Dragonquest: Dread and Questions

Last time, F’lar and Lessa learned a thing or two about empathy…and just how brilliant the Crafters are…before promptly discarding the empathy and keepig the curiosity about fire-lizards in the South.

Dragonquest, Chapter VIII: Content Notes: Sexism, Misogyny, Patriarchy, intentions of Domestic Abuse

Chapter VIII takes us back to Southern Weyr, where Kylara is nowhere to be found, leaving Brekke and Mirrim to shoulder the workload of running the Weyr. Mirrim objects to this treatment fairly strenuously, as it offends her sense of fairness and justice. Brekke, current example of Womanly Virtue, intends to scold Mirrim for voicing those objections when F’nor calls her away. Thus, Mirrim escapes narrative punishment. Perhaps because, as a fosterling, her place in life has yet to be determined. Brekke, on the other hand, has been patiently fulfilling her ordained role for years, which will either result in her great reward, or being used by the narrative as a chew toy to induce feelings in the audience.

After reassuring F’nor that his message to F’lar was delivered and making some excuses as to why F’lar didn’t drop everything to come see, Brekke realizes that Wirenth, her queen, is preparing for the mating flight, and dashes off to see if it’s true. F’nor sizes up the bronze population at Southern and comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t like any of the prospective mates. His solution is to try and figure out how to arrange for a bronze he does like to happen to be in from another Weyr at the right time, since the more obvious solution would require him to acknowledge that he is attracted to her, and he’s not supposed to be the jealous type, even as he recoils in horror at the thought of any of the Southern bronze riders mating with Brekke. F’nor suggests to Brekke that she might call in some outsiders, but she refuses, and F’nor ignores her visceral reaction to the idea.

Then, Brekke reveals to us that she’s more like Lessa than just also having a queen that can talk to all dragons.

“What I meant was, if the fire-lizards – who seem to be miniature dragons – can be Impressed by anyone who approaches them at the crucial moment, then fighting dragons – not just queens who don’t chew firestone anyhow – could be Impressed by women, too.”

“Fighting Thread is hard work. Leave it to men.”

“You think managing a Weyr isn’t hard work?” Brekke kept her voice even but her eyes darkened angrily. “Or plowing field and hollowing cliffs for Holds? And…”

F’nor whistled. “Why, Brekke, such revolutionary thoughts from a craftbred girl? Where women know there’s only one place for them… Oh, you’ve got Mirrim in mind as a rider?”

“Yes. She’d be as good or better than some of the male weyrlings I know.”
[…]
“Hey, backwing a bit, girl. We’ve enough trouble with the Oldtimers as it is without trying to get them to accept a girl riding a fighting dragon! C’mon, Brekke. I know your fondness for the cold, and she seems a good intelligent girl, but you must be realistic.”

“I am,” Brekke replied, so emphatically that F’nor looked at her in surprise. “Some riders should have been crafters or farmers – or – nothing, but they were acceptable to dragons on Hatching. Others are real riders, heart and soul and mind. Dragons are the beginning and end of their ambition.”

…shit.

I was hoping Brekke would be able to get through things unscathed, but now that the narrative knows, I can only wait in horror to find out what it will do to her. Because she’s right in every particular, to the best of our knowledge. The hatching that we got to see with Lessa had the candidates separated. What could have been if they were all together? Presumably, the Weyr culture on sexuality and relationships wouldn’t change, you’d just have real equality possible in the dragonrider ranks.

Also, Brekke being craftbred, in addition to the chapter we just spent in the Crafthall, suggests that real equality is rapidly becoming a reality in Craft culture due to the outside pressures that require the very best to be put to work at their specialties, regardless of what outdated ideas about gender roles say. This trend should continue and spread and infect every other culture on Pern until equality is seen as entirely normal.

Finally, fuck you, F’nor, you shit-eating excuse for a person. You were supposed to be reasonable and pragmatic and open to new ideas, but you’re apparently just as ensconced in misogyny as your brother is, and for the same wrong reason of tradition. (TRADITION.)

F’lar arrives, and Brekke hands back, which makes F’nor relieved to not have her talking about her wild ideas while he tries to get his brother to shoot for an arranged partnership for Wirenth and Brekke. F’lar is wondering where everyone is (trying to catch fire-lizards, of course), and when T’bor wings in, F’lar gives him the hard truth about the out of phase Threadfall. Then F’lar gets to see Mirrim’s three fire-lizards as she stirs a great kettle of soup. Mirrim does her best impression of a star-struck girl, and F’lar and F’nor talk about the use of fire-lizards as trainable entities, Brekke’s idea about Mirrim (F’lar laughs, but gives the matter no serious consideration), and, oh, wait, a Thread attack is coming.

For supposedly being lazy on the beach, however, the Southern Weyr fighters are excellent scramblers and are already in the air before the warning finishes. F’nor has to sit it out, since he is still injured, Everything appears to go according to plan, except that the vegetation clearly shows signs of having been hit by Thread, but there are no burrows, a lot of grubs, and there is a lot of dead Thread in the water. Something is going on here, and F’lar and T’bor both know it. Yet even a panic sweep looking for Thread finds none at all.

And no Kylara either, which brings out F’lar’s domestic violence instincts, and his regret that he suggested Kylara become a Weyrwoman, which shift to confusion as to why she didn’t appear when the warning call went out. When she does reappear, with her Impressed gold queen fire-lizard, she’s busily being angry and manipulative to T’bor, which invokes F’lar’s sympathy for T’bor in a definite “bros before hos” sort of way, including some delight at the idea that Prideth might get flown by an Oldtimer that would quickly bring her in line. Good to know F’lar’s domestic abuse proclivities haven’t dulled any. Kylara tries to show F’lar her gold, but it scratches her trying to regain balance, which provokes Kylara, sending the fire-lizard disappearing and getting Prideth entirely riled up, too the point where she doesn’t listen to any other dragon. That’s a Bad Thing. F’lar suggests letting someone else have Kylara, but T’bor isn’t having any of it, and then details what he knows of Kylara giving eggs to Holders. Which only adds to F’lar’s worries about everything, including the out-of-pattern Threadfall and the fact that Thread has likely been falling on the Southern Continent for a very long time, but not leaving any marks or burrows to signify that it had been there.

Unable to leave without more investigation, F’lar loops back to his previous investigation site, to see the plant repairing itself from the strike. F’lar is able to put two and two together, hops back in time to watch the Thread fall, then collects a plant with grubs attached to go show the Masterherdsman. Whom he also tells about the likely connection between fire-lizards and dragons, to the Masterherdsman’s utter disbelief. To be fair, the Masterherdsman is being asked to believe that breeding somehow transformed the fire-lizards into dragons over many generations, instead of the idea that fire-lizards may have been genetically altered through splicing, gene manipulation, and recombination into dragons, which would sound equally far-fetched, but at least would be able to explain the wild variance between the two relations.

The Masterherdsman, however, immediately smashes the grubs from the plant, over F’lar’s protests about their utility, because they are “an abomination”, and F’lar leaves, pissed, to end the chapter. Again, we have worldbuilding without foreshadowing. Grubs are abominations? Then F’lar would have had a strong revulsion reaction to them, I would have thought. Unless it’s something that dragonriders are just never told about, because they don’t work with the ground. That, though, would have provoked a reaction of surprise from F’lar at how the grubs were treated, not annoyance. So F’lar knows, but is somehow able to get over what his tradition (Tradition!) has told him about them in this case, when he’s still pretty in favor of doing things the old way if he hasn’t thought up a better reason and new way. F’lar, your characterization is getting inconsistent, it seems. It would have made more sense for it to be F’nor, but he’s still injured, so I guess you’ll have to do?

Next time…things get ugly.

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16 thoughts on “Dragonquest: Dread and Questions

  1. genesistrine September 13, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Presumably, the Weyr culture on sexuality and relationships wouldn’t change, you’d just have real equality possible in the dragonrider ranks.

    The Weyr culture on sexuality and relationships is a fair bit freer than what we know of the Holds/Crafts – serial monogamy/acceptance of promiscuity (as long as it’s with the right kind of people), acceptance of gay relationships (as long as there’s a green rider involved), the Weyrwomen’s fan clubs of bronze riders – but its gender roles are rigid as hell.

    A male gold rider in particular would knock the whole structure sideways. (A female bronze rider probably wouldn’t to the same extent, since bronzes are less important – unless her bronze managed to fly the Weyr queen and Pern had to deal with a female Weyrleader….)

    It’s not the rising to mate (which wouldn’t bother any bronze rider who’s ever joined in with a green mating flight), but the cultural assumption after a bronze/gold flight is that the riders are a couple. (OK, we’re told it’s culturally accepted for both to sleep around, but we haven’t seen any examples of that except in BAD CHARACTERS.) It would force the bronze riders to re-examine this whole “winner bangs the queen’s rider and then they’re in ~love~” thing and have a bit of self-control and maybe even prior negotiation, not to mention the whole “men do the Thread-fighting and the women are support staff” ethos.

    Grubs are abominations? Then F’lar would have had a strong revulsion reaction to them, I would have thought. Unless it’s something that dragonriders are just never told about, because they don’t work with the ground. That, though, would have provoked a reaction of surprise from F’lar at how the grubs were treated, not annoyance.

    I think at that point all he’s thinking is what a twit the Masterherdsman is for not paying solemn attention to every word he, F’lar, says….

  2. Only Some Stardust September 14, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    It’s too bad transgender folk apparently don’t exist in this verse; a transwoman impressing a gold would be pretty neat.

    Although, [spoilers] I read a book set at colonization (I have it somewhere. >_> Dreadfully boring though) and if I remember right the geneticist is a rather sexist woman who intentionally adds in the gender roles. The other characters call her sexist for it, I think, which is something. So I guess the author evolved her views and wouldn’t have written the same thing today, altho’ that might’ve been her son who wrote that line, I don’t remember. But would it have occurred to this sexist scientist woman that transfolk exist? I don’t think so, and I feel that has to be a plothole.

  3. emmy September 14, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    “OK, we’re told it’s culturally accepted for both to sleep around, but we haven’t seen any examples of that except in BAD CHARACTERS.”

    We will get an example of a weyrwoman/weyrleader pair who have a business relationship but are not IN LOVE and are still heroic… eventually.

  4. genesistrine September 15, 2014 at 2:51 am

    @ Only Some Stardust – I dunno, could easily be a TERF with that “Your genitalia define you!” attitude. Program different colours to Impress on specific configurations and she could exclude intersex people too. (Though greens presumably have gaydar now tentpegging’s been consigned to Never-said-that-nuh-uh-land….)

  5. genesistrine September 15, 2014 at 2:59 am

    @ emmy: Hooray! You’d expect that to be unexceptional with long-term Weyrleader/Weyrwoman partnerships, and we get hints of that with T’ron and Mardra at least, except of course they’re Bad and Hidebound and Arrogant and Bitchy McJealousface.

  6. genesistrine September 15, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Um, come to think of it I can’t remember if the Tent Peg statement’s been discussed here before. If not, TW: rape if you google it. Also really weird ideas about gayness,

  7. Silver Adept September 15, 2014 at 9:17 am

    @ genesistrine –

    Regarding grubs, you’re right – I could be underestimating F’lar’s ego still – I should be thinking googolplex instead of just googol.

    Regarding gender roles, the Tent Peg statement has been linked and alluded to before. From that and other writings, the apparent idea was that blue-, brown-, or bronze-green pairings would work, but generally, women would be involved so add not to spread Teh Gay. Textually, however, we haven’t seen any of this, so there’s still the possibility that these men are more direct going strictly by what’s written in the books. It’s a thin hope, but a useful one.

    Explicitly trans people impressing dragons of their preferred gender would be amazing. I hope there’s good fic of that.

    As for long-term relationships without actual love, that does seem like it would be the norm rather then the exception, since being Weyrleader really has more to do with your dragon than you, and there’s no indication so far that dragons form love or exclusive pair-bonds. Explicitly, children are all fostered communally so as to avoid the parent-child bond, so one of the major things that holds together relationships without love is removed right there…

  8. genesistrine September 15, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    F’lar’s ego is so big it’s pulling the Red Star out of orbit and changing Threadfall patterns. Fact.

    Re AM: I was thinking specifically of her claim that green riders will, er, be turned gay even if they weren’t before, later redacted to “green dragons pick riders who are already passive-gay”, but yeah, it fits even better with the “dragons can detect male sexual preferences!” thing. (Presumably no-one managed to take her aside and explain that gayness doesn’t actually work like yaoi….)

    We never see much of lower-rank dragons or riders, but what we saw earlier in DQ doesn’t agree with what she says out-story – the brown/green couple at the Smithcrafthall have obviously sneaked away from the Weyr for privacy/lack of competition, haven’t brought a lady friend along (so are presumably into each other), and assume that a bronze and his rider would be interested in horning in on their no-pants party. So I don’t take AM’s out-story statements of How It Works very seriously. (Also because you have to assume the vast majority of dragonriders are gay or bi to make the numbers work – Benden before the Oldtimers came forward had 200-odd dragons and 7 bronzes….)

    One thing that’s really interesting about that, though, is that she obviously sees all those other pairings as being capable of negotiation, pre-arrangement and bringing another person in, while bronze-gold gets none of that. No warnings of what to expect, no options to bring existing boyfriend/girlfriend in, no-one having a quiet talk with queen riders before the first mating flight to make sure everything’s OK, is there anyone they’d like to be there, is there anyone they really don’t want to be there, etc. There’s even a mention earlier on in DQ that queens only Impress on girls raised outside the Weyr, to add to the creepy.

  9. Silver Adept September 17, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    It does make more sense that the dragons, as genetically modified telepaths and telekinetics, would be able to sense a candidate’s predilections before they hatch and pair-bond so that they would both have mutually satisfying relationships. Which makes Future Events that much more interesting.

    And yeah, it seems that all the weyrbred really are able to handle negotiation and other consensual things, and it’s only the non-weyrbred that get the second-class treatment… and that they’re the only always-hetero pairing, too.

  10. genesistrine September 18, 2014 at 4:38 am

    Re predilections: But then again, how often do dragons rise to mate? A gay bronze rider, for instance, could have a perfectly happy and satisfying relationship (or series of relationships) with guys on the understanding that when a queen rises he might do something he wouldn’t normally consider with the opposite sex, assuming his dragon wins.

    Without knowing more about the relative numbers it’s impossible to tell, but it’s perfectly possible that most male dragons never manage to catch a mate, which makes their riders’ orientation irrelevant. Green riders being preferentially gay would still make sense, but the whole blues-this, browns-that etc just seems silly.

  11. Only Some Stardust September 18, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Why aren’t there any gay dragons? >_> And don’t tell me genetics, hormones play a role too.

  12. genesistrine September 18, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Maybe there are. It’s just never been mentioned that some of the boooring colours like to sleep more than one to a weyr (sometimes including the bronzes who don’t seem very keen on chasing a rising queen, oops I accidentally ate a whole herdbeast instead of sucking the blood, silly me, might as well sit this one out), and the occasional green joins in with the chasers in mating flights….

  13. Silver Adept September 18, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    I get the impression, however, that it’s set up for green dragons to be voraciously sexual, almost in a nymphomaniac sort of way (“some green’s getting herself chased again”), such that a high percentage of blue, brown, and bronze dragons get their rocks off with greens regularly, even if they never get a gold.

    Which would play into stereotypes about gay men being promiscuous (and bi people even more so), which suits them perfectly for the insatiable green dragons. It’s the Unfortunate Implications onion revealing yet another layer.

  14. genesistrine September 19, 2014 at 6:18 am

    Oh god I hadn’t even noticed the sexually-voracious-gay thing. Aargh.

    F’lar’s comment could also be taken as generally contemptuous, in a “huh, the lower classes/ranks/races, all they ever do is fornicate” kind of way – it’s a common slur. I can’t see any way of making a sensible guess about green ratios/period between risings/faithfulness to one male dragon – I always thought of the numbers of blues, browns and greens as roughly equal, myself, but I don’t think that’s ever supported in the text; there could be one green per each blue/brown, there could be more, there could be less.

  15. Silver Adept September 20, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Well, we’re also told that without the contraceptive effects of firestone (which the majestic gold dragons conveniently can’t eat), green dragon offspring would overrun the planet, which suggests there are enough greens that even if they clutch smaller amounts, they can easily imbalance the population. Considering how F’lar is, is probably more likely to be the classist remark than the gay-bashing one, but we never know.

    There’s also no official word, best I can tell, as to whether greens behave more like some animals and have multiple mates per heat, or whether they’re like the golds in that once one dragon had sex with them, they’re satisfied for the whole time. If it’s the former, then one green could potentially mate with many blue, brown, and bronze dragons at a time, meaning less need for greens overall.

  16. genesistrine September 20, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Point. I suspect multiple matings would have been mentioned disapprovingly at some point just to emphasize what slutty slutty sluts greens (and the dragons who chase them, and by extension their riders) are, but, well, absence isn’t evidence.

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