Monthly Archives: December 2015

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

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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 work 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.

This week in the Slacktiverse, December 8th, 2015

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

The Blogaround

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Open Thread: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Speculative Stuff

(by chris the cynic)

Anything you like in the genres?  Dislike?  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.]

Deconstruction Roundup for December 4th, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is definitely into the winter holiday season, now.)

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

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Libby Anne: Love, Joy, Feminism

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

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: A Whole New Ballgame

Thanks for the votes of confidence. There’s been five years since the last book and this one coming out, so there has been time for reflection, and so this foray into Pern is likely more deliberate. The Author’s Note at the beginning of my Ballantine ebook says that the original thought that brought Pern into existence was to write one short story about an equal relationship between people and aliens, and to put dragons in a good light. Then came six books. The Author’s Note also says up front that this book is explicitly the past, not the future, so no resolutions to the scenario left hanging at the end of The White Dragon.

The Note itself concludes with an interesting thing:

For readers who have extrapolated themselves and their wishes onto Pern, I have probably NOT written the adventure you hoped might be presented within these covers. With all the best intentions in the world, I doubt I could write such a broadly-pleasing, all-encompassing, wish-fulfilling novel. In a roundabout way, that is a compliment to you, the reader, not a fault in me, for you have put more of yourself on Pern than I could ever imagine for your sake. I appreciate your enthusiasm and I also appreciate the list of dragon names which have been sent to me.

Well, clearly there’s a fandom that’s developed in this interval (or rather, in this interval, the fandom has been the only thing sustaining Pern). The Note seems to suggest that the decision to write Moreta is much like Arthur Conan Doyle’s decision to resurrect Holmes after throwing him off the Falls – the popular demand is just too much. But there’s the immediate disclaimer that this story is not going to be the story that all the fans have imagined, which is probably supposed to be an ass-covering move, but which also suggests to me that the fandom that has developed in this time is already starting to diverge with the canon presented in the books. Considering how much we have already looked at in relation to how absolutely screwed up Pern is, this divergence is likely inevitable, as fixing the problems is almost a prerequisite to making the world work for those who want to inhabit it. While one could conceivably have an entire society composed of nobility, as some reenactment groups make their conceit, the more likely fixing, in addition to needing better gender equality, would be to make all three classes more equal, and possibly even bring in the non-nobles into the game as somewhat equals. They may have also started noticing some of the less consensual options with regard to mating flights and be working to rectify those as well.
If that’s the case, then the disclaimer is meant to signal that no such things will be forthcoming in the original canon. That’s somewhat disappointing if this turns out to be true.

After the note, we have a prologue that still feels like it has been added to the original tale. It still appears mostly the same as before, but now that we actually know more about the Ancients that arrived on the planet through canon discovery of the South’s landing site and preserved dwellings, the prologue is less spoilery for us. There is also a section that describes for us how the various divisions of labor came to be.

The rest of the population agreed to tithe support to the Weyrs since the dragonmen did not have arable land in their volcanic homes, could not afford to take time away from nurturing their dragons to learn other trades during peacetime, and could not take time away from protecting the planet during Passes.

Eh, okay. During the intervals, though, it would make sense for dragonriders to learn crafts and such, as they’re more like reservists than active duty.

Settlements, called holds, developed wherever natural caves were found – some, of course, more extensive or strategically placed than others. It took a strong man to execute control over terrified people during Thread attacks; it took wise administration to conserve victuals when nothing could be safely grown, and it took extraordinary measures to control population and keep it productive and healthy until such time as the menace passed



Cocowhat by depizan

*spit-take* Population control? Since they only way we know of right now to abort is to go dragonback on a hyperspace hop, what other methods are being used for this “population control”, especially in situations where food supposedly cannot be grown and has to be conserved. Sending someone to the dragonriders? Locking them outside during a Fall?

…And now I have to wonder if this was in all the other prologue spoilers, too.

And the “nothing safely grown” bit doesn’t make sense, either, because the giant flaming dragons are supposed to make it possible to grow things, even when threatened by Thread. As a justification for the existence of Holders, this is pretty slim.

Men with special skills in metalworking, weaving, animal husbandry, farming, fishing, and mining formed crafthalls in each large Hold and looked to one Master-crafthall where the precepts of their craft were taught and craft skills were preserved and guarded from one generation to another. One Lord Holder could not deny the products of the crafthall situated in his Hold to others, since the Crafts were deemed independent of a Hold affiliation. Each Craftmaster of a hall owed allegiance to the Master of his particular craft–an elected office based on proficiency in the craft and on administrative ability. The Mastercraftsman was responsible for the output of his halls and the distribution, fair and unprejudiced, of all craft products on a planetary rather than parochial basis.

Except, of course, for that whole money part, which introduces inequality by its very nature. Also, it seems highly inefficient for there to be only one hall where the secrets are preserved and passed on. It would be like having one single graduate school for each major on the planet.

I’m also pretty sure that Holders have, at many times, tried to restrict, divert, or otherwise affect the supply of craft goods leaving their zones of control. Yanus seems to have done so somewhat successfully in the previous books, while Meron bought extra supplies by trading in fire-lizards, and the Crafts didn’t seem to care much.

The best is saved for last, though, in talking about how Weyr culture developed as “the greatest social revolution”:

Of the female dragons, only the golden were fertile; the greens were rendered sterile by the chewing of firestone, which was as well since the sexual proclivities of the small greens would have resulted in overpopulation.
[…more on the various colors and the bronze dragons taking primacy in queen mating games due to stamina…]
Consequently the rider of the bronze dragon who flew the senior queen of a Weyr became its Leader and had charge of the fighting Wings during a Pass. The rider of the senior queen dragon, however, held the most responsibility for the Weyr during and after a Pass when it was the Weyrwoman’s job to nurture and preserve the dragons, to sustain and improve the Weyr and all its folk. A strong Weyrwoman was as essential to the survival of the Weyr as dragons were to the survival of Pern.
To her fell the task of supplying the Weyr, fostering its children, and Searching for likely candidates from hall and hold to pair with the newly hatched dragons. As life in the Weyrs was not only prestigious but easier for men and women alike, hold and hall were proud to have their children taken on Search and boasted of the illustrious members of the bloodline who had become dragon riders.

Except, of course, when they don’t, or when they would really rather have that kid around for a marriage, or to inherit, or to help on the household… or any one of a hundred other possible reasons why.

Also, it might be easier for the men, who just have to train themselves and their dragons to fight, and that also get plenty of opportunity for sexual contact of a dubiously consensual nature thanks to mating flights, but check out the laundry list of responsibilities on the Weyrwoman – keep everyone supplied and in good spirits, raise the children, and go find new candidates. If anything goes wrong outside of a battle, it’s her fault. And she doesn’t get to fight, because it would make her sterile (unlike the slutty slut green slutty dragons, who deserve sterilization for their slutty slut behaviors), so conveniently, the only things that a Weyrwoman can do are the things that would make her the idealized housewife in The Past That Never Was. Including the regular sexual availability to potentially many men over her lifetime, all who get to claim ownership of her when she’s their partner.

Maybe it would have been better to skip this as spoiler data like before. Truthfully, though, it’s packed more worldbuilding into a few short pages than the books so far. Surely there could have been a way to incorporate all of this into the narratives, so that the characters could remind us of it at crucial points, rather than having it come out as declarative statements from an omniscient narrator. (Although, doing it Rod Serling or Outer Limits style might impart enough subtext to point out that this apparent utopic social setup was not, in fact, all that it seemed.)

In any case, the last element of the prologue is our single item that places this story into the history of Pern and gives us a chronological point of reference – near the end of the Sixth Pass, either about or exactly 1400 years after the landing of the Ancients. Which says that a full cycle of attack and retreat is a little over two hundred years, if the Ancients landed in the first year of a Pass and there were no anomalies like the Long Interval that Lessa jumped across to bring forth the time-skipped Weyrs, where more than four hundred years went by without a Pass. (So maybe the long interval is just a double-length break?)

Keep that temporal signature in mind, as it will be the last time you see it or any other epoch/era/age marker in this book. Even in the past, the Present Pass system of calendar records is in use, which makes me wonder how anyone in the future can figure out what era their past Records are from.

Next week, we’ll actually get to the action.