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2017-02-17 Boskone 54 - Boston, MA


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I didn't see an event thread for this yet, so I figured I would make one. This is a three day sci-fi/fantasy convention that Brandon will be attending as the "Guest of Honor", though it's not clear from either Brandon's website or the con website exactly what that entails. Here's a link to more info about the convention itself: http://www.boskone.org/

It seems like a pretty cool convention, and there are a ton of authors attending. I'd like to go but I'm holding off on buying a ticket until I can get more info about the schedule. Apparently, anyone can attend for free from 2:00 to 6:00 on Friday, with a pass for the entire weekend costing $55. The price will go up in January, so if you're interested I would recommend getting your pass sooner rather than later.

Anyone been to this convention before?


Here are all the recordings that have been posted so far. I believe we have at least one recording up for every event, though there may be duplicates floating around on the internet somewhere. I'll be updating with links to transcriptions and progress:

  1. Friday Signing Line (2 h 18 min, 260 MB) (Transcript complete)
  2. House War Q&A (22 min, 42 MB) (Transcript complete)
  3. Rithmatist Q&A (55 min, 103 MB) (Video) (Transcript complete)
  4. Career Panel (56 min, 105 MB)/Second Recording Note: no book-related questions
  5. Reading/Q&A Session (Audio) (Transcript of the first reading and Q&A complete. The second reading has already been transcribed in other places.)
  6. Sunday Signing/Second Recording with more questions (Transcript complete)
  7. Sunday Post-Signing Q&A (Transcript completed, could use a second listen to double check everything)

There were two readings done. One was the prologue of Oathbringer, the other was a "goofy" interlude about two ardents reading romance novels. Some interesting tidbits in the interlude though.

Edited by BeskarKomrk
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EDIT 2: Here are the transcripts of each of the events. Big thanks to all who helped complete them!

Friday Signing



(Paraphrased) [Brandon talking about how he likes detective stories but can’t write anything without Sci-fi/fantasy elements sneaking in. Legion was originally a straight-up detective story.]



Q: How do you keep your characters’ voices distinctive? Because Jordan is terrible, all the women sound exactly the same, but you don’t.

A: It’s weird. Character is the one I have the hardest time talking about. I’m naturally an outliner and planner for everything but my characters. What I do is, I cast my characters. I put a person in this role and I write a scene from their viewpoint and, if it is distinctive and it works, I go with it. If not, I set it aside and I try some other personality until I get something that  feels distinctive, and then I use that chapter as a model. Anytime I’m going to go back to that character, I go back to that chapter like, this is who they are. Later on, I’ll have touchstone chapters where they change and I’ll use that one instead.



The Flash: Hoid. Does he have more unkeyed metalminds?

A: Hoid has access to lots of different things, so, yes he does.



Q: The Heralds, back before Honor died, were they directly powered by Honor?

A: Yes. You’ll find out more about that, but the Shardblades (pretty sure he means Honorblades here) were pieces of Honor’s soul that he gave them and direct access to his essence.

Q: Like Vin and Elend?

A: Yeah, a little like that. That’s why Honorblades don’t work like Shardblades do, like Radiants do.

Q: The second part of the question is, what would happen if they were directly powered by Honor and they were holding Nightblood?




Q: Why does Stormlight make things cold?

A: It’s not the Stormlight, it’s condensation because something is going directly from a gas into a solid. The coldness is caused by that, it’s not necessarily that the Stormlight is making things cold, but that the Shardblade is condensing.



(Paraphrased) [Something about Szeth anticipating a bloody revenge story where he takes on the other Shin with the Honorblades. Questioner’s brother says he hopes that Szeth gets bloody revenge on everyone who made him Truthless. Brandon says that Szeth wants that too.]



Q: Szeth, can he or will he use both a spren Shardblade and Nightblood at the same time?

A: He will be using Nightblood, the rest is a RAFO



Q: (Paraphrased) [Something about treating religion fairly]

A: I feel that a story is best when there are multiple people with strong viewpoints who disagree.

Q: In a lot of books, religion is the weakness.

A: I always hate it when there’s a character in a book who expresses an opinion I have, and they’re the idiot.



Q: The first book of yours I read was probably the sixth draft of Warbreaker on your website.

A: I will do that again with Nightblood, whenever I write it.



Q: Lopen. Is he a squire, or does he actually have a spren?

A: He’s a squire. You’ll find out a lot more about what the squires are in the upcoming book. For most orders, squire were knights radiant potentially in training, so you can see what happens in the next book.



Q: I’m curious, are the red eyes in The Bands of Mourning also linked to Odium?

A: There’s a similar thing happening, but it may not be the link you expect.


[56:30] (ccstat’s questions)

Q: (written in book: Do oathgates obey physical realm speed-of-light constraints?)

A: (written in book: Nope! Good question.)

A: We are playing fast and loose with causality.


Q: (written in book: Is there a radiant order that would accept Allomancer Jak?)

A: (written in book: It would depend on the spren, but possibly. There are a few that would have liked him once...)

A: There’s some portent in that answer.


Q: Nalthis has 5-centric numerology.

A: Okay

Q: Do regular humans count as the 5th type of biochromatic entity?

A: [laughs] Um, I will RAFO that, not for any real good reason, but for a mini-good reason.


Q: We know that recording things can lock spren into position in the cognitive realm. Does the existence of the written Diagram have a significant Realmatic effect.

A: The Diagram has Realmatic significance.

Q: Did Taravangian know that when he wrote it?

A: Define “know.” On the same level perhaps that a table on Roshar knows it’s a table.



Q: In the Stormlight Archive we saw the sword from Warbreaker and we also know that the royal line can change more than just their hair, will that come into play?

A: They can! What’s that?

Q: ... will that come into play?

A: That will come into play, keep your eyes open.



Q: (hard to hear) In Sixth of the Dusk, the Aviar, they [ate all those worms]. What happens if someone else eats the worms on Patji? Do they get powers?

A: Has-- It doesn’t work for a human. They’ve tried that. But there might be something more there.



Q: Out of all the magic systems, do you have a favorite?

A: Allomancy



Q: Is being a Knight Radiant at all genetic? Because you have Jasnah, Dalinar, and Renarin in the same family.

A: It is not genetic, however… Um… Families or people close to one another are more likely. It’s not genetic. So for instance, if everyone were adopted it would still have the same prevalence.

Q: Okay, fascinating!

A: Um, so there--

Q: [interruption hard to hear]

A: Well, there are a couple of reasons for that. One is which, attracting the attention of a spren can mean that other spren are paying attention to that area. There are also things in the Cosmere (the shared universe of them) where people are connected spiritually. Um… and that’s part of the magic as well. So… You are more likely to become a Radiant if you know a Radiant.



Q: I’m a big fan of Jasnah. And I hope you’ll do her justice in the next book. Do you say it “Jasnah” or “Jasnah”? [different pronunciations]

A: I say “Jasnah”, but you can say it however you want. Remember she’s got a--- she will get a book in the series that has her flashback sequence--

Q: Good!

A: --but it’s a little ways off.

Q: Does she get a [???]?

A: She will-- She… You will see a lot more of her, but she is intended to be one of the main characters of the second five Stormlight books. In the first five Stormlight books she’s a supporting character. So we’ll reverse some of the supporting characters and some of the main characters in book 6. Um… So you just gotta to wait until we get some more. But she is on the cover of book 3, so...



Q: Who is your favorite character in any of your stories?

A: I don’t pick favorites. That’s like favorite children. It’s whoever I’m writing right now. [pause] My least favorite is Cadsuane, from the Wheel of Time. I can pick that.



Q: Do you update your own website? [...] I was wondering because you’re [...]

A: If it’s in my voice, then I wrote it. Uh… Anyone who updates-- Like you go sometimes [wording?] say “Assistant Adam here, here is something Brandon told me…” So if you hear an “I”, it is me. If it’s not an “I”-- it’s in third person or something-- then it’s one of my assistants.


[84:45] origin of idea for Rithmatist

Q: I just finished Rithmatist, so just a general question, where did the idea come from?

A: The Rithmatist began as the magic system as you probably could guess. I wanted to do an interesting magic system that people played a game with. Because I have used most of my magic… You’ll read in these, that they’re kind of martial arts based, warfare based, things like that. I’m like, people play games with everything. Why do I have no games-- magic systems with games. So it kind of just spun out of that.



Q: With the introduction of ebooks does that really like, open up a way for new authors?

A: It did. It’s actually-- what we find is in general, more authors can make it professionally, though across the board everyone earns a little bit less. Um, and so, but that’s like… that’s a very good thing for new authors. It means there’s more opportunity to break in. And I do talk in the lectures-- I have a self-published person come in and talk about breaking in through self publishing, which is totally viable these days.

Q: Is it easier to move to actual publishing from the ebooks?
A: It is... It is. Usually they say your threshold is when you’re selling ten thousand books. If you can get to ten thousand. Then New York publishers will be willing to give you enough of an advance that it’s worth it for you to take it. So that’s kind of your threshold. Between two thousand and ten thousand they’re willing to look at you. So that’s kind of where you want to try to hit. And the best thing you can do with self publishing is… The best thing you can do for your writing is just to keep writing. And the best thing you can do for self publishing is to maybe save up until you’ve got a couple books. You know, write one, then go write the second, then revise the first and make it good, then release that, then revise the second and release that. So you can kind of do two…

Q: So get like some books in your holster before you start…

A: Yeah yeah, you probably at least want to know that you’ve been able to take a little time and get two or three done. Then release them in rapid fire and use them to promote one another. Plus you will learn so much writing your first few books that by the time you’re done with your third one you can revise the first and they’ll have an even quality rather than kind of-- you know--

A: Better every time.

Q: Yeah.



Q: I was actually curious how you ended up with such a mathematically heavy magic system in The Rithmatist.

A: I wanted to do something different. I wanted to push myself and stretch, and it is where it went. It was very much a discovery written book, rather than an outline book. I was writing it to avoid writing something else that I didn’t want to be writing.

Q: What were you avoiding?

A: I was avoiding Dragonsteel, the Liar of Partinel, which didn’t work. I didn’t know how to fix it, and I still don’t.



Q: When are you going to finish the Alcatraz Smedry series?

A: Soon. Now, Alcatraz Smedry series is finished, but Bastille’s series of one book is not. Right? Have you read that?

Q: I have not.

A: So in the end of the fifth book Alcatraz says it’s the end and refuses to write any more. Cause there is a fifth book. And then there’s a note from Bastille, and she says, “He’s an idiot. I will finish the series so that you can get the actual ending.”

Q: So, is the whole Alcatraz Smedry series out?

A: The fifth book is out. And then, but you’ve got to remember that there’s one more book that Bastille is writing because Alcatraz is stupid, and he won’t finish his own series.

Q: That’s cool!

A: So, you can read the fifth book and it is his ending, but it’s a downer. I’m just warning you. Because he thinks he’s not a hero and he wants it to be a downer of ending to his series. And she is going to write a different ending.



Q: What powers does Mizzy have?

A: I’m not telling people that yet, mostly because I haven’t decided 100% how I want it to work yet. I know basically what I want to do, but I haven’t decided how I’m going to play it out. I’m not telling people until I get the book actually written.

Q: Does that mean there’s another book?

A: Yes, if I write another book, it will be a Mizzy book.


[106:45] (BeskarKomrk’s question)

Q: It’s fairly heavily implied in the Stormlight books that there’s some sort of correspondence between the Chasmfiends and the Thunderclasts. They’re described very similarly and... I was wondering if there’s a similar sort of correspondence, possibly, between the Whitespines and the Midnight Essences?

A: Uh... yes, yes. More tenuous, but yes.

Q: But kind of similar?

A: Yeah. The Midnight Essence generally imitates what it sees around it.



Q: When Vin hears Reen’s voice in the beginning, is that Ruin at that point?

A: So, there are times where it’s just her remembering him actually talking to her. And there are times when it’s Ruin. It’s usually pretty obvious when it’s Ruin. The ring will be in, and it will kind of force its way into her head a little more directly. So kind of watch for that. If the earring isn’t in, or if it just kind of flows naturally and she’s remembering something he talked to her about, it’s not always going to be Ruin.



Q: If you gather the essence of a Shard can you reassemble a [disassembled?] Shard?

A: [Jokes and shows him a RAFO? Never answered?]



Q: Are Odium and Harmony aware of each other, and will they ever directly come at each other?

A: They are aware of each other, and they are both frightened of the other one for different reasons. Or at least “wary of” perhaps is a better term.

Q: That’s interesting. Is that in the narrative perhaps at some point in the future? (another person?) [...] between Harmony and Odium?

A: [RAFO cards]


[113:15] (Bromo_Sapien’s questions) What happens to physical body when you travel to Shadesmar.  

Q: When somebody travels into the cognitive realm, what happens to their physical self? To their body? Like Elsecalling or through a Shardpool?

A: Um, well it depends on the way they’re doing it. The two ways you’ve mentioned transport the physical body. It’s actually creating a rift and slipping them through. But there are other ways that you kind of peek in, where you’re body’s saying it’s a little more astral projection-y in those cases.

Q: So their physical self would also be in the cognitive realm?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay.

A: Which is weird.

Q: Yeah.

A: But yes, um...

Q: As opposed to somebody like Kelsier who died and no longer has a physical self.

A: Yes, right. Or when Shallan is soulcasting and peeking in, and things like this. Like… Um… It can still be dangerous, because what’s happening is that little soul bubble there that’s manifesting into a version of your soul and then things can get at it in different ways and stuff. So... But yes, going in physically means you just pop between realms, and yeah, yeah…

Q: And when they leave the cognitive realm their physical self just leaves the cognitive realm the same...

A: Yep, mhm, yep.

Q: Perfect.

A: Basically you’re transferring into investiture and popping out of investiture, so...



Q: What about the Rithmatist? I know there’s a sequel.

A: I will be writing one, I haven’t written it yet. The problem is, I was working on the series when the Wheel of Time happened. It interrupted the series, so I haven’t been able to find the chance to get back to it. But I will do another one.

Q: Are there multiple planned?

A: I had an outline for three. And then I tried to write the second one about three years ago and I didn’t like that outline anymore, so I tossed it and rebuilt it. So now I only have an outline for two that implies a third. We’ll see what happens when I write the second.



Q: From all of your Cosmere books, do you have anywhere written what the timeframe between the series are?

A: I haven’t done that officially. We have it ourselves. What I’ve told people is that they are basically in order of being released. I haven’t jumped back. At least if you count the first of each individual series. So they’re roughly in order chronologically. White Sand is out of order because that’s chronologically one of the earliest. And now Stormlight and Wax & Wayne… Wax & Wayne are post-Stormlight, but I’m releasing… You know, it’s a little mixed up now.

Q: Okay, I was almost expecting that in the Arcanum.

A: Yeah, we will do that eventually. There are just some secrets in there that I’m not sure I want to release, and there are other things I’m not sure I want to canonize because I’m still tweaking the dates a little bit.


[132:00] (yulerule’s questions)

Q: I know you’ve thought out a lot, especially like the Cosmere and how the magic works and everything, but I know the Sharders and everybody have been doing really ridiculous tiny details. Have they thought of something that made you revise anything or...

A: I generally try to avoid revising to what the fans come up with.

Q: Not what they come up with because of ideas that you haven’t thought of or…

A: Oh yeah, on occasion they say something where I’m like, “Yes, that is the right thing,” and then I just canonize it. So yes they do influence it that way.

House War Q&A



Q: Could a Soother prevent a listener from attuning a given rhythm?

A: No. A coppercloud could, but I hadn't thought about emotional allomancy interacting. See, the rhythm isn't your emotion and doesn't determine your mood. It is a direct connection to the spiritual realm. So I guess soothing could make it harder just like it makes anything harder, in the same way that driving a car would be harder. [recording starts here] And so, for the same reasons that you can, um, it is possible that a coppercloud can play with it.  Not a normal power of a coppercloud, but you’ve seen them do stuff similar.



Q: So with soulforging, are you able to soulforge yourself so that you die?

A: Uh, can you soulforge yourself to death? So, soulforging that requires large state changes of investiture and/or inputs of investiture are very difficult. However, killing yourself is not that hard, but basically you could - so, soulforging yourself so that you are already dead would a little bit harder, but soulforging yourself would be, yeah.



Q: and be able to check in the afterlife and then return -

A: No, because transfer of investiture to and from the Beyond or even into the Cognitive Realm is going to require more investiture than a forger pulls through, you can forge yourself to death.

Q: So I can kill myself but I can’t come back.

A:Yes. That would be one of those things where you kill yourself, your soul passes to the Beyond, your body when the forgery is broken comes back, and just dead.



Q: Where do the people in the Stormlight Archive get all their leather?

A: They have great farms of pigs. You notice, leather is usually called hogshide, but it’s all hog leather.



Q: What kind of qualities attract an inkspren?

A: Inkspren do not like how variable humans are. It’s a thing out of honor, and they like people who are logical and willing to think about their lives and not react as much by instinct.

They are looking more - the scholar is the perfect example, but a soldier who is very thoughtful and is not just rushing into battle could be chosen as well.



Q: How do you do it? (after saying he likes the characters and societies that Brandon writes)

A: Lots of practice. Lots of reading in the genre and loving the genre. A little bit of talent, a lot of loving the genre, and a lot of practice for a long time.

Q: I haven’t read Mistborn, but I’ve read this one [Stormlight]. How do you come up with the culture, the society?

A: It depends on the book. Stormlight is my best series. If you haven’t tried Emperor’s Soul, it’s the other thing that I think is on Stormlight’s level, but it’s a short. What I’m looking to do with something like Stormlight is to say that the fantasy genre should be the most magical genre, right? Classically, science fiction has done a better job with the worldbuilding, and fantasy has tended to do a better job with things like characters and story. Not that there’s not science fiction that has great, you know, but usually science fiction’s been about the ideas and the interesting settings, but in fantasy we play it safe with the settings and try to do interesting characters. Which I’ve always thought, “Why do we do that? Why do we play it safe with our settings? Why don’t we have really bizarre, fantastical settings?”. So for years, even before I became a published author, I was searching for ones that would have one foot in science fiction. I want to do something magical as an origin, like the highstorm, you know, the physics of the highstorm don’t actually work, but we take it for assumed and then we try to extrapolate a realistic extrapolation of the world from that. That’s just what I’m doing, I’m trying to set up some sort fantastical setting or environment and then let science fiction take over and try and build how it would grow. On the cultures, usually I’m taking things I’ve learned about our culture and I am just trying to [...] a fantastical version. Sometimes when you do that you can say something interesting about human society, removed from the baggage of human society. There was a brief time in the pre-Victorian era where, for women, showing your ankle was more taboo than showing your chest. In fact, they would have pictures painted of them, noblewomen, in a state of what you’d call topless. Not a problem; a little risque, like what wearing a low-cut shirt is now, but no big deal. That’s bizarre to us, because, our society that’s not how it is. But if I put that in, in a fantasy book as a safehand, I can say, look, human beings do bizarre things as far as gender roles, socialization of gender, and what we find attractive. This should be very bizarre to you, but the reactions are normal. That disconnect is what helps build a fantastical society and lets me say a few things about our society, I hope in interesting ways.



Q: If you could tell yourself 10 years ago any one thing, what would it be?

A: Ten years ago? Ten years ago, I’d say “Re-read the Wheel of Time. Start early”. I got the call in 2007, September, and this would 2007 in February, and I’d have six months in my re-read going. It took me about a year to re-read the whole series and take notes on it. That would’ve been six months faster, and everyone would’ve gotten… also the book I was working on is one I never published, so I could’ve just dropped that book.

Q: So is it kind of surreal to you now, then, to be sort of like a [...] in the fantasy genre?

A: In the fantasy genre? Yes, I’ve kind of started to get over that. The real surreal stuff happened at the beginning, when I’m like, “I don’t deserve to be on a shelf with my favorite authors. I’m just this guy”. And then I kind of got used to that, and the rest has been easier than that initial “Why am I on the shelf with these folks?”. But you hit certain milestones where you’re like, book 3 of the Wheel of Time is when it really took off. None of you were back there then, you guys are all younger than me, but when we were reading them back then, books one and two were known fantasy quantities but not the dominant, and book three was where it was like, this is the dominant fantasy series. And I’m now releasing book three of my fantasy series. I have George Martin wayyyyyyy out beyond, I’m not going to take out that, but it is surreal to have my third book come out and to be selling so well and remembering, this is where Robert Jordan was at this point.

Q: You’re making your own path, different than Robert Jordan though.

A: Yeah, I always say that I’m very famous with a very small group of people. Until you have a film or a television show, you will never become a real household name, and that’s fine. Even if you do, George is not so famous, he’s the most famous fantasy writer, right, unless you count Jo Rowling. George is not so famous that he can’t walk down the street. No author gets so famous, I’ve been hanging out with George and we’re walking down the street and somebody says “Hi George” and he gets an autograph. But he can sit and have dinner and people don’t bug him, there’s not paparazzi at the windows. Even the top epic fantasy writer doesn’t have to worry about that. It’s actually the best type of fame to have. You can go to a convention like this and meet with a lot of people who’s work you’ve inspired and things like that, and it’s perfect, and then you go have a normal life. [...] you be a normal person, and it’s just the right amount. [...] our faces aren’t known, and that is what is so nice about this. If you were to take my salary, I get paid very well even compared to a football star, a music star, or an actor, but nobody knows my face. And it’s mostly because a dedicated group is hardcore [...] to my stuff. That is, thank you guys. You’ve made me the best kind of famous, stealth famous. It’s pretty awesome.



Q: On the [star map, there are different systems.]

A: Yes.

Q: And there are constellations.

A: Yes.

Q: But who’s looking at these constellations?

A: So it is from a specific perspective, that Isaac will someday reveal. He drew this at my request; this is from a frame of reference. But we haven’t told you what it is. The best guess is that it’s Silverlight. I haven’t confirmed it, but it is the best guess. The second best guess is Yolen. There are a couple things that people have guessed, but I haven’t confirmed which it is.



Q: You said writing the sequel to The Rithmatist is really challenging. Why is that?

A: Because when I started work on it, it was pre-Wheel of Time. The series got preempted by Wheel of Time, so it’s been ten years now since I wrote the first book. And I held it off and didn’t publish it for like five years, because I knew, I wanted to be closer to publication when I did a sequel. But when I dove back into the sequel a few years ago, I just wasn’t pleased with my outline anymore. One of the real challenging aspects of The Rithmatist is dealing with real history, real cultures, the fact that we have a bunch of colonialists living in America and all of this stuff and what happened to the indigenous peoples, and handling that without sticking my foot in my mouth is also really tricky. So you mix those two things, and I want to be very careful. So instead of writing the book, I read three books on Aztec culture. But then I didn’t have time to write the book. Eventually I will get to it, but it’s got some trickiness because of that.



Q: So, Shai and forgers. She forges the emperor’s soul, then she got to track by practicing on [Gaotona], and it kind of held for a minute since he was close to the emperor, and that means it was right. So it was basically trial and error.

A: It was.

Q: So even if she have a lot more time and a lot less information, she could’ve guessed?

A: Potentially, there’s a certain distance trial and error will take you; in a reasonable amount of time, there’s a certain distance that can take you.

Q: And in an unreasonable amount of time?

A: Unreasonable, yes. You can just trial and error your way through a lot of things.

Q: And by seeing it held on him for 24 hours of time, that means she got really close.

A: Yes.

Q: And when she was forging herself, she was basically forging lies.

A: She was forging lies, but she knew how to make them really plausible for herself. Plausibility is a really big part of it. Can you convince the soul to not just of yourself...

Q: The decisions that she could have made?

A: Yeah. That they were realistic, that they were there, that she could have made these, that everything lines up in the past. It’s a little like programming.

Q: So that’s why she could add a little bit to the emperor’s soul because that’s also plausible?

A: Yes.

Q: Could she have changed him more if she knew more about him?

A: Yes. She created a fake soul and put it in him, there are possibilities beyond what she did.

Q: So she could’ve gotten a bit wrong if her trial and error made it plausible instead of what happened?

A: Now, at least in her perspective, what she did was create a fake soul and put it in him. What I haven’t answered is did she just take the soul that was lingering on the body and fill in the gaps? Or did she legitimately craft a new soul? That I’ll leave to the cosmere philosophers to talk about.

Rithmatist Q&A


00:30 Q. When is the next book coming out?

Q: When’s the next one coming out?

A: The Rithmatist is the number one most requested sequel I get. This is probably because people know that I’m working on Stormlight, otherwise that would be the number one most requested. To understand, I have to tell you a story about where The Rithmatist came from. So after I finished Warbreaker, I very deliberately said, I want to write something else in the Cosmere, and maybe this is the time to write the backstory of a character named Hoid. So I sat down and tried to [...] write this book, which I called The Liar of Partinel. The book was a disaster. Sometimes even as a pro, books just don’t go well. I had a contract for it and everything. I was supposed to be writing this book, and then its sequel, and... big disaster. I finished the first book, I forced myself to finish it, but I had no desire to revise. It was just not what it needed to be. When I eventually write that story, people are going to be expecting a lot from it and it can’t be a half-hearted book, and it felt half-hearted. So instead of [...] I told my editor, “oh yeah, I’ll be getting to that” and I wrote a [...] book, which was called Scribbler back then.


Originally named Scribbler, and the origins for it were, the magic system is the start of this one, as you might be able to guess. I started doing these little drawings, which Ben McSweeney eventually re-drew to be a little bit better, but they started as my own drawing that we put between the chapters. But we started with those because I wanted to do something new with magic that I hadn’t done before. What I realized is that I never made a book where the magic was used to play games. We as human beings, we play games with everything. We turn anything into a game. This is a hallmark of humankind, we play with stuff. When we’re no longer killing each other, we come up with jousting, so we can make that a game. The idea of basically playing magical Starcraft on the ground around you was really interesting to me. So I started doing all these drawings and writing this book without telling my editor or anybody I was writing this book. Wonderful experience. The book came out very very well, it just came together. It’s one of those books, you don’t expect it, I didn’t have long term plans, I hadn’t worked on an outline for years and years, I discovery wrote most of the book.


About the time I had to go to my editor and tell him, “I’ve written a book on accident”, I think I sent you the Rithmatist, right Joshua? I said I wrote this book on accident, right around that time, I got a phone call from Harriet McDougal, who’s Robert Jordan’s widow. She said, it’s a long story but it ended with me on the phone with her, because she’d left me a voicemail and I’d missed it, but I eventually got a hold of her, and she said, “Well I was just wondering if you would be willing to finish my husband’s series, the Wheel of Time”. To which I responded, “dakjs;dlfj;alkna;sdf” [verbal keyboard smash basically]. I really did. I wrote her an email the next saying, “Dear Harriet, I promise I’m not an idiot.” But the book that got left hanging was the Rithmatist. Liar of Partinel I was happy to shelve and do nothing with. It wasn’t a good book. Rithmatist was. But I knew that if I were stopping to do the Wheel of Time that I would not have the time to do a Rithmatist sequel for a while. Because my career so far had gone standalone, series, standalone, and then I was looking to do another series, which is why I tried Liar of Partinel. Once I did Wheel of Time, I said now is the time to do Way of Kings, which I had been putting off for a while cause my skills weren’t capable. I tried it and it hadn’t worked and I was like, I need to get better as a writer. But I was pretty sure I could do it, so I sandwiched Way of Kings in between two Wheel of Time books. But then I had the Way of Kings going and people expecting those, which is a good thing I got started on it because it’s a long series. If I were still putting it off, we might have troubles when it actually came out.


So eventually, Rithmatist, I need to release this book, it’s really good, people are going to like this. So I gave it to Tor and had them release it. But the problem is, when am I going to do a sequel? It had been a little side project in the first place that I’d done instead of writing something else. I found time about 3 years ago. I took out my outline. My process often is, I will write a first book, then I will outline a series for it, then I will revise the first book to match the outline. I did this with Mistborn, I did it with the Reckoners, and I had gotten as far as outlining for the second book of the Rithmatist. I sat down to write it and I didn’t like the outline anymore. There were some things wrong with it. One, I had grown a lot as a writer. One, I don’t know if you guys discussed this, but the Rithmatist as a whole, it’s a great book but there’s a big danger zone in it. And that is, how do you treat indigenous people during the area of colonialism? There’s a big big minefield there, and the second book’s goal was to start dealing with that minefield, and I felt my outline for the second book did not do that respectfully. As I had grown as a writer, when I looked at the outline, and I was like, I cannot write this book because I’m not treating the original inhabitants of America’s cultures well enough. So I stopped and I read three books on Aztec culture. The second book is called the Aztlanian. Aztlan is the mythical origin of the Aztecs, it’s where their legends say they came from. If I’m dealing with real world mythology, that minefield grows so much bigger. You gotta do it right. This is something I wanted to do right. So I read a bunch of books. I rebuilt my outline, I felt really good about it, but there was no more time to write. I had a month or two left, so I wrote the fifth Alcatraz book instead. I can do those in a month or so, but this I knew was going to take three to four months, so I put it off again.


I’m still looking for a hole in my schedule. The new outline for the Aztlanian is very good, it’s solid, I feel like I’ve got a handle on how to write it in a sensitive way, because we don’t want to avoid difficult topics in science fiction and fantasy. If we do that, it’s just the same as it’s always been. But if you are going to touch on sensitive topics, you need to do it really well. I really like where it is now, but when am I going to write the Aztlanian? I don’t know yet. The answer to you is, when am I going to do this? I have to find a time between my mainline projects, which right now are Stormlight Archive for Tor, alternating with Mistborn novels, and for Random house it’s the Reckoners books and that sequence. In between one of those times, I will find some time to the Aztlanian, and I will do it, and I hope it will be awesome, but I don’t know when that is. This is the book I’ve left hanging the most. Most everything else is a side project or it’s the Alcatraz books, which I’m making fun of people by taking a long long time, it’s intentional. If you haven’t read those books, they’re very different from everything else that I’ve done. The whole point is to make fun of the reader while the reader reads them. Every book plays some sort of dirty trick on the reader. The fifth book ends on a huge huge huge down note with the author, who’s Alcatraz, of the book saying “I’m not going to write any more, sorry guys”. But then there’s a little footnote at the end, one of the other characters like, “I’ll write the story so you get an actual ending.” Jokes like that on the reader, and the fact that it’s taking forever is part of the joke. Rithmatist is the one I actually feel bad about.


09:45 Q Who is the Rithmatist referenced in the title?

Discussion moderator: So the question I asked, at the beginning of this session, is: You used the definite article…

Brandon: Yes

Moderator: Who’s the Rithmatist?

Brandon: Who’s the Rithmatist? So I imagined the Rithmatist more being a, um, a book like, let’s see if I can find an example of it. It’s not defining a person, um, it is, uh…

Moderator: The role of the Rithmatist.

Brandon: ...trying to. Yeah, yeah. Like I’m trying to find… There’s books that are like this, where it’s just like, uh, it’s almost like you could call a series The Rithmatist, The Archive, the this, that sort of idea where the title is… Look, it was originally called Scribbler, um, and Tor suggested changing the title to something that highlighted the magic a little bit more and was a better fit, and I liked The Rithmatist as that, but it’s particularly because the future books could be The Aztlanian and The Nebraskan.

Moderator: And they’ll fit, they’ll be right next to one another--no they won’t. Cause the doesn’t get catalogued.

Brandon: Yes, exactly, but it felt like it was going to, uh, it just worked. But The Rithmatist more is like, you know, it’s not specifically any individual. I know there are other books that have this feel. But yeah, all right. What do you guys want to know from me? Go ahead.


10:55 Q Are shadowblaze afraid of clocks the same way the Forgotten are.

Ironeyes: So, uh, we know that the charcoal creatures…

Brandon: Yes.

Ironeyes: ...are afraid of coins.

Brandon: Yes.

Ironeyes: So are the white chalk creatures, which I think are called Shadowblazes…

Brandon: Yes.

Ironeyes: Are they also afraid of coins?

Brandon: Are they also afraid of coins? To a much lesser extent. Um, I can give you guys some backstory on this. What’s going on here is that the place these things come from, um, linear structure and things like this are frightening to them, like they come from a non-linear location. Time does not move linearly where they come from. When they come into this world, structure and linear time progression, is bizarre to them. And there are some who have embraced it, and been like, “This is cool and different!” and there are others that are still terrified of it, as a representation of what is so alien from the world they came from. So that’s why we’ve got this whole clocks, and even structure, as a metaphor for, um, something that is terrifying to them.

Uh, Rithmatist started in the Cosmere. The magic shares a lot of its roots, then, in Cosmere magic worldbuilding. I split if off because I wrote the whole first book with it being in the Cosmere. I split it off, saying “No, I don’t want Earth to be in the Cosmere.” Even an alternate version of Earth. It just raises too many questions about the nature of Earth being involved in this. I want the Cosmere to be its own dwarf galaxy of which not even a dimension of Earth is involved. And when I made that decision, I broke Rithmatist off. That’s the only one I had written that didn’t belong, but it still has, so, it means that the magic is going to feel very familiar to you, uh, it’s going to feel like the magic of a, um, of the Cosmere. And Cosmere magic is based around, usually, human beings making a symbiotic bond with an entity made out of the magic. This is, kind of, one of the origins of Cosmere magic, and Rithmatist has, therefore, its roots in that. I’ve done some things since I’ve split it off in the outlines to distinguish it, but it’s going to have the same roots. So you’ll notice some things like that, that are similar.

Question: Uh, before you split The Rithmatist from the Cosmere, did the Shadowblazes come from the Cognitive realm?

Brandon: Yeah. Yeah, the Shadowblazes were in the Cognitive realm, they’re--you know, well, they’re more Spiritual realm. They were Spiritual realm, sorry. They were Spiritual realm entities that got pulled in, uh, to the Physical realm. And the Spiritual realm has no time, um, it exists independent of time and location, all times and all places are one, and so, uh, when something that’s from the Spiritual realm got pulled into the Physical realm, it was like, “This is so weird!” Um, and there are very few things in the Cosmere that exist only on the Spiritual realm, which was a really fun thing I could do with this book, was show that. Cause most things exist on all three realms. Um, so, yeah. So, yeah, I mean if you’ve got, if you’re a Cosmere, uh, theologian--not theologian, magic, uh, what do you call it? Uh, they call that, uh, I have a word for it in-world. But anyway, if you’re a realmatic theorist, you can kind of pick out how the Spiritual realm beings were related, originally, to the realmatic theory.


14:15 Q The Great Circle in Nebrask shows you can scale up defenses. Can you make giant chalklings?

Ccstat: So the Great Circle at Nebrask shows that you can really scale up the…

Brandon: Yes

Ccstat: ...defenses. Could you also scale up and draw a Godzilla-size chalkling?

Brandon: Uh, this is theoretically possible (laughter). Yeah, yeah. Theoretically possible.


14:30 Q Circle strength is based on curvature

Q: Circle strength is based on curvature, so how can a scaled-up circle be strong, since the local curvature drops very low? Is the inside of a circle stronger than the outside?

A: Theoretically would be, yes. Scale is a big fun thing I have built into the outline of The Nebraskan, when and if I write it. This is about 1908, but it’s not an exact analogue, they’re like 1930’s equivalent, maybe a little bit more on some things. At that time, we were really learning to do math, mathematical projects on a large scale [...] so this is where I was pushing for this.


16:00 Q What inspired the United Isles?

Q: I was just wondering what your inspiration was for the setting, for the United Isles.

A: The United Isles. We call this historical fantasy, this is where you take a historical period and you fantasize it. I knew I was so divergent from our world that I wanted people immediately to know, complete alternate dimension. I wanted an easy early sign that when you read this, you weren’t going to be asking, “What happened in the War of 1812 in this?” I didn’t want you to be asking that, I wanted you to say, this is so different from our history that I can’t take anything for granted anymore. Which allows me to sweep away expectations and rebuild them in the way I want. You run into this all the time in fantasy, like, you ever want to write a book about vampires, everyone’s immediately going to bring to that world a lot of expectations. It’s much more important early on to sweep away expectations if you’re not going to fulfill them. So with Rithmatist, I was looking for a way to do this, and the idea of America as an [planet?] archipelago was really cool to me, and I also wanted to indicate that things were really bizarre. It’s a much smaller planet version of Earth, so I could put in time distances and say, you can take the train to London and it doesn’t take that long. In their terms it takes forever, for us it’s not that long. Smaller planet, denser core, everything’s islands. This is to say, I’m throwing out everything about our Earth and rebuilding a fantastical version of it.


17:48 Q Why Nebrask

Q: Why’d you pick Nebraska?

A: I’m from Nebraska. I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and I thought, if I’m going to put in a place that’s a weird, crazy dangerous place, why not make it Nebraska? A lot of the defenses are named for people I knew in Nebraska. There’s an Osbourne defense. Anyone from Nebraska will be able to pick out where I got that. A lot of my friends, my parent’s friends growing up, I just named defenses after them. That’s where that came from, it’s got all this Nebraska stuff.


18:40 Q Why no gunpowder?

Q: Going back to the technology issue, in some of your books, particularly the Mistborn books, you explain why technology hadn’t developed for thousands of years. [...] What’s happened to gunpowder and combustion? Why isn’t that there?

A: In Rithmatist the reason why we don’t use gunpowder and combustion is early on, people figured out how to wind springs into the aether, and if you can wind a spring into the aether you can get energy out of it. Basically the way we’ve got it working in the Rithmatist (I would have to dig out the exact notes, so be warned) but the way we have it working right now is if you wind a spring made the right way, you can wind it into the aetherial winds. And you can wind, and then twist it, and when you unwind it catches the aetherial winds and spins with it. So you can actually get more energy out than you put in if you wind it one direction, lock it, and then lock it into the aetherial winds and unwind it. It’s like hydropower, but it is unseen hydropower. So my explanation is they learned how to do this, and because they had access to this easier source of energy, their experiments with gunpowder and combustion weren’t as…. You could still make gunpowder. You could go build a gun on the Rithmatist world, and it would work just fun. But since they’ve been focusing on this other line of technology and they can access this energy, everything’s gone that direction instead. And I kind of built on the idea of the difference engine and things like this. People were trying to make mechanical versions of computers and whatnot. And if they had found a way to get energy out of it, they might have gone this direction. That said, I did not put the rigor into the science that I often do in the cosmere books. That comes in the revision stage when I give it to scientists and to my assistant Peter, who look at the actual science and raise some of the issues. So Rithmatist, I didn’t have to worry about that as much. In the cosmere I have to worry about things like redshift and breaking causality, and all of this stuff, and at least have in-world reasons why people don’t get irradiated by light when you speed up time, whereas in the Rithmatist I can say, “It’s a fun alternate history fantasy book. So we’ll just go with that and be internally consistent and not worry about the laws of thermodynamics quite as much.


21:30 (interlude as people move to the hall)


22:30 Q. Why is Elantris magic location-dependent?

Q: [Can’t hear the actual question]

A: Elantris’s magic is location based because the primary source of the magic is located in the Cognitive Realm. Most of the worlds, the primary source of the magic is the Spiritual Realm, where all places are one. So for instance, Mistborn, you can go anywhere in the Cosmere and use the magic. Elantris, you can’t, because Devotion and Dominion were killed and their bodies were stuffed into the Cognitive Realm and the magic is being powered that way.


23:00 Q. Are Rosharan glyph wards derived from Elantris?

Q: Are the glyph wards in Stormlight from Elantris?

A: No, the glyph wards are purely cultural. There are people who would say that they aren’t, even in-world, but that gets into theology and religion, whether there’s a definitive god and afterlife in the Cosmere or not, which I leave up to personal interpretation, in an effort to not undermine characters who believe spiritually different than I do.


23:40 Q. How do you develop your magic systems?

Q: How do you go about designing your magical systems? Do you come up with all the rules at the beginning, or is it developing as you write?

A: It’s a little of both. I have some essays I’ve called Sanderson’s Laws, because I’m a humble guy. If you google those and find those, you can read some essays about how I write magic systems. The answer to your question directly is, oftentimes I’ll come up with something really cool. Hey, you draw on the ground with chalk and play magical Starcraft against each other. Tower defense with chalk. What are some basic rules? Let’s write the book, and as we’re writing I’m like, this question arises, this question arises. How would I answer that? Let’s build in answers to it. With the Rithmatist, I already had the foundations of Cosmere magic, so I could say, “How does this work? Well, it works like this.”


24:35 Q. How does beauty of the drawings matter in Rithmatist?

Q: At what point in making the Rithmatist magic system did the concept of the beauty of the drawings come in?

A: The beauty of the drawings is related to the idea of your perception influencing magic, which is a Cosmere rule. Giving things a mental order, the Cognitive aspect of it, it’s the same way that in Warbreaker, when you give an order to something you’ve Awakened with the magic, the way you perceive that order directly influences how it plays it out. I built this in because, number one, it’s better for philosophy if the answers aren’t, in some of these things, [internal?] answers where the author has said, “Truth is capital T Truth”, where the characters’ perceptions of truth allows for different people to believe different things and both be arguably right. Also because I wanted all the magic in the Cosmere to have some root in the Cognitive Realm. The idea of the magic there is, there’s a Spiritual thing which is kind of unknowable, kind of eternal, kind of all-places-one, there’s a Cognitive aspect, which is how you perceive it influences it, and then there’s the Physical world. The chalklings were built that way, how beautiful you perceive it as being, or the beings involved in this perceive it as being, will influence how well it works.


26:06 Q. Follow-up about better drawings

Q: In the books, in Rithmatist, you state that the better drawn a shape is, or a creation is, that makes it more powerful. Would that mean that if you drew a cube, would that be more powerful than a square?

A: The complexity of it, and how people perceive, you could make an argument that there’s some people who would be like, “The perfect cube is so hard to draw that that is inspiring”, but the average people, if you said, ”Who’s going to win this battle: this cool knight that I drew, or this cube?”, they’d say the cool knight. So that sort of general perception plays a lot into how it works.


26:50 Q. Would a hemalurgic spike made out of aluminum make you less susceptible to outside influence than another spike? (Ironeyes)

Q: We know aluminum affects mental magic and emotional magic. Would it affect the hole in your soul that’s created by Hemalurgy? If you had an aluminum spike, would that make it easier, less easy, or no difference for Ruin to take control of you?

A: Aluminum resists Investiture generally, even when it’s not Invested itself.

Q: (Brandon hems and haws a little so Ironeyes clarifies the question) Would an aluminum spike make it harder for a Soother to take control of you?

A: An aluminum spike would have no effect on a Soother’s ability. They wouldn’t see it there.

Q: (yulerule) Did you make aluminum resistant to Allomancy so that you could do the tinfoil hats?

A: No, but once I did, I was like that’s a cool idea. I made aluminum resistant to it because I wanted something to be magically inert in the Cosmere. It was a happy accident.


28:50 Q. What was it like switching to graphic novel format for White Sand.

Q: What was it like switching to graphic novel format for White Sand?

A: The truth is, I didn’t really have to. We hired someone who’s specifically good at this, and I looked over his scripts, but I left the hard work to him. White Sand was already written, as you probably know. And I said, “This is good, but not good enough. Can you edit it in a way to make it good enough?” And we really liked what he came up with, so it was really his call. And then I kind of left the art to Isaac, who does all of my art stuff, to go over the art with the artist. I’m pleased with White Sand, with one caveat. I don’t think they got the worldbuilding right. If you’ve read the original novel, I don’t feel the worldbuilding I described in the novel quite made it, because the person doing the edit focused really on the dialogue, which is what we wanted him to do. But the artist didn’t get it quite well enough. We’re trying to fix that in the second volume. So there might be little things where you’re like, “Wow, the worldbuilding’s much more expansive in the second one”, so that’s why.


30:15 Q. In Rithmatist, the cost of making coins with gears in them is ridiculous, can you comment on the economics?

Q: I was wondering about the economics of the Rithmatist. Obviously, the price levels are without a century of inflation. The cost of making those dollar coins, even in terms of their economics, it seems like it would cost more than a dollar to make a dollar coin.

A: We spend more to make some of our money, not dollars. The argument I make on that one is that a dollar built by them is added value. That is my feel on it. Producing it might take more money than it is worth, but by the time it’s done, it is worth that much more money. At least in my opinion.


31:10 Q. In our legal system, debt ends with death and your heirs are free. That doesn’t appear to be the case in Rithmatist.

Q: In our legal system, when you die in debt, your heirs don’t inherit your debt. Whatever assets you have go to pay off, and then your heirs are free. I take it in this universe that this isn’t the case? Or is it just that someone’s going to break the widow’s legs if she doesn’t pay?

A: I had the wife assume the debt of the couple in this.

Q: He had borrowed the money in both of their names?

A: In this legal system, that counts. You are liable.

Q: So she inherits his debts?

A: Yeah. But I would argue that the brother wouldn’t, if there were a brother, but the couple would.

Q: And if she died, would Joel inherit the debt?

A: I would say probably not, that he would probably not, but I would have to look at it specifically in the situation. If the wife or the husband inherit from the other, then there’s a decent chance they might make the child, there are cultures through history that the children have been. I’m going to say yes, I’m going to say he would. If the wife is inheriting his debt, it’s so much easier a leap to say that children also do. So I’m going to say yes. I hadn’t thought about it specifically.


32:25 Q. Silver matters on Threnody but not Scadrial….

Q: In Mistborn, silver doesn’t play a role. But then in Shadows for Silence, silver does play a role...

A: It does. I still wanted silver to be part of the Cosmere.

Q: But we’ll never see it in Scadrial?

A: It does not, as they understand currently, interact with Allomancy, with the three Metallurgic Arts. Silver does have a Cosmere role.


33:03 Q. United Isles worldbuilding, physics.

Q: So North America being islands, was that just another bit of color?

A: Yeah. That was based around the idea of, I want to do this cool thing. I’m just going to do this cool thing. Peter did not have a chance to look at that and tell me if the physics of that planet work or not. But once we pulled it out of the Cosmere, we didn’t have to worry if the physics do.

Q: I wasn’t sure if it was tied to history of the magic or?

A: No, I didn’t tie it to the history of the magic. I just said, I’m going to do a small planet and we’re just going to make it a big atoll. You’ll see the same things in Europe if we ever do a map of that, which we probably won’t, but South America you’ll see similar stuff.


33:50 Q Does a line of forbiddance on a mobile chalkboard move with the board?

Q: If you draw a line of forbiddance on a piece of on a chalkboard that’s sitting on the ground and then hit that chalkboard, will the chalkboard move?

A: This is the number one question I get, actually. The answer is, it depends on the size of the line and the amount of power that’s been put into it. This is actually relating back to Cosmere physics. If you look at the Cosmere physics, you can see exactly what happens with the speed bubbles, it’s the same sort of principle. It’s based on perception. So putting a movable line, oftentimes you will just have trouble engaging the magic on something that’s not stable enough to be viewed as stable. Drawing it on a chalkboard and then turning it toward somebody actually wouldn’t work, because you wouldn’t be able to engage that line very easily with the way the magic works. And if you did, it would disrupt the line, and it would be gone. Treat whatever I do with speed bubbles as the rule for Rithmatist magic, until I write the second book. If I decide to take it in it’s own direction, I will let you guys know.


35:25 Q Alethi phonetics

Q: In Alethkar, a lot of the consonant sounds are “C” sounds or “K’s”, like Kaladin. [Can’t hear the rest of the question here very well]

A: It’s just based on the rules I came up for it when I was designing it. They’re mostly semitic origins or middle eastern origins. Kholin is actually [pronounces it], but I don’t expect the audiobook narrators to do “chuh” every time they see a “kh”. The “k” is a “c” sound. That and the “j” are the only weird ones, for Alethi. In Tashikk, I can’t even do the Arabic glottal. The double “q” or the double “k” in the Azish often is that, but I can’t do it. Peter can.


37:10 Q Origins of Sazed?

Q: Sazed is my absolute favorite character in any book now. I love the way he talks and his passion for religion. I think that’s really really cool. (interrupted)

A: How did I come up with Sazed? Is that where you’re going?

Q: Yeah, and the religion thing, because you have so many. Did you study religion?

A: I do study it. I do a lot of studying religion. It fascinates me. I’m religious, I want to know what people find sacred. The origin of the idea for Sazed was the idea of a missionary for all religions. I can actually point at the moment, though, but it comes from a goofy movie.

Q: What goofy movie?

A: The goofy movie is the original Mummy with Brendan Fraser. There’s a moment where the dumb guy tries holding up a religious symbol and talking and nothing happens, so he pulls up a different one and he pulls out a different one. That moment actually spawned the, “What if that were serious? What if there was somebody who tried to match a religion to the individual?”. That spun me into Sazed, the whole concept of Sazed. You can trace the origins of this deep and important character to the dopey, evil sidekick in a Brendan Fraser movie.


38:50 Q Why Aztec culture for Rithmatist, rather than Mayan, etc.

Q: How did you choose Aztec culture as opposed to Mayan?

A: Because I like, I think it’s interesting. I’m really fascinated by the way that, in North America, Aztec culture was one of the closest things we had to an empire. Granted, the Mayans were similar too. This isn’t a good thing, but they were starting to be a colonial power in North America, they were just 100 years behind because, different people argue why. The argument of, they didn’t have good [not sure what he says here] animals like they had in Europe. Europe had access to horses and cows, and, particularly in North America, they didn’t have access to these beasts of burden. There’s also the argument that, through most of South America, the terrain was not really good for pulling carts and things like this. So no animals and not really good for the wheel makes communication between cultures difficult. Communications between cultures is what inspires technological progress most of the time. So suddenly, you have this, where they’re really advanced in some areas, like their mathematics and whatnot, but they don’t have the wheel. And that is so interesting, and the Aztec is really interesting. The idea that they came [...] they found Tenochitlan after leaving Aztlan and come to this place and they’re these people, and their god is the hummingbird and all this stuff and it’s just really cool mythology and culture, but all anyone knows about the Aztecs is, “Human sacrifice!”, right? That’s the thing everyone focuses on, when you’ve got this really deep and cool and rich culture as well. They didn’t even really sacrifice, according to most people, that many people, no more than in European wars, they would execute after you… but it’s got this really cool mythology around it. Anyway, it’s just a really cool culture, and being from North America it’s something I wanted to dig into and deal with. Plus you’ve got, this is kind of a minefield of stuff, but you’ve got this weird colonial thing going on that I wanted to play with. In the Rithmatist world, the Aztecs had unified into a colonial power and a lot of the North American tribes had unified beneath them. Some left happily, some not happily to fight against  the chalkling threat. They got pushed all the way back, fighting and fighting and fighting, and then the Europeans come in, and they’re like, “Great, this continent that there’s nobody in!” and they’re like, “Hey no, that’s ours!”. So you’ve got this really, at least to me, interesting interaction between, cause there’s all these myths that perpetuated in the 1800’s that there weren’t that many people in North America when we came in. It was just basically empty. That was the myth they were telling themselves to justify the wholesale conquering and slaughter of the people. A lot of times I’m like, so what if they got there and these people had been killed in a big war? You’ve got this colonialism and this cool power to the south who’s like “No, you’re stealing our land” but they’re like “No, you guys weren’t here” and they’re like “No, we were fighting there”. It’s a really interesting thing to deal with, and it’s exciting to me, but boy is it a minefield. Let’s hope that I can do the second book without being too offensive to people. But that stuff is fascinating to me.

Q: Do you think that the sensibility in terms of writing about Native American cultures has to do a lot with how times have changed, since you’ve written Rithmatist?

A: Oh yeah, definitely. Since I’ve written Rithmatist, my sensitivity to this has skyrocketed, I think everybody’s has. That’s a big part of when I went back to the book, and I thought in the sequel I was dealing with it sensitively and I’m like “Oh, no. I don’t think I’m approaching that sensitively at all”. That was part of the reason I had to drop it and revise it. Also, I just didn’t think it was doing cool enough things and whatnot. I’m glad I didn’t write it in 2008 when I’d been like“Aztecs are cool, let’s write a book that has Aztecs in it!”, instead of saying, “Let’s do more than Aztecs are cool, let’s make sure that we have actually done our research”, instead of just relying on it. There are some things you can rely on, like Kaladin in the Stormlight books. I know enough about field medicine and what it is like to be a surgeon in the pre-modern era that I could write a cool book where a guy was himself a surgeon in a pre-modern era, and then I just gave it to a field medic, someone who had actually been in battle, and said, “What did I get wrong?”. He’s like, “You got this, this, this wrong, fix those and it’s good”. I can do that. I can bluff my way through making Kaladin work and then find an expert to fix it. That’s what I would’ve done in 2008 if I’d written Rithmatist. I have a feeling it would’ve been so far off that I would’ve given it to them and they would’ve been like, “You can’t fix this. This is fundamental”. That’s a writing advice. There are a lot of things you can bluff your way through, if you get yourself like 50% of the way there and then find an expert to fix the really bad parts for you. But you have to be able to get far enough along that it’s fixable.

(Next questioner mentions that was the process Andy Weir used on The Martian)


45:25 (mentions the 20-page Stormlight Archive Companion someone was having him sign)

A: I want to do an updated version of this with more pictures in it. It turned out so cool. Tor was like, “We’re going to do this thing”, and I’m like, “Oh yeah, do this thing”, and then they printed it and I’m like, “This looks really cool and feels really cool”.


46:00 Does each Radiant order associate with a different Shard?

Q: It was mentioned that there are 16 gods in your Cosmere.

A: Depends on your definition of god.

Q: Shards. Are the ten orders of the Knight Radiants related to specific gods? Because Honor, child of Honor-Kaladin

B: So all the magic on Roshar, all the surgebinding on Roshar, is going to have its roots in Honor and Cultivation. Um... There is some Odium influence too, but that’s mostly voidbinding, which is the map in the back of the first book.

Q: I was wondering how much-

B: But, but even the powers, it’s, it’s really this sort of thing. What’s going in Stormlight is that people are accessing fundamental forces of creation and laws of the universe. They’re accessing them through the filter of Cultivation and Honor. So, that’s not to say, on another world you couldn’t have someone influence gravity. Honor doesn’t belong to gravity. But bonds, and how to deal with bonds, and things like this, is an Honor thing. So the way Honor accesses gravity is, you make a bond between yourself and either a thing or a direction or things like that and you go. So it’s filtered through Honor’s visual, and some of the magics lean more Honor and some them lean more Cultivation, as you can obviously see, in the way that they take place.

Q: The question kind of rooted because, Wyndle in the short story is always saying that he’s a cultivationspren, he doesn’t like [...]. I kind of got the idea that each order had a different Shard.

A: That is a good thing to think, but that is not how it is. Some of them self-identify more in certain ways. Syl is an honorspren, that’s what they call a honorspren, they self-identify as the closest to Honor. Is that true? Well, I don’t know. For instance, you might talk to different spren, who are like, no, highspren are like “We’re the ones most like Honor. We are the ones that keep oaths the best. Those honorspren will let their people break their oaths if they think it’s for a good cause. That’s not Honor-like.” There would be disagreement.

Q: Are you saying that the spren’s view of themself influences how they work?

A: Oh yeah, and humans’ view of them because spren are pieces of Investiture who have gained sapience, or sentience for the smaller spren, through human perception of those forces. For instance, whether or not Kaladin is keeping an oath is up to what Syl and Kaladin think is keeping that oath. It is not related to capital-T Truth, what is actually keeping the oath. Two windrunners can disagree on whether an oath has been kept or not.


49:15 Q. More about Aztec research, influence of disease on European-American contact

Q: Have you ever read 1491 by Charles C. Mann?

A: Yes, I have.

Q: Did that inform…

A: That did inform, that was one of the main books I went to in my research where they’re like, you need to read this book. I read that book and I loved it. Even the book points out some people don’t agree with this hypothesis, but it feels right to me, so I’m running with that idea.

Q: Even if the details weren’t totally clear in the archeological record, the story in it is just...

A: Is great. This is the idea that South America in particular but, Central America and parts of North America, were much more densely populated than we assumed and the introduction of diseases that the Europeans brought was more devastating than previous people had theorized. Which is really, really interesting, because it deals with this other idea of America Pox, right? Why did the Europeans not get a disease? Why is there no mythical America Pox that was given back to them? That’s a big question that people have. If you haven’t thought about it, you’re like “Hey, yeah!”. They were both isolated populations from one another, why was there no disease transfers? One of the big theories is that this goes back to animals. Most deadly diseases that we have transferred from animals to humans and they kill us because diseases don’t actually want to kill you. They want you to get sick enough to keep spreading the disease, as long as you have the disease, and if it kills you, it fails in that. Most of them, there are some that, you know. A lot of diseases that are deadly to us were not deadly to cattle, where they originated, and they jumped species. The argument is, and some disagree with this, but the argument is Europeans had these animals that they used. They moved them into the seas with them, they caught a whole bunch of these terrible diseases that wiped out big populations, but they got over it. And in North and Central and South America, they did not have as many animals living in close proximity to humans in large population centers, and so the diseases did not pass to humans, and there were no big deadly diseases for the Europeans to catch when they came over.

[says he got the term America Pox from CGP Grey, a Youtuber, who he likes watching and was clearly reading some of the same books]


52:10 Thank you Writing Excuses

Q: Thank you so much with all the work you guys have done with Writing Excuses. I’m just starting to get into your fiction, I haven’t read much yet, but Writing Excuses I’ve been listening to for a few years and it’s helped me a lot.

A: You can blame it on Katherine Kurtz, the fantasy/science fiction writer. I met her at a con when I was 18 and she sat down and chatted with me for like half an hour one-on-one about how to be a writer. And I’m like “Oh, that told me so much!”. I’d never gotten that sort of thing before, and it made me realize, becoming a writer is one of these weird things where you can’t learn it except from other writers. You can teach yourself to write, but actually getting published and how to approach problems when you run into them. So many people writer’s block, I feel, because they hit something, they don’t have personal experience dealing with it. Working through that on your own is just really hard, but if you can hear other author’s perspective, you can try those tools and find something that works for you.


53:12 (says goodbye)


54:05 Q. What body is Kelsier using as the Sovereign?

Q: Where did the body Kelsier is using come from?

A: That’s actually a RAFO. You will find out about that, probably in a Secret History, if I get to it. Eventually, I’ll answer that question for people. I don’t want to answer it now, because it is something I could put into a book.

Q: I just realized that his body, most of it was gone. The bones might still be around.

A: The bones were in use, and were in Hero of Ages. The bones had made an appearance. They were still around, but whether that’s what he’s using, I’ll leave.

Q: I didn’t think putting a spike into his skull [...]

A: You’ll find that out eventually.


Sunday Interlude Reading


Interlude reading

The Yoksta Monastery was ordinarily a very quiet place. Nestled in the forest atop a hill on the western slopes of the Horneater Peaks, the place was a paradise that few even knew existed. The Peaks themselves blocked the brunt of the storms and usually the monastery felt only rain at the passing of a highstorm. Furious rain, yes, and with some thundering. But none of the terrible destruction one knew in most parts of the world. Alista had to remind herself every passing storm how lucky she was to be here. Ardents in the know often fought half their lives to be transferred here. Away from politics, storms[?], and other annoyances, at Yoksta you could just think. Usually.

“Are you looking at these numbers? Are your eyes for some reason disconnected from your brain?!”

“I saw the numbers. But I’m saying we can’t judge yet. Three instances are not enough.”

“Two data points make a coincidence. Three make a sequence. This is plenty. The Everstorm travels at a constant speed, unlike the highstorm.”

“You can’t possibly say that! One of your data points, so highly touted, is from the original passing of the storm, which happened as an uncommon event.”

Alista slammed her book closed and gathered up her materials. She burst from her reading nook and gave a glare to the two Ardents arguing in the hall outside. They were so involved in their shouting match they didn’t even respond to the glare, though it had been one of her best. Once she’d been able to silence this library with a simple word. Now, the entire place had gone insane.

She bustled from the library, entering a long hallway with sides open to the elements outside. Peaceful trees. Quiet brook. Humid air and mossy vines that popped and stretched as they moved, laying out for the evening. Well, yes, a large swath of trees out there had been flattened by the new storm. But that was no reason for everyone to get upset. The rest of the world could worry. Here, she was just supposed to be able to read.

She started to set her things out at a reading desk here near an open window. The humidity wasn’t good for books, but places where the storms were weak went hand in hand with fecundity. You just had to accept that. Hopefully those new fabrials to draw water from the air would—

“—telling you we have to move!” A voice echoed through the hallway. “Look, the storm is going to ravage these woods. Before long this slope will be barren and the storm will be hitting us full force. The building wasn’t built to withstand that kind of punishment!”

“But the new storm doesn’t have that strong a wind factor, Bedam[?]. It’s not going to blow down the trees. Have you looked at the measurements?”

“I’ve disputed those measurements.”


Alista rubbed her temples. Her head was bald like the head of the other Ardents. Her parents still joked that she’d joined the Ardentia simply because she hated bothering with her hair. She tried earplugs, but could hear the arguing through them. So eventually she picked up her things again, and went storming through the monastery.

Maybe the basement. Using a sphere for light, she took the long steps down to the lower level. It wasn’t truly a basement—just another building constructed further down the slopes. The steps were even outside, down a forested slope. The inaccuracy of calling it a basement bothered her, but the term had been used for as long as anyone could remember.

Before arriving at the monastery, she’d had illusions about what it would be like to live among scholars. No bickering. No politicking. Well, she hadn’t found that to be true, but generally people did leave her alone. And so she was lucky to be here. She told herself that again as she entered the basement building. It was basically a zoo.

Dozens of people gathering information from spanreeds, talking to one another, buzzing about talk of this highprince or that king. She stopped in the doorway, took it all in for a moment, then turned on her heel and stalked back out. Now what?

She started up the steps toward the monastery proper, but lingered halfway there. It’s probably the only route to peace, she thought, looking out at the forest. Trying not to think about the dirt, the cremlings, and the fact that something might drip in her head, she strode off into the forest.

She didn’t want to go too far, as who knew what might be out there. She eventually chose a stump without too much moss on it, and settled down, book across her lap, her other materials tucked into her satchel. She could still hear Ardents arguing down below, but they were distant. She opened her book, intent on finally getting something done today. She read.

Wimma[?] sprung away from Brightlord Sterling[?]’s forward advances, tucking her safehand to her breast and lowering her gaze from his comely locks. Such affection as to delight the unsavory mind could surely not satisfy her for an extended period, as though his intentions had at one time been fanciful delights to entertain her leisurely hours, they now seemed to manifest as utter impudence and greatest faults of character.

“What?” Alista exclaimed, reading. “No, you silly girl! He’s finally pronounced his affection for you! Don’t you dare turn away now!”

How could she accept this wanton justification of her once single-minded desires? Should she not instead select the more prudent choice, as advocated by the undeviating will of her uncle. Brightlord Vatam[?] had an endowment of land upon the Highprince’s grace, and would have means to provide far beyond the satisfactions available to a simple officer, no matter how well regarded or what whims had graced his temperament, features, and gentle touch.

Alista gasped. “Brightlord Vatam?! You little whore! Have you forgotten about how he locked away your father?”

“Wimma,” Brightlord Sterling intoned, “it seems I have gravely misjudged your attentions. In this I find myself deposited deep within an embarrassment of folly. I shall be away to the Shattered Plains, and you shall not again suffer the torment of my presence.”

He bowed then, a true gentlemen’s bow, possessing of all the true refinement and deference[?]. It was a supplication beyond what even a monarch could demand, and in it Wimma ascertained the true nature of Brightlord Sterling’s regard. Simple, yet passionate. Respectful indeed. And a move that lent great context to his earlier advance, which now appeared all at once a righteous deviation in otherwise sure armor. A window of full nobility, rather than a model of avarice. As he lifted the door’s latch to forever make his exodus from her life, Wimma surged with unrivaled shame and longing, twisting together not unlike two threads winding in a loom to construct a grand tapestry of desire.

“Wait!” Wimma cried, “Dear Sterling, wait upon my words!”

“Storms right!” Alista muttered. She leaned closer to the book, flipping the page.

Decorum seemed a vain thing to her now, lost upon the sea that was her need to feel Sterling’s touch. She rushed to him, and upon his arm pressed her ensleeved hand, which then she lifted to caress his sturdy jaw.

It was warm out here in the forest. Practically sweltering. Alista put her hand to her lips, reading with wide eyes. Trembling.

Would that the window through that statuesque armor could still be located, and a similar wound within herself might be found to press against his own and offer passage deep within her soul. If only—

“Alista?” a voice asked.

Yip!” she said, bolting upright, snapping the book closed, spinning toward the sound. “Oh, um, Ardent Gurv[?].”

The young Siln Ardent was a tall gangly and obnoxiously loud man at times. Except, apparently, when sneaking up on colleagues in the forest. He really should feel ashamed for that.

“What is it you were studying?” he asked.

“Important works,” Alista said. Then sat on the book. “Nothing to mind yourself with. What is it you want?”

“Uh…” He looked down at her satchel. “You were the last one to check out the transcriptions from Bedthel[?]’s collection on the Dawnchant? The old version? I just wanted to check your progress.”

Dawnchant, right. They’d been working on that before the storm came and everyone got distracted. Old Navani Kholin in Alethkar had somehow come up with a key for translations. Her story about visions was nonsense most likely—the Kholin family was known for opaque politics. But the key was authentic, letting them slowly work through what the old text had once said.

She started digging through her satchel. She came up with three musty codices and a sheaf of paper, the latter being the work she’d done so far. Annoyingly, he settled down on the ground beside her stump, taking the papers as she offered them. He laid his satchel across his lap and began reading.

“Incredible!” he said a few moments later. “You’ve made way more progress than I have.”

“Everyone else is too busy worrying about that storm.”

“Well, it is threatening to wipe out civilization as we know it.”

“An overreaction. Everyone always overreacts to every little gust of wind.”

“That’s easy for us to say, tucked away in the mountains like this.” He flipped through her pages. “What’s this section? Why take so much care about the origins of the pieces found? Fokuson[?] concluded that these books had all spread from a central location, and so there’s nothing to learn by where they ended up.”

“Fokuson was a bootlicker, not a scholar,” Alista said. “Look, there’s easy proof that the same writing system was once used all across Roshar. I have references to Makabakam, Sela Tales, Alethela. Not just the diaspora of text, but real evidence they wrote naturally in the Dawnchant.”

“Do you suppose they all spoke the same language?”

“Hardly. But Jasnah Kholin’s Relics[?] doesn’t claim that everyone spoke the same language. Only that they wrote it. It’s foolish to assume that everyone used the same language across hundreds of years and dozens of nations. It makes more sense that there was a codified written language, a language of early scholarship just like you’d find in many underscripts written in Alethi now even if the scribe was originally Veden.”

“Ah!” he said, “And then a Desolation hits...”

Alista nodded, showing him a page later in her sheaf of notes. “This in-between weird language is where people started using the Dawnchant script to phonetically transcribe their language. It didn’t work so well.” She flipped two more pages. “After the next Desolation we have the proto-Vorin alphabet emerging and Thaylen a century later. We’ve always wondered what happened to the Dawnchant. Well it seems clear now they lost the knowledge of writing in the Dawnchant because by the days of the Recreance it had already become a dead language for millennia. It was easy to forget because they weren’t speaking it, as they hadn’t been in generations.”

“Brilliant!” Gurv said. He wasn’t so bad, actually, for a Siln. “All of this,” he said, “because of a madman’s ravings.” He pulled a sheaf of his own paper out from his satchel. “We’ve been translating what we can. We’re getting close to really cracking this thing, I think. If what you’ve been doing here is correct, that’s because Khovat[?] isn’t true Dawnchant but a phonetic transcription from another ancient language.”

He glanced aside, then cocked his head. Was he looking at her…? Oh, no it was just the book, which she was still sitting on.

An Accountability of Virtue,” he grunted. “Good book!”

“You’ve read it?”

“I have a fondness for Alethi epics,” he said absently, flipping through her pages. “She really should have picked Vatam though—Sterling was a flatterer in a cage.”

“Sterling is a noble and upright officer!” She narrowed her eyes. “And you are just trying to get a rise out of me, Ardent Gurv.”

“Maybe.” He flipped through her pages, studying a diagram she had made of various Dawnchant grammars. “I have a copy of the sequel.”

“There’s a sequel?!”

“About her sister.”

“The mousey one?”

“She is elevated to courtly attention, and has to choose between a strapping naval officer, a Thaylen banker, and the king’s Wit.”

Three men?”

“Sequels always have to be bigger,” he said, then offered her the stack of pages back. “I’ll lend it to you.”

“For what?”

“For help in translating a particularly stubborn section of Dawnchant. I have a patron of mine who has a strict deadline upon its delivery.”

Sunday Q&A



Q: What happens when you compound copper?

A: I’m going to RAFO that for now. I am dealing with the various interactions of the various magics slowly on purpose, to dole out information, so that I have cool stuff to talk about in future books.



Q: Did Ambition ever have a Shardworld of their own?

A: [Repeats question] Meaning, did Ambition ever settle on a planet? I’ll RAFO that too.



Q: How is it that you’re able to write such real and strong women characters that are feminist in their own way but in very different ways from book to book? Is your wife your inspiration? Can you do a workshop for other male writers?

A: This is a huge compliment, thank you. It is something that I’ve worked on a long time. I would blame the authors I read getting into fantasy, Barbara Hambly, Melanie Rawn, Anne McCaffrey. They were the first three authors I read. I internalized some of the things they were talking about. I also do have some good models. My mother graduated first in her class in accounting in a year where she was the only woman in the accounting department. She’s currently the accountant for the city of Idaho Falls. So getting it wrong was a big deal to me, and I did get it wrong on my first few books. The unpublished ones, fortunately.

What I realized was, it was a bigger problem than just doing the female characters wrong, though that was the biggest sign that I was doing something wrong. What was happening was I was writing people to roles in the story, rather than writing them as people having a role in the story. That sounds really simple, right? But once I realized people don’t see themselves as the plucky sidekick, usually, and people don’t see themselves as the romantic interest. People see themselves as a person who plays a part in someone else’s life, but plays a different part over here, and a different part over here. Those of us who are extraverts might be introverts in some situations where we don’t know very much. Those of us who are introverts might be extraverts when you put us in front of a room and tell us to do a reading, we’re like “Yeah! I can handle that!”. We all fulfill lots of different roles in different settings, in different people’s lives. Everybody has motivations and passions, and gender identity, racial factors, your upbringing, your culture, these are all parts of who you are, but when you let one of those things define you too much, you become a flat character, in fiction.

[Talks for a minute about Lost, where the character who loses his son becomes a flat character because it comes to completely define the character. He’s talked about this before in his lectures so I’m not going to type it out]. When you’re writing people to just a role like that, you end up with these flat characters, you end up with people who don’t really live. And I think the first big revelation for me was that I was doing that. And this was particularly true of the female characters. When you start writing, it’s very normal to just write a protagonist who’s much like yourself and then writing people who aren’t like yourself like, this is this role, this is this role, and then boom. But there was something else I had to learn. There’s still lots of things for me to learn, but there was something else big that I had to learn. This was the problem that I’ve only recently begun reading essays about it, which is the natural inclination of someone is to first off write everyone as kind of a stereotype, and then you learn and you get better. But then the next inclination is to write the person who is different from ourselves as super super awesome. Just so that we’re not accidentally being sexist.

And you’ll see this a lot too, this happens a lot with African Americans, in video games in particular. I was playing a video game once, and it’s a bunch of burly white guys who are awesome with guns and they’re killing stuff. And they talk about their friend, the black guy. You don’t know he’s black at the time. And then they get into trouble and they can’t save themselves. And the black guy bursts through the ceiling with guns blazing, mows down the enemies, says “Alright guys, go for it!”, and then runs off into the sunset. He’s like the coolest guy ever. He only stops short of doing a rap song for the end song, right? They don’t want to be racist, so he’s awesome, but he also doesn’t get a character arc. Everybody else has deep character arc and is messed up. They didn’t want to, and I understand this instinct, they didn’t want to make the black guy messed up because he’s the minority and they are so worried about screwing it up that instead they put him on a pedestal. You see guys do this with women, and you see women do this with the men characters. If you read a book, often the guy, by a female writer, the guy has very few faults, he’s just this guy, and the woman is this messed up, neurotic, interesting character. Same in reverse with the guys. The woman in the book ends up being the one who is very responsible, the one who’s like “We need to go do this”, the kick-chull “strong female character” [he literally says “quote-unquote” about strong female character] who just awesome, but doesn’t have a character arc and isn’t messed up in the ways that make people interesting. That’s another level, when you’re like, we have to make all the characters interesting, and all the characters messed up and individual, rather than even doing that level. And that one’s been even harder to internalize and figure out how to do.



Q: At this point, a lot of your work has been optioned. I was wondering if you would be interested in some of it being a serious animated tv show? Maybe that might also work for Wheel of Time.

A: I would be totally on board except for one thing, that there is no market for it worldwide. There are markets in very small places, but so far every animated in the US and in large parts of the world as well has either been something like The Simpsons, which is comedy, which can work for adults and they’ll watch that, or it’s been child-focused with some hidden depth of themes like the Last Airbender, which is the quintessential example. If I could get a television show on one of my books as good as that, I’d love it, but nobody’s going to finance it, because there’s no audience for it unless it’s a children’s show. And there’s nothing wrong with being a children’s show, this is what Pixar has figured out how to do, it makes movies that everyone will love. But anytime someone even tries to make a teen focused one, it’s a huge disaster. Treasure Planet was an example of this, which is famous in Hollywood for being a disaster, even though it’s a fun movie. Until US audiences grow up in their treatment of animation, it’s not a realistic thing, because the cost-to-earnings… I can’t just say, okay guys, spend 50 millions dollars on this, I know it’ll only make 5, but it’ll be really cool. Maybe if your aunt is an executive at Netflix, you could tell her, and they could be on the forefront of this, but until then, we are looking at Netflix-style, complete season, Stranger Things-type stuff, or traditional feature film.



[Question about stacking magic systems against each other, who would win?]

[Works on magic systems within their own context, when comparing magic systems the situation matters more. Context matters]



Q: Is there a question about the Stormlight Archives you’ve always wanted to answer but nobody has asked?

A: The answer is no, because everyone is so good at asking them. They ran out of those question 10 years ago. [Talks about the development of the Cosmere and Hoid. Talks about the development of Timewasters Guide and when people started to figure out the Cosmere stuff].



Q: Do you ever get to travel? Does travel inform your experience? From that little vignette you did [the interlude reading at the monastery] did you go to Sinai or Kyoto for the monastery?

A: I travel a lot. I enjoy traveling. It’s a little hard on my schedule, as one might imagine. But I really do like it. That little vignette, I did go to Japan. On a trip to Taiwan, we stopped for a day in Japan to hike monasteries, specifically. We hiked the one that’s right next to the airport, outside the city. Then we went into downtown Tokyo and hiked one of the ones there. The coolest thing is, they have these big rocks that they inscribe quotes in, anciently, just piled on top of each other. I travel a lot, it does inform my writing a lot. Famously, the Emperor’s Soul came after I went to Taiwan one time. Snapshot came after a trip to Dubai. You can’t find as much Dubai in Snapshot as you can Taiwan in The Emperor’s Soul. I usually write one of my novellas as a response to a trip or just taking a break for a trip. That happened to Legion, it happened to most of the novellas.

Sunday Signing




Q: How much self will do the Shards (the person, not the power associated) have, [is it complicated by having more pieces?]?

A: So they do have a lot of personal will power. They can do things. But the longer they hold the power, the more their will starts to align with that of the power. Resisting it can keep it from happening, but it will eventually happen. So yes and no. It depends on the individual, it depends on how long.



Q: Are the Shards drawn to each other?

A: Some are, some are not.



Q: I wondered if it's difficult for you sometimes-- it seems like you try to keep your writing PG. Is that ever hard like to still do the character development?

A: You know it hasn't. It's just how I naturally write. It's not ever really been a struggle either direction. I write what feels natural. And so sometimes it strays into PG-13 because that's appropriate for the character. Sometimes it goes the other direction. I just do what feels right to me, knowing that I'm a bit of a prude. And so my own attitudes certainly do shape it.



Q: What’s the most untraditional advice you can give to a writer?

A: This is not that untraditional, but it sounds weird to people. Don’t major in or study English. Major in or study something that you are passionate about and let that inform your writing. You will do grammar and structure and all that stuff naturally by writing. That said, I was an English major so it’s a “do as I say, not as I did” sort of thing.



Q: Roshar has three moons that orbit it, and I notice that these orbits somewhat collide. I was wondering if the moons have anything to do with...

A: The moons are a little bit of a hint, but it’s not about what you’re thinking. They are not in a stable orbit on astronomical terms. They’ll last tens of thousands of years before they degrade. But it is a little bit of a hint of things. The fact that Roshar has three moons in a very specific orbit is a hint about things.



Q: When Sazed moved the planet in the third Mistborn, I know it has it’s own solar system but did it affect the cosmere in any way?

A: Not in huge amounts. Technically yes, because you change gravity, but they are lightyears away, so they wouldn’t even notice. I mean, it changed shadesmar a little bit too, so there were upheavals, but it was not drastic. If what you are looking for is the cause of the earthquake on Sel, then no. The earthquake was years before.



Q: Do metalloids [on the periodic table] count as metals for the purpose of allomancy?

A: Yes.

Q: So things like gallium and antimony…

A: Yes. Not everything is pushable or pullable, but it counts in allomancy, and there are certain things… there are certain relationships.



Q: How does liquid metal interact with allomancy? (e.g. mercury)

A: Right, right. I’ve always imagined it working like a ferrofluid in a magnetic field. You can pull and push on it, but it’s going to be weird and goopy. I haven’t had reason to push and pull on mercury yet, or any of the other liquid metals.



Q: Are we going to learn more about the Tukari in the next Stormlight Archive book?

A: Um… You will learn a little… I don’t want to say yes because then you will be expecting more than there is. There is some. You’ll get at least one major thing you learn, but it’s not amazing.

Q: Are some of the epigraphs going to be from versions of the Dawnchant?



[40:33]  (yulerule’s question)

Yulerule: If a Parshendi takes a parshman by the hand, gives them a gemstone with a spren in it, leads him out into a highstorm, can the parshman become a parhsendi in the same way that they become a voidbringer?

A: Now, yes, before no. The everstorm changed them, there’s something going on. In fact, as that scene continues, with Gavilar and Eshonai, there is a clue in that scene. But I didn’t get to that part.


Note: Below is from DAdam’s recording, after Ironeye’s posted recording ends.


Q: So Lift is having trouble with the physical aspects of Edgedancing. Could she actually increase friction with her surge to give her better control?

A: This is the sort of thing that she needs to learn how to do, is to modulate the amount of friction she creates in various places. But you know it’s also skill-based, there’s a lot of practice involved in things like this but, yes, uhm... If you look at the other surges you could probably guess that she is capable of much more than she has expressed so far.



Q: Parshendi carapace, is that necessary to them bonding spren?

A: No. There are some forms that don’t have carapace, or very much at all. I mean they might have little bits on their nails and things like that. So no it is not necessary. Good question.



Q: What stories should I read that have Ambition’s influence in them? Where should I look for Ambition’s influence?

A: Ambition’s influence. So, uhm, you have seen it but I’m not going to say anything more than that. Let’s just say that the things that happened with Ambition have had ramifications across many places in the cosmere.


Ironeyes: So harmonium, we have a working theory that the reason it's so volatile is because some of the subatomic particles are associated with Ruin and some of them are [of?] Preservation. Is that true?
A: Yeah, that's basically what's going on is that it's creating a very unstable metal. Now, it is in the nature of the Cosmere not a compound but an element. But, you could call it a subatomic particle sure. It's very volatile because it is in nature spiritually in contrast with itself. And so though it is a single element rather than a compound, the spiritual nature is not happy as it is, and you can set up in the physical realm, through reactivity things that would just rip it apart and really your energy is not, your energy in that is actually pulling from the Spiritual realm, and so that's why it can be so much more explosive than even the chemistry would account for.
Ironeyes: So it's not that the subatomic particles are invested, it's that they have a spiritual identity which causes them to...
A: Yes.
Ironeyes: So then it's not creating an oxide because after the spiritual energy goes away from the explosion[unintelligible] metal, right?
A: Right, and...
Ironeyes: So you can't find harmonium oxide in the water afterwards.
A: Right right right right. Because it's not, it's, yeah.  But you might be able to find something else, which is really relevant to the cosmere. And to Scadrial.
Ironeyes: So the core elements, the core particles, having extra repulsion causes them to have a nuclear potential.
A: I would not call it nuclear because it's not the same exact thing. But there is a cosmere equivalent, to... I mean, you could do nuclear power just the same in the cosmere, but since we have a third kind of state of matter, right, matter, energy, Investiture, you have a third axis that you know, you can release energy from matter, you can release investiture from matter, and things like that. So it's similar, but following its own rules that I have a little more... that are controlled by me, right. But are built on this idea. So once you add [unintelligible for a few syllables] that matter can now exist in this third state, you get all sorts of weird things, which one of the things that happens is, you can get an energy release in sort of the same way. A reaction, I'm not going to call it a nuclear reaction, but of the same vein.



Q: We know that Hoid is really old. Is there anyone else around that same age who is not a Shardholder?

A: Yes. He communicates with one of these people by a letter in one of them.

Q: [inaudible]

A: Not very many, let’s say that.



Q: Was Senna the name of Ambition?

A: You know I’m RAFOing Senna. That’s an easy RAFO.



Q: If you had to guess right now, what year would you think Dragonsteel will come out?

A: It will be the book after Stormlight 10 is the way it is planned right now. So, add those up, we’ve got seven more Stormlights, four more Mistborn, two Elantris, and one Warbreaker. After all those, and I generally do one a year, so add all that up. So 14 years, and then I will write it, probably?



BeskarKomrk: When the Listeners change form, they do that by bonding with spren, right?

A: Yes

BeskarKomrk: Are there specific spren that they need to bond with for specific forms?

A: Yes

BeskarKomrk: Is the spren for dullform lifespren?



BeskarKomrk: What is the rough order of magnitude of years between Vo, the First Returned, and Warbreaker. Like thousands of years?

A: Yeah, I believe that it is. I’m going to have to look at my own documents, but you can get a tentative yes that it is a long time.

BeskarKomrk: Was there just nothing interesting happening in that thousands of years?

A: No, interesting stuff happens. Thousands? I’m not sure it’s thousands. Let me RAFO that, we’d need to look at the master copy of the timeline to answer questions like this. You’re giving me numbers and I’m like “It’s that number, no it’s that number.” So we’ll just go with the RAFO on this.



Q: The number sixteen is obviously very important. Is there a reason why that particular number, instead of, say, fourteen.
A: Yes, there is a reason, but it isn’t as much import as you are perhaps thinking.



Q: [The events of the Mistborn trilogy, obviously the … of people hopping worlds] Where does that happen in reference to the events of Stormlight?

A: The further we get along, the closer the series are happening together. Stormlight is centuries from Mistborn, but new Mistborn and Stormlight are happening closer together. And the further I go the closer these things will get together in time, because that’s when we have really starting to have people influence one another, and things like that. White Sand, which is actually the first one we’ve released chronologically, is really pretty far back. Elantris and Mistborn, we’re getting closer and closer together.



Q: Is there eventually going to be a Way of Kings tenth anniversary edition?

A: Yes, if I have the ability to make it, if Tor doesn’t reverse and shut these down, then yes we’ll make it. My guess is, we will probably release it broken up in a slipcase, sold as one, because I worry about the binding on a nice leatherbound like that. So my guess is we’ll start doing those divided by parts or something like that. We’ll figure it out when we do it.



BeskarKomrk: You said in the Warbreaker annotations that Denth has the Royal Locks separate from being a Returned, as part of the royal line. Does Shashara also have the royal locks?

A: Um… That would be a valid guess.



Yulerule: ...the parshendi didn’t have the emotions like Contempt, Ridicule [etc. before the Everstorm?]

A: They did have those emotions, but they didn’t match them to the Rhythms the same way. A wide variety of emotions can be matched to a rhythm. It doesn’t mean they didn’t have those emotions.

Yulerule: So you are saying that, like Ridicule is a new version of Amusement, they could have used ridicule but say it to Amusement? [...]

A: Yes.

Yulerule: And that’s a harsher form, Ridicule?

A: That is just how the rhythms are named. I’ll leave it to your interpretation whether they are harsher or not. A rhythm is just a beat. Whether it is harsh or not depends on the interpretation of the person listening to it. But yes, you could have ridiculed people to Amusement before.

Yulerule: But you have new rhythms.

A: You have new rhythms which have a different feel to them.




Q: [Us discussing savantism off to the side and Brandon overhears us]

A: What am I going to change?

BeskarKomrk: Something about savantism and how it works.

A: Yeah, savantism I’m tweaking. It’s not going to mean anything to most people, but if you are studying savantism, watch how it evolves in future books. There is an interlude from a savant viewpoint in Oathbringer, though.

Yulreulre: A Radiant savant?

A: A soulcasting savant.

Sunday Post-signing Q&A


Q (Paraphrased) [Is it completely impossible for Allomantic Steel/Iron users to Push/Pull on Aluminum or just very difficult, and a more powerful Allomancer (like TLR or using the Bands of Mourning) could do it?]

A Excellent question. I’m glad you’re arguing about that.



Q: (Paraphrased) [Is the composition of the crust on Scadrial similar to the composition of the Earth’s crust, with regard to things like aluminum? And how will that affect the economy when they discover it?]

A. (Paraphrased) [The compositions are very similar and there is a large amount of aluminum in Scadrial’s crust…] (Verbatim) The ability to get aluminum easily and cheaply, it’s going to do things to the economy. Much more than it did even to our economy, which was transformed dramatically by easy access to cheap aluminum.



Q. You have two characters, Hoid and Vasher, who really stand out even if you don’t know anything about the cosmere. Are people who aren’t cosmere-aware going to be left wondering what the heck is up with them?

A. Yeah, probably. But it’s okay to have some mystery, I figure, as long as I don’t let the cosmere stories really distract. If there are occasionally things where you think, “That was weird, I don’t get that” or “That guy’s kind of different.” That’s fine. It’s when you start to feel like everyone else is laughing at a joke you don’t know, when you’re not part of something and you can’t understand the piece of fiction because of it, then we’re in trouble. Unless it’s a side story. Like Mistborn: Secret History, you’ve got to know the cosmere to get most of that, and that’s okay. But the main line books I will write in such a way that… So the Stormlight Archive is the story of Roshar. It’s not necessarily the story of all the different elements influencing Roshar. Maybe someday I’ll do one that has that, but I’ll be very up-front about it.



Q. In the reading you did today, at the very end Gurv was saying “I have an order from someone.” Is that someone part of some secret society? Because there’s a bunch of secret societies.

A. Well, that is definitely going to be a big RAFO, because I haven’t even released the book yet. Let’s not spoil books that aren’t even out yet from readings I did. But I rarely put in an interlude that doesn’t have some tangential relationship, even if it’s just some stuff like letting you know who the Aimians are or things like that.



Q. At what point in the process do you decide whether or not you are going to include epigraphs in the book?

A I generally, during the writing of a book, make the call. I don’t usually write them until the end. Then I write them all out together and divide them into the places they belong.

Q I feel that we know a lot less about Nalthis than the other planets because of the lack of epigraphs.

A Yeah I want each book to have a little bit of a feel of its own. I don’t want to do epigraphs just to do epigraphs. I want to do them on books that it matches.


Q Are any of the interlude characters that we’ve met in other interludes?

A You’ve met Axies the collector, and he appears in another interlude. Rysn is in an interlude in the first two books. You met Ash in one of the interludes and she’s going to be an important character, she’s very relevant. So I would say that a lot of the interludes have characters that show up again or are likely to show up again.



Q. Let’s say that the fires of industry keep progressing in Middle Earth, and someone builds a spaceship, they get in it and go up. What do you think happens?

A In Middle Earth? I think it is heavily implied by the time that happens that Middle Earth has changed to a place where there is no magic, so I think it works just fine.

[followup Q]

A You’re not talking to a Tolkein scholar here.


A Yes, the cosmere takes place in a place where there is another branch of physics that is investiture, and that is the big change.

Q Do you ever run into problems with that, does it break physics?

A Oh, yeah. If you look too deep in a fantasy book we are breaking the laws of thermodynamics and we are breaking causality. Those are the two big ones. And those are very important things to be… very dangerous things to be breaking. And you could probably write a fantasy novel that didn’t break those two things. Maybe? I don’t know. The way I avoid breaking laws of thermodynamics is by saying, we’ve got investiture that things can transfer into as well. We’ve got matter, energy, and investiture, I’ve added something to the tripod and therefore it looks like I’m just bending the laws of thermodynamics. When you actually get down into the nitty-gritty, it starts to break down. It just has to. Causality is the big one. Once you have people teleporting and things like this, run the train experiment. I mean, you just have to say “It’s magic” at some point in a fantasy book. For most of them. I think you could do it, but in mine, with a  grand scale magic system I want to do, we just have to say, “at that point it’s magic.” And this is how I think a fantasy writer differs from a science fiction writer. A SF writer takes today and extrapolates forward. I take what is interesting and extrapolate backward. Usually. For instance speed bubbles. “I want to have speed bubbles. This is how they work. Peter, tell me the physics.” And we work it out together. We work out physics and try to hit the big trouble points and build into the magic why certain things happen. But that doesn’t stop us from making speed bubbles where there is time passing differently without using mass or whatnot to create time dilation, and it causes all kinds of weird things to happen.



Q If Marasi and Wayne are standing near each other, and made a speed bubble….

A They’d cancel each other out.

Q Totally cancel each other?

A Well, if they make it the same size. If not, they will make like a Venn diagram thing.

Q If they overlap completely, they’d just cancel each other out? I mean, they could walk forward freely?

A Yeah, they could probably.

Q Because they are still burning the metals, so is there something still going on?

A Yes, there is still something going on, but it is negating one another. But no, she’s got a point because you could drop one, well, I suppose you could just put one up. If there were a reason that were important, then yes, you could do that.

Q But otherwise nothing’s happening.

A Yeah, you’re not passing the barrier, and having the jolt of power.

Q So something could really cross the barrier? Because it is there but not there.

A Yeah, but if you are completely negating and running at the same power then yes.



Q [For Mistborn Era 2-3, with taking technology forward]. Were there specific concerns you had, or concerns you have going forward, about how they will integrate?

A No, I think I’m going to be fine on that. I mean there are things that will pop up, and I’m just used to the fact that I’m just going to have to say, “This is how this works, because we didn’t think of this ahead of time.” I’ll just deal with that. That’s the biggest thing that will probably happen. But, you know, I’m very confident that I can make it work. I’ve done it enough, and I’ve been working on Mistborn long enough. My biggest concern is not that, my biggest concern is that there are a certain segment of fantasy readers who just don’t like guns in their fantasy, and will never get to experience the later era Mistborn books because of that. And that’s just, well, you just have to deal with that.



Q In the annotations for Elantris, you were talking about the shardpool. I know that it was the earliest one, and the cosmere wasn’t fully developed then.

A I have expanded it since.

Q So that annotation felt a little odd.

A I’ll have to go back and look at it. I knew that they were going into the cognitive realm when I wrote it, but I had changed… Roshar for instance, did not have the spren when I wrote that. And Mistborn was only in the outline stages. No, when I wrote Elantris I hadn’t even written Mistborn. I also, you have to remember, early in my career I was being very vague about all of this. Because I was worried that people would get distracted by this and it would hurt my career. So you notice in the early appearances of Hoid, I used pseudonyms for him. Even in unpublished books where it’s obvious it’s him, he’s got a pseudonym and you never know. Because I didn’t want people to get this and be like, “He’s trying too much.” So I was really coy about a lot of things. But other things I didn’t figure out until later on, when I’m like “How exactly is this going to work?” It really helped once I had Peter to help me work out the physics of it and I could bounce ideas off of someone who knew enough about realmatic theory and stuff like that.



Q Do you have a list of the adjectives you use for Peter in the acknowledgments?

A I do have a list, so I don’t repeat myself.



Q Do you find in writing that your faith informs some aspects?

A It’s a good question. The things I am fascinated by end up in books. I am not a CS Lewis or a Phillip Pullman. I don’t sit down with a message I want to get across. I explore who a character is and try to figure out what message they would want to get across, then try to make it work. But you can find all kinds of things. My upringing is going to be deeply influential on what is in the books. So yes and no. I leave that more to people who want to analyze and find things. I think that’s legit--I got an English degree. It’s totally fine to take it and be like, “This is the unconscious influence.” I more just write the books. Tolkien insisted to the end of his days that Lord of the Rings was not a metaphor for WWI, and you read that book and if you know anything about WWI you think, “This really feels like a metaphor for WWI.” It’s that sort of thing. You write the book and explore themes that are important to certain characters, and theoretically some of that does come out to the readers and they can connect it and put it together.  That’s basically how I approach it. I am very fascinated by religion, as you can tell. So I try to have characters--Stormlight is a good example. I wanted to have characters who are on all different types of spectrums. You’ve got Kaladin who’s agnostic. It’s basically the classic “I don’t know if there’s a god. If there is, I’m angry at him.” You’ve got Dalinar, who’s a reformist. He’s a Martin Luther, he’s a Mohammed, he’s a Joseph Smith. You know, “Religion is not doing what it needs to right now, we need to expand this.” You’ve got someone like Navani who’s a traditionalist, who wants the old religion to really work, who is trying to reconcile this. You’ve got Jasnah who is straight-up atheist. And then you’ve got someone more like Taravangian who would claim to be an atheist, but what he’s done is taken something nonreligious and ascribed religion to it, sort of like Confucianism, where something that was a philosophy is turning into a religion. And I try to get people on all sides of this thing. And also the religions. You’ve got the Alethi, you’ve got the Passions, you’ve got different ways to approach it, because I think that makes for a more interesting story when you like all these people and then they disagree.


EDIT 1: The event report starts with this post near the bottom of page 2.



Thanks for posting this. It looks like a good convention. I doubt I'll be able to attend much of it, though--work is going to be very busy that month, and I may be traveling around that weekend too. Where did you see the info about the free Friday session? I couldn't find that part on the website.

Edited by ccstat
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I am expecting to only be able to go for part of the time, so I looked up the one day rates from last year. Basically, it is comparable to the early registration rate available now for the full weekend, so if your situation is similar it is probably better to get it now than to wait 

Boskone 53 January pricing:

Full Weekend Rates
Adult Full Convention: $65
College Student Full Convention: $40 *
K-12 Full Convention: $25 *

One Day Rates
Friday One Day: $25
Saturday One Day: $45
Sunday One Day: $25

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Has anyone here attended Boskone before? They haven't released the schedule yet but it'd be nice to at least be able to guess whether Brandon is coming for the whole weekend or just one day. After all if he's only coming the the free bit on Friday then there's no reason to buy a pass for the whole weekend. Can anyone confirm this? 

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I've never been before, but since Brandon is the guest of honor you can be certain that he will be featured throughout the program. Whether his appearances will include signings or Q&A in addition to the panels and speeches is still TBA, except for one announced event: there will be a Rithmatist-focused book club with a Q&A about that book.

In the past, Brandon has often tried to do one local bookstore signing in addition to the con he attends. I emailed team Sanderson but haven't heard back yet about whether that will happen for Boskone.

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I am hoping to. My wife has to work that whole weekend, so I will be on kid duty at least part of the time. Her Saturday shift doesn't start until 3pm, so I can probably go to morning events that day.

I took one toddler to the Atlanta signing i made it to during the Firefight tour--it was okay, but that was a bookstore not a con, and now I would be bringing two... so I am not very optimistic about trying a family cosplay in February in Boston.

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2 hours ago, ccstat said:

I took one toddler to the Atlanta signing i made it to during the Firefight tour--it was okay, but that was a bookstore not a con, and now I would be bringing two... so I am not very optimistic about trying a family cosplay in February in Boston.

Find one more and cosplay younger Brandon & sons.

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  • 4 weeks later...

FYI, I asked Team Sanderson about whether Brandon was planning a non-convention signing during the Boston trip, as he has sometimes done elsewhere. Adam responded that nothing like that is scheduled at the moment, and the full itinerary will be posted as soon as it is available.

Also, the promised January price increase has not yet taken effect, so if you still need a membership now is a good time to buy one.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for pointing that out. This blog post has details on all of Brandon's events, but here is a short version of his involvement. The important thing to point out is that his first two events are open to the public and don't require a convention membership.

Friday (2/17)

  • 3pm panel (with 4 other authors, topic: hardest book to write)
  • 5pm signing
  • 8pm opening ceremonies/reception

Saturday (2/18)

  • 11am House War game demo
  • 1pm panel (with agent Joshua and editor Moshe, topic: building a career)
  • 4pm Rithmatist discussion (Brandon arrives @4:30 for Q&A)

Sunday (2/19)

  • 12pm reading/Q&A
  • 1pm signing


Edit: I just posted a thread elsewhere about trying to make a physical gift to give Brandon at Boskone. If you are interested in helping, I woiuld love your input.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Good thought. I have an old phone that can function as a recorder, and I won't worry too much about leaving it since it is otherwise pretty non functional. I would want to let someone else be in charge of setting it up, though, since I will not be there for either Friday or Sunday.

Another thought- I designed some simple 17S "business cards" to print out and leave on the signing table/booth, hoping to recruit people to the site. Does anyone have access to a good color printer/copier that could make a bunch of them?

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I was thinking a bit more than that, maybe ~500. The current layout has 12 to a page, so we'd be looking at 50 pages or so. 

I'm willing to be talked into a different number. Wikipedia says that recent Boskone attendance has been a bit under 1500 people. I figure most of them will go by the guest of honor's booth, and maybe a fourth of those would take a card. Less than half will probably show up for the signing, but more of them would be likely to grab one. So i ballparked with 500 as a guess.

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I'm new to the forums too, but if there's anything I can do to help at Boskone I plan on being there starting Friday evening.  It will be my first time going to anything like this so I'm not sure what to expect, but I figured I should at least try to do my part since I've spent so much time pouring over the Interview Database and Coppermind.

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2 hours ago, DAdam said:

I'm new to the forums too, but if there's anything I can do to help at Boskone I plan on being there starting Friday evening.  It will be my first time going to anything like this so I'm not sure what to expect, but I figured I should at least try to do my part since I've spent so much time pouring over the Interview Database and Coppermind.

One great way to contribute is to find a question nobody has asked before, and ask it! There's a thread full of them here.

I'm planning to ask about a theory @Pagerunner came up with regarding Ettmetal, and if I have time @ccstat lent me some other Scadrial-related questions. 

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