Deconstruction Roundup for May 22, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who totally spaced on his Pern post yesterday, despite working on Pern the day before.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip Sandifer: Philip Sandifer: Writer

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragondrums: The Pines of Rome

Last chapter, as promised, Piemur landed into life on Southern with a thud, hatched his fire lizard egg, and decided he was content, right where he was.

Dragondrums, Chapter 9: Content Notes:

Chapter Nine continues this idea of Piemur running on instinct, in contradiction to the character that had been established in the previous book and here until he stole the fire lizard egg.

Afterward, Piemur wasn’t certain why he had run from the dragonriders. He seemed to have been running from or to something ever since his voice had changed. In his panic, he supposed he aligned the Oldtime dragonriders with Lord Meron, and he did not want to encounter anyone connected with Lord Meron just then.

That’s not instinct, that’s logic. Piemur already knew by that point that Meron was supplying Southern Weyr in defiance of Benden, and then he heard Mardra threaten Meron. That sounds like a perfectly good pair of reasons to run away very fast, not to mention the stolen fire lizard egg Piemur had. Stop robbing Piemur of opportunities to demonstrate what he’s allegedly famous for.

Breakfast is an unexpected half-consumed-by-Thread runner beast corpse for Farli (Piemur’s queen) to eat raw and Piemur to cut strips from for cooking later. As they explore, Piemur finds the perfect inland camp point, with vegetables behind him, herdbeasts in front, and fresh water a-plenty.

Squinting against the sunlight, Piemur could see herdbeasts grazing on the lush grass on both sides of the river. And yet, there’d been Thread here the day before, and no dragonriders flaming to prevent the deadly stuff burrowing into the ground and eating the land barren.
As if to reassure himself, he poked at the soil with one of the sticks he’d collected, lifting up a clod of grass. Grubs fell from the roots, and Piemur was suitably awed by the abilities of those little gray wrigglies, which could, all by themselves, keep stuck an enormous plain free from the ravages of Thread. And those bloody Oldtimers hadn’t so much as stirred from the Weyr during yesterday’s Fall. They weren’t proper dragonriders at all. F’lar and Lessa had been right to exile them here to the South, where the insignificant grubs did their work for them. Why, he could have been killed during that Threadfall, and not a dragonrider around to protect him. Not, Piemur honestly admitted, that he hadn’t been well able to protect himself.

Freeze it there, please.

First, when did Piemur learn/deduce that grubs were the reason that Southern recovered easily from Thread? From what I remember, that was supposed to be a closely-guarded secret with need-to-know clearances applied, such that Benden and the Masters of the Crafthalls friendly to Benden are the ones to know, and everyone else left in the dark. Could this be yet another of the Noodle Incidents perpetually referenced but never explained? An authorial slip, perhaps, because the audience learned about the grubs back in Dragonquest? In any case, there’s no forthcoming explanation as to why Piemur knows this secret knowledge.

Second, um, Piemur, if I’m a dragonrider, and I know that I’m sitting on a continent where the grubs will keep the vegetation alive, and nature is smart enough to keep most of the fauna out of harm’s way, why would I risk injury to myself and my dragon flying flaming passes over deserted areas where there are no confirmed people? You’ve been trying to hide yourself from them for this long, so they really have no reason to be there. Unless you believe that Tradition (TRADITION!) dictates that dragonriders fly and flame all the areas where Thread could fall on land, regardless of whether there are things there or backup systems in place. That sounds like what “proper” means here. But again, exiled, so therefore they’re already outside the definition of “proper”.

Anyway, Piemur’s plan at this point is to wait in the valley, let Farli and himself feast from its riches until she’s outgrown her beginning-of-life appetite, and eventually make his way to Southern Hold. While he gathers fire material, he takes a closer look at some of the vegetation and realizes that he’s in a field of numbweed plants, which provides needed relief to his still sunburned skin. The Plan, however, finds itself getting easily derailed.

As he settled by the fire to wait for his meat to cook, he knew he’d be sorry to leave here.
He said that to himself the next morning when he rose, and that evening when he curled himself up in the shelter he’d made for Farli and himself. He really ought to try and get word back to the Harper Hall.
Each day, however, found him too busy catering to the needs of a rapidly growing fire lizard to make provisions for a journey of possibly several days. He spent a whole day trying to catch a fish for the oils need to soothe Farli’s flaking skin.
[…Thread falls again, but this time, Piemur is ready for it…]
He had made preparations against the next Fall of Thread, determined never to spend another eternity under a rock ledge. He had found a sunken tree trunk where the river flowed out of the forest. Diving into the water, he kicked down to the depth at which drowning Thread could no longer sting. There he hooked his arm around the tree trunk and poked back to the surface a thick reed, through which he then was able to breathe.

Since it doesn’t say what the diameter of the reed was, and since Piemur isn’t dying of poisoning while he does this, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that his snorkel is sufficiently wide to permit proper exchange of gases. And a second benefit that the snorkel is curled at the top in some way so that the sheets of Thread falling above the surface of the water don’t drop into his breathing apparatus and destroy him internally. And a third benefit that Thread doesn’t viciously chew through the reeds like it does any other organic matter so that his snorkel can be above water without being shorn off…

…okay, that’s a lot of doubt. The way the scene is written, I’m not sure Piemur can survive. Maybe there’s a missing detail, like that his snorkel is protected by the tree trunk, and so the Thread falling onto the trunk either doesn’t penetrate or gets a grub swarm as soon as it touches down. Despite the missing details, Piemur is able to wait out the Threadfall. Once it finally passes, he notices that much of the local wildlife has been doing the same thing he has in trying to get away from the Thread. Which makes me wonder why life on Pern hasn’t evolved some adaptation to combat Thread, like armor, or the ability to anticipate the Thread so as to be able to get under cover, or gills. So that something like this doesn’t happen:

He saw the bulge of the fallen runner beast, half-hidden under a large numbweed bush. To his surprise, it heaved upward, its bloodied flank crawling with grubs. The poor thing couldn’t still be alive? He raised his stick to put an end to the creature’s pain when he realized that the movement came from under the animal, spasmodic and desperate. Farli hoped from his shoulder and chittered, touching a tiny protruding hoof that Piemur hadn’t noticed.
It had been a female runner beast! With an exclamation, Piemur grabbed the hind legs and pulled the corpse from the youngster the female had given her life to protect from Thread. Bleating, it staggered to its feet, shedding a carpet of grubs, and hobbled the few steps to Piemur, its head and shoulders scored here and there by Thread.
Almost absently, Piemur stroked the furry head and scratched behind the ear cup, feeling its rough tongue licking his skin. Then he saw the long shallow scrape on the little beast’s right leg.
“So that’s why you didn’t make it to the river, huh, you poor stupid thing?” said Piemur, gathering it closer to him. “And your dam sheltered you with her body. Brave thing to do.” It bleated again, looking anxiously up at him.

So Piemur gives the beast a name – Stupid – and takes care of him, using everything he knows from his pre-Harper life, which is another advancement along the path of running Menolly’s story in reverse.

The narrative spins away from Piemur back to the Harper Hall, where Sebell and Menolly meet with the newly-returned Robinton from Nabol Hold. Robinton is quite pleased with himself, even though he has no news of Piemur.

“I have arranged matters so that we don’t have to worry about Nabol Hold supplying the Oldtimers with northern goods or receiving a further embarrassing of riches of fire lizard eggs in that otherwise impoverished Hold.”
“Then, none of the disappointed heirs caused trouble during the confirmation?” asked Sebell.
Master Robinton waggled his fingers, a sly smile on his face. “Not to speak of, though Hittet is a master of the snide remark. They could scarcely contend the nomination, since it had been made before such notable witnesses. Besides, I never bothered to disabuse them of the notion that Benden and the other Lord Holders would call the heir to account for the sins of his predecessor.” Master Robinton beamed at the reactions of his journeyman to his strategy. “It afforded me considerable pleasure to help the new Lord Deckter to send the worthless lot back to improve their beggared holds.”
[…Robinton gave some advice that running a Hold is like running a successful business…]
“We won’t locate Piemur by whistling for him from the north. You two go south. Make certain that Toric lets the Oldtimers know, if you can’t carry the message discreetly to them yourselves, that Meron is dead and that his successor supports Benden Weyr. I believe that Master Oldive wants you to bring back some of those herbs and powders. He used up a large portion of his supplies on Meron.”
“But don’t you dare return until you’ve found Piemur.”

So the narrative has no trouble at all showing us why Robinton is the best ally the Benden Weyrleader will ever have, but it won’t bother with why Piemur is so universally known. Still, it’s a solution that would make Spock proud – no lies, merely omissions, and everybody filled in the details the way that worked to the Harper’s benefit. Plus, an excuse to send Menolly and Sebell southward to collect the wayward apprentice, even though at this point, there’s no useful intelligence that he can deliver. (Which might be another part of his reluctance to return to the Hall, in addition to the part where he feels out of place there and almost was killed there by apprentices who are still there.)

Only a little while to go before everything wraps up. But first, everyone has to actually get to their appointed places.

Writer Workshop May 20th, 2015

(Posted by chris the cynic)

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

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

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

This week in the Slacktiverse, May 18th, 2015

(posted by chris the cynic, sorry for being so late, written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • On facebook Michael Mock asked to be reminded of how people met him, so I talked about how we met when I was on my way back from stopping the zombie apocalypse of 2052.  I put it on the blog because: why not?
    • I shared a picture I took of a bee.
    • I asked for help in finding software that can match images with overlapping portions.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

Last week Lonespark shared a go fund me project, it is still trying to raise money:

Transcending Gender: Celebrate You

In January 2014, Rhys began a photographic series that he had been conceptualizing for some years called The Transcending Gender Project. In late 2014, he spent three weeks driving around the country creating photographs that celebrate the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people across the United States.

[snip]

With this funding, Rhys plans to photograph at least 1,000 more people so more of our stories may be shared with the world.

It’s time to celebrate YOU.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for May 15, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who totally spaced on his Pern post yesterday, despite working on Pern the day before.)

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

Chris the Cynic: Stealing Commas

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip Sandifer: Philip Sandifer: Writer

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragondrums: Rain

Last chapter, Sebell and the Harpers deduced how Piemur escaped the pursuit after stealing a queen egg…after they participated in the torture of the dying Lord Meron until he named a successor.

Dragondrums: Chapter 8: Content Notes: None, surprisingly.

The action returns to Piemur for Chapter 8, who is still adapting to the Southern Continent. Food, water, and heat for the egg are the first order of business, as is getting farther away from Southern Weyr and Hold.

Afterward, he never could figure out why he felt the Weyr and Southern Hold were dangerous to him. He just felt he ought to avoid contact with them, certainly until his egg had hatched and he had Impressed his own fire lizard. It wasn’t logical, really, but he’d endured a harrowing experience, had already been in the time of the hunted, and so he continued to run.

Wait, so we have a golden opportunity to show off the vaunted intellect and ability of Piemur to piece together fragments of information, and we’re going to lay this at the foot of instinct?

Even though, according to Piemur’s timeline, he just recently heard Mardra deliver threats if Meron screwed up her order, and just before that, he escaped from Nabol with a stolen fire lizard egg? Surely he put two and three together and figured that the allied Hold and Weyr might exchange information, and that would put dragonriders on his tail, which would obviously be bad. Considering Piemur’s memetic Trickster God status from the past two books, and how well he put everything together earlier in the book, for this to be “running on instinct” and to not even understand why later seems like a wasted opportunity to do some showing instead of telling.

The next day, Piemur realizes that an only-fruit diet is not sustainable, and recalls Menolly’s fishing exploits from her time outside a Hold, fashions himself a line, and manages to land a fish. Then realizes where the tide line will be and dashes to move the egg away from the incoming water. Which points out that he’s been sunburned quite heavily, as the salt water exacerbates all of those lovely injuries and burns. An inland trip produces giant tubers, with grubs running off them, so he’s set for variety of diet now.

That evening, he began to wonder why he had continued moving away from hold and Weyr. Of course, it was kind of fun, discovering each new cove and the vast stretches of sandy beach and rocky strand. To be accountable to no one except himself was also a new experience. Now that he had enough to eat and some variety of food, he was enjoying his adventure very much indeed. Why, he’d wager anything he’d set foot in places no other person had trod. It was exhilarating to be first at something, instead of following others and doing just what every other apprentice had done before him Turn after Turn after Turn.

Here’s the purest “boy’s adventure story” that we have, the general exhilaration of boy versus nature, no adults, no rules, nothing for danger but what the natural world can throw at you – which, on Pern, also includes otherworldly flesh-devouring spores that rain from the sky in regular intervals.

He had seen neither fire lizards nor dragons in the sky for the past two days, so afterward he thought that might be why he had given no thought to Thread. In hindsight he realized that he had known perfectly well that Thread fell on the southern half of Pern just add it did in the North. His preoccupation with the fire lizard egg and his efforts to supply himself with food had simply divorced him from the concerns and memories of life in craft and hall.
[…Threadfall! Piemur dives into the nearest deep body of water and tries to keep himself submerged by ducking under the water as much as possible and only surfacing as needed…]
He was dizzy with lack of oxygen, pinpointed by Threadscore that burned and stung in the salty water. Menolly had at least had a cave in which to shelter and…
If he could find it, if it were sufficiently above the surface of the lagoon at this time of the tide, there was an overhanging rock….He desperately tried to place its location on the lagoon arm the next time he surfaced, but he could barely see with eyes red and stinging. He was never sure in the mist of panic and anoxia how he found that meager shelter. But he did.

Enough references to Menolly and I finally figured out something important about this story.

Dragondrums is Dragonsong and Dragonsinger in reverse. Menolly starts at a Sea Hold out in the middle of nowhere, ends up holdless to escape the abuse, finds food and shelter and survives Threadfall, gathers fire lizards, then ends up at the Harper Hall, where she has to deal with bullies before she can get what she wants. Piemur starts with everything he wants, then had to deal with bullies, ends up outside his Hall with a fire lizard egg, and survives Threadfall while finding food and shelter. On a coastline, as well. The only thing he’s missing is abuse when he comes back to a Hold or the Hall. I’ll spot him all the abuse from Shonagar and others that have already happened, so that the narrative doesn’t have to make it a complete reversal.

This reversal continues all the way to having to rethink oneself after being outside a Hold, as Menolly did.

He, Piemur of…well, he wasn’t a herdsman’s boy anymore, and he wasn’t a harper’s apprentice either…Piemur…Piemur of Pern. He, Piemur of Pern, he went on more confidently, had survived Threadfall holdless. He straightened his shoulders and smiled broadly as he glanced proudly across his lagoon. Piemur of Pern had survived Threadfall! He had overcome considerable obstacles to secure a queen fire lizard egg. It would hatch, and he would, at long last, have a fire lizard all his own! He glanced fondly at the mound in the sand that was his little queen.

And Piemur has apparently been jealous about getting an egg for this long. Actually, a thought comes to mind. If fire lizards are the cousins of dragons, and the dragons know which of the candidates they want before (or soon after) they hatch, then maybe we can chalk up all this Gollum-like behavior to the dragon inside the egg influencing Piemur into his actions. Menolly would know, I guess, were she here.

Instead, the dragon egg hatches, and Piemur not only has to feed his new queen, he has to keep her safe from a pack of wherries that want to feast. So Piemur goes on a dash to protect his fire lizard from wherries. Sound familiar? The wherries are driven off by dragons, eventually, and Piemur and the fire lizard stay under the cover of the trees.

The narrative then shifts away from Piemur to those looking for him. We learn that Meron held out for eight days after the torture before dying. And that everyone else, save Menolly, is pretty well assured that Piemur will be just fine in Southern and will not show himself until the fire lizard egg is hatched. Menolly is on board with Piemur not appearing, but as the designated female and keeper of empathy, she’s the only one who worries about him.

“Menolly,” said the Harper soothingly, “you’re not responsible for-”
“But I feel responsible for Piemur,” she said, and then shot her Master an apologetic look for interrupting him so rudely. “If I hadn’t encouraged his interest in the fire lizards, if I hadn’t filled his ears with the pleasures they bring, he might not have been tempted to steal the egg and get himself into such a predicament.” She looked up because both men started to laugh, and she exclaimed with exasperation at their callousness.
“Menolly, Piemur has been getting in and out of trouble since long before you arrived here,” said Sebell. “You and your fire lizards calmed him down considerably. But I think you’re right about Piemur not showing himself until Impression’s been made. And Toric is on the alert for him. He’ll show up.”

But rather than tell stories about Piemur’s exploits so that she understands, the chapter finishes with Sebell off to help Deckter get installed. Piemur’s status as a memetic Trickster God stays intact without anyone having to give any details about how he got that way. At this point, I don’t think even the author really knows.

So, that means it’s wild speculation theater time! What’s the reason you think everyone fears Piemur as a prankster?

Open Thread

(by chris the cynic)

I don’t even remember the last time I managed to get an open thread up.  I could look it up, but it’s not important.

How has everyone been?  Who is still here?  Anyone have anything they’d like to share?

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]

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