I clicked on the recent Wired profile about blockbuster fantasy writer and Utah resident Brandon Sanderson, fully expecting to learn about Sanderson — the piece, after all, is titled, “Brandon Sanderson Is Your God.”
And, to be fair, the article contains a smattering of interesting facts, ranging from Sanderson’s quirky sleep schedule to his unusual lack of pain (he waives novocaine during teeth fillings, apparently).
But aside from these and other more perfunctory details, I learned much more about the writer for Wired, Jason Kehe, than the man Kehe claims to have traveled to Utah “in the freezing-cold dead of winter” to profile.
For starters, Kehe is oddly comfortable with tossing around labels like “weirdo Mormon” or “extremely Mormon.”
I’m personally uncomfortable reading the words “weirdo” or “extremely” before any fill-in-the-blank group, let alone a religious one. But Kehe seems quite at ease with disparaging hyperbole, including mocking a child’s eating habits by pointing to the fact Sanderson’s teenage son salts “his yakisoba” when they go out for sushi.
Brandon Sanderson: Invites Wired journalist into his home. Lets him hang out with him and his family. Come across as a passionate artist of the craft— Seán O'Boyle (@OBoyleWrites) March 23, 2023
Wired journalist: https://t.co/iThfV1Gni7 https://t.co/m1JIuPqT6C pic.twitter.com/q9wiWLeB2g
Again, writing about a minor detail like that told me little about Sanderson or his family (full disclosure: I, too, salt my food) but divulged much about Kehe. And then there’s his line about Sanderson’s readers, who Kehe meets while attending the annual Dragonsteel convention (a convention for Sanderson fans). Kehe calls them “sweet,” but only after saying about the people and the event that “there’s a general air — warmish, body-odored — of unselfconsciousness.”
One reader on Twitter summarized his own reaction to Kehe’s prose by playing the optimist: “On the bright side it’s nice to have a handy reference for when people ask what is meant by the term ‘coastal elite.’”
I too was left puzzled by the end, which concludes, “(Sanderson) is living his fantasy of godhead on Earth.” Setting aside a dilettantishly distorted gloss on Latter-day Saint theology, which appears near the end of the piece, I left not really knowing Sanderson, but instead having unwittingly traveled more than a few miles with Kehe.
Imagine being super nice, enthusiastic about and successful with your work, loved by fans, family, and friends, fairly private, then inviting a reporter to hang around with you, and they write a piece just making fun of all of it—you, your religious affiliation, your town. Wild. https://t.co/n29ydGSs4T— Scott Wessman (@scottew) March 23, 2023
But then, a few hours later, a friend sent me Sanderson’s own response to the Wired profile, which Sanderson posted publicly on Reddit. Sanderson’s response included lines like “(Jason Kehe) seems to be a sincere man who tried very hard to find a story” and “I respect him for trying his best to write what he obviously found a difficult article. He’s a person, remember, just like each of us.”
In his response, Sanderson drew an analogy about the uniqueness and intrinsic interestingness of each person, even the “boring” ones, and the writer’s role in drawing those stories out. It was beautiful.
Reading how this man, with all his wealth and abilities and friends and family, responded to very public derision in a national magazine told me all I needed to know about the real Brandon Sanderson and the substance of his personal faith.
And, in an unexpected plot twist, I guess I have the profile in Wired to thank for it.
I have a deep admiration for the grace and warm-hearted nature of this response by one of Utah’s most successful writers. https://t.co/WpVVqdTcLC— Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) March 24, 2023