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    Waterstones Cytonic Release Party ()
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    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.

    Waterstones Cytonic Release Party ()
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    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.

    Waterstones Cytonic Release Party ()
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    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.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    Should Stormlight ever reach the film stage or TV series, would you consider using the Black Piper Kaladin album as its soundtrack?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would consider it. It would really be up to the people who were making it, but that's definitely something to consider. It's a very good album.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    You've written about a lot of cultures that have some parallels to the real world. Do you have any culture or magic system you've kicked around that's inspired by the Indian subcontinent?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do, actually. Thank you for this question. You should be very interested to read The Lost Metal. There's a worldhopper on The Lost Metal from a planet with a culture inspired by the Indian subcontinent.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    In your books, you have some pretty powerful healing magics, and we've also seen some characters sustain some pretty traumatic brain injuries. The human brain stores information as electrical connections, right? So if you blew a part of it out, you could grow it all back, but those connections wouldn't really be there. Have you considered that?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I have. This is why you will see memory... So, Cognitive Shadows maintain a person's memory. And your Cognitive aspect, your Invested self, maintains your memory in the cosmere. This is why you will also see people's memory being edited by accessing some of the Investiture. You'll see this in Warbreaker; you saw this in the end of Rhythm of War. Your Cognitive self, your Invested self, keeps a duplicate of all your memories. So this allows very significant trauma to the Physical sense; as long as the Cognitive sense is still attached to that body, those memories will be reimplanted in the Physical self, or will be accessed. And this was just necessary for me to even have things like what happened with Raoden in the beginning of Elantris, and for ghosts to exist, and things like that. It actually works pretty well, because it lets me use it to edit people's memories by accessing their Investiture.

    And one of the other things that's going on here is: if you have more Investiture, you can remember more, and better. But then that's dangerous, because it's a lot easier to access that Investiture. And it's a lot harder to notice when it has been edited. Hmm.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    When you were writing Skyward, did you ever change Spensa's name? And if so, what were some of her previous names?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You know, I kind of just started with Spensa. And so I don't imagine that there was anything. I'm trying to remember; I don't think there was anyting else before that. It was just nebulous, and I was using nicknames for her.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    How do the people on Detritus breathe?

    Brandon Sanderson

    How did the oxygen get recycled, is that what you're asking?

    Questioner

    Yes; they have no plants.

    Brandon Sanderson

    They do. Here's the thing: it has lots of alien fungus that works like an algae. This is what the rats are living on; this is what the slugs are living on, and things like that. And so the air is recycled naturally. But we don't see most of the plants that are creating oxygen on our planet; it's the same way with them. Even the lichen and things that she is mistaking for dust and what-not is helping the planet to maintain an oxygen cycle. Good question.

    But that is also why there's rats in the caverns. And a lot of these are surviving geothermally. It's alien; it works, but because I say so.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    How do you think pushing and pulling on liquid metals would work?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It would work, but it'd be messy. It would definitely work; you could do it. In fact, you can find all kinds of things with ferrofluids that would show you kind of how it'd work. I visualize it working similar to some of those things, where you get some of those pretty cool patterns of the liquid. Though not exactly the same, because they're gonna work exactly like ferrofluids, because ferrofluids gonna have suspended particles. Anyways, it's different. But things like that, I think will be very fun. And I imagine trying to find ways to use that more in the future.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    If you've been having success writing books with other authors, as you've had, is that a strategy you might write sequels to Rithmatist?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is something we've considered with Rithmatist, yeah. What would be really nice is, if I'm adding a coauthor, getting somebody who has Aztec heritage (because I wanted to write the next one taking place and dealing with kind of some Aztec lore and things like that) would be really cool. So that's kind of what we've been looking for, if we can find somebody who at least has some understanding of some Mexican heritage and things like that, or a scholar of that. That is probably where we're gonna go, when we do it; we just have to find the right person. So that's what we're looking out for. If you know writers that you really like, you can send me emails about who I should look into.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    I believe that you can reasonably assume that humans and Parshendi at some time mixed, resulting in Horneaters with their red hair and hearty stomachs, Herdazians with their fingernails, and Thaylens with their eyebrows (maybe; I don't know about that one). However, Aimians, like Axies the Collector, have blue changeable skin, and this doesn't seem like a Parshendi trait at all.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is not.

    Questioner

    Is it possible that there was another race welcomed onto the planet like humans were?

    Brandon Sanderson

    RAFO.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    Galactic monopolies on faster-than-light travel and the societal implications of instantaneous transportation are major thematic elements of both the Skyward series and Howard Tayler's Schlock Mercenary.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh, I was gonna say Dune.

    Questioner

    I know that you're friends with Howard; did his work have any influence on how you view this?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh, definitely, yes. I hadn't thought of that, but I bet that there's some of that in there. But I bet we're both influenced by Dune, just like everyone else. I can directly say a monopoly on intergalactic travel is a question that I found really interesting and is something that I'm deeply influenced by Dune by. But yes, I would say that there's definitely some Howard in there, influencing me. I mean, his is the space opera that I probably spent the longest amount of my life reading, Schlock Mercenary.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    One of my favorite things about the cosmere is the mixture of science with magic. I was theorizing on ways you could do the space travel with spaceships between planets. My theory is that you could... we know ways that you could store Investiture in things, we know ways you can shield that as well. I was thinking if you put, like, a super-Invested object at the front of your ship and opened it up, you're basically creating a perpendicularity, put the whole ship into the Cognitive Realm?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Very interesting theory. RAFO.

    I really like that you can theorize along these lines. Not to say too much, but people have been able to figure out how I'm going to do it, because the fundamentals of the magic are there. And that just tickles me. It makes me excited.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    Do you believe that Preservation is inherently good and that Ruin is inherently evil?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, good question! I would say no. I don't think any of the Shards are inherently good or inherently evil. I think that Ruin can be (and was for many years) in the cosmere presented as the necessary force of progress, right? Things need to decay in order for life to exist. And I think entropy is just a necessary aspect of life. And Ruin doesn't have to be evil; but Ruin is hard to control. And Odium is even harder to control. And because of that, there is a higher likelihood that Ruin or Odium are going to, if left unchecked, be very dangeorus.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    You have talked about writing a book about Ashyn, the first planet in the Rosharan system. You said that they have a magic system based on disease, but they are currently without a Shard. Can you tell us what the source of that magic system is?

    Brandon Sanderson

    A lot of the magic systems in the cosmere, I kind of in my head differentiate kind of the primary worlds and the secondary worlds. And even on the secondary worlds, there is magic. And any place that a Shard has been in presence is gonna leave behind an aftereffect, but it's not always that. I would call most of the magic on Ashyn Cultivation-based, most likely. And Cultivation's in the system, but has only briefly been to that planet. But it doesn't mean that... basically, it's kind of the level of Investiture. If you go to Scadrial, on Scadrial, you're gonna have a high percentage of the population, cosmereologically, that are gonna have access to one of the Hemalurgic [Metallic] arts, right? Same thing on Roshar. And indeed, the people are going to be Invested on a level that is beyond the others. This is my in-world canon reason that people just don't come down with colds very often or have tooth decay very often, and things like that. On the primary Shardworlds, we're talking about people who are just naturally, highly Invested.

    All the other worlds, though, you're still gonna have the occasional pop-up of magic, here and there. You're still gonna have effects of being in the cosmere, and things like that. Just much smaller chances. And the magic's probably going to be less likely to be planet-destroying potential, and things like that, like happened on Ashyn.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    With the recent release of the Magic: The Gathering Forgotten Realms set, has Wizards floated the idea of a Cosmere type set?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I'm obviously in pretty regular contact with Wizards, having written a story for them, and things like that. There's a lot of fans in house. So I think that probably we will do these someday. But at the same time, they are still figuring out how to make with their fanbase not rioting at them. Some of the fanbase does not like other IPs getting mixed in to Magic: The Gathering, and so Wizards is figuring out how to do that. We have talked to them. Nothing's come of it yet, but I think it's probably inevitable. I don't know. They know how much I love their game, and a lot of them read my books, so I would imagine that someday, we'll do it. At the very least, we'll do one of these Secret Lair things or something like that, but maybe something more. Like, I would hold out for a full set, like they're doing with Lord of the Rings. But they also are doing Commander decks themed to certain properties, which would be another really cool thing.

    I imagine we would, but I can't... All I can say right now is, we've all been like, "Hey wouldn't that be cool?" And that's as far as it's gone.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    The word "fluting" comes up a lot in the Skyward books. I was wondering, if there is ever a TV show or movie, would you like actual flutes to be used, concerning that?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Maybe, good question. When I hear fluting... If you don't know, I like parrots as pets. And some parrots are good at vocalizing; other ones aren't. And if you know what they're saying, you can understand the word. But sometimes, to an outsider, it just sounds like a squawk. And that's the fluting; I imagine it mostly being pronounced, but if you weren't paying close attention, you might just hear a flute noise. But if you know that the animal is imitating what you're saying, you can pick out what they're saying.

    I imagine it would be synthesized. But maybe there's a flutist out there that can make their fluting sound like the tone and what-not, and it would be appropriate if the repetition was just kind of an evocation of the word.

    Miscellaneous 2021 ()
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    SilentWasteland

    What was the collaboration process like? Did you each work on the same scene/chapter? Do you each take a chapter? Some other way of collaborating that I can’t think of?

    Janci Patterson

    So I wrote virtually everything.

    We brainstormed together.

    Then I submitted outlines. We tossed those back and forth. I wrote a first draft and Brandon gave me a redline edit.

    Then I did a revision,  we went to beta and line edit with my editor, I did another revision, then final copyedit.

    Waterstones Cytonic Release Party ()
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    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.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    I think Hemalurgy is one of the most interesting systems you've really come up with, especially for the future of the cosmere. Can you give us anything new that we do not know about Hemalurgy?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There will be something new in Lost Metal.

    YouTube Live Fan Mail Opening 1 ()
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    Questioner

    Let's say Wax filled an ironmind with weight, forged it into steel, and then burned that steel with Allomancy. If there would be an effect, what would it be?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It would not have an effect in that situation, depending on what it looks like. There is a way to do this where you would end up with just a very, very mild effect. But with him... no, you couldn't even make it work. All that would happen is, you could maybe get the weight back out a little bit. But you couldn't compound it, basically. Good question. I've never been asked that one before.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Use the Falchion (paraphrased)

    I asked Steven Bohls if he and Brandon have any cool ideas for the next Lux book in terms of cool settings or cities.

    Steven Bohls (paraphrased)

    He mentioned that Book 5 will most likely be set in the New Orleans bayou/deep swamp area. (Or at least that's what he'd like.) It will most likely be a shorter book, at around 100k words overall; and there's a good chance that Mizzy will be a major POV character in the next book. Fun fact - Mizzy was supposed to show up in Lux, as Jax was supposed to go from Boston through New York, meet Mizzy and see Regalia flood the city, and then end up in Texas. This part ended up being cut as it was too tangential to the story. (Wingflare's original gimmick was going to be sound and a sound effect, but this was cut - as were most sound effects - as it felt too much like a gimmick.) Brandon currently wants Lux to be a trilogy, and the second book in that trilogy may be released sometime next November. (The two have ideas, but they were waiting on some sales reports and contract stuff first, and that may have just arrived this past week.)  

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Use the Falchion

    Are Soulburner and Starburner the same project? And can you give us an update on either one of those, if they aren't? 

    Brandon Sanderson

    They are the same project, yes. It's still going and going very well. I am not allowed to say what it actually is, because it's not up to me. You can infer what you want from that, and try to read between the lines, but I am not contractually allowed to say what it is right now.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Long time ago now, years and years ago, I, with my family, went to Fiji. And I always like to just write something inspired by a place I visit. And on Fiji, we went and visited one of the local villages. And that's how they describe them, with a chief; even though it's very modern, they still maintain that structure and society. And one of the cool things that the guide who toured us around this, his title was the Kingmaker. And he explained to us his job was to be the person who picked the next king. The king, or the chief, does not get to pick his successor; the Kingmaker, who is a different family line, picks the successor to the king. Which I thought was so cool. It's like it's a check and balance upon the monarchy that I had never heard of before; it's a really sophisticated system that I just thought was awesome. And so I said, "I'm gonna write a book using that idea at some point." And I only managed to get a few chapters of the way into it. I did set it on First of the Sun, the planet where Sixth of the Dusk takes place.

    So I am going to read to you from the prologue and a bit of the first chapter (I didn't get much beyond this) of a book I called Kingmaker.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Prologue

    It begins when the dying man takes his last breath. Death is not uncommon; indeed, it's one of the few universal experiences humans share. It's a pity that we often come to it underprepared, considering it's the singular thing for which, by definition, we have the most time to prepare.

    In this story, fortunately, the man was well-prepared. He'd asked all the questions he could think to ask, and gotten all the answers he'd thought he could get out of life. That was preparation for him, being ready to get answers to the questions he couldn't answer. He'd known for years that he would die; and not as everyone knows death is eventually coming. Rather, he knew death was coming for him in a way you might know to expect the 9:14 train. Yes, it could arrive a little later; but you'll be leaving the station before noon, one way or another. Malignant, they called the infestation growing inside of him. Terminal. How odd, to be killed by growth; not decay, not blood loss, not (as he'd assumed would someday be his lot) by being taken during an ocean hunt. But of something growing, living, just doing a little of too much of both. It felt so very modern to be dying of something called colorectal adenocarcinoma. He'd been born in a time when they'd used simpler terms; but modern science had brought more than steam engines and telegraph machines. It had granted many diseases honored promotions, so chiefs no longer had to die in their own filth, but instead could fall prey to gastroenteritus. And he was a chief, our soon-to-be corpse.

    Ah, but you must know the scene before we continue. I shall describe it as he would have; for it had been years since he'd seen anything other than a milky white haze. Fortunately, if you were wise, you do not need to be able to see in order to tell people where to go.

    He could hear the ocean, first and foremost. Like many of his people, the chief hated places where you couldn't hear the ocean. When he'd been young, he'd worked on the inland <taro> fields by his father's orders. Those were far from the ocean; it took an hour by canoe up the river, away. It had been the worst year of his life, and that counted the ones dying of cancer.

    Today, he could smell the sea. Tradition on the island of <Amore> saying that the chiefs never rotted after death. How could they, when they'd been steeped in brine for so long? The chiefs were the mediators between island and sea, and they bled salty blood. The ocean was in their veins, the crusty lava rock in their bones. He thought fondly of laying in the mausoleum near his father, on a slate block of stone quarried from the rim of a dormant volcano. He'd lay there, smiling as corpses do, baked for all eternity by the sallow candles, massaged by the songs played for the dead, just like the chiefs before him.

    Chief. Now, that was an interesting term these days. But the Home Isles had always had chiefs; that would never change. Now they also had representatives, elected by direct voice of the people. These traveled to the distant government seat and made policy, while the chiefs remained on their islands. For what was a chief when away from his people, his soil, his seed? Not that the chiefs were impotent; they set island policy and grumbled at the need for interference from the government. The chief represented the tribe, which, in this story, meant all the people living on one small island, some six hundred in total, all related. The representatives led the country, but the chiefs led the families; each one, a tiny king. They were the guardians of tradition and executors of modern policy all at once. As such, the term nestled comfortably between the new and the old, like that spoon that slid off the counter and jammed itself in the spot between wood and wall: stuck, stubborn, and somehow still a perfect fit.

    He nestled there now, right between the old and the new. A breeze blew in through the open parlor doors. They built their homes for years in such a way as to invite the breeze in, as an honored guest. But he also felt the blowing fan overhead, rhythmically clicking from its spidery place in the ceiling. A modern convenience the chief's home had, as it needed power to work the telegraph machine. It was the only place in the entire island that was electric, powered by some very large chemical batteries that you'd have called primitive. But here, they were the utmost leading edge of technology, developed proudly by scholars without the help of the Ones Above.

    There. Can you feel it? Soft sheets beneath your back, cool breeze on your cheeks, fan counting off the last seconds of your life? Ocean calling to your soul? No pain; but also, few deep thoughts. The drugs prevented both.

    Now, add footsteps. They made the rug creak; it was woven of beachfront frond leaves given to him by the chief of <Luma> island, the next one in the chain. The steps didn't click; they sounded from feet unshod, so it wasn't the nurse.

    "Coral?" the chief asked. Was it his first son? "Squall?" The second, perhaps. No response. "I need a drink," the chief said, reaching limply toward his nightstand. "It no longer hurts to drink. It no longer hurts at all."

    No response. The chief had to wonder if he'd hallucinated the sounds. His brain seemed to be floating in soup these days. He drew in a long, ragged breath.

    That's the one. His last. This is where it begins. Because, before the chief could release that breath, a pair of gloved hands locked around his throat and squeezed.

    Strangely, it didn't hurt, either. Someone is killing me! The thought reached his brain slowly, as if by a bird messenger, rather than telegraph. Someone is killing me... before I can die. He fought, because he was a chief, and because he didn't like someone taking what the gods had claimed. But he couldn't even relieve himself these days without help, so fighting back an attacker was impossible. Those hands just squeezed tighter. The white that was his world began to grow dark, and he realized, prepared though he thought he was, one more question had shown up last minute. Demanding. Confusing.

    Who murders a man that has days, maybe mere hours, left to live?

     

    Chapter One

    The steamship cut across the ocean like a hunting knife crossed the skin of a beast: straight, unconcerned, leaving a scar behind in the waves. <Tulaku>, the Kingmaker, loved standing at the ship's rail, feeling the wind beat her face, watching the impotent waves break against the hull. It felt so modern to be able to impose human will upon both wind and wave. It had been an eternity since she'd enjoyed modern conveniences like this. They were so uncommon out here in the Scattered Isles, the backwaters of a land with, admittedly, quite a lot of water. But her time here was done; the ship steamed inward with clocklike precision. The Kingmaker had duties at <Tory>, the grand island where the government and corporations were run. So the steamship would carry her there. It wouldn't wait until the tide turned; it wouldn't wait for favorable winds. It would go now.

    She was a young woman, this Kingmaker, and if you'd been from her world, you'd immediately have noticed something off about her. Something unusual, other than the youth. That, at least, was evident only when you looked at her face. Everything about her served as an intentional distraction from her youthful figures. The traditional clothing, shrouding her in a cloak of Aviar feathers. The posture, so carefully cultivated to project strength, confidence, and authority. The ceremonial oar, held like a staff with its arrowhead-shaped paddle toward the sky, crowned with the jagged teeth of a mature ocean shadow beast. Everything about her proclaimed aged wisdom.

    But the face. That embarrassingly youthful face. <Tulaku> had learned to deal with the looks. She no longer glanced down in embarrassment when introducing herself, no longer winced visibly when people expressed surprise at her age. Yet there was something about her expression; the way she'd meet her eyes, then draw her lips to a line. The gesture seemed to admit: "We apologize for the inconvenience of sending a teen in the place of your expected wizened elder. Please wait while we remedy the situation. Note: this process may take forty years." She hoped, as she put the Splintered Isles behind her, she'd also escape those experiences. She'd rarely felt them at home; senators and company presidents there could be young and vibrant, so why not Kingmakers? There, you wouldn't be judged by your age, but by your ambition, and perhaps the quality of the names in your personal address book.

    As she contemplated this, a large man shuffled down the steps from the bridge, his Aviar flapping wings to balance on his shoulder. The captain didn't wear a uniform; he was a company man, not a soldier. Though the distinction and authority between those two roles was subtle, the distinction in costumes was not. Captain <Hatchi> wore a thick woolen coat, a scarf, and a captain's hat. He rested hands on rail, fingers wrapped in thick workman's gloves. His Aviar, Chipper, had plumage of radiant green and red: one of the species that protected a ship and its crew from the questing minds of beasts that lived beneath the waves. Those had been exterminated from these populated shallows, of course, but it was a lucky Aviar breed nonetheless, one you often found accompanying sailors.

    "Do you ever feel like a god out here, Captain," <Tulaku> said, "cutting across the waves, unencumbered by mortal concerns like current or wind?"

    "Once in a while," he said, "until a storm comes. Then, well, I remember my mortality right fast, Kingmaker. Right fast." He kissed his fingers and held them to the wind, which was blowing in from the east. The direction to the Pantheon islands and the gods they represented.

    "But surely," <Tulaku> said, "we can weather even storms, now? Only modern society has designed machines that can ignore the wind. We go where we want!"

    "Yes, yes," he said, "but doesn't that make the machines the gods, Kingmaker? I'm not stronger than my ancestors. They crossed the seas, too, against the waves and in canoes. Doesn't take steam to manage it; just power." He glanced at the puffs coming from the boiler. "One type or another. But now, I shouldn't contradict you, wise one. Forgive me."

    The ship continued through the ocean, belching confident black smoke, undaunted by both still wind and storm. Steered by compass, not by the lapping of waves. Indeed, the captain often thought about his father, who'd been a captain during a different time. His father's ship had once run aground on a deserted island, but the crew had patched it up and then been on their way. If the steamship were to break down, <Hatchi> knew he wouldn't be able to repair it. Then again, there were specialists for that sort of thing. And so, the more men progressed collectively, the less it seemed like the individual had anything to know. Ignorance was its own kind of luxury.

    The Kingmaker frowned, consumed by her own thoughts, which sailed a different direction from <Hatchi>. As she got to more cosmopolitan areas, she'd gladly put behind the questioning eyes, the doubts that her age caused. Yet she'd also leave behind some of the reverence that people like <Hatchi> showed her. That had been one nice aspect of these rural islands and those who sailed them.

    "You should know, Kingmaker," the captain said, "that a telegraph is arriving for you. It should be ready and interpreted shortly. That's why I came looking for you."

    A telegraph. Now there was a modern innovation, and one all their own, not a gift from those Ones Above. Messages traveled the islands invisibly though the air, almost like a bird.

    The Kingmaker winced, looking down at the ocean. If you'd known the people of this land, you'd likely have been surprised at the sudden pain she felt, thinking of birds. Then you'd look at her shoulder, see what was missing, and realize at last what had seemed off about her all along.

    "The telegraph will be my mentor," she said to the captain, "with some words of encouragement." Please let it be that, she thought. And only that.

    There had been a time when every island had its own Kingmaker. Someone to watch the chief and act as a balance to his ambition. The Kingmaker couldn't, of course, unseat a chief. The gods had placed the chief where he was, after all, and mortals should not intervene. Yet everyone agreed there should be some check upon the chief's power. Even the chiefs themselves tended to agree, something you might find curious. This is likely because you're familiar with large kings of nations, rather than the small kings of the islands. Large kings tend to be gluttons. Give them a mansion, and they'll want two; pay them some taxes, and they'll wonder how high they can get. Grant them a taste of absolute authority, and they'll chug the whole bottle. But, like a remarkable number of things when it comes to human society, monarchy tends to work far better on the small scale. A mansion doesn't feel so necessary when your brother has a hut. Taxes feel different when squeezed out of the man who taught you to fish. And absolute power doesn't feel so absolute when your mother chides you for abusing it. So generally, yes, the chiefs themselves liked having someone to watch over them. You wouldn't believe it, from the way the two offices tended to squabble.

    Ah, but I still haven't explained: what is a Kingmaker? Well, it is as it sounds. The Kingmaker chooses the next ruler. They couldn't unseat the current chief, as I said, but they could do something nearly as bad. They could end his dynasty, choosing someone outside his lineage to take the throne. Every chief had to live with a certain fear of that possibility. Rule poorly, and you'll suffer patrimonial emasculation in the form of a rival son being given charge of your throne, and in many ways your legacy, once you were gone. Most Kingmaker interventions in <Tulaku>'s bold, oh-so-modern times, were just for show. Chiefs had to work alongside elected officials, and dynasties were usually preserved in the name of tradition. Chiefs represented tradition; upheld it. It was actually one of the few remaining powers in this day of senates, corporations, and individual suffrage. Because of this, the Kingmaker's job had changed over the years. They watched the kings, not just as it related to their successions. If the king were to break the law, for example, what did one do? In the past, nothing. These days, the king was not the law; indeed, the law carried a ceremonial oar, and sometimes wore too young a face for her station.

    These days, there was often just one Kingmaker serving a dozen or more islands, and she didn't even have to attend or even sanction every coronation. If a ruler was liked, and a clear heir existed, the change of power could be sealed by telegraph. But if a succession was disputed, then one would be assigned to see to the matter personally. If one was already in attendance nearby, it would be her job. And if none were in attendance... well, it would fall upon the nearest passing Kingmaker. A tradition that <Tulaku> was now coming to find extremely inconvenient.

    Brandon Sanderson

    So you can probably tell from that, I was experimenting with some omniscient voice in that. It got really tell-y; I apologize for that. That was me just being whimsical and figuring out the worldbuilding as I wrote. You do that in first drafts, sometimes. I'm still very fond of that piece; I'm not sure if I will ever use it for anything in the future. There was definitely some awkwardness about the voice, but also it had some nice turns of phrases, which were fun.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Mojonero

    Back before the Final Ascension, if you had a full Feruchemist and a Mistborn, both with access and knowledge of all 16 metals, could they make medallions without the use of Hemalurgy?

    Brandon Sanderson

    If they knew what to do maybe. Much easier with Hemalurgy - but it would be possible.

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Questioner

    In The Way of Kings, there's a Death Rattle that reads, "He must pick it up, the fallen title! The tower, the crown, and the spear!" Have the events alluded to in this Death Rattle occurred, on or off screen, by the end of Rhythm of War?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No. *evil laughter*

    Questioner

    Could the tower, the crown, and the spear possibly be referring to Renarin?

    Brandon Sanderson

    RAFO, RAFO, RAFO!

    Dragonsteel Mini-Con 2021 ()
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    Dirigible

    In Secret History, we see orbs of Connection that Kelsier uses, and it draws lines between him and other objects. If Vin were to, in the Well of Ascension era, use that orb and also pull the mists in, would she be able to steelpush or ironpull on non-metal objects?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There are ways to steelpush on non-metal objects, but that's not the method.

    Dirigible

    Atium alloy?

    Brandon Sanderson

    What do you mean by atium alloy?

    Dirigible

    Atium-steel alloy, or atium-iron?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Hmm, we're straying into RAFO territory. Let's just say that it is possible.

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    Questioner

    Lightweavers, you're saying that they're gonna be able to do lasers and things in space era. Could a Lightweaver conceivably make a kugelblitz? It's when compressing enough light into one space that it makes a black hole.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I'm gonna say that that's beyond the power level of your average Lightweaver. But who knows? Good question. I've never heard that term before, that's kind of cool. That'd take a lot of Light.

    Questioner

    Isn't Hoid a Lightweaver now?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Hoid is a Lightweaver now, yes. But Hoid does like playing with fire. He should not be a Lightweaver. Hoid is too close to various things that happened with Dawnshards, he is playing with fire.