Deconstruction Roundup for October 31, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who will demand the appropriate invocation before surrendering any candy.)

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

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist


Froborr: My Little Po-Mo

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Omskivar: Omskivar Reviews

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

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonsong: And, Back To One

(by Silver Adept)

Well, after the ball of fail and triggers that was Dragonquest, we return to the world of Pern for an entirely different trilogy, the Harper Hall trilogy.

Worth noting here is that, despite being the third Pern book written, chronologically speaking, it is likely to be the first book that readers encounter involving the world. This is thanks to bookstores, libraries, and others marketing this trilogy in their children’s and teens sections, due to the age of the primary protagonists. Does this mean that these stories will be more like the boys’ adventure story chapters that we saw with Jaxom and Felessan?

Well, the main character of this book is Menolly, a young woman. So let’s say my expectations are not very high. Time to get underway.

This version of the book opens with the same spoiler data as the previous two, another fairly clear addition based on current continuity, rather than the likely available material at publication. The only important thing to note is that Dragonsong starts seven Turns after the time skip. So it’s set concurrently to the events of Dragonquest, theoretically. Let’s see if the timelines stay lined up.

Dragonsong: Chapter One: Content Notes: Sexism ahoy, domestic abuse

Chapter One opens with the preparations for a funerary rite. Which suggests that the will be more worldbuilding in this particular chapter than there has been in the two previous books. That will be… refreshing. Anyway, the Harper attached to the Half-Circle Sea Hold has died, and it falls to the Sea Holder, Yanus, to ensure his funeral goes appropriately, including the singing of the correct songs. Yanus has asked around of all the people in the Hold with musical talent, and had been told the same thing – not I, but your youngest daughter, Menolly, she can. Which aggravates Yanus and his wife, Mavi, because neither of them is fond of the thought that Menolly wants to become a Harper, instead of taking an interest in those things that are proper for a young girl in a Sea Hold.

Given the way the narrative has treated women who have ideas about breaking out of “traditional” roles and doing what they want to do so far, I would place a money bet that Menolly is going to be injured, killed, or psychologically scarred by her parents before the book is over. If not her parents, then a random event will do it, instead. This is also making me wonder whether the classification as a kid or teen book is because they saw the age of the protagonist and forgot to read the actual content.

After the brief interlude of how her parents disapprove of her career aspirations, we go to the actual burial at sea. Menolly is able to perform the Deathsong, but collapses in tears afterward, with a brief memory of the Harper, Petiron, who is definitely a progressive voice on Pern. Petiron sent some compositions of Menolly’s to Robinton, a sure sign of his respect for her talent. Alas, gender roles have already taken hold in Menolly’s mind.

“Women can’t be Harpers,” she’d said to Petiron, astonished and awed.

“One in ten hundred have perfect pitch,” Petiron had said in one of his evasive replies. “One in ten thousand can build an acceptable melody with meaningful words. We’re you only a lad, there’d be no problem at all.”
“Well, we’re stuck with me being a girl.”
“You’d make a fine big strong lad, you would,” Petiron had replied exasperatingly.
“And what’s wrong with being a fine big strong girl?” Menolly had been half-teasing, half-annoyed.
“Nothing, surely. Nothing.”

For which the end of days for this brilliant man were either dementia or Alzheimer’s or another neurological disease. Even in the secondary characters, the narrative punishes the progressives. Also, based on this exchange, I’m imagining Menolly as a tall, broad-shouldered, solidly built and muscular woman until the narrative says otherwise. And even then, I might tell the narrative to fuck off. Because, if the narrative seems to be setting Menolly up as a tomboy, I don’t want her to look small and weak so that the narrative can try to make us believe she deserves the abuse she’s going to get.

Having sung her elegy, the boat returns, Menolly steps off, and the work of fishing begins immediately after. Life continues, and Yanus is orchestrating the moving-on as fast as he can. Mavi is doing her part to erase any trace of the Harper by organizing the children that would be receiving instruction into work crews to take care of errands at the Hold. Menolly runs her appointed task (checking to make sure all the glows – fungus used as light sources in the caves – are properly topped up so they shine well) with an efficiency of practice that Fandarel would approve of, which puts her at the Harper’s door in time to hear an argument between her mother and Soreel, the wife of another Holder, about who will teach the children, since it’s unlikely a new Harper will arrive until spring. Both Mavi and Yanus don’t want Menolly in that role, because sexism and because Menolly, not yet fifteen, has a knack for improvising earworms outside of the official canon. Yanus can’t find a way to put someone else in charge, though, and neither can Mavi, because apparently doing MANLY THINGS like the tasks of fishing removes your ability to play complex rhythms and callouses your hands in the wrong way, so Menolly gets the job, but not without threats from Yanus.

“But I’ll have no more of those finger-twiddlings of yours.”
“I sang my songs when Petiron was alive and you never minded them…”
Yanus frowned down at his tall daughter.
“Petiron was alive. He’s dead now, and you’ll obey me in this…”
Over her father’s shoulders, Menolly saw her mother’s drowning face, saw her warning headshake, and held back a quick reply.
“You’ll bear in mind what I’ve said!” And Yanus fingered the wide belt he wore. “No tuning!”
“Yes, Yanus.”
[...]
Once in the hallway, Mavi gripped her daughter’s arm hard. “Don’t disobey him, girl.”
“There’s no harm in my tunes, mother. You know what Petiron said…”
“I’ll remind you the old man’s dead. And that changes everything that went on during his life. Behave yourself while you stand in a man’s place. No tuning! Too bed now, and mind you turn the glowbaskets. No sense wasting light no eye needs.”

Because everyone knows that threatening your daughter with a beating is completely the right way to enforce discipline. Fuck you, Yanus, you shit-eating asshole.

Also, it is apparently a rule of Pern that named men in relationships with named women abuse their women in some way, usually physically. The way that Mavi warns Menolly off of crossing Yanus makes it sound entirely like this is not the first time Yanus had used the belt on Mavi and Menolly. Assuming that Yanus uses the belt and doesn’t just beat Menolly and Mavi with his hands.

Because it’s a children’s book, it’s only a threat, but it’s the kind of threat that leaves nothing to the imagination. And I have a sinking feeling it’s not going to be a threat before we’re done.

Secondly, Yanus and Mavi are supposed to be Menolly’s parents. So what’s with the exceedingly formal address between daughter and parents? Yes, Yanus. No harm, mother. Don’t cross him, girl. Not a familiar address in the whole sequence, so the implication here is that nobody in the family is particularly fond of each other. Not like we need any familial bonds or anything when things that can kill you are falling on irregular patterns outside.

There is one nice thing – nailed it on Menolly’s height. Although she’s not so tall as to be taller than Yanus, so that he can still be scary and intimidating and exert his patriarchal authority on her. If she was taller than him, well, then she might get it in her head to punch him out or something for his abuse. The narrative couldn’t have that, even though I’m desperately hoping she does just that to Yanus, and soon.

I really was hoping for something different, but it seems like we’re only going to get more of the same. Places, everyone.

This week in the Slacktiverse, October 26th 2014

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

The Blogaround

  • Storiteller wrote an article for us this week (see below.)
  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • A prayer was answered, a prayer was answered by a woman who said god told her to do it.  Here’s the story of that, and me wondering how best to thank god.
    • I mentioned the possibility of making an, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell,” T-shirt.  People wanted it.  Other than CafePress not doing italics (thus “go” instead of “go“) it turned out fine.  So if you’re interested in such, here’s my post announcing that.
    • My financial situation, and the speed with which my mother, who owns the house I live in, switched gears from talking about that to talking about selling the house both led to me writing, quite honestly, “I’m afraid,” and giving details as to why.  I am significantly less afraid right now, though, but I have yet to write a post about that.
    • I wrote the my first installment of Skewed Slightly to the Left since January.  In it Cameron and Tsion make it to their getaway plane, barely.
    • Heavy rains and my status as a pedestrian left me cold and wet, so I wrote about it.
    • I wrote a bit about the state of my university.  That was written on, I think, Thursday or early Friday since then some pretty significant things have happened so expect to hear more about it.

In Case You Missed This

Nothing submitted this week.

Things You Can Do

chris the cynic wrote:

What’s going on at my university, the University of Southern Maine is problematic for a number of reasons.  Three primary ones are that it’s done using suspect numbers, rules are being bent and broken, and in some cases laws are being broken.  A fundraising is being done to address these by having an independent audit, investigate to bring accountability when it comes to following the rules, and provide students with access to the legal representation they’ll need to make sure that laws protecting them are enforced.

If any of that sounds good to you, or if you, you know, like me, consider sending money to this project if you can.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Open Thread: Hope

(posted by chris the cynic)

What gives you hope?

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[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.]

Deconstruction Roundup for October 24, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is about to engage in more of the joys of home ownership.)

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

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)

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonquest: Dark Reprise

Last time, Jaxom Impressed. Which touched off some politics. And a flagrant insult to Kylara. Also, the plot to bring grubs north from the southern continent proceeds apace.

Dragonquest: Chapter XVI: Content Notes: Animal abuse, Existential Terror

It’s the last chapter, everyone! Let’s see if we can’t get through it without major content issues.

I’m told optimism is healthy, after all.

Chapter XVI opens promisingly, with an extended report on the difficulty of convincing everyone of the plot to seed the north with grubs. Fandarel and Terry give their approval (and a new prototype for capturing Thread more efficiently) and mention the irritation they are suffering at being unable to work on shielding the telegraph cables because of so much Threadfall and flamethrower jams. Robinton is playing diplomacy with the Holders, but they’re really insisting that the expedition to the Red Star happen sooner rather than later, despite the continued inability to find good coordinates for a hyperspace hop. The Lord of Telgar is particularly obstinate, not even accepting Wansor’s theory that planets that are close to each other affect each other, which explains the out-of-phase Threadfall. (Which, you know, planetary gravity will do just that, which means Pern could theoretically have discovered the very far out planets of the Sol system long before the inhabitants of Terra were able to make the calculations.) He and Meron get extra people spying on them to make sure they don’t make moves that disrupt the plan.

Brekke takes an interest in the plan, with the data being relayed though the Brown Rider Rapist, and her brain seizes on the idea that Meron might attempt to send his bronze fire-lizard all the way there, so she asks the riders to keep an eye out for that possibility. Brekke’s instincts appear to be right. Furthermore, the dragonriders are starting to realize that the cloud formations over the Red Star could be the recognizable marks to use to send the dragons over to attack. Which makes Lessa worried, because F’lar of the Immense Ego, Figurehead Extraordinaire, will totally jump to the Red Star once he thinks he can manage it, so that he can save the world singlehandedly.

Things come to a head, though, with Meron at Fort Weyr, when not only does Canth confirm how cruel Meron is to his fire-lizard, Canth interferes with an abuse situation by startling Meron enough for the fire-lizard to escape and do its own hyperspace hop. This sets Meron off entirely, resulting in his swift banning from Fort as he continues to insist that the dragonriders are just hiding their confirmed coordinates from the Holders as a power play to keep the Holders subject to the Weyrs. The Brown Rider Rapist wonders what Meron sees through the telescope, and suggests to his fire-lizard going there. Which, naturally, freaks the fire-lizard out.

Terror, horror, a whirling many-faceted impression of heat, violent winds, burning breathlessness sent him [the BrnRR] staggering against N’ton as Grall, with a fearful shriek, launched herself from his hands and disappeared.

Which is probably the most clear sign that the Red Star is inhospitable to visitors a dragonrider will receive. The Brown Rider Rapist ignores the warning signs, privileging the knowledge that the coordinates he sent to Grall are good enough for Canth over the fire-lizard’s clear “back the fuck off” signals.

Sound familiar?

There’s no small pride in being able to steal his brother’s thunder on this, too, and it clicks into place for him why Brekke was very interested in distracting him from that idea (including blatant come-hithers) earlier. Again, rather than taking this as a warning sign that what he’s doing is extremely dangerous, he still thinks he can just jaunt over, get a really good look, use Ramoth as the relay tower so that every dragonrider knows where to send themselves later for the invasion.

So, before we see the consequences of this trip, let me point out that Meron is correct about the dragonriders having coordinates, but his reasons are half-wrong – it’s that no dragonrider was ready to risk themselves on something less than a sure bet – that form of “cowardice” we call the survival instinct.

So, Canth makes the hop.

Canth started to open his wings and screamed in agony as they were wrenched back. The snapping of his strong fore-limbs went unheard in the incredible roar of the furnace-hot tornadic winds that seized them from the relative calm off the downdraft. There was air enveloping on the Red Star – a burning hot air, whipped to flame-heat by burning turbulences. The helpless dragon and rider were like a feather, dropped hundreds of lengths only to be slammed upward, end over end, with hideous force. As they tumbled, their minds paralyzed by the holocaust they had entered, F’nor had a nightmare glimpse of the gray surfaces toward and away from which they were alternately thrown and removed: the Neratian tip was a wet, slick gray that writhed and bubbled and oozed. Then they were thrown into the reddish cloud that were shot with nauseating grays and whites, here and there torn by massive orange rivers of lightning. A thousand hot points burned the unprotected skin of F’nor’s face, pitted Canth’s hide, penetrating each lid over the dragon’s eyes. The overwhelming, multilevel sound of the cyclonic atmosphere battered their minds ruthlessly to unconsciousness.

Then they were hurled into the awesome calm of a funnel of burning, sand-filled heat and fell toward the surface – crippled and impotent.

Painridden, F’nor had only one thought as his senses failed him. The Weyr! The Weyr must be warned!

Okay, that is excellent writing. The sense of utter panic comes across really well, without any bravado, macho bullshit, or anything beyond the immediate need to stay alive.

A pettier me might snark about how cocky the Brown Rider Rapist feels now that he’s met something stronger than he is, but I’m reserving that kind of commentary for when Brekke kicks him in the testicles and tells him to fly between without coming back as she leaves.

Instead, we get to see Brekke panic again, this time over the Brown Rider Rapist and Canth going to the Red Star, and the dragons are all in distress over the beating the two are receiving at the Red Star. And Brekke screams her worst fear, with sufficient force that it breaks blood vessels in her eyes. “Don’t Leave Me Alone.” Because she knows, with the experience of having lost Wirenth, just what alone means. Knowing that if she loses them, the darkness that she’s been fighting off, the one that threatens to swallow her completely and return her to the catatonic state, will come back and will take over again. The one that everyone has basically left Kylara to suffer under, without any help, or even empathy, because Brekke is virtuous and Kylara wicked.

So Brekke has to watch as the dragons mobilize to break the fall of the unconscious Canth. And then, she remembers some long-forgotten lore and performs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the Brown Rider Rapist until he can breathe on his own. And then, Canth is there, and Brekke screams her relief – “I am not alone” – and passes out.

And this is touching and wonderful and really needs a nice soundtrack swell and a great fade to black, roll credits. If only the whole thing wasn’t based on a rape, and a preventable disaster, and a narrative that punished a woman for having feminist opinions. It sours what should otherwise be the moment of the Triumph of the Heart. I cannot interpret this really good, heartwarming scene apart from the sheer awful that happened earlier in the book. Which is why I’m still hoping that after he recovers, the Brown Rider Rapist finds himself bereft of Brekke and on the bad side of the Benden Weyrleaders, so that some small amount of punishment can be given to those that deserve it.

Then, after what would be the credit roll for this movie, to close out the chapter, there is yet another demonstration of the effectiveness of grubs during live Threadfall. Groghe, Lord Holder of Fort, isn’t ready to accept the power of grubs, even though Meron has, and would still prefer to send attackers to the Red Star. The Brown Rider Rapist and Canth will recover, and the Benden Weyrleader thinks that when the grubs have finally taken hold, it will be time for dragonriders to go explore the other planets of the star system, assuming that at least one of them will be hospitable for dragons and riders. Even though he has no real reason to believe this is true, but now that he’s said it, the narrative will ensure that he gets everything he wants. Anyone attempting to upstage him, as has been demonstrated, will suffer at the narrative’s hands.

Next up: the Harper Hall trilogy, which will hopefully have less awful, before we come back to the third volume in this cycle, The White Dragon. There are again, appendices of material that contains spoilers and then some, so it will also be skipped for this book. So the question of whether or not a successful assault will be mounted against the Red Star will have to wait.

Board Business, October 22nd, 2014

(posted by chris the cynic)

Irregular Business

We had an article this week.  Remember when we had articles more often?  Those were the days.

Regular Business

There is no submission deadline for articles, open thread suggestions and writing prompt suggestions.  Send them any time.

The Submission Deadline for the weekend post is 20:00 (8PM) US Eastern Time Saturday.

Anyone who has submissions for the weekend post should send them in.  Some people wonder if they really deserve to be in the post.  The answer to that is always the same: You do.  So try not to be afraid and do try to send in submissions if you have them.

The sections of the weekend post are as follows:

The Blogaround

Any denizen of the Slacktiverse who has posted an article to their own website since they last submitted to a weekend post is invited, enticed, and cajoled to send a short summary of that article along with its permalink to the group email. That summary and link will be included in the next weekend blogaround. This will help to keep members of our community aware of the many excellent websites hosted by other members.

Remember, this is since you last submitted to a weekend post, not since the last weekend post. For example, if the last time you submitted was a month ago, everything you wrote since then is fair game.

In Case You Missed This

Readers of The Slacktiverse can send short summaries of, and permalinks to, articles that they feel might be of interest to other readers.  These should be sent, as you might expect, to the group email.

Things You Can Do

Anyone who knows of a worthy cause or important petition should send a short description of the petition/cause along with its url to the group email.

Deadlines
Again, none for articles, open thread suggestions and writing prompts.
20:00 (8 PM) US Eastern Time Saturday for the Weekend post.  Also, if there’s a deconstruction you feel should be in the roundup, you can suggest that at any time.
In case the links don’t work: the group email is SlacktiverseAuthors (at) gmail (dot) com.
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It is perfectly acceptable to use this as an open thread, should you so desire.
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