Dragonflight: Giant Space Fleas From Nowhere

When we last left Lessa, her dragon had just hatched a clutch of forty-one eggs, and nobody got killed in the process, F’lar and Lessa have both discovered that dragons can move through both space and time, and F’lar ditched traditions in favor of practicality. We suspect his brother’s influence.

Dragonflight: Part III: Content Notes: Domestic Abuse, Sexism, Classism

Now, however, the moment of truth has arrived. Although F’lar misses it badly, finally not being able to interpret everything perfectly in time to ready everything. But note well, dear readers, that F’lar is allowed to make an admitted mistake only after we have discovered that dragons can move through time, So F’lar can fix the error and destroy the Thread that has already begun to fall as if he had spotted everything in time and anticipated the drop.

Oh, and Lessa lets slip that she can talk to any dragon she wants. Which is conveniently the last element in F’lar’s grand plan, because he needed some way of communicating everywhere in the world simultaneously if necessary to fight Thread. F’lar reacts to this news with his predictable anger, but this time, Lessa cuts him off at the pass.

“And you, you have been sitting there, spitefully holding the…”

“I am NOT spiteful,” she screamed at him. “I said I was sorry. I am. But you have a nasty, smug habit of keeping your own counsel. How was I supposed to know you didn’t have the same trick? You’re F’lar, the Weyrleader. You can do anything. Only you’re just as bad as R’gul because you never tell me half the things I ought to know…”

F’lar reached out and shook her until her angry voice was stopped.

…and a lot of good it does her, apparently. Fuck you, F’lar, you shit-eating asshole! I’m running out of ways to try and explain how violence and threats against people who disagree with you is wrong, no matter what the narrative absolves you of. Lessa is exactly right here, and F’lar needs to listen, which he is fundamentally incapable of doing.

And then there’s the other thing – Lessa’s been promoted from “stay at home and babysit the fertile dragon” to Mission Control, which means…stay at home and relay communication between all the others who get to go out and fight. Wait, that’s not a promotion, just a change of focus. Can’t have our fertile queen chewing firestone, because then there wouldn’t be more eggs, which is the very much most important thing for our noblewoman to be doing. Let the less-noble-born go fight thread, and, as a handy coincidence, those lower-class dragons won’t be able to reproduce, either. It’s population control of the undesirables, thanks to a conveniently extraterrestrial theat. Which means this whole thing isn’t just hinting at classism, it’s wallowing in it.

So, F’lar heads off to fight Thread, at the time it started to fall, while other women at home prepare to be the healers and medics. Oh, and Stockholm Syndrome has set in for Lessa. Fucknuggets.

“Most important, if something goes wrong, you’ll have to wait till a bronze is at least a year old to fly Ramoth…”

“No one’s flying Ramoth but Mnementh,” she cried, her eyes sparkling fiercely.

F’lar crushed her against him, his mouth bruising hers as if all her sweetness and strength must come with him. He released her so abruptly that she staggered backainst Ramoth’s lowered head.

The narrative always gives F’lar what he wants. And this time, it validates all the abuse, all the threats, all the violence, everything absolutely wrong that F’lar has done and will continue to do. This…fuck. If F’lar is supposed to be romantic to someone, it’s in the Christian Grey fashion, I guess.

After this, the battle plan meets the enemy. Dragons chew firestone as the Threads arrive (so apparently, it’s contraceptive effect only works on females – really fucking convienent, indeed.) Then, there’s a lot of fire-breathing, because even one Thread, if allowed to burrow into the ground, will devastate a wide area, consuming all the organic matter and energy available. The southern continent has already been devastated, we are told, so there’s an imperative to get them all. In addition to the mobile flamethrower squad, there’s a lot of popping into hyperspace any time a dragon or rider is hit, because the intense cold of between is instant death to Thread, which prevents it from using dragon or rider as the host for its voracious feeding. F’lar, Weyrleader, commander of forces, abuser of women…is rendered basically the morale force for his dragon, whose instinct is the only reason the Thread fighting tactics work.

He, F’lar, bronze rider, suddenly felt superfluous. It was the dragons who were fighting this engagement. You encouraged your beast, comforted him when the Threads burned, but you depended on his instinct and speed.

And then F’lar takes one in the face, and his entire macho facade crumbles in the face of the intense pain of being burnt by the Thread. He recovers quickly, though, after he flails wildly to get the Thread off. (My personal headcanon has him flailing and screaming at an octave above his normal speaking register, but that’s because I’m not following the narrative’s insistence that I be concerned for F’lar’s heatlth.) The rest of the fight occurs without incident, although the intensity stays high the whole time, and the dragons warp home, unconcerned about the possible unstable time loop they’ve created for the thankfully-uninhabited area.

Where we pick up Lessa, who not only has to relay messages about everything going on, but is also apparently expected to be field general in F’lar’s absence. Which puts a nice point on how stupid it is for F’lar to be leading the strike and taking all of his lieutenants with him – someone with tactical knowledge of The Plan should be held back just in case the wrong people die. A few moments after Lessa finishes with the orders F’lar left regarding warning Holds and dispatching the second wave of fighters, the first wave’s fighting wings return above the weyr.

At which point someone, preferably Lessa, should curse them out so thoroughly that the broadcastable transcript would simply read [La Marseillaise.] Because if it’s possible to be wrong about your space position in space-time, with disastrous results, then it should logically follow that it is possible to be wrong about your time position in space-time. I somehow doubt that two entities existing in the same spot in space-time will end well for either of them, and it’s not like someone can undo their own telefrag. (Unless, of course, every telefrag is reversed by hopping back in time and moving the appropriate person out of the soon-to-be-occupied airspace, but there’s another potential source of Unstable Time Loops. Maybe there are fixed points in time here, too?) The Weyrs are going to have to designate certain airspace as arrival space, which one never occupies for longer than it takes to clear it after a grouping arrives…and to somehow communicate that groups that depart must return within their designated return window or fly the long way home until a new window is communicated to them for arrival. In other words, Pern needs an air traffic control system.

There’s very little rest, however, as the riders are needed elsewhere. Just enough time for Lessa to get jealous that the other queen’s rider, Kylara, put all the healing salve on F’lar and Mnementh. And for Ramoth to complain about not getting to fight Thread, to which Lessa retorts by insulting green dragons. (The Stockholm Syndrome is really taking hold.) Soon after the fighters depart, Lessa sends C’gan, the rider of an older blue dragon and commander of the weyrlings, to get more firestone to F’nor’s fight. And C’gan comes back and dies from Threadburn, having had his entire body and dragon attacked. This is apparently the catalyst that seals Lessa’s decision on the future.

F’lar had told her long ago that she must look beyond the narrow confines of Hold Ruatha and mere revenge. He was, as usual, right. As Weyrwoman under his tutelage, she had further learned that living was more than raising dragons and Spring Games. Living was struggling to do something impossible – to succeed, or die, knowing you had tried!

Lessa realized that she had, at last, fully accepted her role: as Weyrwoman and as mate, to help F’lar shape men and events for many Turns to come – to secure Pern against the Threads.

Lessa threw back her shoulders and lifted her chin high.

And thus we have transitioned Lessa fully from independent, strong, cunning, and utterly traumatized, to a helpmeet content to play second part and support to F’lar, which has also apparently allowed her to come to terms with all the trauma that she’s suffered. Lessa has no twitch or flashblack or issues at all with the death of someone from something impersonal, but instead comes to her ultimate realization through that.

And in Ruatha Hold, Jaxom, son of Gemma, slept well and without nightmares of a woman plunging a knife into his chest. (Okay, the narrative doesn’t say this explicitly, but I suspect that’s what happens.)

Next time: F’lar and Lessa learn that “Thou shalt not fuck up the timestream” is not merely a suggestion.

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6 thoughts on “Dragonflight: Giant Space Fleas From Nowhere

  1. Only Some Stardust June 26, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Huh, if one is just offering encouragement to the dragons, and are doing so telepathically… is there any real reason they need to be riding the dragons as they fight thread and pointlessly risk both of their lives? I suppose ‘if my dragons dies I want to die’ is a thing, but, if you have important information staying behind should be seen as a kind of unpleasant duty shouldn’t it?

    And ick, even when he’s being “sweet” he’s hurting her! ‘mouth bruising hers’, ‘staggering back when released by him’…

  2. Silver Adept June 27, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I think there’s a visual effect being sought – if a clutch of dragons appeared without warning, the first instinct would be to worry about livestock devastation. Mounted dragons, on the other hand, provide the reassurance that everything is under control, and is a reminder of who the peons should thank and send tribute to for their protection. Plus, there’s probably something to the thrill ride that is fighting Thread.

    Wow, I didn’t notice that initially, but yes, F’lar has no gentle setting.

  3. Only Some Stardust June 27, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Yeah, it’s crazy how even after the decon one still finds more shittyy stuff in it to peel away… it’s like one of those dolls with more dolls in them, except instead of dolls it’s abuse and misogyny…

  4. Sybylla18 July 20, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    Only Some Stardust, “is there any real reason they need to be riding the dragons as they fight thread and pointlessly risk both of their lives?”

    Very late, but yes. In order to produce flame, the dragons must chew something called firestone. The riders grab chunks of rock out of their saddlebags and toss them into the dragons’ mouths so the dragons can keep burning thread.

  5. Lodrelhai (@Lodrelhai) July 25, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Just found this via Ana Mardoll, and WOW. So, so much issue with these, to the point that I’m a bit worried how much of it I never caught back when I first read and loved these books.

    TW: Rape, abuse, religious indoctrination

    Using the term “helpmeet” for Lessa at the end there really strikes a chord, and helped me identify one of the possible reasons why it never occurred to me what an abusive asshole F’lar was. He was the alpha male, and a parallel to being Lessa’s husband, so of course he was right and of course it wasn’t actually rape and of course Lessa would learn to love him. In particular, I knew they were destined for each other because the story takes pains to point out he was Lessa’s first, and they came together in what I associated as their “wedding night,” after his dragon caught hers and he was legitimately her designated partner. Per the religious indoctrination I was under at the time, she came to him properly pure and they joined in the proper manner, so he was meant for her and we just had to wait for her to get with the program.

    Yeah, I was drinking the koolaid pretty heavily back then. It didn’t even bother me much that F’lar was still getting extra-marital sex – or that he was at least suspected of such. I think at the time I just excused it as jealousy and rumors, and of course he wasn’t actually cheating on her. But even if he was, well, she wasn’t meeting his needs, and that kind of thing was pretty loose in the Weyr so what could you expect from a healthy young man and bronzerider?

    Between this, Ana’s Narnia deconstructions, and Will’s shredding of the Ender books, I am getting really creeped out by how much terrible thinking I accepted as normal in my teen reading choices.

    I don’t suppose anyone out there is handling Xanth?

  6. Silver Adept July 25, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Nobody that I know of is tackling Xanth, although Piers Anthony is regularly referenced in many places, so perhaps someone will get the call to take it on.

    I considered the possibility that F’lar is actually a monogamous rider in a poly culture, but the way he’s viciously misogynistic about every woman he meets makes me conclude he doesn’t have the capacity to be loving enough to be monogamous. Possessive of anyone he wants to have sex with, absolutely, but not really someone built to love anyone.

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