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Q&A with Brandon Sanderson


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Hello Mr. Sanderson. I'd like to add my thanks for you being an amazing author and also for obliging our craziness. Though if you hadn't been so very awesome as to have your Cosmere make sense and be fundamentally understandable, then we probably wouldn't be so crazy about figuring it out, so... :P

I've been foolhardy enough to try to deduce your Unifying Theory, so you'll have to forgive me for some of the minutia I'm about to ask. I'm torn between "I really shouldn't ask that much: he's being such a good sport about this and it's really too much to expect for him to read/answer relatively trivial questions" and "Must. Get. Answers!"


Do Breaths inherently possess the ability to interpret and carry out commands, or does the Awakener need to impart that decision making ability on Awakened objects?

If the Awakener does need to impart the decision-making ability, then does Awakening consist of an Awakener copying a portion of his/her Cognitive aspect (as determined by his/her visualization and verbal Command) onto the Cognitive aspect of the object being Awakened, with Breath then providing the "juice" for the object to actually follow its Command: powering both physical motion and "cogitation" based upon the copied Cognitive aspect?

-If so, is that copying what drains color?

Time Bubbles:

If you are standing inside of a time bubble, and throw a spear out of the bubble, what happens to that spear as it traverses the border of the bubble? Are different parts of the spear ever in different "time zones," going fundamentally different speeds?

On that line of reasoning, what would happen to a train and its occupants if Marisi stood next to railroad tracks holding up a Cadmium bubble while that train sped by?

Misc.: (These ones aren't my ideas originally, but I like them)

What is/was Endowment's gender? Is Endowment the same being as Austre (making him male)?

Is Wax's hemalurgic earring in Alloy of Law giving him slight Allomantic Pewter, enabling Harmony to fuel Pewter Allomancy directly in the final fight sequence?

Can Hemalurgy be used to steal Shardblades directly, transferring ownership from the victim to the spike's recipient without a need for the recipient to physically take the Shardblade first?

1. Is it possible to give cats intelligence with Hemalurgy? Or transfer cat's identity to a human?

And also to give cats various powers through Hemalurgy, resulting in uber-powerful Catquisitors forming a Caton of Inquisition and taking over the Cosmere (then renamed the Catsmere)?

RAFO Bait:

Would it be fair to describe the three realms as the Spiritual realm providing motivation/general directives (gravity, desires, energy, etc.), the Cognitive realm interpreting and applying those directives, and the Physical realm as where these directives--as interpreted by the Cognitive realm--are actually implemented? All of this with interactions/change flowing back and forth between the realms as well (Physical phenomena affecting thought affecting the spirit, for example).

P.S. Wow that's longer than I thought it would be. Feel free to pick and choose, although (obviously) the question about Catquisitors is the most pressing. Thank you again. :D

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Hi Mr Sanderson! Thanks for doing this!! I am glad you are taking time out to do this...

1. We know that there are 10 orders of Radiants and 10 different powers, with each order having access to 2 of them. Any reason why this "class restriction" exists (they are lot more combinations possible with 10 powers)?

2. How is Harmony balanced when a part of Preservation's power is expended on human sentience? Isn't that what caused all the trouble to begin with?

3. You have told us there are more than 30 magical systems on Roshar. I am assuming there are 10 surgebindings and 10 voidbindings. Do the next 10 belong to another such classification? If yes, can you give us the name for it.

4. If I used a hemalurgic spike charged with allomantic powers on a person on say Nalthis, will the focus of allomancy change because the power is being used on another planet?

Edited by rags
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Hello! Im not quite as... deep into the workings as some here, but hoping my question makes sense(And I´v atleast tried to find the answer elsewhere but not succeded;). Anyway, just one question! :)

Regarding the mixing of Feruchemy and Allomancy.

A coinshot able to store weight can, as you showed us with Wax push in a ridiculously powerful manner, as the weight/mass is the largest factor wich controls the push strength.

I´m wondering if the same can be done with soothing(or rioting). If you where to increase your identity, that may/should increase your emotional imprint(or whatever you might call it), would your soothings/riotings become wastly more powerful in a simular way as weight makes steelpushing more powerful?

And if it does, is this how the lord ruler improved his Sooting in such a spectacular fasion?

Edited by dyring
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Hello Brandon. Thank you very much for doing this Q&A. I am beyond excited to be able to have my questions answered by my favourite author. You're awesome!

Anyway, if it isn't too much trouble, would you be able to answer these questions?

1. You've confirmed that several Heralds have appeared or been mentioned in the modern (non-prelude, non-vision) parts of The Way of Kings. Have any members of the Knights Radiant (the one from the days of Urithiru, not near-Radiants like Kaladin) appeared in the modern parts of The Way of Kings? And if you have to RAFO me, could you give me a hint about the Heralds?

2. When Shallan is appealing Jasnah, Jasnah reveals that she has heard about Shallan's step-mother, Malise Gevelmar. Has Malise Gevelmar ever met Jasnah or one of her associates (excluding Shallan)?

3. Do all Shards have some sort of Shard-induced weakness, like how Ruin and Preservation can't see metal?

4. Can you give me a hint about Nafti, the Uvara girl that Derethil brought with him when he left the Great Abyss?

5. Do any characters from Nalthis appear in The Way of Kings?

I can't thank you enough for taking the time to answer our questions! I look forward to your responses.

Edited by Lightflame
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Hey Brandon, its really great that you're doing this and I've just got one question:

Are any of your book's locations (barring legion) based on real-life places? If so, where? If not, what propels your creative drive to make new worlds?

Thanks loads for answering :)

Edited by Straff Venture
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Hi Mr. Sanderson. Thanks for doing this!

Just a couple questions here. I'll be brief.

1. In what ways do you feel that finishing the Wheel of Time helped to prepare you for The Stormlight Archive and how did it change your writing in general, if at all?

2. I love Wax as a Skimmer and a Coinshot. Is that your favorite Twinborn combination? If not, what is?

3. Having to do with Legion, if you could take a picture of any historical event what would it be?

Thanks again for doing this. I look forward to all the answers!

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Hi Brandon! So glad you could come! I only have a few—or a lot of— questions:

Is JeksonsonVallano important?

Is JeksonsonVallano SzethsonsonVallano's brother?

What did Jek and Szeth do to become Truthless?

Does SzethsonsonVallano's Surgebinding require HonorSpren like Kaladin's?

Can people from one are of the cosmere Ruturn to the place from the cosmere where Awakeners are from (forgot the name)?

Are Surgebinding and Awakening related?

Is there a way to harvest BioChromatic Breath from a planet, if it holds any? (If a person dies, and their body turns to dusty he dust of the earth, then doesn't the earth—or sharever planet they have—therefore hold thousands, if not millions, of BioChromatic Breaths?)

What is your favorite world of the cosmere?

Edited by Stroniax
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Alrighty then for some questions:

1. Could a shard blade holder potential drill a hole through the planet by using his blade like Dalinar?

2. Would a breath imbued object stop a shard blade?

3. Is there any ramifications to the holder of a shard blade for using a blade in a manner that it wasn't intended?

4. Is it possible for a non-native being to use a shard blade?

5. Is Hoids base magic system Lightweaving?

6. Are there any ramifications beyond leaving one's world behind when they world hop to other worlds? IE physical ailment, aging, time travel lag X1000

7. Is there a magic system that best allows people to world hop between worlds?

8. Are there any world hoppers that we should recognize as world hoppers in anything other than tWok beyond Hoid?

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And I'm gonna go ahead and ask completely oddball questions, because I am me and therefore must.

1: Are there any plans for a world where the magic system operates through devices that transform and empower individuals with spectacular abilities? Like...say...a belt with an ornate buckle...a bracer..things like that?

2: I've heard tell of an upcoming book where the magic is based on forging. This excites me greatly, and I was wondering if you could give us just a smidge more information regarding it? Either the world, the magic itself, or how it impacts said world? Though something like the Shard behind it would be awesome too..

3: What's your opinion on golems/constructs/robots? The Lifeless are a somewhat similar concept, but I was curious as to whether there's a world in the Cosmere that might have a more classical take on ye ol' fantasy standby guardian, or are Awakened suits of armor as close as we can get? Is the Future Mistborn trilogy going to have Anti-Allomancer Alluminaughts?

4: Unrelated to the Cosmere, simply from one guy who fancies himself a writer now and again to a wildly successful author I respect deeply; I run a forum RP here on the site called Seeking The Eternal Conflux, and it would pretty much make my year to hear your opinion on the concept and Races I've constructed thus far, and whether or not it's a foundation for a compelling story.

That's all from this chunk of psychic crystal, thanks again for all the wonderful reads so far, Mr. Sanderson. I'm practically salivating waiting to get my hands on Stormlight 2.

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I'll be quite brief, as its getting reasonably late over here. I would first like to express my intense gratitude for such a prestigious author to answer the questions of some of us insane folk, and I just know that this'll get us all pulling up all sorts of obscure references from this Q&A at least until Stormlight 2, and most likely will fuel discussion for months!

I have only a few simple questions that are mostly a matter of clarity, and a few that are needed to fill gaps in our knowledge, or to clear a current discussion; here goes:

  1. So, firstly, is the Cognitive realm the only way to access the Spiritual Realm from the Physical Realm, and vice versa?
  2. Can magic systems from one world work in any given other?
  3. Does the Spiritual power used in any given magic system come from the supporting Shard itself, or through it from the remains of Adonalsium and the Power of Creation?
  4. Lastly, less pressingly, do Spirit Points (hemalurgic spots) apply to ever magic system, and through the Cosmere at large? Ie. could Hemalurgy be used to take any other magic systems aspects, and do other magic systems also have these 'Points', such as Body Focuses, that work in similar ways?

Thankyou so much for taking the time to answer even some of these question! And keep up the great work, I can't wait for Stormlight 2!

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Hello Mr Sanderson and thank you so much for coming!!! Mistborn was the book that made me start to love fantasy, and TWOK is one of my absolute favorites, so I'm incredibly honored to have this chance to ask my favorite author some questions.


1. Where did you get the idea for your Adonalsium mythos? Did it develop in your head for a while, or did you have a sudden flash of inspiration.

2. How did you portray Jasnah's aitheism so well? As a staunch aitheist myself, I think you did an absolutely brilliant job. Honestly, It made me happy that a religious person was trying to understand my mindset. Anyway, who did you ask to get such accurate ideas of aitheist thought?

3. What is your favorite of your own books?

4. Any advice for an aspiring fantasy writer? Besides the obligatory "Read a lot and write a a lot!!!" Characterization advice is especially appreciated.

5. What has turned out better for you, starting with the characters, the plot, or the world when you are beginning the writing process for a book?

6. Out of all your magic systems, which one would you choose to be a user of?

7. Will you ever go into more detail about the dead original shardholders? I'd love to know what kind of people Tanavast, Ati, and Leras were.

8. I am currently trying to write a book in which the world is drastically different from earth. Do you think it is too ambitious to start out with such a complex setting?

9. Please bring back Kelsier!!!!!

Wow. 9? That's waaaaay more than I planned...

Thanks!!! I really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to do this.


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Hello! Thanks for doing this!

I assume you've answered everyone else's articulate and thought-through questions. Since those questions have all been asked, though, you'll have to forgive me for asking some baseless ones.

Baseless Stormlight Questions:

1) Could a Shardblade sever a Nathel Bond? Could it slice a Spren?

2) Could a Shardbearer materialize his or her Shardblade inside another person? What about something inanimate like stone?

3) Are the Heralds native to Roshar?

4) What's up with those fish in the Pure Lake?

5) Between the Parshendi and the Alethi harvesting gem-hearts, how long has it been since a Chasmfiend got to finish pupating?

One baseless Mistborn Question:

1) Does Sazed's biological body still exist somewhere? If so, does that body still possess Feruchemical abilities?

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1. Where did humanity originate in the cosmere?

2. Is there a chance that any dead protagonists will miraculously come back (IE Vin, Elend, Lightsong) to help fight later battles? You have shown Kelsier having influence after he died, and Sazed makes a statement about keeping in touch with Vin and Elend.

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Hi Brandon. Thanks for taking time to do this. I'm a fan of everything you've written, but the Alcatraz series is my favorite, and I've managed to get a few of my family addicted to it as well.

What are the chances that you will eventually write a fifth Alcatraz book?

Does Alcatraz ever actually end up tied to a stack of encyclopedias, about to be sacrificed by evil librarians?

What is your Smedry talent?

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Hello Brandon (and Peter)

Thank you guys so much for giving us the opportunity to take up some of your time. Hopefully it isn't too onerous.

1) Would you (and the other Writing Excuses crew) considering putting a ticker up on the website indicating what books you guys are reading? Given how useful the podcasts are, I suspect that an insight into what you four read would be equally fascinating.

2) What question do you wish that readers would ask you but that no one has?

3) Could an iron twinborn "fly" by drastically increasing his weight, pulling hard on a counterweight so it flew above him, then decreasing his weight drastically and pulling himself up by the counterweight, and repeating?

4) It seems that certain colors and numbers appear frequently in specific cosmere books, like the number 5 in Warbreaker or red and blue in Elantris. Do these colors or numbers happen to refer to a specific shard, and if so, would they be consistent across the cosmere?

5) And finally, to speak non-canonically, would burning copper mask someone channeling the one power, and would burning bronze allow one to detect when someone was channeling? **wait, that's probably too Wheel of Time-y**

And it's only fair that I say thank you for answering some questions. Specifically, how about thanks in the following forms:

1) Thanks for posting drafts of Warbreaker online, free. It's been ridiculously fascinating to see how one author does it.

2) Thanks for caring about your work so much. Giving out a free digital version of Legion to those who bought that hard copy shows a lot of chutzpah

3) Thanks for the bonus content. The annotations are utterly delicious. And I must say, I love the digital version of Warbreaker that has them in it. I hope you do that for other digital releases (when possible, of course).

4) Thanks for taking an interest in would-be writers. I suspect you could have written another book or two in the time its taken you to podcast seven seasons of Writing Excuses, numerous essays and blogs, and the time you've taken to talk to individuals about it.

5) And since my fifth question was very Wheel of Time-y, how about my fifth thanks is the same? Thanks for finishing that series. I know it took a lot of time away from your own projects, yet you treated it like a labor of love rather than just a career opportunity.

Edited by Thought
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Sorry if any of these have been asked before, but here are some things that are going around the Stormlight Archive forums:

1. Szeth mentions that Lashings don't work with shardplate (on?). Is there any way to get around this (As in, lashing with shardplate on, or lashing people with shardplate on), and, if so, does it have anything to do with the Knights Radiant and/or their ideals?

2. Is Szeth bound to his Oathstone by anything but honor (not the shard. No loopholes here ;) )?

3. In one of the death sentence things it says something like three of sixteen ruled, but now the broken one reigns. Is this referring to the Shards on Roshar and if so, is the broken one Odium?

4. Are Dawnshards the same thing as Honorblades?

5. Are spren Cognitive aspects?

Thanks in advance :).

Edited by Zenith
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Love Q&A's.

Two questions.


In Mistborn 3, what spooked Vin off from meeting Hoid? (My theroy is Ruin's infulence, because he didn't want Hoid interfering(sub question that just occured to me. Was Ruin aware of Hoid on Scadrial?)


What would Hoid have told her if they had talked?

Edited by NeverKnowsBest
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This silly question has been burning in my head ever since I reread Warbreaker a few weeks ago:

Can male members of the Idrian royal family and or Returned grow out their facial hair at will? If so, can this lead to epic beard competitions?

Edited by joh-wee
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First time poster (and what better way to start than by asking the author of my favorite books some questions?) :D

Regarding Scadrial:

1. When Scadrial was closer to the sun, can we safely assume that the middle section of the planet was scorched clean of anything living? Could there have been some underground life thing going on? Anything cool or interesting sitting out there (like ruins or some lost technology)?

2. What's up at the south end of the world (during the 'closer to the sun' phase)? Life there? Cultures? Allomancers? Assuming that there is some life down there, can we assume that we'll have some interesting 'culture clashes' in future books?

3. What's the closest that humans had gotten to the 'inhabitable' zone of the planet during the events of the first Mistborn trilogy?

Regarding Roshar:

1. Dalinar ever getting an honorspren? :D

2. Is there a functional/structural difference between modern-day Shardplate and the stuff the Radiants wore? Did the Radiants have to use infused gems to keep their suits going or could they just 'breathe in' Stormlight and feed the suit off of their 'inhaled' reserves?

Uhh...guess that's it. I'm sure I'll kick myself later for forgetting one, but I guess I'd never be done with this post at that rate. :D

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Hey Brandon,

Okay, I have two questions I have thought about for some time. One is to satisfy my inner nerd, and the other pertains to your writing.

1) After reading The Way of Kings, I couldn't help but to wonder this: hypothetically if there were two equally skilled combatants in every way, one armed with a Shardblade and the other with a Lightsaber, and take magic and the Force out of the equation (except for the weapons themselves), who would win? And yes, the Shardblade would have already been summoned and the two are just squaring off in a dual. Have fun with it.

2) I am formerly a Sergeant in the United States Army Reserves. Having read all of your work except for your Wheel of Time additions, I couldn't help but to see that you have a good grasp of leadership displayed in your writing. When I finished reading the scene in The Way of Kings about Kaladin ordering Bridge Four to carry their bridge into battle in a way that would protect them, but ended up causing defeat for the rest of the army, you wrote a well described contrast between an NCO and a high ranking officer (not saying an officer would act like Sadeas by the means of using bridge men like he does), and how the two types of leaders look at battle. I was wondering, do you draw from your own experiences, or study others, or something entirely different you use when you write leadership roles in your characters and how they act in different situations utilizing that trait?

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions!

Edited by astalduath
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