17 votes

Sanderson’s First Law for magic systems

14 comments

  1. [6]
    zonk
    Link
    For anyone who's intrigued by (t)his stuff, he's also teaching at BYU and a ton of his lessons are online on his YouTube channel for free (for example Lecture #1: Introduction — Brandon Sanderson...

    For anyone who's intrigued by (t)his stuff, he's also teaching at BYU and a ton of his lessons are online on his YouTube channel for free (for example Lecture #1: Introduction — Brandon Sanderson on Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy).

    For anyone not familiar at all with him, I can highly recommend his works, especially his Cosmere stuff :) His writing pace is absolutely nutty and his fan interaction is great as well (weekly updates, regular QnA Livestreams, huge "State of the Sanderson" status update at the end of each year). On top of it all, he's working on a undisclosed movie/series, so now's a great chance to join in before the big hype starts :)

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      Fiachra
      Link Parent
      Brandon Sanderson may be the most notoriously productive human being on the planet yet has never come within a hundred miles of any sort of 'productivity culture' stuff you see elsewhere on the...

      Brandon Sanderson may be the most notoriously productive human being on the planet yet has never come within a hundred miles of any sort of 'productivity culture' stuff you see elsewhere on the internet. All I've ever seen him say about it is that he only writes so much because he loves doing it more than anything else.

      8 votes
      1. JRandomHacker
        Link Parent
        The man takes breaks from writing books by writing more books. He accidentally starts entire new series, then finishes them before many other authors put out a single book. He's also incredibly...

        The man takes breaks from writing books by writing more books. He accidentally starts entire new series, then finishes them before many other authors put out a single book.

        He's also incredibly devoted to his fans - I was at a signing for him a few years back that was hosted in a Chicago Public Library branch. The library closed at 11, but there were still people who wanted to ask him questions, so he stood outside for another hour and a half answering questions - in November in Chicago.

        5 votes
    2. Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      I've fallen in love with the entire Cosmere more and more as he keeps expanding it. I have several posters around the house, and have Mistborn 1-3, Warbreaker, and Elantris all in signed...

      I've fallen in love with the entire Cosmere more and more as he keeps expanding it. I have several posters around the house, and have Mistborn 1-3, Warbreaker, and Elantris all in signed leatherbounds. I also signed up for that Kickstarter that exploded earlier this year and have been successful so far avoiding spoilers.

      So much exciting stuff happening in the Sanderverse. For anyone who wants to dip their toe, he offers Warbreaker as a free download and is a great introduction, no prior knowledge of other novels needed: https://www.brandonsanderson.com/warbreaker-rights-and-downloads/

      6 votes
    3. Bonooru
      Link Parent
      I'd never seen that graph before. I knew he was prolific, but that puts it into a whole new category.

      I'd never seen that graph before. I knew he was prolific, but that puts it into a whole new category.

      2 votes
  2. [6]
    skybrian
    Link
    I'm wondering if the trolls turning to stone at sunrise in the Hobbit counts as "magic solving problems for the characters?" It's a case where one of the characters (Gandalf) knew the rule, but I...

    I'm wondering if the trolls turning to stone at sunrise in the Hobbit counts as "magic solving problems for the characters?" It's a case where one of the characters (Gandalf) knew the rule, but I don't think it was explained in advance?

    3 votes
    1. [5]
      deknalis
      Link Parent
      As someone who's not a big fan of Sanderson's, there's one thing I've always felt a bit annoyed by with his magic rules: they're a little too...mechanical. There's not a consideration for tone or...

      As someone who's not a big fan of Sanderson's, there's one thing I've always felt a bit annoyed by with his magic rules: they're a little too...mechanical. There's not a consideration for tone or the reason a story might use magic, only one for the internal mechanics of it. In my opinion, magic "solving problems" is not a matter of internal consistency or importance, but one of what the story is saying about its world and why through its use of magic. The Hobbit is a children's fairy tale that's filled with levity and silliness, and it's about a strange and wild world through a sheltered untrained newbie's eyes, so vague magic solving problems without being set up in advance is totally fine. I think some deus ex machinas are also totally fine if they serve a proper purpose within the story like deliberately shrinking the characters' place in the story in relation to the world around them (Avatar: The Last Airbender's lion turtle ending for example).

      4 votes
      1. [4]
        zonk
        Link Parent
        I totally see your point and I agree that it takes away of the mysticism of it all, if it "makes sense" and is "too logical". And I can see how people enjoy this part of fantasy. Without spoiling...

        I totally see your point and I agree that it takes away of the mysticism of it all, if it "makes sense" and is "too logical". And I can see how people enjoy this part of fantasy.

        Without spoiling anything of the Cosmere, though, there are reasons why there are principles and rules to his magic system at least in that universe.

        2 votes
        1. deknalis
          Link Parent
          Yeah Sanderson's breakdown and construction of magic systems totally works for him, he's very good at what he does and I get the appeal, it's just not what I like from fantasy.

          Yeah Sanderson's breakdown and construction of magic systems totally works for him, he's very good at what he does and I get the appeal, it's just not what I like from fantasy.

          1 vote
        2. [2]
          lou
          Link Parent
          I wonder what he'd think of Fullmetal Alchemist.

          I wonder what he'd think of Fullmetal Alchemist.

          1. zonk
            Link Parent
            I would not be surprised at all if he watched it. Maybe you can squeeze in this question in one of his Q&As :)

            I would not be surprised at all if he watched it. Maybe you can squeeze in this question in one of his Q&As :)

            1 vote
  3. [2]
    lou
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm pretty sure this essay could also be applied to science fiction, or, with some adaptation, fictional worlds in general. But doing so would increase the scope and bring complications that,...

    I'm pretty sure this essay could also be applied to science fiction, or, with some adaptation, fictional worlds in general. But doing so would increase the scope and bring complications that, maybe, the author did not wish to address at this juncture.

    3 votes
    1. Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      I think it absolutely could. "hard" scifi classically sticks as close to reality as it feasibly can within the context of storytelling, and introduces a few fantastical elements (ostensibly...

      I think it absolutely could. "hard" scifi classically sticks as close to reality as it feasibly can within the context of storytelling, and introduces a few fantastical elements (ostensibly "grounded" in science) to allow characters/society to react.

      This is one of the reasons I find Sanderson's writing so enjoyable personally. Generally I enjoy scifi a lot more than fantasy, though I enjoy both. Part of the appeal to me of scifi is because it's "science", authors generally try to explain why crazy/impossible/weird things happen. Even if those reasons themselves aren't "real" they are generally extrapolating from current technology or science, and then taking one extra step as a storyteller.

      Which is pretty much exactly what Sanderson has done, he just chose to do it in a fantasy setting.
      https://wob.coppermind.net/events/395/#e13278

      Questioner
      Your magic systems are very structured, and specific rules that dominate them. But are there any universal laws that apply to all of the magic systems in the cosmere together?
      Brandon Sanderson
      Yes, there's several of them. Basically, the most important one and relevant to people who enjoy real physics is that I consider something called Investiture to be a third state of matter and energy. So, instead of e=mc^2, we have a third thing, Investiture, in there. And you can change Investiture to matter or to energy. And so, because of that, that law that you can do this, is where we see a lot of the cosmere magics living.

      3 votes