1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Creature that eats metal

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lea`Brooks, Jun 12, 2015.

    In my urban fantasy, I follow a race of magical creatures that can eat metal. They are made, not born, by forming their body and using an incantation to animate them. They are made of clay, have bones made of stone, big sharp teeth that allow then to rip through metal, and they look a little like Gollum from LotR. They can walk on all fours, but they mostly walk upright. They can also shapeshift to look human, using whatever face they desire. I thought about giving them claws to help them climb (they help clean up war damage by climbing buildings and eating them.. lol), but I haven't decided yet. I also debated giving them poisonous blood, but I worry that with the claws, teeth, and shapeshifting, they have enough ways to protect themselves.

    My problem is... I don't know how readers are going to handle it.

    The concept behind the metal was that, since they're made of clay, the metal they eat breaks down and merges with their body, keeping their clay form refreshed. But I'm not a scientist. And I don't know how believable that is.

    Is this too far fetched? Should I change what they eat? My entire story revolves around them, so I'd hate to get all the way to the end and have to change it.


    Thoughts? Suggestions?
     
  2. EmptySoul
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    EmptySoul Active Member

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    The issue isn't how the reader will feel, the issue is, how will you present it to the reader. The reader will believe anything if it is presented in the right way. As long as the creatures are true to the story you are creating and the world you made, there should be no problem at all.

    After all, if you think about Wookies from Star Wars, objectively they look like a teddy bear on steroids, yet (because of how Lucas presented them) I am sure armies of Star Wars fans are preparing a grizzly death for me as we speak.
     
  3. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My first question after reading this was that do they eat clay as well? Or is that cannibalism to them?

    I'm not a scientist either, but another thing that crossed my mind was that since this is fantasy, I don't think you need to have scientifically sound explanations at the ready. Your readers already accept this monster exists, so I don't think their suspension of disbelief would end when you introduce their eating habits. Mixing science with quite blatant fantasy would raise other questions too, like how do these things stay alive? What's their metabolism like? How did evolution eff up this badly? etc. So I'm hesitant about explaining it too far by our scientific methods.

    Either way, I wouldn't personally be bothered by them eating metal in particular. Like I said, it is fantasy, after all.
     
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  4. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    It sounds good. I agree with EmptySoul, though: it's about presenting it to the reader in the right way rather than worrying about make belief in fiction.

    There will always be some smart ass who regurgitates his chemistry text books, but they are usually shallow-minded dimwits that don't see the joy in fantastic and stimulating fiction.
     
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  5. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have them grow from eggs! A humanoid that grows from eggs? That shit is scary. Even scarier: They grow off carcasses. Kinda like when a branch grows off a tree. Perhaps metal should be to them as water is to us. Or maybe neglect the idea, but create a damn scary creature anyway.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Rust monsters eat metal, right? And they terrify players :)
     
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  7. EmptySoul
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    EmptySoul Active Member

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    And they always went after my best items.
     
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  8. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    There's quite a lot of resources available about how metal interacts with clay. I googled it and 5 different articles/experiments have been published on the issue. I started to read it, but geology is extremely dull to me, and I don't need to know the answer for a character I'm writing. Lol.
     
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  9. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    Gajeel from Fairy Tale sprung to mind!!

    I think it would be fine to present them as metal eating. It's a strange evolution, but I think as it's fantasy you've got a little more free reign. There are, according to good old google, plants that absorb metal as part of their diet. I'd guess from an evolutionary point of view they would have to have very strong teeth and claws to rip the metal up?

    I have no idea why, but I also wondered if they'd produce some sort of metal waste by product like slag?!

    But I agree it's more in the presentation than whether or not people buy it.
     
  10. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    You can make them eat metal, and that's fine, but don't tell us that it helps the clay at all. If they're made of fired clay even bisk ware would melt the metal right out of them. If they're stone ware the metal would flat evaporate. I'm not sure how you could get those two compounds to fuse, clay is 2SiO22H2O and some other stuff. If they were eating silicone it would make some kind of sense.

    Different thought: They could be raku glazed. A lot of those have a fantastic combination of metals, which come out of the kiln looking like this
    [​IMG]
    But raku is usually around cone 08 or 06, so they'd be as strong as porcelain.

    Unless! Maybe that metal glaze is renewed by the metal and actually gives them a shell of outside protection.

    Copper is good, zinc is better, iron and steel are kind of useless, they just come out of the glaze a dark red like this:
    [​IMG]
    I guess it's cool if you want the Golems to have a blood red outer coating, but not as wonderful as that vase at the top.

    Not that it matters, but you should never eat or drink out of a raku dish. Those metals will react with whatever you put them in, and their too low fire to vitrify. You will get a mouth full of metal glaze.
     
  11. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Man, that's a lot of replies quick! :p Thanks all. That's very helpful. I can't stop thinking with my writer's mind, overanalyzing everything and needing a "just in case they ask" option.

    But when I think about it, I as a reader don't ask those questions. I don't ask why vampires eat blood or brains. What does that do for them? They're dead, so it's not like their hearts pump the blood to keep them alive. I don't need a scientific expansion for how werewolves are able to twist their bones and change themselves from humans to wolves.

    If I think of my creatures as a reader, I wouldn't question it. It's made of clay and eats metal. Cool. :)

    Thanks again!
     
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  12. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Woah... o.o That was... intense. lol I'm not entirely sure I understand most of it, but... Thanks! lol


    Btw, nice to see you remember me talking about my creatures before! :) But I don't think I'm going to call them golems anymore. Just going to make up a name and go from there. :)
     
  13. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Metal Munchers?

    Nah, that sounds like an alien breakfast cereal. :superagree:
     
  14. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey, maybe it could be a cereal for my creatures! :p

    I thought about nicknaming them "the cleaners" since they often get employed by the government to clean up old, rundown parts of town. But the real name? Haven't got one. I tried a long time ago and failed. Came up with...

    -Versipellis (shapeshifter in Latin)
    -Protean (versatile, mutable in Greek)
    -Argilla or pilo (clay in Latin and Greek)
    -Bole, loam, and kaolin (different forms of clay, if I remember right)
    -Gobbe (made up word)

    ...And I hate them all. lol I'm very bad at creature names. But it's pretty easy to change, so I'll keep what I have for now and change it when I come up with something better.
     
  15. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Protean sounds pretty good. Sometimes a word that rolls off the tongue is better than a word with actual meaning.

    It sounds like an interesting story.
     
  16. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    This is an urban fantasy right? So scientific explanations aren't really that important. Having said that there are some bacteria etc with complex often sulphur based metabolic pathways that can eat iron, but the iron does not become a part of them. It gets excreted and they simply take the energy from the breakdown process.

    And that in a nutshell is what I find difficult about your concept. We are fairly much what we eat. Yes vampires eat blood - and there's whole loads of thoughts about how lacking in nutrients blood is and iron overload. But if you look at it from a more distant POV, vampires are flesh and blood is flesh. Flesh eats flesh and beomes flesh.

    If your critters eat metal then I would expect them to be metal. If they're made of clay I would expect them to eat clay or dirt in general.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  17. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I'll sum it up. The golem are coated in metal glaze that makes them stronger. They have to eat more metal to replenish it. Should you choose it can be incredible copper, fantastic blue and green; or just plain boring iron red. I guess the choice really comes down to having the golem in peacock colors, or iron blood.

    Like this thing:
    [​IMG]
    That cracked pattern is also part of the raku glaze, the golem can have that too if you want.
     
  18. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're fine. I'm reading Terry Pratchett book right now where the trolls are made of rock and hence digest minerals, and the dragons eat coal. It's fantasy. The rules of physics don't apply. Which is not to say there aren't rules, but you're allowed to decide how they work - you just have to be internally consistent.
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I seem to recall a Farscape episode where some spidery things masquerading as gold ingots get smuggled aboard Moya. Turns out they eat metal, and start destroying the non-living parts of the ship ...and the only way to save the ship is to set her on fire? Thus sending the plot off into even odder directions. Can't remember all the details, but my god, I love/loved that show! And Ben Browder/John Crichton - hunk of the century...!
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That was a great show. I was more partial to Claudia Black, though (but Zhaan was quite stunning, best I could tell beneath the makeup).
     
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  21. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Both your examples make immediate sense to me:
    * rock consists of minerals.
    * dragons are filled with fire, which is understandably coal-fired.

    I'd like to understand how clay-based creature dissolve / digest the metal and assimilate it into their being. I'm struggling.

    Frank Herbert's worms ate anything and everything, but in particular, the spice hoppers which were predominantly metal. The worms were fire-filled.
     
  22. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Humans are not made of "food," we are made of biomass ranging from bone, muscle, organs... and we eat food that provides us with the materials to create said biomass. The fact that we are not magic means that we need to eat food that is made of the same biomass that we are, but if we were magic, then our bodies might be able to create organic biomass form completely inorganic food like rocks.

    Why couldn't an alchemic creation work the same way?
     
  23. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds like a golem. I wouldn't worry about scientific accuracy in the creation of a golem since they don't answer to science, but instead to magic (not matter how much Miéville tried to make them answer to techno-wizardry in Iron Council). The only thing that would throw me, as others have mentioned, is that a metal diet doesn't seem right for a creature made of clay. If you're going to worry overmuch - and by that I mean if it's going to play a big part of the story - about their diet, I would find a diet that matched a little better to the golem's composition.
     
  24. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm so glad you said it sounds like a golem. lol A golem was my initial inspiration, but I changed them to make them more modern. I polled a lot of people about it, and several said it doesn't sound like a golem since I altered them so much. So I was worried that calling them golems would make fantasy readers angry. But this makes me feel better!

    Yes, I see now that maybe the body and food don't quite match up. And there's two ways I could fix this.

    1) Change the food to something else, like rocks (clay is just ground up rock, right?) or even natural things (dirt, plants, etc.). But their dangerous appearance is pretty important to the story, so I think the rocks would work better.

    2) Change their body. I'd like to steer away from giving them a metal body, because that reads almost too robot for me. But there isn't much else I could change it to. I could possibly do the metal coating that Jack suggested. So then eating the metal would reinforce their armor.. But I dunno.

    Or, I could just leave them the way they are and hope the "it's magic" explanation will be good enough.

    Their food is extremely important to the story, though, so I'd better figure it out before I get to chapter five. :p I'm only on two though, so I've got some time.

    Got some thinking to do, I suppose.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2015
  25. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    A fantasy reader who got his/her knickers in a twist because your golem doesn't answer exactly to the traditional concept of a golem is to be discounted and brushed aside. Those kinds of readers exist for every genre and their need for things to always remain exactly the same is ridiculous. For anyone else reading this, if this describes you, too bad. I'm totally not apologizing. Go write your own pedantic little story that answers to your ridiculous little pedantic needs.

    I mentioned Miéville earlier as regards golems. He flat out calls them golems in Iron Council and they are made of almost anything at hand. There is even a golem made of light at one point, created through the reflections of parabolic mirrors. All of them are golems, and all of them are completely different. The one thing they have in common is that they are made of inanimate material and once the hex is allowed to dissolve, they return to just piles of inanimate matter.
     
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