Monthly Archives: February 2015

Deconstruction Roundup for February 27, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who wishes the social safety net was bigger and more protective than a G-string.)

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.

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip Sandifer: Philip Sandifer: Writer

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

YamikuronueRaven Wings

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonsinger: The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down

Last chapter, Menolly assisted in the Impression of two fire lizards, composed a new song after Brekke psychically broadcast her anguish to the world, and may have finally given us a reason to break out Beware The Nice Ones, as Menolly has (potentially correctly) deduced that Pona is poisoning other people’s opinions of her, by the way Lord Groghe reacted in surprise to meeting her. Both Silvina and Sebell have warned her away from getting revenge, but considering that all Menolly has received for being a good girl whose only heterodox idea is that girls can be Harpers is scorn, sexism, misogyny, and disdain from the other girls and most of the Masters at the Hall, I think it will be nice to see Menolly step outside the Good Girl box. Fisticuffs would be even better.

Dragonsinger, Chapter 8: Content Notes: Misogyny

Chapter Eight’s proper action starts with Piemur looking for the sign that the will be a craft fair, since it’s a restday and there’s no Thread due. The isolation of Half-Circle Sea Hold means Menolly knows what these craft fairs are, but that she hadn’t been to one in nearly seven years, because the traders stopped coming when Thread started falling. So, basically, seven years in isolation for Menolly, which must have suited her abusive father just fine, since no new ideas or information could get in to his domain.

And then there is this:

Piemur was thoroughly disgusted with her obtuseness. “Marks! Marks! What you get in exchange for what you’re selling at a gather?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out four small white pieces of highly polished wood, on which the numerals 32 had been incised on one side and on the other, the mark of the Smithcraft. “Only thirty-seconds, but with four I got an eighth, and Smithcraft at that.”
Menolly had never actually seen marks before. All trading transactions had been carried out by her father, the Sea Holder. She was astonished that so young a boy as Piemur had possession of marks and said so.

Okay, firstly, yet another way Yanus controlled his family, by controlling their money. Secondly:

Cocowhat by depizan

Pern has money.

Cocowhat by depizan

Pern has money.

Which really cements the idea of Pern as a steampunk version of the Italian city-states. With time-traveling, hyperspace-hopping dragons and alien spores, that is. But also makes the feudal idea of the Lords Holder even more ridiculous, as there are now two very different reasons that the feudal idea should have long since evaporated. The dragonriders hold the martial power and could have steamrolled the Lords Holder at any point they wanted to, and the Crafthalls hold the economic power, through producing goods and by controlling the monetary system. There really is no reason for the Lords Holder to exist as anything other than ceremonial lords, once structures can be constructed that can withstand Threadfall, or be hardened against it, or once it’s certain that the dragonriders can basically ensure that Threadfall is a non-issue with regard to destruction of property and crops. The Holds may function as cities for trade and other economic functions, but that’s all they should be at this point.

Secondly, this is clearly fiat money that’s being used, even though it’s divided in ways that suggest it should function more like real money. The wood used in the construction of the mark pieces has no intrinsic value, because it’s stamped with a value, rather than being a segment of a coin with actual value (for example, in very old England currency, the penny was a whole coin, the half-penny half of a penny coin, and the farthing a quarter of the penny coin). And fiat money needs either a store of valuable material to draw on, or the power of the monopoly of violence (and usually both) to actually work the way it’s supposed to. So the Crafthalls might have the valuable materials, which are…? But theoretically, the Holds have the monopoly on violence, even though it’s really the Weyrs that have said monopoly, so I would expect any money to be minted in the names and badges of the Holds or the Weyrs, not the Crafthalls.

And Piemur’s implication is that the various Crafthall marks have differing values, with the Smithcraft marks superior to most, if not all of them. Which makes me wonder what, exactly, a mark is worth. Some sort of bushel of goods from each of the crafts? A precious metal value of some sort? There has to be some exchange rate between marks and goods (and that’s in the control of the Crafthalls, so the Holders can easily have their power eaten away by inflation) or the whole system would collapse. And this is a worldwide system, because even isolated-at-the-end-of-the-world Menolly knows what marks are and their usage. I suppose we don’t see it from the dragonriders, because their goods are a protection racket, but it would seem that they should have mentioned it at some point earlier? (That does assume that there is a plan in place from the beginning, or at least Dragonquest.)

Money, based on the world we’ve seen so far, makes no sense at all. Especially as an established system that just hasn’t been mentioned until now.

Back to the action. There is the care and feeding of fire lizards, now with two new members and their hatchlings. Both Sebell and Robinton make their way to the feeding ground with their screamingly hungry fire lizards – and in doing so, both gain an appreciation for how Menolly has juggled nine, and get the angry side-eye from Domick and Morshal for having their rest day sleep interrupted by the fire lizards. Morshal gives Menolly an angry look as well as Robinton, as if he blames her for it. Robinton tells Menolly not to worry about it.

“Fortunately,” he went on, “you don’t have to sit classes with Morshal.”
“I don’t?”
[…]
“No, you don’t. Morshal teaches only at the apprentice level.” The Masterharper sighed. “He really is adept at drilling basic theory into rebellious apprentice minds. But Petiron already taught you more than Morshal knows. Relieved, Menolly?”
“Oh, yes. Master Morshal doesn’t seem to like me.”
“Master Morshal has always considered it a waste of time and effort to teach any girls. What good would it do them?”
Menolly blinked, surprised to hear her father’s opinion echoed in the Harper Hall. Then she realized that Master Robinton had been speaking in deft mimicry of Master Morshal’s testy manner. Warm fingers caught her chin, and she was made to look up at the Harper. The lines of fatigue and worry were plainly visible, despite his good night’s rest.
“Morshal’s dislike of the feminine sex is a standing joke in this Hall, Menolly. Give him the courtesy due his rank and age, and ignore his biased thinking. As I said, you don’t have to sit classes with him. Not that Domick will be any easier to study with….”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Robinton, you’re all talk when it comes to actual change in your Hall, if you’re going to just excuse Morshal’s misogyny like that. You just mentioned that all he does is teach apprentices. If you were serious about wanting change, especially to Menolly, you would have sent Morshal to retirement a long time ago. Failing that, send him to the Smithcrafthall, where he can soak in Fandarel’s neverending quest for efficiency and it’s gender-equalizing effects until Morshal understands that women are as good as men at many things, including Harpering. By saying “oh, he’s harmless. Ignore what he says and treat him as a doddering old man.” ignores that Morshal, by virtue of his position, is able to poison the minds of all the apprentices he has to teach with his misogyny, all but guaranteeing that it passes on to the next generation. It means that you have to work twice as hard, if not more, to undo that teaching before being able to instill the change you want. And Robinton has already seen how that teaching causes him problems – Petiron’s missing apprentice was assumed to be a boy, because Everyone Knows, Harpers included, that only boys can be Harpers. Petiron omitted that detail deliberately so that Robinton, or anyone else, wouldn’t be prejudiced against Menolly before they had the opportunity to see and hear her work. It’s like the attempt at being virtuous that Robinton is spinning is being blocked by a narrative that intends to hurt its women as much as possible. Seriously, though, Robinton, how can you be such a matter of intrigue and manipulation and not see what’s going on here? Morshal is the most obvious misogynist, and you haven’t sacked him yet. And then you’ll have to deal with Domick, and possibly Shonagar as well, since they’re not necessarily doing well with Menolly, either.

After feeding the fire lizards, Robinton gives Menolly a two-mark piece and some instructions to collect a new belt, something pretty for herself, and some bubbly pies that Robinton says Piemur knows where to find. Menolly turns toward feeding herself, where, after some discussion of how the fire lizard distribution went down, the boys turn to their tactical ability to maximize goods, including delicious bubbly pies, from their marks collected. Sebell interrupts with more questions about care and feeding of fire lizards, and then Menolly spies the Mean Girl squad and has several very impolite thoughts about what sort of revenge she could take on them, including pulling out Pona’s hair by the roots. Audiva is spared a kind thought, because she’s been nice, or at least fair, to Menolly so far. Menolly tries to distance those thoughts from herself, but they persist until she distracts herself with Robinton’s assignment to rewrite her Brekke song. So, before the gather, Chapter Eight finishes. No violence yet, but whatever switch that has flipped in Menolly that has her ready to fight back is not turning back off. Next chapter promises to be action-packed.

This week in the Slacktiverse, February 24th, 2015

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

The Blogaround

  • Despite the brutal weather, Storiteller and her family kept busy the last few weeks:
    • In Kindie Rock, Ahoy, she describes her son’s first concert, a local children’s musician that sings about squid and gravity.
    • In Butterflies, Spiders and Insects Galore, she recounts their trip to the Smithsonian’s Insect Zoo and butterfly pavilion, complete with tarantulas.
    • In Starting Seeds with Sprout, she talks about planting seeds with her son, just the first step in involving him in planting a vegetable garden.
  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • It is, perhaps, appropriate that I forgot to do this until today.  Unless a miracle happens I’ll be looking for someone to take over these so why not have what looks to be my last “this week” post go up on the same day as what looks to be my last blog post?
    • If you’re interested in the history of the month of February, I talked about it in my monthly reminder that there’s a donate button because I like there to be content in those posts beyond a reminder that there’s a donate button.
    • Then there was a post that was a combination of venting and random commentary on parts of the second and third seasons of Legend of Korra.
    • I had an idea that you could grab (non-religious) quotes by fictional characters and use them to explain real world religious beliefs, but by the time I wrote the post I forgot all but three of them.
    • In response to a post at Slacktivist I wrote dialogue that takes place in a world where RTC nightmares are true.
    • And then we come to the end:
      • I noticed that water that was supposed to be in the heating system was coming out of the shower.  I thought I narrowed the problem down to a loose valve.  I turned it the wrong way and didn’t notice the mistake for a day.  Hijinks ensue.  I turned the valve the correct way and everything seemed fixed.
      • It turns out that, in spite of valve seemingly being the problem, it had little to do with that and everything to do with my boiler being irreparably damaged.  (Probably started when I lost all heat for a few days almost a month ago and was just slowly degrading since then.)
      • I can’t afford to fix the boiler.  Barring miracles, cold will force me from my home (possibly as soon as tomorrow), I’ll have to move in with people who are emotionally damaging to me, and I have no idea what the future will hold.  I don’t see a future for Stealing Commas.  At least not in the near term.  This is goodbye.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

Frobbor wrote:

I’m running a Kickstarter to fund publication of the third volume of My Little Po-Mo, combining coverage of the third season with coverage of the fandom’s creative output. Please consider backing or helping spread the word.

I’m also running a Patreon campaign to fund The Near-Apocalypse of ’09. $2 a month lets you read the articles several months before they go on the blog (I just posted the article on “Heart of Ice,” the famous and much-loved Mr. Freeze episode); $5 gets you that plus you can watch my vlogs several weeks in advance of the blog (I am currently posting responses to three-episode blocks of Steven Universe). There’s goodies available for higher amounts, too.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Open Thread: Allegory

(suggested by Lonespark, written by chris the cynic)

Do you have a favorite one?  A theory of the universe that says they’re all bad?  A least favorite one?

[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.]

Deconstruction Roundup for February 20, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who understands the frustration, but not the appeal, of Flappy Bird.)

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.

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip Sandifer: Philip Sandifer: Writer

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

YamikuronueRaven Wings

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonsinger: As I Feel, You Feel

Last time, Menolly endured Threadfall, helped Domick get past his stereotypes, and realized she wasn’t going to win a battle of wills with Silvina. Which had the added benefit of removing her from Dunca and the other Mean Girls as should have happened at the beginning of this book.

Dragonsinger: Chapter 7: Content Notes: Intimidation, evidence of gaslighting

Chapter Seven begins with restless fire lizards and, by extension, a restless Menolly, who runs down the checklist of things that could agitate her fair, and gets nothing other than an increasingly agitated set of fire lizards, reacting to some distress from very far away.

Suddenly, their terror erupted in her with such intensity that she cried out.
“Don’t!” Her injunction was spontaneous. She tried to throw up her arms to protect herself from this unknown danger, but her hands were lizard-bound. Their fear was completely and utterly hers. And, incoherently, she repeated the cry, “Don’t! DON’T!”
In her mind, out of nowhere, Menolly received an indelible impression of turbulence: savage, ruthless, destructive; a pressure inexorable and deadly; churning masses of slick, sickly gray surfaces that heaved and dipped. Heat as massive as a tidal wave. Fear! Terror! An inarticulate longing!
A scream, heard in her mind, a scream like a knife upon raw nerves!

“DON’T LEAVE ME ALONE!

Menolly didn’t think she had cried out. She was, as far as she could think sanely, certain that she hadn’t heard the cry, but she knew the words had been spoken at the extreme of someone’s anguish.

So, hey, you know that thing where Brekke and Lessa can communicate with all dragons and not just their own? Apparently, that extends to dragons and fire lizards a very long way away from them, when they’re in pure terror. Since Menolly has nine fire lizards, she gets a far clearer picture of what’s happening, even to the point where she screams out what Brekke is screaming. We knew that Lessa could influence others around her with her mental powers, but being able to talk to all dragons is apparently a sign of those abilities, as Brekke’s call summons all of Menolly’s fire lizards, the dragon of a rider that’s currently at the Hall, and even sets the watchwher at Fort into alarm.

And speaking of alarms, Menolly’s shouting has summoned the senior staff to make sure she’s okay, with Morshal taking the role of “just a silly girl and her hysteria” before being sent away by Silvina and Robinton. The return of the fire lizards allows Menolly to pass along where they were (Benden), what happened (Canth and the Brown Rider Rapist in a deadfall), and whether the terror has passed (it has). Which is Silvina’s signal to clear everyone out but Robinton and Menolly, who tells him about her fire lizards retrieving her pipes from the cot, and receives reassurances that Ruth and Jaxom are okay, as well as some amusement about how training fire-lizards to run messages is tougher than expected, in return. Before Silvina drugs Menolly to sleep, Menolly hears that the fire lizard of the Fort Lord Holder reacted the same way, with the same nightmare played before his eyes.

After she wakes, Menolly is filled in on the details of what happened, with Menolly’s mind backgrounding working out the new information about fire lizards, as she and Silvina eat and then check in on Robinton’s eggs. Camo and Piemur took care of the morning feeding of the fair, to their delight. As they finish checking on the eggs and trying to figure out how they can get Robinton to be in the right place at the right time, Silvina calls down to Piemur, whom I suspect she knows had been hanging around outside the window, to fetch Sebell and convey to Master Shonagar that Menolly will be late for her lesson.

“Piemur! Piemur, ask Sebell to step up to the Harper’s room, will you? Menolly? Yes, she’s awake and here. No, she can’t attend Master Shonagar until Sebell arrives. Yes? Well, go through the choir hall to the journeymen’s quarters and give Master Shonagar my message. Menolly answers to Master Robinton first, me second and then any of the other masters who require her attention.”
Menolly fretted about Master Shonagar’s certain wrath while Silvina made her wait until Piemur had found and returned, at a run, with Sebell.

This continues to bolster my belief that the headwoman is the person who is really in charge of any large institution on Pern, for all that the men posture and claim to be the person in charge. Nobody crosses Silvina if they know what is good for them. Not that it stops Shonagar from expressing his opinion on the matter to Menolly.

Despite Silvina’s reassurance, Menolly was apprehensive as she made her tardy arrival before Master Shonagar. But he said nothing. He kept looking at her until she nervously began to shift her weight from foot to foot.
“I do not know what it is about you, young Menolly, that you can disrupt an entire Craft Hall, for you are not presumptuous. In fact, you are immodestly modest. You do not brag nor flaunt your rank nor put yourself forward. You listen, which I assure you is a pleasure and relief, and you learn from what you are told, which is veritably unheard of. I began to entertain hope that I have finally succeeded, in a mere slip of a girl, the dedication required of a true musician, an artist! Yes, I might even coax a real voice out of your throat.” His fist came down with an almighty wallop on the sandtable, the opposite end flapping onto its supports. She jumped. “But I cannot do much if you are not here!
“Silvina said…”
“Silvina is a wonderful woman. Without her the Hall would be in chaos and our comfort ignored. Master Shonagar said, still in a loud tone. “She is also a good musician… ah, you didn’t know that? You should make the occasion to listen to her singing, my dear girl… But,” again the voice boomed, Master Shonagar’s belly bouncing, although the rest of him seemed stationary, “I thought I had made it plain that you are to be here without fail every single day!”
“Yes, sir!”
“Come fog, fire or Fall! Have I made myself plain enough?”
“Yes, sir!”
Then…” and his voice dropped to normal proportions, “let us begin with breathing…”
Menolly fought the desire to giggle. She mastered it by breathing deeply and then settled quickly to the discipline of the lesson.

And it’s that last line that makes me hesitate on how to interpret it. If Menolly were just frightened the whole way through, it would be easy to say “Fuck it, Shonagar, you’re just as bad as the rest of them. Is there nobody here who has a shred of empathy about how difficult it is to be the only girl apprentice and to come from an abusive background?” Because Menolly giggles at the end, though, I think we’re supposed to reinterpret what sounds like a thundering tirade as Shonagar performing all of this with a wink and a nod, perhaps so that Piemur, who is probably hanging around outside, doesn’t get it into his head that Shonagar has a soft spot for excuses originating from Silvina, or that Menolly is somehow getting special treatment and his friendship with her could be used to soften Shonagar at a critical moment. Since I’m still of the opinion that Shonagar is the smartest and most empathetic of the Masters there, with the exception, perhaps, of Jerint, I’m giving him the benefit of a charitable interpretation, and the narrative is excluding the subtle signals that clearly communicate to Menolly that he’s not mad at her at all, but doing this because appearances must be kept up.

Or that’s a nervous giggle, and everything in the preceding paragraphs should be wiped in favor of a giant fuck you to Shonagar for terrorizing Menolly like that.

After practice, Menolly returns to Sebell, who has been playing for the fire lizards. Menolly gives him a few pointers about how to interpret the feelings of a fire lizard (it’s all in the eyes), where to scratch them for pleasure (eye ridges and wing joints), and some other matters on the care, feeding, and teaching to sing of fire lizards. Camo arrives with food and makes Menolly promise he’ll help feed the fair tonight, the tone of which “suggested that too many promises made to Camo were conveniently forgotten” to Menolly. Sebell reviews his fish knowledge as they eat, and shares stories of his own apprenticeship, before the two of them work on one of Domick’s new assignments until Sebell calls it quits on account of his hands not being able to catch up. Which leads to some conversation about what it is that Sebell actually does as a Harper, and the differences between Menolly’s songs and Domick’s and what Menolly should think about one of her compositions having been spread Pern-wide.

“What your have to do now is learn how to push your music without losing its freshness. That’s why it’s so important for you to study with Domick. He has the discipline, you have the originality.”
Menolly could not reply to that assessment. There was a lump in her throat as she remembered the beatings she’d taken for doing exactly what she was now encouraged to do.
“Don’t hunch up like that,” Sebell said, almost sharply. “What’s the matter? You’ve gone white as a sheet….”
[…Sebell leaves, Menolly ruminates…]
They were still twiddles, her songs, unlike the beautiful, intricate musical designs that Domick composed. But if she studied hard with him, maybe she could improve her twiddles into what she could honestly call music.
Firmly she turned her thoughts toward the gitar duet and ran through the tricky passages, slowly at first and then finally at time. One of the chords modulated into tones that were so close to the agonized cry of the previous night that she repeated the phrase.
[…]
By the time Menolly had arranged the chords in the plaint to her satisfaction, Beauty, Rocky, and Diver were softly crooning along with her. So she studied on the verse.
“Well, you approve?” she asked her fair. “Perhaps I ought to jot it down or something.”
“No need,” said a quiet voice behind her, and she whirled on the stool to see Sebell seated at the sandtable, scribing quickly. “I think I’ve got most of it.” He looked up, saw the startled expression on her face and gave her a brief smile. “Close your mouth and come check my notation.”
“But…but…”
“What did I tell you, Menolly, about apologizing for the wrong things?”
“I was just tuning…”
“Oh, the song needs polishing, but that refrain is poignant enough to set a Hold to tears.”

This is an illustrative sequence, I think, because it nor only shows us that Menolly is still dealing with the memories of the past, it shows us how far she still has to go, for her own confidence. She doesn’t compose unless she thinks there’s nobody there – a habit learned from Yanus – and she’s very quick to dismiss the whole thing as “twiddles” and “just tuning”, also a habit learned from Yanus. After all, if she’s going to be a successful Harper, there’s anyways the chance that she’ll have to perform for an audience with him in attendance. Or that he’ll learn who the composer of these interesting songs is and decide that she has properly disgraced his Hold and come looking for her to abuse her more. And Menolly is comparing herself to Domick, a Master with much more time composing, as the standard for which music is. It’s all in the service of showing us how much Menolly is still reflexively hiding her talents, because they seem to get her in trouble with anyone not Sebell, Silvina, or Robinton. Who, by the way, is listening at the door as Sebell plays the tune to make sure that everything is correctly notated. Double embarrassment squick for Menolly, as both Sebell and Robinton try to reassure her that this is what they went looking for her to do.

Before Menolly can fling herself from the room, though, the fire lizard eggs are ready to hatch. Under Menolly’s direction, Robinton collects a bronze and Sebell a gold. Also attending, Lord Groghe, the Fort Hold Lord Holder, brought by Merga, his queen fire lizard. Who gets Menolly to agree to teach him how to train his fire lizard.

“Well spoken.” Lord Groghe turned his heavy torso in Silvina’s direction, favoring the headwoman with a fierce stare. “Well-spoken child. Not what I expected. Can’t trust other people’s opinions. Never did. Never will. I’ll arrange something with Robinton later. Not too much later. But later. Good day to you all.”
[…]
“What did Lord Groghe mean, Silvina? I’m not what he expected?”
“I was afraid you’d catch that,” Silvina said, her eyes narrow with a contained anger. She patted Menolly’s shoulder absently. “There’s been loose talk, which has done them no good and you no harm. I’ve a few knees to set to knocking, so I have.”
Menolly was thoroughly and unexpectedly consumed with anger.

Ooh, I think Menolly has finally had the last straw with regard to Dunca and the Mean Girl Squad. Silvina claims she’ll handle the issue, and that Menolly is to concern herself with Harper business. Sebell tells Menolly to drop the issue as well, to copy the music sent up instead.

So Chapter Seven ends with Sebell naming his queen Kimi, and Menolly copying music, supposedly “with a good heart”. But I believe this is the first time we’ve seen Menolly about to boil over with anger. This might be a turning point between the girl trying to make everyone nor notice her or be happy with her and a girl more intent on being assertive about her position and how fair these girls are treating her, and what they’re doing to prejudice others against her.

This week in the Slacktiverse, February 15th, 2015

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • I came up with an idea for a setting called, “The Crossing” and wrote two posts.  One was a lengthy description of where the idea came from and how it worked.  The other was an in universe description of an important part of the place’s history (evil cult, decades long ritual, a shattered soul, the door between dimensions jammed somewhat ajar, that sort of thing.)
    • I had what was supposed to be an image post showing the way the snow had kept on coming and coming and coming, but while it was indeed an image post with the beginning of that, I ran out of time and never managed to get it up to the then-present day.  There is another snow storm happening even as I type these words.
    • I talked about my general state of health, mental and otherwise, which has not been all that good.
    • And most recently I had a sort of grab bag of posts.  I asked if the idea of three dimensional go based on a tetrahedral structure (think the molecular structure of a diamond) interested people.  I asked why no one in zombie fiction assumes that there’s body armor involved when they discover shooting the zombies in the chest doesn’t work.  And I described a game mechanic I’d like to see: a large enough group of survivors tends to grow as it is more likely to be able to save more people, where a too small one tends to shrink as there aren’t enough people effectively defend themselves.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for February 13, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has been blessed with a new way of inputting text.)

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

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

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: Tank!/Darkness of the Unknown/Dear Friends

It’s been a couple very eventful days for Menolly at the Harper Hall. She’s been disillusioned of her lofty ideals of Harpers, has encountered the very finest in institutional misogyny, suffered the narrative’s best efforts at verbal abuse from all sides, and discovered that properly-trained fire lizards are useful for a lot of things. Menolly also understands her worth as a person in the Harper Hall has a lot to do with her fair of fire lizards. She needs a break, or at least someone who likes her without reservations or ulterior motives.

Dragonsinger: Chapter 6: Content Notes: Sexism

Chapter Six starts with an interlude, where Menolly gets to oil and express her affection for her fire lizards, who send her the pictures of their own exploits, and then Menolly takes a luxurious bath in the cottage, which the fire lizards join in on when Auntie Two gets dunked by one of the others, and finds the water to her liking.

I do like how, so far, the sanctity of the bath as a place to separate from the world and have positive experiences has not been violated. For as much awful goes on in the world outside the bath, inside is sacred space.

Menolly washes her clothes from yesterday and hangs them or to dry on her window, changing into her spare patched clothes. Cue Dunca complaining about inappropriate attire and going ballistic about the drying ledge, and some back-and-forth about where Menolly is headed to, despite Dunca not having heard anything. And the usual chaos of feeding, including Camo dropping whatever he was doing to come out. Really, at this point, it seems smarter to have Camo doing things that can be put down at a moment’s notice until Menolly and the fair are fed.

The morning is to be spent with Domick, Sebell, and Talmor playing a new (for Menolly) piece of music. Menolly notices paper records in with hide records, but has her attention directed to the music before she can investigate further. Today is an exercise in sightreading, so Menolly studies her part for a short amount of time, thinking about alternate fingerings here and there, testing one, but otherwise skimming the music for anything interesting. And then they’re off.

It had been fun, always, for Menolly to play with Petiron, particularly when he had let her improvise around his melody. It had been a pleasure yesterday to see new music in Talmor’s lesson, but now, the stimulation of playing with three keen and competent musicians gave her such impulsion that she seemed to be an irrelevant medium for fingers that had to play what her eager eyes saw. She was lost completely in the thrall of the music, so that when the rushing finale ended, she suffered a shock as keen as pain.
“Oh, that was marvelous. Could we play it again?”

Domick tries to see whether Menolly had been warned about what would happen, because, you see, he just finished that composition this morning, and he is forced to conclude that Menolly is every bit as talented as the two journeymen have said and that she hinted at during her audition, who are both having a laugh at Domick’s inability to comprehend what just happened.

“That’s enough. All right, so the joke’s on me, but you’ll have to admit that there was good precedent for my skepticism. Anyone can play solo…” He turned on the bewildered Menolly. “Did you play a great deal with Petiron? Or any of the other other musicians at Half-Circle?”
“There was only Petiron who could play properly. Fishing leaves a man’s hands too stiff for any fine music.” She flicked a glance at Sebell. “There were a few drummers and stickmen…”
[…]
“Suppose you tell me exactly what you did so at Half-Circle Sea Hold, Menolly. Musically, that is. Master Robinton’s been too busy to confer with me at any length.”

So she does, at length and detail.

Before we continue, though, no, Domick, your skepticism is not warranted, because your audition process sucks. You asked her to play solo on a piece of her choosing, some basic pieces on various instruments, tested her ability to follow and improvise a bit, and accepted that as basically the sum total of her skill. You didn’t ask her to sightread, you didn’t have a prepared piece that would challenge players so they could show off what they really knew about instrumental music, you didn’t push her audition to the point where she couldn’t and then back off from there. You expected her to not be very good because she’s a girl, I suspect, and so you deserve every bit of these two journeymen laughing at you. Shonagar did a better job at auditioning her than you did, Domick, and he never got to the part where she sang any actual music, because he could tell what her skill was. Yes, you’re not overtly sexist like Morshal is, but you’re still being sexist all the same.

Anyway, Menolly recounts the story we read in Dragonsong, and at the end, Domick seems willing to admit to what has already been demonstrated conclusively.

“When Petiron was here at the Hall, there was no finer musician, no better instructor,” Master Domick said quietly. “I had the good fortune to be his apprentice. You’ve no need to ever be ashamed of your playing…”

ASFDJHKOLARGHLEBARGLE. Argelfaster, Argelfaster, Argelfaster!

Petiron was held in that much esteem by you, Domick, and you apprenticed to him, and you knew that Menolly came recommended by him, and yet you… THIS? Great Maker, what was it going to TAKE for you to think that she might have some talent?

This is an excellent example of institutional sexism at work – Menolly being female apparently is such a debit that she has to be on the level of the journeymen, or even Domick, despite being recommended by Domick’s Master, before she can begin to be seen as equal. Menolly will have to be consistently better than everyone just to be good enough to Domick. Grah. And then Domick has the temerity to tell Menolly that she shouldn’t be afraid to tell him what she really wants to do at the Hall. It’s playing in a group, she says, and she thinks the experience was wonderful this morning, only…

“I didn’t play it right. I should have studied the music longer before I started playing because I was so busy watching the notes and time changes that I didn’t, I couldn’t, follow the dynamic markings…I am sorry.”
Domick bright his hands against his forehead in an exasperated smack. Sebell dissolved again into his quiet laughter. But Talmor just howled, slapping his knee and pointing at Domick.
“In that case, Menolly, we will play it again,” Domick said, raising his voice to drown out the amusement of the others. “And this time…” he frowned at Menolly, an expression which no longer distressed her because she knew she had touched him, “watching those dynamic signs, which I put in for very good reason. Now, on the beat…”

Menolly’s earnestness is setting the journeymen off, but the rehearsal to follow gives Menolly insight into how the music should be played. And before we progress, I have to say that this is another one of those elements where it appears the research has been done – when sightreading new music, if you frak the melody, rhythm, key, or tempo, it’s obvious to the audience. Dynamics, on the other hand, you can often get away with not doing and the music still sounds okay. They’re often the thing that is hardest to pay attention to, especially in the kinds of compositions that Domick makes. So the apology, and subsequent facepalm, are quite natural for me to read.

The rehearsal is interrupted by an alarm signaling the onset of Threadfall that is described much like a fire or natural disaster siren, which again, tech level of Pern is what, exactly? Which makes all the fire lizards appear, but there’s space for them and the rehearsal continues with new music and instrumentation until lunch. Where there are lots of questions for Menolly about Thread and fire lizards, until the alarm sounds again, indicating Threadfall directly above. Which also produces nine fire lizards on the mantel, sending up their own alarm at a high octave. To counteract the screams, Brudegan leads the choruses in a song that the fire lizards join in at Menolly’s prompting, after being taken aback at the strength of the massed voices. Since it’s still falling overhead at the end of the song, we get to hear “Moreta’s Ride” for the third time in as many days, but this time, as a choral piece with fire lizard accompaniment.

And Menolly conducting, which, thankfully, she does know how to do from leading evening singing. What’s different to her is “the quality of the singers, their responsiveness to her signals, that made as much difference as chalk from cheese.” The song tells a story that will eventually become a full book on its own, and what’s important here is that Menolly eventually waves the humans silent and lets the fire lizards sing the last verse of the song. Which proves their vocal worth to Brudegan, and he retakes direction of the chorus until the all-clear sounds and everyone heads to their assigned post-Thread chores.

Silvina flags down Menolly and asks whether or not her clothes had been sent forward from Benden Weyr. Menolly has no response, because she had no other clothes, which makes Silvina unhappy that she had to admit Dunca is right about the state of Menolly’s clothing. Menolly is about to apologize…

“Great shells, child, I’m not angry with you!” And Silvina took Menolly’s chin and made her look eye to eye. “I’m furious with myself for not thinking! Not to mention giving that Dunca a chance to snipe at you! Only don’t go repeating that, please, for Dunca’s useful to me in her own way. Not that you talk much anyhow. Haven’t heard you put two sentences together yet. There now! What have I said to distress you? You just come along with me.” And Silvina took Menolly firmly by the elbow and marched her toward the complex of storage rooms at the back of the Harper Hall on the kitchen level.

Augh, the cluelessness, it burns! Let’s see, Silvina, you just told an emotionally, mentally, and physically abused girl that her appearance wasn’t up to par and that you expected her to have something better to wear, and you exhibited visible anger at this. What is the abuse survivor going to think? It’s certainly not “Oh, she’s not mad at me for any of this.” Menolly is in panic mode, looking for flight opportunities so she doesn’t have to fight a losing battle against someone with a higher status. If Menolly apologizes, perhaps the crisis passes without incident. It’s a learned survival skill, Silvina. Which is why any time the Masters, or anyone else, for that matter, are visibly angry at Menolly, it’s cringe-worthy.

Anyway, Silvina shows Menolly the spare supplies room and picks out some clothes and fabrics for her, which Menolly starts to protest, before Silvina re-fixes her baleful eye on Menolly, cutting off the protest before it can start.

“You may not be proud in yourself, Menolly. In point of fact, your modesty has done you great service, but you will kindly consider the change in your circumstances. You’re not the youngest child in a family of an isolated Sea Hold. You’re an apprentice harper, and we – Silvina tapped her chest smartly with her fingers – “have appearances to maintain. You will dress yourself as well as, and if I’ve my way, better than, those fumble-fingered females, or those musical midgets who will never be more than senior apprentices or very junior journeymen.”
[…Silvina pushes Menolly into a chair and starts piling clothes on her…]
“Now these,” and from another chest Silvina extracted breast bands and underpants, snorting as she passed them to Menolly. “Dunca was quite incensed you’d no underthings at all.” Silvina’s amusement ended as she saw Menolly’s face. “Whyever are you looking so stricken? Because you wore your underthings out? Or because Dunca’s pried into your affairs? You can’t honestly be worried what that fat old fool thinks or says or does? Yes, you can and you are and you would!”

Not that Menolly has a reason to, with as poorly as she has been treated, but it likely is that survival instinct trying to keep Menolly from making enemies that will hurt her, even though it won’t help. Also, Silvina, physically pushing Menolly around is probably not the best way to have her develop assertiveness. I still don’t understand how everyone expects Menolly to change so quickly, since it has only been a little while of actual chronological time since she escaped Half-Circle. Everyone expects her to think “I’m safe now! My true personality will now shine forth!” when the reality is that Menolly still needs to feel like somewhere is sufficiently home and welcoming before she can begin to build positive relationships and stay working through her issues with relation to the years of abuse that she has lived through up to this point. Even though Menolly is where she wants to be, she has yet to have a stable, happy home life. Even characters that should know better, or perhaps have an inkling of knowing better, are all privilege-blinkered enough that they can’t figure out how to actually help.

Also, we continue to have issues with exactly what Menolly looks like. Silvina says she’s all leg, but is collecting “breast bands” for her, which are likely supposed to function like brassieres, but that would imply that Menolly is not just all legs at her age, and that she should not be so easily mistaken for a boy as she is. So we continue to have Menolly shifting back and forth between one or another body image. I hope the waveform collapses.

“Don’t think I’ve missed Pona’s little tricks, or Dunca’s. No, the cot is the wrong place for you. I thought so when you first arrived, but the were other reasons for plunking you there at first. So we’ll take the long view, as should be done, and shift you here. Oldive doesn’t want you on your feet so much, and sure as Fall’ll come again, the fire lizards are as unhappy at Dunca’s as she is to have them. The old fool! No, Menolly,” and now Silvina was angry with Menolly, “it is not your fault! Besides which, as a full harper apprentice, you really haven’t anything to do with the paying students.[…]”

I personally believe that the “other reasons” Silvina is talking about is “the narrative made me put you there because it wanted you to suffer.” Because the narrative still wants Menolly to suffer, despite what happened in the last book.

And now I know why everyone had such a dim view of the women at the Hall. A place like the Hall wants to distinguish its residents based on their talents, and so people who pay their way in to receive the instruction are admitting that they don’t have the talent to get in on their merits. The institutional sexism present couldn’t possibly influence why it’s only guys that ever seem to make it into the Hall on their merits, not at all. Also, with them being “paying girls”, it’s supposed to help us cement that these are the mean rich girls who don’t care about the music, and are instead there to play politics games and possibly learn a little talent enough to get themselves a husband. Only Audiva looks to be more complete than that, and that’s only because the narrative has been signaling very hard that she’s more complete. Surely we can have more complete and deep characters than the Mean Girl Squad here.

Anyway, Silvina says Menolly is coming back to the guest room she was at, flippantly suggesting she’ll strip the room of the finery. Menolly thinks it’s a good idea, and seriously negotiates it out so that nobody thinks of her as putting on airs or thinking of herself as better. She does take an extra apprentice cot for the fire lizards as a concession to their extra weight. After everything is properly arranged, Piemur arrives to take Menolly to Master Shonagar. Since she has no post-Thread chores, he insists she comes to him to continue voice lessons. And he “did roar and bellow and carry on” about Menolly not being there and he makes her promise that she’ll be there, no matter what. Shonagar, are you going to join all the other Masters as someone who doesn’t care and show empathy, or am I going to be able to pass it off as you blustering for Menolly’s benefit, but that you weren’t really mad about any of it? Not that I think it’s a good move on your part, Shonagar, because Menolly is still the recovering abuse survivor.

Anyway, Chapter Six finishes with that exchange. So answers to those questions will have to wait until another time.

Board Business, February 11th, 2015

(posted by chris the cynic)

Irregular Business

I’ll try to get an open thread up Saturday morning.  If anyone has any suggestions for a prompt, feel free to put them in the comments to this post.

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

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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.
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It is perfectly acceptable to use this as an open thread, should you so desire.