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Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Maru Nui

What does aluminum do in Feruchemy? What does malatium do in Hemalurgy?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO. We'll be releasing a chart eventually that includes all of the powers. I don't want to speak until I have everything nailed down exactly the way I want.

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Maru Nui

What happens when you break a Hemalurgic spike or metalmind? What happens to that power?

Brandon Sanderson

Hemalurgic power can be split among multiple spikes and reforged, but remember that the longer a spike is outside of a person, the more the power is going to decay. Things like splitting it will decay it even further. Metalminds can also be broken and still be accessed

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
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Questioner

Could Nightblood theoretically be turned into a Hemalurgic spike?

Brandon Sanderson

The problem with that is that Nightblood is already invested, so it depends on your version of ' Hemalurgic spikes'. Piercing someone's body with Invested metal can have weird effects all through the Cosmere, but ripping off a piece of a person's soul using an un-Invested spike to Invest it and create one is different... we're talking about two different things, right. So there's the.... so what is a Hemalurgic spike? For instance if you've got a spike that's Invested and you stick it into a Kandra on Scadrial it will still work as an Invested Hemalurgic spike. Making a new Invested spike by ripping off a person's soul, that's a different process and a little more difficult to accomplish and requires some specialized knowledge.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Kandra Blessings

The Blessings are still a little confusing, I fear. Originally I designed a Blessing as a single bit of metal in each kandra's shoulder. Eventually, however, I realized that I needed to change this for magic system cohesion reasons. I changed it to be two bits of metal, one in each shoulder. So, each kandra has one Blessing, but that Blessing consists of two bits of metal.

Each kandra only gets one Blessing from among the different types. There will be more on this in the book later, of course.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
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Questioner

Hemalurgy is mentioned as something that has "broad implications" but that's of Ruin, right? Or now it is of Harmony.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, but don't take the "of Ruin" and "of Preservation" too strongly, but yes.

Questioner

But, I mean, somebody couldn't just walk along with a metal spike on, say, Nalthis. Stab someone and have the power, right?

Brandon Sanderson

If they knew where to stab them, yes they could.

Questioner

Anywhere in the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

You can stab someone and get their power?

Brandon Sanderson

Hemalurgy has been built in such a way that it rips off pieces of the soul. If you can rip off the right piece of the soul and attach it to somebody else, it will change your Identity and rewrite-- It can rewrite anything attached to your soul. Identity, Connection, it can rewrite Investiture, all of this stuff it can potentially do.

Questioner

and do the things you stab people were they always metal or does that depend on the planet?

Brandon Sanderson

No, that's metal, that's-- Well yes, you could do something like that. That is totally possible. But the metal-- Yeah. Anyway.

Questioner

With the other Shards you kind of have to be near that Shard to get that — there's no Allomancy

Brandon Sanderson

there's no Allomancy did it, yes. To have that part of your soul. But, for instance, Allomancy would work on other planets. The only one that's going to have trouble on other planets, right now, are the ones on Sel because of the way the magics are built.

Footnote: the last part by Brandon is unintelligible
The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Five

How Hemalurgy Works

The epigraphs to this chapter and the ones around it talk about Hemalurgy. I'm feeling that by now, you've figured out what it does. You use a spike on an Allomancer or a Feruchemist, killing them and charging that spike with power. Then you drive that spike into someone else, and they gain that same power. (Though they get a little bit less than the person who died. In some cases, if the spike sits outside of a body for a long time, it can lose a lot of its potency.)

Though this mechanism doesn't add any new powers to the world, I really like the way it works. With Allomancy and Feruchemy, we already have a lot of different magic powers to keep track of. I wanted something from Hemalurgy that wouldn't simply add to the list of abilities, but would instead fit with the feel and the nature of the magic. Something to balance Allomancy, in which a lot of power can be obtained without much direct cost to the Allomancer.

Hence, Hemalurgy. In a way, it has the most potency of all the powers, for with it you can make anyone an Allomancer or a Feruchemist. You can steal single powers from the other two arts, then mix them in a person as you wish. It adds a different element to the world—a way to obtain more power, a way for a common man to become like Vin or Kelsier, but at a terrible price. It works perfectly with who I wanted Ruin to be and what I wanted the conflict of these books to become. What is the cost of power?

Cause and effect, action and reaction.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

If you Stamp yourself, to have another, overwritten spiritweb, and you get Spiked-- *laughter* What would happen?

Brandon Sanderson

We actually worked this out. *laughter*

Questioner

Well, you'd die, or very close to it, but would it revert when the Stamp reverts?

Brandon Sanderson

So what’s probably going to happen here is that you’re going to rip off the Investiture you’ve put on your soul, and your own soul will have less damage. Now, the spike is only gonna get the-- the spike, you're like "What will it do?" It will do what you've been overwritten with, but again remember, becoming an Allomancer takes so much energy, and things like-- But it is theoretically possible in the cosmere to rewrite yourself "You're an allomancer", someone spikes you to get this. The Investiture doesn't care that it was fake on you, you have managed to get that Investiture to work. Uhh, this is really tough. And really, like, you need Connection, and you need, like, the right kind of Investiture, but then it rips off and yes you have made a spike that makes you an Allomancer, even though the person was a Forger. So yes, okay? But this is the kind of stuff that is like the thought experiments for physicists in the cosmere as opposed to, y'know--

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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Wigginns

What would a Hemalurgic spike granting atium do for an Allomancer already able to burn atium? Does it function similarly to bronze, granting enhanced atium-ing? Along this line of thought, would enhancing electrum burning via spike be of any advantage?

Brandon Sanderson

A spike of something you have would enhance your ability, giving your more strength. With atium, more strength makes for a minimal edge--the length you can push out the atium shadows. However, there's a certain breaking point where you kind of crack the whole system, peer straight into the [Spiritual Realm], and kind of have a "It's full of stars" moment.

Electrum could reach this same moment, potentially, though there's more interference to fight through. Extra strength in electrum isn't going to be terribly useful up to that point.

Alsadius

Is that what happened when atium was burned with duralumin?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

The Mechanism of Hemalurgy

The Blessings and the workings of Hemalurgy gave me some trouble as I designed the second and third books of this series. On one hand, I liked the way Hemalurgy worked by stealing powers from Allomancers or Feruchemists and giving them to other people. However, if I was going to limit myself to sixteen metals and be able to steal both Allomancy and Feruchemy, that meant I needed a mechanism to determine which power got stolen. If, for instance, you drove a pewter spike into a person who was both an Allomancer and a Feruchemist, then how would that spike know which power to suck out and grant to the one who would gain it?

As I was toying with how this would work, I realized that I needed to work the kandra and the koloss into this as well. Only, it was ridiculous to assume that the Lord Ruler would kill Allomancers to make koloss. There weren't enough Allomancers, for one thing—plus it would be foolish to lose the power of an Allomancer to gain an inferior tool in a koloss.

So that meant koloss had to be made out of regular people, not Allomancers or Feruchemists. Suddenly I had another set of abilities that Hemalurgy had to be able to steal—the basic pieces of Preservation inside the souls of all men.

Hence the decision that where the spike was placed in the receiver, and how it was used to kill a person, influenced how the power was shaped. Now a pewter spike could steal any of a number of powers, based on how it was used. And regular people could be used instead of Allomancers—however, when that happened, the receiver was twisted much more than if an Allomantically charged spike or a Feruchemically charged spike was used.

My rationale for this is that if the spike is pulling out the pure power of Preservation—part of the power of all creation—and twisting it, it would change the body of the recipient greatly. Twisting them through use of the twisted power.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

Allomancy is of Preservation, correct?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes...

Questioner

What are Feruchemy and Hemalurgy of?

Brandon Sanderson

Hemalurgy is definitely of Ruin.

Questioner

Is it of pure Ruin?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. That's a very Ruin thing. And Feruchemy is more of a blend. Though… there is more philosophy to that and human construct—like the Allomantic table—than I think I’ve made clear before.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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18th_Shard

4 Hemalurgic spikes steal Allomancy, 4 steal Feruchemy, and 4 more steal Human traits. Do the other four a) steal a trait every normal human has, b) steal something only some humans have, or c) steal something no human has?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO.

/r/Fantasy_Bookclub Alloy of Law Q&A ()
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Ace_of_Face

How was Sazed/Harmony able to communicate with Waxillium near the end of the book? During the original trilogy, Ruin could occasionally implant thoughts into people's minds, but he couldn't just listen in whenever he felt like it. Is Harmony just way more powerful?

Brandon Sanderson

There is interesting discussion about this one below, which I like to see. I thought this might spark some discussion. Remember that human beings were given more of Preservation than Ruin during their creation, which led to Preservation eventually being overwhelmed by Ruin. That was the bargain; people would be of Preservation at their core, but in turn Ruin got to claim the world once Preservation wound down.

Another factor to consider here is that Wax was given a special earring designed for communication with a being that he actually worships.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
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Questioner

What's the difference between a spike prepared for a Koloss and a spike prepared for a Mistwraith or Kandra? What side effects might occur from... [?]... Koloss spikes?

Brandon Sanderson

It's the pieces of the soul that are being ripped off and the amount of the soul that's being ripped off. That's a big part of it. What side effects would there be? You would probably not get something as intelligent.

Questioner

What's the difference in how you prepare those spikes?

Brandon Sanderson

The Koloss spikes, you've seen how their done. The Kandra spikes were prepared by the Lord Ruler. He gave them to them, and so we don't know what he did, at least in canon.

Questioner 2

That means that we kind of screwed up the role playing.

Brandon Sanderson

You can totally do- I imagine all the role playing happening in a slightly different alternate universe, where there are slight variations and differences.

But yeah, there are no- Kandra spikes are prepared and given by the Lord Ruler, they didn't even know how to make them themselves. I mean they had an inkling of what went on, but they didn't know.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

Can someone be sacrificed for both Hemalurgy and the magics of Dakhor simultaneously?

Brandon Sanderson

So this is going to require the soul being ripped apart, so it depends on what pieces of the soul are left and how easily you can capture them. That's a theoretical possible-- possibility... Know that most of the horrors of Dakhor are twisting a soul not stealing a soul.

General Reddit 2012 ()
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kilomtrs

So in the trilogy, we see that when someone has a Hemalurgic spike implanted in them, they can hear Ruin talking to them, both as a vision and in their head. However, we learn in the Hero of Ages that Ruin cannot hear a person's thoughts no matter how much under Ruin's influence they are.

In Alloy of Law, we see that Wax (and other Pathians) uses an earring to "pray" to Harmony, and we see that Harmony can hear his thoughts and respond.

So I guess this leads to three questions: How does Harmony hear the thoughts of Wax, when it's explicitly pointed put that Ruin cannot?

Are the earrings that the Pathians use Hemalurgically charged, as otherwise they would be of no use to Ruin, and therefore Harmony?

Or did Harmony completely change how that aspect of Hemalugy works?

Brandon Sanderson

How this all works dates back to the original design of the magic system.

I wanted Ruin and Preservation to be complementary opposites, like many things in the Mistborn world. Allomancy, for example, has Pushes and Pulls were are less "negate one another" opposites, but instead two sides to the same proverbial coin.

Ruin is invasive. The power is more "Yell" than "Listen." The philosopher would probably have some interesting things to say about the masculine symbolism of Hemalurgy and its spikes.

Ruin can insert thoughts. That power, however, can't HEAR the reactions. It's about invasion.

Preservation, however, is the opposite. Preservation listens, Preservation protects. (Perhaps to a fault--if there were no Ruin, there would be no change to the world, and life could not exist.) Because of this, Preservation can hear what is inside people's minds. It cannot, however, INSERT thoughts. (This is important to the plot of Hero of Ages.)

Harmony is both, the two complementary opposites combined. And so, he inserts thoughts with Ruin and still uses Hemalurgy. He can also listen.

Yes, Wax's earring is Invested. (Or, in other terms, it's a Hemalurgic spike.)

bettse

Doesn't that imply it was shoved through someone's heart at one point (ala Steel Inquisitor creation process)?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, the metal would have to have been part of a spike that at one point was used to kill someone and rip off a piece of their soul.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Miss_Silver

Is there a maximum number of spikes a person can have? Would having more spikes eventually cause issues, be it mental or physical limitations?

Also do the benefits from spikes have some form of diminishing returns, or could some one have like, 200 bronze spikes and be able to sense a person burning metal through copper from 50 miles away?

Brandon Sanderson

1) Yes, it would cause big issues.

2) #1 interferes greatly with what you would like to do here, but there are other ways of magnifying the powers to the extent you postulate.

Firefight release party ()
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Lady Radagu

Does being the donor of a Hemalurgic spike have any implications for your afterlife? Or how about the recipient?

Brandon Sanderson

That is actually going to depend on-- Okay. Yes it has implications for the afterlife. Yes.

Lady Radagu

Okay so are there a bunch of Scadrian souls wandering the afterlife with holes in their personalities or memory or identity? Or some with extra parts tacked on?

Brandon Sanderson

So it has implications, but they are not exactly ones that you are assuming. So in the cosmere there is "dead" and "mostly dead". Okay? And this has been shown several times so once someone dies there is a period before they transition. Sazed talks about this in Mistborn 3. And so most of the implications are for before transition. Does that make sense? Post-transition you are going to have to ask the philosophers and the theologians who are the ones that talk about that. So there is an afterlife and an after-afterlife. Not as many implications for after-afterlife. Middle? Yes. Okay?

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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WeiryWriter

Hemalurgic spikes lose power unless they are in a person’s body (or immersed in blood), does that body need to be living, or would a corpse suffice? If so, at what point in the decomposition process would the spikes cease to be protected? When they are no longer encased in flesh, before, after?

Brandon Sanderson

I haven't put a specific number or date on it, but I'd say as long as the blood itself would be viable if moved to a living body, it will work.

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
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Questioner

Have your ever thought about how your magic systems would affect a pregnant woman?

Brandon Sanderson

I have given thought to it.

Questioner

...Which system would you say would be safest as a pregnant woman?

Brandon Sanderson

I think Stormlight-- being Invested with Stormlight would be very safe. You would probably be better off than not. Hemalurgy would be very bad.

Shadows of Self release party ()
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Nethseäar

If you were to Hemalurgically give a fallen Elantrian Feruchemic gold, would they be able to store Health?

Brandon Sanderson

A fallen Elantrian store Health-- And you gave them a Hemalurgic spike-- That’s a good question, I would think-- *long pause* You know I think they would not be able to, that’s an excellent question.

Nethseäar

Would it suddenly store up the moment they were restored?

Brandon Sanderson

No, it would not suddenly recover everything. Unless you wanted to channel-- You could do some goofy things but it would kinda ruin their connection to the Dor. But I don’t think it would suddenly-- Y’know. You might be able to do something where you steal it away from them, that could possibly happen. If they were spiked while they were full Elantrian you could probably get more out of them than your average person.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner

I got my ears pierced recently and it got me thinking about Vin's earring. It's a Hemalurgic spike, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Mmhmm.

Questioner

And the Inquisitors don't have to worry about infection or anything with their eye spikes. So when Vin got her ear pierced as a baby, she also didn't have to worry about infection?

Brandon Sanderson

Probably.

Questioner

That is an awesome gig!

Brandon Sanderson

...It comes with some terrible side effects, but it is a pretty nice gig.

Legion Release Party ()
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Questioner

I notice that the two most complicated Investiture systems that we know of, those being Hemalurgy and Forging, are both the Investitures of Shards whose names have a generally negative connotation. Is there any correlation?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that is not an intentional correlation.

Questioner

That is just a coincidence?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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Yata

If a Ferring creates a metalmind and then loses his power (for example through Hemalurgy), could he still use his previous-made metalmind ?

Brandon Sanderson

No, he could not. And, unfortunately, the person who stole a bit of his soul would probably be keyed with enough Identity to use his metalmind. :( (This is uncertain, though, based on how much of the soul got ripped off, and how much the spike has decayed.)

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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ccstat

Vasher uses Awakening in a very interesting way, off-stage, to modify the memories of the girl he rescues. Can Hemalurgy do the same thing if used carefully?

Brandon Sanderson

*long pause* No, I don't really think that it can. Nobody has asked that before, but just looking at the way the magics work, I don't think that is something that Hemalurgy is capable of doing.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner

How does rewriting the Spiritual aspect work?

Brandon Sanderson

...So, it has ramifications through the other two Realms. It can happen. You've seen it happen.

Questioner

That's what happens with kandra, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, to an extent, yes.

Questioner

With the koloss?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, both of them. Hemalurgy is, like, sticking a piece of someone's spirit to another person's spirit and creating a Frankenstein's monster of spirits.