Deconstruction Roundup for November 28, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who acknowledges that holidays are very rarely about holy things.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

  • Still cautious because of bridge-dwellers.

duckbunny: Sensical

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: My Little Po-Mo

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip SandiferPhilip Sandifer: Writer (formerly TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue)

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonsong: The Same, Yet Different

When we last left Menolly, she had discovered a clutch of fire-lizard eggs and used the power of SCIENCE! to assist the gold queen of the lizards in saving the eggs from an onrushing tide. In doing so, Menolly also discovered that her injured hand might yet be able to return to full strength.

Dragonsong: Chapter 5: Content Notes: Family toxicity

Chapter Five opens with our budding scientist thinking over more questions with regard to her encounter – can fire-lizards understand humans? If so, how, because dragons are, to the best of her knowledge, a one-to-one correspondence decided on at Hatching. What would a fire-lizard Hatching look like? And so forth. We have the benefit of previous knowledge through previous books, but someone coming to this series for the first time through these volumes is receiving an excellent set of questions to keep an eye out for. When not actively trying to hurt characters, the narrative and writing show skill at weaving a plot.

Alas, Menolly cannot immediately go to gather more data – storms keep everyone inside, and so there is cleaning to be done, glow baskets to be checked, and more. That evening, Menolly has to face Elgion playing music.

She had to hear music sometime. She couldn’t avoid it forever. And at least she could sing along with the others. But she soon found she couldn’t even have that pleasure. Mavi beckoned to her when the Harper began to tune his gitar. And when the Harper beckoned for everyone to join in the choruses, Mavi pinched Menolly so hard she gasped.
“Don’t roar. You may sing softly as befits a girl your age,” Mavi said. “Or don’t sing at all.”
Across the Hall, Sella was singing, not at all accurately and loud enough to be heard in Benden Hold; but when Menolly opened her mouth to protest, she got another pinch.
So she didn’t sing at all but sat there by her mother’s side, numb and hurt, not even able to enjoy the music and very conscious that her mother was being monstrously unfair.
Then Menolly saw her father watching her, his face stem, one hand tapping not so much to the time of the music but to some inner agitation. It was her father who didn’t want her to sing! It wasn’t fair! It just wasn’t fair! Obviously they knew and were glad she can’t come before. They didn’t want her here.

I think this is supposed to read as a teenage temper tantrum, the kind that are ridiculously out of proportion and the fodder for teen dramas and comedies alike. If Menolly were anything other than one-hundred percent accurate in her assessment, then it might be possible to read it as teenage exaggeration. Yanus, and thus, Mavi, are still very invested in making sure the Harper gets zero clue that Menolly had musical talent, lest the Harper encourage it more and Menolly continue to have ideas that women can do things traditionally reserved to men. It’s not fair at all.

Having been told she cannot enjoy herself, Menolly leaves the Hall over her mother’s hissed protests, and arises the next morning before everyone else to go visit the fire-lizards, who are at least an attentive audience. The Hold’s main doors nearly scuttle her plans before they can get underway, but Menolly is a strong girl and is able to open them enough to leave the Hold. Which leaves the doors closed but unlocked, but Menolly doesn’t care about such things. Or understand why they have to be locked and the room glows extinguished, for that matter. Menolly forages for some food, and ruminates on how nobody will miss her until they have some menial task for her, or until the evening, when they expect her to return.

Which leads to the realization that Menolly doesn’t intend to return to the Hold and the misery it contains. The free life is much more appealing. Practicality kicks in soon afterward – food is probably covered by foraging, but she needs somewhere to sleep at night, and somewhere she can take shelter from both the elements and Threadfall. As she approaches the fire-lizard caverns, her danger sense kicks into overdrive. It’s too quiet. Looking over her shoulder, she sees why – Threadfall is inbound. Add Menolly casts about in panic, trying to find a suitable shelter against the deadly rain, she hears a thrummimg sound coming from the ground underneath. Menolly correctly deduces the cavern is hollow, and makes for the ledge where she had widened an entry to see if she can get herself protected. The original hole only covers her head and shoulders – so she tries to widen it more, but strikes rock far too soon for that plan to work.

And then, inspiration strikes.

She could only get herself into the shelter up to her shoulders. No matter how she turned and twisted, the was an outcropping that she could not pass. Once again she wished she were as small as a girl ought to be. Sella would have had no trouble crawling through that hole.

How long did she have before Thread would be raining down on her unprotected body?
Body? She might not get past the bobble in the wall with her shoulders…but…She reversed her position, and feet, legs, hips, all right up to the shoulders passed into the safety of solid rock. Her head was covered, but only just, by the cliff overhang.

Perfect pitch, size, strength, and brains! Menolly has all the potential to be completely awesome at whatever she does, assuming she can escape that toxic environment. And assuming the institutional sexism of her chosen profession doesn’t prevent her from getting a foothold. Because, it appears, only Fandarel is openly pursuing equality – in the name of efficiency, of course.

Menolly notices she didn’t bring her sack of food in with her, so after a little fighting with it, she retrieves the sack – and the force of the retrieval sends her deeper into the cave system as the ledge she was hiding out on gives way. (It also apparently removes whatever obstacle was obstructing her head and shoulders earlier.) Menolly realizes that she’s in the middle of the Hatching Ground right as the eggs hatch. The first few fire-lizards head out, only to have Threadfall meet them at the entrance to the cave. Menolly tries to stop the fire-lizards from exiting, but they attack her and get around her when she had to defend herself. Menolly pleads with the older fire-lizards to stop the younger ones.

The thrill of being the witness to a Hatching of fire lizards gave way to horror. Dragons had to be protected because they protected Pern. In Menolly’s fear and confusion, the little fire lizards were linked to their giant counterparts.
She was overwhelmed with pangs of hunger, belly-knotting, gut-twisting hunger. It took her only a moment to realize that the driving force in these fire lizards was that sort of hunger: that was what was sending them senselessly forth. They had to eat. She remembered that dragons had to eat, too, when they first Hatched, fed by the boys they Impressed.

This is nicely done – those with previous knowledge of the relationship between fire lizards and dragons know this is correct – but for someone coming new to this series, this is a great subtle hint of that relationship, if we are to believe that Menolly is not confused, but correct. Based on the characterization shown thus far, we should be willing to believe Menolly’s hypothesis about this relationship.

Also, Menolly demonstrates the power of SCIENCE! again. Even if the initial thought of hunger being the motivating force is an intuitive leap based on dragon information, the experimentation that follows is good science. Menolly snags a fire-lizard in one hand and a shellfish in the other. The fire-lizard kills the shellfish and heads to a corner to feast. Repeat experiment, same result. Realizing she can’t catch them all for hand-feeding, Menolly dumps out her shellfish catch on the ground of the cavern, and the fire lizards go to town on the food. It’s not enough to satisfy them, but it does delay them long enough so that the Thread has passed by the time they are finished. With the danger gone, the new clutch and the old grouping go off to find more food, and, after eating the one bit of food not sacrificed to the fire-lizards, Menolly goes to sleep in the cavern, exhausted. That closes out Chapter 5, and I’d like to think Menolly dreams of a serpent eating its tail.

Menolly demonstrates the same perception and empathy that Jaxom did in Dragonquest. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most empathetic and well fleshed-out characters in the stories are children. They don’t have dragons or political power or other things interfering with their ability to understand the fairness of the situation, and they are unconstrained and able to act on those feelings, which gives them the advantage of getting to see how things turn out without too much influence from politics or other adults skewing the results.

Writer Workshop Novemeber 26, 2014

(Posted by chris the cynic)

I’m so sorry for not having these lately.  Things have been not well with me.

In addition to the usual (which is reiterated below the picture), because of missing previous weeks this is the ONLY Writer Workshop thread during the month of November, so it might be a good time to talk about NaNoWriMo.  Did you try?  Are you trying?  Stuff?

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Are there any questions you’d like to ask or frustrations you’d like to vent?  Writing workshop below!

Open Thread: The doom of this age or: Let this be the dawn of an epic fantasy era that has representation for everyone

(written by Lonespark, except for the title)

[Link to the music video of “Last Goodbye”, the song that marks the end of Cinematic Middle Earth.]

I love these books and these films. They were the soundtrack of my childhood. They helped bring me to my faith. They have shown me visions of magic and courage. They have made me so many wonderful friends. They have made memories for me with my family, my friends, my beloveds, old and new…

And I hope they are the end of an era. I hope we never again have to choose… to choose between epic fantasy awesome, and representation for everyone. We need awesome that embraces cultures and people from every corner of this badass, fantastic world.


[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]

This week in the Slacktiverse, November 23rd 2014

(posted by chris the cynic, written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

  • Storiteller wrote about societal issues the the lens of parenting this week.  In Fighting the Good Fight for Family Biking, she talks about the challenges in trying to make biking for families in her area safe and accessible.  With Christmas and other holidays coming up, she discusses how parents and other folks buying gifts can do so in an economically sustainable way, in The Ethically-Made Toys Gift Guide.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for November 21, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who notices the darkness encroaching on him.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Amarie: Amarie’s Dreamjournal

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

  • Still cautious because of bridge-dwellers.

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: My Little Po-Mo

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip SandiferPhilip Sandifer: Writer (formerly TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue)

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonsong: Secret Missions

Last time, the narrative attacked Menolly repeatedly, culminating in the crippling of one of her hands due to venomous fish slime infecting a deep hand wound brought on by fatigue from punishment duties assigned by her mother and father.

Dragonsong: Chapter 4: Content Notes: Sexism

So, we’re going to pick up in Chapter 4 where we left off, at the point where Chapter 4 really should have started. Rather than trying to cliffhang on whether or not Menolly’s hand would have function enough to play, it would be better to end after the outpouring of familial love, such that it is. It allows readers to have a happy point (“See, they do love her after all…”) and gives deconstructors a nice place to hang their hat (“…only after they know she won’t be able to pursue her forbidden dreams.”). Besides, we’re told, Mavi said her hand wouldn’t be good enough for playing, and Mavi never lies. Which is an assertion I can’t disprove in that Mavi has never told a direct falsehood to Menolly, but that I will give the biggest side-eye to because of Mavi’s entrenched interest in letting Yanus hurt Menolly and hurting Menolly herself. Lies of omission and coloration of Menolly’s perspective, though, I’m pretty sure have already happened before the narrative arrived.

Like the one Yanus commits when Elgion asks about who taught the kids.

At first, thinking that Menolly had been nowhere near as skilled as everyone had assumed, Yanus had told Elgion that a fosterling had undertaken the task and that he’d returned to his own Hold just prior to the Harper’s arrival.
“Whoever did this has the makings of a good Harper then,” Elgion told his new Holder. “Old Petiron was a better teacher than most.”
The praise unexpectedly disturbed Yanus. He couldn’t retract his words, and he didn’t want to admit to Elgion that the person was a girl. So Yanus decided to let matters stand. No girl could be a Harper, any way the road turned. Menolly was too old now to be in any of the classes, and he’d see that she was busy with other things until she came to think of her playing as some childish fancy. At least she hadn’t disgraced the Hold.

I’m sorry, did I say lie of omission? That’s only after the blatant lie about who taught the kids.

I’m also beginning to wonder whether there was only one plot in mind when it came to writing these books, because this is the third set-up of “resourceful protagonist must defeat intensely traditional antagonist” in as many books.

Anyway, Elgion is on a mission from Robinton to gauge how receptive and open to change Yanus is and to get him to start thinking beyond his own Hold and into bigger logistical problems. Which Elgion does in a fairly ham-fisted manner, and Yanus gives his responses in as few words as possible, and as close to traditions as Yanus can get. We can forgive Elgion his methods, as the narrative informs us that this is his first posting, but we’re also told that Elgion has been prepped to find this Hold hide-bound and that there would be difficulty sussing out who the songmaker is. Petiron, however, appears to have neglected to mention his songmaker is a woman. Perhaps because he thinks Robinton isn’t quite ready to go there (which we’ve seen, at least the cultivated image of misogyny that Robinton needs for dealing with actual misogynist Holders), or because he thought the message wouldn’t get through if he did. In either case, Elgion seems content to wait for the time where the supposedly male Harper candidate will present themselves. Yanus and Mavi have both sabotaged this plan by directing those who know not to say anything, those who might have enjoyed Menolly’s music not to ask for it, and giving Menolly tasks to keep her away from where music is made.

Unsurprisingly, Menolly is depressed about her musical capability.

If Mavi was perplexed by the quietness and passivity of her youngest child, she put it down to the long and painful recovery, not to loss of her music. Mavi knew that all manner of pain and trouble could be forgotten in time, and so did her best to keep her daughter occupied. Mavi was a very busy woman, and Menolly kept out if her way.
Gathering greens and fruit suited Menolly perfectly. It kept her out in the open and away from the Hold, away from people.

This line of reasoning from Mavi, however, doesn’t quite fit for me. Especially since there’s been a lot of movement just before this to keep Menolly from being able to play her music, some of which Mavi has participated in. And, with this continued subtle acknowledgement that Mavi is also an abuse victim, I would think Mavi’s first thought would be that the depression is entirely about what Yanus beat her over. Perhaps Mavi has too much experience ignoring the truth to be able to confront it now.

Life continues on – shellfish get hunted, greens get gathered, a large amount of concern is raised about abnormally high tides (new knowledge – Pern seafarers know that tides are caused by heavenly objects, but they mistakenly believe only the solid objects exert gravitational pull enough to affect tides.), and so Menolly is out running, thinking about nothing to numb the pain, and looking for signs of high seas when she encounters the fire-lizards again. The fire-lizards are in a complete panic, and when Menolly tries to creep closer to figure out what’s going on, she takes a long ride down the cliffside. Which turns out to her advantage, as Menolly finds out what has the fire-lizards a-flutter. There’s a clutch of eggs and a rising tide.

Here we have some great writing about trying to communicate with a species that might be able to understand you, but that you can’t necessarily understand back. When not actively trying to hurt the main characters, the story and the writing ability starts to come through. So, Menolly’s deductive process for figuring out what’s going on goes like this:

  1. Eggs! I almost stepped on them. Maybe if I back off, I can climb up the cliff. [Result: Fire-lizards stop attacking.]
  2. Good, that worked. I’ll try to stay away from the eggs and climb. [Result: Fire-lizards attack. Menolly’s cheek is scratched.]
  3. Observation: Queen is trying to protect the clutch. How ungrateful of them to not recognize the one who made a nice tune for you. Also, laughter makes the fire-lizards disappear. Maybe I can climb the cliff while laughing? [Result: Too tough to climb while laughing. Also, fire-lizards attack.]
  4. Maybe singing will grant safe passage? [Result: No audience for song, but curiosity and rapt attention from the fire-lizards. Singing again while attempting to climb results in fire-lizard attack.]
  5. Attempt to explain that I can’t stay, because the tide is coming in. [Result: Queen fire-lizard cries shrilly, heads to egg clutch, grabs an egg, hauls it upward to a cavern, rolls the egg into the cavern.]
  6. Oh! Queen lizard needs help moving eggs. Carefully move an egg from the beach to the cavern. [Result: Queen appears, rolls egg into cavern.]
  7. Okay. Three eggs this time. Observation: The tide will win the race unless the other lizards can help.
  8. Observation: A bigger hole will provide that help, and would allow for one trip with all the eggs in a greens sack. Action: Widen the hole. [Result: Queen fire-lizard is upset! And with good reason – if Menolly collapses the entrance to the cave, those eggs are lost.]
  9. Action: Load eggs into sack. [Result: Queen fire-lizard attacks. Someone is stealing her eggs!]
  10. Menolly scolds the queen fire-lizard, who appears to understand and subsides.

Three trips later, all the eggs are safe and Menolly is free to climb the cliff and return home. After she climbs the cliff, Menolly reflects on what she has learned. And, uncharacteristically, the narrative rewards Menolly for her good deed helping the fire-lizards.

Her hand ached in a dull way, and the long scar was red and slightly swollen. But, as Menolly flexed her fingers, it seemed that the hand opened more easily. Yes, it did. She could almost extend her fingers completely. It hurt, but it was a stretchy-hurt. Could she open her hand enough to play again? She folded her fingers as if to chord. That hurt, but again, it was a stretchy-hurt. Maybe if she worked her hand a lot more…

And thus, Menolly discovers physical therapy. Having broken two fingers myself, after everything was pinned up and healed, it took a very long time of straining against the position the fingers were locked into for the healing. Eventually, with the diligent application of exercises, the flexibility of the fingers has been restored. So, in Menolly’s case, perhaps her hand will be restored to proper functionality after all.

That’s weird. And a bit scary, because now I’m worried the narrative is going to Kick The Dog very hard before we’re done.


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