Deconstruction Roundup for August 17th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has one ear completely stuffed up and nothing seems to be unblocking it.)

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.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

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 are having honest-to-Prime hot flashes and wondering what the reason is. Or for any other reason, really.

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The Skies of Pern: Reparations

Last time, Tagetarl learned about and received reinforcements for a suspected Luddite strike on his hall. Golanth learned how to move things he wasn’t physically touching, and the Honshu Weyrholder proceeded as if he had obtained actual consent from Tai to begin a relationship with her.

The Skies of Pern: Part 3: Segments IX, X, XI, XII, XIII: Content Notes: Continued Consent Violations,

(Honshu Hold, 2.9.31)

The frame for this segment is that Golanth’s rider has sufficiently gathered equipment and programs to restart the Honshu telescope. He wants Tai to be there when it goes online. Since this segment is from Tai’s point of view, we get some information about what she thinks of the whole affair.

He had a tendency to jump in different directions, as if he enjoyed catching her off-balance. He probably did. She’d thought that, once Golanth had flown Zaranth, [his rider] would disengage from her, perhaps more kindly than others had. In the contrary, he had insisted that she remain at Honshu, that she choose a room of her own–though they mainly shared the large one he preferred, […] He encouraged her to talk about her interest in astronomy and managed to bring texts from the Archives that she was certain Master Esselin did not realize he had borrowed. He was very conscientious about returning them.

Given what Tai has experienced at the hands of other dragonriders, the offer of safety and interest from someone who also likes keeping her off-balance sounds like a proper nightmare. I would expect Tai to be in a fight-flight state about this person that didn’t obtain her consent and is signaling very hard that he wants her to stay with him, possibly with the threat of force to keep her there.

A sparkle in his eye was all the warning she had before he swung her up in his arms and twirled around. She clung to his shoulders, not fearing that he would drop her, but so she had this excuse to touch him. She wasn’t yet accustomed to either his spontaneity or his preference for touching but she was learning to welcome them.

Cocowhat by depizan

Um, no. Given Tai’s past, I would believe “Tai screamed in terror and had a panic attack and/or flashbacks” at being touched with no warning, not “Oh, this is strange yet pleasant.” I don’t care how good the sex supposedly is, it doesn’t magically heal traumas like that.

We’re also supposed to believe that Tai doesn’t see him in any sort of threatening way.

Over the last few sevendays, she had seen few seriously he took responsibilities, exuding an optimism that could fire those around him, and how he never shirked tasks, like the Benini Hold planting, which he could have delegated to another rider. He was certainly not the casual reckless weyrbred lad Mirrim had described.

Except there’s higher-than-chance odds, based on what we saw from the way Golanth’s rider pursued Tai, that it’s not a sense of duty that propels him in these manners.

There’s more flirting and swooning that I still find strongly out of character for Tai, and a discussion about how the felines might be intruding into human spaces again, despite their deterrence efforts like dragon dung/firestone mash concoctions that make the place smell strongly enough of dragons to be discouraging to predators. And more speculation about why Honshu was abandoned, as well as the run of spectacular good fortune that was needed to get all the power generating materials repaired and the components online so that this moment of bringing the telescope back could happen, including the thought that AIVAS might have had a sense of humor (Piemur was certain of it, Jancis was horrified at the concept).

Zaranth also frightens Tai by swooping down out of the sky without warning, encouraged by Golanth to do it and other “bad habits” that Zaranth enjoys.

There’s a lot of “the sincerity of Golanth’s rider makes him endearing to Tai” as they haul in the final components, hook it all up, and run calibration on the scope to make sure it all works appropriately, which it does. The narrative is trying very hard to make us not think of all the ways that F’lon’s sons and grandson have been terrible to women, even if the degree of terrible changes from person to person. And the narrative has us contrast what Tai observes with what Mirrim has said about Golanth’s rider, to try and further convince us that Mirrim doesn’t know what she’s talking about. The likely truth is that Tai doesn’t have enough experience to know, given that her previous experiences with relationships were all overtly terrible and traumatic, and that Mirrim could still be absolutely right about him, if something happens where he no longer behaves in this new way.

For now, the focus is on the stars, and that’s where they leave it to get back to the promised assault on the Printer Hall. Tagetarl is the viewpoint character, and he’s been doing his best to try and act natural and normal. He’s also kept what Pinch has said from Rosheen, trying not to worry her. We also get useful insight into how Our Heroes view their opposition.

How did you tell an Abominator from any other ordinary man or woman? It was the set of their minds: their self-appointed mission to deny choice to others, to neutralize all the useful things that were already in operation. […] Any thinking person would examine what was sensible to add to what Pern already had–like printing, but he required no one to read or buy his books: that was their decision. For all the amazing diversity of processes and products that the Ancients had used, just learning how to faithfully execute some of the designs was enough to discourage making the unnecessary. As Master Menolly said–and he knew Sebell basically agreed with her–not everything and anything new meant an improvement. But people should make that decision themselves, not have it arbitrarily denied.

Tagetarl sounds almost like a tech bro at this point. He doesn’t grasp the ways that he and the ruling cabal of the planet are making decisions and denying people choice themselves. Of course, since he’s one of the good guys, his choices are good and progressive for everyone, including the underclass that nobody talks about, and the servant class that only seems good for a joke. And he washes his hands neatly of the whole thing by proclaiming that all he’s doing is providing things for others to use or not use, as they want to. Never mind anything about how his books print a single version of the world and don’t allow for alternatives. Or how technology is fundamentally changing everyone’s lives and pulling them toward something different than what they had before. Or the still very valid case to be made that the descendants aren’t meant to have that kind of tech at all.

But this other faction is bad because they destroy the choice of others to participate or not in the world that’s being shaped for them without their participation and input. If Pern really was Rand’s wet dream and every person was self-sufficient, the line that everyone can participate or not would be much more accurate. In this feudal arrangement, Tagetarl may believe every word of it, but he’s lying.

Pinch breaks Tagetarl’s thoughts by alerting him to the presence of danger, which in this case is the leader of our Luddite faction, come to claim the book he ordered a sevenday ago. He pays appropriately, with Weaver’s marks, calling Tagetarl a “Master Harper” in the process (Tagetarl immediately says “MasterPrinter”, even though he is a Harper of Mastery rank) all the while clearly casing the place, and “took the Ballads from Tagetarl’s hand much as one would grasp something dirty or repulsive,” which further distresses Tagetarl. When there’s a shipment of wine delivered to him that he knows he didn’t order, Tagetarl is ready to blow the whole operation, but remembers what he’s been told and manages to accept the shipment without arousing suspicion. And he gets mistitled again.

“Shipment for Master Harper?” the wineman announced, lifting his hand for attention.
“MasterPrinrer,” Tagetarl corrected for the second time in a few minutes and wondered why no one could give him his proper rank today.

This is supposed to tip the reader off that this is probably a co-conspirator, but I also want it to be a mark that the opposition understands that the divisions between Harpers and Printers are largely artificial, and that they want a free press and for the Harpers to be honest about the stranglehold they have on information and approved publishing.

Tagetarl knows he’s facing a conspirator, and tries to get more information out of him about who sent the wine, gets a drudge(-Pinch) to carry the skin in so that the wine merchant doesn’t get inside, tries to nose around in the cart himself (nothing doing), and asks for a deliberately inferior vintage of Benden white to see if the conspirator knows anything about wine, and seems satisfied that he does not when the wine merchant doesn’t bat an eye at the request.

At no point during this entire sequence does anyone get named, not the person who sent it (“The Lord Holder”), nor the person picking up the book (because it’s not known yet), or the wine merchant. If someone wasn’t on the alert to an attack, everything would be plausibly deniable, and also not really interested in arousing suspicion. The opposition has sophistication to their operations.

Tagetarl gets to observe Pinch test the wine with material that is apparently supposed to determine if stream water is drinkable, and the wine reacts poorly, so they hide it away. Rosheen arrives at that point, notices Pinch, and is finally clued in on everything. She’s mostly upset that they had guests and she didn’t make enough for dinner.

After finishing their part of toasting the health of who brought them the drinks, everything closes up, Rosheen gives Tagetarl some amount of grief about hiding things from her, and the two settle in to wait for the attack.

The attackers have trouble getting in the front door, given that it’s fastened and barred in a near trick lock. They can’t climb the gate because they’re isn’t enough space for them to fit in between the door and the archways. Someone who did get in as an advance party tries to torch some buildings, but the retardant holds true.

Eventually a big man heads in to break into the hold attached to the hall, and manages not to wake the dead by muffling the sound of the glass breaking. Tagetarl moves to club the man when he gets close, only to hit Rosheen’s iron pan instead of the man’s head, because she tripped the intruder with the broom before walloping him with the pan before Tagetarl made his move.

And that is basically the only action Tagetarl has for the night, because once the intruders manage to knock down the doors to the hall with brute force, they find themselves on the receiving end of a swarm of angry fire-lizards that drive them into a net trap, where they are captured, and the arrival of a dragon in their courtyard. It’s Ruth, with Jaxom.

Then the mob summoned to help the Print Hall arrives and has to be let in, only to be disappointed that all the fun has already happened and they’re here only to witness what happens afterward. They’re more than ready to dispense justice by dragging the net behind a ship and leaving the lot to drown, but Jaxom has other ideas, and we get to see what the Charter supposedly recommends.

“According to the Charter,” and Jaxom swung slowly around to the audience, his eyes seeming to touch everyone in the front ranks, “by which we have been well governed for the past twenty-five hundred Turns, a Lord Holder, a Weyrleader, and a Master of any Craft may hold a trial.”

This trial, however, is not like the previous one, where there was at least the whisper of an adversarial system. It really is a trial in name only and would be better characterized as “can dispense whatever justice they want.” There is a part where the captured intruders are asked for their names, ranks, and affiliations, but since nobody volunteers any of those things, the trial turns over the matter of justice to the offended Master Printer and Master Harper. Tagetarl wants answers, but the slogans he gets in reply inflames the mob enough that they’re ready to haul the lot off and drown them anyway. (Apparently, the books themselves are abominations, even if they contain traditional material, because they use new techniques.)

Since someone in the group identifies the whole group as Luddites, they receive the same treatment as the group before them – exile to an island only known to N’ton. Exile, being the death sentence that it is, finally breaks the line of the Luddites, and the mob is more than happy to help apprehend any who try to escape them.

“And what are these established procedures of yours, Lord Jaxom?” Captain Venabil demanded, heaving from his exertions.
“A Lord Holder, a Weyrleader, he a MasterCraftsman may enforce any Council decree,” Jaxom said. “It is in the Charter, if anyone cares to check. We must do so before sufficient witnesses.”
“WE WITNESS.” “WITNESSED!” “WE WERE HERE!” “DROWNING’S EASIER. QUICKER!” “EXILE ‘EM!” “AWAY WITH THEM!”
Raising his arms, Jaxom faced the crowd. “Those of you who do not care to be witnesses to the judgment of this incident may step back without prejudice.”
Later Tagetarl was to remember day no one stepped away.
“Then the decree of the Council will be enforced. Weyrleader N’ton, you may send for assistance,” the Lord Holder of Ruatha said formally.

There is an abrupt mood shift after this sentence, as apparently the mob (with Captain Venabil as leader) that was more than willing to drown the intruders is suddenly struck with the gravitas of sending people away to live their lives out with only themselves as company. The mood gets very somber, and the Captain respectfully salutes the three men who are making decisions about other people’s lives, which is never easy, the text tells us.

After the disappearing of the catch, we find out that Jaxom might have condemned Dorse, his step-brother (and consummate bully, we might add) to exile, because nobody identified themselves. And that Pinch realizes the leaders were not part of the group that attacked, so the problem isn’t solved yet. Tagetarl is encouraged to write a concise summary of events (one that won’t include the possibility of Dorse being among the group), and accepts help from a group of carpenters to rebuild the gates that were smashed in. Stationmaster Arminet insists on distributing that summary everywhere the Runners go, for no charge, so that there isn’t a doubt about what happened this night. He calls it a “community announcement”, rather than a Harper Hall one, to justify it.

There’s one quick pop over to Ruatha, where Jaxom confirms to Sharra that it was Dorse in the group, and that he’s having regrets over having condemned his milk-brother to exile, even though there was an opportunity for Dorse to identify himself. Jaxom and Sharra both fret a little that Dorse’s presence might mean that Toric is somehow wrapped up in this revitalization, even as Sharra insists that Toric has no loyalty from any of his family, even as she confirms his avarice is legendary and unlikely to stop, even when brought to heel by the Lords and Weyrleaders.

The final segment for this act and part is a meeting at Cove Hold between all the Weyrleaders, various Masters, and their guests to suggest a to what the profession of the dragonriders should be After thread – sky-watchers, building a network of the few remaining telescopes to scan the night sky for other celestial objects that might prove a threat to the planet should they touch down. Lessa is the viewpoint character. Seeing Jaxom and Sharra arrive, she wants to have a word with him about establishing a second Printer Hall so as to prevent there being a single point to attack that would destroy presses. T’gellan arrives with Talina, his Weyrwoman, and Mirrim, who Less describes thusly:

Well, Mirrim was to be expected and, while Lessa knew the girl could be domineering and arrogant, she had great sympathy toward a fosterling she had trained.

Cocowhat by depizan

I am again struck by the apparently universal attitude that Mirrim is terrible, which apparently even includes someone who was parental toward her before she became a rider. I have yet to see demonstrated any actual reason why someone would be upset at her.

Tai’s description from the Benden Weyrleader doesn’t fare much better.

“Attractive but not pretty,” [he] murmured to his weyrmate after a very brief glance at [the Honshu Weyrholder]’s companion. “No wonder he’s so often at Honshu now.”

Cocowhat by depizan

What does that even mean? Am I supposed to read it as “Ah, she’d be good to look at when our dragons are mating, but she’s definitely not a keeper” or “Oh, she’s good-looking enough for someone of Asian descent, but our boy needs to find a properly beautiful blonde woman for his wife”? Or some other terrible combination somewhere? There’s no way I can parse out that sentence that doesn’t suggest something terrible in the assessment.

The meeting does finally offer an explanation about why dragons can’t just catch rocks in space and divert them. They’re moving too fast and they’re too hot to grab, according to K’van, but they also have access to computers that could probably predict reliably where a rock is going to be, and if you had a wing or Weyr of dragons convinced they can move the rock, then odds are the rock gets moved. And, given that Golanth already has finesse problems with learning how to move things outside the body, once enough bronzes get trained on the matter, they can probably stand just to the side of an object’s path and shove it into a corrected orbit. Since we have yet to see an actual upper bound for the telekinesis, it’s entirely possible the dragonriders could learn to throw celestial objects around. And then possibly hold the planet hostage with the knowledge that they could perform a colony drop on them at any time.

In any case, the suggestion is made that dragonriders reform themselves as the Astronomers’ Craft in the After, which makes the very traditionalists among the group balk entirely at the idea, and even explaining the progress already made and the way that the telescopes would help make people believe the dragonriders are still in their traditional duties doesn’t quite dent the objections. G’narish raises the theory that the comet was a reaction to the displacement of the Wanderer. Lytol shoots it down by claiming the maths were perfect and there should have been a minimum of displacements. It relies on AIVAS, though, and it’s not here to be questioned. And it still assumes that the Rukbat system has no other intelligent life in it, which may not be true, either.

Showing pictures taken from Honshu of asteroids big enough to blow up the planet does get through to the traditionalists, as does pointing out the regular manufacture of binoculars makes it easy for night watch riders to scan their portion of the sky for anything unusual and the army of retired Fishers that would be more than happy to be useful training riders to watch the sky.

The observatory sites are decided, such that in addition to Landing and Honshu, Ruatha can hold an observatory and one will have to be established in the Western Continent, with riders that can watch at night and do their other jobs in the daytime. Telgar might get one as well, since J’fery thinks Larad would be open to it. G’dened is still on the question of what dragonriders will do when presented with another object, but he’s told that they’ll think of something in time, either through research in the archives or figuring out some science to make it work. The cherry on top for most people to get on board with the new project is an offer to watch the stars at one of the various telescope sites.

And that’s the third part in the book. We are clearly not going to speak of how Tai is going to get over the traumas she suffered repeatedly at the hands of her lovers, including the most recent one. We are never going to get an explanation as to why everyone hates Mirrim. And for as much as everyone wants to dismiss G’dened as a cranky old man, he does have the right question — what happens when there’s another Fireball, or worse, something bigger?

Maybe Part Four will answer these, but I doubt it very much.

Deconstruction Roundup for August 10th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is exceeding proud at the accomplishments of others.)

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

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

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 are feeling good about things because they are done, and anxious because you have to share them. Or for any other reason, really.

The Skies of Pern: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Last time, F’lessan and Golanth became (at least in my opinion) stalkers of Tai and Zaranth, which culminated in Zaranth having a mating flight that completely triggered Tai, based on her past experience, and F’lessan applying a magical healing cock to wipe away the trauma and get them both to fall in love with each other. *ptui* The Honshu Weyrholder and Tai are still in bed, but the action shifts to the Harper Hall.

The Skies of Pern: Part 3: Segments V, VI, VII, VIII: Content Notes: Continued Consent Violations

(Harper Hall, 1.28.31)

Pinch startles Sebell by slipping into his office unheard, and the two talk about how it’s likely the missing prisoner is the same as the scarred man leading the Luddite faction, and they both come to the conclusion that it’s one of Norist’s sons that’s the missing person. They speculate that he might have regained his hearing, although they don’t necessarily treat it seriously yet. When Pinch returns from a chat with the prison warden, they take it as an assumption that his hearing has returned, and that it is one of Norist’s that leads the faction.

They also mention that the meteorite strikes have plenty of people assuming and petitioning the dragonriders, as the de facto air force, to stop the next strike from happening, even though meteorites can outpace dragons for speed and heat.

And then it’s back to Honshu (2.1.31) for Tai opening up to the Honshu Weyrholder about her past and astronomy, and him asking her about Zaranth’s ability to move things. Which eventually ends up with the Honshu Weyrholder throwing a bowl at Zaranth to provoke her, having determined that only things that will irritate her will engage her ability, and having it reappear on the tray he threw it from.

“You may not throw things at my dragon!”
“It was aggravating of me but look how she reacted.”
It took him time and much coaxing to calm Tai down, a pleasurable enough activity since her body responded to his deft caresses even if she did not wish it to.
[…Tai suggests a blanket and wine for them, once “she did see what he had been trying to prove”, and practice with trundlebugs for Golanth…]
Carefully he lifted the thong of the binoculars from her neck and put them to one side and practiced making love to her. That was the most important reason he had brought the mattress out to the terrace and suggested they lie down and challenge each other at identifying stars.


(The cat says fuck everything. I agree. Image via giphy.)

So much for that new leaf you were claiming, bronze rider. You violated Tai’s consent and are continuing to do so, since I still haven’t heard her actually say yes to any of your caresses or anything else. I hope Mirrim gets to tear you a new one while everyone else watches.

The narrative, of course, didn’t see anything wrong with this scenario, and it’s now moving forward with Zaranth teaching Golanth how to move trundlebugs. He splats the first one, causing everyone to retreat hastily at the smell. The second time, Golanth manages to not kill them, but he moves them a very long distance away, proving other dragons can do it, but they need to figure out the finesse necessary.

Then it’s on to Fort, where Tenna’s return means she’s asked by Torlo to arrange a meeting with Haligon. There’s time enough to note there are electric lights outside now, that Tenna and Haligon are still in an “It’s Complicated” relationship, that Groghe is losing a step, now that he’s eighty-nine, and that there’s still a (warranted) fear that hand radios will supplant Runners. The best the narrative can do is have Tenna be reassured that it won’t happen for a very long time.

Torlo delivers news that the Runners have traced the origins of the messages that the Luddite faction is using to communicate, and that they tend to stop Runners on the traces, rather than coming into the stations. Torlo mentions Pinch probably wants to know this, making Haligon blanch that Torlo knows about Pinch, and suggests that Haligon send a fire-lizard immediately to Tagetarl to be on his guard against an attack. Haligon goes to see the Harpers by a secret staircase right after dropping Tenna off, and Beauty heads off to deliver the message.

The narrative shifts to the Printer Hall, where Tagetarl notes the arrival of the fire-lizard as confirmation of the hints dropped previously by Rosheen and the way that Stationmaster Arminet had discreetly discussed his security measures a few days before. The note itself is cryptic:

Runners confirm trouble at Wide Bay. Guard the Hall. Assistance planned.

Tagetarl runs through possibilities of what might be making trouble, what kind of trouble, and what assistance might be planned, but can’t get to any conclusions.

At least one part of the assistance turns out to be having the Hall under the watch of a flock of fire-lizards, summoned by the local queen, Ola, after Beauty likely left instructions. Another ends up being Pinch, who arrives with “It’s me” after almost being splashed by Tagetarl wielding a hot klah pot. Tagetarl corrects his grammar, and then Pinch points out the likely entry point of the Luddites (the same one he went in), commends Tagetarl on the fire lizard defense force, and introduces his companions, each of whom has brought a bucket of flame-retardant varnish for the wood bits of the Hall to apply.

Tagetarl doesn’t understand why he would be a target, and Pinch explains that the written word has truth-establishing power, and so the reports, books, and other things he prints can fight the rumors and stories that are being passed around by the other faction that want things to go back to the way they were. Yes, even with all of the advances in medicine that can cure what user to kill, and the ability to put knowledge down in a more fixed and durable form, Pinch tells Tagetarl.

Tagetarl panics that he doesn’t have enough people to ward off an attack, and tailspins further as Pinch points out to him that he’s probably been helping the enemy get the layout of the land by indulging their curiosity to see the process at work, and likely telling them about the opposition they’d be up against, too. Pinch seems very confident that his extra muscle will help with that, as well the flame-retardant.

There’s also this part, as Pinch is explaining the plan to stop the Luddites.

“We’ve arrived timely, too, since Beauty was here and my suspicions have been confirmed by the Runners.” He grinned brightly at Tagetarl. “Dragonriders aren’t the only ones who can be where they’re needed when they’re needed.”
Tagetarl’s jaw dropped at what was almost a profane remark from a harper.

And here we are again at the idea that the nominally non-religious Pernese have something sacred (dragonriders) to be profane against. Pinch is being deliberately irreverent, either about fighting Thread or time travel (and likely both), and this goes back to the theory of mind problem genesistrine pointed out in relation to which characters know what facts and secrets. I have no trouble with Pinch knowing what is supposed to be a closely-guarded secret (except when it isn’t) of the dragonriders, but it’s Tagetarl commenting on the possible profanity, which suggests that either Tagetarl knows the secret and is surprised at Pinch’s casual attitude (less likely) or that Pinch is being flippant about dragonriders and his irreverence for the planet’s saviors is strongly socially inappropriate (more likely). But I can’t tell which it is, because I can’t rely on previously established norms about what is secret and what is not.

Pinch is still casual about the possible danger, tells Tagetarl not to notice him, but to send up provisions for the extra people, and definitely not to sample anything offered in exchange for books, just in case, which makes Tagetarl panic even more. Pinch demonstrates a few calls that will be used for communication before going out to lend a hand.

There’s also this continued part where Pinch mentions all of the new people are experienced with brushes, with implications of knowing more than just the brushes they’re using to paint on the fire-retardant, but Tagetarl can’t figure out why those people are so familiar to him.

The next segment goes back to Honshu, so I’m going to stop, because I’ve had basically enough of what’s going on there for this post. Back again next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for August 3rd, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has many things on their plate for the weekend.)

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.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

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 are anxious that the idea you want to put together might get shot down… again. Or for any other reason, really.

The Skies of Pern: Picking Up The Pieces

Last time, dragons finished helping get refugees settled and surveying the damage caused by the tsunami. F’lessan opened his home to several riders and their dragons who are displaced from Monaco Bay Weyr. And now comes the part where everyone has to rebuild.

The Skies of Pern: Part 3: Segments I, II, III, IV, : Content Notes: Rape, PTSD,

(Honshu, 1.10.31)

F’lessan wakes up to a request from Ramoth to return to Benden, and after a quick shower (!), he heads to grab klah and stumbles into Mirrim dressing Tai down for having gone to get the pelts instead of saving humans during the evacuation. Tai fiercely protests, saying that if she went back for something, it would have been books and notes, and Golanth provides witness that Zaranth was never away from him during the rescue. Mirrim is undeterred, though, but F’lessan tells Mirrim to leave off, and then “took a menacing step toward Mirrim who unexpectedly gave ground.”

Let’s think about that for a moment. F’lessan is currently host to Mirrim and is now threatening physical violence toward her. Mirrim is already upset about what she perceives to be a lack of duty. So the fact that he’s a bronze rider probably means that if he attacks her, everyone will assume she deserved it, and because it’s Mirrim, they will probably believe it doubly so, since the opinion was that T’gellan tamed Mirrim to something more like what they expect a woman to be. The whole thing is very much resting on the threat of violence in so many different ways and exposes how terrible dragonrider society still is. I also wonder if that menacing gesture might be a trigger for Mirrim, from her time before Impression, and possibly even some afterward. Tai pointed out that green riders are often seen as targets by bronze riders. Before T’gellan, Mirrim might have been in Tai’s boat.

A large part of the next bits of the narrative is F’lessan having to explain that dragons could not avert the comet strike, that Thread still falls because the Red Star dragged it along with it, and how waves could cause such destruction. It still hasn’t been explained to our satisfaction why they can’t stop the comet strike.

After having to do all that explaining, F’lessan is determined to figure out how dragonriders can stay in the business of planetary protection in the After. He thinks a lot of that will have to do with getting a clearer picture of objects in the skies of Pern and resurrecting the old telescopes and possibly learning how to send up a satellite array so that ships can have a better picture of their cosmic neighborhood. And then schemes how to get the necessary components and expertise to build a computer that will run the Honshu telescope.

The narrative then switches to Circle Runner Station, 1.18.31, where two late arriving guests get to hear the story of the big celestial object that left a giant crater when it impacted a very long time ago. The not-accented strangers spin out rumors about relationships between then and now, and talk disparagingly of the AI and what a terrible deed it was to alter the traditions and the Red Star. Which puts the runner that greeted them at unease enough that he sends them on to bed and then places them as the people that waylaid a Runner on the trace and asked them to deliver something (which they paid proper price for), rather than coming to a station and having it correctly logged in.

The narrative bounces to the Harper Hall, where Pinch has been trying to track some material shipments and listen in on specific conversations, but since nobody has a fire-lizard (“which proved that fire-lizards wouldn’t come to just anyone who fed them”, according to Pinch, so that’s why they’re not the universal carriers, I guess) and Pinch can’t get close enough to eavesdrop without being noticed, there’s not much to report.

Sebell is up to his ears in petitions, and the narrative would like us to believe the following has always been part of Oceania, err, Pern:

Traditionally, all petitions presented at Turnover were forwarded to the Harper Hall and read by a special group of journeymen and masters who determined which were urgent enough to be submitted to the Council at Telgar on the first of the Third month. Some of the petitions should have been handled at the Hold level. However, if there were sufficient complaints brought against major or minor Holders, the Council was the best place to decide if the matter should be investigated further. Pinch was often assigned to get specific information.

Because the Harpers have always been advocates for the petitions of the least powerful to the most powerful. It’s why they spend so much time talking about those small people to everyone that will listen and visibly taking the side of the oppressed against their oppressors.

Pinch and Sebell talk about the people Pinch sketched in an earlier segment. The woman (later identified as Fourth) apparently washed out of Healer training, then petitioned to receive her Hold as the eldest. Since the father explicitly said she was to get nothing, that went nowhere. The others aren’t yet recognizable. Pinch mentions the Runner network is still receiving requests and payments to disseminate Luddite propaganda, points out with a little glee that the only windows that shattered from the shock wave of the impact were Norist-cast (Morilton’s new glass survived just fine), and would like to know if the original exiles were killed in the tsunami flood. Sebell nocomments. (Also, older glass is more brittle and more easily shattered.)

Pinch is dismissive of Fourth’s reasoning for being in the group.

“She wants to lead and she hasn’t hit the personality for it. She’s too concerned about doing things the old way, the right way, the way she was taught that ought to be the way everyone does it.” Pinch paused. “Too hidebound to know the color of her own pelt.”

None of the other characters get nearly as strong a dressing-down as that.

Sebell finds it more than a bit funny that the technological faction is developing and using ever-greater amounts of tech to try and keep out the anti-tech factions, and Pinch lays in with his own thoughts about what the Ancients wanted.

“I’ve read enough in Aivas’s historical files to feel that Pern will never be in danger of becoming over-technical. Takes too long to develop the skills needed, except in special instances like the digital locks, and we certainly don’t have the production systems the Ancients had. As a population, we have been conditioned to this slower, more methodical rhythm of living and only a very small portion will ever feel the urge to aspire to Aivasian heights.”

Says the person who did not study the period of industrialization that happened on Terra not too soon after several of the recreated technologies of Pern came into being. And that was without any external faction or planet-destroying force in existence.

Further discussions have to wait, including the question of “what do dragonriders do when things fall from the sky?” that seems to be on everyone’s mind, by the appearance of Robse. And the narrative flutters away to Benden Weyr, where unexpected guests are arriving.

It’s M’ran and Pilgra, Weyrleaders of High Reaches, come to talk that they are ready for retirement, and want to soothe any lingering doubts about “deserting” by talking to and getting assurance from the Benden Weyrleaders. G’dened is still hanging on at Ista, convinced there will be a Tenth Pass all the same, but these two are ready to retire. They’ve marked out where they want to live out their lives, so the Benden Weyrleader pulls out registration documents and starts filling out a deed for them to have as their proof of ownership. A few witness signatures later, and it’s all done, with a side remark about how reading and understanding the Charter is so important, because it sets forth the terms that someone needs to move themselves and establish a new hall or hold.

I might take a small moment to chuckle about how literacy has now apparently become such an important thing, after all that time Clisser spent trying to distill knowledge down into the most basic that can be learned in song.

Anyway, the matter continues with the Benden Weyrleaders deciding to accompany the retiring leaders to help them settle in and to smooth over any issues that might appear with their retirement. First, to High Reaches, to announce and pack, and there wouldn’t be anything interesting here, except that the perversity of the narrative manages to shine through, even in the mundane.

Yasith’s rider was Neldama, weyrborn in High Reaches twenty-five Turns before, and twelve Turns younger than the oldest of the queenriders. So she was of this Pass, which, in Lessa’s estimation, meant fewer problems. Not exactly a pretty girl–attractive enough to rate a long look from [the Benden Weyrleader]–with green eyes that looked right at a speaker and a considerate, sensible manner as she set about collecting the items that Pilgra said she’d wanted to pack.

Tell me again why the attractiveness of the queen rider has anything to do with her ability to run the Weyr. It seems very much like all of the characters in these stories judge someone else based on their attractiveness as much as their competence, and that’s a terrible idea.

Back to F’lessan and Tai, 1.20.31, where F’lessan is grousing about everyone asking what the dragonriders are going to do to prevent the next celestial object from falling on them. He’s also planting saplings sent by Paradise River to help restart the ecosystem at this particular hold (and, incidentally, helping shield against the next giant water wave or the soil being spirited away).

Planting was not work most riders would volunteer to do but, when F’lessan saw Tai’s was the only name on that list, he added his. He had done very well getting on work teams with Tai, mostly jobs as backbreaking and thankless as this, waiting until he saw where she was going to spend her spare hours before he signed up.

So, F’lessan, how do you think Tai is going to react to the fact that you’re stalking her. Not that the narrative believes anything of the sort.

She was willing enough–even eager–to discuss their mutual interest in astronomy. They were sometimes the only dragonriders on such sites. She seemed to know many of the more isolated cot holders and was welcomed warmly. The two dragonriders had been shown where to find tools, where fresh water could now be obtained, and what was available for their lunch.

I’m going to read Tai’s eagerness to talk about astronomy as deflection so that F’lessan doesn’t get onto other topics that Tai will definitely not want to talk about with her Stalker With A Crush. And that they’re the only dragonriders around means that F’lessan could probably get away with anything he wanted, and Tai’s account would be dismissed, both because “wimmins, amirite?” and because “she’s a green rider, she wanted it.”

The work is exhausting, and F’lessan remarks that he enjoys restoring things in one of their breaks in the planting, which gets them on the subject of Honshu, and the binoculars that F’lessan has been letting Tai borrow and use at night. Tai finally asks to see the observatory, and F’lessan promises to take her there when they’re both not flat exhausted from work. He also notes that their dragons are close enough to be touching (which is apparently odd).

He’d had a few ideas of his own but with a personality as reserved as Tai’s, he deliberately kept his manner as casual as possible.
[…astronomy helps keep tensions low and make Tai feel like she’s contributing…]
Today, certainly tomorrow, the very last displaced riders would be gone to new quarters. As far as he knew, Tai had not found any. She might have, when he was at Benden; he hadn’t wanted to appear to be keeping a watch on her. And Zaranth.

They share a space, he signs up to go where she is after she chooses, he teases her about her observations, but he doesn’t want to give off the impression that he’s keeping tabs on her, so he doesn’t ask what she does when he’s gone to Benden. Yeah, still totally not stalking her. [/sarcasm]

There’s also a segment which introduces some amount of chicken-and-egg to the situation. It would be nice if we had studies and science at work as to how much dragons and riders influence each other, and whether strength of emotion is strength of influence as well.

F’lessan did not add that Golanth was showing more and more of a proprietary interest in the green’s well-being, one of the subtler reasons why he was glad Tai preferred to work away from the other dragonriders. He wasn’t ready for others to notice the growing relationship between Golanth and Zaranth.

At what point did F’lessan’s interest in Tai become Golanth’s interest in Zaranth, and did that feed back into F’lessan becoming a stalker of Tai? Are they both mutually reinforcing each other, even as they disclaim they’re doing it? It would be nice to know, but that kind of worldbuilding has always been in short supply.

F’lessan and Tai unearth trundlebugs, which gives Tai an opportunity to demonstrate how Zaranth telekinetically moves them away from her nose. Once they finish planting, Tai goes to take a shower, asks F’lessan to find her towel and clothes (he does), then strips off his own clothes while he waits for her to get done.

Riders were not as bothered by nudity as holders or crafthall folk so he stripped down, glad to be out of the sweaty, dirty shorts. As she emerged, she toweling her body dry, she gave him a fleeting glimpse. He stepped courteously past her, into the shower, and looked around for sweetsand.

This is much more in line with what I would expect between dragonriders. It could be reconciled with the earlier not-looking, but it would take some doing.

Also, F’lessan has noticed, and continues to notice, that Zaranth is definitely displaying the coloration signs that she’s about to want to mate. F’lessan has even asked Tai about Zaranth’s color directly, and Tai shrugged and said nothing was weird. This makes F’lessan very nervous and suspicious, and while Golanth is more than ready to go, F’lessan makes Tai look again and see what has been plain to him.

Tai does not take this well.

Tai gasped, eyes widening with an expression of such fear and intense loathing that F’lessan wondered just what had happened during Zaranth’s other mating flights.
[…F’lessan runs back through what he knows of green flights and remembers that green riders eventually choose a mate…]
“Tai, did you never choose?” he cried, outraged for her as he started to close the distance between [them.] And halted. He mustn’t crowd her. The others had. How much time could he give her? How could he soothe her?
She was trembling violently, her eyes wide–not in an answer to her dragon’s sensuality, but in sheer terror. She seemed to draw into herself, denying what was about to happen. Crossing her arms in a defensive position! Shards! Had previous riders raped her as their dragons twined?

I’m kind of shocked F’lessan knows the word and can apply it properly in this situation. I also think this might be the first time that mating flights aren’t being portrayed as a universal good.

Also, Tai is very much displaying the signs that this is going to be mentally perilous for her. I suspect she being triggered by it, and that explains why she isn’t up to admitting what’s about to happen.

“They were all the same,” she muttered. “There’s no escape from them. From their…” She swallowed, trying to lick dry lips, white-faced with revulsion: her green eyes stark.
“Tai, were you forced?” With those words Tai shot F’lessan a look of such fear laced with guilt that he felt his belly fall flat. “You didn’t choose?” He spoke very gently, appalled. This should be the most wonderful experience: a doubled ecstasy as both dragon and rider exalted in the union. He thought he’d made it so fit those he’d partnered. The queen riders had always known: they had chosen him. With the state she was in, there was no way Tai had ever chosen. “It shouldn’t be a violation. It should be a celebration for you and your dragon. The most glorious union!”
“Union?” She snarled the word, the panic in her eyes telling him that mating had been far from that.
How many times had Zaranth mated? How many times had she been…he struggled to find the appropriate word…violated? He knew hold and hall girls often were; it was one reason so many sought sanctuary in a Weyr.

The word, F’lessan, is rape. You yourself used it, and “violation” not a few paragraphs before. (I’m chalking it up to a mistake in editing and proofing – it can be easy to forget that you moved an earlier segment later and to not have someone catch it.)

I also really like the way that F’lessan’s illusions about mating (because he’s a bronze rider) are being shredded by having to confront the reality that is Tai’s experiences as a green rider. We can call it good characterization that F’lessan’s privileged upbringing is making it difficult for him to understand this, despite having example after example coming to the Weyr for sanctuary from the same treatment in their holds and crafthalls. F’lessan says he’ll have some “well-chosen” words with Mirrim after this, still demonstrating his lack of understanding. It’s likely Mirrim has suffered the same kind of fate repeatedly, and probably worse from those who thought it a perfect opportunity to put her in her place.

It almost sounds like the author is ready to confront the idea that dragon mating is not all good and give it the hard, serious look it deserves.

Almost.

Because F’lessan never considers the course of action to get away from Zaranth once he realizes what is happening. When Zaranth launches and Golanth pursues, F’lessan doesn’t consider the idea of going away and leaving Tai alone.

Tai screamed in anguish, reaching out futilely as if she could have stopped her green.
“Tai, listen to me,” he said, keeping his voice light. “Let me explain how it should be.” Carefully, slowly, he held out one hand but she backed away along the terrace, eyeing his hand as if even his touch would sully her. She cowered away, her green eyes frantic.
“Oh, Tai, my friend, if I could, I’d stop Golanth,” […and F’lessan curses himself for not recognizing her reticence as trauma instead of shyness…] “I can’t, not now when Zaranth wants him so badly.”
“How can she want him? I don’t want you! Not that way!”
[…F’lessan continues to try and convince Tai that Zaranth does want Golanth, and to reach her before the gestalt takes over…]
If he couldn’t reach her, she’d never realize that it needn’t be rape. He knew he could control his human self, no matter how much he might want to revel in orgasm with Golanth.

Cocowhat by depizan

You do not have a magical healing cock, F’lessan.

(Of course he does. We know that. But still.)

And furthermore, if you can control yourself in such a way, then the best thing for you to do is go somewhere else and masturbate to your heart’s content. Tai is not giving you consent, and is not in a mental state where she can give you consent. There is no reason for you to be anywhere close to her.

And yet, F’lessan pleads with Tai to choose him as a mate. And chooses to believe that when she reaches out, that it’s a sign that she has chosen him, even though he asks “Was there enough of the human there to have made a choice?”

He guides her away from the danger of falling off a terrace and gets her inside before she fully gets into the gestalt. All the while, he’s murmuring about how glad he is that she chose him as a lover (NO, SHE DID NOT) and giving her kisses and gentle touches for as long as he can stay human before his own gestalt takes over.

Then the narrative switches to F’lessan-Golanth and it reads a lot like a skeevy popular guy stalking the girl he wants, thinking she’s a lot more sexual and open to him, unlike those stuck-up gold dragons. It’s a really good example of what life looks like through a rape culture lens. Not that any of that was what the author intended. But it does skirt having to put on screen what the nonconsensual sex between F’lessan and Tai was like by focusing on the maybe-consensual sex between the dragons.

And then, now that it’s done, and it’s been done properly, Tai is totally in agreement that she chose him, and that it was much better than anything else she had experienced, and she stops F’lessan from going on a rant about how she shouldn’t have been treated that way, and I’m going to take this romance trope out back, cut off its head, stake its heart, and then bury it in a very deep hole.

F’lessan blames Mirrim for prejudicing Tai against him by telling her about his reputation, and Tai defends her by saying that Mirrim told her about needing to choose, just that she didn’t want any of the available suitors. Which is a thing, F’lessan, and totally believe that Mirrim would be supportive of the idea of “none of the above,” even if none of the other riders there wanted it.

Tai also picks up that F’lessan has a temper, and while he downplays it as being mad on her behalf, it’s something that she is likely to keep in mind. Because it’s not that far of a stretch from being mad on someone’s behalf to being mad at them.

The afterglow of it all winds the segment down, and I think, after that instance, we can stop with the narrative. I’m still seeing red about how this whole sequence went, how it could have been so much more, but instead turned into a story about how you can make someone fall in love with you if you ignore their trauma and have nonconsensual sex with them.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. At least on Pern.

Deconstruction Roundup for July 27th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has utilized the heat to do significant damage to invasive weeds.)

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.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

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 are waiting for something good to happen that will be at least as good as the best things in your life. Or for any other reason, really.