Deconstruction Roundup for June 22nd, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has run the gauntlet of the school visits and come out the other side.)

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 SandiferEruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen 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 are waiting for the thing that’s supposed to give your existence meaning. Or for any other reason, really.

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The Skies of Pern: Archive Dive Dinner

Last time, we finished the extended look at villains and watched the rebirth of the Luddites of Pern. Having established there are antagonists, it’s off to see Our Hero(es).

The Skies of Pern: Part 1, Segment 1: Content Notes: Sexist stereotyping, implications of non-consent

This Part is entitled “Turnover,” a term that we be only recently been introduced to as the name of the celebration of moving from one Turn to the next. The celebration itself predates the use of the term, but this seems to be another one of those “has always been here” things.

Our time stamp is “1.1.31 Present Pass Aivas–Aivas Adjusted Turn 2253” which seems to have a duplication in it that might be a bad electronic book conversion.

In any case, it’s still dual timekeeping, even with F’lessan holed up in a reading room with all sorts of AIVAS data. What’s weird to him is that he’s not alone in the reading room. There’s a Monaco Bay green rider studying charts.

Why wasn’t the girl, especially a green rider, out dancing? Why wasn’t he? He grimaced. He was still trying to overcome the carelessly lustful reputation that he had earned early in this Pass. Not that he was any different from many bronze and brown riders. “Just more noticeable,” Mirrim had told him in her candid fashion. Mirrim had astonished everyone, including herself, when she had Impressed green Path at a Benden Weyr Hatching. Being T’gellan’s Weyrmate had mellowed her natural assertiveness, but she never spared him her blunt opinions.

Ah, hello there, Cocowhat.

Cocowhat by depizan

Mostly on the idea that T’gellan blunted Mirrim. Or that Mirrim needed blunting. But also the part where F’lessan is somehow getting called out for behavior that isn’t any different than his peers. Absolutely nobody has called the dragonriders out before this about their lusty behavior. And plenty of the other segments of Pern have been getting it on with frequency with others, too, so they don’t really have a leg to stand on.

If they’re commenting because it’s the son of the Weyrleaders and he’s supposed to be setting a better example…well, then, the only thing I can do is laugh at that, because we’ve spent several books by now showing how the bar is so terribly low.

F’lessan, while he watches the other rider study planetary charts, reflects on the new post-Thread reality. Those who came from halls or crafts, he supposes, will be able to go back to them, but the ones who are born and raised in the Weyr will have to figure something else out when the tithes stop.

F’lessan, of course, has Honshu to fall back on, so he doesn’t have to really worry about it. We get to find out that Impression made F’lessan much less of a class-ditcher, and that having Honshu to restore has been even better at keeping discipline. And that F’lessan is in the archives at Turnover because he’s looking for a very specific thing, and he wanted to find it without any other person knowing what he was looking at. We also find that F’lessan is definitely weyrbred in that he doesn’t think of the Weyrleaders as his parents, even though they give him birthday, Impression Day, and Turnover gifts every year, and that he finds hold kids to be extremely uptight.

He is different that he doesn’t really want to succeed the current Weyrleader and wishes for him to ride out the final turn. Or for the Benden Weyrleaders to announce their retirement. Which could be a nice way of saying, “yes, there is an incest taboo on Pern, even if nobody voices it.” I still suspect that Weyr naming conventions and fostering practices are specifically meant so that you don’t end up in a situation where a person might be under the influence of their dragon and violating close relationships.

Sucks to be him that there’s a green rider in the same room. Or rather, that’s already in the room that F’lessan wants to enter, but worries that he’ll break the other rider’s concentration by doing so. Since there’s nothing to do right now but observe, we are treated to a description of the green rider, before she realizes she’s being observed and turns to stare at him. Realizing he’s been found out, F’lessan goes in and introduces himself to Tai, the green rider, and we get more metaphorical description to complement the workmanlike physical one.

She looked embarrassed, dropping her eyes as soon as their hands had clasped politely. Her handshake was firm, if brisk almost to the point of rudeness, and he could feel some odd ridges, scars on the back of her hand and on her forefinger. She wasn’t pretty, she didn’t act sensual, the way some green riders did, and she was only half a head shorter than he was. She wasn’t too thin, but the lack of flesh on her bones gave her a slightly boyish appearance.

Ah, that explains why the first physical description didn’t linger on anything – Tai is not supposed to be seen as sexy, and she’s also not supposed to be seen as villainous, since she isn’t putting on the attitude that she is sexy. She’s a Wholesome Green Rider, cut from Mirrim’s pattern, I suspect. This makes her a candidate for Designated Protagonist, so we’ll probably see more of her as time goes by.

After introducing himself and apologizing for intruding, F’lessan gets to his actual business – trying to find a connection between Stev Kimmer and Kenjo Fusaiyuki, since there are “SK” carved or etched on several of the surfaces of Honshu, and Stev was the only person that fits the initials that isn’t marked as having gone north. Thanks to Rescue Run, we know the terrible connection between Kimmer and the Fusaiyukis, but that data would be lost to AIVAS. F’lessan is hoping to find samples of Stev’s handwriting to match to the initials carved, so that he can have a more complete history of Honshu. He already knows that the Fusaiyuki clan did not go north, even after repeated invitations to do so, and his explorations are essentially finding the aftermath of the Rescue Run story, when everyone left in a hurry, trying to piece together what had happened, and admiring how self-sufficient Honshu is.

F’lessan’s search comes up empty, and in his hope for Tai’s search to go better, he startles her. She drops the book in her hands, and F’lessan is able to save it before it splats on the ground. He gets a much better look at Tai’s hands and recognizes signs of injury. Tai dismisses it as nothing, but F’lessan insists in applying numbweed (which he has a small stash of on his person) because infections in the South are “peculiar” and can show up even in well-tended wounds. While they wait, F’lessan asks Tai about why she’s researching the Ghosts, having divined her purpose by looking at the materials she was staring at.

From the context we get, the Ghost Showers tend to happen on seven-Turn cycles where they are extremely bright in the sky in the north and completely invisible in the south. After F’lessan puts away Tai’s books, he drops a sigh about how his question may not have an answer at all, and Tai picks up the bait, and demonstrates she was a student at the Landing school. Her family was killed exploring the South, and she was apprenticed to Master Wansor as essentially an audio descriptor and reader to him. Because he liked her voice, a sentiment that F’lessan confirms. Before, that is, she Impressed her green, Zaranth.

Tai then suggests that F’lessan examine the case where the original charter of Pern is for his handwriting sample, since Kimmer would have had to sign it somewhere. This is one recovered from Fort Hold during the AIVAS years, and so I think we’re supposed to assume the Charter copy that Robinton described as being between thick panes of glass at the Harper Hall is a different copy, but there are enough time disparities at this point that it could be more retcon at work to have the original here at Landing, discovered by using an AIVAS-supplied combination instead of being between found at the Harper Hall. Make up your own conclusions, they’re probably equally valid.

Tai’s suggestion is fruitful, and F’lessan picks her up and spins her a bit in his exuberance, before remembering that she was pretty cool to him before and that he might not want to get handsy, even in a friendly way. F’lessan can’t help but find Tai kind of cute, though.

She had a very nice smile, he thought, as the corners of her wide mouth curved up, showing her teeth, white and even, accented by a tanned complexion that was as much heredity as exposure to southern sun.
[…]
Her smile deepened, causing two dimples to appear in her cheeks. He didn’t know any girls with dimples.

But we get a glimpse, thanks to dragon gossip, of Tai’s main motivation in life.

You are a bronze rider and you are F’lessan and she’s shy, Golanth said. Zaranth says she wants to make something of herself for After. She never wants to be beholden to anyone else ever.
Like all dragonriders,
F’lessan is with considerable irony.
Not even to other dragonriders, Golanth added, slightly offended by Tai’s utter independence.

Cut from Mirrim’s cloth indeed. No bet on whether she ends up happily partnered by the end. Or whether the possible tragic reasons why she wants to be independent are taken seriously and worked through.

After F’lessan tells her about his mission to document the history of Honshu, they both lock up the archives, Tai enabling an alarm so that the archives would stay protected against accidents. They both admit to being hungry, and F’lessan, now charmed by Tai, offers to race her to the food while he thinks about whether she’d like to dance with him, since she’s the right height for him. She accepts in deed, but we find out why Tai is studying at odd hours and how much she already knows about F’lessan.

Despite all the tales she had heard from Mirrim about the bronze rider–including dire warnings about his fecklessness–he had acted considerately and courteously toward her in the library. She’d been surprised that he appeared to know his way around the shelves. He had certainly prevented her from getting in trouble with Master Esselin, who had his own ideas about what dragonriders should study. Especially green female riders. After Tai’s first distressing encounter with the pompous Archivist, Mirrim had comforted her with a tale of how nasty Esselin had once been to her, in the early days of the discoveries at Landing, before Aivas was discovered, and how MasterHarper Robinton himself had acted on Mirrim’s behalf. The fussbudget was the main reason Tai tried to pick unusual hours at the library: times when she wouldn’t have to deal with the persnickety old man.

Ah, sexism, still alive and well and living gloriously on Pern. Not to mention that Esselin is essentially a librarian stereotype, back in the days on Terra when librarians were presumed to be men who were insufficiently masculine to succeed at any other profession. (Which made them fussy and effeminate. The part about being very concerned with making sure only appropriate people were using the library is just a general old librarian stereotype.)

I do, however, like the idea of Mirrim starting and maintaining a whisper network, since I’m fairly certain any woman who tried to stand up and name names about the assaults she’s suffered would be buried under the weight of Patriarchy bright to bear on her.

Tai and F’lessan’s race slows slightly as they pass the room where AIVAS was, before coming to an abrupt halt because there’s a couple obliviously making out in their path, and they’re positioned right around a corner. F’lessan catches Tai when she runs into him and holds her no longer than needed to get her balance back, and the two creep around and run off to the food together. F’lessan guides Tai to the tables, haggles with a wine merchant about the price of his Benden (to no avail), then grumbles and passes over his three marks. Pour, toast (“Safe skies!”) and drink, while Tai quietly boggles at the ease in which F’lessan hands over the three marks for the wineskin. Also, food.

And Tai telling us that green dragonriders, including her, are getting into the express shipping game as a side job from their duties at Weyr or other contracts (like research) they are working on. Sean would be so annoyed at his descendants.

F’lessan continues to make small talk at Tai and get information from her, asking about her hand, the dolphins, what she’s doing in the archives (which leads to a shared thing about how Esselin hates that F’lessan is in Honshu), and so forth.

One of the subjects is touchy for Tai.

“Are you weyred along the coast or inland?”
Tai tried not to freeze at the question: bronze riders with an eye to mating with Zaranth the next time she was “ripe” always wanted to know where she could be found. Zaranth wasn’t even close to her cycle. “Coast,” she replied quickly. Almost too quickly.

After F’lessan asks about dolphins instead of dragons,

She made herself relax. She was my overly suspicious.

I don’t think that’s overly suspicious, Tai. That sounds like experience talking about what a bronze rider is interested in from a green. And the implications of how Tai phrased it sounds like those bronze riders don’t particularly care for Tai’s consent in the matter while their bronzes mate with Zaranth. And the use of the word “ripe” only reinforces that idea. The stereotypes about green riders that we’ve been hearing all along still have some pretty good force to them – even F’lessan was buying into them when he thought of Tai as not being particularly sensual.

It’s no coincidence that Tai and Mirrim are good friends, since they’re both giving two middle fingers to the stereotype of the sex-obsessed green rider. And yet, they and Debera are also the only greens we’ve seen given significant amounts of screen time and drilling into their motivations. Because they’re not like all the other girls and boys who ride greens, I guess? Still, even if 99 green riders would willingly sleep with any bronze that came knocking, nobody gets to assume the 100th will, too, and so they don’t have to ask.

And I realize this is 2018 me making critique in a realm where there’s a lot more frank sex talk and a tradition of consent, nascent that it may be, but Pern is still terrible about it.

As we continue through the small talk, there are yet more hints dropped that Tai is not okay.

She knew he was teasing her; she knew she was often too solemn. Even Mirrim said she shouldn’t be quite so conscientious, but that was just how she was. She just didn’t know how to respond to levity.

Yet the narrative is giving plenty of space to how this F’lessan is not behaving at all like how Mirrim described him.

He wasn’t at all what she’d expected based on Mirrim’s tales of some of his pranks at Benden Weyr. Well, that had been Turns ago, before he’d Impressed. He did have a serious side to his nature, along with that most amazing sparkle in his eyes. She should be wary of such a sparkle. Mirrim had said he had been very much a bronze rider! Maybe she should slip away while she had a chance. But that seemed very discourteous. She had barely touched the second glass he’d poured.

This sounds very much like someone who is trying to fight her instincts about someone. Just because he doesn’t match the picture in your head doesn’t mean he’s still not dangerous. But Tai has been socialized life a lot of women on Terra that her leaving now, and trusting those instincts, would cause social problems to come down on her. So she’s hoping that F’lessan doesn’t revert to a bronze dragonrider. In a horror movie, the audience is screaming at her to run from this seemingly charming person, because he’s going to be a murderer.

The Harpers take up their instruments again as both Tai and F’lessan go through seconds, which is something that shows us Tai has not been okay for a very long time.

He had no trouble putting away his second helping of Turnover food. Nor did she, but then, her parents had raised her to “eat what’s on your plate and be thankful.” She took a hasty sip of the white Benden; she hadn’t thought of her family recently. Her life with them had been so different from the one she now had–even before she had Impressed Zaranth. Zaranth–and Monaco Weyr–was her family now, and closer to her than she had ever been to her bloodkin.

Tai grew up poor, then, like most of the people on Pern that the narrative has been studiously avoiding. Like most of the people in Latin Christendom, or the Known World of many re-enactors of the time period of the Medium Aevum. And you know what? Growing up poor affects you both physiologically and psychologically. It seems to me that Tai is exhibiting signs of being a person who grew up with scarcity still adjusting to having plenty, but also trying to figure out which of the old rules still apply and what new rules need to be learned.

Before we can go off into reminiscence and see how terrible Tai’s home life was, F’lessan starts singing along to the ballads. Well, if you call it singing. F’lessan can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but he sings loudly anyway. Tai, on the other hand, can actually sing a little.

His merry eyes caught hers, and from the mischief in them, she suddenly realized that he knew very well how badly he sang and didn’t care. That he was willing to show such a defect in a culture that apotheosized music, and certainly encouraged vocal talents, astonished her. Mirrim might criticize his fickleness and breezy attitudes to weyrmates, but why hadn’t she mentioned his flawed voice?
[…the song finishes…]
“Why do you sing, when you know you can’t?” she demanded in a low voice.
“Because I do know all the words,” he replied, not at all abashed.

Because voices and music are vitally important to Harpers and nobody else. The important songs are educational, and, as F’lessan points out, if you know the words, then you have learned what you are supposed to learn. Now, it certainly helps that F’lessan is the son of the Weyrleaders and a man, so he’s not going to be expected to demonstrate a fine singing voice or musical talent to catch himself a good husband. Privilege matters in this case, and so F’lessan can have a tin ear and a terrible voice for singing.

Before we can get to the humanizing Tai part, since we’ve spent so long on doing it to F’lessan, Mirrim and T’gellan start heading Tai and F’lessan’s way. Tai panics at how the situation might be interpreted by Mirrim and spirits off, keeping her wineglass. Zaranth chides her about it, but otherwise helps make sure that F’lessan can’t find her again.

At the end of the concert, she hears far too much glass crashing for her liking and his to investigate. Cute cutaway to Benden Weyr, and a good point for us to stop.

I’m going to point out here that Tai makes an excellent candidate for the cutaway technique I talked about in the previous post – we don’t know a lot about her, she’s pretty low on the dragonrider hierarchy, and she’s already branching out into new fields. She be a great character to be unaware of the journey she’s about to take. Why did we stick with F’lessan instead?

Deconstruction Roundup for June 15th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has run the gauntlet of the school visits and come out the other side.)

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 SandiferEruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are saddened by the passing of a person who has been on the Roundup. Or for any other reason, really.

The Skies of Pern: Meeting of Shadows

Last time, a meteorite crashed into a prison mine, and the son of the leader of the Abomination faction escaped. Even though AIVAS has been off for quite a while, the ripples of its actions are still being felt and fought by those that aren’t convinced of their virtues.

The Skies of Pern: Prologue: Content Notes:

This segment gives us a new time stamp: At a Gather – 6.15.30, which does not have the AIVAS-adjusted time. Given that this is a gathering of people who are less than enthused about the things that AIVAS brought forth, it makes sense to go with the traditional time marker. (What I want to see is the time marker shift back and forth depending on the view of the viewpoint character. I will likely be disappointed.)

Three unnamed characters open this segment by complaining about the reworking of the calendars based on AIVAS data, which shortened a Pass by ten Turns. They’re kind of willing to let it go, because Robinton gave his stamp to it, but they’re definitely not fans of the legacy of AIVAS.

“Pushing things on us whether we want ‘improvements’ or not,” First said slowly, eyeing her [a fourth that has joined them in the last paragraph] in what illumination dimly reached their side table. He saw a thin woman, with an unattractive face, a pinched mouth, a recessive lower jaw, and huge eyes that glowed with an inner anger or resentment.

Because pretty women aren’t allowed to have heterodox ideas. (At least not without consequences, as Kylara, Avril, and Thella will point out to you.)

What distinguishes this meeting from any other gripe session is the introduction of a fifth person with a deep, yet inflectionless voice that eventually draws in two more people to the table, where they demonstrate their various factions. First feels AIVAS turned itself off too early, Third is poking fun at the others for being so serious about things that have improved their lives, and Fifth believes there’s nothing good that comes from AIVAS, and makes the point in a way that only makes sense on Pern.

“Surgery!” In that expressive deep voice the three syllables were drawn out as if he spoke of something immoral.
“Surgery?” Sixth frowned. “What’s that?”
“Ways of mucking inside a body,” First replied, lowering his own voice to match Fifth’s.
Sixth shuddered. “Mind you, sometimes we gotta cut a foal out of its dam or it strangles.” When the others regarded him suspiciously, he added, “Only a very well-bred foal we can’t afford to lose. And I saw the healer once remove a pendix. Woman would have died, he said. She didn’t feel a thing.”
” ‘She didn’t feel a thing,’ ” Fifth repeated, investing that statement with sinister import.
“The healer could have done anything else he liked,” Fourth said in a shocked whisper.
Second dismissed that with a grunt. “Didn’t do her any harm and she’s still alive and a good worker.”

The banter continues, and it seems like most of the people in the group resent that they weren’t consulted on the changes and it’s not easily verifiable that the improvements will improve. They’re suffering a disruption that’s not of their own making and that they can’t control. Third claims that Menolly said to wait and go slowly, which I can see her doing, not because she’s cautious about the technology, but because she recognizes the upheaval that happens when you go full bore on mechanization and industrialization.

Fifth is firmly on the idea that traditional life is the best, which Third mocks, but all of them at the table seem to agree that while hurting people is a bad idea, destroying or removing objects they consider harmful, or taking what they feel is theirs, rather than having to wait in line behind dragonriders, Lords, and Crafters, is an idea they can get behind. What ends up sealing the bargain for everyone is the rumor that AIVAS might have killed Robinton before terminating itself, and the subsequent idea that AIVAS might not have had the best interests of actual humans at heart.

I present to you the Luddites of Pern.

The initial group of twenty at this Gather re-forms the Abomination faction themselves and subsequently gather strength and numbers by promising to give voice to the objections brought on by the new technology and by spreading the rumor that AIVAS killed Robinton, transforming Robinton’s natural charm and beloved-by-all status into a weapon for recruitment. Individual acts of sabotage mostly go unnoticed, but then they escalate to the point where the Craftmasters notice, and then the Craftmasters start conferencing, and it’s a Master Harper, Mekelroy, known as “Pinch” (suggesting the same role as Nip and Tuck, spymaster for Sebell) who puts it all together and figures out the pattern.

And that’s where the prologue stops, and the viewpoint character for the beginning of Part One is F’lessan, so whatever information and data Pinch has collected will only be for the appropriate Masters’ ears and not ours. I realize this is a storytelling device, but the way it usually goes is that you cut away from the very important discovery to the innocent character that is about to begin the adventure they do not actually know is coming. Gollum loses the One Ring, and we go to the Shire to see Bilbo. The prince becomes The Beast, and we go to the sleepy village in rural France where Belle is being her usual self to the town’s residents. Princess Leia is captured, and we cut away to Luke Skywalker. F’lessan does not, in any way, qualify as an innocent unaware of adventure.

Plus, when you do that, it seems like the thing to do to your readers is to have Pinch utter something cryptic that won’t be explained to the reader until a lot later. But there aren’t any prophecies, and we’ve spent all this time with the people who would otherwise be mysterious learning their motivations and decisions. Maybe not their identities, which I suppose makes for some mystery, but I’m not entirely sure what narrative purpose this prologue serves. It’s kind of like an extended teaser for the book itself. Maybe we would have wanted to stay with the villains for a little longer and get some characterization or ideological diversity in their ranks.

In any case, actual content starts next time?

Deconstruction Roundup for June 8th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is currently stuck with one nostril running and the other entirely stuffed.)

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 SandiferEruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are chasing a dream that would involve moving cross-country to your desired spaces and jobs. Or for any other reason, really.

The Skies of Pern: Post-AIVAS Blues

Having stopped off to see a short story about how runners might see the world with a romance plot grafted on, we’re back to the novel form, at least for a bit.

A wrinkle to the acknowledgements this time around is a very abridged playlist used in the composition of the work, as well as a new scientist added to the thanks that makes me wonder what this story is going to be about.

The introduction returns! And at this point, since we’re already post-AIVAS, it no longer has to worry about spoilers. This also has the consequence of making it the most SFnal introduction yet. Yet, it reads very much like a radio serial introduction, full of high praise for the Benden Weyrleaders and devoting a single sentence to the widespread opposition that developed to using the AIVAS files and device.

It also sets us up with questions to keep in mind as we read, to see if the narrative accomplishes its goals:

Which technologies can be adopted without disrupting the culture of the planet? And how will the dragonriders integrate themselves and their splendid friends into the new Threadfree society?

Well, the truthful answer to the first question is “none,” as all new technology is disruptive to culture and society. The second has plenty of potential answers, and I suspect it mostly depends on what they want to do. Let’s find out what the narrative thinks, shall we?

The Skies of Pern: Prologue: Content Notes:

We’re back to the old “Part” style of narration for this work. I will have to find my own break points, then.

Right out of the gate, our comfortable time signatures have changed.

Crom Mines–5.27.30-Present Pass
Aivas Adjusted Reckoning–2552

Perhaps it is out of custom that they continue to use “Present Pass,” but for anyone that believes this is the last go-round, I would expect them to use “Final Pass” or “Ninth Pass,” as presumably the AI after being fed all the records it could get its hands on, would have counted and been able to tell everyone they’re in the Ninth Pass. Or for them to adopt the epoch calendar that AIVAS provided, and make it something like “5.27.2552 (Ninth Pass 30)” so that the eventual synchronization will have reference points in this transition era.

Basically, I expected Pern to start referring to the Passes in the way one might refer to the dynastic eras or reigns of the emperors of Japan, and they haven’t.

In any case, the narrative proper starts with a meteorite strike on one of the prison mines of Crom (CROM) Hold. (Mine work has been noted as a punishment before, but I suspect it is only applied to those who can’t buy their way out of punishment from the appropriate justice entity.) Everyone, except for a prisoner by the name of Shankolin, panics at the strike. Shankolin takes the opportunity to escape, and also to tell us that he’s been educated in science enough to call the meteorite by its name as he escaped his prison. As Shankolin escapes, his context is made apparent – he’s the son of Norist, the leader of the “Abomination” faction that repeatedly tried to sabotage and destroy AIVAS, and his hearing is fine, having recovered over a very long time from the sonic pulse he suffered on his last attempt.

Master Norist had been horrified to learn that the Weyrleaders of Pern believed that this disembodied voice could actually instruct them in how to turn the Red Star from its orbit and prevent it from ever swinging close enough to drop the avaricious and hungry Thread.

So far so good. Your leaders believing something that is impossible, based on your understanding of the universe, is often a way of getting someone to take action.

Shankolon does not know this, but he’s working on a time limit, because ultimate success has already happened and/or will without him being able to do a thing about it. Once Thread stops falling and no longer falls as it would be predicted to do (which may cut this Pass abnormally short), he’s out of leverage. The permanent knowledge, of course, will be when the Tenth Pass fails to materialize, but only time-traveling dragonriders will know that in their lifetimes.

If the narrative wanted to keep Shankolin as a reasonable figure and let us get a glimpse as to how someone can believe logical things that happen to be wrong, then it fails out quickly.

Thread truly was a menace to bodies and growing things, but the Aivas Abomination had been a more insidious menace to the very minds and hearts of men and women, and from its disembodied words a perfidous treachery has been spread.

Dictionary (.com), an assist, please?

perfidy: (1) deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery: (2) an act or instance of faithlessness or treachery. 1585–95; Latin perfidia faithlessness, equivalent to perfid(us) faithless, literally, through (i.e., beyond the limits of) faith (per- per- + fid(ēs) faith + -us adj. suffix) + -ia -y3 (emphasis mine)

Perfidy almost requires an orthodoxy or contract of faith to betray, and I’m not seeing it yet. If the dragonriders are charged with protecting the planet from Thread, then a new entity offering a possible way of doing away with it permanently should be explored as part of due diligence. It would be closer to perfidious if they didn’t.

At that time, when everyone was extolling the miracle of this Aivas thing, his father and a few other men of importance had seen the dangers inherent in many of these smooth and tempting promises. As if a mere voice could alter the way a Star moved. Shankolin was firmly of his father’s mind. Stars did not change their courses. He agreed that the Weyrleaders were fools, inexplicably eager to destroy the very reason why the great dragons were basic to the preservation of the planet!

Wait. Logic foul, offense. The Weyrleaders are either pursuing a strategy that will disarm them against Thread or they are pursuing a strategy that will make the dragons obsolete, but not both. It is either deadly costly folly or it might work and leave a planet with dragons and no Thread to fight.

Or I’m reading something wrong in this passage and Shankolin is being consistent in belief that pursuing the AIVAS strategy will fail and be destructive to the dragons to the point where they won’t be able to fight Thread effectively on its inevitable return. Language is difficult. This is why you have editors.

Additionally, now that Shankolin has seen a meteorite hit, and knows what the word means, I wonder what his position on whether celestial bodies alter courses is. Because meteorites come from somewhere…

There’s also another reason that I’m going to highlight, because I think it’s the real reason Shankolin went along with the attack plot.

He agreed because he was so close to the end of his journeyman’s time. He was eager to prove himself acceptable to his father, to be the one of his sons to receive the secret skills of coloring glass in the glorious shades that only a Master of the Craft could produce: which sand would make molten glass blue, which powder caused the brilliant deep crimson.
So he had volunteered to be one of those to attack the Aivas Abomination and end its domination over the minds of otherwise intelligent men and women.

That sounds like a plausible and very Pernese reason to go along with something that might not have been wise or logical – to please your father and be seen as worthy to have the secrets of your Craft.

As Shankolin escapes, he slips on a stone in a stream and cuts himself fairly well on another from that fall, and bandages himself up as much as he can, continuing the escape. Turns out he had a brush with death in the mines, having smelled a pocket of gas before it collapsed a wall while he was still deafened.

And younger Shankolin was a much different person than this one.

As a younger man he would never have filched so much as a berry or apple from a neighbor’s yard. His circumstances were as much altered now as the tenets of conduct his father had beaten into him. He had a duty to perform, a wrong to right, and a theory he must confirm or forget.

*checks back* Did I miss it somewhere?

Secondly, I’m pretty sure that the use of the word “beaten” is deliberately chosen, given what we know of Norist, rather than a question of Unfortunate Implications.

Which is all adding up to making Shankolin a tragic figure, recruited into a cult and pushed to do things he might not have otherwise done because he sought parental approval. (Paging Masterharper Robinton: your callback is here.) I’m not sure the narrative is on board with this characterization, given the way it treated the Abomination faction in previous works, but it’s doing a very solid job of it. Maybe if he had been given clothing that revealed a secret message about getting out of a hate group when it was laundered, he could have made it to Mastery without the toxic mindset.

As things are, Shankolin is basically stealing a little bit of food and some bedding for himself from a cotholder that’s not actually in at the moment. He’d like new clothes, but the cotholder has no spare clothes. He does have a boat, and Shankolin is able to travel on the river to a slightly larger hold, where he gets more food and a new suit of clothes before continuing on.

As he continues, we learn that Shankolin blames AIVAS for unspecified things he suffered, he was very disturbed at the kidnapping of Robinton, and his mission, such that it is, is to discover the truth of whether Robinton killed AIVAS or AIVAS killed Robinton, and from there, formulate a plan based on how badly AIVAS had warped Pernese society.

In what I suspect is another knock-on effect from the narrative trying to achieve something else, Shankolin has been repeatedly portrayed as a person who is drawing correct conclusions from bad data.

He called to mind those whom he knew had been seriously disturbed by the so-called improvements promulgated by Aivas. By now, eleven turns since the Abomination had terminated, some right-minded thinking folk would realize the Red Star had not changed course simply because three old engines had blown up in a crack on its surface! Especially when Thread continued to fall on the planet–as indeed it should, to be sure that all Pern was united against the menace of its return, century after century.

The narrative is relying far too much on us knowing and remembering from previous books data that was only really available to Mastercrafters, Harpers, and dragonriders. Jaxom may be the only person on the planet with the complete truth of how the Threadfree world came into existence (and the proof that it’s going to turn out okay). Jaxom has reasons not to spoil the future. The dragonriders and Harpers are doing their damndest to tell everyone that this is the last Pass, but the evidence of Thread is still there and they’re going to have to ride it out. And the average person on the planet probably doesn’t understand the raw destructive power of the fusion engines detonated and the fact that the Red “Star” isn’t a star at all, but a planet being thrown from its orbit. We know what’s going on, but everyone else is quite rightly demanding the extraordinary proof for the extraordinary claims being made.

Equally as importantly, Shankolin and others that we are about to meet keep pointing out that there are social and cultural consequences to everything that AIVAS did and introduced. Mechanization displaces the guild system and will likely result in less workers needed to turn out objects and make their living from it. It might also improve farming yields so that not everyone has to be a subsistence farmer if they’re not part of a guild, a lord, or a dragonrider. A lack of Thread to fight leaves dragonriders and Lords alike without a unifying threat to devote their time and energy toward. Which could mean each of them turning on each other and struggling for control and resources.There’s no actual reason for the system as it exists to move forward in its present form past the endpoint of Thread. Jaxom has already set in motion the end of Pernese society as we know it, and all the people pushing AIVAS’s improvements are trying to hasten that change. Stable, traditional society is going to be the most appealing option for a lot of people (privileged by their position in it).

The author has had several shots at thinking through the consequences of these actions. So far, the results have been lackluster. Maybe this time we can get a good look at it?

We’ll pick up next week with more of the prologue, as several shadowy figures discuss tradition (TRADITION!) and the ways in which the machine mangled it all.

Creative Corner, June 2018

(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 was 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.)