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.

33 thoughts on “Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Soak Test

  1. genesistrine December 24, 2015 at 3:43 am

    It’s canon that queens only Impress on candidates from outside the Weyrs, though I can’t remember offhand where we’re told this.

    And if “dragons always know” how come candidates are left standing on the sands with no hatchling Impressed? Their ways are beyond human understanding, evidently…

  2. Firedrake December 24, 2015 at 5:22 am

    The soaking seems a bit male-gazey meet-cute. Maybe it’s just me.

    genesistrine: the impression I get is that the dragons may know “this is a good candidate” but it’s still up to the hatchling to make the final decision.

  3. WanderingUndine December 24, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I think it took me a little while to realize that “runnerbeasts” are horses.

  4. emmy December 24, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    bringing in outside women to your dragonclan… could be either based on some kinds of marriage traditions, or another bit of protection against incest. (Actually, do we ever see a daughter raised in the weyr? I can’t remember any female offspring of dragonriders. Only strong bronze-loving sons.)

  5. genesistrine December 24, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    @WanderingUndine: maybe they aren’t. Considering the lack of description and the genetic engineering skills of the original colonists, they could be practically anything… giant pigs. Giant ferrets. With longer legs. Okapis. Mutated megatheria.

    @emmy: Mirrim’s dad’s a dragonrider, though he never appears on-page and they don’t seem to have any kind of a relationship.

  6. genesistrine December 24, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    @Firedrake: it would be interesting to see the comparative Impression rates of candidates from outside the Weyr and those born into it….

  7. Firedrake December 24, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    genesistrine, yes, but that would probably be regarded as Forbidden Learning from the Dark Times or some such nonsense. Characters have their own ideas about how well candidates of a particular sort do, but they never seem to gather solid data.

    My vision of the runnerbeast was something with a bipedal gait, along the lines of a non-jumping kangaroo. I don’t think this is supported by the text.

  8. WanderingUndine December 24, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    I feel like giant ferrets would be hard to ride. They’re so…supple and sinuous. And probably ornery.

  9. only some stardust December 26, 2015 at 2:15 am

    If they had long legs they wouldn’t be quite as sinuous I think.

  10. depizan December 27, 2015 at 2:29 am

    Practical or not, giant ferrets sound like awesome mounts.

  11. boutet December 28, 2015 at 12:13 am

    There’s some good politics to having the lead queen riders be from outside the weyr. Hold and Hall types will feel like “their” women will represent them in decision making and the queen riders seem to be flashier than the bronze men, getting more attention. But the real power is in the bronze rider, so the weyr retains its power while making a show of putting a hold/hall woman into a position of showy fake-power.

    If I’m understanding correctly then the boys are searched much younger than the girls, so they’re young enough to be raised to be completely devoted to weyr politics before they are likely to have any power. So even “outside” male riders are going to be weyr in a way that the older girls coming in maybe won’t be (or won’t be seen as being).

    The figurehead would be a hold or hall rider, the power stays with the weyr. Hold and hall feel represented whether or not they actually are.

  12. genesistrine December 28, 2015 at 4:39 am

    Boys are normally from inside the Weyr – in DF they only search boys because there are too few boys in the Weyr for the number of eggs Ramoth lays. F’lar seems to keep up outside searches after that as a PR thing, along with the outside audience.

    But that only makes your point better.

  13. Nothing December 29, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Regarding dresses, I got the impression riders only wear them for formal events. On a standard visit, Moreta would just wear riding leathers and/or trousers (I’d say pants but some of you may be European etc!)

    Regarding runnerbeasts: they are horses, with genetic modifications to survive better on Pern. So the argument is made at some point in one of the Pern past-history stories that they aren’t really horses.

    Dray beasts appear to be oxen. Herd beasts include horses, llamas, cattle, sheep, etc. If McCaffrey wants to specify, sometimes she describes them a bit, other times she says things like “bovine” or “ovine.” It’s a mystery to me why horses aren’t called the shorter, more accurate “equine” as opposed to “runnerbeasts.” That said, I too used to imagine these were all exotic and possibly native/alien beasts. Learning otherwise was a bit of a disappointment, actually.

  14. genesistrine December 29, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Oh FFS. So what kind of animals do you herd, sturdy peasant? Herdbeasts, herdbeasts, or, um, woolly herdbeasts with long necks?

    That’s even stupider than I thought, and I thought there was only one kind of herdbeast – some kind of engineered/adapted animal that provided meat and milk and leather and fleece. If there’s more than one type why don’t they have different names? Are we just seeing them from the dragon perspective of “food”; no need for further distinction?

  15. beappleby December 29, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    I’ve been planning to use “woolbeasts” for sheep in a fanfic I may actually write someday…

    Runnerbeasts makes sense when it’s at a race – but it seems to be used for all horses. Still, cattle aren’t exactly known for running…

    Maybe it would be scandalous for the Weyrwoman to show up at a gather in her old riding leathers – but it’s not just for propriety’s sake that she’s wearing it. SHE ENJOYS GETTING TO GO OUT AND LOOK PRETTY FOR ONCE IN HER BUSY LIFE. Femininity works both ways. (Sorry if I’m shouting – I wanted to really emphasize it and couldn’t get italics to work!)

  16. WanderingUndine December 30, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I just dreamed that the next chapter got posted here and revealed that Moreta was Mirrim’s mother. Slacktiverse is apparently beginning to take over my brain. :-p

  17. Nothing December 30, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Beappleby: yes. And for those who don’t realize that dray/burden beasts are specially trained steers (cattle! They’re cattle!) the Renegades of Pern cover by Michael Whelan is painfully misleading. I used to think that those alien/fantasy looking beasties were what McCaffrey intended all along! Would have been cooler if they were…

    But I do think the Pernese differentiate, or at least the Herders must (can’t breed horses to llamas…). It’s silly though that McCaffrey basically removes all but the scientific term, when most people won’t care if it’s a genetically engineered horse; if it looks like a horse and acts like a horse, we’d call it a horse, in whatever language we spoke. And we wouldn’t shift to a longer word unless horses became much rarer and thus references to them were uncommon. Thus, “horse” makes more sense than “equine,” but “equine” makes more sense than “runnerbeast” and is also a valid scientific compromise as a term for not-horse horses. If you also want to take into account diverse cultural backgrounds and groups of people who may have different lingual preferences, you could even just call them the Latin word, Equus. Again, more linguistically logical than the lengthier “runnerbeast.”

    And yes, it’s irritating that the only real reference to sheep is to declare a particular herdbeast “small and woolly.”

    Such loosely defined terms and world building have led to things like a debate about precisely what size scale the dragons are measured in. It isn’t even clear how much they eat, because “three herdbeasts” might mean three goats or three large bulls, or a mix of animals of varying sizes.

    Back to dresses: indeed, if you’re usually dressed for business or housework, the opportunity to pretty up for a formal event might certainly be welcome! And maybe Moreta was feeling flirty toward Alessan in part because dressing in formal attire for once made her feel more attractive and valuable–a boost to her confidence that Alessan’s apparent interest may have bolstered.

    But, it is interesting that we can’t be allowed to see Alessan as an appropriate partner for Moreta (or she is conditioned not to, or maybe both) until we are informed that he could have been a dragonrider. Being a decent guy (apparently–though one must question it as he encourages her interest despite knowing the trouble it could cause for her later on–granted she does the same but I doubt the consequences are as dire for a Lord Holder as for a Pernese woman who is claimed by another man) in whom she holds some interest is simply not enough. He must be bronze rider material! So I think it’s safe to say that although the societal position of men is an improvement over that of women on Pern, most men are not in a great position either. If you aren’t a ranking crafter, a dragonrider, or a lord, one mistake can lead to being demoted to drudge or left homeless to face Thread. Or worse, you can be staked out alive during Threadfall, and presumably this means you’re devoured rather than spared by the overflying dragons. Granted, this goes for everyone, but need I repeat that Alessan, even as a Lord Holder (of McCaffrey’s favorite, Ruatha!) has to be deemed “dragonrider quality” before he’s even worthy for Moreta to have a fling with, nevermind a true romance.

    In future books, we will see that women once held a more equal standing (not equal but more so), and as the “current” timeline goes forward, I seem to recall some further progress for women also being made, albeit it seems painfully small. (For example, Mirrim is only the first new green rider, but I don’t remember it being clear how many there actually are.) The issue of mating flights being traumatic experiences is even addressed eventually, if not dealt with in an ideal manner.

  18. genesistrine December 31, 2015 at 1:58 am

    An extra oddity about the whole “-beasts” naming convention has occurred to me; they’re all animals that came with the colonists. Pernese creatures have names – wher, wherry, fire lizard, tunnel snake, packtail, the rockmites and fingerlings that Rocky and Diver were named for hunting. You’d expect the animals they brought with them would be likeliest to have their own names and the local creatures to have the quick descriptive ones (it looks kind of like a snake and it burrows; let’s call it a tunnel snake until we think of something better).

  19. Silver Adept January 1, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Firedrake: Yeah, a very meet cute sort of way. At least it wasn’t a crash-into-hello.

    Regarding the naming conventions, well, we’ve seen that names appear to be random choices about whether they are portmanteaus, new words, or something else entirely. It could have been used as a sign of class (“equines” by Lords Holder, “runnerbeasts” by those who aren’t quite as highborn), but instead everyone speaks the same dialect. I think you’re right, genesistrine, that it’s odd that the non-native creatures get the strange names and the native ones get the more natural-sounding ones. Probably related to the great loss of knowledge somewhere in Pernese history.

    Beappleby, wanting to look pretty is totally a valid reason to wear a dress. Wanting to look pretty for Alessan while they watched the races would be, too, considering that the two of them basically duck everyone else as much as they can during the time. But there’s not much of an explicit indication of this, and the inconveniences Moreta encounters are the kind that would be easily remedied if she wore not-a-dress, so it seems a bit odd that she is wearing one to the races. For the dancing later on, it totally makes sense to have a dress.

    Nothing, it follows that Alessan would have to have been dragonrider quality to differentiate himself from all the other Lords Holder we’ve seen so far, since they all seem ready to boink anything that moves, repeatedly, and are probably not above using their station, as Jaxom did, to ensure a steady stream of partners.

  20. genesistrine January 1, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    If I had to come up with a sensible reason for the -beasts thing I’d have them as animals that were specifically genetically engineered for colonising alien planets in preference to machinery; self-reproducing, self-repairing to a degree, adapted to feed on native fodder, etc. The runner-type for fast travel, a burden-type for haulage, a general herd-type for meat/milk/fleece (though you’d think it would make sense to have those separated out to some degree, but maybe the original template could have enough variation to let the colonists breed them into separate subspecies if they wanted).

    But that doesn’t seem to be what AMC did; as far as I can tell she just transplanted Earth animals and gave them generic type-names that cross species.

    There are some weird omissions as well – why no dog-types, for instance? DF has “spit-canines”, but dogs disappear after that. No herd dogs, no tracker dogs – hunting doesn’t seem to be a thing on Pern, barring kids hunting tunnel snakes, but people-trackers? Truffle-equivalent-hunters? Vermin hunters? As well as mini-motors….

  21. Nothing January 2, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    @Silver Adept: Yes, the Lords Holder are not paragons of society. And Jaxom is super strange; he uses his station to get sex, then later is apparently totally loyal to only Sharra. You know what else is weird? Polygamy later does not seem all that common, even among lords. I’d assume the practice still stands, but most lords seem monogamous at least serially. As for Alessan, it’s almost like his status as a lord also makes him more “worthy” of Moreta. Otherwise why not fall for a sexy jockey at the races?

    @genesistrine: There are dogs, and house cats too. Very large dogs live in the South, but it seems as if only small ones live north (and using them as spit dogs is rather cruel; apparently in real life, incidents were sometimes caused by spit dogs trying to escape being used for the spits! Not to mention how supposedly-empathetic Lessa treated them in DF!) As for why cats are brought when foxes and rabbits are cited as being problems by the author, I have no clue. Cats are amazingly destructive to native wildlife. Cute as they are, they kill for fun. But house cats and other cats seem to exist only South too, though it begs the question of how anyone knows they are “felines” without having seen one before. So maybe the smaller ones do live north, and we just don’t see them mentioned. What’s weirder is that there appear to be no herding dogs or livestock guardian dogs. Hunting can be done without dogs, but they are invaluable for herding and protecting livestock.

  22. genesistrine January 2, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    @Nothing: yeah, I was specifically excluding cats, much as I love them, because them being the murderous little beasts they are seems a good reason to exclude them from the Responsible Colonists’ Bestiary. Though since Moreta’s flotsam-riding beast is a feline maybe some irresponsible people brought them anyway and some went feral….

    And yes, the lack of herd dogs is definitely the most peculiar aspect. They’re so invaluable in cattle and sheep-herding it seems impossible that they wouldn’t be brought with the beasts – was there some kind of die-off? A pandemic? Tunnel snakes got the munchies for dogs?

    And another peculiar thing; no-one keeps pets either, until fire lizards catch on.

  23. emmy January 2, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Combining head-canon with super-vague memory because it’s been a while since I read that book:

    The colonists did not bring housecats, period, because they were too destructive. They did bring some genetic samples of some sort of felines, because scientific data is always useful. The samples were then appropriated by a certain biological experimentor who didn’t think rules applied to him, and created a family of large cats because he wanted pet tigers. He modded them, too, making them smarter and prettier, so they were referred to as ‘felines’ because they weren’t any official species. Breeding his own smart predators turned out about as well as you might expect, and after they slaughtered their keepers they ran wild in the South. Pern being otherwise free of human-thread predators (well, other than thread), the monster cats were a pretty big deal, but with thread falling and the need to move north there was simply no manpower to spare to try and hunt them down and wipe them out. Still, the memory persisted and was passed down the generations, even to those who’d never seen a feline.

    I don’t think this is actual canon, because I think at least some Pern books will refer to housecats, but it makes slightly more sense to me.

    Dogs, though, really should be more common unless there’s a biological reason they couldn’t make it on Pern.

  24. genesistrine January 3, 2016 at 6:20 am

    @emmy: (well, not at you, at this trope) They did bring some genetic samples of some sort of felines, because scientific data is always useful

    Yeahhhh, I’m sure that’s what they said to the customs inspectors. They bring samples of mosquito and blackfly and ebola and smallpox and the Bro Gene too? Just in case? That was someone setting up his pet tigers in advance; “oh noooo! I need these for reseeeearch! I’m not going to be making pretty pretty tigers with them!” :makes biiiig eyes of truuuuthfulness:

    As for dogs, maybe cats guy made a Dog-Destroying Plague because he hated them as much as he loved cats.

  25. Nothing January 3, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    @emmy: I actually recall a young character being fond of a “small feline,” in one book–maybe Dolphins of Pern? So housecats did come along, intended to be used as vermin control. Bad idea, given the destructive capacity of cats, especially when the writer explicitly stated that was why no bunnies or foxes came along. Supposedly, pigs were brought if the Dragonlovers Guide to Pern is correct on that point (it is notoriously inaccurate). Probably goats too. Guess she didn’t stop to think about the consequences of non native grazers going feral. She was fond of cats and horses, so this is probably the reason.

    We are supposed to accept that due to Thread, Pern had serious gaps in its native ecology and basically no large grazers or predators bigger than wherries. But yet if Pern was in balance with itself, then bringing in all the livestock and cats (and yes I know about the bioengineered super lions too) was maybe not so great.

  26. emmy January 3, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I would actually read a story about how the runaway super-tigers spread to dominate the South after the humans fled in a panic, and how they learned to deal with Thread and so on…

  27. genesistrine January 3, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    @Nothing: they might have seen the lack of ecological diversity as a plus – lots of space in the ecology for imported animals. Though you’d think a bit of curiosity about what had happened to Pern’s ecology might have been in order….

    It’s also puzzling that more Pernese creatures don’t seem to have developed Thread evasion adaptations – fire lizards have teleportation, but what about, say, hippo-like grazers that can stay underwater during Threadfall, or giant pangolin-y things that can shed scales of skin if Thread latches on? As I’ve mentioned before, the grubs pretty much have to be native – 50 years of Thread-as-described would have eaten the planet down to dust long before humans got there.

  28. Nothing January 4, 2016 at 7:30 am

    @genesistrine: That basically was the line of thought, but as I said, despite the lack of “large” anything, Pern seems to have done okay before being colonized–surprisingly, since as you pointed out few things have Thread adaptations.

    What apparently did happen is that Thread would eat whole circles of life visible from space. Then it would apparently mature into something else, and the planet would recover. No one ever figured out what it turned into. Also, if I remember right, the circles did not overlap, so some land managed to survive anyway. Begs the question of why everyone didn’t cram the populace into those apparently Threadfall-free zones after the fact! But it does help to explain why at least some plant and animal life survived, even though the planet’s original pre-Thread diversity was ruined.

    As for the grubs, they are larval somethings, but we also never see what they become–unless they are the end result (they develop or live in sacs). Weird as it may seem, I always thought they might be genetically engineered versions of whatever Thread eventually becomes, modified to protect via symbiosis rather than devour. The evidence? “Eureka! Mycorrhizoids!” Thread is a (possibly sentient) fungus-analogue before it is drawn by gravity from its shattered home (presumably anyway) planet. The grubs may also be a fungus-like organism, or in direct symbiosis with one. This would have to mean, though, that the scientist responsible for the grubs was also the only person who ever figured out what Thread eventually became when it ceased to eat everything!

    Thread could just be an innocent victim of a massive planetary disaster that was lucky enough to have evolved a means of staying dormant and surviving space and planet fall. It could have been intelligent life and its shattered world is the result of either a war on itself or an external attack. It also could have been seeded on the eccentric, damaged Red Star either as part of a Thread colonial effort (if the harsh conditions are part of Thread’s natural life cycle), in which case human colonists could arguably be the enemy if Thread weren’t even more destructive than humans and the animals they brought; or it could have been seeded there as a weapon, in which case there must have been sapient and possibly spacefaring life on Pern at some point already. Any of these possibilities is fascinating, but the question is never answered. If that last one were true, it could have been fascinating if the Pernese had stumbled across pre-colonial, native Pernese artifacts… But of course they wouldn’t, because McCaffrey wants us to feel okay with settling an already occupied world and genetically modifying its inhabitants as humans see fit. Note that the firelizards are genetically modified and apparently outbred the original variant, driving it extinct.

  29. Silver Adept January 4, 2016 at 11:21 am

    The biological diversity of life of Pern is very strange, especially that lack of adaptation. Piemur noticed all the animals trying to get under the water during a Fall, because none of them have apparently evolved armor plates that would protect their soft squishy bits from the spores. Or some other methods. It’s not like they haven’t had nearly 1500 Turns at this point to adapt. (And longer in the Ninth Pass.) Whatever these engineers did, they apparently tried very hard to prevent evolution from taking its course. And the author doesn’t have the planet fighting back against the invaders all that much. Just a lovely peaceful world with an otherworldly threat that arrives on occasion. Nothing to see here.

  30. genesistrine January 5, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    What apparently did happen is that Thread would eat whole circles of life visible from space.

    I was going to say that’s obviously wrong given what we’re told about Threadfall patterns, but I think it may actually be a fascinating hint about what Thread does when humans aren’t interfering.

    Thread falls in waves – we have descriptions of curtains of Thread falling and advancing towards the observer – so if that was left unflamed you’d expect every successful Thread clump to eat out its own little circle, but they’d merge quickly into a thick band covering the fall area. You wouldn’t expect large-scale circles. There’s no hint of Threadfall starting out as a point and moving outwards.

    So fallen Thread, the mindless devouring horror, is self-organising.itself into large structures.

    What are these structures? What are they for? What do they look like? All we know is that they leave circular marks behind….

    This would have to mean, though, that the scientist responsible for the grubs was also the only person who ever figured out what Thread eventually became when it ceased to eat everything!

    Well, that’s Pern for you. They probably snuffed it before they could decide who to pass this TERRIBLY IMPORTANT SECRET on to.

    @Silver Adept:
    It’s not like they haven’t had nearly 1500 Turns at this point to adapt.

    The native ones, at least, may have had far, for longer – do we ever get any hints about how long Thread had been falling on Pern before the colonists got there?

  31. only some stardust January 6, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    If the native life couldn’t turn into super-predators and larger herd animals on its own, perhaps they figured that such species would be safe to bring, because any that escaped into the environment wouldn’t survive. That’s why it’s generally considered OK to bring small coldblooded tropical species into areas with lots of heavy snow; they just won’t survive to be invasive if they escape, the cold will kill them.

    So under that logic, they should have brought, perhaps, even more animals.

  32. Nothing January 6, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    @genesistrine: No, it’s definitely canon even if it doesn’t hold up to how we see Thread presented in practice. It’s mentioned in the colony survey short story; the survey team assumes it’s some kind of cyclical fungal infection of local vegetation.

    And as for the scientist in question… I’d tell you, but it’s a major spoiler for the short stories collected in Chronicles of Pern, and of course, Dragonsdawn as well. But you won’t like him, let’s just say, even though he manages to do one of the most beneficial things of anyone. I don’t like him either.

  33. genesistrine January 17, 2016 at 5:59 am

    @Nothing: It’s a REALLY BIG cyclical fungal infection!

    Still, it’s interesting that eating everything except rock and metal seems to be only a first-phase thing for Thread; once second-phase Thread is established it seems to be survivable, and even protective against first-phase going by the description of life surviving where the circles don’t overlap. I agree, it does sound a lot like the grubs are related somehow – maybe they’re second-phase Thread adapted to breed and die as second-phase-only rather than metamorphosing from first-phase and into whatever third-phase is?

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