Having conducted several AMAs on Reddit’s r/fantasy, Brandon Sanderson decided to hang out at r/books this time around for another Ask Me Anything thread. The Stormlight Archive, Words of Radiance, Mistborn, Firefight—everything garnered questions.
Sanderson fielded reader questions about what Parshendi singing actually sounds like, whether Scadrial will get an allomancy-based sport, romantic pairings (or lack thereof), balancing character deaths and resurrections, and much more. He chatted Shard“forks,” investitures, and Way of Kings-inspired tattoo sleeves. No surprise, it was a long and wide-ranging discussion, filled with lots of details and more than a few responses of “RAFO” (Read and Find Out). Check out the highlights below!
Also, spoilers ahead for Words of Radiance and the Mistborn series, among other Sanderson works.
Magic Systems Inspiring Magic Systems:
Jaxon_Smooth: I’d say what really brought me to your books was the unique magic systems. Has there been any particular system of Magic from another author that really intrigued you?
BS: I love Melanie Rawn’s Sunrunner books, Daniel Abraham’s magic in The Long Price, David Farland’s Runelords magic, the way N.K. Jemisin does it in the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms books, and a ton of others. Promise of Blood also had an awesome magic.
trendkill3388: Have you read Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer series? I’d be interested in your thoughts about chromaturgy.
BS: I should have mentioned that one. It’s a fantastic magic system. I think Brent and I must have read many of the same books growing up, and are kind of in the same “This is where fantasy is going” type mindset.
Lightylantern: I’m pretty interested in the integration of magic and sport, like in Harry Potter and The Legend of Korra. Will we be seeing any allomantic sports in the second Mistborn trilogy?
BS: Probably the third. Scadrial is behind on a couple of things, technologically, and they’ve been very practically minded lately. I have some hints of professional sports in the Era Two books, but they’re slight.
What the Parshendi’s Singing Sounds Like:
Avatar_Young-Thug: 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?
BS: 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.
On Bright Patches in the Cosmere Sky:
Windrunner17: Threnody and Scadrial are both noted as having unusally bright patches of stars in their skies. Are these two planets near to one another?
BS: They are both seeing the same thing, yes. […] [These bright patches are] visible from other worlds as well. The cosmere is a relatively small place (on a galactic scale, that is.) We’ll publish the star map when that becomes relevant in a decade or so.
On Spren Travel:
jmarsh642: 1. Are spren bound to Roshar or can they travel to other worlds? Could they do so if they were bound to someone that traveled to other worlds?
2. Will we eventually see a collection of short stories from various worlds in the Cosmere like “Shadows for Silence [in the Forests of Hell]” and “Sixth of Dust”?
BS: 1. RAFO. Excellent question, though.
2. Yes, you will. Tor is trying to pin me down on one as we speak, actually, but I’m not sure when I can promise one. (I’d want a collection to have at least one new story, original to it.)
Lightylantern: Will Lift get a Shardfork?
BS: You know, she’s likely to do something like that…
On Vague Romantic Pairings:
Lightylantern: I’m fairly invested in the pairings of The Stormlight Archive, with my favourite being Jasnah/Szeth. Do either of these two have any romance planned in their future?
BS: I am purposefully vague about upcoming romantic pairings in my books, because most of the characters would not want to be defined by their romantic inclinations—and at the top of that list is Jasnah. So I’ll remain quiet on this one for now. Sorry.
On Nightblood’s Gender Identity:
Heartlight: What is Nightblood [the talking sword]’s opinions on gender, and who decided on him having he/him pronouns?
BS: Nightblood is fascinated by gender, and trying to figure it out. Unlike spren like Syl, Nightblood has not self gender assigned as an influence of interacting with humans. That said, Vasher was probably the one who just started calling him He, so if you want to take the issue up with anyone, go to him.
Strong Female Characters vs. Not So Much:
dissociation844: As a women, I loved reading about Vin who was a strong female leading character in Mistborn. It’s not something easily found in the fantasy world unfortunately. While I loved Vin, I felt pretty sad after reading about the swooning-over-an-older-man tripe that was Marasi in The Alloy of Law. It felt like kind of a 360 for me after reading about Vin.
I really loved Mistborn and The Way of Kings was great, but I am just wondering if you are planning any more work with strong female leads?
BS: Marasi was designed specifically to be a contrast to Vin, and to put her in a place where she really had some growth to do. I spent periods of time as a Marasi (though, in my case, swooning over women) when I was younger. I think most of us are like that at some point in our lives, and I like trying characters with different types of arcs and personalities, so I suggest giving her a little time.
I have several stories in the works I think will fit this conversation, though when they come out will really depend on timing. The 1980’s era Mistborn series also has a female lead, as does one of my YA projects.
On Dramatic Deaths and Rebirths:
_0_-o—__-0O_—oO0__: With Jasnah not being dead when we thought she was dead and Szeth coming back to life; how will you retain tension during future battles if the audience thinks that death might not be the end of someone?
BS: I try hard to make sure things like this are well foreshadowed, but it’s always a concern as a writer. Basically every book you write, in an action/adventure world, will contain fake outs like this.
There’s certainly a balance. Gandalf coming back in LOTR worked, and Anakin turning out to be alive [in] Empire Strikes Back is a powerful moment—but I feel RJ, for example, may have brought people back too often.
Not sure where this balance is for me yet. I know the story I want to tell, though, and I try to leave clues when something like this is going to happen so that it feels less like a fake out and more like an “Aha. I knew it.”
The Character Question:
Captainj321: If you could spend the day with any of the characters that you have created, who would it be?
BS: Wayne would probably be hilarious, but the truth is probably Sazed. I could learn a thing or two, I’ll bet.
On the Possibility of an Animated Series:
bubblesRme: After watching the [Wheel of Time] production I’ve been considering how poorly many live action adaptations were done. Would you allow your works to be animated instead if you found the right group? Maybe not Stormlight Archive, but Mistborn or Warbreaker where the coloring is an active part of the world.
BS: I would absolutely allow an animated version. I think that animation can do incredible things, and would like to see the general American public become more accepting of it in a wider variety of types of storytelling.
On a Big-Screen Cosmere:
AltF4WillHelp: Are there any plans to bring the Cosmere to the big screen? (OR as a bunch of crossing-over TV Shows. I love that. The CW has been having some great success doing that with Arrow and Flash.)
BS: I’d love to do this, and I think that media is getting to the point where this wouldn’t be frightening to studios. I have big dreams, but mostly, this is out of my hands until I can get Brad Bird on the phone and bully him into making one of my films.
Who’s Coming Back?
ArgentSun: Have you planned out the interludes for Book #3, and if so—any returning characters? Share one?
BS: Yes, I have. Taravangian will be one, unless I move it to an actual chapter. We’ll have to see how things play out.
Joining Mistborn with Stormlight Archive with Warbreaker with…
I_am_a_watermelon1: Do you ever plan on bringing different realms together?
BS: Yes I do.
FTL and RAFO:
zuriel45: I just wanted to ask if my theory for how FTL could be achieved with scadrial magic is possible.
BS: You’ve got some serious RAFOS in there, I’m afraid.
Sanderson in Another Genre:
KapinKrunch: Out of the genres you haven’t written in, which one do you really want to give a shot?
BS: Hmmm… Noir. Maybe true urban fantasy, though I have one unpublished manuscript in that genre, which means technically I have given it a shot.
Macro vs. Micro Storytelling:
lanternking: What is a current goal you have for your writing, or something that you are currently working/hoping to improve in your writing? What’s different about trying to improve your craft now that you’re a published author who has found a great deal of success?
BS: My primary goal in the macro sense is to make a long series, where every book stands on its own. This is very difficult in epic fantasy, and I’m trying to learn from authors who have come before.
On a micro sense, I’m playing with ideas to create suspense that doesn’t lean too heavily on action set pieces. I like those action set pieces, but don’t want them to be a crutch.
Sanderson may come back in the next few days to answer more questions. Read the rest of his answers here!