Dragonquest: Clash of the Titanic Egos

(by Silver Adept)

At our last stopping point, F’nor had been stabbed by another dragonrider while running an errand for Lessa, which may be a microcosm of bigger issues brewing…

Dragonquest, Chapter II: Content Notes: Misogyny, Patriarchy

Chapter II starts with an incandescent rage, courtesy F’lar, who is ready to do great violence in reprisal for his brother. Mnementh, sensing this, adjusts F’lar’s arrival point to give him a long runway to coast in on, hoping some of that anger will burn off on the way down and he won’t be goaded into a rash action, like he was when he killed Fax. F’lar concludes that he’s just as aggravated by the flagrant disregard for Weyr tradition (Traditiooon!) as he is by the act of violence, and enumerates the list of sins as he arrives.

  1. First, it’s obvious the timing of the meeting is meant to insult him, since it’s taking place in the middle of his night,
  2. It was an absolute that a dragonrider did not take a green dragon or a queen from her Weyr when she was due to rise for mating….A mating female dragon broadcast her emotions on a wide band….Humans were susceptible, too, and innocent Hold youngsters often responded with embarrassing consequences. That particular aspect of dragon matings didn’t bother weyrfolk who had long since discarded sexual inhibitions.

  3. Any disagreements between riders were settled in unarmed bouts, carefully refereed inside the Weyr….A berserk dragon was almost impossible to manage and a dragon’s death severely upset his entire Weyr. So armed dueling, which might injure or kill a dragon, was the most absolute proscription.

Well, that answered a question from before – apparently, because of the dragons, there’s very little taboo on how or who one partners with, and very likely, little expectation of monogamy, right? And since Lessa is Hold-born, that’s why she had these weird ideas about who would be able to fly her queen. Everyone else just takes it in stride.

F’lar’s thought process as he descends is to feel aggravated that his pragmatic suggestions have been systematically rejected by the time-skipped Weyrs, even with his clear evidence that things have gone well with his changes. He does take a smug satisfaction in being able to call out T’ton the Traditional (Traditioooooon!) on these giant breaches of conduct. With no trace of self-knowledge or self-reflection about what position he was in with regard to the Lords Holder one book ago, or making the connection between the time-skipped Weyrs now and how he was beset by R’gul from the last book. If his game plan is the same as how to deal with R’gul, F’lar is going to lose badly, because he lacks the leverage of actual Thread to convince everyone to go along with him. He’s going to have to play diplomacy (his weak suit) or find a way to gather strength and force the issue. F’lar wishes Lessa was with him, because of her Sith Mind Trick abilities, her general higher abilities in diplomacy overall, and being able to get answers from dragons. But Lessa can’t be here because there is apparently a three-way feud developing with the Weyrwomen.

Mardra’s friendship had gradually turned into an active hatred. Mardra was a handsome woman with a full, strong, figure, and while she was nowhere near as promiscuous with her favors as Kylara of Southern Weyr…By nature she was immensely possessive and not, F’lar realized, very intelligent….She seemed to feel that Lessa, the only survivor of that Bloodline, had no right to renounce her claim on Ruatha Hold to young Lord Jaxom. Not that any Weyrwoman could take Hold, or would want to….Lessa had no control over her beauty and had had no choice about taking Hold at Ruatha.

Cocowhat by depizan

Oh, fuck you, F’lar, you shit-eating asshole. I know the narrative is going to prove you right about Mardra being intensely jealous of Lessa being pretty and taking the focus off of her and not being very bright at all, but WHO was responsible for not giving Lessa a choice about whether she would be in charge at Ruatha or the Weyrwoman at Benden? Who decided that the laughable unserious claim of a tyrant would take precedence over someone of the correct lineage to run the place, all because the kid was boy? Who then kept her there with the queen, trying so very hard to get her to submit through abuse until she finally did? That’s right, you. So fuck you, your ego, and your unwillingness to admit that this situation was entirely your doing.

F’lar runs down an insult for any Weyrwoman not named Lessa, declares this a matter for men, and has a moment of empathy when he remembers that the time-skipped Weyrs have basically been fighting Thread nonstop for their lives. It’s a short-lived moment, soon squashed completely in favor of his outrage. And the meeting begins with a lot of posturing, sniping, veiled insults, and attempts by T’ton (now called T’ron) to chair the meeting according to his privilege of being the Weyrleader where it is being held, the age of the Weyr, and just about any other attempt he can muster. A flimsy pretext is offered about why the green is out (sudden heat! Totally inexplicable!), and F’lar users his best witness, the smith who was present, but T’ron dismisses him, saying that F’lar disgraces himself by taking the word of a “commoner” over that of a dragonrider. When F’lar presses his case that the knife being extorted was already promised, T’ron only becomes more condescending about who F’lar believes, and eventually, the other time-skipped Weyrleaders agree that the smith was at fault for not immediately giving up the knife to the rider that wanted it, which would have solved the issue by not having F’nor present to get stabbed for interference by someone whose dragon had inexplicably suddenly gone into heat. Meeting over, complaint heard, everyone says they’ll talk to their riders about making sure possible dragons in heat don’t leave. Outside the meeting, F’lar’s ally, T’bor, wonders why he didn’t put up more of a fight. F’lar exercises wisdom, for once.

“That such an incident could happen worries me far more than who was in the wrong and for what reason.”…Dragonriders don’t fight. Weyrleaders can’t. T’ron was hoping I’d be mad enough to lose control.

F’lar has apparently learned from when he was goaded into fighting Fax. Being on the receiving end of Lessa has apparently taken some of the edge off of F’lar’s hair-trigger temper… around other people, anyway. The chapter ends with F’lar going back to Benden.

So, again, we’ve had seven planetary revolutions for everyone to figure out how to get along with each other, to reach a new equilibrium of how Holds and Weyrs do their symbiotic dance, and we appear to have gone exactly nowhere, to the point where flimsy excuses are being used in naked power plays to avoid having to admit that things may have changed some in the interim. Seven Turns of this hasn’t apparently budged opinions about a dragonrider’s place in the world.

So, since the action is light for this chapter, let’s take stock right now of how the dragonriders see the world. Pern is organized somewhat loosely in a society reminiscent of the medieval period of Latin Christendom. The dragonriders see themselves primarily as an aristocratic military organization, and they occupy the mounted class niche in the society. (Yes, there are beast-mounted fighters, but they have basically nil military value in relation to a dragon.) T’ron consists himself the four (or five)-star officer, with all other Weyrleaders as three-star officers. (F’lar may dispute who, if anyone, has the fourth star, but he generally agrees with the structure.) Bronze riders make up the rest of the flag officers, with Wingleaders rounding out the star officers and the two colonel grades, and regular bronze riders as captains and majors. Brown riders compose the rest of the commissioned officer corps and some of the non-commissioned officers, with Wingseconds at captain rank and other brown riders as the two grades of lieutenant and likely many of the master sergeants. Blue and green riders compose the enlisted men and the bulk of the non-commissioned officers and airmen. The is nearly zero mobility of rank, it appears, outside of the normally set boundaries, because the choice of rider by a dragon is basically permanent. Therefore, social stratification is almost inevitable, leading to the current situation where change is nearly impossible to effect. Women hold almost no power in this structure, and can hope to be promoted to Weyrwoman by being selected by a gold dragon, but otherwise will be unable to rise in station in any martial capacity.

Outside the riders, civilians (derisively “commoners”, according to T’ron) have a parallel aristocratic structure that resembles Latin Christendom more closely, with Lords Holder at the top. Women are not permitted to hold actual temporal power, it appears. Presumably there have lesser lords and security forces and such, and the craft guilds generally locate in and work with the Holds, with some that also work with Weyrs. It’s not completely clear at this point who has more power, the aristocrats with the monopoly on non-dragon violence, or the craft halls that are largely responsible for the economic output of a Hold. Women may be allowed to join certain guilds, but it is unlikely that will be able to ascend to leadership roles.

These parallel tracks exist mostly because dragonriders are generally of the opinion that Holds and their outputs are useful, and that there are not enough dragonriders to be able to sustain living and keeping armed their weapons. So long as the Holds pay proper tribute, they will continue to exist. It’s not quite the Hunger Games, but there are probably quite a few parallels that could be drawn.

Deconstruction Roundup for July 18, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who awaits the return of his portable technology.)

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

Multiple Deconstructions:

duckbunny: Sensical

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 (The Dragonriders of Pern, #2) – Begin at the Beginning

(by Silver Adept

Welcome back, everyone! Our chronology continues with Dragonquest, the second book of the Dragonriders of Pern series. This book opens with a similar Prelude as Dragonflight, with spoilery, scientific data about Pern and the Thread menace, which will be skipped (again) except for the last few bits of data, that says seven Turns have passed since the end of Dragonflight, and the dragons and riders who have come forward from the ancient past are not adjusting well to the new times. This is also the first plotted-novel work in the series, so we can hope that there will be better cohesion and less of things falling into the main character’s laps with a token amount of effort.

Dragonquest: Chapter I: Content Notes: Sexism, misogyny, rape culture, possibly ableism.

The narrative proper opens with Masterharper Robinton trying to compose a song about Lessa’s cross-time adventures, and before I even escape the first page, I’m almost ready to shout “Fuck this, there’s nobody who isn’t going to use abusive metaphor, so why bother?”

He fancied the sand begged to be violated with words and notes…

Really? Inanimate objects being referred to in assault and rape language right at the beginning? Argh.

Robinton has heard ugly rumors that Fort Hold and Fort Weyr are having a falling-out, with Fort Weyr’s Weyrleader, T’ron (from the past) sleeping around with Hold girls and the Weyrwoman, Madra (also of the past), in his opinion, hanging on to her post instead of retiring. From Dragonflight, though, we learned that Weyr culture provides very few opportunities for women to exercise power, so it’s understandable that Madra would not want to just step down from the spot.

Since it’s been three years since Dragonflight was published, we also get Robinton’s perspective on how both F’lar and Lessa look and act.

Unconsciously the Harper smiled as he pictured the dainty, child-size Weyrwoman, with her white skin, her cloud of dark hair, the flash of her grey eyes, heard the acerbity of her clever tongue. No man of Pern failed of respect for her, or braved her displeasure, with the exception of F’lar.

Benden’s Weyrleader, with his keen amber eyes, his unconscious superiority, the intense energy of his lean fighter’s frame.

So we’re clear, then? Lessa is small, delicate, and armed with soft-power weapons, like an acid tongue. People respect her because she can make life hell for anyone who crosses her, but if it ever came to a physical confrontation, Lessa would always be, well, lesser. Which means Lessa has power only because the men let her, or because she’s backed by F’lar, who is the hard power of the relationship, with his fighter’s frame.

Also, “unconscious superiority” bit? Bullshit. F’lar, as Dragonflight pointed out to us, had no scruples at all about pushing advantages, making others feel small, or resorting to outright abuse to get his way. It’s deliberately cultivated, nothing unconscious about it, except that F’lar does it without thinking about it now.

Members of the supporting cast are also introduced.

…Fandarel, the Mastersmith, with his endless curiosity, the great hands with their delicate skill, the ranging mind with its eternal quest for efficiency. Somehow one expected such an immense man to be as slow of wit as he was deliberate of physical movement.

Lytol who had once ridden a Benden dragon and lost his Larth in an accident in the Spring Games…he had been Crafthall Master in High Reaches Hold when F’lar had discovered Lessa…F’lar had appointed Lytol to be Lord Warder of Ruatha Hold when Lessa had abdicated her claim to the Hold to young Jaxom.

So the Mastersmith looks like the big dumb guy perfectly suited to the stereotype of a manual laborer, although we can read it charitably to suggest that Robinton knows full well that the appearance is highly deceiving, since he’s been able to see the work Fandarel can turn out on a regular basis. Back in Dragonflight, though, Fandarel spoke in extremely clipped patterns, made out to sound like he isn’t all that smart outside of his specialization. I’m hoping at some point, everyone gets floored by how brilliant Fandarel really is, and that his apparent slowness is something adopted so that he doesn’t have to spend so much time with clueless -ists admiring how educated and articulate such a big man is. Something preferably in the style of Alice Cooper backstage in Wayne’s World, while I’m imagining things that aren’t going to happen.

Lytol gets a big revisionist bit – perhaps Robinton doesn’t know the full story of Lessa’s revenge, but making the claim that F’lar appointed Lytol after Lessa abdicated subtly massages the part where F’lar legitimized Jaxom, and by extension Lytol, by ignoring Lessa’s superior claim in favor of a one-off by Fax that was never meant to be serious. Because she was a woman, and women can’t have actual power ever. What power they can have must drive from a man, even though there’s been reference to a piece of lore about a woman who does audacious and cool things. So there’s precedent.

We skip away to F’nor, F’lar’s half-brother (the practical one who thought to check and see whether Jaxom existed when Lessa was getting revenge, instead of just getting straight into a duel to the death with Fax, as F’lar had) and his dragon, Canth, musing on the tension between the Oldtimers’ (interesting choice of name, there, as if the narrative wasn’t sure that we understood who’s in the right and who isn’t) Weyrs and their areas of protection – it’s deliciously telling to have F’nor talk about, on one paragraph, how F’lar was the only one who believed in tradition (Traditioooooon!) to keep his Weyr ready for the now-inevitable return of Thread, and in another paragraph, to criticize the Weyrleader of Fort Weyr, T’ron (time-skipped) for being far too wrapped up in tradition (TRADITIOOOOOOOON!) to produce large dragon clutches, or, for that matter, to maintain a good working relationship with the people in his protection area.

F’nor’s modern sensibilities are informed by a time where the Weyrs were considered unnecessary and a drain on resources, fighting against an enemy that hadn’t shown itself for generations. For the time-skipped group, they just got done fighting Thread and have now been pulled forward in time to fight it again – there’s no adjustment to the new age there, and so they continue to act as they would normally. Which is basically a protection racket. “Nice Hold and fields you have there. Be a real shame if Thread got to it. But if you purchase our product with your tithes, send us your women and men when we need them, and make sure that you understand who the real bosses are around here, I think that will get on just fine. If not, well, you can try to catch all the burrows with your flamethrowers and chemicals, but we both know how that will turn out.” The dragons and their riders are expecting deference that they haven’t earned yet, and have not yet arrived at the reality that even if you are running the neighborhood, you still have to have your legitimate businessmen and a cordial relationship (if not outright corruption and control of) with the other powers, so that nobody gets it in their head to mount a rebellion and that all such exercises, if undertaken, result in the offending leader wearing cement shoes in the middle of a Threadfall.

So F’nor agrees with F’lar’s remarkable pragmatism and forward-looking stance in running Benden in contrast to the time-skipped riders doing what has been working for them for quite some time, without anyone having thought to bring them up to speed on their history in the seven Turns’ time since they arrived. And, for their part, the time-skipped riders seem to be immune to the proof that Benden Weyr offers, by existing and by its data regarding clutch sizes, queen eggs produced, accidents at Impressions and so forth, that making practical changes to the tradition (traditiooooooon!) has better results. This is shaping up to be an Idiot Ball plot, which does not bode well for anyone.

F’nor also makes a mention of something the narrative has glossed over to this point, though the first book, and does so in the context of justifying using older boys’ increased emotional maturity and sound judgment as reasons for choosing them as candidates for newly-hatched dragons.

Even an older beast [dragon] lived for the here and now, with little thought for the future and not all that much recollection – except on an instinctive level – for the past. That was just as well, F’nor thought. For dragons bore the brunt of Thread-score. Perhaps if their memories were more acute or associative, they might refuse to fight.

They might refuse to fight. The beings with which dragon riders share such a complete connection with, thank Prime they forget the past so easily, and that they don’t dwell too much in philosophy or ethics, or they might understand that they are being used as living weapons and expected to fight and die so that other humans, often unappreciative and resentful of them, might live and prosper. Thank Prime they don’t peek into their riders’ memories, or that the dragons don’t have a gestalt consciousness, or any one of a hundred things that they could do which would lay bare to them the reality of what they are doing and the likelihood that they will die fighting this war. Thank Prime the tools don’t think past instinct, or this would be The Dragons of Pern. Because it’s totally possible to keep thinking, feeling beings in a second-class state forever without problems, so long as you take care of their basic needs in the process.

Back to the plot. F’nor heads into the Lower Caverns, where the prices of making an ointment that numbs the burn of Thread is well underway, and it stinks. Non-metaphorically, that is. Lessa, Manora (F’nor’s mother and chief steward of the Weyr) and Brekke, from the Southern Weyr (Kylara’s Weyr, also serving as convalescence and hospital to dragonriders), are all worried about cracked pots that are leaking a contaminant into their salve, and they need someone to go ask Fandarel about the pots’ construction to see if the addition will be harmless or problematic when applied to an open wound. F’nor kind of likes Brekke, but mostly because she’s a quiet, timid girl with “self-effacing modesty”. So she doesn’t take credit, won’t speak up, and will likely be obedient to her man. Gee, I wonder why he likes her for that.

Anyway, F’nor agrees to see Fandarel to get away from the odor, is the mouthpiece for the narrative telling us that F’lar and Lessa are well-matched, that Lessa has had a child with F’lar, Felessan (naming conventions say children are named after their parents), muses more about how Benden is becoming a hotspot of feminism, because it doesn’t expect all its women to be constantly cranking out babies, has some chow, and hops over to see the Mastersmith, whose latest idea of putting wheels on the river barges has made transporting or from the mines significantly more efficient (no unloading needed, just haul the barges out and run them on land).

Before he can get there, however, he runs into two riders from Fort who are on an extortion run, fancying a jeweled belt knife intended for a wedding at a Hold for themselves instead of its intended recipient. Their rudeness rubs F’nor the wrong way, and for his troubles, and in attempting to prevent the shakedown, he gets stabbed in the shoulder, all the way to the bone. To end the chapter, F’nor passes out.

Before we move on, though, I’m going to mention that one of the two dragonriders from Fort is a green rider. And a guy. And helps cement the idea that the only dragons women will ride are queen dragons. Which means much of what was commented on in Dragonflight about choices determining character has a whole extra set of potential Unfortunate Implications tacked on. In their favor, there’s been nothing explicitly said about male-male relationships, positive or negative, to this point, so it’s quite possible green riders can relieve their stresses in whatever way works. Apparently, this rider is quite irritable because his dragon wants to mate with another, he’s suppressing that urge, and this drives his angry actions and his short temper. There’s a tangle in here about how promiscuity in men seems to be okay on Pern, too, so one would think there’s enough ability for a green rider to stay happy… unless they’re only supposed to mate with other riders, at which point things get interesting. Maybe if the narrative provides us some perspective, we’ll be able to untangle things.

Board Business, July 16th, 2014

(posted by chris the cynic)

Irregular Business

I have computer problems, in fact I’m using someone else’s computer right now.  This could result in some things being late.  Sorry about that if it happens.

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.

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.
It is perfectly acceptable to use this as an open thread, should you so desire.

Writer Workshop for July 16th, 2014

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

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!

This week in the Slacktiverse, July 12th, 2014

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

Sorry this is days late.  My computer isn’t, really, in good shape for doing this now (why I have nothing new this week) and I am instead using someone else’s iPad which has a bit of a learning curve to it.  On a scale from counting single digit numbers to infinitely differentiable Remanian  manifolds, iPad use is between calculus on multiple variables and differential equations.

The Blogaround

  • Coleslaw wrote:
    • I’m not sure where I left off. I wrote an account of a visit from my son in HospitalityIt Rained on My Birthday, giving me reasons to reflect on love and romance. I have a few of My Own Abbreviations, which I don’t usually use because no one else understands them. Finally, I wrote a review of Girl at the End of the World (content note: brief references to abuse).
    • Also, I managed to sprain my ankle while walking out the back door. Fortunately, I still have my walking boot from when I broke my foot, my new car does not have a clutch so I was able to drive myself to the ER, and it seems to be healing quickly. I also have a skewed view of what the word “fortunately” means.
  • This week, Storiteller focused on the ever-sensitive and potentially controversial issue of breastfeeding.

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 July 11, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who narrowly avoided losing his entire deconstruction after a technology crash.)

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.

AlexSeanchai: A+ Recommends
Multiple Deconstructions:

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Multiple Deconstructions:

duckbunny: Sensical

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


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