Deconstruction Roundup for January 17th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is probably coming down with something and will need the weekend to recover.)

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: Eruditorum Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are mostly wondering why there still isn’t an instant solution to such terrible things as colds. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: The Box Slams Shut

Last time, the weyrlings went on a training montage, got hazed, and otherwise took their places as trainees in the order of the dragonriders. So far, they’ve been flying the long way to anywhere they’ve been going, and as their training progresses, Fiona is being pushed more and more firmly into the box of the Weyrwoman’s role, as opposed to the greater freedom she had when hopping back in time.

Dragonheart, Chapter 18: Content Notes: Terrible methods of instruction, sex rays, negging, fat-shaming

Having been trained with recognition points and getting drilled on being able to provide pictures that are clear enough for a dragon to use as hyperspace endpoints, T’mar finally announces that it’s time for the dragons to start using the hyperspace transit system. Their first trip is arranged in groups, where there are dragons and riders at each of the endpoints of the journey that can send imagery for the transiting riders to use for safe jumps. Each dragon goes individually, and each success is confirmed before the next step is taken. The first rider, D’lanor, shakes off the first image he gets as not good enough. T’mar nods and smiles, suggesting that this was a test to see if D’lanor would take a bad image and try to use it. If he did, though, that would mean dragon and rider getting lost in hyperspace. If that really was a test, and T’mar was willing to let D’lanor get anywhere close to using that image, then he’s even worse of an instructor than I had complained about before, because at that point, it’s possible both dragon and rider die to prove a point. Which, given that they’re doing this to replenish fighting wing strength, is something nobody should even be flirting with.

Fiona goes last, in a group by herself, after all the others have succeeded at their tasks. She wants to go to the wherhold, and gets a picture in her head of it. T’mar told her earlier that at a certain point she has to trust, and so Fiona trusts herself and shifts the position of the sky so she will appear at the wherhold at night, to say hello to Nuella and Nuellask. Fiona succeeds, gives her greetings, is told by Arella to take T’mar’s ire, and then hops back to the correct picture given to her, hoping that she won’t be caught. Afterward, she pops back to her original destination, where T’mar is waiting for her with an earful.

“There is always some idiot who thinks they are special,” he told them [weyrlings] icily. “Some dimglow who thinks the drills are too much effort, that they know everything.”
He turned back to Fiona, glaring at her.
“Fortunately,” he went on, turning once more to the weyrlings, “we have a solution for this sort of behavior.” He paused for a long while, long enough for the sense of dread and shame to lodge deep in Fiona’s chest, sucking all of the joy of her unauthorized adventure right out of her.
“Our Weyrwoman has volunteered to man the Star Stones for the next month,” T’mar told the collected group gravely. “That will enable the rest of us to continue our training.” He paused. “We are done for today. Go about your duties.”
[…Fiona apologizes to Talenth for “neglecting her duty” and “failing to set the example”, even though Talenth doesn’t have a clue what’s wrong…]
When the others were out of earshot, T’mar approached her. “There’s always one idiot,” he repeated. “I knew it would be you.”
“That’s why you sent me last,” Fiona guessed, her heart falling deeper into her chest.
T’mar nodded curtly, his eyes boring into hers as they welled with tears, and then he glanced away and strode off briskly without another word.

And so Fiona ends up failing another one of T’mar’s secret tests, but I have one question to ask: How does he know that she’s done it? The wherhold has been told Fiona will be arriving, and that T’mar is angry with Fiona, but really, if she pops back into existence at the correct picture that she’s been given, she presumaly should appear at the correct time as if she hadn’t taken any sort of detour. And yet, T’mar knows she’s done a time hop and is ready to chew her out about it when she gets back. The closest thing I have to a guess on that is that it created a situation, like in Moreta, where the dragonriders suddenly could not sense Fiona’s dragon, because she’d jumped into the future and became unavailable. Or, I suppose, if she’d jumped into the past, she’d become similarly unavailable. But it would have to be only for a short amount of time, at most, if, again, Fiona came back at the right time and place, and we’re back to asking how T’mar knew Fiona had slipped through time. Presumably, less skilled riders will appear offset from the time they were supposed to be, because their recall isn’t perfect and things are just a little out of place, and that makes it obvious, but there’s no sign that Fiona has been wrong about anything from the narrative.

Terin actually provides the reason why T’mar was so upset and set Fiona to the Star Stones as watch dragon for a month for taking an unauthorized trip through time by wailing about what might have happened if Fiona hadn’t returned and storming out of their shared quarters. That problem sets into Fiona’s mind as she does her duty (after apologizing to everyone in the Weyr multiple times for what she did, and convincing herself that she’s the only Weyrwoman ever to be condemned like this) as she becomes worried about the other riders and whether they’re going to return safely from their trips through hyperspace. The punishment also continues to twist Fiona’s mental state into castigating herself for something that she did successfully, “continually standing as an example of what not to do.” She puts on her best clothes and throws herself into congratulating the riders on their safe return “until she wondered how she could have ever thought the journey dangerous.” Which, as written, sounds like it negates the fear and shame put into her by T’mar about what she did.

Fiona took a risk with her life, and she survived it, and she didn’t understand how much of a risk it was until after she’d done it and then considered the consequences. It’s like someone driving and only realizing how dangerous what they were doing until they have a near-crash experience and it sets into their head in a way that no person telling them it’s dangerous can. Grounding Fiona wasn’t going to do anything more to get her to understand, and it had a strong likelihood of backfiring horribly if Fiona hadn’t understood what was going on. Instead of contrite, Fiona could have easily decided that it wasn’t a big deal what she did, since she did it correctly, and that the punishment set to her was unjust and unwarranted and she wasn’t going to learn a damn thing from it because she didn’t do anything wrong. Fiona figured it out herself, no thanks at all to T’mar, who went straight on to punishment. One can only hope that before lighting into Fiona, he explained the danger to the other weyrlings, because he sure as hell didn’t do it to Fiona. (Perhaps he correctly intuited that Fiona would figure it out herself, sincce he seems to be fond of the idea that the people under his care should figure it out for themselves.)

In the last sevenday of her punishment, Fiona found herself actually looking forward to the duty, finding it a time where she could spend hours in thought and moments in short communication with returning riders. Her thoughts were occupied by considering the stores for the Weyr, the trade with the outlying holds, and the functioning of the Weyr.

So Fiona is settling into the role of Weyrwoman nicely, then, or at least the role of Weyrwoman as envisioned by all the men around her, concerning herself with logistics and supplies rather than adventure. She’s becoming the Lady Holder that her father raised her to be, after all, just with dragons to consider as well as everything else. I’m sorry for her, because it means Fiona’s become yet another casualty of the patriarchy of Pern.

And speaking thereof, in Fiona’s quiet contemplation (and Terin’s return to her quarters and occasionally sharing the watch with her), Fiona is finding herself more and more concerned for Terin’s well-being.

Fiona turned as she heard Terin’s approach and wondered idly how she was going to handle the younger girl’s imminent womanhood. Fiona had noticed how Terin had started eyeing the older weyrlings and had teased her gently about it, adding her own cogent observations to ease Terin’s embarrassment but she was worried that, being the only eligible partner for most of the riders at the Weyr, Terin might find herself overwhelmed with offers or worse–frightened by the intensity of emotion if one of the older greens took to the skies in a mating flight.
It was something that concerned Fiona about herself, too. Neither Talenth nor the greens of her clutch were old enough yet to rise, but those of J’keran’s older dragons might rise again at any moment. How would Terin react when the emotions of a mating flight combined with her growing emotions as a woman? How would Fiona?
And, Fiona admitted with a deep sigh, how would she react to Talenth rising? She wasn’t ready for it, she admitted to herself, and it scared her.

Cocowhat by depizan

Hang on, wait, “only eligible partner for most of the riders at the Weyr?” I thought only the bronze riders were exclusively het. Are we saying that what’s left in the weyrlings are disproportionately bronze riders, or is someone pushing back against the extratextual material and suggesting that there is a bigger population of het riders in browns, blues, and greens than the original suggestions were? There are still too many dicks on the dance floor for Terin and Fiona, it’s true, but I thought that bronze riders were rare compared to the other colors in any given clutch.

Plus, Fiona is sitting on a time bomb, in the sense that soon enough, she’s going to become a sexual being because of Talenth, whether she wants this or not, and the expectation is that she’s going to go through with it, whether she wants that or not. Terin, in theory, has the option of refusing. Fiona doesn’t. And that should be terrifying to anyone in that position. (And would have been for Fiona the Lady Holder, too, although in theory she would have older women to help her through this and give her advice. Fiona doesn’t really have anyone at the Weyr who can help her with this.)

The topic drifts to the question of whether or not Fiona and Terin will be able to settle back into being juniors when they get back, even with all their experience, before T’mar arrives and warns Fiona that one of the greens has been looking like she’s ready to mate soon, and would Fiona go talk to the traders about the possibility and see if everyone is situated to handle that? Fiona’s fine with it, and when she admits she learned a lot from T’mar, she comes to the conclusion that she did so because he was the one from his groups of weyrlings who disregarded the drill and suffered the same punishment. T’mar admits to it and then says, if there are no interruptions, Fiona is welcome to return to the drill the next day after she affirms she learned the lesson at least as well as he did.

Of course there is an interruption, because the green that had been looking like she was ready to mate, Sarinth, goes into mating flight mode. V’lex, the rider, is having a lot of trouble controlling Sarinth and getting her to just blood, rather than gorge, so Fiona lends him some of her power to help bring Sarinth under control. After Sarinth takes off and the other dragons follow, Fiona is part of the gestalt merge before T’mar pulls her back and tells her that she and Terin have to go see to the trader children while the flight continues (and a significant number of the pursuing dragons’ riders start showing their interest in V’lex). What this means is that Fiona gets the unenviable job of explaining to the trader children what is going on.

“She’s on her mating flight, and she jumped into the sky daring the boy dragons to see if they could catch her.”
She smiled, adding, “She’s only thinking about how high she can fly, how much better she is than them, and–”
Suddenly, an overwhelming emotion, a sense of elation and climax flowed into Fiona and she was temporarily speechless. Beside her she heard Terin gasp and some of the older children also cried out while the youngsters all pointed skyward, crying, “Look, they’re falling!”
Fiona, with her back to the scene, shook her head. “They’re just playing. The brown caught the green and it’s part of the mating game.”
[…someone asks if there will be more dragons, but greens don’t lay eggs, because the firestone makes them sterile. Fiona has to fight more sex ray effects, and ends up finding Terin’s hand and drawing her into a crushing hug…]
“Sometimes it’s nice to hug a friend, just because you feel like it,” Fiona said over Terin’s shoulder to the youngsters. Some nodded solemnly, seeking out friends and hugging them with all the innocence of children. Encouraged, Fiona directed them into a larger hug, more children joining in until she, Terin, and all the trader children were in one giant hug.
There was one sudden, final, joyful shout from the distant dragonriders, one final thrill pouring through the knot of children, and then Talenth said, Winurth flew her.

I mean, as trying to attempt to handle the power of the sex rays in an age-appropriate manner, not bad at all. Not all that fond of the idea of “it’s a game,” but that’s also because I think it’s possible to explain these things in age-appropriate manners, and perhaps that if someone had done a better jo with Fiona and Terin beforehand, they wouldn’t be scrambling to try and figure out how to handle what’s going on. The narrative seems pretty clear that Fiona, Terin, and the older trader children understand the emotions and sensations they are experiencing, and the younger children do not. It also seems pretty clear that the younger children are experiencig the same kinds of emotions and sensations, but because they don’t have words for it (or cultural baggage attached to it), they dn’t understand fully what’s going on. Which goes a long way toward explaining how young children experience the sex rays. They’re not immune to it, but because they haven’t got the words for what they’re experiencing, they don’t understand it well enough to have a reaction to it. A nicely-threaded needle, the longer I look at it, but the implications are still terrifying for everyone around.

“I was scared,” Terin confessed, lowering her head so that Fiona could finish braiding. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted at the moment–I felt so overwhelmed, not myself.” She paused thoughtfully, then declared, “I want to be myself, not someone dragon-flamed.”

There has to be something in non-dragonrider society that essentially says that if sex rays are involved, whatever happens doesn’t count for anything regarding “deflowering” or any other thing where the cult of virginity still reigns. Which has to be exploited in so many ways by young adults. And it’s still got to be terrifying to feel these things and realize how easily someone’s boundaries could be overriden, or have them consent to do things they would not do sober.

Fiona goes to see T’mar with Terin and they both suggest that firestone drills should probably start soon, because if Sarinth wasn’t already chewing, she might clutch.

“Oh,” T’mar said, dumbstruck. He turned toward Terin and sketched a bow in her direction. “Well caught, headwoman.”
“I just thought…” Terin began only to break off, blushing. “It’s just that…” She glances helplessly toward Fiona.
“We women tend to concentrate on such things,” Fiona said dryly, recalling one of Kelsa’s choice phrases.

This is excellently done and very believable — the world of Pern is definitely set up in such a way that dudes don’t have to think about pregnancy at all, or at least only have to think about it in the same kinds of ways that dudes in our time think about it, in regards to wehther a pregnancy will affect their social status. Since dragonriders raise children communally and have no property to pass on to heirs, dragonrider men basically don’t have to give a damn about pregnancy ever. Only the women do. So it would completely slip T’mar’s notice that greens can clutch if they haven’t been chewing firestone until it was well after the point where they would have wanted to stop the clutch.

When they meet with the traders, there’s a lot of shrugs around about how to get firestone on short notice, because Sarinth’s mating flight has accelerated the timetable for when firestone would be needed by several months. While there’s no way of easily establishing direct trade with the Hold pumping out firestone, Fiona thinks to re-consult the map that had the gold marked on it to see if there’s firestone marked as well. Selecting a suitable candidate, they fly over to the spot, to find there’s a mine waiting for them. There are directions on the door to close the door when they’re done, and directions inside to take what firestone sacks they need. Both directions look like they might have been written in Fiona’s hand, but the weyrlings are not going to look a gift dragon in the mouth, and immediately set to hauling out the amount of sacks they’ll need to start firestone drill.

Having things so nicely laid out for them makes Fiona and T’mar wonder again whether a future Fiona has been laying out everything for past Fiona so she can experience them as future Fiona remembers, and that the extra-strength issues some of the riders and weyrlings are experiencing might be because they’re not just twice in time, they’re thrice or more in the same time, which produces the more pronounced effects.

After hauling back the sacks they can, Fiona sets in to some food, and T’mar negs her. He tries to be subtle about it and let Fiona draw her own conclusions, but he’s definitely negging her.

“What?” Fiona demanded, seeing his look. “Can’t a girl be hungry?”
“Of course,” T’mar replied smoothly, his eyes twinkling. “But it would be a shame if Talenth strained herself.”
“I am not fat!” Fiona declared hotly, suddenly folding the bread in two and forcing it into her mouth.
“Merely a growing girl,” T’mar agreed, his grin belying his demure tone.
“Hmph!” Fiona snorted around her mouthful. She chewed quickly and took a long swallow form her mug of iced water. “Flying that far is hard work.”
“For a dragon,” T’mar responded.
“You’re just afraid I’ll get taller than you!”
“I like tall women.”
Fiona fumed, lips thin, but realized that any further response would only fuel the wingleader’s jest.
“So, we’ll start with the firestone after lunch?” she asked, desperate to change the topic.
“Not you, unless you want to make Talenth sterile,” T’mar replied.
“I thought I might watch.”
“I’m sure you’d be welcome,” T’mar said, adding with his former humor, “and you could use the exercise!”
[…At the exercises, Fiona chides Talenth lightly for sleeping. Talenth points out she did all the flying. Fiona points out she did the hauling…]
“I’m not fat, am I?” Fiona asked Terin, who stood nearby, eager to watch.
Terin eyed her for a moment then said, “Well, you’re taller than me.”
“So I’m fat?” Fiona demanded, horrorstricken.
“I don’t know,” Terin replied thoughtfully. “You might just be growing. I think you’d have to ask Mother Karina.” She shrugged. “But what if you are?”
Fiona had never thought of herself as fat; she’d always been skinny–everyone at the Hold has pestered her to eat more. “You’re only skin and bones!” they’d always said.
But perhaps her time in Igen had put more than meat on her–and she just hated the idea. Especially, she hated the way T’mar teased her about it.

When I started this book, I thought H’nez was the biggest asshole around, but by this point, it seems like H’nez is the loudest, most obvious, and most vocal asshole, but T’mar is the biggest asshole by far. Teasing Fiona about her weight is a dick move. And also, we note that in various periods of time, having some junk in the trunk is considered a good sign, that someone has been well-fed and has not had to do manual labor for their entire life. And given that the Weyrwoman’s role has mostly been “Lady Holder, but with dragons,” and the fact that Cisca has always, always been described in terms that are meant to evoke her beauty at least as much, if not more, than her strength, it seems like Fiona getting a little bit of meat would be seen as something good, rather than something that requires derision, mockery, and negging.

Spurred by T’mar’s earlier comments about her weight, Fiona took to flying every day, often helping the traders by carrying loads slung under Talenth to their various depots scattered around central Pern.

Which, again, if that’s what he wanted her to do, he could have asked directly rather than taking shots at Fiona’s weight.

The chapter closes out with more drilling on recognition points, but at Fort Weyr, Fiona hits a wave of dizziness that indicates she’s too stretched in time, and retreats immediately to Igen, where F’jian is able to catch her as she slides off of Talenth. Fiona finds herself reacting strongly to F’jian’s concern, and that spikes off a panic moment in Fiona to end the chapter.

“My pleasure,” F’jian responded with more warmth than Fiona found comfortable. Had he been about to kiss her? Had she been about to kiss him?
They were the same age or nearly, but Fiona was startled by the flood of emotions that surged within her. I’m not ready, she told herself firmly. Her body disagreed.

Oh, yay, puberty in both rider and dragon now. And on that confusing mix of sensations, the chapter ends.

I haven’t been mentioning the time frames as much as I should, so it’s worth noting that most of these segments, where a new drill item or technique is introduced, the weyrlings usually spend months on that new technique, integrating it into their practice, so large chunks of the year are going by in a sentence or two of uneventful daily practice by the dragonriders and their dragons. There’s training montage bits there, but the narrative thinks of them as training montage bits and spends more time on the things that are not routine.

I can see the end in sight! Two chapters and an epilogue to go. Next week, Fiona goes to seek advice about her rebellious body, and then engages in courses of action on that advice. Or would, if she could remember what she said.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 10th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who just went through a meeting that wasn’t terrible.)

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: Eruditorum Press (formerly Elizabeth Sandifer: Writer (formerly TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue))

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

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 mostly wondering how to spend your limited time doing all the things that will take up all of that time. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: Real Training

Last time, Zenor and Nuella got married and got made official members of the nobility, and another group of dragonriders made a leap forward in time, having healed sufficiently to make the trip. The only remaining group now is the weyrlings, whose dragons have to mature and develop into adults.

Dragonheart, Chapter 18: Content Notes: Embarrassment squick, hazing, terrible methods of instruction,

Weyrling and rider,
First jump, no higher.
Glide to ground,
Then go round.

(Igen Weyr, Early Morning, AL 499.13.11)

The chapter starts with Fiona “pestering T’mar” about when the young weyrlings are going to be able to officially start flying, which she apparently starts on her fifteenth birthday. From the beginning of the last chapter, a full Turn has passed, apparently without incident or anything useful to the narrative other than what was in the last chapter. Eventually, T’mar relents and lets the weyrlings, including Fiona, apply riding straps to their dragons. Then chides them for too much exuberance.

The first day, with straps on, T’mar inspects them and offers corrections, and then tells them to take the straps off and have the dragons glide.

The next day things were much better, but T’mar ordered them once again to remove their harnesses before the dragons flew.
“If one harness is wrong, they are all wrong,” T’mar said when the chorus of groans arose from the collected weyrlings.
“Whose harness was wrong?” Fiona asked.
“You don’t know?” T’mar replied, shaking his head sadly.
Fiona’s face burned with shame.
“Tomorrow, we get here before T’mar and we check everyone’s harness,” F’jian said.
The next day, to everyone’s intense relief, T’mar allowed the dragons to fly with their harnesses on.
“We’ll keep that up for the next sevenday,” he said, sounding pleased.
“I’ll bet they get did this to the other weyrlings,” Fiona muttered rebelliously to F’jian.
“Maybe not,” F’jian said with a shrug. “But of it makes us safer riders, what’s the harm in it?”
Fiona couldn’t say anything in response, suddenly recalling her angry exchange with T’mar Turns back and ahead at Fort Weyr.

T’mar, you’re an

This is not the way to do instruction! The first part, where corrections are offered, is the way to go. Yes, because it is a situation that could be life and death, sure, you can insist that each previous phase has to be done consistently perfectly by everyone before moving on to the next, but if someone asks what’s wrong, that’s an indication they need help recognizing what isn’t obvious to them yet. If you mock them for not knowing, you only establish that you are an asshole and should not be teaching, if it can be avoided. (Which, of course, it can’t.)

On that reasoning, we can also add the older weyrlings into the group of “people who are assholes,” based on how they react to the next exercise the weyrlings have to do – fill sandbags to their exact weight, equally distributed between left and right sides and checked with a balance beam.

The older weyrlings, however, found the whole exercise hilarious and were now lined up every morning, jeering the weyrlings and cheering the wingleader.
“We’ll get up before everyone,” Fiona swore one morning. Her words were met with a growl of approval from the rest of the weyrlings.

This is a terrible learning environment now, as well. I’m sure that the “we’ll show them all” attitude is exactly what they’re trying to engender, but the drum major academy I attended managed to produce this same “we’ll get there early” result without mockery or humiliation by explaining to us that while instruction started at 9, it was always curious to see everyone out and practicing by 8. We all caught the implication. Which made it fun that for the last day of the academy, they mentioned that things started at 9, and for that day, they never saw anyone at all before 9. Point taken.

What T’mar and the older weyrlings are doing is sabotaging the camaraderie between groups. If they intend for the young weyrlings to develop as a cohesive group, fine, but when it’s all done and the weyrlings are made full dragonriders, they’re going to have to undo all of this work to bring them into the fold as a full fighting unit. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people end up in the stuffing suits over all of this. Or if someone takes some Thread to the face because someone remembered who hazed them and is just a little bit slower than they could have been in resupplying their dragon, or leaves just a little bit of Thread behind to get back at their torturer. Or just flat refuses to be in any wing with any of them because they can’t achieve the required unit cohesion with someone who was an asshole to them.

T’mar’s instructional style continues to suck. After the weyrling dragons are able to carry perfectly balanced loads for several days, they head up to glide with the full weight still on them.

“I don’t think this is right,” she said to F’jian’s surprise. “Don’t you think T’mar would insist on them flying first with a lighter load to strengthen their muscles?”
“But they’ve been gliding for Turns!” F’jian protested. Fiona glanced toward T’mar and noted how the bronze rider stood, impassively looking their way.
“T’mar,” she called. “Shouldn’t we start with less weight?”
T’mar’s face slowly creased with a smile and he nodded.
“It was another test!” F’jian groaned beside her as he rushed to remove half the sandbags from Ladirth’s load.
Two full sevendays passed before the dragons were permitted to glide with their riders’ full weight in sand.
And then–
“No sandbags tomorrow,” T’mar said as the last dragon glided back down to the ground, landing lightly, his eyes whirling in shades of green with pleasure.
“No sandbags,” Fiona repeated, having learned always to repeat the wingleader’s orders for confirmation.

You know what was always one of the worst complaints about old adventure games? Trial-and-Error Gameplay, especially when those errors were lethal or worse, would screw up your gamestate such that when you came to a later puzzle, you had lost or used the thing you now definitely needed to use in this new situation. There tended not to be hints that you had messed things up, and in several memorable instances, an item that was permanently missable in the first segment of the game was essential to success in the last segment of the game, and there were no hints or other indications that the key had been missed until you were confronted with the lock.

Which is to say, if you only learn the correct procedure by someone indicating where you’ve messed up, after you’ve already messed up, your instructor is an asshole. If, however, this is supposed to be T’mar having told them and then silently not giving them any hints or instructions to see whether they remember it all correctly, that’s less assholery, but I don’t think that’s what we’re supposed to get out of these secret tests.

Repeating back what you’ve heard to someone for understanding is generally good practice, but the way it’s written in this snippet, and the way T’mar has been so far, makes me think that T’mar changes his orders if they’re not repeated back to him exactly the way he gave them or if someone leaves to do something without repeating them back to him. Because those would be the dickish things to do.

In any case, without sandbags means actual riders on board, and Fiona is ready to begin, but before she lets Talenth glide down, she has another insight.

Ready? Talenth asked excitedly.
Wait a moment, Fiona said, turning to look down at T’mar–he looked smaller from this height–asking, “Can you check my straps, wingleader?”
T’mar smiled as she passed another one of his silent tests and walked around Talenth’s neck, inspecting the straps from both sides and tugging on them.

It’s good practice to have someone check your work, yes, but if it’s another one of T’mar’s silent tests, it means that he wasn’t going to tell Fiona where she messed up and would force her to divine it after he had already called off the practice for the day because someone messed up on one of his secret tests. Frankly, it’s a wonder they’ve gotten as far as they have, if the person who’s supposed to be teaching them is laying gotcha traps for them every step of the way and forcing them to do it all perfectly without any help. If this is how all weyrlings get taught, no wonder they fall apart when forced to react to the real situation of Thread. They’ve never had to face a situation where they made a mistake and have to scramble or salvage it and keep going, instead of having to reset to the beginning and start again. In the basics, you want something to be drilled until it’s automatic, but after that point, you want to have a certain amount of reactive ability (and improvisation) in your people so that when, inevitably, it does not go according to plan, they can reform, regroup, shore themselves up, and continue to be effective. Wingleaders, potential Weyrleaders, and Weyrwomen should all be taught and given practice at handling situations where they are at disadvantage against the simulated opposition and see if they can find ways of getting around the problem, so that way they can react appropriately when they find themselves in that problem or something like it.

The weyrlings each take their gliee with a rider three times (T’mar says to always do things three times) and do that drill for two months before they actually start what T’mar officially calls weyrling training. J’keran leans into Finoa and suggests that T’mar was especially hard on her group because she was in it. Fiona, for her part, wants to continue with the training, but that, for her, requires finding a flamethrower to use. She brings it up with Azeez, who immediately tries to dissuade her from obtaining one, if it’s of the same type that gets used in the Holds.

“All the flamethrowers I know use the old firestone,” Azeez said with a grimace. “They’re prone to explode.”
“They won’t work with proper firestone?” T’mar asked, curious.
“No, they rely on mixing stone and water to produce flame,” Azeez said.

Cocowhat by depizan

That doesn’t make any sense, even if it “solves” the problem from a few chapters ago of how the flamethrowers operate. Because flamestone (the differentiating name for those who don’t want to call it “old firestone”) is extremely volitaile and highly reactive with water. And at this level of technology, I am highly doubtful that they can manufacture any sort of controlled burn or mechanism that prevents the reaction from immediately running its way back up into the fuel tank and exploding messily. The science doesn’t work for me. If someone can explain how this rock and water can be used for a controlled burn reaction with enough of a chance that they won’t die that someone might willingly use it, I would be very interested in how that works. (If it uses the “grease” that was supposedly used on flamestone to make it usable and transportable in humid conditions, that would be interesting, too.)

For the purposes of the plot, Fiona suggests first Stirger, then Zenor and Terregar, as someone who could put together a flamethrower that could run on the new firestone, and also keep it secret for long enough that it wouldn’t be in common usage when they return to their originating time. Which would have the same problems as the old flamethrower, really, unless the new firestone had a higher threshold to react with and would only consistently ignite far enough away to avoid a reaction running back up the fuel line. They’d probably have to do something different to create the new flamethrower. Not that they could extract dragon stomach acid, but if they could find or concoct an acid that wouldn’t eat the tank or somehow capture and pressurize the gas that came off of the firestone reaction and mixed it with enough liquid to generate napalm or something like it that could be passed through a flame and controlled that way. But that engineering knowledge would likely be gained through several probably-lethal experiments and accidents.

The dragons continue to practice gliding, with various child-size weights on them. After another two months, T’mar says everyone is ready to fly, and the honor of first flight goes to Fiona, who says she’ll only do it if she gets to have Terin as passenger as well. T’mar asks about Fiona’s weight. Seven stone, Fiona says, and adds that Terin’s not more than five stone, which is well under the amount of weight Talenth has already carried. T’mar gives his assent, “swatting Terin lightly on the butt, sending her on her way.” It goes well, although Talenth is a little mischievous about following directions of how high to go and how gently to come back down the first time.

After first flight, there’s one last thing to do, according to T’mar.

“There is one final tradition for new riders that must be observed,” he intoned solemnly. He arranged the thirty-three riders in three tightly-spaced ranks, with Fiona in the middle of the first rank.
“Close your eyes,” he ordered. “Keep them closed until I say you may open them.”
There was a rustle and breeze from dragon wings above them and then suddenly–
“Shards!” “Oh, that’s cold!” “Eeek!”
Before Fiona could twitch a muscle, she was drenched, head to toe in something that was very cold, very wet, and very smelly.
“Eugh!”
“You may open your eyes, dragonriders,” T’mar intoned solemnly. When Fiona opened her eyes, she found that the weyrlings were all surrounded by the older riders, who were all laughing hysterically.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” T’mar barked to the drenched dragonriders. “Into the water with you!”
Fiona needed no urging and found herself rushing past the other still-befuddled weyrlings to dive into the shallow lake and wash off the worst of the stench that engulfed her.
“When you’re quite done,” T’mar drawled, enjoying himself as much as the older weyrlings, “you may disperse to your quarters.” He paused. “You will have much work to do tomorrow.”

Hazing has no real place in camaraderie. You can have ritual and bonding and initiation and it doesn’t have to be cruel, embarrassing, or humiliating. I’m sure that the authors believe that after all of this, the riders will have a shared bond that will be unbreakable because of their shared torture, and that they’ll go on to enjoy doing it to the next crop of weyrlings, once they go back to their own time and have a new crop, but there are probably several of the newly-initiated that feel very little other than resentment toward their tormentors, even if they’ve finally joined the dragonriders club. I would enjoy it very much if several of those dragonriders resolved not to do such things to their own juniors and made their complaints to the Weyrleader, when they return to Fort, about the treatment received while they were growing up. And if K’lior isn’t listening, to make those same complaints to Cisca, backed by Fiona’s recounting of what happened. I don’t think anything will happen, not until Fiona ascends to Senior status, because people are very good at rationalizing terrible things as “harmless fun” when they get the opportunity to do it to other people, but Fiona might remember what happened to her and decide to put a stop to it.

Plus, as they continue to drill and learn and come fully into the craft of the dragonrider, “The older weyrlings took particular delight in attempting to catch out Fiona, F’jian, or J’nos” in the quizzing and testing that could happen at any time to the weyrlings. Which means the learning environment hasn’t actually improved, even though they’ve been initiated. And I’m sure everyone engaging in this pop-quizing with a focus on the leaders of the young weyrling cohort would justify it by saying leaders needed to know the material better than anyone else, but they’re not actually helping anything but those three’s stress levels and making it more terrible for them. I do not have experience with military service basic training camps, but it seems like that was the model being used for all of this dragonrider training montage, but remember that these are children of fourteen, fifteen, and possibly younger being put through this training. They’re creating child soldiers. This is at least some degree worse than what we saw in the Harper Hall for hazing and terribleness of instruction, because they’re being given weapons of war and indoctrinated into a mindset that says they’re the most powerful people on the planet. Small wonder that most of the people around them that aren’t dragonriders see them primarily through the lens of people bullying and abusing their power.

On their first long flight in formation, from Weyr to wherhold, it turns out Fiona regrets greatly not taking a last trip to the necessary, and by the time she and T’mar land, away from the formation that brough them there, Fiona dashes off to relieve herself, very unhappy with T’mar for keeping her up in the air and mounted far longer than everyone else. She asks him why he’s set them down here instead of with the rest, and he mocks her for asking the question.

“Why did we land here, Weyrwoman?” T’mar repeated challengingly.
Fiona swore silently to herself, meeting his mocking look squarely while she thought. “It’s a test, obviously,” Fiona replied, trying not to sound like she was playing for time–which she was, of course.
T’mar nodded.
[…Fiona works out that its a test for F’jian to see if he will make his proper courtesies and then send the dragons and riders over to where they are to refresh themselves…]
“And the test for me…” She trailed off, thinking hard, and then inspiration struck. “Is to see if I’m willing to let F’jian figure this out on his own!”
As if in response, they heard the rustle of dragon wings and the sky darkened as the small flight rushed into a landing near the river’s edge.
“Very good,” T’mar said with a congratulatory nod. “And why is it that you need this test, Weyrwoman?”
“Because a leader who doesn’t let her juniors learn on their own is no leader at all,” Fiona replied.
T’mar’s lips curved upward approvingly. “And so, what are your orders, Weyrwoman?”
“Orders?” Fiona replied, arching an eyebrow and matching his grin. “I expect I’ll be asking F’jian what he plans to do next.”
“Very good!”

ABSOLUTELY NOT. That is one hundred percent ass-backwards. A good leader does let their people learn on their own, but also provides them with guidance and feedback so that they can improve in places they don’t know they’re lacking. And gives them praise in the things they’re doing well. Now, there’s something that can be said for stepping back and letting someone lead, with the understanding that if they are going to do something that’s really not in the best interests of anyone, you’ll step in and make sure the bad things don’t happen. But, again, the way it’s phrased, and based on how T’mar has been given these tests, it sounds way much more like “throw F’jian into the deep end and see if he swims or not, and offer no help at all if he flounders.”

Plus, that the “correct” answer for Fiona is to wait until F’jian has made a decision about what to do next is teeth-grinding. She’s still Weyrwoman. Even when she has a Weyrleader with her, she’s going to be expected to have plans and suggestions about what to do next. But, apparently, she’s supposed to defer to F’jian and go along with whatever he has in mind, regardless of what she thinks about it.

Fiona is having her domain of power restricted to what others think she should have, and that power does not include decisions on how and where the dragons should be flying. Fiona is being finalized into the box that she’s been prepared for all of this time. She might still have some sway in the Weyr, about what happens in the Weyr, but she’s having what power she had taken away from her and shifted to the men around her. Not that she had a whole lot of power to start with, but beforehand, she would have volunteered her opinion or done something, instead of waiting for someone else to act and following them. This could be interpreted as a sign of growing wisdom, in that Fiona is not immediately volunteering her opinion on things, but I can’t really see it that way.

There’s one more major event for Chapter 18 before it finishes, and once we get done with that, the remaining chapters are much shorter than this one and 17 have been, so that’s good. More next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 3rd, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is equally as surprised as you are that they are here and posting.)

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: Eruditorum Press (formerly Elizabeth Sandifer: Writer (formerly TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue))

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

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’ve gotten a contributor copy for a book where you may have dragged your own workplace through the mud a touch, because they deserved it. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: Asking The Question

Last time, Fiona got herself involved in trying to speed Zenor and Nuella getting hitched, which was complicated by the presence of M’tal at the gold mine and wherhold and Fiona being utterly unable to play a role other than herself, even when she’s not supposed to be so nobly born.

Dragonheart: Chapter 17: Content Notes:

Before we progress with the plot, there’s a bit we skipped over while I was making the point about how terrible it is that Nuella is considering the same sexual tactics that dragonriders are to get Zenor. This involves the continuing mental strain that being twice in time is taking on them, and a way of relieving the tension, if only temporarily.

“It’s hard,” Fiona told her. “It’s harder on riders than dragons or weyrfolk. Terin doesn’t feel it at all. But the riders–we feel like there’s a noise or tension, a tingling, a jangle on the senses. It comes and goes and we’re never sure when. Some days are better than others, and the days aren’t all the same for all dragonriders. It leaves us both tired and edgy. Klah is good when we’re tired, rest when we’re edgy.” She frowned as she admitted, “There’ve been fights. Fights that shouldn’t have happened.”
“Fights?” Arella asked, surprised.
Fiona nodded. “We–T’mar and the wingleaders–handle them. If a douse of cold water won’t bring them to their senses, we put them in a ring with a stuffing suit and let them have at it.”
“Stuffing suit?” Arella repeated.
“A set of clothes full of stuffing so they can hit each other without breaking bones,” Fiona explained. “They usually wind up exhausted, all the fight gone out of them.” She gave Arella a grim look as she added, “And then they’re put on the worst details for the next fortnight or more.”

You were doing so well, Fiona, with a sensible solution to the jangle in their heads, and then you had to add the part where you then punish people for the things in their head that they can’t control. Like what happeend with Tullea that nobody was interested in investigating. Also, if stuffing suits existed in previous times, why haven’t they been used instead of allowing people to do stupid things like fight duels and kill Healers? Even if H’nez was clamoring for a sword because he feels super-insulted by whatever was said, why didn’t everyone insist that he take his whatever out in a stuffing suit? Admittedly, for an old Healer, he might have killed him anyway, and cooler heads or proxies should have prevailed, but in the moment, stuffing suits would have potentially been less lethal. And those things might have been useful for when Kindan and Vaxoram went at it, and, and, and. It’s another case of this invention of the “past” changing how we view the “future”.

Also, as noted in the comments of the last post, Fiona’s admission of fights contradicts what was said earlier in the chapter about nobody fighting ever.

In any case, having successfully delivered Nuella to M’tal, Fiona melts away into the crowd and they go to their actual task of convincing Zenor to propose to Nuella. The task goes into double-time when Fiona sees the ring he’s created (apparently the design and manufacture of such Zenor’s ring is unprecedented, because of a lack of talent and good quality gold). Zenor has an attack of the what-ifs along the way, but Fiona is absolutely determined to see this through to the end, and powers through Zenor’s worries about what might happen if disaster befell him with the insistence that Zenor is preventing Nuella from being happy when he says he wants to prevent future pain. Zenor proposes, Nuella accepts, and Fiona and F’dan go home, smug in their victory.

We get some insight into Fiona’s mindset.

Really, it was a joy to spend time with F’dan because he treated her like a full-grown person, able to take on any burden, sometimes demanding more of her than she thought she could give. And he did it all with a manner that was always respectful, always supportive. And, of course, he swore like some of her father’s guards–when they thought no one from the Hold was listening.
[…F’dan and Fiona negotiate that he’ll do her hair if she’ll give his legs a massage. We learn that it took a couple sessions of massage for Fiona to get over “any lingering squeamishness when dealing with human flesh, particularly male human flesh”…]
It had given Fiona a sublime sense of relief when she discovered that riders of blues and greens, while deferential to her as a Weyrwoman, treated her womanness as something unimportant to their relationship with her. Fiona had always understood intellectually why that was so, but it was only when she recognized it on a subconscious level that she truly allowed herself to open up to them. These older men, who did not see her as a potential mate, were free to see her as the person she was.

I’m not entirely sure the author realizes what kind of shade they’re throwing on the bronze and brown riders, but if it was intentional, that’s a pretty good burn. Fiona can only be herself with the greens and blues because they’re the only ones that don’t see her as a sexual conquest. We know, from long experience reading these books, that bronze riders tend to think with their little brain more than their big one, to the point where they are definitely sexualizing someone who wouldn’t have made it to the age of majority in most countries on Terra.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the entire sequence of Fiona getting her hair cut (Fiona likes having her hair played with) reads like the camp gay stylist at the salon to me. (Perhaps it does not to others, but F’dan is a blue rider, and therefore…) There’s fussing about and discussion of hair products, and when Fiona wants her hair cut very short for the heat, F’dan grouses that she’ll look like a boy and it will take away his “only joy” of styling her hair. F’dan also says he’ll grow his hair long again when he gets back to Fort, which isn’t helping my feelings that he’s supposed to be a lot more camp than I’ve been reading him up to this point. Plus, when he’s done, F’dan gives Fiona “an affectionate pat on the butt,” which passes without any incident.

While Fiona has gotten her hair cut, a M’tal from the future has arrived, but he apparently mistimed it and ended up earlier than where he wanted to be. There’s some delicate talk of what the future holds without too many spoilers for Fiona, and M’tal eventually recognizes Fiona as the strange girl from his distant past, because she looked so much like Koriana it stuck in his head. Pleasantries exchanged, M’tal disappears to his proper time coordinates, but not without significant worry about his health. The worry about how being twice (or more) in time is taken up at dinner with T’mar and N’jian, and everyone realizes they don’t know nearly as much as they should about time travel, other than that it’s discouraged. (Instead of having been documented and drilled as thoroughly as every other aspect of being a dragonrider.)

The traders made dinner, and we now know that coconut exists on Pern, or adapted to it. The traders have also come to ask if they can trade their services for shelter in the winter. Which has an ulterior motive of allowing the traders to sit still for long enough to help with the wedding between Zenor and Nuella. And also to provide more hands to help Terin, whom everyone thinks is overworking herself and not getting nearly enough sleep. Before too much of the details can be worked out, Fiona’s birthday cake arrives, because she’s now officially fourteen by days alive, and the custom of candles on a birthday cake has apparently survived, along with making a wish while extinguishing them.

In the next segment, while Fiona is getting ready to leave for the wedding, we learn a bit more about how Talenth enjoys having small bodies around to look after and how this might be because Fiona really enjoys having bodies around.

“I remember sleeping with Forsk when I was a child…I never felt so loved or peaceful.”
“You’re an odd one,” Karina said. “You seem happiest when In the center of a pile of warm bodies.”
“It keeps the cold away,” Fiona replied. More honestly, she added, “It feels like family would feel to me.”
Karina eyed her speculatively. “And you didn’t have that growing up the only child of the Lord Holder.”
Fiona said nothing.

Or Fiona really likes the company of others in her bed. It doesn’t be to be out of a desire for lost family and to try and do something opposite from a distant but loving father. It could be that Fiona feels most protected from predatory dragonriders when there are plenty of bodies around her. It could be that Fiona is attracted to Xhinna and Terin and wants them close by as a gesture of intimacy. (Even though Xhinna got left behind.) The universe is vast, it contains multitudes, and there’s no reason to believe that Fiona couldn’t also be bi or pan, despite whatever extratextual rulesets are being applied.

In any case, Fiona gets there, finds out she’s been drafted into the wedding party as Nuella’s maid of honor, there are way more Important Guests than Nuella had figured, and manages, in a Fiona-Talenth-Nuellask-Nuella chain of images, to show Nuella what she looks like in her dress, which cheers her immensely.

Before the wedding proper, Kindan announces the official forming of the Wherhold and its designation as the Goldhall of the Smithcraft, which makes both Nuella and Zenor part of the nobility, as Kindan addresses them as “my lord, my lady”.

The actual vows and ceremony are elided over, much to my annoyance, and then there is the glow-flying in formation (also, there are yellow glows and green glows in addition to the previous colors), and the rest of the night, aside from Nuella resolving to get one of the saddles that Arella and Jaythen used to ride their watch-whers, is Fiona finding as many excuses as she can to not get too noticed by Kindan, since he continues to take an interest in her even though she’s tried not to be noticeable and has spent much of the wedding dancing and feasting with others, and the next batch of healed dragonriders hopping forward to the agreed-upon time. F’dan’s last piece of advice to Fiona is to remind her that when he sees her next, she’s going to have a dragon that can mate.

Two time-jumps down, one more to go.

Deconstruction Roundup for December 27th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has been productively using their time off to see other people and hang out with them, as well as make solid progress on games)

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.

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

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’re waiting for a little more money to kick in while you figure out what to do about your own needs to take care of things. Or for any other reason, really.