Deconstruction Roundup for September 30th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is still moving along at a snail’s pace.)

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.

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip SandiferEruditorium Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka RangiEruditorium Press

Katherine DM Clover: Here on the Slacktiverse

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you have yet to find a way of making good on a promise. Or for any other reason, really.

The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: The Ford of Red Hanrahan

Having spent a couple weeks on the seas with Jim Tillek and his flotilla of cargo ships accompanied by dolphins, it’s time to take a look in on the Hanrahan clan and how they are integrated into Landing society.

The Ford of Red Hanrahan: Content Notes: Foolhardiness

The story opens with Red consulting with Benden about how to take care of the horses correctly, since the cave systems at Fort are causing thrush from wet bedding. Red suggests moving them to sandy-floored caves near Fort Weyr, now five hundred dragonriders strong, giving us a clue that this story is somewhere in the future after Dragonsdawn. After Red finishes all his justifications, Benden says he’s okay with them moving out, surprising Red.

Paul Benden indulged in a rare laugh, which made the big vet realize how much Paul had altered in the past nine years. Unsurprising, when one thought how many burdens he had assumed since Emily Boll’s death from fever three years earlier.

We also learn there’s a new settlement, South Boll Hold, named in Emily’s memory, and that Benden is very much in favor of spreading the colonists out as far and as fast as possible.

Red knew that Benden feared another of the lightning-swift fevers that had decimated the Hold three years before.
[…Benden explains that he won’t risk any colonists to Thread, even though he needs to have more settlements as fast as possible…]
The old, the very young, and pregnant women had been the most vulnerable, and before the frantic medical team could develop a vaccine, the disease had run its course, leaving nearly four thousand dead. Nevertheless, the living had been immunized against a resurgence. Though all possible vectors – food, ventilation, allergies, inadvertent toxic substances from the hydroponics unit – had been examined, the trigger for its onset remained a mystery.
The fever had caused another problem: a large number of orphaned children between eight and twelve years. These had to be fostered, and although there had been no shortage of volunteers, a certain amount of reshuffling had had to occur to find psychologically suitable matches of adult and child.

Ah, another mysterious fever that ravages the known world. Although, in this case, a proximity epidemic makes much more sense than the virulent flu in the Sixth Pass going worldwide.

Additionally, I like the origins of the foster system coming out of the necessity of raising the orphans and then transforming into the more feudal system we see later on. Two paragraphs after the quoted bit, the original isolation wards for the fever patients have been transformed into classrooms, workshops, and dormitories after three years, which is also the origination of the Crafthalls, it looks like. This history feels more organic than other stories of the past of Pern, perhaps because it seems like many of the things we think of as historical traditions with great rituals and ceremonies usually started with a couple people getting together and trying to solve a problem they had.

Returning to the story, Benden asks who Red is taking with him, and that leads to a recounting of the great success of his line, both with him and Mairi and with Sean and Sorka. “The regiment” will be accompanying a full grouping of people going to the new place to help support the operations of the Weyr and its dragonriders and to establish a full suite of operations in its own right. Benden approves of the team and compliments it on the diversity of both professions and ethnic makeup, and then pops his eyebrows at one of the requests.

Paul continued reading, then looked up in surprise. “An airlock door? What’re you going to use that for?” he demanded.
“Well, it isn’t going to be used for anything else, and it’ll make an impressive entrance: also impregnable,” Red said. “I took the dimensions last time I was down in the storage cellars. Ivan and Peter Chernoff dissected the frame panel, too, which fits in the opening as if meant to be there. Seated it in some of that hull-patching compound Joel couldn’t find another use for. Peter even rescued the floor and ceiling bar holders. A spin of the airlock wheel, and we can drive home the lock bars top and bottom so that nothing can get past that door once it’s closed. Cos Melvinah called it a neat bit of psychological reinforcement.”

That sounds familiar. Maybe Menolly noticed something very similar in the Harper Hall during a Threadfall, maybe, because it was different than the barred door of Half-Circle Sea Hold? Another nicely dropped piece of mythology.

As it turns out, not only is Red moving out, so is Ongola, with a good site selected, but that requires finding a way over or through a mountain range. And there needs to be more spreading out, because the cramped quarters are causing temper flare-ups as well. Benden’s justice had been the thing keeping it all together.

We find that Mairi, Red’s wife, has just had her ninth child, which, according to her, means she has three more to go, and according to him, means she’s done. He has apparently ensured this, as well, meaning there’s still enough knowledge and tech to cause either vasectomies or tubal ligations, despite the failing power packs. When Benden asks Red about a name for the new Hold, he shrugs and says they’ll think of something.

As Red leaves, we find that he has plans both for his modified oxen and for breeding three strains of horses – a plow-horse, a racer, and a long-distance endurance grouping, to basically be the horses of Pern, building himself an empire where everyone buys his horses because they’re the best. The word buy seems rather telling about how far into some form of feudalism we already are from the pseudo-socialism of Landing.

The last thing of note is that the fire lizard population has been dwindling as the queens and others go South to mate and lay eggs, with only some of them returning to the north.

As Red gets underway, he reflects that the Aivas interface is still intact, despite all the volcanic ash and eruption that has, at this point, completely covered the original Landing settlement, and that knowledge helped Ezra Keroon die in a peaceful sleep from the same fever that killed Boll and so many others. Red considers naming his new Hold Keroon in Ezra’s memory, before an issue with his wagon train requires his attention and stops the reverie. A note from the site mentions a higher than usual river height from recent rains, and that makes the double meaning of the word “ford” suggest what the danger will be in this story, since “ford” refers to both the place where one crosses a river and the act of crossing the river, and in literature, these are usually made extra perilous because of floodwaters. If Red wants to cash in on his business dreams, he’s going to have to think smart.

The issue at hand is that some of his beasts are developing sores related to their harnesses not being flexible and softened enough to be used. After a long delay in making sure all the animals are cared for, the party continues on, and at their stop point for the night, Red softens the harnesses more to see if that won’t help.

The rain continues and intensifies the closer the train gets to the chosen ford, and by the time they get there, they can see that the river is higher than usual.

“We’ve reached the river, Dad,” Brian yowled from the darkness ahead. “And it’s in spate.”
Red groaned. He’d wanted to make the crossing as much because the land on the other side was his as because the farther bank was a better site for an overnight camp. He briefly considered waiting for daylight, but discarded the idea almost immediately. The flatter land on this side of the river was already under an inch or so of water. If the river was this high now, then by morning the water world be too high for the wheels of the smaller sleds. They might float away downstream of they got loose. And this was the best ford within klicks – if he could find it in the murky darkness.
Now, so close to his own private place, he was loath to let high water bar his way.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve played enough Oregon Trail and other games where trying to ford a river in the middle of a flood is a Total Party Kill without a saving throw, but this seems like a very bad idea for a group that is mostly unversed in how to do it to attempt. There’s supplies still in the wagons to try and wait for the river to go down some. If need be, Sean or Sorka could be politely asked to airlift the party over the river, as a favor, even though Sean never wants to use the dragons in that way.

Red, so far, had always been portrayed as a person not likely to take large risks with animals, so that he seems hellbent on getting over the river feels rather weird.

In terms of plot, Red borrows a lantern and tries to find his marking stones that showed where the ford was, but the river is already too high for him to see them. Brian asks about undercurrent, which makes Red even more impatient, rather than being willing to spend some days waiting on the river. He and Brian both step into the river on their horses and manage to find the ford and start crossing, with Red giving instructions on what to bring back from the new settlement once they get across – lots of light to show the way, and lots of rope to tie everyone securely against the currents. After both men get across, narrowly avoiding falling off the ford each, Red gives Brian his lantern and sends him off to the new Hold, while he comes back across the river and supervises setting up some lanterns as beacons of where to enter the river, and then spacing riders with lanterns along the way as he sets up a rope line across the river for everyone else to follow. After another near-miss, Red starts everyone across the river, realizing that there’s basically no room for a mistake when it comes to the largest wagons.

Things go well for the most part, except the dogs need to be tied on to avoid being swept away, and the goats don’t seem to want to be on point, but the fire-lizards can keep herding the goats. Until…

Suddenly, without any warning, and before the goats had started climbing out on the far side, Snapper and the other fire-lizards let out a racket of dreadful sounds and disappeared.
“What the hell?” Red said, totally surprised and vastly irritated by the abrupt abandonment. Snapper had always been reliable… He pushed King forward to deflect the lead nanny from yet another wayward plunge and was relieved to get the little herd safely out of the river.

So far, so good, but the river is rising quickly and the oxen teams are refusing to go into the water. At least until Sean shows up (and Carenath spooks the horses, as always) and lends the sheer terror animals have of dragons as a better motivator than the fear of the river. Red and Sean manage to get everyone across, even though some of the smaller sleds have to be roped on to prevent them from floating away and taking the oxen with them.

Sean and Red have a chat on the other side – with the fire-lizard behavior, Red is suspicious, and Sean sounds very choked up about something. Mairi asks about Sorka, and is reassured she’s fine. Sorka is described thus:

Although Sorka, queen Faranth’s rider, was pregnant again, she generally had no more trouble with parturition than her mother did

Which has been the running joke about the Hanrahan clan – they seem to be hyperfertile and yet able to birth all of those children. For a colony world, I suppose that’s not a bad thing, but before the colony, I would wonder about whether Mairi had seen a doctor about her ability to get pregnant so easily and readily.

Sean informs Red that there’s Threadfall coming in the morning, and the reason for everyone’s emotional distress:

“Alianne died in childbirth,” Sean sniffed, rubbing his nose and eyes, giving way to the misery he had bottled up. “Chereth…went…between. Like Duluth and Marco.”
[…hugs all around…]
There had been many injuries, some serious enough to end the fighting abilities of six dragons, but only four deaths: actually an astounding record, of which Sean as Weyrleader had every right to be proud. But the loss of a queen magnified the tragedy. No wonder Snapper and the others had disappeared. They had gone to the Weyr to mourn.

There’s a little about the profound grief that riders go through, and presumably, that dragons go through, on the deaths of their partners, but the grief of everyone else around seems to get elided as to what happens with dragons and riders when they lose their own. The strong telepathic bonds would seem to magnify the emotional content of grief, just like everything else. I wonder whether depression is a common occurrence after a death in the Weyr.

Red and Mairi make the final crossing and Red is persuaded to lie down for a bit, which turns into a nap that lasts long enough for the train to arrive at the new Hold. Red’s unhappy at missing out on seeing his new Hold for the first time, and insists on getting all the animals into their barns before he thinks about sleeping again. His animals are safe, and so Mairi manages to get him to bed. When he wakes up, he realizes that there was a lot more that needed to be done than he saw, and that annoys him again that he was told to sleep whole others did work. The night’s dinner has conversation about the dead queen rider, because death in childbirth is apparently still rare, and how Sean got the ox teams to move across the river, but it ends with music and dancing after the food.

Red then sets to the work of making a cave system and adjoining land a Hold, boring, planting, herding, finding seams of coal, and the rest, using his off time to develop more detailed maps of the land that was theirs, to see if there are more places that the population can expand into, and to possibly site craft halls and places where his sons could have their own land. Nothing about daughters, of course, with the assumption that they’ll be paired off to someone else’s land unspoken but clearly present.

Red also benefits from the talents of good engineers that have developed heating systems for warming the caves and that can set up and maintain a solar power system for heating water, making hot baths and hot washing possible. (Although not explicitly said outside of Red himself, I strongly suspect those two items improved morale significantly – hot baths and warm homes make things much better.)

Everything proceeds apace, proving that you can start and make success in a Hold in a hurry, right up to the day that the airlock door is ready to be fitted into place. The only thing missing is a name. Keroon was discarded, Hanrahan Hold dismissed immediately for the feudal implications thereof (and yet, that is exactly where things end up, and the author knows this), and Red is still thinking about it even as the guests arrive and the cooking is underway for the feast that will accompany the momentous occasion.

Almost all the guests, anyway, as Benden sends ahead a message that he can’t find the ford and Red goes out to meet him and show him the way across. Benden, Ongola, and a full retinue, including the daughter of one of Red’s horse-breeding rivals, are all there and end up safely ensconced in the new, still doorless, Hold.

Once safely together, we get some more worldbuilding and mythology explanation.

“Sorka and Sean said they’d be here to watch the Dooring and join us in the feast. And…” Red paused, looking from Ongola to Benden. “Once we get producing, I plan to send the Weyr a tithe of all we grow and make. They’ve enough to do without having to forage for food, as well.
[…Benden lets on about how much help the dragonriders have been to keeping Fort stocked…]
“Still and all, they shouldn’t have to scrounge for provisions,” Red said. “The Hold should supply the Weyr that protects it.”
“I shall tithe from my holding, as well,” Ongola said, his deep voice making his words a solemn vow.
“Alianne’s death has certainly made all in Fort aware that we’re along a great deal from these young men and women,” Paul went on, “and they’ve meet the challenge magnificently. I had a chance to discuss support personnel with Sean, and he’s suggested that we send him some of the older fosterlings to take over maintenance and domestic chores. They’d be available, too, as candidates for the new eggs. I got Joel to spring loose enough supplies so additional personnel won’t be a burden on the Weyr’s resources. They’ve got space, we’ve got too many warm bodies…” He gave a wry smile. “Alianne’s mother is staying on, to help rear the grandchildren. She’s widowed and says the place needs a firm hands in its domestic management. The queen riders don’t have enough time, especially if they’ve a broody queen.”

So in a very short span of conversation, we have the Search, the Hold tithe, and the headwoman’s position established. Which, I’d guess, is to make things seem less like the reality of the dragonriders holding such great power that they can demand any sort of setup they would like to have and more of “a grateful populace thanks their heroes by making their lives easier.” That the two of these are very close to each other is usually not lost in any population that has a military force.

Also, I think Red’s use of the word tithe here is significant, as I think it implies that the mythology of the Dragonriders of Pern is already so well established that they’re thought of as religious figures. Most of the definitions I find in a quick sweep specifically call out religious or spiritual contexts to the products offered as a tithe, and indicate tithes are often used for the maintenance of the clergy and the performing of religious actions. What’s really happening is the beginning of a protection deal or a mutual defense pact – the Holds pay in their fees, and in return, the dragonriders protect them and their holdings from Thread. This could easily be structured as a business transaction, especially if one wanted to haul out stereotypes of Sean Connell’s Traveller heritage. Yet we are already in religious territory here, even though the colonists profess no religion. I find it very interesting that at any point in the future of Pern the dragonriders aren’t treated as gods walking along men, at least in an official capacity.

All that’s left for the plot is for the door to be put in place and ceremonially tested, which happens without issue, and for the Hold itself to be named.

“Admiral, Commander, Weyrleaders, one and all, be welcome to-” He stopped short, a grin suddenly broadening across his face as inspiration seized him. “Be welcome to the Hold of Red’s Ford. In the old language, Rua Atha.”
“Ruatha!” Mairi cried out in her clear voice, her eyes looking up to his for his approval of that elision. “Oh, that’s a splendid name, Rua Hanrahan!”
“To Ruatha Hold!” he shouted.
“To Ruatha Hold!” was the roar of acceptance. And for the first time on the heights of Ruatha Hold, the dragons of Pern lifted their heads and bugled in rejoicing!

So, yes, we did just spend several pages on the origin story of Ruatha Hold. It seems like this would have been a chapter in another book, but that there’s no real story to connect it to. And there’s not really a major conflict in it, either – Red fords the river, without incident, and then builds his Hold.

That this story also contains several major parts of the mythology is a bit interesting – before reprints and collections, finding short stories would mean having the luck or the skill of getting the right magazine at the right time. People looking for the complete story of Pern could end up massively disappointed. It doesn’t seem wise to put those things into the short story sequence.

Join us again week for The Second Weyr.

Writer Workshop September 28th, 2016

(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!

Open Thread: What would you like to talk about?

(by chris the cynic)

Not like we’re out of people, but we do seem to have run dry on the whole conversation front and I wonder if that could be because open thread prompts basically boil down to: Whatever random thing I can think of on a certain day within a given amount of time instead of, you know, asking for feedback on what people are actually interested in discussing.

We have a space set aside for political discussion if anyone wants to talk specifically about that.  Thus far it’s mostly been US politics, which makes sense as it was US political season, and the fact some people needed to escape the resulting news cycles, that led to a space being set aside.

[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.]

Hermione Granger Chapter 5

Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism

Chapter Five

Harry Potter / Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes

 

“Come on dad! How on earth would we get in the way? And anyways, don’t you think it’ll look more respectable to have three of us coming, rather than just one?”

Hermione was in the burrow’s cozy sitting room, and the voice she was hearing from the kitchen belonged to one of the twins, she guessed it was Fred.

“We won’t be any trouble!” she heard another voice exclaim. That one was almost certainly George, she thought. Realizing there was no possible way she could continue to concentrate on her book, she closed it with a sigh. Crookshanks jumped, rather lightly for such a large cat, off her lap. She got up to peak into the kitchen.

Mr. Weasley was a tall, nervous, red haired wizard, who worked for the ministry of magic. He was also running short on time. It was the next afternoon, and he and Ron were preparing to go and collect Harry Potter from his muggle family. It sounded as though the twins were holding him up, though, and when Hermione glanced at her watch, she realized he was already a little late. She saw Mr. Weasley look around the room, as though for answers, but none came.

Harry Potter was Hermione’s other close friend at Hogwarts. She, Ron, and Harry had been involved in several large scrapes over the last three years, some more serious than others. Harry was also, as it happened, extremely famous in the wizarding world. His parents, a pureblood wizard and a muggle born witch, had been murdered when he was only a baby, by the evil Lord Voldemort, for their efforts in opposing him. The legendary dark wizard had tried to murder Harry as well. However, the curse had rebounded, leaving Voldemort powerless, and Harry quite well except for a lightning shaped scar on his forehead. Afterwards, he had been raised by his abusive muggle aunt and uncle. So while he wasn’t muggle born himself, Hermione found him rather easy to relate to, since they’d both grown up in the muggle world.

But since his muggle family was so terrible, wizards tended to use his story to reinforce the idea that muggles were somehow stupid in comparison to wizards.

In any event, everyone felt terribly sorry for him, Hermione included, having to spend any time at all with people who treated him so poorly. The Weasleys had made arrangements for Harry Potter to spend the rest of the summer holidays at the burrow. And while Hermione had found her own way from London to the countryside where the Weasleys’ home was located, Mr. Weasley was heading to Surry to collect Harry himself.

“Oh….” Mr. Weasley looked rather helplessly at Mrs. Weasley, who was looking suspicious, “Well you’d better be on your best behavior boys, because Harry has to go back to these people next summer, and they’ve already had a few negative experiences with wizards, and we don’t want them to get the wrong idea, alright?”

“You mean the people who starved him two summers ago? How could anything we do make any difference!?”

“Fred, I’m warning you…” but Mr. Weasley’s voice sounded like anything but a warning.

“Yes yes, we promise!” George shot Fred a conspiratorial look, but Mr. Weasley either didn’t see it, or ignored it. Ten minutes later they left, quite a bit late, traveling by floo powder via the Weasleys’ kitchen fire.

Hermione plopped back down with her book. Ginny had asked rather hopefully if Hermione might have brought any muggle books with her, but of course she hadn’t, so Ginny settled for reading a magazine instead. The two girls had, once again, spent the majority of the day together. Hermione had seen Ron only a handful of times, and now Ron was off with his father to pick up Harry. He hadn’t even said goodbye, but Hermione was trying not to be bothered by it. She was sure that once Harry arrived, it would be all three of them together, like normal.

The book was a work of fiction, which Hermione never read much of, since she was eager to learn as much about the magical world as possible. But as she turned through the chapters, she realized that finding out what wizards and witches found entertaining, and why, was a part of learning about their world, which was her world too, she reminded herself. The protagonist, a wizard by the name of Wendell Wartshaw, was attempting to get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearance of several historical artifacts in a wizarding museum…

There was a wooshing sound, and then a thump, from the direction of the kitchen.

“That’ll be dad and the twins back” Ginny said, not looking up from her magazine article.

Hermione dove back into her book.

Wendell tapped his wand on the countertop absentmindedly, a bad habbit of his since his school days, and then looked up, “Patrice, what on earth makes you think the perpetrator could have been a muggle? How the hell would a muggle have gotten into the museum in the first place? Isn’t the place bloody well protected?”

“Well…” Patrice looked around at the ornately decorated office.

“Well, isn’t it?”

There were raised voices coming from the kitchen. Hermione and Ginny looked at each other.

“You dropped it on purpose!” to Hermione’s surprise, it was Mr. Weasley who was shouting.

Ginny heaved a great sigh, “Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.”

“What?” Hermione said.

Just then, they heard Mrs. Weasley’s voice enter the fray.

Hermione closed her book, “come on!” she said, “we’d best get Harry out of there before it explodes into a real row.”

Ginny’s mouth fell open for a moment, as though she was going to protest, then she closed her magazine and stood up.

 

The two girls entered the kitchen just in time, by the looks of things, and stood behind Mrs. Weasley in the doorway, while she gathered steam for the fight. In the center of the room, near the fireplace, stood Harry Potter, with his shock of untidy black hair and a befuddled yet amused sort of expression on his face. Near him was Ron, and a little to the side she could see both twins, and their father. Mr. Weasley was now stalling, it seemed.

 

“Tell me what, Arthur?” Mrs. Weasley was saying, as Hermione peaked around her robes to smile at Harry. He smiled back, and Hermione noticed that Ginny looked a little flushed.

“It’s nothing, Molly,” Mr. Weasley was mumbling, “Fred and George just — but I’ve had words with them —”

From her vantage point, Hermione could see Mrs. Weasley puff up her chest within her robes, “What have they done this time?” she said, and her voice sounded even more dangerous, “If it’s got anything to do with Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes —”

Hermione had to think fast if they were going to get out before the explosion. “Why don’t you show Harry where he’s sleeping, Ron?” she piped up feebly, thinking it wasn’t a very good plan but might just work.

“He knows where he’s sleeping, in my room, he slept there last —” it would be like Ron to choose this moment to be so incredibly thick.

“We can all go,” she said slowly, willing her face to look as meaningful as possible.

It must have worked, because Ron said “Oh. Right.” and he and Harry started to edge out of the kitchen. Just in time, too, because the twins tried to follow after, and that was the point at which Hurricaine Molly really hit the crowded kitchen.

 

Once they were safely on the stairs, Harry asked “What are Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes?” and Ron and Ginny both laughed in response. It was Ron who finally answered.

“Mum found this stack of order forms when she was cleaning Fred and George’s room. Great long price lists for stuff they’ve invented. Joke stuff, you know.” Hermione had known that the Weasley twins were rather taken with the joke shop in the village outside of Hogwarts, so she supposed it made sense that if they were to invent something, joke products would be the thing, “Fake wands and trick sweets, loads of stuff. It was brilliant, I never knew they’d been inventing all that…”

Ginny must have found her voice, “We’ve been hearing explosions out of their room for ages, but we never thought they were actually making things,” she added. “We thought they just liked the noise.”

“Only, most of the stuff — well, all of it, really — was a bit dangerous,” Ron said, “and you know, they were planning to sell it at Hogwarts to make some money, and Mum went mad at them. Told them they weren’t allowed to make any more of it, and burned all the order forms. She’s furious at them anyways. They didn’t get as many O.W.L.s as she expected.”

O.W.L.s was the abbreviation for Ordinary Wizarding Levels, the examinations Hermione, Ron, and Harry, would be taking not this year but next. Of course, Fred and George were two years older, and had taken them the previous year.

“And there was this big row,” Ginny said, “because Mum wants them to go into the Ministry of Magic like Dad, and they told her all they want to do is open a joke shop.”

They were halfway up the stairs, and a door on the second landing opened. Percy Weasley, whom Hermione had barely seen, poked his bespectacled face out of the crack, looking rather annoyed.

“Hi, Percy!” said Harry, in a friendly voice.

“Oh hello, Harry,” said Percy. “I was wondering who was making all the noise. I’m trying to work in here, you know — I’ve got a report to finish for the office — and it’s rather difficult to concentrate when people keep thundering up and down the stairs.”

“We’re not thundering,” said Ron irritably. “We’re walking. Sorry if we’ve disturbed the top-secret workings of the Ministry of Magic.”

Ever the peacekeeper, Harry quickly said “what are you working on?”

“A report for the Department of International Magical Cooperation, we’re trying to standardize couldron thickness. Some of these foreign imports are just a shade too thin — leakages have been increasing at a rate of almost three percent a year —”

Ron interrupted him, “that’ll change the world, that report will,” he said sarcastically, “front page of The Daily Prophet, I expect, cauldron leaks.”

Percy looked a little embarrassed, but recovered quickly, “You might sneer, Ron, but unless some sort of international law is imposed we might well find the market flooded with flimsy, shallow-bottomed products that seriously endanger—”

“Yeah, yeah, all right,” said Ron, cutting him off again, and then started back up the stairs before Percy could respond. Percy’s door closed behind them, as the gaggle of young witches and wizards moved upwards. Hermione heard shouts from the kitchen below again, and guessed that the row had started up again.

Ron’s room was at the very top of the house, and featured quidditch posters, much like Ginny’s, although you could see a bit more wall through them. There was also a toad in a fish tank, three camp beds in addition to Ron’s bed, and a small bird cage that contained a very small, very loud, very excited, owl.

“Shut up, Pig!” said Ron, in the direction of the cage, and then, “Fred and George are in here with us, because Bill and Charlie are in their room,” he said, clearly directed at Harry. “Percy gets to keep his room all to himself because he’s got to work.”

“Er— why are you calling that owl Pig?” Harry said, changing the subject. Hermione reflected that he was very good and deflecting the Weasleys many arguments.

“Because he’s being stupid, it’s proper name is Pigwidgeon.” said Ginny, not quite making eye contact with Harry.

“Yeah, and that’s not a stupid name at all. Ginny named him,” was Ron still looking exclusively at Harry, or was she imagining it? “She reckons it’s sweet. And I tried to change it, but it was too late, he won’t answer to anything else. So now he’s Pig. I’ve got to keep him up here because he annoys Errol and Hermes. He annoys me too, come to that.”

The owl was rather noisy, but Hermione noticed Ron looking at him affectionately out of the corner of his eye, despite his complaints.

“Where’s Crookshanks?” Harry said, turning to her.

“Out in the garden, I expect,” she said. “He likes chasing gnomes. He’s never seen any before.”

“Percy’s enjoying work, then?” Harry turned back to Ron, and sat down absentmindedly on one of the beds, very much as though he felt extremely at home.

“Enjoying it? I don’t think he’d come home if Dad didn’t make him. He’s obsessed. Just don’t get him on the subject of his boss. According to Mr. Crouch… as I was saying to Mr. Crouch… Mr. Crouch is of the opinion… Mr. Crouch was telling me… They’ll be announcing their engagement any day now.”

Hermione started to open her mouth to ask what in the world was wrong with that, but thought better of it. Instead she said “Have you had a good summer, Harry? Did you get our food parcels and everything?”

She’d sent Harry rather a lot of treats for his birthday, but his letters tended to be sparse.

“Yeah, thanks a lot,” said Harry. “They saved my life, those cakes.” Hermione felt herself puff up with pride, just a little, that she had been able to help even in a small way.

“And have you heard from — ?” Ron started casually, and all at once Hermione realized who he must mean and shot him the most meaningful look she could muster. He really could be quite the idiot.

Ron was trying to ask after Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black. Ordinarily, this might be a fine question, but this situation was far from ordinary. Sirius was a (falsely) convicted murderer, and Harry and Hermione had helped him escape from the Ministry of Magic only last term. They’d meant to get his record cleared, but unfortunately, the true murderer (who turned out to have been in hiding as a rat, Ron’s rat in fact, for years) escaped at the last moment. So everyone in the wizarding world except for the three of them, and the headmaster of Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore, still believed that Black was guilty. Everyone in the wizarding world, including Ginny Weasley, who was now looking curiously from Ron to Harry to see what she’d missed.

“I think they’ve stopped arguing,” Hermione piped up, because as lovely as her day had been with Ginny, she wasn’t sure it was such a good idea to try to explain all of that just now. “Shall we go down and help your mum with dinner?”

Mrs. Weasley was in a towering temper, but she was finishing up dinner and everyone was pitching in to set up tables outside in the garden because, as she said “There’s just not room for eleven people in here!” They were quickly split up, and Hermione and Ginny got plates, while Ron and Harry were assigned silverware. Hermione didn’t much mind getting out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. So Ginny showed her where the plates were kept, and loaded up Hermione’s arms, and then her own, and they set out into the rapidly cooling evening air.

From the looks of things, Bill and Chair had been tasked with setting up the tables for dinner. Only, instead of merely placing the two ancient tables end to end on the grass so they could be set and readied for the meal, they were using magic to make them battle each other. In fact, the two eldest Weasley boys each had their wands out, and they were levitating the tables high above their heads, where they crashed into each other violently.

Ginny broke into a wild laughter.

Hermione took a deep breath, just as a leg was torn off of one of the tables, and then Percy Weasley’s head shot out of his bedroom window shouting “will you keep it down?!”

“Sorry, Perce,” said Bill, who did not look sorry, “How’re the cauldron bottoms coming on?”

“Very badly,” replied Percy, and with a slam, the window shut again. Bill and Charlie chuckled softly to each other as they finally righted the tables, and conjured a tablecoth.

The meal was even better than the the previous evening’s, but Hermione found she still felt rather quiet. She wondered, just a bit, what her own family was doing. Probably sitting down to dinner without her. She took a rather large bite of potatoes, trying not to think about her parents too much. Pulling herself out of her own thoughts, she looked up and forced herself to tune into the dinner conversation. To her left, Percy was talking to his father, with a definite air of pride, about work.

“… it’s extremely busy in our department just now, what with all the arrangements for the World Cup. We’re just not getting the support we need from the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Ludo Bagman—”

“I like Ludo,” said Mr. Weasley. “He was the one who got us such good tickets for the Cup! I did him a bit of a favor: His brother, Otto, got into a spot of trouble — a lawnmower with unnatural powers — I smoothed the whole thing over.”

“Oh Bagman’s likeable enough, of course, but how he ever got to be Head of Department…” Percy shook his head. “When I compare him to Mr. Crouch! I can’t see Mr. Crouch losing a member of our department and not trying to find out what’s happened to them. You realize Bertha Jorkins has been missing for other a month now? Went on holiday to Albania and never came back?”

“Yes, I was asking Ludo about that,” said Mr. Weasley, frowning. “He says Bertha’s gotten lost plenty of times before now — though I must say, if it was someone in my department…”

The two wizards continued to debate the intelligence of a witch it sounded as though neither of them knew personally, and for a moment Hermione found herself lost in thought again. So, the Ministry of Magic had an employee missing, what on earth could be going on? Then she noticed Percy was still speaking, only now he was staring at herself, Ron, and Harry, in a meaningful sort of way.

“As you know, we’ve got another big event to organize right after the World Cup. You know the one I’m talking about Father. The top-secret one.”

Ron rolled his eyes and muttered, “He’s been trying to get us to ask what that event is ever since he started work. Probably an exhibition of thick-bottomed cauldrons.” Then the talk turned to quidditch, and Mrs. Weasley’s complains about her eldest son’s fashion choices, and Hermione ate her chicken and ham pie in peace. Her ears perked up when Ron, who was seated in between herself and Harry, turned to Harry on his right and said very quietly, “So — have you heard from Sirius lately?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, just as quietly, “twice. He sounds okay.” There was a bit of an awkward pause, and Hermione could tell from the look on Harry’s face that something most definitely was not right, “I uh, wrote him yesterday. He might write back while I’m here.” She suddenly wished that they were already back at school, and there was no World Cup at all, because she had no idea when she would manage to be alone with her friends, and she had a few questions for them, and an awful lot of things she was determined to get to the bottom of.

 

Deconstruction, Notes On The Source Text

Ok beautiful people, pull up a chair. Harry and Hermione are finally together, and we need to talk about some of this shit. This is going to be a theme for the next few chapters, and while I don’t want to hammer away at the same point week after week, we do need to dig in a bit here.

Obviously, in the original series, Harry is the main character. That’s fine, that’s all well and good. Ron and Hermione, then, are secondary characters. They’re his two best friends. They’re the ones who are always helping him out. They’re also different enough that it gives readers more options for characters to see themselves in, if they don’t identify with Harry. And we, I think, accept that Harry and Ron are slightly closer than Harry and Hermione. Harry and Ron share a dorm room, after all, and their shared gender puts them together a lot more often. They also met just slightly sooner. You may recall that back in book one, Harry and Ron become friends right away, but they don’t make friends with Hermione until Halloween. So fine, Harry and Ron are closer. But the narrative tells us again and again how it is the three of them, the three of them getting into and out of scrapes, the three of them depending on each other, the three of them.

The narrative also tells us that Hermione is a bossy know-it-all. God, she’s always volunteering information when it’s asked for and generally being annoying. She is, first and foremost, a girl who talks too much.

Did you notice anything in chapter five? Because let me tell you, it was extremely hard to write from Hermione’s perspective, and I’m going to tell you why. Hermione barely speaks. She’s not out of the room, she’s never out of the room, the three of them are very much together. Only, it’s Ron Weasley and Harry Potter who are excitedly catching up. Hermione Granger? She’s just there. Much like in real life, girls who talk “too much” turn out to be extremely quiet, compared to the boys that won’t shut up.

Hermione has a rich and complex life. Hermione is smart, driven, witty, and does plenty “off camera” that the boys only notice later. When you read these books specifically looking for Hermione, you will find her. But her two best friends, Harry and Ron, they don’t seem to give a shit. She’s a plot device only. She has a total of five lines in this entire chapter, even though she is in the same room as Harry nearly all the time. Here are the things Hermione Granger actually says, aloud, in chapter five:

  1. An attempt to get Harry and Ron out of an uncomfortable situation.
  2. A further push when stupid Ron doesn’t get it.
  3. An answer to a question about where her cat is.
  4. An inquiry into how Harry’s summer was.
  5. And then she gets them out of another awkward situation!

That’s it.

And let’s zoom in on item number four for a minute, because Harry Potter is an asshole and a terrible friend and I can’t let this go.

Hermione Granger sent Harry Potter a care package for his birthday, which was several weeks ago. She sent it by owl, despite living in the muggle world and not owning an owl herself. Harry Potter does own an owl, and has used it to correspond with his godfather, at the very least, this summer. And yet, Hermione has to ask if he received her package. Does that seem a bit odd to you? Because that means that not only did it not occur to him to write her a chatty note for no reason, it didn’t occur to him to send her a quick “thanks for the cake, you’re really saving my life here buddy!” type note.

Harry Potter is an asshole.

And now, here is Hermione, nicely inquiring as to whether or not he received her package, and by the way how was his summer? And Harry does manage to squeeze out a “thanks a lot” in her general direction, but just as it never occurred to him to drop her a note, it never occurs to him to say “oh my summer wasn’t so bad, how was yours Hermione?” Nobody gives a flying fuck how Hermione Granger’s summer was, and especially not her best friend, Harry Potter.

Harry Potter is an asshole.

Harry Potter knows what it is to feel isolated in the muggle world and cut off from other wizards. He knows Hermione Granger also lives with her muggle family during the holidays. He knows all of this. And he does not care. Not only does he not care, he cares so little that it seems to have not even crossed his mind. At the end of last term, it was Hermione who helped him rescue Sirius, who he had this intense bonding experience with, but he doesn’t give a damn how her summer went. Could she have been lonely? Could she have been traumatized? Could she have been worried about Sirius? Who cares! He got his damn cake, and then he went back to sulking.

Harry Potter is an asshole.

And you know, I’m angry about this. I’m more angry about Harry Potter being an asshole than I am about Ron Weasley being an asshole (Ron Weasley is also an asshole). With Ron, it’s part of his characterization, he’s an insensitive jock who can’t be bothered to worry about other people. He says stupid hurtful things and he doesn’t mean to and we’re all exasperated with him. I don’t necessarily like it, but at least we’re all clear on where we stand. But Harry is another matter. Harry is supposed to be a hero, and he’s supposed to be a hero who, as was so aptly pointed out in the comments on the last post, HAS ONE BIG SUPER POWER AND THAT SUPER POWER IS LOVE. Harry Potter has been abused and neglected and has spent most of his life being so lonely it would break your heart. And now he has two best friends, and we’re all very happy for him that he’s finally found a crew to hang with.

Only he doesn’t seem to care. I mean, he cares when they don’t appear to be fussing over him enough, as in the second book when he doesn’t receive any letters from his friends and worries, like I think any tweenager would, that maybe they don’t like him anymore. But he can ignore Hermione, and she is not allowed to worry about it. Hermione Granger doesn’t have time to worry about the fact that Harry Potter obviously doesn’t give two shits about her, because she’s busy helping him out, solving mysteries, and generally holding the entire narrative up.

On a related note, anyone who hasn’t yet read this excellent piece on Hermione Granger should probably do so immediately.

And so, here we are in chapter five. Our “bossy know-it-all” character is completely silent all throughout dinner. And so we get into the classic problem of showing versus telling. The narrator tells us that Hermione is one way, but it shows us a very different character. When I read this book actually looking for Hermione, I see a young girl who is bright, driven, and extremely quiet and introspective. She’s adept at ignoring the insensitivity of her two closest friends, because she has to be. She’s a muggle born witch who is in process of losing all of her muggle loved ones, and desperate to succeed in the wizarding world.

And she is breaking my heart.

This week in the Slacktiverse, September 24th, 2016

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • I noted when it had been one month since I’d written so much as a single scrap of fiction, I did house keeping by giving an index to Where Antichrists come from, I shared two acceptance speeches I wrote for the Kim Possible fanfic awards I’ve been talking about.
    • Primary computer is dead.  This came with some unpleasant surprises.  Not the least of which being that I apparently got a really good deal on it when I bought it so the warranty refunding the money I paid isn’t nearly enough to replace it.  This is a sort of existential thing.  Without a primary computer Stealing Commas has no long term viability.  Its existence is at stake.  So I’ll end up going deeper into debt to replace primary computer.  Once I figure out how to do that without threatening my long term existence.
    • I sprained my ankle again.  Want to know how heavily needing to replace primary computer weighs on my mind?  The post about spraining my ankle got taken over by angst about the difficulty in replacing primary computer.  (The fact that secondary computer was being glitchy as all Hell for like an hour before I could type the ankle-post might have something to do with that.)

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 September 23rd, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is looking forward to a nice break on Saturday.)

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

Amarie: Amarie’s Dreamjournal

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip SandiferEruditorium Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka RangiEruditorium Press

Katherine DM Clover: Here on the Slacktiverse

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you need reminders about how reality is on a few occasions. Or for any other reason, really.