Writer Workshop June 28th, 2017

(Posted by chris the cynic)

[Anyone who would feel more comfortable talking about non-writing creative work in a thread that doesn’t have “Writer” in the name, you may find this month’s creative corner thread useful.]

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!

Deconstruction Roundup for June 23rd, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is deliberately not thinking about things so as to have fun.)

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

All the Weyrs of Pern: I’m Making A Note Here

Last chapter presented sabotage and attacks as well as a discovery of Honshu and its secret fuel stores. The Pernese got a look inside a Thread casing, but didn’t learn a whole lot. And now comes more space exercises…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 14: Content Notes: Toxic masculinity

The chapter opens with the fuel from Honshu deposited into the main tanks, which is unremarkable except for that technology has marched on to the point where Jaxom and Piemur can share klah from a “hot bottle” composed of glass, an insulating layer of plant fiber, and a plastic outside layer. AIVAS called it a thermos when Piemur got it, and Jaxom has a little bit of gadget envy. Piemur dismisses it as Harper privilege to try out new things, and that he was conveniently there to receive it. Having dumped fuel, AIVAS tells them that the next step of the Plan requires dragons to be able to survive the vacuum for at least twelve minutes, ideally fifteen. AIVAS would like Ruth and Jaxom to be the test flyers to make sure the idea of anchoring dragons by letting them grip enclosures that had fuel tanks is sound.

Piemur, normally the daredevil, is hesitant, while Jaxom is game.

Then Piemur fixed Jaxom with a fierce stare. “So you’re going to do it? Without checking with anyone?”
Jaxom glared right back, anger rising. “I don’t need to check with anyone, Piemur. I’ve been making my own decisions for a long time. This time, I get to make it without anyone else’s interference. Not yours, or F’lar’s, or Lessa’s, or Robinton’s.”
“Sharra’s?” Piemur cocked his head, his eye contact unswerving.
[…Piemur continues to be anxious…]
Jaxom gripped his shoulder. “Don’t forget that Aivas cannot endanger human life. And we’ve seen tapes of spacemen doing EVA drills.”

THAT IS PATENTLY FALSE, JAXOM. Unless, that is, you believe the deafening that Aivas did didn’t endanger anyone’s life, even though it did permanent damage to their hearing. It could have really ruptured something that would have endangered life or made it impossible to keep balance or any number of things. And that, I presume, is one of the lower-level protection systems in place. From everything I have seen and heard so far, the AI is definitely not Three Laws Compliant and would probably happily exterminate an enemy of the Plan that proved a threat or danger to it or anyone it needed.

As it is, Piemur helps Jaxom get settled in his suit, and there is an EVA, where Ruth shows a lot of initiative and independence in decision-making where they want to go and when it is time to go back into the ship. Ruth thoroughly enjoys the trip, and Jaxom appreciates the view. Piemur is less happy about it.

Piemur let out an exaggerated sigh. “And if you and Ruth can do it, every other dragon and rider on Pern will feel required to follow your example. Is that what you wanted, Aivas?”
“The result is inevitable, given the friendly competitiveness of dragonriders.”
Piemur raised both hands in a gesture of resignation. “As I said, with a friend like Aivas, you don’t need enemies!”

Indeed so, Piemur. Although I wonder how much of it will be “friendly competition” and how much it will be “can’t be shown up by the runt and the Holder-child.”

When they get back to Landing, Lytol gives Jaxom a mild dressing-down about the unscheduled EVA, followed by the text mentioning that several more were given as each of the other major stakeholders are informed of what happened. D’ram and Robinton immediately see there is a reason behind the reason of getting dragons adjusted to space and decide to go ask the AI, who finally decides to let them and us in on the plan, assisted by Jaxom and Piemur realizing key points along the way – to move the engines on the spacecraft to a chasm on the wanderer, and then engage an uncontrolled matter-antimatter reaction by using the nitric acid already used for flamethrowers to corrode the protective barrier between the two. The resulting explosions should provide enough force at the designated time to permanently shift the wanderer’s orbit into a nonlethal pattern.

“How heavy are those engines?” F’lar asked.
“Their mass is the one weak point of the plan. However, you have constantly stated that the dragons can carry that which they think they can carry.”
“Correct, but no one has ever asked them to carry engines!” F’lar replied, awed by the scale of the loads.
Jaxom began to chuckle and received offended stares. “That’s why the bronzes have been exercising in free-fall–to get them used to things being so much lighter in space. Right, Aivas?”
“That is correct.”
“So if we don’t tell them how much those bloody things weigh…”
“Now, really, Jaxom,” F’lar began.
“No, really, F’lar,” Jaxom replied. “Aivas is applying a valid psychological technique. I think it’ll work. Especially if we think it can work. Right?” He gave F’lar a challenging look.

This “cheeky kid” routine is probably supposed to make us cheer for Jaxom more against the established and slow older generation, and also show us just how much more clever the young ones are, but Jaxom comes off the worse for this exchange, more like the insufferable know it all who impatiently words for everyone to catch up to his genius. He’s convinced of his rightness and nobody is getting in his way. That he’s the main character means the narrative invests in proving him right instead of making him wait.

The plan of making the dragons believe they can receives approval from Lytol and D’ram, and the Benden Weyrleader eventually comes around to it, as well. Lessa voices a practical concern – the distance to travel will be massive, and so dragons and riders both will need protection.

There’s also a quick speculation that the reason why Lessa nearly died during the time jaunt was a lack of oxygen, implying that large time leaps are possible, if one has a spacesuit and sufficient oxygen supply for the trip. The lack of interest in experiencing history or documenting everything more thoroughly is even more glaring now, but since this bit is sandwiched in between other plot points, I don’t expect it to come up again.

AIVAS also gets to tell us about its calculations on how long the jump will be.

“From what has been said by every rider interviewed, only eight seconds elapse to reach most destinations here on Pern,” Aivas went on. “Of those eight seconds, the dragons seem to use a basic five or so to assimilate their coordinates, and the rest of the time for the actual transfer. Using this premise and adapting it to a logarithmic computation, assume that travel takes 1 second for 1,600 kilometers, 2 seconds for 10,000, 3.6 seconds for 100,000, and 4.8 for 1 million and 7 to 10 seconds for 10 million. While this method of transference is still incomprehensible to this facility, it does appear to work. Therefore, knowing the approximate distance from Pern to the Red Star, it is easy to compute an interplanetary jump. It has also been established that dragons are able to function for fifteen minutes before their systems are in oxygen debt–more than enough time to make the journey, position the engines in the chasm, and return. The dragons are accurate fliers.”

I’d like to know how the AI comes to the conclusion of five seconds of orienteering, unless somewhere in the databank is the results of experiments in dragons and their travel capacities. Also, the way AIVAS calculates suggests the dragons either accelerate in hyperspace, or perhaps that folding hyperspace the right way to get to the destination takes a little longer for a dragon to do when the distances are greater.

And no, it’s not just a matter of knowing the distance, it’s knowing the distance and giving the dragons a target point to land, on an object hurtling through the system at speed. It’s so nice that dragons take this into account, if unconsciously. Otherwise, we would have to use computers.

The Benden Weyrleader immediately volunteers himself to make a trip out and back to test the theory, and forbids anyone else from joining him. Jaxom says he’s coming, and that he’ll go anyway if he’s forbidden, so there. Lessa thinks they’re both fools and decides to join them. Lytol is firmly in the camp of caution, on the idea of “if all y’all get killed at this juncture, you can kiss goodbye any chance of restarting this plan for a very long time” and that it is impossible to completely predict the future. He is ignored because there’s way too much toxic masculinity in the room, between the Benden Weyrleader’s “I can’t ask anyone to do what I wouldn’t do myself, because I AM LEADER,” Jaxom’s “I know best out of all of you, so you can’t stop me,” and Lessa’s “I’m not missing out on this just because you think I’m a helpless chick.”

But he’s right, and has been all this time about the dangers of these missions. It’s a Star Trek Away Team mission, composed of the highest bridge and department officers. And if this were a realm where they were the only dragonriders, then sure, caution to the wind. But there are entire Weyrs of dragonriders that could be sent on such a mission, even if there’s only a small subset of them that are trustworthy enough to actually undertake it. Like, say, Mirrim, who has the temperament and desire to prove herself every bit the equal. Why not give her the opportunity to do something heroic and awesome?

The chapter stops here, with the plan agreed to and Lytol pointing out the shortcomings of their confidence. One thing not mentioned that I can think of right now – if the ship engines are teleported and detonated, that leaves the ships themselves as giant hulks of metal on a decaying orbit. Fandarel was rightly concerned with being Colony Dropped when the ships ran out of fuel, and now the plan is to do just that, apparently. Unless the AI believes the massive ships will burn themselves up completely in the atmosphere. Or that dragons can be used to transport the ships safely to the ground where they can be scrapped or studied in case the Pernese decide to go exploring. But nobody is asking in their rush to prove themselves, meaning it will likely be up to Jancis or Fandarel to actually point this out.

Let’s see if they do it next time.

Writer’s Workshop June 21st, 2017

(Posted by chris the cynic)

[We have a place specifically for non-writing creative work now, if you’d prefer that.]

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

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

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

This week in the Slacktiverse, June 19th, 2017

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

The Blogaround

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 June 16th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is cursed with a surfeit of malevolence at all levels of their life.)

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

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Philip SandiferEruditorium Press

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 trying to decide just how much bribe is enough to make the issue go away. Or for any other reason, really.

All the Weyrs of Pern: A New Phase Dawns

Last time, someone actually expressed a lack of faith in AIVAS. Since it was Lessa, however, and she was in the presence of two Bros, Jaxom and the Benden Weyrleader, she was summarily dismissed, even when she had keen insight later on. Now, however, it’s time to take big dragons up to space and engage in the satisfaction of roasting Thread before it actually gets to the planet.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 13: Content Notes: False Humility, Manipulative Behavior

Sharra and Oldive have volunteered to dissect Thread. The big dragons are ready to go up into an airlock. The transfer up goes smoothly. Everyone has to adjust to microgravity, with the Benden Weyrleader commenting on how Lessa has to try it. “I know you don’t weigh much under any circumstances,” he says, and then tells Robinton, “No strain for you, Robinton.” My skin crawls at the casualness of making Lessa diminutive.

After adjustment, each grouping heads to their respective locations – analysis in a cold-sleep lab, the riders to the bridge to observe and destroy Thread. Path and Ruth take each Weyrleader to a different ship so they can enter the commands. Robinton gets to put things in on the Yokohama. As Thread gets vaporized, Sharra complains that no tools brought up can cut the outer shell, and there’s not nearly enough space to use a flamethrower, even if they wanted to. They speculate about whether a diamond cutter could get in. AIVAS casually remarks that laser technology is still beyond them before confirming that the diamond cutter would be effective.

“Then why on earth didn’t you suggest we bring one along on this trip?” [Sharra] demanded.
“The question was not put to this facility.”
“The trouble with you, Aivas,” Sharra continued with some asperity, “is that you only tell us every you think we should know: not necessarily all we need to know or what we want to know.”
A long silence ensued, during which she and Oldive left the laboratory, sealing the door behind them.
“Sharra’s right, you know,” D’ram remarked at last.
“Indeed,” Robinton said.
“But would we have thought that a diamond cutter would be necessary, considering the selection of edged tools Sharra and Oldive did bring with them?” Jaxom asked, though he agreed completely with his mate and was rather proud of her for speaking so bluntly. It was significant, too, that Aivas had not refuted the accusation.

No kidding. The narrative likes giving truthful statements to women. Perhaps because those women will then be taken as seriously as the plot demands of them. But nobody is going to take this idea seriously, as it would mean throwing their lot in with the cartoon villains, instead of taking time to think about whether or not the way they’re being fed information and technology might serve a purpose other than their own. They’ve already anthropomorphized the AI, surely that means they can envision the idea of it having interests of its own, rather than just theirs.

Before the next plot beat, Jaxom reflects on how nice it is to be able to work on two different time zones, so that he can stay with the AI and get the work done of running Ruatha in his twenty-hour days. Because someone might be concerned about the Lord being absent all the time or use that void to plot or otherwise sabotage him.

The plot beat is that a roof of Honshu has caved in and a secret compartment has discovered sacks filled with something. Fighting the urge to go back to sleep, Jaxom joins all the other dignitaries at Honshu, having to navigate fog for landing. F’lessan has been blessed with a little of good sense, so that when he opened a sack to examine the contents, he stopped at the awful smell and didn’t proceed to tasting the liquid inside. Since it’s Kenjo’s secret fuel stash, discovered when a dragon crashed through the ceiling, F’lessan can count himself lucky or prudent.

AIVAS confirms that it’s fuel, and dashes Jaxom’s hopes of being able to take a ship to the source of Thread and destroy it by showing them the actual scale of the Oort cloud that they would have to destroy. AIVAS exhorts everyone not to give up on the plan, even as it is still not forthcoming with the details of how they will alter the Red Star’s orbit. It also quickly changes the subject to say that every dragonrider is going to need to get trained in microgravity, much to the happiness of those riders.

A new enthusiasm swept through all the Weyrs, overcoming the mid-Pass apathy.
Three days later, fires were set among the fuel sacks, but fire-lizards gave the alarm so no harm was done. On hearing of the near disaster, Aivas was unperturbed and, in an offhanded tone, informed the agitated Lytol and D’ram that the fuel was non-flammable.
[…Fandarel wants to know how and is rewarded with a lecture on jet propulsion that confuses everyone…]
That evening Master Morilton dispatched his fire-lizard with an urgent and horrified message that someone had destroyed all the lenses his Hall had ready to be installed in microscopes and telescopes, ruining months of hard and patient work. Later the next morning Master Fandarel found that the metal barrels [a subordinate] had been producing to house the lenses had been thrown into the forge fire and distempered overnight.

That’s a good tactical change for the anti-AI faction. At this point, they understand direct action won’t work, so they’re resorting to sabotage and terrorism, like a good guerilla warfare unit would. Which means the next action should be a targeted attack on someone who seems vulnerable.

And lo, after talking a bit about how Thread is weird, even for the AI, and pointing out that metal tools get brittle at the necessary temperatures to keep Thread dormant, Sharra is involved in a riding strap break in much the same way that Jaxom’s was. Because, of course, Jaxom didn’t tell Sharra about his problem, nor where he was hiding his own straps, so as not to worry her. Ruth saves her, and then Sharra goes on using a different dragon and rider (called “all right for an [time-skipped]” by Ruth), Jaxom takes care of discipline meetings, and then, when he fesses up to Sharra about what happened, she “[tears] strips out of him for ‘sparing’ her anxiety” and then confirms for us that Jaxom really is the main character here.

“Especially when you’re the leader for all of Aivas’s plans.”
“Me? The leader?” Jaxom stared at her in complete surprise.
“Well, you are, even if you don’t realize it.” Then her severe expression softened. “You wouldn’t.” She gave him a sweetly condescending smile. “You are, though. Take my word for it, and everyone on the planet knows it.”
“But I–I–”
“Oh, don’t get fussed, Jax. It’s one of your most endearing traits that you don’t get puffed up with importance and irritate people with an inflated self-consequence.”

Oh, yes, and it’s “Jax” and “Sharrie” as pet names for each other.

Also,

Jaxom doesn’t get too egotistical, we’re told, despite trying to pull rank last chapter, demanding an apology for the Weyrs before that, and generally having had the privilege of being both Lord and dragonrider before also becoming the leader of whatever AIVAS has planned. And before that, used said dragon to be the hero that returned the egg, to steal his wife from where she was being kept prisoner, and also used his station to get a girl to have sex with him. But he’s not got an inflated sense of self-worth…compared to the other, more senior Lords Holder, perhaps, who have been used to their positions and their power for all their lives, instead of being precariously balanced, as Jaxom has been.

At the scheduled meeting for discussing the vandalism, Jaxom informs everyone else about the incidents with the riding straps and is dressed down by everyone else in the room for not telling them when they happened, over his protests that he’s been careful. AIVAS mandates extra security for the Halls, and is glad the vandals didn’t damage the truly useful things to the plan.

“All that work is divided along several Halls and different locations,” Fandarel said with an air of relief. Then he shook his head, his expression doleful. “I find it very hard to believe that some member of my Crafthall could so wantonly destroy the hard work of his colleagues.”
“Your society is a trusting one,” Aivas said, “and it is sad to see that trust betrayed.”
“It is, indeed,” Fandarel agreed, his voice heavy with sadness.

Cocowhat by depizan

That’s…no. At best, I might describe Pern as a place that espouses “Trust, but verify.” Where “trust” is very specifically spelled out in contracts and agreements that always benefit the aristocrat over anyone else except a dragonrider. Fandarel can’t be ignorant of the politics – even a ruthless drive for efficiency will put you on someone’s bad side. I would believe he usually has a buffer between himself and the rest of the planet, though.

If I were feeling cynical, I would say that was a calculated statement by the AI, to try and make people believe the best of themselves, instead of the reality that the sabotage represents. And I would also point out that we just had a novel all supposedly about the people who are cast aside by this society and would probably enjoy doing damage to it, given resources to do so. Even more so now that there’s a focal point for all that disaffection, and it could create alliances between the disaffected and the Lords who want to keep their hands officially clean.

Security measures are implemented, including watch-whers, fire-lizards, and feline cubs, which Sharra mentions Toric has used, although they need to be locked up during the day. This suggests to me that the Records from the plague in the Moreta/Nerilka time have been lost or destroyed, as nobody that I know of would willingly associate with what was suspected to be a plague-carrier. Sensitive objects are to be sent up to the spaceships as soon as possible, including the fuel.

“Is there any guarantee that they’d be safe there?” Lytol wanted to know. He ignored those who regarded him with anger, dismay, disbelief, or anxiety as he waited for Aivas’s reassurance.
“This facility can efficiently and effectively monitor the Yokohama as you [can] your individual Holds, Halls, and Weyrs,” Aivas replied.
“And the guardian guards himself!” Lytol added in a low voice.
“Q.E.D.,” Aivas said.
“Cue ee dee?” Piemur asked.
“That has been demonstrated.”

And on that cuteness, the chapter ends.

In that last block, it doesn’t seem likely that Lytol would be the person to both ask for reassurance and add an additional bit on the end. I think that last line was intended to be spoken by someone else. But that’s just me.

Lytol is right, though – all it would take is one rogue dragonrider and the spaceship is just as vulnerable as everywhere else. Even though AIVAS would react faster than humans would.

I expect the tempo and seriousness of the attacks to increase, despite the additional security, because that’s what would make a good story at this point. Tune in next week to see if I’m horribly disappointed.