Monthly Archives: May 2014

Dragonflight: New Life, New Name

(by Silver Adept)

(Okay, gloves off, swears turned on. Today’s episode happens to be swear-free, but from here on out, all words will be displayed. If I hear They Changed It, Now It Sucks from you, I will be very cross.)

When we last left our Lady of the Sith and the Jerk who thinks of her as his possession, Lessa’s revenge is complete, except for the part where her Hold is in the care of a young boy and his regent, and F’lar thinks he’s got the right candidate for the queen dragon that is about to hatch.

Dragonflight, Part II: Content Noes: Patriarchy, Deaths of children

The last part of the current segment is getting Lessa settled in with castoffs of clothes from other women that F’lar has had in his bedchambers, getting the dragons fed, and a bit more about how well-matched F’lar and his dragon are (they’re both easily ruffled in matters of honor and saving face). Since the new egg is about to hatch, all the other riders are returning with their candidates as well. There’s also the first mention of between, the hyperspace dimension that the dragons travel through when covering great distances in a short amount of time.

The next scene starts with Lessa taking a bath, after seeing if there are potential escape routes. Not that we needed a ritual symbol of cleansing the body and soul and of transition and newness to drive the point home, of course, but here we are. Lessa luxuriates in the bath and is quite pleased with the feeling of soft clothes in what the narrative wants us to believe is her actual, quite feminine, personality. Her moment of girlish delight is cut short by F’lar’s return, and after catching her reflection in a mirror, Lessa becomes entirely self-conscious about how beautiful she is.

Why, the girl in the reflector was prettier than the Lady Tela, than the clothman’s daughter! But so thin. Her hands dropped of their own volition to her neck, to the protruding collarbones, to her breasts, which did not entirely reflect the gauntness of the rest of her. [Emphasis mine]

So let’s be clear here: Lessa is probably thin in a malnourished sort of way, except, of course, for her boobs, which somehow fare better than the rest of her. Despite an obviously athletic life, despite her lack of nutrition, despite a lack of any indication at all that she lives well enough to have developed fat reserves, Lessa has good-looking breasts. Great Maker forbid that F’lar have brought back an ugly girl as his choice, so reality itself bends to the will of the narrative.

Not that he’ll admit it. F’lar teases Lessa about her attractiveness by saying she’d be good enough for his brother. I think we’re supposed to get a Beatrice-Benedick feel from these two, but Lessa is not, in any sense, F’lar’s equal, nor would F’lar ever permit that to happen, so instead we get F’lar being a condescending ass (his default personality) and Lessa taking it because she knows how trapped she is in this space. F’lar is the sleazy boss that harasses all the female employees and enjoys watching them suffer, knowing they can’t retaliate against him. And to prove that point, F’lar orders Lessa to take care of the wound he received while fighting Fax, and Lessa just can’t bring herself to give as much rough as she’s received from him. We’re supposed to believe it’s because of a burgeoning attraction, with as much description if how virile and muscular and so very male F’lar is. I’d like to think that Lessa is making a cold calculation about what kind of consequences will likely happen if she gives him what he deserves, and she decides that she’s had enough of the physical abuse for now, but maybe later, when she does know all the escape routes, she’ll explain to him in excruciating detail just how much of an ass he really is.

There is food, which is also luxurious compared to Ruatha, and more of this burgeoning attraction between Lessa and F’lar, with her frustration that he gets to see her on full alert at everything and his complete lack of empathy regarding how she must feel in a new and strange place that makes odd sounds and has new ways of everything. F’lar takes delight in Lessa’s fear and suffering and being off-balance, because he’s the kind of guy that enjoys women being put “in their place”. And then, the Hatching starts, and F’lar threatens to strip Lessa if she doesn’t put on the candidate’s dress right this instant. No, he doesn’t make any sort of offer of privacy, or even try to avert his eyes from her. And when she’s done changing, he physically hauls her along to Mnementh and they go off to the Hatching, with F’lar having given her the most basic of advice about how to get through it.

The Hatching itself is horrible. Lessa is placed in yet another group of shrieking girls, and her contempt for them brings back our Sith sociopath of Ruatha Hold. She watches newly-hatched male dragons maul children they don’t match up with (yes, much like the Jedi Order, the dragonriders prefer their candidates young and lacking emotional attachments to the world) before the screams of the still-apparently-hysterical women return her attention to the golden queen egg. The girls don’t fare any better, with one girl’s neck violently broken and another clawed “shoulder to thigh” who will also die. Lessa’s contempt for the others’ inability to dodge puts her eye-to-eye with the new hatchling, and there’s the spark of connection where Lessa pair-bonds with Ramoth, the new queen, and everything else is secondary to making sure that Ramoth is taken care of…despite, as Lessa points out, Ramoth having just killed two children.

So, of course, F’lar is right, yet again, and can have his ego stroked that his single selection was the one who would Impress upon the queen. It must be nice being right all the time.

But let’s leave F’lar of the Immense Ego and go back to the ceremony of the dragons hatching. So dragonriders go out into the world, choosing young men and women from all around the world, bring them back to their Weyr, where, if a dragon doesn’t find them worthy of becoming their lifemate, the children could potentially die. For what the appropriate response is apparently…don’t be afraid. No pressure or anything. I have to think something like this gets downplayed when the parents get told. “It’s a great honor to be chosen! …assuming they survive. But Honor! Glory! Dragonflight!” And nothing is said about what happens to candidates that don’t get dragons but manage to survive. Are they kept for the next clutch? Are they sent to become the support staff for the dragonriders? Not that Lessa cares at this point, but we could stand to know.

Still. Children. Potentially as a fighting force. Or dead. And these are the traditions F’lar wants to uphold.

Changing Names, Shifting Shapes, Blurring Boundaries (Part 1?)

(by Lonespark)

I’m working on a post about The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, and in the course of thinking about the characters, liminality has come up a lot.

Liminal places are in-between: Thresholds, passages, borders… Places for departures, and arrivals.  Places, sometimes, for waiting.  Places for people who didn’t fit anywhere else.

Liminal characters are multifaceted, or in-between… They have more than one relevant identity, personality, name… More than one homeland, family, culture, shape…

A lot of queer and/or trans* characters are liminal in some ways… to the point where these kinds of liminal identities are often taken as, or intended to be, symbols of queerness.

A lot of bi- or multi-cultural, -lingual, -racial, -ethnic, etc. characters illustrate and interact with liminality.  Immigrants and refugees… Fugitives or spies… Traders, explorers, conquerors… Hostages… Those who leave the familiar for love, knowledge, freedom… Second- and third- generation immigrants, people with mixed ancestry, people with heritage in places that no longer exist… (That might describe the majority of people on Earth now or throughout history.  We are always leaving homes and making new ones, finding, building, claiming our new lives…)

Liminality can mean showing different faces, or speaking different tongues, as needed.  I don’t think characters who engage in code-switching are necessarily liminal figures, but they often seem to be.  Slaves who are warriors.  Gods who are slaves.  Heroes disgraced.  People rescued or repatriated, whether or not they wish to be.

What does liminality mean to you?  What is its importance in your life?  Who are your favorite liminal characters, in texts or works of any kind?

This week in the Slacktiverse, May 19th, 2014

(posted chris the cynic, written by members of The Slacktiverse)

[Yeah, very late, sorry.  But I’ve taken the reigns back.  Woo!]

The Blogaround

In Case You Missed This

Things You Can Do

  • No submissions this week; feel free to comment with things you think fit.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for May 16th, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who wishes the universe was both more and less just.)

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

Multiple Deconstructions:

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: My Little Po-Mo

RubyTea: Heathen Critique:
Multiple Deconstructions:

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip SandiferPhilip Sandifer: Writer (formerly TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue)

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Please comment or e-mail us if we’ve forgotten anybody or you have anyone to add. Or if any links are broken, or if you’re linked to and don’t want to be, or if [insert thing that does not sequit here], or for more or less any reason really.

Dragonflight: Batman Gambits Pay Off

(by Silver Adept)

When we last left our sociopathic hero Lessa and inflated-ego traditionalist deuteragonist F’lar, Lessa’s sabotage had finally brought the villainous lord Fax to his breaking point, and he made a rash promise to abandon Ruatha Hold to the child of Lady Gemma, if it lived and was a boy. Lady Gemma has died childless from labor complications, and Lessa is setting one final desperate plan in motion.

Dragonflight, Part II: Content Notes: Abuse, Murder, Considered sexual assault, Patriarchy, Classism. Also, most likely, a Whatfruit.

I’m going to note at this point that violence seems to be the default men-on-women interaction here in these first few chapters. I have a sinking feeling it’s going to continue through the rest of the book. I hope I’m wrong.

As Lessa enters the hall, her scheming self carefully covered under the disguise of an uninteresting drudge, Fax has been informed of the death of Lady Gemma. We would assume that he has also been told she died childless, but this is apparently not the case.

“The child lives,” Lessa cried, her voice distorted with anger and hatred. “It is male.”…”Ruatha has a new Lord.”

Which provokes Fax into a flying rage, and he beats Lessa savagely for what she says until she is knocked unconscious. Fax would continue to beat Lessa’s unconscious body, but that F’lar calls him to attend to his oath.

We’ll get to that in just a second. First, though, we should take a look at this Improbability of Improbabilities. Here’s the sequence of events as the narrative runs.

  1. Gemma dies in childbirth, and her child dies with her.
  2. The news of Gemma’s death is transmitted to Fax. The news of the child’s death is not.
  3. A drudge enters the hall and proclaims the live birth of a male heir,
  4. Fax denies the claim and beats the drudge senseless,
  5. and F’lar calls on Fax to honor his sworn oath.

And nobody, apparently, thinks to check and verify the claim. That has been boldly asserted by someone of the untouchable class to an assembled gathering of nobles, one of whom has a vested stake in making very sure that this claim is vetted. F’lar may be willing to let such a claim skate on he word of a drudge, because it gives him the excuse he needs to kill Fax, but Fax most definitely wants proof, because if he can prove there’s no heir, then there’s no way that F’lar can challenge him on his oath. Problem solved. Fax is provoked, sure, but his first response should be to find the supposed child, even if his intent is infanticide. That he beats Lessa is in character for him, but that he doesn’t go onward to verify that there is an heir is not credible.

Unless, that is, that Lessa’s power did something to Fax, before she lost consciousness. Let’s do a quick recap of Lessa’s powers.

  • Limited telepathy with certain creatures
  • Limited precognitive abilities regarding danger
  • The ability to influence weaker minds so that she passes unnoticed, even while doing unsubtle things, or to implant feelings and thoughts in others that they believe are their own. (Later on, F’lar will witness Lessa transform herself into an unremarkable person, which is our explanation of how Lessa can commit blatant sabotage and not get caught.)

About the only thing she’s missing is some form of telekenesis, and you have Lessa as a Force user, almost a decade before Star Wars is released into theaters. And given Lessa’s abilities are fueled by rage and hate and her generally sociopathic view of Fax and anyone in the way of her revenge, I think I can safely say that Lessa is a Lady of the Sith Order.

So, Lessa’s announcement comes with all of her angry ball of emotions attached, leaving Fax in such a blind rage that his cognitive functions are temporarily suspended and he acts to hurt the target that sent him such horrible news. Which gives F’lar enough time to act to divert Fax’s attention away from the dubious claim and back onto the oath he swore that now requires satisfaction. Let’s roll the tape.

“It was heard and witnessed, Fax,”…”by dragonmen. Stand by your sworn and witnessed oath!”

“Witnessed? By drangonmen?” cried Fax with a derisive laugh. “Dragonwomen, you mean.”…”Parasites on Pern! The Weyr power is over! Over for good,”…

And here Fax plays straight into Flar’s hands – he insults dragonriders and their traditions in full view of many dragonriders and an audience that probably doesn’t give a [Ay carumba!] about whether Fax lives or dies. F’lar won’t suffer that kind of obvious insult to his pride and ego, and while Lessa is still unconscious, the two men fight. Fax uses his bulk and speed to keep pressing F’lar into a defensive position, although he suffers a Groin Attack from his persistence. Ultimately, F’lar wins because Fax is too aggressive and F’lar is able to step around him and stab him in the heart through the back. With the rather grisly detail of the knife coming back out a touch as Fax hits the floor facefirst.

Oh, and through this fight, F’lar has been able to identify the drudge that made the annoucement as the source of the disturbance in the Force he felt. So when the aftereffects of what he has just done kick in, F’lar leaves crowd control to his brother and takes Lessa back to his chamber. No grand pronoucements, no standing on tradition and the rest, because the details of who the [Crikey!] is going to take over as the Lord of each of Fax’s Holds when we find out there’s no male heir is boring and beneath the dragonrider who just caused a succession crisis and quite possibly a bloody civil war. Let the practical brother deal with all the politics while he focuses on Lessa.

Despite being tired from battle, we find that F’lar can effortlessly carry Lessa to his chambers, because she’s a slight thing with barely any weight at all. He examines her on the bed, revolted at the amount of filth she’s covered in, but still able to see that she’s of noble birth and pure blood despite her very successful-until-now methods of concealing herself from everyone. And then there’s this:

Delighted and fascinated by this unexpected luck, F’lar reached out to tear the dress from the unconscious body and found himself constrained not to. The girl had roused.

Cocowhat by depizan

F’lar is stopped from undressing Lessa because she’s awake. Not because he’s a decent guy, not because he thinks of women as beings worthy of respect, but because she’s awake. And, presumably, F’lar’s ego would not allow him to commit an assault with a live and aware victim, lest there be a witness to his carefully-constructed persona falling apart. Or that someone might object to those aspects of his conservatism that insist that women, no matter how noble, are supposed to be subordinate to him. F’lar, you’re a walking embodiment of rape culture. Why are we supposed to treat you like a hero?

So, with Lessa awake, almost the first thing out of F’lar’s mouth is “Name and rank.” Not asking, of course, because F’lar would never stoop to asking a woman a question, but demanding. Lessa, confronted with this haughty, egotistical prick in his bedchambers, is happy to hear the news of Fax’s death, and reveals her lie in claiming her Hold for her own. F’lar is nonplussed, to say the least, that he’s been tricked and killed another man because of a woman. It hurts having your ego popped like that, doesn’t it, F’lar? And his reaction is pretty much the same as Fax’s – he grabs Lessa’s wrist and does her bodily harm in his anger, with the intent of doing her much more harm. Unlike Fax, though, F’lar intends to publicly shame her.

That is, if he can catch her. Lessa bolts, leaving F’lar to try and pursue her on her home territory, ultimately requiring his dragon to catch her (which I would think is terrifying as [Crikey!] to Lessa, but the narrative insists otherwise). Along the way, he encounters F’nor. Who has done exactly the thing neither Fax nor F’lar did in their dick-swinging contest and clash of egos – he checked to see if there was actually a kid. Lo and behold, there is! And he’s a male, too! F’lar’s ego is saved, and he doesn’t have to admit he was outclassed by a woman and tricked into murder. And, even better, he has Lessa trapped and unable to escape his revenge for her trickery. The narrative gives F’lar everything that he wants.

So of he goes into his tirade, commenting on how foolish Lessa is, and how he would have happily killed Fax, if she had only come to him with her claim right at the beginning. He claims that Lady Gemma would have still been alive if she had done this. Because, of course he would have recognized her as the rightful heir.

Bul[Ay carumba!] F’lar has trouble recognizing the drudges as humans, before being able to conceive of the possibility that a woman could be the rightful heir of a Hold. But Lessa is supposed to have opened up to him with her secrets, trusted him implicitly, and then left him to do his work. Even though he’s the man she’s never met before. F’lar is demanding that Lessa trust him, because he knows he’s a trustworthy guy, regardless of what she thinks about him.

After fluffing his own ego sufficiently and giving Lessa the lesson he believes she deserves, and gloating a bit that Lessa will be accompanying him back for the dragon hatching, F’lar realizes he might do better, or at least get a fig leaf of legitimacy, if Lessa appears to come willingly instead of by force. F’lar makes a hash of that, too, first by appealing to greed (why settle for a Hold when you can have a Weyr?), which goes over about as well as you would expect, since Lessa’s primary motivation is revenge, not avarice. Then F’lar calls Lessa a coward, and in true Marty McFly fashion, it works.

Before everyone leaves, though, F’lar rewards loyalty by putting Lytol, the dragonless rider who told him to kill Fax, as regent of Ruatha, and the watch-wher knocks F’lar flat on his ass and tries to kill him, in a last-ditch effort to stop Lessa from her new life as F’lar’s pet. Lessa calls it off mid-pounce, and the resulting effort breaks its back, making sure that Lessa no longer has any ties to Ruatha to come back to. With the last loose ends tied up, the riders take to the sky.

Writer Workshop for May 14th, 2014

(Posted by chris the cynic)

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

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

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

Open thread: Historical Periods you’d like to know more about

(by chris the cynic)

The topic of the medieval European system of vassalage recently came up.  That’s something I know practically nothing about because it’s not in my area and modern depictions of it are usually wrong.  I feel like it would be nice if I knew more about that.

What is a/what are some historical period(s) you’d like to know more about?

(Remember that while, “All of them,” is a perfectly good answer, and I agree, it’s not likely to spark conversation.)

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