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.

22 thoughts on “Dragonsdawn: An Origin Story

  1. Firedrake May 26, 2016 at 9:01 am

    “Federated Sentient Planets” always struck me as a wrong phrase – it’s not the planets that are sentient! (Well, except in James White stories.) I believe that particular title first shows up The Crystal Singer (1982) – I don’t have the original magazine version from 1974 so I don’t know if it’s there too – but Anne inserted it into quite a few of her sequels in this period, including Dinosaur Planet Survivors (1984), and Sassinak (1990) and its sequels. Even Decision on Doona gets dragged into it, with Crisis on Doona (1993) mentioning “your design to form a Federation of Sentient Planets”.

    One potentially positive note on the racial thing: they may be getting stereotyped, but at least non-white people now exist rather than nobody’s skin colour ever being mentioned. (Which, arguably, would be more realistic for something written from the viewpoint of a person to whom it simply doesn’t matter, any more than hair colour.)

  2. WanderingUndine May 26, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Here we go…

    Will you be deconstructing the Chronicles of Pern: First Fall short story collection? Along with much else (and a lot of whut), it includes the story of the original scouting mission to Pern.

    Corrected and completed cocowhat count for the Pern deconstruction to date:
    Dragonflight: 2
    Dragonquest: 7
    Dragonsong: 2
    Dragonsinger: 4 + 1 “Surrounded by Assholes” clip (SBA)
    Dragondrums: 5
    The White Dragon: 9 + 1 SBA
    Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: 7
    Nerilka’s Story: 2 + 1 SBA

  3. emmy May 27, 2016 at 8:09 am

    People do tend to mention hair color when describing someone, though. I’m certain we’ve had at least a few hair color descriptions in previous Pern books (I can point to several blondes, at least). As far as I remember the men are rarely described in detail other than some notes about their weight and muscles, although there’s at least a hint that F’lar is light-skinned.

    From the cover pictures and lack of descriptions many readers would have gotten the impression that Pern was completely white, before this point.

  4. Silver Adept May 27, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    First Fall is up next after this book, so we’ll get to that particular story in due time, I think.

    The FSP seems like an idea similar to how Ursula LeGuin’s novels tie in to each other here and there – an ansible in one book becomes the preferred communication method throughout the Galaxy in the others, and so forth. But with Pern noted as being, basically, the ass end of nowhere comparatively, there’s not any discernible reason I can find for needing this tie-in right now. Perhaps if someone in the Ninth Pass had discovered, say, an artifical intelligence that had somehow survived two thousand years without power, then we might need a story explaining how it got here. But right now? This is a weird diversion.

    I don’t mind so much the introduction of characters of color, but Avril Bitra is basically coded to be a villain according to the rules of Pern, which brings a whole new level of cocowhat to this sequence. The people of Pern could be lighter skinned at this point based on living in caves, but, ugh. The only definitively “ethnic” woman so far is a walking sassy sexual stereotype.

    Looking back at the counts of whatfruit, I think I’m seeing a pattern emerge…

  5. genesistrine May 29, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Cool bit of info; Rukbat is an actual star – Alpha Sagittarii. It’s also a blue spectroscopic binary – 2 stars in close orbit, probably with a debris disk. This may affect the way you visualise Pern. 🙂

    Re stereotyping: Also, Bitra and Nabol are dislikeable people? Oh my what a surprise. :sigh:

    Re this book in general, I’ve never figured out why AM switched it from the “Threadfall 200 years after Landing” in the original intros to “Threadfall pretty soon after Landing”. Has there ever been any explanation given?

  6. alexseanchai May 29, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    genesistrine: not to my knowledge, but it seems obvious: how could Landing and First Threadfall involve the same cast of characters with two centuries separating the two events?

  7. genesistrine May 29, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    @alexseanchai: why would it need to? OK, the Landing bit would be a bog-standard new-planet-colony story without Thread, but a 200-years-later story would allow for plenty of flashbacks, historical documentation, seeing how things have developed and what-all else.

    (I love me some faked-up historical documentation and perspective in my fiction, in case you hadn’t guessed….)

  8. depizan May 30, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Holy shit, it all makes sense now. Pern being Gault’s Gultch, only without the technology explains SO MUCH. And, wow, I’m guessing we’re supposed to be siding with these people, not longing for the universe to smack them upside the head?

    And once again, we’ve got some kind of odd throwaway bits of worldbuilding. So the FSP (and I’m going to second Firedrake that the name makes it sound like the planets are sentient. Which could be an interesting universe, but is not this one.) both has superb prosthetics and prejudice against them. Not implausible, but the form the prejudice takes seems…odd. Mostly because I can’t figure out the why. (Something that’s not at all helped by knowing that, in reality, some military people with prosthetics have successfully returned to their old military careers.) If they’re kept out of the Exploration and Evaluation Corps because of maintenance issues for their cybernetics, being part of this colony seems like a super bad idea. (Then again this colony, despite wanting to get back to basics plans to genetic engineer the shit out of everything to make it work. They have a really odd attitude toward technology.)


    I’d assume she moved up first Threadfall to better explain why so much was lost. Then again, with the colonists we’ve got…wowza. I bet they did genetically engineer their descendants to lack curiosity and inventiveness and anything else that might shift them from the agrarian faux-medieval world the colonists wanted to create.

  9. Firedrake May 30, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    I read these people as disliking visible technology. They have this pre-Raphaelite sort of glorification of “the simple life” and don’t want to be reminded of the huge amount of effort it took to get them there.

  10. depizan May 30, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    It’s almost worse than that. They’ve taken full advantage of the high-tech society(s) they’re leaving behind – cybernetics, the space ships, hell, the information from the military’s Exploration folks, bringing an uber genetic engineer, etc – in order to set up their “back to nature” colony.

    Hell, they’ve taken the only genetic engineer ever trained by the Eridani (whoever they are) and it doesn’t sound as if anyone in the text even pauses over this. Presumably the Eridani were trying to share their knowledge with the FSP as a whole, not a single colony planet that doesn’t sound as if it ever intended to stay in touch. I’m not saying people with unique skills HAVE to share with everyone, but you’d think this would at least come up.

    It also surprises me that no one seems to be described as having a family. Maybe I’m wrong about the psychology of it, but I’d think you’d want prospective colonists to mostly be existing families. Taking a bunch of single people and hoping they pair up seems like its setting the stage for worse pressures and worse solutions.

    Also…does this colony fake its death? Fifteen years is a long voyage in one sense, but its short enough you’d expect a mission from the FSP to have arrived at SOME point in Pern’s history.

  11. WanderingUndine May 30, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Sallah meets one family in this chapter.

  12. Firedrake May 30, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Sorry, depizan, I forget other people don’t feel the same contempt for the pre-Raphaelites’ designs for society that I do. 🙂 Yes, it’s exactly that: they’ve gone to a lot of extremely technical trouble to have the appearance of the simple life, without the mass famines that would have accompanied it if the PRs had ever put it into practice.

    The question of where the starfaring civilisation has got to is answered in the short story “Rescue Run” (1991), later collected in The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall (1993) with some other short stories. I won’t go into details here as it’s related to an event later in Dragonsdawn.

  13. depizan May 30, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    I’m afraid I don’t know much about pre-Raphaelites other than that they were an art movement. Only, it sounds like they were more than an art movement.

    But even with all the technology backing their flight to the simple life, I can’t help feeling that if they didn’t have an author who agreed with them, they’d be slammed hard by reality. No Threadfall needed. Especially since it sounds like, instead of the communal effort you’d expect (and was actually needed for agrarian societies), the colonists think Little House on the Prairie’s one household can do it all myth was true.

    And the one (unnamed?) family to bunches of named, important character single people is still not seeming like a good mix.

  14. genesistrine May 30, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    @depizan: The prosthetics thing gets even odder when you take the genetic engineering thing into account – if you can supersize fire lizards you can presumably clone people’s fingers, legs and whatnot and graft them back on, or just encourage them to regrow. But this is apparently eek eek icky or something; there’s vague mention of THE HORRORS OF UNCONTROLLED GENETIC ENGINEERING but I don’t think we ever get details.

    As for the society they want, I’m really, really hoping that their plan is to genetically engineer the shit out of all the animals and plants to make them low-maintenance and high-yield, but if I were a contractor I’d be worrying that the backup plan was to engineer the shit out of me and my kids to make us useful and obedient workers….

  15. depizan May 30, 2016 at 5:33 pm


    That’s a good point about the prosthetics. Unless it’s a class thing – like rich people can afford to have new fingers grown and everyone else just gets cybernetics? (Which would make far more sense than “growing fingers is icky”)

    And, yeah. Though, even if they do plan to engineer a working class, you’d still think they’d want to engineer the plants and animals to be as low-maintenance and high-yield as possible. And they’ve supposedly had a couple hundred years to work on this? Why does it sound so… I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something (besides the families being mostly off screen) that just seems weird about who the colonists are.

    Maybe it’s that the few we’ve met so far seem like new additions? Yet they’re high ranking in the group? I don’t know.

    There’s just…is there such a thing as an uncanny valley for world building? If there is, this falls into it. It’s like the bit about the place being “rich enough in ores and minerals to support an agriculturally based society.” I know what’s meant, I think, but the very first thing you’d expect an agriculturally based society to want – lots of arable land – is oddly missing from the description. (Also, apparently, from the discussion of where to land.)

    Or there being – apparently – no way to tell for sure if the volcanoes are active, dormant, or extinct. We can tell that with science now. Why can’t they?

  16. genesistrine May 31, 2016 at 12:27 am

    If it was a class/cost thing I’d think the decorated high-ranking war hero whose favourite bit of his job depends on it would scrape the cash together and call in the favours. It does genuinely seem to be an ickiness thing – there’s hints of Terrible Things that happened and turned people off genetic engineering, but what they actually were seems to be left as an Exercise for the Reader.

    And yes, I daresay the animals/plants are first on the list, but just in case things turn out to need a bit more physical labour than budgeted for… but then again libertarians seem to have this weird utopian innocence – the whole Galt’s Gulch Chile thing, for instance.

  17. Firedrake May 31, 2016 at 6:32 am

    Depizan: yeah, I see this whole aspect of the planet-building as an attempt to say “I’m writing science fiction, really, not that icky fantasy stuff, even if I do have dragons”. But the kind of hard SF that talks about gravity and orbits and things is a complete pain to get right if you don’t have the relevant mathematical and scientific skills, which are not necessary to write other types of fiction.

    I don’t know much about the history of vulcanology (or volcanology). Was this kind of information available in 1987-88? I know there was a big renaissance after Mount St Helens in 1980, but I’ve heard people since then saying that you really have to learn about each individual volcano more than about volcanoes in general.

  18. genesistrine May 31, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    @depizan: re the Uncanny Valley, that’s a really good description. It seems subtly off, and as you look closer you see more and more that’s somehow… just not right somehow.

    The “rich enough in ores and minerals” presumably means “in easily reachable and processable form without needing heavy machinery”, which is actually pretty horrifying if you read much about low-tech mining techniques, eg the death rate among Chinese miners dammit Pern.

    And the volcanoes thing is just stunningly stupid in the new timeline – the Red Star’s approach is linked with vulcanism. The Red Star is approaching. Therefore the volcanoes are rumbling, if not already erupting. At least in the 200-years-later timeline they have the excuse that they haven’t erupted for 200 years and are probably handy for geothermal energy not to mention volcanic soil is great for farming. (Though I do admit that means they settled on a recently-active volcano, but the farming and geothermalism may have seemed worth it with monitoring and regular emergency drills… that then had 200 years to be forgotten and neglected.)

    My personal and spoilerific-for-when-we-get-back-to-Ninth-Pass theory about why this story seems so off is that Dragonsdawn is the story NVINF vf gryyvat vgf svaqref nobhg gur pbybavmngvba, naq vg’f ylvat, V unira’g svtherq bhg jul, ohg n qvfgvapg cbffvovyvgl zvtug or gung Crea jnf npghnyyl frggyrq ol rfpncrq jne pevzvanyf….

    @Firedrake: instant and complete science fiction fail just from the celestial mechanics!

    I actually like the Red Star idea; it’s a really cool update of the old astrological comets-bring-doom-and-disease thing, but as science it doesn’t work in the slightest.

  19. depizan May 31, 2016 at 9:56 pm


    there’s hints of Terrible Things that happened and turned people off genetic engineering

    And yet they’re hinging this colony’s success ON genetic engineering. And then there’s the one and only human the Eridani trained in genetic engineering. None of that fits together at all well. (More Uncanny Valley world building.)

    RE: Volcanoes

    Again, it’s the Uncanny Valley world building. Why do we have spaceflight, advanced cybernetics, and magic genetic engineering, yet lack the ability to tell if a volcano is extinct, dormant, or active? If other sciences advanced from the late 1980s, so should geology.

    Worse, if the volcanoes are erupting every 250 years, they may be dormant, but they are very definitely NOT extinct. Either Benden or McCaffrey is science failing there. And I have some suspicion that the survey should’ve noticed that they’d erupted 50 years ago, especially since I’m not sure it’s scientifically possible to have volcanoes that just kind of turn on and off every 250 years. I’d expect there to be some activity in between. (Then again, I am not a geologist.)

  20. genesistrine June 2, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Well, they are magic astrologically-sensitive volcanoes, so I’m not sure a geologist’s opinion would be much help!

    “Pern quakes in her throes and we wonder for why…”

  21. Silver Adept June 4, 2016 at 10:41 am

    In some ways, this is a pretty good example of the MST3K Mantra in action – if you stop to think about what’s going on, the whole thing unravels almost immediately. Calling it Uncanny Valley worldbuilding is a really good choice.

    As for why all these individually unique people are here, if this is a Randian paradise, you have to have all the prominent capitalists and drivers of industry all defect to Galt’s Gulch so that the rest of the FSP can come crashing to a halt, having had the people with true power all go away. Which would have to include the most prominent geneticist and her entire line.

    This really is a place that is more than happy to use all their high technology to try and engineer a cushy life for themselves and leave their descendents the hard work of figuring out how to actually live in a low-tech world.

    The volcanoes are a teeth-grindingly bad thing. How do you keep track of whether or not the angry volcano is going to blow without some seismology tech? Otherwise, you’re dooming the colony before it even gets established. (Yes, it has to happen here because we have already discovered the remains of the place thousands of years later. But that shouldn’t mean everyone has a True Stupid alignment…)

  22. genesistrine June 4, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    “and leave their descendants the hard work of figuring out how to actually live in a low-tech world”

    With no way back, either. We’re told about the message capsules, but… is even the most charitable Federation going to send a evacuation ship for an unknown number of people on a 30-year round trip? Even if the descendants are told how the capsules work and they actually get through?

    Re the volcanoes, oh god yes. This is why I try and fixfic it with the geothermal energy/fertile ground for crop testing thing, and it’s possible they even hoped for an eventual eruption – after all, if you want your descendants to stay in happy-happy low-tech land then landing your shuttles somewhere they’ll be eventually buried in lava is a good way of stopping the kids – and maybe also your lower-class drudge workers? – getting into them and escaping….

    Maybe it just erupted earlier than they were planning for.

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