From Darkness to Light: Brandon Sanderson on Bringing ROY G BIV to Warbreaker
The first idea for Warbreaker was actually sparked by a comment my editor made. He and I had been working on the Mistborn trilogy for some time now. Near the end of the process, he mentioned, “This setting is very dark, with all of the ash and blackness around all of the time—and it strikes me that Elantris had some of the same feel. Perhaps we should do something different for your next book.”
That comment itched at my brain, as they sometimes do. I’d already been planning my next book. I wanted to do another stand-alone, as I’d done with Elantris. I love the form of the stand-alone fantasy epic. I wanted to deal with some of the same concepts I’d approached in Elantris, but take them from another direction.
At the same time, as my editor mentioned, I did feel a need to do something that departed from Mistborn—a story that was slightly different both in visual setting and narrative style. So when I sat down to plan Warbreaker, I played with several concepts. Mistborn had been a series filled with night-time assassinations and dark, brooding hues. Could I do something colorful and bright instead? Sometimes, danger comes as a shadowed knife in the night—but in many ways, the more frightening danger is that which comes packaged up in bright, unthreatening colors. The ending of the Mistborn books had been grim; could I create that same sense of danger in Warbreaker, but approach it wrapped up in wry humor and wit instead?
And so, the world of Warbreaker was born: A place where the magic was fueled by color itself, a place where I could mix wit and danger into its own blend of intrigue.
Using color as a fuel also grew from my desire to do an animation-based magic system. The concept of color as life fascinated me. When something dies in our world, the color fades from it—green plants become brown and human bodies lose their color, becoming pale as the blood drains to the bottom of the corpse. In a lot of ways, color is a representation of life itself. So it felt natural to do a story where color was the means by which life was given to inanimate objects.
Of course, the other big idea that sparked this story was the concept of a god who didn’t believe in his own religion. But that’s a different tale entirely….
Warbreaker (0-7653-2030-4; $27.95) by Brandon Sanderson will brighten up bookstores on June 9th, 2009. Also visit the author website at brandonsanderson.com.
A funny thing happened on the way to a great story……
By Marianna Jameson
Writing thrillers has its fun moments—you get to blow things up, save the day, kill the bad guys, and make sure the good guy gets the girl. But writing has its weird moments, too, and Bill Evans and I have had our share.
Our proposal for Category 7 included a synopsis, a few chapters, tons of research about massive hurricanes that had hit the Northeast, and some great predictions of what might happen when the next one hits. It was ready to go to editors the day Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast.
Suddenly, much of our storyline was making headlines. We sat on the book for a little while before submitting, and Category 7 was ultimately published in 2008.
Fast forward to brainstorming sessions for Frozen Fire. During our search for another pending disaster, research brought a substance called methane hydrate to our attention.
Methane hydrate is crystallized gas that exists under the seafloor throughout the world, including in the Arctic and off coastal South Carolina. Billions of dollars are being spent developing ways to mine it because it’s considered the world’s next “clean” hydrocarbon fuel. Why “clean”? Because its combustion by-products are carbon dioxide and water.
Reading those two little words—carbon dioxide—was our ah-ha moment.
Methane hydrate is stable; it’s lightweight and looks like Styrofoam packing material. It’s cold—it is ice, after all—yet it can be burned while being held in a bare hand. But when it converts to a gaseous state without being burned, it becomes methane gas, which ranges from highly flammable to highly explosive, depending on the concentration.
Methane is also a greenhouse gas twenty times more destructive to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. This was the real take-off point for our imaginations. Did I mention that methane remains in the atmosphere for eight years—as methane—before converting to carbon dioxide and lingering for another 150?
We created a megalomaniac who wants to be the first to successfully mine methane hydrate. But eco-terrorists interfere, triggering the worst imaginable outcome: a massive release of methane gas into the atmosphere.
It was the perfect plot. An atmospheric methane release is not an oil slick that can be cleaned up. It’s not a Chernobyl that gives a place a century-long glow. No, a massive atmospheric methane release is the evil gift that keeps on giving; an ecological catastrophe of biblical proportions that will not and can not be rectified in our lifetime, if ever. Perfect, right?
This is where the second weird moment of our writing partnership comes in.
After Frozen Fire was written, edited, and in production, our editor sent us news articles about scientists who had discovered undersea methane “chimneys” off Siberia; the chimneys were releasing methane into the atmosphere just as we described it in Frozen Fire. But we hadn’t read those articles during our research; news of the chimneys hadn’t been released then.
Then, this February, The Los Angeles Times ran an article about Katey Walter, a University of Alaska researcher who discovered methane plumes rising from the surface of Arctic lakes. Videos show methane bubbling through water and Walter lighting the plumes on fire, similar to a scene in Frozen Fire.
So Bill and I have once again written a book that we thought—frankly, hoped—would be frightening fiction and seen it become reality.
Given this track record, if writing didn’t hold the lure and promise of many more odd moments, we might both give it up and become bookies. But we won’t. We’re having too much fun figuring out how to almost destroy the world again, in our next book.
Frozen Fire (0-765-32008-8), by Bill Evans and Marianna Jameson, reaches bookstores on June 23rd. Category 7 (0-765-35671-6) will be released in mass market on August 26th.
On writing Genesis
By Ken Shufeldt
The night that I decided to write Genesis, I was sitting in a hotel room looking out at the San Francisco bay and listening to the evening news. As I listened to the world's challenges of the day, I wondered what sort of world my children and grandchildren were going to have to deal with. I decided that I wanted to write something that would inspire them and show them that young people can achieve great things if only they believe in themselves.
We would all like to believe that someday we can live in peace and that there won't be anyone or anything that will upset our existence. In reality, if one looks back at the times that mankind has made its greatest advances, those advances have usually been driven by some sort of catastrophic event.
Genesis is many things to me, but most of all it's about great challenges and two young people's attempts to overcome those challenges. Billy and Linda, the lead characters of the book, are bound together by an accidental exposure to DNA from an ancient sarcophagus. As they grow up together and take on the almost overwhelming challenges they are faced with, they grow even closer. Ultimately, their love for each other and their absolute belief in God allows them to draw the strength they need from each other.
I hope Genesis reflects the idea that no matter what one’s beliefs may be, one’s view of God is intertwined throughout one’s life. Most of the time people are completely oblivious of the subtle (and sometimes less than subtle) effects that religion, and maybe even divine intervention, have on life.
Genesis (978-0-7653-5849-3) by Ken Shufelt will be re-released by Tor in mass market paperback on June 2.
Edward M. Lerner discusses Juggler of Worlds, his latest collaboration with noted SF author Larry Niven
Q: How do you describe Juggler of Worlds?
A: Juggler shows what happens when a paranoid government agent really does confront vast alien conspiracies.
Sigmund Ausfaller comes by his paranoia honestly. He was ten when his parents disappeared amid a conflict with the Kzinti—and everyone knows the Kzinti eat their prey. He grew up to watch aliens for a living. It’s up to Sigmund to make sense of things when the super-secretive Puppeteers, who have made worlds and species across Known Space dependent on Puppeteer technology, suddenly disappear.
The Puppeteers had good reasons to hide. The last thing they want is Sigmund bringing the military might of the human worlds down upon their heads (of which each Puppeteer has two). It’s left to the Puppeteer operative known as Nessus to somehow keep humanity at bay. Puppeteers being philosophical cowards, they’re generally incapable of leaving home. Nessus can, and that makes him insane in his own way.
Q: Sigmund Ausfaller. Nessus. Don’t I know those names?
A: If you’re a Niven fan, then yes. Sigmund played minor but pivotal roles in two of Larry’s early, award-winning stories (“Neutron Star” and “The Borderland of Sol”). Nessus most prominently figures in what is perhaps Larry’s best-known novel, Ringworld.
More than any other reason, the book came about because I felt Sigmund had leading-man potential and unique insight into the panorama that is Known Space.
Q: Juggler sounds like some kind of secret history. I’m reminded of the Ender’s Shadow books, which parallel Ender’s Game and its sequels.
A: Exactly! Events in some of Larry’s stories that seemed independent or random or coincidental … aren’t. Sigmund and Nessus—and their interstellar game of cat-and-mouse—lie behind much that readers thought they understood about Known Space.
Our model was the Tom Stoppard play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. While Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are hangers-on at the Danish court and minor players in Hamlet, they are, of course, the central characters of their own play.
Wherever Stoppard revisits a scene from Hamlet, some dialogue repeats—interspersed with muttered asides and interior monologue Shakespeare never imagined. Unless you’ve memorized Hamlet, it’s hard to know where Shakespeare leaves off and Stoppard begins—yet much of the Stoppard play happens aboard a ship far from the Danish court!
Juggler interleaves events old and new, and occasionally dialogue, in the same way.
Q: Then Juggler overlaps chronologically with some of Larry’s stories and with your earlier collaboration, Fleet of Worlds.
A: To get away from the theater metaphors, Juggler is a mosaic in which other stories are some of the tiles.
Events are examined from new points of view. Heretofore unsuspected linkages emerge. Players in past stories are sometimes revealed—by reason of self-interest, nobility, or ignorance—to have told partial truths or been honestly mistaken.
It took planning, but we’re happy with how everything fits together. Where we revisit specific circumstances—say, the expedition in “Neutron Star”—it’s always from a different character’s point of view and the event is surrounded by heretofore unsuspected causes and unrevealed consequences.
Q: So who is the titular juggler, Nessus or Sigmund?
A: We leave that to the reader to decide—fully expecting opinions to change over the course of the book.
Q: What’s your next project, Ed?
A: Next up, also from Tor (out in October), is a Lerner solo. Small Miracles is a near-future technothriller of nanotechnology and medical nanobots. In a few words:
When Brent Cleary was caught in a gas pipeline explosion, it took more than one small miracle to keep him alive. Too bad the small miracles have an agenda of their own….
Q: Thanks, Ed. It was a pleasure talking with you.
A: My pleasure.
Juggler of Worlds (978-0-7653-5784-7) by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner will be re-released by Tor in mass market paperback on June 2. Learn more about Ed and his work at the Edward M. Lerner, Perpetrator of Science Fiction and Technothrillers website and at his blog, SF and Nonsense.