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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Brandon, how do you feel your identity and upbringing as a Mormon has affected your work?
Elantris, for instance, centers around a magic system that has essentially been broken because something in the world has changed—a "new revelation" if you will. And then Mistborn has at its core a set of holy writings that have been altered by an evil force.
These things seem decidely Mormon to me, or at least informed from a Mormon perspective. Do you feel that is the case?
I don't set out to put anything specifically Mormon into my books, but who I am definitely influences what I write and how I write it. I'm always curious at the things people dig out of my writing—neither of the two points you mention above are things that I was conscious of, though they certainly do make interesting points now that you look at them.
My goal in storytelling is first and foremost to be true to the characters—their passions, beliefs, and goals. No matter what those are. I'm not trying to make a point consciously ever in my writing—though I do think that good stories should raise questions and make readers think.
Who I am as a person heavily influences what I write, and I draw from everything I can find—whether it be LDS, Buddhist, Islamic, or Atheist. It's all jumbled up there in that head of mine, and comes out in different characters who are seeking different things.
In other words, I'm not setting out to be like C.S. Lewis and write parables of belief. I'm trying more what Tolkien did (not, of course, meaning to compare myself favorably with the master) in that I tell story and setting first, and let theme and meaning take care of itself.
Fiction doesn't really exist—certainly doesn't have power—until it is read. You create the story in your head when you read it, and so your interpretations (and your pronunciations on the names) are completely valid in your telling of the story. The things you come up with may be things I noticed and did intentionally, they may be subconscious additions on my part, or they may simply be a result of your interaction with the text. But all three are valid.
Another very astute question. I am a person of faith. It's been interesting for me, in my life, to be a person of faith and also a person of reason. I have a science background; I like to ask questions; I like to think about questions. I think everyone has to find their own balance in this area. Some people decide they're going to be reason only, and some people decide they're going to be faith only. But I think there can be a balance, and I try to find my own balance in my life. I feel it's one of the most engaging and interesting aspects of life. It leads to a lot of pondering, a lot of thinking, and a lot of personal development. It's mostly just me finding out where I'm going to let faith reign and where I'm going to let reason reign, and whether I have to let one be suborned to the other.
Faith is very important to my life. It's very important to my worldview and my philosophy. I believe that throughout the history of mankind, for the vast majority of people faith—or reacting against faith—has been important. I'm fascinated by the different ways people deal with it. I had in the Mistborn series a notable agnostic character, and I really wanted to have an atheist character in the Stormlight Archive. Whenever I approach something like that I try very hard to give that character the arguments that a person with their worldview would give that character if they were writing the book. I don't want to write books that exist simply to prove certain characters wrong. I include such characters because they fascinate me. You end up, hopefully, with a range of people in my books who approach faith in different ways—because that's interesting to me, and I hope it will be interesting to readers.
My friend and I read Mistborn when we first heard you were going to take over on The Wheel of Time. We've been hooked ever since and you are definitely one of our top authors now.
The friend I spoke of grew up in a Mormon household, as did my wife, and both of them say that a lot of your work seems to borrow or at least use ideas from the Mormon idea of an afterlife as building blocks. Are those just similarities or is your world building influenced heavily by those ideas?
Most of what people are noticing isn't so much intentional as inevitable. Just like people see WWII influences in Tolkien (though he denied that there were such parallels) there are going to be LDS parallels in my books.
I don't seek to expunge them; they are part of who I am. If I'm reaching into mythology and history for my foundations, I'm going to dip into LDS sources more often than others. So tell your friend and wife that they're seeing real things, most likely—though it's not intentional allegory.
Oh, boy. A lot.vMany of the standards, but not politics or atheism. May of the writing related, fantasy and sf. Artisan and artisan videos. Depthhub (love it) and true reddit (also very good.) In depth stories, food for thought. First world problems always makes me laugh. F7U12 is a guilty pleasure. Parenting, specart, LDS. Most of the the ones dedicated to my work or the WoT. Worldbuilding. And some others like unto the ones above.
Being a person who is, myself, religious, I am fascinated by religion and all of its different effects and mindsets. This is why you see me exploring religious characters, and those who are not religious, in my books. The different ways people look at these things are fascinating to me.
One of my core ideas when it comes to writing is that I feel I should express all sides of an issue, and try to do so well. I can't do every side in every book, but I try to be aware of my own biases. I think this actually has to do with my core religious nature—as one of my fundamental beliefs is that if something is right, it should be able to stand up to STRONG arguments opposing it, not just weak ones. Without strong opposition, there cannot be a discovery of truth.
I have received all kinds of criticism, from all sides. I have gotten emails from people who will not read my books because I am LDS, and from others who feel I am far too liberal in my writing, and should be advocating a certain view.
Usually, I don't pay much heed. The exception is with the Wheel of Time, where I try to be extra careful, as I don't want my own bias to take control of Mr. Jordan's series.
That's not intentional, but it could certainly be unconscious influence.
Very interesting thought. One I never considered, but will think about further. I've heard Brandon talk about these characters and he said that originally there was no Adolin. Dalinar was the only character speaking to both the belief and doubt of what he was experiencing. Brandon's Writing Group gave feedback that having one character flip-flop like that wasn't working, so Brandon developed Adolin to help express those doubts. What a great way to solve a problem, and the result is a wonderful relationship that imitates many powerful Father/Son stories. So, I would guess that the parallel you mentioned wasn't intentional, but as writers, of course, that which we believe, read and experience will find itself, unwittingly, on the page.
You're ALMOST right. Adolin wasn't a viewpoint character initially, but he was in the book during the draft you're talking about. (The one where I had to fix things.) But if I go back to Dalinar, the character, back in his origin (before I wrote The Way of Kings the first time, back in 2002) he did not have a son. It was his relationship with his brother and nephew (needing to take over the kingdom for a beloved brother who died, and rule it for a nephew—then have concerns about giving up power, and how much he should take) that was the origin of Dalinar.
I have had a personal witness from God that this is his church. I don't have answers to everything, and believe all things—even within religion—require rational examination. However, the feelings I have felt are repeatable, confirmable, and real. They are not produced by anything else I have experienced.
I try to keep my eyes open and my brain thinking, but the fact that I can confirm with real proof to myself the things I have read causes me to have faith and believe. I would not expect anyone else to believe without similar, first-hand proof.
This is going to be a hard one to answer as I am horribly, horribly biased by my own experience and upbringing. I believe for a couple of reasons. First, the spiritual. (Warning for others—churchyness follows.)
One of the founding principles of Mormonism is the idea that people must receive a personal witness that God exists, and that the Church is true. Without that witness, the Bible is just a book, with no more or less weight to it than other religious book teaching people to be good.
I have had that witness. It involved reading, praying, and feeling something inside. Something I can confirm time and time again, and something I can rely upon. It acts as proof to me. I find that there is not a conflict between religion and science for this reason—the logical part of my brain refuses to believe without proof. I can get that proof. That leads me to have faith in other things that the Church teaches.
The second are some logical things about Mormonism that I really like. 1) The concept that all people on Earth existed before being born, and agreed specifically to come to the planet to have their experiences here and grow. We all agreed we would rather take upon us the trials (some horrible and unjustified by our own actions) and have the chance to learn and grow.
This is the best way to reconcile a just, omnipotent God and suffering that I have yet found. It does not make it ANY less horrible that people suffer, and does not relieve our requirement to help people. However, it does lend understanding.
How can such horrible things happen? We believe that before this life, they accepted the chance that it might happen—we all did. In fact, we may have been asked if we would accept our own specific trials, alongside promises of what we would learn.
To put it another way, in Mistborn: The Hero of Ages, Sazed comes to the conclusion that none of the religions he studied were true, but all religions contain truth. What truth do you find in Mormonism that you do not find in Protestantism? As a Christian myself, I am genuinely curious as to your answer.
The concept of "Hell" being the feelings of guilt and let-down we feel for failing to do what we promised. We believe that God will reward each person with as much joy as possible in the next life. Indeed, we believe that people—after death—have chances still to learn, grow, and decide what to do with their own destiny.
Many, many people who are not "Mormon" but who are good people will find their way to every bit of joy and heavenly glory as a member of the Church in this life. I dare say that there will be far more "non-Mormons" than "Mormons" in heaven, as it is defined. Joseph Smith taught, for example, that if a person lived their life in an exceptional way, but was never taught the Gospel, they will not be punished for what they could not learn.
Life—existence—is seen as a progression of learning, growing, and becoming. This is the purpose of the oft-misunderstood Mormon practice of baptism for the dead. Jesus taught that all people must be baptized to enter into heaven. For that purpose, we act as proxies to be baptized on behalf of others. (Ancestors, usually.) Those people, in the spirit world, can choose to accept or reject that baptism as they see fit. It's a way to draw the hearts of the children to their fathers, as spoken of in the scriptures.
3) The concept of men becoming as God is appeals to me in a logical sense. God is all powerful. Therefore, what is the greatest thing he can give to someone else? He could—if he wished—make any being equal to himself. It goes by the definition of being all powerful.
I can understand the protestant argument that this is gross arrogance. However, seen in the light of LDS theology—that we existed before this world, that we grow here, then continue to grow and learn on the other side—it starts to make sense.
All religions containing truth, but not the complete truth, is right out of Mormon doctrine. So is the idea that God and man are the same type of being existing in different states. He just left out the middle part about revealing enough truth to a prophet to restore the complete religion. It's a fantasy series, after all, and I'd say he wrote what he thought would make a great story, but the ideas were probably inspired in some small way by his personal beliefs. To us Mormons it's hard to keep all of our religious influences out of our writing.
That's basically why I asked. When I saw that, I was like, "There's no way Brandon Sanderson does not subscribe to at least the second part of that theory himself."
I strongly subscribe to the second part of the theory. I believe it is a greater idea of Christianity. All Truth is God's, and anything that leads people to be better is part of that Truth—regardless of who is teaching it.
I'm not one to say what has a 'place' in my type of fiction. There shouldn't be one person who has such a say—variety is exceptionally important.
People do have sex in my books, but you're right—I don't depict it happening. Part of this is the tone I want to have in my novels. Martin and Bakker write their type of story, and do it well. It is not the type of story I want to tel. My religion plays a part in this.
Another part is my feeling that I'd like to learn to tell stories like those in the past, who—through being reserved—were often more powerful in composition than they could have been by being graphic. I appreciated it when authors I read—like Anne McCaffrey and Robert Jordan—were not graphic in their depictions. It allowed me to play the story at the rating level I wanted to in my head, and allowed others to play the story at the rating level they wanted.
I want to write books that I don't feel uncomfortable giving to my young teenage nieces and nephews, but which also hold power and depth of storytelling enough to be engaging to the adult readers looking for something new in fantasy. This is the balance I've come up with. It's not the only way to handle things.
It makes me interested in religion, shapes who I am and what i find interesting, and drives me to look at aspects of religion and atheism from the perspectives of different characters with different thoughts on the matters. I keep the graphic sex and swearing down because of who I am as a person, and what I like to read in my own books. I worry about the violence, but feel that showing ramifications is at least one way of dealing with it.
A common thread in both Warbreaker and the Mistborn Trilogy is religion. I really liked how you handled religion in both these books. Mistborn deals with religious searching and Warbreaker is more about religious tolerance. I've heard that you are a Mormon. How much does your faith influence your writing?
This is a surprisingly common question for people to ask me, and I'm always happy to answer it because my religion makes up a big part of who I am. Because I am religious myself, I am fascinated by religion. And so I think that the misuse of religion is a great evil, and the use of religion for good reasons is a great good. In fact, being a religious person, I think that the misuse of religion becomes a much more frightening thing than it might otherwise be, which is why you sometimes see religions as villains in my books. My religion shapes who I am, and it makes me interested in certain things; it makes me fascinated by certain things; it shapes my sense of right and wrong.
But I don't actually sit down and write books wanting to advocate any particular concept. I feel that when I write books I need to advocate whatever the character believes at the time. Now, what I feel is heroic may shape the characters I create as protagonists, but I don't think that the purpose of the fiction that I write is to preach directly to the reader. I think that the purpose of the fiction I write is to explore different concepts and different types of characters and see how they react to the world around them. And that's a very different thing than sitting down and saying I'm going to preach to people. So I don't think my religion causes me to do that, but I do think it causes me to be interested in these kinds of concepts.
I'm not even sure how to define myself. In some circles I come across as very conservative; in other circles I come across as very liberal. One of my core beliefs religiously is that I honestly don't mind you believing whatever you want to believe. What I mind is how you treat people who don't believe as you believe. That's what will get me going. So I don't judge someone based on their belief; I do judge them based on how they treat people who believe differently than they do. (That's a concept, by the way, that you may see pop up in a book later on, because I'm actually quoting one of my characters in this case.)
This is, actually, a common question—one I get from LDS people as well as from New York, where they see an unusual number of fantasy authors coming from Utah. Utah readers also tend to buy more fantasy and sf books than a lot of other states. My guess is that there are many things coming together to cause these trends.
First off, I think LDS culture emphasizes learning and reading in general. We grow up reading from the scriptures, and our prophet speaks often about the importance of education. Because of this, I think that there are just a lot of very literate people in our culture—and that translates to more writers and more readers.
Beyond that, fantasy has a tradition of having strong values (two of the most foundational authors in the genre are C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who both dealt a lot with good against evil and used Christian themes in their writing.) Because of this, fantasy attracts religious people, I think. Even something as generally un-religious as Harry Potter deals with the tradition of the good and the pure struggling against the corrupt and the evil.
Finally, I think that the LDS religion—despite what some detractors may say—is far more open and accepting of new thoughts and ideas than other religious cultures. To an LDS reader, the concept of other populated worlds isn't threatening.
Whew! That's a can of worms waiting to be opened. My biggest complaint with LDS fiction is when a moral is forced into a story simply because it's being published by an LDS publisher. They can't simply publish good works about LDS people struggling and living life, it seems—they have to learn a Sunday school lesson as well. That's changing, I think, and is one of the trends that I've liked about the market.
However, a larger problem isn't with the writing at all, but with the way the publishing industry works in Utah. I think it's a huge conflict of interest to have the retailer ALSO be the publisher of most of the fiction, and beyond that to have the Church directing both. I don't think that method serves the authors or the public very well. The monopoly doesn't thrill me either. (Though, to give a thumbs up the same direction, I think the Shadow Mountain imprint of Deseret Book has been handled wonderfully.)
But, that's all business. You asked more about the writing. So, in that case, I'd come back to forced morals trumping good writing. However, I hesitate to point fingers. The truth is, I don't write in this genre—so what business do I have trying to tell LDS fiction writers what to do? Plus, you can point at ANY genre and find works that don't seem to focus on good storytelling. (At least in a given person's perspective.)
So, I'll leave it at that, and say that I'm curious to see where both LDS fiction and cinema go in the next few decades.
This is a tough one to answer because the honest truth is, I don't know. Without seeing into the minds of others, I can't really decide how I'm perceived. From what I've seen on blogs, and from what people have said to me, I THINK it's seen as a non-issue to most outside of LDS culture. Inside the culture, I think I pick up a few sales because people are curious what a fellow LDS guy is doing.
I'm not ashamed of it at all. My books DO tend to deal with religious topics, and my BYU connection is made in the bio on the flap of every book. However, my books aren't LDS except that my own background shapes my views on ethics and the nature of the universe.
Heh. Now THAT one I can answer. The biggest complaint I've had from readers is not about the aforementioned sacrifice scene (don't worry, it's not that graphic); it's not the noble society in Mistborn, nor is the dark edge Kelsier has. It's the fact that my characters occasionally curse. This has really bothered some readers, which I'll admit, kind of dumbfounds me. I use only the most tame of curses (the Biblical swear words, you might call them.) The other things you've mentioned above are far more worrisome to me. It bothers me that people email me with outcries when a character says "damn," yet don't bat an eye at the fact that that same character just murdered someone in cold blood.
I've never had any comments on any of the things you mention, though that doesn't mean that people haven't noticed them. I'm honestly not sure what people's perspective is. And, I don't want to give the impression here that my books are incredibly dark. They are, however, sometimes a little violent. I've thought a lot about this issue. What do I want to do, how much do I want to show? Can I have a brutal oppressive empire without acknowledging the kinds of things that empire would do?
My books are about hope, in my opinion. Hope, struggle, and victory. I've tried very hard to keep graphic descriptions out of my books where I can, but I can't always do so without undermining the story. And, the story comes first, for me.
A wise friend (an LDS writer) once explained that in his opinion, glorifying violence or sexuality comes when consequences are removed. The scriptures themselves don't shy away from graphic content or descriptions (scalps on swords, anyone?) The important issue, however, is that the scriptures show the destructive effect that these things can have, even on the good people who are forced to engage in them.
So, I consider that my charge. I don't sugar-coat my stories. However, I show cause and effect. A person cannot kill, in my opinion, even for good reasons without it leave them scarred.
Limits of LDS fiction, or limits of LDS fiction, as published by the church? The church does and should have limits on what it will publish. (Which is why I think it's a conflict of interest for them to own the retail stores as well.) A book published by a Deseret Book imprint should maintain a certain standard of content. I don't think the church should have published Mistborn (though Elantris would have been just fine.) That doesn't mean I don't think LDS people should read it; it just means that I don't think it's right for that publisher.
I think other, smaller publishers can and are exploring other aspects of what it's like to live life as an LDS person. They will continue to do so. They may never hit the mainstream, but maybe—with time—we'll see mainstream LDS fiction expand beyond preaching. As I said above, I'm curious to see what happens.
I'll comment on the [LDS] readers' reaction to murder and mayhem vs. curse words. I read lots of sf and fantasy throughout most of my teens and twenties, and still have a shelf full. I married a man who has filled bookshelves with fantasy novels. So I've seen a lot of the genre, though I don't read much of it anymore. I am very bothered by brutality and especially by violence against women. If you can create a world where magic works, why can't you create a world where women don't get raped? Bad language doesn't bother me, however.
But I don't write to the author and complain. I simply throw the book across the room and never read anything by that author again. My husband has recommended that I read a few of his fantasy books, and after several hit the wall (and one I threw away—he still doesn't know that but I am not having a book with a rape description that graphic in my house (Household Gods by Harry Turtledove and Judith Tarrand if you're curious about which one)) I have learned to ask him, "do the characters even talk about an intent to rape?" If he says yes, it goes back on the shelf. It surprises me how often he says yes to that question. Maybe his taste in fantasies runs to more violent fantasy novels then the stuff I used to read.
I think fantasy and religion can get along fine—and do in the works of many writers. Just like fantasy and atheism can get along fine, and fantasy and anything in between. It depends on the writer, their goals, and their relationship to their work.
I've said before that my religion is part of what has shaped who I am, and that in turn shapes my works. But that can mean very different things to different writers. Tolkien and Lewis were both deeply religious, and yet their spiritual sides manifest themselves very differently in their works.
I don't really balance my LDS faith and my writing, since neither are things that I DO. They are both things that I AM. And because of that, they are inexorably connected to my books, my self, and pretty much everything about me. That's not to say that I see books as a means of preaching my faith, or even my beliefs. I feel that kind of writing leads to an insincere story, regardless of how sincere the preaching (whether it be religious, political, or academic) itself is. One thing a great story can do is examine issues from many sides, as seen from the eyes of many different characters who believe different things. Those sides must all be strong, or the story fails for me.
I'm an avid Sci-Fi/Fantasy reader, but it seems all the authors my dad has introduced me to are dying off (Gordon R. Dickson for example) and as there is no rating system for book content, it's hard to find new authors that keep the sexual content to at least a PG-13 level. So far I've struck out with Old Man's War (while not graphic, the sexual content was rather high), George RR Martin, and Mercedes Lackey. So fellow saints, what have you found that's good?
Brandon Sanderson here, with a few suggestions.
Garth Nix is wonderful. If you haven't tried Sabriel, I suggest it.
Mary Robinette Kowal writes regency-style fantasy novels. I find them different, clever, and fun.
A Fire Upon the Deep is one of my all-time favorite SF books. I can't remember if there are content issues. I'm in a re-read right now, and it is as delightful as I remember it being. But something might come up that I didn't remember being there from a read last decade.
Tad Williams is wonderful, but very long-winded. (I happen to like how long-winded he is, but I should warn that is his style. Very little tends to happen at the start of one of his novels, as it's all set-up.)
L.E.Modessit Jr. writes epic fantasy after the older style—more slow-paced, lots of description. I find his books to be quite good, but they're not for everyone. They do tend to be very clean, though. (Same goes for Terry Brooks, who has a strong personal rule that he will never write, or cover blurb, something that is not clean. His books do feel a tad out dated these days, though.)
Other LDS author pals of mine who write mainstream sf/f: Shannon Hale, James Dasnher, Jessica Day George. All YA, all very good writers. Also, if you haven't read Eric James Stone's nebula-winning short piece "That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made," look it up. I think he posted it free on his website. It's about an LDS branch president on a space station in the sun, trying to help beings made of plasma live the law of chastity. Really.
You were a missionary in Seoul.
Has this cross-cultural experience influenced your writing?
Yeah, it has, quite a bit. One of the things you notice is that once you go live in a different culture, it opens your eyes to the different ways people can think, and how varied it is. Learning a new language and being immersed in it really opens your eyes to how language can affect thought and thought process.
Beyond that, growing up as a white male American, I never had to be the outsider. Living in a culture where suddenly you are, even though I was a privileged minority, not an underprivileged minority—I don’t know if there is a place you can go in the world where a white male American is an underprivileged minority—but just being a minority changes things. I think my writing grew much stronger.
I would suggest to every American, particularly, that this is an experience that would be very good for them. We Americans do tend to be a little bit turned inward. In Europe you have to experience dual cultures and things like that. I don’t know how it is in Australia, but in the States it’s pretty easy to forget the rest of the world. That’s a criticism that is levelled against the States quite reasonably. Going among another culture, serving the people there and forgetting yourself for a while, is just a wonderful experience. Absolutely wonderful.
Yeah, that's actually been very interesting for me, because my love of fantasy causes me to seek out and create these, like, what we call secondary worlds, and it certainly leads me to a lot of interesting questions about my own faith and my own belief, and what parts of things that I believe are mythology, and what parts of things I believe are hard-core truths, and what is the line between those? Sometimes, do we tell ourselves stories that are meaningful on multiple levels? All of that sort of thing is fascinating to me, and you find me working that out in my fiction where I approach, you know, the nature of truth, and what does it mean...you know, capital T Truth and lower-case t truth. Very fascinating to me. I'm fascinated by religion; I'm fascinated by belief, and what causes us to believe and what causes myself to believe.
Alright, and we should mention the scale of your own work because it's prolific. There are four novellas, three standalone novels, four books in the Alcatraz series, four books in your Mistborn series, you've started a new series called The Stormlight Archive....can I just stay on this business of being a Mormon, because it's been pointed out that there are many science fiction and fantasy writers who are Mormons. Do you think that's right, that the Mormon writers are attracted to this as a genre?
You know, I've actually talked about this a lot with people, and everyone has their pet theory. It may just be that by being part of a kind of distinctive sub-group, we're noticeable, and so people make the connection. We may not have much of a higher percentage than anyone else. That might be true; I don't know if it is. It certainly does seem there's a lot of us. Orson Scott Card, Stephenie Meyer, myself, Shannon Hale....all of these people. We write fantastic stories. I can trace my involvement in it back to the fact that there is an author named Tracy Hickman who wrote Dragonlance and he was Mormon, and I read those books and loved them; I think that's the first time I experienced an LDS fantasy or science fiction author. I went to Brigham Young University, and there was a class there that was started by someone who just loved science fiction and fantasy and was teaching it, and a lot of us who are now writing it took that class, and maybe it's just the class. I don't know; I really don't know what it is. Maybe it's the focus on literacy in LDS culture, and—there is a very high focus on literacy; a lot of readers, a lot of writers—and so you find a lot of Mormon writers in all genres. My own pet theory is, for me, fantasy and science fiction was a safe counterculture. Growing up as a kid who basically wanted to be a good kid but also wanted to rebel a little bit—do something his parents didn't understand—I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. I started reading fantasy novels, and I found myself in them when I read them—something distinctive, something imaginative, something new, but also something a little bit bizarre, and I like being a little bit bizarre.
(laughs) Yes, well that's a good thing to be in the world; I think "A Little Bit Bizarre" would be a great thing to put on your coat of arms, really. You know, rather than "Seek the Truth" or, you know, "Be Noble".
Here lies Brandon Sanderson: A Little Bit Bizarre.
Yes and no. I don't go into books with a message. At the same time, I like to read about heroism, and I like to read about moral choices. I like to read about all spectra of moral choice, honestly. I like to approach an issue and say, you know there's going to be five or six valid points on this same issue, and everyone is going to think that their side is the moral side, and I want, in my books, each one to have a legitimate ground to stand on. I don't want to be picking a side necessarily; I want to be offering the item up for discussion. I think that true morality is making you think and consider your actions as opposed to just doing them, and I think there's a real strong morality to forcing you to see other perspectives and other sides. So I would say that I like my fiction to be moral but from that definition of moral. I don't look at my fiction as necessarily teaching people which way to act, though I do think about it a lot. I think about what my role is as someone who is writing fiction that people are reading and experiencing, and what influence I have over them, and what responsibility that affects upon me. These are all very important things that I think about quite a bit. At the end of the day I want to tell a great story about characters you care about, who sometimes think differently than you do.
You know, yeah, a lot of people talk about there's no way that he could have done it. Being a fantasy writer myself, I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that he could have written it himself, and I think basing your testimony, in the church, based on a concept like that is the wrong way to go. It is the wrong way to go, basing your testimony on, "Well, it's obviously impossible that he wrote it, therefore it must be true..." That's actually a bad logical way to look at the church.
I look at the church through eyes of faith, and my testimony is based solely on the fact that I believe God has spoken to me. I ask him, I say, "Is this what you want me to do," and I felt that testimony; I felt that burning inside, and for me, you know what, honestly, it doesn't happen that often for me. It's not like, you know, some people, they go to church, and every time it's like...no. I can point to three distinct points in my life where I felt that testimony, and other times I felt a good comfort, but there are three things where I said it was, you know, knock me down, this is true, that....and it wasn't even necessarily focused on the church. One was that I should be a writer, and one that I should be marrying my wife. The other one is very personal, so I won't mention that one, but those two moments I felt a powerful, powerful presence, and it came down to one of two things for me: either this is confirmation bias, which I assume you know about—either it's confirmation bias or it's the truth, and because if there is a God, he's not going to let me have this moment thinking that there....that, you know, this isn't going to be a lie. Either God is real and I'm feeling these sorts of confirmation...it really became that dichotomy for me, feeling those two things.
And from there, I just try to do the best I can. This faith has worked very well for me; I have not received any necessarily, moments saying "don't do this." There are lots of things in any religion—LDS faith is not alone in this—there are lots of things in any religion that are going to raise some eyebrows. You say, look, there's some logical holes here, and it doesn't matter which religion you're talking about; there's gonna be those. And because I've had those moments, those are what I have based, fundamentally, my faith upon, and honestly, for me, it's a choice between atheistic humanism, which has some very valid points, and the faith that I have now, and I only...you know, it's very Cartesian. Descartes, you know, "I think, therefore I am." I have to rely on my senses and my emotions, and feeling what I felt, if I say, "That's just confirmation bias," for me that means that I can't really rely on my senses, and I don't really want to go that way. I want to rely on what I have felt, and you know, on a more lofty scale I think there's more to it than all of this, than just this world. I think there's gotta be.
And that's, you know...who knows? Maybe the secular humanistic approach is right, and I have no problem with the secular humanists; I don't think that there's this....you know, these are generally sincere people who are interested in finding truth, but you know what, I believe that I can follow the scientific method for my faith. I can say, "Is this true?" I can pray. I can feel a confirmation, and it's repeatable. It's, every time I've wanted it, I've felt it. That's enough for me to go forward in faith right now. So, that's my version of a comment to you. I don't mind if you post that—I really don't; it's okay—but you know, I think we just do the best we can, and we soldier forward.
Alright, thank you very much.Thanks for talking to me.
Yeah, thank you.
Warning: Churchiness follows! Just saw Bruce R. McConkie's final testimony (from back in 1985) for the first time. Wow.
Amazing, isn't it? AMAZING. We watched it when I was in the MTC.
Yeah. I'm surprised I missed it. 18 months of cancer, this, then dead in about a week. Gave me chills.
Oh no, no church for me. I might fall asleep. Oh man, I'm horrible.
I'm super surprised you haven't heard it before. It's, like, everywhere in the Church.
Yeah, I've heard it mentioned—but just never watched/heard it.
That's awesome. I'm not going to keep you too much longer. And since you're not a drinker . . .
I'm not a drinker. That's a . . . yeah.
But you did tell me you had an alcohol-related story . . .
I kind of have one, and it's not about me.
We are still writers.
It's actually about . . . so this is your piece of trivia. I am Mormon, and I was roommates in college with another famous Mormon—Ken Jennings, who won all the Jeopardy! money.
Okay, all right.
This is my roommate from college. And so the only liquor story, you like . . . hey, liquor stuff. He, on Jeopardy!, kept flubbing all the liquor questions. 'Cause he's Mormon!
And so my friend Ken had to go memorize big lists of mixed drinks. So he's the most literate person in all sorts of alcohol that I know that's Mormon because he had to have all these questions for Jeopardy! And so he keeps buzzing in and winning these things. It's pretty amusing.
Were there Elders calling him with questions, "So Ken . . . is there something you need to be telling us?"
(laughs) Yeah, I don't know.
Or is it more like, "Ken, you tithe appropriately and we'll just never mention this again."
(laughs) Yeah, I don't know. You should have him on some time. He's an author, too. But, there's your piece of trivia: Brandon Sanderson, Ken Jennings—roommates.
There we go. That's as close as I can get for a liquor commentary out of a guy who said, "What flavor of water shall I discuss on your podcast?"
Yes, that's right. That's right.
As I'm sitting here drinking a Dasani because still I drank one of those jalapeno things, and it made my teeth sweat.
Those things look kind of cool.
They're very pretty.
Actually, I had some punch last night that tasted like Kool-Aid, except it was 85 degree Kool-Aid, and it was disgusting.
So no, you're really not missing that much, except for . . .
Yeah, except for the booze. Brandon, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
If Brandon Sanderson were an Epic, what would his powers—and his name—be?
What power I would choose depends on how rational my brain is that day. It makes the most sense to have Wolverine's regenerative powers. At the same time, it's not like I'm jumping off cliffs or getting into fights. So I probably wouldn't do much with this power. But in the back of my mind, there's a part of me that says, "Boy, would I really love to be able to fly!" Which is why a lot of the magic systems in my books wind up dealing with people having powers that let them soar in the air. What would my name be? The Great Salty One. When I was in Korea, serving a mission for the LDS church, I loved to salt my food. I like really salty stuff. The Koreans don't do the whole table salt thing, so I carried salt in my briefcase, and it cracked them up! I would go to eat something, and they'd be like, "All right, here's our food" and I would be like, "And here's my salt!" I would salt all my food, and they would laugh and call me Jjan Dori, which means something like "The Great Salty One." So that's my superhero name.
Your books don't have overtly Mormon characters in them, but they do contain many recognizable Mormon elements—especially in book three of the Mistborn trilogy, The Hero of Ages. How do you feel that your faith has influenced your writing?
Being an author, the story is what is most important to me. Theme and message are really secondary. I don't go into a book saying, "I'm going to write a book about this." In other words, I don't want to preach with my books. What I want to do is have compelling, realistic characters who care about different things. Some care about religion, others don't. By writing compelling characters who care about issues, I realize that what the characters care about tends to be influenced by what I care about. As for my faith, it is what primarily influences me because it makes me interested in certain topics. For instance, religion does tend to be a theme in my books. Yet if you read Elantris, my first published work, the religious figure was the primary antagonist. People have asked me, "Brandon, you're religious—why are you painting religion so poorly in this book?" And my answer for them is that I'm not painting religion poorly. The misuse of religion is one of the things that scares me the most in life. Someone who is taking faith and twisting it and manipulating it is doing one of the most purely evil things that someone can do, in my opinion.
With the Mistborn books, I wasn't ever trying to be overtly LDS. Yet my values shape who I am and what I determine to be important. I then end up having characters who deal with these same things, and I think there are a lot of LDS things going on. But of course I think there are a lot of Buddhist things going on as well. I served my mission in Korea and have a lot of respect for the Buddhist religion. Because of that, I think some elements of Buddhism show up in my writing. Not because I set out to say, "Okay, I'm going to use Buddhism here," but because it seems to happen when I'm developing a character who cares about something. That's one of the tricks about being a writer.
One of my main goals is that any time I put a character in whose beliefs are different from mine, I want to make sure that I'm making them realistic, that I'm painting their ideas and philosophies as accurately as possible. I think it's important for all authors to make their characters actually feel real and not just portray them as talking heads who are there to learn a lesson. Another author, Robert Jordan, once said that he loved it when his books made people ask questions, but that he didn't want to give them the answers—he believed that they should come up with their own. That's what I try to do, too.
Do you ever plan to write any works dealing with Mormon characters?
I've considered it. The thing, though, is that since I tend to write high fantasy, which entails other worlds that are completely unrelated to this one, there haven't been many opportunities to create one. I've been tempted a couple of times, and if I do end up doing it, it would probably be in a science fiction setting or more of an urban fantasy setting. Nothing is ruled out, though, except that I'm pretty soundly involved in the high fantasy epic genre right now. I haven't done it, but who knows if I will?
How do your fans react to your being a member of the Church?
It's hard to say because I think most of my fans don't care one way or the other. The vocal ones send me e-mails, though. Occasionally, I get messages from people who say, "Hey, I'm not a member of your faith, but it's cool that you have one, and thanks for writing, and I appreciate your books." I've also received more than several e-mails from LDS people who are very pleased with the books and happy to see an LDS writer who produces works they can enjoy. Sometimes I have received e-mails from people who are not proponents of the LDS faith who challenge me on my beliefs. I'm a debater, but not an arguer, though, and I think the difference is that as a debater, if I feel that my side has been presented adequately, I'm not going to feel bad if people disagree with me. So when I respond to e-mails like that, I say something along the lines of, "Hey, here's why I believe what I do. Here's what the basis of my faith is. Here's why I believe in this doctrine that you are challenging. You don't have to believe in it. Believe what you want. But this is my reasoning." I think I usually have pretty good logic and every time someone has responded to one of my reply e-mails, it's been positive. Most of the time, the person will send something back that says, "You know what, thanks for not actually getting into an argument. I was kind of in a bad mood when I sent that and thank you for being respectful." I think being respectful will get you much further than getting into arguments will. I have had universally good experiences with people reacting to my LDS faith, even on such charged topics.
I am aware that what follows is a flaw in my personality, but hey.
I only recently listened to an Orson Scott Card work (Xenocide). I enjoyed it well enough, but it wasn't until checking the author out on Wikipedia that I became aware of his religion. All of a sudden the book took on a whole new bent for me, and not in a positive way. My mind moved the religious undertones in the story from "slight dig at humanity" to "author is telling me the future isn't much different."
I know I'm wrong to shroud a work of fiction with the author's personal life, but it's where my mind went. And I've yet to pick up another Card novel even though I had intended to run right for Ender's Game.
And now Brandon Sanderson, when I'm halfway into Towers of Midnight? Crickey. I hope I can rise above my pettiness.
I wouldn't say "flaw" really. It IS interesting to me, however, that people have this reaction. It's not uncommon.
A reader can read the Wheel of Time, full of references to all kinds of religions and mythologies, knowing that Robert Jordan was a devout Christian and never think twice about it. They can read of books written by Jewish authors, see factors of Jewish culture and religion in them, and not assume the book is trying to convert them. They just see the Jewish references as an expression of the author's self.
Many read a book by a Mormon, however, and suddenly start reading all kinds of things into it. Perhaps it's the deviant nature (speaking in terms of relating it mainstream religious experiences in most western cultures) of the LDS faith. It's viewed with suspicion because of its outsider nature. Almost with a "they'll try to steal our children" sort of mentality. Or maybe it's the more aggressive nature of the religion when it comes to converts (men in white shirts knocking on the doors) that makes art by these authors be regarded in such a way.
It's quite natural, and I think more an expression of the culture at large than any personal flaw inside you yourself.
If it helps, I can promise that when I write fiction, I'm not trying to "say" anything. I'm trying to tell good stories. Now, if themes start to develop, I'll nurture them—but only in as much as they have direct relationship to the characters and their goals, motives, and directions. And while the characters may find what they believe are answers, I believe it's important for the text itself to NOT seek to give answers to questions like this, but to instead engage in an exploration of themes from multiple strong viewpoints.
tl;dr: Yes, I'm a Mormon, but I'm also a pretty normal dude who just wants to tell good stories. I'm not trying to slip anything into your water, I promise.
To be honest—flaw, failing, or interesting trait—my mind would have made a substitution regardless of the religion (or subset thereof) in question. Different substitutions would have been made—or not—but I can't speak to their nuances. This one is already in the books, so to speak.
You wouldn't call that a flaw, but I do. Shouldn't a work stand on its merit to the reader? Did I enjoy reading it? Yes? Great. I can't help feeling that applying prejudices against an author (of FICTION especially!) to the work is wrong. That's exactly what I did, however. I'm not proud of it. I wonder how often it happens—in both directions.
I don't feel that people are trying to shove things down my throat—in most fiction—but the prejudices of a non-fiction life sometimes get in the way of a great escape. And as with many aspects of society, all are likely wrong.
I hear you. It's actually not just religion. Since I've become part of the community, I've found out the personalities of some authors. It shouldn't change how I view their books, and yet...it does.
Having been on my side of it, I've sometimes raged. Then I've stopped to think "Well, how would you react if you found you were reading a book by a scientologist." Makes me freeze and think about things a little further.
Perhaps there's something to be said for learning nothing about the author of a work until after you've read it in its entirety.
Well considering Science Fiction and Fantasy are the foundations of their entire belief system they probably have a good jumping off point when it comes to fiction.
Ahem. This line comes up pretty much every time that this topic is mentioned. And trust me, it gets mentioned A LOT. Like, every time people find out I'm Mormon and I write fantasy novels, they throw this question at me. I kind of wonder if we're blowing a slight statistical deviation completely out of proportion, and the idea has taken on a life of its own.
However, armchair philosophy is fun. What's an English degree for, if not to make wild conjectures? So, I've got my own theories. You can't get asked this question as many times as I have without devising them.
As MeatSledge points out (in jest, but there's truth to it) basically any religious belief system will be treated like fantasy to an outsider. Particularly an atheist.
However, LDS theology takes a more 'pro-sf' view than some other religions. It is an active and mainstream belief in the religion that there are plenty of inhabited worlds out there. The belief that God is a transcendent (or simply very powerful) man is also a concept that science fiction has played with a lot. (The Swords books by Fred Saberhagen come to mind.) Things like Q and the like from Star Trek deal with this concept: At what point does a hyper-evolved being cross the line into becoming a god when viewed by common men?
My own theories about the LDS penchant for Fantasy/SF has more mundane roots. It has to do with the church's enormous focus on education and reading, and with the idea of 80's nerd and role playing culture being a "safe" counter-culture for imaginative LDS kids who also want to rebel against their parents somewhat.
In short: Yes, MeatSledge, I realize your comment was meant to be an insult. But there's some truth to it anyway. But I think articles like this are generally overblowing something small.
To be honest it was an insult wrapped in my actual thoughts. Not entirely teeth, but not all gum.
The first time I thought about this was way back in high school when my English teacher was Mormon had shelves of Fantasy magazine and every reading project was fantasy related.
It's certainly worth thinking about—things like this bear examination, as we get some real glimpses into what makes us tick.
Though, it occurs to me that those of us who believe the LDS faith could react a little less strongly to insinuations that our belief system is science fiction. I, for one, believe strongly in the power of science—and also accept God as real. The only way I see to reconcile that is to accept that God fits into science, and that what he does is grounded in science, even if we don't know all of the science yet.
So, while I don't think God is fiction, the relationship between my faith and sf shouldn't be insulting.
I think this quote in the article says it all: "Several people have speculated about why Mormons seem to be unusually represented in the science fiction and fantasy genre. Mormon scholar Terryl Givens points to Mormon theology as a possible source for the 'affinity' Mormons have with science fiction in particular and speculative fiction (defined as 'imaginative' or 'non-literary' fiction) in general."
It's not just the Mormons who base their belief system off of fantasy. The Bible is the world's shittiest fantasy novel, and the Quran isn't much better. Need I mention the Scientologists?
You're mistaking (probably intentionally) mythology for fantasy. But it does a disservice to conversations about the genre to do so.
In studying the genre, we have to make the distinction between books written for/by people who are presenting their stories as fact, and those who are intentionally creating a work of fiction. It's the only useful way to discuss, and understand, the fantasy genre.
You can call the Bible lies, if you wish, but not fantasy—as those who wrote it were writing stories they believed were true, and were writing them for people they hoped would believe they were true. To call it lies is also probably using the wrong word, even if you believe the book to be untrue, because the authors very likely believed the stories they wrote. To them, it was history. To you, then, it's not lies or fantasy—it's mythology and inaccurate history.
Mr. Sanderson, I might be doing a disservice to conversations about fantasy by denigrating the Bible as a fantasy novel written by committee that makes The Sword of Shannara look like Nobel prize-winning literature, but I do so not out of disrespect for fantasy or its study, but to mock religion. I'm not a sufficiently militant atheist to want to hijack the machinery of government and trample the First Amendment. I'm happy to call the Bible lies, but fundamentalists are used to being called liars. They're not used to being compared to Scientologists.
In the meantime, I'm surprised to see you on Reddit. I had just read Warbreaker, and am thinking of getting electronic editions of your Mistborn novels next time I get paid. I doubt I'll bother with your efforts to finish The Wheel of Time, but it's not your fault that a few pages of Nynaeve yanking her braid and bitching about men makes me yearn for the days when fantasy casts were sausagefests.
I do think it's a disservice to speak of the Bible as fiction, and not just to fantasy—but to religion as well. (Though, admittedly, I speak as a religious person, so my bias is manifest.) It's not really a straw man, but it is an intentional misrepresentation. It makes it difficult to discuss the thing as it really is.
The Bible isn't fiction, it's nonfiction. Same as an earnest treatise on alchemy written by a practitioner during the 1400s. Now, in your opinion, it's highly flawed nonfiction, without grounding in fact. But calling it fiction is to imply that the authors of the book were intentionally writing stories they knew were not true, and perhaps even were presenting them as not true, which is blatantly false.
And now...I've probably gone way too far in talking about something which wasn't intended to be taken quite as literally as I have. Sorry, I just end up thinking about things like this too much. Occupational hazard, I guess. For what it's worth, I understand that your stated purpose was mockery, which means I should probably just lighten up and stop blabbing.
Either way, thanks for reading.
Mormons and polygamy, question from a non-Mormon.
There are only a handful of (officially registered) Mormons in my country, so I know very little about the religion. Wanting to know more, I've been spending some time on the mormon.org and lds.org websites. It surprised me when I came across a part on polygamy, which stated it was practiced by Mormons before 1890, but no longer allowed now. The reason it was allowed before, is because God commanded Joseph Smith to have multiple wives. Then in 1890, Woodruff had a revelation where he was told to stop the practice of polygamy (you probably already know all of this, but I just want to make sure my views can be corrected if I'm wrong). Whether or not it was actually related to Utah becoming a state isn't relevant to me, I'm just quoting what it says on the site.
Now for my question... I actually asked this on the mormon.org chat as well, but was called a troll and subsequently banned.
What if I or a member of your church has a revelation which commands him to have multiple wives? Would you believe that person, knowing that according to your church it has been commanded in the past? Would you support that person? Or would he, when following God's will, be excommunicated?
It's a valid question. I don't know why you'd be called a troll for it.
There are a few principles at work here, and if you don't mind, I'll build to an answer to your question. I might get a little long winded here; if so, I'm very sorry.
We believe strongly in the concept of personal revelation—in fact, it was a cornerstone of Joseph Smith's ministry. Basically, if God does exist, we feel that the only way to know that is for Him to tell you personally. Otherwise, it's all hearsay.
A lot of that is in line with what was believed by other Christian religions of the time. Even still, in a lot of sects, a 'calling' to teach is an individual thing. To become a preacher or pastor, one needs only a witness from God that you should.
That, however, is one of the points where LDS theology deviates. While we believe in personal witness and revelation, we believe the scope of what you can get a witness for is limited to your sphere of responsibility. In other words, while you can pray and seek direct guidance from God on your life, you cannot go to your neighbor and say "I've had a witness that you should do X, Y, or Z." We don't think God works that way.
There are, however, people who can get guidance for others. It depends on your sphere of responsibility. A parent can get guidance for their children, a bishop for the members of their congregation. (Note: this is within reason. He has responsibility for people's spiritual welfare, but not for other aspects of their lives.)
The prophet—president of the Church—is given responsibility for all members of the Church, and is the only one who has the ability and authority to speak for the church as a whole. We believe he is directly God's mouthpiece on the Earth. And so, he can set Church policy.
So, the answer to your question is this: we believe that God works through organized means. Revelation from God comes in line with things that you have responsibility for. Now, the argument becomes: "In terms of marriage, don't you have responsibility for your own choices?" Yes, you do. However, the prophet has spoken for Church policy, renouncing polygamy as a practice.
An individual doesn't have the right or authority to go against Church policy. (Well, they have the right—they may do as they wish, and anyone may make their own choices.) However, God will not send revelation that contradicts Church doctrine. If He did, there would be total chaos—and no purpose for a Church in the first place.
So if you were to claim God told you to marry multiple wives, it would be the same as if you claimed God told you to start stealing, start your own church, or do anything else expressly against previous commandments. I would not speak on your personal relationship with God, and that is your business. But the Church is within its authority to excommunicate you for such actions, and we would believe what you are doing not to be God's will. (If it were a friend of mine that I trusted, I'd look to God and see what he had to say on the matter.)
On a personal note, personal revelation is a tricky thing, and must be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. It is an essential part of the Church. As I said, logic dictates (to me, at least) that if there is a God, and he does want you to follow him, he will respond and tell you that directly. But that is basically the purpose of personal revelation, to let an individual know that God is real and to guide in choosing one's philosophy, religion, and goals in life.
Anything beyond that starts to get us into questionable areas. I'm not saying it doesn't happen—it does. But at these points, you have to start asking yourself, "Am I just doing what I want, and pretending I have a divine mandate? Do I REALLY feel this is God's will?" In this, like in all things in life, there's a distinct need to follow the great law of the universe: Be reasonable.
Probably because some people think it's funny to abuse the online chat, which in turn causes false-positives for genuine questions.
The concept of personal revelation is certainly something I can appreciate. These days, religion has often become more a form of indoctrination than something spiritual. I don't know nearly enough about LDS to have an educated opinion on the subject, but still.
Would you say the LDS's views mature over time and are perhaps even culturally bound? It's the only religion I know of that has living prophets, so practices that were acceptable in the past (polygamy, exclusion of black people from priesthood, ...) but are now considered immoral and wrong, may be changed over time. Do you think that in 20-30-40 years, when gay people are perhaps (hopefully) fully accepted by society, LDS will accept them as well? Or maybe even let women become priests?And thanks for the detailed response. It looks like there's a distinct hierarchy involved, which is understandable, though something I am very skeptical of. Especially in combination with personal revelations. Too often have I seen that position of power been abused (in the name of God of course). But again, I don't know enough about LDS to make any claims, nor am I here to turn this into an anti-Mormonism thread.
I'm very sorry to take so long to reply to this, Alfredo_BE. I've been off doing some revisions on a book that is due...well, let's just say I'm late on it. But I did want to reply to this because your questions were so insightful.
I do think it is possible that the LDS Church's views on things like this are culturally bound, and that God is simply waiting for the right time to mainstream gay marriage into the Church. There are some who believe this strongly. I think the chances of it being that way are slim, considering statements released and the such, but it could happen.
There are examples of this all through the history of religion. The apostles telling a slave to return to his master in the New Testament when it is pretty clear that slavery is not a good institution. Blacks being denied the priesthood in the LDS church is another; there are implications that the biases of church members were part of the reason this happened. (Joseph Smith, for example, ordained a black priest—but Brigham Young stopped the practice.)
If you're really interested about how the Church works and who Joseph Smith was, look up the book Rough Stone Rolling on Google book search. It gives a free preview, and you can read through the chapters 12 and 13. This is a biography of Joseph Smith done by a Colombia professor (who is also a church member) which is generally considered—by both LDS and non-LDS sources—the best biography of him.
It's a thick read, though in its favor, a lot of LDS activists think it goes too far in delving into the controversial aspects of his life. While many anti-LDS activists think it doesn't go far enough. It sits happily in the middle, and I found that it didn't pull punches, but was still respectful.
Sorry again for the late reply.
"I know my church has good intentions in this legal debate." Sorry Melanie, but no, they do not. YOU have good intentions and want to believe the best of others, especially those you have known and trusted all your life . . . but no. Their intentions are far, far from good.
I'm not sure I want to stumble into this one. These discussions turn out to be a mess, a lot of the time.
However, I've found that Reddit is often populated by those curious about both sides of an argument. For the record, here are some official statements from the Church regarding Gay Marriage.
Some highlights: "We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty, or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different—whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation, or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.
This church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history, when we were too few in numbers to adequately protect ourselves and when society's leaders often seemed disinclined to help. Our parents, our young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness towards those who are attracted to others of the same sex. This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations. Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions to others properly reflect Jesus Christ's second great commandment—to love one another."
And also: "This is much bigger than just a question of whether or not society should be more tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle. Over past years we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of that lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like "homophobic". In at least one country where homosexual activists have won major concessions, we have even seen a church pastor threatened with prison for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual behavior is sinful. Given these trends, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must take a stand on doctrine and principle. This is more than a social issue—ultimately it may be a test of our most basic religious freedoms to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach."
IAmA 74-time Jeopardy! champion, Ken Jennings. I will not be answering in the form of a question.
I'll be here on and off today in case anyone wants to Ask Me Anything. Someone told me the questions here can be on any subject, within reason. Well, to me, "within reason" are the two lamest words in the English language, even worse than "miniature golf" or "Corbin Bernsen." So no such caveats apply here. Ask Me ANYTHING.
I've posted some proof of my identity on my blog: http://ken-jennings.com/blog/?p=2614
and on "Twitter," which I hear is very popular with the young people. http://twitter.com/kenjennings
Updated to add: You magnificent bastards! You brought down my blog!
Updated again to add: Okay, since there are only a few thousand unanswered questions now, I'm going to have to call this. (Also, I have to pick up my kids from school.)
But I'll be back, Reddit! When you least expect it! MWAH HA HA! Or, uh, when I have a new book to promote. One of those. Thanks for all the fun.
Updated posthumously to add: You can always ask further questions on the message boards at my site. You can sign up for my weekly email trivia quiz or even buy books there as well.[/whore]
I hear you had an awesome roommate when you lived in Utah who went on to write books and stuff. Why don't you tell us about how awesome he was?
I kid. (Only a little.) Okay, a serious question. How did it feel to beat Brad? I always felt you got the raw end of things during your previous meeting, coming in cold as you had to. In some ways, that free pass to the final round was a backhanded compliment.
Hey Brandon! I hope I'm allowed to out this comment as coming from bajillion-seller-of-nerd-fantasy books Brandon Sanderson.
Yeah, I felt like the buzzer gods were not smiling on me last time Brad kicked my butt. This would have been sweet, sweet revenge, if a supercomputer hadn't been raping me the entire time.
I wish I had something clever to say, but this is just an awesome development in an already great thread.
So, were you two really roommates? If so, how did you manage to keep all the women away from the shared living quarters of an aspiring fantasy author and a trivia nerd?
Yes, we were—just lucky chance. I moved into a place where he was already living. A duplex with five rooms, I think. It wasn't too long (six months or so?) before Ken got married to a girl two or three houses down. So you could say that we failed at keeping the women away...failed WITH STYLE.
And, if you want your head to spin, try going to dinner with Ken, his brother Nathan, and Earl (Ken's old friend and college bowl team-mate.) All three are geniuses, and it's a strange experience to be around them as they play off of one another. The literary allusions, pop culture references, and puns create a conflux of wit nearly dense enough to pull down small astral bodies.
Wow you roomed with Ken Jennings? Damn that is a cool bit of trivia. I apologize for this being an offensive or intrusive question, but did it have something to do with you both being Mormon or was that total coincidence?
Yeah, I was going to BYU at the time. Ken was finished, I believe. We had both come to Provo for school, though. (I'm from Nebraska originally.)
Wait...are you really Brandon Sanderson? Because if so I literally just finished reading Mistborn the other night. It totally made me cry.
Thank you for reading. I feel both guilty and proud to have made you cry.
Best of luck to you in your writing. Just keep at it. The secret to becoming a great writer is to first be a dedicated writer.
This is so sad, instead of wanting to ask the OP questions, I just want to ask Brandon Sanderson about the WoT series! I need to know what happens to Rand! Cmoooon! Get back to writing so I can spend my hard earned money on you! >.> P.S. All of my friends (including me) are graduating with our post grads this year and sharing the WoT has been one of the ways we keep in touch. If you could, I dunno, like send me a whats up or something, I would poop my pants, and then show it to them. But hey, that's just me.
I'll do an AMA eventually. One of these days. (I keep saying that.) Anyway, back to writing, as commanded.... :)
Sanderson and Jennings were roommates... Nerdgasm. Ken, do you read WoT?
Our other roommates were Brent Spiner, "Weird Al," Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, 5/6 of Monty Python, and the lightsaber kid from that one video.
There's got to be a sitcom pitch in here somewhere. Two semi-famous Mormons, living together, being nerds. Like Big Bang Theory, only with more green Jell-O. Glen Beck could play the evil apartment building owner who keeps trying to come up with crazy schemes to get us kicked out, since our apartment is rent controlled to 1870's prices as long as a pure descendant of Brigham Young lives in it.
Stephenie Meyer is our version of Wilson, only instead of standing behind a fence, she hides in the basement and gives cryptic, half-nonsense advice in exchange for bad poetry. Tom Cruise and Jon Travolta live in the rival Scientologist apartment building across the street, and are always trying to one-up us. Season finale: Cruise secretly joins the church of Inglip.
TIL that Mormons can be hilarious. Would never have guessed from the pantaloons or whatever those Mormon undies are called.
Wait. I'd have thought that wearing odd underwear would be an extra-special indication of hilariousness. I've been wearing it for the wrong reason all these years...
(They're actually called garments. And yes, they are a little odd. The Mormon equivalent of a turban, or a kippah, or what have you. They're basically just a T-shirt and knee-length boxers, though, so they're less strange than they probably sound.)
Good point. Have you ever seen the Mormon temple in Nauvoo, IL? I grew up in that county, it was kind of a big deal when it was first built.
I keep meaning to get there. I had relatives in the area when I was younger, so we'd make the drive up from Nebraska (where I grew up) to the area frequently. Haven't been back since the temple was re-built, though.
Generosity and fame
Sanderson doesn't just create worlds in fiction; he also helps others create their own fictional worlds. With his friends Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler, Sanderson puts out the weekly (and Hugo Award-winning) Writing Excuses podcast. He also teaches one creative writing class at Brigham Young University each year.
In 1994, when Sanderson was a senior in High School in Nebraska, he went to a local science fiction fan convention called Andromeda One.
"The guest of honor was Katherine Kurtz, a great writer," he said. "She sat down with me when she heard I wanted to be a writer and she talked with me for about an hour on what to do."
Later, after Sanderson served a mission in Korea for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he took a class on science fiction and fantasy offered at BYU from author Dave Wolverton (who also writes as David Farland).
"Dave took a 'pay cut' to teach us," Sanderson said. "It was something he did to help us. Both of those situations were so incredibly helpful to me and so wonderfully useful that I basically got published because of things like this—authors spending their time. ... These chances I got were so useful to me that I think I would be remiss if I didn't do it myself."
But as successful as Sanderson has been, he tries to keep that success in perspective. Although huge lines and crowds will, if past events are any indication, gather for his book launch at midnight on March 4 at BYU Bookstore in Provo, fame isn't a motivator.
"Fortunately, writers don't get that famous; even famous writers don't get that famous," he said. "Like if you were to walk out on that street and say, 'Hey guys, Brandon Sanderson is in this room,' I can guarantee that nobody would care. There might be one person who might say, 'Hey, I've heard of that guy. Didn't he write those books?' Nobody would care. ... And so it is very easy to keep well-grounded as a writer."