“Brandon Sanderson is Your God” isAnything but Professional Journalism

A few weeks ago, the magazine WIRED published an article by Jason Khee who interviewed popular fantasy and science fiction novelist Brandon Sanderson. However, rather than detail Sanderson’s success in the literary world, Khee proceeded to belittle both Sanderson’s writing and personhood.

At a quick glance, the article seems harmless. The title “Brandon Sanderson is Your God” appears fitting, especially considering how Sanderson writes primarily fantasy and science fiction novels. This is only the surface.

Khee originally went to Utah to interview Sanderson so readers could learn more about who he is as a person and to talk about his success in the book world. Readers who do not read fantasy will probably not know who Sanderson is.

For context, Sanderson wrote The Mistborn series, Stormlight Archive series, and The Reckoners (my personal favorite) and is also known for finishing The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordon. He has also dabbled in writing graphic novels as well with his target audience ranging from young adults to adults. It is safe to say Brandon Sanderson is a successful author.

Despite this, Khee’s article failed to highlight Sanderson’s accomplishments. Instead, he makes fun of his success and critiques his writing.

For example, Khee wrote, “Sanderson is excited to talk about his reputation. He’s excited, really, to talk about anything. But none of his self-analysis is, for my purposes, exciting.”

Nevertheless, Khee went on to meet Sanderson’s extended family, attend a convention with him, and even go to an amusement park with Sanderson and his son. Of all the topics Khee could have written about, he chose to focus on the things he personally hated about Sanderson.

“Sanderson talks a lot, but almost none of it is usable, quotable. I begin to think, This is what I drove all the way [here]…for? For previously frozen dim sum and freeze-dried conversation? This must be why nobody writes about Brandon Sanderson,” said Khee.

If you are a journalist, there will be quotes that are unusable in a story; this is the reality of the work. Is it plausible to believe that Khee spent days with Sanderson and there was nothing substantial? Perhaps this calls into question the quality of Khee’s questions than Sanderson’s responses.

Not to mention, rather than quoting Sanderson, Khee paraphrases what he says throughout the article. An example being: “The concept of a vacation confuses Sanderson, he once said, because for him the perfect vacation is more time to write— vocation as vacation.” That would’ve been a perfect direct quote to use!

Additionally, Khee perpetuated the stereotypes of science fiction, and, more specifically, Sanderson’s fans. “As is typically the case at these things, there’s a general air— warmish, body-odored— of unselfconsciousness. By my rough count, some three-quarters of the attendees are men, boys, [and] menboys, blurring together in a mass of pale, fleshy nerdery in Sanderson-appropriate graphic tees. The women, fewer in number, tend to be the better cosplayers.”

After the convention, Khee was invited to Sanderson’s home with his extended family over. While they were gossiping, it had slipped that Sanderson can’t feel pain. Khee writes, “When I ask Sanderson later to confirm this, he does but asks if I really have to print it. I’m sorry, I say. I really do.”

It is disgusting the way Khee said that he had to include Sanderson’s medical condition in the article. I understand Sanderson invited Khee to interview him and to get a glimpse into his life outside of his novels, but to me, it is unethical of Khee to include such personal information that he was asked to keep to himself. It was not even Sanderson that disclosed this fact.

Khee concludes, “This story isn’t coming together. To my mind, I still haven’t gotten anything real from Sanderson, anything true. I’m not the first person he has toured around his lair to politely gawk at his treasures and trophies and his hallway of custom stained-glass renditions of his favorite books (Tolkien, Harry Potter, The Belgariad).”

That is a story! Just because it didn’t necessarily interest Khee doesn’t make it uninteresting. What Khee decided to focus on was Sanderson’s religion, which goes back to the title of the article as Sanderson is a Mormon. Out of all the things Khee took in while with Sanderson, why did the core focus of the article have to focus on Sanderson’s faith?

Overall, this article was poorly written. If I knew nothing about Sanderson and came across this article, I would have been disappointed with the information I gleaned from this piece. I expected more from Khee since he spent so much time with Sanderson.

On the bright side, Sanderson will have four new published books this year. If you are interested in reading Sanderson’s works, I recommend starting with either The Reckoners series or The Mistborn series. Then, you can decide for yourself – rather than have Khee decide for you – if Sanderson is worth his weight in gold.