art by Jake Johnson

Theoryland Resources

WoT Interview Search

Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.

Wheel of Time News

An Hour With Harriet

2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.

The Bell Tolls

2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."

Theoryland Community

Members: 7653

Logged In (0):

Newest Members:johnroserking, petermorris, johnadanbvv, AndrewHB, jofwu, Salemcat1, Dhakatimesnews, amazingz, Sasooner, Hasib123,

Theoryland Tweets

WoT Interview Database

Home | Interview Database

Interviews: Reddit 2011 (Non-WoT)










  • 1

    This thread has all of Brandon's non-WoT Reddit comments from the year 2011, starting in January. Occasionally, when he's doing a Q&A, we do a separate report for that.

  • 2

    Question (January 2011)

    Just re-read everything by Douglas Adams, really love his writing style, especially in HHGTTG. Anyone know a similar author/book(s)?


    Terry Pratchett is a fantasy writer known best for his Discworld series, I've heard him compared to Douglas Adams many times. Give him a shot if you haven't already, I would suggest starting with The Colour of Magic.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    These two authors get compared a lot, for legitimate reasons. For what it's worth, here's a writer's look at them. Note that I'm going to use terms (Parody/Satire) that are subject to a lot of different definitions. I'll set my definitions of them specifically for this comment. Also, to get it out of the way, I personally prefer Pratchett—though I like both authors, and think that Adams has a higher level of 'genius' quality writing in his books.

    When I look at Adams, I see a deep and meaningful satire of the human condition combined with a healthy dose of surrealism and a lot of absurd imagery. The books tend to involve less of a focus on plot or character and more on the ideas, the satire, and the surrealism. They make for tripy, yet intelligent, reads.

    Pratchett began writing with more of a focus on parody—which I'll define here as spoofing a specific genre, along with its tropes and cliches. The more broad satire of the human condition was there, but it was placed behind a parody of fantasy novels. I think this is the reason you often see people suggesting that one skip the first few Pratchett books. They're great when you 'get' him and his writing, and some people enjoy them right off. But for some readers, the trappings of a fantasy parody novel (ala Bored of the Rings) strikes too close to something akin to "Scary Movie" rather than true satire, which (by these limited definitions) is more thoughtful and intellectual.

    As Pratchett hits his groove in later books, he drops much (but not all) of the parody and replaces it with satire and, in many cases, a stronger plot and characters. You get sympathetic protagonists working toward important goals, mixed with some good, deep satire, some clever wit and puns, and still some good fantasy novel insider jokes.

    When Pratchett is on, therefore, he's doing some of what Adams does. However, the books also often involve an interesting mystery of some sort. (This is particularly evident in the guards books.) Plot was always a problem with me for Adams—I loved reading them, but felt a little at sea, wishing I had more of a story to go along with the ideas. (This is why my favorite of his was Dirk Gently.)

    Pratchett does sometimes hit pure brilliance, like Adams often did. The books are not as surreal, however. And you're often getting a hybrid dose of a mystery and a satire, which means that he can't do either as deeply as a single book dedicated to one of the two. For this reason, plot/characters end up feeling trite to some, and the satire isn't prevalent enough for others.

    I still think you should give him a try. He is probably my favorite living fantasy author, and am often blown away by all the things he can pack into a single novel. (I suggest people start with The Truth, personally.)


  • 3

    saintbonifaceDandelion Wine (January 2011)

    Hey Bookit,

    I am looking for some fantasy novel recommendations for the new year. Here's some of the ones I've read so far:

    LOTR Trilogy (of course)

    Wheel of Time Series — Robert Jordan

    Sword of Truth Series — Terry Goodkind

    Quarters Novels 1 & 2 — Tanya Huff

    Mirror of Her Dreams/A Man Rides Through — Stephen Donaldson (I also started the Thomas Covenant series, but I didn't like them as much as these ones.)

    Assassin's Apprentice — Robin Hobb

    Earthsea Trilogy — Ursula K. LeGuin

    Kushiel's Scion — Jaqueline Carey

    The Mists of Avalon — Marion Zimmer Bradley

    Lots of Mercedes Lackey/Anne McCaffrey

    Eyes of the Dragon/Dark Tower Series — Stephen King

    Game of Thrones — George R.R. Martin (Not my favorite book. It was well-written, but I didn't really get into it.)

    In general, I like novels with strong female characters, magical storylines, and maybe a bit of romance/sexual tension thrown in (I'm a girl, I can't help it. :D) I don't like fantasy novels that revolve around wars or political intrigue as much; I tend to get bored with them quickly.

    Thanks for your recommendations!


    Mistborn should be right up your alley. Female protagonist, innovative magic system. That would be my number one pick for you. If you like the Mistborn saga, I'd also suggest trying out Sanderson's newest series, The Way of Kings, I really enjoyed it.

    Name of the Wind is a great book, don't miss out on that one.

    The Lies of Locke Lamore is a bit outside of what you might be looking for (more Ocean's Eleven less LotR), but I'd suggest taking a look.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    The problem with my books is that she seems to want less political intrigue/wars and more sword and sorcery/adventure. I tend to do quite a bit of the first.

    Name of the Wind is a very good suggestion here.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay...less warfare/political intrigue. Female protagonists, high magic, some romance if possible. Didn't like GRRM as much, liked some YA novels...

    1) Sabriel, Garth Nix. Not much on the romance, but hits the other points solidly.

    2) Dig into some Barbara Hambly books. Many of them are from the same era of fantasy as Lackey/McCaffrey/MZB at their height, and will have a similar feel. Dragonsbane is my go-to suggestion for Hambly.

    3) Dragon Prince, by Melanie Rawn, hits all of your points solidly except has a stronger political intrigue plot than you might like. Great romance in the novel, however.

    4) Also, if you've never read the Blue Sword...well, this book has a good chance of being exactly what you're looking for. Really. Go for it. Note that it would probably be packaged as YA if it were released today.

    5) Howl's moving castle. Great book, has everything you want. I'd give this one a high probability of being a hit.

    Honorable mentions to consider: Michelle West, Sherwood Smith, His Dark Materials. If you like stylized prose: Patricia Mckillip. If you want to get your Emo on: C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy. If you want to laugh, Wee Free Men. (But really, go read the Blue Sword.)

    --Brandon Sanderson


  • 4

    mafoo (January 2011)

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Is it me, or is it very odd that the first two items on this list are books by authors who have multiple books out, none of which Shawn has read. You'd think that if he was so eager to read their work, he'd...I don't know, look up one of their other books?

    That said, I'm quite eager for new Abraham novels. I've made no secret of the fact that I like his work.


  • 5

    gruevy (January 2011)

    MFA in Creative Writing grad school—need recommendation

    I'm looking at getting my MFA in creative writing, and I write speculative fiction, which appears to be undervalued by the academy. Does anyone know of any good schools that have speculative fiction writers on the faculty, or somewhere that it might be appreciated? I know it's a bit late to be applying, but I've already sent out most of the applications I intended to—just wondering if there's somewhere else I should be looking.

    Also, anyone out there gotten this degree and loved/hated their university? I'd like to hear from you as well.

    PS—My goal is to teach writing at a university. I'm quite aware that having a degree won't necessarily make me a better writer (although I expect that the years of dedicated writing will have that effect.)

    PPS—I know that Brandon Sanderson teaches at BYU, but it looks like he teaches undergrads, and only one class every so often.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Best of luck to you. I submitted Elantris (about three years before I sold it) as my sample writing to a large number of university MFA programs. Some were top tier: Columbia, NYU, UC Irvine, University of Utah, Iowa, UVA. There was a smattering of second and third tier as well. Twelve to fifteen total, I recall. I got rejected from every single one.

    Now, part of this was my fault. I had a chip on my shoulder about fantasy, and still kind of do. I didn't manifest it in my letter of intent, however, so that wasn't the problem. However, I ALSO didn't do some of the things you're supposed to do for grad programs. (Which is find someone at the university you specifically want to work with, and explain in the application why.)

    The problem was, I couldn't find anyone at any of the programs that admitted to reading sf/f, let alone writing it. So...I'm not sure where that leaves us. I've heard stories now and then of an MFA program or two that do have a sf/f writer on staff. (Ursula, Gene Wolfe, and Cory Doctorow have all done guest lecturer stints, I think. Gene might teach full time.) I hear the UK is more friendly toward fantasy and sf among the literary community.

    I'm really hoping that someone here can post some better information for you about where to look, but I thought I'd let you know my story.


    Could you tell me anything about the program at BYU? I know it's new, but do you think it's any good? I'm sort of fond of my beard, but I have to be realistic about where I'm more likely to get in :)

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, it's easier to get into—but it's not terribly high ranked. Universities tend to specialize, particularly regionally, and the University of Utah has an excellent program and tends to draw the best applicants. So BYU, while fair, has a focus in other areas.

    I enjoyed my program, and I think it's kinder to fantasy/sf than others—however, with jobs teaching creative writing being so tight these days, I'd shoot for the top first and work down. The nice thing about BYU is that they did finally bump their degree up to the MFA from an MA. (They only had the MA when I went.) I think with a BYU MFA, though, you'd probably have to go on to get a PhD in creative writing to land a good job. (As opposed to getting one from Utah or Iowa, which alone could be enough.)

    The thing is, publications (particularly in top literary journals) trump any schooling when it comes to jobs in creative writing. That and networking.


  • 6

    gruevy (January 2011)

    Where do you people find writers' groups?

    I'm in Provo, UT, I write fantasy, and I need a good writers' group. I've looked on craigslist and tried google, but I really haven't found anything. Not meaning that I haven't found good ones; meaning, I haven't found any at all. I know that a number of you out there are writers, and I assume that most of those have some affiliation with a writers' group, so how did you find them? Did you grow them yourselves, or were they community things, or what?

    Also, do you shop around? What happens if I get there and I'm the only capable writer of the bunch? I enjoy helping others improve their writing (and in fact, I'd like to do that for a living) but I admit that I'm looking for a group with selfish reasons as well. I want help improving from people that I can trust.

    Do mixed genre groups work very well, or should I only be looking for a scifi/fantasy group?

    Has anyone found an online group to work? Do you use Skype or something, or just text to communicate?

    Finally, anyone in Provo/Orem area in a good one? Mind letting me audition? :)

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Finding a good writer's group is a process, usually, not an event. It involves being a part of many writing groups, finding out what critique styles work for you, and discovering writers who have a dedication level similar to your own. If you write at a rate where you have something to submit every week, you want to be with writers who do the same. If you'd rather meet once a month, you want everyone to be on the same page.

    I've been a part of around a dozen different groups. Usually, after a year or so of attending, I have a good sense of which writers I click with and which I don't. At a later date, if another group has need of members, I know which people to invite.

    Right now, my group consists of mostly people I've known for years and years. I met many of them during my undergraduate days. Your best bet in Utah is to attend LTUE, Conduit, or Superstars. I guarantee I can get you a writing group if you come to Superstars, but it also is very expensive.

    Or try to take my class (I used to just let anyone in, but this year, the university has clamped down and only given me a room that seats 30.) There's a shot if you show up on Thursday (when I'm going to have to turn away a lot of people who want to add) that I can point you all in the same direction and you can try to set up a writing group then.


    What time of day does your class take place? On the off chance that you have fewer than 30 students, they wouldn't just let me come sit in, would they? I'd have to enroll and pay, I assume. Probably worth it, though. I wonder if they'd let me audit the class for no credit for cheaper. I know that at Weber, a single class for one semester was around $800, and I assume that's going to be a bit higher at BYU. Again, probably worth it, however.

    I don't think that I could pass as a student for long due to some significant shagginess, but I'd certainly be happy to show up when you're going to turn everyone away and help them form writer's groups. Other than that, I guess I'm going to have to wait for LTUE and Conduit. Superstars looks like it's for someone who's closer to being ready to publish than I am, but I may be mistaken about that, and if I move to the day shift at work I just might attend. I've only got about 5 chapters and a few stories, though, so publishing is a ways off. What I mostly need is a deadline, preferably weekly, and a few better minds to help me clear away the crap.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I honestly just used to let people sit in, without paying. But the university is troubled by this, hence the cap. I doubt that there will be room, but if you want to show up, look up the 318R class taught by me. It's thursday night, 5:10. I honestly don't know the room number—my assistant will point me in the right direction on Thursday, and I'll go.

    Superstars is indeed probably something beyond what you need right now, particularly for the price. I think it will be useful to anyone, but I think that you're right that right now, you need a deadline and a writing group far more.


    As an aspiring fantasy writer do you really need a writers group? I mean certainly they seem like a nice thing but I am uncertain they are a necessity. Your thoughts?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, certainly they aren't needed. Stephen King warns people away from them, as a bad writing group can do far more harm than good.

    I didn't get one until I'd finished a few (unpublished) novels. At that point, it was extremely useful to have one for me—and has continued to be useful. They can be a great tool. But there are dangers. (Letting the group hijack your book being the biggest.)


  • 7

    geemachine (January 2011)

    So Song of Ice and Fire has hooked me into fantasy reading—what can you recommend?

    What I particularly liked was the grittyness and adult themes, not to mention the epicness of the plot and story. I'm into the action and swordplay but not too much magic. Searching the threads there seems to be a lot to say for WoT and Mazalan but they seem very magic based. Any suggestions and some education to the genre much appreciated!

    EDIT: Thanks a bunch everyone—great stuff—Gonna carry on with WoT for time being and lots of great options for after—Name of the Wind probs. Cheers everyone.


    If you are looking more for swordplay than magic, then perhaps some historical fiction might be more up your street than out and out fantasy? I'm thinking here of Bernard Cornwell, whose Saxon Chronicles (start with The Last Kingdom) and Warlord Trilogy (about King Arthur; start with The Winter King) might suit nicely. For fantasy written for grown-ups, my favourites are Guy Gavriel Kay (his standalone novels set in an alternate Europe, such as Tigana or Last Light of The Sun, not the trite Summer Tree series) and Louis McMaster Bujold (start with The Curse of Chalion). These, like A Song of Ice and Fire, feature complex, believable characters with human motives, as opposed to the Good Guys vs The Dark Lord style of fantasy. They are as real and believable as ASOIAF, although the worlds they are set in are more overtly magical.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    OP, listen to this person. They know exactly what they're talking about. Might I add that you try David Gemmell? (Think of his books as being much like the movie 300 in novel form.) Moorcock is the other I'd suggest.

    I'll warn you, though, that Martin tends to be one of the few that does what you're talking about. Generally, in fantasy, epic tends to be equated with high magic. Gritty, real-world tends to be equated with shorter, fast-paced stories. It's not always that way, but it is a rule of thumb.

    So, you'll find that epics like WoT, Name of the Wind, and Malazan are going to be high magic, while gritty, swordplay tales like Abercombie and Gemmell are going to be shorter and more self-contained. Guy Gavriel Kay tends to do epics in a single volume with a lot of 'grown up' storytelling, but there's not as much swordplay.

    Maybe Codex Alera by Jim Butcher? (Mentioned by djduni.) It's more high magic, but the magic is focused on battle magic, and the pacing is much more of a swordplay story while the tale at length is an epic.


    I have to ask: What are your top 5 fantasy novels?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Wow. That'll be a tough one—I'm not one to pick favorites. And, when pushed into it, I have a habit of changing 'favorites' with my mood. But I'll do my best, but I won't put them in any order.

    - The Shadow Rising, Robert Jordan. My favorite of the WoT books.
    - Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay.
    - Dragonsbane, Barbara Hambly (The book that got me into fantasy, so it has a very special place in my heart.)
    - The Truth, Terry Pratchett (My favorite Pratchett.)
    - Watchmen. (Can I count that?)

    Honorable Mention
    - Name of the Wind. (Hasn't been around long enough to see if it stands the test of time.)
    - Dragonflight

    As you can see, my 'favorites' slant strongly toward older books, but that's because I've read them more often, and because of the 'first' factor. (The Truth was my first Pratchett, Tigana my first Kay.) I very much enjoy Jim Butcher, among newer writers, among many others.

    I think GRRM is a genius, and certainly one of the very best fantasy writers around. (Up there with Kay and Pratchett.) The reason he's not on the list is because he's just too brutal for me. I've said before that I admire him and think he's a great writer, but just can't take the level of grit he includes in his books. By the time I get done with one, I feel sick. Love his short stories, though.


  • 8

    Brian (January 2011)

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Those were awesome—the title lettering was quite well done. But I must say that the Pern one was a little unfair. Or maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine. (Mary Sue accusations.)

    Of course, Pat Rothfuss's way of responding to those might be the best. When asked if Kvothe is a Marty Stu, or whichever male incarnation you want to pick, he replied something along the lines of: "He sure is! I'd LOVE to be that guy. What's wrong with writing or reading books about people that you'd like to be?"


  • 9

    ucantkillheroes (January 2011)

    Just finished Wizard's First Rule...

    So as the title states, I just finished WFR for the first time. A friend of mine and I read it at the same time to kind of motivate each other to keep at it and finish it quickly. While I thought WFR was a good base story, that is a story that set the groundwork for possibly a great series, he thought it was entirely too predictable and is kind of on the fence about taking it further. I on the other hand would like to keep going. What are your thoughts on the series? Is it worth the read and time it takes to finish the 9 core books, plus possibly several others? If so should I make these books a priority or just casually complete the series?

    TL;DR - Just finished WFR and am thinking of continuing, should I?

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    For everyone's amusement:

    (Terry Goodkind on-line Q&A with fans, hosted by USAToday. I wish he hadn't taken the better one down off of his website, but this one still gives me a chuckle now and then.)


  • 10

    gunslingers (January 2011)

    The first book in the Fantasy Book Club has been chosen and it is The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson!

    Thanks to everyone that voted. This is a very long book at just over 1000 pages we will probably be discussing it well into February. Be sure to check your local libraries and used book stores for copies if you are low on funds. I'm looking forward to the discussion and very excited for the potential of this club.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    I'm honored. Thanks to those who voted.

    I've mentioned this before, but since it's known I'm on Reddit, I figured I should leave a note here. Some may wonder if I'll be participating in the discussion.

    It's generally my policy to avoid commenting on threads dedicated only to discussing my work. I feel readers need to be able to criticize and analyze a work without the author jumping in to steal the show. My experience has been that I can really unbalance such conversations, inadvertently directing them away from an honest discussion of the work and toward a Q&A with me.

    In addition, I'm not on Reddit to use it as a self-promotion tool, and want to stay away from looking like I'm doing so. I'm very thankful to those who suggest my work to others. (It's one of the only ways that authors get publicity.) However, I think it's appropriate (and more in the spirit of the site) for me to step back from doing the same.

    These two rules don't hold in all situations, but they are things I'm aware of and careful about. That said, if you want to do a Q&A with me in a separate thread after the book club discussion is done, I'll be happy to do one.


  • 11

    deviantgent (January 2011)

    Brandon Sanderson

    She's over-reacting, I think. Most of those eight hundred downloads are not lost sales. Others in the thread have pointed out the collector mentality of many downloaders. If those eight hundred people were reading her book and loving it, then spreading the word, her demand would go through the roof and her sales would as well.

    That isn't to say I agree with downloading, at least in all instances. I've said before I have no problem with people who buy a hard copy of my books downloading a digital copy. I think the technology should be there for this to happen already. However, I hate it when people download because of the sentiment of: "Screw you; I don't like DRM, or the fact that the book is too expensive, or that it's not out in my region."

    You're not helping, you're hurting. If you don't agree, don't buy the book. Don't read the book. Buy and read something else—something that meets your requirements. THAT will influence change. The other way just influences the publishers to put on stronger DRM and charge more.

    However, there's one important point I think both sides of this argument need to realize. This might be THE most important thing for people to realize on the ebook front: Books cannot be consumed as quickly as music or movies. That changes everything.

    To those saying: Make all ebooks $.99 and watch the sales skyrocket. (And also to those who complain about the numbers of books being pirated, seeing them all as sales.) Well...I'm skeptical. Certainly, ebooks should be cheaper than they are now. But there's not the same economy of scale here that there is on other forms of media. Reading a book takes a long time. Even hardcore readers are strongly bound by how much time they have to read.

    In preparation to write the next Wheel of Time book, I am re-reading the entire series. I just finished the first book. It took me twelve days, reading full time. (About half my time was spent building outlines or researching notes, though, so let's cut that in half.) That means it took about week to read that book, reading full-time.

    How many books of that length can someone read in a year? Fifty, if you read all the time? That's for a hardcore reader. A lot of readers have re-read the Eheel of Time series in preparation for the upcoming final book release. The average I hear from them is 6-8 months for 12 novels. So we're looking at people reading 24 books a year, at the length I write, for many readers. I'd guess that your average reader is reading fewer.

    Compare that to how many music tracks you can listen to, or films you can watch, if you're equivalently into that form of media. Money is not the limiting resource for readers, not as much as time is. If all prices on books go down greatly, demand will not increase (at least in smaller genres, like sf/f) because there just isn't a large enough group of people willing to dedicate their time to the books.

    Hopefully, ereaders will help us grow our audience, and hopefully we'll see prices come down farther than they've come down right now. But it's not as simple as many make it out to be.

    (Some facts for you: I watched the latest Grisham book because I was up against him for bestseller lists. If I have his numbers right, his sales on this book in physical plus his digital sales equaled about the same number as his last novel sold—despite the fact that the ebook is $10 and the hardcover, even discounted greatly by Amazon, was $15. Most places would have sold it at $20. Having a cheaper ebook did not create many more sales because many people who wanted to read Grisham books were already reading them. It would be curious to see if the book had been $.99 how many more readers there would have been. Undoubtedly more. But ten times as many? Knowing what I do of the numbers of books sold, I'd call that near impossible.)


  • 12

    agentm83 (January 2011)

    A career via e-books?

    So I've been reading on the net about some indie authors who have self-published their novels online in e-book format, and they're making a decent living at it! I've also been reading that publishers are accepting less authors these days. So with these trends, would any of you go for the idea of publishing your own novel as an e-book, and trying to make money by selling it at low prices ($3-4 a pop or something)? I think this may be the way of the future for many authors. E-books are starting to revolutionize publishing!

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Yes, things are changing. (Finally.) People have been predicting this as imminent for years. It's only now starting to happen. It looks like we might have our first batch of full-time writers publishing only in ebook form. We'll know more (such as exactly how many people are doing this) when Bookscan starts reporting ebook sales. They've said they plan to start doing so soon.

    From what I know, it is a myth that publishers are accepting fewer authors. However, as I have no reference to back that up other than personal experience, take the statement with a grain of salt. Still, I see just as many new writers being published now as before. Publishers would be foolish to stop picking up new writers, as the nature of the beast is that people age, and new talent is always needed.

    Also, remember that even with these statistics, 91% of books sold are still physical form. That number will shrink. How far it will shrink is anyone's guess right now. The farther they shrink, however, the more that the added money made from higher royalties at ebook only outweigh the larger distribution of a print/ebook split.

    The revolution is coming. I'll stick with my publisher, personally, but I think a young writer who is good at self promotion and marketing could do worse than to try a few ebook-only self releases, though I'd still suggest (for now) continuing to submit to New York as well. Might as well cover all of your bases. If you get an offer from New York, but it turns out you've been doing well enough with your own ebook releases, you could turn down the offer.


    Thanks for that. If you don't mind me asking how much money does a new author with one book out typically make per year from traditional publishing? Assuming low, to moderate sales numbers (whatever those may be).

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is a really, really hard question to answer because of the wide variety of genres and publishing models out there.

    Some genres have what I like to call a larger amplitude. The pool of potential readers is much greater, but people in the genre are not voracious readers—and so, if a book takes off in that genre, you see HUGE numbers. But you also see a very large number of flops because so many in the genre gravitate only toward the popular books, and don't have time to read much more than that.

    Other genres have a smaller amplitude, with a small base of potential readers (keeping the highs much lower.) However, these kinds of genres can have better averages because readers in them read a lot. So a lot of books can sell a medium number of copies.

    Some genres thrive on hardcovers and early buying, while others thrive on tons of cheap paperbacks. Children's books have a readership that refreshes more quickly, but also a readership that reacts strongly to fads. Some genres have long shelf lives for individual titles, others have very short ones.

    Toby Buckell did a survey for the sf/f genre on first book advances, which might answer some of your questions.

    Restricting the genre to sf/f, we still have to deal with sub-genre and publication model. But let's say fantasy (as I know it best) from a major publisher with a hardcover initial, and a paperback to follow. Moderate to low sales would be...let's say 3,000 copies hardcover and 10k copies paperback in the first two years. That's high enough that some people are buying the book, but low enough that the publisher is going to want improvement over the next two books. (Often, you can sell three books to start in this genre, and are given until the third to prove you can sell.)

    Royalty on the hardcover will be $2.50. Paperback, $.56. So, earnings are $13k. You'll probably have a few over-seas sales in translation, and maybe some book club money, and some sales in the third and forth years. (Though if the series doesn't grab some traction, those will have shrunk by the fourth year to very small numbers.) I'd guess 20k over the life of a book for a mid-to-poor seller.

    A really poor seller would be under 5k, and that's when the publisher would enter panic mode. Good seller you're looking at $40k on a first book. Sf/f has a 'small amplitude' you might say, but has really good legs and a long shelf life. So the best gains in sales are made by converting paperback readers to hardcover readers, and by having an enduring book (often in a series) that continues to hang out on shelves for many, many years.


    Thank you very much for the in-depth reply! I appreciate it. :)


    10% @ 7500 copies. You do the math.




    Compare that to 70% @ 7500 copies. Even if the book is $5 or, more realistically, $2.99, you'd make more money.

    7500 copies is considered "doing ok," for a new author, just enough to cover an advance (most new authors don't sell enough copies to cover the advance). Of course, some do better, and more do worse.

    EDIT: The author of this book has a blog about self publishing. Claims to make 6 fugues. Not bad at all.


    Thanks for the blog suggestion. I guess the question is whether one is as likely to sell 7500 copies of e-books as one is if one went with a traditional publisher. The traditional market is bigger, but the royalties are much smaller, hmm...a quandary.


    Depends. You'd likely sell more. It's far easier to sell something that costs 99 cents than it is to sell something that costs 11.99 etc. It rather depends on you. (Not to mention people can't return an ebook if they don't like it, and 40% of books usually end up being returned). Most of all, the assumption is not a stretch considering how many absolutely terrible self-published novels have done fantastically, precisely because of price.

    And we want people to buy more books. Why buy one 10 dollar book if you can buy 10 ebooks? People are being less cautious about what they buy, more willing to give your book a chance. Just go to the Kindle store, to the self published stuff in any genre listed at 99 cents, or 1.99 and you'll see what I'm talking about. Crap selling @ 1000 copies a week no problemo. In the end, it'll depend on you getting a website, and telling people about your book, trying to create some buzz. No idea how you'd do that. Goodreads, Reddit, whatever you gotta do.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, to offer another side to yeahiknow, a few things to consider.

    1) You don't get the 70% royalty on a $.99 book. You get 35%. 2) You get the higher royalty at the three buck mark, but here I believe Amazon still charges the author their "delivery fee" for sending your book to a kindle. For a small book, this is cheap. For one of my books, it is $1.20. 3) As I said, 90% of sales are still physical. A good publisher will have your book in every bookstore in the country. 4) Almost all of the people doing really well in ebook only have multiple books out. I think the guy linked has a dozen or so.

    That said, there are indeed people out there making more in ebook indy than they could with a NYC contract. It should be noted that others who are doing well are actively seeking a print contract.

    None of this is a reason not to try, and the numbers continue to move toward epub. I just think there is more to the discussion than it may first seem.


    This is useful for figuring out roughly how many Kindle copies of a book are being sold given its rank. Compare that to regular Amazon sales ranks vs copies sold.

    - J. A. Koranth's blog is a good read (even if his books aren't).
    - A third of the Kindle Bestsellers are self-published through Amazon.
    - Checking a small genre like fantasy shows that no fewer than half the best sellers are self-published (damn).
    - Already many books are dropping in price on Kindle format to compete. Joe Abercombie's Best Served Cold is just 2.99. World War Z is 5 bucks, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—5 bucks. Not bad.


    It certainly is interesting times out there, that's for sure. Thanks for the links.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Again, some things to consider: (also, note. It may seem I'm contradicting yeahiknow, but really, he/she makes excellent points and is directing you to good info. But there are some things to consider.)

    Looking at the indy books on that list, I think you will find most of them are a certain type. First, they are really short. Like, 400k short. That's under 200 pages if conversions are the same with some of my books.

    Some are $.99. These earn the small royalty %. But then, they are meant as a hook for the series. (Which is often working, mind you. But the .99 book would earn so much less that it shouldn't be looked at for earning potential.)

    Finally, almost all the books selling really well right now from indy authors are the more pulp genres. Quick thrillers. Paranormal romance. Shor hack and slash fantasy. There is nothing at all wrong or inferior with these genres. But if you don't happen to be writing them, sales seem to indicate that epub will be tougher for you right now.

    If you do happen to write them...strike now. It looks really good.


    You're right. I doubt literature would be as successful, although, who knows. Genre fiction like fantasy and mystery are doing quite well.

    Why are you up so late, btw? Kindred spirit.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. For years, I have been a late night worker. I just can't seem to function on an early morning schedule.

    Eventually, even the litfic will sell best on ebook. But it is very interesting to me that we see this huge pulp explosion from indies on Amazon. Reminds me of some of the early genre fiction days, actually.


    Given the trend in technology, and that paper books are slowly dying to ebook sales, I wouldn't be surprised [that ebooks are starting to revolutionize publishing].


    Having a direct connection to authors, and knowing that more of your money goes to the artist, is pretty satisfying.

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is satisfying, though do please keep in mind that the publishing industry is NOT the music industry. The record labels have been gouging their artists (and their customers) for decades; it's now coming back to bite them.

    New York publishing, for all of its faults, does tend to treat its authors well. When a book of mine sells, I see a very reasonable amount of the profit. I wouldn't mind more, but I've never felt cheated.


  • 13

    ktbrava (January 2011)

    If we want our children to grow up smart, why do we send them mixed messages in cartoons saying that the villain is a genius and the hero beats them with brawn?

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Asimov wrote an excellent essay on this very topic. In it, he spoke on the troubling history of the Sword and Sorcery genre, where a simple-minded, muscle-bound hero often would slay a crafty wizard. The essay, I believe, is called simply "Sword and Sorcery," and can be found in the collection titled MAGIC, which includes some of his fantasy stories and essays about fantasy.

    Alas, Reddit, I couldn't find a copy of it on the internet for you to peruse.


  • 14

    TerraByte (January 2011)

    What do authors write in books at book signings?

    I think I've only ever had two or three books signed by an author but now I'm an author and people want me to sign their books. What kinds of things do authors write at book signings? Are formulaic expressions like, "to XXXXX, thanks for reading my book" considered a cop out?

    EDIT: This is better than I could have imagined. Thank you all.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Best inscription story I've been told:

    Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett are said to sign Good Omens with half of a joke. The one who gets the book first makes up some funny-sounding line, then sends it away with three dots at the end. The one who gets it second is supposed to, on the spot, make up a funny punchline to go with the joke.

    That's the sort of thing that can happen when two geniuses co-author, I guess.


    Brandon Sanderson wrote, "May your Seon always be by your side" in my copy of Elantris. It was awesome.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I've got a story about that one. As many are mentioning in this thread, it can be daunting when you're first signing. What do you write? It can get awkward trying to think of something.

    I struggled with what to write for months, using generic "Thanks for reading" phrases or the like. And then, someone came along and asked me if I could write that phrase in the book. I stopped, looked at it after writing it, and thought "Wow. That's perfect."

    From then on, when the mood has struck me, I use that phrase. I usually try to find a few things to write for each book that capture the soul of the novel, and convey good wishes to the reader. And many thanks to that anonymous reader who first suggested the phrase.


  • 15

    aglidden (January 2011)

    That is not dead which can eternal lie... The Lovecraft collection, free online.


    Is there still any actual verification that Lovecraft's works are now out of copyright?

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    I can give some info on this one. My agent represents one of the groups that claims copyright to Lovecraft's work.

    According to what I've been told (and this is from memory, so it might be a little off) Lovecraft himself didn't leave anything in the form of a solid will. After his death, two different people came forward with arguments that they'd been granted ownership. Both claims were rather flimsy legally—I think one might ACTUALLY have a napkin with a scribbled promise on it. (That sounds too cliched to be true, but it is what I've been told.)

    Either way, both groups know they have shaky legal ground, and neither one wants to take it to court to force the issue. If they sued each other, or anyone infringing, the courts could very well decide that all of the claims are legally null. Therefore, everybody treads very softly, and nobody seeks to shake the boat by being aggressive with infringement. Hence, lots of derivative works (some by some very popular authors, like Neil Gaiman) and some low-budget films, songs, graphic novels, etc.

    So far, I've heard that nobody has been willing to finance a major film because the legal issues are so uncertain that investors are skittish. But there are several screenplays that have drawn some notice.


  • 16

    daria42 (January 2011)

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Just got my hands on a copy. I'll post when I've finished it.


    you snake! i'm jealous. are you doing a blurb or something, or is that just a friendship/professional perk?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I offered to blurb it, but I'll bet it's too late to get one in. (And I'm not sure he'll need one.) But I'll send one in. Mostly, I think Pat's just being nice to me.


  • 17

    wawayanda (January 2011)

    Do creative writing workshops actually deter students from writing novels?


    The bottom line is you don't learn how to write in a classroom. You learn how to think, how to critique, how to appreciate there. Maybe you gain some self-confidence. But self-confidence is useless without publication.

    Perhaps there you also will make a few friends who later will be able to help edit your work—though this is doubtful, as they'll either give up on their own writing and not want to see yours or not want to waste the precious few free hours they have to write by reading yours.

    Instead, you learn how to write by sitting by yourself in a room and writing, hour after hour, day after day, for years.

    That's how you learn to write.

    It is a solitary and almost entirely unrewarding experience. The only relevant difference between becoming a writer and going insane is that eventually, if you're lucky, you'll be rewarded with publication. And even then the reward in all likelihood will be minimal, as very few writers manage to make a living at it.

    This is why a person writes because he/she has to. Because otherwise a person wouldn't do it.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    True, you don't learn to write in a classroom. That first paragraph you wrote is spot on. But I don't know about the rest.

    Unrewarding? The years I spent learning to write were indeed solitary, but also wonderful. Watching myself progress, learning how to express myself and get the ideas in my head onto the page in a way that conveyed emotion to people...that was extremely rewarding. Teaching myself something difficult was extremely rewarding.

    Publication isn't the reward. Publication is the way that you share, and if you are fortunate, find a means by which you can survive off of your art. You could call that a reward, I suppose, but it's not the primary one. You yourself mentioned that a person writes because they have to; publication is secondary.

    Writing can be painful, frustrating, and maddening. But if it's not rewarding at the same time, something is wrong.

    Also, the "only relevant difference between becoming a writer and going insane" is publication? I think that might be a tad on the side of hyperbole. You're right that few writers manage to make a living at it, but I think that you'd be surprised at how easy it is to improve your odds. The people who spend the years and years of practice that you speak of have a better shot than most realize, though genre, skill, and luck all play a part.


  • 18

    llbad (January 2011)

    Help me to remember the name of one of my childhood faves?

    Today I was reminiscing over all of the books I read as a child, when one came to mind that I simply could not remember the name of. Here's what I remember about it (sorry I remember so little!):

    - It is an adult fantasy/sci-fi novel

    - It begins as a sci-fi; the protagonist lives in a strange futuristic world, has a hot robot woman friend, and competes in "the games" which are an important theme in the book. In this world, he is physically strong and dominates in "the games", but later in another mirror world he is mentally strong and has magical powers. This is when the book becomes more of a fantasy...

    - I believe he is named "blue" in the magical world. There are also other colors signifying other 'wizards'—for lack of a better word. I really hope I am remembering this correctly, because my google searches for characters named Blue came up empty-handed.

    - The book must not have been very popular. I have searched numerous top 100 sci-fi and fantasy lists for the title (which I would recognize upon seeing).

    If anyone knows the name of his book it would be greatly appreciated! I absolutely love re-reading childhood favorites. =)


    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony. Split Infinity is the first book.


    Wow, that was insanely fast. Are you more skilled in the use of Google than I am or have you read the books? =D Thanks so much.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I've read them. I'm also very interested in Piers as an individual. He did a lot of interacting with his fans, and he did it in an era when that was much more difficult than it is now. Now that I'm a writer myself, I'm learning how time consuming that can be. He still posts updates—he used to do them as newsletters, now they're on his website—which are very interesting reads and insights to the man himself.

    The early Apprentice Adept books were written during what many consider his strongest era as a writer—the original is nestled right between the first Xanth book and the first Incarnations book. They were modestly popular, but you probably had trouble finding them because his writing career took a nose dive in the 90s. He's not talked about much these days. He blames this change on the whims of publishing; critics say it was due to him milking Xanth until it bled.

    For myself, I found that I liked his books less and less as I grew older. I still can't say if that's due to changing taste on my part or decreasing quality on his. Still, I have a feeling that particular series will hold up better than most. Enjoy!


  • 19

    mmm_burrito (January 2011)

    You snake. I just finished Hero of Ages, and come to find out I'll never know the last 2 metals. Grr.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Cadmium and Bendalloy are what you're looking for. They create bubbles of warped time around the Allomancer. I will be doing more books in the world, though not with the same characters, and you'll see the other metals.


    Wow, I was just trying to josh with you man. Thanks for the info, though, I definitely look forward to more of your work.

    Edit: I guess while I've got you, I'll tell you this: Mistborn was one of a very few books in the last few years to actually surprise me. Kelsier's arc completely came out of left field. I read a lot of fantasy. Enough that it's extremely rare for a book to really catch me off guard like that. For that, you have my thanks.

    Brandon Sanderson



    I've heard you say that you were going to make more books set in the same world since I first started reading your books.

    But my question is "when?"

    I am dying to see what you have in store.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, it just so happens that I have a new Mistborn book coming out this fall. 300 years after the end of the last book, set in a roughly 1910ish tech level. Guns, trains, beginnings of the mass-use of electricity. And Allomancers. November this year.


  • 20

    grimsweeper (January 2011)

    TIL Christopher Nolan has never had a movie rated as "rotten" on Rotten Tomatoes and his lowest rated movie is The Prestige at 75%


    To be fair, The Prestige has a lot of WTFery towards the end.


    That's why it was so great.


    I think the WTFery in question is them suddenly "changing the rules" too late in the game. When telling a good story, you need to set the rules up early on. If you set new rules to late, it feels like a deus ex machina.

    It's established early on that the world of The Prestige is like our world, science based. All magic tricks in the movie are based on logic and sound rational devices. Then 3/4 into the movie they use ACTUAL MAGIC masquerading as science.


    Arguably spoilers

    No, they never used magic once. It was always science. Science fiction, yeah, but the movie was never set up to not be science fiction.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Interestingly, both sides on this have some pretty solid arguments if we go to the source material.

    The novel the film is based on (and follows quite closely, in most regards) won the World Fantasy Award in 1996. It was packaged, marketed, and submitted to awards as a fantasy novel, implying magic.

    The author, however, says he never considered it fantasy. To him, it was indeed science fiction, and seems a little bemused that it won the WFA.

    Either way, I suggest the book to anyone who enjoyed the movie. It's an excellent read.


    Did you know that the author lover the movie—he even loved all the changes stating he wished he had thought of them!

    I found that really refreshing!

    Brandon Sanderson

    The most refreshing part is that the Nolans actually care about story. Collaboration like this—someone writing a story, someone else improving it—should lead to awesome films being made from awesome books. I've always thought that the film should be BETTER than the book, for that reason.

    Unfortunately, the truth of our film system (and, more accurately, the money involved in making films) means that you rarely get geniuses improving on each others ideas, and instead usually get story by committee.

    Anyway, it always does my heart good to hear of an author liking—instead of hating—an adaptation of his/her work. Thanks for sharing that.


  • 21

    greybeard88 (January 2011)

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    This isn't a bad look at the issue, though I think one major point is missed: What type of story are you trying to tell?

    Worldbuilding any element of a fantasy novel can overwhelm and distract. Yes, there are people who spend too long on their magic systems—just as there are people who spend too long on their linguistics, their geography, or their religions. "Too long" is hard to define, however.

    It depends on the type of story you want to tell, the world elements that are important to the story and characters, and your preferences. I'd contend that LotR had a well-defined magic system for Tolkien, but he didn't include viewpoint characters who used the magic. Therefore, he didn't let the magic system steal the show. However, try to do a superhero story without a well defined magic system. It doesn't usually fit to treat it the same way.

    Harry Potter also has a very strict magic system for a given book. The books do not have strong cohesion of magical principles—characters often 'forget' they have powers, or the like. However, what we're given in a book generally remains consistent through the book, and is important to climactic moments within that book. It's not the most strict of magic systems, but I feel it is more to it than the author is giving credit.

    That said, this essay accurately defines some of the problems with focusing too much on your magic, particularly to the detriment of actual writing time.


  • 22

    TheFinn (January 2011)

    r/Fantasy Recommend me a book to borrow from work.

    So for those of you that don't know my employer Barnes&Noble has a policy where employees can borrow any hardcover book in the store for 2 weeks. I just recently borrowed Farlander and have since finished it*. And I find myself in need of something new to read. We have the Internet at work so I will be able to periodically check reddit throughout my shift this evening.

    So here are the requirements:

    - Obviously I would prefer fantasy but I will also accept Sci-fi or really any kind of fiction if I were to put my interests into order it would be as follows Fantasy>scifi>historical>everything else.
    - It has to be currently available in hard cover.
    - It has to be in stock within my store. Now on this last bit I don't expect you guys to go searching through punching in the zip for my store (01527) to see if it is available I can totally do that while being bored in music/dvd dept.

    If you have any questions about my taste feel free to ask. Otherwise I look forward to your input.

    *I don't know how I feel about this book The world and characters are all very interesting. However the ending left quite a bit to be desired.

    EDIT: thanks for all the suggestions i was fortunate enough to have a copy of The Way of Kings in my store that I was able to borrow


    The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    You are a scholar and a gentleman. (Or, perhaps, woman.) However, I did hear from the publisher that B&N is on no-replenish/return on the book now that the holidays are over. B&N tends to cycle hardcovers more than some other bookstores—they order a large stock up front, then keep them on hand for three or four months. There's really only a 1/10 chance that they've got a KINGS in stock.

    TheFinn, I've got some ARCs of it, though, and might be able to have one sent to your store for you.

    As for books you can depends on your preferences. If you like lyrical, literary style books, The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A. McKillip might still be in stock in hardcover.

    If you like gritty heroic, The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie releases in about a week. You may want to hold out for that.

    I think that a publisher just did a new Last Unicorn re-release in hardcover, which is a great book. Also, the Gunslinger graphic novels have a new collection coming out, which might be in hardcover. I've heard good things about them, but haven't read them.

    Your best bet, though? Wise Man's Fear, Pat Rothfuss, coming in a month or so.


  • 23

    pacodecabra (February 2011)

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Author's standpoint here. Basically, what I'm hearing from publishers is that they worry about one bookseller having a monopoly. Losing Borders shifts more power to B&N and Amazon; that could be bad if it hurts variety.

    I have friends whose books are carried only by Borders, not by B&N. I have books that aren't carried by Borders, and were only carried by B&N. This has to do with the way that the buyers view their customers, and what they think will sell.

    That said, that worry is more of a "last decade" worry than a "this decade" worry. Ebooks, online sales, and perhaps a return to the small independent bookseller will compensate if Borders does fall. However, I wouldn't say worries of a monopoly are completely unfounded.


  • 24

    festivemanb (February 2011)

    Hey r/writing: I just finished a novel. Any tips on finding a literary agent?

    It's my third. I got decent feedback on the first two—just no publication. I'm polishing up my pitch and contacting agents who expressed interest in my previous attempts. I wonder if you guys can give me any tips.

    Or! If you happen to be a literary agent, are you interested in a story about an amnesiac ninja who has to save the world from a demon invasion? I think it's pretty fun!


    Go to the bookstore. Find a book on the shelf that is somewhat like your book. Find out who represents them. Repeat.


    Get published first.... I know it sounds strange but thats how it works.

    Brandon Sanderson

    A combination of what canadianwriter said and sblinn said is a good start. I suggest that you start researching publishers, start submitting to publishers—but also start researching and submitting to agents at the same time.

    The best two tips on getting agents I can give are this:
    1) Learn to write a great query. 2) Learn where agents in your field can be found, and go meet them in person.

    For what it's worth, I did get an offer on my first book without an agent. I called an agent I'd sent other books to, and had rejected, to handle the negotiations and he's been my agent ever since. I met the editor I eventually sold to at the World Fantasy Convention in 2000 or 2001 and the agent at the Nebula Awards a year or so before that.

    I never did learn how to write a good query. It has helped a lot of others I know, however.


  • 25

    ISw3arItWasntM3 (February 2011)

    What new book release are you most looking forward to in 2011?

    The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

    Currently reading both his books and Malazan depending on what I feel like reading.


    The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. I've waited a long time for it. Hopefully it's as good as the first one.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I'm in the middle of it. So far, it's just as good.


    Hah, is this Sanderson on reddit? If so, awesome.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's me. Confirmed by my twitter account, which is verified.


    That's just mean. and nice at the same time. Were you born with a heart full of neutrality?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Ha. Well, if it helps, I wasn't going to say anything, because I don't want to come off as bragging. But he/she did say they hoped it was as good as the first. Pat sent me a copy early, and as thanks, I think it's partially my duty to let people know how awesome it is. This trilogy is going to be one of the greats of our era.


  • 26

    greybeard88 (February 2011)

    Is It Something in the Water? Why Mormons Write Science Fiction and Fantasy


    I am aware that what follows is a flaw in my personality, but hey.

    I only recently listened to an Orson Scott Card work (Xenocide). I enjoyed it well enough, but it wasn't until checking the author out on Wikipedia that I became aware of his religion. All of a sudden the book took on a whole new bent for me, and not in a positive way. My mind moved the religious undertones in the story from "slight dig at humanity" to "author is telling me the future isn't much different."

    I know I'm wrong to shroud a work of fiction with the author's personal life, but it's where my mind went. And I've yet to pick up another Card novel even though I had intended to run right for Ender's Game.

    And now Brandon Sanderson, when I'm halfway into Towers of Midnight? Crickey. I hope I can rise above my pettiness.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    I wouldn't say "flaw" really. It IS interesting to me, however, that people have this reaction. It's not uncommon.

    A reader can read the Wheel of Time, full of references to all kinds of religions and mythologies, knowing that Robert Jordan was a devout Christian and never think twice about it. They can read of books written by Jewish authors, see factors of Jewish culture and religion in them, and not assume the book is trying to convert them. They just see the Jewish references as an expression of the author's self.

    Many read a book by a Mormon, however, and suddenly start reading all kinds of things into it. Perhaps it's the deviant nature (speaking in terms of relating it mainstream religious experiences in most western cultures) of the LDS faith. It's viewed with suspicion because of its outsider nature. Almost with a "they'll try to steal our children" sort of mentality. Or maybe it's the more aggressive nature of the religion when it comes to converts (men in white shirts knocking on the doors) that makes art by these authors be regarded in such a way.

    It's quite natural, and I think more an expression of the culture at large than any personal flaw inside you yourself.

    If it helps, I can promise that when I write fiction, I'm not trying to "say" anything. I'm trying to tell good stories. Now, if themes start to develop, I'll nurture them—but only in as much as they have direct relationship to the characters and their goals, motives, and directions. And while the characters may find what they believe are answers, I believe it's important for the text itself to NOT seek to give answers to questions like this, but to instead engage in an exploration of themes from multiple strong viewpoints.

    tl;dr: Yes, I'm a Mormon, but I'm also a pretty normal dude who just wants to tell good stories. I'm not trying to slip anything into your water, I promise.

    —Brandon Sanderson


    To be honest—flaw, failing, or interesting trait—my mind would have made a substitution regardless of the religion (or subset thereof) in question. Different substitutions would have been made—or not—but I can't speak to their nuances. This one is already in the books, so to speak.

    You wouldn't call that a flaw, but I do. Shouldn't a work stand on its merit to the reader? Did I enjoy reading it? Yes? Great. I can't help feeling that applying prejudices against an author (of FICTION especially!) to the work is wrong. That's exactly what I did, however. I'm not proud of it. I wonder how often it happens—in both directions.

    I don't feel that people are trying to shove things down my throat—in most fiction—but the prejudices of a non-fiction life sometimes get in the way of a great escape. And as with many aspects of society, all are likely wrong.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I hear you. It's actually not just religion. Since I've become part of the community, I've found out the personalities of some authors. It shouldn't change how I view their books, and does.

    Having been on my side of it, I've sometimes raged. Then I've stopped to think "Well, how would you react if you found you were reading a book by a scientologist." Makes me freeze and think about things a little further.

    Perhaps there's something to be said for learning nothing about the author of a work until after you've read it in its entirety.


    Well considering Science Fiction and Fantasy are the foundations of their entire belief system they probably have a good jumping off point when it comes to fiction.

    Brandon Sanderson


    Ahem. This line comes up pretty much every time that this topic is mentioned. And trust me, it gets mentioned A LOT. Like, every time people find out I'm Mormon and I write fantasy novels, they throw this question at me. I kind of wonder if we're blowing a slight statistical deviation completely out of proportion, and the idea has taken on a life of its own.

    However, armchair philosophy is fun. What's an English degree for, if not to make wild conjectures? So, I've got my own theories. You can't get asked this question as many times as I have without devising them.

    As MeatSledge points out (in jest, but there's truth to it) basically any religious belief system will be treated like fantasy to an outsider. Particularly an atheist.

    However, LDS theology takes a more 'pro-sf' view than some other religions. It is an active and mainstream belief in the religion that there are plenty of inhabited worlds out there. The belief that God is a transcendent (or simply very powerful) man is also a concept that science fiction has played with a lot. (The Swords books by Fred Saberhagen come to mind.) Things like Q and the like from Star Trek deal with this concept: At what point does a hyper-evolved being cross the line into becoming a god when viewed by common men?

    My own theories about the LDS penchant for Fantasy/SF has more mundane roots. It has to do with the church's enormous focus on education and reading, and with the idea of 80's nerd and role playing culture being a "safe" counter-culture for imaginative LDS kids who also want to rebel against their parents somewhat.

    In short: Yes, MeatSledge, I realize your comment was meant to be an insult. But there's some truth to it anyway. But I think articles like this are generally overblowing something small.


    To be honest it was an insult wrapped in my actual thoughts. Not entirely teeth, but not all gum.

    The first time I thought about this was way back in high school when my English teacher was Mormon had shelves of Fantasy magazine and every reading project was fantasy related.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's certainly worth thinking about—things like this bear examination, as we get some real glimpses into what makes us tick.

    Though, it occurs to me that those of us who believe the LDS faith could react a little less strongly to insinuations that our belief system is science fiction. I, for one, believe strongly in the power of science—and also accept God as real. The only way I see to reconcile that is to accept that God fits into science, and that what he does is grounded in science, even if we don't know all of the science yet.

    So, while I don't think God is fiction, the relationship between my faith and sf shouldn't be insulting.


    I think this quote in the article says it all: "Several people have speculated about why Mormons seem to be unusually represented in the science fiction and fantasy genre. Mormon scholar Terryl Givens points to Mormon theology as a possible source for the 'affinity' Mormons have with science fiction in particular and speculative fiction (defined as 'imaginative' or 'non-literary' fiction) in general."


    It's not just the Mormons who base their belief system off of fantasy. The Bible is the world's shittiest fantasy novel, and the Quran isn't much better. Need I mention the Scientologists?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You're mistaking (probably intentionally) mythology for fantasy. But it does a disservice to conversations about the genre to do so.

    In studying the genre, we have to make the distinction between books written for/by people who are presenting their stories as fact, and those who are intentionally creating a work of fiction. It's the only useful way to discuss, and understand, the fantasy genre.

    You can call the Bible lies, if you wish, but not fantasy—as those who wrote it were writing stories they believed were true, and were writing them for people they hoped would believe they were true. To call it lies is also probably using the wrong word, even if you believe the book to be untrue, because the authors very likely believed the stories they wrote. To them, it was history. To you, then, it's not lies or fantasy—it's mythology and inaccurate history.


    Mr. Sanderson, I might be doing a disservice to conversations about fantasy by denigrating the Bible as a fantasy novel written by committee that makes The Sword of Shannara look like Nobel prize-winning literature, but I do so not out of disrespect for fantasy or its study, but to mock religion. I'm not a sufficiently militant atheist to want to hijack the machinery of government and trample the First Amendment. I'm happy to call the Bible lies, but fundamentalists are used to being called liars. They're not used to being compared to Scientologists.

    In the meantime, I'm surprised to see you on Reddit. I had just read Warbreaker, and am thinking of getting electronic editions of your Mistborn novels next time I get paid. I doubt I'll bother with your efforts to finish The Wheel of Time, but it's not your fault that a few pages of Nynaeve yanking her braid and bitching about men makes me yearn for the days when fantasy casts were sausagefests.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do think it's a disservice to speak of the Bible as fiction, and not just to fantasy—but to religion as well. (Though, admittedly, I speak as a religious person, so my bias is manifest.) It's not really a straw man, but it is an intentional misrepresentation. It makes it difficult to discuss the thing as it really is.

    The Bible isn't fiction, it's nonfiction. Same as an earnest treatise on alchemy written by a practitioner during the 1400s. Now, in your opinion, it's highly flawed nonfiction, without grounding in fact. But calling it fiction is to imply that the authors of the book were intentionally writing stories they knew were not true, and perhaps even were presenting them as not true, which is blatantly false.

    And now...I've probably gone way too far in talking about something which wasn't intended to be taken quite as literally as I have. Sorry, I just end up thinking about things like this too much. Occupational hazard, I guess. For what it's worth, I understand that your stated purpose was mockery, which means I should probably just lighten up and stop blabbing.

    Either way, thanks for reading.


  • 27

    citizen_reddit (February 2011)

    Overlooked classics—recommend your favorites; no Jordan, Martin, Erikson, Tolkien, Sanderson, Rothfuss, etc.

    Share the title, author and a short synopsis of some of your favorite overlooked fantasy books or series—as the title states, please refrain from adding comments recommending well known series.


    Melanie Rawn Dragon Prince and Dragon Star trilogies, if you haven't read them. Good character developments and good stories. These books led to a lot of escapist fantasies when I was a teenager and stupid younger adult and couldn't seem to get my life together for real.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    These books changed the way I view fantasy and magic in novels. To this day, I think they are one of the greatest, under-rated fantasy series around.


  • 28

    Alfredo_BE (February 2011)

    Mormons and polygamy, question from a non-Mormon.

    There are only a handful of (officially registered) Mormons in my country, so I know very little about the religion. Wanting to know more, I've been spending some time on the and websites. It surprised me when I came across a part on polygamy, which stated it was practiced by Mormons before 1890, but no longer allowed now. The reason it was allowed before, is because God commanded Joseph Smith to have multiple wives. Then in 1890, Woodruff had a revelation where he was told to stop the practice of polygamy (you probably already know all of this, but I just want to make sure my views can be corrected if I'm wrong). Whether or not it was actually related to Utah becoming a state isn't relevant to me, I'm just quoting what it says on the site.

    Now for my question... I actually asked this on the chat as well, but was called a troll and subsequently banned.

    What if I or a member of your church has a revelation which commands him to have multiple wives? Would you believe that person, knowing that according to your church it has been commanded in the past? Would you support that person? Or would he, when following God's will, be excommunicated?

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    It's a valid question. I don't know why you'd be called a troll for it.

    There are a few principles at work here, and if you don't mind, I'll build to an answer to your question. I might get a little long winded here; if so, I'm very sorry.

    We believe strongly in the concept of personal revelation—in fact, it was a cornerstone of Joseph Smith's ministry. Basically, if God does exist, we feel that the only way to know that is for Him to tell you personally. Otherwise, it's all hearsay.

    A lot of that is in line with what was believed by other Christian religions of the time. Even still, in a lot of sects, a 'calling' to teach is an individual thing. To become a preacher or pastor, one needs only a witness from God that you should.

    That, however, is one of the points where LDS theology deviates. While we believe in personal witness and revelation, we believe the scope of what you can get a witness for is limited to your sphere of responsibility. In other words, while you can pray and seek direct guidance from God on your life, you cannot go to your neighbor and say "I've had a witness that you should do X, Y, or Z." We don't think God works that way.

    There are, however, people who can get guidance for others. It depends on your sphere of responsibility. A parent can get guidance for their children, a bishop for the members of their congregation. (Note: this is within reason. He has responsibility for people's spiritual welfare, but not for other aspects of their lives.)

    The prophet—president of the Church—is given responsibility for all members of the Church, and is the only one who has the ability and authority to speak for the church as a whole. We believe he is directly God's mouthpiece on the Earth. And so, he can set Church policy.

    So, the answer to your question is this: we believe that God works through organized means. Revelation from God comes in line with things that you have responsibility for. Now, the argument becomes: "In terms of marriage, don't you have responsibility for your own choices?" Yes, you do. However, the prophet has spoken for Church policy, renouncing polygamy as a practice.

    An individual doesn't have the right or authority to go against Church policy. (Well, they have the right—they may do as they wish, and anyone may make their own choices.) However, God will not send revelation that contradicts Church doctrine. If He did, there would be total chaos—and no purpose for a Church in the first place.

    So if you were to claim God told you to marry multiple wives, it would be the same as if you claimed God told you to start stealing, start your own church, or do anything else expressly against previous commandments. I would not speak on your personal relationship with God, and that is your business. But the Church is within its authority to excommunicate you for such actions, and we would believe what you are doing not to be God's will. (If it were a friend of mine that I trusted, I'd look to God and see what he had to say on the matter.)

    On a personal note, personal revelation is a tricky thing, and must be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. It is an essential part of the Church. As I said, logic dictates (to me, at least) that if there is a God, and he does want you to follow him, he will respond and tell you that directly. But that is basically the purpose of personal revelation, to let an individual know that God is real and to guide in choosing one's philosophy, religion, and goals in life.

    Anything beyond that starts to get us into questionable areas. I'm not saying it doesn't happen—it does. But at these points, you have to start asking yourself, "Am I just doing what I want, and pretending I have a divine mandate? Do I REALLY feel this is God's will?" In this, like in all things in life, there's a distinct need to follow the great law of the universe: Be reasonable.


    Probably because some people think it's funny to abuse the online chat, which in turn causes false-positives for genuine questions.

    The concept of personal revelation is certainly something I can appreciate. These days, religion has often become more a form of indoctrination than something spiritual. I don't know nearly enough about LDS to have an educated opinion on the subject, but still.

    Would you say the LDS's views mature over time and are perhaps even culturally bound? It's the only religion I know of that has living prophets, so practices that were acceptable in the past (polygamy, exclusion of black people from priesthood, ...) but are now considered immoral and wrong, may be changed over time. Do you think that in 20-30-40 years, when gay people are perhaps (hopefully) fully accepted by society, LDS will accept them as well? Or maybe even let women become priests?

    And thanks for the detailed response. It looks like there's a distinct hierarchy involved, which is understandable, though something I am very skeptical of. Especially in combination with personal revelations. Too often have I seen that position of power been abused (in the name of God of course). But again, I don't know enough about LDS to make any claims, nor am I here to turn this into an anti-Mormonism thread.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I'm very sorry to take so long to reply to this, Alfredo_BE. I've been off doing some revisions on a book that is due...well, let's just say I'm late on it. But I did want to reply to this because your questions were so insightful.

    I do think it is possible that the LDS Church's views on things like this are culturally bound, and that God is simply waiting for the right time to mainstream gay marriage into the Church. There are some who believe this strongly. I think the chances of it being that way are slim, considering statements released and the such, but it could happen.

    There are examples of this all through the history of religion. The apostles telling a slave to return to his master in the New Testament when it is pretty clear that slavery is not a good institution. Blacks being denied the priesthood in the LDS church is another; there are implications that the biases of church members were part of the reason this happened. (Joseph Smith, for example, ordained a black priest—but Brigham Young stopped the practice.)

    If you're really interested about how the Church works and who Joseph Smith was, look up the book Rough Stone Rolling on Google book search. It gives a free preview, and you can read through the chapters 12 and 13. This is a biography of Joseph Smith done by a Colombia professor (who is also a church member) which is generally considered—by both LDS and non-LDS sources—the best biography of him.

    It's a thick read, though in its favor, a lot of LDS activists think it goes too far in delving into the controversial aspects of his life. While many anti-LDS activists think it doesn't go far enough. It sits happily in the middle, and I found that it didn't pull punches, but was still respectful.

    Sorry again for the late reply.


  • 29

    basilobs (February 2011)

    Could someone write me...

    a fucking depressing sci-fi-esque story?

    EDIT: NOT a three sentence story. I've been bored and wanting to read something like this. Go ahead and write a decent length story. Not a novel or anything. Something that would take a few minutes... Er, please?

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Some classics, in case you haven't read them:

    Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

    The Ones who walk away from Omelas by UKLG


  • 30

    Chino_Blanco (February 2013)

    The Mormon church told her to take down this video or face consequences. She's now re-posted it and this time it's not coming down.


    "I know my church has good intentions in this legal debate." Sorry Melanie, but no, they do not. YOU have good intentions and want to believe the best of others, especially those you have known and trusted all your life . . . but no. Their intentions are far, far from good.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    I'm not sure I want to stumble into this one. These discussions turn out to be a mess, a lot of the time.

    However, I've found that Reddit is often populated by those curious about both sides of an argument. For the record, here are some official statements from the Church regarding Gay Marriage.

    Link One Link Two Link Three

    Some highlights: "We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty, or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different—whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation, or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.

    This church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history, when we were too few in numbers to adequately protect ourselves and when society's leaders often seemed disinclined to help. Our parents, our young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness towards those who are attracted to others of the same sex. This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations. Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions to others properly reflect Jesus Christ's second great commandment—to love one another."

    And also: "This is much bigger than just a question of whether or not society should be more tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle. Over past years we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of that lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like "homophobic". In at least one country where homosexual activists have won major concessions, we have even seen a church pastor threatened with prison for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual behavior is sinful. Given these trends, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must take a stand on doctrine and principle. This is more than a social issue—ultimately it may be a test of our most basic religious freedoms to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach."


  • 31

    schmii (February 2011)

    I'm thirsting for fantasy...

    But I want something fresh and exciting. I am tired of reading the same homage to Tolkien in every book I look in. I'm tired of seeing the typical party of the brave warrior type, the silly rogue type, the smart magic user and so on. I'm tired of black cloaked villains that all have the same goal. I want to be plunged into a world of magic that I have never seen before.

    I also don't want Urban or modern fantasy right now. I still do want something old about the story. I want there to be some dragons or maybe a nymph or two. I would love some Greek or Celtic or any type of mythological influence. But I still want it to be fresh. I want a book or series that decided to do something new with old formula. Can anyone suggest anything that might fit my needs?


    Well, The Wheel of Time has strong connections to Norse Mythology.

    Brandon Sanderson. Anything by him, really. I'd recommend Warbreaker for what you're looking for. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is also incredible. Both of these authors have amazing magic systems, and Sanderson's are different with every book.

    Now, if you're looking for something completely anti-Tolkien read The Black Company by Glen Cook. Essentially there are no heroes, it's told from a human perspective. The characters feel real, no higher moral obligation (for the most part) to help others. Really strong Indian mythological influence in these books.


    All my friends have been telling me to read Wheel of Time. I have the first novel from one of them but the writing is a bit too flowery for me. My friends tell me to stick with it so I will try.

    I really do have to check out this Sanderson fellow, you're the second to suggest him. I have Rothfuss's book already and I'm simply waiting for the release of the second book to start the first. I'm terribly impatient when it comes for waiting for book so I only read series when at least two in the series are out.

    I've never read anything with Indian mythological influence so The Black Company might be really refreshing for me. I'll have to add that to my to-read list as well.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Reply from that Sanderson guy here. Drop me a PM with your email, if you want, and I'll send you a PDF of the first Mistborn book.

    However, looking at what you said above, I'm thinking you might want to try Jim Butcher's Codex Alera books. (Furies of the Calderon is the first.) It's fast-paced epic fantasy with a Roman feel. Also, look up Tigana by Guy Kay. It's my go-to suggestion for people who are looking for fantasy with a little more depth to it.

    --Brandon Sanderson


  • 32

    Question (March 2011)

    Librarians calling for boycott on HC's ebook policy


    eBooks are such a touchy subject when it comes to lending and these odd restrictions only make it worse.


    Publishers insist on treating ebooks like real books, which they aren't. There is no real reason why a library can't lend every single one of its ebooks to every one of its patrons.

    It won't take long for consumers to abandon these outdated, artificially scarce sources for more free ones.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    I'm not saying I support this decision. But I wonder.

    What happens if we really do migrate primarily to ereaders as a reading public? It isn't too much of a stretch to assume that eventually, most avid readers will have a tablet or an ereader and do most of their reading there.

    Libraries could very easily have an application for borrowing books on your ereader. Tap here, borrow the book. And you have access to the entire library's contents, for free, with no restrictions. A wonderful thing. Awesome.

    And some worry that this would soon cause there to be no new content, as the publishers, authors, and booksellers would go out of business.

    I'll admit, I love libraries. I love what they do, and I think book lovers end up supporting authors because they read a lot—and libraries facilitate that. Access to books creates more demand for books. But can you honestly blame the publishers for being panicked about the above situation?


  • 33

    WatsonsBitch (March 2011)

    IAmA 74-time Jeopardy! champion, Ken Jennings. I will not be answering in the form of a question.

    Hey Redditors!

    I'll be here on and off today in case anyone wants to Ask Me Anything. Someone told me the questions here can be on any subject, within reason. Well, to me, "within reason" are the two lamest words in the English language, even worse than "miniature golf" or "Corbin Bernsen." So no such caveats apply here. Ask Me ANYTHING.

    I've posted some proof of my identity on my blog:

    and on "Twitter," which I hear is very popular with the young people.

    Updated to add: You magnificent bastards! You brought down my blog!

    Updated again to add: Okay, since there are only a few thousand unanswered questions now, I'm going to have to call this. (Also, I have to pick up my kids from school.)

    But I'll be back, Reddit! When you least expect it! MWAH HA HA! Or, uh, when I have a new book to promote. One of those. Thanks for all the fun.

    Updated posthumously to add: You can always ask further questions on the message boards at my site. You can sign up for my weekly email trivia quiz or even buy books there as well.[/whore]

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    I hear you had an awesome roommate when you lived in Utah who went on to write books and stuff. Why don't you tell us about how awesome he was?

    I kid. (Only a little.) Okay, a serious question. How did it feel to beat Brad? I always felt you got the raw end of things during your previous meeting, coming in cold as you had to. In some ways, that free pass to the final round was a backhanded compliment.


    Hey Brandon! I hope I'm allowed to out this comment as coming from bajillion-seller-of-nerd-fantasy books Brandon Sanderson.

    Yeah, I felt like the buzzer gods were not smiling on me last time Brad kicked my butt. This would have been sweet, sweet revenge, if a supercomputer hadn't been raping me the entire time.


    I wish I had something clever to say, but this is just an awesome development in an already great thread.

    So, were you two really roommates? If so, how did you manage to keep all the women away from the shared living quarters of an aspiring fantasy author and a trivia nerd?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, we were—just lucky chance. I moved into a place where he was already living. A duplex with five rooms, I think. It wasn't too long (six months or so?) before Ken got married to a girl two or three houses down. So you could say that we failed at keeping the women away...failed WITH STYLE.

    And, if you want your head to spin, try going to dinner with Ken, his brother Nathan, and Earl (Ken's old friend and college bowl team-mate.) All three are geniuses, and it's a strange experience to be around them as they play off of one another. The literary allusions, pop culture references, and puns create a conflux of wit nearly dense enough to pull down small astral bodies.


    Wow you roomed with Ken Jennings? Damn that is a cool bit of trivia. I apologize for this being an offensive or intrusive question, but did it have something to do with you both being Mormon or was that total coincidence?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, I was going to BYU at the time. Ken was finished, I believe. We had both come to Provo for school, though. (I'm from Nebraska originally.)


    Wait...are you really Brandon Sanderson? Because if so I literally just finished reading Mistborn the other night. It totally made me cry.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Thank you for reading. I feel both guilty and proud to have made you cry.


    I'm reading Warbreaker right now and it's amaze-balls. I'm all about reading well written fantasy goodies right now because I'm (very slowly) writing my first fantasy novel. I bow to your skill.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Best of luck to you in your writing. Just keep at it. The secret to becoming a great writer is to first be a dedicated writer.


    This is so sad, instead of wanting to ask the OP questions, I just want to ask Brandon Sanderson about the WoT series! I need to know what happens to Rand! Cmoooon! Get back to writing so I can spend my hard earned money on you! >.> P.S. All of my friends (including me) are graduating with our post grads this year and sharing the WoT has been one of the ways we keep in touch. If you could, I dunno, like send me a whats up or something, I would poop my pants, and then show it to them. But hey, that's just me.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I'll do an AMA eventually. One of these days. (I keep saying that.) Anyway, back to writing, as commanded.... :)


    Sanderson and Jennings were roommates... Nerdgasm. Ken, do you read WoT?


    Our other roommates were Brent Spiner, "Weird Al," Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, 5/6 of Monty Python, and the lightsaber kid from that one video.

    Brandon Sanderson

    There's got to be a sitcom pitch in here somewhere. Two semi-famous Mormons, living together, being nerds. Like Big Bang Theory, only with more green Jell-O. Glen Beck could play the evil apartment building owner who keeps trying to come up with crazy schemes to get us kicked out, since our apartment is rent controlled to 1870's prices as long as a pure descendant of Brigham Young lives in it.

    Stephenie Meyer is our version of Wilson, only instead of standing behind a fence, she hides in the basement and gives cryptic, half-nonsense advice in exchange for bad poetry. Tom Cruise and Jon Travolta live in the rival Scientologist apartment building across the street, and are always trying to one-up us. Season finale: Cruise secretly joins the church of Inglip.


    TIL that Mormons can be hilarious. Would never have guessed from the pantaloons or whatever those Mormon undies are called.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Wait. I'd have thought that wearing odd underwear would be an extra-special indication of hilariousness. I've been wearing it for the wrong reason all these years...

    (They're actually called garments. And yes, they are a little odd. The Mormon equivalent of a turban, or a kippah, or what have you. They're basically just a T-shirt and knee-length boxers, though, so they're less strange than they probably sound.)


    Good point. Have you ever seen the Mormon temple in Nauvoo, IL? I grew up in that county, it was kind of a big deal when it was first built.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I keep meaning to get there. I had relatives in the area when I was younger, so we'd make the drive up from Nebraska (where I grew up) to the area frequently. Haven't been back since the temple was re-built, though.


  • 34

    Question (March 2011)

    As requested, a photo of all the books I ordered from a suggestion thread...


    Sometimes it's lonely feeling like the only person who has absolutely no interest in fantasy and sci fi here. Enjoy your books.


    You're not alone! Holla for literary fiction.


    Sorry wasn't dissing. Just lamenting. Seriously enjoy them. Read what you love. It's a cool collection it just makes me sad when I see that many books in one place and then realise I probably wouldn't want to read any of them.


    Its cool, I knew you weren't, and didn't mean for my statement to invoke sarcasm. I'm trying to get through The Way of Kings currently. Not sure why I'm reading my second biggest book so early, but ah well. Its decent.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Second longest? I demand to know which author wrote one longer. It's that Williams guy, isn't it. I need to have him eliminated.

    (Joking. Otherland is awesome.)

    —Brandon S.


    Oh my. You need to tell me the correct pronunciation of Szeth, sir. And aye, the last book in the Otherland has around 150 extra pages.

    P.S. Read up all the "lore" I could find on Adonalsium this morning. Psyched.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Closest to "Zeth" but really a split between "Seth" and "Zeth." Basically, how it is written with a very soft s at the front.


    Out of curiosity, how many pages would tWoK come out to in mass mark paper back form?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's hard to say, since publishers play with these things all the time. Notice Wise Man's Fear, which is shorter than The Way of Kings by a bit, but ended up 100 pages longer in hardcover as DAW decided to go with a larger font. I won't be surprised if Otherland ends up longer in the end, though. Tad likes his long books.


    William's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series heralded the true beginning of my fantasy reading career. I was in Eighth grade, and I remember watching my bother read it, wondering with amazement at how he had the resolve to finish not just one large book, but four. I endeavored to be like him, so I started the first book shortly after he had finished it. I remember the first 200 pages were gruelingly slow, taking me nearly a month alone. Before this the largest books I've read were Harry Potter, so the transition from the fast-paced young adult lit. to adult lit. was devastating on my young mind. Only after I had gotten those 200 pages read, I started to get the feel of the story and where it was taking me. I began to feel comfortable with the length, and the next month I pushed out the last 3000 some pages. After finally finishing it I was devastated to leave the characters I was just beginning to know behind, but thus was my love for lengthy fantasy stories born.

    I have not yet had to opportunity to read The Way of Kings, but if it in any way resembles what you achieved in Mistborn or Warbreaker, I feel I will enjoy it immensely. Keep doing what you do, love the work you've put out so far.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I have very fond memories of M, S, and T myself. I can actually place where I first saw the Dragonbone Chair on the shelf—funny, how I can do that with so many books that became important to me—at a bookstore. The paperback had that striking Whelan cover, with the open window on the front looking into colored end pages.

    Unlike you young whippersnappers today, I had to wait out that trilogy. (Still have the third in hardcover.) Wonderful storytelling. It was one of the great building blocks in Epic Fantasy's earlier years. Before Martin, before Jordan, we had Williams. (And we still do, of course. I've enjoyed his newer writing too, but this trilogy is what I regard most fondly.)


  • 35

    koramar (March 2011)

    Need a book recommendation

    Ok, so I have hit a wall in regards to finding a new series to read, I've read quite a few and am looking for some recommendations.

    Series I've read:

    Wheel of Time


    Name of the Wind + Wise Man's Fear

    The Belgariad

    Night Angel Trilogy + Black Prism


    Codex Alera

    Farseer Trilogy

    Warded Man+Desert Spear

    The Shannara Series

    Sword of Truth Series

    The Earthsea Cycle

    Mistborn + The Way of Kings

    The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone

    Looking for recommendations along the lines of these series, Thanks.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Hmmm... Looks like you prefer epic fantasy, multi-volumes. Everything on there is 'high magic' except for ASOIF.

    If you want me to pin down specific suggestions, I'll need to know what you like/don't. In general terms. Do you prefer the 'high magic' sorts of books, or did you find GRRM fresh and want something more like it? Did you prefer the more light-hearted, old-school fantasy like Eddings and Shannara? Did you prefer WoT's slow and careful pacing or Codex Alera's breakneck speeds?

    Single-character dramas like Rothfuss and Farseer, or ensemble casts like Way of Kings? Quest narratives or political intrigue? Humor or romance?

    Anyway, not knowing any of that, the closest I can come are the following:

    Old School: Melanie Rawn, Sunrunner books.
    Barbara Hambly, Darwarth series.

    More like Wot:
    Recluse books, Lee Modesitt

    More like GRRM: Joe Abercrombie (as has been mentioned.)

    New school: Steven Erickson's Malazan books. (Warning, he throws you right in, and it can take a little time to get your feet underneath you.)

    Something different: Daniel Abraham (nice political intrigue fantasy series of four books.)


    That is a tricky question.

    Yes I prefer high magic as opposed to books like ASOIF.

    No real preference between single character or ensemble casts as long as it is well written.

    As far as style of fantasy I enjoyed Eddings and Brooks but I wouldn't put them on a top 5 of things Ive read, I prefer the books I read to have a society that I can come to understand, and in the cases of many of these series that is a magic based society. So on a scale of 1-10, 1 being "YOU SHALL NOT PASS" magic and 10 being Sanderson style magic where it is very logical within its own rules, I would put myself at a 9.

    The pacing doesn't really matter that much to me, the only series I can think of that bothered me with its pacing was Codex Alera, I had to put down the book several times for me to digest what had just happened because I knew I would be hit with something else 10 pages later.

    More Writing Excuses please, they are fun to listen to even if I don't write. Its nice to see what goes on behind the scene.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay, some stronger suggestions then.

    1) Malazan. Lots of good magic floating around, and a challenging series with epic scope. HOWEVER the warning I gave you before holds. The first book throws you into the middle of a battle where people are dying, then flashes back to those same characters and gets you to the battle.

    He doesn't really explain who they are or what's going on in the battle itself. The second book takes place (as I remember) on a different continent than the first, and features mostly different characters. That sort of thing can make the series difficult to get into. But the writing is rich and vibrant, and the scope fascinating.

    2) Melanie Rawn's Sunrunner books. I mention them because it's less likely that you'd have read them, as they're about 20 years old now. They are wonderful epic fantasy novels that should still be available as they were quite popular in their day. They're a bit more on the romantic side—meaning relationships become more important than battles, for the most part. However, the series has real depth and and a magic system that is purely awesome.

    I'll see if I can dredge up something else from the back of my mind. I do think the Abraham books might appeal to you, but remember, they are somewhat sparse when it comes to action.


    I'm wondering if you have an opinion/critique on the 'The Deed of Paksenarrion' series that I'm shamelessly pimping every time it seems like it would fit the reader?


    Brandon Sanderson

    I'm quite fond of it. I usually forget to mention it in conversations like these as my mind has it as military fantasy, along the lines of David Gemmell, and I sometimes forget that at its heart it's also a really great epic coming of age story.


  • 36

    bynarte (March 2011)

    So I finally read Ender's Game. Not really sure what the big deal is.

    I found the book okay and easy to read, but not very interesting. There really wasn't much science in the fiction and I thought the whole thing was kind of silly and filled with juvenile revenge fantasies. I tried to start the Speaker of the Dead but stopped pretty quickly after reading that in 3000 years there will still be people who believe in the zombie Jesus fable not to mention that Portuguese will survive pretty much intact.

    Also, I discovered separately that Orson Scott Card is batshit insane and I am very glad I borrowed the book from the library instead of buying it.

    tl;dr Didn't think Ender's Game was very good and don't see what the hubbub is all about.


    I've got enough comment karma that I can risk some downvotes. The reason for the "hubbub" is that most people read it at a young age (say 10 to 12). From a young boy's perspective, it is a book that can be identified with on a near mystical level. It creates an "aha" moment that someone actually gets the way they feel. But for someone reading it for the first time as an adult, it is really not a big deal.


    That is the conclusion I have come to now as well. I am surprised that it won the awards it did though, presumably with adults voting in favor. Though if I had read it as a 10 year old, I imagine I would have identified greatly with the book, and not noticed most/all of the odd morality, as well as the thinly veiled pedo bear fantasy scenes.

    The reason I finally read it now is that I came across a greatest SF novels list and Ender's Game came in at #1. I suppose there are many adults who still remember it very fondly from when they read it as children, but it still is something that I don't get.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is one of the few books to win both the Hugo award and the Nebula award. (The two most prestigious science fiction book awards.) Yes, those were voted by adults; many of those votes would have come from the prominent science fiction writers of the day. (The Nebula, for instance, is voted on only by professional sf/fantasy writers.)

    The reason to this has nothing to do with people having read it as children and being fond of it. I'm sorry. It is easy to dismiss a book you didn't care for for reasons such as the ones you speak of above, but I fear you stray into making an error of assumption—the assumption your taste will be like the taste of others.

    There is nothing wrong with not liking Ender's Game. Acclaim like this is really just a stamp saying "There's a better chance that you'll like this than something else, but no promises." There are people who dislike Hamlet. There are people—intelligent people with good educations—who dislike the books you think are the greatest. This does not make you a fool, nor does it make them a fool. A great many things play into taste.

    For what it's worth, the book is generally acclaimed for a couple of reasons. First, for giving an interesting look at what society might do to children by forcing maturity upon them too early, and by turning them into warriors. Second, because of a well played twist ending. Third, because of strength of narrative pacing.

    Also, with relativistic travel in play, having linguistic enclaves thousands of years in the future isn't at all unreasonable, particularly with the stabilizing force modern communication has exerted on language shifts. Beyond that, these books are social science fiction—they aren't really trying to predict the future, no more than 1984 was trying to predict the future.

    They are about exploring the human condition when different (and often extreme) pressures are placed upon them. Looking at how religion would deal with space travel and alien species is a way of writing about who we are.


  • 37

    stealthshadow (March 2011)

    Getting something published?

    I am an aspiring author and I've been searching for information online but I continue to come up mostly empty handed. I'm wondering, where do some of you writers out there submit your work? (Short stories and full manuscripts alike)

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    This question is very difficult to answer without more context—information like genre, length, target reader age, etc. Also, is this your first novel? I might be able to give you a few pointers, but the industry IS changing pretty rapidly these days. Less than ten years have passed since I broke in, but it already feels like a very different world.


    Now I'm curious. How has it changed in the past ten years?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Basically, the ebook front is changing a lot of things. I'd say this the major change. However, the continued shifts in the short story markets (from print to on-line, with smaller and smaller subscription rates) is another thing to be aware of. The changing roles of agents is another piece to all of this.


    It will be interesting to see where ebooks take the market. I love my Nook and will probably buy most books from here on out in a digital format (The Mistborn Trilogy being the first btw).

    Does that worry you? How different is the ebook vs traditional market from an author's standpoint?

    It also interests me that the limitations of a digital format are very different. For instance as an ebook A Memory of Light could be one book.

    Brandon Sanderson

    There will be both challenges and opportunities. The chance to offer an A Memory of Light single volume, with some re-arranged chapters, is one of the opportunities. I'm curious at what the future will bring. As for right now, I AM worried about the plummeting prices on ebooks.

    I basically make half as much on an ebook as I do on a hardcover book—but I make more off of an ebook than I do off of a paperback. So it's very easy that volume will compensate for the lowered prices—in which case, everybody wins.