Author Topic: Categories for metals: thoughts (HoA spoilers)  (Read 837 times)

GoryCat

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Categories for metals: thoughts (HoA spoilers)
« on: October 27, 2008, 04:41:14 AM »
On page 476, Yomen definitively classified the metals as physical, mental, temporal, and "enhancement" (this might have been implicit or explicit elsewhere in the past; I know Kelsier did a few in book 1, and the appendices might have had a breakdown, but I don't really read those).  I've got a few comments on how this comes off to me.

I apologize, but not too sincerely, if some of this has been said before.  I only started reading this forum a few months ago, and anything that was discussed before the summer is buried so deep I can't be bothered to dig it up and cross-reference my ideas to those in an old discussion.  As for overlap with more recent threads...I don't want to hijack one of those by adding this behemoth of a post to it.  If someone else said before what I'm saying here, just assume I'm too lazy to figure out all the ways we agree and differ, and give attribution where and to whom it is due.

tl;dr: A lot of speculation on what the meaning of the metals' effects is, whether other metals "divine" like atium and lerasium might give rise to new categories of Allomancy, and a suggestion that copper and bronze are miscategorized.

1. "Enhancement" is out of place: it's adverbial in nature (not as an English word, though) where the others are adjectival.  You have to enhance something; it doesn't exist on its own.  In a way, this reminds me of the early misperception that there were eight "base" allomantic metals and two higher ones, gold and atium, which had the mystical effect of piercing time; however, it seems to me that the major virtue of the fourfold classification scheme for metals is that it demystifies these two and reveals them as just temporal metals (atium is later re-mystified, but Brandon has hinted that a further demystification is imminent).

2. On that subject, however: atium really is a higher metal, since it is the power of a god, Ruin; Brandon has revealed in this forum that it has a complement, lerasium, which is the nugget Elend took and is the power of Preservation.  Lerasium grants allomantic powers, an effect which is pretty similar to aluminum and duralumin, which also affect allomancy (if you ask me, this is also what copper and bronze do, and I'll get to that later, but even if they really are "mental" metals, the point remains), while atium has a temporal effect like gold and electrum.  This suggests to me that the temporal metals, along with whatever category includes aluminum, are the "higher" metals after all.  In addition, the point is made in the book that atium can't be natural because its power, which grants a vision of the future, is "divine", but electrum does that also and is apparently not divine; actually, the whole class of temporal metals gives powers which are beyond those of man.  By analogy, lerasium is linked with allomancy itself, clearly in the same way as aluminum and duralumin, and allomancy is itself a divine creation.  So the temporal metals and whatever class includes aluminum (as Brandon would have it, "enhancement", but I'll say something about that at the end) are both higher metals after all.

3. Running with the higher metals concept.  One speculates about what kinds of metals would correspond to the powers of the other "shards" to which Brandon has alluded, teasingly, in the Q&A thread.  There really isn't any philosophical reason that there should be only sixteen metals (though there is the inconvenient fact that the number sixteen is built into the mist-Snapping system; however, that was all the doing of Preservation, who was trying to leave numerological hints what was going on, and explicitly contains the atium irregularity while not containing an irregularity for the similarly "divine" malatium, and apparently not leaving any provision for the "real" external temporal metals Brandon has teasingly alluded to, so I don't think this number has any universal meaning): while Yomen has his numerological rationalizations, he is incorrect that they are "two by two by two by two": they are "two by two by four", and there's no reason that four couldn't be any other number.  For that matter, there's no reason that the physical and mental metals are not themselves attached to some "shard" we haven't met in these books, and whose corresponding "divine" metal is unknown to us because it has never been created.  A "divine" mental metal might improve cognition (the mind is surely part of the soul, which has been explicity stated to be a divine creation in these books); one wonders what a divine physical metal would do.

4. Brandon has said that lerasium could be alloyed with any of the other metals to produce a nugget that, when burned, would grant Misting powers in that metal alone (and atium+lerasium would do what?).  This is rather out of keeping with the workings of the other metals, which have only one alloyed pair; of course, allomancy is apparently a creation of Leras (Preservation) alone, but on the other hand it has been said to be a part of the workings of the universe itself, so there is again no reason not to think that atium doesn't have a similar universal alloy property.  Presumably all the alloys would confer some temporal ability, just as all the alloys of lerasium grant allomantic powers.  Possibly the "two by two by four" scheme is really "two by two by four by infinity", where the infinity means the possibility of alloying any metal with any of the "divine" metals that might exist.  Of course, it might be that lerasium is just weird that way.

5. Speaking of lerasium and the lack of a "Mistborn" effect in the mist-Snapping: as Sazed noted in an epigraph, and Brandon has confirmed, Allomancy predates the Ascension but only in the form of Mistings; it was lerasium that created Mistborn.  Allomancy is apparently a natural phenomenon, and Mistborn are not "part of the system".  I guess the mists didn't Snap any of them at all.  If I had to guess (but as you've probably noticed by now, not having to isn't stopping me) I would say that they exist only as a provision that Preservation made to "sensitize" a large number of people to his power so that, when the time came, he would be able to find and cultivate a Vin.

6.  Going back to how enhancement is wrong.  I had assumed, before Yomen gave his explanation to Elend, that the categories were physical, mental, temporal, and Allomantic, and broke down as follows:

The physical metals are demonstrably:
  Iron/steel: Because Kelsier said so, and because they affect physical external objects.
  Tin/pewter: Again, Kelsier said so, and because they affect one's own physical capabilities.  Tin isn't obviously physical (it could easily be mental or enhancement), but it's paired with pewter, which is obviously physical.

The temporal metals are demonstrably:
  Gold/electrum: one's own past and future.
  Atium/malatium: other people's pasts and futures.
No ambiguity with these, even given that atium isn't the "real" external metal, the clue apparently being that although it is pure and thus pulls, it "does" the future like electrum, which is alloyed and thus pushes.  Brandon has confirmed this in a RAFO-ish way.

The mental metals obviously include:
  Zinc/brass: they affect other people's emotions.  Obviously external.
Without being told the category is "mental", one could be forgiven for thinking it is "emotional", though then one is at a loss to imagine what the internal metals would do.  As much crap as aluminum is, the ability to affect one's own emotions seems singularly pointless.

The last category obviously includes:
  Aluminum/duralumin: they affect your own metals.  Obviously internal.

This leaves copper/bronze in the lurch.  Copper is really weird: it definitely pulls, because it's pure; however, its effect is rather pushy: it suppresses emotional allomancy as well as shielding from others' bronze.  Bronze, of course, is like an Allomantic version of tin, but technically pushes.  However, Marsh covered this a long time ago so I won't harp on it.  The point is that both of them are 100% devoted to allomancy, as are aluminum and duralumin.  However, they are both obviously internal; notwithstanding that "push" and "pull" are arbitrary metaphors for some Allomantic attribute and don't literally apply all the time, "internal" and "external" are pretty clear and the metaphor is never broken or even really stretched with the other metals; bronze is exactly like tin, which is internal, and copper's two powers are respectively obviously internal and arguably internal (it does, after all, suppress external bronze, but more by way of making oneself immune, as with emotional allomancy).  This argument is borne out by the fact that Brandon made these internal metals :)

Okay, so the system as set up basically forbids copper/bronze from being in the same class as aluminum/duralumin.  On the other hand, the system as speculated by Sazed contains a catch at the human/divine boundary: to see the future is a thing of gods, he says, and reasons that atium must be Ruin's power.  Well, Allomancy is a thing of gods as well, and it is demonstrably Preservation's power (both for reasons explained in the book and because of lerasium).  Copper/bronze just don't fit with the mundane zinc/brass; Breeze spends the entire series talking about how his Allomancy is really just a refinement of the natural ability to socialize and influence people, and Elend muses on how his strengths lie in emotional Allomancy because of his upbringing as a socialite.  Tin and pewter are likewise Allomantic versions of natural traits, perception and endurance, and iron and steel are just magnetism (except they work for non-magnetic metals too).  In this sense, every one of the other metals is an enhancement metal: they just do better what we can already do.  Copper and bronze are not like this: they do what no one who is not an Allomancer could do.  Just like gold and electrum, which show alternate histories and possible futures (let alone atium), and aluminum and duralumin, which alter the functioning of Allomancy.

I'm aware that I've been totally inconsistent on whether or not "higher" metals exist: sometimes I've been arguing that gold should be special, and sometimes I've argued that it shouldn't be.  That's okay; I never do both at once.  I'm just speculating here anyway.

7. Brandon is of course the last word on how things work, but I feel that this is a bit of a logical gap in his system.  The fourth category should be "allomancy", and with a bit of creative reinterpretation, the metals could have been rearranged to fit this system, without changing the plot.  Copper would become external by being directed (a nice characterization of what "external" means, by the way), projecting a coppercloud into individuals, possibly oneself (which confuses internal and external, but so does the existing effect).  The effect of bronze, which was the subject of a nontrivial comment by Marsh, is ultimately a bit of "culture" but one which is unused elsewhere in the series; it is basically an allomantic-effect version of tin, and should be internal pulling.  Its effect could be given to aluminum.  This fits beautifully with duralumin, which is similar to pewter (it pushes your allomantic abilities rather than your physical ones).  Bronze itself could do something more useful than aluminum does (aluminum's actual effect is basically a plot token; it is utterly useless in every way except as a tool of coersion, and possibly for "cleaning out" before bed, which is a very minor effect), and its suppression (along with that of duralumin) could have functioned as a bit of foreshadowing about the absence of more metals.  Your mileage may vary on the virtue of this last point.  Regardless, the Allomantic powers necessary to the plot would remain even under my fantasy system.

Let it not be said that I'm telling Brandon what to do.  I've never written a word of good fiction in my life; instead, I'm a mathematician, and this sort of system is exactly the sort of thing I like to think about.  Anything I come up with is likely to suffer from the problems generally perceived in math: elegant and unrealistic.  What Brandon has done contains far more consideration of literary merit than what I would do.

Dalenthas

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Re: Categories for metals: thoughts (HoA spoilers)
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2008, 05:22:34 AM »
Don't underestimate the ability to control your own emotions. People that can't control their emotions are psychiatrically  classified as having an affective disorder, and tend to function poorly in society. The ability to conciously supress your own fear (or enhance your own courage), for example, would be a huge boost to a mistborn.
As someone who is themselves slightly bipolar, the ability to choose what emotions I have at a certain time would be a holy grail of powers. I'd definately be a much more productive and likeable person...

GoryCat

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Re: Categories for metals: thoughts (HoA spoilers)
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2008, 03:15:47 PM »
You have a point there.  The text would be unfortunate, though: "Facing thirteen Inquisitors, Vin burned a little titanium for courage".  I guess with pewter you can hardly take a shot :)

DrakeSparda

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Re: Categories for metals: thoughts (HoA spoilers)
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2008, 03:36:29 PM »
One thing you may want to include into your analysis is the two new metals mentioned at the end of HoA, Nicrosil and Chromium, which as paired with Aluminum and Duralumin, which are explained what they can do in the main Spoiler/Q&A thread.

As far bronze and copper not being mental, or at least belonging in the mental group, they affect the minds ability to perceive allomantic resonance.  As in while burning bronze, a Seeker's or Mistborn's mind is able to perceive other mistings and what metal they may be burning, or can be seen as pushing a misting's defense against being sensed by a Seeker, as shown by who Vin 'pierces' copperclouds.  As with copper, it dampens others ability to perceive the resonances, as well as reduces the effect of emotional allomancy on those inside the copper cloud, or pulling up the defenses against being sensed or manipulated.  Basically like pulling up more mental barriers.

At least that is what I have been able to piece together from reading the books and browsing on the forums here.

Cosmic_AC

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Re: Categories for metals: thoughts (HoA spoilers)
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2008, 05:55:47 PM »
Atium is, in a way, sort of in between "enhancement" and "temporal".  Remember that it doesn't only allow the user to see the future; it also drastically improves the cognitive speed of the user, granting instant intuitive aptitude while it's being used.  This is, I think, what makes it "divine".  Unlike the other "temporal" metals (if, indeed, atium is truly in a category and that category is temporal), it has two distinct effects at the same time.  Electrum is not divine; it merely produces a bunch of images of possible movements the user might make.  It also does not appear to increase one's ability to think quickly.

Oh, and don't underestimate Aluminum's power, either.  It actually has several uses; for one thing, Elend didn't necessarily need Duralumin to destroy all the atium.  He could have used aluminum just as easily (though Duralumin was undoubtedly the better choice).  Also, recall that some metals and alloys can hurt you if they're not meant to be burned (we haven't actually seen any examples of Mistings or Mistborn burning the wrong alloy and getting killed, but Kelsier said so so it must be true, right?  Right?  >_>).  Anyway what I'm trying to get at is that aluminum may serve as an "emergency brake", so to speak -- that is, you could clean out any "bad" metals by burning aluminum.  And then there's the application it was used for in the books: forcing someone to burn it.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2008, 06:06:34 PM by Cosmic_AC »

happyman

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Re: Categories for metals: thoughts (HoA spoilers)
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2008, 06:07:18 PM »
While I understand the obsessive need to get everything in order, it seems that Brandon wouldn't have left us with this many loose ends lying around.  I'm certain most of the metals are properly identified.  Don't forget that Marsh explicitly said that Allomantic pulses have properties which can be sensed which determine where on the chart they go.  I expect that all eight basic metals have been categorized properly simply because Seekers and Mistborn would have noticed the discrepancies otherwise.  In some ways, I suspect Brandon has veered from strict logic simply to provide narratively useful powers, a decision which I heartily approve.

The only real holes that have been left open that I can see are:

1) Lerasium and Atium are clearly deific metals---truly and fundamentally different from the "natural" metals.  I expect that both have alloys which do more complicated things, things which tap into much deeper powers than the other metals.  Lerasium, for instance, grants full Mistborn Allomancy, and its alloys create Mistings.

2) This leaves a hole in the temporal metals.  It will probably be filled at some point.  It probably won't be as effective as atium.

Besides that, I really think we have to rely on Word of God, God being Brandon Sanderson in this case.
Nature hates being reified.

GoryCat

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Re: Categories for metals: thoughts (HoA spoilers)
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2008, 12:06:46 AM »
One thing you may want to include into your analysis is the two new metals mentioned at the end of HoA, Nicrosil and Chromium, which as paired with Aluminum and Duralumin, which are explained what they can do in the main Spoiler/Q&A thread.

Well, as I understand from that thread, chromium and Nicrosil enhance and suppress (or the opposite) other people's Allomancy; they form an obvious team with aluminum and duralumin, so Brandon has definitely thrown his chips onto the table with them.

Quote
As far bronze and copper not being mental, or at least belonging in the mental group, they affect the minds ability to perceive allomantic resonance.  As in while burning bronze, a Seeker's or Mistborn's mind is able to perceive other mistings and what metal they may be burning, or can be seen as pushing a misting's defense against being sensed by a Seeker, as shown by who Vin 'pierces' copperclouds.  As with copper, it dampens others ability to perceive the resonances, as well as reduces the effect of emotional allomancy on those inside the copper cloud, or pulling up the defenses against being sensed or manipulated.  Basically like pulling up more mental barriers.

At least that is what I have been able to piece together from reading the books and browsing on the forums here.

...and of course, what you say here is true.  There is a totally plausible explanation for why copper and bronze are mental, so things don't have to turn out as I envision; I just think it is more consistent that way.  And as happyman said:

In some ways, I suspect Brandon has veered from strict logic simply to provide narratively useful powers, a decision which I heartily approve.

There is that.  The books work well this way, and that's what Brandon wanted.  Besides, strict order is a bit unrealistic.  My theories are just an observation; they can't actually be the case.  On the other hand, the rest of the stuff in my original post is still open.

Mellington the loony Gold Misting

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Re: Categories for metals: thoughts (HoA spoilers)
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2008, 08:55:24 PM »
I suggest that our "missing" temporal metals are the pure and alloyed forms of a metal which would never have been tested due to reason of it being poisonous or hard to come by.

Something like Mercury, Platinum or similar.

Cosmic_AC

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Re: Categories for metals: thoughts (HoA spoilers)
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2008, 05:41:26 AM »
I would further suggest that the metal replacing Atium would still allow the user to see a few seconds into someone else's future, but would not grant the mental or physical speed that Atium gives.  Thus, such a metal would be worthless to any Misting that didn't have exceptional talents and training, since a totally untrained Allomancer would be unable to respond to the visions in a meaningful way.  Perhaps in future novels such a Misting could be trained to be almost as good as a Seer by becoming able to process these glimpses into the future quickly enough to act before they happen.