do the revisions really fast. So I am going to work on that.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    How's Skyward Three going?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's going really well. I am loving writing Skyward Three. It is really fun to have a change of pace, to do a single viewpoint narrative in first person after working on the Stormlight Archive for so long. Epic fantasy is my first love. I really enjoy working on them. But by the time I'm done working with a Stormlight book, I need a change of pace, which is how my whole writing life is built around, giving me those changes of pace. And Skyward is the perfect break from Stormlight. It was designed that way. Just writing from Spensa's viewpoint is a blast, and it's fun. 

    And I designed Skyward Three to be a little bit more of a popcorn adventure than Skyward Two was (and then Skyward Four will be), just 'cause I knew I would need that after Stormlight Three. So if you're looking forward to a fun adventure fiction that does deal with Spensa's character arc in ways that are still meaningful, but most of the story is just me having fun, then look forward to Skyward Three.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
    #17 Copy

    Questioner

    Any news about Alcatraz Six?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I will have a publication date for Alcatraz Six announced in the State of the Sanderson. It looks like they are settling in at Tor to figure out how to do that. It's a little later than I wanted it to be, because they want to do reissues of the first books in paperback. (Which they've never actually, in the Tor editions, never been in paperbacks.) And so they're doing that, and Book Six will be released in conjunction with that.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
    #18 Copy

    Questioner

    What effects does a spren bond have on a ryshadium? Sapience, or more?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It increases their intelligence a great deal and gives them a little extra hardiness to survive in Roshar. And in exchange, the spren gets pulled into the Physical Realm, which they really like.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Rogaen

    Any news on an Elantris sequel?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No news. I want to do this between Mistborn Era 3 books, is do some Elantris. But I'm gonna have to see how things play out in writing those books. It depends on a lot of factors.

    I do plan to do them, still, just like I plan to do one Warbreaker sequel. But I have to balance these things, because I also want to do some new stuff in the cosmere, with new planets. Like, we need to do the Aethers. They're relevant to space-age cosmere, so I need to have at least a book or some novellas to get you used to that magic system, as well.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Would a macaw be able to become a Radiant? Or do you need sentience?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You need sapience. A macaw could not become a Knight Radiant. A macaw could, theoretically, enter a symbiotic spren bond, which would have different effects. Like, ryshadium or even most of the larger greatshells don't have sapience. But a lot of creatures on Roshar do have what I would term an in-between step between human-level intelligence and animal-level intelligence on Earth. Ryshadium are in this; chasmfiends, as well, are smarter than an animal can get on Earth.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    If Roshar's years are 500 days along, and I say someone is twenty years old, how does that equate to Earth time?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It equates to actually about 10% difference. Because while the years are 500 days, the days are shorter, and there are fewer months. It all works out mathematically to about 10%. So if I say someone is twenty in the books, they are twenty-two in Earth years. So kind of keep that in mind.

    It's a small enough difference, I feel, that people who don't notice it or know about it won't really be thrown for a loop. But I like to have things like that. And normally in fantasy novels I don't make big differences in things like time, units of measurement. Or other things, like Roshar has a lower gravity than Earth. I don't deal with that in a lot of the fantasy books; I like to have some of it on Roshar, because one of my pitches to myself in making Roshar was to come up with a fantasy book where the worldbuilding was a little more like a science fiction book's worldbuilding.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
    #22 Copy

    Questioner

    How long after Warbreaker do these events take place?

    Brandon Sanderson

    We have numbers in the wiki. We haven't canonized a lot of them in the books yet. Because my original plan for the cosmere involved more space between the series than I'm probably going to eventually do. What I've said is, that basically the books that have been released have all been chronological except for White Sand, which takes place before the other books chronologically. Wax and Wayne takes place after Stormlight Five, but before Stormlight Six. And that's all I'm saying about how far apart things are right now.

    One thing you have to remember is, also, time dilation is a thing in the cosmere that comes up a lot more often than it does in our world, for various reasons, because of the way I am treating Investiture. So treat that how you will.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Stormlight Five's title?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Haven't decided yet. It needs to fit the naming convention of The Stormlight Archive. Which means it needs to be named after an in-world book, and it also needs to fit with the palindrome. I have some options I'm choosing between. You can go look at the various threads on fan sites where they are trying hard to guess.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Could new Orders eventually be formed?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is plausibly possible but highly, highly unlikely. A lot of things are possible in the Stormlight Archive that are highly unlikely. So I rarely say "no," because I built the magic systems of the cosmere to be able to do a lot of things, 'cause I knew I was going to be writing in a lot of different worlds. Which means that very few things are completely off-limits. But there's a lot of things that are unlikely to happen.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Will there be a Stormlight 4.5?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, the Rock novella, called Horneater, should be written to take place chronologically between Stormlights Four and Five. That'll have given us a novella between each of the books except One and Two, so maybe some day I'll fill in a hole there and put a novella between those two. I don't know that I'll do any between [Five and Six]. Likely, if we do an art book, that will be what's between [Five and Six].

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    Is there a plan to release an art book of the Stormlight Archive?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would like to do this someday. I'd like to do something like what we call the Big White Book for Wheel of Time. And Song of Ice and Fire has one. I would probably release it after Book Five of the Stormlight Archive, which is a big break point. I'll finish Stormlight Five for release in 2023 (is the goal). That brings a lot of the major arcs to a close. Stormlight Six, then, will be a little longer of a wait. I'm gonna write the entire Era 3 of Mistborn in between. My goal is (we'll see how I stick with this) to start on those as soon as I finish Stormlight Five, and write them, all three, straight through, like I did with the first Mistborn trilogy. And then not release them until the whole trilogy is done, and then release them one a year. And then after that, work on Stormlight Six. So we'll see how that goes; that's several years off.

    For right now, my focus is on getting the Skyward series finished and Wax and Wayne, Mistborn Era 2, finished. Those are my goals to have done by the time I start Stormlight Five.

    And so, art book? Yeah, I bet after Stormlight Five, somewhere between Five and Six, we'll release an art book.

    Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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    Questioner

    A character in The Stormlight archive who eventually was able to heal of a wound. An old wound, and normally old wounds, with Regrowth, can't be healed.

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is a limitation of healing someone else, versus healing yourself. Healing someone else is a weaker method, at least as it's understood by the Radiants currently. Figuring out how to make Regrowth fix older wounds is more difficult. When you are highly Invested in such a way that you have a spren bond, then you are able to kind of rewrite your Spiritual self to better match your Cognitive self. Basically, what your soul is better comes to match your perception of your soul and who you are, and who you want to be becomes more important. And because of that, the Radiant bond is able to heal things and even change physiology that normal Regrowth wouldn't be capable of doing.

    General Reddit 2020 ()
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    Windrunner17

    The other one is me trying to understand Bondsmiths a bit for their article. Dalinar uses his powers to heal the buildings in Thaylen City, and what he does does not seem to be a straightforward application of a Surge. Is he making use of Tension or Adhesion? Or some mix of them both? I realize that sometimes things may not fall easily into one category or another, so I'd accept any sort of clarification on this.

    Brandon Sanderson

    What Dalinar did is a mixture of abilities, and a spiritual connection, that is only possible to a Bondsmith.

    General Reddit 2020 ()
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    Windrunner17

    We have been introduced to two ways to refer to a magic system up until RoW. Khriss has referred to manifestations of Investiture (in the context of the Metallic Arts) and elsewhere has used the term Invested Arts, which seemed to be the in-world term for a magic system. However, RoW has now introduced the term "arcana". Is this a synonym for Invested Art or a term for a specific sort of "power set" like Stoneshaping or Lightweaving that might be present in different forms in multiple Invested Arts throughout the cosmere?

    Brandon Sanderson

    For the first question, arcana isn't really either of those things. Invested Arts would still be the official title. Where is arcana is more of a simple, more colloquial catch all. It's like maybe the difference between saying Olympic Categories and just sports.

    General Reddit 2020 ()
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    Tim

    Hey, I've been thinking about that section in WoK with Jasnah and the "thieves" she killed, and it feels like a setup to me - it's weird that the messages Taravangian sends to the guard are on Jasnah's radar, and Jasnah even says that the situation is odd enough to "suspect that there is more going on".

    Was this a Taravangian plot?

    Taravangian leaks the information about the "reprimands" he sent to his city watch about these dangerous criminals, and watches to see how Jasnah reacts to it, ideally catcher her using her powers? (Just like how he used that cave-in to test her Soulcasting).

    Brandon Sanderson

    Taravangian was under the hope that Jasnah would see the world the way he does--with a very strict (even dangerous) level of utilitarianism. He thought about recruiting her to his mission, but decided against it for various reasons.

    General Reddit 2020 ()
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    LewsTherinTelescope

    Skepping. Dalinar refers to this by name, as a technique the Windrunners are practicing. Is this something advanced deadblade wielders can still do, or only something Radiants and Honorblade wielders can do?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, it can be practiced--but it's not nearly as hard as it would have been in the WoKP version, so it isn't a major plot point any longer. 

    General Reddit 2020 ()
    #34 Copy

    asmodeus

    There's been a lot of discussion in the fandom on the exact name of Cultivation, due to the sentence construction where it is alluded.

    Is her name Koravari, or Koravellium Avast? Or is it neither, and both are shifted versions of her original name?

    Brandon Sanderson

    RAFO for now.

    General Reddit 2020 ()
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    asmodeus

    In Words of Radiance, Hoid says that there's only one person as old as him around, and seems to be referring to Cultivation's vessel. In Rhythm of War, he mentions there's a dragon on Roshar.

    Are these two individuals the same, or are they separate?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes. These two are the same.

    General Reddit 2020 ()
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    Haverworthy

    If Elend had been carrying a polestone with him when he had his duralumin enhanced atium vision that transferred him to the SR, would it have become invested similarly to if it had been exposed to a perpendicularity?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Hm. That's a good question. I think it wouldn't have--though white sand would have been charged.

    RoW Release Party ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    The premise of this is that there is a young man who smells really good to dragons, and always gets used as bait in traps to trap dragons. He has trapped a dragon by being bait, and now he is wandering around that night.

    Brandon Sanderson

    The first thing Skip noticed was the beating of enormous wings. He knew instantly what they meant; after three or four hundred dragon attacks, you learn to pick up on the signs.

    He panicked, of course. He always panicked when a dragon approached. Fortunately, he'd trained himself not to let that get in the way. So while one primal A-Big-Lizard-Is-Going-To-Eat-Me side of his brain started going in circles, the other side went through a list.

    Was there water nearby? No.

    Could he hide in a cellar with a door? No.

    Could he obscure his scent somehow? No.

    He'd assumed himself well-protected. He'd doused himself with rose water before leaving the camp, and his pockets were stuffed with garlic cloves. People three cities away could probably smell the stench. But he'd been certain he didn't smell like himself.

    But that didn't always work. The dragons would find him anyway, particularly if he stayed in one place too long. But he was moving! He should have been safe. Safer, at least.

    The two sides of his brain collided back together, and both told him to run. He dashed forward, hoping to find some kind of cave. It was night, but the moon was near full, so he had a good view of the hills around him. The grassy, pleasant, completely unbroken, not-a-cave-in-sight hills.

    The wing beats were getting closer. He couldn't outrun a dragon in flight. He suddenly felt himself an idiot for having left the hunters. At least there, he'd have a chance; someone to fight for him, surprise the dragon and...

    Skip forced himself to slow. I only have one chance, he realized. He slowed until he was merely strolling. He stuffed his hand in his pocket, beside the garlic, and held his pack over his shoulder with the other. He started whistling, trying not to sound too forced.

    "It sure is a good night for a stroll," he said after a good whistle. "Alone. Without anyone to protect or guard me. What a nice breeze, that is approaching from behind."

    He felt a chill between his shoulder blades, as if someone had stabbed him with an icicle. The dragon was flying down toward him; it would grab him in its claws, tear him with its teeth. It was so hard not to look!

    The beats of the wings changed. Something massive and black flew past about a hundred yards away, red eyes watching him. Dragon eyes glowed. The creature winged to the side and landed on a nearby rock. It seemed wary.

    Skip looked at it and tried to feign surprise. That tied his brain in knots, and he ended up just staring. That seemed to make the dragon even more worried; its slender neck looked from side to side in suspicion.

    "Your acting is terrible," the monster proclaimed.

    "So I've been told."

    "I smell no hunters; where are they?"

    Skip resisted the urge to exhale in relief. The other dragon had assumed he was bait; it had actually worked! "Uh, hunters?" Skip said, trying to sound nervous. "I don't know what you mean."

    "You'd have me believe you were out here alone?"

    "Sure am."

    "In dragon territory?"

    "Oh, this is dragon territory?"

    "At night?"

    "My, how the time has passed! I didn't notice."

    "I realize that humans are often oblivious, but this seems incredible, even for one of you."

    "Is is that obvious?"

    "Yes. Nobody is so stupid."

    "I wouldn't bet on that." The dragon leaned forward on his rock, looking down. Skip stood nervously. "Umm.. I guess you can go now," Skip said.

    "What about the hunters?"

    "You figured out what we're doing," Skip said, "so we can't surprise you. You might as well fly away; we'll never kill you this way."

    "I want to see where you've hidden them."

    "Don't be foolish! Do you have any idea how long it takes to dig in the grass and hide fifty armed soldiers? If they climb out now, it'll be hours getting them back in for the next dragon." The dragon's eyes narrowed further, and he leaned forward on his hilltop. Despite the moonlight, it was difficult to make out much regarding him; black-on-black, scales that shone softly, red eyes. Something was odd, though. Skip couldn't put his finger on it.

    "I can't let your trap remain here," the dragon said. "My brother is flying in these parts. He might fall into it. In fact, a large number of my kin have gone missing in the last few weeks. We've been told specifically to watch for a group of hunters in the area. You haven't seen my brother, have you?"

    "Can't say that I have. What's his name?"

    "<Vrogldoklmoklbokloklu'u'u'u'l>."

    The word was unlike any that Skip had heard. There were sounds in it, unnatural ones, unexpected ones. Like getting a teddy bear filled with razor blades for your birthday. Hearing the name made Skip's ears want to rebel and maybe take a turn at smelling things, instead. "Nope, never heard of him. We certainly didn't kill him earlier today." I hope.

    "I don't care how many hunters you have, little man. You have just sealed your fate. I bring you death this night! Those words will be the last that-"

    "Hey, wait."

    "Call your hunters, little man. I will best them!"

    "No, really, wait. I just realized what's wrong. You don't look maddened by my scent."

    "Your scent? Why should I care about that?"

    "But... how did you find me?"

    "I saw you, little man. Walking draconic lands is asking to be devoured, and so, while I am somewhat full from a taxman I ate earlier, I decided to come down and make a feast of you. It's the principle of the matter, really."

    "But... you smell nothing?"

    "I can't smell. Inhaled some acidic smoke as a dragonling, burned my nostrils fiercely."

    Oh, Skip thought. How wonderful. A dragon who wouldn't, upon smelling him, get driven near insane? It was amazing. Incredible.

    And actually ironic. For it seemed that this was the dragon who, at long last, would end up eating him.

    RoW Release Party ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    What is the Sixth Incarnation of Pandora? You may think Pandora the planet, because of the movie. That's not... I was actually going for the myth. That in this society, we had opened up various Pandora's Boxes, and this was... In philosophy in the far future, the sixth one they'd opened was making people who were immortal. And this was a Pandora's Box that they had philosophically opened.

    I often describe it as a cyberpunk. It's not actually a cyberpunk. It's not a true cyberpunk. It deals with some of those same themes. It has the kind of corporations-in-charge, and kind of a dystopian future, and things like this. But it is far future, and not near-future, as most cyberpunk is.

    The story is about an immortal soldier who has been made immortal with this new process, which is still very rare and very expensive to do. And he is basically a one-person army, with all of these modifications and things, and is capable of destroying entire armies on his own, and is completely indestructible.

    And I'm gonna read to you from Chapter One, which is not a good chapter for introducing that concept.

    It has a little epigraph at the beginning, which I thought you guys would find fun, because I use those quite a bit now, and I didn't earlier in my career.

    This book is unpublished. This is book number five: The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora.

    Brandon Sanderson

    From the moment the first primeval Neanderthal picked up a sharp rock and used it to eviscerate his prey, man has sought ways to use his surroundings to augment his own abilities. Not that much has changed over the millennia. Peg legs had become prosthetic limbs, and spectacles had been replaced with cyborg optronics. But the main ideas remained constant: displeased with what fate allots us, we bend nature before our will, becoming more than we were intended. Among all of God's creations, only man takes offense at his lowly state.

    Along with our drive to change ourselves, there comes with true human paradoxical form the uncomfortable fear that we have gone too far. Through the ages, we have fabricated horrors to match our increasing supremacy over nature. Monsters, golems, mad robots, and horrors haunt our collective technological unconsciousness. Twisted mixes of flesh and metal, obscene misuses of nature and her creations. We push ourselves to be better and better, more in control and dominant. But at the same time, we sweat and worry that this time, we've gone too far.

    We finally have. I'm the final step, the ultimate synthesis of what is natural and what is profane. One last grand adulteration. I'm the culmination of our feats, a Frankenstein's monster for the modern 23rd century. I am without parallel in life or imagination. I am <Xelian>.

    Chapter One

    The forest's silence was abnormal, almost uncomfortable. <Xelian> could feel the dew in the air. It hung as an unseen mist around him. The humidity was an unfamiliar companion, and he had to fight the impulse to wipe his brow. A damp, sweat-stained hand would do little good in drying a damp, sweat-stained forehead. He could feel the soft film of water on his skin, coating his entire body, making his fingers both slip and stick as he rubbed them together.

    Also unfamiliar was the forest's shadowy illumination. Light, he knew. Darkness, he knew. The forest's unchanging twilight, however, was neither bright nor dark. It seemed to flow, rather than shift; live, rather than just illuminate. It was neither day, nor night. It was light, undead.

    <Xelian> followed no marked trail. He had left that behind long ago. It was not difficult to move through the brush; tall trunks stood like jealous merchants, catching the golden light long before it hit the ground. What little light did pass through was formless and impotent. Few plants could squeeze enough life out of such meager helpings to survive. There were ferns, weeds, and the occasional sapling. Nothing so thick he couldn't walk through it without trouble.

    Occasionally, <Xelian> reached out to brush a patch of soft, damp earth. It was odd that something native to his home planet would feel so alien to him. But it had been a long, long time since he had seen soil.

    He continued on, making good time through the realm of the enormous trees and their tiny fungal blooms. Usually, he only noticed his surroundings if something was wrong. The forest was different, somehow. It was pervasive, omnipresent. Even if he closed his eyes, he could feel it around him. When he stepped, he would sense the soft, springy loam. With each breath, he drew in the odors of wood, decaying flora, damp foliage, and bitter earth. He could hear the crackling of leaves and twigs beneath his feet. The forest was not a setting; it was an experience.

    No bugs, a voice in his head pointed out.

    "What?" <Xelian> asked, opening his eyes.

    No insects, <Xelian>. A forest this size should be brimming with them.

    "They would be to hard to control here, Wire."

    I know. I just think it hurts the authenticity.

    "You wouldn't say that if you could feel it," <Xelian> responded, continuing his hike.

    Well, I doubt that's likely to happen anytime soon. Wire's voice wasn't sarcastic, or even depressed; it was simply stating a fact. Wire could never feel the forest, as he could never feel anything. The entirety of the AI's physical being consisted of a CPU embedded beneath <Xelian's> left shoulder blade

    We're running out of forest, Wire pointed out. <Xelian> nodded. He could see the treeline now, where the forest ended. A few moments later, he passed through it, and the world around him transformed abruptly.

    Instead of soft earth, his foot snapped against rigid metal. He stepped out of the land of half-shadows into full daylight. The humidity disappeared, abandoned in favor of a carefully controlled, deliberately comfortable climate. <Xelian> left behind the canopy of leaves, entering a world where dark space extended forever in all directions. He stood on the edge of a sheer dropoff. The metal pathway that ran around the forest was only a few feet thick here where he stood. It also bordered the edge of the Platform.

    <Xelian> looked up. High in the sky, he could see another enormous Platform like the one on which he now stood. A floating continent, with people inhabiting all of its six faces. Beyond the second Platform, <Xelian> could make out the tiny pinpricks of stars. Looking down over the edge of the cliff, he could see the exact same thing; hundreds of kilometers below lay the bottom of the Platform, and beyond that was nothing. Cold space, eternity. Fall off this cliff, and one could literally fall forever. It's said that the Platform's builders had tried to make it seem as if one were standing on the surface of a planet, instead of a gargantuan block of metal hanging in the middle of space, a ridiculous distance from any planetary system. They hadn't done a very good job.

    <Xelian> took one look back at the forest park. Really, it was one of the few places on <Saj> Platform that was dedicated to reminding its inhabitants of their heritage. As if they hadn't intentionally abandoned such things as forests when they moved into the sterile vacuum of space.

    "Remind me to come back here when this project is finished," he asked.

    Is that a request, <Xelian>, or are you simply waxing hypothetical?

    "No, really. Remind me."

    Yes, <Xelian>. Wire would compute a likely date and time for the reminder.

    <Xelian> turned away from the organic wall behind him and stepped off the cliff. He could feel the fall begin; the plummet that would carry him down along the side of the platform until he entered oblivion. Gravity would drag him downward, prepared to hurl him into the void.

    But then it changed. His foot got caught in an unseen force, a pull that altered his momentum. His body followed, collapsing into the arms of the same force. Instead of plunging into space, <Xelian> swung in an arc around the edge of the cliff, his foot planting itself on the vertical wall below him. He reoriented himself, then pulled his other foot to sit beside its mate.

    He now stood on the other face of the cliff. What had once been down was now directly in front of him. And when he turned around and looked down, he saw the space he had left, and it looked like a sheer vertical drop, the forest seeming to sprout from the side of the cliff. The Platform's gravity wasn't going to relinquish its grip on <Xelian> quite so easily. It pulled one down against the Platform, no matter which direction down happened to be at the time. One could walk on each of the Platform's faces and feel as if it were the surface of a planet.

    I don't see why you have to be so dramatic about that, <Xelian>, Wire chimed in. What do you find so fascinating about changing gravitational surfaces?

    <Xelian> continued to look over the side of the ledge, then tossed a small pebble off, watching it arc normally in the air for a moment, then change vectors suddenly to fall inward, snapping against the pathway and rolling to a stop at the edge of the forest.

    "Is there anything we haven't mastered, Wire?" <Xelian> responded. "What is left to dominate? The very laws of nature bend before us. Where is the excitement in the universe that behaves according to our convenience, warping and changing until it twists to the will of the most fickle species?"

    If you want excitement, you should try piloting a ship through the center of a star, Wire suggested. As far as I know, no one has managed to conquer that realm, yet.

    "Maybe I will," <Xelian> mused.

    Just make sure you remove my CPU, first, Wire said.

    Brandon Sanderson

    That was from 1999.

    It is interesting, also, for me to look back and see which ideas I have thrown into the word chipper and recycled. If you've read Starsight, you'll recognize something very similar to those Platforms, which stretch back to a short story that I wrote called Defending Elysium. They showed up, probably first time here. And then I reused them for Defending Elysium. And then wrote the Skyward series in that same universe. So this is like a hypothetical book that could have existed in that same setting.

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    Questioner

    Could a Windrunner fly into space?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, it actually wouldn’t be that hard, because Windrunners can control pressure, also. And as long as you have Stormlight, you don’t have to breathe. It’s harder for a Skybreaker. Windrunner… As long as you don’t run out of Stormlight, you could travel between planets as a Windrunner if you have enough Stormlight. Wouldn’t be too difficult. Kaladin could probably do it.

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    Questioner

    Could a Radiant ever belong to multiple Orders?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is theoretically possible, but it was not done in the past. It’s just not a thing that you did. It was not kosher. But it is theoretically possible.

    You’d have to find spren that had volition, and you would have to convince multiple demigods to be okay with this.

    The fact that you can be a Knight Radiant and you could pick up one of the Honorblades and have access to those Surges… I mean, there’s an easier way to do it, in that case. (If you consider getting a hold of one of the Honorblades to be easy.)

    But it is theoretically possible to have something like that happen.

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    Questioner

    Have you ever considered the energy density of Stormlight compared to real world substances? Example: nuclear fuels. Is it kind of on that level?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I have a little group of cosmerenauts, fans of the books that I’ve known for the long time who are themselves physicists. And I have asked them to start helping me quantify these things. Right now, I don’t have them exactly quantified. The place we’re starting with is: which forms of Investiture in the cosmere, how much fantastical-unit-of-energy do they have, and how does that relate to a real-world joule, or something like that. And that’s something we’re in the process of doing, because we’ll need it by space age cosmere. But I’ve told them they have years to figure it out.

    The nice thing is, in our world, we have conservation of energy. I’ve talked about this in the cosmere: because we can go from energy to matter to Investiture (and any of the three can transfer between), we can pop energy out in interesting ways to fuel things if we need to. We can draw directly from the Spiritual Realm, or you can have some of this matter transferred into energy through becoming Investiture first, in a way that’s a little less explosive than normally getting energy out of matter is, in our world.

    That said, the magic system of Dragonsteel (which I wrote long ago, which is not released), one of the primary magic systems of that was actual nuclear physics. And nuclear fission was part of the magic system, being able to see the atoms and manipulate them. I don’t know if I’ll ever do that in actual cosmere, but it was one of the cosmere magics originally. So when you read Dragonsteel (we’ll probably release it sometime around the Words of Radiance leatherbound Kickstarter, would be my guess), you can read about people seeing… in cosmere terms, they’re called “axi.” Or “an axon,” rather than atoms. You can see people playing with that. And I even think there are rumors in the books of people playing with those to the point that they make enormous explosions that cause wastelands. Because you do something a little wrong, and suddenly you’re splitting some atoms, and that can be very bad. That can have ramifications.

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    Daniel Greene

    Has there been something [with worldbuilding] you decided to put in that inadvertently has pigeonholed you in a way? Where it’s like, “Oh, that element shouldn’t…” Basically, any regrets, in terms of worldbuilding, that now, in hindsight, that was a little too solid; something you wish you had left a little looser?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I think one of my big worries for a long time was in the White Sand books. I made a bunch of mistakes there, because it was the first world I ever built. So the magic system in that, there are some very cool things about it; there’s some very non-cohesive things. I had people have the ability to turn sand into water for no good reason, that does not fit the cosmere magic system as it developed. That one, I’m like, “Why did I even put that in?” I think I tried… I can’t remember if we got that cut out, or not. It was in the early drafts of the White Sand graphic novel scripts. I remember trying to cut that out, and I can’t now remember if we got it cut out. It might have been too integral to the story. But regardless, there’s things like that that I’m like “eh…”

    I wish I, at the end of the Mistborn trilogy, had been more clear about how many metals there were left to discover. That’s definitely a mistake. But I just went ahead and was like, “You know what? I made the mistake, I’m just gonna explain it after the fact. I made a mistake, and we’re doing it the way I intended it to be, rather than the way it came across.” And I’m okay copping to mistakes and letting people know.

    One of the things I keep wanting to do is have Peter, every time a book comes out, release a notes file that’s kind of like… you know how, when a video game gets an update, you have the bug fixes and power rebalances? I want to release a bug fixes and power rebalances thing for this. Where we’re like, “This little aspect of the world just never made sense. We’ve retconned this out. Now you can understand.” Stuff like that, I feel like we should be doing that.

    Way of Kings is a great example. Way of Kings ended up using more Earth metaphors than the rest of the Stormlight Archive. If you read Way of Kings, there’s more references to grapes, there’s more references to ravens, because I just was not into the world as well (even after doing all this worldbuilding) as I eventually got into it. I’m like, “They wouldn’t use a raven metaphor here. They wouldn’t say something looks like a flock of ravens. They don’t see ravens.” And finally I said to Peter, “Go ahead and bug-patch these out of Way of Kings, for the newest version.”

    I see in the chat, “flock of chickens.” Well, really, it should be “debris flying in front of a storm.” Something that they have seen a lot that becomes a natural metaphor for their language. Not even a flock of chickens, because they don’t see a flock of chickens.

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    Questioner

    Do you have any specific inspirations for spanreeds?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Like most things in my books, you can ask me what my writerly inspiration is, and what my worldbuilding explanation is. And let me explain that.

    Writerly inspiration for spanreeds is me acknowledging that I wanted to have a society that acted more like a post-Industrial Revolution society (or very close to it) than a Medieval society. And there’s lots of ways to do this. Fantasy worlds do not have to progress socially the same way that we progressed. A lot of people want to tie technology to social progression, which you don’t have to do. You don’t necessarily have to say “people from the Industrial Revolution in our world acted this way; therefore people in this world…” You just don’t have to do that.

    But there are certain technological revolutions that happened that do form a technological basis for some of these things. For instance, trade was very essential to the expanding political entity that was a world economy. We needed people to at least be travelling consistently to Asia before that could happen. And I really think a lot of what makes people act the way we do, perhaps, in some of our societies is this kind of mass communication.

    And I didn’t want to be there yet, but I wanted to give a way that news and ideas could travel around the world in a consistent way on Roshar, to make the continent feel like a single entity. Because otherwise, I would probably have to tell the story as not a worldwide story. You just can’t travel, and ideas can’t move fast enough. Even if you look back at Roman times; Roman times took place in a fairly small geographical area, and even that, it was really hard for them to know what was happening. And you would have to spend months and months getting information that was then months and months out of date. And there’s a lot of sitting around and waiting in those cultures for things to happen, even with having the Mediterranean to sail around and bring this information. I just wanted information to move fast, both culturally and narratively. And so I said, “I’ve gotta find a way to do this. I did it with Seons in Elantris; I need find a way to do something similar to that on Roshar.”

    Real-world inspiration, if there is one, is an auto-pen. Where authors can have a little machine sign books for them; it moves on its own. I’ve never used one, but politicians use them quite a bit. When you get that hand-signed letter when you’ve donated whatever to whatever political party. That hand-signed letter was probably machine-signed with a real pen, rather than hand-signed by the individual.

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    Daniel Greene

    Are there thousands of more spren that you have planned out and know what they look like? Or are those just, as you’re writing them in the moment, “This is what the spren’s gonna look like.”

    Brandon Sanderson

    At this point, we’ve gotten through all the ones that I’ve preplanned, and at this point, I toss new ones in now and then. Usually, I only do that in large measure if we’ve gone to a new location. Because you have seen the spren that inhabit the area of the Shattered Plains in Shadesmar, but there can be emotion spren… like, I’m doing awespren more often in this book, and there’s a new one in this book, but everyone’s in Urithiru. Different place, you can attract different types of emotionspren. Different Shadesmar ecology.

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    Questioner

    Are there still six different types of Aethers in current canon? Or has that changed?

    Brandon Sanderson

    They have expanded. I’m using the Aethers behind the scenes for a lot of space age things. And because I’m doing that, I am adding in a few more Aethers. There’s going to be some limits on this. I’m tweaking which Aethers I’m actually making, ‘cause some of them didn’t work as well as other ones.

    There will end up being more, but I won’t canonize the number until I have the Aether book ready to release.

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    Daniel Greene

    You have ten books for the Stormlight Archive. Was that a limit you put on yourself because you knew it could go to twenty? Or it just happened, after you structured out the story, ten was what fit.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Ten was the number. Various worlds in the cosmere have this little number motif going on with them. And I was building ten in as a number motif, as well as nine. Nine and ten and the contrast between these two very similar but very, very different numbers.

    And in the original outline, numerology was a much bigger deal, actually, in Stormlight. I was working a lot on the idea that I was using a language (Hebrew is a good example) where every word can also be a number, so you can have all sorts of funky numerology things. It comes up now and then in the published books, with… Various sketchy individuals will be into numerology.

    But I knew I wanted a big series. And I knew I had ten characters. And I thought ten books, ten Orders of Knights Radiant, ten characters, it juts fit really well. Ten felt like the right number after I did my real outline for it, back in 2009. I felt like I had the material for that, and it was too poetically appropriate for the series to not do it as ten.

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    Questioner

    Can Shardblades, dead or alive, be used as Hemalurgic spikes? And if attempted, what would the result be?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Technically yes, but in practicality no.

    To use something as a Hemalurgic spike, it basically just needs to be able to already have a charge of Investiture, or be able to adopt one. Technically, Shardblades are made from a god metal. You could do this. But the Blade is gonna be big and unwieldy, and the form it’s in right now, it’s going to slice the soul rather than rip pieces off. You would have to jump through a bunch of hoops that wouldn’t be worth it in order to use one.

    It would basically mean that you’d have to separate the metal of the Shardblade from the concept of a Shardblade itself, is what’s going on there.