Recent entries

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Ironeyes

    So harmonium, we have a working theory that the reason it's so volatile is because some of the subatomic particles are associated with Ruin and some of them are [of?] Preservation. Is that true?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, that's basically what's going on is that it's creating a very unstable metal. Now, it is in the nature of the Cosmere not a compound but an element. But, you could call it a subatomic particle sure. It's very volatile because it is in nature spiritually in contrast with itself. And so though it is a single element rather than a compound, the spiritual nature is not happy as it is, and you can set up in the physical realm, through reactivity things that would just rip it apart and really your energy is not, your energy in that is actually pulling from the Spiritual realm, and so that's why it can be so much more explosive than even the chemistry would account for.

    Ironeyes

    So it's not that the subatomic particles are invested, it's that they have a spiritual identity which causes them to...

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Ironeyes

    So then it's not creating an oxide because after the spiritual energy goes away from the explosion[unintelligible] metal, right?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Right, and...

    Ironeyes

    So you can't find harmonium oxide in the water afterwards.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Right right right right. Because it's not, it's, yeah.  But you might be able to find something else, which is really relevant to the cosmere. And to Scadrial.

    Ironeyes

    So the core elements, the core particles, having extra repulsion causes them to have a nuclear potential.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would not call it nuclear because it's not the same exact thing. But there is a cosmere equivalent, to... I mean, you could do nuclear power just the same in the cosmere, but since we have a third kind of state of matter, right, matter, energy, Investiture, you have a third axis that you know, you can release energy from matter, you can release investiture from matter, and things like that. So it's similar, but following its own rules that I have a little more... that are controlled by me, right. But are built on this idea. So once you add [unintelligible for a few syllables] that matter can now exist in this third state, you get all sorts of weird things, which one of the things that happens is, you can get an energy release in sort of the same way. A reaction, I'm not going to call it a nuclear reaction, but of the same vein.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    What stories should I read that have Ambition’s influence in them? Where should I look for Ambition’s influence?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Ambition’s influence. So, uhm, you have seen it but I’m not going to say anything more than that. Let’s just say that the things that happened with Ambition have had ramifications across many places in the cosmere.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Parshendi carapace, is that necessary to them bonding spren?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No. There are some forms that don’t have carapace, or very much at all. I mean they might have little bits on their nails and things like that. So no it is not necessary. Good question.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    So Lift is having trouble with the physical aspects of Edgedancing. Could she actually increase friction with her surge to give her better control?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is the sort of thing that she needs to learn how to do, is to modulate the amount of friction she creates in various places. But you know it’s also skill-based, there’s a lot of practice involved in things like this but, yes, uhm... If you look at the other surges you could probably guess that she is capable of much more than she has expressed so far.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    yulerule

    If a Parshendi takes a parshman by the hand, gives them a gemstone with a spren in it, leads him out into a highstorm, can the parshman become a Parshendi in the same way that they become a voidbringer?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Now, yes, before no. The everstorm changed them, there’s something going on. In fact, as that scene continues, with Gavilar and Eshonai, there is a clue in that scene. But I didn’t get to that part.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Are we going to learn more about the Tukari in the next Stormlight Archive book?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Um… You will learn a little… I don’t want to say yes because then you will be expecting more than there is. There is some. You’ll get at least one major thing you learn, but it’s not amazing.

    Questioner

    Are some of the epigraphs going to be from versions of the Dawnchant?

    Brandon Sanderson

    RAFO

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    How does liquid metal interact with allomancy? (e.g. mercury)

    Brandon Sanderson

    Right, right. I’ve always imagined it working like a ferrofluid in a magnetic field. You can pull and push on it, but it’s going to be weird and goopy. I haven’t had reason to push and pull on mercury yet, or any of the other liquid metals.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Do metalloids [on the periodic table] count as metals for the purpose of allomancy?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Questioner

    So things like gallium and antimony…

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes. Not everything is pushable or pullable, but it counts in allomancy, and there are certain things… there are certain relationships.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    When Sazed moved the planet in the third Mistborn, I know it has it’s own solar system but did it affect the cosmere in any way?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Not in huge amounts. Technically yes, because you change gravity, but they are lightyears away, so they wouldn’t even notice. I mean, it changed Shadesmar a little bit too, so there were upheavals, but it was not drastic. If what you are looking for is the cause of the earthquake on Sel, then no. The earthquake was years before.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Roshar has three moons that orbit it, and I notice that these orbits somewhat collide. I was wondering if the moons have anything to do with...

    Brandon Sanderson

    The moons are a little bit of a hint, but it’s not about what you’re thinking. They are not in a stable orbit on astronomical terms. They’ll last tens of thousands of years before they degrade. But it is a little bit of a hint of things. The fact that Roshar has three moons in a very specific orbit is a hint about things.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    What’s the most untraditional advice you can give to a writer?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is not that untraditional, but it sounds weird to people. Don’t major in or study English. Major in or study something that you are passionate about and let that inform your writing. You will do grammar and structure and all that stuff naturally by writing. That said, I was an English major so it’s a “do as I say, not as I did” sort of thing.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    I wondered if it's difficult for you sometimes-- it seems like you try to keep your writing PG. Is that ever hard like to still do the character development?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You know it hasn't. It's just how I naturally write. It's not ever really been a struggle either direction. I write what feels natural. And so sometimes it strays into PG-13 because that's appropriate for the character. Sometimes it goes the other direction. I just do what feels right to me, knowing that I'm a bit of a prude. And so my own attitudes certainly do shape it.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    How much self will do the Shards (the person, not the power associated) have, [is it complicated by having more pieces?]?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So they do have a lot of personal will power. They can do things. But the longer they hold the power, the more their will starts to align with that of the power. Resisting it can keep it from happening, but it will eventually happen. So yes and no. It depends on the individual, it depends on how long.

    /r/books AMA 2015 ()
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    trevorade

    Is investiture finite? Hemalurgy and a Return's need to consume breath seems to show us that it can be destroyed. If it is finite, is the Cosmere's magic source doomed to the law of entropy?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Investiture can not be created or destroyed. It follows it's own version of the laws of Thermodynamics.

    Joe_____

    So what happens to the investiture that is lost when a person is spiked and the spike isn't set in the new person immediately? Does it return to the big pool of investiture in the sky like the power from wheel of time where if its not actively being used it returns to the source?

    Brandon Sanderson

    What happens to someone's body when it's not being used by a particular person? The system is built to work like that.

    /r/books AMA 2015 ()
    #12768 Copy

    Avatar_Yung-Thug

    Quick question: I had a hard time "hearing" the Parshendi's singing in my head while reading The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. Are there any real world examples you drew from you could give me so we have a better idea of what they sound like to you?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It was tough, as I didn't want to constrain their language in English to a certain rhythm, as I felt it would be too gimmicky on the page. I used Hindu chants in my head, though, so that might help.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Where did the body Kelsier is using come from?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That’s actually a RAFO. You will find out about that, probably in a Secret History, if I get to it. Eventually, I’ll answer that question for people. I don’t want to answer it now, because it is something I could put into a book.

    Questioner

    I just realized that his body, most of it was gone. The bones might still be around.

    Brandon Sanderson

    The bones were in use, and were in Hero of Ages. The bones had made an appearance. They were still around, but whether that’s what he’s using, I’ll leave.

    Questioner

    I didn’t think putting a spike into his skull [...]

    Brandon Sanderson

    You’ll find that out eventually.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Thank you so much with all the work you guys have done with Writing Excuses. I’m just starting to get into your fiction, I haven’t read much yet, but Writing Excuses I’ve been listening to for a few years and it’s helped me a lot.

    Brandon Sanderson

    You can blame it on Katherine Kurtz, the fantasy/science fiction writer. I met her at a con when I was 18 and she sat down and chatted with me for like half an hour one-on-one about how to be a writer. And I’m like “Oh, that told me so much!”. I’d never gotten that sort of thing before, and it made me realize, becoming a writer is one of these weird things where you can’t learn it except from other writers. You can teach yourself to write, but actually getting published and how to approach problems when you run into them. So many people writer’s block, I feel, because they hit something, they don’t have personal experience dealing with it. Working through that on your own is just really hard, but if you can hear other author’s perspective, you can try those tools and find something that works for you.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Have you ever read 1491 by Charles C. Mann?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, I have.

    Questioner

    Did that inform [plans for The Aztlanian]…

    Brandon Sanderson

    That did inform, that was one of the main books I went to in my research where they’re like, you need to read this book. I read that book and I loved it. Even the book points out some people don’t agree with this hypothesis, but it feels right to me, so I’m running with that idea.

    Questioner

    Even if the details weren’t totally clear in the archeological record, the story in it is just...

    Brandon Sanderson

    Is great. This is the idea that South America in particular but, Central America and parts of North America, were much more densely populated than we assumed and the introduction of diseases that the Europeans brought was more devastating than previous people had theorized. Which is really, really interesting, because it deals with this other idea of America Pox, right? Why did the Europeans not get a disease? Why is there no mythical America Pox that was given back to them? That’s a big question that people have. If you haven’t thought about it, you’re like “Hey, yeah!”. They were both isolated populations from one another, why was there no disease transfers? One of the big theories is that this goes back to animals. Most deadly diseases that we have transferred from animals to humans and they kill us because diseases don’t actually want to kill you. They want you to get sick enough to keep spreading the disease, as long as you have the disease, and if it kills you, it fails in that. Most of them, there are some that, you know. A lot of diseases that are deadly to us were not deadly to cattle, where they originated, and they jumped species. The argument is, and some disagree with this, but the argument is Europeans had these animals that they used. They moved them into the seas with them, they caught a whole bunch of these terrible diseases that wiped out big populations, but they got over it. And in North and Central and South America, they did not have as many animals living in close proximity to humans in large population centers, and so the diseases did not pass to humans, and there were no big deadly diseases for the Europeans to catch when they came over.

    [says he got the term America Pox from CGP Grey, a Youtuber, who he likes watching and was clearly reading some of the same books]

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    It was mentioned that there are 16 gods in your Cosmere.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Depends on your definition of god.

    Questioner

    Shards. Are the ten orders of the Knight Radiants related to specific gods? Because Honor, child of Honor-Kaladin

    Brandon Sanderson

    So all the magic on Roshar, all the surgebinding on Roshar, is going to have its roots in Honor and Cultivation. Um... There is some Odium influence too, but that’s mostly voidbinding, which is the map in the back of the first book.

    Questioner

    I was wondering how much-

    Brandon Sanderson

    But, but even the powers, it’s, it’s really this sort of thing. What’s going in Stormlight is that people are accessing fundamental forces of creation and laws of the universe. They’re accessing them through the filter of Cultivation and Honor. So, that’s not to say, on another world you couldn’t have someone influence gravity. Honor doesn’t belong to gravity. But bonds, and how to deal with bonds, and things like this, is an Honor thing. So the way Honor accesses gravity is, you make a bond between yourself and either a thing or a direction or things like that and you go. So it’s filtered through Honor’s visual, and some of the magics lean more Honor and some them lean more Cultivation, as you can obviously see, in the way that they take place.

    Questioner

    The question kind of rooted because, Wyndle in the short story is always saying that he’s a cultivationspren, he doesn’t like [...]. I kind of got the idea that each order had a different Shard.

    Brandon Sanderson

    That is a good thing to think, but that is not how it is. Some of them self-identify more in certain ways. Syl is an honorspren, that’s what they call a honorspren, they self-identify as the closest to Honor. Is that true? Well, I don’t know. For instance, you might talk to different spren, who are like, no, highspren are like “We’re the ones most like Honor. We are the ones that keep oaths the best. Those honorspren will let their people break their oaths if they think it’s for a good cause. That’s not Honor-like.” There would be disagreement.

    Questioner

    Are you saying that the spren’s view of themself influences how they work?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh yeah, and humans’ view of them because spren are pieces of Investiture who have gained sapience, or sentience for the smaller spren, through human perception of those forces. For instance, whether or not Kaladin is keeping an oath is up to what Syl and Kaladin think is keeping that oath. It is not related to capital-T Truth, what is actually keeping the oath. Two windrunners can disagree on whether an oath has been kept or not.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    [mentions the 20-page Stormlight Archive Companion someone was having him sign]

    I want to do an updated version of this with more pictures in it. It turned out so cool. Tor was like, “We’re going to do this thing”, and I’m like, “Oh yeah, do this thing”, and then they printed it and I’m like, “This looks really cool and feels really cool”.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    How did you choose Aztec culture as opposed to Mayan?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Because I like, I think it’s interesting. I’m really fascinated by the way that, in North America, Aztec culture was one of the closest things we had to an empire. Granted, the Mayans were similar too. This isn’t a good thing, but they were starting to be a colonial power in North America, they were just 100 years behind because, different people argue why. The argument of, they didn’t have good [not sure what he says here] animals like they had in Europe. Europe had access to horses and cows, and, particularly in North America, they didn’t have access to these beasts of burden. There’s also the argument that, through most of South America, the terrain was not really good for pulling carts and things like this. So no animals and not really good for the wheel makes communication between cultures difficult. Communications between cultures is what inspires technological progress most of the time. So suddenly, you have this, where they’re really advanced in some areas, like their mathematics and whatnot, but they don’t have the wheel. And that is so interesting, and the Aztec is really interesting. The idea that they came [...] they found Tenochitlan after leaving Aztlan and come to this place and they’re these people, and their god is the hummingbird and all this stuff and it’s just really cool mythology and culture, but all anyone knows about the Aztecs is, “Human sacrifice!”, right? That’s the thing everyone focuses on, when you’ve got this really deep and cool and rich culture as well. They didn’t even really sacrifice, according to most people, that many people, no more than in European wars, they would execute after you… but it’s got this really cool mythology around it. Anyway, it’s just a really cool culture, and being from North America it’s something I wanted to dig into and deal with. Plus you’ve got, this is kind of a minefield of stuff, but you’ve got this weird colonial thing going on that I wanted to play with. In the Rithmatist world, the Aztecs had unified into a colonial power and a lot of the North American tribes had unified beneath them. Some left happily, some not happily to fight against  the chalkling threat. They got pushed all the way back, fighting and fighting and fighting, and then the Europeans come in, and they’re like, “Great, this continent that there’s nobody in!” and they’re like, “Hey no, that’s ours!”. So you’ve got this really, at least to me, interesting interaction between, cause there’s all these myths that perpetuated in the 1800’s that there weren’t that many people in North America when we came in. It was just basically empty. That was the myth they were telling themselves to justify the wholesale conquering and slaughter of the people. A lot of times I’m like, so what if they got there and these people had been killed in a big war? You’ve got this colonialism and this cool power to the south who’s like “No, you’re stealing our land” but they’re like “No, you guys weren’t here” and they’re like “No, we were fighting there”. It’s a really interesting thing to deal with, and it’s exciting to me, but boy is it a minefield. Let’s hope that I can do the second book without being too offensive to people. But that stuff is fascinating to me.

    Questioner

    Do you think that the sensibility in terms of writing about Native American cultures has to do a lot with how times have changed, since you’ve written Rithmatist?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh yeah, definitely. Since I’ve written Rithmatist, my sensitivity to this has skyrocketed, I think everybody’s has. That’s a big part of when I went back to the book, and I thought in the sequel I was dealing with it sensitively and I’m like “Oh, no. I don’t think I’m approaching that sensitively at all”. That was part of the reason I had to drop it and revise it. Also, I just didn’t think it was doing cool enough things and whatnot. I’m glad I didn’t write it in 2008 when I’d been like“Aztecs are cool, let’s write a book that has Aztecs in it!”, instead of saying, “Let’s do more than Aztecs are cool, let’s make sure that we have actually done our research”, instead of just relying on it. There are some things you can rely on, like Kaladin in the Stormlight books. I know enough about field medicine and what it is like to be a surgeon in the pre-modern era that I could write a cool book where a guy was himself a surgeon in a pre-modern era, and then I just gave it to a field medic, someone who had actually been in battle, and said, “What did I get wrong?”. He’s like, “You got this, this, this wrong, fix those and it’s good”. I can do that. I can bluff my way through making Kaladin work and then find an expert to fix it. That’s what I would’ve done in 2008 if I’d written Rithmatist. I have a feeling it would’ve been so far off that I would’ve given it to them and they would’ve been like, “You can’t fix this. This is fundamental”. That’s a writing advice. There are a lot of things you can bluff your way through, if you get yourself like 50% of the way there and then find an expert to fix the really bad parts for you. But you have to be able to get far enough along that it’s fixable.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    Sazed is my absolute favorite character in any book now. I love the way he talks and his passion for religion. I think that’s really really cool. (interrupted)

    Brandon Sanderson

    How did I come up with Sazed? Is that where you’re going?

    Questioner

    Yeah, and the religion thing, because you have so many. Did you study religion?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do study it. I do a lot of studying religion. It fascinates me. I’m religious, I want to know what people find sacred. The origin of the idea for Sazed was the idea of a missionary for all religions. I can actually point at the moment, though, but it comes from a goofy movie.

    Questioner

    What goofy movie?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The goofy movie is the original Mummy with Brendan Fraser. There’s a moment where the dumb guy tries holding up a religious symbol and talking and nothing happens, so he pulls up a different one and he pulls out a different one. That moment actually spawned the, “What if that were serious? What if there was somebody who tried to match a religion to the individual?”. That spun me into Sazed, the whole concept of Sazed. You can trace the origins of this deep and important character to the dopey, evil sidekick in a Brendan Fraser movie.

    Footnote: I (Kurk) have lost and re-found this particular origin story for Sazed more times than I care to admit
    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    In Alethkar, a lot of the consonant sounds are “C” sounds or “K’s”, like Kaladin. [Can’t hear the rest of the question here very well]

    Brandon Sanderson

    It’s just based on the rules I came up for it when I was designing it. They’re mostly semitic origins or middle eastern origins. Kholin is actually [pronounces it], but I don’t expect the audiobook narrators to do “chuh” every time they see a “kh”. The “k” is a “c” sound. That and the “j” are the only weird ones, for Alethi. In Tashikk, I can’t even do the Arabic glottal. The double “q” or the double “k” in the Azish often is that, but I can’t do it. Peter can.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    If you draw a line of forbiddance on a piece of on a chalkboard that’s sitting on the ground and then hit that chalkboard, will the chalkboard move?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is the number one question I get, actually. The answer is, it depends on the size of the line and the amount of power that’s been put into it. This is actually relating back to Cosmere physics. If you look at the Cosmere physics, you can see exactly what happens with the speed bubbles, it’s the same sort of principle. It’s based on perception. So putting a movable line, oftentimes you will just have trouble engaging the magic on something that’s not stable enough to be viewed as stable. Drawing it on a chalkboard and then turning it toward somebody actually wouldn’t work, because you wouldn’t be able to engage that line very easily with the way the magic works. And if you did, it would disrupt the line, and it would be gone. Treat whatever I do with speed bubbles as the rule for Rithmatist magic, until I write the second book. If I decide to take it in it’s own direction, I will let you guys know.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    So North America being islands, was that just another bit of color?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. That was based around the idea of, I want to do this cool thing. I’m just going to do this cool thing. Peter did not have a chance to look at that and tell me if the physics of that planet work or not. But once we pulled it out of the Cosmere, we didn’t have to worry if the physics do.

    Questioner

    I wasn’t sure if it was tied to history of the magic or?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, I didn’t tie it to the history of the magic. I just said, I’m going to do a small planet and we’re just going to make it a big atoll. You’ll see the same things in Europe if we ever do a map of that, which we probably won’t, but South America you’ll see similar stuff.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    In Mistborn, silver doesn’t play a role. But then in Shadows for Silence, silver does play a role...

    Brandon Sanderson

    It does. I still wanted silver to be part of the Cosmere.

    Questioner

    But we’ll never see it in Scadrial?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It does not, as they understand currently, interact with Allomancy, with the three Metallurgic Arts. Silver does have a Cosmere role.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    In our legal system, when you die in debt, your heirs don’t inherit your debt. Whatever assets you have go to pay off, and then your heirs are free. I take it in this universe that this isn’t the case? Or is it just that someone’s going to break the widow’s legs if she doesn’t pay?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I had the wife assume the debt of the couple in this.

    Questioner

    He had borrowed the money in both of their names?

    Brandon Sanderson

    In this legal system, that counts. You are liable.

    Questioner

    So she inherits his debts?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. But I would argue that the brother wouldn’t, if there were a brother, but the couple would.

    Questioner

    And if she died, would Joel inherit the debt?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would say probably not, that he would probably not, but I would have to look at it specifically in the situation. If the wife or the husband inherit from the other, then there’s a decent chance they might make the child, there are cultures through history that the children have been. I’m going to say yes, I’m going to say he would. If the wife is inheriting his debt, it’s so much easier a leap to say that children also do. So I’m going to say yes. I hadn’t thought about it specifically.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    I was wondering about the economics of the Rithmatist. Obviously, the price levels are without a century of inflation. The cost of making those dollar coins, even in terms of their economics, it seems like it would cost more than a dollar to make a dollar coin.

    Brandon Sanderson

    We spend more to make some of our money, not dollars. The argument I make on that one is that a dollar built by them is added value. That is my feel on it. Producing it might take more money than it is worth, but by the time it’s done, it is worth that much more money. At least in my opinion.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Questioner

    What was it like switching to graphic novel format for White Sand?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The truth is, I didn’t really have to. We hired someone who’s specifically good at this, and I looked over his scripts, but I left the hard work to him. White Sand was already written, as you probably know. And I said, “This is good, but not good enough. Can you edit it in a way to make it good enough?” And we really liked what he came up with, so it was really his call. And then I kind of left the art to Isaac, who does all of my art stuff, to go over the art with the artist. I’m pleased with White Sand, with one caveat. I don’t think they got the worldbuilding right. If you’ve read the original novel, I don’t feel the worldbuilding I described in the novel quite made it, because the person doing the edit focused really on the dialogue, which is what we wanted him to do. But the artist didn’t get it quite well enough. We’re trying to fix that in the second volume. So there might be little things where you’re like, “Wow, the worldbuilding’s much more expansive in the second one”, so that’s why.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    Ironeyes

    We know aluminum affects mental magic and emotional magic. Would it affect the hole in your soul that’s created by Hemalurgy? If you had an aluminum spike, would that make it easier, less easy, or no difference for Ruin to take control of you?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Aluminum resists Investiture generally, even when it’s not Invested itself.

    Ironeyes

    (Brandon hems and haws a little so Ironeyes clarifies the question) Would an aluminum spike make it harder for a Soother to take control of you?

    Brandon Sanderson

    An aluminum spike would have no effect on a Soother’s ability. They wouldn’t see it there.

    yulerule

    Did you make aluminum resistant to Allomancy so that you could do the tinfoil hats?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, but once I did, I was like that’s a cool idea. I made aluminum resistant to it because I wanted something to be magically inert in the Cosmere. It was a happy accident.

    Boskone 54 ()
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    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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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].