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    Boskone 54 ()
    #11951 Copy

    Questioner

    At what point in making the Rithmatist magic system did the concept of the beauty of the drawings come in?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The beauty of the drawings is related to the idea of your perception influencing magic, which is a Cosmere rule. Giving things a mental order, the Cognitive aspect of it, it’s the same way that in Warbreaker, when you give an order to something you’ve Awakened with the magic, the way you perceive that order directly influences how it plays it out. I built this in because, number one, it’s better for philosophy if the answers aren’t, in some of these things, [internal?] answers where the author has said, “Truth is capital T Truth”, where the characters’ perceptions of truth allows for different people to believe different things and both be arguably right. Also because I wanted all the magic in the Cosmere to have some root in the Cognitive Realm. The idea of the magic there is, there’s a Spiritual thing which is kind of unknowable, kind of eternal, kind of all-places-one, there’s a Cognitive aspect, which is how you perceive it influences it, and then there’s the Physical world. The chalklings were built that way, how beautiful you perceive it as being, or the beings involved in this perceive it as being, will influence how well it works.

    Second Questioner

    In the books, in Rithmatist, you state that the better drawn a shape is, or a creation is, that makes it more powerful. Would that mean that if you drew a cube, would that be more powerful than a square?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The complexity of it, and how people perceive, you could make an argument that there’s some people who would be like, “The perfect cube is so hard to draw that that is inspiring”, but the average people, if you said, ”Who’s going to win this battle: this cool knight that I drew, or this cube?”, they’d say the cool knight. So that sort of general perception plays a lot into how it works.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    How do you go about designing your magical systems? Do you come up with all the rules at the beginning, or is it developing as you write?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It’s a little of both. I have some essays I’ve called Sanderson’s Laws, because I’m a humble guy. If you google those and find those, you can read some essays about how I write magic systems. The answer to your question directly is, oftentimes I’ll come up with something really cool. Hey, you draw on the ground with chalk and play magical Starcraft against each other. Tower defense with chalk. What are some basic rules? Let’s write the book, and as we’re writing I’m like, this question arises, this question arises. How would I answer that? Let’s build in answers to it. With the Rithmatist, I already had the foundations of Cosmere magic, so I could say, “How does this work? Well, it works like this.”

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Are the glyphwards in Stormlight from Elantris?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, the glyphwards are purely cultural. There are people who would say that they aren’t, even in-world, but that gets into theology and religion, whether there’s a definitive god and afterlife in the Cosmere or not, which I leave up to personal interpretation, in an effort to not undermine characters who believe spiritually different than I do.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    [Can’t hear the actual question]

    Brandon Sanderson

    Elantris’s magic is location based because the primary source of the magic is located in the Cognitive Realm. Most of the worlds, the primary source of the magic is the Spiritual Realm, where all places are one. So for instance, Mistborn, you can go anywhere in the Cosmere and use the magic. Elantris, you can’t, because Devotion and Dominion were killed and their bodies were stuffed into the Cognitive Realm and the magic is being powered that way.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Going back to the technology issue, in some of your books, particularly the Mistborn books, you explain why technology hadn’t developed for thousands of years. [...] What’s happened to gunpowder and combustion? Why isn’t that there?

    Brandon Sanderson

    In Rithmatist the reason why we don’t use gunpowder and combustion is early on, people figured out how to wind springs into the aether, and if you can wind a spring into the aether you can get energy out of it. Basically the way we’ve got it working in the Rithmatist (I would have to dig out the exact notes, so be warned) but the way we have it working right now is if you wind a spring made the right way, you can wind it into the aetherial winds. And you can wind, and then twist it, and when you unwind it catches the aetherial winds and spins with it. So you can actually get more energy out than you put in if you wind it one direction, lock it, and then lock it into the aetherial winds and unwind it. It’s like hydropower, but it is unseen hydropower.

    So my explanation is they learned how to do this, and because they had access to this easier source of energy, their experiments with gunpowder and combustion weren’t as…. You could still make gunpowder. You could go build a gun on the Rithmatist world, and it would work just fine. But since they’ve been focusing on this other line of technology and they can access this energy, everything’s gone that direction instead. And I kind of built on the idea of the difference engine and things like this. People were trying to make mechanical versions of computers and whatnot. And if they had found a way to get energy out of it, they might have gone this direction.

    That said, I did not put the rigor into the science that I often do in the cosmere books. That comes in the revision stage when I give it to scientists and to my assistant Peter, who look at the actual science and raise some of the issues. So Rithmatist, I didn’t have to worry about that as much. In the cosmere I have to worry about things like redshift and breaking causality, and all of this stuff, and at least have in-world reasons why people don’t get irradiated by light when you speed up time, whereas in the Rithmatist I can say, “It’s a fun alternate history fantasy book. So we’ll just go with that and be internally consistent and not worry about the laws of thermodynamics quite as much.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Why’d you pick Nebraska?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I’m from Nebraska. I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and I thought, if I’m going to put in a place that’s a weird, crazy dangerous place, why not make it Nebraska? A lot of the defenses are named for people I knew in Nebraska. There’s an Osbourne defense. Anyone from Nebraska will be able to pick out where I got that. A lot of my friends, my parent’s friends growing up, I just named defenses after them. That’s where that came from, it’s got all this Nebraska stuff.

    Footnote: Here referring to "Nebrask" in the Rithmatist series
    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    I was just wondering what your inspiration was for the setting, for the United Isles.

    Brandon Sanderson

    The United Isles. We call this historical fantasy, this is where you take a historical period and you fantasize it. I knew I was so divergent from our world that I wanted people immediately to know, complete alternate dimension. I wanted an easy early sign that when you read this, you weren’t going to be asking, “What happened in the War of 1812 in this?” I didn’t want you to be asking that, I wanted you to say, this is so different from our history that I can’t take anything for granted anymore. Which allows me to sweep away expectations and rebuild them in the way I want. You run into this all the time in fantasy, like, you ever want to write a book about vampires, everyone’s immediately going to bring to that world a lot of expectations. It’s much more important early on to sweep away expectations if you’re not going to fulfill them. So with Rithmatist, I was looking for a way to do this, and the idea of America as an [planet?] archipelago was really cool to me, and I also wanted to indicate that things were really bizarre. It’s a much smaller planet version of Earth, so I could put in time distances and say, you can take the train to London and it doesn’t take that long. In their terms it takes forever, for us it’s not that long. Smaller planet, denser core, everything’s islands. This is to say, I’m throwing out everything about our Earth and rebuilding a fantastical version of it.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Circle strength is based on curvature, so how can a scaled-up circle be strong, since the local curvature drops very low? Is the inside of a circle stronger than the outside?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Theoretically would be, yes. Scale is a big fun thing I have built into the outline of The Nebraskan, when and if I write it. This is about 1908, but it’s not an exact analogue, they’re like 1930’s equivalent, maybe a little bit more on some things. At that time, we were really learning to do math, mathematical projects on a large scale [...] so this is where I was pushing for this.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    ccstat

    The Great Circle in Nebrask shows you can scale up defenses. Can you make also scale up and draw a Godzilla-sized chalkling?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh, this is theoretically possible (laughter). Yeah, yeah. Theoretically possible.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Ironeyes

    So, uh, we know that the charcoal creatures are afraid of coins.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Ironeyes

    So are the white chalk creatures, which I think are called Shadowblazes…

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Ironeyes

    Are they also afraid of coins?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Are they also afraid of coins? To a much lesser extent. Um, I can give you guys some backstory on this. What’s going on here is that the place these things come from, um, linear structure and things like this are frightening to them, like they come from a non-linear location. Time does not move linearly where they come from. When they come into this world, structure and linear time progression, is bizarre to them. And there are some who have embraced it, and been like, “This is cool and different!” and there are others that are still terrified of it, as a representation of what is so alien from the world they came from. So that’s why we’ve got this whole clocks, and even structure, as a metaphor for, um, something that is terrifying to them.

    Uh, Rithmatist started in the Cosmere. The magic shares a lot of its roots, then, in Cosmere magic worldbuilding. I split if off because I wrote the whole first book with it being in the Cosmere. I split it off, saying “No, I don’t want Earth to be in the Cosmere.” Even an alternate version of Earth. It just raises too many questions about the nature of Earth being involved in this. I want the Cosmere to be its own dwarf galaxy of which not even a dimension of Earth is involved. And when I made that decision, I broke Rithmatist off. That’s the only one I had written that didn’t belong, but it still has, so, it means that the magic is going to feel very familiar to you, uh, it’s going to feel like the magic of a, um, of the Cosmere. And Cosmere magic is based around, usually, human beings making a symbiotic bond with an entity made out of the magic. This is, kind of, one of the origins of Cosmere magic, and Rithmatist has, therefore, its roots in that. I’ve done some things since I’ve split it off in the outlines to distinguish it, but it’s going to have the same roots. So you’ll notice some things like that, that are similar.

    Questioner

    Uh, before you split The Rithmatist from the Cosmere, did the Shadowblazes come from the Cognitive realm?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. Yeah, the Shadowblazes were in the Cognitive realm, they’re--you know, well, they’re more Spiritual realm. They were Spiritual realm, sorry. They were Spiritual realm entities that got pulled in, uh, to the Physical realm. And the Spiritual realm has no time, um, it exists independent of time and location, all times and all places are one, and so, uh, when something that’s from the Spiritual realm got pulled into the Physical realm, it was like, “This is so weird!” Um, and there are very few things in the Cosmere that exist only on the Spiritual realm, which was a really fun thing I could do with this book, was show that. Cause most things exist on all three realms. Um, so, yeah. So, yeah, I mean if you’ve got, if you’re a Cosmere, uh, theologian--not theologian, magic, uh, what do you call it? Uh, they call that, uh, I have a word for it in-world. But anyway, if you’re a realmatic theorist, you can kind of pick out how the Spiritual realm beings were related, originally, to the realmatic theory.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Moderator

    So the question I asked, at the beginning of this session, is: You used the definite article…

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Moderator

    Who’s the Rithmatist?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Who’s the Rithmatist? So I imagined the Rithmatist more being a, um, a book like, let’s see if I can find an example of it. It’s not defining a person, um, it is, uh…

    Moderator

    The role of the Rithmatist.

    Brandon Sanderson

    ...trying to. Yeah, yeah. Like I’m trying to find… There’s books that are like this, where it’s just like, uh, it’s almost like you could call a series The Rithmatist, The Archive, the this, that sort of idea where the title is… Look, it was originally called Scribbler, um, and Tor suggested changing the title to something that highlighted the magic a little bit more and was a better fit, and I liked The Rithmatist as that, but it’s particularly because the future books could be The Aztlanian and The Nebraskan.

    Moderator

    And they’ll fit, they’ll be right next to one another--no they won’t. Cause the doesn’t get catalogued.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, exactly, but it felt like it was going to, uh, it just worked. But The Rithmatist more is like, you know, it’s not specifically any individual. I know there are other books that have this feel. But yeah, all right. What do you guys want to know from me? Go ahead.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    When is the next book coming out?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The Rithmatist is the number one most requested sequel I get. This is probably because people know that I’m working on Stormlight, otherwise that would be the number one most requested. To understand, I have to tell you a story about where The Rithmatist came from. So after I finished Warbreaker, I very deliberately said, I want to write something else in the Cosmere, and maybe this is the time to write the backstory of a character named Hoid. So I sat down and tried to [...] write this book, which I called The Liar of Partinel. The book was a disaster. Sometimes even as a pro, books just don’t go well. I had a contract for it and everything. I was supposed to be writing this book, and then its sequel, and... big disaster. I finished the first book, I forced myself to finish it, but I had no desire to revise. It was just not what it needed to be. When I eventually write that story, people are going to be expecting a lot from it and it can’t be a half-hearted book, and it felt half-hearted.

    So instead of [...] I told my editor, “oh yeah, I’ll be getting to that” and I wrote a [...] book, which was called Scribbler back then. Originally named Scribbler, and the origins for it were, the magic system is the start of this one, as you might be able to guess. I started doing these little drawings, which Ben McSweeney eventually re-drew to be a little bit better, but they started as my own drawing that we put between the chapters. But we started with those because I wanted to do something new with magic that I hadn’t done before. What I realized is that I never made a book where the magic was used to play games. We as human beings, we play games with everything. We turn anything into a game. This is a hallmark of humankind, we play with stuff. When we’re no longer killing each other, we come up with jousting, so we can make that a game. The idea of basically playing magical Starcraft on the ground around you was really interesting to me.

    So I started doing all these drawings and writing this book without telling my editor or anybody I was writing this book. Wonderful experience. The book came out very very well, it just came together. It’s one of those books, you don’t expect it, I didn’t have long term plans, I hadn’t worked on an outline for years and years, I discovery wrote most of the book. About the time I had to go to my editor and tell him, “I’ve written a book on accident”, I think I sent you The Rithmatist, right Joshua?

    I said I wrote this book on accident, right around that time, I got a phone call from Harriet McDougal, who’s Robert Jordan’s widow. She said, it’s a long story but it ended with me on the phone with her, because she’d left me a voicemail and I’d missed it, but I eventually got a hold of her, and she said, “Well I was just wondering if you would be willing to finish my husband’s series, the Wheel of Time”. To which I responded, “dakjs;dlfj;alkna;sdf” [verbal keyboard smash basically]. I really did. I wrote her an email the next saying, “Dear Harriet, I promise I’m not an idiot.” But the book that got left hanging was The Rithmatist. Liar of Partinel I was happy to shelve and do nothing with. It wasn’t a good book. Rithmatist was. But I knew that if I were stopping to do the Wheel of Time that I would not have the time to do a Rithmatist sequel for a while. Because my career so far had gone standalone, series, standalone, and then I was looking to do another series, which is why I tried Liar of Partinel.

    Once I did Wheel of Time, I said now is the time to do Way of Kings, which I had been putting off for a while cause my skills weren’t capable. I tried it and it hadn’t worked and I was like, I need to get better as a writer. But I was pretty sure I could do it, so I sandwiched Way of Kings in between two Wheel of Time books. But then I had The Way of Kings going and people expecting those, which is a good thing I got started on it because it’s a long series. If I were still putting it off, we might have troubles when it actually came out. So eventually, Rithmatist, I need to release this book, it’s really good, people are going to like this. So I gave it to Tor and had them release it. But the problem is, when am I going to do a sequel? It had been a little side project in the first place that I’d done instead of writing something else.

    I found time about 3 years ago. I took out my outline. My process often is, I will write a first book, then I will outline a series for it, then I will revise the first book to match the outline. I did this with Mistborn, I did it with the Reckoners, and I had gotten as far as outlining for the second book of The Rithmatist. I sat down to write it and I didn’t like the outline anymore. There were some things wrong with it. One, I had grown a lot as a writer. One, I don’t know if you guys discussed this, but the Rithmatist as a whole, it’s a great book but there’s a big danger zone in it. And that is, how do you treat indigenous people during the area of colonialism? There’s a big big minefield there, and the second book’s goal was to start dealing with that minefield, and I felt my outline for the second book did not do that respectfully. As I had grown as a writer, when I looked at the outline, and I was like, I cannot write this book because I’m not treating the original inhabitants of America’s cultures well enough. So I stopped and I read three books on Aztec culture. The second book is called The Aztlanian. Aztlan is the mythical origin of the Aztecs, it’s where their legends say they came from. If I’m dealing with real world mythology, that minefield grows so much bigger. You gotta do it right. This is something I wanted to do right. So I read a bunch of books. I rebuilt my outline, I felt really good about it, but there was no more time to write. I had a month or two left, so I wrote the fifth Alcatraz book instead. I can do those in a month or so, but this I knew was going to take three to four months, so I put it off again.

    I’m still looking for a hole in my schedule. The new outline for The Aztlanian is very good, it’s solid, I feel like I’ve got a handle on how to write it in a sensitive way, because we don’t want to avoid difficult topics in science fiction and fantasy. If we do that, it’s just the same as it’s always been. But if you are going to touch on sensitive topics, you need to do it really well. I really like where it is now, but when am I going to write The Aztlanian? I don’t know yet. The answer to you is, when am I going to do this? I have to find a time between my mainline projects, which right now are Stormlight Archive for Tor, alternating with Mistborn novels, and for Random house it’s the Reckoners books and that sequence. In between one of those times, I will find some time to The Aztlanian, and I will do it, and I hope it will be awesome, but I don’t know when that is.

    This is the book I’ve left hanging the most. Most everything else is a side project or it’s the Alcatraz books, which I’m making fun of people by taking a long long time, it’s intentional. If you haven’t read those books, they’re very different from everything else that I’ve done. The whole point is to make fun of the reader while the reader reads them. Every book plays some sort of dirty trick on the reader. The fifth book ends on a huge huge huge down note with the author, who’s Alcatraz, of the book saying “I’m not going to write any more, sorry guys”. But then there’s a little footnote at the end, one of the other characters like, “I’ll write the story so you get an actual ending.” Jokes like that on the reader, and the fact that it’s taking forever is part of the joke. Rithmatist is the one I actually feel bad about.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Do you ever get to travel? Does travel inform your experience? From that little vignette you did [the interlude reading at the monastery] did you go to Sinai or Kyoto for the monastery?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I travel a lot. I enjoy traveling. It’s a little hard on my schedule, as one might imagine. But I really do like it. That little vignette, I did go to Japan. On a trip to Taiwan, we stopped for a day in Japan to hike monasteries, specifically. We hiked the one that’s right next to the airport, outside the city. Then we went into downtown Tokyo and hiked one of the ones there. The coolest thing is, they have these big rocks that they inscribe quotes in, anciently, just piled on top of each other. I travel a lot, it does inform my writing a lot. Famously, the Emperor’s Soul came after I went to Taiwan one time. Snapshot came after a trip to Dubai. You can’t find as much Dubai in Snapshot as you can Taiwan in The Emperor’s Soul. I usually write one of my novellas as a response to a trip or just taking a break for a trip. That happened to Legion, it happened to most of the novellas.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Is there a question about the Stormlight Archives you’ve always wanted to answer but nobody has asked?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The answer is no, because everyone is so good at asking them. They ran out of those question 10 years ago. [Talks about the development of the Cosmere and Hoid. Talks about the development of Timewasters Guide and when people started to figure out the Cosmere stuff].

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    At this point, a lot of your work has been optioned. I was wondering if you would be interested in some of it being a serious animated tv show? Maybe that might also work for Wheel of Time.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would be totally on board except for one thing, that there is no market for it worldwide. There are markets in very small places, but so far every animated in the US and in large parts of the world as well has either been something like The Simpsons, which is comedy, which can work for adults and they’ll watch that, or it’s been child-focused with some hidden depth of themes like the Last Airbender, which is the quintessential example. If I could get a television show on one of my books as good as that, I’d love it, but nobody’s going to finance it, because there’s no audience for it unless it’s a children’s show. And there’s nothing wrong with being a children’s show, this is what Pixar has figured out how to do, it makes movies that everyone will love. But anytime someone even tries to make a teen focused one, it’s a huge disaster. Treasure Planet was an example of this, which is famous in Hollywood for being a disaster, even though it’s a fun movie. Until US audiences grow up in their treatment of animation, it’s not a realistic thing, because the cost-to-earnings… I can’t just say, okay guys, spend 50 millions dollars on this, I know it’ll only make 5, but it’ll be really cool. Maybe if your aunt is an executive at Netflix, you could tell her, and they could be on the forefront of this, but until then, we are looking at Netflix-style, complete season, Stranger Things-type stuff, or traditional feature film.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    How is it that you’re able to write such real and strong women characters that are feminist in their own way but in very different ways from book to book? Is your wife your inspiration? Can you do a workshop for other male writers?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is a huge compliment, thank you. It is something that I’ve worked on a long time. I would blame the authors I read getting into fantasy, Barbara Hambly, Melanie Rawn, Anne McCaffrey. They were the first three authors I read. I internalized some of the things they were talking about. I also do have some good models. My mother graduated first in her class in accounting in a year where she was the only woman in the accounting department. She’s currently the accountant for the city of Idaho Falls. So getting it wrong was a big deal to me, and I did get it wrong on my first few books. The unpublished ones, fortunately. What I realized was, it was a bigger problem than just doing the female characters wrong, though that was the biggest sign that I was doing something wrong. What was happening was I was writing people to roles in the story, rather than writing them as people having a role in the story. That sounds really simple, right? But once I realized people don’t see themselves as the plucky sidekick, usually, and people don’t see themselves as the romantic interest. People see themselves as a person who plays a part in someone else’s life, but plays a different part over here, and a different part over here. Those of us who are extraverts might be introverts in some situations where we don’t know very much. Those of us who are introverts might be extraverts when you put us in front of a room and tell us to do a reading, we’re like “Yeah! I can handle that!”. We all fulfill lots of different roles in different settings, in different people’s lives. Everybody has motivations and passions, and gender identity, racial factors, your upbringing, your culture, these are all parts of who you are, but when you let one of those things define you too much, you become a flat character, in fiction. [Talks for a minute about Lost, where the character who loses his son becomes a flat character because it comes to completely define the character. He’s talked about this before in his lectures so I’m not going to type it out]. When you’re writing people to just a role like that, you end up with these flat characters, you end up with people who don’t really live. And I think the first big revelation for me was that I was doing that. And this was particularly true of the female characters. When you start writing, it’s very normal to just write a protagonist who’s much like yourself and then writing people who aren’t like yourself like, this is this role, this is this role, and then boom. But there was something else I had to learn. There’s still lots of things for me to learn, but there was something else big that I had to learn. This was the problem that I’ve only recently begun reading essays about it, which is the natural inclination of someone is to first off write everyone as kind of a stereotype, and then you learn and you get better. But then the next inclination is to write the person who is different from ourselves as super super awesome. Just so that we’re not accidentally being sexist. And you’ll see this a lot too, this happens a lot with African Americans, in video games in particular. I was playing a video game once, and it’s a bunch of burly white guys who are awesome with guns and they’re killing stuff. And they talk about their friend, the black guy. You don’t know he’s black at the time. And then they get into trouble and they can’t save themselves. And the black guy bursts through the ceiling with guns blazing, mows down the enemies, says “Alright guys, go for it!”, and then runs off into the sunset. He’s like the coolest guy ever. He only stops short of doing a rap song for the end song, right? They don’t want to be racist, so he’s awesome, but he also doesn’t get a character arc. Everybody else has deep character arc and is messed up. They didn’t want to, and I understand this instinct, they didn’t want to make the black guy messed up because he’s the minority and they are so worried about screwing it up that instead they put him on a pedestal. You see guys do this with women, and you see women do this with the men characters. If you read a book, often the guy, by a female writer, the guy has very few faults, he’s just this guy, and the woman is this messed up, neurotic, interesting character. Same in reverse with the guys. The woman in the book ends up being the one who is very responsible, the one who’s like “We need to go do this”, the kick-ass “strong female character” [he literally says “quote-unquote” about strong female character] who just awesome, but doesn’t have a character arc and isn’t messed up in the ways that make people interesting. That’s another level, when you’re like, we have to make all the characters interesting, and all the characters messed up and individual, rather than even doing that level. And that one’s been even harder to internalize and figure out how to do.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    What happens when you compound copper?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I’m going to RAFO that for now. I am dealing with the various interactions of the various magics slowly on purpose, to dole out information, so that I have cool stuff to talk about in future books.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    So, Shai and forgers. She forges the emperor’s soul, then she got to track by practicing on [Gaotona], and it kind of held for a minute since he was close to the emperor, and that means it was right. So it was basically trial and error.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It was.

    Questioner

    So even if she have a lot more time and a lot less information, she could’ve guessed?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Potentially, there’s a certain distance trial and error will take you; in a reasonable amount of time, there’s a certain distance that can take you.

    Questioner

    And in an unreasonable amount of time?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Unreasonable, yes. You can just trial and error your way through a lot of things.

    Questioner

    And by seeing it held on him for 24 hours of time, that means she got really close.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Questioner

    And when she was forging herself, she was basically forging lies.

    Brandon Sanderson

    She was forging lies, but she knew how to make them really plausible for herself. Plausibility is a really big part of it. Can you convince the soul to not just of yourself...

    Questioner

    The decisions that she could have made?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. That they were realistic, that they were there, that she could have made these, that everything lines up in the past. It’s a little like programming.

    Questioner

    So that’s why she could add a little bit to the emperor’s soul because that’s also plausible?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Questioner

    Could she have changed him more if she knew more about him?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes. She created a fake soul and put it in him, there are possibilities beyond what she did.

    Questioner

    So she could’ve gotten a bit wrong if her trial and error made it plausible instead of what happened?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Now, at least in her perspective, what she did was create a fake soul and put it in him. What I haven’t answered is did she just take the soul that was lingering on the body and fill in the gaps? Or did she legitimately craft a new soul? That I’ll leave to the cosmere philosophers to talk about.

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    Questioner

    You said writing the sequel to The Rithmatist is really challenging. Why is that?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Because when I started work on it, it was pre-Wheel of Time. The series got preempted by Wheel of Time, so it’s been ten years now since I wrote the first book. And I held it off and didn’t publish it for like five years, because I knew, I wanted to be closer to publication when I did a sequel. But when I dove back into the sequel a few years ago, I just wasn’t pleased with my outline anymore. One of the real challenging aspects of The Rithmatist is dealing with real history, real cultures, the fact that we have a bunch of colonialists living in America and all of this stuff and what happened to the indigenous peoples, and handling that without sticking my foot in my mouth is also really tricky. So you mix those two things, and I want to be very careful. So instead of writing the book, I read three books on Aztec culture. But then I didn’t have time to write the book. Eventually I will get to it, but it’s got some trickiness because of that.

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    Questioner

    On the [star map, there are different systems.]

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Questioner

    And there are constellations.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Questioner

    But who’s looking at these constellations?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So it is from a specific perspective, that Isaac will someday reveal. He drew this at my request; this is from a frame of reference. But we haven’t told you what it is. The best guess is that it’s Silverlight. I haven’t confirmed it, but it is the best guess. The second best guess is Yolen. There are a couple things that people have guessed, but I haven’t confirmed which it is.

    Footnote: The perspective is now known not to be Silverlight. The painting itself resides in Silverlight, but the perspective is from elsewhere.
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    Questioner

    If you could tell yourself 10 years ago any one thing, what would it be?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Ten years ago? Ten years ago, I’d say “Re-read the Wheel of Time. Start early”. I got the call in 2007, September, and this would 2007 in February, and I’d have six months in my re-read going. It took me about a year to re-read the whole series and take notes on it. That would’ve been six months faster, and everyone would’ve gotten… also the book I was working on is one I never published, so I could’ve just dropped that book.

    Questioner

    So is it kind of surreal to you now, then, to be sort of like a [...] in the fantasy genre?

    Brandon Sanderson

    In the fantasy genre? Yes, I’ve kind of started to get over that. The real surreal stuff happened at the beginning, when I’m like, “I don’t deserve to be on a shelf with my favorite authors. I’m just this guy”. And then I kind of got used to that, and the rest has been easier than that initial “Why am I on the shelf with these folks?”. But you hit certain milestones where you’re like, book 3 of the Wheel of Time is when it really took off. None of you were back there then, you guys are all younger than me, but when we were reading them back then, books one and two were known fantasy quantities but not the dominant, and book three was where it was like, this is the dominant fantasy series. And I’m now releasing book three of my fantasy series. I have George Martin wayyyyyyy out beyond, I’m not going to take out that, but it is surreal to have my third book come out and to be selling so well and remembering, this is where Robert Jordan was at this point.

    Questioner

    You’re making your own path, different than Robert Jordan though.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, I always say that I’m very famous with a very small group of people. Until you have a film or a television show, you will never become a real household name, and that’s fine. Even if you do, George is not so famous, he’s the most famous fantasy writer, right, unless you count Jo Rowling. George is not so famous that he can’t walk down the street. No author gets so famous, I’ve been hanging out with George and we’re walking down the street and somebody says “Hi George” and he gets an autograph. But he can sit and have dinner and people don’t bug him, there’s not paparazzi at the windows. Even the top epic fantasy writer doesn’t have to worry about that. It’s actually the best type of fame to have. You can go to a convention like this and meet with a lot of people who’s work you’ve inspired and things like that, and it’s perfect, and then you go have a normal life. [...] you be a normal person, and it’s just the right amount. [...] our faces aren’t known, and that is what is so nice about this. If you were to take my salary, I get paid very well even compared to a football star, a music star, or an actor, but nobody knows my face. And it’s mostly because a dedicated group is hardcore [...] to my stuff. That is, thank you guys. You’ve made me the best kind of famous, stealth famous. It’s pretty awesome.

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    Questioner

    How do you do it? (after saying he likes the characters and societies that Brandon writes)

    Brandon Sanderson

    Lots of practice. Lots of reading in the genre and loving the genre. A little bit of talent, a lot of loving the genre, and a lot of practice for a long time.

    Questioner

    I haven’t read Mistborn, but I’ve read this one [Stormlight]. How do you come up with the culture, the society?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It depends on the book. Stormlight is my best series. If you haven’t tried Emperor’s Soul, it’s the other thing that I think is on Stormlight’s level, but it’s a short. What I’m looking to do with something like Stormlight is to say that the fantasy genre should be the most magical genre, right? Classically, science fiction has done a better job with the worldbuilding, and fantasy has tended to do a better job with things like characters and story. Not that there’s not science fiction that has great, you know, but usually science fiction’s been about the ideas and the interesting settings, but in fantasy we play it safe with the settings and try to do interesting characters. Which I’ve always thought, “Why do we do that? Why do we play it safe with our settings? Why don’t we have really bizarre, fantastical settings?”. So for years, even before I became a published author, I was searching for ones that would have one foot in science fiction. I want to do something magical as an origin, like the highstorm, you know, the physics of the highstorm don’t actually work, but we take it for assumed and then we try to extrapolate a realistic extrapolation of the world from that. That’s just what I’m doing, I’m trying to set up some sort fantastical setting or environment and then let science fiction take over and try and build how it would grow. On the cultures, usually I’m taking things I’ve learned about our culture and I am just trying to [...] a fantastical version. Sometimes when you do that you can say something interesting about human society, removed from the baggage of human society. There was a brief time in the pre-Victorian era where, for women, showing your ankle was more taboo than showing your chest. In fact, they would have pictures painted of them, noblewomen, in a state of what you’d call topless. Not a problem; a little risque, like what wearing a low-cut shirt is now, but no big deal. That’s bizarre to us, because, our society that’s not how it is. But if I put that in, in a fantasy book as a safehand, I can say, look, human beings do bizarre things as far as gender roles, socialization of gender, and what we find attractive. This should be very bizarre to you, but the reactions are normal. That disconnect is what helps build a fantastical society and lets me say a few things about our society, I hope in interesting ways.

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    Ironeyes

    What kind of qualities attract an inkspren?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Inkspren do not like how variable humans are. It’s a thing out of honor, and they like people who are logical and willing to think about their lives and not react as much by instinct.

    They are looking more - the scholar is the perfect example, but a soldier who is very thoughtful and is not just rushing into battle could be chosen as well.

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    Questioner

    Where do the people in the Stormlight Archive get all their leather?

    Brandon Sanderson

    They have great farms of pigs. You notice, leather is usually called hogshide, but it’s all hog leather.

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    Questioner

    So with soulforging, are you able to soulforge yourself so that you die?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh, can you soulforge yourself to death? So, soulforging that requires large state changes of investiture and/or inputs of investiture are very difficult. However, killing yourself is not that hard, but basically you could - so, soulforging yourself so that you are already dead would a little bit harder, but soulforging yourself would be, yeah.

    Questioner

    [background noise] and be able to check in the afterlife and then return -

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, because transfer of Investiture to and from the Beyond or even into the Cognitive Realm is going to require more investiture than a Forger pulls through, you can Forge yourself to death.

    Questioner

    So I can kill myself but I can’t come back.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes. That would be one of those things where you kill yourself, your soul passes to the Beyond, your body when the forgery is broken comes back, and just dead.

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    Questioner (paraphrased)

    Could a Soother prevent a listener from attuning a given rhythm?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    No. A coppercloud could, but I hadn't thought about emotional allomancy interacting. See, the rhythm isn't your emotion and doesn't determine your mood. It is a direct connection to the spiritual realm. So I guess soothing could make it harder just like it makes anything harder, in the same way that driving a car would be harder. [recording starts here] And so, for the same reasons that you can, um, it is possible that a coppercloud can play with it. Not a normal power of a coppercloud, but you’ve seen them do stuff similar.

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    yulerule

    I know you’ve thought out a lot, especially like the Cosmere and how the magic works and everything, but I know the Sharders and everybody have been doing really ridiculous tiny details. Have they thought of something that made you revise anything or...

    Brandon Sanderson

    I generally try to avoid revising to what the fans come up with.

    yulerule

    Not what they come up with because of ideas that you haven’t thought of or…

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh yeah, on occasion they say something where I’m like, “Yes, that is the right thing,” and then I just canonize it. So yes they do influence it that way.

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    Questioner

    From all of your Cosmere books, do you have anywhere written what the timeframe between the series are?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I haven’t done that officially. We have it ourselves. What I’ve told people is that they are basically in order of being released. I haven’t jumped back. At least if you count the first of each individual series. So they’re roughly in order chronologically. White Sand is out of order because that’s chronologically one of the earliest. And now Stormlight and Wax & Wayne… Wax & Wayne are post-Stormlight, but I’m releasing… You know, it’s a little mixed up now.

    Questioner

    Okay, I was almost expecting that in the Arcanum.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, we will do that eventually. There are just some secrets in there that I’m not sure I want to release, and there are other things I’m not sure I want to canonize because I’m still tweaking the dates a little bit.

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    Bromo_Sapien

    When somebody travels into the Cognitive Realm, what happens to their physical self? To their body? Like Elsecalling or through a Shardpool?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well it depends on the way they’re doing it. The two ways you’ve mentioned transport the physical body. It’s actually creating a rift and slipping them through. But there are other ways that you kind of peek in, where your body’s saying it’s a little more astral projection-y in those cases.

    Bromo_Sapien

    So their physical self would also be in the Cognitive Realm?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Bromo_Sapien

    Okay.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Which is weird.

    Bromo_Sapien

    As opposed to somebody like Kelsier who died and no longer has a physical self.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, right. Or when Shallan is Soulcasting and peeking in, and things like this. It can still be dangerous, because what’s happening is that little soul bubble there that’s manifesting into a version of your soul and then things can get at it in different ways and stuff. So... But yes, going in physically means you just pop between realms, and yeah, yeah…

    Bromo_Sapien

    And when they leave the Cognitive Realm their Physical self just leaves the Cognitive Realm the same...

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yep, mhm, yep.

    Bromo_Sapien

    Perfect.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Basically you’re transferring into Investiture and popping out of Investiture, so...

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    Questioner

    Are Odium and Harmony aware of each other, and will they ever directly come at each other?

    Brandon Sanderson

    They are aware of each other, and they are both frightened of the other one for different reasons. Or at least “wary of” perhaps is a better term.

    Questioner

    That’s interesting. Is that in the narrative perhaps at some point in the future? (another person?) [...] between Harmony and Odium?

    Brandon Sanderson

    [RAFO cards]

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    Questioner

    If you gather the essence of a Shard can you reassemble a [disassembled?] Shard?

    Brandon Sanderson

    [Jokes and shows him a RAFO? Never answered?]

    Footnote: Sounds to me like he had a RAFO card already in the book when Brandon opened it or something like that
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    Questioner

    When Vin hears Reen’s voice in the beginning, is that Ruin at that point?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, there are times where it’s just her remembering him actually talking to her. And there are times when it’s Ruin. It’s usually pretty obvious when it’s Ruin. The ring will be in, and it will kind of force its way into her head a little more directly. So kind of watch for that. If the earring isn’t in, or if it just kind of flows naturally and she’s remembering something he talked to her about, it’s not always going to be Ruin.

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    BeskarKomrk

    It’s fairly heavily implied in the Stormlight books that there’s some sort of correspondence between the Chasmfiends and the Thunderclasts. They’re described very similarly and... I was wondering if there’s a similar sort of correspondence, possibly, between the Whitespines and the Midnight Essences?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh... yes, yes. More tenuous, but yes.

    BeskarKomrk

    But kind of similar?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. The Midnight Essence generally imitates what it sees around it.

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    Questioner

    What powers does Mizzy have?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I’m not telling people that yet, mostly because I haven’t decided 100% how I want it to work yet. I know basically what I want to do, but I haven’t decided how I’m going to play it out. I’m not telling people until I get the book actually written.

    Questioner

    Does that mean there’s another book?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, if I write another book, it will be a Mizzy book.

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    Questioner

    When are you going to finish the Alcatraz Smedry series?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Soon. Now, Alcatraz Smedry series is finished, but Bastille’s series of one book is not. Right? Have you read that?

    Questioner

    I have not.

    Brandon Sanderson

    So in the end of the fifth book Alcatraz says it’s the end and refuses to write any more. Cause there is a fifth book. And then there’s a note from Bastille, and she says, “He’s an idiot. I will finish the series so that you can get the actual ending.”

    Questioner

    So, is the whole Alcatraz Smedry series out?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The fifth book is out. And then, but you’ve got to remember that there’s one more book that Bastille is writing because Alcatraz is stupid, and he won’t finish his own series.

    Questioner

    That’s cool!

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, you can read the fifth book and it is his ending, but it’s a downer. I’m just warning you. Because he thinks he’s not a hero and he wants it to be a downer of ending to his series. And she is going to write a different ending.

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    Questioner

    I was actually curious how you ended up with such a mathematically heavy magic system in The Rithmatist.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I wanted to do something different. I wanted to push myself and stretch, and it is where it went. It was very much a discovery written book, rather than an outline book. I was writing it to avoid writing something else that I didn’t want to be writing.

    Questioner

    What were you avoiding?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I was avoiding Dragonsteel, the Liar of Partinel, which didn’t work. I didn’t know how to fix it, and I still don’t.

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    Questioner

    With the introduction of ebooks does that really like, open up a way for new authors?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It did. It’s actually-- what we find is in general, more authors can make it professionally, though across the board everyone earns a little bit less. Um, and so, but that’s like… that’s a very good thing for new authors. It means there’s more opportunity to break in. And I do talk in the lectures-- I have a self-published person come in and talk about breaking in through self publishing, which is totally viable these days.

    Questioner

    Is it easier to move to actual publishing from the ebooks?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is... It is. Usually they say your threshold is when you’re selling ten thousand books. If you can get to ten thousand. Then New York publishers will be willing to give you enough of an advance that it’s worth it for you to take it. So that’s kind of your threshold. Between two thousand and ten thousand they’re willing to look at you. So that’s kind of where you want to try to hit. And the best thing you can do with self publishing is… The best thing you can do for your writing is just to keep writing. And the best thing you can do for self publishing is to maybe save up until you’ve got a couple books. You know, write one, then go write the second, then revise the first and make it good, then release that, then revise the second and release that. So you can kind of do two…

    Questioner

    So get like some books in your holster before you start…

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah yeah, you probably at least want to know that you’ve been able to take a little time and get two or three done. Then release them in rapid fire and use them to promote one another. Plus you will learn so much writing your first few books that by the time you’re done with your third one you can revise the first and they’ll have an even quality rather than kind of-- you know--

    Questioner

    Better every time

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah.

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    Questioner

    I just finished Rithmatist, so just a general question, where did the idea come from?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The Rithmatist began as the magic system as you probably could guess. I wanted to do an interesting magic system that people played a game with. Because I have used most of my magic… You’ll read in these, that they’re kind of martial arts based, warfare based, things like that. I’m like, people play games with everything. Why do I have no games-- magic systems with games. So it kind of just spun out of that.

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    Questioner

    Do you update your own website? [...] I was wondering because you’re [...]

    Brandon Sanderson

    If it’s in my voice, then I wrote it. Uh… Anyone who updates-- Like you go sometimes [wording?] say “Assistant Adam here, here is something Brandon told me…” So if you hear an “I”, it is me. If it’s not an “I”-- it’s in third person or something-- then it’s one of my assistants.

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    Questioner

    I’m a big fan of Jasnah. And I hope you’ll do her justice in the next book. Do you say it “Jasnah” or “Jasnah”? [different pronunciations]

    Brandon Sanderson

    I say “Jasnah” [soft-J], but you can say it however you want. Remember she’s got a--- she will get a book in the series that has her flashback sequence--

    Questioner

    Good!

    Brandon Sanderson

    --but it’s a little ways off.

    Questioner

    Does she get a [???]?

    Brandon Sanderson

    She will-- She… You will see a lot more of her, but she is intended to be one of the main characters of the second five Stormlight books. In the first five Stormlight books she’s a supporting character. So we’ll reverse some of the supporting characters and some of the main characters in book 6. Um… So you just gotta to wait until we get some more. But she is on the cover of book 3, so...

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    Questioner

    Is being a Knight Radiant at all genetic? Because you have Jasnah, Dalinar, and Renarin in the same family.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is not genetic, however… Um… Families or people close to one another are more likely. It’s not genetic. So for instance, if everyone were adopted it would still have the same prevalence.

    Questioner

    Okay, fascinating!

    Questioner

    [interruption hard to hear]

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, there are a couple of reasons for that. One is which, attracting the attention of a spren can mean that other spren are paying attention to that area. There are also things in the Cosmere (the shared universe of them) where people are connected spiritually. Um… and that’s part of the magic as well. So… You are more likely to become a Radiant if you know a Radiant.

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    Questioner

    In the Stormlight Archive we saw the sword from Warbreaker and we also know that the royal line can change more than just their hair, will that come into play?

    Brandon Sanderson

    They can! What’s that?

    Questioner

    ...will that come into play?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That will come into play, keep your eyes open.

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    ccstat

    We know that recording things can lock spren into position in the cognitive realm. Does the existence of the written Diagram have a significant Realmatic effect.

    Brandon Sanderson

    The Diagram has Realmatic significance.

    ccstat

    Did Taravangian know that when he wrote it?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Define “know.” On the same level perhaps that a table on Roshar knows it’s a table.

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    ccstat

    Nalthis has 5-centric numerology.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay.

    ccstat

    Do regular humans count as the 5th type of biochromatic entity?

    Brandon Sanderson

    [laughs] Um, I will RAFO that, not for any real good reason, but for a mini-good reason.

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    ccstat

    (written in book: Is there a radiant order that would accept Allomancer Jak?)

    Brandon Sanderson

    (written in book: It would depend on the spren, but possibly. There are a few that would have liked him once...)

    There’s some portent in that answer.