Monthly Archives: March 2016

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Super Subterfuge

Last chapter, Moreta proved that it was possible to travel forward from the known present into the future, removing the last known obstacle for dragonriders to control the timeline presumably anywhere they can reach. Now with sufficient supply of everything needed to accomplish simultaneous vaccination of humans and animals, it’s time to recruit dragonriders for the task and put it into action.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Chapter XV; Content Notes: Classism, toxic masculinity


Moreta’s first stop is Benden, where there is gossip about other Weyrs, but mostly advice and confirmation about which riders are the ones to ask about who has sufficient experience and control with time hopping to be useful to the plan. Ista takes some convincing, although Moreta gets to see the son she had with D’say, M’ray, as she tries to convince him to join up. This gives Moreta a little hope about her bloodline, in that it continues through the other children she has had. Igen is happy to help out, even though the Weyrleader is stuck in a deep depression that people think will be cured by the end of the plague and a good mating flight.

Telgar, however, orders Moreta, M’barak, and Arith grounded well away from the Weyr, as M’tani has quarantined the Weyr from strangers, which includes riders from other Weyrs. Moreta can get no headway with C’ver, the sentry, who mocks her and tells her she’s not welcome, period. Incensed at the discourtesy, Moreta vows to never lift a finger to help Telgar and continues on to High Reaches, where she is “twice and twice times twice welcome”. B’lerion informs her of having taken Desdra and Oklina to Nerat for more needlethorn, before Moreta is beseeched to check in on Tamianth, the dragon whose major surgery she did when she was here last. Things look good, and it seems that Pressen took Moreta’s advice about being a Weyr Healer seriously.

While Falga is examining the plan, Holth relays to Tamianth that Moreta has unfriendly guests.

“Could that be why Tamianth tells me Holth now informs her that Raylinth and his rider have arrived, in great agitation, at Fort?” When Moreta nodded grimly, she added, “M’tani would have none of it?”
“The watchrider made Arith land on the Rim.”
B’lerion cursed with real fervor, all langor gone.
“If I’d been on Orlith, that squatty mildewed brown of C’ver’s would-”
“Consider the source,” Falga said earnestly. “A mere brown rider! Really, Moreta, save your wrath for something worth the energy to spit at. I don’t know what has got into M’tani over the last Turn. Maybe he’s battle-weary from fighting Thread for so many years. He’s gone sour totally, and it’s affecting his whole Weyr. That would be disastrous enough in ordinary times, but this plague has only shown up his deficiencies. Do we have to force a change there? We’ll take up the matter later.
[…logistics of who will help Moreta from High Reaches. As we resume, B’lerion is now speaking instead of Falga…]
“Of course, T’grel’s not the only rider who’s dissatisfied with M’tani’s leadership. I told you, didn’t I, Falga, that once those Telgar riders had had a taste of real leadership, there’d be trouble.” He smiled winningly at Moreta. “I actually do defer to Sh’gall’s abilities. He may be a dull stick in other matters – oh, no, you can’t fool your old friend B’lerion – but he is a bloody fine Leader! Don’t waggle your finger at me, Falga.”

Pern continues to be a place where, if there weren’t any therapists, it would be necessary to invent them. Someone has to have thought of the practice of mental Healing, because this world is pretty crapsack for anyone not a Lord, rider, or Crafter. And, as we keep seeing, there are plenty of people at those levels that need help in coping with disasters or the pressures of their positions. Even if it’s always a crude practice, the planet needs counselors, instead of dragonriders sneering at each other and then thinking about staging a coup of leadership when one of theirs has issues. It’s not coincidental, I think, that the responses to Sh’gall, Tolocamp, and M’tani freaking out about plague have all been basically the same – anger, disapproval, derision, with the idea that they’re just not tough enough to handle it like Real Men(TM). If we can figure out on Terra that the social construction of Masculinity that relies on men being perennially tough and non-emotional is contributing to men dying earlier and committing acts of violence against themselves and others, surely on Pern they can follow suit, especially for the men that are pair-bonded with living weapons.

Additionally, based on this exchange, Come see the violence inherent in the system. Or, for the visual version, Dennis, the anarcho-syndicalist peasant.

In any case, we are rather starkly reminded of the strength of the caste system of the dragonriders, despite none of the riders, except perhaps the queen candidates, getting to choose what color of dragon they have. I’m not sure what the official handwave about this is, other than an insistence, true or not, that dragons choose their riders, but it seems like a pretty bad bargain to get “Congratulations! You’ve just joined the mounted class, the highest of classes, but at a rank that makes you front line fodder and that will give you no real respect in that class!” Then again, considering what happens in the other classes, and to them by dragonriders, maybe it’s the best of bad bargains.

Still, if a brown rider isn’t worth frustration on Moreta’s part, then I wonder what they think of the blues and greens. Oh, wait, I don’t have to wonder, I just have to read a little bit further.

“Good fellow, K’lon; and I don’t say that about just any blue rider.”

That’s B’lerion talking, by the way, so we have an idea about what position the blue riders occupy in the minds of the bronze and gold riders.

When Moreta gets back to Fort, we get the rest of what Telgar thought about the visit. And a thought of what the green riders are, too.

Orlith was awake on Moreta’s return to Fort Weyr because Sh’gall had roused her while looking for Moreta. He was pacing up and down in front of the tier and whirled belligerently at her when she entered.
“M’tani sent a green weyrling,” he cried, fuming, “hardly more than a babe, to give our watchrider the most insulting message I gave ever received. He has repudiated any agreement made at the Butte, a meeting at which I was not present.” Sh’gall shook his fist at Moreta and then in the vague direction of the Butte. “And at which arbitrary decisions were made, which I cannot condone, though I’ve been forced to comply with them! M’tani has repudiated any arrangement, agreement, accord, understanding, undertaking. He is not to be bothered – bothered, he says – not to be bothered by problems if any other Weyr. If we are so poor that we have to beg and Search from other Weyrs, then we do not deserve to have a clutch at all.” Sh’gall ended up swinging his arms about like a drum apprentice.
Moreta had never seen him so furious. She listened to what he had to say but offered no response, hoping he would vent his rage and leave. Having repeated himself at length on his displeasure with her shameless venture for the Weyr that had resulted in such an insufferable message from M’tani, he ranted on through his usual grievances, about his illness, about the puny size of the clutch. Finally Moreta could bear no more.
“There is a queen egg, Sh’gall. There have to be enough candidates to give the little queen some choice. I applied to Telgar Weyr as I did to Benden, Igen, Ista, and the High Reaches. No one else thought my appearance or my request importunate. Now leave the Ground. You’ve upset Orlith sufficiently for one day.”
Orlith was visibly upset as Moreta ran across the hot sands to her, but not, Moreta knew very well, by Sh’gall. By Telgar Weyr. She paced in front of her eggs, her eyes wheeling from red to yellow and orange as she recited to her rider a list of the damages she would inflict on bronze Hogarth in such detail that Moreta was torn between laughter and horror. A mating dragon could be savage with the drive of that purpose, but a clutching dragon was usually passive.

Clearly everyone considers the sending of a young green rider to be a most grievous insult. I’m guessing they’re the very lowest on the list, which is why Sh’gall is so riled up, aside from all the other reasons that boil down to “shit keeps happening that I don’t approve of.” Which is at least consistent for him, but calls into question B’lerion’s previous statement that Sh’gall can lead people. If he falls apart like this or throws tantrums every time it doesn’t go his way, there’s no way he’s going to be the leader of his own Weyr, much less unofficially in charge of all the Weyrs. There’s way too much unconstrained testosterone in these groups…Unless he’s in charge because he beats everybody up that crosses him.

Good on Moreta for telling him off, and good on Orlith for demonstrating a knowledge of anatomy and what to do with it. As it turns out, Holth and Leri want in in that action, too. But there’s still enough volunteers to make the plan when it’s time, so the action skips up to the next day and over to Ruatha.

The day of the plan dawns, with Ruatha’s tired centrifuges and bottles upon bottles of already-generated serum stacked carefully. Alessan and his senior staff discuss the plague and its effects, as well as the state of the current herd, before the herders hop off to see if there’s going to be a birth tonight, and others head toward bed, the Benden white wine working on them. Alessan has apparently offered Tuero a permanent post at Ruatha as the Hall Harper. I suspect that if Robinton were to trace his line, he would find Tuero in it, because, well, the list of demands is ridiculous:

“By the first Egg,” Alessan protested, “you’ve already got me to agree to a first-storey apartment on the inside, second tithe of our Crafthalls -”
“When you’ve got them staffed again -”
“Your choice of a runnerbeast, top marks as a journeyman, and leave, if you wish, to take your mastery when the Pass is over. What more can you ask of an impoverished Lord Holder?”
“All I ask is what is fitting for a man of my accomplishments.” Tuero humbly put one hand on his heart.
“So what is this final condition?”
“That you supply me with Benden white.” He spoiled the gravity of his pronouncement by hiccuping and gestured urgently for Alessan to fill his cup. He sipped wine to stop the spasms. “Well?”
“Good journeyman Harper Tuero, if I can procure Benden white, you may have your just share of it.” He raised his cup solemnly and Tuero touched his to it. “Agreed?”
Tuero hiccuped. “Agreed!” He tried to swallow the next hiccup.

Tuero has both Robinton’s avarice for stuff and fondness for Benden white wine, which is still apparently the best stuff on Pern.

With the wine drank, Alessan and the rest head to bed, Alessan wondering in a wine-induced haze whether Desdra is hitting on Oklina, resolving firmly to repaint the Hall, taunting Tuero about never knowing his source of Benden, and receiving news that the mare gave birth to a male foal. (Who we hope survives and can be vaccinated due to the herd immunity.)

There’s also a tease of the readers and the drinkers that Rill, one of the women present, looks familiar to everyone. She also ends up being the person that tucks Alessan and Tuero into bed in their drunken stupor. Alessan tenderly, Tuero much less so.

Then it’s time to fly the mission. Moreta is glad there’s Fall to disguise the real activities of the queen riders today. She’s on Hatching Ground duty today, while Leri and others do the hauling. Moreta is concerned about Leri’s continued flying, and thinks it would be good for Leri to retire to Ista after this run. As if Moreta could convince her of that.

Mostly, though, it’s Moreta at the feeding grounds, looking for good things for Orlith and approving of hunts of wherries now and roundups of stray runners after the plague threat is over, and generally having a good relaxing time, with occasional status updates from Orlith.

Until, of course, something gets in the way. Namely, that M’tani is forbidding his bronze dragons from joining the combined Thread fighting crews. Since part of the plan hinged on vaccinating Telgar’s areas while attention was directed at the Fall, using locals to the area, this is a serious monkey wrench in the plan, bringing Benden’s Weyrwoman to discuss strategy. Others can cover much of the lost territory, but the Keroon Plains would go unprotected, and that would ruin the plan completely. Unless Moreta finds a dragon and covers it herself, that is. Holth is volunteered for Moreta, and the two hop over to Keroon to pick up the vaccine. Then, it’s several runs to various beastholds to deliver the vaccine, timing it such that she reappears to collect a new set every hour, even though the runs themselves take much longer.

The strain of the runs is becoming apparent in both dragon and rider.

And each jump Holth made seemed just that much shallower. Twice Moreta asked the dragon if she wanted to rest. Each time Holth replied firmly that she was able to continue.
[…time ticks and Moreta is getting annoyed at how long it’s taking…]
All during the last round, she kept the sun at a midafternoon position, feeling the strain of timing it in her bones, in Holth’s heaviness. But when she asked Holth if they should stop, the dragon replied that she wished Keroon had a few mountains instead of all these dreadful plains.
[…they deposit the last of the vaccine…]
She watched him go, numbly aware that Holth’s body was shaking under her legs. She stroked the old queen’s neck.
“Orlith is all right?” She had asked that question frequently, too.
I am too tired to think that far.
Moreta looked at the midafternoon sun over Keroon plain and wondered with a terrible lethargy exactly what time it was.
“One last jump, that’s all we have to take, Holth.”
Wearily the old queen gathered herself to spring. Moreta gratefully began her litany.
“Black, blacker, blackest-”
They went between.

Back to a hero’s welcome, too a necessary drink, and to the knowledge that you’ve helped save the world. We’re right near the end of the chapter, so there’s not much more to be done but wind things down, right?


…where an I going, and why does this look like a handbasket?

Writer Workshop March 30th, 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!

Open Thread: Entertainment

(by chris the cynic)

What forms do you like or dislike?  What do you do to entertain yourself when alone?  With friends?  With family?


[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 March 25th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who had a good day yesterday toward advancing cooperation and shared vision.)

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.

Chris the Cynic: Stealing Commas

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

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if there’s an unsanctioned spirit horse race scheduled for the main drag at midnight tonight. Or for any other reason, really.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Provoking the Paradox

Last time, Capiam developed a plan to mass vaccinate both people and animals so as to prevent the flu from having another outbreak, and went to Moreta to get dragonriders to distribute, since Alessan had a successful test of animal serum. To make this plan work, though, the principal players have to jump into the future to harvest needlethorn so that they have enough to ensure sterility. This is quite dangerous.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Chapter XIV, Part Two: Content Notes: Actual, Honest-to-Prime Consent!

Here’s the description we have for the future time hop:

“Facing northwest, the Red Star is horizon, Belior half full ascending, and the quarter horn of Timor mid-heaven. You will please concentrate on how Ista looks with those ging trees in bloom. Think of them as now and in Ista, and the heat of autumn and the smell of those rotting rainforests.”

Good to know there’s names for these moons. Didn’t know they had them before this point.

That said, this is a pretty interesting thing. The picture being described has reference points for the big Sky bits, but assumes that the sky surrounding them is either familiar to Moreta or isn’t important enough to throw off the attempt, as apparently part of getting a good visualization is in the non-visual sensory aspects as well.

In any case, Moreta firmly holds the picture in her head and Nabeth, B’lerion’s dragon, appears over Ista at the appropriate time. To make sure that there’s no more possible misinterpretation, Capiam asks whether this is the future, and Moreta gives him an affirmative. After a short lesson from Moreta on how to collect needlethorn, with a warning about fine hairs on the plant that cause inflammation, suggesting that needlethorn is in the same family as stinging nettle, the crew gets to work harvesting. Half collect needles, half use the leaves of the nearby ging to wrap and transport them in. Alessan needs extra help figuring out how to harvest and wrap the needlethorn, and he tries to turn it to an intimate moment with Moreta. Moreta turns out to be very willing, but B’lerion’s encounter with the fine hairs previously warned about interrupts the moment, and the two turn back to their work, although Alessan tries to be intimate (and takes some wounds of his own from needlethorn for the trouble) and Moreta curbs his worst excesses, but they do share kisses and caresses, and the “delightful friction of his proximity” excites her.

Then comes B’lerion and Oklina with a request for food, and Capiam and Desdra join in soon afterward. Interestingly enough:

He [B’lerion] had stripped to the waist, and Oklina had tired her shirt up under her breasts, leaving her midriff bare.
[…food discussion…]
Capiam, too, had stripped off his tunic, which was now detailed over his shoulders. He was very thin, his ribs showing plainly.
“I know it’s hot,” Moreta began adroitly, “but none of us can return to Ruatha suffering from sunburn.”
Capiam exhibited a leaf he was using as a fan. “Or heat prostration.” He raised his eyebrows in satisfaction with the filled nets. “We left ours back a bit. I rather thought we should rest, as is the custom on this hot island, during the hottest part of the day.”
Everyone agreed that that was a sensible idea.

So there doesn’t seem to be any sort of great taboo about showing skin on Pern. Not that there would be for men – as solidly patriarchal as the planet is, there’s no reason to believe that shirtless men would invoke any sort of taboo. But bare midriff Oklina doesn’t appear to be invoking any reprimand from her brother about staying covered for modesty reasons.

In gathering food, Alessan gets an excuse to go shirtless himself, climbing up trees to collect nuts. In reclaiming his tunic, he runs his hands up the back of Moreta’s, who is surprised to find Alessan has quite soft skin and a nice smell.
Lunch is relaxing, with B’lerion providing the entertainment involving making fun of his disability (he’s one-handed, so does that mean he only gets half credit for his work?) and telling “an extravagantly funny take at the expense of Lord Diatis’s reputation”. Alessan wonders why things are the way they are:

“He sings a good descant, but B’lerion always seemed to be the epitome of a bronze rider.”
“Why, then, is he not your Weyrmate?”
“Orlith chose Kadith.”
“Do you not have any say in the matter?” Alessan was irritated for her sake. From remarks he had made during their morning’s work, she knew that Alessan didn’t like Sh’gall and wondered just how much their new relationship would strain Ruatha’s dependence in Fort’s Weyrleader. She was struggling to find an honest reply to a question she had evaded in her own heart, when Alessan contritely covered her head, his expression pleading with her to forgive his rash remarks. “I’m sorry, Moreta. That is a Weyr matter.”
“To answer you in part, B’lerion is always like that,” she said. “Charming, amusing. But Sh’gall leads men well, and he has an instinct about Fall which is predecessor, old L’mal, considered uncanny.”

This makes sense in all the right ways. The leader for peace is not the leader for war, although it’s still not entirely clear what the Weyrleader needs to be doing during Threadfall. It sounds as though he should be acting as Spotter Supreme to make sure all the wings are at their correct levels and to direct the queens on where to catch what gets through, but it also seems like he’s supposed to be leading the charge against Thread. In any case, it seems like the Weyrleader is really there to put on the brave face and lead the dragons to potential injury or death. Which is an important skill for them, but that seems like it could be done as a title like Supreme Dragonrider, without also handing over the political power and the Weyr operations to them, as well. Then again, as noted, boinking dragons is not a good basis for a system of government.

To take naps (or not), the pairings split off again after lunch, which is perfect opportunity for Alessan and Moreta to get a bit of boinking of their own in. But the sequence has two threads to it – Alessan and Moreta, and Oklina and the possibility of a gold dragon.

Then, taking a deep breath, he pulled Moreta against him and kissed her deeply and sensually, his hand deftly stroking her to arousal. “Come on, Moreta, I’m not chancing another attack by those needlethorns.” He led her from the ravine and toward the cliff. “What I’d like to understand is why that blue dragon of M’barak’s is sniffing around Oklina. I could understand Nabeth with B’lerion entranced by her, but Arith… would it have anything to do with that queen egg on the Hatching Ground as Tuero suggested?”
“It might, but Fort Weyr would not deplete your bloodline by Searching Oklina, Alessan.”
“This will do. Let’s just throw down some ging fronds,” Alessan said, hauling on the nearest at hand. “I won’t have you bruised, either. That would be almost as hard to explain as a sunburn or heat prostration.” Moreta helped him arrange a bower, all her senses suddenly awake, wishing that Orlith, not Nabeth, were on the Istan ledge. “About Oklina, now, since I’ve been reliably informed” – Alessan paused to grin at her, his light eyes sparkling vividly with merriment – “that she already has dragonrider blood in her…” Then he turned briefly serious. “If it could be understood that her children would return to Ruatha, I would not stand in Oklina’s way if she had the chance to Impress a dragon.” He dumped his last handful of frond on the ground with a decisive gesture and pulled Moreta into his arms. “I’m not my father, you know.”
“I wouldn’t be in a rainforest with your father.”
“Why not? He was a lusty man. And I intend to prove that I’m a suitable heir for his reputation!”
She was laughing as he laid her down on the sun-dappled frond bed. And he proved himself as lusty – and tender – as any woman could wish a man. For a shining moment at the height of their passion, Moreta forgot everything but Alessan.
The heat of the day did overcome them briefly, and they slumbered in each other’s arms until tiny insects sought the moisture of their bodies and made them uncomfortable enough to wake.

…is this the first time in seven books where we have consensual sex between adults without the influences of any dragon or fire lizard, and the narrative doesn’t indicate its disapproval? Because it seems like it is. No mating flight, no snark, nothing. Alessan even indicates a desire to not be rough with Moreta. Not coincidentally, this also reads like the most passionate and satisfying sex that’s been had in these seven books. Perhaps even here, some of the message of “consent makes your sex hot” is getting through. Narratively, though, the story has gone out of its way to show us that Alessan is kind, empathetic, and genuinely concerned with the welfare of his people and his guests, in contrast to Tolocamp’s selfishness. So in addition to the Exceptional Women on display (Moreta for the dragonriders, Nerilka for the Holders, and Desdra for the Healers), we have an Exceptional Man who does things in contrast to the other Lord Holders. I…suppose we could call it an improvement, if we’re feeling generous, but the larger pattern still exists of Exceptional People as protagonists and main characters.

The strain of worry about Oklina resurrects some of the questions we asked during Dragonflight – while we know the new queen rider stays and raises the dragon, what happens to the other candidates? The youngest stick around in case they get another shot, but those who will be considered too old to Impress most have a life somewhere. Why don’t they go back to their Holds and resume the life left there? (Not that it’s a great life at all.) Is there an assumption by Holders that any woman who has been around dragonriders is tainted in some manner? Whether in philosophy about sex, or no longer being able to fetch the virgin bride price (because, presumably, if you stay long enough, you’ll be subjected to the wide-band broadcast of dragon mating and won’t be able to help yourself), there’s something about going off on Search that makes it not possible for a candidate to return home. In a subversive world, and a good headcanon option, those candidates are quietly hustled to sympathetic Crafthalls to learn a trade and become independent women, with the option of remaining with the Crafts or coming back to their Weyrs and taking up the Craft roles the Weyr needs.

Alessan has a point, though. Lords Holder are pretty obsessed with bloodlines and lineages, and the easiest way to avoid a civil war over Ruatha is to make sure the line continues. If both Alessan and Oklina are having kids that would be recognized as part of the Holder class, that’s a higher percentage chance of the line surviving and war being averted. So he both wants and doesn’t want Oklina to be selected as a candidate.

After their siestas, the group regathers for dinner, where B’lerion and Oklina show off the results of their skills at finding food, including Oklina pointing out that she learned a useful skill about fishing from Dag and that B’lerion used it to catch several. Which is an opportunity for the narrative to give Alessan the same reaction Capiam had to learning how much Nerilka knew:

“It was B’lerion’s idea, you know,” Oklina said. “He actually tickled the fish to catch them.”
“Did he teach you how?” Alessan asked.
“No,” Oklina replied with admirable composure. “Dag did. The same principal [sic] works in our rivers as Ista’s.”
Moreta could not resist chuckling at Alessan’s expression as he sank beside her.
“On more mature reflection, I think she deserves to be in a Weyr,” Alessan said in a severe undertone.

Running gag for this book: men constantly surprised that women have brains in their heads instead of fluff. Which is a joke you can make once in a while, but as a universal constant, gets old fast.

While others are ready to go back immediately, B’lerion squashes that idea in favor of the reality that the group will still need to finish the day they started.

“Sleep” – he pointed his finger sternly at Moreta – “for you have to mend dragons after Fall in another four hours. You can’t do that effectively after the day you just put in.” He flipped his hand toward the carry-nets lying in the shadows. “You, Alessan, will have to vaccinate and escort those priceless brood mares and foals of yours down from the meadows. I do not see you permitting anyone else to head that expedition. Desdra and Capiam, you will be returning to the pressures of expanding this vaccination program to include runnerbeasts. So we shall finish our meal and then we shall sleep.” He allowed the sibilance of the word to emphasize his meaning. “When Belior has risen, Nabeth will rouse us, won’t you, my fine fellow?” B’lerion thumped his dragon’s neck. “And we’ll all be the better for the time spent here.”

Well, there goes the possibility that B’lerion wouldn’t be a good leader in war. When he needs to, B’lerion is apparently very good at managing people and making sure they do what they need to. It certainly sounds like he is great Weyrleader material, but the narrative apparently needed Sh’gall, who has been anything but an effective leader in this crisis time. More drama is not always good drama.

Upon their return, Moreta is greeted with two very anxious queen dragons – they tried to reach her at Ista, but in their own time, and they could not find Moreta. Before that avenue is pursued, though, the preparations for the vaccination have to get underway, and Alessan, having taken an aerial look at Ruatha Hold, dispatches Oklina to find some able bodies and spruce up the place. M’barak returns with the glass bottles and a few extra hands, declaring the need for hurry since there’s still Fall in the day that was interrupted. Once unburdened of glass and passengers, Moreta hitches her ride back to Fort, where Leri grills get about where she went and why she was out of contact and how difficult it was to keep both queens under control. Moreta gives Leri a complete rundown of the plan Capiam came with, provoking Leri to declare a need to flay K’lon because Capiam knows about time travel. After reassuring her that it’s not necessary to get after K’lon, Moreta reveals the rest of the plan regarding jumping into the future to get the needlethorn and then visiting Weyrs under the guise of looking for queen candidates to recruit riders for the mass vaccination and time travel. Leri is basically incredulous and angry at the risk being taken, but she does see the planning in place.

Leri gave a little chuckle at Moreta’s cunning. “My dear, you’ve the makings of a superior Weyrwoman. Just shuck that bronze rider and get someone you’re happy with. And I do not mean that light-eyed Lord Holder, with his convenient stashes of Benden white. Though mind you, he’s a handsome lad.”

The call to battle ends the chapter, but it seems like everybody at Fort realizes that the Weyrleader match is a poor one at best and is wondering when Moreta will dump Sh’gall in favor of someone else. If we had any information about what the mating process is like from an experienced Weyrwoman, instead of the only description coming from Lessa, who knew absolutely nothing about it, then we could put to the test some of those claims that suggest the queen rider may have some choice or direction with regard to who gets to mate with her gold.

…then again, queen riders exercising choice in their mates and partners has a pretty poor track record so far. As does queen riders who don’t get to exercise choice, at least for the riders themselves.

There’s one chapter and an epilogue to go, which means it’s time for the competent Moreta to die in a tragic accident to provide manpain to the male characters, Alessan, K’lon, Capiam, and so forth, right? That way, we can get the Ballad that has been sung in the future about her.

Writer Workshop March 23rd, 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!

This week in the Slacktiverse, March 21st, 2016

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • I actually managed to get a new installment of the Kim Possible Decon up meaning that we have now finished three episodes.  So click over to read about the second half of the episode Monkey Fist Strikes.  Also, because that post was really long, I’m thinking it might possibly be a good idea to take the episodes in smaller chunks, perhaps four posts per episode instead of two.  Note the “might possibly”  If you have thoughts on that, please give me input in the comments to the above linked decon post.
    • Since I’ve been stuck way below my usual fiction output for ages now, I’ve taken to looking into fanfic prompts in hopes of inspiration  For the second time that had a little payoff.  There’s not much, just a fairly short and rough beginning, but it is story which is something I’ve been having trouble with lately:
      • It should be pretty self explanatory if you read it, short version is that the prompt was that the heroic sidekick (Ron) and the villainous sidekick (Shego) get fused into a single being and a story results.
    • I talked about how I’d make humanish proportioned Lego compatible figures for more than just the “girls” lines if I had the money necessary to do the mass production with quality plastic that would be needed.
    • My financial situation is currently confused and I talked about that in monthly post where I remind everyone that I do indeed take donations (and sometimes depend on them.)

In Case You Missed This


No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

(Content note: homophobic violence, Link specific content: Photos of horrific burns)
Via Inquisitive Raven  (via this signal boost in turn.  Note that that’s the only link without images.)

A man poured boiling water over a young gay couple while they were sleeping in their bed.  When the extreme pain woke them up he shouted, “Get out of my house with all that gay!” (Not that it matters, but it wasn’t his house.)  Then he threw them out forcing them to go door to door just to call 911 and be taken to the hospital.

Even in small quantities boiling water can do some severe damage, having it poured over your whole body is really, really bad.  If you want to read more about what happened (but remember that the links contain images), this is the Washington Post article.

As for what you can do, gofundme thingys have been set up to help with medical expenses.  They’re both out of the hospital now, but that doesn’t mean they’ve recovered.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for March 18th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has spent most of his time at work this week outside of his normal work location.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if there’s a murder of rocs doing complicated aerial stunts at the local sports stadium. Or for any other reason, really.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Still Contagious

Last chapter, Alessan tilled fields until he had a brilliant idea to see Moreta and ask if the runners could be vaccinated against the plague. He returned Moreta’s dress, triggering her, and was rewarded for it with a kiss and inflamed passion, which I’m still giving Orlith some hand in.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Chapter XIV, Part One: Content Notes: Casual Homophobia


We start the next chapter in the Healer Hall, with Capiam explaining to Tirone that illnesses do not just vanish and that no new cases does not mean no more cases.

“I did. I’ll be happier when the lapse is four days long. But that only means that this wave of the viral influence is passing. The ‘flu’ – as the Ancients nicknamed it – can recur. It’s the next wave that worries me dreadfully.”

And there we have it. If we hadn’t guessed by now, now we finally know what the mysterious virus is that has laid low so many on the planet. The misdirection to this point relies on a pronunciation distinction in the English language that produces a much bigger distinction in text.

[This explanation section will require a browser or reader that can serve the Unicode characters for the International Pronunciation Alphabet. Content courtesy Wiktionary.]

/ˈɪn.flu.əns/ = “influence” = [Def. 2] An action exerted by a person or thing with such power on another to cause change.

/ˌɪn.flu.ˈen.zə/ = “influenza” = (pathology) An acute contagious disease of the upper airways and lungs, caused by a virus, which rapidly spreads around the world in seasonal epidemics.

The second is what is referred to by “the flu” as a nickname. The pronunciations are similar enough, though, that if the final syllable isn’t stressed hard enough, it’s quite easy to think someone said “influence” when they meant “influenza”. (Wiktionary also says that influenza is Italian for “influence”, further correlating the two words.) This is decades before Jo Rowling would pull a similar verbal flimflam so as to hide the non Latin-aware that Remus J. Lupin (“Wolf-raised Roman J. Wolf”) is afraid of the moon.

They saw a silvery-white orb hanging in the air in front of Lupin, who said “Riddikulus” almost lazily.

So yes, it’s the flu, which does weaken the immune system and make secondary infections more likely, and which has had several varieties that do more than enough damage on their own as well as opening the door for others. That there have been lots of Passes since anyone had to deal with flu wouldn’t remove the defenses the human species has against it, I would think, but perhaps it’s the other disease that was the lethal one, born of the environment that is Pern and otherwise able to be fought off by the inhabitants. Or something mutated horribly in the intervening time that whatever the Ancients did, it doesn’t work anymore. In any case, as us poor Terrans know, flu is one of those illnesses where we can guess and try to keep it away, but we don’t always guess right.

Fortine articulates the problem of the mutating flu while Tirone is having trouble wrapping his head around it, and Capiam points out that the Records really only have one solution to the problem of infectious diseases – mass vaccination. Tirone is incredulous, but Capiam is persuasive, and believes that he can achieve mass vaccination because the social structure of Pern allows for mass tracking, so nobody gets missed in the vaccination sweeps. But it requires a lot of serum, and dragonriders to distribute, so as to basically isolate the flu and prevent it from spreading while the last sufferers use their supercharged immune systems to get rid of the remaining infections.

In the middle of this, Tirone tells us that the story of the sea animal is a lie, and he’s collected the reports to prove it. The logs of the ship indicate position and storm and the conclusion is that the sailors there landed on Southern, spent three days there eating the fruits and produce there, then returning. For Tirone, the obvious conclusion is that the plague was picked up from Southern. Which is possible, considering that it hasn’t been explored or inhabited since the disaster that sent the Ancients running.

With everyone convinced the humans need vaccinations and the runners, too, Tirone suggests Capiam consult Moreta and then put the problem of mass vaccination to the new Beastmaster, Besell, while he goes off to convince Tolocamp that vaccinations are good ideas and he should go along with it, believing that the lack of Harpers and Healers at Fort will have pushed Tolocamp to reconsider his ideas.

Shifting over to Ruatha, Alessan’s mind is on the process of getting usable serum from the runners, but he is willingly interrupted by his sister’s arrival on a blue dragon. Who then takes a curious interest in Oklina.

“Arith! Behave yourself! That’s Lady Oklina!” M’barak called. The blue dragon had turned his head round toward brother and sister, and was now wiffling closer and closer to Oklina, his eyes whirling. By no means afraid of such attention, Oklina didn’t know what to do and clung to Alessan.
At his rider’s reprimand, Arith made a tiny little nose, a disappointed snort, and turned his head away while M’barak apologized profusely.
[…Dragon and rider take their leave…]
“Blue dragons are not usually fascinated by the opposite sex,” the harper remarked dryly to Alessan.
[…Alessan doesn’t understand any implications…]
Tuero’s grin broadened. “As I recall it, Ruatha has quite a few bloodties with dragonriders.”
Alessan stared from Oklina to the dragon already airborne, and remembered K’lon’s remark the day he had brought the vaccine to Ruatha Hold. “It couldn’t be!”

The earlier comment is K’lon saying that the vaccination Oklina received was probably from his own blood, with the implication that the blue dragon can sense that blood in Oklina and is thus interested in the K’lon part of her, since blue dragons aren’t normally interested in women. The way the sequence works out, it seems like Tuero thinks of it as a joke that a blue dragon would be interested in the gay blood in the straight woman. Not exactly enlightened ideas.

Of course, there’s another possibility that nobody is considering – Oklina might actually just be interested in women. The star-struck girl of the Gather might have been more interested in Moreta, like her brother, than in the suitors and dancers in the floor. Not that we can expect a sympathetic treatment, were it the case, despite the not always mentioned part where partnered dragonriders that aren’t partnered with a gold are two men together. This might be the first book where we’ve seen the love and support that dragonriders give each other when they’re committed. So it shouldn’t be a big deal if Oklina is interested in women more than men.

Unless, of course, you’re in a society that considers women to be little more than bargaining chips in making alliances and possibly expensive dowries to be paid out. One that couldn’t conceive of a daughter in rebellion, or one that wants to be a musician, or anything else other than a wife.

Before this line of inquiry goes any further, it’s time to test some runner vaccination, and there’s a disabled runner that’s been volunteered for the process. If it survives the night, and the runner appears to not be suffering ill effects, the vaccine is considered a working one. Alessan sleeps, the runner is still there, and so it’s time for mass vaccinations for runners and for Alessan to contemplate whether or not Moreta was just being nice with the kiss (he concludes she wasn’t, and that Orlith was on board with them going much farther), and whether it would be possible for him and her to have a relationship (his responsibility to get married and produce lots of kids would interfere, although they might have a nice discreet affair). He regrets the loss of Runel and his eidetic memory of bloodlines, and of the written records that had been stayed about which animals had been killed by the illness.

Unexpected news greets him on arriving at the quarantined area – a lot of pregnant mares are here, so perhaps the line won’t die out at all, and both Dag and Fergal have survived as well, so Ruatha’s fortunes look a lot better for the future. Which is all we get before a scene change.

Have I mentioned that this is a marathon chapter? We’re about a fourth of the way in right now, with this change to Capiam meeting Moreta.

His question is the same that Alessan had just asked, and it ticks Moreta off again to hear that nobody seems to have thought of the runners at all. She tells Capiam that she answered Alessan earlier affirmatively, and asks what he’s doing here. Capiam says he’s worried about another epidemic coming from the animals – the plague is “zoonotic” and “recrudescent” according to the terms in his records.
Moreta understands the implications and is properly horrified at them. As she works through them, she realizes the reason Capiam is here to see her – to use the dragonriders as a worldwide distribution network for vaccine so that everyone can get their supplies at the same time. Capiam unfolds his plans:

“Which I will confirm as soon as you can also assure me that the Weyrs can assist us in delivering the vaccines. One of my journeymen is a wizard at figuring out what he calls time-and-motion processes. If we could rely on a minimum of six riders from each Weyr to cover their traditional regions, in a scheduled roster of stops to the various holds, halls, and Weyrs, that would be sufficient.”
Moreta was doing some calculations of her own. “Not unless the riders -” she caught herself and gulped in astonishment. In Capiam’s broadening grin she had an unexpected answer.
“I’ve been doing rather a lot of reading in the Archives, Moreta.” Capiam sounded more pleased than apologetic for the shock he had given her.
“How did that bit of information come to be in the Healer Archives?” she demanded, so infuriated that Orlith came fully alert, claws hooking protectively about the queen egg.
“Why shouldn’t it be?” Capiam asked with deceptive mildness. “After all, my Craft bed the trait into the dragons. Can they really go from one time to another?” he asked wistfully.
“Yes,” she finally replied, as austerely as she could. “But it’s not encouraged at all!” She right of K’lon, knew very well how often the blue rider had been at the Healer Hall, and wondered about such convenient Records. On the other hand, Capiam’s Craft had been credited with many incredible feats and displays of skill, secrets forgotten by disuse. She chided herself for doubting the integrity of Master Capiam, especially at such a critical hour when any strategy that might restore the continent to balance might be condoned. “Capiam, traveling in time produces paradoxes that can be dangerous.”
“That’s why I suggested the progressive delivery so there is no overlapping.” The eagerness in his manner was disarming.

This is extra confusing, because if it’s been written down somewhere that dragons do temporal as well as physical hops, it would seem like that would be part of the corpus of common knowledge. Them again, these Records are always conveniently fragmentary, so maybe the things that talk about dragon abilities are stayed away in the section about healing people and dragons in a Weyr. Also, once again, someone understands what the dragons can do and is asking only for a little bit of temporal strain to deliver vaccine, rather than for an immunized rider to go back and deliver serum to prevent the outbreak. Since it still isn’t really very clear what the rules are regarding time travel, other than that bad things happen if you get too close to yourself or try to exist in too many places at the same time, these assumptions and statements are never backed by any sort of proof or anecdote. K’lon gets “that’s forbidden!” Capiam gets “that’s a trade secret!” Surely somewhere there’s a cautionary tale of a rider who thought they were going to surprise a lover with two of themselves in bed, but that the proximity to themselves caused a thing that the movie version would need an effects squadron and a bucket of two of blood and viscera to recreate. Or a Weyrling who tried to get cute about always being on time and then trading with his more well-rested self in the middle of a lesson who shaved things too close and erased himself from existence. There are clearly enough curious dragonriders to keep discovering this trick, and riders other than the approved ones can manage it, so the reason of “Because we said so” isn’t going to cut it in terms of keeping a lid on the secret. There has to be an example somewhere. Or that all the appropriate attempts have resulted in Stable Time Loops where the original condition had to be restored because the alternative was worse.

I realize this is thinking more about the mechanics than the author may have, but since this is a critical element of the world, and we’re in the seventh book at this point, at some point it would seem that time will be devoted somewhere to sketching out a basic understanding.

Having secured Moreta’s assistance, Capiam, Desdra, and Moreta head out on Arith to see whether or not Alessan was successful with animal vaccine. Moreta observes the devastation with a similar eye as K’lon did earlier, seeing it as a place of an apocalypse. Once the dragon settles, though, Alessan relays the great news about having mares and foals, as well as the successful tests of the serum for animals. Capiam fills in Alessan on the importance of animal vaccination in addition to human vaccination, and Alessan is very happy to volunteer his animals to provide serum.

“Ruatha lost much – of its people, its herds, its honor, and its pride. Any help which Ruatha can now offer may perhaps remove the stain of our enduring” – Alessan indicated the burial mounds – “hospitality.”
There was no bitterness in the young Lord Holder’s voice but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the aftermath of his first Gather had burned indelibly into his soul.
“What makes you think that you are responsible for that? Or any of this?” One flourish of Capiam’s hand indicated the burial mounds, the next, their meeting in the beasthold, and the veterinary preparations being made to one side.

Capiam continues delivering his speech about how nobody is really at fault and that their job is to keep people alive and Alessan should be proud of his willingness to help until an unexpected bronze arrives, with Oklina again appearing to provoke a reaction from Arith. Moreta finally provides a possible explanation – blue dragons are particularly keen on finding good queen candidates, and Orlith’s egg may be getting Arith prematurely wound up for that task.

As the Healers and Alessan talk about how best to prepare the runners, Desdra points out one snag in the plan – not enough sterile needlethorns. Moreta offers to get more, even though they’re very much out of season, and won’t be in season until autumn, because Desdra points out the lack of supply may mean some places don’t get their vaccinations. Since the Healers already know the secret, the real trick is to convince B’lerion that the time hop is necessary to make the plan work.

“B’lerion, I know where we need to go, in both Ista and Nerat. I know when needlethorn is ripe to be harvested. The ging tree is always in bloom. I have seen the rainforest resemble a green face with a thousand dark-rimmed eyes-”
“Highly poetic, Moreta, but not exactly the guide I’d need.”
“But it is a when. And to get the proper coordinates we’ve only to check the autumnal position of the Red Star. Alessan would have the charts. It’s rising father and farther west. One only has to calculate the autumnal degree.” She could see that that argument did much to reassure B’lerion.

So now we’re gearing up for something that seemed wild during the Ninth Pass – jumping into the future to harvest a crop that will be used in the past to ensure that future comes to pass. Moreta thinks a crew of six will be enough to make it work – Moreta, Alessan, Capiam, Desdra, B’lerion, and Oklina. At the sensible mention of potential paradox, Moreta says they all just need to avoid Ista at the time they will have already been there.

A couple things to mention before this plan gets underway, which we’ll get to in the next post. First, there’s the bigger paradox worry than being in two places at the same time – if the future depends on the harvesting of needlethorn to vaccinate the runners, then to stabilize the time line, there has to be a Bad Future where there aren’t enough and something happens to the herds. If that’s a very Bad Future, where another outbreak causes mass deaths, well, that’s a problem. Hopefully that particular future is one where Desdra has miscalculated the available supply and there was barely enough to get it all done in time.

It’s also possible that I’m misreading this situation and the planned jump is one into the past, but it certainly seems like everyone plans on harvesting this year’s crop early.

Second, if this were a series that just continued forward in time in successive books, then this would be a clever bit of call back to The White Dragon and Wansor and his groundbreaking work. Instead, we have to deal with the knowledge that three Passes before, the great astronomical knowledge had already been put into place. There has to be some form of unenlightened times to get from Sixth to Ninth. If this plague is the catalyst for a great loss of knowledge between then and now, then if this book continues on after the plague, we might start to see the effects of this loss. If it’s not this, then there still has to be some great tragedy yet to come to explain the reasons why the future is relearning the past. (Latin Christendom had such events when they were invaded and overrun, and when they spent their time fighting instead of learning from the cultures around them.) So it might have been better to try out on a picture that Moreta had, the same way Lessa used a tapestry to jump back, rather than to have charts and graphs to construct an image to use, which will get the landing party ready at dawn of the day they choose to jump forward to.

Next time, the actual plan gets underway.

Writer Workshop March 16th, 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!