Brandon Sanderson's Blog
March 15, 2017
Adam here. Brian McClellan is a favorite with members of team Dragonsteel; you can read previous posts from Isaac and me experience more uncontrollable gushing about The Powder Mage trilogy, specifically The Crimson Campaign and The Autumn Republic.
Brian recently released his follow-up to The Powder Mage trilogy with Sins of Empire that builds on the all the ideas set forth in the previous books. The setting switches from Adro to the capital city of Fatrasta, Landfall. Here we see a repressive government headed by Lady Chancellor Lindet and her psychopathic right-hand man, Fidelis Jes leader of the secret police known as the Blackhats. Unease is increased as the native Palo, the most subjugated of Landfall, begin to secretly campaign about the atrocities of the government via a manifesto called The Sins of Empire which begins to steer the populace toward rebellion. To quell the imminent insurrection, Lindet tasks powder mage Vlora and her Riflejack Mercenary Company to defend the city and keep order. Meanwhile, Fidelis Jes orders one of his blackhats, Michel Bravis, to investigate the origins of The Sins of Empire and bring in the individuals responsible. Things become more complicated for our cast as Mad Ben Styke, falsely imprisoned by Fidelis Jes, escapes a prison work camp with the help of the enigmatic Gregious Tampo, who is too well-informed and resourceful to be the mere lawyer he claims to be. The book finishes in standard McClellan fashion: in a furious, visceral, and relentlessly thrilling melee that became a familiar sensation during the original trilogy.
Needless to say, Brian is one of the first authors I recommend to people when they ask for recommendations. If you like Brandon’s books–and since you’re reading this I will assume you do–these should suit you fine.
Also, our resident artist Isaac–who also said, “this is Brian’s best book to date”–also did the map work for these books and you can check them out below!
March 6, 2017
Adam here. As you can probably imagine, Brandon’s inbox is flooded daily with questions ranging from inquiries about his favorite color to asking how everything in the cosmere ends. For obvious reasons, Brandon can’t answer all of these.
What I am going to start doing is to create a weekly poll of questions—hopefully none of which will get an immediate RAFO—on Facebook so you get to help decide which question Brandon answers later that week. Some weeks you will see more than one poll—like this week—as I need to have several questions ready for the time that Brandon will be touring.
If you want to help decide what questions get answers, pay attention to Brandon’s Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ as I will be announcing when the polls become active.
In this week’s new Writing Excuses episode, Developing Your Own, Personal Style
, Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard talk about your voice as a writer, your authorial style, and the aesthetics you employ, and how this is an expression unique to you. And with that definition out of the way, our discussion focuses around how we go about identifying, developing, and embracing our personal styles.
Last week, in Tor.com’s continuing reread posts for Warbreaker, Vivenna was manipulated into approving Denth’s plans, thinking they would benefit Idris. This week, in chapters twenty, and twenty-one, Siri’s new nighttime routine is disrupted, and Vasher begins some manipulations of … SQUIRREL!
BrandSanderson Fri Mar 03
#FAQFriday – What Is Adonalsium?
See the full answer here:
February 27, 2017
In this week’s new Writing Excuses episode, Q&A on Viewpoint, Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard answer your questions about viewpoint. Here they are!
Do you have tips and tricks for making 3rd-person omniscient compelling?
How do you make 3rd-person limited compelling?
Is it normal to need several drafts to nail down a character’s voice?
What’s the best way to portray an unreliable 3rd-person limited narrator?
What are your most effective methods for immersing yourself in character attributes so that you can get the voice right?
How do you choose between 1st and 3rd person?
How do you select the viewpoint character for a scene?
How do you smoothly transition between viewpoints?
How do you prevent character voices from blending into each other and becoming indistinguishable?
Last week, in Tor.com’s continuing reread posts for Warbreaker, Siri had everyone blushing with her new bedtime routine, while Lightsong tried unsuccessfully to call in sick. This week, in chapter nineteen, Vivenna’s prejudices are on full display, even as her inexperience sets her up for further manipulation.
Brandon recently did an interview with Bulgarian fantasy outlet Shadowdance. You can read the interview in English or Bulgarian here:
You can see the February Twitter post archive here.
February 17, 2017
Davis couldn’t help wondering how the people in the diner would react to knowing they were dupes. The fat lady behind the counter, going over receipts. The two white guys in flannel and trucker caps, chewing on Reubens and grunting at each other. The mom with a gaggle of kids, hushing them with force-fed fries.
Davis felt he could take the measure of a man or woman by the way they handled the news that they weren’t real. It was uncomfortable, intimate, and fascinating to watch. Some got angry, some got morose. Others laughed. You saw something about a person in that moment that they wouldn’t ever know—couldn’t ever know—about themselves.
His watch buzzed as the waitress arrived with a plate of fries for him and topped off his coffee. Davis had momentary sadistic visions of himself guessing the reactions of the people in the room, then pulling out his badge and showing it around to see if he was right. Trouble was, Chaz might do something like that if he got too bored.
Chaz got back from the restroom as Davis was munching on fries. “Sure,” Chaz said, sitting, “you’ll put mustard on those.”
“Mustard belongs on fries.”
“Like it belongs on burritos.”
“You just aren’t willing to live, Davis,” Chaz said, stealing a fry. “Try new things, you know?”
“Once again, this isn’t new,” Davis said, checking the message on his phone. “You literally have been trying to get me to eat like you for three years.”
“It’s why I’m a good detective,” Chaz said. “Tenacity. What’s hottie pants say?”
“Hottie pants? Maria?”
“She’s like twenty years older than you.”
“And hot. What does she say?”
“They found the gun in real life,” Davis said. “It was down there in the storm drain where Estevez threw it. Soaked in ten days’ worth of grime, but they rushed it through ballistics and it came back a match for the bullet. We might have to testify.” They now had enough evidence to convict Estevez, and the testimony of two hardworking cops would only reinforce that.
Chaz grunted. “Would still feel better if I’d been able to gun that punk down. Pay him back, you know?”
“You don’t even know what he did,” Davis said dryly.
“Killed someone. That . . . um . . . girl?” He shrugged. “Anyway, want to play hooky for the rest of the day?”
Davis looked up, feeling a cold jolt.
“Our next job,” Chaz continued, stealing another fry, “it’s not till . . . what, almost twenty-one hundred?”
“Quarter after twenty. Domestic disturbance. They want us to see who hit first. Corroborate one story or the other.”
“What a waste of our time.”
Davis shrugged. It wasn’t uncommon to go on small missions like that throughout the day, after the main case had been investigated.
“I don’t want to wait around eight hours to see who slapped who,” Chaz said. “Let’s save everyone some time and money and bug out of here. The shrink says I should let her know if I feel ‘emotional distress.’ ”
“Which means what?”
“Hell if I know. She seems to think that I should find living in Snapshots distressing.”
“Seriously?” Davis said. “You? Is she paying any attention?”
“She’s not even hot,” Chaz added.
Davis sighed, but it did little to cover his sudden anxiety. They couldn’t leave. Could they?
Maybe that would be for the best. . . .
No. Warsaw. 20:17. He had an appointment.
“Come on,” Chaz said. “Let’s go. I’ll even let you push the button to turn the Snapshot off.”
“I always push the button,” Davis said.
“And today I won’t complain.”
“No, look, I’ve got something for us to do.” Davis scrambled to pull out his phone again. “I’ve been reading the scanner forums—”
“—and there was a blip about this day, when it happened for real. Though I couldn’t find anything in the precinct records, the forums claim that multiple squad cars were called in to search an apartment building. That will happen in the Snapshot in about an hour. Want to get there first and see what it was?”
“Forums,” Chaz said dryly. “Conspiracy forums. You said there wasn’t anything in the official records.”
“Nothing I was allowed to see.”
“Which probably means they didn’t find anything.”
“No. That would have been logged. There was nothing there.”
“Which means you didn’t have clearance. They didn’t want low-level detectives knowing about it, whatever it was.”
“And doesn’t that make you curious?” Davis asked. “We could do a little real detective work. Snoop. Who knows, maybe someone will try to shoot you.”
“You think so?” Chaz asked, perking up.
“It could happen. You’re very shootable.”
He nodded. “Yeah. Real detective work, eh?” He rubbed his chin. “You know what we’re going to find, right? Some politician with a whore. That’s why they’d hide it. Assuming it’s even real, and the forum nutjobs aren’t making things up.”
“Yeah, well, I suppose we could just play hooky,” Davis said. “Go back to the boring real world. Sit around. Watch a movie. Instead of living in one . . .”
“All right, I’m sold,” Chaz said, standing. “But I’ve got to go hit the head first.”
“That burrito, man.” He shook his head. “That burrito . . .” He wandered off in the direction of the bathroom.
Davis relaxed his fist and let himself breathe out, trembling. They’d stay in the Snapshot for now. Davis paid the bill with actual cash, but the diner only gave change as credit. That wouldn’t ever reach him though. This Snapshot city existed on its own, without external infrastructure. If people left the area the Snapshot covered, they vanished immediately. If someone was scheduled to enter the city, the Snapshot created their body and vehicle, then set them on the road driving in at the proper time.
He’d never been able to figure out the details. How did credit transactions work for those inside here? How did the Snapshot manage to re-create all outgoing and incoming transmissions? The power lines. The internet. Sunlight. What were the levels of reality for it all? He ate food in here. How much would he have to eat before the system recognized him as part of it, rather than being real? If he had too many burritos, would that badge someday shine for him, as it did for the dupes?
He tore himself away from that line of thinking. Keep focused on my task. He turned around in his seat, looking toward the woman with the children as she packed them up and herded them out the door. The oldest was six, self-proclaimed to his sister in an argument.
That was two years younger than Hal, but Hal had always been small for his age. Like his dad.
The mother and her children left, and Davis found himself staring at a different woman, sitting close to the back of the diner near the window. Slender, with black hair cut short. Angular features. Pretty. Very pretty.
“Well,” Chaz said, stomping up, “there’s another part of me added to the system: my dump. It’ll get recycled when the day breaks down, right?”
“I suppose,” Davis said absently, still watching the woman.
“Good to know that part of me will get used the next time they rebuild this. My dump will be recycled into lawyers. Cool, eh?”
“How is that any different from real life?”
“Well, it . . .” He trailed off, scratching his head. “Oh. Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Huh. Well anyway, you going to go talk to her?”
“The hottie back there.”
“What? No. I mean, you shouldn’t say things like that.”
“Come on,” Chaz said, nudging him. “You’re staring at her hard enough to throw sparks. Just go say hello.”
“I don’t want to harass her.”
“Talking isn’t harassing.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s one of the primary methods of harassment,” Davis said.
“Yeah, maybe, sure. But she’s looking back at you. She’s interested, Davis. I can tell.”
Davis toyed with the idea, a small panic rising in him like an exploding bomb. “No,” he said, standing. “Why bother? It’s not real anyway.”
“All the more reason to give it a go. For practice.”
Davis shook his head and led the way out of the diner. Unfortunately, as they passed the woman’s table, Chaz stepped over to her. “Hey,” he said. “My friend is kind of shy, but he was wondering if maybe he could have your number.”
Davis felt his heart all but stop.
The woman blushed, then looked away.
“Sorry to bother you,” Davis said, hauling his partner out the door by the arm. Then, once outside, he continued, “You idiot! I said not to do that.”
“Technically,” Chaz said, “you told me you weren’t going to do it. You didn’t say that I couldn’t.”
“That was humiliating. I—”
Davis froze as the door to the diner opened and the woman stepped out. She blushed again, then handed Davis a little slip of paper before ducking back into the restaurant.
Davis stared at it, reading the phone number scrawled across the front. Chaz grinned a big, goofy smile.
Sometimes, Chaz, he thought, tucking the paper away, I love you.
“So, where are we going?” Chaz asked.
“Fourth,” Davis said, leading the way down the street.
“Bit of a hike.”
“Nah,” Chaz said, hands in pockets. “Just saying.”
They strolled for a time, Davis feeling the paper in his pocket. He was shocked, even embarrassed, by how pleased he was. How warm it made him feel. Even if he was never going to call her, even if she wasn’t real. Damn. He hadn’t felt like this in years, since before meeting Molly.
“You ever wonder,” Chaz said as they walked, “if we should be using this more?”
“What do you mean?”
Chaz nodded at the cars passing on the wide avenue. At least half were autocabs, smooth and careful, each one coordinated with the others. A variety of older cars joined them, and most were just as smooth—but you could tell the manual drivers from the way they jerked about, making a mess of things. Like fish that had suddenly split away from the rest of the school.
“We should use this more,” Chaz repeated. “We’re in a day that already happened. So shouldn’t we be able to . . . I don’t know . . . buy lottery tickets or something?”
“And win money that will vanish when the day ends?”
“We could swallow it,” Chaz said. “Like you said.”
“There’s a big difference between one coin and millions in lottery earnings. Not that they pay out instantly anyway, for the types of winning numbers we could look up ahead of time. Besides, it would likely be classified as counterfeiting if you somehow did get money out.”
“Yeah.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “It would still be fun to win. Anyway, I just feel we should be able to do more. Get right what someone else got wrong.”
“Which is what we do.”
“I’m not talking about legal stuff, Davis.” He sighed. “I can’t explain it.”
The two crossed the road, and cars started again behind them. A few old combustion engines roared past, making Davis turn. That was a sound from his past. Like the smell of gasoline.
“I understand,” he said.
That seemed to comfort the taller man. “So, any idea what we’re looking for when we arrive at this place of yours?”
“I don’t know,” Davis said. “It’s just one of those blips that the forum people notice. Sudden, urgent call for a car, several responses . . . then silence. No report. No nothing.”
“And you think someone’s scared we’ll find out.”
They’d talked about this sort of thing before. In here, the two of them were absolute authorities. Flashing their badges could get them past any obstruction, overrule any order. They were two men in a crowd of shadows.
In here, they were the only ones with rights. In here, they were gods. The longer he’d been working in Snapshots, the more Davis had realized that there were certain people on the outside who found his power in here terrifying. They hated thinking that there were simulacra of them that a couple of low-level detectives could order around. How to contain them, protect people’s privacy, was a constant argument.
“I’m surprised,” Chaz said as they finally reached Fourth Avenue, “that they didn’t remember to send us to some saferoom.”
Davis nodded. They wouldn’t have gone—they never did. But the precinct continued to order it, claiming that if Davis or Chaz were to meet their own dupe selves in the city, they’d be mentally scarred. Which was stupid.
“If we don’t find anything at this address of yours,” Chaz said, “I’m going to take the day off.”
“Fair enough. But I think there will be something. It’s suspicious.”
“I’m telling you. Politician with a whore.”
“They wouldn’t call in squad cars for that.” He chewed on his lip. “Have you noticed how lately they seem to have us do only the least work possible on a case? Find a murder weapon, witness a criminal activity. No interviews, little real police work.”
“Guess they decided they don’t want us getting too comfortable with that sort of thing,” Chaz said. “Hell, they don’t want IRL detectives in here. That’s why they send guys like us in the first place.”
The site of the mysterious call for the authorities—a call that wouldn’t come in the Snapshot for about another hour—was an old apartment building with tags and graffiti sprayed all over it. The broken and grimy windows proclaimed it wasn’t occupied these days.
“Doesn’t look like the kind of place I’d take a prostitute,” Davis noted.
“Like you’ve ever taken a prostitute anywhere,” Chaz said, shading his eyes and looking upward. “I know this area. It was nice once—these were probably expensive apartments.”
They walked up the steps, then tried the door, which was locked tight. Davis looked to Chaz, who shrugged and kicked the door in. “Damn,” he said. “That was easier than I thought it would be.”
“Feel like a real cop?”
“Getting there,” he said, then peeked into the hallway.
A quick search didn’t turn up anything. The ground floor apartments were open, doors unlocked, but they had been gutted and were empty save for the nest some homeless person had made beneath more spray-painted tags. Even the nest seemed like it hadn’t been used in months.
Something smelled off. Musty? Davis wandered back into the main stairwell—near the entry door—sniffing at the air.
Chaz started toward the stairs to the second floor. “There are like twenty stories in this place, Davis. If we have to search them all, so help me, you’ll owe me a burrito. Extra mustard.”
“Let’s try down first,” Davis said, catching Chaz and pulling him to a door in the lobby, cracked open with only darkness beyond. He pulled it fully open, revealing a stairway leading down. The smell was stronger. Musty dampness.
Chaz tried the light switch, but the building’s power was off. Davis dug out a small flashlight and shined it down the stairs.
“Convenient,” Chaz said, trying his phone, which wasn’t as good at providing light.
“Always used to carry a flashlight,” Davis said, starting down the steps. “IRL, as a detective. You’d be surprised at how often it came in handy.”
At the bottom of the steps was another door, which Chaz opened with a well-placed kick. Dampness wafted over them as they stepped into the basement, which had walls lined with broken mirrors. Some old exercise weights lay abandoned in the corner.
“See,” Chaz said, holding up his phone for light. “This place was fancy, once upon a time.”
Davis led the way through the basement gym, darting his light right, then left, growing nervous. But there didn’t seem to be anything down here. They might have to wait until the phone call was made—and the squad cars showed up—to find out what it was.
Chaz stayed close to him, directing his phone’s frail light. Perhaps the call had come because one of the floors had caved in or something. Wouldn’t that be fitting? Two washed-up detectives, killed in a fake world because they couldn’t be bothered to sit back and take a break.
Chaz poked his side, then pointed. Davis turned his flashlight in that direction, noticing a doorway in the wall. Light reflected off a tiled floor beyond. And beyond that . . .
“Water?” he said, striding forward. The musty smell suddenly made sense. “Swimming pool? How is it still full in this place?”
“Damned if I know,” Chaz said, walking with him into the room. It was a pool, moderately sized, considering it was in an apartment building basement. Davis put his hand on his hip, shining the light around. The pool was only partially full. There was no—
His flashlight passed over a face underneath the water.
Davis froze, holding the light on the dead, glassy eyes. Chaz cursed, fumbling for his gun, but Davis just stood there staring. She was young, maybe just a teen. Beside her was another body, settled on the bottom of the pool, facedown.
Shaking, Davis turned his flashlight more slowly across the bottom of the pool. Another. And another.
Corpses. Eight of them.
Anthony Davis—one of only two real people in a city of twenty million—caught the burrito his partner tossed to him. “Which end is the mustard on?” he asked.
“Mustard?” Chaz replied. “Who puts mustard on a burrito?”
“You. What side?”
Chaz grinned, showing perfect white teeth. They were fake. After taking that bar stool to the face two years back, he’d gotten one replaced, but had insisted that the dentist make it too perfect to match his other teeth. By this point, he’d had most of the rest replaced as well.
“Mustard is in the end on your left,” Chaz said, nodding to the burrito. “How’d you know?”
Davis just grunted, ripping off the corner of the burrito. Beans, cheese, beef. And mustard. Chaz clung to this stupid belief that someday his partner would happen upon a mustardy bite and convert. Davis shook his head and tossed the ripped-off chunk of burrito into a dumpster.
The two strolled down the street in plain clothes. The vast city of New Clipperton enveloped them, so authentic that one would never be able to tell it was a Snapshot—a re-creation of a specific day in the real city. Using methods a simple cop like Davis struggled to understand, the entire city had been reproduced.
They were actually in some vast underground complex, but it didn’t seem that way to him; he saw a sun overhead and smelled the stench of the alleyway they passed. It all felt real to him. In its way, it was real: built from raw matter you could touch, smell, hear, and—as evidenced by the bite Davis took of his burrito—taste.
Damn. He’d missed some of the mustard.
“You ever wonder,” Chaz said, talking with his mouth half-full, “how much these burritos cost? Like, for real. The energy to create them and stick them in here so we can buy them?”
“They cost tons,” Davis said, then took another bite. “And nothing at the same time.”
“Huh. Kind of like how you can say things, but have them mean nothing at the same time?”
“The Snapshot Project is a sunk cost, Chaz,” Davis said. “The suits already paid for the place, the technology to do this. Everything is already here, and the setup cost was enormous. But we didn’t really have much choice.”
When the new American government had pulled out of Clipperton, they’d decided not to remove the installation built underneath it. Davis had always assumed that the Americans wanted the place to stay around, in case they decided to return and play with their experiment some more. But they also hadn’t wanted to just give it away. So, New Clipperton—officially an independent city-state—had been granted the “opportunity” to take control of the Snapshot Project. For a very large fee.
Davis took another bite of his burrito. “This whole thing cost us a ton, but that’s done. So we might as well use it.”
“Yeah, but burritos, man. They make burritos for us. I always wondered if the bean counters would figure, ‘Burritos are too frivolous. Let’s take them out.’ ”
“Doesn’t work that way. If you’re going to use the Snapshot to re-create a day, you have to do it exactly. So our burritos, the graffiti on the wall there, the woman you’re leering at—all part of the package. Expensive, but free, all at once.”
“She is fine though, eh?” Chaz said, turning around and walking backward as he watched the woman.
“Have a little decency, Chaz.”
“Why? She’s not real. None of them are real.”
Davis took another bite of burrito. His taste buds couldn’t tell that it wasn’t real. Of course, what did it mean to be “real”? The beans and cheese had been modeled on a real burrito in the real city, and it was exact down to the molecular level. It wasn’t just some virtual simulation either. If you’d placed this burrito beside one from the real world, even an electron microscope couldn’t have detected the difference.
Chaz grunted, biting into his own burrito. “Wonder who bought these in the real city.”
It was a good question. This Snapshot had been created overnight, and was an exact replica of a day ten days back: the first of May, 2018. This entire re-creation would be deleted once Chaz and Davis left for the evening. They’d push a button, and everything in here would be reconstituted back to raw matter and energy.
Chaz and Davis were real though—from “in real life,” so to speak. Their insertion—while necessary—was also problematic. As Chaz and Davis interacted with the Snapshot, they would cause what were called Deviations: differences between the Snapshot and the way the real May first had played out.
Some things they did—though it was impossible to tell which ones ahead of time—would end up having a ripple effect throughout the Snapshot, making the re-creation happen differently from the real day. The Deviation percentage—as calculated by statisticians—would be a factor in any trials associated with evidence discovered in the Snapshot.
Chaz and Davis usually left that to the bean counters. Sometimes, they’d go the entire day doing things they were sure would ruin their cases—but in the end everything played out fine, and the Deviation percentage was determined to be small. Another time, Davis had locked himself away in a hotel saferoom, determined not to create any Deviations. Unfortunately, by slamming his door, he’d woken up a woman in an adjacent room. She had therefore made it to an interview on time, and that had sent ripples throughout the entire Snapshot, causing a 20 percent Deviation level. That had cost them an entire case.
Nobody had blamed him. Cops in the Snapshot would introduce Deviations; it was the nature of what they did. Still, it haunted him. In here, everyone else was fake, but he and Chaz . . . They were somehow something worse. Flaws in a perfect system. Intruders. Viruses leaving chaos in their wakes.
It doesn’t matter, he told himself as he finished the last of the burrito. Eyes on the mission. The department shrink told him to focus on what he was doing, on his task at hand. He couldn’t function if he fixated on the Deviations.
The two made their way to the corner of Third and Twenty-Second, near rows of little shops. Convenience stores, a liquor shop with bars on the windows. The backs of the stop signs had random stickers from this band or that plastered over them. This wasn’t one of the nicer areas of the city; there weren’t many of those left.
Davis called up the mission parameters again on his phone, looking them over. “I think we should stand inside,” Davis said, gesturing toward the liquor store.
“Makes it hard to chase someone.”
“Yeah, but he won’t see us. No Deviations.”
“Deviations can’t be stopped.”
He was right. Each day, they’d be interviewed about what they did, and data from their phones—which tracked their location—would be downloaded. Their actions were audited by the bean counters in IA, but the language was always about “minimizing Deviation risk in targets.” Never about eliminating the Deviations.
Besides, the phone data could be fudged, as Davis well knew, and signals from outside had trouble reaching inside the Snapshot. So really, nobody knew for sure what they did in here.
Still, Chaz didn’t argue further as Davis positioned them inside the liquor store, which was open despite the early hour. The place smelled clean, and was well maintained, notwithstanding the unsavory section of town. A bearded Sikh man with a sharp red turban swept the floor by the checkout counter. He regarded them curiously as they set up near the front window.
Davis read the mission parameters again, then checked his watch. A half hour. Not much time. They shouldn’t have stopped for breakfast, despite Chaz’s complaining.
The shopkeeper continued his sweeping, eyeing them periodically.
“He’s going to be trouble,” Chaz noted.
“We’re just two normal patrons.”
“Who didn’t buy anything. Now we’re staring out the window, one of us checking his watch every fifteen seconds.”
Davis was interrupted as the shopkeeper finally set his broom aside and came walking over. “I’m going to need you to leave,” he said. “I need to close for, um, lunch.”
Davis smiled, preparing a lie to placate the man.
Chaz flashed his badge.
It looked normal to Davis. Just a silvery shield with the usual important-looking embossing. Nothing abnormal about it. Except it was a reality badge. To anyone from the Snapshot—to anyone who was a dupe, a fake person—it wouldn’t look like a normal police shield at all. Instead, it was certification that the men bearing it were real.
And equally, certification that you were not.
The Sikh man stared at the badge, eyes widening. Davis always wondered what it was they saw. They got that same far-off look in their eyes, as if they’d stared into something vast. Stunned. Even a little in awe.
Has a dupe of me ever seen one of those? he wondered. Thinking he was the real me, completely ignorant of the fact that he—and his entire world—was just a Snapshot. Until he saw the badge . . .
The shopkeeper shook himself and looked at them. “Hey, that’s a neat trick. How did you . . . I mean, how’d you make it . . .” He trailed off, looking down at the badge again.
Dupes always recognized it instinctively. Something inside them knew what the badge meant, even if they hadn’t ever heard about them. Of course, most had heard of them, with the privacy dustups recently. Beyond that, the general public up in the Restored American Union had a fascination with the project; it was becoming a favorite of cinema. You could stream half a dozen cop dramas about detectives working inside a Snapshot—though as far as Davis knew, the only official facility was here in New Clipperton.
The cop dramas never showed what the reality badge looked like. It seemed to be some kind of unwritten rule. It was better in your head.
The shopkeeper whispered something softly in his native tongue. Then he looked up at them again, more somber. Chaz nodded to him.
The shopkeeper took it well. He just . . . wandered off. He pushed out the door of his shop in a daze, leaving it all behind. Why work a retail job when you’ve just found out you aren’t real? Why bother with anything when your entire world is going to end around bedtime?
“Want anything to drink?” Chaz asked cheerfully as he tucked his badge into his front pocket. He nodded to the now-unguarded store shelves.
“You didn’t need to do that,” Davis said.
“We only have a few minutes left. No time for chitchat. This was the best way.”
“He’ll introduce Deviations.”
“There’s no way to stop—”
“Shut it,” Davis said, slumping against the window and checking his watch again. Sometimes I hate you, Chaz.
Though he envied Chaz at the same time. Davis would be better off if he could simply start viewing everything in here—even the people they passed—as fake. Puppets created from raw matter and animated for a short time.
It was just that . . . they were exact reproductions, right down to their brain chemistry. How could you not view them as real people? He and Chaz ate the burritos, treated them as real, but were at the same time supposed to pretend the people they met were nothing more than simulacra? Didn’t seem right.
Chaz squeezed him on the shoulder. “It’s better this way. He’ll be able to enjoy what’s left of his life, you know?” He dug in his pocket, then dropped a handful of change onto the windowsill. “Here. From the burrito stand.”
Chaz wandered off to dig out an India Pale Ale. Davis stewed, then checked his mission parameters. Again. Two cases today. The one out on the street corner, then another near Warsaw Street at 20:17. Deviation percentage might be high by then, particularly if Chaz was in a mood today, but they could still do some good. Help cases going on in the real world. Get information to the real cops.
And Warsaw Street. 20:17.
Davis finally took the handful of coins and began sifting through them, holding each up to the morning sunlight coming through the window, checking the date. Chaz sauntered back over, then shook his head at Davis. “We could go to a bank, you know. Ask them for an entire bucket of coins.”
“Wouldn’t count,” Davis said, frowning at the quarter he was holding. Did he have 2002, Philadelphia mint? He pulled out his phone, scrolling down.
“Wouldn’t count?” Chaz asked. “By whose rules?”
“My own rules.”
“Then change them.”
“Can’t,” Davis said. Yeah, he’d found a 2002 already. It was 2003 he needed. Hard to find a place that used coins these days. The street vendors, the occasional convenience store.
“You do realize,” Chaz said, “how much more difficult you make your life, don’t you?”
“Sometimes,” Davis admitted. “But I can’t cheat, or the collection will lose all meaning. Besides, Hal knows the rules.” Davis had gotten an email from his son last week; the kid had almost finished a complete set of the 2000s. There was a soda machine in Hal’s school that gave real-money change.
“Let’s say you find one in here,” Chaz said. “Some little bit of metal that happens to have the right stamp on it, to make you all freaked out or whatever. What would you do? We can’t take anything out of the Snapshot.”
“Unless it’s inside us,” Davis said, nodding to Chaz’s beer.
“Eat the coin? Sure. Why not? What are the precinct bean counters going to do? Search my stool?”
Chaz took a long drink of beer. “You’re a strange little dude, Davis.”
“You’re only now figuring this out?”
“I’m slow,” Chaz said. “And you, you’re like subtly weird, Davis. Stealth weird.”
Davis’s watch buzzed, and he checked the time. Five minutes. He leaned in, watching the building across the street. A bar with some apartments on top.
Chaz reached for the holster under his arm.
“You won’t need that,” Davis said.
“A man can dream, can’t he?” But he did let go of the gun. “What makes this guy special anyway? A thousand murders a year in the city, and this one gets a Snapshot?”
Davis didn’t answer. Seriously, couldn’t Chaz be bothered to check the news once in a while? Or at least read the case notes?
They barely heard the shot across the street. Standing where they were, the little pop could have been almost anything. Someone flinging a bottle at a dumpster, a window breaking, even a door slamming. Davis jumped anyway.
Their perp, Enrique Estevez, hurried out of the building’s stairwell a minute later, hands shoved in his pockets. He looked around nervously, then set off down the street. Not quite at a run, but still obviously agitated.
“I’m off,” Chaz said.
“Don’t let him see you.”
Chaz gave him the look that meant, What, you think it’s my first day? Then he was out the door tailing Estevez, phone in hand.
Davis ducked out a moment later and turned down an alley, following the map on his phone toward Sixth. He would wait at the last point Estevez had been seen on the real day, in case Chaz lost the trail.
Davis called Chaz on the phone. “How’s he looking?”
“Nervous,” Chaz said over the line. “Street’s gone empty. Only a handful of people here. Should I take pictures of anyone, so the IRL cops can seek out witnesses?”
“No,” Davis said. “Too suspicious. And what would they witness? That Estevez was on the street? Just tail him.”
“Right,” Chaz said. “Hold up. He turned toward Eighth.”
Davis stopped in place. It was the wrong direction. “You sure?”
“Yeah. Is this a problem?”
“He was seen on Sixth in a few minutes,” Davis said. “Is he turning back?”
“No, we’re heading east, crossing avenues. Seems determined now. Not looking around as much.”
Davis cursed quietly, turning on his heels and heading back along the alleyway at a swift pace. The eyewitness who claimed to have seen Estevez on Sixth was wrong—either that or a Deviation had sent their subject in the wrong direction. If the percentage was that high already, this entire Snapshot would be a wash.
“I’m moving parallel to you,” Davis said, trying to keep himself from getting nervous. “You at Eighth yet?”
“Just passed it,” Chaz said. “Damn, Davis. He ducked into an alleyway, heading south. It’s going to be really hard to follow without looking suspicious.”
They couldn’t risk that. If Estevez got suspicious, it could create a ton of Deviations in his behavior. That was one type of Deviation they could do something about.
“I’m to the south on Twenty-First now,” Davis said. “I’ll bet I can intercept him.”
He stopped on the corner at Eighth Avenue, trying to hide the fact that he was puffing from the short jog. He’d have never passed fitness requirements for IRL fieldwork. Not anymore.
Still, he’d gotten into position fast enough to catch sight of Estevez leaving an alleyway ahead. Estevez turned east along Twenty-First Street, and Davis followed.
“I’ve got him,” Davis said, strolling along, trying to look nonchalant. Just another guy talking on his phone. Nothing to notice or worry about.
Damn. He was already feeling nervous. Stupid. This was a simple chase. He could do this without becoming a wreck.
“Nice work,” Chaz said. “I’m heading east on Twenty-Second, parallel to you.”
Davis kept pace with Estevez. The perp was a thin man, but taller, more . . . intimidating than his mug shots had made him seem. He’d made a big mistake—not just in murdering a man, but in picking the man to murder. The mayor’s nephew.
This was already ramping up to be a big case for the prosecutor, who felt he’d have heavy hitters in the city leaning on him. Unfortunately, their case against the accused wasn’t strong. So he’d requested a warrant for a Snapshot.
The city government of New Clipperton had bought the Snapshot Project. Paid the Restored American Union through the nose for it. But what did they know about how it worked? Barely anything. One of those . . . things was trapped somewhere, kept unconscious, electricity buzzing through it and doing this. Re-creating days, in their entirety, from provided raw matter.
Well, you had a small window to get a Snapshot of a specific day made. A few weeks, and that was it. You had to start it up in the morning, insert people right away. If you waited it grew more difficult. Like the doorway in just wouldn’t open. And getting data out . . . well, the cops had to carry it out with them. You could usually get secure texts through, but even with those there was interference sometimes.
Privacy watchdogs had lost their minds when they’d found out about the Snapshot Project. Particularly when they’d discovered that originally, the mayor had been using it for personal enjoyment, details redacted.
The resulting flurry of laws and restrictions meant that you needed a court order to re-create a day, and it could only be used for official government business. They could technically send in drones to record what was happening, and the precinct had experimented with that. Might eventually move to it full-time, but for now, old-fashioned detective work seemed most effective. This way you could put a cop on the stand to testify about what he’d seen with his own eyes. Juries responded to that sort of thing.
He was proud of how he stayed on Estevez’s tail with no sign of alerting the man. Like a real cop.
Chaz met him at an intersection, and the two kept following as Estevez called someone on the phone. They were too far back to hear anything, but the end result was that they saw when the man knelt down at the edge of the sidewalk and fumbled with something, then stood and darted down another alleyway.
Chaz cursed, speeding up, but Davis caught him by the arm.
“He’s getting away!” Chaz said, reaching under his arm for his gun again.
“Let him. This was what we’ve been waiting for.”
“This?” Chaz asked.
Davis walked up to the place where Estevez had knelt: a storm drain on the side of the road. He peered down, then reached in with his phone and took a few pictures. He held it up, scrolling between them until he found a good shot.
A handgun lay in the filth of the drain. “Murder weapon,” Davis said, standing up and showing Chaz. “The IRL detectives have been searching for this in all the wrong places.” He attached it to a message, then opened the secure HQ communication app on his phone.
He sent the message to Maria, their HQ liaison. Murder weapon found, he wrote. Storm drain in front of a beauty salon on the north side of Twenty-First, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.
“I hate just letting him go,” Chaz said, folding his arms.
“You hate not being able to get into some kind of gunfight,” Davis said back.
He waited, worried he’d need to send the message again. You never could be certain what would get out. Fortunately, a few minutes later his watch buzzed, and he glanced at the phone. A line was open, for the time being.
Intel received, Maria sent. Nice work. Between Tenth and Eleventh? That’s far from where you should have been.
Eyewitness is wrong, Davis sent back. Estevez went east after the murder, not west.
Chance of Deviation? Maria sent.
Ask the bean counters, Davis replied. I’m just reporting what I’ve found.
Roger. Sending a team to that gutter IRL. Stay close in case they need follow-up.
Davis showed the phone to Chaz.
“So . . .” Chaz said, looking around. “We have some time. You want to head to Ingred Street?”
“It’s noon,” Davis said dryly.
“And it’s a school day.”
“Oh. Right. What, then?”
“Well, we had some million-dollar burritos,” Davis said, nodding toward a diner. “Shall we have some million-dollar coffee to wash them down?”
Hey, all! I’ve been deep into revisions on Oathbringer. Turns out, big books don’t just take a long time to write—they take a long time to revise. (Who knew?)
Last year during my trip to the United Arab Emirates, I took a break from working on Oathbringer to write a novella, as is my habit to refresh myself now and then. Other than Edgedancer (the Stormlight novella in Arcanum Unbounded), this is the only thing I had time to write last year that wasn’t Oathbringer.
Snapshot is one of those stories that, once I had the idea, wouldn’t leave me alone. I wrote it furiously, having only about a week’s time to finish it, and I’m very pleased with the product: a kind of cyberpunk–detective thriller mashup. As we’ve posted earlier, Hollywood quickly snatched this one up, and it’s currently under option to MGM.
I think you’ll like it! The print edition is only available in a special edition leatherbound from Vault Books that will be released soon (though we will also have a cheap hardcover toward the end of the year). But as is our tradition, we’re simultaneously releasing an ebook for a few bucks, DRM-free, in all markets. So you can choose whether you want the expensive collector’s edition, or the quick ebook. (Audible has also released the audiobook today.)
Please give the story a look on its explanation page, where you’ll find a synopsis and links to the first two chapters. Also, note that if you buy the print edition in any format, we’ll happily send you the ebook for free at your request. (This will be handled via a coupon for my store.)
On Short Fiction
This seems a good time to take a moment and talk about the various editions I have out for my short fiction.
There are several motives that war within me when it comes to producing editions of my work. The first is that I really don’t want people to feel they have to pay multiple times for the same piece of fiction. I figure once you’ve paid me for it, you’re good, and you should have access (at least in ebook form) to that story for the rest of your life, whenever you want to read it.
At the same time, I want to provide different distinctive editions of the works for people who like them. This sometimes conflicts with my first impression because of additional costs involved. For example, doing an audiobook is more expensive than a print book as—once all the work is done for the print book—you then have to hire another team to take that text and make an audio version. I haven’t realistically found a way to bundle audio, print, and ebook together. (Though I do think the industry will need to figure this out eventually.)
I think the best I can do for now is give away ebooks of the books I myself publish for free, once you have a print edition. (Note the emphasis—I don’t have the legal right to do this for books like Mistborn and The Way of Kings, which were published by Tor. I can only do it for my self-published ventures, like most of my novellas.)
In addition, however, I can talk about in what formats these novellas will be available, and when. This at least lets you know whether you want to hold off getting one until your preferred format is available. So here is what I see us doing with these for the foreseeable future.
Option One: Individual cheap ebook
Available DRM-free from most ebook vendors on launch day.
Option Two: Individual audiobook
These depend on Audible or some other company wanting to release an edition. (They did so for the Legion books, for example, but not others.)
Usually, individual audiobooks for shorts are a bad value for readers—as the Audible economy depends on people using credits on stories, and there are no “half” credits. Which means a credit can be applied to a three-hour novella or a full-length novel at twenty-plus hours.
So you can’t depend on these existing. Sometimes they will, but not other times.
Option Three: Individual leatherbound hardcover
I’ve done these for most novellas, partnering with places like Subterranean and Vault Books. These are meant mostly as collector’s items, and usually have a short and limited print run. For those who want each individual novella separate and in its own book, this is your best option.
Option Four: Dragonsteel edition hardcover
These editions are often printed as “doubles” around the holidays, and sometimes (before official publication) go with me to conventions as convention exclusives.
This is the economical way to get a print edition, as they usually cost $20 and have two stories. (Snapshot, for example, is being published with another story called Dreamer this fall, and will be at conventions with me all summer.)
However, there’s a windowing of a few months on most of these, meaning you can’t get it immediately. This is by request of the publishers of the leatherbounds, who want a small exclusivity window.
Option Five: Collection version (ebook, audio, print)
I will be doing two types of collections moving forward. Cosmere stories (in the Arcanum Unbounded tradition, likely named Arcanum Unbounded II, III, etc.). These will collect in a single edition all the stories that haven’t been collected so far. (Arcanum Unbounded, for example, contained every Cosmere piece of short fiction that had been published up to that point.)
These are for the completionists who want everything, but who don’t mind waiting. They’re also very economical, as if you wait for the paperback edition, they will probably give you a dozen stories (of various lengths) for around ten bucks.
I do anticipate doing a non-Cosmere collection within a year or two, which will include stories like Snapshot and Perfect State. (And probably the Legion novellas, unless they become their own thing.)
Option Six: Dragonsteel collection leatherbound
If there is interest, we might do a leatherbound edition for the 10th anniversary of the collection, like we’ve done with Elantris and are currently doing with Mistborn. So if you like leatherbounds, but miss the initial limited edition, these will eventually be available—but they are a looong way off.
Anyway, I hope that lets you plan! Thank you for your interest in these smaller stories. Your enthusiasm for them is part of what keeps me so productive, as I don’t feel locked into doing one type of story. Overall, this makes even things like Stormlight move faster, as I remain engaged and excited as an author moving between projects.
And do please consider giving Snapshot a look!
February 14, 2017
Hello, everyone! I’ve had my nose to the grindstone working on Oathbringer. However, as awards season is upon us again, I’m pausing to do my yearly roundup of what I have that is eligible.
I know that to many of you, the science fiction awards (and the occasional drama surrounding them) are of little interest. However, I think it is important for me to support these awards, as they are valuable for our community.
Science fiction and fantasy, as genres, have become increasingly mainstream. In addition, those outside fandom are coming to understand us better. However, we continue to face unfair treatment by certain literary circles. We can’t simply say, “Hey, you shouldn’t regard an entire genre with derision, particularly when the genre is so wide,” without in turn saying, “Take a look at these books as great examples of what we do well.”
It is important that we in the genres uphold what we think is excellent about what we do. Those authors—and the world at large—deserve to understand that we’re proud of ourselves and of what we accomplish.
At worst, awards are a popularity contest. And that’s just fine. At their best, though, they are the means by which we grow as a community.
This year has a special difference from previous years, in that the Hugo Awards is trying out an award for Best Series. Below I’ve listed what I have that is eligible for the Hugo and Nebula awards this year.
Hugo Awards nominations are open to all members of the 2016, 2017, and 2018 World Science Fiction Conventions, and the deadline is March 17. You had to be a member by January 21st to nominate, but it’s not too late to become a member of the 2017 Worldcon in order to vote on the final ballot once it’s announced.
The Nebula nomination deadline, for SFWA members, is tomorrow, February 15.
The Bands of Mourning
The Dark Talent
(Note: Calamity and possibly The Dark Talent are also eligible for consideration by the Andre Norton Award jury.)
Mistborn: Secret History
Edgedancer (appeared in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection)
(Note: Both of these novellas are slightly over 40,000 words and thus are eligible as novels for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. However, under the Hugos’ 20%/5,000-word category relocation rule, they are also eligible for the Best Novella Hugo Award, where they fit best.)
Best Series (Hugo Awards only)
The Stormlight Archive
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians
In these award eligibility posts, I generally pick one thing I’d like to highlight for awards consideration. Usually it’s a novella or novel I think represents my best work of the year, or the one that I think stands best on its own.
This year, however, I feel that my novellas and novels don’t work independently. The novellas are both parts of larger series, requiring foreknowledge to really work. The two novels I released were the third in their respective series.
(Arcanum Unbounded could be eligible for the World Fantasy’s anthology award, but that is juried by a committee. So it’s up to whoever is part of that jury, not the voting public.)
Therefore, the thing I’d like to highlight this year is Mistborn for the Best Series Hugo Award. Mistborn had two entries this year, and I do think I’m doing something particularly interesting with that series. (Taking an epic fantasy world and pushing it toward a modern-day urban fantasy.) I would rather people consider it, than the Stormlight Archive, as I’d prefer the attention be on Stormlight in a year when it has a full novel in consideration. Hopefully we will have many more years of the Series Hugo to consider worthy works.
February 7, 2017
My Toughest Book
Time: 15:00 – 16:00
Time: 17:00 – 18:00
Mistborn: House War Game Demo
Time: 11:00 – 12:00
Building a Career
Time: 13:00 – 14:00
Boskone Book Club: The Rithmatist
Time: 16:00 – 17:00
Reading and Q&A
Time 12:00 – 13:00
Time: 13:00 – 14:00
In this week’s new Writing Excuses episode, Variations on Third Person, Brandon, Mary, Dan, Howard focus their discussion on the third person POV, and some variations on them, like omniscient and limited, and some sub-variants like cinematic and head-hopping.
Last week, in Tor.com’s continuing reread posts for Warbreaker, our main protagonists all gathered in the arena, and the priests began their debates. This week, in chapter sixteen, the subject of war with Idris becomes the focus; both Siri and Lightsong are deeply disturbed.
You can see the February Twitter post archive here.
YataVSTheWorld Fri Feb 03
@BrandSanderson Hi, the Comunity has a doubt, We have two WoB:
Shardblades cut Alluminium
Shardblades can’t cut it
Witch one is true one?
BrandSanderson Fri Feb 03
@YataVSTheWorld Hm. Yes, I wondered last night if I’d ever answered this before. Truth is, the answer is contentious at Team Sanderson.
BrandSanderson Fri Feb 03
@YataVSTheWorld I’ve been pushing for one answer, but Peter (whom I trust) is pushing back. We will see what ends up in the books as canon.
BrandSanderson Fri Feb 03
@YataVSTheWorld Problem with magic like I do is sometimes you have to wait for the scientific consensus…