Nerilka’s Story: No Fairy Godparents Here

Last time, Nerilka grieved for the loss of her mother and sisters and found herself usurped as the Lady Holder by decree of her father. While trying to be as unhelpful as possible to Anella, Nerilka has put the stash of storeroom herbs and plants to excellent use in service to the Healers trying to keep the plague under control. While this isn’t directly contradicting anything yet, at some point Anella is going to try and bring Nerilka to heel.

Nerilka’s Story: Chapters VI and VII: Content Notes: Evil Stepmothers, sexism,


Chapter VI starts with Campen guilt-tripping Nerilka into seeing Anella by telling her that Anella is “…making life very difficult for our sisters, and they miss our mother enough without having to put up with her carpings.” Because wielding family members is the highest road you can take in this affair, Campen.

Nerilka takes the beginnings of Anella’s scolding in silence, relishing the age difference between them and the height difference between them to make Anella look buffoonish, but when Anella implies that Nerilka has been stepping out for sex, Nerilka sets her straight about her medicinal tasks immediately. Without referring to Anella as a mistress, out loud or in her head, showing a restraint she certainly hasn’t had before.

Anella complains that nobody tells her anything, and complains further that Nerilka didn’t come when she called, even though she messed up the name. After getting stonewalled by Nerilka, Anella demands her presence:

“Your mother had everything so well organized in this Hold that I’m sure she had drapery stores and patterns. You may come with me to choose suitable lengths for my new wardrobe.”
“Aunt Sira is in charge of weaving.”
“I don’t need the Weaving Aunt. I need your sewing skills. You have those as well, do you not?”

Oh, she does have a name. How interesting that it wasn’t mentioned before, in the context of all the other ones. (Okay, most likely it’s an editing error.)

Also, it sounds like the Holds have official job titles for their older residents – in a single-family hold, they might all be aunts and uncles, but here at Fort, it seems likely that everybody’s Aunt or Uncle (as was mentioned before when we were talking about the possible insult of “Old Uncle” – maybe it was supposed to be a term of endearment and respect for the character, but they just weren’t treated that way).

Anella also gets the keys, finally, after Nerilka points them out, basically in plain sight, and then has to spend the time showing Anella around and explaining which keys unlock which items, including a “jewelry safe” (which seems a bit odd), growing more irritated with Anella’s lack of knowledge about running any Hold properly. Nerilka also realizes that if she wants to get a good life and marriage for herself, she’s going to have to get out of Fort Hold and out from under the thumb of Tolocamp and Anella.

After starting everyone on the duties of putting together new gowns for Anella, Nerilka excuses herself to see the Healers, learning about the serum inoculation, and then receiving one as all of Tolocamp’s family and Anella’s family are also immunized. As she is immunized, she quietly directs where the leftover doses should go – Nursery adults, Harpers, cooks, Sira, and the bailiff, Barndy, and his son. (Is that a male name ending in a vowel sound I spy? Even though the y can be seen as a consonant, too.)

The presence of a bailiff tells us more about the administrative system of Holds, as those particular officers tend to be those executing the decisions of either nobles or courts. Since there isn’t any sort of civil court system on Pern, we have to assume that the bailiff is acting to administrate the Hold on Tolocamp’s behalf, when he can’t be bothered to run it himself, and performs those functions like justice, collection of taxes or tithes, and the like. We haven’t met one before because all our characters have either taken matters into their own hands or are of rank sufficiently high that they wouldn’t be subjected to the bailiff’s justice. Certainly worth wondering whether these bailiffs are fair and impartial, or whether or not they’re doing things in the name of the Lord designed to ensure enough drudges exist.

The next day, as Nerilka and her sisters are required to help with the sewing of Anella’s dress (while she criticizes them), Anella also talks about Tolocamp’s latest instructions:

Anella also had the poor taste to recount to us Tolocamp’s injunctions to his bailiff and my brothers that there was to be no disposition of Fort Hold’s stores to the indigent. All must be reserved for the needs of Fort Hold’s dependents. This was a critical role, and Fort must stand firm, as an example to the rest of the continent. For instance, Anella relished reporting, Tolocamp was certain that the Healer and Harper would be applying to the Hold for substantial aid of food and medicine. He had received a formal request for an interview with Master Capiam and Master Tirone the next morning.
That, for me, was the final straw. I had now come to the end of patience, courtesy, and filial loyalty. I could no longer endure that woman’s presence or remain a dependent of a man whose cowardice and parsimony made a disgrace of my Bloodline. I would no longer remain in a dishonored Hold.

There’s a couple things here. First, and perhaps the more petty of the two, I love idiomatic language as much as the next person, but “the last straw”? On a planet that may or may not have such a plant by name, and that usually is hostile to Terran names for things? This is why language is hard and you really need to think it through – I would much more easily believe “the last shell-crack” or something that communicates the intent, but that is more suited to the planet and society already built.

Second, and more importantly, who, other than a cartoonish Evil Stepmother, gains pleasure in telling someone that their plans are going to be foiled and that people are going to suffer? During a plague that is on the mend, potentially, and needs supply to ensure that progress isn’t halted? Seriously,

Cocowhat by depizan

Anella could not be a better example of an author tried to hammer home that she’s a selfish and self-absorbed woman. And, incidentally, a perfect match for Tolocamp’s own ideas. The author has hit the anvil hard enough that everyone at this point can see that Fort is not going to be heroic and is up to Nerilka to do something bold and brave and totally against her father and stepmother’s wishes. All she needs is the magic carriage.

Nerilka heads back to the storeroom and cooks up more medicine, hides it in the storerooms, then gives the jewels meant for the family to Uncle Munchaun to distribute to the family, and goes to bed. The next morning is more medicine work, along with Nerilka changing into plainer clothes and cutting off her braids to make the transformation complete. With Sim and two drudges on standby, Nerilka listens in on the meeting we saw in Moreta, then catches up to the two Masters with the copies of the keys she has. The dialogue is the same from Moreta, as is basically the action where Nerilka disguises herself as a drudge and slips through to the internment camp, while Capiam is turned back away by the guard, who has had a name in this side (Theng) since getting assigned to border patrol back at the beginning of the novel.

Now clearly in the other side of the forbidden gate, Nerilka reflects while she carries supplies.

Although she had not said so, Desdra undoubtedly had refused my offers of assistance because she knew that young ladies of Hold Blood did not engage in such activities on a public basis. She probably considered me a feckless, trivial person and perhaps I was: Some of my recent thoughts and decisions could have been considered petty. But I did not consider that I was sacrificing my high rank and position. I thought, rather, that I was putting myself in the way of being useful, instead of being immured in a Hold, protected and unproductive, wasting my energy on trivia like sewing for my stepmother. Such a “suitable occupation” for a girl of my rank could so easily be undertaken by the least drudge from the linen rooms.
These thoughts fleeted through my head as I kept up the awkward gait I had assumed – ironic, as Hold girls were taught to take such tiny steps that they appeared to float across the floor. I had never quite mastered that skill.

Ah, yes, thank you for that reminder that we are hearing Nerilka’s Story from Nerilka’s perspective, and so pronouncements and judgments she has of the character and motivations of others may not be fully accurate. Anella could be a perfectly pleasant person transformed into an evil stepmother by Nerilka’s grief and rage by the speed at which her father is remarrying and the love that Nerilka has for her mother and sisters. Nerilka could seem pushy, bossy, or flighty to others, but that would be translated as courageous here.

That said, the internment camps and the decision to cut off supplies to the Crafts, plus what we already read in Moreta gives weight that Nerilka is at least reporting accurately on the motivations of her father, and Anella’s participation in this tars her with a similar brush. Nerilka may not be a fully reliable narrator, but she seems to be doing all right with the facts that we can confirm independently.

Second, this passage is a rich seam of information about Hold life and expectations for women of the Blood in a location not considered the ass end of nowhere. Which, much like Terran history, suggests that women are to be ornamental, and that the skills they collect are mostly less useful in a professional context and more useful at home (including that incredibly powerful skill of household management, though.)

Finally, though, we’re back at this point where we have exceptional women against their counterparts. This has been a running theme all throughout the series – Lessa as outstanding compared to drudges, Menolly as exceptional compared to Hold women and sexist Harpers, Moreta as exceptional compared to other gold riders, Brekke and Sharra both as exceptional Healers and outspoken women. Even Kylara gets in on the action with her choices in partners and unapologetic sexuality. There’s a bit of Conservation of Awesome, in that we have yet to have a narrative point where two women are being awesome together on screen (as Brekke is support to Sharra in The White Dragon), but a lot of these stories follow women who have skills that they have been able to train to high degrees and then finally find a situation where those skills will be put to use, usually in the absence of men who have been trying to suppress or control those skills for their own benefits. Nerilka is looking to join some pretty good company.

And if I stopped there, you could squint and take a look and maybe suggest that Pern had some feminism cred. But, you know, it just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny…or by letting those narratives play out. And also present in these stories are the women these exceptional ladies are being compared to, almost always in some form of a rivalry sense. Menolly had to deal with Dunca trying to make her into a proper Hold girl and with Pona trying to make her feel inept and inferior at a different set of things. Nerilka gets them both combined into Anella for extra anguish. Both of these sets of women are to be overcome or avoided in some manner so that our heroic women can stay outside the normal social structure, and this accomplish their aims. It would have been nice to see the story of someone who is able to achieve great things by using the social structure in place, instead of having to be outside it to be effective. Or, that there could be more than one woman pulled outside the social structure to exist there comfortably without disasters, death or other negative consequences befalling them soon after doing so. And that there weren’t women being used to uphold a clearly patriarchal society that wants to make sure that women never get anywhere near being taken seriously. The Crafts are probably the most egalitarian of the three castes, but they’re not able to subvert the social order like they did for Terrans.

Nerilka is now theoretically beyond the pale, and thus, we get our first look at the camp, with “rude shelters” erected, and Nerilka happy that the weather was calm and gentle, instead of harsh, snowy, windy, and freezing, as it usually is. The delivery of the medicine produces Nerilka’s first use of her new name, Rill, and a very strong statement from her about her father. The Healer gives Rill a warning about saying such things. “Young woman, it is unwise to speak of your Lord Holder in that fashion, no matter what the provocation.”
“He is not my Lord Holder,” I replied, meeting his stare unflinchingly.
This is the third time we have had someone caution another person about dissing the Lord Holder. I don’t actually know what the penalty is, though, for doing so, because everybody just says “don’t do it.” Banishment seems like a big deal, and we haven’t gotten to the time period where Menolly and Piemur both live without Holds, but I would think that would be a spoken thing, not an implied one. What’s such a horrible punishment that people are afraid to even speak it?

After giving a rundown of her skills, Rill experiences the joys of a twenty hour shift (hey, look, another arbitrary time division, and the implication that spending that many divisions at one task is not natural) as a nurse. For the next few days, Rill is happy doing effective and functional work, with death and bodily functions very close at hand to temper that happiness and provide a reality check. Then a journeyman Healer arrives with serum for inoculation and news that the camp is to be broken and moved to the Harper Hall. Rill volunteers to help move things, and the journeyman Healer, Macabir, thinks she would do well as a Healer apprentice.

I volunteered, although Macabir repeated his wish for me to take formal training for the Hall. “You’ve a natural gift for the profession, Rill.”
“I’m far too old to be an apprentice, Macabir.”
“How old is old when you’ve a right knack with the sick? A Turn and you’ve done the initial training. Three, and there wouldn’t be a healer who’d not be pleased to have you assist them.”

Despite Desdra’s existence, it’s very hard for me to read this offer as anything other than “You’ll be a nurse in no time! Don’t expect to be a proper Master Healer, though, that’s still for the menfolk.” Because Pern is still that kind of place that would totally leave a very qualified woman as an apprentice or journeywoman, simply because she’s a woman.

That’s how Chapter VI ends, with the camp breaking down, and Rill getting ready to go out and see the world. Chapter VII stays with her on the way to other Holds near Ruatha, with serum for vaccination. She tries to sleep on the horse (without falling off, thankfully) and then sleeps in at the Hold she stopped at for the night, much to her initial annoyance and later gratefulness. One more Hold over, they keep her for a meal, and then send her on.

As she heads on, she ends up having to stitch someone back together, and gains a much finer appreciation of how much the plague didn’t care at all who it killed. Before she can continue on, she meets M’barak, looking for more glass bottles so that they can make runnerbeast serum. He mistakes Rill as a Healer and invites her to Ruatha, where she wants to go, to help get the runners immunized. So it happens, and so it goes, and Nerilka gets to see Moreta arrive and experience her unplugged from the formal apparatus that had previously accompanied visits from Weyr to Hold. (“on state occasions”, specifically, even though there are no official nation-states on Pern) only for a short time, though, and without actual conversation. Once Moreta and M’barak depart, Alessan and Oklina put Rill and her companions to work sterilizing and sanitizing their workspace for runnerbeast serum until Oklina guides Rill to bed and she collapses. So ends Chapter VII.


23 thoughts on “Nerilka’s Story: No Fairy Godparents Here

  1. genesistrine May 5, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Nerilka takes what Anella says as “gloating”, but I read it as “gushing”. Anella’s doing the My Boyfriend thing,

    My Boyfriend Tolocamp is so clever! And steadfast! And noble! And now all these important people are asking for the stuff he’s saved up for an emergency but we have to keep it for the people here in case they need it! See how in-charge My Boyfriend is! I’m so lucky! Let me tell you some more about the awesomeness of My Boyfriend! He could never do anything wrong!

    All of which is no doubt how Tolocamp is spinning his actions even to himself.

    I still don’t think Anella’s very bright, and drivelling on about her fiance to his children when their mother died only days before is in questionable taste to put it mildly, but it’s interesting to note that Nerilka does admit here that it might have been her father who told Anella her name was Nalka….

    Male names with vowel endings: we have a fair crop here, Fortine, Tirone, and a Master Brace who makes an appearance a couple of times. And a female name with a consonant: Aunt Lucil.

    Also, from the department of “how high-tech is Pern really?” — you can flick “handglows” on? Do they come with switches?

  2. Nothing May 5, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Re:Genesistrine: glows are bioluminescent fungi. They are kept in baskets, which apparently have some kind of apparatus to close them off when not being used so they last longer. Though “flicking” is an odd term–maybe they have made “flashlights” out of them somehow, but they are still fungi. Which kind of begs the question of how they glow that brightly to be feasible as a light source–maybe there are creatures that can put off that much steady light in the real world, but most just glow faintly or flicker. And colored lighting can do strange things to your eyes and internal clock, so do glows glow white?

    Regarding punishment worse than banishment, one that I recall was to leave someone tied to a stake during Threadfall to be eaten alive. There are probably other capital punishments, but that one is particularly cruel. You might also find yourself demoted to drudge or shipped off to a less-than-pleasant destination. Shunning is a thing, too.

    And, yes, one of the huge reasons I had to give up being a fan of McCaffrey was the consistent glass ceiling in place for her female characters, regardless how skilled, talented, and qualified they are. It breaks reader expectations in a way–we expect to see our protagonist struggle, but there is usually a payoff in the end. McCaffrey’s payoff is usually a questionable romantic relationship with the man who gets the job the lady protagonist should have earned through her struggles throughout the novel (or series/trilogy, in some cases). I think it’s more to do with McCaffrey’s beliefs about how things should be than anything else. You can sometimes learn things about a writer based on what they write. In McCaffrey’s case, we know that she either liked men being in charge or thought they were the only valid people for leadership positions. This trend might be broken sometimes, but I’d say that happened in cases where she had a co-author more than when she was writing on her own. Basically, I think there is a predictable formula to her works that involves an Exceptional Woman who does awesome things, then falls in love with a man who takes over doing the awesome things while the woman settles into being closer to her societally expected gender role. She remains an Exceptional Woman, but now she usually won’t do anything awesome unless it is sanctioned by her romantic interest.

  3. Firedrake May 6, 2016 at 3:06 am

    genesistrine: all your vowel endings are still consonant sounds, though.

    Nothing: I could believe in engineered white-glowing fungi (though I’m dubious about mutational drift over a few thousand years), but they’d still need to take in a fair bit of energy. Perhaps they digest firestone and oxidise the phosphine in order to get energy for synthesising photoproteins; then they’re moved to the baskets and gradually run down their stocks. (And if you don’t get them back to a food source soon enough, they die.)

    I get the feeling Anella is the Wicked Stepmother because there’s a slot in the story with that label on it, rather than because of who she is.

  4. depizan May 6, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    there was to be no disposition of Fort Hold’s stores to the indigent. All must be reserved for the needs of Fort Hold’s dependents. This was a critical role, and Fort must stand firm, as an example to the rest of the continent

    This doesn’t make any sense to me, not in the context of Pernese society. This feels like modern stupid, not like something an actual semi-medieval lord would do. For one thing, the Hold is dependent on the area around it for basic needs, like food, and I’m not getting the impression that “Ford Hold’s dependents” includes anyone outside the Hold’s walls.

    Also, why isn’t he worried about Dragonriders coming and demanding that he participate in the survival of the country? Hell, why isn’t he worried about finding himself and his Hold the target of kind of a passive siege? By refusing to give supplies to the Healers, they could, in tern, refuse to offer their services to him and his people. Under the circumstances (both that other Holds have lost people and that he’s not taking care of his people), he could wake up one morning to discover that his servants all packed their bags and headed for another Hold or the craft halls or whatever.

    Unless he is including the farmers and whoever else supports Fort Hold in “Fort Hold’s dependents”. But, again, refusing to aid the Healers could easily result in them not aiding him. And that would be reason enough for people to depart, as he’s risking them for no reason.

    This is another place where the government and laws of Pern being so vague are a problem. Nerilka mentions not wanting to stay in a dishonored hold, but why isn’t being a dishonored hold super bad for the Hold?

  5. genesistrine May 6, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    @Nothing, re glows; as well as the intensity thing I’m not sure how closing them off is supposed to make them last longer – they’re presumably still giving off light inside. Or maybe they need air – oxygen? – and the shutters are airtight?

    Punishment: I suspect banishment – holdlessness – would be bad enough in itself. Maybe some equivalent of outlawry, to make sure no other Hold would take you in, would make it worse, but OUTSIDE IN THREAD is the ultimate Pernese horror.

    Glass ceiling: I’d really, really like to interpret that as the normal Healer-training path; a year of basic training, 2 of generalised, and then you’re an assistant Healer, but… my version has Macabir’s line as, “there wouldn’t be a healer who’d not be pleased to have you assist him”.


    @Firedrake: True. I suppose I could argue that we don’t know whether or not they’re voiced in Pernese, if I felt bolshy! 🙂

    There is Tuero the Ruathan harper though. And a couple of Nerilka’s sisters, Merin and probably Peth. (I don’t think it’s ever confirmed what gender Peth is, but Nerilka lists her brothers’ names at one point and Peth’s not included.)

    Regarding drudge treatment, I just noticed in chapter 3 that the Fort drudges sleep in the kitchen – they’re rolling up their bedding when Nerilka comes down early.

  6. genesistrine May 6, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    @depizan: there doesn’t seem to be any effect at all from Fort Hold being “dishonored” or Tolocamp refusing to help. We saw Tolocamp and Anella at the big Hatching party at the end of Moreta with nothing worse happening to them than a narrative sneer about Anella. No-one’s booing, hissing, chucking stuff or leaving them waiting for a dragon taxi that never comes.

  7. depizan May 6, 2016 at 8:03 pm


    And that’s what makes this all so weird. I mean, trying to sort out the power structure/government/whatnot of Pern is enough to give anyone a headache, because it’s sort of feudal, except not, and there’s not exactly a central power (except loosely the Dragonriders, I guess???), and it’s wildly unclear if there even ARE laws, never mind what those laws are.

    But it seems like Tolocamp’s actions should face social sanction or worse. I don’t even remember how he was able to break quarantine and come home in the first place. He must have gone by Dragonrider, but how and why? I thought Dragonriders outranked Holders.

    It’s all such a mess. (And mostly the structure seems to serve to inconvenience the main characters even if the structure fails to add up to a coherent whole. Pern doesn’t have a government, it has random annoying authority figures. Which is how roughly no country ever has worked. If it even is a country. *throws up hands in utter confusion*)

  8. Autumn May 6, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    “Despite Desdra’s existence, it’s very hard for me to read this offer as anything other than ‘You’ll be a nurse in no time! Don’t expect to be a proper Master Healer, though, that’s still for the menfolk.’ Because Pern is still that kind of place that would totally leave a very qualified woman as an apprentice or journeywoman, simply because she’s a woman.”

    So true but remember, at this point in the story, those at the camp believe Nerilka (“Rill”) is a drudge who had picked up Healer skills and no one seems surprised by this. Wouldn’t a suggestion that she’s capable of promoting to even an apprentice or journeywoman suggest that social mobility might be possible on Pern, no matter how slight? Of course, as a Lord Holder’s daughter she’s had access to educational opportunities. I wonder how this novella would have gone if she actually was the persona she’d taken on, a drudge who’d learned healing techniques by helping one of the Lord Holder’s daughters brew medicines. It almost seems like a wasted opportunity to have featured an actual drudge as a main character instead of just another “privileged” person imitating one.

  9. Silver Adept May 8, 2016 at 10:25 am

    @ Autumn: At the end of Moreta Alessan said he basically knew who “Rill” was as soon as he saw her. That’s chalked up to Suriana, in this case, but there are probably more than a few people who would recognize the oldest daughter of Fort, even if they decided not to draw attention to it. Much like the younger children that went until monasteries, if Nerilka was a Healer, but she was needed to run Fort, or needed to get married off for an alliance, she’d be recalled in a hurry, and a common way that would work is if she never achieved Master status. So the glass ceiling persists.

    It would be such a better story if Rill really was a drudge that might make some social movement.

    @depizan: There will be a sanction leveled against Tolocamp fairly soon, the same one that was put up in Moreta – both Healer and Harper Halls will recall all their personnel assigned to Fort and interdict the Hold until Tolocamp gets wise. (While his daughter continues to supply them from Fort’s ample stores.)

    As for governmental structure, it seems that the Lords are absolute authority on their own lands, but they have a vassalage agreement with the dragonriders. The only way someone could be sanctioned or worse would be if the gathering of other Lords decided to act against the Lord they disapproved of. Even in that case, though, as with Meron, not a whole lot happens. A strange combination of libertarianism and feudalism.

  10. depizan May 9, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    @Silver Adept

    Pern’s social/governmental structure really makes me want to cast Summon Historian, because it doesn’t seem right. Like you say, it’s a weird combination of libertarianism and feudalism and it’s far more static than makes any kind of sense.

    The Crafts have the power of information (and science and technology, what there is of it) and the Dragonriders have the “military” power. (Not in the sense of an actual military, but we saw in the first book that Holders, even with armed men behind them won’t go up against Dragonriders once they’re actually faced with them.) The Lord Holders seem to only have power because of authorial fiat. I’m not sure what purpose they serve other than as a fantasy LARP for the original settlers. And I’m not sure what they bring to the table that would keep them in power.

    It really seems like the Dragonriders should be the nobility, or else that the Crafts should rise to power. Especially when so many of the Lord Holders we meet are disliked by large numbers of people. (And, for all that we’re often told that the Lord Holders are good in a crisis or good at fishing or whatever, mostly what we see suggests that they’re shitty, shitty leaders.)

  11. depizan May 9, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    You’d also think – in a world where people frequently get away with potentially deadly pranks and protagonists have used threats and torture to get their way – that people like Tolocamp would get quietly done away with.

  12. genesistrine May 9, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    @depizan: I don’t understand why Hold politics isn’t a whole lot more, well, Jacobean. There should be a ton of politicking and factionalism and trying to knock off or discredit rival heirs/wives/whatever. They have healing herbs and general pharmacy skills, so they should damn well have drugs and poisons too!

    Re dragonrider power: you’d think that riding the humongous flamethrowers would give them plenty of power, but maybe they don’t want the humongous flamethrowers to realise that humans are edible. They can’t actually refuse to flame Thread over a particular territory, since if Thread takes hold there it’ll presumably spread over the borders once it’s eaten everything. So maybe blustering and threatening and occasionally kidnapping Ladies to make Lords behave is the most they can do.

    It gets even stupider though – remember we were told in Moreta that Something Awful was going to happen to Telgar Weyr for not helping airlift the vaccine? Funny how that got forgotten about isn’t it….

    @Silver Adept/Autumn: My bet is that no-one thinks Rill’s a drudge, even if they don’t know who she is. (And I bet more people know who she is than she thinks – she’s the oldest daughter of the Lord FFS.) There’s a lot of difference between shuffling workshy comedy-stupid-accents behaviour and the behaviour of someone who knows how to run a large Hold and has been bossing servants and drudges around since she could talk.

    They’re just not mentioning it because she’s helping in a crisis so who cares if she wants to hide where she’s from.

  13. depizan May 9, 2016 at 5:13 pm


    I get this weird impression that somehow people on Pern see leaders as something you don’t fight against. Or poison. And I’m not sure why.

    The Dragonriders can’t be covering every area on the entire continent. Unless this is a very small continent. Even if they were, it seems like they could still let Thread eat a place, then come back later and flame it clean. That’s horrific enough you’d probably only have to do it once for no one to ever question you again.

    (Or to plot with the Craft halls to take you all out once and for all.)

    There should be shifts in power, though. We kind of saw one in the first book, where the Dragonriders had lost power and were regaining it. But there should be a lot more of that.

    There should also be advancements in technology. (Again, this comes up once in a while, but not like it should.)

    It’s just all weirdly static.

  14. genesistrine May 10, 2016 at 12:07 am

    @depizan: absolutely. There’s something really off about Pernese people. I’m still very tempted by the theory that their ancestors engineered something out of them….

    I do give crappy Weyrleaders kind of a pass, because I’m willing to believe that there’s a “Dragons Always Know” superstition going on there – bronzes always pick the best (ahahahaha :cough: ) and of course only the bestest bronze could fly the queen yada yada, but why, say, Tolocamp wasn’t insisting on food tasters and paranoid about a warming-pan full of Thread accidentally finding its way into his bed etc I cannot imagine.

  15. Silver Adept May 10, 2016 at 12:17 am

    @depizan / genesistrine – Pern desperately needs a dose of “this is how this actually worked” for its governmental structures.

    Officially, the dragonriders leave the Holds alone because the Holds and Crafts basically are the producers of everything the dragonriders consume, and the dragonriders want to do nothing but flame and fuck. So long as the gravy train continues, the dragonriders are unlikely to intervene. If it stops, I would have expected them to leave a Hold to Thread as a reminder of what their obligations are.

    That said, the Crafts should have long since taken over all the Holds, as they have the products and skilled labor, as well as being able to set the prices for their wares. Monopolies and guilds basically meant the merchants could buy into and eventually displace the hereditary nobility before the structure itself eventually collapses into an oligarchy or representative democracy as the nobles squander their wealth fighting stupid wars with each other. Which they really should be doing a lot more of, since Holders seem to be fathering children everywhere and the only known way of stopping a pregnancy is taking a hyperspace hop. So that Jacobean politicking, including poisons and wars and rumors and discrediting and duels, should be happening a lot more.

    And yet, everyone seems entirely content with their lot in life and nobody agitates for a better position for themselves and their caste. Even though the Crafts have the power and the technology to do it any time they want.

  16. genesistrine May 10, 2016 at 5:12 am

    Yeah, they’ve got the whole mediaeval hierarchical rich man in his castle poor man at his gate thing going on, but in a world we’re told is too rational to believe in God, so WTF is supposed to be going on in their heads I have no idea. Even when people on Earth were told they were wicked heretics if they went against the ordained social order you’d STILL get people standing up and saying sod this, this isn’t fair, not putting up with this any longer, so what’s stopping this happening on Pern? What’s WRONG with these people? Are ALL the Lords Sith?

  17. depizan May 10, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Nah, if they were all Sith, you’d definitely get your Jacobean politicking and then some.

    The Lord Holders seem more like some kind of weird unnecessary middle management group LARPing it up. The Crafts really should have taken over. (Especially since at least one book has suggested that even farming is a Craft.) I think you’re on to something with the idea that the colonists were tampered with in some way.

  18. genesistrine May 11, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    True! That would be a vastly more entertaining novel too…

    The Crafts are… weird. I’m not at all sure they are what we keep being told they are – look at the Weaving Aunt, for example. Weaving is a Craft, with a Crafthall and a Mastercraftsman and all that gubbins, but when Nerilka’s picking the people who get vaccinations she picks Sira the Weaving Aunt because she’s only person who knows all the special Fort Hold brocade patterns.

    So the Weavercraft doesn’t have access to or knowledge of those Hold-specific patterns. What authority does the Masterweaver have over the Hold weavers? Can they override the Weaver Aunt, or demand… well, anything from her?

    In the Ninth Pass Half-Circle Sea Hold doesn’t, as far as I remember, ever mention having Master, Journeyman or Apprentice Fishers; it’s just something all the able-bodied males do. And it’s already been pointed out that in an agrarian society like Pern that, while the majority of the population have to be farmers or herders, there’s no way more than a tiny proportion of them can attend the Farmcrafthall or Beastcrafthall. So at least some of the Crafts must be something along the lines of centres of excellence, agricultural or technical colleges, rather than the mediaeval-guild-type organisations we keep being told they are.

  19. Silver Adept May 13, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    I kind of envision some of the Crafts as agribusiness or an intellectual property company, rather than centers of excellence – you do the work under the nominal supervision and license of the Craft, they own the knowledge, for the most part, and every now and then, they force you to use some other strain they just developed and have to buy at inflated prices. That way they can prevent anybody who’s thinking about social mobility from getting to go anywhere.

    I also stand very firm that Pern has a religion, and its avatars, if not living gods, are the dragonriders. The static nature of Pern society is because the High Priests of the dragonriders, the Harpers, have instilled into the populace that if they try to disrupt the social order, then the gods will become angry and either lay waste to the peasants or fail to protect them from the incarnation of evil itself that falls from the sky.

  20. Firedrake May 14, 2016 at 3:02 am

    Silver Adept, that’s an excellent point: it does at times feel like the idolatry that some people seem to feel for soldiers or firefighters. (Occasionally police, never ambulance crew, in my experience.)

  21. genesistrine May 14, 2016 at 5:06 am

    Re Crafts: That’s a thought. But then again it involves innovation. On Pern. Um.

    Though I think I said before that there may be an excuse for their technical stasis – their colonist ancestors probably optimised the hell out of all the equipment designs before Landing. It’s possible that what they have in the way of looms and ploughs and irrigation and sail-rigging and whatnot actually can’t be improved on. We do run across stock-breeding a couple of times – DQ has the Masterherdsman overseeing some, and there’s Alessan’s runner-breeding program, though I don’t remember an agricultural equivalent of this.

    But it doesn’t tell us what, say, the Masterweaver or his crafthall oversees or controls. Does he run the industrial-grade drudge-overalls type of manufacture while the separate Holds have specialities? Lacework, brocades, particular dyes, that kind of thing?

    And yes, I can see the religion thing, and dragons are visible and impressive as all hell, but the most action we’ve ever seen them take against rebellion is kidnapping a load of women in DF. The Harpers don’t seem to have any Teaching Songs about what happens to disobedient people or Holds – no stories about Bad Lord Wallopface who didn’t pay his tithes so the dragonriders refused to fight Thread over his territory until everyone in the Hold got together and put him out of the Hold so the Thread ate him and serve him right too. There’s never been a human society that doesn’t have warning stories about what happens when people don’t behave properly according to the standards of that society, but everyone on Pern just seems to go along with the status quo. It’s all carrot (look at the awesome dragons!) and no stick (think about what the awesome dragons could do to you if you don’t keep sending them food and young people!)

  22. Silver Adept May 18, 2016 at 8:00 am

    Those are both his points, genesistrine. Then again, we’ve actually only heard the Teaching Songs in general, as a collective noun, and not individually, except for the Question Song, which stands out because of its key and plot importance. Even though we had two books for Menolly to encounter them individually, Menolly never did in any sort of way where we could guess the content of the lyric. For all we know, there’s a Teaching Song in there that’s a thinly-disguised threat that sails over the heads of children but is pretty clear to adults what’s going on there.

    As for the Crafthalls, if the Ancients optimized everything so successfully, it seems like this should be a story of falling away from perfection and scrambling back to it in any way possible, but Pern doesn’t have that drive to innovate and recover the lost knowledge. Except maybe Fandarel.

  23. genesistrine May 29, 2016 at 5:56 am

    I’ve always liked to think those little chapter-heading rhymes are snippets of Teaching Ballads, though if that’s true they come over much more as Hymns to Dragonriders. More evidence for the True Pernese Religion.

    As for perfection, maybe having everything pre-optimised kills off the innovative urge? Not a situation ever seen in human history (whatever some human cultures thought), but in this case….

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