A Christmas Present
Introduction: The Short Version
I’ve got a new story out for you to read. It’s free, and you can dive into it by going to this link. Enjoy! Once you’ve read it, here are some links of places to talk about it, all of which are likely to contain spoilers.
Introduction: The Longer Version
Back in January this year, Wizards of the Coast approached me. Knowing of my love for their game, Magic: The Gathering, they were wondering if I would be willing to write a tie-in story for them. They mentioned since it was the 25th birthday of Magic, they wanted to do something special—and might be able to splurge on a Brandon Sanderson story.
I was, of course, interested—but went back to Wizards with a proposal that I think surprised them. You see, I knew they’d been doing some very interesting things with their stories in recent months. (The multi-part Dominaria sequence by Martha Wells is a good example, if you are interested.) I liked how they were using free stories on their website to both enhance the lore and give some work to talented writers.
Way back in the beginning of my career, one of the things I liked to do was periodically release free stories. Defending Elysium, Firstborn, and even Warbreaker are examples. Over the years, though, I’ve gotten busy enough that I haven’t found a good opportunity to do this again. I liked the idea of doing a story for Wizards in part for this reason.
So I went back to them with a proposal: I didn’t actually want payment for this story. I just wanted them to put it up for free on their website, and then if (later down the road) it generated any money by being in a collection or in print on its own, I wanted my portion of that donated to charity. In exchange for doing it for free, I wanted to be allowed to write the story my way. That meant me picking one of their settings, then developing my own characters and plot to happen there. (As opposed to writing the story for one of their official releases, as most of the other writers they hired were doing.)
It wasn’t that I had anything against writing one of the main-line-setting stories. I just felt that in this case, I wanted greater flexibility. Beyond that, for several years now, I’ve had a story brewing in my head that I felt was a perfect match for one of their settings—a story I couldn’t make work in the Cosmere, but which I really wanted to write.
Wizards was on board immediately—and so, “Secret Project” was born.
Regarding the Story
Wizards has a lot of great settings for the card game, so I had plenty of options. The story I’d been brewing was specifically inspired by their Innistrad set—a gothic horror setting with some magepunk elements underpinning it. It has had a very interesting evolution over the years, and was the setting for one of the best Magic sets of all time. Ever since writing Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, I’ve wanted to do another horror/fantasy hybrid, and so I dove into what became Children of the Nameless.
I don’t know exactly what Wizards was expecting of me, but I suspect a 250-page behemoth of a story wasn’t it. (At 50k words, the story is roughly half the size of something like Skyward.) I have to say, though, working with them was an absolute pleasure. They jumped on board with the main character pitch I made, integrating him right away into the larger Magic story. They even went so far as to loop me in on conference calls, where I could explain my character concepts so they could develop art. I’d thought they might be worried about letting me go off on my own like this, but they were instead enthusiastic and supportive.
So, it is with great pleasure I present Children of the Nameless. Consider it a Christmas present from me and from Wizards of the Coast to you. I hope you enjoy it!
PFAQ (Possible Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: Do I have to know anything about the Innistrad setting to enjoy this story?
A: No. The story was written to be a standalone, and though it uses a MTG setting, everything you need to know about that setting is presented in the story itself. Just like you don’t need to know Roshar before picking up The Way of Kings, you don’t need to know Innistrad before picking up Children of the Nameless. (And as an aside, if you’re unfamiliar with Magic, you should at least check out some of the art books they’ve done for their settings. The creative team over at Wizards includes some of the best worldbuilders in fantasy, and their settings are incredible.)
Q: What about the game itself? Do I need to know anything about Magic to enjoy the story?
A: Again, no. Going into the story, I was a little worried about how I’d balance the card game mechanics with a story—but the creative team quickly put me at ease. They explained that they find stories in their worlds work better without the author trying to present game mechanics. The explanation I got was something along the lines of: Imagine that the card game is trying to represent things happening in a fantasy story—rather than the fantasy story trying to represent things happening in a card game.
If you are a fan of Innistrad and MTG, you might be able to catch some nods I made to cards, but many of my alpha readers had never played a game of Magic before in their lives—and they loved the story. In fact, most didn’t realize this story was a tie-in piece until I explained it to them. Note that I’m not trying to say that Wizards doesn’t care about continuity. In fact, they provided a large number of lore resources to me, and sent my story through numerous continuity fact-checks. They worked with me from the get-go to make sure that I didn’t break lore or continuity, and were quick to offer suggestions of things I could change to make sure the story worked in their setting.
The end result is a story that’s in line with their overarching lore, and doesn’t break the fundamental magic system rules of their universe. At the same time, it’s a story that’s very much a Sanderson piece.
Q: Can I get this on my Ereader of choice?
A: Yes! I’ve been told that the page for the story will include a downloadable version in epub and PDF. That said, the intention was always to put it up for free on Wizards’ website—so we didn’t even talk about propagating it to places like the Kindle/Nook/Kobo stores. I don’t anticipate it appearing there, but maybe we’ll decide to do so eventually.
Q: What about a physical edition?
A: I suspect that we’ll do one of these eventually. Wizards did, after all, commission some awesome cover art for the story—and they have a publishing deal with Random House (one of my publishers) for releasing novels. (Including the upcoming Ravnica novel.) I have told everyone I’m fine with this, so long as the free version remains available, and I have asked for my proceeds from any physical editions to be donated to Child’s Play. That said, we haven’t really talked about this, so it will depend on numerous factors.
Q: Will these characters or places get their own cards?
A: That’s up to the card design team to decide. I worked primarily with the creative team, and can’t really say when/if cards related to this story will appear in the game. (Though a little bird tells me that fans should keep an eye on upcoming sets.)
Q: When will we get the sequel?
A: I’m putting this question on here because, dear readers, I know you very well. But let’s not put the cart before the horse. I would not be opposed to doing something more with these characters in the future, if Wizards is amenable, but I’ve also got a lot on my plate. I suspect that if I were to do something more with Magic in the future, it wouldn’t be for several years. (I have Stormlight 4 to write, after all.)
Anyway, enjoy the story!
A larger State of the Sanderson update will be released next Wednesday (aka Koloss Head Munching day).