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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.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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The Southwest, particularly. My visits to places like Arches National Park, relatively close to where I live right now, certainly influenced me. More than that—and I've said this in numerous interviews before—I'm a fantasy reader foremost. Before I was a writer I was a reader, and I'm still a reader. As a reader, I grew a little bit annoyed with the generic setting that seemed to recur a lot in fantasy. I won't speak poorly of writers who used it very well—there are certain writers who used it extremely well—and yet a lot of other writers seemed to just take for granted that that's what you did. Which is not the way that I feel it should be done. I think that the genre could go many places it hasn't been before.
When I approached writing the Stormlight Archive—when I approached creating Roshar—I very consciously said, "I want to create something that feels new to me." I'm not the only one who does this, and I'm certainly not the one who does it best, but I wanted a world that was not medieval Europe. At all. I wanted a world that was its own thing. I started with the highstorms and went from there. To a person of our world, Roshar probably does look barren like a wasteland. But to the people living there, it's not a barren wasteland. This is a lush world full of life. It's just that what we equate with lush and full of life is not how that world defines it. In Roshar, a rock wall can be a lush, vibrant, and fertile place. It may look like a wasteland to us, but we're seeing through the eyes of someone who's used to Earth's flora and fauna. I've also said before in interviews that science fiction is very good at giving us new things. I don't see why fantasy shouldn't be as good at doing the same. Perhaps even better. So that's what was driving me to do what I did.
People have been thrown by you saying that Odium is not native to Roshar.
Odium is not native, that's the thing. Are any of them native? So if you dig the deeper question, are any of them native, ehhh, none of them are native to the planets you've seen so far. What I probably should've said to be more precise is that Honor and Cultivation were there long before Odium showed up.
Given that we now know that Odium can 'make it possible' for people to use magic that draws on him on other planets, has he done this anywhere besides Roshar?
Odium has been active on all other planets, including several we haven't seen yet.
This one I nearly did get RAFO'd, and the answer is basically a non-answer.
My question is in regards to the writing system. In Warbreaker, when Siri is teaching Susebron to read, she mentions the letter "shash," which we now know better as a Glyphair from WoK.
so onto the questions:
Are the two writing systems related, or is this a chance coincidence of names? If they are related, did they stem from the same source? (i.e., do the people of Nalthis and Roshar both descend from a more ancient group of people?) If I haven't gotten a RAFO yet, did the separation from these other people create the legends of being cast out of the Tranquiline Halls?
There are interesting connections around the cosmere between linguistics and some cultures. Though different groups of humans were created on different planets, the Shards all share a single point of origin. However, the Tranquiline Halls legends are not related to a Nalthis/Roshar connection.
If Odium were lured to Scadrial, would his physical body turn into a burnable metal? If so, could Harmony create an Odium-metal legion of Mistings to consume and burn it? Would that weaken him sufficiently enough to be killed or destroyed?
The difficulty here is, again, one of Identity. People born on Scadrial have an Identity tied to it and its magic. Odium would have to do certain things to make them able to use a magic he fuels. He has done these things on Roshar, so it's not impossible for him to manage it on Scadrial.
Several times in Way of Kings, you have characters think of the Shin as having big or round eyes. Do the Shin really have giant eyes, or do all the other peoples of Roshar have an epicanthic fold on their eyes?
It seemed to me that this was very similar to how characters in second world fantasies, like Faile in Wheel of Time, are designated as "Asian" even though there is no Asia in the book. Is this a subversion of that? Are the Shin the only people on Roshar who look Western European?
You are right, actually. Normal eyes on Roshar are those with an epicanthic fold. The Shin do not have this. Note, however, that they wouldn't look "Western European." Roshar races are fairly far off from what we imagine as Earth ones. The people most likely to look Western European to you would be those from Mistborn.
Why does Scadrial, which has two Shards, only have three manifestations of investiture, (Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy) but Sel, also with two Shards, has five manifestations of investiture (AonDor, Dakhor, ChayShan, Forgery, and Bloodsealing)?
Sel's magics are much more regionalized than Scadrial's. Each area has its own manifestation, but they're all actually the same magic. So really there is one magic on Sel—much as Windrunning and Lightweaving on Roshar are kind of different magics, but also kind of the same.
Discussion of the week: Shadesmar & Truthspren
It says that it's dangerous to travel to Shadesmar on Sel. Why?
It has to do with the Dor and the lack of an entity controlling much of the power Odium left in his wake on Sel.
Woah, that's interesting. I had no idea Odium left little bits of his power on Sel... I guess it kinda makes sense for evil monks to be powered by pure hate, though.
Odium did not leave his power behind, one should note. He left several other powers which are now, to a large extent, mindless...
This is an awesome answer!
If you wouldn't mind answering, does Roshar have a similar problem, with Honor being Splintered?
No, Roshar does not have the same problem. There are some differences going on. (One reason being that the spren are far more extensive on Roshar, and provide something of a "release valve." The Seons and the Skaze on Sel are not numerous enough to fulfill a similar function. Though, of course, that's only one part of the puzzle. Raw power is dangerous.
It's one reason everyone should be thankful Kelsier was around on Scadrial.
Way of Kings: Is set on a strangely awesome world. Apparently, a super large storm (like hurricane size) passes across the Earth every few days. This happens in a very predictable cycle. Because of this, there is no soil anywhere, everything is stone. The plants and animals have adapted to this environment, so they are also pretty strange. The plants, for instance will be much like a coral reef. They have shells, or can withdraw into the ground, and do so when the storm comes. They also will do the same thing if you try to step on them and such. So like, as you're walking, the grass around you shrinks into the ground, and pokes back out again when you pass.
I also found out that the Way of Kings is largely about the birth of magic, since Brandon was tired of fantasy books talking about the death of it. As such, most of the magic systems are largely unknown, and will be explored. There was at one previous time, several hundred years past, magic on the earth. However, it's been gone for a while, and is being rediscovered. There are a total of 30 planned magic systems, and the books will jump around chronologically between the present and character's pasts. The technology level is a typical fantasy, Renaissance minus gunpowder. At least I think that's what he said.
Feruchemy ended up being a balance system, because of how polar Ruin and Preservation were. Any world with at least two Shards will result in a similar phenomenon.
Like Roshar. There is something like that going on there.
Well the thing to keep in mind is that it is not a barren planet. There are lots of plants on this planet. It's no more barren than a corral reef that deals with a tide rushing in and rushing out. Now, the life has to adapt to it, but it's a really lush planet. If you go and look at the shattered plains there is grass everywhere and plants growing all over the place. Right before a storm it becomes barren, then it becomes lush again. [...] One of the things I kinda have to overcome with this book is that though it is very rocky and stony, it is very lush, and it's hard sometimes for people to imagine that. But even if it is a little bit barren, Utah is barren and it has supported people. [...]
Because I know Braize is the third one, I've heard that, is that true?
I'm staying closed-lipped about a lot of this.
Can you tell me which is the most massive moon [of Roshar]? Not the biggest, but the most massive.
I think the biggest is the most massive. All three moons are much closer than our moon is.
And so is that Nomon?
How big is Nomon on the night sky, like compared to our moon?
Larger than our moon, but not dominating of the sky. [...] I do believe Nomon is bigger, but I had to have Peter run those calculations, so he may come back and say no Brandon, that's not possible, but I do believe it's bigger than our moon in the sky. You're supposed to be able to see moderately well by Nomon.
So, one more time.
So, we have figured all this out. It's in the wiki--so me just saying--it's not in the wiki that you can find. I would need to go compare this. All the calculations on things like this--this is stuff where I sat down with Peter, who knows much more astronomy than me and said "here's what I want" and he's like "well it has to be this" and I put that in.
I believe they do but I'm not 100% sure.
We had to fudge that because as you said, if there were any it'd be all the time.
Most of them are plant-based. I think I've mentioned one of the plants.
They have silk though, right?
Yes. It's called sea-silk, they grow it in the water. It comes from the coasts.
So they don't have anything like our silk, then?
If you looked at it, you would call it silk, but it is being produced in a very different way.
Our silk comes from insect cocoons, and they have a lot of that there, but they don't use it for fiber at all?
Insect cocoons on Roshar are either, they melt in water from the highstorm cycle, or they have stone in them, so they don't work really well for textiles. There are certain rockbuds you can shred the inside of the shell to get a textile, there's sea silk that grows out in the ocean, and there are other plants of a similar nature.
I was also wondering about the Steel Alphabet in the Mistborn books, each letter aesthetically looks like it's built from a cuff, a spike, and a bead, and was that intentional to reflect the magic systems?
Hehehe, good question!
Has she already popped up?
She has not already popped up.
So she's not a Radiant. Or is she?
You have not seen her on screen yet, other than in her story.
Where did you get the idea of a world ravaged by fierce storms?
The original seed of an idea was the storm of Jupiter, this massive persistent storm. Of course, that's a gas giant. The physics are very different. But I remember one day staring at a picture of Jupiter and thinking about a storm that circled the world that was massively powerful. That was one of those seeds that stuck in my brain. This sort of thing happened over months and years until that seed grew and developed and mixed with other things I was thinking of, and the result was Roshar.
The use of spren are a brilliant idea, what was the inspiration for these creatures?
In part, they stem from the underlying cosmology and overarching rules, the dictates of the magic systems of my shared universe. I was looking for a manifestation of that in Roshar. I also was searching for something that would give Roshar a different feel from things that I'd done before. I wanted this book and this series—and everything about it—to feel different from fantasy worlds in the past. I wanted it to be fantastical, but I wanted it to be unique. I wanted something that could consistently remind the reader, "Oh, I'm in a different place. Wow. Their emotions manifest visibly when they feel them strongly. This place is bizarre." That was one of the main inspirations. Looking in our world, one inspiration is certainly the Eastern concept in Shinto mythology of everything having a soul, every rock and river and tree having something living inside of it that is a manifestation of it. Since I was working with the idea of Platonic realms and the like, I spun that off into the spren.
Building Roshar, I wanted to make sure that I was doing a little extra worldbuilding work. I don't want to say that for something like Mistborn I'm not doing worldbuilding work, but my focus was in other areas. I wanted Mistborn to be accessible, so I made it an Earth analogue.
I consider Roshar my showpiece for worldbuilding, and as such I wanted everything about it to display some of the best of what science fiction and fantasy is capable of: new ecologies, new cultures, cultures that feel real but that at the same time are not just earth analogues. Because of that, I've done a lot of work to individualize and distinctify a lot of the various cultures on Roshar.
Now, that said, creativity is really the recombination of things you've seen before. We as human beings, by our very nature, can't imagine something we've never seen. What we can do is take different things we've seen and combine them in new ways. That's the soul of creativity. It's the unicorn idea—we've seen things with horns, and we've seen horses. We put the two together and create something new, a unicorn.
Because of that, I don't know if it's possible to create a culture in a fantasy book that isn't inspired in some way by various earth cultures. I'm trying not to be as overt about it as The Wheel of Time was, because one of the cool things about The Wheel of Time was its twisting and turning of Earth cultures into Randland cultures.
That's a big preface. What are my inspirations for the Alethi, for all of the different cultures? There's definitely some Korean in there. There's some Semitic cultures in there. The magic system table, the double eye, is based on the idea of the Sefer and the Tree of Life from the Jewish Kabbalah. That's where I can trace the original inspiration of that. I can trace the original inspiration of the safehand to Koreans not showing people the bottom of their feet because they felt that that is an insult—that's not something you do. I can trace the Alethi apparel to various different clothing influences. I'm hoping that a lot of where I get the cultures is based off the interplay between the setting, the histories, the idea of the highstorms, and the metaphor of the desolations. My influences come from all over the place.
Does military service raise one's nahn/dahn?
Let's say somebody from a very low nahn, who is basically a serf, right? I mean, they don't have the freedom of movement. So, what if a man like that rises to a sergeant and serves 25 years with distinction, does he go back to being a serf when/if he retires from the military? Would he be required to return to his village/town of origin? Can something like this be properly controlled, even? I mean, do they check traveling people's papers?/
There's a lot of parts to this. Rising within nahns and dahns happens more easily in Roshar than rising in social status did in most societies that had similar things in our world—for instance India, or even England. To an extent, it is very easy to buy yourself up a rank. What you've got to remember is the very high ranks are harder to attain. By nature, the children of someone of a very high rank sometimes are shuffled down to a lower rank—until they hit a stable rank. There are certain ranks that are stable in that the children born to parents of that rank always have that rank at as well. Your example of the soldier who serves with distinction could very easily be granted a rank up. In fact, it would be very rare for a soldier to not get a level of promotion if they were a very low rank—to not be ranked up immediately. The social structure pushes people toward these stable ranks. For the serf level, if you're able to escape your life of serfdom and go to a city, often getting a job and that sort of thing does require some measure of paperwork listing where you're from and the like. But if you were a serf who was educated, that would be pretty easy to fake. What's keeping most people as serfs is the fact that breaking out of it is hard, and there are much fewer of those ranks than you might assume. The right of travel is kind of an assumed thing. To be lower ranked than that, something has to have gone wrong for your ancestors and that sort of thing. There are many fewer people of that rank than there are of the slightly higher ranks that have the right of travel. It's a natural check and balance against the nobility built into the system. There are a lot of things going on here. Movement between ranks is not as hard as you might expect.
Ditto with the lighteyes—does exemplary service raise one’s dahn?
It's much harder for a lighteyes, but the king and the highprinces can raise someone's dahn if they want to. But it is much harder. In the lower dahns, you can buy yourself up in rank. Or you can be appointed. For instance, if you're appointed as a citylord, that is going to convey a certain dahn, and you could jump two or three dahns just by getting that appointment. Now, if you serve poorly, if a lot of the people who have the right of travel leave—which this doesn't happen very often—if your town gets smaller and you're left with this struggling city, you would be demoted a dahn, most likely. If a lot of the citizens got up and left, that would be a sign. They could take away your set status by leaving. That’s something that’s built into the right of travel. So these things happen.
If parents have different nahns/dahn’s, how is child’s position calculated? For instance, if Shallan had married 10-dahner Kabsal, what dahn would their children belong to?
The highest dahn determines the dahn of the child, though that may not match the dahn of the highest parent. For instance, there are certain dahns that aren't conveyed to anyone except for your direct heir. The other children are a rank below. I believe that third dahn is one of the stable ranks. If you're the king, you're first dahn. Your kid inherits. If you have another kid who doesn't marry a highprince, and is not a highprince, then they're going to be third dahn, not second, because that's the stable rank that they would slip down to, along with highlords and the children of highprinces.
Or, and another thing—what happens if a lighteyed child is born to darkeyes or even slaves? Which should happen often enough, given that male nobles seem rather promiscous. Anyway, are such people automatically of tenth dahn?
The situation is very much taken into account in these sorts of cases. Normally—if there is such a thing as normal with this—one question that's going to come up is are they heterochromatic. Because you can end up with one eye of each color, both eyes light, or both eyes dark. That's going to influence it a lot, what happens here. Do you have any heirs? Was your child born lighteyed? This sort of thing is treated the same way that a lot of societies treated illegitimate children. The question of, do I need this person as an heir? Are they born darkeyed? Can I shuffle them off somewhere? Set them up, declare them to be this certain rank. Are you high enough rank to do that? Are you tenth dahn yourself? What happens with all of these things? There's no single answer to that. The most common thing that's probably going to happen is that they are born heterochromatic. Then you're in this weird place where you're probably declared to be tenth dahn, but you may have way more power and authority than that if one parent is of a very high dahn, just as a bastard child in a royal line would be treated in our world.
I believe that they all do. I don't think that you've seen anyone without innate Investiture yet. [Drabs] do not have innate Investiture. And on Scadrial they have the pieces of Ruin and Preservation in them. And they do have it on Roshar.
Which Shard is that?
You'll have to RAFO
What specifically did you want to know?
Well, is their eye color lighter than the typical Alethi peasant?
(after a long pause) I think I'll just stay away from this for now.
Both Parshendi and Horneaters are able to see spren ordinary humans can't. Is there a connection between these abilities, or do they come from completely different sources?
Horneaters are human/Parshendi hybrids. (There are several Roshar races that have Parshendi blood in them.)
The "God Surges" you mentioned recently, are they a part of the Way of Kings frontsheet?
You've said that there are three types of Blades in the Stormlight Archive. We've seen "dead" Shardblades, Honorblades—is the third type the "living spren" Shardblades, or is there another type we haven't seen?
Do all Surgebinders breathe Stormlight in, or are there other ways? Is Lift one-of-a-kind in this regard?
All I said regarding this was to tell a fan that it was possible to make an analogy between the god metals on Scadrial and certain powers on Roshar. However, these are not a codified part of the magic system.
Lift is one of a kind.
Nightblood is a very unique kind of Shardblade, but IS a Shardblade.
Which of your worlds, if any at all, have ice cream, or at least, the ability to make ice cream?
Scadrial probably has it already. Roshar is farthest, not having as much in the way of milk products.
On Roshar, do they have an equivalent for cats, like how they have axehounds instead of dogs?
No, they do not. Though there are various domesticated animals fulfilling a similar role across the planet. (Domesticated minks and pigs come to mind.)
In Well of Ascension, it mentions that the language of Terris had a gender neutral pronoun. If you actually constructed the language, what was that pronoun? Or did you just leave it as its English translation of "it"?
I didn't spend a long time on the languages in Scadrial, since most people were speaking the same tongue. I just used "it" in my own writings. Roshar has a lot more detail on the languages, because culture-clash is a bigger part of the theme of the series.
Zahel/Vasher is in Roshar for Nightblood? Will we know in Stormlight Archive why these two were separated? or in the sequel of Warbreaker?
The Warbreaker sequel will give clues about this, but the actual event happened between that and TWoK. So I'm not sure where I'll slip it in.
It depends on the day, and the time. Dalinar is clean-shaven through most of the books you have seen.
That's what I thought but he [man with the woman asking the question] thought not.
The audiobook reader just gives me an impression of a wizened person with a well-kept beard.
Let's see if I've got... if I've got enough internet...
I get the impression that Sadeas has a creepy mustache from the audiobook as well.
Beards are not in fashion in Alethkar right now.
Which is why Kaladin shaves it off.
Let's see, The Way of Kings, I've got the artwork I used as-- [shows secret canon drawing] So there is the concept art we used for Dalinar.
You are mistakenly assuming that Cultivation means Earth-like flora and fauna. Roshar is very bountiful and like it's not a barren land. Roshar is very....
It's thriving. Yeah, it just has a different ecology. You're mistakenly assuming that our ecology is the only sort that can be bountiful.
*long pause* Your question has a fundamental flaw to it.
And that is?
That there are multiple planets that have an influence on Roshar.
I thought there were multiple planets in the system that--
There are, but you said "the other", there are more than one so the phrase, "the other" doesn't make sense.
How much influence do the other planets have?
A great deal.
He couldn't say for sure without getting out the timeline, but a LONG time.
Has he been on Scadrial or Nalthis?
No, but he is aware of their existence.
The main map of Roshar.
From which book?
Either book, it's the main one that will go in each copy. It's VERY hard and it won't change a whole lot.
Does it have anything to do with the compass?
Not the compass.
That was intentional. You are on to something that no one's figured out yet.
I was thinking it could be connected to people being able to manipulate gravity.
It's not exactly what you think you're on to, but you're getting close to something that they've all wanted to know for a while.
You've seen people using Allomancy in Roshar before.
You said that on Roshar the only reason they have aluminum is that they can Soulcast it, right? I think you said something like that … maybe? I was wondering how that would work, if an Allomancer were to--
Aluminum has some weird properties on all of the magic systems, not just allomancy. It does not have the same effect, but aluminum has some bizarre effects.
It depends on your definition. Is Windrunning its own magic system, or is it a division of a larger magic system? Are the ten different Surges each their own magic system, or are they all the same one?
If you assume the surges are all one.
Well then you would have Surgebinding, and the Old Magic, those are two at least, and there are things that are not explained in those at all, and how do you count creating fabrials? Is that a science and not a magic? Is that its own magic system?
It's a science, because anyone can do it.
So Awakening is not a magic, then? Awakening's a science? Because anyone can Awaken if they get the breath.
That's something that stood out to me, because in all your other magic systems that we've seen so far there has to be some sort of snapping to occur, and that's unique, because- [...] Is there an active magic system on Threnody?
Threnody has a non Shard-based...it depends on what you call a magic system. Do spirits coming back from the dead count as magic? It's science to them, but, it's goofy science.
Hi there Sanderson,
I have two questions,
1. What are you really excited about that is being released soon? Like screaming fangirl level. It doesn't have to be a book either. It could be like you are getting a puppy. 2. What are your thoughts on Kramer's depiction of a Herdazian accent? Is it what you were trying to go for or no? When I read WoK I thought they had more of a Mexican accent but Kramer has brought me over to his, what I believe is, Australian accent.
They are a gold Twinborn, so they can tap a lot of gold...
They can tap a whole bunch, that's true, they can do that, but simply having it is not gonna create a spren because the spren is from a different god, right, a different Shard.
So if they had Regrowth cast on them, would that do it?
hems and haws for a second.
A really, really big Regrowth like in the middle of a Highstorm.
Hmmm, this, you are getting to the realm of plausibility at that point. I still don't think gold is the way to do it. I think you just get all that Investiture. It would become sapient by you sticking a whole bunch of Investiture, and then you can bond to that. But it's not like people gain what you would have done. Does that make sense? That's just what's going to happen, is you're gonna, you can create a, potentially create a spren that way, but you are more likely to end up with something like Nightblood. But you could potentially create a spren, but I mean you're just gonna end up...
So there are more optimal ways to do that?
Yes, go bond a spren. (evil grin of course)
But you can't easily bond multiple, and if you did this you could maybe get multiple.
Nyeaaahhh... The spren still has to choose. If you want to be a Surgebinder, the choice is being made. You can't fake your way into it. Decision and Honor are too much a part of Surgebinding for you to be able to fake your way into that. Other magics you might be able to do that. Other magics that don't require, like, Surgebinding works because a piece of Honor or Cultivation or a mix has chosen you specifically. There is will from the actual Investiture involved in it in Roshar.
So it's not something you can cheat your way into, right. But cheating your way into Breath might be easier, right.