[Kaladin] better outlive Moash tho.
[Kaladin] better outlive Moash tho.
Larimar, a rare blue stone found in only one place on Earth, the Dominican Republic, it reminds of a tropical Ocean!
Name inspiration? I would definitely think it fits the Hallandren aesthetic!
Yes, I believe this had an influence on the name, though it's been a long time.
I’m almost 100% settled on the title for the novella. It’s not gonna be Wandersail. Because Wandersail implies that it has something to do with Wit’s story. Which it doesn’t; it’s just the name of the boat. So I have another name that’s actually much better that talks about what the story’s actually about. Once I’m sure that I like that, we’ll do an announcement on that.
Would you be willing to take the Order Sorter quiz?
I did take the Order Sorter quiz. I can’t remember which one was on top; I was close in Elsecaller and Bondsmith. Which is where I would have placed myself. People say, “Who do you see yourself most as?” I’m kind of a Dalinar/Jasnah mix. It very closely sorted me into those two, and it’s when I said, “Isaac! You did a good job! It put me where I belong.”
Could a modern human and a listener have fertile children?
RAFO. Good question
Can you talk about the idea and inspiration for “The Narrative”? It reminds me heavily of The Wheel of Time’s Pattern, and I imagine it struck a special chord with you as an author of the Narratives.
Really, it is a balance between those two things. It is me wanting to do a magic system that has something to do with this modernist take on the narrative shaping who I am and my stories and my characters and things like that. Like Stranger Than Fiction. That is, obviously, one of the inspirations for this kind of thing. The Pattern is a very big inspiration as well for the Narrative. You nailed both of them, and also Stranger than Fiction, I would list as an inspiration.
What form is a listener at birth?
Listeners are technically dullform, but they kind of view it as childform. And it is vibrant and alive in a way that dullform, later on, is not. It dulls as you get older. The listeners, I think I have them hitting maturity, right now, at seven or eight. I don’t know if that works with the continuity. I just mentioned it in the lastest draft, so Peter and Karen will have to make sure that that’s in continuity.
I don’t bring it up a lot, because it would be really weird to people. But I think, in these Venli sequences, in the flashbacks… I think Venli, right now, is probably fourteen. Because listeners mature, like… their eight is our sixteen. They just mature faster. But I don’t bring it up because it’s one of those things like the fact that I don’t often mention that Roshar has twenty-hour days, or I stay away from the five-day week. Just because it really kicks people out. You’ve gotta be really careful about how you write things like that. I’m like, “Venli is fourteen.” You’d be like, “What? Venli does not feel fourteen.” Well, she’s not fourteen; she’s fourteen for a listener. And some of these flashback sequences, she’s ten. But she’s gonna read like she’s sixteen or seventeen. Because that’s what she would be in maturity level for a human.
It gets very sticky in those sorts of things. The answer is, they are dullform. But dullform acts differently with children.
If you could choose three aspects to have with you, what would their specialties be?
Languages. I would love to have an aspect that could help me interact with other people who speak different languages. People often ask, “What superpower would you have?” Being able to speak all languages would be among the coolest superpowers that I can imagine. Because I travel so much, because I interact with people from other cultures, and because I think language is so shapen of the way we see the world, that would be high on my list. Aspects who can do other languages: really handy.
An aspect who was really, really good at continuity that could help me when I write something, the aspect would say, “You know, this is going to give Karen a huge headache later on for continuity. Maybe you should just change it to this. I’m sure Karen would be really happy.” Reading over my shoulder as I’m typing, like, “Nope. That character can’t be over there, because you said they were over here ten years ago. So this flashback, they can’t be in it.” Stuff like that would be really super-handy.
Number three. I’ve got a linguist, and I’ve got an editor. Number three, a psychologist. I would go with an Ivy; a psychologist would be super handy.
How did the Knights Radiant treat their transgender members? Assuming that some underwent a physical transformation once they gained access to Stormlight?
In the past, you will find the Knights Radiant being way more progressive than the societies at large. They would treat the transgender person as the gender that they see themselves as being.
Now that you’re writing the Mistborn screenplay, what would be your ideal way to show emotional or non-physical Allomancy on the screen?
I’m playing with a lot of different things. The screenplay right now, we’re using blue as a signifier that Allomancy’s being used. The blue lines work pretty well. Mostly, you’re gonna see a very faint blue line, and you’re gonna see the object that the person is pushing or pulling on flashing blue. That is your indication.
And right now, I have someone’s eyes flash blue when they’ve been hit by emotional Allomancy. The problem with that is, it can’t be diegetic. It can’t be in-world; it has to be a thing for the audience. Which, non-diegetic music is fine. Everyone’s used to that in movies. But something like this, we may want to try to find a better way. But right now, that’s what we’re doing. That’s at least what the screenplay is. The person uses their power, someone’s eyes flash blue; they are being affected by emotional Allomancy. You now know. Again, I assume most people who watch the film will assume that’s diegetic. Which makes for problems and a huge weakness in emotional Allomancy that I don’t intend.
It is a trick, right? To show, “How is someone using Allomancy?” I kind of want someone, when a Thug is lifting something and burning pewter, you’d be able to see. I have it written right now that blue veins move across their arms like lightning, being like, “They are using Allomancy to enhance their strength right now.”
And it might be the answer, just make emotional Allomancy be diegetic. That it’s got this big weakness in the film version of the cosmere that it didn’t have in the books, in order to actually make it visual so that people can understand what’s going on. But there might be another answer.
And remember, I am not going to be writing the screenplay. I am going to write a rough draft of the screenplay, and then I’m going to work with a real screenwriter to actually make it into a screenplay. My goal is just to get down on paper what things I think are justified and important changes to make from the book to the film, and what things I think still have to be there. My goal is that anyone I work with would be able to take this screenplay or treatment, look at it, and say, “I am willing to commit to any changes we would make to this being approved by you.”
Because what they won’t do, is they won’t give me creative control. I don’t have enough power in Hollywood to get creative control over a film. J.K. Rowling got it. But Stephanie Meyer had to go to a second-string film studio to get it. And George Martin didn’t get it. That’s kind of your hierarchy. And I am below George; I’m probably actually where George was when he got that deal, I would say. I am in the category of, I don’t have enough power to demand this. I would have to be two ranks in popularity and influence more than I am, and I don’t think that is legitimately something we could wait to happen, because to get to Twilight or Harry Potter level popularity is just not something that you can count on. I don’t think you can count on getting to the level of popularity we’ve gotten to.
So I think, moving forward, my goal is to find ways that I can work with the system. And I think that if they have a screenplay and a treatment, and they’re like, “All right. We can agree that this is good enough that if we have to make any changes to this, we will let you have approval.” Having them say, “Brandon has to have creative control” without any screenplay or thing like that, no one’s ever gonna give me. So that’s the main goal of this. The main goal is to say, “Here is Brandon’s vision. Are you willing to make Brandon’s vision as a film?”
Unkalaki jobs are decided by birth order. Is this cultural? Or are there more significant reasons? Specifically, Rock can see spren other can’t and pull a Shardbow. Are either of those related to his birth order after the death of his siblings?
No, that is not related to his birth order. Most of what they do is cultural. I will dig into it deeply in the book Horneater, which will be the novella I write between Books Four and Five. So wait for that.
Has Odium interacted with any Shards other than Honor, Cultivation, Dominion, Devotion, Ambition, and Autonomy in a meaningful way post-Ascension. If so, which one?
Very nice, specific question. RAFO.
Is it possible for a kandra to bond a spren?
RAFO. Good question.
In future volumes, will we continue to see a hybrid of worlds? Or will the story progress to only the fantastic realm?
I intend there to be a balance. The third one is way more balanced on Mirandus, but the second one should have about an equal balance, maybe. This is gonna be up to, again, the authors and the artist. Because the novel is balanced a little more toward Mirandus than the outline is. So I would expect the second one, perhaps, to continue that. But the second season has an equal amount on Earth as Mirandus. Third one is weighted toward Mirandus.
How come the Drull were never completely exterminated in the times between Dark Ones, given their low numbers and the fact that their war machines required the Dark One to work?
My argument would be that: number one, when the wars are done, going out and fighting some more is not really high on people’s priority list. Trying to exterminate the Drull would be like trying to get people out of Afghanistan. It would not be easy, it would be very bloody, and it would require a lot of work. And you would have to do that after a large war has been fought, and everyone is tired of fighting.
When Caligo did the thing he did in the end, was what happened with Paul an intended or unintended consequence of that?
You should assume that most things that happen involving Caligo were things that Caligo wanted to happen.
Was “Peragator” supposed to be “Peragrator”? Peragrate means “to travel.”
I will have to look at that. I don’t know. I don’t think it was.
Did the intermissions occur on Earth or Mirandus?
How much electricity stuff will we see later?
I’ve left that up to the graphic novel writer and artist. Because there’s a lot of this in the outline, and it’s a really weird Brandon world, that those are harder for people to deal with than I’ve realized. Like, making that sort of thing work is one of my personal quirks. And they came to me (and actually Joe Straczynski came to me, too), and they’re like, “This is really hard to figure out what you wanted us to do with this.” And I said, “Just go your direction on that. I understand that this is a very weird Brandon-style world and magic system. I am okay if you downplay a little bit.” So that’s gonna be up to them, honestly. It is really weird. And I am okay with people… “weird” is the wrong term. It’s very individual to me, the way that I approach this.
And you see it in White Sand, too, unfortunately. We had this same problem with White Sand. If you read the novel of White Sand, the worldbuilding is really out there in a lot of places. People are shooting water at each other and making beetle-shell armor and doing all kinds of wacky stuff in a very Brandon-style “we’re going to use the resources, economy, and worldbuilding of this place to really influence the way they have battle, the way they live their lives.” And that’s just really hard for someone to adapt. And I misjduged how hard that would be for someone to adapt on White Sand.
And so, with Dark One, I’m letting them have some flexibility there. I wouldn’t expect it to go too much in the graphic novel.
I would say that we might see hints of that in the future, where you can look at it and say, “Oh, this was Brandon’s weird world was the seed for certain things that may happen.
I’ve talked to the writers a little bit about that. I think there are plans for smaller things, but I don’t know what the extent.
You’re not gonna get a Roshar style “every aspect of the world is built around the idea of the storms” sort of thing. It is just something that comes very naturally to me that is actually much harder than I realized it was.
Was there truly no Destined One during the time of Malmahan, or did something happen?
You will find out.
Ah, Malmahan. I’ve been waiting forever to use that name. Because it has some fun biblical things. Anyway, we’ll just go there.
Would it be better to create a weapon with one soul from a person with a forceful personality, or one with many souls of no particular importance?
In this world, one forceful soul is generally gonna serve you better. Remember, power is a vague term. What is more powerful? I’ve joked about writing a book (I still want to do this some day, but it’s very far down the list) about the most powerful sword ever existed. It has 780 different powers. It’s full of the most powers. Almost all of them are useless. But it is technically the most power-full sword ever created.
But you want one forceful soul. In this case, it’s gonna serve you way better. Maybe not necessarily in super raw power, but in nine out of ten times, you’re gonna want that one soul.
How does the government of the Kingdoms of Light work? Does the Chronicle King rule them all himself? Is it a coalition? Are there vassals? And is the Dawncoast part of it?
Oh, boy. I would have to go back to my… that is in my outline. I’m gonna have to speak from not having read the outline in, like, six months. I was looking at kind of a… I believe there’s this idea that when it comes to matters relating directly to the Dark One, the Narrative, and things like that, the Chronicle King becomes a kind of Speaker of the House, so to speak. A first among equals. And in other areas, they did not have to necessarily take the Chronicle King’s word. And I believe that is where we would go with that. I don’t think that got changed. But the actual details of how that work, I would have to pull out the outline and talk about it and refresh myself. That’s where I believe I went with it. The idea being: in matters of there being a threat and a Dark One and the Blasted Lands and all that, then you have to listen to the Chronicle King a little more than you normally would.
I can at least answer one part of that question. At least when I was making the map and chatting with the writers, the intention was that Dawncoast is part of the Kingdoms of Light. It just happens to be around a part of the mountain range.
In versions one and two, there was a separate island that Paul was from that was not either part of the Blasted Lands or the Kingdoms of Light. And that, when he of course moved to being from Earth, vanished. But that did exist for a while.
Is the magic used in the Kingdom of Light also based on binding souls? Or does their magic work differently?
A lot of their magic is going to be Narrative-based magic, rather than binding of souls. But they do have… let’s just say, not everyone in the Kingdoms of Light knows the stuff that Illarion is up to. And he may have access to some things that they would not be as happy, that he is using.
Paul’s desire not to be the bad guy, but bloodlines and destiny pulling him another way, reminds me of another way. Paul Atreides, from the novel Dune. Is it just a coincidence they are both named Paul? Or was there some inspiration from Dune?
There’s probably a subconscious influence. That wasn’t intentional, though.
I believe Dark One started in the cosmere. Are there any elements in the current version that we can identify as cosmere-ish? For example, the Well of Sorrows feels like it could have been a Shardpool.
Yeah, the Well of Sorrows got added during the cosmere part. So did Nikka being a ghost, when it was in the cosmere. She was, like, just a character until I did the cosmere version. And when I pulled it out, I left that. So, basically, Nikka the Cognitive Shadow is a cosmere leftover.
When it was cosmere, Illarion the White Wizard was going to be using cosmere magics that you don’t need any Investiture to use, in order to be pulling off some of his tricks, which I thought was an amusing application. But since we moved it out he can have actual… I mean, the whole “Destined One” is something I wrote in to the most recent. That didn’t exist up until version four, that is the version you’re reading. Before that, he’d have a fabrial and be like, “Look, what a powerful wizard I am!” And then use it to do something, and they’d be like, “Wow!” But that got written out.
Yes, there are some cosmere stuff there.
We might do Cosmere children’s books. The most likely thing that I would like to do is adapt Wit’s stories. Do Wandersail, do maybe Fleet. Fleet doesn’t work as well as The Girl Who Looked Up, which works really well. Stuff like that, I could see. Cosmere storybook.
How has Isaac’s writing been coming along?
I have been doing worldbuilding for Darkside.
We’re thinking, Isaac has been very interested in doing some cosmere stories. So we are going to, at some point, have Isaac write in the cosmere. We’ve talked about Mistborn stuff, we’ve talked about Threnody stuff, we’ve talked about Taldain stuff. Something along those lines, Isaac’s gonna do that.
The first thing you’ll get from me, aside from the Nicki Savage story and the Allomancer Jak that you’ve already gotten, is this new prologue to White Sand. There’s some scenes in there that don’t show up in the original manuscript that were put in there for reasons, just to help the book come together as a whole, that I hope people will like. So you’ll kinda get to see what my take is on cosmere-type things on that.
But that’s where I’m at right now. I’m really enjoying fleshing out the Darkside stuff. We’re thinking about calling it The Arcanist, relating to Khriss. This is her story. And that also gives us leeway to continue her stories under that title, The Arcanist.
Is there a plan to have Graphic Audio perform Dark One?
No, not right now. There is a decent chance that I’ll do a separate audio adaptation of Dark One that is made for the audiobook world, because I really like some of the stuff we’re doing in audio right now. But if I did that, I probably wouldn’t adapt the graphic novel, because the graphic novel is written to be a visual medium. But would, instead, take that original outline and do it like a radio drama instead. Something like that. I could see doing that.
White Sand ombinus?
I’m gonna have to be careful with what I say here, because we’re working with Dynamite, and I want to give them an update.
But I will say that that’s kind of the big thing that I’m doing around Rhythm of War artwork and Kickstarter stuff. When I have time, I’ve been making adjustments to White Sand. Continuity adjustments…
There are some things that I can tell you. I can tell you that we are adding 38 new pages of artwork that comes at the very beginning. There may be more. This depends on discussions with Dynamite. But we have a really great artist working on that. He’s almost done with it. I want to announce who it is, but I want to talk to Dynamite first. But I just want to say that he’s doing an amazing job. We’ve got a great colorist, we’ve got a great letterer. In fact, the colorist and letterer did work on some of the stuff that’s in the original White Sand.
It’s coming together really nicely. I think fans are gonna be really happy with the adjustments. And it’s going to place it more firmly in the cosmere than it has with the previous versions. Which were just fine; we loved working with the artist and the writer at Dynamite. I consider Rik a friend. This is just taking something that was already good and making it a little bit better. And a little bit more just continuity-wise fit in with the cosmere. We want to do more things with these characters, and so we wanted to make sure the continuity was working correctly.
Hey, Isaac. Do you think there’s time dilation going on in the graphic novel?
No. Part of that is, if you take a look when you get to the climax, there’s certain things that happen there that make me think there’s not a lot of time dilation going on.
Is there a reason the denizens of Mirandus all speak English? Are other incantation rituals like the one used to travel between Earth and Mirandus that do different things?
Yes and yes.
My question is in regards to the relation of time between Mirandus and our world. Is there a significant difference in the flow of time between the two? Notably, is the time passing faster in Mirandus, making multiple Dark Ones appear within a single human’s lifetime in our world?
I’ve been cagey on this in the outline, allowing for it to exist. The original outline doesn’t explicitly say it. I have given this leeway to the graphic novel writers. And I honestly can’t tell you how much they’ve leaned into that yet or not. We’ll have to start seeing people bounce back and forth before we learn if there’s much time dilation. But the way that I had worked it in the outline is that it wouldn’t be required. Basically, the Narrative needed a Dark One at this point, and a Destined One. So there are reasons why it’s a little faster this time. But I didn’t really intend for there to be time dilation.
We’ll see. I did leave room that they could use it. I don’t feel like they’re using it, but I haven’t asked them explicitly, and that’s kind of there for them if they need it. Basically, keeping all of the timelines straight on something like this can be really a big challenge. Like, you ought to ask Karen sometime, getting the timeline straight for a single Stormlight book, with all the flashbacks and things like that that are happening. Super big challenge. So writing some wiggle room into that felt like the right move for this one.
Is this going to be a softer magic system [in Dark One] than we usually see? Or do we just not have the rules yet?
You don’t have a ton of the rules. It’s a little softer than, say, a cosmere magic. It’s not as soft as the graphic novel makes it out to be. You don’t have all the answers yet. But it is definitely a few steps further toward the soft side than a cosmere magic would be.
Really, for the opening sort of things this whole novel, the idea is that Paul’s powers are scary to him. They do not make sense to him, they are not something he wants. And because of that, kind of leaning into the horror and mystery of what it is he can do, made way more sense than making it a very fiddly, classical Brandon magic system. And that’s actually kind of part of the problem with some of the original attempts, is they tried to make the magic more of a Brandon fiddly magic system. And when I leaned into the more horrifying aspect of what it was to discover this kind of dark heritage and things like that, it’s when the story started working.
Yes, the rules are there. Yes, they are softer. But no, you don’t have all of them yet. And I’m not sure how much we will lean into that as we move forward in adapting seasons two and three. I outlined a three season television show, of which this is season one, what you have.
What made you decide to take Dark One in a darker direction?
It really just was not working otherwise. And I think the reason it had to go this way was because it was this deconstruction. And a deconstruction, by necessity, relies upon the original work. So relying on the shared experience that people have in having experienced things like this is very handy and very useful, and because I was making it a more mature work in that way, it felt very natural.
When I pitched this to people in Hollywood, one of the things I say is that I want to do a darker version of a portal fantasy. That’s what feels right to me. I can’t really explain it other than just saying, “Yeah. It felt right.”
In Emperor’s Soul, there are soulstamps. If you had five, what would they do?
What would they turn me into, the soulstamps that change a person? What would I change myself into?
It would be really fun to go back and recast myself as a visual artist and see what happened there. Recast myself as a computer programmer. Those are both very possible outcomes of my life. It would probably be nice to have one where I’m just a very different version of myself, to see what I could have been. That whole burning gold thing in Mistborn, that idea fascinates me, the other possibilities of what I could have been. I would look for things like that. Different things that I think are very plausible that I could have become, and it would be fun to live those lives for a little while.
I don’t think they would be better than the current one, but I certainly would be interested in them.
You said that this story was a long time in the making, that you struggled with. Compared to writing a novel, how does this sense of accomplishment differ between finally getting a working outline, compared to seeing the final work?
One thing is, getting the outline and making it work for Dark One was kind of the big breakthrough for me. When that worked, that’s where I got really excited. I’m like, “This will actually work.” I could have written this as a novel. Like I said, the pacing didn’t feel right for that, but I knew I had cracked the story.
When I started getting the artwork back that Vault did on this, and seeing just how close to my vision it was, I got very excited. It’s really cool when the best collaborations happen. This has happened to me once in Hollywood, and now it’s happened with the graphic novel. When you turn something in, and what you get back feels better than what you turned in. It feels like they got it and understood your vision and then improved it. Like, there’s a ton of dialogue in this that wasn’t in the outline that just works really well. And I was really happy to see it. This came together really well.
So, there is quite the sense of accomplishment. It’s more along the lines of “It actually worked!” Sometimes, you get a little discouraged with collaboration, because you get back a screenplay (and this has happened to me a couple of times) where it’s obvious that the screenwriter had no interest in the original property, and wasn’t inspired by it. They just went their own direction. And that’s rough. And sometimes, despite their best efforts, you get back a screenplay which is taking the novel, and it doesn’t go the wrong way, it doesn’t change anything; but it just doesn’t adapt it, so it’s just scene-by-scene the book, and the screenplay is boring because of that. That’s also discouraging. One is discouraging because you’re like, “Wow, you didn’t even care.” And the other is kind of discouraging because you get it back and you’re like, “I could have done this as poorly as you did.” I understand it’s a tough nut to crack, an epic fantasy novel as a screenplay. But we need to do something that actually makes it into a movie. And both of those are a different kind of discouragement. And getting something back like this that’s just like, “Wow, they did it. They took it, they ran with it, they made it both their own by adding to it, but also kept the soul of what I had wanted to make. That’s really satisfying.
You said before, when you outlined the Dark One’s story, it felt more like a comic than a novel to you. What is the difference between a novel outline and a comic outline?
I haven’t done a ton of comic outlines, so understand that I am speaking from the position of a novelist doing a comic outline.
Because I intended this to be a television show, it was dialogue-heavy. Now, you can write dialogue-heavy books, but because it was so dialogue-heavy, it felt like a graphic novel. It was focused on a large number of characters, but also a lot of quick-moving plots, because I had designed it as a television how. It felt like it was broken into episodes, rather than parts. Granted, I didn’t plot it like a television show that’s completely episodic; it’s a continuing story. But because I had broken it into these episode chunks, it felt more like a serial form of storytelling, which graphic novels often are. Though we ended up doing it as just a single graphic novel, it could have been released as issues, if we had decided to go that route. And those are the two main things: dialogue-heavy, and sequential/serialized.
Are the graphic novels of Dark One still supposed to be prequels to the eventual television series? Or will the television series be an adaptation of the graphic novel?
If I get my way, television series is an adaptation of the graphic novel. Let me talk you all through the long history of Dark One. I, as you might know, I really like to take sort of modernist, deconstructionist looks at the epic fantasy core idea, the Hero’s Journey you might call it, the epic fantasy of it. And in a lot of ways, you might call this my foundational myth. The idea of the young man born to a peasant family who has a noble heritage, who goes on a question, becomes a king, gets magic objects, saves the world. Like, this is the story of the David Eddings, The Wheel of Time, Memory Sorrow and Thorn, Sword of Shannara. I read a ton of these works when I was a young man, and it is kind of the core fantasy myth of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Fantasy really doesn’t do as much of that anymore, ‘cause it was done quite a bit and quite well. But I really like looking at that and deconstructing it. It’s not religious, but it’s very similar to that for me, the thing that kind of is my origin as a writer.
So, like you see authors deconstructing, in the Middle Ages or even the Renaissance and later, the Adam and Eve story, you see me deconstructing the heroic journey in fantasy. Mistborn was doing this to an extent. And after doing Mistborn, I found that I really wanted to explore another version of this, and it started to take shape in my mind as just being called Dark One. Obviously a nod to The Wheel of Time, but also a nod to a lot of these stories that have the Dark Lord who is the antagonist of this sort of monomyth. And I really wanted to do a story about, “What if you found out that instead of being prophesied to be Harry Potter, there was a prophecy that you would become Voldemort. And how did you deal with that? And what did that do to your life?”
Well, I tried this story multiple times until I cracked it. The first version I can remember writing was in its own complete fantasy world, and was a Young Adult/Middle Grade attempt at it. This is because Harry Potter was one of the inspirations for it, so it had a very Harry Potter-esque sort of… I was kind of using some of J.K. Rowling’s prose constructions. Not, hopefully, plagiarizing them, but looking at how she wrote and trying to do something a little more light-hearted and whimsical, like hers. And it just did not work. Just completely flopped on its face. Though, it’s the first place that Pattern, that eventually ended up in Stormlight Archive, showed up. Something like Pattern. And I set that aside and left it for a few years.
A few years, I came back to it and said, “What if I did this as a portal fantasy?” Fantasy where you start on Earth, and then transition to the fantasy world. And I tried it again, and I got, like, two or three chapters in, and it still was not working. It felt better. I felt like it made a step forward, but I had not cracked it. It was still a Middle Grade story; young YA, old Middle Grade, kind of like where Alcatraz sits.
I left it alone again. Years later, this would be, like, 2014 maybe, I thought, “What if I tried setting this in the cosmere?” I moved it to the cosmere. Go three or four chapters in. And it still didn’t work. This is not unusual. I mean, this is the most unusual one for me in that it’s gone on the longest. But a lot of times, you try something and it just doesn’t feel right, doesn’t work. So I set it aside yet again.
And when I came back to it, the big change I made in my brain is that I’m like, “I think that the problem is that this is a book for someone who grew up reading these stories, but who is not still themselves a young person who hasn’t experienced these stories.” This story works way better if you share, kind of, in this foundational myth that I love so much. So that you can understand how it’s kind of trying to deconstruct it. And I realized I needed to write this as an adult property, not a Middle Grade. Or, if YA, it had to be old YA.
And that’s when I sat down and I wrote this treatment that really, finally, worked. When I say “treatment,” it is the plot outline, pretty detailed plot outline. And at that point, I decided it would probably work best as a television show. And I outlined it episode-by-episode. I went really into detail on all the characters and things, and it just sang to me. It worked; it really clicked. And that’s when I said, “Let’s try to get this made.”
So I took it to Hollywood, and there was a lot of excitement immediately surrounding it. Didn’t go anywhere, didn’t go anywhere… then, some things happened with Random House, my publisher, and one of the people that worked in their film department got ahold of the treatment and was like, “Wow, this is amazing. Let’s do something with this.” And then it just started to go “Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam.” That is when I decided to do the graphic novel.
So, the graphic novel is taking my original outline for the TV show, which does include chunks of dialogue and things like that, and doing it as a graphic novel format. Meanwhile, the television show started to take on a different life. This was when Joe Michael Straczynski was brought on, and he had some things to add that are very cool. But the television show really started to drift away from the original property. So we’re still kind of in talks about how much this will look like the graphic novel. But the graphic novel kind of turned into the way to express my vision for what this would be.
I don’t know what will happen with the TV show. I honestly can’t say. Joe is great to work with. I really like Joe. I am hopeful that something very cool will come out of it. It might look completely different. And in fact, there’s a chance we will rename the project property Joe and I are working on into something else, and call it something else. Who knows. Hollywood is weird, as we probably all already know.
Regardless, this is my vision. Graphic novel is not the prequel. Graphic novel is the actual outline that I wrote, taken and adapted really faithfully. They did a spectacular job with this. They focus a little more on Mirandus. The actual outline has more with Lin, Paul’s mom, and Mr. Caligo. And they focused their attention a little more on Mirandus. It’s not like they added anything; it’s just that there was too much there, I think. (Because it was meant to be a full season of a television show.) And so they focused their attention there. But Lin is still in it. There’s still plenty, and the scenes that are still there are all ones I had in the outline.
If I do a novel, it would be the prequel to this. Because the prequel, not giving any spoiler stuff, would be the thing that would work in an epic fantasy novel sort of form.
There’s the short version of the long history of Dark One.
What Order of Knights Radiant did Dalinar's plate come from?
I will RAFO that. Let's leave that alone for now. We're not talking a lot about Plate. You deserve a nice can of Read and Find Out. We'll start talking about...
We don't even really know where Shardplate comes from. It's all a mystery! Was Shardplate even from a Knight, ever piece of it? We don't know where it comes from!
(The cosmerenauts all know, they've figured it out. But we're just gonna pretend that they don't know.)
How much research into philosophical work do you do before each book? And what inspired to use thesein particular: Kantian deontology for the Knights Radiant, consequentialism for the Alethi and Taravangian, and secular morality for Jasnah?
Why did I choose the ones that I did? I really like when stories are not just a conflict of personality; they are a conflict between ideologies and ways of viewing the world which are all valid ways of viewing the world. When I put Taravangian and Dalinar into conflict with each other, it's because they are both looking at life in a different way. And I'm kind of reaching to different philosophical bases for those. And I will butcher it if I try to use the actual terminologies, because I am not a philosophy major.
Why did I take what I did? They matched the characters. And they matched what I'm trying to explore, without trying to give you the answers; trying to explore theme in stories. And I just love doing that. It's what makes me excited about writing characters.
Horneaters are capable [of drinking the Horneater White]. They actually are human-singer hybrids, like the Herdazians, but in a different line. And they have a different physiology. And they actually are not 100% human and are capable of eating and ingesting things that would kill a person.
Yes, singers can drink the Horneater White.
Did Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time have any influence on your coming up with Syl?
I get this a lot. Here's my dirty secret: I never played Ocarina of Time. I really am embarrassed by that, because I have played a lot of Zelda games, and they're all great. A lot of people are shocked by that, because they list that as their favorite, and I never played that.
Do you think anything in the future would change [Isaac Stewart and Steve Argyle's] minds [on Lightweaving being the magic system they would want to have]?
No. I mean, there will be other magics. But we have hit all of the core cosmere magics, except for the aethers. And I don't think aethers will be enough to tempt them away. Possibly. That would be my guess. I mean, there will be other little magics, because I always have things like that that I'm writing. But there's only one major magic system that hasn't been used extensively on-screen.
I think you said you started with the Surges and worked from the bottom up. So what was the hardest Radiant Order to conceptualize in terms of virtual or ideal and powers?
Cracking how I wanted the Dustbringers to work was probably the trickiest of them all, because I knew that we were going to have (not to give spoilers) some things happening with the Dustbringers that would predispose readers toward them in a certain way that I did not want the Radiant Order to exemplify. And I wanted to be sure what I thought the distinction was and why it was possible that they could go in a different direction. (Trying to circumlocute all of these things to not spoil you.) They were the hardest, probably.
Building up how to make the Surges work, I would say that building up how I wanted the strong force and the weak force, and turning them into fantasticalized versions that basically have very little to do. Like, I even went kind of the surface tension, and things like that. Those were the trickiest. Like, gravity was pretty obvious and ended up working pretty well. I didn't one-to-one move the fundamental forces, by the way. I just took the idea of fundamental forces. But I wanted there to be nods to most of the fundamental forces in the Surges, just because that's where the inspiration was, and because I was gonna be using gravity, quite obviously, because that's the one that made me most excited, and as you can see the Windrunners and the Skybreakers were two of the first ones that we dealt a lot with.
How did you go about making all of your magic systems together in the context of the wider Cosmere in a way that feels natural?
I (like a lot of things related to the cosmere) had a leg up because I had written so many books before I got published. I had written thirteen novels before I got published, and among those novels were six or seven pretty decent magic systems. And I started to notice fundamental things that I did when building a magic system that were very common to my writing. And for a while, I'm like, "I want to make sure I'm doing lots of variety, so I'll push this further."
But I also kept noticing these connecting tissues, such as Intent being important behind the scenes to how the magic works, to the idea of the Three Realms. Realmatic theory showed up in Dragonsteel, which is the second Cosmere novel that I wrote and is based a little bit on Plato's theory of the Forms and things like that, but kind of taken my own way. And I always kind of start thinking of magic in that context.
And because I had designed all of these things and was noticing themes, I always asked myself, "Where does the power for the magic come from?" I'm going to bend the laws of thermodynamics, but I'm not going to break them; I'm going to have a different sort of power source. That's just fundamental to how I like to do magic. Where does the energy come from? So building a common energy source to all of these was the first thing that I started to do, just very naturally. And it's part of what made me want to link the Cosmere together. I kept having these stories where I wanted to tell stories about these kind of divine forces, the powers of gods put in the hands of mortals: what does that do? That's a common theme that started showing up in the stories that I was writing before I got published. And I said, "Well, if it's a theme, it's something you're really interested in, why not build it into the entire continuity?" And that's where the idea of the Shards came from, and creating Shadesmar and all of that. It grew out of things I did naturally and saw as themes in my writing.
And the linking then was very natural because they all were coming from the same essential power source, and they all had a few fundamental rules they were following. Mostly because that's how I build magic systems, right? If I have a problem, it's that when I try to build something that ends up not in the Cosmere, like Rithmatist, it still just basically works with Cosmere magic because that's a way that I build magic systems.
Good question, but like a lot of things, a lot of my career's success can be traced back to the fact that I was really bad at this when I started, and I got a long time to practice before I went pro.
How much does the story change as you write it? I know you're an outliner, but how much does it change?
A great deal. I'd say 40% of it changes, 60% stays the same.
Does a Shard on Roshar have a bead representing it in Shadesmar?
I don't mean the Vessel (assuming that the Vessel is even considered "separate"). I'm talking about the actual Shard itself.
No, it does not. Good question.
Is Koloss Head-Munching Day like Weasel Stomping Day?
Someone asked me way before I was famous, back when it was five or six people who read my books, like "Are there any holidays?" and I'm like "Yeah, Koloss Head-Munching Day!" And then the fans took it and ran with it. At the next signing, they said "What is it?" and I'm like "Uh, my birthday" and then it just became a thing.
What is it? What does it mean?
It means it's the day that the koloss go have some heads to eat.
What I want to know is how the koloss can make a decision on their own? To munch heads? Somebody has to tell them, right?
The thing about koloss is that they try to imitate and recapture being human. So they wear coin pouches and things like that, so they get it wrong. They know that holidays exist.
It's partially just a joke.
How do you get the Asian themes in without it being so corny?
You try to break down... Use multiple inspirations and tie them together. Try to extrapolate. Try to look at what are caricatures and stray away from that. Being influenced by the philosophy and the thinking and the culture to create things that are similar but going their own direction will help you do that sort of thing. Justifying things in-world rather than just dropping them in. Take a look at the safehand, which is based off of not -- but as an Asian culture thing, when I lived in Korea, you didn't show the bottom of your feet to people. It was considered rude. That was really interesting to me, and creating a similar taboo but with different groups and different reasons, it was... You can see my experience in how it came out. Do things like that.
They [the Alethi] are tan.
You're not wrong for your observation, here, /u/Faenors7. When I saw them, I noted to Isaac that the skin tone for the Alethi in the cards [Stormlight Archive Playing Cards from the Way of Kings Leatherbound Kicksterter] was a touch darker than I imagined. But it was within the variance (I'll explain below) we imagine for the Alethi, so I decided here that we should leave it.
The reason is that we've allowed a lot of leeway to artists in their depictions. If they paint everyone looking white, we speak up, and we usually show them some of our guides of models and pieces of art we think are on target for character designs.
However, I haven't wanted to have a strict skin tone guide. Thing is, most Rosharans don't look at skin tone so much as eye color and hair color. It isn't that they ignore skin tone, but it isn't the same for them as it is for us, in part because a lot of cultures (like the Alethi and the Vedens) have a wide range of skin tones.
It's something I think we (myself included) are a little blind to in American culture. Like, we call someone black if they (like President Obama) are of a mixed race heritage. This is partially because of our particular biases. But what makes someone black is actually pretty nebulous as a skin tone shade when you look at the wide variety of black skin tones. The same goes for what ethnicity we consider white, when a hundred and fifty years ago, the more olive-skinned European people's would have not been lumped into that group.
I often point to India as a good example of what you might find in Alethkar--you find a ton of skin tones across the sub-continent, and they're all Indian. Same for the Alethi. And I don't spend a lot of time talking about whose skin tone is darker, and whose is lighter, within that range.
So when we get back something like these cards--and this is how the artist views and imagines the characters--we roll with it, offering little pieces of feedback here and there. (We had her make tweaks to Adolin, for example, to get him closer to how I imagined him.) Same for the poster--which has the Alethi characters with lighter skin, closer to what we'd see on a Japanese person on Earth.
This might be the wrong path, and I'd appreciate feedback on it. I do want to be careful not to whitewash characters (something I've had trouble with before in cover art) but I also worry if we focus too much on exactly how dark or light the skin of these characters are, we're missing the point a little. I believe in letting people who read the books imagine the characters as they would like, with me providing some guidance. It's a central theme to me in how I perceive the author-reader relationship.
This was why I was hesitant at first to even have depictions of characters in the books. (And why I liked the first cover of the US edition so much.) As we've moved along, however, I've taken a different tactic--that of admiring, and even including, different depictions from different artists, letting variety (hopefully) let the reader imagine as they want.
Sorry for the long post. It's a topic that keeps coming up, so I thought I should say something more definitive. Hopefully, people can keep a link to this post in their pockets whenever discussions about this pop up.
I guess I must've misremembered a quote of you talking about them as darker. Oops.
Well, you're probably not remembering wrong. I've been asked before if the Alethi skin tone is darker than, say, a person from Japan might have. And I'll usually say, yes--in general they are. But I also think it's all right to paint them like a modern day Earth person from that region, as that's often what artists will use for a model or reference. So in general, if you saw an Alethi person, you'd think, "Asian person, with tanner skin than most." But that's imagining an average Alethi, with some having a darker tone, and some having a lighter one.