Saturday 18 February 2012

Brandon Sanderson plans 36-volume fantasy series

Going through some old interviews, I was surprised to read that Brandon Sanderson is planning a 36-volume fantasy series.

The good news is that, if you've read all of his adult solo fantasy novels to date, you're already six books into it. And 'series' is probably the wrong word, a more accurate term would be 'setting'.

It's been an open secret for a while that Sanderson's fantasy novels share a common background setting and mythology, the 'Cosmere'. In his first five novels - Elantris, Warbreaker and the Mistborn trilogy - this took the form of a couple of easter eggs. Most notably, a character called Hoid plays a minor, background role in all five books, apparently observing events with interest.

In The Way of Kings this background suddenly became more important to the plot: Hoid (aka 'Wit') now has a brief POV section and plays a larger role in events. We also meet three other people who can travel between the worlds, two of whom we've met before (one in Elantris and one in Mistborn), who are apparently trying to track Hoid down. Hoid sends a letter to the organisation that sent them (an organisation called the 'Seventeenth Shard') expressing irritation with this move, a letter that appears throughout the second part of the novel. Ultimately, it is clear that the ten-volume Stormlight Archive series will expand on the Cosmere and the linked setting of Sanderson's fiction.

At the moment these works exist in the Cosmere setting:
  • Elantris (2005)
  • Mistborn: The Final Empire (2006)
  • Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (2007)
  • Mistborn: The Hero of Ages (2008)
  • Warbreaker (2009)
  • The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings (2010)
  • Mistborn: The Alloy of Law (2011)
Note that The Alloy of Law, which was written as an unplanned side-project, is part of the Cosmere universe (Hoid has a cameo in the book as a beggar at a wedding and also apparently writes the appendix, at one stage comparing the Mistborn world's magic with that of Sel, the Elantris planet) but is not part of the planned 36 volumes in the series (nor are its planned sequels).

Sanderson plans to write the following books in the setting (and in some cases has already written very early drafts):
  • The Stormlight Archive books 2-10
  • Several further Mistborn side-novels featuring Wax and Wayne
  • The Mistborn II trilogy
  • The Mistborn III trilogy
  • Warbreaker II: Nightblood
  • Elantris II
  • The Dragonsteel series (seven volumes, first one is The Liar of Partinel)
  • White Sand and at least one sequel
  • The Silence Divine
  • Aether of Night
Sanderson plans to write Stormlight #2 (current working title: The Book of Endless Pages) this year for release in mid-to-late 2013, and then the third through fifth books of the series. He will take breaks to release additional Mistborn side-novels featuring Wax and Wayne. He also hopes to release Elantris II in 2015, on the tenth anniversary of the publication of Elantris (his first novel). Then he will release the Mistborn II trilogy (the one set in a world with modern technology). Stormlight #6-10 will follow, possibly with Warbreaker II and other books interspersed between them (presumably there will be no more Wax and Wayne books once Mistborn II has been released), then Mistborn III (the one set in space with magic-fuelled FTL travel). Only after that will we see Dragonsteel. Which assuming Brandon keeps up a book a year, means we'll hit that series somewhere around 2027!

That accounts for 28 further books in the setting. Combined with the six already published, that's 34 books with two left unaccounted so far (recalling that Alloy of Law and its forthcoming sequels are not part of the count, being new inventions). There may be a further Elantris sequel, and Brandon has also suggested that there may be a book called Hoid which tells the story of the titular character in much clearer detail (though apparently the Dragonsteel sequence will reveal a lot more about the underlying mythology and unifying points of the various books and sub-settings).

So far the Cosmere has been something that close readers have picked up on, but casual readers are probably totally ignorant of it. There are shades here of Stephen King's unified supernatural mythology: readers can read The Stand and Eyes of the Dragon with no real clue who Randall Flagg is, but then in The Dark Tower series more information is revealed about him and a grander masterplan can be discerned. This doesn't prevent the books being enjoyed individually but does reward readers who've been looking at things carefully.

Hopefully, by 2035 or thereabouts (when no doubt ebooks will be inscribed directly into our brains with lasers or something), we can look back and see how successful Sanderson was in pulling off the project. But it's certainly an ambitious - even grandiose - idea and it will be fascinating to see it develop in the years to come.


Paul Weimer said...

It's the easter eggs that have clued me into the fact that Sanderson has a much larger canvas than one might think going on here.

I am a big fan of multiverses, so, bring it on, I say.

Bibliotropic said...

When I first read that, I thought to myself, "Holy crap, no, the world doesn't need another gigantic epic tale that may or may not ever be finished!" And in some senses, that thought still stands, because 36 books is a lot of books to write! I don't doubt that he could come up with ideas for them all and ways to tie them all together, but to set out with a plan of writing that many books is, well, ambitious, to say the least.

Then again, I enjoy reading Mercedes Lackey's "Valdemar" novels, so who am I to comment on a never-ending series with the same setting!

Brett said...

If anyone can do it, it's Sanderson. The man is a writing machine.

Adam Whitehead said...

I should reiterate that the 36 books are set in the same 'universe', not the same individual world. Each world Sanderson has created so far has a distinct feel/vibe, different cultuers and a unique magic system (though all of the magic systems are apparently related to the same ultimate source of power). So it's not the same as writing 36 books in a limited single-world setting like Xanth/Discworld/Midkemia etc. He has a much wider canvas to play with.

Joshua Lowe said...

I think this is very exciting and I find I invest more in projects that are of this magnitude. It also helps that Sanderson is one of my favourite authors and he seems to write to my exact tastes and interests.

However, he isn't leaving himself much room for creativity and freedom. I mean, I totally understand the reasons he is planning something so epic, I would do exactly the same thing because it's the way I work too ... but 36 books is a lot and a long time to commit to with no room to change your mind. In saying that now though, he can totally change his mind - he hasn't signed in blood.

I've read all the books and have to shamefully admit that I didn't pick up on any of the Cosmere easter eggs until I read the seventeenth shard wiki. There is a whole lot more info there than what is available in the books, such as the shardholders on each world, their natures and their fates.

Shane said...

I'm a huge fan of stuff like this. All the Dark Tower easter eggs in Stephen King's work makes me giddy like a school girl.

Todd said...

He's extremely prolific, which I can understand. I could set a brick on my keyboard and maybe come close to his output. But the fact that he has all these great ideas and stories that all relate to each other, and he manages to publish very good novels and never seem to run out of steam, is just pure brilliant to me. He seems to enjoy it, and I hope over the years he is able to make all of these stories possible.

I still think the dude stops time while he writes.

Anonymous said...

Oh please spare me this multi verse nonsense.Maybe i am just to stupid to understand it but i cannot see the point of it.All i want is intresting entertaining stories and characters.What is the relevence of them taking place in the same universe.Considering i loved Elantris and The Stormlight Archive but didnt like Mistborn i dont care what universe there set in.Really looking forward to Elantris 2 and would like a rewrite of Elantris 1 as with a little more effort it could be a fantasy classic.Thank you for your hard work Mr Sanderson i look forward to your future books.

The Writer said...

I picked up on this around the time of The Hero of Ages, when Hoid was shown as... Hoid. In the index, there was an incredibly vague entry about him. Shortly after, I read an interview with Sanderson where he said there was a character who appeared in all his books, and Hoid's been pretty difficult to miss since.

I love the idea of this. Not only is it just incredibly epic in terms of vision on Sanderson's part, but it also allows for him to make fun references to books set on entirely different worlds.

Seriously, Sanderson has an innate ability to induce nerdgasms.

Longasc said...

I am a huge Sanderson fan but this is just scary...

P.S. please lower the CAPTCHA level a little. I felt like a robot. :)

Anonymous said...

I feel like Im going to faint.

Misa Buckley said...

This sounds cool!

Gabriele Campbell said...

And there I thought planning ahead for 10 books (one epic Fantasy series and bunch of losely connected historical fiction novels) is crazy. ;)

Well, Sanderson's writing speed / output is way ahead of mine; I'm more Martinesque in that respect.

Todd said...

I've heard him mention this quite a few times, at signings and in blog posts/annotations. But every time, he stresses that knowledge of the Cosmere isn't a prerequisite to reading his books. You don't have to read Mistborn and Elantris to understand Way of Kings. It's all Easter eggs and bonus content. You should always be able to pick up Book #1 of a series and start from there. So just don't panic.

Jason said...

Things that Brandon Sanderson apparently hates:

*Your bookshelves.
*Your wallet.
*Your free time.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering, but the Alcatraz books have no commonality with this Cosmere, or anything linking them to any of the other books? Thanks.
And, Oh, my hell, it's impossible to read the letters to prove I'm not a robot on one of them. This is my 3rd or 4th shot.

Adam Whitehead said...

ALCATRAZ is not connected, no.

The captcha sytstem is provided by Blogger, I can't see it. If you have a Google account and log in before commenting, I think you bypass having to use it.

Gabriele Campbell said...

No, the wiggly words are there for everyone except the blog owner. Though I hope blogger goes back to the former version which was easier to decipher.

Adam Whitehead said...

Damnit. That's annoying. I don't think there's anything I can do at my end. I can't really switch off the moderation option either, as I need it to catch and deal with the spam comments I get daily.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Yeah, I need it to catch the occasional troll before he can pee on my carpet. ;)

WriterJosh said...

On my 60th birthday, I'll review the series as a whole. I'm 36 now, and will likely be close to 60 when it's all over.