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Oathbringer is getting steamy sexy and I’m only on page 148. I don’t remember Shallan imagining her tongue in Adolin’s mouth or fantasizing about seeing his birthmark on his beefy thigh in book 2 or Dalinar devouring Navani in his passionate desire. Whoo! It’s not just the Everstorm that’s heating things up on Roshar! Anyone else noticing this?
Hi, I sent this letter to Brandon, but I think it unlikely that I might get a reply. I would not expect you to read all of it, but I thought some of you might be be interested in the Sexuality section of it in reference for his future work. A heads up, it discusses all of Brandon's published works: Dear Brandon, I came to you having finished the Wheel of Time series and was feeling a hollow space within me that needed to be filled by more fantasy. Therefore, let me make it clear that I owe you a huge debt of thanks for your work on WoT and the Cosmere. There were a few topics that I’d like to discuss - in the same way how you feel the need to get a story down on paper, I would like these thoughts out of my head. Sexuality: The main point that I’d like to focus on is the heterosexual relationships of characters. I admire the romantic bonds that your characters forge whether they come from hardship or circumstance and personally I dismiss much of the claim that they are passionless or platonic. However, I would urge you against skirting around when sex actually does happen. It does not matter whether you claim to be a bit of a prude, you yourself mentioned in your Dumbledore EUOlogy that writing characters having a jovial time from is a natural part of any believable world; sex is much the same. The need for relaxation and good cheer amongst friends is as human an experience as two sweaty people lying in bed pleasuring each other - either from passionate love, casual abandon or respect founded on pressured times. Fantasy is primarily drawn from Western medieval-renaissance influence which itself was frequented by the casualness of farmhands with milk maids, easy lovers’ induced by Mediterranean festivities or young nobles dallying with maidens keeping secret from their father that they may not have an intact hymen anymore. Sex extends down to more disquieting interactions between noble and peasant girl that then need to portrayed in a negative light. Despite the control of the Church, people were just better at hiding it. It is one of the only drawbacks that I see in organised religion today: it clings to the dregs of social acceptability from centuries past. It was useful as a social construct when rural families had little knowledge of contraception to stop diseases when they could not afford multiple partners over a lifetime, however, with how far we have advanced in technology the prohibition now seems outdated. Raw primal desire is just something we cannot get rid of - as anyone who has gone through teenage years well knows. This may be prying, but I feel that some of your reluctance on this topic may come from what you have shared of your upbringing, in that was a sexual conservative one. You had to wait, of course by church and choice, until you could share with your wife something that you never let out. As such, it is a very personal and closeted topic for you to broach fully as it stirs too many feelings close to your home. However, you have said that you want to push the boundaries of what is expected in writing. We know that epic fantasy was weighed down by the preconception of Tolkien and Jordan of no sex. It seems only natural that if you want to push you and your books to new places, expanding that sexuality is the logical way to go. It may not reflect with your personal views or you may worry that it will reflect badly in your community. So what. What you put into your book is pushing your artform and your art is capturing the human nature. If you want to see under the skin of what makes a human graceful, an artist draws nude pictures; if you want to see beneath the skin of what really makes a human tick, you write in their deepest primal urges. You may say ‘All my batch of fantasy contemporaries are doing this, so I don’t want to do what they’re doing’. Yes and no. While in the last 15 years sex has been rising to the pages, it just seems to be making a big splash when surrounded in an ocean of meekness. I’m not asking you to go as visceral in sexual details as GRRM, for that is his style and how he plays with sexuality. If I wanted to see more of that kind, I would go read more GRRM. In fact, you started to move in a more positive direction with Warbreaker; it should not matter if the novel’s concept concerned was trying to get with child. However, that withstanding, every other novel feels like a Drab: a incredibly complex biological organism with divine proportions of engineering living an intricate life yet it fails to look quite right - it is missing its Breath. There are numerous examples I am sure you are familiar with, the most popularised one that of Vin and Elend sleeping in separate rooms before they are married, despite having been in a relationship for years and that you hint at their desire for each other’s body parts. Only after they are married is it mentioned that Vin will wear a top off in a tent. Again, I think this is an issue that stems from your personal life, that you never allow characters to engage in sexual matters before marriage. As I have mentioned in previous paragraphs, there are reasons for this hesitance and why it is limiting. Perhaps removing this limitation is the first step to opening yourself to your characters previously unseen natures. Start by creating a mere sentence that notes a main character coming out of a door tucking their shirt in. All the while, we can see inside the room where a random/side character is laying in bed with the sheet pulled over their chest. A simple casual occurrence, with no need to make a big deal out of it. Warbreaker was approaching this yet was still tamer. As you have claimed in the past, writers draw out their material from their own lives. This does not mean you have to jump in a time machine back to your college years and experiment with one night stands. But by talking with people of different life experience, sexual morality, a woman outside your community and your author friends who have written sexual passages will prepare you to slowly progress into writing sexual nature. As I have said, your task as an artist is to relate and expound the emotions that are in our lives. It means when a character describes the love of his life, there should be descriptive language of how the light of her eye dances with flashes of white and violet, the reddening of her cheeks as she runs to meet him in breathless excitement and the soft slope of the marble white skin down her back. The aim is to emote the perception of grace and beauty to the readers, the same feeling they would have when looking upon a master artwork. Moments such as these you know are excellent in order to slow the pace of the story. But similarly, one must be able to deal with eros, something which is so common between the butting heads of young and vibrant characters. Let us say, for example, Renarin grew jealous of Adolin for having an exotic and beautiful girlfriend (I avoid using Kaladin as I imagine that he has grown to like Shallan through their shared experience and then realises her outward attractiveness later on. Therefore, his is a merging of love and lust). The young prince on guard duty would notice the way Adolin caresses Shallan by circling the point underneath her wrist, the drop and swell of the breast due to a lower cut dress as Shallan unconsciously leans in towards Adolin across the table. Then there is lust of a minor noble character meeting his barmaid interest for a weekend morning vigorous and enthusiastic coupling. Slightly more challenging is a more domineering relationship such as that I might relate below between Jasnah and Shallan. When writing of lust, the danger to avoid from a lack of sexual experience before marriage is that you do not create the sense that the reader should be joining in on some gigglish teenager ignorance of a taboo. The less dangerous yet still important caution is to avoid making females incapable of displaying lustful actions - to do otherwise is to debase them to the traditional Victorian roles of ‘stiffly lie there and take it’. Your stories are known to have grit in them, whether it be the harsh world of Mistborn, the gruesome imagery of Bloody Tan’s menagerie or strong and broken characters like Kaladin. This realistic aspect would only be compounded with a realistic representation of sex. Just as violence needs to be shown in an oppressive regime, a high stress situation may likely bring people closer together. An unconventional relationship that blossoms out of respect is likely the undone challenge that you would relish, yet I would only appreciate if you are willing to commit to showing its full romantic development. Below are some more encounters from the Cosmere were this issue cropped up: With Wayne and MeLaan, I was getting slightly excited that you had written your first sexual premarital experience. And yes, well done that they managed to get their tops off, but it is a little simple-minded that Wayne and MeLaan were just kissing under there. When I first saw the words ‘neckin’ and ‘snogging’ I thought it was a joke, that others characters were trying to pass off a euphemism to protect Marasi or Steris’ innocence. But no, all parties seriously believed the two were just touching lips. Firstly, the amount of time that it took the train to travel to Ironstand and its protracted fight sequence gave plenty of time for foreplay then a passionate rebound shag reaching at least third base. Wayne’s personality and environment leave him with little inhibitions; the same for an immortal being who has had centuries to try every trick in the book. I thought it unlikely, but I had a faint thought that for the first time a lesbian relationship between main characters might occur. This possibility came to me from the gradual respect that Shallan and Jasnah grew for each other as two capable scholars. There is also the Shallan’s adoration of Jasnah in the student-teacher position that many fans were quick to wonder if it represented bisexual feelings. Jasnah herself finds herself seems so free from men and previous attachments that once we start to see cracks that mark her as a human, we can wonder if she might allow Shallan’s attentions to become something more. It would create a perverse moral quandary to explore if Jasnah were to take it up: if it is an abuse of the pedagogy relationship and would it require secrecy. I am not disappointed that this did not occur, maybe the opposite as Jasnah is one of my favourite characters. You would have received an angry email about how you did not know what to do with a strong atheist character if she had turned out to be dead. Fortunately, once Shallan failed to stumble over her corpse, I suspected that she lived, as I suspect that mere assassins could not kill Jasnah - even if the encounter tempts the dangerous waters of character resurrection. I thought Jasnah’s disappearance might have been unnecessary so that Shallan would be all alone, as I did so enjoy Jasnah and what she could have added to Navani and in the Shattered Plains by taking command of the royal court. For the first book and a bit, the dynamic between the two was what made Shallan interesting, compared to the second book when it focused on Shallan’s past. In the end, I do appreciate the growth that Shallan underwent. To bring it back to the point, you have said that you do not concern yourself with whatever orientation that characters have. I agree that making a big deal out of it would be the wrong direction. Yet you do not abstain from romantic relationships in your books. It makes it a perfectly acceptable precedent to trial other kinds of relationships. Please do not make Adolin into another Gawyn. The Trakand prince, despite his struggle to find his position in relation to Egwene, died still not able to reconcile that his love for Egwene needed him to put aside his pride and be her shadow. His selfishness lead to his death and failure, thus letting Egwene sacrifice her life so freely. That inability earned Gawyn one of the most hated positions among WoT fans. I fear that I can see you setting Adolin on that same tangent. He worries that his place will be overshadowed by having a Knight Radiant for a wife. However, I hope that I am mistaken. Although Adolin is boastful and proud, he does seem a better rounded person than Gawyn. Adolin was drawn to Shallan because she was something unconventional and exotic to him. I hope their dynamic leads to the couple working together as a fighting duo rather than the diametrically opposed Jordan couple. Blushweaver and Lightsong. God I was sad that they never got to consummate their relationship. Again, I hope that your personal stance had nothing to do with that they did not get to have sex because they were decadent unmarried gods. Blushweaver was set well to be one of your most erotically entrancing characters in your entire cosmology. I do admire the two’s articulate flirting - it does represent the most realistic building towards a relationship that I have so far. Blushweaver’s reproach to Siri, “Find someone else’s bed to climb into, you little slut”, left me laughing for quite some time and endeared her to me. I wonder if it would have been more tragic if Blushweaver and Lightsong ended up in a cell together in the end, Lightsong reciprocates Blushweaver’s desires in the face of the situation and they end up having sex on the cell floor or if as it happened, Blushweaver never really knowing that Lightsong really did care for her in the way that she wished. Hopefully they are up there in the Beyond, making up for all that lost time. In conclusion, I feel that you have come some way since the innocence in Elantris and Mistborn and are spreading your wings. Mr Jordan started incorporating more sexual influences too before his passing. It is only a matter of time before this challenge takes you, but I would much prefer it now when you writing so much good and prolific work. Religion: On a different point, I have noticed that it does seem that the characters that hold true to religious beliefs come out on top. Do not get me wrong, I love a good pantheon in fantasy, but I hope this is not a permanent fixture. Sazed did not deserve to Ascend because he went through a crisis of faith and back, but because he was one of the few characters that has gone through trials and we still believe is morally good. That trial did not have to be a religious one and there were plenty of morally grey characters that fill the quota to hold both Ruin and Preservation. Preservation set up someone who cared about the world and this is the person who Saze is. In this, I feel the resolution of characters is sometimes too simple: religious characters are true and the simple good of deontology wins the day. Someone like Dalinar seems a little too pure for what is to come. I hope that when Jasnah confronts her uncle on the whole quandary of if time is worth praying to a Shard, especially if by the end of the Stormlight Archives Cultivation dies. As for The Diagram, the tone of their passages perpetuates that they are the bad guys, but really in the face of an apocalypse, I hope utilitarianism will be shown for its ideological worth. What would you do to save your own wife and children? A sociopathic force has a gun to their heads, do you deny that you would choose the random stranger to die instead. What if it were four random strangers’ lives, five? I think I know which you still would pick. At what number do you let the gunman pull the trigger. It is likely that you never would, not for all the other six billion of us. To protect what is your world, you would give anything. Death: I am sorry to compare you to GRRM again, but I feel the death of characters is sometimes muted because you save them all towards the ends of your books. You might be relying the deaths as ending bombs to give closure to the novel. Valued characters’ deaths spaced sporadically throughout the structure is part of the formula which makes GRRM’s deaths so well received and emotional. As you say, characters have to take risks and their consequences, but one of those big risks should end in the ultimate consequence in Act 1, perhaps our main viewpoint character. Perhaps Dox and Clubs’ deaths didn’t hit as hard as they were meant to, but the only other time can think of a character death midway through the plot is Parlin and you yourself admitted that he needed more done to him to give his departure justice, yet still he is not a primary character. When Karata died, the outrage at her demise was not the event itself, but that not enough attention was given to it. Simply her head gets cut off while running. Even an extra sentence of Raoden acknowledging the light going out of her eyes would have left the audience much happier with the departure of an invested character. Genre: I must say that I am not keen on Mistborn advancing technology to the later end of the 1800’s. I am a diehard fantasy fan and am not of that more common breed that can also stomach sci-fi as well. Give me the setting of magic, medieval times and curious creatures and you can sell me a story of whatever concept you want. However, I start to get discomforted by technology further late Renaissance/Galileo times. It starts to drift from high fantasy. I know of the pitched Mistborn ‘trilogy of trilogies’, but with the Wild West/Victorian feel of Wax and Wayne, we already are into low fantasy territory. The novel use of Allomancy still as a magic kept me through the prologue concerning guns and then the partners’ chemistry, but the magic is starting slip away from the story’s control (machine guns being chief among them). I occasionally appreciate an urban low fantasy such as Skulduggery Pleasant, but only if follows its own rules and genre. By the time we reach modern day and then sci-fi plasma guns and artificial intelligence, I fear that all will be lost that was the spirit of Mistborn. It may be a clever idea to transition a series from fantasy to sci-fi, but I worry if I’ll stick around for it. The implications that it has for the Cosmere are too great, as our shiny technology will inevitably reach the other Shardworlds and turn your anthology into a sci-fi collection. This narrative danger is seen in Sixth of the Dusk. And that worries me because when you started writing you said to yourself that you were going to be a fantasy writer. I would not be particularly interested in a war between the futuristic Scadrial versus high fantasy era societies - it would just seem cheesy. The only hope I can see is that all the future scientific discoveries on Scadrial will come Allomantic innovation, much as the Southerners have, as opposed to electrical currents and telephones. Even still, I can just see our own ideas of the future such as flying cars being excused by Allomancy while losing the feel of fantasy. That said, here’s a suggestion for a potential death in the Wax and Wayne series: a Hemalurgist could die via accidental electrocution through their Hemalurgic spikes, Tesla style, courtesy of Wayne’s beneficiary Sophi Tarcsel. This letter may appear a scathing criticism, but I love your books - these opinions may simply be more useful than the praise that would needed to fill another correspondence. I am hugely looking forward to more Stormlight and have pre-ordered Oathbringer. The cultures and biogeography of Roshar are a world unlike anything I have seen before in fantasy. Blue skin and crystalline fingernails, I’m looking forward to seeing to seeing a cross breed of Thaylen eyebrows and whatever eccentricities that you conjure. Best of luck,