Monthly Archives: January 2015

This week in the Slacktiverse, January 31st, 2015

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

The Blogaround

In Case You Missed This

Things You Can Do

See above (In Case You Missed This) if you’re queer or trans*, otherwise no submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for January 30, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who will be working while most of the others in his location are watching football.)

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

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

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

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

YamikuronueRaven Wings

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonsinger: Le Carnival des Animaux

We’ve spent only a couple days at the Harper Hall, and Menolly and her fire lizards are the talk of everywhere. She’s found some of the Masters sympathetic, and at least one that’s biased against her gender, like many of the apprentices are. And Menolly has a dorm mother who hates her and change. Jury is still officially out on the other women who are studying music at the hall.

Dragonsinger: Chapter 4: Content Notes: Mocking the disabled, Queen Bees and Mean Girls

We’re still on Day Two of Menolly at the Harper Hall. Menolly has managed to not collapse through the examinations of the various Masters, but now she needs to feed the fire lizards. Camo is delighted to help, to the point where he abandons his duties to help feed. Piemur also appears and asks if he can help feed.

“I’ve already got Camo falling over himself to feed…”
“Pretty Beauty,'” and Piemur mimicked the older man’s thick voice perfectly, ” ‘Feed pretty Beauty…’ Oh, don’t worry, Menolly, Camo and me are friends. He won’t object to me helping, too.”

I don’t think she’s objecting to your help, Piemur, at least not in my headcanon. She’s unhappy because you’re mocking Camo and then trying to pass it off as okay, because you’re friends. Because Menolly has that most precious of resources, empathy.

The dinner bell sounds, and Menolly goes to the back table with all the other women for this particular meal. All the other girls enter together, and have a fairly uniform expression of disgust and disdain for Menolly. The leader of the girls introduces herself.

“My name is Pona, my grandfather is Lord Holder of Boll.” She held out her right hand, palm up, and Menolly, who had never had an opportunity to make the gesture of formal greeting, covered it with hers.
“I am Menolly,”…”my father is Yanus, Sea Holder of Half-Circle Sea Hold.”
There was a startled murmur of surprise from the others.
“She ranks us,” someone said, rebellious and astonished.
“There’s rank in the Harper Hall?” asked Menolly, disturbed and wondering what other elements of courtesy she might unwittingly have neglected. Hadn’t Petiron always told her that the Harper Craft, in particular, laid stress on skill and musical achievement rather than natal rank? But Piemur had said “You rank ’em.”
“Half-Circle is not the oldest seahold. Tillek is,” said the dark-complexioned girl, rather crossly.
“Menolly is daughter, not niece,” said the girl who had mentioned outranking. She now extended her hands, less grudgingly, Menolly thought. “My father is Weaver Craftsmaster Timareen of Telgar Hold. My name is Audiva.”

You can guess where this is going. Having basically been excluded from the regular structure of the Hall, the girls have formed their own hierarchy based on their lineage. I have but one question about all of this so far.

Cocowhat by depizan

What. The. Fuck. Up to this point in the series, there has been no mention at all about any of this regarding ranking, inheritance, or anything else with even remote relation to some sort of complex system of primogeniture and status based on who someone’s father is. We had an entire book set mostly in a Hold where all of this could have been explored, and then maybe compared to the structure of a Weyr, and finally, the supposed egalitarianism of the Harper Hall. Mavi or Yanus or Alemi or Sella could have talked about this with her, even if they think her the unmarriageable daughter. This could have been explained as to why Menolly knows what a formal greeting is, despite apparently never having had the opportunity to use it. This doesn’t make much sense at all. Why is this appearing now…

…you know what else this reminds me of? High school drama. Which has zero need in this story, except as a provider of artificial drama. Which we already have, with the sexist teacher and the dorm mother who cannot stand her, and this is Menolly, who has been beaten by her father, gaslit by her mother and sister, and is still trying to feel out an entirely alien place to her. We have covered plenty of possibilities for drama without having to add a clique of catty women to this. Apparently, the narrative has had enough of competent and empathetic women in the books and wants more reasons why the men are totally justified in their misogyny.

But then there’s this:

Menolly are hungrily and quickly until she realized the girls were all taking half-spoonsful and breaking their bread and cheese into dainty bite-sized portions. Pona and Audiva watched her surreptitiously, and one of the other girls tittered. So, thought Menolly grimly, her table manners differed from theirs? Well, to change would mean anything that hers were faulty. She did slow down, but continued to eat heartily, making no bones about asking for more while the girls were still but halfway through their first serving.

Go, Menolly. But also, we’re being set up for Menolly to always be one of the Other compared to these girls. I’m hoping that the way this turns out is more Miss Congeniality (with Menolly in the role of Sandra Bullock’s character) than Cinderella.

So the girls grill Menolly about the Impression, but not for interest in the process, but in how the social statuses of the men and women who were there have changed due to dragon. There’s disdain from Pona about Menolly’s menagerie, but Audiva deflects with some well-placed barbs about the boys Pona is chasing. The topic turns to why the dragonriders haven’t sent flame crews to the Red Star to destroy Thread yet, but Menolly tunes it out because she’s exhausted from her day, and stuck somewhere with way too many people, and her feet hurt. She wants alone time, so much so that she wants to go as soon as she sees people going, but apparently dismissal is done by rank, so she has to wait (earning more disapproval from Pona).

She did not want to be among people, especially all these strange people who had odd notions and different manners, and seemingly, no sympathy for the newcomer. The Weyr had been big and well-populated, but she had felt at home there, with friendly glances and uncritical, smiling faces.
“Your feet hurting again?” It was Piemur asking, his brows contorted in a worried scowl.

Piemur has apparently mastered the art of Not Being Seen, because he tends to appear out of seeming nowhere. He offers a shoulder to Menolly to get her back to Dunca’s, where she calls out for her (this becomes important), then gets to bed, lets in the fire-lizards, takes off her clothes, uses the medicine for her hand and feet, and falls asleep. With her first day finally over, we end Chapter 4.

Also, I’m still wondering what possible power Menolly might have by virtue of her rank. If she hadn’t been beaten into submission by Yanus, and discouraged from anything by Mavi, it would make things so much easier for Menolly to say “Oh, I rank you? Well then, that makes me the leader, doesn’t it? Starting right now, you’re going to treat everyone here with respect and get Dunca to do the same thing.” Not that the narrative would allow Menolly to just take control that way, but it certainly seems like a lot of grief would be avoided by letting Menolly exploit her newfound position to her advantage.

Writer Workshop January 28th, 2015

(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: Things you want to know more about

(by chris the cynic)

What would you like to know more about?

Here are some random examples of what a hypothetical person might come up with:

Why do some reptiles have three eyes?  What’s the etymology of the word truth?  Do cats really rule the universe?  Why can ducks walk in snow all day and not get hypothermia?  What’s the distance in furlongs to the nearest star?  What was the Ptolemaic model of the solar system really like?  What was it like to be a vagrant in medieval Europe (a place and time where almost everyone and everything was strongly linked to patch of land on which they lived)?  Stuff?

[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, January 25th, 2015

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

The Blogaround

  • Storiteller covered very different topics this week on her blog.  After visiting her grandmother on the way back from visiting her family for Christmas, she reflected on all of the things she wished she could tell her while her grandmother could still understand.  In response, she wrote A Love Letter to my Grandmother, Who Suffers from Severe Dementia. On a completely different note, her family went to the National Geographic Museum last weekend, where they saw an exhibit on the largest predatory dinosaur, described in Spinosaurus, Pterosaurs, and Crocodiles, Oh My!.
  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • So, uh, new things have come to pass since the posts I wrote, and thus they aren’t really up to date, at all.  Things seem to have improved a lot since they were written, but the biggest concern remains as yet unresolved and thus … yeah.  But that’s the second and third posts, so we’ll get to that.
    • I try to make Stealing Commas easy to navigate; I generally fail. One big project I was working on until attention got turned away from the blog by the real world was completely overhauling my index post system that’s intended to help you navigate via story or theme.  One thing that won’t really be overhauled is the way I do chronological indexing, it just needs to be brought up to date since it’s nearly two years out of date.  Thus:
    • I understand the sense of helplessness that can set in when you see someone facing a huge problem, and my financial problems tend to be huge, so I made a post pointing out that small donations help too.  In fact I really appreciate it when someone sends ten bucks my way.  Even a handful of coins of indeterminate value is appreciated, but you usually have to meet me in person to pull that off.
    • Stealing Commas is probably going dark for [an unknown period of time].  The reason is because I need to spend time concentrating on my financial future.  Since I wrote that, the immediate looming threat of bills that have to be paid next month has been dealt with.  The other threat (that I’ll be kicked off of public aid) is still in limbo.  If I am, I’m going to need to almost immediately do something I’ve consistently failed to do even though I’ve been trying for a decade or so: support myself in spite of my utter inability to reliably do what most people consider work.

In Case You Missed This

Things You Can Do

See above (In Case You Missed This) if you’re queer or trans*, otherwise no submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for January 23, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has practice to attend to, at some point.)

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

Fred Clark: Slacktivist


Froborr: My Little Po-Mo

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

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

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

YamikuronueRaven Wings

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonsinger: Mars, the Bringer of War – Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity

When we last left Menolly, she and her fire lizards had accidentally upstaged a teaching moment, been reassured by Robinton that she was going to do well, but would still go through the wringer like any other apprentice, and been shown where she would be bunking, despite the person in charge of the house showing signs of fundamental incompatibility with Menolly.

Dragonsinger: Chapter 3: Content Notes: Sexism, misogyny

So Chapter 3 starts with the entrance examination. Menolly finds the workshop, and the noise is enough to send Beauty screaming to the rafters. The noise stops the work, and Master Jerint, after misgendering Menolly, is fascinated by the fire lizard until Master Domick comes by, gives Menolly some rude teasing, and re-sets the workshop to their tasks. Then come the instruments. Jerint reaches for a gitar, but Menolly stops him.

“It’s too green to have any tone.”
“How would you know by looking?”
So, thought Menolly, this is a sort of test for me.
“I wouldn’t chose any instrument on looks, Master Jerint, I’d choose by the sound, but I can see from here that the wood of the gitar is badly joined on the case. The neck is not straight for all it’s been veneered prettily.”
The answer evidently pleased him, for he stepped aside and gestured for her to make her own selection.

And she passes the first test, stepping around the room, feeling gitars, enjoying the sounds of one in a case, and reverently putting it back, correctly identifying it as a master’s gitar (it’s Jerint’s) before settling on one hiding in the back that’s missing an E string. Fingering chords that don’t use the missing string, she seems happy, so Jerint gets a new string. Tuned up with a full complement of strings, Menolly strikes a few different chords and chooses it for her practice gitar.

Having chosen, Domick hustles her into a practice room and commands her to play. Only play, and no help from Beauty. Menolly’s pride stings from the curtness, and so she tries to play one of the trickier songs, about a queen rider, Moreta, and manages fairly well, despite having to hit alternate fingerings for chords and completely borking a few chords because the scar won’t let her stretch far enough to get the right fingerings. Domick betrays no emotion, asks her about the “liberties” she’s taken with the Teaching Ballads and Sagas, to which Menolly counters that it was in a written copy at Half-Circle. Domick takes it in stride and has her play drum, lap harp, and play an accompaniment to his melodic line on a pipe. He asks about brass, then dismisses Menolly for food.

“Master Domick, whose was this?” She asked the question in a rush, because she had a sudden notion it might be his, which could account for his curious antagonism.
“That one? That was Robinton’s journeyman’s gitar.” Then, with a broad grin at her astonishment, Master Domick quit the room.

Of course it is. Clearly, there’s going to be a close relationship between Robinton and Menolly throughout, but I still don’t trust Robinton enough to say that it will turn it to Menolly’s benefit to have Robinton on her side.

Soon after finishing with Domick, the chaos of the schoolyard erupts as the lunch bell dings. Still unsure about everything, Menolly follows Camo’s lead and gets seated in a group of apprentices, all boys. The apprentices generally regard Menolly as out of place, thinking she should be sitting with the other girls at the back of the hall, with one exception. First, however, there is food. The change in status for Menolly is reflected in the quantities of food offered to her, which she initially only takes a little of for fear of it running out. Once assured of her food security, Menolly will eat more heartily. This is the same way that Lessa reacted to food at Benden compared to Ruatha back in Dragonflight, which makes me wonder just where the Lords Holder sit on the food chain, because characters who move out of their holds seem to improve the quality and quantity of their eating immediately. This seems more in line with the time period of the Italian city-states, where the mercantile economy meant that you needed economic power, rather than martial power, to eat well. Then again, dragons. But underneath the dragon level, the power structure seems to be giving deference to the craft guilds before the land owners and those that produce the food. Maybe the power play that the Lords Holder tried back in Dragonflight would work here, although at the cost of pissing off the Harpers, which would likely be social standing suicide.

The apprentice to Menolly’s left, who eventually introduces himself as Piemur, asks about the singing fire lizard incident from the morning, taking the perspective of someone who was being accused of taking liberties, but was successfully able to dodge the blame by virtue of being able to honestly blame something else. This is important for later.

Across from Menolly, however, is our first blatant example of sexism in the Hall.

“She shouldn’t be here,” complained the lad immediately opposite Menolly. He spoke directly to Piemur, as if by ignoring Menolly he could be rude. He was bigger and older looking than Piemur. “She belongs with them.” And he jerked his head backward, toward the girls at the hearth table.
“Well, she’s here now, and fine where she is, Ranly,” said Piemur with unexpected aggressiveness. “She couldn’t very well change once we were seated, could she? And besides, I heard that she’s to be an apprentice, same as us. Not one of them.”
“Aren’t they apprentices?” asked Menolly, inclining her head in the girls’ general direction.
“Them?” Piemur’s astounded query was as scornful as the look on Ranly’s face. “No!” The drawl in his negative put the girls in an inferior category. “They’re in the special class with the journeymen, but they’re not apprentices. No skill!”
“They’re a right nuisance,” said Ranly with rich contempt.
“Yeah, they are,” said Piemur with a reflective sigh, “but if they weren’t here, I’d have to sing treble in the plays, and that’d be dire! Hey, Bonz, pass the meat back.”

Because girls can’t be Harpers, despite, y’know, Menolly being right there. The way this is being set up, though, it doesn’t sound like the girls are thought of very highly. It would be nice if it turns out they’re all very talented, right? Since we haven’t met them, I can hold on to that hope.

So more food gets requested from Camo from Piemur, using the same speech pattern as Camo, which produces laughter from the boys at Camo (possibly laughing at getting extra meat, but I don’t think so) until it works, when they shut up.

The apprentices grill Menolly for more information about the Impression from Benden in Dragonsong, after which the chores are assigned to the apprentices and Menolly’s exam continues with Master Morshal, who teaches musical theory. Morshal has very little expectation of Menolly, but Piemur gives her an encouraging thumbs-up, despite being the shortest of the lot, missing a tooth, and with shockingly curly hair. Piemur is clearly a force for chaos against the Hall’s attempt at order.

Morshal starts Menolly out easily – major chords, then example chords from other songs, then drum technique, fingering technique for pipes, and so forth, interjecting comments about her posture, harrying her if she pauses, always calling her “girl”, and getting very annoyed when she asks to sit because of her feet. The barrage continues with written notation, and then with playing a song. Morshal picks the same song that Menolly played for Domick, and he insists that she play it as written, which we already know isn’t doable.

There were variations in the chords: two of which were really managed, but she flubbed the fourth and fifth because her scarred hand would not stretch.
“I see, I see,” he said, waving her to stop, but he liked oddly pleased. “You cannot play accurately at tempo. Very well, that is all. You are dismissed.”
“I beg your pardon, Master Morshal…” Menolly began, again extending her hand as explanation.
“You what?” He glared at her, his eyes wide with incredulity that she seemed to be defying him. “Out! I just dismissed you! What is the world coming to when girls presume to be harpers and pretend to compose music. Out! Great shells and stars!” His voice changed from scold to panic. “What’s that? What are they? Who let them in here?”

They, asshole, are the fire lizards that have been roused by your unfair treatment and who are defending Menolly by attacking the thing that is attacking her. Bad enough that Menolly is getting sexism from the apprentices, once of the masters is a giant misogynist. Here’s a good test for Robinton – there’s no doubt he will hear about this, especially since Piemur is apparently lurking right outside the scene, so let’s see what sort of action he takes against Morshal, or whether he lets it all slide. Piemur gets to pet one of the fire lizards and is also fascinated by them. Then he remembers he’s suppressed to deliver Menolly to Master Shonagar, the Voice Master, and Piemur’s clear favorite. Shonagar dismisses Piemur, and then lets on to Menolly that he’s fond of Piemur and his cheeky nature, too. Shonagar’s test is for Menolly to sing, without accompaniment from fire lizard or instrument.

“Sing, not concertize. The voice only is important now, not how you mask vocal inadequacies with pleasant strumming and clever harmony. I want to hear the voice…It is the voice we communicate with, the voice which is the words we seek to impress on men’s minds, the voice which evokes emotional response; tears, laughter, sense. Your voice is the most important, most complex, most amazing instrument of all. And if you cannot use that voice properly, you might just as well go back to whatever insignificant hold you came from.”
Menolly had been so fascinated by the richness and variety of the Master’s tones that she didn’t really pay heed to the content.
“Well?” he demanded.
She blinked at him, drawing in her breath, belatedly aware that he was waiting for her to sing.
“No, not like that! Dolt! You breathe from here,” and his fingers spread across his barrel-width midsection, pressing in so that the sound from his mouth reflected that pressure. “Through the nose, so…” and he inhaled, his massive chest barely rising as it was filled, “down to the windpipe,” and he spoke on a single musical note, “to the belly,” and the voice dropped an octave. “You breathe from your belly…if you breathe properly.”

I’m nodding along with this explanation much like a bobblehead on a stimulant. Since Petiron didn’t teach Menolly brass playing, he probably didn’t talk much about the need to breathe from the diaphragm. Whether coaching voice or wind instruments, understanding the need to provide a proper foundation of air for the tone is something that separates learning musicians from more experienced ones. So it’s nice to see some of the research being done here.

So Menolly sings for the Master, and he lets on nothing about the performance. He does give Petiron a backhanded compliment for not teaching Menolly anything about using her voice, instead leaving her up to him. It rattles Menolly and the fire lizards a bit. Shongar, of all the masters, however, realizes that the fire lizards follow Menolly’s emotional state, which makes him the smartest of the lot at this point. He makes it a point to tell Menolly to bring the fire lizards with her to his lessons, so that they will learn how to sing better as Menolly does. He sends Menolly away, and falls asleep before she leaves.

That’s the end of Chapter Three. Menolly’s first day hadn’t finished, but we’re already starting to see where the battle lines are going to be drawn. Will Robinton get involved, or will he direct the puppets from behind the scenes? We’ll find out soon enough.

Open Thread: Civil Rights

(by chris the cynic)

With all the improvements made over the past … history of the human race, we still have a long way to go.  The prompt is the struggles for civil rights in general, both examples in the past you wish to discuss and ones going on in the present.

[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, January 18th, 2015

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

The Blogaround

  • Recovering from the holidays and stepping into the New Year, Storiteller and her family are already embracing new experiences and tackling challenges:
    – In A Day at the Museum, she describes visiting a place she loved as a child with her kid – the New York State Museum in Albany.
    – The Night We Finally Did Cry-it-Out chronicles the before and after of the aforementioned night, along with the vast amount of angst it induced in both Storiteller and her son.
    – A Snowy Day is about her son’s first snow day as a toddler, both the frustrations (snow suits!) and joys (snow!).
    – Standing in the Bath…Thinking describes how Storiteller thought her son’s refusal to sit in the bath was sheer defiance, until she thought about it a little differently and came to a good solution for everyone.
  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • Anyone who read last week knows that I need money, it started to feel like that was all I was talking about, but it also made it hard to create content with that hanging over my head, so to have some variety I dug up some old works I had yet to post on Stealing Commas:
      • More Sympathy for the Devil – Lucifer explains why one would fight a fight they know they’re doomed to lose.
      • A no-kill Rapture – If, for some unaccountable reason, a benevolent God had to inflict a Rapture upon the world, I think it would probably look something like this.
      • A Light in the Darkness – An angel worthy of the title wanders into Left Behind.
    • Word Problems was my one piece of new, original, non-meta work this week but not-quite fiction.  You know those math/physics word problems you get asked on tests?  Image them being very, very silly.
    • More crap about money:
    • And meta posts:
      • If you can’t comment, tell me – at least one person can’t comment at Stealing Commas, that’s a problem, I’d like to be notified if anyone else is having problems.
      • January 2014 – An index of what I posted one year ago.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community