Monthly Archives: July 2015

Deconstruction Roundup for July 31, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is in limbo on work again.)

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

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

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The White Dragon: Looping the Temporal Loop

Last chapter, someone stole Ramoth’s egg. Someone else returned an egg to Ramoth, aged some. Which, through some faulty logic, was enough to stop Lessa, she of the long game, from burning down Southern Weyr in revenge, which would have sparked a dragon war, resulting in the destruction of wide swaths of Pern.

The White Dragon, Chapter VI-VII: Content Notes: Mansplaining, There Are No Social Workers On Pern

(15.5.27-15.6.2)

Chapter Six burns a couple days in the marking of fire lizards and fighting Thread, now correctly predicted due to Wansor’s new equations, before picking up with Ruth going hunting. There’s a marked change in behavior for Ruth, though – he would normally kill things and let the fire lizard flock feast with him, but this time, he only kills one creature and keeps everything to himself.

I will not kill for them, Ruth told Jaxom so fiercely that he wondered if Ruth might eventually flame the fire-lizards.

“What’s the matter? I thought you liked them!” Jaxom met his dragon on the grassy slope and caressed him soothingly.

They remember me doing something I do not remember doing. I did not do it. Ruth’s eyes whirled with red sparks.

“What do they remember you doing?”

I haven’t done it. And there was a tinge of fearful uncertainty to Ruth’s mental tone. I know I haven’t done it. I couldn’t do such a thing. I am a dragon. I am Ruth! I am of Benden! His last words sounded in a despairing tone.

“What do they remember you doing, Ruth? You’ve got to tell me.”

Ruth ducked his head, as if he wished he could hide, but he turned back to Jaxom, his eyes wheeling piteously. I wouldn’t take Ramoth’s egg. I know I didn’t take Ramoth’s egg. I was there by the lake all the time with you. I remember that. You remember that. They know where I was. But somehow they remember that I took Ramoth’s egg too.

So the fire-lizards have already been affected by things that have happened in the past, even though the dragon and rider have not yet done it in their timeline. Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Ball and all that. (Best example of this – the Series 6 Christmas Special, “A Christmas Carol”, where The Doctor messes with someone’s past in real-time, displaying it to the person in the future he’s trying to affect.)

I also find this much more satisfying as a narrative mystery – we have a sequence of events that have already happened, memories of what happened, but crucially, it’s playing out as a locked-door mystery, where the real focus is on figuring out the why, rather than as a mystery where all we’re waiting for is for the actors to fulfill their prescribed roles, or for the detective to appear and deduce everything in a Sherlock Scan.

Well, it was, anyway. It turns out that the fire lizards are getting after Ruth because they know he took the egg back from Southern, and they want him to close the loop by going back in time to the spot where the Southern Weyr is hardening Ramoth’s egg by using the volcanic sands that Southern will eventually become. Which is actually a good idea to do – dump the egg far enough back that dragons searching Southern won’t find it, even if they search the early parts of the Weyr. If fire-lizards weren’t such gossips, Southern would likely have been able to get away with it. At least, until someone started methodically searching the past for the egg and eventually discovered it, wiping out the alternate timeline where Southern succeeds.

Camouflaged appropriately, Ruth and Jaxom buzz the Southern guards, snag the egg and pop forward in time a small bit. They have to hop forward slowly, so that the cold of hyperspace doesn’t kill the egg. Doing that by itself is complex, but the appearance of fire lizards not known to Jaxom or Ruth indicates pursuit pressure is coming shortly. So the two make an extra jump forward to try and shake pursuit before it arrives.

Which gives Jaxom time to contemplate just what kind of temporal tightrope he’s walking:

In between Jaxom had time to worry if he was making the jumps too long to keep the egg warm. It hadn’t actually Hatched before he’d left. Maybe he should have waited, to see if the egg had Hatched properly: then they’d’ve known how to judge the forward jumps. Maybe he’d even killed the little queen trying to save her. No, his mind reeled with between and paradoxes; the most important act, returning the queen egg, was still in process. And dragon had not fight dragon – not yet.
[…]
The fire-lizards?

That had worried Jaxom, but he thought he had the answer. “They don’t know who brought the egg back that day. There weren’t any in the Hatching Ground, so they don’t know what they haven’t seen. Jaxom decided not to think further on that subject.

Admittedly, Jaxom doesn’t have the additional complication of having to fix his own timeline so that things he’s already done still happen in sequence, but with a different result, but someone still remembers what has already happened, so we’re either dealing with Jaxom doing exactly what he was going to do anyway, or that the memory of the fire lizards creates a fixed point and Jaxom cannot do wrong, despite not actually knowing what he’s doing, or reality unravels. Feel free to speculate. And to comment on why things like this are the reason why time travel rarely gets used as a principal plot point.

To hurry our thieves along, Threadfall catches them almost unaware, so they panic-jump back to the present, to the Hatching Ground, deposit the egg, and then hop to the mountain lake to discard the camouflage and try to numb the Thread. Jaxom is down on their abilities to actually fight Thread, but Ruth points out that they were busy at the time with other things, so they can’t call that a failure. Upon their return to Ruatha, Jaxom hears the queen hatched normally and healthily, and collects numbweed (which, I belatedly realize, is likely the Pernese equivalent of the aloe plant, just with its own (genetically engineered?) anesthetic packed inside or generated by the rendering process) to cover his injuries. The relief is enough to engender an appreciation for the salve and a greater willingness to tolerate the stink of its rendering.

Then, the whole thing blows up in his face when Lytol enters and sees the telltale marks of Threadscore.

Jaxom waited then, facing Lytol calmly. He noticed, with a sadness for the inevitability of this moment of reserve, that Lytol’s eyes were dark with emotion. He owed the man so much, never more than at this moment. He wondered that he had ever considered Lytol cold or hard and unfeeling.

“There’s a trick of ducking Thread,” Lytol said quietly, “that you’d better teach Ruth, Lord Jaxom.”

“If you’d be kind enough to tell me how, Lord Lytol…”

Which, I suppose, is the best outcome for such a situation, even if it crushes Lytol’s heart to know that his dragonrider ward is going to try and become a fighter over everyone’s objections. Best, then, to train him properly so he doesn’t get seriously injured or killed.

That’s how chapter six ends – with little investigation into the how and the why someone stole a queen egg, how it came back, and with Lytol having to relive a time he was probably hoping to avoid, with nobody really thinking about what it would do to him to have a dragonrider ward, ever since Ruth hatched. There’s a significant lack of support from everywhere for Lytol and Jaxom – no Holder support for raising Jaxom, no dragonrider support for helping Ruth, and everyone always half-hoping the situation resolves itself without having to intervene. Pern is a weird place when it comes to mental health issues.

Chapter Seven is a continuation of the conversation at the end of Chapter Six, as Lytol informs Jaxom that there are guests here to see him – N’ton, Menolly, and Robinton. Lytol, understanding that things are well past the point of no return, says that he’ll recommend Jaxom for Weyrling training, so that he can learn the things he needs to with Ruth, and lets slip that he wishes Jaxom were older so that he could turn over Ruatha to him. Jaxom says he doesn’t want it, and Lytol points out he wouldn’t be able to step down anyway.

The assembled guests take one look at Jaxom and think immediately that he snuck off to fight Thread, prompting N’ton to indicate it’s time for Jaxom to be trained properly in riding and fighting.

“I’d rather he learned how to fly properly now, Robinton. With my other Weyrlings,” N’ton interrupted unexpectedly, winning Jaxom’s gratitude. “Particularly if he’s mad enough, brave enough, to attempt it on his own without any guidance.”
“I doubt we could get Benden to approve.” Robinton said, shaking his head.
I approve,” Lytol said, his face set. “I am Lord Jaxom’s guardian, not F’lar or Lessa. Let her manage her own concerns. Lord Jaxom is my charge. He can come to little harm with the Fort Weyrlings.” Lytol stared fiercely at Jaxom. “And he will agree not to put his teaching to the test without consulting us. Will you abide by that, Lord Jaxom?”
Jaxom was relieved enough that the Benden Weyrleaders would not be queried so that he agreed to more stringent conditions than he might have.
[…]
“I think I’ll require a further promise of you, Jaxom,” the bronze rider said. “No more timing it. You’ve been doing far too much of that lately. I can tell from your eyes.”

Support! And possibly even defiance of Benden. It’s a bit telling that Lytol refers solely to Lessa in the case of managing the concerns of Benden. Anyone who thinks the duties are shared equally between the Weyrleaders is… mistaken.

Also, Jaxom does not have a track record of obedience, back from his first appearance with Felessan when the two went exploring. Maturity may arrive with regard to Thread for long enough to learn what there is to know, but after that, Jaxom is likely to go off and do his own thing again. So that Lytol and the others expect him to promise and hold to it is not showing the necessary Genre Savvy that raising an adventurous teenager needs. I won’t be surprised at all, however, if things get arranged behind the scenes such that Jaxom has someone watching him. The fire lizards worked before, but they probably won’t now.

Since this meeting is supposedly about informing Jaxom of the gravity of the situation with regard to stolen eggs and Southern, Robinton gives us his characterization of Lessa:

“Our Lessa is a woman of strong emotions, Jaxom – revenge being one of those most highly developed in her. Remember how you came to be Lord here?” Robinton’s expression indicated regret for reminding Jaxom off his origin. “I do not belittle the Benden Weyrwoman when I say that. Such perseverance in the face of incredible odds is laudable. But her tenacity over the insult could be disastrous for all Pern. So far, reason has prevailed, but currently that balance is shaky indeed.”

Uh, we are talking about the same person here, right? I somehow think anyone who can hold the grudge for ten years and be patient until a plan presents itself will be able to bide their time before springing an appropriate revenge. But that’s the old Lessa from Dragonflight. New Lessa is apparently impulsive and ready to fly off the handle at any moment, because someone needed to retcon her into being a “hysterical” woman to make all the menfolk look serious and wise and give them opportunities to joke with each other about women, amirite?

Fuck that noise. I hope New Lessa is revealed to be an act designed to give her enough space to do and plan and manipulate people into what she wants.

The meeting proceeds with the news that a Weyrwoman, Fanna, is dying, and that her death will upset everyone, because a gold dragon will suicide right after, and the realization that the fire lizards are no longer agitated about flaming dragons or anything else. Which trips Menolly’s suspicions that whatever had been agitating them has passed…and that Jaxom and Ruth have had a hand in it. Jaxom is able to deflect Menolly’s suspicions by claiming he was trying to fight Thread (which he’s got the scars for) instead of having to admit to time-running and the rescue mission for the queen egg, much as he wants to tell Menolly the truth.

Since this is a meeting about big things, Robinton and N’ton lay on Lytol and Jaxom the secret of the grubs and the inevitable end of dragonriders, and the plans to let the North send their excess sons to the Southern Continent to relieve the fighting pressure over limited land. And then Robinton points out that the Harpers now know for certain the origins of people on Pern is the Southern Continent (it was suspected before), and that the Harpers and others have been quietly exploring the Southern Continent without informing Southern Weyr about it, discovering new materials and artifacts from the past that would have the Smiths in research for years.

With those bombshells dropped, Chapter Seven ends.

Deconstruction Roundup for July 24, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is on an upswing, perhaps?)

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

Omskivar: Omskivar Reviews

Philip Sandifer: Philip Sandifer: Writer

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

The White Dragon: The Inverse of Characterization

Last chapter, Jaxom and Ruth successfully managed firestone. And a relationship for Jaxom. And Ruth apparently remembers things that happened in the past. Let’s see if all of these things continue, or whether they collapse in a house-of-cards way.

The White Dragon: Chapter V: Content Notes: Genocidal intent, sexism

(15.5.26)

Chapter 5 starts with an agitated fair of fire lizards saying the dragons are angry when Jaxom and Ruth arrive at the Harper Hall for a lesson with the star equations and charts. The reason they’re angry is because someone has stolen Ramoth’s queen egg, and Benden is ready to raze Southern to the ground to take it back. To make things worse, after stealing the egg, the thieves did a time-skip to temporalities unknown.

Which brings me to a problem that has been plaguing this series since the beginning – problems are only introduced in this series after we see their solutions. After we find out that dragons can time-travel, there’s the issue of Thread falling out of pattern, which can be solved by time-shifting dragons. After we Impress fire-lizards, then we start talking about problems of too many lizards or how to take care of them. We already have Menolly, the exceptional Harper, before she runs into the problems of “Harpers can’t be girls”. After we know that Ruth knows when he is and can collect time data from fire lizard images, we have a problem where dragons have disappeared to an arbitrary time point and someone has to find them. This is the inverse of how most novels work. Or they introduce the solution in the first chapter, the problem in the tenth, and the rediscovery of the solution in the twentieth. So that the reader isn’t just waiting for the narrative to catch up to what they already know.

Benden is very much ready to burn all of the Southern Weyr to ash, as Menolly informs Jaxom that the stealing is because the Southern queens haven’t mated, and even their greens aren’t producing eggs, but everyone is distracted by the sudden reappearance of the queen egg in its proper place, aged about ten days or so. Which calls off the war drums, but leaves a stable time loop for someone (I wonder who) to go through.

And by “calls off the war drums”, I mean “convinces Lessa not to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge“. I’m not sure how much of this exchange is Lessa and how much is Ramoth, really, but earlier in the book, Lessa had apparently assumed the Benden Weyrleader’s hotheaded streak without anyone noticing.

“Whoever took that egg kept it at least ten days or more.” they [Jaxom and Menolly] heard Lessa saying angrily. “This demands action.”

“The egg is back safely,” Robinton said, trying to calm her.

“Are we cowards to ignore such an insult?” she asked the other dragonmen, turning away from Robinton’s calmer words.

“If to be brave,” Robinton’s voice laid scorn on the quality, “means to pit dragon against dragon, I’d rather be a coward.”

Lessa’s white-hot outrage noticeably cooled.

Dragon against dragon. The words echoed through the crowd. The thought turned sickeningly in Jaxom’s mind and he could feel Menolly beside him shutting off the implications of such a contest.

Ah, okay. So it’s still Crossing the Line for dragons to fight each other. From a practical perspective, this makes sense. Dragons fighting each other means that the people who are on the ground, no matter their rank or importance to history or the world, die. If the combined might of several Lord Holders quailed and couldn’t even be in the presence of one dragon, the people who aren’t dragonriders are very invested in dragons not fighting. Terran history says the non-mounted class fares extremely poorly, in terms of the land being laid to waste, the people being pressed into service, their possessions stolen, and so forth, whenever the nobles go to war. So it’s good to know that Robinton, even though he’s fully behind Benden, is still much more fully behind his own survival.

Continuing…

“The egg was somewhen for long enough to be brought to hatching hardness,” Lessa went on, her face set with her anger. “It’s probably been handled by their candidate. It could have been influenced enough so that the fledgling can’t Impress here.”

“No one has proved how much an egg is influenced by pre-Hatching contact,” Robinton was saying in his most persuasive voice. “Or so you’ve had me understand any number of times. Short of dumping their candidate on top of the egg when it hatches, I can’t think their conniving can do them any good or the egg any more harm.”

Someone should ask Jaxom and Ruth about that…and also, was nobody keeping records about the experiment in Dragonflight where the candidates were able to touch and handle the eggs before they hatched? They should at least have an inkling of whether or not candidates handling eggs predisposes dragons to match. (Path will be an outlier, but that’s because Mirrim is.)

Additionally, unless Ramoth has an instinctive knowledge of which eggs are hers, nobody actually knows whether the egg deposited there is the original one that was stolen. Since the egg disappeared to time unknown, this could be several generations descended from the original stolen egg. It could be a green’s egg that looks like a queen egg. Since the way things were has been radically upset at this point, why trust that the returned egg is the same? Because you assume Southern wouldn’t return an egg at all, even though they know that would bring Benden’s wrath? Less assuming, more thinking, Benden.

Lessa’s first solution is to ban fire lizards entirely, since they’re gossips. Cooler heads suggest teaching fire lizards to identify themselves, as dragons are being taught to do, and marking the fire lizards with colors to indicate their origins. Which makes me nervous, because that suggests they haven’t thought about friend-or-foe identification before. Despite having exiled riders. Despite having had campaigns conducted against them by Holders. And it’s the people who have already created a solution with fire lizards who are taking about this problem with dragons. Solutions precede their problems in Pern. Seems like the best way to avoid problems, then, is to not think – if no solution is invented, it’s corresponding problem will never show up.

Lessa still wants fire lizards away from her and Ramoth. Jaxon returns to Ruth and Ruth informs him that the fire lizards are frightened of something big. Not Ramoth, not the prospect of warring dragons, but something else they were remembering. Not enough to give Ruth anything clear, but it makes his head hurt, certainly. Perhaps Ruth and the fire lizards are sensitive to the temporal flux associated with events like these?

The next paragraph indicates I have anticipated the story again in my criticism, as Robinton is cursing himself for believing that the Southern Weyr would respect tradition (tradition!) regarding the sanctity of a Hatching Ground when in a life-or-death situation. He also realizes that even if he was able to come to the right conclusion, he wouldn’t have been able to convince Benden of what was about to happen. Running down a list of likely suspects…

T’kul must have been the motivating force – T’ron had lost all his vigor and initiative after that duel with F’lar. Robinton was reasonably certain the two Weyrwomen, Merika and Mardra, had no part in the plan; they wouldn’t wish to be deposed by a young queen and her rider.

Cocowhat by depizan

That’s a shoddy line of reasoning, especially considering the alternative is the death of the entire Weyr. (Also, I think that’s the first time we’ve seen Merika’s name.) Perhaps in an alternate universe, people lose their ambition when bested in single combat, but from what I’ve seen so far of Pern, stubbornness in the face of anything but impossible odds seems a staple trait.

Robinton still doesn’t know what to do with Lessa, since she is capable of “sustaining the unthinking frenzy” of the morning, with results “as much of a disaster for Pern as the first Threadfall had been.”

Cocowhat by depizan

I thought the whole issue with Lessa jumping back to just before the long Interval was that she was using a tapestry with no supporting imagery or records to do the hop into times unknown. But if Robinton knows there is a First Fall, and also what happened then, the records must be a lot more compete than previously known. It also throws this timekeeping system entirely out the window – if you know when the first point was, them everyone should be referring to this Pass by which iteration it is, not as the “present pass” with an unknown time in the past where any number of Passes could have happened. Dragons may be able to live and think about an eternal present, but humans do not, and especially not humans that keep records of things that show what is going on now has happened before.

When not messing with space-time through offhand remarks, Robinton is clinging to the idea that an egg replaced the one that was stolen, requiring great skill in popping in and out unnoticed, as reason for hope against an all-out dragon war. He assumes someone at Southern foresaw the consequences and returned the egg to forestall it. I’d like to see the orphaned future where the egg wasn’t returned and fire rained from the heavens, destroying all in its path. Mostly because I think it would give The Day of Lavos a run for its money in pure cinematic destructiveness. But also because it would be an object lesson on what happens when everyone is stubbornly inflexible.

Robinton is soon joined by Fandarel, who understands that something must be both done and not done about the incident, Brekke, recovered fully and firmly on the side of fire lizards being harmless and not at fault, because she believes they have no sense of wrong and right, and Brekke’s rapist, who follows the Benden Weyrleaders in opinion on what to do.

Lessa is still ready to fly off on revenge as the assembled war council settles in, but Robinton is having none of it. Just in case we aren’t on the same page, this is “I plotted my revenge against Fax for ten years, enduring all that time as a drudge, with the accompanying abuse” Lessa who wants to go out and fight dragons against each other. The “I can influence people’s minds with my own to get them to do what I want, so long as I’m not obvious about it” Weyrwoman, now calling for the most obvious solution to the problem of theft. The cosmic retcon underway is pretty audacious, I must say.

Robinton tries to pull Lessa off the offensive by pointing out the egg’s return means the failure of Southern to rejuvenate themselves, as now all the northern Weyrs will be on their guard against egg pilfering. (Setting aside the reality of time-traveling dragons, that is, which would actually necessitate warning the past as well as the present against these actions, which would alleviate the need to warn them because the theft doesn’t happen, so the past isn’t warned, etc. Unstable Time Loops are not so great.) He also tries to spin it as a matter of flattery that Ramoth’s egg was targeted, before leaving an argument for the Benden Weyrleader to seize on and run with: the cause for revenge left when the egg returned.

The argument basically proceeds the way Robinton wants it to, with each of Lessa’s potential outs countered by someone else in the room, with Fandarel making Robinton’s capstone point that the theft might have been more to sow discord in the alliance than to actually try and save the Southern dragons. The Benden Weyrleader vows (raising his right hand as surety) to revisit the issue if the dragon from the egg is somehow malformed or otherwise imperfect, but for now, Lessa is overruled, and leaves the room.

The Masterharper downs a cup in one drink and the Benden Weyrleader agrees to the premise of I Need A Freaking Drink.

“We could all use a cup,” F’lar said, gesturing to the others to gather about as Brekke, rising quickly to her feet, began to serve them.

And Brekke, restored to her regular mental state, has returned to her Good Girl self, assuming the role of servitor she had with Kylara at Southern. Nobody finds this out of place, of course, because it’s already been well-established that women are always the servers in dragonrider culture and the Men are the ones who do things. Brekke is also quite well-recovered at this point, considering she is around things that could potentially be triggering, like the Benden Weyrleader. And his brother. Who asks for Robinton and N’ton to join him and Brekke after everyone agrees its a good idea to not let Ramoth see fire lizards.

The fire lizards themselves appear to be having a collective memory of dragons flaming them, some sort of darkness, and then a picture of an egg. It’s sending them into a tizzy, even though none of them know exactly from whom the memory comes. It will affect Ruth later at night, when he and a giant fair of fire lizards are sleeping with him. Robinton gathered intelligence from Piemur that the Southern Weyr had gotten more secretive lately, and the dragons started just popping in and out, possibly signifying training in time travel. When N’ton went to Southern to check for the egg, he found it deserted. But nobody knows what’s is going on.

Jaxom and Menolly eventually get back to the Harper Hall, where the story is told, and eventually, Jaxom gets what he’s supposed to get regarding Wansor’s equations. Since Ruth is the fire lizard favorite, it’s going to be more difficult for him to keep training in secret. Jaxom resolves to use the South, but to warp back at least twelve Turns so as to avoid anyone actually being there, and similarly to avoid fire lizards following.

And that is chapter five – revenge planned, dreams imparted, equations given.

These two weeks in the Slacktiverse, July 20th, 2015

(posted by chris the cynic, who is sorry about not getting it up last week; written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

  • Alex Seanchai wrote poetry this week:
  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • It became aparent that I was having trouble getting anything posted on the blog, so I wrote an update on my life and distractions in it to let people know I was (mostly) ok.
    • Still not on a creating new content front, I posted to Stealing Commas (formerly just a comment elsewhere) the beer commercial that formed in my head after someone called Bree Newsome a Real American Hero (which is accurate.)
    • I wrote random life lessons, most of them related to failing to fix a washing machine and missing a bus.
    • Why is “Big Hero 6”, which does not refer to the sixth Big Hero, (intentionally) bad grammar while “The Dave Clark Five,” is perfectly acceptable?  I wrote a post called “Band names, movie names, noun adjuncts, and substantives” to explain.
    • Even if you accept the screwed up idea that every character in Skylanders should be male or female, they’re still doing a bad job when it comes to gender representation.  How bad?  I’ve quantified it, going so far as to break it down by category and such.
    • And finally, since for the last three months I missed my regularly scheduled post reminding people that I have a donation button if they feel inclined to use it, I wrote a post about money and such.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submission this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for July 17, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is still fighting sicknesses)

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: Jed A. Blue


Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip Sandifer: Philip Sandifer: Writer

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

The White Dragon: !

Last time, the revelations came quickly – the telescope means Threadfall can be predicted with proper accuracy, even when other planets interfere, the fire lizards appear to have some form of memory, something Ruth appears to have as well, which might give a strange credence to the idea that Ruth is an “overgrown fire lizard”, instead of its usual insulting context, and Menolly had her characterization ignored to deliver a message in favor of impulsive action, supporting F’lessan’s approach to problems instead of Jaxom’s default mode of thinking before action.

The White Dragon, Chapter Four: Content Notes: Misogyny, objectification

(Dating sequence says this chapter covers 15.5.10 to 15.5.16, so the second number is the day during whatever partial-year time division the 5 represents.)

Chapter Four starts with Jaxom trying to get away to get time for Ruth to chew some firestone. Which is easier said than done, as Lytol is filling his schedule to the breaking point, and no matter where he tries to go with Ruth, fire lizards from the Hold always follow. Deelan’s green and the blue of Brand, the steward, are everywhere Ruth is, slightly delayed. Jaxom is pretty sure he can’t get Deelan to call off her green, but he thinks he can work Brand in to getting the pursuit squad called off, based on his reputation – he was called in to curb the “lustiness” of the fosterlings and accomplished it. As Jaxom arrives to talk with Brand, two drudges are being told that if they don’t present tunnel snake corpses to show they’re taking care of the problem, they won’t be fed for a few days. Which makes me wish that we saw how this society looks from the viewpoint of the drudges more often – when we see them, or when main characters disguise themselves as drudges, we see nearly constant heavy and hard work under the threat of abuse, starvation, and other punishments, without much reward, or, as Lessa demonstrated at the beginning of Dragonflight, basic necessities like warmth and blankets. This whole society is built on the backs of a permanent underclass that is taken entirely for granted.

So Jaxom has a chat with Brand.

“Occasionally,” Jaxom hurried on, “a fellow likes to get off by himself, completely by himself. And, as you know, fire-lizards are the world’s greatest gossips. They might get the wrong impression…if you know what I mean?”

Brand did but, if he was amused or surprised, he dissembled well.

“I do apologize, Lord Jaxom. An oversight, I assure you. You know how anxious Deelan used to be when you and Ruth started flying between and the fire-lizards followed as a safeguard. I should have long ago altered that arrangement.”

“Since when am I Lord Jaxom to you, Brand?”

The steward’s lips actually twitched. “Since the other morning…Lord Jaxom.”

“I didn’t mean it like that, Brand.”

Brand inclined his head slightly, forestalling further apology. “As Lord Lytol remarked, you are well old enough to be confirmed in your rank, Lord Jaxom, and we-” Brand grinned with uninhibited ease, “-should act accordingly.”

So, apparently, Jaxom’s outburst at the table has convinced everyone that he’s a man now, and this conversation with Brand is the assumption that Jaxom has his eye on romancing someone. If we hadn’t had Menolly asking inappropriate questions on Jaxom’s sexuality last chapter, would this appear to be as double-entrendre-laden as it does here? What Jaxom said could just as easily refer to masturbation as it does to firestone as it does to sex. It’s a framing device to bring the audience along in snickering at Jaxom’s inexperience. Jaxom himself realizes he’s going to have to find a girl to maintain pretenses, based on the cultural assumption that Holder sons would dally with other women. Specifically:

He should have told Menolly that he had no trouble with any of the Holder girls…when he was of the mind. Not that he had followed some of the bawdier fosterlings’ examples. He wasn’t going to have the reputation of a lecher like Meron or that young fool of Lord Laudy’s, whom Lytol had sent back to his home Hold with a cover excuse that no one really believed. It was all right for the Lord Holder to beget a few half-bloods, quite another to dilute Holder Blood with other lines. Nonetheless, he would have to find a pleasant girl to give him the alibi he needed, and then take the time for more important things.

Welcome to the Pernese Double Standard, Jaxom. Young noble men getting noble women pregnant is just standard operations, nothing to be concerned about. Yet dragonrider women, if they choose to sleep with others, and even if those men are Lord Holders, will be regularly slut-shamed. Also, where is Jaxom going to find a young Holder woman who will willingly play along with being his date? (Everywhere, if they’re aware enough about what their life is going to be like…) The fearlessly misogynist world has boys being sent around to other Holds, but the only thing I’ve seen so far about girls going elsewhere is taking lessons at the Harper Hall, so Jaxom is not going to have an easy time of finding a suitable girl to be his excuse. (And that assumes Jaxom is interested in girls at all, which is not yet facts in evidence.)

So, with a sea change underway at Ruatha, Jaxom takes Ruth out to hunt, and his chosen target for food (wherries) has the herder, a holder, out taking care of the flock. Said herder requests of Lytol a fire-lizard egg, so that he can use the accompanying fire lizard to kill the snakes that eat some of each of his wherry egg clutches. After the herder (Tegger) suggests a spot for Ruth and goes on his way, Ruth demonstrates another thing that dragons aren’t supposed to do.

Tegger was unlikely to Impress a fire-lizard, Jaxom thought as he leaped to Ruth’s shoulder.

Ruth agreed. That man had an egg once. The little one went between and never returned to its hatching place.

“How did you remember that?”

The fire-lizards told me.

“When?”

When it happened. I have just remembered it. Ruth sounded very pleased with himself. They tell me many things that are interesting when you’re not with me.

Long-term memory in a dragon, as well. Ruth is shaping up to be a dragon unlike any other in more than just pigmentation.

As Ruth hunts, Jaxon reflects on the duties of a Lord Holder, and how everybody always changes the subject whenever Fax comes up as a possible topic of conversation. His mother, everyone will talk about, but nobody wants to discuss his dad, or whether they’re afraid that Fax’s ambition will manifest in him and he’ll want to go on a conquering rampage. (Given that he has a dragon, he could probably mount a more successful campaign than Fax did, at least until Benden dispatched a wing to shut him down.) He returns to the problem of firestone and fire-lizards, and when Jaxom asks Ruth whether he could get the fire lizards to go away, Ruth says that they would come to see whatever it was that had Ruth asking them to go away. Since fire lizards talk amongst themselves, Jaxom is sure he needs a space clean of fire lizards before he can train with Ruth on how to use firestone.

The action shifts to put Jaxon, Lytol, and once of the fosterling sons at one of Lytol’s vassals, Fidello, where the intend to test a new wheat seed for the Masterfarmer. Southern crops have grown well and been resistant to blight, so now it’s time to see if it will do the same in Northern climate. Which gives the boys time to eat and for the fosterling, Tordril, to comment on how pretty this Fidello’s sister is, as she serves them klah. Considering how vested the narrative is in taking about how women are the keepers of the household, and how comments of beauty and subservience are often linked, I don’t think that it’s an accident that Tordril talks beauty while being served. Tordril tries to chat her up, but she’s apparently only got eyes and smiles for Jaxom. So Tordril tries to tell Jaxom that he should get to know her better.

“I wonder would you have got her so quick if I’d been Lord of Ruatha?” Tordril asked Jaxom as they checked their saddle girths before mounting.

“Got her?” Jaxom stared blankly at Tordril. “We only chatted.”

“Well, you could have her next time you…ah, have a chance to chat. Or does Lytol mind a few half-bloods around? Father says it keeps the full ones on their toes! Ought to be easy for you with Lytol weyrbred, and not as stuffy about such things.”

Lytol and Fidello joined them at that point but Tordril’s envious comment set Jaxom’s thoughts on a very fruitful track. What was her name? Corana? Well, Corana could be very useful. There was only the one fire-lizard about the Plateau Hold – and, if Ruth could just dissuade that creature from following them…

Nor do I think it an accident that we have had an entire discussion about how pretty the woman is, how Tordril sees her as a possession that has apparently been claimed by Jaxom through no effort of his own, and that Tordril encourages Jaxom to see her the same way and take sexual advantage of her before the narrative gives us her name. Tordril and Fidello were named before we saw them in action. Corana only gets named after her sexual virtues and her appearance are discussed, and only because Jaxom struggles with remembering her name. He’s being taught and encouraged to see women as interchangeable things, not even worthy of having names first. And Tordril thinks that Jaxom will have an easier path to having sex with Corana because Weyr culture is always told to be sexually promiscuous and permissive, even though the reality that we’ve seen in these books is anything but, with perhaps the exception of Kylara, who met a bad end at the hands of the narrative, one that the other characters think she deserved. The awful compounds.

So Jaxom thinks he’s found the perfect spot for Ruth to chew firestone – only one fire lizard to deal with, and a perfectly good cover in chatting up (and more) Corana. After pilfering a bag from the watch dragon’s stores, and manufacturing an excuse to deliver an extra bag of wheat seed to Fidello, it’s time to put the plan into action. It’s successful – Ruth can chew firestone and spit flame, but it’s not particularly big and not particularly sustained. I think some part of it is that they talk about “belching” the fire, when it seems like the technique in question would be more like whistling, playing a brass instrument, or the circus firebreathing trick – all three focus on the breath being important for sustained flame. Belch lets all the gas out at once.

After the experiment, to solidify his alibi, Jaxom goes to see Corana, who gives him a hint about how to avoid detection (he smells like firestone) and who he flies back from gathering withies, getting a few kisses in and deciding she’s not going to be an excuse for him any more. Okay, so Jaxom does like women, I guess. After a bath and cleaning the clothes, he and Ruth do a short temporal hop backward so he only looks like he’s been gone long enough for a dalliance. And then Ruth vomits firestone ash in the middle of their Hold, forcing Jaxom into a hurry-up cleaning so as not to give away the whole thing. So the chapter ends with Jaxom taking more firestone to try things again.