I had planned to post my review of Shadows of Self today (now posted), but since I still haven’t finished it, in part because I spent much of yesterday evening at a Brandon Sanderson signing, I will post a report on Sanderson’s signing at Murder by the Book in Houston last night. (My review of The Alloy of Law is here.) I apologize for the brevity, but I wasn’t planning on doing this post and in a very packed house I couldn’t hear very well and couldn’t see at all.
Sanderson opened with a strong statement for letting people read what they love. Don’t shame people for that. It used to be that people from outside of speculative fiction looked down on those inside, but more and more there are divisions within speculative fiction. (This is much of what the fight over the Hugo Awards is about.)
Our shared love is and should be something that can bring us together. Sanderson told us a story about doing a signing in Sharjah, one of the more obscure Arab Emirates, and in that foreign country full of sand dunes and hijabs his signing brought a long, long line of fans carrying stacks of books. (He later clarified in response to a question that they were reading his books in English, the UK editions. Some of his books have been translated to Turkish but not yet to Arabic.)
He also talked for a while about Chinese and Korean characters (as in those used for writing) and how that influenced Elantris, which just got a 10th Anniversary Edition.
[Update: Here is a recording of the opening made by another fan.]
When asked for book suggestions, Sanderson mentioned, among others, Brian McClellan. (He’s right, Brian McClellan is awesome). McClellan is a former student of Sanderson but he refused to take credit on the basis that McClellan was really friggin’ good when he started the class. He also described McClellan as Flintlock Fantasy meets “grimdark.” I don’t know about the latter, although I suppose the streets do literally run red with blood at the open of Promise of Blood (and it has blood right in the title!).
Somebody (I think, sorry, I was crammed into a nook) asked about writing “what you know.” Sanderson said that was ok, but we only want so many books about English professors (nice dig on “literary” fiction here). For gaining expertise in something you don’t know, he recommended spending a month or two learning 70% of what you need to know, then going to an expert for that other 30% that would have taken you nine years to learn.
A kid in costume asked why the long delay in Alcatraz books. Sanderson explained the rights were held by original publisher, who neither wanted to publish more books nor sell them back. Sanderson eventually paid handsomely to get the rights back, but the deal required him to wait until this coming January to publish the next Alcatraz book.
[Update: Here is a recording of the Q&A made by another fan.]
Sanderson read a scene from the third book in the Stormlight Archive. It was a flashback to Dalinar in his Blackthorn days. It was a very different Dalinar from the one we know, one who reveled in battle and death-dealing. One who was beginning to experience the Thrill but wasn’t familiar with it. It was a very bloody scene (Sanderson gave a trigger warning before reading it) but a great action set-piece and quite funny at times).
The signing line was crazy long—it lasted in the range of four hours—but I had a very low signing number so I was out of there pretty quickly. I did ask Sanderson a question about A Memory of Light while he was signing Shadows of Self and the final three Wheel of Time books (Harriet is doing a signing for the Companion at Murder by the Book in November), but I want to incorporate what he told me into a later blog post so for now I will just say: RAFO.