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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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Thank you! During the early days of my career—before I got published—I found myself naturally creating a new magic system for each book I wrote. I'm not sure why I did this. I just found the process too involving, too interesting, to stop.
For Mistborn, I came to the book wanting several things. I wanted a great magic system that would enhance the graceful, martial-arts style fights. This was going to be a series of sneaking thieves, assassins, and night-time exploration. And so I developed the powers with a focus on that idea. What would make the thieving crew better at what they did? I based each power around an archetype of a thieving crew. The Thug, the Sneak, the Fast-talker, etc.
At the same time, I wanted to enhance the 'industrial revolution' feel of the novels through the magic system. I wanted something that felt like an industrial-age science, something that was a good hybrid of science and magic. I found myself drawn to Alchemy and its use of metals, then extrapolated from that to a way to release power locked inside of metal. Metabolism grew out of that. It felt natural. We metabolize food for energy; letting Allomancers metabolize metal had just the right blend of science and magic.
For Warbreaker, I was looking back a little further, shooting for a more Renaissance-era feel. And so, I extrapolated from the early beliefs that similarities created bonds. In other words, you could affect an object (in this case, bring an object to life) by creating a bond between it and yourself, letting it take on a semblance of your own life.
Moving beyond that was the idea of color as life. When a person dies, their color drains from them. The same happens when plants die. Vibrant color is a sign of life itself, and so I worked with this metaphor and the concept of Breath as life to develop the magic. In this case, I wanted magical powers that would work better 'in' society, meaning things that would enhance regular daily lives. Magical servants and soldiers, animated through arcane powers, worked better for this world than something more strictly fighting-based, like in Mistborn.
Complex "magic" system in Mistborn, and the complex one in Elantris; what base ideas do you build from for this?
For Mistborn, Alchemy and biological metabolism. For Elantris, Chinese linguistics and geometry mixed.
Are there 50 Allomantic Metals?
Nearly. Does Harmony have a metal?
Is that an alloy of Lerasium and Atium?
You're along the right lines.
The powers of Ruin and Preservation are Shards of Adonalsium, pieces of the power of creation itself. Allomancy, Hemalurgy, Feruchemy are manifestations of this power in mortal form, the ability to touch the powers of creation and use them. These metallic powers are how people's physical forms interpret the use of the Shard, though it's not the only possible way they could be interpreted or used. It's what the genetics and Realmatic interactions of Scadrial allow for, and has to do with the Spiritual, the Cognitive, and the Physical Realms.
Condensed 'essence' of these godly powers can act as super-fuel for Allomancy, Feruchemy, or really any of the powers. The form of that super fuel is important. In liquid form it's most potent, in gas form it's able to fuel Allomancy as if working as a metal. In physical form it is rigid and does one specific thing. In the case of atium, it allows sight into the future. In the case of concentrated Preservation, it gives one a permanent connection to the mists and the powers of creation. (I.e., it makes them an Allomancer.)
So when a person is burning metals, they aren't using Preservation's body as a fuel so to speak—though they are tapping into the powers of creation just slightly. When Vin burns the mists, however, she'd doing just that—using the essence of Preservation, the Shard of Adonalsium itself—to fuel Allomancy. Doing this, however, rips 'troughs' through her body. It's like forcing far too much pressure through a very small, fragile hose. That much power eventually vaporizes the corporeal host, which is acting as the block and forcing the power into a single type of conduit (Allomancy) and frees it to be more expansive.
Boy, this is a hard one to ask because it's been such a LONG process. There were bits of all of this popping around in my head almost twenty years ago, so it's going to be hard to define where what fit into place when.
Allomancy and Feruchemy were originally planned separately. I linked them together into this book when I realized that the 'focus' items that could store attributes could be metal, and therefore work wonderfully with the Mistborn book I was planning.
Hemalurgy came from the image of Inquisitors first, then developed as a need to integrate it in with the other two in a way that evoked the power of "Ruin" rather than the power of Preservation. I figured that Ruin would steal, and it was a great way to add a third magic without having to overload people with a whole new set of powers. The process of writing this series, since I did all three books together, was an interesting one, and I made a lot of connections as I went. Some of the latest things on the timeline were figuring out how to fit atium and the Preservation nuggets into the already built framework. But I don't know if I can give you an exact list. Partially because there would just be too many spoilers in it.
Are there a limited amount of atium and lerasium alloys for each metal?
Hmm, yes…I suppose there would be but there are…
More than sixteen?
Yeah, way more than sixteen.
Oh wow. Okay. That's fascinating. More than sixteen and less than infinite.
Has Hemalurgy been used on another planet besides Scadrial?
Yes it has. Brandon did not want to give out any more details about who was getting spiked or if the spiking was successful.
I also referenced the recent Q&A and this post, and speculated that the reason why the original poster thought Wax's sister was a duralumin ferring was because of Wax's comment that he did not feel any strong emotions as a result of her death. I told Brandon that the poster must have thought that she was deliberately suppressing her Connection with Wax by using Feruchemy.
I said that I didn't need a yes or no answer from him, and he replied that he would neither confirm nor deny my statement and would only agree that it was very interesting.
If you were to choose (to be) a Feruchemist or an Allomancer, which would you choose?
I would choose Allomancy, because I would want to have Steel Pushing; that's my favorite of the powers.
Is that why you gave Waxillium Steel Pushing?
The southern continent is where people have discovered how to harness the metallurgic arts in a more mechanical method. (I've hinted several places that this is possible. I've been holding off doing it until we go here.)
Ooh, cool, ferugolems? Do you have any hints for us where we should look for these hints of how you can use it in a mechanical fashion? I haven't reread the Mistborn books in a while.
The hints are things I've said in interviews, not so much in the stories. (Sorry for not being clear about this.)
About the southern continent, would it be possible for other Scadrians to discover this method of using the Metallic Arts, or is it unique to the southern Scadrians?
It is technology-based rather than genetics based.
I recently picked up the Mistborn Adventure game and am loving it. I made a character who is a blind Mistborn because hey, I thought it would make for some interesting possibilities. As I understand Allomancy, he can hear/sense well enough to get around with Tin, plus even though he's blind he can still "see" Steel lines (like the inquisitors), and I assume Atium would work the same way—that is, he could still "see" Atium shadows. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
No, you're right. That works. He'd have to burn metals a LOT though. It might warp him a little. :)
The metal that's stumping me is Gold—what happens when a blind person burns Gold—especially if he "sees" a version of himself that isn't blind? Can he see the other version or just hear/feel/sense him? What about the other version, can it see things? Could a blind person use gold in this way to see the world around him?
A blind person would indeed sense these things, but not have the vision with the eyes. In the same way that a blind person still dreams, but doesn't "See" in them. (As I understand it.) I'd suggest talking to someone who is blind and getting their take on how this would work.
Anything infused (regardless of the world or magic that infused it) is resistant to magic. So you'd have a lot of trouble pushing or pulling on a spike, unless you had access to a boost of some sort to overcome the resistance.
So, Nightblade would be resistant to steelpushing? Good to know ;-)
My friend and I asked him something like this at a book signing, but for some reason it never seemed to make it onto 17th Shard. We asked if a shardblade or Nightblood could be used as a hemalurgic spike (i.e.: two different investitures of magic). Brandon said that yes, in theory you could do that, but objects have a limit to how much investiture they can hold, and that it could be argued that things like Nightblood and Shardblades are already "full."
Okay, and second, Mistborn, the broadsheet hints that there's a continent or whatever on the other side of the Mistborn planet.
Would that also be connected to Allomancy and Feruchemy and all that?
Yes, it will be.
So, I gave you a lot of answers. [laughter] To expand upon that, the magic systems for Elantris- the pitch to myself designing the world and magic system was this kind of procedural-based, almost programing-based magic. Where in Elantris, you use these characters to programout a sequence of events that tells the power flowing through what to do.
What Shai is doing in this book is she carves a little seal. And the seal is very much like a little program, and she stamps it on something and uses that stamp to rewrite the history of the object. As long as the seal is there, the object thinks it has this other history. The example you see in the book is you know- an old dirty table that's not been cared for, she can write a seal for its history, she has to figure out what its history was first. And she can write out a seal that basically reprograms that past, so when she stamps it, it thinks it's been cared for all along and suddenly it gains this lacquer, it's beautiful, it's been well-cared for, because in that fake Forgery of the history, that's what happened to it. And that's what her magic does, which is why she's been hired to Forge a copy of the emperor's soul.
[Ooooh] Yeah, I know I'm evil.
Yeah, I know I'm evil.
If Odium were lured to Scadrial, would his physical body turn into a burnable metal? If so, could Harmony create an Odium-metal legion of Mistings to consume and burn it? Would that weaken him sufficiently enough to be killed or destroyed?
The difficulty here is, again, one of Identity. People born on Scadrial have an Identity tied to it and its magic. Odium would have to do certain things to make them able to use a magic he fuels. He has done these things on Roshar, so it's not impossible for him to manage it on Scadrial.
Was the Lord Ruler using feruchemy + alchemy to soothe all of the people around him? Or was he, as I like to think, flaring for so long that he became a Soother Savant?
He lived long enough and used his metals enough (particularly Soothing) to become nearly a savant in every area, if not a full savant.
I remember reading you answer earlier that a person being used to charge a hemalurgic spike does not necessarily have to die. Would that victim be similar to a Drab from Warbreaker?
Well, making a spike rips off a piece of someone's soul. So...yeah. I'd need to see my exact quote from before, but let's say it's not going to leave a person in good shape.
Another hemalurgy question: Is it possible to steal more than just spiritual DNA with hemalurgy? If you, say, infused someone with a hundred hemalurgic spikes charged from people who liked chicken, would the spike person enjoy chicken as well?
You can steal quite a lot with Hemalurgy. Anything encoded on a person's soul, really. Not sure if chicken liking counts, though...
If someone broke a coppermind, could the feruchemist still access a fragment of the information in it from a chunk of the coppermind, or would he require that the whole thing be reformed to access any of its storage?
The information would be fragmented.
I have a technical question here re: gemstones in The Stormlight Archive. How are the lines drawn between different types of gems? Emerald and Heliodor are both varieties of the mineral beryl. Emerald can get its color from trace amounts of chromium, vanadium and/or iron. Heliodor gets its color from iron combined with microscopic crystal defects. So, is the line between these two defined by color? If so, would a heliodor lose its usefulness if it were heated (which would turn it colorless or pale blue). Is it defined by trace elements—in which case, how do you deal with emeralds, or with aquamarine (the blue variety of beryl, which can also contain chromium or vanadium in small quantities and is mostly colored by iron)? Sorry for getting so technical, but this gem nerd needs to know!
I actually spent a long time working on this while building the world. You'd probably be amused by how long I spent on it. Chemically, many of them are actually very similar, as you pointed out. I tried doing the book originally with them all being different, not using any that were basically the same crystal with different colors, but it didn't work out. There weren't enough, and so I had to stretch to make it all work.
So, I went back to the original, and decided that color was enough to differentiate them. Just as steel and iron are very similar in the Mistborn world, emerald and heliodor can be very similar—but produce different effects. The idea here is that the physical items (like the metals or the crystals) provide a key by which magical interaction occurs.
So, in a long winded answer, a gemstone with an impure color would be considered like a bad alloy in the Mistborn magic—it either wouldn't work at all, or would work very poorly. The chemical and color signature needs to be of a specific variety to provide the proper key to accessing the power of transformation.
Hello Mr. Sanderson, I have a question about bendalloy bubbles—what happens to a human that is partially in and partially out of the bubble when it's placed? Does the difference in the flow of time kill him?
And, if yes, is the boundary of active bendalloy bubble effectively impassable for living organisms? I get that bullets shot out of the bubble randomly change directions, but what happens to, let's say, a person trying to jump out of the bubble (or, given enough time, a person trying to get inside)?
Any living thing touching the bubble is affected by the bubble.
Why does Scadrial, which has two Shards, only have three manifestations of investiture, (Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy) but Sel, also with two Shards, has five manifestations of investiture (AonDor, Dakhor, ChayShan, Forgery, and Bloodsealing)?
Sel's magics are much more regionalized than Scadrial's. Each area has its own manifestation, but they're all actually the same magic. So really there is one magic on Sel—much as Windrunning and Lightweaving on Roshar are kind of different magics, but also kind of the same.
How fast could a steel/steel Twinborn move?
You'd hit physical limits eventually. While the Metallurgic arts generally enhanced the body to deal with the powers granted, things like air resistance would hold you back—perhaps even kill you—if you weren't careful.
Does a limb that has been "severed" by a Shardblade have any Hemalurgic bindpoints? If the same limb was then cut off more conventionally, would a Bloodmaker ferring be able to grow it back?
A severed Shardblade limb needs repair to the soul before it would function again. A Bloodmaker would be able to heal it without needing to grow it back.
We asked some questions about the Lord Ruler, like if he knew about chromium and nicrosil. Brandon said he knew about those metals, and then also said "The Lord Ruler knew a lot of things that no one knows." All right then.
Does lerasium have Feruchemical and Hemalurgical powers.
Yes. Brandon will probably be getting into these, and the other metals Hemalurgical and Feruchemical powers, in greater detail in the future Mistborn Trilogies. He also will probably release full charts for these as he did with Allomancy.
You snake. I just finished Hero of Ages, and come to find out I'll never know the last 2 metals. Grr.
Cadmium and Bendalloy are what you're looking for. They create bubbles of warped time around the Allomancer. I will be doing more books in the world, though not with the same characters, and you'll see the other metals.
Wow, I was just trying to josh with you man. Thanks for the info, though, I definitely look forward to more of your work.
Edit: I guess while I've got you, I'll tell you this: Mistborn was one of a very few books in the last few years to actually surprise me. Kelsier's arc completely came out of left field. I read a lot of fantasy. Enough that it's extremely rare for a book to really catch me off guard like that. For that, you have my thanks.
I've heard you say that you were going to make more books set in the same world since I first started reading your books.
But my question is "when?"
I am dying to see what you have in store.
Well, it just so happens that I have a new Mistborn book coming out this fall. 300 years after the end of the last book, set in a roughly 1910ish tech level. Guns, trains, beginnings of the mass-use of electricity. And Allomancers. November this year.
Once the technology is appropriately caught up and once I feel like it's right. It's going to be a little while.
We've actually had a conversation on the forums about using Lurchers and Coinshots in a way to power a train of sorts. It has inspired some interesting conversations.
[impish grin] Ah ha ha ha. The Lord Ruler, heh heh heh, That is an excellent question.
Not going to answer?
Not going to answer that one.
Would you answer if Hoid used it for Feruchemy?
His bead? Hoid’s bead was—He originally got it because he wanted to be an Allomancer. [Note that he doesn’t actually answer the question.]
So, like metal inside a person’s body?
It depends on how strong the investiture in them is.
Is that going to be the answer for all of these?
How about a spike charged with Hemalurgy? Not in a person.
Not in a person? It depends on how strong—yeah. A spike is moderately—in the realm of these sorts of things—moderately easy to push on, because a spike does not rip off very much investiture. Only enough to short circuit the soul, and it loses that over time. So I would put that at the bottom—with the top being very hard—to be one of the easier things.
How about a metalmind? A feruchemy metalmind that is "full."
That is going to be middle of the realm. Generally easier than, for instance, a shardblade, which is going to be very hard.
But a shardblade isn’t actual metal. Ish?
Ish. Is Lerasium a metal? Yeah.
So would that be the same for Shardplate, too?
Shardplate and blade are very hard. Blade is probably going to be harder. [...]
Halfshard? Like a halfshard shield?
Halfshard shield is going to be in moderate.
Nightblood? I imagine is going to be very difficult.
Very hard. Of all the things you’ve listed, he’s the hardest. Far beyond even a shardblade.
Far beyond metal inside a person?
Yes, depending on how invested the person is.
If someone was invested as much as Nightblood I’m pretty sure it’s going to be very difficult.
Yes, for instance, the Godking, at the end, with all of those Breaths. Pushing on something inside of him? Getting through all that? Gonna be REAL hard. Average person on Scadrial? You’ve seen how hard that is. A drab? Much easier.
That was actually going to be my next one- No, sorry, not a drab, a Lifeless.
A Lifeless. Lifeless are kinda weird, because they’ve had their soul leave, but then they’ve had a replacement stuck in, in the form of Breath, which puts them in a really weird position compared to a Drab, which has had part of their investiture ripped away, but the majority of it remains. So anyway, I’m going to give you one more. Pick your favorite.
Okay, a soul-stamped piece of metal.
A soul-stamped piece of metal is going to be on the lower, easier side. Not a lot of investiture going on in a soulstamp.
It definitely wouldn't be pleasant.
Ok, I have this steel allergy, I got it last year, and I work in a steel plant.
It would not be pleasant, but I would have the instinct that fewer people on Scadrial would have that allergy, because of the Investiture during their creation. But, it could totally happen.
How much do you use science to influence/guide your world building in what most people would identify as a fantasy setting?
I use it quite a bit, but as I'm writing fantasy, I go by the rule "do what is awesome first, then explain it." Meaning, I am looking to tell a certain kind of story, and while science is often a springboard into a magic, I will sometimes chose to do what I think makes the story better as opposed to what is scientifically rational. The way the metallic arts work with mass is one example.