Monthly Archives: January 2016

These two weeks in the Slacktiverse, January 31st, 2016

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • I had a Narnia bit on how Aravis deals with the thieves certain to assume the horses can be easily taken away from her and Shasta.
    • I did a bit of a summary of the role Ratatoskr would play in the story where humans avert Ragnarok because, as the people of Midgard, they have a vested interested in having it not be destroyed.  As noted, though, it’s just a post about the role of Ratatoskr in said story, not the story as a whole.
    • I did an installment of Skewed Slightly to the Left which covers Rayford asking Chloe what she thinks caused the event, and actually listening, before telling her what he believes.  All during an afternoon meal.
    • While being stuck on most things (those three things, only two of which are actually story, cover two weeks) is just regular writer’s block, it occurred to me that with specifically Kim Possible stories I could be sabotaging myself by writing them beginning to end which I pretty much never do.  So I tried a more open writing of scenes from Life After.  They’re still arranged in chronological order, but there’s no attempt to fill in all the details.  They started out kind of random, but by the end were in large part revolving around the character, not previously introduced, of Mags during the time when she is unconscious.  As near as I can tell no one actually cares about this story, though.
    • A while ago I wrote about passing and why the entire concept it represents is a sign things are not what they should be, but it was buried in a larger post.  I pulled out and reposted just the section on passing because it’s generally applicable and I didn’t feel it should only be seen by people who wanted to read a post about the possibilities offered by hypothetical speculative fiction settings.
    • I proposed a videogame, or rather a visualization mechanic that would be central to a game, called “Elephant in the Dark“.  It’s kind of hard to explain briefly because it’s emphatically not about being blind but it is definitely about the main character not seeing.  I guess the short version is it would be built around the interpretation and extrapolation (and copious errors) of someone very, very used to and reliant upon seeing, who has to rely on other senses (principally touch.)
    • I wrote about how, in my experience, audiences are more willing to accept things in stories when those things are bad, while good things tend to require a higher burden for an audience to find it plausible.
    • In my vaguely regularly scheduled fundraising post I mentioned that a couple of upcoming expenses I’m unprepared for because of a reduction in my income.  Those numbers came in.  It’s hardly uncommon at this point, I seem to live from crisis to crisis, but I’m still afraid.  The larger expense is to stay in my home, the smaller is to keep on having internet which is kind of my lifeline.  I can’t cover either.
    • Also I dropped and damaged my computer, but the post about it is out of date because the most worrying thing (the primary hard drive for data stopping working) is no longer true.

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: Food and Drink

(by chris the cynic)

What are your favorites, least favorite, stuff like that.


[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 January 29th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is surprised at the speed of which time does and does not move.)

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.

Amarie: Amarie’s Dreamjournal

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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

Katherine DM Clover: Here on the Slacktiverse

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Comfort the Afflicted

Last chapter, Alessan had to deal with the reality of enforcing a quarantine when others want to go back home, or at least anywhere but here. For now, the peace is holding together.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Chapter VII: Content Notes: Patriarchy


The narrative structure of this book appears to be intentionally switching between the perspectives of the main characters and replaying the same day from all perspectives before moving forward. For this kind of style to work, each perspective has to contribute to the narrative so that a complete picture only appears after all the points of view have been gone through. The last time we saw Moreta, her part consisted mostly of going around and talking to people and repeating the message on the drums. Alessan, as we saw, has to deal with fallout and logistics.

The narrative has cycled back around to Capiam, the Masterhealer, who awakens with a horrible headache, partially in response to the drumming, but mostly because he might be infected with the plague. As he goes for fellis juice to help numb the pain, he realizes that his heartbeat has sped up and he’s starting to sweat from the strain of sitting up, standing, and walking to get and prepare the medicine. This does not bode well for the Healer.

He had had too much experience with sleepless nights and tight schedules to chalk up his condition to such things. He groaned again. He didn’t have time to be sick. He ought not to have contracted the damnable disease. Healers didn’t get sick. Besides, he’d been so careful to wash thoroughly in redwort solution after examining each person.
Why didn’t the fellis juice work? He couldn’t think with the headache. But he had to think. There was so much to be done. His notes to organize, to analyze the course of the disease and the probability of dangerous secondary infections, like pneumonia and other respiratory infections.

Proper washing is a good thing, but it seems like somewhere along the way, the infection prevention mask would have made a most useful appearance. Especially to a profession that had explicitly name-checked viruses in the beginning of the book. They could look like the hooked bird beaks of Terran history, for all we care, but it seems like they should be there, at least for the doctors.

Also, throughout this chapter, Capiam seems remarkably sanguine about the possibility that he could be dead in four days’ time, and for someone who has a headache and fever that is apparently interfering with his ability to think. I’m sure that some part of medical training, especially for people who would be joining an organization like MSF, is about the possibility that the protocols might fail, or that the situation is potentially bad enough that they might die, but Capiam seems to have an astoundingly iron will for someone confronted with this disease.

Desdra, a journeywoman, comes to check in him, informs him that the incoming messages are a flood all asking for him and to ask if he needs anything to help him combat the disease. He leaves her instructions about nobody coming near him and about making sure nobody who has a chance of infection comes back to the Hall, since Capiam appears to be the only person infected at this point.

I find it more of the background misogyny that the person sent to check on the Healer is a woman, but perhaps the majority of Healers are women (who are then headed by a man, because again misogyny).

Anyone who was at either Gather and returns here -”
“Which was forbidden by your drum message -”
“Some wise-ass will think he knows better … Anyone who comes is to be isolated for four days.
I shall keep notes on my symptoms and progress. They will be here…in case…”
“My, we are being dramatic.”
“You’ve always maintained that I’d die of something I couldn’t cure.”
“Don’t talk like that, Capiam!” Desdra sounded more angry than fearful.
[…discussion of sleeping apprentices…]
“Tell Fortine, will you, Desdra, that sweatroot has no effect and provides no relief. In fact, I think it is counterproductive. That’s what they were using in Igen and Keroon for the first stage of the illness. Tell Fortine to try featherfern to reduce fever. Tell him to try other febrifuges.”
“What? All on the same poor patient?”
“He will have patients enough for the different remedies.” Capiam spoke from wretched certainty. “Go, Desdra. My head is a drum tower.”
Desdra was cruel enough to chuckle softly. Or maybe she thought she was being sympathetic? One never knew what reaction to expect from Desdra. That was part of her charm, but she’d never make Master on the strength of it. She spoke her mind and sometimes a healer had to be diplomatic. She certainly didn’t soothe Capiam. But he was relieved she was in charge of him.

Okay, we really need to have a discussion here. Just how advanced is the knowledge of healing in the Sixth Pass compared to the Ninth? Pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses? Febrifuges? The Sixth Pass has still had almost 1500 years to forget things and their terms or develop new ones. Yet we continue to have an apparently mostly static language that, at most, seems to be borrowing from German’s ability to smash together words to generate new ones. I can’t really believe that, and the presence of a word like “wise-ass” completely wrecks it. As far as we know, Pern has no donkeys (plenty of asses, though, and they all seem to be in charge), so there’s no reference frame for any sort of ass, wise or otherwise. Linguistic drift should have removed the word by now, and some other phrase (“Some herdbeast that thinks he’s a runner”) should have taken its place. And all of these lovely Latin and Greek words of medicine have also survived, instead of being replaced by more local equivalents. Healer records would have to be extensive for this to happen, and if they are that way, what sort of cataclysm happens between Sixth and Ninth Pass that the Ninth comes out so impoverished in knowledge?

Second, it appears the trend of “People in power who live near or in the Harper Hall are sexist, misogynistic assholes” dates at least back to the Sixth Pass, as Capiam puts on a fine show of “Desdra will never make Master Healer if she keeps being straightforward and honest about her opinions on matters” right next to “I’m glad the person taking care of me won’t try to bullshit me about anything” without noticing the glaring double standard there. If they were talking about her bedside manner, like “she always tells the truth in the most direct fashion possible, without taking into account what will get her patient to do what she wants”, then I can see Capiam’s objection to her manner. But he can’t criticize her for a no-bullshit attitude and then be glad for her no-bullshit attitude in the next sentence.

Plot-wise, Capiam lays down (“lays supine”) to try and get the symptoms to subside. The headache lessens, the heart racing doesn’t, and so Capiam gives himself a couple drops of aconite and manages to get to sleep. While he sleeps, the action shifts to Moreta, who is being roused from sheep by Orlith, concerned because Holth is upset, which has been precipitated by Sh’gall barging in on Leri and unloading his hysteria about the plague on her, because it kills the elderly first, while Leri says she needs to get information from the ground crews about who is stuck and who isn’t. She says she won’t get unnecessarily exposed, which Moreta confirms to Orlith, because she won’t actually get off Holth to do it. Considering the size of Pern dragons, it sounds logical.

Anyway, it’s a shouting match between Leri and Sh’gall when Moreta arrives, and she immediately fans the flames by accusing him of interfering with the queens’ wing and upsetting Holth and Leri. Seeing (and hearing agitated dragon rumblings) that things are about to spiral out of control, Leri reins herself in and then gets Moreta and Sh’gall to focus by drawing on the fact that she was senior Weyrwoman for twenty years and using her commanding voice to get them off the distractions. Leri gives instructions about the Threadfall tomorrow, inquires to the status of the two sick riders, and points out that the Weyrs still need Hold tithes and ground crews with Thread about. With one final tweak to both of them about how Leri is the expendable rider, she sends them both off to settle their dragons and everyone else while she continues her search of the Records.

And gives Moreta a neck strap for a riding harness that needs mending so that she has something to do. Which puts her in contact with dragonriders that need reassuring…and orders.

…We may have Fall tomorrow but I want no heroes. Headache and fever are the symptoms.”
“Then K’lon had the plague?”
“It’s possible, but he’s hale again.”
A worried voice came from the eastern side of the cavern. “What about Berchar?”
“Caught it from K’lon, more than likely, but he and S’gor have isolated themselves, as you are probably aware.”
An uneasy stir rippled around the cavern.
“He was fine ten minutes ago,” Moreta said dryly. “He’ll fly Thread tomorrow. As we all will.”
“Moreta?” T’nure, green Tapeth’s rider, rose from his table to speak. “How long did this quarantine condition last?”
“Until Master Capiam rescinds it.” She saw the rebellious look on T’nure’s face. “Fort Weyr will obey!” Before she finished that injunction, the unmistakable trumpeting of the queens was heard. No lesser dragon would disobey the queens. Moreta thanked Orlith for the timely comment.
[…orders distributed for the riders…]
An approving applause capped her restatement as she sat down, signaling that the discussion was at an end. Nesso stepped up on the dais with a plate of food.
“I think you should know,” she said in a low voice, “that all the drum messages sign Fortine as sender now.”
“Not Capiam?”
Nesso shook her head slowly from side to side.” Not since the first one this noon.”
“Has anyone else noticed that?”
Nesso sniffed in offended dignity. “I know my duty too, Weyrwoman.”

…aaand drum code gets a little stranger, in that everyone drumming apparently has their own signature measures, which means extra complexity for anybody who supposedly knows drum code. Yet Alessan complained a few chapters ago that drum code is too public for things like a quarantine demand, which suggests that enough people do understand drum code for it not to be the apparently complex thing that it is. I still can’t make heads or tails of the idea of what drum code is or how it sounds, and how Fandarel can adapt it for the distance writer.

Also, what’s the definition of a “lesser dragon”? Because if queens can control any other dragons, tell me again why the women aren’t running the place by basically telling the other dragons what’s going on? Presumably that control then also extends to the riders of those dragons, because big angry things make humans crunch and taste good with ketchup. I suspect, however, that bronzes are excluded from the “lesser” definition and only the browns, greens, and blues are bound by this thing with the queen dragons. That way the patriarchy of Pern remains undisturbed. (Also, I know that dragons will divert to keep the queen safe, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen this other ability. It was foreshadowed with Menolly’s fair and how Beauty kept them all in line, but there’s no guarantee an ability like that survives the transition from fire lizard to dragon.)

After this revelation of signatures, the action returns to a waking Capiam, who is missing a message to Telgar Weyr, but that’s all he knows because the disease symptoms are making it impossible to think, much less contemplate writing down his symptoms and their progression. And so the chapter ends with this basically useless paragraph, instead of in the potential hook of the reasons why Fortine is taking over the drum messages. It removes the potential suspense of Capiam being dead or severely incapacitated, more than we’ve already known from this chapter. The paragraph that ends this should be the first one of the next chapter that stays with Capiam for a while. Blargh.

Writer Workshop January 27th, 2016

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Are there any questions you’d like to ask or frustrations you’d like to vent?  Writing workshop below!

Hermione Granger And The Goblet of Sexism: Chapter One And Introduction

Hello! My name is Katherine and I am extremely happy to be here! I’m doing a sort of fanfic/re-write/decon of Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire, using Hermione Granger as the point of view character. You probably already know this, but it felt weird to put a whole chapter of writing up without even popping in to say hi first. Ok then, so the format of this is going to be fic first, decon afterwards. Also, this is going to go chapter-by-chapter, and I’m going to do my best to stick to the original timeline for reasons basically my own limited ability as a writer. I’ll get into more details after the fic, ok then, introductions over, let’s go!


Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism

Chapter One
The Part-Time Witch / The Riddle House

It was quite late, but Hermione Granger couldn’t sleep. She was sitting up, cross legged, in her bed, pouring over a spell book for the fifth time. The frustrating thing was, she had already memorized it, and she wouldn’t be able to get any new books until September. Her father had offered to take her to the library, but she couldn’t think of what good the muggle library could do her now. Anyway, it was just possible that she had missed something important.

Hermione Granger, you see, was a witch.

At fourteen, she was awkwardly growing into herself, she was tallish with long limbs she never knew quite what to do with, though all anybody ever seemed to notice about her was her bushy brown hair. There was a lot of it, and even though she often got mocked for it, it was one of the few things she really liked about herself. She refused to let her mother cut it, she wouldn’t even discuss it. It was the one thing they really disagreed on.

She was tired, but she couldn’t sleep. Wrapped in her soft dressing gown (in her favorite color, kerry green), she pushed her face closer to the pages of the large leather bound book, and willed herself to stay awake.

There was a soft knock at the door.


It was her mother, “Hermione, do you happen to know what time it is?”

She did, but she shook her head anyway.

“It’s just past midnight, dear. I know it’s the holidays, and I know you’re growing up, but I do wish you would put that book up and go to sleep.”

“Mum, if I don’t study, I’ll fall behind, and you know very well what will happen then! If I don’t prove myself, I’ll just look like a stupid muggle born, and I’ll end up with some tediously boring desk job.” she said it all in one breath.

“I know, dear,” Mrs. Granger heaved a heavy sigh, “but you’re only fourteen, and you deserve a break from that school. And you need sleep, remember what happened last year?”

Hermione lived two lives. During the school year, she attended Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where she studied spells, charms, arothmancy, magical creatures, and other fascinating subjects that pertained to magic. She slept in a castle dormitory and wore long, flowing black robes, every day as she went to and from her lessons. She took her meals in the cavernous great hall with it’s bewitched ceiling, and she spent her free time either in the library, or with her two friends, Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.

But during the holidays, she wasn’t a witch. Technically speaking she was always a witch, but during the holidays she wasn’t functionally a witch, seeing as how Hogwarts students weren’t allowed to do magic outside of school until they were of age. Instead, she was the only child of Mister and Missus Hugh and Jean Granger, and anything magical about her had to be kept secret. Contrary to what you might think, it wasn’t her parents who wanted her to keep her powers hushed up, they were actually rather supportive. Oh no. It was Wizarding Law. Hermione had had to learn right away that the wizarding world was just as filled with rules, corruption, bureaucracy, and downright nonsense, as the non-magical world. Her parents were allowed to know she was a witch, but telling anyone else about her powers risked violating the Statute of Secrecy and if she was found out, she would be expelled, or maybe even worse. Her first summer off, when she was twelve, had been alright, she’d never been away from home for so long before, and she’d gotten into a spot of bother with a dark wizard at the end of term (she hadn’t told her parents the half of it), and she was happy to be home. But since then, every holiday away from the school had been more and more trying for her. She hoped her parents didn’t notice, as she really didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

Hermione lived for magic. She breathed magic. She dreamed magic. It felt like the only thing that came naturally to her, the only task at which she wasn’t awkward and unsure. She had to be the best at it, she just had to.

The previous year, her desire to excel had been so great that she had signed up for more lessons than there were school hours in the day. She had been scolded, but had then persuaded her head of house to let her use a magical object — a time turner — to travel backwards through time every day, in order to make it to all her lessons.

“I still think you could have used that damn thing to get a little more sleep…” Mrs. Granger was saying.

“Mum!” Hermione pushed her hair up out of her eyes in exasperation, “I’ve told you a thousand times, it was only approved for LESSONS!”

Perhaps Mrs. Granger and her daughter disagreed on rather more than hair styles, afterall.

The fact was, Jean Granger was an intensely practical woman, and also intensely protective of her daughter. She was proud, to be sure, of her budding young witch, but whereas her husband beamed endlessly about his daughters accomplishments (often without fully understanding them), Jean Granger saw the stress the magical world put on Hermione. She worried about her, especially since Hermione had taken to skipping family holidays in order to stay at school and work even harder during her time off.

But the previous summer they had taken that trip to France, as a family, and that had been nice. Hermione has brought oodles of homework along with her, but still it had been nice.

Hermione was still looking downward at her book. She could feel her mother’s brown eyes looking at her from the doorway. She loved her mother, and wanted to please her, but all the same she really wanted to memorize this chapter before going to bed. She couldn’t afford to fall behind.

There was a long silence, as the summer night wore on around them. After what felt like an age, mrs granger broke it.

“Well,” she said, as hermione still gazed determinedly at the page before her, “if you’re staying up, I’ll put the kettle on. Would you like tea, or cocoa, dear?”

“Tea, please.”

It wouldn’t escape her mother’s notice, Hermione thought, that she had chosen the caffeinated option. But then, as Mrs. Granger was a dentist, she didn’t really approve of sugar before bed, either.

“Alright then.” Mrs. Granger sounded sad, and suddenly Hermione noticed it, and felt a pang of guilt that was not unfamiliar. Her mother turned to leave the room, but in the doorway she turned back and said “next time you get an owl, let me know before you send it off. I’ve got something I need to send to that Mrs. Weasley.”

It was only after her mother’s footsteps traveled down the hall, and then down the stairs, that Hermione allowed herself to look up. She stared through her tangles of hair at the open bedroom doorway. How many times had her mother stood there over the years, just to talk? Now they literally lived in different worlds, and though her parents tried, they could never really understand what it was like to be a part-time witch. She missed the closeness she had felt with her mother when she was younger, and the security and safety she had felt in her own home. These days, she didn’t quite feel at home anywhere. Was that because of the odd back-and-forth nature of her life? She wondered. Or was it simply one of those odd facts of growing up.

Hermione Granger did not have anyone to ask.

She was still staring at the doorway, lost in thought, ignore the open book in her lap, when she heard the kettle whistle from downstairs.


Deconstruction and Notes on The Source Text

Righto. I’m re-reading the book as I go here, and though I remember it pretty well (for years the only way my insomnia would pass enough to allow me to sleep was by listening to familiar audiobooks at bedtime, and if you’re not familiar Stephen Fry does a fantastic reading of the Harry Potter series, I highly recommend it) it’s still interesting to be seeing it through a totally new lens. One of the reasons I really wanted to do this project was that as I shared this truly amazing article by Sady Doyle and began to talk about it again, I realized that despite her status Hermione is a really poorly developed character. We only ever really see her from a male perspective.

My first thought was that this is probably because of course Harry is the point-of-view character. However, J.K Rowling manages to show us other character’s inner workings a bit. We know a little something about what motivates Ron, for example, or even Lupin and Sirius to some degree. What do we know about Hermione? She’s bossy. She has brown hair. It’s bushy. We don’t know her parents first names or how she gets along with them. We don’t know her favorite color. We don’t know how she felt when she got her Hogwart’s letter (though we do hear other muggle born students discuss those feelings!) and we don’t know if she was as good a student at her muggle school as she is at Hogwarts. We don’t know if she has muggle friends she has to hide her powers from.

And in thinking about the many, many, things that I wish I knew about Hermione Jean Granger, I realized that I’m most interested in her in book four. In The Goblet of Fire, for the first time, Hermione Granger is sexualized. I’m not going to get into all of my thoughts and feelings about the events that take place later in the book here, that’s why I’m doing the whole damn book. But, it does seem to me that her sexuality is used against her, and for the benefit of others, and she is portrayed as mysterious and other.

I didn’t read this book until I was an adult. But I wonder how that must have felt, must still feel, to all the brainy 14 year old girl’s reading this book.

All of that is to say, in the original book, Chapter One is “The Riddle House” and Hermione Granger isn’t even mentioned. Which is fine, Harry Potter is the point-of-view character and I don’t think I’m angry about that. What happens in “The Riddle House” is that Harry has a dream/telepathic vision of Lord Voldemort (which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because the dream is from the POV of an old man rather than Voldemort himself, but supposedly Harry is only having these visions because he’s accidentally reading Voldemort’s thoughts/feelings so what the actual hell). Voldemort discusses his recent activities and his future plans in a vague way that makes for some decent foreshadowing.

Rather than try to tie those activities in with Hermione in some way, I’ve used the space for a little bit of character development, and for something that the original book doesn’t seem to have even considered: Hermione’s relationship with her mom.

One final note! J.K. Rowling uses some devices that I frankly find a little bit annoying (even though I love these books so so so so much). She is very very fixated on certain physical characteristics of each character (with Hermione, it’s all about hair!) and she does a really unnecessary amount of recap at the beginning of each book. Because this project is about looking at the story from a different perspective, rather than trying to “correct” some of these stylistic quirks, I’m playing into them as best I can. The idea is really to try to stab at what these books would look like — with their flaws — if Hermione were centered rather than Harry. Whether or not I’ll be able to keep it up remains to be seen.

This week in the Slacktiverse delayed

(posted by chris the cynic)

For various reasons we won’t have a “This Week in the Slacktiverse” post this week, so next week week (the coming weekend) will be “These two Weeks…”

As a reminder, here are the categories for submissions:

The Blogaround

Any denizen of the Slacktiverse who has posted an article to their own website since they last submitted to a weekend post is invited, enticed, and cajoled to send a short summary of that article along with its permalink to the group email. That summary and link will be included in the next weekend blogaround. This will help to keep members of our community aware of the many excellent websites hosted by other members.

Remember, this is since you last submitted to a weekend post, not since the last weekend post. For example, if the last time you submitted was a month ago, everything you wrote since then is fair game.

In Case You Missed This

Readers of The Slacktiverse can send short summaries of, and permalinks to, articles that they feel might be of interest to other readers.  These should be sent, as you might expect, to the group email.

Things You Can Do

Anyone who knows of a worthy cause or important petition should send a short description of the petition/cause along with its url to the group email.


Open Thread: Goals

(by chris the cynic)

I’m not sure I want to check when I last posted an open thread, it might be disheartening.  As always feel free to use this for anything, but to kick of the prompt, here’s a goal from me: get the Slacktiverse things I’m responsible for, like open threads, posted weekly according to the schedule.

[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 January 22nd, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who gets to potentially make a fool of himself today.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Quarantine the Infected

The last chapter was a bit of filler, with Moreta going about her Weyr informing them of the quarantine order, the suspected cause, and the recommended courses of action. And finding out her usual Healer counterpart is sick with the disease.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Chapter VI: Content Notes:


Still the same day in Chapter Six, but this time we’re at Ruatha Hold, with Lord Alessan just watching Moreta vanish and thinking of her as his ideal woman. Dag arrives shortly after, noting that many of the runners that were near the one that died have also developed a sickness, and telling Alessan that he’s going to move the other stock well away from that area until the sickness passes, and he’ll take his grandson with him. In an otherwise throwaway paragraph, though, we get some useful information about Holds of the Sixth Pass:

Second only to Squealer in Dag’s affections was his daughter’s youngest son, Fergal, a lively rascal who was more often in the black records than any other holding. Alessan had a sneaking admiration for the lad’s ingenuity, but as Lord Holder he could no longer condone the antics that Fergal inspired. His most recent prank had so angered Lady Oma, involving as it did the smirching of guest linens, that he had been forbidden to attend the Gather, and the punishment was enforced by locking the boy in the Hold’s cell.

Okay, so now we know that jail (or the dungeons) exists on Pern, and that one of the ways for it to actually be used is to piss off the Lord Holder’s mother. (By, perhaps, pissing on the guest bedsheets? Is this supposed to be a callback to Dragondrums, but in Sixth Pass Pern, and in Holder culture, such pranks actually get punished before they get out of hand?) An overarching justice system is still absent, nor is there any indication as to what else the cells might be used for, but I suspect we’re supposed to fill in the details from what we know of the relevant Terran history and assume such things are there when the Lord Holder or other designated noble wishes to put someone there for whatever reason they choose.

Alessan goes to bed, picking his way through the crowd of sleeping revelers to his own room, glad that he wasn’t forced to share space by his mother, then realizing that she probably arranged it that way thinking he would be taking someone to bed with him tonight. Grateful for the alone time, and realizing he needs to return Moreta’s dress to her, he sleeps until awoken by a rough shaking. Lady Oma informs him that the sickness has spread to more runners, and to two people. What gets Alessan moving, however, is that someone is talking to Lord Tolocamp about this and not him, which Alessan rectifies by throwing on clothes and going to the briefing. Alessan chooses to recall anyone that left Ruatha this morning, both humans and people, just to make sure that nobody is carrying sickness back to healthy holds. The visitors and guests grumble at the delay, but Alessan handles all of them while summoning his family to help with logistics and security. His job is made a lot easier when the Harper drums pass a message from the Masterhealer up. We also find a reinforcement that there are more than Harpers that understand drum code.

As Alessan counted the double-urgent salutation and heard the healer code as originator, he took a moment’s pleasure in the astonishment on Tolocamp’s face, but lost it as the meat of the message boomed out. Those who could not understand the code caught the fear generated by those who did. Drums were a fine method of communication but too bloody public, Alessan thought savagely.
Epidemic disease, the drums rolled, spreading rapidly across continent from Igen, Keroon, Telgar, Ista. Highly infectious. Highly contagious. Two to four days’ incubation. Headache. Fever. Cough. Prevent secondary infection. Fatalities high. Medicate symptoms. Isolate victims. Quarantine effective immediately. Runnerbeasts highly susceptible. Repeat Epidemic warning. No travel permitted. Congregating discouraged. Capiam.
The final roll commanded the pass-on of the message.

…okay, if that’s the exact wording of the message, then drum code is a highly specialized language, and apparently Lord Alessan understands the long tail of it as well. I’m also still trying to figure out how many drums and what kind of technique have to be involved to permit this kind of specialized language and for it to be comprehensible over distance. Back in Dragondrums, it seemed like drum code had a grammar form that purged particles, connectors, and other words that we use in conversation and tried for as few words as possible to convey the message.

It also seems like drum code would be a language that would have a single measure for concepts rather than words, like one measure would represent “foot travel” and then there would be a modifying measure to indicate “fast” or “slow” to say “run” or “no hurry”.

Then again, there was apparently a measure for “Oldtimer”, so there probably are measures for “run” and “walk” as well, adding complexity to a language that I still can’t quite conceive how it works without massive confusion.

Getting back to the plot, the news causes all the symptoms of a beginning panic – denial of a problem, bargaining to break the quarantine, and so forth, but Alessan doesn’t bend and provides reassurances that the measure is, so far, temporary. Tolocamp ends up helping after initially being in denial. After taking care of the first wave, Alessan’s mind immediately goes to logistics – feeding the extra people, where to house the sick, and what to do next.

Next turns out to be the Hold Healer, Scand, who did not understand the message, and describes that his sweatroot treatment has not been effective against the heart palpitations and headache that Vander (the herder in the middle of the sick animals) and two of his subordinates are suffering from. Once informed of the content of the message by a journeyman Harper, Alessan leaves Tolocamp and another Holder in charge of creating makeshift shelters, while he goes to look at the sick animals and get an update on their status. While he’s giving orders on how to medicate the stuck runners, a wagon-puller (a herdbeast, rather than a runner) collapses and dies, confirming that it’s not a disease that will stay confined to one variety.

And, apparently, one should use the Pernese curse “Shards” in place of the Terran curse “Shit”. Apparently Pern does have curse words, and they are related to dragons, the most religious things on the planet.

Anyway, seeing the other beast collapse convinces Alessan that the correct policy at this point is scorched earth.

“Right, Norman. Get some men up to take charge of that team. Use them as long as they last to haul carcasses. Burn the dead animals down there,” Alessan pointed to a dip in the far fields, out of sight from the forecourt and downwind. “Keep track of the dead beasts. Reparation should be made.”
“I’ve no recorder.”
“I’ll send down one of the fosterlings. I’ll also want to know how many people stayed the night down here.”

Which is a lovely gesture from Alessan, and I would desperately like to know how those reparations will be made. One-for-one from Alessan’s stock of surviving animals? Does Alessan have enough beasts to guarantee this in a timely manner? Or would it be more like an insurance payment, the agreed-upon amount of marks that a runner is worth, paid out of Alessan’s coffers? Depending on how far this sickness spreads, Alessan could be looking at a very expensive guarantee.

Alessan’s thoughts again turn to Moreta, as he realizes that she made contact with the dead runner. He thought of her as a distant and insular person, and the discovery of her as a racing fan humanized her. And while his mother scolded him for not spending enough time with the women, and he knows he needs to eventually choose a wife and start making sons, he wanted to get away from “stammering insipidy and timorousness”. Which puts the nail in, really, that this era of Pern thinks of women in the same way as the future we were just at. Moreta was on an unapproachable pedestal to him, until she and he both slipped out of their roles and hung out, and now he’s infatuated with her because she’s different from everything else. And then compared to Moreta, no woman can measure up, and their topics of conversation must necessarily become not just unappealing, but inept or inferior, and the women the same.

Maybe it runs in the water at Ruatha, because this seems like a rehash of Jaxom and Sharra, just with a different sickness involved.

Then again, where we’ve seen Holder women, there’s also almost always been a negative judgment associated with them, because we see them usually in opposition to the protagonists. Kylara came from the Holds and is hissboobad according to the narrative, Mavi is complicit in Yanus’s abuse of Menolly and adds some of her own, Sella is a typical literary sibling, Pona and the Mean Girl Squad are more interested in social rank and boys than in manly pursuits like music (clearly the more important thing), which Alessan’s suitors are following on the footsteps of, just substitute “racing” for “music”, Lady Oma is portrayed as a domineering woman, although not as neurotic about proper behavior as Dunca, it seems (perhaps because son and not daughter?), Oklina as a flighty and naive girl, of which Corana seems to be her mold. Only main characters (Menolly, Moreta, Lessa) or love interests of main characters (Sharra, Moreta, Silvina(?)) are allowed to be complex characters and have good sides.

Having handled his own house, the next thing Alessan decides is to send messages to the places that would be expecting the return of their revelers and that aren’t within earshot of a message drum, and to figure out who else might have infected animals and order their destruction. If Alessan intends on replacing those animals, too, this is going to be a very expensive prospect for him.

Another thing on his mind is trying to keep people calm and controlled. It’s noted that one small cell is enough for pranksters, but not for seriously angry people. Tolocamp isn’t going to be an angry person, but he’s definitely wanting to get back home. Alessan defeats his argument by pointing out how Tolocamp always brags about how good his sons are at running the place while he’s gone, and this will be an excellent exercise. Tolocamp points out this emergency is probably beyond anyone’s experience, and so Alessan has to fall back to the position that it would be bad form for Tolocamp to break an order he would enforce on others, and Alessan dangles the possibility that Tolocamp could go back of he shows no signs of the sickness. Tolocamp relents:

“Yes, well. Hold one, hold all.” Tolocamp’s expression mellowed. “It is true that it would be very poor discipline for me to break a quarantine.” He became noticeably more amenable. “This outbreak is probably confined to the racing flats. I have never followed the sport.” A disdainful wave of his hand dismissed one of the major pastimes of Pern.

I’m beginning to wonder whether the decision to change the era of this Pern is an excuse to scrap everything and remake the world as much as possible, as the world of the Ninth Pass doesn’t talk about racing as much as a “major pastime” would. And since we’ve gotten away from the dragonriders (who have performed games and races before they had to retrain as a military organization) at that time, I would think some mention of the races would be a regular thing. All I remember is Robinton occasionally laying bets while deliberately saying he never lays bets, a practice Sebell also follows. It would seem like the races would be a common element of small talk, much more than they actually were. But in three Passes, perhaps the races have died out.

After mollifying Tolocamp, Alessan’s prediction about angry Holders comes true and Alessan decides he’s going to nip this particular problem in the bud.

Makfar [Alessan’s brother] had noticed the deputation and, although Alessan gave Turvine [the angry Holder] his complete attention, he was aware that his brother had signaled armed holders to converge.

This would be a lot easier to imagine if we had any semblance of what “armed” means in this context. Because there’s still no real mention of weapons past flamethrowers and belt knives. Clearly this context indicates there’s some amount of weapons other than these. And perhaps some amount of body armor, since wherhide can keep out the cold of hyperspace. Swords, axes, polearms…just what are these people armed with? We’re no closer to knowing that when we hashed it out in Dragondrums (after expressing a universal revulsion at the tactics Robinton was willing to go to so that Nabol Hold wouldn’t fall into conflict after Meron’s death).


“You’ll bide here! That’s my order!” Alessan spoke forcefully and the men backed off, looking uncertainly for support from Tolocamp. The Fort Holder stiffened, ignoring their tacit plea. Alessan raised his voice, projecting it beyond the group to those watching and listening from the roadway and the forecourt. “The drums have decreed the quarantine! I am your Lord Holder. As surely as if Thread were Falling, you are under my orders. No one, no animal leaves here until that drum”–Alessan jabbed his arm at the tower–“tells us that the quarantine is lifted!”
In the silence that ensued, Alessan strode rapidly toward the hall door, Tolocamp in step behind him.

We’ll have to see how well the proclamation sticks, how many of those armed men there will be to help, and what kind of rigging will be needed for those people that end up in the jail. Because I suspect that look at Tolocamp says all we need to know about how well Alessan is going to be respected.

The next order of business is figuring out how to send messages to all the places that don’t have drums, can’t hear drums, or otherwise need the message relayed to them to hunker down and not travel. Alessan wants to do it without risking people or animals, but before he has to think too hard about it, the Masterharper (Tuero) appears with the other Harpers in tow to offer themselves as the messengers, pointing out that written messages can be relayed without risk of exposure. Alessan accepts the convenient solution and leaves it to the Harpers to organize the relay. They’re wrong about relays not causing exposure, but I don’t think anyone on Pern has ever actually formulated germ theory and experimented as to what materials and surfaces can transmit disease.

Alessan lets Tolocamp use the message drums to send orders back to Fort before the next bad news arrives as he sees the smoke from the mass burning of corpses – Vander has died. And that’s the end of the chapter.