How did you find the experience of writing in an established universe that wasn't your own? Did the setting having a much softer magic system than you usually write present a challenge you, and what do you feel it taught that you can take back to your other writing?
Did you get any access or information about Magic lore that wouldn't have been available to fans yet?
Lastly, I feel like this story had less of your trademark "Sanderlanche" in it. Do you agree? Do you think that is a function of it being a short story, or other elements? Was it intentional, or did a more gradual set of revelations just work better for this story?
I found the experience to be a lot of fun. The system was soft, but I created my own very hard corner of it to play in, so that worked just fine for me. Most of what this taught me was how to better collaborate--I am glad for the experience in that regard, and hope it will help me better at similar writing tasks in the future.
Most of my short fiction has a smaller Sanderlanche. Basically, I need lots of threads intermixing so that I can start pulling them together rapid-fire for a good Sanderlanche, and short fiction will need smaller ones in turn. Most of the stories in Arcanum Unbounded had climaxes similar to this one.
Aside of the mind probe stealing spell, did Davriel have any other spells of his own? If not, why didn't he try to learn something which comes in handy in battle (e.g. Doom Blade)?
Remember, he loses what he grabs over time. Generally, he can keep a few stolen spells in the back of his mind--but even they weaken. So he can't really learn Doom Blade. He has to work with what he finds in the brains of nearby people.
When I think of Brandon and MtG, I wonder, if the 5 kinds of mana, were suddenly replaced by investiture from the 16 shards, how would that affect the game? Upsides? Downsides?
I don't know if this would even be mechanically possible--MTG is balanced around those five poles. It would probably make things a whole lot more complicated, and might be better matched to a game with a lot of flexible factions.
If you could design a new mechanic for Magic, what would you make? Thank you!
For my own Mistborn custom cube, I designed a mechanic that cared if a card was sleeved or not. It couldn't work in regular magic, of course, but in the context of a cube that is already pre-sleeved, it played very well. Basically, being sleeved equated to being protected or shrouded in the mist. You could give up your protection to become stronger, sometimes, but it made you more vulnerable. (There were many cards, for example, that could only destroy unsleeved cards.)
Crunchgnar mentions that as a lesser demon, he is forced to give up the souls he has claimed to his lords - presumably demon lords, not the mortals with whom he engages in contracts.
How does demonic feudalism work? Under what circumstances do lesser demons come to have lords? What benefits does Crunchgnar receive for his vassalage (or peasantry)?
Basically, you do what the more powerful demon says, or you end up getting roasted. It's not quite feudalism. More, if you have a tasty morsel, someone is likely to steal it from you--unless you've already picked someone strong to give some of what you claim, so they can tell everyone else to shove off.
Were there any other Planeswalkers, Gatewatch or otherwise, that you would have liked, or would like to write for, at some point?
I like a lot of the odder, less central characters. Ashiok, Tamiyo. I do really like Elspeth, partially because of her origin, and partially because of her arc.
I enjoyed the story a lot. Davriel was a lot of fun to read about, as was Miss Highwater. I wish I had interesting things to ask about them, but I just don't know enough MTG lore to come up with anything - which leads to my first question:
- How can a guy learn more about the lore of MTG?
And, a related question:
- Had I been more versed in MTG lore, would I be able to recognize specific spells or creatures in this story? Davriel's eyes changed color a few times when he was casting, I figured the color might match either the color of existing spells or what you felt his spells would've been, had they been actual cards.
MTG lore is pretty deep (and at times, a little confusing.) I'd suggest the Dominaria stories written by Martha Wells for sheer writing quality reasons--even though they might be a little more confusing than some others. You could also go back and read the stories set on Innistrad (this plane) during the Shadows over Innistrad story sequence.
If you'd known the lore, you'd have picked out little things here and there. But they would have been easter eggs, mostly.
Just a quick question, what colors would you think Davriel would be?
I think his first incarnation is likely to be mono-black--because I pitched him as a mono-black hero to the team.
Here’s what I was imagining while reading:
1UB, 3 starting loyalty
+1: Exile the top two cards of your opponent’s library
-1: You can play one card exiled with Davriel until end of turn, using mana of any color to cast it
-6: Exile your opponent’s hand
That's a great rendition of him. Nice work! The only problem with it that I can think of is that it feels a little like Ashiok, mechanically.
I would enjoy a Davriel who could thoughtsieze and cast those spells, as I think it aligns better--but this feels like a really dangerous ability to make repeatable on a cheap walker, but a weak ability on an expensive walker after hands are empty.
What are the official Brandon-approved names of the Skyward and Legion universes and the Reckoners multiverse?
Hm. I do need a name for, at least, the Skyward universe. Let me think on that.
Writing question. When writing a fantasy novel in which the setting and the plot are so tightly linked (i.e. the plot of Stormlight is linked inextricably and specifically to the world of Roshar) which area do you focus on first, world or story, or both simultaneously? Can you talk about Stormlight specifically and how you built the world and the story to work so tightly together? Do you ever make small changes in the worldbuilding that end up forcing you to make big changes to the plot and vice versa?
The way I design stories, I'm usually always thinking about items in three areas that catch my attention: Character conflicts, setting themes, and plot archetypes. I keep a notebook where I'm writing down in these three general areas, looking for ideas that strike me as feeling new or interesting in some way.
Books begin to form when several of these ideas start to grow together, and influence one another in interesting ways. Roshar, as a planet, was interesting--but the story wasn't working t until the idea of the spren, the characters who interact with them, and the world all together started to play off each other.
When I feel like something is really coming together, I sit down and build an outline from all of these idea. This back-and-forth experience leads to the story being interconnected as I jump back and forth between outlining plot, setting, and character. Often, these things will change one another greatly as I work through it, trying to see it all as a whole, rather than parts.
Tineye. I have a condition i cant remember the name of, basically I started suffocating right before I was born and the lack of oxygen caused a very slight brain damage in all my senses. All of my sensory organs are fine, but my brain can’t interpret them quite right. Usually it's done in more of a dulling. I hope that tin would bring me to the same super human level because magic... Wait...if this works my whole week will be made.
[Brandon] would tin fix me? Or is my brain just broken?
I say yes, you'd be pleased with the results. (Sorry to hear about your affliction.)
If you don't mind me asking, who is your favorite planeswalker(in game)
Ashiok from a combination of design, play style, and hints of lore.
Did you go into creating Davriel with the color pie in mind? What colors would you say he is?
I went into the story knowing I wanted to write a black-alinged hero. Someone who showed off the pragmatic side of black, and someone whose ambition was different from traditional black-aligned ambition.
I'd say that Davriel is black primary, with a strong secondary blue aspect. There is a slight white tertiary side to him, mostly in his belief in organized systems and society that makes sense. (Though he prefers these boundaries for others more than for himself.)
Having you create a story for Magic has been speculated for a very longtime now. Will there be a return in the future (possibly a full length novel) or was this a one-shot type of deal?
Having Magic go back to novels is going to be amazing and hope to see you around for these!
I doubt this will be the last time I write something for MTG, but it is difficult to fit this sort of thing into my schedule. Doing it for free this way actually helped, as instead of thinking about how much it would earn relative to other things, I could just relax and treat it as a gift to the readers. I don't know if I could have fit it in otherwise, oddly.
I don't know that I'll ever be able to do a main-line MTG novel, as the amount of time I'd want to spend going to the planning meetings and the like would probably be prohibitive. But we'll see.
Also, I really want Davriel to meet Liliana just to see how flabbergasted he becomes when he realizes how stupid her demonic contracts are in comparison to his own.
I will say that the entire time writing Davriel, I was amused thinking of how he and Liliana would interact.
Are there any existing MtG cards with little lore behind them that have really gotten your creative juices flowing? For example, cards like Helm of the Host or Dark Depths, which hint at tons of story potential but are otherwise ignored by the larger ongoing story.
I have always loved Dark Depths for that reason--and for similar reasons, I like cards that tell a story by themselves. (Figure of Destiny, or the Sagas are examples of this.)
Mr Sanderson, you have been a very active member in the communities about your books, and still manage to create such quality stories.
My question is, what has been the most memorable interaction you have had with a fan?
PS. Back when I first started reading your books, I sent you an email, and I got a reply. I just want to tell you how much that meant to me 5 years ago, no other author had ever responded to my emails, and I just want to say thank you.
Actually, the most memorable is probably when I saw someone on Reddit wishing they could be in the Stormlight Archive. (I believe it's /u/Kaladin_Stormblessed.) Well, I found her a spot in the books, and it turns out she is very involved in fandom and is a writer herself, so the two of us have become friends over the years. To the point that I forget we first met over a random thread on the internet.
You might also count the fact that a pair of fans, who met at one of my signings, eventually got engaged via a proposal that happened at one of my lectures. (With my involvement.)
Anyway, I'm glad I was able to answer that email! I don't get to do much of that any more, and a lot of people get form mail or responses from Adam instead. (It just got to be too much for me.)
Did you struggle with the limits of the Magic world and magic system since you're so used to creating your own?
I worried about this a lot when going into the Wheel of Time--but I found that I really like taking an established magic system and pushing it this direction or that direction. It's a lot of fun to me to dig into how something works, and see if I can "break" it in interesting ways.
I suspected I'd have a similar experience with MTG, and I did--though I did need something I could play with to be unique. I settled on the kind of "Gonti/Nightveil Specter" ability to steal spells from someone else, then use them yourself. This was a really fun space for me to play with, and I found it thoroughly engaging.
Brandon, how was character creation different for Children of the Nameless compared to the rest of your other works?
Character creation wasn't that different--I start usually with a conflict or a theme. For Davriel, it was "Economist gets magical powers" mixed with "Person who uses contracts with demons not for crazy power, but to get good staff members."
For Tacenda, I was looking at her curse and the way she uses music. (Mixed with the conflict of being able to hear your entire village get killed--but not being able to stop it.)
From there, I did apply some MTG philosophy to the refinement of the characters.
Is it a possibility that we in the future get to see the characters from Children of the Nameless represented on magic cards?
It is a possibility, but as the other responder mentioned, I don't have any control over this--I think it's likely, but I certainly couldn't say when. I think the fact that Dack got a card--after being created by the comic book team--bodes well for Davriel, at the very least.
With your skills in world building, If WotC invited you to help design a new magic world what sort of world would you want to make?
Hmm... Something that interacts in an interesting way with the five colors of magic, like Alara did.
Are there any MtG planes that have had an influence on you and share some characteristics with any of the planets in the cosmere?
It's hard to say how much influence MTG has had on me, since I started playing in high school--right around the time when I started writing. I don't ever remember seeing the connected shared worlds thing, and connecting it to the cosmere. (I see that as more directly influenced by Asimov and Stephen King connecting their books together) but it's totally possible that MTG was an unconscious influence.
What challenges are there in writing for an already established IP vs something of your own creation?
The biggest challenge is always the push and pull between what the larger story needs vs. the little story I want to tell. For example, MTG has established rules about what the planeswalkers can do--and it's important to stay in canon for the greater good of the story. (Planeswalkers, for example, can't take people with them when they hop between worlds.) That limits me, for example, if I wanted to do Davriel on another plane--he couldn't take any supporting cast with him.
That's a rule you probably wouldn't set up if this were just stories about Davriel, as the supporting cast is what makes him shine as a character. But the structure of it is important for not breaking the larger stories the team is telling.
Did you get to choose Innistrad as the setting, or was that something that was already part of the planeswalker WotC had in mind that your character got merged into?
I got to choose. I had built Davriel most of the way when they said, "Hey, we've got this blank slate planeswalker in our files. Do you want to make this your character?" It worked perfectly, as it let me fill out the lore for this person and have them work as part of the larger narrative.
How would you compare writing this novella to the Wheel of Time books you wrote? Both have treasure troves of existing lore and characters and both are fantasy media that you're a fan of.
It was a similar experience in some ways--I had a lot of creative freedom in both cases, for example, and I had a lot of lore to draw upon.
For the WoT, though, I was very, very steeped in the lore--and made sure I did another deep dive before writing the stories. Here, I have familiarity with a lot of MTG lore, but there's a lot I don't know. I haven't read most of the fiction, particularly the older fiction, for example.
So for WoT I felt confident taking main storylines and resolving them, while for this, I tried to create my own sort of sectioned-off part of the plane to play in. Then I created my own lore for that area that I could control more specifically--traditions and lore that were related to the well-known places on Innistrad, but not exactly the same. That way, I could play with them, and undermine them, and do what I wished with them.
As a worldbuilder, I love digging into worlds I wouldn't experience otherwise - DnD setting guides, wikis and the like. From the chapter released on io9 already, and what I've seen on various reddits discussing your novella, it feels like MtG has a massive world behind it too (someone described MtG as very similar to the Cosmere?)
First off, will your novella be suitable for someone like me who has never actually dug into the MtG lore before? And secondly, where would you say a Cosmere fan should begin digging into the lore here? What are your favorite worldbuilding elements? Have any inspired elements in your stories? (Cosmere or otherwise)
Yes, this novella will be suitable for someone who knows nothing about the lore. I wrote it expecting most wouldn't know anything about it.
If you want to dig into MTG lore, the various MTG wikis talk a lot about the world and lore--but you could do worse than just reading the other stories on Wizard's website, as a lot of them are well done.
My favorite MTG worldbuilding elements tend to be their visual worldbuilding--they have a lot of artists, and much of what they come up with is beautiful. It's a lot of fun to just go to Gatherer (the website with all the archive of cards) and pick a Set (like Innistrad) and read the flavor text at the bottom of the cards. (They are quotes or things in-world. Not every card has them, but much do.) That, with the art style, can tell you an entire story on its own.
I've been playing MTG since I was in high school, so I'd say my writing was probably influenced by it a lot--but I don't know if I can name any specifics.
I'm not a MTG fan by any stretch, (I've played a couple of rounds with friends, but it usually takes some heavy coercing) but if I wanted to become one, especially for the lore, where would I start?
Well, this story isn't a bad place, since I wrote it hopefully in a way that will be interesting to those who don't know any of the lore. Otherwise, the soft reboot mentioned below is a good place.
I liked a number of the earlier comic books (though I haven't read the current one) and thought they were well done. I also liked the work Martha Wells did recently--I linked it in my blog post today.
For years, each Magic story was isolated, with each set having its own story. (Save for one long arc near the beginning.) Some ten years ago, they decided to create a group of people who would travel between the worlds, and let the story center on their interaction with the locations--which gave it some stronger continuity. The soft reboot at Origins (which is kind of the second soft reboot for MTG) is the start of the current larger arc.
What was it like keeping this project a secret for so long, especially with so many people guessing it’d turn out to be exactly this?
So, it did grow kind of annoying to keep this secret--as I tend to be the type to think that a secret doesn't do a project like this very much good. The longer a project remains a (known) secret, the bigger the hype machine--and I knew pretty early on that people were going to blow this out of proportion.
So I hope it wasn't too much of a disappointment that it wasn't some huge film or video game project, like I suspect some of you were expecting. Fortunately, I've had secret projects before, and they tend to be novellas like this.
Either way, I do wish they'd let me announce it sooner. Not sure exactly why they wanted to keep it a secret. Announcing it in July and letting people anticipate would have been great for building interest--but I think they were a little wary since they really didn't know how big it would be or what it would be like, since they didn't commission the piece so much as say 'yes' then try to ride the wave that is Brandon creating a story.
Will there an audiobook [for Children of the Nameless]?
I bet there is someday--but it wouldn't be for a long while if there is.
Any word on whether [Children of the Nameless will] be coming out in physical form? Just curious. I know for a while the M:TG books were eBook exclusive and the story has been website-exclusive but they're also gearing up to start publishing physical books again next year so...haha.
There's a pretty good chance of this, but it will be a while. Maybe late next year?
Some years ago I met you at a reading at Borderlands SF and asked if you'd ever write for MTG. If I may follow up -- why the change of heart? Was this a one off thing or will we see more things in the future?
I can't remember what point you asked me, but it might have been when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by my work load. This hit me right when I had enough space in my schedule, and they also were willing to let me do whatever I wanted with it. So it all came together!
This is intended to be a one-off. I'm not closing the door on doing more in the future, but the stars would have to align in the right way again.
Is Children of the Nameless accessible to readers who know absolutely nothing about the Magic: the Gathering world(s) and mythos? Are there any core concepts we should be familiar with before reading?
My goal was to treat this story so you could pick it up never having read anything about (or ever played) Magic. Judging by my writing group's reactions (few of them are familiar with it) this worked.
That said, I jump right into the story, rather than doing a big lore catch-up session, so there might be aspects that are a little confusing here and there.
Rock is the cook for Bridge 4, and not once does he say, "Can you smell what the Rock is cooking?" It is a missed opportunity
I have to wonder if /u/mistborn had that mind when creating the character. I will only see him that way now!
I don't believe it. To clarify, I believe he didn't intentionally do it and I 100% believe Brandon is telling the subjective truth.
On the other hand, he invented a fictional culture loosely based on Polynesians and then made a big strong character from that culture and gave him the same name as a big strong descendant of Polynesians.
Have to stress, I'm in no way saying any of this as a negative thing...but the conscious part of the human brain isn't always aware of everything the rest of the brain is doing or where its thoughts come from.
I can see how you'd be skeptical...but you can find Rock in the 1998/99 version of Dragonsteel. He's largely the same character with the same name--though this was before he and Bridge Four were moved to the Stormlight Archive. Regardless, Dragonsteel was printed as my honors thesis several years before I even heard of the wrestler/actor. This really is just a coincidence. Sorry, /u/CarterLawler.
[An image of all of Brandon's progress bars at 100%] well i guess that's it then, no more books ever
I've actually been doing a number of small things, as opposed to one big one, like /u/pm_me_your_ide guessed. Basically, I'm trying to clear my desk of small projects in preparation for launching into Stormlight 4 in January.
These little things involved a final draft of Secret Project (which I can't announce yet--but you'll know about it soon.) Working on an audio-original novella I've been writing with a friend. Signing large mountains of books for holiday orders. Tinkering with Apocalypse Guard, which I still hope to release some day. Filling out the Skyward 3 outline. None of these really deserved a progress bar, as none of them took more than a week or so.
I will post details in the State of the Sanderson in three weeks or so.
So men cannot write, it is a feminine art. Women do all the writing and reading while also covering their left hand with a sensible long sleeve (not godless whores). But what if a proper Vorin woman is born left-handed? Would she be forced to wear a glove in order to write? Or would she do her best to write with her right hand to avoid her sinful nature as a lefty? I wonder if these women write in secret, away from the lecherous eyes of others, and expose her safe hand to write freely.
These thoughts keep me up at night. I pity these left-handed Vorins for the rough life they must live.
This isn't as big a deal as you might think, because for a lot of the population, they just wear a glove and use their left hand.
It gets interesting when you are upper class, female, and left-handed. Part of the inspiration for the safehand was the way that the left hand is regarded as unclean in some of our cultures on Earth. You might be curious to read about what left-handed people did, historically, in some middle eastern cultures.
The short answer is "They learn to be ambidextrous" but the long answer is that it can be quite a pain, and very embarrassing. So yes, you are right to feel sorry for those left-handed Vorin women.
Potential historical basis for the Vorin separation of men's and women's food. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luau
I was aware of this during Stormlight worldbuilding, and so it certainly had an influence.
How much of [Defending Elysium] is canon for Skyward?
I consider it to be canon, though it's been some time in-world, and a lot has happened. Also, DE doesn't contain the full story, just what those characters knew at that time.
I'm currently reading New Spring after finishing, and going BACK to Jordan after /u/mistborn absolutely killed The Last Battle...it's interesting. Sanderson really did breathe new life into the series. I'm particularly impressed by how he took the rules of one of the most intricate magic systems I've ever seen and turned them in their head and got insanely creative with them. Particularly Talmanes and Aludra using traveling while operating the dragons. Fantastic out of the box thinking.
Also, Talmanes is hands down the best side character who is so overshadowed by the main five heroes that it's easy to forget about him. But damn it he my favorite example of peak human bravery. Not ta'veren, not one of the great generals, not the world's most skilled swordsman. But time and time again he overcomes every obstacle, accomplishing the impossible. If it wasn't a recoming of the Age of Legends with heroes abound, he'd be the main hero.
Talmanes is one of those characters that I was very excited to write--though I anticipated my take on him being more controversial than it ended up being. I've always read him a certain way, and felt that I wanted to push him that direction in the last books--all the while knowing that some members of fandom didn't view him as I did. One of the dangers of bringing a fan like myself to write the books is that is had specific and distinct interpretations of some of the characters, particularly some of the side characters who were going to get expanded roles.
The way I read Talmanes was as a sort of "You've got to be kidding me" John McClane. A capable man who doesn't want to be there, but he's there and there's only one way out.
I'd be very interested to hear how your vision for him differed from the final character!
That is how I read him too--but also with a hint of self-awareness. Like when he'd say things to Mat, he wasn't always 100% serious, but sometimes kind of pushing Mat's buttons. That's the part I figured would be controversial, since I knew some other fans read him as straight serious.
How did you get the idea for The Rithmatist?
The Rithmatist started with the drawings. I did the little doodles first, of all the defenses and things. And I just started drawing and drawing and drawing. And I drew all those out, and I thought, "Okay, I'm gonna write a book around this idea." I wanted to do something where people played a sport with magic, rather than only using it for, like, war and things.
You've mentioned before that your conclusions, you like to have people figure it out, like, a paragraph right before it happens. Which one do you think you executed best?
Oh, man. I am not sure. It's tricky, because it's getting harder and harder to fool the readers as they get wiser and wiser to my things, so at some point, I just have to be okay with that. So I think that the early books, I was able to pull off more. Like, the Mistborn 1 ending is probably the one that gets people the best. I think I'm getting better at my climaxes, but now... that people are getting wise to me, I have to convolute them a little bit more. Like, the Oathbringer one, people were probably expecting from Book One. They have multiple books to...
What gave you the idea to write the Alcatraz books?
You know what, it was the first line. I was just doodling in a notebook one day, and I wrote down, "So there I was, tied to an altar made of outdated encyclopedias, about to be sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil librarians." And I had to write that book. So I just kind of took that line, and I ran with it.
Have you thought about leatherbound Stormlight Archives, how that's gonna work?
We're gonna print them each in two volumes in a slip case. We probably won't be able to keep those at $100; they may be, like, $150. But they will come with two volumes.
What inspired you write Way of Kings? Was that your first one?
That was not my first one. It's different-- There are lots of different ideas that usually come together to make one book. And Way of Kings is lots of different ideas. One of them was wanting to tell a story about a world where the highstorm, where the magic storm hit it periodically... The idea of how life would have to adapt to a storm. But there are lots of different ideas that come together.
On Skyward, I love the Graphic Audio adaptations. Do you know if there's any plans to do a Graphic Audio recording on Skyward at this time?
There's not plans right now. I'm trying to talk Random House into it. I guess it would be Audible into it, 'cause they have the audio rights. They haven't let us do the Reckoners. It's tough because Audible bought the rights directly, and Graphic Audio is a direct competitor. Whereas with the Stormlight books, MacMillian audio is not the same. So, we'll try.
Will we see Aether of Night eventually?
I can't promise. You've seen the aethers; Mraize's room of trophies. But I can't absolutely promise I'll work it in... The question is, if I find the time. I just stay consistent on the mainline Cosmere books. If I find the time, I'll get Aether of Night.
Do you have a giant timeline somewhere written out all of it?
I do. Actually, it's in a wiki. I work digitally for most of my stuff. It's one that myself and my assistants use to try and keep everything straight. Actually, Karen, who this book is dedicated to is my-- Her main job is to do the timelines and keep me consistent for every book.
What made you decide to take the Dark One out of the Cosmere series? You couldn't get the magic to work?
It work a lot better once I pulled him into our world, and had the people coming to our world to assassinate him. And once I pulled something into our world, I boot it out of the cosmere. That did free up the magic to work in a different way from cosmere magic, which it is doing. It's kind of based on this idea of the narrative, that stories that people tell become real in the other world. Which could have worked in the cosmere with some Cognitive Realm things, but its working much better outside.
Who do I blame for killing off some of my favorite characters in the last book of Wheel of Time? You, or Robert Jordan?
Actually, there are three people to blame. I chose about a third of them. Robert Jordan chose about a third of them. And Harriet, his wife, chose about a third of them. So you can blame all of us. She killed Bela, though. I tried to make Bela live. I know. I tried. I worked very hard.
Who killed Egwene?
Harriet has asked me not to reveal that one. Egwene, Gawyn, and some of the others...
Have there ever been other mentions of Forgery anywhere?
In the cosmere, yes, there are people who know of it. There aren't any mentions on-screen, I don't think.
In this book [Skyward], you have a little bit of telepathy and teleportation. So, was that magic?
So it's fantasy and sci-fi?
What it is is, sci-fi trappings. But my science in this is pure magic.