Deconstruction Roundup for July 10th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to try and find where the balance point is between keeping an eye on everything that needs keeping an eye on and getting entirely burnt out from having to keep an eye on too many things.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 trying to internalize the idea that there is no glory or fame in burning yourself out from doing the work. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: Deductions and Stories

Last time, we spent time with Fiona as she tried to puzzle out the situation between F’jian and Terin, with a side order of Xhinna and Taria keeping their feelings to themselves about whether they’re wired wrong to be women and have blue and green dragons. Fiona swiftly and remorselessly attempts to disabuse Terin and Xhinna of the notion that they’re somehow wrong, but she’s fighting years of Xhinna and Taria being told they’re wrong for being lesbians despite it not having any precedence at all in Pernese society. (Because there have been no on-page lesbians until those two) Fiona diagnoses it as the time-twisted muzzy-headedness and prescribes caffeine as the solution.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter Four (continued): Content Notes: Patriarchy, Misogyny, child cruelty and abuse

After Fiona realizes that the sensation she had earlier, with the dizziness and the double-dragon speak, might be her dragon talking to her from two different points in space at the same time, we go back to Terin and F’jian. F’jian is determined to make me eat my earlier words about being happy at being in the reserves, describing it as “the harder duty” as he lays out what the rehearsal schedule will be before the night Threadfall that’s coming up. We have another sequence where Terin wakes up because F’jian feels like he’s gone, but he’s there, and he’s telling Terin that she’s beautiful and that he loves her and that she should sleep. Which is now beginning to sound a bit more like what Kylara was doing in observing herself at earler points in time, except it’s F’jian coming back over and over again to see Terin. Which suggests that one of the two of them is going to bite it soon, and if F’jian keeps coming back to see Terin, it might not be F’jian that’s going to die. After all, “This is yours and no other’s” was all that Tenniz said to Terin in prophecy, and if it meant that she would get a gold dragon, then that part’s already done and Tenniz has no more future words for Terin.

We skip ahead to Terin finding Fiona in the Records room to call her to food, but it’s dinner, not lunch, and while Fiona is apologetic, Terin suggests that Fiona needs to have someone force her to take breaks and eat. Fiona counters and gets the heat off herself by correctly pointing out that Terin has the muzzy-head, too, and then insisting that Tern share what’s going on in her life.

So, Terin told her about the night before.
“He’s not seeing anyone else,” Fiona said firmly. “I would have heard if he was.”
“Then what is he doing?”
“I hate to say it, but could you be dreaming?”
“Like you about Lorana?”
“Perhaps,” Fiona said, waving a hand to ease the tension. “And for the same reasons, it would be it would make sense for both to be dreams.” Terin’s eyebrows went up. “Me, for dreaming what I’d like, you for dreaming what you fear.”

I imagine Fiona being pretty half-hearted about this, since she doesn’t really want to believe that she’s dreaming herself, and that she really wants a better answer than that. Fiona suggests secret training and Terin shrugs about how useful that would be. They both dismiss the entire contingent going back in time to Igen, and Tern pleads with Fiona that if they’re going somewhere else, to some other time, that Fiona would take Terin along with her, please. At the possibility of Southern as a destination (by which they mean the Southern Continent, not Southern Weyr, which won’t be established for a long time), Fiona dismisses it because they might “get infected with the dragon sickness or worse.” This would be handy for someone who studied the genetics module to tell them that they wouldn’t get infected with the old dragon sickness, because the new genetically-modified dragons don’t have the same pathways of infection as the old ones do, but there’s always the possibility that proximity to dragons would help the old infection mutate faster and try to figure out how to infect the new dragons.

As Fiona and Terin arrive to dinner, the story gets repeated again to L’tor, the wingleader of the on-loan-from-Benden contingent, and Fiona suggests someone getting her a guard to make sure that she eats and sleeps and knows what time it is. Shaneese, ever-powerful henchwoman, has a suggestion of someone who would be perfectly suited to the job, but she’s not sure if she should give him over to Fiona. It’s Jeriz, who is Tenniz’s son (the one who he said wouldn’t get precognition), sent by Mother Karina to Fiona. At the initial meeting, Fiona says hello and extends her hand, but Jeriz isn’t very talkative, which annoys Shaneese greatly. Also, more evidence to the theory that Fiona is an empath as well as telepathically linked to Lorana.

The boy looked up and Fiona was pierced by his brilliant green eyes, eyes that were set in a swarthy trader face and looked out from under unruly, long black hair. Fiona was shocked at the beauty of the boy just as she caught his hidden fury, anger, rage, and–beneath all them–his great fear and loneliness.

Remember, of course, that Tenniz also said that green was an unlucky color among the traders, so it’s possible Mother Karina sent him out to somewhere where his eyes wouldn’t be a problem. Also, it’s likely she sent him out here because Tenniz or someone else saw it happening, and you can’t break time.

Anyway, Fiona tempts Jeriz first with the prospect of getting to see a queen dragon up close, and then with a trade that will be mutually beneficial to them both. If she can lead Jeriz into the right pathway to make the trade, that is.

“Are you willing to make a trade?”
“What for? I’ve got nothing!”
Ah! Fiona thought to herself. Another who cannot see their own worth.
“I could trade you nothing for nothing, but it seems a poor choice.” Fiona said. She frowned for a moment. “How about this: I help you and you help me.”
“You’re a Weyrwoman, you don’t need my help.”
“Then you’ll come out best in the bargain, won’t you?”
[…Fiona explains that she needs a minder to keep her on schedule for eating. Jeriz, after saying anyone can do that, asks what Fiona can do for him…]
“What’s the most important thing for a trader?”
“Trade,” Jeriz said simply.
“Knowledge,” Fiona corrected him. He gave her a thoughtful look. “Trade is easy, knowing when to trade and what to trade, that’s hard.”
[…Fiona offers to give Jeriz the run of the Records while she’s in there and to keep whatever knowledge he picks up as his price in trade…]
Jeriz’s breath caught and he exhaled, his shoulders slumping, his eyes going back to the ground. He seemed to completely fold in on himself even as he shook his head once, silently.
Suddenly, Fiona had a thought. “I can teach you to read, too.”
Jeriz’s eyes locked on hers and he took a step forward so he could whisper into her ear, “And you won’t tell anyone?”
“No one,” Fiona swore solemnly, hiding her exultation at having guessed correctly. She lowered her voice so that only he coule hear her, “Not even Shaneese.”
Jeriz stuck his hand in hers and shook it firmly. “Deal.”

I mean, Shaneese is still in the room with them while Fiona is working out this deal to teach Jeriz to read, even though she says that not even Shaneese will know. Unless they’ve been conducting these negotiations very quietly, which would preclude the need for Jeriz and Fiona to get closer to whisper to each other, Shaneese now knows that Jeriz is illiterate. Because Shaneese never leaves the room, even though, presumably, for this scene to work as written, Shaneese would need to not be in hearing distance of either Fiona or Jeriz in between her last line, which is right after Fiona explains that knowing where to put the chalk mark is much more important than the chalk mark itself.

So, somewhere in here, Shaneese mysteriously left, or the blocking changed so that Jeriz and Fiona are far enough away from Shaneese for this conversation to work. The scene hops forward to Fiona talking to Jeriz about the complication to his illiteracy – he told Kindan he could already read. And we have an interesting conversation about what the expectations of literacy are on Pern.

“Not everyone on Pern reads, you know,” Fiona said as they reached Talenth’s weyr.
“Traders do!” Jeriz stopped, looking at the huge queen who lay in front of him, her head raised, staring at him intently.
“Here, you’re weyrfolk,” Fiona told him.
“They said you knew how to trade,” Jeriz said, unable to tear his eyes from Talenth.
“I’m flattered,” Fiona said. “But I’m a Lord Holder’s daughter, I was taught since I was very young.” She paused. “And I read a lot.”

We have worldbuilding here that contradicts what I would have thought was the standard for a Harper education. Even though it would be more appropriate for the time period Pern loosely basses itself on to have a large swath of illiterate folk, we’ve always been taught that letters and numbers are a standard part of the Harper education for everyone.

Jeriz gives a very flowery greeting to Talenth, that Kindan approves of, nearly causing Jeriz to topple with the sneakiness of his entrance. And then while Fiona is willing to call Kindan a friend, Jeriz isn’t sure which of the honors of being a Harper or a Weyrlingmaster is more important, and therefore the correct form of address to him.

“He’s a weyrlingmaster and a harper,” Jeriz said, clearly torn as to which honor ranked higher. Decisively he squared his shoulders and looked up at Kindan. “Harper and Weyrlingmaster, I hope I cause no offense.”
“None at all, provided you are willing to call me Kindan in private,” the harper returned easily, striding forward with a steady gait and extending his hand. “And how shall I call you?”
“My name iz Jeriz,” the boy said. “I’m the Weyrwoman’s drudge.”
The swat to the back of his head was neither hard nor expected.
“No drudge,” Fiona snapped. “You’re here to help as weyrfolk or trader, whichever you wish.”
Jeriz raised his hand to his head, but said nothing.

*snaps fingers* And here I thought we might get a resolution to that issue. On the relative scale of how important the Pernese think things are and how willing they are to try and spite them, I’d say Weyrlingmaster wins out because the dragonriders are much more highly respected than the Harpers are.

Also, how interesting it is that Fiona gives Jeriz an immediate dope slap to the idea that he’s the Weyrwoman’s drudge. I’d call him the Weyrwoman’s page, but that particular office doesn’t exist on Pern, as best as I can tell, unless it’s part of the Lord Holder world. Fiona is very clearly wanting to reinforce the idea that Jeriz has a higher social status than a drudge. Even though there’s a high percentage of on-page drudges being people who have learning or physical disabilities, so Jeriz is not wrong with that description. That suggests the possibility traders also have drudges, which doesn’t make sense to me, given their nomadic lifestyle and descent from people who have historically been marginalized. It doesn’t seem right to suggest they might subject their own children to drudgery as has been described in the books so far. (Maybe Jeriz picked it up in context from all the places the traders have visited.)

Anyway, Jeriz gets hustled into the bath to clean up, after Fiona sympathizes with him about being small for his age and apparently getting into a lot of fights about it. And suggests that he would probably be hunting tunnel snakes in a Hold, because he’s small enough to fit in the tunnels to do it with. After the bath, Fiona combs his hair and we advance again to Terin asking politely if she can join Kindan, Fiona, and Jeriz in Fiona’s bed. Jeriz, of course, got invited in when it was clear to Fiona that he was shivering in his cot.

Once Fiona sends Kindan and Jeriz to get themselves ready, and then asks Terin about what’s going on. Terin says the strange thing happened again, but F’jian says he swore that he couldn’t say where he was going, and that Terin would understand. Terin, of course, doesn’t understand at all. I presume that it has something to do with the additional time-twisting that’s going on that hasn’t been made clear to us.

“Terin,” Fiona began slowly, feeling out her words. “Do you love him?”
“I don’t know,” Terin said quickly. Then she shook her head. “No, that’s not true. I love him, I just don’t know if I can trust him.”
“I understand,” Fiona said. Terin wasn’t a jealous soul, Fiona knew, but she wanted certainty in her life. Fiona was sure that if F’jian had another love and was honest with Terin about it, she’d eventually come to accept it. She merely wanted a solid relationship, with the rules known.
Even though, with nearly fourteen turns, Terin was as old as some who were already settled, she was still young enough to be unsure of herself, to want to take things slowly. Perhaps more slowly than F’jian, but that was her right and her decision. Fiona couldn’t fault her; she’d waited for her own time.

Cocowhat by depizan

That doesn’t make any of this better! Terin’s thirteen, and apparently plenty of people have settled down into long-term relationships by this age. There’s no reason for them to be this young, aside from the clear fetish this author has for very young girls getting into relationships. Also, how does Fiona know that Terin craves stability and would be entirely okay with F’jian taking a lover, just so long as she knew about it? I’m not saying she’s wrong, because being up front and communicating is pretty key to having a working polyamorous relationship, but I think we’re hearing Fiona’s empathic and telepathic skills at work again, giving us information that Fiona wouldn’t otherwise know.

Also, what happens to those young women who don’t end up in a relationship and don’t have a dragonet to cement their status in the hierarchy? What happens to them and where do they go? There seems to be an assumption everyone will get paired off at some point, barring Shaneese, although I wouldn’t be surprised if she Beatrice’d her way out of getting attached to any man until Fiona set her up with T’mar.

And it is in that context that we get Fiona and Terin’s assessment of Jeriz.

“So that’s Tenniz’s son,” Terin said as she watched the small boy follow Kindan out. She waited until they were out of earshot before adding, “He’s cute!”
“It’s the eyes,” Fiona agreed. “He has the most beautiful eyes.”
“He is going to have a full Flight of admirers when he gets older,” Terin predicted.
“Two, if he’s not picky,” Fiona agreed. “That is, if he decides to stay with the Weyr.”

I would like to read this as Fiona suggesting that if Jeriz turns out to be bi- or pansexual, he’ll have quite a few more people interested in him than if he’s only interested in one gender identity. It’s far more likely that Fiona is just making a comment about what standards Jeriz will have about taking lovers, but I’m having a moment of really wanting to explicitly queer this story more than just the explicit lesbians and the possibly-gay or possibly-bi riders that are in the background.

And also, I’d like to remind the reading audience that Weyr culture is still theoretically pretty libertine about sexual attitudes, and so there shouldn’t be a whole lot of disapproval attached to the idea of Terin wants to have a go at Jeriz. Or if Fiona does. When he’s old enough.

Right. Plot. The breakfast table has Fiona being informed that all of the weyrlings are concerned they’re going to die because they’re all muzzy-headed. And bless Fiona for being someone who inherited the SCIENCE! gene, because she devises a series of tests to figure out whether the newest crop of weyrlings are feeling things as bad as the O.G. time-twisted. So Fiona is setting herself up as the original generation, Terin is going to be used along with the other new generation weyrlings, and Jeriz is going to join the drill as the control (not that it’s mentioned that way) because he has no dragon at all and shouldn’t be affected. With that settled, apparently, it’s pregnancies all around, as Fiona suspects that Shaneese is pregnant by T’mar and has been trying to hide it from her. Fiona gets to this by opening with how much Terin is worried about F’jian, which nets her a dirty look from Terin. (Apart from “babies are the natural and wanted outcome for every woman ever,” what is with all of this “everybody’s pregnant! But they’re being cautious about saying so” going on?)

Fiona then explains that Jeriz is working out pretty well, once he stopped freezing himself in the cot and accepted being warm in Lorana’s bed. Shaneese doesn’t seem to be impressed with this, but she resists Fiona’s pressing question as to what she has against Jeriz. Instead, she tells the other half of the story about the time she spat in Tenniz’s soup.

“I left because I was shamed,” Shaneese said. “Tenniz shamed me.”
“How?” Fiona asked, eyes wide with surprise, prepared to hear the worst.
“No,” Shaneese said quickly, “he did nothing like that.” She sighed. “In fact, I think he told the truth. And, perhaps if I’d been older, I would have appreciated the gift he gave me.” She snorted at a memory and looked up to meet Fiona’s eyes. “Instead, I spit in his soup.”
[…Shaneese explains she was sixteen and pretty at the time. Fiona and Terin say she still is pretty, which she waves away…]
“For a woman, a man must be worthy,” Shaneese continued. “And so, when Tenniz said what he said…”
“What horrible thing did he say?” Fiona asked. “That you were ugly?”
“He said that I would be second wife and enjoy it,” Shaneese said, looking directly at Fiona. “That I would gain great honor and much happiness after a time of sorrow.”
“Yeah, he always seemed to speak in riddles,” Terin agreed.
“Among the traders, being second wife is considered a great shame,” Shaneese said with a sigh. “Rarely do we even consider such things and almost always in times of great hardship.” She sighed again. “And then, the first wife is always considered the better, the superior.”
[…Shaneese didn’t believe Tenniz, Tenniz didn’t understand why Shaneese wasn’t happy about his vision of the future, and so Shaneese spat in his soup…]
“I suppose that beats tunnel snakes in the bed,” Terin said, glancing meaningfully at Fiona.
“It was only one!” Fiona protested. “And you said you wouldn’t tell anyone!”
“Seems to me,” Terin said, taking another roll and buttering it, “that if you two are wives to the same man, you ought to share such exploits.”
Fiona thought on that and nodded, telling Shaneese, “It was Kindan, Turns back when I was a child and he’d been ignoring me.”
“A tunnel snake?” Shaneese repeated?
“It was only little,” Fiona said in her own defense. “And I screamed a warning before he got in the bed, so he wasn’t bitten.”
“Tunnel snakes are rare in the desert,” Shaneese said. “But they are very deadly. You’re lucky you weren’t caught.”
“Oh, believe me,” Fiona said, rising from her chair and rubbing her behind in painful memory. “I was caught!”

Somehow, I can understand Fiona’s putting Kindan’s life at risk as a thing that kids do and get punished for rather than Shaneese getting punished for giving Tenniz a spit soup for essentially saying that Shaneese would take a shameful position and enjoy it. It’s like a precognitive telling a daughter in a 20th century Terran religiously conservative household that she’s going to become a porn star and love every moment of it. Why, other than internalized misogyny and patriarchy, would you punish Shaneese for doing what she did? Does the person with the Sight suddenly become immune to the consequences of what they are saying? Or is this yet more of the author not paying attention and letting their background radiation of “boys will be boys” infect this idea so that Tenniz gets away and Shaneese gets punished?

So I can understand why Shaneese might have it in for a child that looks a lot like his father, and reminds her of the place where she came from. And I can’t think of this particular instance of excusing Tenniz and punishing Shaneese as intentionally representative of the privilege accorded boys in trader culture, because I feel like Mother Karina is supposed to be seen as a strong and powerful woman who doesn’t need a man. Someone who Fiona could look up to as a way of running her Weyr with an iron fist. (And Terin, too, potentially.)

At the same time, there’s still no solid reason why the traders are people with beliefs in monogamy as the most important thing, even if they’re willing to entertain the idea of a second wife as an economic necessity. Because that suggests that women can’t survive on their own in trader culture, and again, Mother Karina basically says “nope” to that. And individualistic traders really doesn’t make sense in crossing the desert and in conducting business, because if you have a resource and everyone needs it, hoarding the resource results in everyone getting harmed or dying, and their hurt and dying eventually redounds on to you, because they have something that you need for your continued survival and not hurting. So why should someone who is going to be second wife feel shame for it, given how many ways there are for someone’s husband to die that neither he nor his wife would have any control over?

The traders are grouped in trains and such because that’s how they all survive together. Especially if there’s any sort of prejudice against trader groups anywhere. Given who they are supposed to be based on, and they clear stereotype being set up of them as shrewd and clever people looking out for their own interests that goes with it, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the prejudices that 21st c. Terra has about traveling folk survived, even if the authors really really want us not to believe that.

After all, the authors still haven’t figured out that the religion they claim left by the front door has gone around to the unlocked back door and set up in the kitchen. And the nearly-completely-consistent characterization of drudges as people with mental disabilities that means it’s entirely okay for them to be treated as less than human. Because the Shunned contain among their number plenty of people who were accused by powerful people of things they didn’t do or Shunned for things they refused to do for the powerful. Why would we believe even the silent claim that other prejudices have left Pern?

Plot-wise, Fiona and Tern go to see Kindan, and there are warm-up stretches and Fiona makes a discreet suggestion to Kindan for the training to go much like it did at Igen, with gliding and seeing flight and otherwise having both the humans and the dragonets do the drill together so that they’ll be strong dragons by the time they’re ready to fly and fight. Having split the group the way he likes, with Tara at the head of the third group, Kindan sticks Jeriz in the second group, telling them that Jeriz is playing the role of a rider from another Weyr. (Who, by implication, wouldn’t know what to do in a Telgar drill, and that hurts the idea I had earlier about drill being mostly standard instead of highly individualized.) Fiona and Terin each take one of the other groups under the same premise, but we only get to see that there is running and stretching and a little bit of drill, “wheel left, right, and form to line ahead. He had them practice “flying” between each other, taking care to avoid touching their outstretched fingers–“wings”–while making the maneuvers progressively more complicated.” Which, again, sounds like the kind of thing where each of the various weyrlings would have a number role and rotate through the roles so they have experience being able to do any of the necessary parts their wing will need to do (since it’s explicitly said that all weyrlings should also expect to be able to lead the drill, even if in practice, it’ll only be browns and bronzes doing it). Also, I have to ask why dragons would be flying between each other in the middle of a literal firefight against Thread. That sounds like the kind of thing that gets dragons injured and killed because they were expected to do precision flying.

Of course, maybe all of this drill and such is an attempt to make the riders not panic and the dragons not completely break their lines and instinctually pursue Thread to the detriment of their higher-order thinking. Which doesn’t seem to be working, given how much the narrative has talked about the riders feeling superfluous or gestalting with their dragon during the fight. Do, tell me again why the riders have to be on the dragons to make it work, and why we can’t have dragons without any flame do a hyperspace hop for a refuel, then pop back to their start position for a new run. We still have the problem of the mental feedback coming from dragons dying or getting injured, but then we’re not also exposing the much flimsier and easier to kill riders to Thread as well.

We’re almost through this chapter, but it’s worth stopping here so that we can devote sufficient time to screaming for the rest of the fuckery left to come. More next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for July 3rd, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to be a loudmouth in what they hope are productive ways with their organization.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 trying to internalize the idea that there is no glory or fame in burning yourself out from doing the work. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: Who Do You Believe?

Last time, Tenniz died. After trading aphorisms with Lorana under the stars (but not exactly the same phrases), which Tenniz suggested was because Lorana’s descended from traders, but the narrative never actually confirmed or denied. Having watched Tenniz die and buried him, Lorana had a flash of inspiration about what to do now, and disappeared into the timestream.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter 4: Content Notes: Sexism, Misogyny, Toxic Pregnancy-Positivity, Lesmisia,

Dragons and riders rise
To the sky
Look above you, scan wise
Time to fly
Time to flame
Thread from sky.

(Telgar Weyr, AL 508.7.23, later that evening) – which is two days after Chapter 2’s time marker, so it’s later that evening from when Chapter 2 left off.

If this is a dragonrider poem, I have questions about how the dragonriders in the last book were somehow caught by surprise by Thread falling above their heads, since you know, one of these poetic bits literally tells them to do the thing that the adventure party is reputed to never do when they enter a new room. And it’s in the context of Thread-fighting, so it’s even more egregious that these riders didn’t look up when they didn’t see what they were expecting. (And that they don’t come at a target space and time from high and drop to an appropriate altitude then they know for certain they’re above the Fall.)

Anyway, Chapter Four is not concerned with the still increasing amount of WTF that the poetic fragments are causing here. Instead, we start with C’tov telling F’jian to have a serious caffeine infusion because he wasn’t able to stay upright on his dragon. I already know the answer is “because MANLY BRONZE RIDER machismo would be so insulted if they did it,” but if F’jian is having this much trouble staying awake and upright, shouldn’t someone ground him? Since dragonriders seem to be organized in at least a loose sense of military ranking, even if F’jian is a Wingleader and a bronze rider, at the very least, T’mar should be able to tell him to sit his ass down until he’s actually able to handle his flying flamethrower properly. Because he won’t do them any good in that condition, even if they need all the dragons they can scramble. Instead, C’tov suggests taking a higher dose of stimulants. Which leads to J’gerd making some other suggestions about what might be occupying F’jian’s stamina.

“Probably a longer night before that,” J’gerd added with a knowing grin from farther down the table. F’jian ignored him, pouring himself some more klah.
“J’gerd, you should drink less of that wine,” H’nez said, “unless you like flying sweep.”
The brown rider gave the wiry bronze rider a startled look and shook his head swiftly. He apologized to F’jian, “Sorry, I meant no disrespect to your lady.”
“You’re a good lad, J’gerd,” C’tov said, coming over behind the brown rider and resting his hands on the other’s shoulders. “Not too bright, but good.”
The others roared with laughter at C’tov’s ribbing and J’gerd turned red, shaking his head in chagrin.
“Don’t listen to him anyway, F’jian,” another rider called. “You know he’s just jealous.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Ugh, the toxicity, it oozes. Not to mention that kind of thing would trip my embarrassment squick so hard and have me hoping that I could just take meals at some other time than when everyone else is. Plus, we learn yet again that there is a certain amount of prestige attached to various roles when it comes to Thread fighting. Riding sweep is apparently not one of the favored ones, despite it being important for making sure that no burrows get past all the flamethrowers on the ground and in the air. But, of course, the glory is in fighting the invader as it arrives, not playing cleanup after all the fun is done.

Also, Terin is at this point, a whole thirteen. And has been in the relationship with F’jian for the last three years. Yeah. It’s a wonder they’re still together, honestly, given F’jian’s apparent maturity level. If the fight that had Terin aggressively cleaning a queen’s weyr is an indication of how they have conflict with each other, I am very surprised that they’re still together. Especially now that Terin has her own power base to rest upon and doesn’t have to curry favor with anyone if she doesn’t want to.

On the plot, Fiona asks Terin how she’s feeling, and Terin responds that she’s also flattened-tired, which gives Fiona some thoughtful thinks about the possibility that Terin and F’jian might be time-twisted. Which Terin guesses at, but also, we have to re-evaluate what kind of relationship Terin and F’jian have had for the last three years.

“So you’re not the reason F’jian is so tired,” Fiona guessed.
“Fiona!” Terin said with a bite in her voice. Heads swiveled in their direction and Terin’s face blushed to match her hair. [Ah, did we know that Terin has red hair? Seems like it’s a bit of an in-joke that there’s always someone with flaming red hair in each book…] More quietly, she added, “I told you, I’m not ready.”
Fiona cocked her head inquiringly.
“Closer to when Kurinth rises, that’s when,” Fiona said. “There’s no point in rushing things.”
“No,” Terin said quickly. The Weyrwoman’s eyebrows rose. Just as well as Terin knew Fiona’s mind, Fiona knew Terin’s. “Well, maybe.”

At which point Terin outlines her worries about what she heard from the previous night and Fiona suggests going up to see F’jian and make sure that everything’s okay.

Also, I’m pretty sure I have been operating for the last several books of Terin and F’jian’s relationship on the idea that they are absolutely knocking boots with each other. Now, based on the quoted bits above, I think we’re supposed to believe that Terin and F’jian have not been doing that for the last three years. Which makes me wonder about what F’jian has been doing if/when his bronze goes chasing greens or the various gold mating flights that he’s been around for, as well. We saw that the watch-wher community had basically made it the rule that whatever happens during a mating flight doesn’t count because nobody is in control of themselves for much of the mating flight, but we’ve never had that officially confirmed for the dragonriders. Nor have we had full proof that any rider could hold themselves fully back from the gestalt while their dragons were going after it. Except the Son of the Benden Weyrleaders, even though he eventually willingly gave into it. This smells very firmly of retroactive continuity at work. Perhaps this is one of the changes that was insisted on by Anne in her return to the world? Stop having the really young characters have lots of sex with each other and others? (Yeah, right.)

As it is, Terin points out on the way to see F’jian that Fiona isn’t nearly as muzzy-headed as Terin and F’jian appear to be, which Fiona shrugs off as possibly having gotten used to it enough, which is not the first explanation that I would go for, which is that Fiona isn’t currently time-twisted, and F’jian and Terin both are. Terin finds a F’jian wrapped in the blankets, but when she goes to touch him, she finds that this F’jian is really cold. Fiona calls for Talenth, but gets an echoed version of her in her head and a big swarm of dizziness before passing out completely.

The next scene is Fiona explaining to an assembled crowd of worriers that she’s fine and what happened to her that had her passed out. Apparently, Talenth called for Bekka when Fiona passed out, and Fiona files that away for future reference by thinking in her own head that people that dragons know by name tend to end up with dragons of their own in the future. Not that Bekka was having any of it the last time Fiona tried to drag her in front of a clutch of eggs (and with good reason.) Fiona knows that Bekka is hiding something from her, but Kindan isn’t encouraging that line of thinking, insisting that Fiona needs to rest and wrapping her up in his arms in the bed to help with this.

“Every day with you is a treasure,” Kindan told her feelingly.
Fiona found herself idly amazed at his words; they were the nicest thing she’d ever heard him say.

And if Kindan and Fiona’s relationship were based more on pantsfeels and banging than the crush that Fiona has on Kindan and Kindan’s crush on Koriana being acted out on Fiona, that would be a step up in the intimacy level. Instread, I want to know how far the pit has to be dug for something like this to be something that gets over the bar of “best thing said ever,” because that seems like the sort of thing you would say to someone that you were in love with on the regular. Except for the part where Kindan really has been working out his issues about not getting to have Koriana with Fiona and hasn’t actually said a whole lot about whether he loves Fiona, since he was the most resistant of the three to the idea of having Fiona along with Lorana. If only Pern had kept the art of therapy so that everyone could talk to people about what they were feeling and eventually learn how to communicate with each other. Alas. [/sarcasm]

The next morning, Fiona and Terin check in on each other, and Fiona advises Terin to keep an eye on F’jian, because despite the fact that F’jian slept the night with Terin, Fiona is keeping in her head the detail that the F’jian they first encountered was very cold, like he wasn’t in bed all night. Because, consistently for Fiona’s character for this book (and that I’m writing that says something), she’s willing to believe Terin rather than gaslight her about what happened! (Consistency across two whole chapters is a terrible thing to have to celebrate, but here we are.) Terin embarrasses herself by calling after Fiona, who’s headed to the Records room, about whether she intends to find more dizzy Weyrwomen. Which is what Fiona’s headed to do, and Terin intends to follow her, except she has to feed Kurinth, and then oil her, and then she’s too engrossed in caring for her dragonet to remember what she was doing before. (Terin believes that she’s neglecting her dragonet shamefully with all of the other things that she’s still doing, which says a lot about how much the psychic bond rewrites a person who has formed it.)

Fiona, however, makes it to the Records Room, and for once, we get a description of what might be contained in the Records and how they might be organized!

The Weyrwoman Records were broken into several sections through hundreds of Turns of practice. Some sections were devoted to the tallying of goods received, some to the parceling of those goods throughout the Weyr, others again to injuries and losses. And then, dusty and disregarded, was a special section set aside for the musings of the Weyrwomen themselves.
At Igen Weyr, Fiona had quickly grown bored with the sort of gossip she’d read in the old Weyrwoman Records. At the time, her interest in babies lasted long enough to coo over them and hand them back to their rightful owners.
Now, as she glanced down at her belly, she accepted that she needed a slightly more enlightened outlook.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

Apparently, the Weyrwoman records aren’t hidden in with the others, they’re separate, and furthermore, the reason the Weyrleaders don’t look in them, I guess, is because they’re apparently clearly marked as to which ones are the records of tithes received and materials distributed and which ones are “the diary of the Weyrwoman.” Since the Weyrwoman, and not, say, the headwoman, is in charge of making sure all the supplies are accounted for. I’m pretty sure someone is uncritically recreating the idea that the Lady of the House is responsible for all of the accounts and in charge of the servants, even if the person who actually handles the day-to-day operations and is someone else. (And has been for some time, because, after all, all the way back in Nerilka’s Story, there was some glee about Anella being utterly unsuited to the running of a household and not knowing what it all entailed.)

Anyway, apparently, all you have to do to keep a record out of the eyes of the boys is to make sure it’s very clearly labeled as the Weyrwoman’s diary and nobody will touch it for fear of cooties. Even though it would be a prime source of understanding for a Weyrleader or anyone else who wants to know what the Weyrwoman is thinking about.

Also, I stridently object to the use of the word “enlightened” to describe Fiona’s outlook change, especially because Fiona was thirteen at the time she went back to Igen. Most thirteen year-olds that I know of wouldn’t be interested in learning all of the details about the process of making and raising babies, especially not as advice from the adult women in their lives. Of course, that’s with a viewpoint that considers thirteen year-olds to still be children with childhood still to happen before they become adults, and that’s not really an attitude reflected on Pern, where it seems like 12/13 is the time when someone gets married in the nobility and where a lot of the gold riders Impress their dragons. So there’s a certain amount of “well, if you weren’t interested in sex and pregnancy before, you’re going to have to get interested soon, because the boys aren’t going to wait around until you are ready” that’s built into Pern (and that’s another reason why F’jian supposedly waiting for years seemed weird to me, because I can’t imagine him actually agreeing to that when everything that he’s been told up to that point has essentially been “once you get your dragon, you’re set for status and you can have anyone you want.”

Fiona, at the time, wasn’t interested in all the details. That she is now older and interested in the details is not “enlightenment,” unless you believe that every person who can carry a baby should be carrying one, that their highest purpose and calling in life is to want and have babies, and that everyone who can carry a baby secretly wants at least one. Which has been the unofficial cultural expectations of the narrative and their endings, even though it has been very careful not to slip into that overtly, by talking about methods of abortion and having characters who are very clearly living fulfilled lives that do not have children of their own.

Now, it’s entirely possible that I’m reading too much into this because, as we will see, Fiona, at least as the narrative describes her, does want children and has always wanted children (in the abstract, at least, since at Igen she was disinterested in the baby gossip, according to the narrative).

She was always going to have children, there was never any question in her mind. And she was going to have girls and she was going to have boys and she was going to love them all. She knew a large part of that was her reaction to being an only child after the devastating Plague that had killed so many throughout Pern–including all her brothers and sisters. But she was also honest enough with herself to accept that she liked the idea of babies, that she liked the idea of toddlers. She knew enough, from her turns in Fort Hold, about the problems each presented, but she had grown up in a world where each new child, each squall, each smelly diaper was something quietly treasured. There was always a small pang of sorrow in the coos and aahs of the older folk around Fiona as they eyed new babies. She could see the babies that they’d known before the Plague echoed in their sad eyes.
And Fiona also recognized that part of her wanted babies to make up for those that her older sister, Koriana, could never have.
And now, apparently, she needed to know a lot more about the whole situation, particularly those babies with dragonrider parents. She knew Bekka too well now, and the look she’d given Birentir had been a special look, the look Bekka gave when she was afraid and didn’t want to scare anyone else.
Unfortunately for Bekka, Fiona had seen and recognized that look. And, fortunately for Fiona, the Weyrwoman knew just what to do about that–even if it meant poring through stacks and stacks of musty, old, boring Records.

Scratch that last suggestion, and also, Pern needs therapists. Because all of those reasons that Fiona thinks are hers for wanting babies are strongly influenced by people that are not Fiona. Fiona has noticed that the older folk miss their own children, and think of new children as precious. Fiona wants to have children because her older sister died from the Plague before she could have any. Fiona wants children because she hated growing up as an only child and never got the experience of having living siblings to grow up with. (I might also add in what was suggested in the last book, that Fiona wants children because she wants physical anchors of the people she loves (or at least lusts after) in case they are taken from her by Thread or other disasters.)

So why does Fiona want children? The narrative is silent on this, hoping that we won’t notice it under the pile of “Fiona has been taught since she was very small that she has a duty to have children and she’s internalized this strongly enough to believe that it’s her own motivation.” And then what happens if Fiona has a child and finds out that she absolutely detests having a child that she can’t hand back to anyone to get away from her? She likes hanging around with the younglings, she likes cooing over the babies, but she hasn’t a clue about whether she’s willing to accept the responsibility of raising one when they’re full of shit. Or would we see Fiona’s small raised mostly by Xhinna, Taria, Terin, or committee, and so Fiona wouldn’t have to deal with the bad parts as well as the enjoyable ones, like how all dragonrider children nominally are?

Again, Pern needs therapists, because Fiona has a lot of trauma to work through before I’m willing to believe the narrative telling me that Fiona wants children because she wants children.

Getting back to the plot, Xhinna and Taria come to fetch Fiona for lunch, which gives Fiona the opportunity to grill them both for information, since the weyrlings are apparently the best information network in the weyr, since they’re essentially invisible. Fiona asks about F’jian, and the response she gets says there’s more to it than she’s been told.

The room grew suddenly tense and Fiona felt Taria try to shrink into herself. Fiona gave Xhinna a challenging look.
[…Xhinna says it’s only talk…]
“What sort of talk?” Fiona asked as they started down the queens’ ledge.
“He’s worried, Weyrwoman,” Taria spoke up, much to Fiona’s surprise. She’d always seemed the more diffident of the two, silent and willing to let Xhinna take the lead, but it was clear that Taria had her own mind. That much had been clear for a long time, really, just as it was clear that Taria had spent much of her time since meeting Xhinna exalting in her presence. “He’s worried that he won’t survive, that he’ll leave Terin before…”
“Before his time,” Xhinna finished diplomatically.

Fiona inquires further about whether or not F’jian is stepping out on Terin, but both of them say it’s not the case, and insist they would tell Fiona about things that would upset her if she really wanted to know. (Xhinna says this by way of saying she hasn’t said anything at all about Lorana, which tells Fiona that there are actually some lines that Xhinna won’t cross at all. Which, y’know, I’m beginning to believe the theory that Fiona has a low-grade empathic or telepathic field on at all times, because she seems to be really good at intuiting other people’s emotions and thoughts and the true meaning of the same.)

Fiona “suggests” that the three of them have lunch in private, which earns Fiona a “strained” look from Kindan and an approving comment from Shaneese. Xhinna and Taria try to dance their way around whatever’s bothering them, but Fiona is not going to be dissuaded from figuring it out, and eventually, she manages to extract from Xhinna and Taria their worries.

“It’s not the others,” Xhinna said. “Kindan wouldn’t let them and–”
“They’re a good lot, all round,” Taria said. “I’ve known most of them all my life and they’ve never said a mean word–except when we were all little and silly.”
“But the dragons–”
“I can’t help if I don’t know,” Fiona told her friend in a calm voice.
“Fiona, is it possible that it’s wrong for dragons to Impress women?” Xhinna blurted.
“No,” Fiona said instantly. “Not at all.”
“Golds, sure,” Xhinna agreed in a contentious tone.
“No, your Tazith chose you, Xhinna,” Fiona said. She glanced toward Taria. “Just as Coranth chose you.”
“But we’re so tired,” Taria protested. “All the time.”
“And you feel like you’re walking through thick mud,” Fiona said. The others looked at her in surprise even as Fiona continued. “And you’re slow, you can’t do sums, you’d do anything for a nap, and when you wake, you still feel tired.”
“Yes,” Xhinna agreed. “That’s the muzzy-head?”

Holy fuck, someone actually communicated for once! Admittedly, it was more like pulling dragon’s teeth, but they finally arrived at a useful conclusion and information.

Also, what the fuck?

Cocowhat by depizan

Not as much Kindan putting an immediate squash on any thought that Xhinna and Taria don’t belong in the weyrling group, because that’s his job to do, and he has quite a bit of practice getting young boys to shut the fuck up about whether or not girls belong in the previously-hallowed halls of only dudes. (Still negative millions of points for not actually making it so that Xhinna and Taria can focus on being dragonriders instead of having to do second shift as well, but it is at least consistent characterization for Kindan to want to squash any sort of bullying possibilities that might arise in his cohort.) Instead, despite this being the fourth book in a series where the muzzy-headedness has been known since the first, and deduced as to what the cause of it was from the same book, apparently nobody says anything about it? Or Kindan is yet again failing at his job because he didn’t line up all the recruits on day one and say “if you are experiencing this set of symptoms, that’s normal, you’re just currently twice in time. The best solution we have for it so far is for you to drink the highly-caffeinated beverage on the regular. We don’t know why giving your system a jolt like this works, but it does.” Or for Bekka or Birentir to do the same, because this muzzy-head is a known thing and has been for a while. Especially when it’s something that could affect whether or not someone can stay on their dragon or follow and memorize their drill, this seems like something that would be important for the Weyrlingmaster to mention. Instead, Fiona tells both Taria and Xhinna to drink plenty of klah because it keeps the muzzy away, and gathers an insight into her own fainting dizzy spell as possibly what happens when two copies of your dragon exist in the same time and they both talk to you. That would certainly be very disorienting.

We’re going to stop here for the plot because it’s a convenient scene break, and I still have one more thing to say about this entire exchange, which is that I think Shaneese needs to do some more henching and re-put the fear of, well, whatever the equivalent of the deity would be on Pern. Because we had earlier wagging tongues about Xhinna and Taria that disapproved of their relationship, and/or Xhinna’s skin color, and while both of them are fast off the line to reassure Fiona that the weyrlings aren’t making any suggestions (or that Kindan is coming down hard on anyone who does), they’ve clearly had enough exposure to other people thinking they’re an aberration, unnatural, or otherwise wrong to have internalized their symptoms as a result of their unnaturalness, rather than as something that can (and should) have been explained to them as a result of their being somewhere else in time at the same time. (It also still reads weird to me that lesbianism is seen as weird or wrong in the first place, but in the context of the supposition above that all people who can get pregnant must be pregnant, then lesbianism would get clucked at because it wasn’t producing any babies.)

This whole thing also has a certain ring of the situation where the teenage character suffers through the things that are definitely hurting them and not telling the people who can help with it because they’re too busy or don’t want to be a bother or think that someone will think less of them if they couldn’t handle it all themselves. Which would be a thing that would happen with dragonrider culture indoctrination and in being the new curiosities, so they would have to perform twice as well to get half the recognition. And the fact that this is making sense for Pern says a lot about the failures of the worldbuilding to build a really good place for everyone and the complete successes of the worldbuilding about being consistently terrible to women and girls who are in unique circumstances or very male-dominated ones. (Also, we did that beat in the Harper Hall trilogy, about suffering in silence. And, to some degree, with Kindan. Like, at this point it’s a trope and should probably be let go of gently.)

We’ll kick back into the plot next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for June 26th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to note with cynicism all of the entities in their life that could be making progress but don’t seem all that interested in it, despite what they say.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 trying to internalize the idea that there is no glory or fame in burning yourself out from doing the work. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: So Much To Unpack

Last time, we got about halfway through a chapter of Lorana sitting with Tenniz for what he says is the last day of his life, which has been happening in a sort of unhurried way, given that Tenniz has apparently made his peace with this fact and is fulfilling what he saw in the past, spending his last day with Lorana.

Dragon’s Time: Chapter 3: Content Notes: Death

Where we left off, Tenniz was in the process of explaining to Lorana that he’s come to terms with his own demise and that he’s not wasting his time on anger or seriousness, which would have been a better sell for me had Tenniz mentioned that he spent plenty of time already being mad and serious about the short amount of time that he had in life and the knowledge that he’s cursing his daughter with the same thing.

What’s also about to get weird is that Tenniz is about to start quoting proverbs and Lorana is about to start finishing them. Tenniz suggested earlier in the chapter that Lorana might have trader blood in her, which I suppose is our cue to think about what happens, but Lorana doesn’t say anything like “My dad used to say these things” or anything else that’s specific enough to be used that would be a clue as to where she picks up the parts of these proverbs. Because she also didn’t spend three years in the past with the traders to where she might have picked some of this up.

Anyway. On the idea that there isn’t going to be any more wine for them tonight, this sequence is what starts the really weird. Earlier, Lorana finished one of Tenniz’s phrases:

“Only a parched man really knows water,” Tenniz said, again in the tone of a trader saying.
[…and then fills a pot with water…]
“Only a dying man really knows life,” Lorana said, glancing at Tenniz.
“So it is said,” Tenniz agreed quietly. “But just as it is the path of wisdom in the desert to bear water, so it is the path of wisdom to learn life.”

Which, I suppose, could be worked out from the context of their conversation, but then it starts getting into direct quotations that Lorana has no business knowing, or if she does know them, the narrative forgot to tell us how.

“ ’Parched, you shall drink’ ” Tenniz quoted.
“ ’Hungry, you shall eat,’ ” Lorana said, hearing the catch in Tenniz’s voice confirm that she strangely knew the right words.
“ ’And–‘ ”
Lorana joined in with him–“ ’the stars shall guide you to your sleep.’ ”

And then the narrative jumps ahead to Lorana and Tenniz stargazing, as if “strangely knew” doesn’t ask for an explanation, or Tenniz confirming his guess that Lorana’s been around traders enough to have picked up a few aphorisms. or something. Tenniz has changed into the robes crafted for him to be buried in, but suggests that they can use a blanket for his burial shroud and gifts the robe and accompanying cloak to Lorana, saying “the dead have no belongings” as another trader aphorism. Lorana is understandably squeamish about carrying the goods of the dead, but Tenniz insists that since he’s still alive now, he can gift it to Lorana and everything will be fine. Lorana surmises this has to do with another prophecy and accepts the gift. (The cloak and the robes both have the emblem of a gold dragon flying over water, so it’s not like this hasn’t been prepared with Lorana in mind specifically.)

The stew is ready for eating, and it turns out Lorana’s understanding of trader norms goes to deeds as well as aphorisms.

Together they pulled the stew off the fire. Tenniz ladled the hot, pungent mix out of the pot and presented Lorana with the first bowl. Sensing tradition, Lorana took it with a grateful nod, then passed it back to him. Tenniz’s eyes lit as he took it and nodded in thanks.

This reminds me again of the Talents series, where there’s a character who is able to speak all of the many languages in the poor sector, where eventually it’s explained that they can access the language centers of the brain of the person they’re talking to, allowing them to speak the language as fluently as the other person because they’re basically borrowing their fluency. Since we know Lorana has the telepathic connection to Fiona that’s conscious and above-board, maybe this ability to speak aphorisms she has never heard and perfectly replicate customs she’s never seen is a low-level manifestation of Lorana’s telepathic ability. The narrative doesn’t particularly care about the explaining, as it has more important things to get to, apparently.

Lorana invites Tenniz to warm himself by Minith, which is something he treats with awe and wonder, and Minith says she doesn’t mind directly to Tenniz, which is even more awe and wonder from Tenniz about it. The stew itself is extremely spicy, which Tenniz suggests is a metaphor for life, and Lorana struggles through both having the very spicy stew and with coming to terms with the fact that she aborted her child (and possibly that she’s on deathwatch with the person responsible for that, but the narrative doesn’t say this), and eventually, Lorana seems to come to terms with it through some call-and-response aphorisms with Tenniz.

She felt ritual engulf her one more. “Even in the dark, there is still light.”
“ ’We are stars in the darkness,’ ” Tenniz replied with agreeing ritual.
“We burn bright, beacons for others,” Lorana said.
“ ’We cannot see our own light, only those of others,’ ” Tenniz continued.
“Our light lights others,” Lorana said, suddenly chilled with the power of the words, the sense of meaning that grabbed her, held her.
“ ’As their light lights us,’ ” Tenniz agreed, translating her words into the trader sayings of old. He glanced over to her and told her quietly, “You do not know our words exactly, but you have a trader’s ear for truth.”
“And so while there are stars, there can never be darkness,” Lorana said.
“ ’And in the darkness, there is always light,’ ” Tenniz finished.

So it’s not exactly the same words, apparently, but it’s close enough to hum a few bars, but now I want to know where this particular ritual comes from. Is it a dragonrider ritual, a beastcraft ritual, a family ritual, something they said at Fort, or at Telgar, or something else? Because the presence of this kind of ritual speech, much like the funerary rite we saw when Fiona took over Telgar, continues to betray the assertion that Pern has no religion. Or, we should figure out how trader wisdom got out to the people who aren’t traders and then twisted. Or we should acknowledge that Lorana’s powers are always a little on and she’s picking up on something from Tenniz. Some sort of acknowledgement. Or maybe there was something here that got cut and the authors didn’t read it back for continuity or their readers didn’t notice that this part was unexplained. (Or they did, and they were thanked and ignored.)

The narrative, though, leaves us with nothing to explain this, as it jumps ahead to Lorana waking up from having fallen asleep, and in the interim, Tenniz has died. Lorana does the duty she promised to Tenniz, wrapping him in the blanket, taking him to the hollow that Tenniz had described as where he wanted to be buried, and constructing a cairn above the gravesite of two hundred and fifty-seven brilliant white stones. (We know the exact number because Lorana was absently counting each stone as she put it in place.)

Having buried Tenniz, Lorana despairs of not knowing what to do going forward, even as she realizes that all of the funerary ritual and rite that she’s done was intended for her, to come to peace and bury her unborn child, and Tenniz happened to be the convenient excuse to talk to, and then eventually buried as proxy (as well as being buried himself). As she looks at the sky, she sees a single star, still burning in the sky before the sun comes up, and this apparently produces a flash of insight.

One last star burned bright, flaring with the rays of the morning sun. One star that was no star at all.
“I know what to do, Tenniz!” Lorana cried, tears streaming down her face.
“And you knew!” She almost laughed at the trader’s trick and she quoted him once more: “In the darkness, there is always light!”
“I know what to do!” Lorana cried loudly, startling Minith. She raced toward the queen, shouting “Come on, Minith!”
She pointed a finger skyward, straight at the brilliant light in the sky. Dragon and rider rose in the cold morning air, circled once, and then winked out, between.

Which is all and good for Lorana, figuring out what to do, but not so great for the reader. Because the star that isn’t a star could refer to a planet like the Red Star, or one of the ships in orbit around the planet, which were supposedly forgotten about until there were optic telescopes able to see them again. Or, perhaps, some other solution entirely that the authors have decided to keep from us and suggest that if we want enlightenment, we have to follow the same leap to a conclusion that Lorana did. I recognize that one of the tenets of writing certain types of mysteries is that the reader is supposed to have the same clues as the detective and be able to solve the mystery if they can follow the same logic, but for this to work, we all have to have the same clues. Instead, it’s been a chapter of Lorana behaving like she understands trader culture perfectly, and Tenniz remarking that she’s doing a really good job of following along, even if she doesn’t have the exact words down, so there’s the possibility that there’s a shared understanding that didn’t have to be articulated between them that we would need to know to fully follow along. Instead, we get a dragonrider jumping into the sky after jumping to a conclusion, and since the next chapter goes back to Fiona’s time, we’ll have to wait to figure out what’s going on.

Deconstruction Roundup for June 19th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to push hard for systemic change in their organization, despite a fairly clear lack of response from the management.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 trying to internalize the idea that there is no glory or fame in burning yourself out from doing the work. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: On Deathwatch

Last time, we set up the mystery of the present, involving F’jian’s disappearance late at night (where he’s showing all the signs of doing additional time travel), and Fiona got gaslit by the people who really should have been supporting her about whether or not she saw Lorana for long enough for Lorana to capture a sketch of her and then disappear back into time again.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter 3: Content Notes: Mortality

In darkest night I find you,
The sisters of tomorrow:
Heralding the dawn.

(The Unknown Time of Lorana and Tenniz)

There’s no time marker for this chapter, as it starts with Lorana and Tenniz, and apparently, Lorana doesn’t know where she is, or the narrative doesn’t want us to know where she is, but it’s pretty obviously in the time where Fiona is back in time, because Lorana has felt both infant Lorana and teenage Lorana before making sure she doesn’t accidentally reveal herself to Fiona before her time. So that gives us, essentially, a three-year window of time to work with, and, presumably, Tenniz has already arranged for his prophecies to be delivered at the appropriate time, so there’s really no harm in saying when they are that I can fathom, but maybe we’re supposed to think of this as a timeless space, somewhere that’s not governed by the demands of time.

Anyway, the chapter starts with Lorana asking Tenniz whether or not he could possibly be wrong about this being his appointed place and time to die. While Tenniz admits to the possibility, and that he would be super-embarrassed to be wrong about this particular one, he hasn’t been wrong before, despite seeing only glimpses, so, despite Lorana’s questions, he knows that today is the day that he’s going to die. And Tenniz intends to make his last day a pleasant one. Lorana is not so inclined toward the reality of death, as someone who still presumably has some time before her, but Tenniz has made his peace and knows Lorana has at least a couple of times already about her dragon dying and her baby dying. Tenniz mentions that he has a daughter and a son, in an offhand way also mentioning how old he is, that suggests it’s not just miners and dragonriders who decide they’re going to have kids young.

“You’ve a son and a daughter?”
“I’ve nearly twenty Turns,” Tenniz said.
“But you knew you were going to die,” Lorana said.
“I did and I do,” he said. He gave her a wry look. “As are we all in our own time.”
Lorana accepted that with a nod. “It must be hard on you,” she said.
“No harder than it was for you,” the young man replied. Lorana’s eyes misted as she caught his meaning. “We faced hard choices.”

All the way back at the beginning of this Third Pass set, I believe Kindan and Zenor didn’t really blink at the idea of getting married at twelve, to have kids and start a family, because the expectation was that they would be dead from mining by thirty. The dragonriders of this pass seem very keen on making sure their candidates, for fighting or for queen dragons, are about this same age. And, I forget how old Pellar was when he was part of thw watch-wher mating flight, but they’d arranged it all by age groupings, too, I think. Tenniz, however, knowing he’s going to be dead before he’s twenty, that I can understand him deciding that he wants to experience as much as he can before its his time, and that presumably would include things like sex and having children. Especially, as Lorana deduces in a little bit past the quoted section, because the traders want to make sure that the Sight continues to be passed down through the generations.

“They’re trying to keep this Sight of yours alive, aren’t they?”
“Among the traders it has saved countless lives,” Tenniz told her. “Even for myself, I would say it was more blessing than curse.”
[…skipping over some talk about breaking time that we’ll get back to in a minute, as well as Tenniz suggesting Lorana has some trader blood in her, because of her father’s profession…]
“You’ve been seen by others,” Tenniz said.
“Your father?” Lorana guessed.
Tenniz shook his head. “My mother,” he told her. “The Sight can go to either man or woman.”
“But only one,” Lorana guessed. “The Sight only comes to one in each generation.”
Tenniz gave her a wry look. “See? You prove my point,” he told her triumphantly.
“It was a guess,” Lorana said acerbically.

The point, in this case, being that Lorana has some trader blood in her, I guess, because someone without it wouldn’t have come to such a correct conclusion so quickly. I think it’s much more likely that, y’know, Lorana used LOGIC! It’s super-effective! but that’s me. Also, if the Sight only comes once a generation, that also means that whomever gets it is also apparently condemned to an extremely short life, as it seems to be the sort of thing where the previous holder has to die before the new one will start getting their visions. This is the first time we’ve seen any of the superpowers come with super-drawbacks, and it’s not necessarily a good look that it’s the traders, the nomad-expies, the Roma-types, that get their powers with such severe consequences. Plus, with the way that the traders want to keep the Sight alive, that suggests there’s some pretty intense pressure on the one who has it to have children before they go, so that one of their descendants will carry the gift/curse into the next generation. That’s yet another reason for people who are barely teenagers to start having those kinds of relationships, and further fodder for the textually-supported theory that the new author really has something about relationships and sex happening as young as possible.

(Also, I’m putting this out here just as something in case it turns into a bigger thing later, but given what we know now about the remaining time that Anne had left in her life, one wonders whether these conversations are both serving the plot and a dialogue between new author and old about what it means to be getting old and thinking about one’s death much more firmly. It’s not necessarily intentional, but there’s clearly a reading of the conversations this way if we want to go with it.)

Getting back to the bit that we skipped over, Tenniz tells Lorana that she’s heard everything she needs to know to avoid breaking time, and Lorana suggests that J’trel tried to break time, all the way back when he explained that he tried to go back in time and show his mother his new dragon, but he couldn’t visualize the coordinates well enough to make the jump. Tenniz suggests that many more people will try to break time, but none of them will succeed, but all of these failed attempts are the sorts of things that can be explained away by other means, not because the timeline actively interfered with them. It’s never clear what level of detail is needed to do the hyperspace hop. Presumably, the recognition points drills are supposed to help (and there were instances of pictures not being detailed enough to do a warp to), but it’s never said, say, that envisioning a person in enough detail as you remember them is a good enough anchor to warp back to them, or whether all that means is that you’ll try to appear in the same place that they are, which would be catastrophic for them. And it’s clear that Pern has a calendar system of some sort, even if they might not have timekeeping devices outside of the henges and the positions of the planets, so would it be possible to tell your dragon to do something based on a numerical conception of time and place, like “Fort Hold, five thousand feet above, thirty years ago today” and have that succeed? Jaxom successfully jumped fifty years into the future by adjusting a chronometer in his mental picture, and Lorana has jumped forward into the future by arranging the planetary bodies in the sky to match her intended destination, so there’s no reason to suggest that J’trel couldn’t have learned how to do that hop from the available information at hand and then tried to pop back in time. Again, the incuriosity of the Pernese works against their assertions that time can’t be broken, because nobody has really tested the limits of what they can do with the time travel. They figure out a use for it for things like saving themselves by doubling up on their Thread passes, or by sending weyrlings into the past to mature on borrowed time, but nobody has really done a lot of trying to mess with time in ways that would expose any fundamental weaknesses of continuity or to find things that the timestream really will not accept happening. The kinds of things where trying to warp back in time to prevent someone else’s death always has you appearing at the wrong time to prevent it, or the wrong place to get there in time, or any number of situations where it’s very clear that this is a fixed point that cannot be adjusted. Like, even when Kylara was observing herself repeatedly, over and over again, all we got out of that was people saying “What a vain bitch” and not “now we have to be very careful in and around that time and place because there are so many Kylaras there observing the one that time is pretty delicate in that space.”

I feel like I’m repeating myself. I probably am repeating myself, but a vague “time can’t be broken” really isn’t enough to explain away how, in all of the times that people have known about this ability, they haven’t really tried to use it to prevent a disaster or to spend more time with their loved ones or those kinds of things. Getting back to the plot, there’s a lot of companionable silence, making food (where Lorana marvels at the supplies that Tenniz has with him, and suspects Nuella’s hand in arranging all of this, since it’s good quality things and well-adjusted to Lorana and Tenniz’s preferences), talking about Jirana, Tenniz’s daughter, who will be the next one in the line to be blessed/cursed with the Sight, and Lorana trying to weasel as much information as she can get about the future out of Tenniz by trying to get him more drunk than she is and lead him into conversations where he’ll reveal information. This doesn’t work at all, but we do get a snippet of something that would have been fleshed out a lot more had the authors decided that they were going to admit there’s a mythology or a folk religious practice on Pern.

“You have mentioned your wife,” Lorana said, trying a different tack, “tell me about her.”
Tenniz thought for a moment before answering. “She has the prettiest green eyes,” he said. “I fell in love with her the moment I saw them.” He glanced at her wryly. “Green is such a dangerous color here on Pern, I suppose it seems strange of me to admire it so.”
“We need green to grow,” Lorana said with a flick of her fingers. “Just as Thread needs it to survive.”
“And sucks the land dry,” Tenniz said, his voice suddenly cold and hollow. Lorana met his eyes, but the trader lowered them.

This is the sort of thing that I would expect to happen on a world with a functioning mythology. Green is a bad color, because Thread devastates when it finds green. What does that mean for green-eyed people? Are they always looked on with suspicion? Do all of the Holds, Halls, and Crafts studiously avoid green in their heraldry because it’s seen as an invitation to destruction? Does any good at all come in green, or is that a forbidden color completely? What does that mean for green dragons and their riders? Did some of the cultural prejudice against green leak over, combined with green dragons’ much more amorous natures, such that green riders are tolerated because they’re needed but they’re not really liked by anyone? (And what would that say for Taria?) Did everyone think it completely appropriate that Mirrim, the troublemaker, the opinionated, got a green dragon because a green suits her nature so entirely properly and because they think of her as a curse to be inflicted on others?

All of these questions might not be answered, but this kind of worldbuilding, and thinking through the implications thereof, is what helps bring a culture to life and make it consistent. But again, that would mean that the authors would have to admit that even though the Ancients attempted to discard religion and superstition in their society, it came back in almost as soon as they weren’t looking. Because humans try to make meaning of things, and sometimes that making meaning involves conclusions that seem logical based on experience, even if they’re not logical at all in the formal or the scientific sense.

As Lorana and Tenniz continue to talk, Tenniz recounts that Shaneese spat in his soup because Tenniz said she would gladly share her man, which we have seen around the edges that it’s an insult, but I don’t think we’ve been with the traders long enough to know their culture and understand why that would be the case. From what we’ve seen, the dragonriders are by reputation freewheeling orgies, even if they’re a lot more monogamy for the Weyrleaders, the Lords are nominally marriage-monogamy but practically it seems that the Lords and their sons get to stick their dicks wherever they would like, so long as they don’t make the mistake of officially marrying or acknowledging more than one woman at a time, and the Crafts are a big question mark about how they handle all of these things, although they do have some amount of marriage ritual, even if we haven’t seen a corresponding insistence on monogamy, because that usually requires religion, and Pern doesn’t have one, officially. So the traders, other than their very weird mashup of Roma and aphorism-loving Arabian stereotypes (which we are about to see in full display), we don’t have a flipping clue what their values are with regard to monogamy and marriage to know why sharing her man would be such a problem. It’s like there’s a cultural assumption from the authors that has gone unquestioned in their work, because of course every society would construct itself in a religiously-Abrahamic way and morality unless otherwise mentioned. (Which reminds me of the absolute shitfit I threw at the AIVAS dying scene, because that underlying Abrahamic assumption was naked there, and the reader was expected to not even notice whose morals were on full display.)

Anyway, having mentioned Fiona, the talk turns to Lorana and her loss and Lorana asks Tenniz whether or not the price was worth it. Tenniz ducks the question and reframes it in such a way that Lorana is the sole person responsible for figuring out whether the price of her baby was worth it, with is a pretty dick move, Tenniz, considering you’re the one that made the prophecy that prompted it. Have a look:

Eyes bright with tears, Lorana nooded. Again, she said, “Because I don’t think Fiona would forgive me–”
“No,” Tenniz cut her off. She glanced at him in shock. In a hard voice, he continued: “You know better. She’s no stranger to hard choices. Tell the truth.”
Lorana let out a small sob and lowered her eyes. “I don’t know if I can forgive myself.”
“Yes,” Tenniz agreed. “That’s the truth.”
“And?” Lorana prompted, her voice pleading.
“And that’s the question only you can answer,” he said, pursing his lips in a grimace. “Always, in the end, only we can answer our own questions.”

Which might be good advice to someone who isn’t in the middle of grieving her own loss, with someone who has asked to inflict another loss on her through the certainty of his own incoming death. “Only you can know whether it was worth it,” may be accurate, ultimately, but it’s still a pretty terrible idea to throw at Lorana.

The plot moves forward to Lorana waking from a midday nap, worried that by falling asleep she might have missed Tenniz’s death, but Tenniz is still alive, and so they go about preparations for the evening meal, with Lorana listening hard to make sure that Tenniz is still alive, since in the darkening sky, it’s increasingly hard for her to see whether or not he still breathes. But there’s still time and lessons for Tenniz to impart to Lorana.

“Is it possible that you see too much of tomorrow? That seeing what you see causes you to give in? That you might die because you catch your death of cold tonight?”
Tenniz was silent for a long moment. “That is the greatest danger of knowing too much about the future.”
Lorana absorbed his words thoughtfully, lowering her eyes. For a long moment her mind churned on its meaning, on all that it meant and then–“You tricked me!” she shouted with a laugh. “You just wanted me to teach me the lesson you’ve already learned Turns before!”
“Yes, my lady,” Tenniz agreed with a light chuckle. “I did.”
“How can you be so happy at a time like this?” Lorana asked him, suddenly serious and angry, really angry in a way that embarrassed her, made her feel small and vindictive.

For as much as everyone talks about not being able to break time, I would have expected a certain amount of Calvinist fatalism to have set in for everyone. After all, if you can’t break time, why bother trying to do anything at all? Everything proceeds according to what has happened, is happening, and will happen, and there’s nothing anyone, even those with time machines, can do about it. That’s not Seldon’s psychohistory that predicts the big things but can be snarled and foiled by individuals, especially individuals with interesting abilities that can wreck the plan, that’s “everything is foreordained, so you won’t have the brilliant idea until you’re fated to, you won’t be able to save anyone other than what’s destined, why bother attempting agency in any form when it’s all written on the timeline from beginning to end?” I think everyone is supposed to be comforted or empowered by the fact that what is seen is often a fragment of the whole that comes to pass, and those results are way better than what was seen, and that pressing for more certainty would make it less possible for those good results to happen, but there still have to be a few people who understand this secret who have fallen into despair over it. (And a few others, I would guess, who have gained a sudden flash of enlightenment, as they have grasped the entirety of the Tao in that moment. Or who have beheld the wheel of death and rebirth in its entirety and declared this to be their last incarnation.)

Also, Lorana’s angry reaction is on point, really, as Tenniz is taking his existence lightly on what he says is going to be his last day in existence. Of course, he’s going to be sage about it in response, because he’s supposed to teach Lorana several things, but anger is one of those stages of grief, and it’s a natural response to get angry with someone who seems to be giving up on life.

“If I thought being somber and serious would give me another day with my wife, I wouldn’t be here,” Tenniz replied. He stood up with his supplies and moved toward the fire. “But I’ve known for Turns this day would come, I’ve had turns to adjust to the notion that I would die before my daughter was born, would never live to see my son a man.” He turned back to her. “I cannot see how being angry or solemn would make it any easier for me.”
He gestured around the plateau and beyond to the beauty that was unfolding in the setting sun; the promise of a brilliant night of stars. “I choose not to wrap myself up in grief over things I cannot change, cannot control, and, instead, take joy in all the gifts I’ve been presented. Rather than rail against the moments I cannot have, I will cherish those I do–rather than squandering them in useless rage.”
There was a long silence.
“It is strange,” Tenniz began again, in a softer, less emotional tone, “how those who expect to see tomorrow have so little appreciation for it.”
“I was talking to myself, wasn’t I?” Lorana said after a moment.
“ ’All the words we say aloud are heard by at least one pair of ears,’ ” Tenniz agreed with the tone that made it clear he was reciting another Trader proverb.

Not having been in a position where I know I’m dying, my days are numbered, and having made my peace with that, I don’t really understand Tenniz well enough at this point. Perhaps when I am older and more aware of my own mortality, I will be able to understand Tenniz better. This sequence is much the same, though, of pushing the responsibility for Lorana back on Lorana. It’s the same idea as the dragonriders who are happy at knowing when their own deaths will happen so they can get all of their affairs in order and leave nothing undone before going back to meet their destruction. I can understand how it would be freeing, in many ways, to know exactly the allotment of life you have and to be able to plan your life accordingly, to make sure that every day that you live has no wasted time in it, to not bother with many of the things that someone who doesn’t know how long they are going to live has to worry about. At the same time, I think back to the myth of Pandora (which would be really helpful right now, if Pern hadn’t discarded all of the stories of those who came before, y’know?) and that I’ve heard two different versions of the tale, one where in with all of the evils that Pandora let loose, there was also Hope, which made all of the evils bearable, the other where Pandora managed to slam the box shut before the last evil got out, which was Foreknowledge, the one that would have gifted all of humanity with the ability to completely see their own timelines, and what would happen, and that would essentially crush us all because we would know everything that was to happen.

For as much as this is apparently supposed to be Lorana working through her own grief and coming to terms with the decisions that she made regarding her own baby (decisions that might have been preventable if, say, Lorana had taken smaller hops rather than larger ones by charting out where in the future she could land that wouldn’t have Thread (or other people) around, and then similarly hopping backward in time in short enough hops to keep her child alive, or, just possibly, sending someone else to the picture in Lorana’s head. But no, the narrative has decreed it, through Tenniz, and so it must be done.) it’s also a meditation for Tenniz, who has known this day would come for all of his life and has been preparing for it. No, really.

“One of the gifts of the Sighted is to know our last night,” Tenniz said. He gave her a crooked smile. “It’s more of a blessing to know of a certainty that this night, and no other, will be my last.”

Lorana asks him the obvious question of what Tenniz is doing out here rather than spending his last night with his family and the people who love him best, which Tenniz doesn’t even answer at all, instead pulling out vegetables (carrots, tubers, onion, celery) and herbs to add to the evening meal.

It has to be a certain amount of painful, seeing your own death and knowing when it is going to happen, and knowing that you’re going to be denied the possibility of long life because of your ability to see into the future. What would be more helpful for Tenniz, even though I would probably complain that the doesn’t have the maturity to pull it off convincingly, because of his age, is for Tenniz to have talked about how he already got most of his anger out of the way early on, and how the things he’s said about others haven’t exactly been welcome, so he’s already had a life’s worth of being angry at everything and he made a decision to, as best he could, stop putting energy into being angry. The way that it is now, Tenniz is being painted as the wise sage who has transcended the petty human emotions around life and death, and at nineteen, unless he did some serious sitting underneath an enlightenment tree, he’s just not believable to me. (Which isn’t to say it isn’t possible, more things are possible than are dreamt of in our philosophies, but that this depiction is either leaning into exoticizing Tenniz, which is a bad take, or making him wise beyond his years and very easily mistakable as condescending to someone who is going through the third major grief trauma of her life, which is also a pretty bad take. Tenniz needs to be human here to be relatable, and the authors aren’t managing it, as much as they would like to be.

We’ve also crossed into the point where Lorana is, despite supposedly not having any trader blood in her that she knows of, is able to complete the trader aphorisms that Tenniz is quoting, but we’ll leave that for the next entry, as the night starts to go on and Tenniz spends his last amount of time with Lorana.

Deconstruction Roundup for June 12th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who seems to have survived being salty at upper management over their apparently anemic response.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 routinely trying to figure out whether what you’re doing is enough, because nothing seems like enough. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: More Balls To Juggle

Last time, we found out the book that had been promised wasn’t this book at all, and then watched as Lorana jumped forward into the future, hoping to get help for the past, only for Tullea, older and wizened, to rebuff her and send her back. The narrative then lingered long enough for us to find out that Tullea is actually less of a terrible person that she was to Lorana, and her causticness was because Lorana mentioned how Tullea had behaved, and the You Can’t Break Time rules that have never been explained were invoked, even though we see that things turned out all right for the dragons. Lorana even gets to have a kid, eventually. Although she’ll die never knowing of Tullea as anyone other than a bitch.

And Lorana met Tenniz and didn’t kill him immediately, but that’s because Tenniz is already going to die in a very short amount of time. (at least, that’s my headcanon) Tenniz then asked Lorana to bury him when he dies and showed Lorana where the gravesite is going to be.

Dragon’s Time: Chapter 2: Content Notes: Gaslighting

Rise up,
Fly high,
Flame thread,
Touch Sky.

(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.7.21)

Rather than staying with Lorana and Tenniz as they wait for Tenniz to die and have cryptic conversations about the nature of time, we pop back to Fiona and Kindan. Fiona is reassuring herself with Tenniz’s prophecy to her as she tucks into bed, despite the terrible day she’s had with Tullea being upset and Lorana being gone beyond the reach of Fiona’s ability to find her. Because if Lorana’s bit is true, then hers must be, too. Kindan is humoring her, mostly, and the narrative hops over to B’nik and Tullea, who have gone to the kitchen to talk (at T’mar’s suggestion, which I would like to read as less of a suggestion and more of a command in the vein of “take a walk unless you want your face caved in”) Tullea wants to send people back in time and do again what happened in the past, but B’nik (and Kindan, who has gotten Fiona to fall asleep) point out all the known safe time for this opportunity has passed. They also have a quick discussion about the placebo effect without mentioning it by name. Tullea is unmoved by the discussion of Fiona’s force of belief, preferring to sit in the cold hard reality of the numbers that are available. Tullea also points out that Lorana’s plan is a failure, at least as she sees it.

“So, if Fiona is right, Lorana has gone to the future to ask for dragonriders to help us,” C’tov said, looking to T’mar and Kindan for confirmation.
“Yes,” Tullea agreed, glancing toward the door. “So where are they?”
“I imagine it would take time to convince them,” H’nez said.
“Time then, not now,” Tullea said, shaking her head. “If Fiona was right, then Lorana would already be back and our Weyrs would be full.”

Before anyone has to admit that Tullea might be right, B’nik calls things off for the night, and as they are walking away, reminds Tullea that Lorana did save B’nik’s life. Tullea says she’s grateful for that singular thing and nothing else.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that, for whatever reason, the people who will be arriving in time are going to do so when they are most needed and not a moment sooner, because it seems to be a thing on Pern that any time travel solution doesn’t happen until the last possible moment. This is with people claiming early on that many people don’t have the skills to do pinpoint hops and so there always needs to be a certain amount of slippage built into any time hop. Unless the person who is doing time travel is always the most excellent of visualizers and passes theirs along. In any case, Tullea is mostly right. If Lorana had succeeded in the future, even if it took a lot of loops and things to do in that future time, the future dragons should be arriving shortly. If this were a series where time travel had been studied like it should be, the people in the know should know what the average slip is over time and be able to say “Well, the average temporal displacement error is about three days, so if they’re not here by then, we can safely assume the future trip plot’s target time isn’t this time window.” Because it’s quite possible that the future Weyr’s memory is that it took until all of the remaining Weyrs had combined their fighting strength into one flight stationed out of Telgar and then the big explosion of new dragons happened, because then they could be sure we weren’t going to accidentally telefrag anybody important to their own timelines. But that would mean thinking things through, and we’ve already demonstrated plenty that the authors are not doing that.

We pop over to Terin and F’jian, who have made up from the fight about F’jian getting far too much into his cups. Terin goes to feed her new dragon, with Fiona appearing with a bucket of scraps, which she passes on to Terin upon seeing she’s awake, before going to get food on her own. At being informed Bekka and Birentir are making the rounds of the injured dragons, Fiona is ready to abandon breakfast to go be the Weyrwoman in charge, but is told very firmly by both T’mar and Shaneese that she needs to sit and eat and take care of herself and the baby. (There’s also a bit where Fiona says she wouldn’t be up to klah, is informed she wouldn’t be getting any, anyway, because Bekka’s forbidden it to her, provoking the reaction that Bekka takes on too much responsibility and everyone else snarking at Fiona about where Bekka might have learned such things from.) F’jian arrives, apologizes for being late (to which Fiona points out that F’jian was helping Terin feed her dragon), and the discussion resumes with logistics of how many dragons are available and how they’ll need to be organized.

He [F’jian] opened his mouth for a smile and was startled when it expanded into a huge yawn.
“Somebody had a good night,” C’tov muttered to H’nez.
“F’jian, you’ll take the light wing,” T’mar declared, glancing over to catch his reaction. “You’ll be responsible for firestone and our reserve.”
F’jian nodded glumly; he’d expected no less for being late.

This isn’t quite a whatfruit thing, because it’s actually pretty easy to see the reason why F’jian is disappointed. But that deserves some digging into. As a United States reader in the 21st century, the hyper-masculine bro culture that bronze riders are patterned against have both explicit examples, the military and police forces of the United States being one of the easiest to call to mind, and less explicit examples that are woven in pretty tightly (“bros before hos,” and the continually shifting definition of what’s appropriately masculine and what isn’t, which is set against an underlying assumption that being unmasculine is a thing to be feared, called out, and otherwise shunned) into the culture. It’s background radiation to the point where it’s a cultural assumption rather than a thing that has to be explicitly stated. There’s obviously a glory culture in bronze riders, such that being held back in the reserves is seen as a punishment or something unworthy. Given the current way that Thread is eating lives left and right, it seems like the right attitude for this situation is to be happy (or secretly happy) to have been assigned to the reserves, so that you and your wing have less exposure to getting eaten by Thread. But no, F’jian is unhappy that he’s not going to have as much opportunity to get himself killed as everyone else is. It’s not a position that I understand myself, being far too fond of my own existence to want to be in a profession where there is a possibility that I might die, even in one where there’s the possibility for accolades and being feted as a hero if you survive long enough to enjoy them. Maybe having a dragon as a psychic companion that’s been bred and genetically engineered to want to fight Thread would change my psychic makeup and make me much more willing to have a go at getting myself killed, but sitting here where I am now, it seems to go against the basic tenets of survival to be disappointed that you’ve been assigned to the wing with the highest possibility of survival.

The dragonriders need to get themselves used to new wing configurations, as Benden is lending them some riders so they can have enough to keep fighting for their next fall. There’s a whole day allotted for this, because there’s a certain blithe assumption that since the dragonriders have done this before, they should have no trouble integrating new people into their formations. Which would be true if the training was in some standard way, such that someone could say, for example, “You’re a four” to the incoming rider and that would take care of most of the things that need to be dealt with. That’s how my collegiate marching band handled it, with the understanding that the people who were arriving into the formation had been practicing the various roles while they were not in the formation. There might be a couple of things that have to be done differently or that might need some special attention and drilling, though. Being a four was helpful for the first part of the pregame show, but after that, there needed to be more specific instructions for getting everyone in place for the various formations to come afterward. For the dragonriders, however, I have always envisioned that they do things in a fairly straightforward manner, sweeping in their lines and flaming the leading edge, with the next group taking their place behind them and carving the same swath, with each group rotating in at their appointed times so as to get as much as they can on their level, and then having the next group at the next altitude sweep the same way to collect what the first altitude missed, and so on until you get to the scramblers at the lowest level tagging all of the things that have gotten through the formation layers. Then again, I also assumed that dragonriders would choose to fight Thread in the places where they know the thermals and currents, rather than trying to fight it on ground that is terrible and unpredictable and likely to cause lots of injuries and deaths.

Anyway, point being, it shouldn’t be a difficult thing to integrate the other riders into your own, assuming (and why would I do that, now that I think about it) that everyone uses the same system for positions and drilling. If that’s not the case, then the complaint about not having enough time is an important one, and really, what should happen is for the Telgar riders to reform themselves into new wings and the Benden riders to stay in their own formation and the solely important thing is to make sure that everyone stays at their proper altitude. But it’s been a long-running thing of mine with this series that we don’t really see a whole lot of how the Threadfighting works, logistically, and we really should, given how much it takes importance in the stories.

The next two scenes introduce (one of) this book’s mysteries, which is the F’jian is both completely loving and happy with Terin and also sneaking out at night from their bed for unknown purposes, although there’s a woman’s voice involved. The weird is set up first with F’jian setting out dishes and gazing into Terin’s eyes and telling her she’s super-beautiful (they’re both very young, remember) and then Terin waking up in the middle of the night to hear F’jian talking to someone and then flying away, then waking to F’jian crying over her and telling her that she’s beautiful again. Because this is highly out-of-character behavior for F’jian, we stay with Terin as she tries to puzzle out exactly what’s going on with F’jian, with Fiona adding an additional wrinkle of having had Lorana come to her early in the morning and sketching her. Fiona didn’t get a good look at Lorana, and Lorana didn’t say when she would be returning, so the assembled basically think that Fiona is having a pregnancy dream.

Cocowhat by depizan

This would work in a world where, say, the ability of dragons and their riders to travel through time wasn’t already widely known and we don’t already have a giant time travel plot currently underway. At this point, everyone should be “oh, you got a visit from Lorana, okay, did she say anything important?” rather than

Bekka spoke up, her tone gentle. “Sometimes when people are pregnant they have strange dreams,” she suggested.
“It wasn’t a dream!” Fiona declared. “I was awake!”
“You said that Lorana woke you,” Bekka said. “I’ve heard of people who think they’re awake and having conversations and they’re only dreaming.”
“It was real!” Fiona cried, her voice rising as she glanced around at the disbelieving faces gathered around her.
“I dream of my daughter sometimes,” Birentir said to her gently. “I dream of her being almost as old as you are now, Weyrwoman.”
“It wasn’t a dream!”
“Could it have been?” Kindan asked her gently. “Could it not just have been a pleasant dream?” He paused, glancing into her eyes as he added in a wistful tone, “Sometimes I dream of your sister and she’s smiling at me.”
“It wasn’t a dream!” Fiona roared, flying to her feet and glaring angrily at everyone. “I know when I’m dreaming. It was real!”
She glanced around, saw no acceptance in the eyes of the others, and, with a sob, raced out of the Cavern.


There’s no reason for them to disbelieve her! It’s like they think that since Lorana’s gone beyond the reach of their dragons to find her, on Minith, that she’s dead instead of somewhere in the future. Although she’s also in the past as well. This is one of those things where narrative tools become slightly unwieldy to describe what’s going on, and it also again highlights the question of how little the dragonriders appear to know about how their time travel powers work and what the timeline will and won’t accept for changes and the possibility of grabbing someone from their own timeline at a specific point and depositing them all over the rest of the timeline so they can accomplish what’s needed.

Instead, they collectively decide to gaslight Fiona about what she saw, starting with Bekka, which is not the character that I would use for that. Kindan, yes, Birentir, yes, T’mar, yes, because they’re all dudes who have a high chance of being ignorant, but not Bekka. Bekka’s not old enough to know enough, despite being a prodigy, and also there are all of these handy male characters nearby who, as they point out, are much more inclined to say that Fiona’s hallucinating in her grief at losing Lorana because they have all lost people and sometimes think on them fondly. Bekka might provide the unintentional nail in the coffin by saying that she’s known that occasionally pregnant women have dreams in which they think they’re awake, but she should be the last person speaking, not the first.

Anyway, apparently we need this sequence where everyone believes that Fiona is hallucinating a Lorana coming to her to draw her and then disappear again so that Fiona can end up in the Records room with a chip on her shoulder (and, actually, so that we can learn that some of Telgar’s records really are set in stone (“thin, fragile slivers of hardstone with the words deeply chiseled in them”)), but rather than letting her go through the whole thing in a tear, the mustiness of the room makes Fiona nauseous and she ends up passing out while looking at the Records and drooling a bit on them, a thing that T’mar razzes her for for when he comes back from training for lunch and Fiona is in the bath, having a soak and a sulk about the fact that she fell asleep in the Records Room. (Bekka also, at the end of the last segment, suggests Fiona has twins in her pregnancy.)

In any case, after T’mar gets done teasing Fiona, he also points out that F’jian has been fatigued to the point of nearly falling off his dragon, a thing noted in comparison to everyone still feeling muzzy-headed, which hasn’t had an explicit call-out in a while, so I guess it had mostly faded into the background with everyone’s continual caffeine consumption. Except now that Fiona’s been on a juice regimen instead of klah, she should be feeling the effects of being in time again. Maybe the falling asleep in the Archives is supposed to hint at this, although everyone in that context seems to be thinking it’s because Fiona’s stressing out completely about everything and she should not do that, to which the immediate retort is that someone should do something about actually relieving her stress, instead of complaining endlessly about the lack of dragons but not taking proactive steps to obtain more of them from other time periods, or delegating some, if not all, of Fiona’s duties so that she doesn’t have to do as much. But given how nobody is working to relieve Xhinna of all her burdens, we have our answer about that.

T’mar thinks that if F’jian were timing it repeatedly, more than the others, he’d feel the effects more. Fiona suggests, instead, that F’jian might be exhausted because he’s banging Terin a lot, or because Terin’s pregnant herself and it’s keeping F’jian up at night. (All the narrative says is “one for which congratulations might be in order”, so I have to interpret.) At this point, I wish there were specifics involved in what kind of feeling people get when they’re multiply-in-time, so that some Healer could ask F’jian about his symptoms and go “yeah, he’s timing it a lot more” rather than “no, he’s timing it like the rest of you, but this is garden-variety exhaustion on top of that.” Because this is the sort of thing that the Pernese should know as soon as they discovered the ability of their dragons to time travel. (At this point, insert the standard rant here about how uncurious and unscientific the Pernese are, despite that curiosity being essential to their survival several times around.) So we shouldn’t have to speculate about whether or not F’jian is tripping on time or not, because we should already know.

As it is, after T’mar leaves, Fiona remembers the upcoming fall is a night fall and asks if T’mar has thought about needing to train with the watch-whers for making sure the flamethrowers can be directed appropriately. Which he has, but it’s scheduled for a couple days from now, and Fiona closes out the chapter reminiscing about the fourth vial, and what it did to Arith, and whether Nuella was given instructions on when to use the fourth vial (which, again, would doom the watch-whers to extinction, as there’s only one known gold watch-wher to transform). After having traversed Lorana’s tragedy, Fiona remains resolute that she saw Lorana and wasn’t hallucinating, and that ends Chapter 2.