Monthly Archives: December 2015

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Don’t Believe Me, Just Watch

Last chapter, Moreta got to watch some races, but also took a bucket full of slops to her gold dress, necessitating a change of wardrobe in time for the dances, which will start in this chapter. Alessan and Moreta have been sharing some companionship during the day, so that he can dodge all the ladies hoping to land themselves a Lord Holder, and it seems like they have good chemistry.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Chapter III: Content Notes: Ignored Consent

Moreta arrives at table with Oklina, who would normally disappear now that she’s delivered Moreta safely, but Moreta insists there’s a place for her at the table, too – and there is one made. Once everyone is situated, the Harpers start up a lively tune and Alessan asks Moreta for a dance, which they both enjoy. Oklina hopes for some dancing, but thinks Alessan will be too busy to ask her, prompting Moreta to scan the crowd for an unoccupied dragonrider. Before she can find a partner, though, someone wants to dance with Moreta, and isn’t waiting for her to say okay:

“Moreta!” A firm hand clasped on her shoulder, and she looked up at B’lerion, bronze Nabeth’s rider from the High Reaches Weyr. “There’s good music begging your step. And me!”
The bronze rider did not wait for her consent, but took her hand and pulled her into his arms, laughing down at her. “I knew you couldn’t resist me.” And he winked over Moreta’s shoulder at the astonished Oklina as he spun the Weyrwoman off to the square.

And with that introduction, we get to see B’lerion at work being a pick-up artist’s wet dream. Oklina is a bit star-struck by the bronze rider, and Moreta’s narration suggests that he’s the father of her third child. There’s some cracks in the ideological facade of the dragonrider, though.

But then, the strongest, cleverest dragon flew the queen: That was the only way to improve the breed. Twice Sh’gall’s Kadith had been the strongest and fastest. Or so Moreta kept telling herself.
[…B’lerion half-teases Moreta about letting Kadith fly Orlith…]
By the intense gleam in his eyes and the sharp hold he took of her waist for the last figure of the dance, B’lerion was half in earnest, Moreta realized. Moreta reminded herself that B’lerion was always in earnest for the duration of any given encounter. A charming opportunist who didn’t limit his activities to any one Weyr or Hold.
[…more teasing…]
She laughed and swung away from an embrace that had best be broken. B’lerion’s attentions might be misconstrued by some. She owed Sh’gall her undiverted support at least until the Fall ended. As she made her way back to the table, B’lerion followed, smiling at Oklina in imperturbable good humor. Moreta wished he hadn’t followed her, noting Oklina’s breathless reaction as B’lerion smoothly set himself down beside the girl.
“May I have the next dance with you, Lady Oklina? Moreta will tell you that I’m harmless. I’m also B’lerion, bronze Nabeth’s rider from the High Reaches. May I have a sip of your wine?”
“Oh, that’s Lady Moreta’s wine,” Oklina protested, trying to retain possession of the cup B’lerion had seized.
“She’d never deny me a sip of wine, but I’ll drink to you and your big dark eyes.”
Schooling her own expression, Moreta watched Oklina’s, saw her blushing confusion at B’lerion’s compliments. She could see the pulse of excitement beating in the girl’s slender neck, her quickened breathing. Oklina could not have been more than sixteen Turns. Hold-bred, she’d be married off very soon to some holder or craftmaster to the east or the south, far from Ruatha, strengthening Bloodlines. By the time the Pass ended, Oklina would have children and this Gather day would have been long forgotten. Or, perhaps, better remembered for B’lerion’s attentions. She smiled when the harpers struck up a slow and stately dance and B’lerion lead the delighted girl onto the square.

And that, I suspect, is why we have an Author’s Note at the beginning of this book about it not being the story the fans were hoping for. Because Sixth Pass Pern is not any better than Ninth Pass Pern at all.

I also am looking at this sequence with B’lerion and seeing so many opportunities for him to walk away wincing in pain from a discreet knee to the genitals. Or, perhaps, an indiscreet one, starting right from the beginning where the narrative even acknowledges that he’s not waiting for Moreta’s consent before taking her to the dance floor. Since Sixth Pass Pern operates on the same principles as Ninth Pass Pern, it’s clear Moreta is expected to just grin and bear it, lest she make some public scandal of refusing to dance with someone. Or hurting a dragonrider for stepping on her consent. Even if he has been a Weyrleader in the past or could be in the future. And even if he was “just being friendly”.

I can’t really get over the slime dripping off B’lerion and am trying to imagine how he’s supposed to be anything other than a creep, with the plausibly-deniable insinuations that he’s better for her than Sh’gall is and his immediate recognition of Oklina as a charmable and naive woman to play his game with. Yes, sixteen means different things on Pern than on Terra, but he’s fathered kids and the whole thing reminds me far too much of Jaxom and Corana from the last book – she can’t really say no because of the power differential, and he doesn’t really care about her except as another notch on the bedpost.

Which is another thing – it’s still never quite clear what young women, especially young women of some stature, are taught about sex, marriage, and relationships. I don’t know if it’s “attract as high a stature of person as you can get married to” or “attract as high a stature of person that you can get pregnant by” or something else. If Dunca from Dragonsinger is typical, the young women are being told not to have sex with anyone as it will spoil them for their eventual marriage. While, no doubt, being encouraged to try and snag as high a ranking person as possible in marriage, and eventual childbirth. In that sense, it’s probably like a lot of sex education on Terra.

Finally, through this sequence, I think we can get a lot more sympathy for Kylara and her attempts to get out from underneath this system the best way she knew how. Because Moreta still feels like an expy of Kylara at this point, but that worries me as to how this is going to end for her.

The Gather continues, with people from the Ista Gather arriving, panning the creature on display and bringing news of illness in three Holds – a fever. Moreta would like to get Alessan for another dance, but he’s having to do his duty with young eligible women who all want to be his wife. At intermission, the Harpers lead everyone in some traditional songs, including one supposedly newly discovered with a haunting tone and tenor to it. This is too early on the timeline for the temporal hop that Lessa does that produces the Question Song, so I wonder what this song is that’s so haunting and catchy.

There’s food for Moreta after the singing, as she slips away to escape Tolocamp. Alessan finds her, carrying more food and drink, and the two enjoy company with each other, hiding away from their responsibilities.

“My mother, the good and worthy–”
“–and duty conscious–”
“Has paraded every eligible girl in the west, with all of whom I have dutifully danced. They’re not much on talking. By the way, speaking of talking, is that bronze rider who’s been monopolizing Oklina a kind and honorable man?”
“B’lerion is kind, and very good company. Is Oklina aware of dragonriders’ propensities?”
“As every proper hold girl is.” Alessan’s tone was dry, acknowledging dragonrider whims and foibles.
“B’lerion is kind and I have known him many Turns,” Moreta went on by way of reassurance. Oklina’s adoration of her brother was not misplaced if he troubled himself to speak to a Weyrwoman about a bronze rider who was paying marked attention to his sister.

Moreta, you’re a liar, unless we’re supposed to believe that B’lerion really is all talk with his lecherous grin and complete willingness to override consent. Also, hello, “dragonrider propensities?” Meaning that at least in Sixth Pass Pern, it’s known how dragonrider and dragon mating works, and the Hold girls are warned off of getting involved with dragonriders, presumably because it would ruin their later marriage prospects. Dunca really is typical, I guess.

The rest of the Gather passes in dancing, some acrobatic, some not, between Moreta and Alessan, and Moreta is reminded again (as she has been for much of the night) about a man from her past, apprenticed to the same Healer before she went on a different path. Thoroughly exhausted, Moreta heads sleepily back to her own Weyr as Alessan heads to bed. And thus, the Gather itself finally finishes with the end of Chapter III.

We haven’t learned a whole lot about what the plot of the book will be by this point, but we have learned a lot about the customs and festival life of Pern not from the perspective of a Harper. It’s Sixth Pass Pern, though, so there’s no automatic reason to assume that Ninth Pass Pern is the same. I suspect it is, because it’s probably easier to keep the world consistent that way, but there shouldn’t be an automatic assumption.

Deconstruction Roundup for December 25th, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who wishes good health and fortune to all of you for the upcoming year.)

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

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Soak Test

Last chapter, Moreta visited a gathering at Ruatha to watch runnerbeasts race and try to avoid the eye of those who wanted to police her choices. She did so in the company of Alessan, the new Lord Holder of Ruatha, who was trying to duck everyone who wanted to ply him with a marriageable daughter and get him hitched after the death of his previous wife. There’s a clear chemistry between them, even though it would be scandalous, by the Pernese double-standard, for them to engage with each other too much.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern, Chapter II: Content Notes: Animal death, ableism


Chapter II starts exactly where the last chapter left off – the next race is ready to begin and starts without a hitch, but a tumble during the race has Moreta running toward the field. Of the three beasts that fell, one is not getting up, and isn’t trying to, either. While Alessan believes it just tripped, Moreta says otherwise, and the problem is that the animal can’t breathe, with a bloody discharge from the nose blocking air attempts. Not that it could breathe if the nose was clear, as its lungs are filling with fluid. There’s nothing to do but watch it die. The rider and the two race enthusiasts confer and agree that the circumstances of the death are suspicious, but go check out the other animals just in case there’s sickness among them that could be the cause of death. Nothing turns up, and with them already at the stables, Moreta and Alessan go on to check on the beast that won the first race. There’s discussion about the absence of prominent Lords with champion stock, we learn more about how much Moreta doesn’t like the Lords that are under Fort Weyr’s protection, and on the way back, a minor disaster strikes.

Moreta had opened her mouth to reply when she was suddenly drenched with water. A colorful and original string of invective in Alessan’s angry voice told her he had not escaped the slops.
[…Orlith asks what’s wrong, and tells Moreta she’ll dry out quickly…]
The erring handler, belatedly discovering that he had launched a full bucket of dirty water at the Weyrwoman and the Lord Holder – who didn’t ought to be strolling along picket lines when everyone else was off watching the races – proffered Moreta a towel, but the rag had been used for many purposes and merely compounded the problem. Alessan was shouting for clean water and fresh clothes and the location of a vacant tent.
The commotion was sufficient to attract everyone not engrossed in the race just starting. Assistance was offered, and people began running here and there on Alessan’s orders while Moreta stood, her beautiful new brown-and-gold gown plastered to her body. She tried to reassure the mortified handler that she took no offense, All the while knowing that her long-awaited afternoon of racing was doomed. She might just as well summon Orlith and go back to the Weyr. She might get her death of cold going between in the soggy ruins of her Gather dress, but what choice had she now?

Another reason to forego dresses for riders – wet things and hyperspace don’t mix, and dresses take a long time to dry. If the leathers weren’t so hot, I would have thought they made an excellent outer uniform for general purposes. I suppose, though, that a high-status woman not in a dress would be a scandalous thing. How I hate your ideas on femininity, Pern.

Moreta is able to change quickly into less flashy clothing and spend the rest of the races in Alessan’s company. Along the way, they go to visit Runel, a herdsman with a knack for lineages.

Runel’s expression altered dramatically. He threw back his head and unfocused his eyes, wide-opened. “Alessan’s sprinter, Squealer, won the first sprint race at the Ruathan Gather, third month, forty-third turn of the sixth Pass, bred by Alessan out of Dextra, five times winner at sprint races in the west, Leef by Vander’s Evest which was nine times winner over sprint distances. Dextra’s sire, twice winner, by Dimnal out of Tran, nineteen times winner. Dimnal by Fairex out of Crick, Fairex…”
“There he goes,” Dag said to Moreta in an undertone, shaking his head ruefully.

Moreta is curious about Runel’s eidetic memory (and calls it such), Alessan is unconcerned about the talent, compared to Dag’s scorn. The behaviors here, though, seem to be confusing someone with eidetic memory with the eponymous character in Rain Man. Dag is still an asshole, though, but being an asshole about disability or difference seems to be standard operating procedure for this planet.

Moreta wants to know why Runel isn’t in the Harper Hall. Alessan says that his father’s granduncle was a Harper for Ruatha, had the eidetic memory, and thus tended to remember things that he should have forgotten. To hear Alessan describe it, the eidetic memory had a genetic component in his bloodline. I don’t think it works that way, but I could be wrong.

The rest of the races pass amiably enough, except the last, which is too close to call and only dispersed after Alessan adroitly doubles the purse so that it can be split evenly between the two riders. To transport Moreta back to the Hold, Alessan gets to show off the towering endurance beasts his father wanted bred, which can seat two comfortably.

Their arrival at the Gather square attracts an entourage, with Alessan’s mother taking charge and escorting Moreta up for a change of clothes from her dusty race-watching outfits.

In the instant her eyes meet Lady Oma’s, Moreta knew the woman disapproved of her as much as Tolocamp did but more for upsetting her own plans for her son’s afternoon entertainment than for Moreta’s hoyden behavior.

Oma. That’s like, Greek for “grandmother”, right? Naming is clearly a functional pastime here, right? Also, I think that’s the first time I’ve encountered the word “hoyden”, but it certainly seems to apply from what the narrative has shown so far.

Oma offers Moreta a choice of dresses, then Moreta takes a bath after choosing one that will suit her intention to dance hard tonight. Her assigned assistant, Oklina, is chagrined that Moreta is already in her dress and needs no help with hair, so much so that she dashes in quickly when Moreta mentions needing help with the back of the dress. And almost causes another accident.

Oklina is Alessan’s sister, and from her, we find out that Alessan wanted to make sure Moreta stayed to dance, that he hasn’t danced or sung or been himself since his wife died, that she expects to have absolutely no time to dance tonight, and that she’s thrilled at his happiness with regard to the runner victory on the track today.

Oh, and that Alessan could have been a dragonrider, but his dad forbade it. Which is sandwiched in between the first instance that I know of that actually paints dragonriders in the religious light they have to exist in.

Moreta smiled, recognizing the girl’s yearning to be found on Search and to impress a queen dragon. Once when faced with such envious yearnings, Moreta had felt unaccountable guilt over her good fortune at Impressing Orlith, her friend, her sure consolation, her life. That reaction had gradually been replaced by the knowledge of the great gap between wish, fulfilment, and acceptance. So Moreta could smile kindly at Oklina while her mind reached out to her sleeping dragon.
[…Alessan could have been one, too. Oklina asks how they know…]
Search dragons know,” Moreta said in a mysterious voice, a rote reply after so many repetitions. “Each Weyr has dragons who sense the potential in youngsters.” Moreta deepened the mystery in her voice. “There are folk, weyrborn, who’ve known dragons and riders all their lives who don’t Impress, and complete strangers – like myself – who do. The dragons always know.”
“The dragons always know…” Oklina’s whisper was half prayer, half imprecation. She stole a quick look up at the fire-heights as if she feared the somnolent dragons might take offense of they heard.
“Come, Oklina,” Moreta said briskly. “I’m dying to dance.”

That’s the end of the chapter, but that’s also the first reaction to dragons that makes sense to me in six books. Oklina is both in awe of the dragons and wants to get one and afraid of the dragons in that she might be rejected, either as a candidate when the search comes to Ruatha, or worse, as a candidate on the Hatching Ground, consigned to whatever fate befalls those women, and have her hopes of achieving a better life than the one she has permanently shattered. Moreta, as the priestess of the dragons, has to maintain the mystery and the allure so that the Weyrs can keep collecting candidates looking to move up in life. At the same time, she understands that the reality of the situation is that she traded running a small household for running a much bigger one, where the person she’s supposed to run it with can change based on dragons, and that there’s never a guarantee, as with all the other possible marriages, that the man won’t turn out to be abusive and worse. There are no good lives for women on Pern.

Also, is it me, or do the gold dragons really seem to prefer people outside the Weyr as their bond partners? Lessa is Hold, Kylara is Hold, Brekke Craft, and Moreta Hold. I think even some of the junior queens are from outside the Weyr. Are the queens selecting those already with strong organizational skills, or do they want people with certain personalities or inner strength that can only be found in the otherwise awful lives found outside the Weyrs? It would be nice to get inside the head of the searching dragons to find out what their criteria are.

The Gather still isn’t over yet. Maybe next chapter we’ll see everyone retire for the night.

This week in the Slacktiverse, December 20th, 2015

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • I wrote a post talking about where I am when it comes to writing stuff headspace and how it might mean that all fiction for the rest of the year is from a single fandom that doesn’t really seem particularly like by anyone who reads me.
    • I gave the Band Story an index, and had a short post on the simple pleasure/relief of having two mistakes cancel out and also the annoying tendency of people to weaponize “Merry Christmas” during advent.
    • After seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in which the force really, really seems to still be asleep the whole time, I wrote a spoiler filled post about about some WTF questions I was left with.

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 December 18th, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is right pissed off that the new composition interface has no option for copying posts.)

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.

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Libby Anne: Love, Joy, Feminism

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Reboot, Again?

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern, Chapter I: Content Notes: None

{3.10.43-1541 – is that 1541 years from the event that started the Pern calendar? Or a time stamp in 24-hour time? Does Pern even have a 24 hour cycle? And does anyone actually in this narrative know about this calendar notation, or is it strictly for the outside reader to know where we are in time?)

Moreta begins with a conversation with her headwoman, Nesso, about where her Weyrleader, Sh’gall should be in relation to where she is headed – a Gather at Ruatha, as well as an instruction to leave alone the sick dragonrider, K’lon. We are treated to a couple of data bits about Nesso that sets up the relationship as an antagonistic one:

Their [Nesso and Sh’gall’s] antagonism was mutual, and Moreta often found herself in the position of placating or explaining the one to the other. She could not change Sh’gall and was loathe to displace Nesso for, despite her faults, the woman was an exceedingly efficient and hard-working Headwoman.
Nesso had an officious habit of “taking” Moreta’s place whenever the Weyrwoman was absent unless specifically ordered not to.

This is not true, strictly speaking, as I’m sure that things could be arranged such that Sh’gall is nowhere to be found at the next mating flight, and it is clearly possible to remove a member of the staff if you want, but with the way this narrative likes to punish women that take action on their own, especially those that try to arrange things for their own benefit, it’s probably safer for her to wait and deal with the aggravation.

Regarding that second bit, why shouldn’t the Headwoman take change when the Weyrleaders are out? About the only thing they wouldn’t be in charge of would be drills or fighting engagements, and there’s an already-established military rank system to handle scrambles, launches, and logistics for that. In the running of the Weyr, the Headwoman should be Goddess. (And only the Weyrleaders able to overrule them as the Greater Gods.) Nesso should be invested with Moreta’s authority, and if she can’t run the place, do what Moreta wants, or abuses the power, then she gets replaced with someone that can.

As it turns out, Moreta has recently become Weyrwoman when the previous queen (Leri’s Holth) did not have a mating flight the last winter, so that may explain some of the animosity and friction – she hasn’t necessarily had enough time to change the senior staff. We’re seven Turns out from the end of a Pass, which gives Moreta a chance to indulge in vanity on what she’s going to do when she doesn’t have to fight off Thread. Which, in turn, gives the narrative an excuse to describe her body and self-image.

She slipped into the dress now, smoothing it over her rather too broad shoulders, over breasts firm rather than large, a waist that was trim, and buttocks flat from long hours of riding astride. The gown hid muscled thighs that she sometimes resented, but they, too, were the legacy of twenty Turns riding a dragon and little enough inconvenience for being a queen’s rider.

So, in that description, we highlight all of the sexual parts (breasts, butt, waist, thighs) and the shoulders. No mention of hands, legs, feet, or face, which all would help with this description and make it seem less like panning the camera slowly over all the Male Gaze bits. What I can’t figure out is whether I’m supposed to see Moreta has having a close-to-hourglass build, or whether I should be imagining her with “swimmer’s build”, where she has broad shoulders that then taper down in a roughly triangle shape to the hips and thighs, and then further streamlining to the feet, where she would be able to swim an event efficiently by cutting thrive the water with maximum efficiency. It would explain basically everything mentioned – big shoulders, flat chest and butt, strong legs and thighs, slim waist. It would make sense as a dragonrider and fighter, and it avoids the problem we had with Lessa’s conventionally-attractive figure despite having lived as a nutritionally-starved drudge for many years. So, in the absence of other evidence, that’s my imagining for Moreta – like an Olympic swimmer.

Moreta’s thoughts turn to Ruatha and it’s TRADITION-based Lord Leef, just about to hand over to a new Lord Alessan, who is not any of the sons of Lord Leef – they all get their own Holds. Sh’gall went to the Gather at Ista to take a look at a curious creature that washed ashore, leaving Moreta free to indulge in her passion of watching races at Ruatha, a passion Sh’gall disapproves of and has restricted heavily. Well, I guess this makes sense, if we treat these Fort Weyrleaders as expies of the Benden Weyrleaders, right down to the controlling streak and attempts to tamp down on the Weyrwoman doing things independently.

Moreta shakes off the issues, and hops on Orlith, her queen, who will soon be laying eggs, to go to Ruatha. The first trip into hyperspace is accompanied by the dragonrider chant of determining distance of hop by how long into the recitation they get:

Black, blacker, blackest; colder beyond frozen things,
Where is between when there is naught
To Life but fragile dragon wings.

Which seems a bit nonsensical, now that I think about it more. I get the first line, describing the hyperspace plane, but the other two don’t make sense, even in some metaphorical way.

Orlith lands herself and Moreta in the dancing square, instead of the normal landing zone, attracting a crowd, and the new Lord Holder, who goes through the formalities and is a bit off-put by Moreta’s responses and Orlith’s decision to buzz the gathering as a demonstration of her abilities. There is gossip about who is attending, about whether the races (which are of runnerbeasts) have begun, and then there’s this, about Lord Tolocamp:

Lord Tolocamp was an energetic, forceful man who spoke his mind and gave his opinion on every topic as if he were the universal expert. As he did not have the least sense of humor, exchanges with him were apt to be awkward and boring. Moreta preferred to avoid his company whenever possible. But, as she was now senior Weyrwoman, she had fewer excuses to do so.
“How many of his ladies came with him?”
“Five.” Alessan’s voice was carefully neutral.

Well, we knew that Groghe had lots of sons, and if I recall all the way back to Dragonflight, Fax was known to use up women with as much pregnancy as possible, but it seems like Hold culture very strongly encourages multiple marriages for each Holder so as to create as many potential heirs as possible. That would make the Weyrs polyamorous, the Holds in favor of multiple marriages, and the “inhibited” Crafts…?

Lord Alessan, however, has had his wife die recently and would prefer not to get involved in another marriage any time soon. Moreta thinks very dimly of the women being presented to him, as well. But the two share a similar reluctant acceptance of their lack of ability to choose, as well as their new promotions to positions of power, him as a new Lord Holder, her as a queen rider and Weyrwoman. So Alessan uses Moreta as a shield against Tolocamp and his daughters, and they both basically run away as quickly as dignity allowed to watch the runner races. Finding a spot to watch from, as well as a skin of wine, Alessan hops up to watch. Moreta is ready to follow:

For just a moment, Moreta hesitated. L’mal [the previous Weyrleader] had often chided her about the dignity expected of Weyrwomen, especially outside the precincts of the Weyr, where holder, crafter, and harper could observe and criticise.[…] It was a lovely warm Gather, just the respite she’d needed from her onerous responsibilities all Turn. There was racing and Benden wine, there’d be dancing later. Moreta, Weyrwoman of Fort Weyr, was going to enjoy herself.
You should, you know, Orlith commented sleepily.
“Hurry,” Alessan said. “They’re milling at the start.”
Moreta turned to the nearest dragonrider at the wall.
“Give me a leg up, R’limeak, would you?”
“Oh, don’t be scandalized. I want to see the race start.” She arranged her skirts and bent her left knee. “A good lift, R’limeak, I’d rather not scrape my nose on the stones.”
R’limeak’s lift was not wholehearted. If Alessan’s strong hands had not steadied her, she would have slipped.
“How shocked he looks!” Alessan laughed, his green eyes merry.
“It’ll do him good. Blue riders can be so prim!”

Well, then. I’m wondering at this point as to whether or not Moreta is another shot at telling a Kylara story, but this time without the giant amounts of slut-shaming. It looks like it will be with the intense pressure to conform to a particular idea of what a Weyrwoman should be, though. So I’m not actually optimistic as to whether Moreta will get through this book without suffering some sort of major injury. For now, though, it seems that she is able to act independently, if only in certain circumstances. I await the dropping of the other shoe with resignation.

Also, this is a pretty good reason why it’s highly impractical for someone who is riding a dragon to be wearing a dress or skirts, unless we are supposed to believe that women dragon riders sit sidesaddle, or that these skirts are riding skirts, with slits in them to allow for a more stable riding posture. Considering the Queens Wing fights with flamethrowers, which can’t be light things, skirts don’t make sense as part of a dragonrider’s costume.

Then there is something very nice: an actual temporal reference! The first that I’ve seen that indicates somebody knows how long it has been since major events happened:

“The harpers tell us that Fort Hold was thrown together as a temporary accommodation after the Crossing.”
“A mere fourteen hundred Turns temporary. Whereas we of Ruatha have always been planners. We even have special accommodations for visiting race enthusiasts.”

Which means that something happened in between the Sixth and Ninth passes that resulted in the severe destruction of records and a major disconnection from the history of the people there. One would think that Lessa’s time jaunt to retrieve the majority of the Weyrs for the Long Interval wouldn’t have disrupted the process, especially if it’s the harpers who generally have the task of keeping and passing on that knowledge through generations. I wonder what happened to disrupt the transmission of knowledge that much.

The first race is a sprint, and Alessan’s runner is the winner – the first in eight Turns…of attempting to breed a long-distance, less hungry runner. So this winner had basically all of the non-preferred traits. Moreta suggests that he let the runner race at other Gathers to collect some purses for himself, before Moreta and Alessan both notice they’re being watched heavily and policed subtly, as well as the indefatigable Tolocamp and his daughters appear. So Moreta and Alessan go on the run again, Moreta fighting her skirts at an “undignified lope” and Alessan following behind. Finding a new spot, Moreta reflects that she likes Alessan as unpredictable compared to the other Lords, and Alessan reflects on the bond between Moreta and her dragon.

And thus, our chapter concludes, with people with responsibilities doing their best to ditch them and have a fun day. I think, of the books so far, this is the strongest first chapter I’ve read. It manages to get the necessary information and setting across, it keeps the action moving, and it tries to be subtle about a possible attraction going on (it mostly fails}. It’s a really good first chapter.

Open Thread: Recomendations

(by chris the cynic)

Anything you feel like introducing the rest of us to/reminding us of/otherwise recommending?  Books, movies, blogs, video games, short stories, hikes, music, pets, theme parks, appliances, gods, foods, vacation spots, paintings/painters, other artists, fractals, hangouts, whatever.


[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]

This week in the Slacktiverse, December 13th, 2015

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • People were doing horror versions of the wardrobe from Narnia, I picked up one where Susan was the last one in the house –the other three children passed through and never came back, the Professor and housekeeper went on a rescue mission, never game back– and turned it into the beginning of an action story via the addition of another girl.
    • There was a game in which Boudica on a war elephant stormed the city of Rome.  It did not live up to the description in the previous sentence.  I proposed a franchise of games that hopefully would.
    • I also proposed a movie, Men in Black: Revolution, but most of the post was talking about why it’s necessary to overthrow the Men in Black and how scary-evil they are, rather than actually about the proposed movie.
    • I posted a Left Behind piece I wrote before there was a Stealing Commas, in it the sheep/goat judgement doesn’t go as Rayford expects.
    • There was finally good news about my finances which I shared in a post called, “Whoa.  And thanks.  And whoa.

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 December 11th, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is juggling many writing projects here at the end of the year.)

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: Eruditorium Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

The Impression: Same Story, Different Verse

A copy of The Dragonlover’s Guide appeared fast enough for me to get this taken care of before jumping fully into Moreta, so we’re going to hit this short story while we still have The Smallest Dragonboy fresh in our minds. Next week, I promise, Moreta starts in earnest.

The Impression: Content Notes: Toxic masculinity, bullying, child endangerment

This particular story opens Chapter Five (Weyrlings) of the Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern, an item which I will be otherwise steadfastly ignoring, both for spoiler data reasons and for temptation of retcon reasons. I am given to understand that there are inconsistencies between the Guide and the books, even into the second edition of the work, which would likely generate only WTF. Perhaps at the very end. Maybe.

The viewpoint character here is Felessan, son of the Benden Weyrleaders, and he is about to undergo his first opportunity at Impression. He’s known that he could stand as a candidate for two nights at this point, and since learning, has taken as many detours through the Hatching Ground as he can, examining the eggs.

Which egg held a bronze dragon, and which a blue? To Felessan’s knowledge, no one had been able to work out a system to tell the eggs apart. Of course, the queen egg was easy to pick out. It was mostly gold, like its occupant, it was bigger than all the rest, and it rested, lovingly protected, between the claws of its broody golden mother.
Ramoth opened one great jeweled eye about halfway and regarded the boy passively. To his relief, it showed the blue of sleepy contentment rather than the red or yellow of annoyance. Felessan was afraid she was sizing him up and paying judgment on him: “Might make a blue rider, but no more than that,” as the elders and senior weyrlings has been doing for two days now. He did not see where the others got off making remarks about him.

Of course, if there wasn’t so much status attached to the color of dragon you had, then you wouldn’t need to develop a set of superstitions about determining color. Or, for that matter, a way of bullying someone about not living up to their potential. This is one of those betrayals of the ideal that the narrative provides for us, but then doesn’t bother to reflect on it to at least signal to the reader that it is aware of what’s going on, even if the character isn’t.

The narrative goes to lengths to suggest to us that Felessan isn’t sure why he’s been picked, why he’s being picked on, and that he is just one Weyrling among many, but if that were true, then it seems like his bullying would be more like Keevan’s. Even if Felessan can claim some sort of ignorance, others are clearly throwing his parentage in his face as a way of putting him down and trying to goad him about what an embarrassment he will be when he impresses a low-status dragon. Petty things filter down all the same.

Advice from the actual riders seems enigmatic and useless to him, because there are twice as many candidates as eggs for the fighting dragons, and even though he won’t admit it to himself, Felessan has a legacy to uphold. All the candidates have had the opportunity to touch the eggs, which reminds Felessan of how he and Jaxom snuck in to an earlier clutch, the one that would eventually produce Ruth.

Rather than dwell on the upcoming event, all the weyrlings have chores to do. Felessan has drawn the hunting of tunnel snakes, for which his snares are excellent, and he pairs up with a new boy arrived from the Search, Catrul, who has a forked knife that looks like it will be excellent for decapitating snakes. Hunting snakes is likely a dangerous action, if this description is accurate:

The trick of killing tunnel snakes was to avoid their sharp claws and teeth and strike at their unprotected backs and necks.

Wait, claws? That doesn’t sound like any snake that I know. A different group, perhaps, of molting creatures?

The boys watched in silence as one of the bests crept closer and closer to the place where Catrul had spread a snare. The snake, invisible in the darkness, passed cautiously over the single grains of glows dispersed along the corridor. The boys could measure its progress by how quickly the glows disappeared and reappeared. Another man-length, then another –
“Pull, Catrul!” Felessan cried suddenly. With a whoop, the redheaded boy sprang to his knees and fell into his back, yanking the cord taut.
From the other side, Felessan dove over the flailing pair of stabilizers that were the snake’s middle limbs and yanked the tail and the hindquarters back and down. There was a snapping sound as the snake’s neck broke. It twitched in a frenzy for a few seconds, then fell still.

They call a six-limbed creature a snake. As we found out in The White Dragon, it appears that zoology was not part of the knowledge destined for survival. Also, I would like to know what kind of creature it is, to have six limbs and an adaptation for nearly complete darkness.

Still, the method of hunting them is to lie in wait in near darkness, then snare it and kill it. If they misjudge the timing on it, then they’re fighting something they can’t see. I wonder how many weyrlings and drudges have been lost because they made a mistake in the tunnels. And if tunnel snakes don’t like light, then it seems the best way to avoid them is to keep surroundings lit. Presumably there are enough glows to go around, right?

As the boys are celebrating their kill, they realize that the humming indicating a Hatching has already started, and race to get clean and to their places in time.

“But it’s too soon,” one of the boys cried. “I don’t know what to think yet.”
“How will I know what to do?” another boy asked.
Felessan was worrying about the same things, but he said nothing.

As we saw with Keevan, and with Lessa’s contempt for the other queen candidates, it’s entirely okay for a candidate to have concerns or feelings of nervousness, but those who are destined for greatness will never articulate those feelings aloud to anyone else, as doing so is a sign of weakness that will affect the dragon’s choice. This very well may be what the Brown Rider Rapist meant in his advice to the candidates about not being afraid of one’s dragon, but, as Felesaan notes, “They would Impress now, or not, as the dragons pleased.” So all the previous advice was more for the benefit of the people rather than the dragons.

This is another one of those moments of the curious ignorance of Pern. We’re in the Ninth Pass, and there are clearly plenty of Records of previous times and Hatchings. Yet nobody seems to want to try and figure out why some candidates do and others don’t? The Holders would probably want to know, so they could only send sons and daughters that really were destined for the job.

In any case, as the candidates are waiting for eggs to hatch, Felessan wonders why they have to be barefoot on the very hot sand. (Probably TRADITION, much like how all the candidates dress in simple white clothes) Before too long, though, the first egg hatches, a bronze, and Impresses. This opens the way for all the others, and soon there are many dragonets on the sands. A brown falls over his feet, but then toddles away after Felessan helps right him. A green and a couple blues intrude on his attention, but they all pass by him as well. Right before Felessan is ready to give in to frustration and disappointment, he is distracted by another dragon.

“Oh, a bronze,” he breathed. Not an ordinary bronze, either, but a flawless combination of gold and green and tan that looked like the dappled sun through the leaves, only more perfect. “Oh! Is he coming…to me?”

Of course he is – we don’t write stories of Hatchings where the viewpoint character doesn’t Impress. And, since it is Felessan, and we’re supposed to be sympathetic to his plight and bullied experience (which Keevan did a lot better), it’s going to end up being a bronze for him, too.

However, we do get the clearest picture of what Impression feels like from a candidate.

Suddenly, some indefinable sensation surged through his body, filed by a consciousness that centered itself both in his head and a few feet in front of him, inside the body of the little bronze, making every breath echo, every movement repeat itself.
My name is Golanth, the bronze hatchling said.
Felessan reached it to stroke the dragonet’s skin, knowing before he did how soft it would be, and how happy Golanth would be for the caress. He loved the little dragon with an astonishing sense of completion. He was overwhelmingly happy, happier than he had ever been in his life. All he wanted to do was look at the little bronze dragon, just look at him. Felessan had the amazing feeling of being together with Golanth. No matter where he was, the rapport would remain between them. But he had no intention of ever being away from Golanth.

Impression, it changes people, totally and completely. The next paragraph is Felessan, now properly F’lessan, waxing poetic about how perfect and the very best dragon Golanth is, which could very well be a thing that happens with every dragonrider, but it’s tough to tell because Golanth is a bronze, and we don’t get to see the insides of too many other characters’ heads during their Impression. I’m going to guess this is just a standard thing, though, as Felessan only started noticing how beautiful the dragon was when it became clear that the two were going to be a pairing.

Golanth interrupts F’lessan’s reverie with more practical matters – he’s hungry, as all newborns are. This gets F’lessan off the Sands and into the Weyr Bowl so that feeding can happen (big bowl of red meat, and F’lessan has to explain what chewing is to Golanth) and itching and oiling can happen (both sensations and relief are things that F’lessan feels as well, so he’s going to have to learn how to discern the difference between his feelings and Golanth’s). We are told that Golanth likes whatever F’lessan likes, continuing in the vein of a dragon being your best friend forever.

Having satisfied food and oil requirements, F’lessan notices the latest entry to the area:

Joyful creelings from a fair of Impressed fire lizards echoed overhead in the wide Weyr Bowl, as a very small green dragon joined the other hatchlings in the sun. F’lessan noted with one astonished glance that the weyrling with her was Mirrim. A girl impressing a green? Why she hadn’t even been standing on the sands.

And this is why I can’t manage even a short story without a content note. And maybe I’m being a little cynical, but that doesn’t read as fully astonished to me, but more like it has a little of something else. But maybe that’s because I’m expecting the narrative to be a bit more heavy-handed than this when it comes to Mirrim.

As F’lessan and Golanth wind down from the excitement of the hatching, the narrative lets us know that F’lessan was totally aware of all the burdens being placed on him because of his parentage, despite the fostering system’s intent and attempts to remove dynastic considerations.

F’lessan discovered that he, too, was exhausted. He had been up practically all the night before, too nervous to sleep, not knowing what to expect and worrying what the other Candidates would say if the Weyrleader’s son failed to Impress on his first try. But it had all turned out just fine! And he had Impressed a bronze, too – the most beautiful, intelligent, wonderful bronze on Pern! The reality of the Hatching was more wonderful, more terrifying, and more rewarding than any description he had ever heard. He would never be alone again – and he had never realized how alone he had been until Golanth’s presence filled his soul.

Admittedly, the idea of dragon companionship here is well-crafted, and for an audience that is looking for someone to understand them and unconditionally love them, this kind of wish fulfillment fantasy holds a really big appeal. How nice it would be to have another being that is always with you, understands you perfectly, and loves you anyway.

The rest of the story is basically the new dragon and rider falling asleep and being tucked in.

As a story, this one doesn’t work as well as The Smallest Dragonboy, in my opinion. It’s a nice account of what Impression is like, but other than that, it’s not much of a story. Felessan’s result wasn’t actually in doubt, since Dragonquest mentioned that. And Felessan isn’t generating a lot of drama with his mental state, because while he’s supposedly agitated about all of this, he’s apparently doing a really good job of keeping it all inside and not showing anything to anyone outside. If there’s no external conflict, and no internal conflict, then there’s no story, really. Yet there was still enough time to be dumbfounded at Mirrim’s presence as a dragonrider…until looking again at his dragonet, which basically wiped away any concerns he had.

That sort of mind-altering effect could be the great premise of a horror-type story in the same vein as the Stepford Wives, though, where characters seen as undesirable to the society, or are branded as criminals, are the ones picked as rider candidates, to have their antisocial tendencies removed in their desire to care for dragons, and then to be used as cannon fodder against the invading parasite. Nothing else would really have to change, but the story would be creepy as all fuck with the insinuation that everyone on the sands is hoping not to Impress and to somehow manage to ride out their sentences.

So it’s probably a good thing that this story is here in the Dragonlover’s Guide instead of somewhere else – people purchasing the book are probably doing it for the other data, and might be peripherally interested in the story. Otherwise, this one probably needed a few more revisions.