The Titans of Fantasy in Conversation panel at New York Comic-Con 2022 on Saturday gathered three of the top names in fantasy, drawing a huge crowd of fans of the genre. Moderated by Shawn Speakman, Brandon Sanderson (The Stormlight Archive), Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), and Terry Brooks (The Shannara Chronicles) discussed their respective worlds and how they created the universes that have made them, well, Titans of Fantasy. 

Titans of Fantasy

Listening to each author speak clearly showed one thing: there is no right or wrong way to create a world that will captivate an audience and keep them invested in the characters and mythology you’ve designed. Sanderson, Gabaldon, and Brooks all have very different backgrounds and experiences that led them to their current legendary series and successes. 

Titans of Fantasy
Terry Brooks

Brooks, the elder statesman on the stage (and consistently bringing the funny throughout the entire hour), said:

I was a kid of the science fiction age, grew up reading science fiction because that’s what there was to read. There wasn’t much in the way of fantasy. I never read any fantasy till I read Tolkien, as a matter of fact, except for the Emerald City of Oz and a few of those kinds of stories. But the biggest impression on me was actually literature. I read everything in science fiction in two years because that’s what there was to read back then, and I got right through it. I think that everything you read impacts you. I think it’s very difficult to say that only one sort of thing makes you the writer that you are… So for me, the answer to this question would really be practically everything I’ve read that I’ve loved particularly has had a huge impact on me. The Black Stallion? Yes. Science fiction stories, yes, even the Hardy Boys and some other strange things along the way have made a difference in where I’ve gone and what I’ve ended up doing.”

And where Gabaldon wanted to read every book in her local library at a very young age, it took an attentive eighth-grade teacher to turn non-reader Sanderson into a lover of books, particularly fantasy and things with dragons on the covers. This eventually paved the way for Sanderson to read none other than The Shannara Chronicles.

Titans of Fantasy
Diana Gabaldon

Each writer shared how they approach the works that made them famous. Where Sanderson will plot out years in advance, Gabaldon revealed she never works with outlines and lets the narrative flow organically. Speakman noted that the Outlander scribe also predominantly stayed in that same universe for the bulk of her career while the other two panelists created several worlds. No matter their approach or how many mythologies they’ve created, one thing was clear. If you want to write, you have to do it and do it again and then listen to “no thanks” and “revise this” a lot before you finally hit that sweet spot that keeps the fans wanting more. 

Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson noted that he had heard that it takes at least five books before you write the good one, sharing he made five novels in different genres prior to his long-awaited “book number six. I’m like, well, this is where the pressure is on right now. I’ve got to write something that’s good, and so I had to kind of settle down and pick what I really wanted to do, which turned out to be epic fantasy. And the real challenge was kind of now feeling the pressure. I’ve got to be at a professional caliber if I want to sell something.”

Gabaldon noted, “It made you a better writer. And also, you need to feel a sense of accomplishment. This is the only feedback your work gives you before you get published, to see the words mount up and think, I did that…all the writing counts; it doesn’t matter what kind it is.”

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