Deconstruction Roundup for August 16th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, had yet to figure out where the story is going, but knows full well it’s not done.)

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

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 more than ready to declare that a candidate running on nostalgia for an imagined past should be ejected from the race. Or for any other reason, really.

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Dragonsblood: Setting Up The Big Problems

Last time, Wind Blossom retrieved things she “lost” during the Crossing that will allow either them or their descendants to learn how to determine the origin of the dragon and fire-lizard disease and synthesize a cure to keep them all alive. In the future, nobody has answers or ideas, other than cryptic messages, and Arith has now caught the sickness. Even so, nobody seems to be doing a whole hell of a lot in trying to determine how to protect themselves against the sickness.

Dragonsblood: Chapter 16: Content Notes: Casual Ablism,

Firestone, dry
Dragons fly.
Firestone, wet
Riders die.

(Benden Weyr, Third Pass, Day 6, AL 508)

This used to be true, when everyone was using the volatile firestone that exploded on contact with water. But since C’tov discovered the safer firestone and Fire Hold has been mining it everywhere they can find it, this should be less of an issue. Unless wet firestone somehow doesn’t produce enough gas in the second stomach of a dragon for them to belch fire.

The chapter opens with the return of Kindan and Lorana. Lorana vaults off to find and comfort Arith about her sickness, while Kindan reports finding the records of the secret rooms at Benden Weyr, and B’nik has only the suggestion that those rooms, once built, have suffered from cave-ins that obscure them, and the assurance that they’ll dig them out if they can. Arith assures Lorana that she’ll be fine, and since Lorana’s around, Lorana should continue trying to find a cure.

We pop over to Ista, where J’lantir has been appointed as interim Weyrleader by Dalia and elected with unanimity by the Wingleaders, and now he has to fight Thread with a severely depleted fighting strength, and in terrible weather. Dalia is fighting showing emotion about the fact that there will be more dead dragons by the time Threadfall is done, because the reality is far different than what you read in the Records. There’s a quick pop back to Benden, where Kindan is diverted from his task of finding the cave-in spaces to be emotional support to Lorana, because dragons fighting Thread means Lorana feels it all and she might want someone there to comfort her. He provides Lorana with a massage and Arith with pats and scritches through the entirety of the fall and the deaths that come to Lorana. Then it’s back to Ista, where J’lantir has to deal with the casualties of the Threadfall.

M’kir’s left arm was in a sling, his shoulder heavily bandaged where Thread had gouged it, the left side of his head bandaged to hide the gaping hole that had once held a fierce blue eye.
[…everyone looks terrible and tired. J’lantir is staying upright mostly through force of will rather than any real reason to do so…]
S’maj was the only Wingleader left beside himself. B’lon was favoring his left leg, wrapped in a bandage placed over his now-useless flying pants–a long thin line of blood showed where Thread had eaten through it and into his leg, but the score was not deep.

Dalia then comes in with the casualty figures for the Fall, and it’s clear that Ista now lacks the fighting strength to do that again.

But before we can talk through the implications of that, we pop back to Benden and Kindan and Lorana, who are covered in dragon snot and have to get cleaned up before they can take Arith out to get a drink. Where they run into Tullea, who is still being written as someone who is jealous and lazy and indolent.

“Well,” someone behind them drawled, “now that the two of you have deigned to join the rest of us, perhaps you’d care to look for these special rooms I’ve heard so much about.”
They turned to see Tullea leaning indolently against Minith’s foreleg. B’nik was beside her.
“Arith was sick,” Lorana explained, turning back to catch sight of the young queen as she splashed back to the shore.
“All the more reason to search, then,” Tullea responded. “Unless you two are more inclined to cavorting?” She cast a disdainful look at Kindan’s bare chest. “And get some clothes on.”
With that, Tullea turned away from them and headed back to her weyr, B’nik following, stony-faced.

At this point, the narrative is just giving us grief, and letting us yell at all the characters everywhere that they are still not entertaining the weird, not-usual suggestions for causes of Tullea’s problem, because all the usual ones seem to not be working. Tullea can’t necessarily answer the question “are you time-displaced?” because she doesn’t know, but it’s still the most logical explanation for her sudden behavioral shift.

The part that immediately follows here, though, is good writing, and I wanted to highlight it, if for no other reason than to point out that the new author has at least an inkling of an idea of the female gaze and can use it.

“Tullea giving out to you, was she?” Kiyary asked, smiling evilly. “I can see why, too–your bare chest is enough to make a dragon swoon.”
Kindan, who knew full well that most dragonriders were, of necessity, more muscled than he, took Kiyari’s mocking in the well-intentioned manner it was delivered. “it’s all that hard work with my guitar,” he said, grinning.
“And those drums up on the heights don’t hurt either,” Kiyari responded, giving him a more thorough appraisal than when she’d been teasing him. “Come to think of it, maybe Tullea has a point.”

This is good writing. It helps to establish Kindan’s frame (lean and strong, rather than overtly muscular) as well as establishing, generally, that dragonriders are buffer than most people from their work.

Well, dragonriding men, anyway. I would absolutely love to see a Weyrwoman described as buff and muscular from all the work she does feeding and caring for her dragons, because, at least while they’re Weyrlings, it seems like queen riders do exactly the same things for dragon care as everyone else. So there’s plenty of opportunity for them to get strong and muscular as well.

There’s a brief intrlude where Lorana’s riding gear arrives, with metal caos for the steel studs engraved with her animal healer design. Lorana is very, very happy about this, and we get something that’s got a certain amount of gender-subversions in it, even though I’m not sure on which end to put the most subversiveness.

“And I love the brightwork, Kindan. It’s very well done.”
“A friend of mine,” Kindan told her.
“Well, please thank her for me.”
Him,” Kindan corrected with a grin. “But I’ll pass the thanks on.”

I think what we’re supposed to pull out of this is that dudes generally don’t do fine detail work on precious metals. Except, you know, that Mastersmith Fandarel has pretty well been a fixture of being a giant man with the ability to do detail work from the beginning of the series? And I personally would have expected dudes to do that kind of work right from the get-go, so perhaps the gender-subversion is that Lorana defaults to assuming the person who did the fine-detail work is a woman instead of a man. Either way, there’s something going on there.

Still frustrated at not finding any sign of the secret rooms, Lorana and Kindan decide to put the isolation plan into action and group all the sick dragons together. They can’t decide on whether to put them up at the top and hope the cold helps or at the bottom so they can’t infect anyone underneath them, so they ask B’nik about what to do. And B’nik isn’t any help, because he wants to make sure they use the right quarantine protocol rather than one that might end up infecting the whole Weyr. This might go better, except that Tullea is there, and in her infinite wisdom, she decides that Lorana should have to go looking for the secret rooms herself and not to use any more Weyr resources. And she orders Kindan to play for the Weyr tonight with some sprightly, happy songs. During this, Tullea “pressed a hand to her head, as though to ease pain,” which goes uncommented on.

Instead, once everyone is dismissed and Lorana’s alone, Salina appears to help Lorana find the secret rooms. With only a little bit of description of the secret rooms and their absence, Salina immediately twigs that the secret rooms are hidden behind rockslides and cave-ins and immediately goes to get help, because she immediately knows where to go. M’tal, once she explains what she wants to do, says to wait and snag Kindan when he’s done singing, because he’s miner-bred, and therefore either the very best to handle the situation or the very best to get help if the situation goes south. The two hear Kindan singing as they go toward collecting him, first with a change of “The Morning Dragon Song” (boy, there’s a call-back) to make it a gold dragon, and then Kindan decides he wants to sing the song he barely remembered in the Harper Hall Archives, which absolutely pisses Tullea off, and both her and B’nik tell Kindan to cease immediately. Kindan looks ready to pursue the point, but manages to demonstrate some small amount of wisdom and goes back to more traditional songs.

Which leads to Lorana wondering why she had that song about her, and her fear that everyone will see her as the person that brought the disease and hate her forever. Salina has a brief flash of anger at Lorana if it’s true, but it immediately dissipates when she realizes that Lorana stands to lose her own dragon. Because Salina has had that experience, and knows full well that nobody would deliberately do that to their own dragon, and so she pledges to help Lorana solve the problem of the secret rooms and the disease.

Kindan is remarkably upset for having made those particular decisions. For a Harper, though, he’s remarkably at a loss for creative words.

“Of all the stupid, ill-considered, blockheaded, unthinking–”
“Don’t stop,” K’tan told Kindan as the herper poured out a litany of self-contempt. “You forgot fardling.”
“–fardling, moronic, imbecilic–” Kindan paused, groping for more words.
K’tan shook his head sadly. “A harper at a loss for words when they’re so desperately needed.”

Well, apparently fardling doesn’t exist, but the other ones do, and point out that a lot of the words that we use for talking about our lack of smarts are generally ablist in nature. Remarkably, there are no slip-ups where religious terms can sneak in. Also remarkably, nothing scatological makes it into the list, nor anything related to dragons, so it seems like there’s a distinct lack of swearing involved here, despite Kindan being more than upset enough with himself that a long string of swears would be utterly contextually appropriate. But we don’t learn anything more about informal language choices on Pern.

Instead, K’tan and M’tal recruit Kindan to go look at the rockslide space that’s near the Hatching Ground. One that K’tan never went near because it wans dangerous as a child. That is, again, near the Hatching Ground, a space that just about everyone would be near or around at a large part of their lives. While the ability to miss something in plain sight while you’re concentrating on something else is a well-documented effect, certainly, given that it’s a hazard and it’s around the Hatching Grounds, why wasn’t it marked on the map of the Weyr? Plus, Kindan’s been here a long time – surely he would remember the presence of the rockslide? Or any of the other riders tip them off to it, especially since it’s “back by the way we used to come and look at the eggs back when we were candidates”? I’m very glad that Salina is the one to crack the mystery, because hooray for agency for women! But also, it seems like such a prominent feature of the pathway wouldn’t be forgotten so easily. But I’m probably thinking too hard about this, or have unrealistic expectations about these characters.

They dissuade Kindan from trying to excavate the space himself, so instead, Kindan calls on Camp Natalon and brings back Dalor, Renna, and several of the miners from the camp to excavate the cave-in. Once they see the space, Dalor is pretty convinced that this is the right spot to mine. Plus, Camp Natalon immediately acquits themselves as the right people for the job.

“Look here,” Dalor said, pointing. “You can see where the rock faces are formed. They must have hoped the two layers would never slip over each other, or they must not have realized what they were dealing with.”
“Slip?” M’tal, who had been following along, asked.
“Aye, my lord,” Dalor said with a nod. “There are two different layers here, see?” He pointed to the spot where the different colors were close to each other. “You can tell by the color. The layers can slip over each other, which happens when there’s an earth shake.”

An excellent explanation. Not a couple paragraphs later, after trying to figure out how much rock might need to be excavated, Regellan suggests that it’s only a meter or two if the rocks slipped at the layers, so that the roof was the only thing that gave out. Dalor compliments Regellan as “quite the thinker” and then sets his work crews to get things out, telling Kindan and M’tal to get out because they lack miners’ hats. It takes them about a day to get through to the door, and Dalor accidentally refers to M’tal as the Weyrleader in Tullea’s presence, which doesn’t make her happy at all.

Tullea marches in to the corridor, glow in hand, and starts examining the newly-opened space. And the narrative gives us another reason not to like her.

“This looks like a door,” she exclaimed. She hunkered down, peering to either side of it. “What’s this?” she asked, seeing a square plate to the left of the door. She pressed it just as Dalor, who had been watching her actions with growing alarm, shouted “Don’t touch it!”
Too late.
With a rumbling groan, the wall began to slide open and light flooded in from the other side.
Dalor raced to Tullea and pulled her back away from the door. Even as he did, she slumped toward the floor so that B’nik had to catch her other side to prevent her from falling.

Tullea’s just passed out from the “bad air”, thankfully, but I think this is supposed to be the feather in the cap of the way she’s been portrayed as impulsive and selfish as well. She doesn’t know what dangers are there, she doesn’t have protection, and what she did could have endangered everybody there if it caused, say, a second rock slide.

This seems like a good place to stop, as we’re about halfway through the chapter, and there’s a lot to be described coming forward that will hint at what is to come. Because we have now discovered the solution that the First Interval left for the Second. Assuming they can figure it all out.

And there will be more Tullea-bashing yet to come, and I’ve basically had my fill of it to this point. More next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for August 9th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to wonder how random random selection really is.)

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

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 have a small understanding now of how exhausting it can be to run a thing that runs daily. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonsblood: A Compound Tragedy

Last time, Kindan and Lorana continued to prove they should have apprenticed to the Healers, while Tullea continued to show signs of being time-split without anyone putting two and three together, and the dragonriders continued to scramble to try and put together enough dragons to successfully fight Thread.

Dragonsblood, Chapters 14, 15, : Content Notes: Consent Issues, Dragon Mating Flights, Cruelty to Clearly Intelligent Species

(Fort, Third Pass, Day 6, AL 508)

Thread Falls
Dragons rise
Dragonriders scan the skies
Dragons flame, Thread dies.

So, a variation on the poem from the last chapter, then.

The chapter starts with the Fort Weyrleader, K’lior, preparing to fly his first Pass against Thread. What’s interesting about this is Cisca, his Weyrwoman, almost certainly has human-human telepathy, in the repeated ways that she can figure out what he’s thinking, even as he tries to hide it from her, and even when he didn’t say anything aloud at all. This is not remarked upon by the narrative in any way outside of K’lior’s confusion at how his thoughts can be so transparent to Cisca. Despite, outside of a small and select number of sentences in this entire series, human to dragon telepathy has been the norm and what is expected. The narrative is not drawing attention to the oddity, and therefore it is important in some way for us to remember that telepathy works between humans, as well.

More immediately, K’lior can’t help but be a monogamous Weyrleader, although he at least goes far enough to acknowledge that there should be all sorts of relationships in the Weyr.

He and Cisca had already formed a strong attachment before her gold rose for the first time, and while he understood and accepted the ways of the Weyr, he was honest enough to admit that he did not want any other dragonman entwined with her.

And there we are again. Good bronze and gold riders are monogamous and het while bad ones aren’t, and all the other colors are freewheeling orgy factories. It’s like there’s a stereotype on display here about gay people and promiscuity but someone is trying really hard not to be as obvious about it as their mother was.

Anyway, we cut to D’gan

proclaiming yet again that all his dragons will fly, including the sick ones. And justifying being an abusive asshole by wondering why nobody takes his shooting at the level he intends it.

“We have only two hundred and twenty-two fighting dragons,” he repeated, ignoring the startled looks on the faces of the other dragonriders milling about the Lower Caverns. They should be used to his shouting by now, he reflected. They should know that his roar was always worse than his flame.

That’s not saying much, given that his “flame” is making sick dragons fly, accusing them of “shirking” if they don’t want to train because they’re sick, physically abusing people he considers beneath him, not caring who gets press-ganged into dangerous and deadly work, and so on, and so on. Yet here he is, proclaiming in his own head that he’s not really all that bad. Just loud. It’s not like he does anything to warrant terror.

Except, you know, that when, yet again, he says no to the idea of the sick dragons taking a Fall off to recover (“Harper, I heard no ‘buts’ in the Teaching Songs.”), he characterizes it as a “repeated revolt” against his leadership.

But no, to listen to him tell it, it’s everyone else that’s the problem. Why hasn’t he been replaced, deposed, exiled, or otherwise had, say, a massive amount of desertion in protest of his “leadership” before the Weyrs quarantined themselves?

Then on to C’rion, who is hoping that a small area to cover in Fall and the new tactics to account for losses will make his Fall one without casualty. His Weyrwoman, Dalia, reflects on the losses and on a gain — Jassi, filling in for the lack of a Weyr Healer after his dragon died, has essentially become an authoritative figure in running the Weyr. So much so that Dalia thinks she should stand as an egg candidate.

Back to K’lior, who arrived in the right place, but apparently, facing away from the Threadfall’s approach. They get reoriented in time.

Back to C’rion, who pops in with a small concern about the weather, which is affecting the fall and making it unpredictable. It’s his terrible luck that a Thread clump lands directly on him from above and scores him and his dragon, Nidanth, so much that they both go to hyperspace to die, leaving J’lantir in charge of running the fall.

Then to Kindan and Lorana, and the reality that Lorana continues to feel each dragon’s death quite keenly, and Kindan, after being summoned by Arith, discovers that Lorana had been sketching each of the dragons and riders as they die. Not in full detail, but enough to get the point across. To his credit, Kindan asks for scented oil. To his detriment, he doesn’t actually explain that he wants it so he can give Lorana a massage, which he does, first with her neck, then up her hands and arms, and then he get and legs. He’s skilled enough that Lorana enjoys it greatly, and basically falls asleep after he is done, but the narrative doesn’t even bother with the two sentences it would take for Kindan to explain and ask Lorana if that’s what she wants. He does say that it’s obvious her hands are cramping because of the number of drawings, but he doesn’t, say, ask if she wants to be touched while she’s having some serious grief and trauma.

Which makes it that much sharper of an issue when the next scene starts.

In the morning, Lorana woke suddenly with a burning passion, fierce and nearly frightening in its intensity.
Kindan ducked his head in, eyes snapping with emotion. “Tullea’s Minith has blooded her kills.”
“She will mate soon,” Lorana said, stretching her senses and feeling the young queen’s passion. She looked up at Kindan, her eyes warm but also challenging. “Stay with me?”
Kindan gave her a surprised, half-hoping look. Lorana sat up in her bed and patted it.
“I’ve never been near a dragon’s mating flight,” she explained.

I…find that hard to believe, to be honest. Just because the regularity of them would suggest as much, but Lorana has also been in the Weyr for a while. Unless the sickness is also curbing a dragon’s sex drive, the greens should be still trying to get someone to chase them. And, presumably, being in the Weyr for this long has given Lorana ample opportunity to understand what goes on during a mating flight, if she hasn’t had it drilled into her directly because she’s a queen rider and will have to follow the procedure herself soon enough.

The way the narrative phrases it, it’s like they want Lorana to say she’s never had sex before, so that her first time can be with Kindan, the golden boy. The way they’ve phrased it, though, I’m way more worried that Lorana hasn’t been given enough information to understand and consent to what is about to happen to her.

Except Lorana had fire lizards, and back a few chapters, she specifically mentioned that she’s been through fire-lizard mating seasons, so the difference should be understanding the degree to which the emotions affect people.

Except Lorana is already well-poised to understand this, given how keenly she’s been feeling everyone’s death. So Lorana might understand completely. But I still don’t think she would say that she’s never been near a flight before.

Kindan moved to her and, at her beckoning, sat on the bed beside her.
“The emotions from dragons mating are very strong,” he said, his voice low.
At that moment, Lorana gasped as she felt Minith being caught in her mating flight and–
When she could speak again, she leaned up and captured Kindan’s mouth with hers, kissing him deeply.
Kindan responded by clutching her more tightly, returning her kiss as ardently as she had given it. Like dragons entwined, they drew together, burning with a passion born on dragonwings.
Afterward, they broke apart, still touching each other loosely. Lorana looked at him as he lay beside her and traced the line of his jaw lovingly. Kindan turned his head, caught her hand, kissed it, and released it again, all with a gentle smile.

Cocowhat by depizan

Not so much the fade to black, but for the swiftness involved before Kindan can, say, explain to Lorana anything at all and see whether she really wants him there. It will be explained later that the mating flight was shorter than usual, so perhaps Kindan thought he had more time to explain, but when Pellar was with Aleesa, they had time to arrange everyone and gather some form of consent, or at least acknowledgement of what was about to happen. Maybe the author felt that Lorana patting the bed and asking Kindan to stay was consent enough, but by that point, Lorana is probably already being influenced by Minith. Kindan, likely, too, but any of the bronzes in flight. So meaningful consent is shot by the time it could be sought.

And also, depending on how much of other books had been plotted or written at this point, how is Kindan reacting to this based on the trauma of Koriana’s death? Has it been long enough that Kindan feels a pang but has moved on? Is he still mourning for her more than thinking about new relationships? Was he working up the courage to ask Lorana?

That it’s essentially “Kindan and Lorana are totally fine with this and very affectionate torward each other after the mating” skips over a lot of very important questions about how the mating drug works and what everyone actually thinks about it afterward, when they’re not under dragon-influence.

The next scene, after Lorana tells Kindan that B’nik’s dragon flew Tullea doesn’t help.

Tullea walked with the obvious soreness of a woman recovering from her dragon’s mating. B’nik looked equally uncomfortable.
Lorana, on the other hand, moved through her pain, a smile close to her lips, her hand entwined in Kindan’s, projecting the sense that the pain served a purpose that she accepted and welcomed.

Cocowhat by depizan

SEX SHOULD NOT BE PAINFUL.

Seriously. And I would like to believe that dragonriders, to this point, have figured out that if mating flights are going to involve a lot of sex and friction, that there would be lube of some sort easily to hand. And also, perhaps, something to help keep weight off and muscles from getting sore, like hammocks or swings or other things. These should all be solved problems at this point out of necessity. Because the Weyrs are used to this and are culturally much less uptight about sex, or so we get told. And they have mating flights fairly commonly.

K’tan (who is narrating) continues to dissect the flight, wondering why Tullea and B’nik don’t look nearly so happy, before recounting that Tullea couldn’t or didn’t want to control Minith (likely didn’t, given that Tullea looked at B’nik, screaming at her to get her dragon under control, “with a smirk in her eyes”), which led to eating whole beasts rather than just sucking them dry of blood, and that the flight part was pretty short, with Minith diving into the pack of bronzes and getting flown by B’nik’s Caranth.

A short mating flight, gorging on her food–those spoke of a small clutch and more problems for the Weyr with a Weyrwoman who would not control her dragon.

Given that Tullea then acts extremely swiftly to evict Kindan and Lorana from doing research in the Records Room and tells M’tal’s wing to move themselves, essentially, as far away from her as she can send them, I don’t think the problem they should be gearing up for is an out-of-control Weyrwoman.

Lorana still wants to go to Fort to raid their records, but there’s no pathway to that until B’nik shows up and offers to personally escort them while Minith and Tullea are still asleep. Which gets Kindan to Zist for a conference, but first, B’nik (who is way better, in Lorana’s opinion, when he’s not having to be Tullea’s man, just to continue driving home how much we’re supposed to think of Tullea as a shrew) explains to Lorana and us about the consequences of timing it, although he only mentions extreme tiredness, rather than the other consequences that we’ve seen happen from prolonged time splitting.

B’nik and Lorana conference with K’lior and Cisca about numbers and strength.

Cisca was even taller than her Weyrleader, a brown-eyed, brown-haired beauty with a strong, cheerful face. She was much more buxom than Lorana, but she carried herself proudly, her stride neither apologetic nor flaunting.

It’s not quite “She breasted boobily down the stairs”, but I’m not entirely sure how Lorana can tell that Cisca has achieved the socially acceptable balance between apologizing for her rack and shoving it in everyone’s vision.

After talking about fighting strength, we switch to the Harper conference, where no real headway has happened there at all. The only message from High Reaches has been “Wait”, and all Verilan has is the certainty that each successive incident of Thread and sickness is roughly halving the number of available fighting dragons to the point where there won’t be enough to succeed in all of two more Falls, based on the attrition rate.

There’s a jump back to the Weyrleader conference, all now ensconced in Fort’s Records Room where, finally, after a full day of nothing, Cisca finds a mention that a very specific room was built, after much argument, at Benden Weyr at the end of the First Interval. Then back to the Harpers, where everyone has confirmed Verilan’s figures, and Kelsa brings up having rediscovered a fragment of a haunting song, which kickstarts Kindan’s memory enough that he is able to sing back the song he had only a glance at before he had to try and help put out the Archive fire. Kindan is now certain the song refers to Lorana, the “young healer lass”, even though the rest of the song is still opaque. Before more can be put to use on the song, Lorana bursts in and tells them, tearily, that Arith has gotten sick. And that’s chapter 14.

Ecosystems are constantly changing, adapting to new life-forms, while simultaneously life-forms are adapting to the ecosystem. To engineer a change to an ecosystem is to commit to a lifetime of monitoring.

–Glossary of terms, Ecosystems: From -ome to Planet, 24th Edition

(Tillek Hold, First Interval, AL 58)

Chapter 15 starts with fog as Wind Blossom begins her “vacation” at Tillek. It’s very apparent it’s not a real vacation, as Wind Blossom has requested “a bell, a coil of rope, and some planking” from the local Lord, Malon, to accompany a shelter. Malon has no idea why Wind Blossom would want such things.

Insert another caustic rant about how fast knowledge gets lost on Pern, with extra spice because it stands credulity that in fifty years, everyone just about everyone has forgotten that the dolphins talk and can be summoned by bells and are otherwise quite happy to work with people.

It’s premature, because within a few pages, the narrative will tell us that Malon “soon guessed” the reason that Wind Blossom came to Tillek and he tries to dissuade her with the thought that the water is too cold this far north. Wind Blossom is persistent, though, and intends to get the result she is looking for. My point still stands, though, that if Malon can “soon guess” that Wind Blossom is trying to call the dolphins, then he shouldn’t be nearly as clueless as he appears about the materials she requested earlier.

I realize this is an author trying to avoid spoiling a very important point of the series up to this point, but it has the effect of unnecessarily complicating every section after this point and not being clear about what is going on, leaving a new reader without a clue, even as the older readers nod and smile, assuming their own memories are good enough to recall how someone summons a dolphin.

Plus, the title of the leader of all the dolphins is The Tillek. So that particular Hold should have a longer, not shorter, memory.

In between those events, though, we have another instance of foreshadowing, where Wind Blossom discovers that the watch-wher of Tillek has been chained up.

Wind Blossom turned to Tillek’s leader and looked up at him with deadly intensity. “Why is it chained?”
“Oh, Tilsk here was always getting into mischief,” Malon said dismissively. “It’s for its own good.”
“Watch-whers are ‘he’ or ‘she’,” Wind Blossom corrected sternly. [Which fans the editors missed her calling Tilsk an it not two sentences above. Wind Blossom would have said she, because…] “This one is a green; that makes her a ‘she’.”
[…Wind Blossom is very annoyed that nobody has been training with the watch-wher and what that means for the loss of knowledge…]
“What if we start chaining up dragons?” she asked, nodding in satisfaction when both Malon and M’hall recoiled in horror. She looked back up at Malon. “It is the same thing, to chain a watch-wher.”

Wind Blossom also pointedly remarks that chained watch-whers can’t accomplish their purpose of eating Thread when it falls at night, which surprises Malon to learn. And then he agrees to keep that knowledge secret so as not to alarm the Hold, rather than spread out widely so everyone knows to take good care of their watch-wher. So that knowledge will get lost at the next major disaster.

There’s a quick scene between Emorra and Tieran as they try to reduce the surface of the dragon illness problem, with no apparent success, before returning to Wind Blossom, who has successfully contacted the dolphins and had them retrieve some things that were “lost” during the Crossing. M’hall notes the success and Wind Blossom points out to him that these things are on loan, rather than retrieved, and at some point will need to be lost again. Which makes me wonder again about what the plot actually was in terms of throwing away all the equipment during the fleeing, as if that was the exact point decided where there would be no further need for their high tech.

Especially, as the equipment is unveiled, they have significant amounts of power still left in them. The equipment turns out to be a genetic code viewer and sequencer, as well as a mapper that will help those reading genes to understand what they’re looking at. The chapter closes on Wind Blossom agreeing with Tieran that it would be easier for their future descendants to use the equipment in their time, if only they could be taught how to do it.

And one last note, the ships in orbit have collected the name Dawn Sisters from the astronomy students looking at them through a telescope.

So, we are setting ourselves up for a giant time-twist plot that is likely going to make me wonder a lot of things before all is said and done, and only some of them are going to have anything at all to do with the paradoxes that are being invoked or sidestepped because the authors wanted a plot to work more than they wanted to think about the consequences of that plot. That is definitely not a headache I am looking forward to.

Deconstruction Roundup for August 2nd, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to wonder how random random selection really is.)

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

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 have had the experience of yelling at elected officials about the lying lies they are lying about. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonsblood: Making Up For Lost Time

[Mari Ness wonders why The White Dragon waits so long before letting all of its plot out, why everyone keeps picking the wrong reasons to tell Jaxom to shove off, and is disappointed that this first trilogy ends with more of a Bronx cheer than a fanfare.]

Last time, we saw the effects of the first Fall of the Third Pass, and things went disastrously for everyone, because nobody had apparently decided that casualties were a thing that happened.

And an asshole continued to be an asshole.

Dragonsblood, Chapter 13: Content Notes:

(Benden, Third Pass, 4th Day, AL 508)

Dragon, turn
Dragon, climb
Dragonrider, watch for sign
Firestone, chew
Dragon, flame
Char the Thread, make it tame

I know we’ve complained about the quality of the poetry here, but this is terrible. I can’t even figure out what it’s supposed to be, much less anything to say about how effectively it does it.

This chapter opens with M’tal declaring they’re going to run training exercises with mixed wings, and every so often, one of the riders is going to be “injured” to the point where they be to leave the battlefield and everyone else has to pick up the slack. None of the sick dragons are flying. There’s a little grumble about how that realization is a day late, and a persistent grumble that Tullea doesn’t seem to be helping anyone at any time, despite being the Weyrwoman now (and the traditional person to examine Records, rather than Lorana and Kindan, who are.)

It takes them most of the morning before M’tal feels “cautiously confident” they might be able to handle the next Fall.

The narrative hops back to Kindan and Lorana in the archives, and someone has finally put up an answer to the question of why there aren’t fleets of apprentices copying Records, despite obvious signs of disintegration.

“Spoken like someone who never spent days copying old Records,” Kindan responded. “Do you know how boring it is, day in, day out, copying musty old Records?”
Lorana allowed herself a slight smile. “I imagine there would be a lot to be learned,” she said.
Kindan shook his head. “No, not really,” he said. “Most of the Records are repetitious. There are only so many ways you can record crop yields and rainfall. Occasionally there’s a note of a wedding or a birth but–honestly–you’d think whoever wrote those Records was numb! Not a single joke, no songs, nothing but dull, dry facts, Record after Record.”

Data points are pretty compact to copy, and don’t take up much room, I would have thought, and also, I would have expected shorthand and other space-saving ideas to develop quickly so as to make that pain less. Or, again, for someone to have sensibly summarized the dull dry facts into something useful, like “the average rainfall for the First Pass during the wet season was this many millimeters per day” and paying more attention to things that were strong variances in the pattern. Because, for the most part, they don’t need that level of detail to be copied exactly. The trends are important, the data less so. Songs and jokes might also get compressed some, on the mistaken assumption that, say, all Harpers will understand if you say, “Key of C, tempo allegro, 12-bar blues” and then just write the lyrics and where the key changes, rather than copying out complete sheet music.

When faced with more information than you have storage and time to copy, decisions have to get made about what gets kept and what gets compressed and what gets discarded.

In any case, the two have been using a “sandglass” to time how long between calling dragons to drop out of the practice run, and after selecting one more dragon, Lorana suggests they start not at the most recent, but the oldest Records to see what can be found. It’s a good plan, and Kindan acknowledges it, even as he dreads it, but nothing comes of it, and Lorana’s good humor disappears into frustration.

“Musty, old, useless Records!” she swore.
Kindan gave her a shocked look.
“I’m sorry I ever suggested we start with the oldest ones,” she apologized, stifling a sneeze. “My nose is running and my eyes are watering with all this dust. The writing’s barely legible and I’ve probably missed something important because it’s buried in a mass of gibberish!”

And now I wonder how these Records are organized. Because it would seem likely that “The Annals of Benden Hold’s Crop Yields” would be in a different volume, or at least signposted differently, than “The Exploits of the Dragonriders of Benden Weyr”. What it sounds like, though, is that we have a single volume called “Benden” or something like that, where records have been thrown together on the page without even the rudiments of an organization system, no headings for pages, no navigation aids, no date markers, just solid blocks of text that you have to read every word of to find the needle in the haystack.

In a society that prizes literacy and has at least some idea that they want to preserve things for next generations. I’m not saying they have to be perfect at organization, but it’s been a running gag since the beginning of the series that any time someone has to go through the records, they’re always disorganized, disintegrating, and otherwise useless, unless the plot demands that character get lucky and spot the right reference in a book. There are enough times that this happens that someone, somewhere, has to have developed a system to keep the Records straight and easily accessible, even if it is their personal system and nobody else necessarily knows it, and presumably has written that system down in a Record somewhere.

I realize I’m giving this way more thought than the authors have, collectively, but it is a truth of humans that once there’s enough information that some of it has to be referenced, rather than remembered, organization systems are sure to follow. It would be a better plot for the volume that’s needed to be misfiled, rather than the information needed being a single line in a random work.

Right after Lorana swears, Salina arrives and offers to continue while Lorana takes a break to care for her dragon, get food, and otherwise not be devoting all of her waking time to this problem. Salina quips that this is the sort of thing the Weyrwoman is supposed to do, or so she’s heard, and Kindan decides (wisely, in my opinion) he’s not going to say that those grumbles are talking about Tullea instead of Salina.

The next Threadfall has M’tal more confident (and better prepared) except for one giant spanner in his plans – Minith and Tullea appear, which causes problems in the carefully planned wings as, as we saw before, bronze dragons start following their instinct to protect a queen rather than what they need to do for Thread. Tullea insists she’s doing her duty as the Weyrwoman, and M’tal eventually has Lorana explain to Minith that she needs to not be there, and the chaos subsides after the queen disappears.

That royally ticks Tullea off, and she’s ready to give Lorana a knuckle sandwich, but that Arith appears, ready to protect her rider, and Salina shortly after. Lorana explains why she ordered Minith back at M’tal’s insistence.

“I’m sorry, Tullea, but M’tal explained that if Minith were injured, she might not mate.”
Tullea’s eyes widened as the words sunk home. “I was doing my duty,” she said dully. “I’m supposed to take on the duties of the Weyrwoman.”
“When they’re is only one mature queen,” Salina told her, “those duties do not include flying against Thread.”
[…Tullea acknowledges this, but insists again that Lorana has no right to order her around. Lorana shrugs it off and heads to her next patient…]
“This isn’t over,” Tullea growled at Lorana’s back.
“If you’re interested in a Weyr woman’s duties, Tullea, now is a good time to start,” Salina said from behind her. “There is numbweed ready and those who need it.”
Tullea’s hands clenched at her sides and she turned sharply to glare at Salina, but the old Weyrwoman merely gestured toward the Lower Caverns.

And the narrative continues to portray Tullea as someone who can’t do right by anyone and is determined to make every situation worse by being a part of it. In Kindan and K’tal’s conversation in the next scene, K’tan says that Tullea used to be charming to the point where is strongly implied he slept with her, but this was before she Impressed. (There’s also a bit that says Kindan was considered to ascend to a Mastery, but he turned it down to stay at Benden, but I note only because we had so much trouble figuring out what Kindan was actually good enough at that would warrant his promotion in the last book.)

Nobody considers Tullea’s behavior strange enough to have wanted to investigate it then, or to continue to wonder and request examination by the Weyr Healer to see if there is something they can detect that would indicate what’s going on with her abrupt personality shift. It very much snacks of “wimmins be bitches, amirite?” and not wanting to do much examining of someone who will eventually be a Weyrwoman. Plenty of comments have talked about the lack of curiosity on Pern, and here’s yet another example of it.

As was also pointed out before, Tullea might be the senior queen, and Lorana the junior, and Breth gone, but that should mean there are a couple more queens around, right? Unless, and this is reaching back very far into memory, someone decided that three was the maximum number of queens in a Weyr based on the early books instead of the later five or so, at which point everybody’s accounted for.

K’tan wants to know how the other Weyrs fared in their Threadfall, but since Weyrs are autonomous, and some of them don’t feel like sharing, Kindan hatches a plot to send an innocuous-seeming message to Zist so that he can get more information without having to be too obvious about it.

While that echoes, M’tal calls his war council and wants to get an update on his fighting strength. He wants B’nik to lead the next Fall to give him practice and experience at leadership, since it’s extremely likely that B’nik will be taking over once Minith goes into a mating. To that end, he wants B’nik to know what sort of reserves they have, given that the casualties from the last Fall have cut in to their strength again. B’nik says he’s up to the task, even with the projected casualties and sickness that K’tan suggests.

Then things resolve at the Harper Hall, where Kindan’s message comes through – he wants Zist to “trade him news about the Weyrs.” Zist takes his meaning and rouses Masters Jofri, Verilan, and Kelsa (you go, girl!) to discuss the request and its ramifications. Verilan has come up empty so far in searching for previous instances of sick dragons, fire-lizards, or watch-whers. The narrative trolls us again about the shoddy state of the Records.

The Master Archivist shook his head. “They’d much rather be copying your songs than dusty old Records that mean nothing to them.”
“I suspect that in the days to come, your apprentices–and all the students at our Hall–will find their interest in preserving our old Records increasing,” Master Zist said.
Verilan nodded in agreement. “These times do make us appreciate the need to preserve our history.”

…because we haven’t made it startlingly obvious how a classification system and summaries would have to be invented of they didn’t already exist. Rote copying is for sacred texts that have to be done correctly or the magic smoke gets let out. “The Masterharper’s Guide to Planet-Wide Anomalies” should already have any such events. Or something.

Kelsa is charged with both looking into songs to see if any of them sound like they were composed about or in response to sick or lost dragons / fire-lizards and composing a song so that other Harpers can collect the information Kindan wants.

Now that we know what Kindan asked for, we pop back to the Weyr, where Tullea is storming M’tal’s quarters, demanding to know what sort of shenanigans are going on.

Tullea’s nostrils flared angrily. “You will not make B’nik lead the Fall!” she shouted. “You’re trying to get him killed so that your dragon will fly Minith!” She drew herself up to her full height. “Well, it’s not going to happen! I’ll not let it happen, no matter what!”

Lorana and Kindan are drawn by the noise. Lorana volunteers herself to go get some food. Kindan suggests lacing the wine for Tullea with fellis to knock her out, a suggestion B’nik confirms as Lorana meets him in the way down. B’nik is chagrined by Tullea’s outbursts, but manages to calm Tullea down significantly with a well-placed hug after Tullea expresses a heartfelt concern about B’nik’s well-being. Tullea’s behavior is offered an explanation, by Salina, that’s not “she’s a raging bitch” for once.

“Stress does strange things to people,” Salina murmured when their steps faced away.
“She wasn’t like this before,” M’tal muttered, looking puzzled.
“She said she’s always tired, always edgy,” Salina commented. She looked at Kindan. “Could it be something in her diet?”
[…Kindan demurs to K’tan, and suggests Lorana might know a thing. Lorana says that sometimes the animals just go off their feed for no explicable reason…]
“We’ll, Tullea’s been ‘off her feed’ for the past three turns now,” Kindan commented sardonically.
“I think she’s just scared,” Salina said sympathetically. “And who can blame her? These are very worrying times.”

Salina, unsurprisingly, turns out to have a reasonable explanation, as the only one of the lot who has gone through what Tullea has. And yet, despite everyone knowing that things have been strange for a long time, nobody seems to have been investigating or otherwise working on trying to solve the issues that Tullea clearly has. (Grumble. Therapists. There should be therapists.)

And Tullea tells B’nik something, when they’re alone together that should set his hair on end, assuming he knows everything there is to know about dragons and their abilities.

“I never used to be like this,” Tullea continued. “I feel pulled apart, dizzy; I can’t concentrate. I feel out of control all the time, B’nik. And it’s been like this for Turns.”
B’nik nodded sympathetically.
“I want me back,” Tullea cried. “I want to be who I was, not angry all the time.”
She looked into his warm eyes and told him her deepest fear: “And if I lose you, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that.”

I mean, there’s an amount of unhealthy dependence here, if you think Tullea’s in her right self at this moment, but now, I’m wondering how you can check, discreetly, to see if someone is existing in two places at the same time. J’trel told Lorana at the beginning of the book that being in two places at once produces irritability, and we saw how spending significant amounts of time in the same place as your past self is very unhealthy to your mental state. And it’s been going on for so long, it probably would have ruled out most of the causes they would look for. A brain chemistry change, being twice in time, or an Impression that went off seem like the things that would most obviously cause a strong personality shift. Two of them can be potentially checked for with the level of tech and time travel Pern has.

The rest of the chapter is Kindan, Lorana, and K’tan trying to figure out the method of the disease spreading, with several hypotheses suggested about how based on data that dragons lower down are more likely to be infected, and that more dragons have gotten sick since the quarantine went into effect. Lorana eventually recalls that isolation was the first step toward stopping diseases from spreading in herdbeasts and calls M’tal back to discuss things further. She also suggests a field trip to Fort Weyr to examine their records for anything interesting, following a pattern Lorana and Kindan found in their own search. M’tal says no, because they can’t risk infecting Fort. And the chapter ends without a full set of data for us to draw or own conclusions, and with Lorana not pushing M’tal on the visit to Fort while they wait for Zist to come back with information.

We’re nearly halfway through the book, so things should start resolving soon, right?

Deconstruction Roundup for July 26th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to wonder how random random selection really is.)

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

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

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 understand how dangerous it appears to be to say anything nice about yourself in the presence of other people. Or for any other reason, really.