Deconstruction Roundup for December 15th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who had somehow managed to make it to the last month again.)

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

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Eruditorium Press

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 want to talk about how a worldwide audience can make for some very interesting seasonal talk. Or for any other reason, really.

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Dragonseye: …and justice for whom?

Last time, one Lord Holder held out on impeachment on the principle that one does not remove someone from office lightly, right before the narrative undercut that position by telling us the holdout was mentally ill and having problems with his faculties. Because, as we are about to find out, it’s not possible for someone to put up a true effort against the designated heroes.

Dragonseye: Chapter XI: Content Notes:

This chapter title breaks the naming convention of Pern chapters, which usually just list the name of the place, and sometimes, a time period or designation. This chapter is specifically titled “The Trials at Telgar and Benden Weyrs,” which suggests an event of monumental importance – except that it’s the trial of various flunkies and guards, not the impeachment of Chalkin. As trials go, unless this produces testimony that can be used to nail Chalkin to the wall, these aren’t that important. Jaxom’s trial of Norist and the other Lords Holder would deserve a break more than this one does.

Jamson is unable to attend the trial at Benden, but we are told that representatives from every Weyr and Hold are able to attend. Even though there’s a blizzard covering Bitra, that phrasing means someone from there is present, even though I suspect that’s not actually the case. Jamson is missed at this trial because it’s on a subject he would actually care about.

The Lady Holder Thea came, annoyed that Jamson had a legitimate excuse for his absence and had sent Gallian [regent son] in his place.
“It might have done that stubborn streak of his some good to hear just how Chalkin conducts his hold. Oh, he’d’ve spouted on about autonomy but he must certainly is against any harm coming to unborn children.” Thea gave Zulaya a significant nod, reminding those around her that she had borne fourteen children to Lord Jamson in the course of her fertile years: sufficient to substantially increase the borders of their lands when the children were old enough to claim their land grants.

…wow. Not at the number of children, because I’ve seen plenty of good Catholic families that can get to fourteen children in our current age, but Lady Thea must have an iron constitution, because that would mean no more than one Cesarian, and, depending on what level of medical care is actually available at this point in time, potentially having done it in a world of potentially sixteenth- to eighteenth-century Terran medical care. And she and her fourteen children all survive to adulthood. That’s a sort of thing where one might start looking for the Infinite Improbability Drive.

Although, if all the Lords Holder have the same feelings toward fetuses (seeing them as land investments instead of children), that might explain the conspicuous absence of chemical or herbal birth control everywhere. Lady Thea was probably forbidden from traveling by dragon any time it might have been possible she was pregnant.

Okay, on with the trial.

Held in the capacious Lower Cavern at Benden Weyr, the first of the two trials was a sobering, well-conducted affair. At one time on Pern, there had been trained legists on Pern, but the need for such persons had waned.

No, it fucking did not, because this is not the first time in 250 years that a matter has crossed jurisdictions or someone has appealed to the Charter or an impartial court would need to be established! And even if you corrected that sentence to point out that the transference of the power of the court to the Lord Holder is what happened, that could potentially reduce the number of lawyers you would need, but I suspect it would have the opposite effect.

Furthermore, at least in my opinion, the narrative contradicts itself with the justification as to why there are fewer lawyers.

Most arguments are settled by negotiated compromise or, when all negotiation efforts failed, by hand-to-hand combat.

Cocowhat by depizan

What, you mean mediation and arbitration, and failing that, a formal duel? Now, who usually takes on the role of the impartial expert in situations that call for meditation and arbitration?

Lawyers.

An easy way out of this conundrum, if you wanted to continue in the crass denigration of Bitra, but also to give them a useful service that would justify their continued existence, you could make all the legists Bitran. It gives everyone else a reason to hate them and to warn everyone else away from ever making a contract with them, because they write the damn things! And it would provide them with a significant amount of income to power the games with (and make everyone suspicious the games are rigged).

Ugh. Instead, what we have is people apparently hammering out an agreement between each other, then trusting them to follow through on it. Or then fighting over who is right in a dispute. Which has nothing to do with who might be right in a dispute.

Consequently, a spokesperson for the accused guards had to be found. One of the teachers from Fort Hold who specialized in legal contracts and land deeds reluctantly agreed to officiate.
Gardner had not been very enthusiastic about involving himself, however briefly, with rapists, but he recognized the necessity of representation and did his best. He had perfunctorily questioned the victims as to the identity of their alleged assailants and tried to shake their testimony. The three women were no longer the frightened, half-starved wretches who had been so abused. Their time in the Weyr had done wonders for their courage, self-esteem and appearance.

Yes, being taken seriously in your rape charges, having the rapists arrested, and having a court that will not only prosecute them, but likely convict them, and also having a place that didn’t shame you and supported you is very much going to increase your self-esteem and courage.

Also, a contract lawyer is not a criminal defense lawyer. Those guards are not going to get the defense they would be entitled to. They just aren’t.

Also, importantly, contracts and land deeds are handled by teachers from the college. Someone is still helping resolve disputes and is doing legal work to make sure everyone knows what’s going on, so there aren’t competing land claims. There’s still all sorts of need for lawyers. So the narrative can be quiet about how the need for them has somehow waned and been replaced by a trial by combat system.

Gardner even insisted that they had been rehearsed in their testimony, but that did not mitigate the circumstances of the grievous bodily and mental harm inflicted on them.
“Sure, I rehearsed,” the oldest of the women said loudly. “In me mind, night and night, how I was flung down and…done by dirty men as wouldn’t have dared step inside a decent woman’s hold with such notions in their head. I ache still rehearsing,” and she spat the word at him, “what they did, again and again and again.” For emphasis she slammed one fist into the other hand. Gardner had ceased that line of questioning.
In the end he managed one small concession for the accused: the right to be returned to their Contract Hold, following the trial, rather than have to make their own way back to Bitra.

Which isn’t really a concession as much as it is a sentence of exile. There’s a little about how Chalkin protested heavily about the dragonriders and how the dragonriders would happily chew out Chalkin out “when his guards said ‘they was only following orders to keep the holders from leaving!'” This should also count as evidence enough against Chalkin for his impeachment, which would have likely been accomplished by now if there was an independent judiciary to bring the charges to.

M’shall took the role as the prosecutor, and there were three judges and twelve jurists, so it had all the trappings of an independent court, except the part where no competent defense lawyer could be found and there’s no way in hell that anyone in attendance could be selected as a neutral juror in the case. All in all, six men are convicted, three as the rapists, and three as accomplices.

The penalty for the rape of a pregnant woman was castration, which was to be carried out immediately. The others were to receive forty lashes, well laid on by Telgar’s large and strong stewards.
“They were lucky there isn’t Fall,” Zulaya remarked to Irene, Lady Thea, and K’vin. “Otherwise they could also have been tied out during the next Fall.”
Despite herself, Thea gave a shudder. “By its probably why there are so few cases of rape recorded in our hold’s annals.”
“Small wonder,” K’vin said, crossing his legs again. Zulaya had noticed his defensive position and her lips twitched briefly. He turned away. His weyrmate had nearly cheered aloud when the verdict was delivered.

Well, shit. That’s harsher punishment than is written into the laws of our times. Whomever wrote the Pernese Charter, there were clearly women writing the part about what the punishments for rape are. Unless, of course, this punishment is specifically for the rape of a pregnant woman, which would mean that it’s more likely that the punishment is either for violence against an unborn child (like Jamson’s firm conviction) or for screwing another man’s property, both of which would be much more in line with Pern’s overarching philosophy.

The last guard protests that only Chalkin can deal with him, because he’s the one that holds the contract, but he’s told that it wouldn’t have made a difference and the sentences are carried out. The three women ask to go back to their holds, with renewed backbone and desire to stop anyone else from trying to turf them out. And then the narrative supplies me with more support to my theory that Bitra shouldn’t exist by actually confirming some of my speculations.

“Of course, you can’t tell if Chalkin doctored the last census or not, but he’s supposed to have 24,567 inhabitants.”
“Really?” Zulaya was surprised.
“But then, Bitra’s one of the smaller holds and doesn’t have any indigenous industry–apart from some forestry. The mining’s down to what’s needed locally. There’s a few looms working but no great competition for Keroon or Benden.”
“And the gaming,” Thea said with a disgusted sniff.
“That’s Chalkin’s main industry.”

So, apart from gaming, Bitra has no exports. I have to assume that Bitra’s internal production is enough for Bitra, because they clearly aren’t getting imports, since they’ve basically tried to screw every potential supplier they could have. Or perhaps they have a laundering operation in the same way the time-skipped exiles of Southern did, where Bitran money is used to bribe merchants into breaking their embargoes, or in to having fronts purchase the goods that are then shipped on to Bitra. Because as described, there’s no way Bitra should exist at this point.

The next trial, apparently, also uses Gardner as the defense lawyer, but this time for murder, and the jury doesn’t buy that killing someone is justifiable when your orders are to “restrain by any means.”

The men were sentenced to be transported to the Southern Islands by dragonback with a seven-day supply of food, which was the customary punishment for murderers.

Okay, that’s interesting. Exile for murderers, castration for rapists, beatings for accessories. And this is apparently what is laid out on the Charter or is the custom of Pern. I really can’t square these punishments with the idea that Pern is supposed to be some future society ideal, but then again, I assume those ideals are Star Trek, not Galt’s Gulch, so… (And also, I find it interesting that rapists get a much more permanent punishment than murderers do, given that we know that people can survive in the South, although usually by accident rather than by intent.)

Chalkin, of course, sends a threat that he intends to get compensation for the “ritual disfigurement of men only doing their duty,” and shouts at the dragonrider that comes to collect such a message about all the sins and problems of dragonriders.

After all that, the action settles back onto the weyrlings of Telgar and Iantine and Debera, whose dragon (and her) figure in more than a few sketches, prompting others to say that Iantine is in love, head over heels with Debera, and the other girls are laughing at Debera’s cluelessness, but also their own insecurities about what happens when their dragons rise to mate.

“To him it probably does,” Grasella said, “but, Jule, I’m more worried about the blue riders. I mean, some of them are very nice guys and I wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings, but they don’t generally like girls.”
“Oh,” and Jule [who is Weyrbred] shrugged indolently, “that’s easier still. You make an arrangement with another rider to be on hand when your green gets prod-dy. Then the blue gets his mate, if he’s got one, or anyone who’s willing–and you’d better believe that anyone’s willing when dragons are going to participate. So bed the one you like, and the blue rider his choice, and you all enjoy!”
The girls absorbed this information with varying degrees of enthusiasm or distaste.

Yet more evidence that others would, and probably should, find dragonriders to be a weird sex cult. Jule is blasé about the fact that people in the Weyr sleep around, especially when under the influence of dragons. To the Craft and Holdbred, who are probably being fed a very steady diet of arranged monogamy, and especially Debera, who escaped her own arranged marriage to the Weyr, this casual attitude toward sex should be shocking and scandalous, but nobody protests too loudly, as if all these women have just accepted the new reality as an objective fact.

Debera, for example, while she’s a bit embarrassed at Iantine falling for her, (and Morath confirming Iantine likes her) is a lot more textually embarrassed by the fact that she’s going to get new clothes.

She had tried to argue with Tisha that the beautiful green dress was quite enough: she didn’t need more. Tisha had ignored that and demanded that she choose two colors from the samples available: one for evening and another good one for daytime wear. Everyone in the Weyr, it seemed, had new clothes for Turn’s End. And yet, something in Debera had delighted in knowing she’d have two completely new dresses that no one had worn before her. She had, she admitted very quietly to herself, hoped that Iantine would notice her in them. Now, with Morath’s information, she wondered if he’d notice at all that she was wearing new clothes.

This is the right attitude for someone to have who has gone from relative poverty to apparent abundance. She has one dress that is probably fancier than what Debera has ever worn in her life, a dress that would probably have been made for her wedding, if the family had saved enough to contract a Weaver for it. And now, there’s someone insisting that she get two more dresses of the same quality for daily usage, as if these are, essentially, commodities. Debera understands the value and work put into the dresses, and wants to treat them as such. I would think that the others from outside the Weyr would also have similar reactions to their own fancy clothes.

The conversation goes on to talk about finding living spaces, and Jule ends up making a tasteless comment about how there will be space available for them when the time comes, with the implication of fatalities that all of them pick up on immediately. Jule apologizes immediately and the subject gets changed swiftly after an uncomfortable silence. The narrative shifts away, as well, to get away from that reality.

Clisser and Jemmy are, naturally, arguing. Jemmy is being short with Clisser, who wants status reports on the latest of the history ballads, over the trial. Jemmy thinks the trial was a farce and the guards should have just been sent to exile immediately. Clisser contends the trial was necessary to prove that people don’t act arbitrarily, and Jemmy snorts that such things are to position themselves against Chalkin.

Jemmy has reconstructed an abacus and slide rule to replace digital calculators and pads. (In theory, the slide rule allows for complex maths at nearly the same speed as digital calculation, but you have to be trained on it to achieve that speed, and you have to know what scales to use.) He’s also trying to figure out something that was done in the past to mark astronomical occurrences, and Clisser helps, albeit unintentionally, Jemmy land on Stonehenge as the likely candidate for imitation, and then is dismissed so that Jemmy can work on everything. Sallisha meets him just outside the office and gives him a full piece of her mind about the choices of subjects. Greek history and culture, she says, is essential so that people know where their government system comes from. Except Pern is not an Athenian democracy. Or, for that matter, a Roman republic. Perhaps, maybe, Sparta, given that the dragonriders really could rule any time they wanted. But no, Pern is feudalism. So Clisser’s objection, “…there is no point in forcing hill farmers and plains drovers to learn something that has absolutely no relevance to their way of life,” is right, but not for the reasoning that he has underneath it. Sallisha and Clisser go back and forth about what’s important to learn, with Clisser heavily on the side of “Pern is the important history to learn, as well as obligations to their betters and their rights under the charter” and Sallisha very much on the side of “knowing where you came from is most important.” They hash on about how terrible it is that so few people knew their rights, and why Chalkin hasn’t been removed, before Clisser says that Sallisha will be teaching the South Nerat circuit and gives her a new contract and her new syllabus. And that’s the end of the chapter.

I realize, now that I’m at the end of the chapter, that we got cheated on seeing what we actually wanted to see – a Lord Holder’s court and hearings not just on matters of crime and discipline, but matters of petty disputes, taxes, and the like.

Writer Workshop December 13th, 2017

(Posted by chris the cynic)

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

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.

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 forever in the Slacktiverse, December 10th, 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 December 8th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who had somehow managed to make it to the last month again.)

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

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

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 want to talk about how a worldwide audience can make for some very interesting seasonal talk. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonseye: Lurching Toward A Conclusion

Last time, the dragonriders intervened in a humanitarian crisis on the borders of Bitra, and continued to gather large swaths of evidence that Chalkin is unfit and needs to be impeached.

Dragonseye: Chapter X: Content Notes: Ablism, Patriarchal Norms

Chapter X begins with the attempt to convince Jamson of Chalkin’s bad behavior, but Jamson is unconvinced that such behavior is possible, and also has no desire to go out and verify things for himself because it’s winter in High Reaches. M’shall points out that Chalkin’s complaint about dragonriders not attending to his urgent signal is void because Weyrs have the right to refuse service to anyone (much like the Crafts do) with sufficient justification, and he and Bridgeley leave before Jamson can respond. But Jamson is still not convinced. “One simply does not impeach a Lord Holder overnight! Not this close to Threadfall,” he says, and he’s right that the process shouldn’t be easily doable, but at this point, there’s enough evidence that a trial should be getting underway shortly. Azury, who lives at Southern Boll, in much warmer climate, is not convinced initially, but does take up the offer to do his own interviews and see if there are liars or exaggerations going on. He comes back convinced, and the three go to see Richud of Ista, who is out fishing and has a lot of dolphins by his boat, because he claims the dolphins understand him. (We know, of course, that they do. One would think that the people of this time know as well, given that they’ve had access to the computers until recently.) Richud is on board, but asks that they hold the vote on a day he isn’t out fishing.

Which leaves Jamson. This time, they go back with Azury and with Iantine’s drawings.

“Very good idea, if Jamson will accept the proof as genuine,” the Southern Boll Holder said skeptically.
Which is exactly what happened.
“How can you be sure these are accurate?” the High Reaches Lord Holder said when he had leafed through the vivid and detailed drawings on Iantine’s pad. “I think the whole matter has been exaggerated out of proportion.” He closed the pad halfway on the stark sketch of the hanging man.

It is entirely possible that what I am about to say is strongly influenced by the fact that I’m writing it in a time where the President of the United States and several of the high officials of his government and campaign are currently being investigated as to whether they accepted and directed the machinations of a foreign government to interfere in an election, and then appear to have taken actions to obstruct the truth from coming out, but if Jamson turns out to have been bribed or bought off by Chalkin, I’m noting that I’ve called it all the way back from here.

Not that the narrative wants to give me the satisfaction, as right after Jamson dismisses them firmly, his son, who has been conveniently listening outside both times, offers to provide what help he can to get Jamson on board, while noting that Jamson’s memory and faculties have started to deteriorate over the last year. Paulin, the party’s next stop, volunteers that the son has been increasingly shouldering the responsibilities of running the Hold, but he can’t declare Jamson unfit and take over, even though Paulin knows who’s likely running the show there. Paulin praises the new learning scheme for including Charter rights in it, as well as rote learning as a method in times where databases are not available, to which he gets a side-eye from a significant body of research that flatly contradicts that idea, but characters know only what their writers know.

The action shifts back to Iantine, painting Zulaya, but it’s K’vin’s perspective as the viewpoint character, so that we can continue to sexualize the Weyrwoman while she sits. K’vin is pleased that Zulaya is wearing the red dress, as well as having her hair done up in such a way that uses the combs he got for her at the last Turn’s End celebration. He mentally praises the expression Iantine has painted on her face, and there’s a short flashback where he gets convinced that the idea of portraits of everyone in the Weyr is a good idea, if for no other reason that to remember who was there when the inevitable happens during the Fall.

Zulaya calls a halt, examines the portrait and is slightly unnerved at the way the eyes of the portrait follow the viewer around the room, before they turn to the issue of hot klah and whether or not Iantine’s sketches were enough to convince everyone.

Iantine grinned as if, K’vin noted with a twinge of jealousy, totally at ease with the Weyrwoman. Few were, except Tisha, who treated everyone like an errant child, or Leopol, who was impudent with everyone.

K’vin’s jealousy has to get him in trouble at some point in this narrative, since we keep coming back to it. But also, Tisha seems to be Manora and Silvina rolled together and I could have double-checked to make sure that line wasn’t Piemur instead of Leopol. Characters need to be differentiated more instead of the stock tropes of a type of character.

As it is, Zulaya mentions that Jamson is not fully there mentally, and getting worse, according to her sources, but Jamson would have to abdicate for anyone else to take charge according to the Charter, which everyone has been rereading or relistening to, and noting that it gives a lot of leeway to the Lord Holder to do things, although it’s immediately followed by “he’s [Chalkin] abrogated almost every right the holders are supposed to have” such as denying the trial by jury required before stripping a holder of their lands. There are also apparently provisions for collusion or mutiny, and a process by which a formal list of grievances can be delivered to the Lord Holder. Jamson’s reluctance to interfere in another’s business and skepticism about the drawings is met by Zulaya remaining (justifiably) upset about the violence done to the pregnant women.

“How are they?” K’vin asked.
“One has delivered prematurely, but she and the babe will be all right. The others…well, Tisha’s doing what she can…getting them to talk it all out before it festers too much in their minds.”
“They can swear out warrants against the guards–” Iantine began.
“They have,” Zulaya said in a harsh tone, her smile unpleasant. “And we have the guards. As soon as the women feel strong enough to testify, we’re convening a court here. And M’shall wants to try the murderers he’s holding at Benden.”
“Two trials, then?”
“Yes, one for rape and one for murder. Not at all our usual winter occupation, is it?” Zulaya said in a droll tone.

K’vin remarks that the Charter is actually rather detailed, and asks the obvious question about whether they can hold trial of another Hold’s men for actions they took in that Hold.

They can. “Justice can be administered anywhere, provided the circumstances warrant,” we are told. But all the same, the three agree to keep the idea only between those that have to be involved, so as not to provoke things that could get in the way, like Chalkin showing up.

That ends the chapter, but I want to keep talking about a couple things. First, I’m actually kind of surprised that the Charter document is as detailed as we are told. I was envisioning it more like the United States Constitution, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – a fairly broad document that would then be hammered out by subsequent legislation and court decisions establishing the boundaries and implementations of those rights. But apparently the Charter has specific things spelled out in it that are planet-wide no-nos, such as rape and murder. I’m glad they’re there, because it suggests there was a little more thought put into things than has been implicated before. I’m also a bit interested in how the provision of justice being applicable everywhere runs up against the autonomy of the Holder in their Hold. If it’s legal to defraud someone in Bitra, but Telgar prosecutes any and all cases of fraud vigorously, what happens when at a Fort Gather, a Telgarian can conclusively prove that the Bitran game is rigged so that nobody can win it? Whose law applies – Fort, Telgar, Bitra, or just the Charter? And who is recording these decisions for posterity?

Second, it appears that we have found the missing counselors and psychologists, and, as usual, it is untrained headwomen taking on these roles, without compensation or acknowledgement of what they are doing. Not just in emotional labor terms, which is a construction that might not have been available to the author, but the standing assumption that the headwoman is essentially the Weyr mother and confidante, so any issues like this that would need a sensitive touch go straight to her. I’d be interested in a story where we get to see all the work the headwoman does on a regular basis, just so that we can see how much gets piled on her shoulders. And who does she turn to when she needs help with everything?

Next chapter is going to start with the trials. I can hardly wait to see what constitutes the justice system at this point in Pernese history.

Creative Corner, December 2017

(by chris the cynic)

This is a place to share about any and all creative endeavors.  Could be what you’re working on, what you want to work on, what you’re frustrated about being blocked on, plans, random thoughts, finger painting, building a new world order, whatever.

It was created because, even though Writers’ Workshop is intended to be a place where any creative endeavor can be discussed, the name scared off people who weren’t writers.  (Which totally makes sense.)