In Between: It’s All Her Fault

Something a little less ponderous as the USians engage in the Turkey Holiday.

In the in-between for these books, as I was thinking about all the bad things that have happened to the named women of Pern for having feminist ideas about their lot in life and they all seem to have connections to one cast member, even without all six degrees needed. A person with progressive ideas about women and their role in society.

At least, after the Great Cosmic Retcon, that is. Before then, Lessa wouldn’t have fit into the idea, as she precedes the nexus in her ambition and feminism.

Otherwise, it’s Brekke as the center connecting point of both violence and progressive ideas for women. We see her regularly standing up for women, asking why women can’t be fighting riders, and challenging the norms of Weyr culture. After her rape at the hands of the possessive Brown Rider and the queen fight that cost her Wirenth, she’s more mellow about expressing the opinion, but it didn’t go away.

Connected to Brekke first is Kylara, who does what she wants, who she wants, and she doesn’t give a fuck what anybody else thinks about what her responsibilities are. Kylara gets punished with the loss of Prideth and is not saved by the narrative from the state of mind that follows the death of a dragon, nor is anyone inclined to be sympathetic to her in that state, despite at least two other people having gone through that state themselves.

Brekke’s also directly connected to her fosterling, Mirrim, and it looks like all the ideas that Brekke has about equality and Kylara’s give-no-fucks have both imprinted on her. Mirrim is outspoken about her opinions to the point of having a reputation for being brash and without social graces. She also ends up being the first green dragonrider when Path seeks her out at the Hatching Ground, which should force some sort of change in the culture, if she weren’t the only one there. Instead, we’re supposed to find her unpalatable and perfectly suited to be the butt of jokes about dragon PMS, instead of it being treated as a serious matter with Kylara and with the incident that led to the stabbing of the Brown Rider Rapist that led him to Brekke. Or, if one considers that most dragon and fire-lizard sex is not very consensual, making jokes about what will happen to Mirrim is still, well, a dick move.

What’s important, we’re told, is that Mirrim has a disagreeable personality and therefore probably deserves all the pain and assault she’s going to get.

Menolly is connected to Brekke as well, through Mirrim’s friendship with Menolly. And while Menolly’s main abuse came before knowing either Mirrim or Brekke, it’s still Menolly’s belief that women can be Harpers that sets it all in motion. Brekke and Mirrim help it along quite a bit, though, and Menolly takes flak from Piemur about their continued friendship.

And now there’s Sharra, who has trained under Brekke and works closely with her on numerous occasions. She’s unafraid of telling others what she thinks and whether or not their ideas are good ones in relation to life at Southern or the health of her patients. She even tells Jaxom that he’s just infatuated with her because she nursed him to health. The narrative rewards her independence by making her wrong about Jaxom, ignored by the Craftmasters, and imprisoned by her own brother so that she can be a more suitable match for someone else in marriage. Only because Jaxom has to get his happy ending is Sharra rescued, so that she can be married to Jaxom instead.

It all traces back to Brekke, and all the results so far have not been ideal. Perhaps, now that we’re leaving this particular time period, we can find a Pern that treats women better intentionally.

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14 thoughts on “In Between: It’s All Her Fault

  1. boutet November 27, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I would like to offer the idea of Kylara being the catalyst, and Brekke being a second tier connecting point. She predates Brekke, showing up in Dragonflight as a rival to Lessa (in contention to Impress Ramoth, and impressing Ramoth’s first daughter). She was Weyrwoman at Southern where Brekke was stationed, so she would have set some of the expectations and practices at the weyr. Especially being a new weyr. We don’t know Brekke prior to being at Southern so it’s possible that she became more forward under Kylara’s influence.

    And Kylara/Brekke might also have become more forward by association with the Oldtimers. They’re set as being more conservative than the others, but they’re conservative in the Hold-Weyr-Crafthold relationships, not necessarily Conservative in our understanding of politics. They’re shown as being less conservative with queens since queens are allowed to fight Thread. I think one of the big pushes behind being conservative with queens was that there was only the one of them, so losing the queen would be the death of the species. Oldtimers didn’t have that concern and so they didn’t shelter queen riders as vital breeders. Important, but not irreplacible as individuals.

    So Kylara, the rival set opposite Lessa, is given a freer hand in establishing a new weyr, with riders who are not as bound by the social conventions of the time. She pursues what she wants, refuses to conform to expectations. The woman who serves directly under her (Brekke) also branches away from the social conventions of the time (though less so), and passes that to those who serve under her (Mirrim, Sharra, Menolly by association).

  2. Silver Adept December 1, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Also a good reading of it, and one the narrative of these books would probably be more willing to go with, since it’s already inclined to blame Kylara for a lot of things that happened in the books. I went with Brekke as a way of trying to subvert the narrative’s ideas about who is worthy and who is a troublemaker, so that Brekke could occupy a more subversive position than the one the narrative puts her in after her rape.

  3. genesistrine December 1, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Brekke essentially disappears after after the two-part knockout that usually finishes off AMC heroines – they get A MAAAN, do A HEROIC THING and then vanish from the narrative, though. Lessa gets to march around a bit in leather I mean wherhide and alarm people, but she’s still pretty much in the background.

    Kylara as a catalyst does make a lot of sense, but to me she’d more inspire change in other people than lead it – she – and Lessa – don’t do the female solidarity thing, but I can see Brekke looking at both ot them and thinking, “see what women can do if they ignore what people think of them!”

    I did like the writer of that Impression website pointing out Kylara’s practical lecture on fire-lizard Impression, though I do wonder if she’s quoting Lessa – it does rather sound like the advice Lessa might have given to ensure she Impressed Prideth, and Lessa does have the advantage of insight into draconic psychology.

  4. Silver Adept December 1, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    The narrative would probably make it out to be a quote, since Kylara’s characterization in Dragonquest is someone who can’t/chooses not to handle the responsibilities of running a Weyr. Coupled with her obviously disapproved of choice in lovers, I think the narrative would implode on itself before it gave Kylara any form of insight that would be useful to someone else. Brekke is still the first one that we see directly imparting some socially disapproved information to someone, and we can trace the effects of that through other characters. Lessa and Kylara may be the inspiration, but Brekke is the first to act.

    It also seems like that one-two starts out with “Made a strong female character! Crap! Have to knock them down a peg. Quick, time for an assault!”

  5. boutet December 2, 2015 at 1:02 am

    Haha, I was actually trying to subvert the narrative too. Less about blaming Kylara and more about giving her a position of affecting positive change in the world. And giving her a read that has more to do with seeking freedom and choice, less to do with being a Bad Type who Does Bad Things.

    I do like Brekke being the one to consciously lead 🙂

    Side topic, but fact checking on Kylara reminded me that F’lar has some suspicions that he is the father of one of Kylara’s 5 kids. And it just gave me a shock that she’s had 5 kids. How old is she anyway? And F’lar (questionably) has kid(s?) that I guess don’t matter to him at all and we never hear about them? Weyrs are baffling places! Family is a non-issue? Kids are just things you pop out and off you go?

  6. Firedrake December 2, 2015 at 3:20 am

    boutet, I can’t find it now, but wasn’t there a comment on Lessa making a point by naming her son Felessan, i.e. “I do actually know who his father is and want to admit it, unlike the usual way of doing things”? And the kids get fostered out, of course. It’s an understandable consequence of the mating flight thing.

  7. genesistrine December 2, 2015 at 7:10 am

    I think combination-of-parents’-names is the custom though – e.g. F’nor is the son of Manora and F’whatever-Weyrleader-dad-who-got-himself-stabbed’s* name was, I can’t remember offhand. The F’lar’s-been-sleeping-with-Kylara thing came up in the context of her calling her baby T’kil instead of T’lar, but both of the last syllables are components of her name anyway.

    And as Firedrake says with the fostering custom it is a lot simpler, but she still must have been getting serially pregnant soon after giving birth – it’s no wonder she was relieved to figure out how to terminate using between; Pern has no contraception and she seems to be hyperfertile.

    (It’s probably supposed to be a slutty-slut-has-lots-of-sex-with-lots-of-men boo hiss hate hate hint, but I don’t choose to read it like that. :folds arms, looks stern:)

    *obvs a hereditary trait on Pern…

  8. genesistrine December 2, 2015 at 7:11 am

    F’lon!

    Of course I remember as soon as I hit Post….

  9. Silver Adept December 2, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    A clear hereditary trait, passed from father to sons.

    The fostering system is explicitly called out in one of the books as a way of breaking familial ties in a Weyr so that nobody gets too attached to anyone that they might deviate from their flight pattern to try and protect. Plus, with the way mating flights go, it doesn’t make cultural sense for dragonriders to form a lot of monogamous and exclusive partnerships or to attach economic consequences to pregnancy. It is entirely possible that Kylara’s serial pregnancy would have to do with the need to populate Southern quickly, so lots of queen mating flights, so lots of possible chances for pregnancies. No need to go the way the narrative does.

    I’m frankly impressed that she survived the children, considering the state of medicine in Ninth Pass Pern.

    So Kylara’s desire to be free of gendered expectations, combined with Lessa’s assertiveness, makes Brekke the person able to plant the right seeds in Mirrim and Sharra to make them decide to be more assertive and push back against the patriarchy.

  10. depizan December 3, 2015 at 12:55 am

    The fostering system is explicitly called out in one of the books as a way of breaking familial ties in a Weyr so that nobody gets too attached to anyone that they might deviate from their flight pattern to try and protect.

    I’d make some snark about them/McCaffrey having apparently never heard of friendship, but, at least from what we’ve seen… I think they really haven’t.

  11. boutet December 3, 2015 at 1:17 am

    “The fostering system is explicitly called out in one of the books as a way of breaking familial ties in a Weyr so that nobody gets too attached to anyone that they might deviate from their flight pattern to try and protect. Plus, with the way mating flights go, it doesn’t make cultural sense for dragonriders to form a lot of monogamous and exclusive partnerships or to attach economic consequences to pregnancy.”

    If they aren’t really tracking family connections and if the dragons athleticism is the deciding factor in sexual pairing… how are they avoiding incestuous relationships? Riders are presumably continuing to have sex as long as their dragons are doing so, so parent-child age groups would definitely overlap and maybe grandparent-grandchild, not even thinking about sibling/aunt/uncle/cousin which would certainly be a concern in a contained population like the weyr prior to the Oldtimers coming forward. And still potentially a concern once the weyrs have more traffic between them. Also the lead queen rider being semi-officially mated to the bronze rider who mates with the queen, you could end up trapped in a domestic and sexual relationship with a close relative. Or are we to believe that bronze riders self-select out of a leadership position because they are/might be related to the queen rider? I can’t see F’lar giving up the opportunity to take charge even if it involves a sexual pairing he doesn’t desire. And leaving it as an opt-out for the men to do or not do removes any choice for the woman to exclude a partner on the basis of close relation (or any reason, but it’s the relationship I’m thinking about at the moment).

    Or possibly weyr beliefs aren’t concerned with incest in any case? It could be another point of contention between them and the holds.

  12. Silver Adept December 13, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Well, the naming conventions suggest that it would be somewhat easy to avoid close relatives of the names sounded too alike, and if fosterlings are generally exchanged between Weyrs, then there isn’t much worry. It also seems like a lot of queen riders come from outside the Weyrs, so there wouldn’t be too much worry about genetic inbreeding, or so one would hope.

    Then again, as you said, maybe the incest taboo doesn’t really apply in a Weyr. Unless your son Impressed a bronze, that is.

  13. genesistrine December 13, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    I don’t want to see a pic of the incest taco thank you very much!

    Are fosterlings generally exchanged between the weyrs, though? Keevan’s father is in TSD and he’s a Benden rider, though I can’t offhand think of any markers in that story that tell us whether it’s before or after the Oldtimers came forward.

    And queen riders coming from outside the weyrs (which they all do; it’s canon) doesn’t help avoid mother/son incest – F’lessan, for example, is a bronze rider in his mother’s Weyr; does he get enough warning to head to the other side of the planet/knock himself and his dragon out with fellis juice/whatever when Ramoth rises? You’d think SOP in that situation would be arranging a swap with another Weyr before the hatchling matures….

    It’s also canon that male riders put it about like it’s going out of style in the Holds too – the beginning of DQ has F’lar thinking that Groghe’s going to get cranky about the number of Fort Hold girls T’ron’s knocking up. So it’s not impossible that queen candidates could be the daughters of riders from the local Weyr.

    @boutet: I can’t see F’lar giving up the opportunity to take charge even if it involves a sexual pairing he doesn’t desire.

    He wouldn’t. He explicitly thinks at one point that Jora disgusted him, but it wouldn’t have mattered when her queen rose.

  14. emmy December 13, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    |Are fosterlings generally exchanged between the weyrs, though?

    I think in Moreta we’ll see a child raised in a different weyr than his parents, and F’lessan goes somewhere else eventually.

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