Monthly Archives: May 2016

It’s not a cage or a prison, it’s a home

(By chris the cynic, a previous version of this appeared on her own site, Stealing Commas.)

Every so often something happens that causes me to mention that I’m trans.  The asterisk isn’t there because I’m talking about the very specific subset which I am.  I’m a trans woman.  Since I fit into that category, woman, quite neatly I’m not one of the people the asterisk is there to remind us about and I wouldn’t presume to speak for them.

Not that I presume to speak for all trans women and trans men.  I don’t.

But we go sideways.  Let us return to forward:

Every so often something happens that causes me to mention that I’m trans.  Most of the time I don’t talk about it and I don’t think I should have to talk about it.  That’s between me and my body and sometimes my doctors and, unfortunately, my official identification (fuck you things that say what you think my gender is and require my full legal name.)

But mostly between me and my body.

After Lonespark shared this with me, I decided that maybe it’s worth talking about the relationship between me and my body.

It’s kind of rocky at times.  There’s a long scabbed over cut near my left elbow and I have no idea how it got there.  Looks like it should have hurt.

Fail communication much body?  This after all of the times you felt the need to tell me every little thing that was going on in my intestines as if I’d forget I was sick if you gave me so much as one moment of respite?

Or how about when you don’t tell me I’m dehydrated and instead trick me into thinking I’m malnourished or sleep-deprived instead, thereby assuring that the steps I’m taking to fix the perceived problem don’t stand a chance in hell of addressing the actual problem?

What the fuck is up with that?

So, yeah, it can be rocky at times.

But I’m not trapped in it, and I never was.

I live in it.  I reside here.  I exist in the space behind these eyes, and tendrils of my being reach out to other parts like the fingers with which I type, the ankle I have sprained, a toe that rests against the couch, the intestines that have to get involved whenever I’m sick even if the illness is emphatically not intestinal.  This is me and mine.  (Yes, I just used “is” as a transitive verb.)

I was never a girl trapped in a boy’s body.  I was a sometimes confused, sometimes scarily certain, girl in a body that refused to change to fit how she wanted it to be or felt it should be.

I’d hoped to be taller.  I’m still horribly bereft of wings.  I watched with horror as the peach fuzz on my arms turned to thick dark coarse hair.

And had everyone look at me like some inhuman other when I decided to shave off that fucking hair off my arms in . . . high school I think it was.  Never did that in high school again, the reaction was too . . . I’m not sure there is a word.

My body doesn’t always do the things I want.  Note its tendency to get concussed.

But I’m not trapped here.  I don’t want out.  I want change.

At the moment I want to change my weight because I know the weight I feel best at and this is not it.  Once my ankle is 100% and I’m losing weight I’ll bet you that I get pissed off when by boobs get smaller with the rest of me.  Well, maybe not pissed off.  Probably annoyed.

Frustrating as all hell that I needed insurance and an endocrinologist for them to grow in the first place.

Most girls have bodies that will grow boobs without being bribed with estrogen pills.  Generally by the time they’re women.

The fact that mine doesn’t work that way, though, doesn’t suddenly make it a man’s body, and it didn’t make it a boy’s body when I was younger.  It’s my fucking body.  The male gender doesn’t get possession.  It doesn’t because maleness is over there and I’m over here and this body belongs to me.

There are people who dream of switching to a different body, there are people who feel trapped in the wrong one, but they are not everyone who is trans (or trans*) and I am not one of them.

If you start thinking, “I know what this is about, girl trapped in a boy’s body,” in response to hearing about trans girls please remember me and re-calibrate your fucking paradigm.  I exist.  People like unto me exist.  Don’t forget about people who feel trapped since they exist too, but do remember the people who don’t feel trapped.

I would say that all bodies are fixer-upper jobs to some degree or other, but I remind myself of the story of Balpreet Kaur.  If you don’t want to follow the link, here’s the short version: Balpreet Kaur is a cis woman who has facial hair –a dark mustache and a beard that’s thick and dark near the chin.  People on the internet were nasty when they saw her picture (a picture she didn’t know had been taken), but when she found out about it she responded beautifully.

Balpreet Kaur

The initial picture of Balpreet Kaur

What matters for our purposes at this precise moment is that her religion tells her that her body is the way it’s supposed to be, a gift from her God, and she believes it.

So I have to remind myself, some people do have bodies that are already perfect.

For a lot of us, though, that’s not the case.  Bodies aren’t perfect.  Mine isn’t (again, note the fucking lack of wings) and it never was.  It’s closer to perfect than it once was in some ways, and further in others.  But it was never the wrong body.  I never wanted to leave this body.  I never felt trapped.  I never yearned for a different one.  I wanted to change the body to match how I felt it should be (obviously feminine traits as defined by my culture, sprout wings, be svelte instead of bowling ball shaped …) but it’s mine and, no, maleness cannot have it.

It’s like my house.  My house is not in its ideal state.  Time, money, and mental state willing, I will make serious changes to it.  (Like figuring out how that fucking noisy as fuck mouse gets in, sealing that hole or those holes, and securing them better than the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.) But the fact that I want it to be different than it is doesn’t mean that I want to get out of it.  It means I want to bring it closer to perfection.

Sometimes people will try to understand by asking when I started feeling like I was a girl (or woman if they think I didn’t realize until adulthood) in a boy’s (or man’s) body.  I’ll tell them about how my sister says that when I was really little I said I wanted to grow up to be a woman, but I was too young to remember that so I have to take her word.  And I’ll tell them that the earliest memory that I can assign a time period to was on the playground in elementary school when I was thinking about how I’d like to be able to turn into a girl.

I don’t lecture them about how neither of these things is about being in the wrong body.  I don’t tell them that “turning into a girl” as envisioned in my young mind involved this body –this very one that I still have to this day and was in all those years ago– changing to become a more fitting one meaning that I wanted to keep the same damned body, thank you very much.

I usually leave a lot unsaid, and so I’m talking now.

Yes, as a child I probably would have conceded that I had a boy’s body.  I didn’t know anything about the difference between sex and gender.  I didn’t know trans* people existed.  I didn’t have the language to describe how I felt, and I didn’t have the conceptual framework to make sense of it to myself, much less communicate it to others.

But even then, when I would have said I was in a boy’s body, I never thought it was the wrong one.  It was always the right body in the wrong shape.  It was my body.  When I imagined turning into a girl, because I had been taught that I wasn’t one so there had to be some kind of transformation, it was always, always, always about my body –my body that was the right body for me and was so very much mine and the only body I’d ever want– changing.

And that’s not something that’s unique to my corner of the trans experience.

Plenty of kids want to grow up.  That desire, the desire to be a grown up, isn’t (well, I should hedge, infinite diversity after all, isn’t always) about the kids thinking that they’re trapped in the wrong body.  It’s about wanting their body, the one that they want to stay in, to change.

These days I have a doctor monitoring and adjusting my hormones instead of puberty.  Because why in fuck would anyone trust puberty to get things right?  How many people think, “Well I could get help from someone who has studied for years and is up to date on the latest science; nah, I’ll just ask puberty”?

Granted puberty does get things (within tolerance of) right for a lot of people, but I’m putting my faith in medical science these days instead of, “Well if I just wait I’m sure everything will turn out great on its own.”

And for me having my endocrine system working as it should and dealing with hair in places I don’t want it may be all that I need.  That and a new dentist (old one got carpal tunnel, or something like that, and had to retire.)  It might not.  The future is not known to me.

It’s definitely the case that a lot of people are obsessed with surgery when it comes to trans bodies.  Everyone wants to know if you’ve got gonads or not.  Well, actually, when it comes to trans women what nosy people are usually interested in is more gonad-adjacent.

I’m squeamish about genitalia in general, so discussion of surgery to them isn’t something that I really want to have, but I would like to point out that it is not common practice to walk up to the penis-havers of the world and ask, “Are you circumcised?” in spite of that being a much more common surgery.  (Though it still ranks far below joint replacement, C section, and the grand Poohbah of all surgeries in the United States: cataract removal.)

My point, insofar as I have one, with respect to surgery, is that people who surgically alter their bodies generally aren’t doing it because they feel trapped in the wrong one.  Maybe they’re just sick of of their vision being screwed up, because how many people want to have blurry vision that only shows them faded colors?  Nothing against people who do, but I’m betting that people who don’t aren’t usually getting surgery because they feel they’re trapped in the wrong bodies.

* * *

The post that led me to write this, linked to above and again here, begins:

I am not a woman trapped in a man’s body. This body is no man’s; it is mine, it is me, and there is no man in that equation. And I am not trapped in it. There are a million and one ways out of this body, and I have clung to it, tooth and claw, despite an endless line of people and institutions who would rather I vacate the premises, and have sometimes been willing to make me bleed to convince me they’re right.

This body is mine, and I claim it and its bruises, and it is not a man’s, and I am not trapped here. I have looked leaving my body in the eye and I have said, in the end, hell no. There is too much to do, too much to love, too many who need one more of us to say hell no and help them say the same.

I have a friend who has lost all joy.  When asked how he is he says, “I persist.”  I wish he had better, but I’m glad it’s not worse.  I’ve often pointed out that surviving is what I do.  It’s the only thing I’ve never failed at.  If one day my seemingly endless string of financial catastrophes should leave me homeless I don’t know what will happen, but I think I’ll survive.  It’s what I do.

I have a leg up over a lot of people because, even at its most fucked up, my brain never hits me with suicidal thoughts.  Still, keeping the body is hard work.

This body is mine and I guard it jealously.  I try very hard, though sometimes not hard enough, to keep it unbroken, to keep the blood on the inside, it’s a constant struggle to keep it fed and watered.

This body was my birthright, but I’ve had to keep on earning the right to use it day by day and year by year.  Sometimes parts of it are wrong, sometimes things are in the wrong shape, sometimes it doesn’t work remotely right, but it’s never the wrong body.  It’s never some man’s body, and when I was a kid it wasn’t some boy’s body.

It’s mine, and I am no man.


I’ve been told an Eowyn pic is essential here.

People not allowing that narrative can and do fuck over people like me.  Do you have any idea how long I was in mental anguish because everything inside was saying that I should be a girl but I “knew” that couldn’t be true because if it were I’d have to feel trapped in the wrong body and I didn’t have that fucking dysphoria?

I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with trans people (didn’t know about any of the asterisk groups at that point) but I’d been told that they felt trapped in the wrong body and I didn’t, ergo I couldn’t be trans.  I assumed that I was some kind of unclassified freak* who wasn’t a real trans person.

This shit is damaging.  Some trans* people feel that they’re an X trapped in a Y body.  Cut the “some” off the front of that sentence and you get a vicious fucking lie.**

I would have been sure of myself and ready to start transitioning before I finished high school if not for the “Trans people feel trapped in the wrong body” lie.  Instead, because I believed the lie, I thought that I couldn’t possibly be trans and couldn’t figure out what the fuck I was.  Trying to work it out hurt.  Eventually it hurt so much that I decided to ignore my body entirely.

Want to know how long I hid from trying to figure out my own identity because the damned lie that trans people all feel trapped in the wrong body made any attempt at finding myself result in mental torment?  I was ignoring my body; part of that included not shaving.  Check out the beard length.


My editor says I shouldn’t insert pictures instead of just links.

I note Lonespark’s comment “Your Before picture looks like you are hiding from the world.”

Yeah.  You have no idea.  Well, you (Lonespark) didn’t then, but you were the first to find out.  Or . . . I think I told my mother pretty early, so that would make you the second.

I think it was another year after that when I came out.  (Lonespark deserves a lot of credit for giving me much needed support.  It would have been a lot easier to keep pretending to be male.  I had a lot of practice.)

I think I came out in September 2013.  Over ten years after I graduated high school (just one summer over ten years, but over ten years nonetheless.)  If it weren’t for the lie that “trapped in the wrong body” is the only way trans people can be, then, as I noted, I’d have had my gender identity well and truly sorted out by the time I graduated high school.

An entire decade of needless confusion and pain.

Of course if they’d just told me that there was such a thing as trans people when I was a little kid (and left out the lie of course) then I probably would have had it fucking sorted by the time I reached middle-school. I spent so much damned time daydreaming about being able to be a girl and if I’d known that maybe it was because I was a girl I probably could have put it together.

Though there is an intriguing other possibility.  I’m a trans woman and the only hesitation I have in saying that is that I really, truly don’t like admitting to adulthood.  (I don’t wanna grow up.)  What was going on in my head when I was really little though . . . it was . . . I don’t know.

Maybe it’s just because everything was telling me that I was a boy and was supposed to be a boy so I had to incorporate that into my thinking.  Or maybe I really was different back then.  Because while I spent so, so much time wanting to be able to, and dreaming about being able to, turn into a girl, being able to turn back was always an element.  In the fantasy worlds kept safely hidden inside my own mind where no one else could see I was gender-fluid.

Maybe if I’d been allowed to be that then I would be now.  Maybe that’s something that got lost along the way.  Or maybe I never was, and I just had the desire to move between the two because I thought I was supposed to want the one I didn’t want and I was indeed a genderstatic trans girl back then.

I truly don’t know.

What I do know is that things would have been a lot better if I’d been given accurate information a lot earlier and not had the over generalization that made it seem like people like me were impossible.

And a big part of what I needed to know, but was told wasn’t true, was that it’s possible for a single person to be trans and attached to their body in a positive way.

It’s my body.  I am not trapped here.  I want to be here.  If I were taken out and put into some cis woman’s body I’d want my fucking body back because this one is mine, God damn it.

Random line from a cartoon:

It’s time we stopped trying to be so “perfect” and be who we really are.  We’re crazed, angry, sweaty animals!  We’re not unicorns; we’re women, and we take what we want!

Wendy Speech

It was suggested that I insert a picture of her being awesome in a unicorn brawl, but I prefer Wendy’s speech.

And me, I want this body.  I want this one right here to be the one that matches who I am.

I’m not trapped here; I’m ensconced.

It’s only natural to want your ensconcey-place to be in line with your own standards, so yeah, that’s involved some changes.  But they were improvements to a place that I was never trapped and never dysphoric about.***


* Please read the word “freak” with all possible negative connotations and not a single positive one.

** See “freak” in the previous paragraph and “anguish” two paragraphs prior.  It god damned hurt.

*** Except maybe the arm hair.  When that first turned dark and coarse it really did bother –a visceral sense of wrongness, even– but plenty of people dislike body hair without it being called dysphoria.

This week in the Slacktiverse, May 29th, 2016

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • I wrote a theme post for my Kim Possible deconstruction.  It’s about he fact that this show, which was made with the intention of providing a female Bond-like action hero character, isn’t something we’re supposed to take seriously.  It’s comedy.  We’re supposed to be laughing.

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: Reading Material

(by chris the cynic)

What, if anything, have you been reading lately?  What you like to read but haven’t yet?  What would you like to re-read?

[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 May 27th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is busily utilizing Markdown to help speed his conference preparation.)

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

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Philip Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Eruditorium Press

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 you find that your Neko Atsume characters have started bringing home dead rats as treats. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonsdawn: An Origin Story

Welcome, welcome! Since Moreta and Nerilka, we’ve advanced two years to 1988. We’ve gone through two distinct time periods, the Ninth Pass and the Sixth Pass, where some things are different, but a lot is depressingly the same, varying only in matter of degree rather than with one time period having something and the other lacking it. Let’s see if this book has much of the same, or is actually going to be different.

The beginning of the book contains maps, of the kind that would be used in Ninth Pass Pern, despite the story being set in the very origins of the planet. I suspect this is one of those signals meant to say “Yes, this is a Pern novel, don’t worry,” as the structure has shifted again, back to the original form given in Dragonflight, with three Parts instead of chapter designations. The electronic version I’m using has chapter breaks, but the actual text of the book doesn’t explicitly say “Chapter $foo” when those breaks are reached. So with this story, the breaks may not be at official chapter points, but at whatever point in the narrative I think a post has gone on too long or when my bullshit capacity has been reached.

Dragonsdawn, Part One: Content Notes: Gender and Race stereotypes, ableism

Part One is titled “Landing”, and the first line we receive is about probe reports arriving, from someone named Telgar reporting to someone named Benden.

That said, within the first paragraph, there are two named women (Sallah Telgar and Emily Boll) and one named man (Paul Benden), and the two women converse about something other than the man. That’s good. Bechdel-Wallace Test passed. What’s bad is that the man is the fleet admiral and the two women are subordinate officers.

This fleet, the Pern Colonial Expedition, is the culmination of nearly two hundred years of work from the original recommendation from the Exploration and Evaluation team. They’ve also been flying for about fifteen years from their departure point at this juncture of the narrative, which is where we finally receive in-text information that Pern is the third planet of the star Rukbat, whose entire system is surrounded by an Oort cloud of space rocks. This is all in the Sagittarian Sector, so we should probably guess that this planet is orbiting one of the many stars in the constellation Sagittarius, were one looking at it from Terra. The spoiler data of previous volumes is finally starting to stop being spoilers. There are three ships in the expedition – the Yokohama, the Bahrain, and the Buenos Aires. Two cities and a country, because naming consistency is unnecessary, apparently.

Before too much longer, Telgar, Benden, and Boll have a Keroon, as well, and I fully expect the name-dropping to continue fast and furious. While we wait for that, there’s also an introduction to the mission itself.

The trip was one-way–it had to be, considering the cost of getting over six thousand colonists and supplies to such an out-of-the-way sector of the galaxy. Once they reached Pern the fuel left in the great transport ships would be enough only to achieve and maintain a synchronous orbit above their destination while people and cargo were shuttled down to the surface. To be sure, they had homing capsules that would reach the headquarters of the Federated Sentient Planets in a mere five years, but to a retired naval tactician like Paul Benden, a fragile homing capsule did not offer much in the way of an effective backup. The Pern expedition was composed of committed and resourceful people who had chosen to eschew the high-tech societies of the Federated Sentient Planets. They expected to manage on their own. And though their destination in the Rukbat system was rich enough in ores and minerals to support an agriculturally based society, it was poor enough and far enough from the center of the galaxy that it should escape the greed of the technocrats.

This is almost a basket-of-Whatfruit level of NOPE going on here. A highly technically advanced interplanetary federation having enough people who want to play at the pre-tech life…that’s actually believable. As is gathering enough people to basically go on a one-way trip to another planet to live what they think of as a more simple life. I’m having trouble, though, with the idea that these colonists are trained in the techniques that make an agricultural society thrive and succeed – having read about it and having actually done it are two very different things. Plus, the actual work of farming is labor-intensive. I’m not sure how many of that six thousand there would have to be farmers to feed everyone, because I have no idea whether their insistence on being out of the way means no energy-requiring machines at all or only some machines doing that work. And that’s assuming that Federation crops and animals will take hold on Pern and flourish. Presumably, the evaluation that happened has figured this out. Or so we hope.

As it turns out, both Benden and Boll are trying to get away from a society that considers them war heroes (“charismatic” ones, no less). They are supposedly ideal leaders for this expedition:

He hated the interminable debate over minor points that seemed to obsess those in charge of the landing operation. He preferred to make quick decisions and implement them immediately, instead of talking them to death.

So that’s where his namesake Weyrleaders get their impulsiveness from.

Emily Boll’s perspective is also used to describe Benden – after assuring us that he is not her type, the narrative has her describe his thick blonde hair, blunt nose, forceful jaw, and his mouth, and his general good health after having apparently pushed himself to the limit (seventy straight hours awake) in defense against an invasion. When Benden is used to return the favor later, she’s described as a lean, bony woman with shoulder-length gray and naturally wavy hair, but what he likes most is her wiry physical and mental strength, personal vitally, and ruthlessness. “Just being in her presence gave one’s spirits a lift.” So the man is described primarily in terms of his physical features and abilities, the woman primarily in terms of her non-physical qualities. And then, to prove it’s not necessarily just sexism at work, the head agronomer, Mar Dook, is described as “a small man whose Earth Asiatic ancestry was evident in features, skin tone, and physiology: he was wiry, lean, and slightly bowed in the shoulders, but his black eyes gleamed with eager intelligence and the excitement of the challenge.”

The sight of Pern turns Boll’s attention to the planet itself, which was apparently named after…something. Not too soon after that, after an oath to “the Holies” to not botch this planet, Emily thinks about the current set of problems:

She thought of the friction she had sensed between the charterers, who had raised the staggering credits needed to finance the Pern expedition, and the contractors, the specialists hired to round out the basic skills required for the undertaking. Each could end up with a largeous amount of land or mineral rights on this new world, but the fact that the charterers would get first choice was a bone of contention.
Differences! Why did there always have to be distinctions, arrogantly displayed as superiororities, or derided as inferiorities? Everyone would have the same opportunity, no matter how many stake acres they could claim as charterer or had been granted as contractor. On Pern, it would truly be up to the individual to succeed, to prove his claim and to manage as much land as he and his cared for. That would be the catholic distinction. Once we’ve landed, everyone will be too bloody busy to fret over “differences”, she consoled herself, […and watches the weather.]

The contractors have a point – if this is supposed to be an egalitarian planet, and everyone just left to till their land and survive as the first successful Randian experiment in millenia, if the charterers get first dibs, they get an advantage that, if properly exploited, will mean the contractors won’t ever be able to be on even footing with them. The paradise of John Galt will be dead before it starts. And, if Terran history is any indicator, those with big plots of land will be able to eventually turf out the smaller ones and put them in a vassalage relationship, if not outright slavery. We’re already seeing the seeds of what will eventually be the Pernese aristocracy and caste system. Because the people that put up the money are expecting the best things as the financiers. The rich and the working classes, already at odds with each other. So who gets to own the means of production in Pern?

The actual story continues with the probe data of the planet and how that matches with the plans to colonize the planet and the previous survey – lots of arable farmland in the south, good for Terran crops reported to be compatible, some edible native plants, some edible native marine life (but plans for boats and introducing fish and dolphins, with whom the colonists can converse into the ecosystem that they don’t think will impact the native Pernese species. That’s not possible.), and what looks to be tougher sledding for the animals like the cows and horses, because native grass is incompatible with them. Were it not for the grudgingly approved Eridani-sourced genetic manipulation techniques used to make sure the animals would adapt to their new home, the settlers might very well have had to try and tame a native creature.

The data seems to give a green light for landing, as well as the origin of the name of the wherries. “Because they resemble airborne barges-squat, fat, and full.” As the data comes through, the effects of what we now know as Thread rain are discussed, along with glows, and there’s much complaining that there’s a lot more growth in those spots that were barren than the survey pointed out. Some of the scientists want to pursue the phenomenon of the pockmarks and the growth, while others are very concerned about the adaptability of crops.

In all of this activity, at the center of everything, is Kitti Ping, “the most eminent geneticist in the Federated Sentient Planets–the only human that had been trained by the Eridanis.” Who may be coming to practice selective memory, like many of the others, referring to incidents only tangentially mentioned. Ping’s presence makes lots of people confident of the colony’s success, because they can get her to change the genes of the plants and animals to match the planet if needed.

In rumination about the landing, Benden chooses a plateau in the shadow of volcanoes, worries about a safe debarkation, and, in reviewing the methods the main pilot has been using to train the colony ship pilots, lets slip that the Federated Sentient Planets are -ists against cyborgs, where “cyborgs” means “people with pseudoflesh prosthetics”, and that all the cyborgs in the military were shunted into administration and desk jobs and only “whole” people are allowed to go out in the Exploration and Evaluation Corps. Thus, both Benden (fingers) and the main pilot, Fusaiyuki (leg) know what their career pathways were going to be if they didn’t come on the colony ships.

The formal meeting to choose a landing site happens between Benden, Jim Tillek, and Ezra Keroon. (One of Benden’s subordinates, Joel Lilienkamp, has an eidetic memory, for both bets and cargoes, incidentally.) Tillek wants to be close to water, Keroon’s nervous about the volcanoes, which Benden dismissed as “no seismic activity for a couple hundred years”, since it didn’t have any activity during the original survey, and the three agree on Benden’s preferred site in short order, and set the landing process in motion.

The scene switches to Officer Telgar getting some off-duty chow, letting us know how much she just wants a home, having been bounced from post to post before being orphaned in the war. The only available seats are next to Avril Bitra, Bart Lemos, and Nabhi Nabol, who are the people Telgar likes least on the ship. (The name dropping continues until all the Holds are named, right?)

In proper-to-be Pernese tradition, Telgar engages in the trademark “other women are boohissslutty” mental gossip that Kylara will be subjected to much later on. (Previously, Benden had spent a sentence wishing he hasn’t been involved with Bitra so much, but she was a hottie. So, whatevs, admiral? Good to know that it’s only women who are going to be catty to reach other.)

Gossip had it that Avril had spent a good deal of the last five years in Admiral Paul Benden’s bed. Candidly, Sallah could see why a virile man like the admiral would be sexually attracted by the astrogator’s dark and flashing beauty. A mixture of ethnic ancestors had given her the best of all possible features. She was tall, neither willowy nor overripe, with luxuriant black hair that she often wore loose in silky ripples. Her slightly sallow complexion was flawless and her movements gracefully studied, but her eyes, snapping with black fire, indicated a highly intelligent and volatile personality. Avril was not a woman to cross, and Sallah had carefully maintained her distance from Paul Benden, or anyone else seen more than three times in April’s company. If the unkind pointed out Paul Benden’s recent marked absence from Avril’s side, the charitable said that he was needed for long conferences with his staff, and the time for dalliance was over. Those who had been victims of Avril’s sharp tongue said that she had lost her bid to be the admiral’s lady.

Oh, for the Whatfruit’s sake…

Cocowhat by depizan

Let’s see what offensive tropes we have on display here. Hypersexual woman of “ethnic” heritage? Check. Otherwise flawless woman turning out to be a shrew AND a gold digger as her “humanizing” traits? Check. Other woman used as the viewpoint to discuss her flaws in the meanest way possible? Check. The guy in the relationship portrayed as basically having followed his penis without further thought until later? Check.

And this is from a supposedly far future society. That inexplicably has the same morals and descriptors of the time period of the writer, including what looks to be a hefty dose of racial stereotyping. This is a giant worldbuilding failure, even if it is a common complaint against speculative fiction.

The plot continues with the revelation of the landing spot and the resolution of various wagers on that decision. Sallah continues to be offended by Avril’s behavior and wonders why such an apparently city girl would come out on an expedition to the sticks, in between musings about the lack of coffee on the new world (it just doesn’t take) and her own reasons for coming on the expedition. Exiting the lounge, Sallah has a crash-into-hello with a family recently awakened from their deep sleep and stops to help a geologist (Tarvi Andiyar) get their bearings. Tarvi has

one of the most beautiful faces she had ever seen on a man – not Benden’s rugged, warrior features, but a beautiful and sophisticated and subtle arrangement, almost sculpted, like some of the ancient Indic and Cambodian princes on ruined stone murals. She flushed as she remembered what those princes had been doing in the murals.

More race-related imagery, but this time, it’s apparently the men who are doing sexual things instead of the women. Sallah has a lot of sex on the brain, apparently. After one more encounter with someone whose glibness of speech aggravates her, she decides that it’s the presence of all the people that’s aggravating her, and she decides to get away from everything by slipping down to the admiral’s personal craft.

That’s where the ebook has a chapter break, and I suppose it’s as good a place as any to stop. If this entire book is going to be like this, it was probably a bad idea for the origin story of Pern to be written. At the very least, this is probably not the spot to start, because it gives very little action and very much pettiness all around.

Writer Workshop May 25th, 2016

(Posted by chris the cynic; sorry it’s late)

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, May 25th, 2016

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

The Blogaround

  • Storiteller had a couple of different themes on her blog over the last few weeks, from Earth Day to Bike Month.
  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • Given that I’m posting this on a Wednesday … yeah, still not exactly up to my usual, fairly low, standards.  On the other hand since I didn’t post it at all last week, there are a few things to say.
    • I wrote about my experience as a trans woman and how the narrative that trans people feel trapped in the wrong body really messed me up for a long time in a post called, “It’s not a cage or a prison; it’s my home.
    • Susan, and Lucy, ask Father Christmas, “What about Edmund?” at the distribution of gifts in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
    • I’ve talked for a long time about movies that stuck in too much plot (and so covered none of it in adequate depth) and one of my examples was often Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  I finally wrote a post where I tried to pull that tangled mass of too much plot apart.  I ended up with a sequence of nine movies and one tie-in TV series.  Though two of the movies are arguably me trying to fix problems that aren’t “They shoved in too much plot, along with the kitchen sink, when this should have been a full movie.”
    • That came about because I mentioned the overabundance of plot in the second Captain America movie when talking about the third one.  The previous is a preview post because I realized that I couldn’t fit everything I have to say into one post and thus there will be an entire series of posts on the movie, only the first –which is about how one side has all the morality and the other side has lots of “do not want”— has been written so far.
    • In my real life I have graduated from my university with two degrees, one in Classics and one in Mathematics.
    • I wrote an update on various things related to me and Stealing Commas.
    • I wrote, this time in a hopefully easy to follow format, what I can be nominated for, and how to nominate me for such things, in the annual Kim Possible “Fannies”, a largely meaningless fan-fiction community award thingy.
    • Insofar as I am aware of them, I like triple compound words in English.  The thing is, I’m not really aware of all that many and I don’t know how to look them up.  So, please, whosever is reading this and knows some triple compounds, click over and share some.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for May 20th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is playing catch-up with some elements at work.)

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

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

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 you’ve encountered a cat in the road who seems to have big plans for your life. Or for any other reason, really.

Nerilka’s Story: At The Bottom Of The Night

Last chapters, Nerilka found a new home in Ruatha, helping create lifesaving serum and taking on many of the tasks of keeping the Hold running with its skeleton crew. Nerilka seems ready to make her home at Ruatha, and might be ready to admit to herself that she has feelings for Alessan, even though she’s convinced that she’s not pretty enough for him to notice. The tragedy of Moreta happened at the end, sending Oklina and Alessan both into very strong grief. It is here we pick up again…

Nerilka’s Story: Chapters X, XI, and XII: Content Notes: PATRIARCHY, abandonment, sexual pressure,

(3.24.43-4.23.43, then 3.11.1553 Interval)

Chapter X starts with the aftermath – B’lerion mentioning new rules and discipline imposed on riders to avoid a repetition of the issue, Tirone’s Ballad of Moreta’s Ride being altered, at the insistence of the Weyrleaders, so that Moreta is on Orlith, rather than Holth, and Desdra telling Nerilka about the secret of draconic time travel as the explanation of why things didn’t add up on the serum distribution. Telgar Weyr suffers an undisclosed punishment because the other Weyrwomen are convinced that Telgar’s actions caused Moreta’s death.

And then there’s Alessan. Who comes out of his fellis-induced sleep extremely unhappy at being drugged and without any sort of lessening of his grief. He wishes that he had been chosen as a dragonrider, so that he could just commit suicide, instead of having to live on, entirely aware that Rill will be one of many people tasked with making sure he stays alive.

Which pisses Nerilka off royally.

“You may not want to live, Lord Holder of Ruatha, but you don’t have the right to die!”
“Ruatha is no longer sufficient reason for me to live!” he told me in a bitter, intense, angry voice. “It’s tried to kill me once already.”
“And you have fought to save it. No one else could have done so much, with so much honor and dignity.”
[Alessan remains unconvinced…]
“As your holder, Lord Alessan, I require that you have an heir of your Blood to leave behind you.” I surprised myself with the vehemence in my voice, and he frowned as he looked up at me. “Unless you want Fort or Tillek or Crom Blood to hold Ruatha at your defection. Then I’ll mix the fellis for you and you can quit!”
“A bargain, then.” With a quickness I hadn’t expected from a man lying abed so wracked and spent with grief, he was upright, extending an implacable hand to me. “When you are with child, Nerilka, I’ll drink that cup.”
I stared back at him, aghast that my rallying words had evoked such a response from him, stunned that he misconstrued what I had said and applied it personally to me. Then I realized he knew my name.

Busted. It appears that the disguise that Nerilka thought was excellent wasn’t fooling anyone with a reason to know who she was. And now she’s blundered into a deal with Alessan to have his kid before he exits the mortal plane.

Alessan tries to convince her that it’s a sound idea, Nerilka won’t believe that and asks Alessan how he knew (Suriana, it turns out, sketched Nerilka with regularity while alive. Perhaps the idea that they had a crush on each other is not so far out of the team of possibility?)

Then there’s this:

Then he snapped his fingers impatiently. “Come, girl, it is not so bad a bargain, to be undisputed Lady Holder of Ruatha, and no Lord to abuse you forever. You can’t be afraid of me? I never beat Suriana. Surely she told you that I was a good husband to her.”

Pern. The kind of place where men expect cookies for not being assholes. And the kind of place where after making what is essentially a suicide pact, a man expects to have sex with the woman he made it with. Alessan is apparently persuasive at this, and Nerilka would have had sex with him, were it not for Tuero entering.

The more we learn about the culture of the Holders, the more I’m wondering whether this is supposed to be either a parody or someone trying to out-Gor Gor. Because this entire setup of “men do whatever they want with the women in their life” just doesn’t seem sustainable.

Anyway, Alessan goes to the business of the Hold with renewed energy, surprising everyone, who think he’s taken a turn for the better, instead of trying to get his affairs in order to pass on the Hold. The matters of state take time and effort and are pretty successful, including Alessan announcing that Tolocamp gave his blessing for Nerilka to be his wife. Well, not really.

Much later, I came across that roll, wedged in the back of a coffer. Tolocamp’s actual words were: “If she is there, take her. She is no longer kin of mine.” Alessan need not have spared my feelings, but it proved in yet another way that an essential goodness of spirit was imprisoned behind that emotionless facade.

Later on, after events that we’ll talk about in a bit, Tolocamp sends this blessing:

“Ruatha Hold swallows all my women, and if Nerilka prefers Ruathan hospitality to move, this is the end of her as my daughter.”

DARK HELMET: How many assholes do we have on this ship, anyway?
[BRIDGE CREW all jump to their feet and raise a hand]
DARK HELMET: I knew it! I’m surrounded by assholes!

And so you are, Nerilka, and always have been. Tolocamp is apparently so incensed at the idea of his daughter doing anything at all that he’s willing to disown his daughter, which might be even a few steps beyond Yanus’s constant physical abuse to Menolly, although it’s been pretty heavily implied that Tolocamp beat his children that much as well. If Tolocamp is supposed to be a comparison to Yanus, with Yanus coming out as the tame one, well, that’s just a sign of how absolutely screwed up things are on the planet.

Everyone else is surprised at this revelation of “Rill” actually being a prestigious daughter of Fort. And Alessan basically rushes them into the marriage right afterward, since there is a Harper and witnesses present. Oklina is concerned that there won’t be a ceremony or celebration or anything else for Nerilka, but Alessan convinced her that they don’t have the money to spare, and so Alessan gives Nerilka “a gold marriage mark from his pouch and repeated the formal request that I become his Lady Holder and wife, mother of his issue and honored before all others in Ruatha Hold.”

Of course the marriage vow explicitly says that Nerilka’s duty is to be wife and mother and put on a pedestal. Because that’s all that Lord Holders see women as – baby factories and trophies. Unless they’re Searched, then they become companions for dragonriders and mothers and have to stay alive so that more dragons happen. No wonder everyone is so shocked at Fandarel employing women in his Craft – he’s doing something unheard of in the society.

The marriage contact is a coin, interestingly, instead of a jewel, despite the presence of jewels, which arrive along with a small dowry chest full of marks from Uncle Munchaun. It seems like such a thing would be easy to lose or hide, should a Lord Holder decide he wants to step outside his marriage. Then again, from what we’ve seen and heard, it seems like an affair, even one that resulted in children, would be no biggie.

The news of her marriage brings a final satisfactory snark from Nerilka about her previous life.

Uncle added with great satisfaction that Anella had been infuriated by the news, having been certain that I was hiding in a sulk somewhere in the Hold. Finally she had complained bitterly about my continued absence to Tolocamp, who, indeed, hadn’t realized I was missing until that moment.

And is still willing to disown his daughter for having disobeyed him anyway. Tolocamp, you’re more than an asshole, you’re a Platonic form of asshole.

Now properly Lady Holder, Nerilka turns to the business of repopulating Ruatha by absorbing and choosing the holdless and younger sons from other places, rebuilding the supplies through ruthless fiscal management, and falling in love with Alessan, taking some happiness every time she has a period to prove that she won’t have to uphold her end of the bargain. As the day of Oklina’s candidacy approaches, Nerilka and Oklina both have to sew appropriate clothes, and Nerilka thinks she can occasionally see flashes of Alessan’s depression easing. Thus ends Chapter X.

Chapter XI is the day of the Hatching. Everyone in the Ruatha party realizes that this day is going to be sad. As does everyone else in attendance – what would normally be a joyous affair is strongly muted. Not everyone knows that Orlith and Leri had already fulfilled their suicide pact earlier that day, but being on the Hatching Ground is a reminder of Moreta’s premature demise.
As the assembled dignitaries arrive, newly promoted Masterhealer Desdra is with Capiam, the two of them apparently a couple. Anella tries to put as much distance between herself and Nerilka. Then the humming begins, and all eyes are on the dragon eggs as they hatch. Bronzes, blues, and insight into Alessan follow, as Nerilka realizes that if Oklina gets the queen, it would reinforce the pattern of Alessan’s life that loving and caring for things means losing them. When the queen egg hatches, it goes straight for Oklina, who welcomes Hannath with open arms and according to the same formula as all Hatchings have, with a proud declaration of the dragon’s name. Nerilka is overjoyed at this, but it takes Alessan a very long time and a lot of expression of grief and pain before finally opening enough to explain his pain.

And as is customary with books that end with Hatchings (Which is more than a few of them, now that I think about it), there’s the musing on the cyclical nature of life and death, joy and sorrow:

“Today is Oklina’s joy day. Nothing, not even old sorrow, should mar it. Nor, honorable Rill, will I require that cup of you.” We had started down the tiers and he was watching his steps, so he did not see how near I came to tears again with this new pressure of joy in my heart. “There is too much to be done at Ruatha, now we have lost Oklina to the Weyr. I could not have stood in her way as my father did in mine. Now I am relieved that I did not. I had come to Fort Weyr to understand that lives end, and lives begin.”

Which is eminently practical all by itself, but when you’re in the middle of depression, any reason is a good one. And thus, Nerilka’s narrative ends, and all that’s left is for Nerilka to tell us what has happened in the aftermath.

That’s what Chapter XII tells us – G’drel is Weyrleader at Fort, and Wingleader Sh’gall isn’t heard of much, if at all. B’lerion flew Hannath on her first flight, and two sons have been the result of that. Nerilka has been busy in the baby-making department herself, but it’s really creepy the way she describes it:

…for I have fulfilled the first half of my original bargain with Alessan five times: four strong sons and a daughter we have named Moreta. Alessan will not have me overbear, though I keep telling him that I am happiest pregnant and never suffer as others have from being in that condition.

Really? That has a seriously Stepford vibe to me, coming from the daughter that hated being part of the Fort Hold Horde, in a society that still doesn’t seem to have a lot of technology for helping make pregnancies less life-threatening, and that happily derided a woman that was in her Hold mostly for sex and babies, instead of any other reason. I don’t like the implications that babies make strong women more submissive or happy about being pregnant.
The children, apparently, are thawing Alessan with their antics, especially the daughter, and so he’s slowly starting to come back to enjoy races and humor, and his wife. They’re well-matched for each other, and Alan publicly acknowledges her contributions and effort, a thing that warms Nerilka’s heart forever, since appreciation is the thing that she’s been wanting for all her life. So the story that started with tragedy ends with happiness, and Nerilka wishes the same happiness to others in the last line of the book. All’s well that ends well, even if the underlying society still clearly has issues that will take generations to deconstruct and then replace, after generations of work to bring awareness.

The appendix offers drawings and maps to give visualizations of where things are and what Holds and Halls might look like in the exterior and interior. They’re not as helpful as one might think, because they don’t really provide a lot of mapping of the internal cave system.

Next, we spin the chronometers back even father in time, all the way back to the very first Pass of the Red Star, to Dragonsdawn.

Deconstruction Roundup for May 13th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is once again in a staff meeting.)

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

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

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 you’re completely confused by the presence of a diner that definitely wasn’t there before. Or for any other reason, really.