Monthly Archives: August 2014

This week in the Slacktiverse, August 31st 2014

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

The Blogaround

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week. Contributions are still welcome!

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week. Contributions still accepted here, too.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for August 29, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who finds fighting bridge-dwellers is thankless, endless, and occasionally rewarding.)

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

  • Currently on hiatus due to bridge-dweller interference.

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Froborr: My Little Po-Mo

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

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

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonquest: She’s Not So Different

(By Silver Adept)

Last time, we took a break from our grimdark fantasy novel to experience a short boys’ adventure story, including discovery of some ancient technology. It was a nice comedic scene to break up the tragic. Regrettably, even Shakespeare could only get one funny scene in, and usually right before things really fall apart.

Dragonquest, Chapter VI: Content Notes: Animal Abuse, Domestic Abuse

Chapter VI returns to Kylara, who has just found herself a clutch of fire-lizard eggs, and she intends to Impress them all. With maybe one for Lord Meron, and one each for his men, so she can exploit the mating influences of dragons to keep him under her control. Anyway, having collected her clutch, Kylara heads straight for Meron’s Hold to rouse him and have the eggs finish cooking. Meron, like all the villainous men so far, has been sleeping around when Kylara comes to him.

I’d mention something about not making villains so cartoonish, but, Fax. And the Lords Holder. So, yeah.

Kylara, born to a high degree in one Hold, knew exactly the tone to take with lesser beings, and was, in fact, so much the female counterpart to her own irascible Lord that the woman scurried to her bidding without waiting for Meron’s consent.

Meron, also like the villainous men so far, is not particularly bright and has to have the significance of fire-lizards explained to him. After he gets it, he’s on board. Until he gets bored, which allows Kylara to continue to feel superior to all the sweaty men and their rough manners, as she eats daintily and counsels patience. And mentions that you can’t beat dragons or fire-lizards, unlike landbeasts. Here we are again, with the abuse as a casual thought.

Meron asks Kylara about how one Impresses, and that allows the narrative to show us more about what a shallow woman Kylara is supposed to be. She doesn’t know why the beautiful women get passed over for the plain, and why “commoners” seem to always get chosen over the Weyrbred for queens, even though Weyrbred men usually (eventually) Impress. Considering “that brat of Brekke’s Impressed three”, Kylara’s certain that “anyone on two legs” will do fine for this. Which could have been parlayed into a Groucho-like comment about never joining groups that would have her as a member, if the narrative wasn’t insistent that she stay one-dimensional. So instead it just comes off as mean.

Meron fares no better, threatening Consequences for those who can’t Impress. Which sets Kylara off laughing.

She laughed at the black look on Meron’s face until the Lord Holder, angered beyond caution, shook her arm roughly[…]”Laughter is better than threats, Lord Meron. Even you can’t order the preference of dragonkind. And tell me, good Lord Meron, will you be subjected to the same unspeakable punishment if you fail?”

Meron grabbed her arm in a painful grip[…]

And, completely unsurprisingly, we have Meron filling in for the F’lar role from Dragonflight. The eggs rocking and cracking is probably the only thing keeping Kylara from another set of bruises. And that’s really not okay for anyone, character or reader. The narrative, though, wants us to focus on Kylara’s inadequacies at this point, showing her to be avaricious of the power and freedom a Weyrwoman has, and wanting to dominate and control the miniature dragon in the ways that she can’t with regard to Prideth.

And in presenting these fire-lizard eggs to a Holder, particularly the most despised Holder of all, Meron of Nabol, Kylara struck back at all the ignominies and imagined slights she had endured at the hands of dragonmen and Pernese. The most recent insult – that the dishfaced fosterling of Brekke’s had Impressed three, rejecting Kylara – would be completely avenged.

And then there is hatching, and some of the fire-lizards attack each other, but Kylara gets her gold queen and all is well, much to Prideth’s annoyance. At least, we assume that’s the case, even though the chapter ends before we get complete confirmation. It’s really a rather short chapter.

Which gives us an opportunity, with the lack of major action, to talk about Kylara and her relationship to Lessa, Brekke, and the other Weyrwomen. We’re supposed to believe that Kylara is nothing like Lessa. Kylara is a Hold-born noblewoman seeking to take back what she believes is rightfully hers, a quest that has taken her at least ten years. She has very few issues with using anyone and everyone to achieve her goal, and she hopes to goad men into fighting each other so that she can stand atop their rubble. Also, she was saved from the normal fate of women in Holds through being selected to ride a queen dragon. She’s nothing like Lessa at all, is she?

Really, though, the difference between Lessa and Kylara is that Kylara continues to openly pursue her ambitions, while Lessa has decided to cloak her ambitions in the clothing of acceptably-female behavior, so as to disguise her machinations from the men. So the narrative, which robbed Lessa of her revenge by giving us Jaxom, continues to punish Kylara for her ambition – Lessa got rid of her from Benden because she was too openly ambitious toward F’lar. The entire patriarchal culture Kylara has to fight against thinks beating women that get too uppity is a normal thing to do, wants women barefoot and pregnant, and has no qualms about kidnapping noble women to become slaves and servants to dragonriders.

Kylara is portrayed as petty, mercurial, and jealous by the narrative, believing that being a Weyrwoman means unprecedented freedom to do what she wants to achieve her ends. Rather than that being petty shirking of responsibilities, what if it meant that Kylara was refusing to play the game and leveraging her position as immunity against consequences, openly advocating, though her very being, that it was possible to live a life differently than what the Weyrleaders said was their life? The narrative didn’t believe in those values, so Kylara gets regularly punished by the narrative. By comparison, Lessa turned her overt strife into covert strife by adopting methods that pass Patriarchy – flirting, insinuation, influence, child-rearing (dragons, not humans) – and is rewarded by being able to manipulate others and having a seat at the table when the Big Plans come out to play. Lessa won’t be able to take credit for anything that the men don’t want her to, but she is better able to accomplish her goals. Mardra might be working on the same principle, but we’ve only heard of her, instead of seen her at work. Or Mardra might be more on Kylara’s end, openly and actively trying to achieve equality for women on Pern.

Which brings us to Brekke. Brekke has opinions on things, but she stays quiet because Kylara wants to be in charge. Brekke runs the Weyr and nurses the injured and raises a child. She’s the paragon of womanly virtue, according to the society, so if she’s on the list of main characters, she will likely be rewarded by the narrative, probably by ascending when Kylara is inevitably knocked out of power. If she doesn’t get that designation, though, there’s a good chance Brekke will be used to indicate how evil an antagonist is, probably through violence done to her. Which is a lazy shortcut, if it happens, and will prove the inherently hypocritical nature of the Patriarchy of Pern, as well.

I really hope I’m wrong about that, and that the narrative at least reaches the bar of consistency in rewarding those who play by its rules. Otherwise, the cursing will likely continue until the narrative improves.

Writer Workshop August 27th, 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: What’s new?

(posted by chris the cynic)

What’s been happening in your life recently?

[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.]

This week in the Slacktiverse, August 24th 2014

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week. Contributions are still welcome!

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week. Contributions still accepted here, too.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for August 22, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who made the Kessel Run in not nearly enough parsecs to beat Solo.)

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

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Froborr: My Little Po-Mo

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

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

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonquest: Children’s Hour

(by Silver Adept

Last time, there was a lot of cursing. And dragons discovered their ancestors still lived among them. But mostly cursing and decrying the systemic abuse of women on Pern.

Dragonquest, Chapter V: Content Notes: None that I can see.

Chapter V introduces another perspective to the mix – Jaxom, the Lord of Lessa’s Ruatha Hold, who should be about ten, if I recall the timeline correctly, and who has yet to be killed by Lessa as a usurper to her rightful claim. The stylistic construction of this chapter is more akin to a boys’ adventure story, like Harry Potter’s first few installments were, so the adults will be scarce, there will be no lethal danger to the boys, and the men Do and the women Mother.

Jaxom is busy making himself scarce in the corridors of Ruatha Hold, trying to get away from Lytol for a moment and being totally jealous of Felessan. Oh, and also there’s all this stuff he needs to learn about being a Lord Holder. Lytol’s call for him to get on the dragon intended to take him to Benden Weyr brings Jaxom around. Problem is, he’s already starting to sound like a person with no compassion for the “commoners”, complaining that they only sent a green, and that a brown would have been better fitting his station. (Again, there’s that whole stratification based on dragon color, which is something that a kid can’t determine for themselves. There’s a lot of predeterminism crap going on here.) Jaxom’s transformation isn’t complete, though, because he’s immediately contrite about his previous annoyance, remembering that the dragon Lytol lost was a brown (as genesistrine pointed out, this is an upgrade from the green Larth from the first book. Since Lytol is going to be an important character, he apparently retroactively gets a higher-status dragon.) and it would be an uncomfortable reminder of the accident that killed Lytol’s dragon. Jaxom forgets the honorific of draconic contraction, which is easy to see in text, but must be a bear to hear, and we get to see that Jaxom is perceptive, even when he’s not completely trained. This slots him into the “cautious, thinking boy” role in the adventure story, whose complement, Felessan, will be introduced to us shortly. Felessan is the “adventurous, overconfident boy” role, and will be the primary spur to getting Jaxom to go along with him on their intended trip.

This bit follows Jaxom and Felessan [Lessa and F’lar’s son] into their shared explorer passions. This would totally be the right time for some subtle worldbuilding, but instead we get the two tearing through the settled areas at high speed, more jealous of each other’s position (as children are wont to be) than anything. The narrative does take care to point out, though, that Jaxom is being bullied and Felessan is being ostracized, also possibly bullied, before it goes off on the adventure. I suspect those elements will return with vengeance later on. But for now, Felessan leads Jaxom on a merry trip down unused corridors with the end goal of catching a glimpse of Ramoth’s latest clutch while Ramoth is away at the lake. And then goads Jaxom into following him to go try and touch them, which ends up with Jaxom being scraped across the chest trying to squeeze through a crack that Felessan could easily go through, ruining his clothes and giving him a big obvious sign to others that he was up to something. But the reward for the pain is a very close inspection of the eggs. Jaxom touches one of them, because his thinking mode grants him the virtue of curiosity. Felessan has obvious discomfort at this, preferring the safety of tradition (Tradition!), and then both of them flee immediately at the first sign of Ramoth’s return.

Which gets them lost, because Felessan’s virtue is action, not planning. Jaxom is hurt, which lends a small bit of urgency to finding their way back. And now we get confirmation that Jaxom can be both perceptive and curious simultaneously, and the subtle worldbuilding we were missing a little while ago appears.

“I wonder what it was like,” Jaxom mused.

“Wonder what what was like?” asked Felessan with some surprise.

“When the Weyrs and the Holds were full. When these corridors were lighted and used.”

“They’ve never been used.”

“Nonsense.”
[…]
“I mean, where did all the people go? And how did they carve out whole mountains in the first place?”

Clearly, the matter had never troubled Felessan.

Despite being the explorer and part of a corps of explorers, Felessan hasn’t wondered what made the places he’s exploring. It’s not his role in this adventure to exercise thought, so he doesn’t. So Jaxom takes twenty on his skill checks, realizing after some thought that he’s in an older part, which should lead them out of being lost, but instead leads them to a secret door with a pressure plate that opens the door. Which releases a “inert” gas that knocks both kids out…but also provides a light for when the rescue team comes looking. (Said “inert” gas is probably part of a fire suppression system, which would not be good to breathe at all, but again, no serious danger in an adventure story.)

This section is pretty good, stylistically, in relation to being a children’s adventure story. So it’s not all gloom and doom here, – the writing is doing well. It’s the society around that’s so awful. Sometimes, you have to keep sight of the good things. The differences between Acting and Thinking are spelled out pretty clearly, which makes it easy to follow and predict.

The next part of the chapter has us spin the clock back – same time sequence, but from Lytol, Lessa, and F’lar’s perspective. Lytol complains a bit about Jaxom running off because he’s a Lord Holder, but F’lar reminds him of his own childhood explorations and Lessa flatters him about how well Jaxom is growing and presenting himself. Lytol betrays that Mardra has pissed him off again through his poker tell (one that Jaxom has also picked up on), which irritates Lessa at Mardra, but now it’s time for a meeting between F’lar, Lessa, Masterharper Robinton, Mastersmith Fandarel, and Lytol. It’s about the premature Thread falling, and the…reluctance of other Weyrs to communicate such things to their Holders and Crafters. (Ah, and one other named Weyrwoman, Bedella, who we don’t know about regarding abuse, but who continues to be insulted as stupid). And the communication between Weyrs is also lacking, such that Benden needs an infodump to get the state of the planet.

While the backstory gets filled in, let’s take a minute to point out differences between Hold, Craft, and Weyr, in terms of orientation and important things. Lytol, as a Holder, is concerned about his lands, his people, and how Thread affects the economics of the same. He needs accurate timetables, and he needs to instill the statecraft of a noble into Jaxom, which means more structured play opportunities with Weyrlings and Crafters. Crafters need materials from Holds to make things and to have markets for their distribution, and they need Holds to stay safe. So both of them are dependent on dragonriders to keep everything clear. Which can be taken advantage of by less-than-scrupulous dragonriders. And, as the Masterharper and Lytol point out, dragonriders have been taking advantage of this, claiming tradition (TRADITIOOOOOOOON!) as the reason for squeezing the Holders and Crafters harder, including taking noble Hold women to serve as drudges for their Weyrwomen. It’s basically stirring up resentment in all the holds and crafts, which makes even Benden Weyr, which treats fairly and modernly…in comparison, anyway, suspicious to the Holders.

“The Oldtimers are not only incurably parochial, but worse – adamantly inflexible. They will not, cannot adapt to our Turn.[…]And they are alienating the Lord Holders and Craftsmen so completely that I am sincerely concerned – no, I’m scared – about the reaction to this new crisis.”

F’lar is at his “best” during the meeting, insisting that what he’s already done with signal fires should be enough. (Tradition!) Since he’s the designated holder of the Idiot Ball with regard to working within tradition (except when he’s suddenly innovative), he gets overridden by the others, Fandarel in particular. Fandarel has reinvented telegraphs, but just needs to run the wire (which he can’t, because he’s too busy making flamethrowers). Robinton has the knowledge of Morse Code (well, drum code, anyway) to go along with it. F’lar will get what he wants – a worldwide telecommunications network. That is, assuming all the cables can be run. The narrative provides, even here. That said, if Thread eats what it contacts, they’re going to have to bury the cables, aren’t they? That’s going to be a very time-consuming project…and the sweepers will have to be extra careful around those lines. Hmm.

Back to the meeting. Everyone pushes F’lar back into the leadership role to save the planet. Because he’s done it once before, and, frankly, because he’s the best figurehead anyone could ask for, Idiot Ball included. Thus, the narrative will give F’lar everything again, but this time it is at least pointing out that it’s by someone else’s choices and machinations. This is improvement.

So now it’s time to go look for Jaxom and Felessan and see what they discovered. After zeroing in on their most likely target (the egg clutch peephole, which F’lar knows about, Manora knows about, Lytol knows about, but Lessa apparently doesn’t, which gives the whole affair a distinctly peep-show quality to it, as dragon eggs have apparently substituted for staring in the windows of the Girl Next Door), the adults systematically search, find the two kids and their prize room, which gives the Mastersmith ideas about new techniques to be researched and Lessa and F’lar a new puzzle to work out with the strange combinations of rods and balls, arranged in ladder-like structures painted onto the walls. My guess is that they have a distinctly helical pattern to them and would tell a lot about how the fire-lizards became the dragons. But since there are no geneticists on Pern, the audience must be content with knowing what has been spotted and enjoy the Mastersmith’s discovery of a microscope, which will no doubt give he Masterglasssmith plenty of new knowledge to try and replicate. F’lar breaches the idea brought on by having a magnification lens to work with – if you can build a microscope, you can build a telescope. And once you can see where you’re going, you can send a dragon there.

This is not odd, since F’lar also thought of the idea of going to the Red Star at the end of Dragonflight, but it is odd that F’lar, who floats between innovative and traditional, is the only person on Pern confirmed to be thinking about this idea through two books so far. Now that he’s said it aloud in the presence of others, the universe can assert itself and put Lessa’s brain (and Robinton and Fandarel) to work on it so they can figure it all out in time for F’lar to grab the glory.

The chapter finishes with Jaxom waking up, realizing he’s safe, worrying he’s going to get in trouble, and then politely gathering information about his and Felessan’s discovery. (His age is also, apparently, almost twelve. Must have miscounted. Or there’s an unmentioned temporal paradox where two years of existence were compressed into something else.) The boys have discovered rooms from ancient times, which has apparently erased the trouble they were going to get in. And thus, our mini-adventure tale comes to its close, with an adventure had and no serious consequences. Next time, we return to our fantasy novel. And likely, the cursing.

Board Business/Writer’s Workshop/Open Thread, August 20th, 2014

(posted by chris the cynic)

Irregular Business

Oh my god it’s Wednesday already?  I guess we’ll just have,  These two weeks in the Slacktiverse this weekend.

Also, this pulling triple duty as a board business post, a Writer’s Workshop post and an Open Thread because it would just be weird to post them as three separate things tonight, which is when they’d need to be posted to not screw up the rest of the schedule.

So:

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!

And:

[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.]

Regular Business

There is no submission deadline for articles, open thread suggestions and writing prompt suggestions.  Send them any time.

The Submission Deadline for the weekend post is 20:00 (8PM) US Eastern Time Saturday.

Anyone who has submissions for the weekend post should send them in.  Some people wonder if they really deserve to be in the post.  The answer to that is always the same: You do.  So try not to be afraid and do try to send in submissions if you have them.

The sections of the weekend post are as follows:

The Blogaround

Any denizen of the Slacktiverse who has posted an article to their own website since they last submitted to a weekend post is invited, enticed, and cajoled to send a short summary of that article along with its permalink to the group email. That summary and link will be included in the next weekend blogaround. This will help to keep members of our community aware of the many excellent websites hosted by other members.

Remember, this is since you last submitted to a weekend post, not since the last weekend post. For example, if the last time you submitted was a month ago, everything you wrote since then is fair game.

In Case You Missed This

Readers of The Slacktiverse can send short summaries of, and permalinks to, articles that they feel might be of interest to other readers.  These should be sent, as you might expect, to the group email.

Things You Can Do

Anyone who knows of a worthy cause or important petition should send a short description of the petition/cause along with its url to the group email.

Deadlines
Again, none for articles, open thread suggestions and writing prompts.
20:00 (8 PM) US Eastern Time Saturday for the Weekend post.  Also, if there’s a deconstruction you feel should be in the roundup, you can suggest that at any time.
In case the links don’t work: the group email is SlacktiverseAuthors (at) gmail (dot) com.

Deconstruction Roundup for August 15, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who fears he is circling the drain very slowly regarding finances.)

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.

Amarie: Amarie’s Dreamjournal: Multiple Deconstructions

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: My Little Po-Mo

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

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

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse