Monthly Archives: June 2016

Dragonsdawn: B-Plot Boogie

Last time, scientists and children went hunting for dragonets to study. Sean brought back corpses, Sorka brought back a dragonet egg that hatched and Impressed on one of the scientists.

Dragonsdawn: Part One: Content Notes: Colonialism, dubious consent

The action starts with Benden, Boll, and Ongola having a meeting about Telgar’s discoveries. Before settling into the description, though, we learn a little bit more about what the intended form of government for the Pern colony is.

Once the colonists took up their stake acres and Landing’s purpose had been accomplished, the ostensible leaders would turn consultants, with no more authority than other stakeholders. The council would convene regularly to discuss broad topics and redress problems that affected the entire colony. A yearly democratic meeting would vote on any issues that required the consent of all. Magistrate Cherry Duff [the historian and librarian] administered justice at Landing and would have a circuit for grievances and any litigation. By the terms of the Pern Charter, charterers and contractors alike would be autonomous on their stake acres. The plan was idealistic, perhaps, but as Benden repeatedly insisted, there were more than enough plans and resources to allow everyone plenty of latitude.

I’d almost say that sounds like Soviet-style organization, but really, it’s more a model of Athenian democracy than anything. Most interesting, though, is the presence of the magistrate to handle issues between the autonomous landowners. I can see at least one creative exception – anyone smart enough to lead the other party in to their land can do whatever they want to do to them, it seems, including lovely things like lies, cheats, and thievery. Or possibly even murder. There, dispute resolved. Presumably, the presence of the Council and the magistrate are supposed to be a signal that the sovereign autonomy of the plots of land is limited in some method and subservient to a higher power, but outside the context of Landing, there’s not any explicit acknowledgement of anyone being a higher power on someone’s private property, elected or no, once the actual charter kicks in. Which seems to be a great seeding point for the system of Lords that is in place later on.
In the interim, the colony council has set up an arbitration board to handle grievances, stake acres and contract issues, persuaded by Boll that disputes are best settled by impartial bodies and juries by recalling to their minds the amount of war they had suffered through and the reality that they are the only humans on Pern, so that’s more than enough space for everyone to thrive without the need for greed.
The next paragraph tells us that Boll is not such an idealist as to believe everyone agrees with her, but she hopes that people who would otherwise cause trouble will get too involved in building their own lives on the planet to cause trouble for others. Which is itself followed by two paragraphs about whether or not the colonies need a penal code – Benden favors immediate justice based on shaming people who act against the common good, and so far, it seems to be working. Both Benden and Boll keep office hours for six days a week (the week itself, along with the day of rest, having been established at one of the mass meetings where Boll suggests that the “old Judean Bible used by some of the old religious sects” has plenty of sensible suggestions for an agrarian society that can be taken without having to them take all the rest of the religious material that goes with it.

If you’re familiar with that work, there are also sections in our about not harvesting to the very edge of your fields, so that those less fortunate than you can find things to eat, that debts should be forgiven on a regular basis, and that every so often, one should let the land rest completely, and not harvest anything that should appear for that entire year, leaving it for the poor and nature. (Also, Judean Bible? What the blistering fuck is that?) There’s a lot in there about hospitality and how to treat other people. Looking at the future world of Pern, it seems those parts were not kept and passed forward.

While the two leaders understood that even that loose form of democratic government might be untenable once the settlers had spread out from Landing to their own acres, they did hope that the habits acquired would suffice. Early American pioneers on that western push had exhibited a keen sense of independence and mutual assistance. The late Australian and New Zealand communities had risen above tyrannical governors and isolation to build people of character, resource, and incredible adaptability. The first international Moonbase had refined the art of independence, cooperation, and resourcefulness. The original settlers on First had largely been the progeny of ingenious Moon and asteroid-belt miner parents, and the Pern colony included many descendants of those original pioneering groups.
Paul and Emily proposed to institute yearly congregations of many people from the isolated settlements as possible to reaffirm the basic tenets of the colony, acknowledge progress, and apply the minds of many to address any general problems. Such a gathering would also be the occasion for trading and social festivities.

So, here we see the seeds of what will eventually become the Gather festival, and the inclusion of the Conclave of Lord Holders on those days – although I suspect the Gathers of later Passes happen more than just once a year.

Beyond that, though, there is this genealogy of the Pernese settlement, tracing its history back to the American West, a heavily romanticized period. I’m not as familiar with the history of Australia and New Zealand, but I suspect there’s a similar thread of narrative involving Intrepid White People finding a land full of indigenous peoples and “civilizing” it through systematic occupation, oppression, and disenfranchisement, and then creating their own narrative that the place was “wild and untamed” that needed Strong, Rugged Frontiersmen. The Moonbase is the odd entity out and the closest to the actual Pern settlement, since we know that Luna has no indigenous humanoids. (First Centauri, I would guess, did, and there was a lot of war involved in that encounter.) When combined with the racism in the colony and the willingness to overlook that racism, the colony is likely to get some rude reminders of the past they have not yet overcome. Instead of admitting they are there to get away from a lifestyle and worlds they no longer believe in, they want to recast themselves as explorers and the people looking to discover the unknown. It’s a bit surreal to be watching this kind of colonialism play out in an actual colony that is supposed to be beyond those kinds of ideas, being a future society and all that.

As for the actual plot, there’s some recalcitrance among the executive committee about their secret observations of people who might turn out to be troublemakers for the colony. Benden is okay with it as part of necessary intelligence-gathering. Boll thinks of it as too close to the secret police and other tactics of other worlds and times. Ongola stalls out the argument before it goes too far by indicating that the only craft that could go has already been sabotaged and there’s always things in the way of a clear takeoff for the craft anyway. Feeling like any potential mischief has been managed, the executive team talks a little about Kenjo’s fuel efficiency, but they have no idea why he did it or how he plans to move it to his own property. Then they talk about volcanoes and tremors, the death of a dolphin, and the general state of the colony and the nomads, as Boll hopes for a quick conclusion so that she can get to a nice dinner with Pierre, the head chef for the colony, muses on the nature of calligraphy and analog memory aids, and Benden enjoys brandy.

We do get a nice peek at how one institution has changed from Terra.

In order to widen the gene pool in the next generation, the charter permitted unions of varying lengths, first insuring the support of a gravid woman and the early years of the resultant child. Prospective partners could choose which conditions suited their requirements, but there were severe penalties, up to the loss of all stake acres, for failing to fulfill whatever contract had been agreed and signed before the requisite number of witnesses.

Which makes me wonder what gets put into contracts, if the penalties are that severe. And whether anyone has yet created caskets of silver, gold, and lead.

Ongola boasts about his marriage and the resultant pregnancy, which makes Benden relieved that Ongola is not holding on to his grief of lost wife and family in the Nathi war. Ongola then asks whether Boll has managed to snag Pierre yet, which flusters her and she deflects on to Benden and asks if he’s going to do this, too. He provides no answer, and then the narrative shifts over to Sallah, who is still courting Tarvi, and has finally managed to go out on a mission with him alone.

Sallah was playing it cautiously, concentrating on making herself so professionally indispensable to Tarvi that an opportunity to project her femininity would not force him to retreat into his usual utterly courteous, utterly impersonal shell. She had seen other women who made a determined play for the handsome, charming geologist rebuffed by his demeanor; they were surprised, puzzled, and sometimes hurt by the way he eluded their ploys. For a while, Sallah had wondered if Tarvi liked women at all, but he had shown no preference for the acknowledged male lovers in Landing. He treated everyone, man, woman, and child, with the same charming affability and understanding. And whatever his sexual preference, he was nonetheless expected to add to the next generation. Sallah was already determined to be the medium and would find the moment.

Cocowhat by depizan

Yes, I realize that we’re several decades in front of the popular culture coming to realize that asexuality is a thing, but surely it’s possible that if Tarvi’s not interested in women, and not interested in men, and presumably not interested in anyone who doesn’t fit either of those identities, then maybe Tarvi isn’t fucking interested in fucking. So this bit about expectations of the next generation and Sallah’s determination to fulfill them…it makes me worry that the author decided that the new! exciting! thing for this story is that the rape of the unwilling will be a woman committing it on a man. Please, please, let me be wrong.

Sallah is hoping to entice Tarvi with the prospect of caves to explore. Officially, it’s confirming the presence of metals and ores, as well as photographing interesting sites for people to choose as their locations, where a short digression indicates that the wine-growers are looking for specific lands to put their grapes on. Tarvi bites on the exploration part, and apparently is unaware as he steamrolls her plans for romance by being far more interested in climbing cliffs and exploring the great giant cave system that looks like it would make a great Great Hall and supporting structures. And then drawing accurate maps and dimensions of the system as well. When they stop for the evening meal, Sallah spikes Tarvi’s food with something the pharmacists say is an aphrodisiac, which… seems to do nothing at all, as Tarvi continues to talk about how the cave system itself would make a great fortress. Tarvi appears to be stiff, so Sallah gives him a massage to work out the kinks of the climbing, which she eventually stops as a massage and just turns into caresses. Eventually, he catches her hands, but it’s not a passionate embrace or a declaration of love.

“Perhaps this is the time,” he mused as if alone. “There will never be a better. And it must be done.”
With the suppleness that was as much a trademark of Tarvi Andiyar as his ineffable charm, he gathered her in his arms, pulling her across his lap. His expression, oddly detached as if examining her for the first time, was not quite the tender, loving expression she had so wished to evoke. His expressive and large brown eyes were almost sad, though his perfectly shaped lips curved in an infinitely gentle smile – as if, the thought intruded on Sallah’s delight in her progress, he did not wish to frighten her.
“So, Sallah,” he said in his rich low and sensual voice, “it is you.”
She knew she should interpret that cryptic remark, but then he began to kiss her, his hands suddenly displaying an exceedingly erotic mind of their own, and she no longer wished to interpret anything.

Cocowhat by depizan

Cocowhat by depizan

That doesn’t look like any sort of consent, or even really lust or desire, on Tarvi’s part. If the aphrodisiac is really responsible for this behavior, then Sallah, you took advantage of him. Using basically the same idea that someone might use in trying to get a woman too drunk to be able to fight back or spiking her drink with a date rape drug. Which should receive all the condemnation possible, but Tarvi doesn’t necessarily know and there aren’t any other witnesses.

And the narrative is going to spiral away from this back somewhere else, rather than deal with the morning after.

I dislike being right about this. Strongly.

Having no place to shit safely, a true story from a trans woman

[Editor’s note]

This post is from ages ago.  Every so often something happens that makes me remember, “Oh, I really need to get around to posting that,” but until now I just never got it done.

The government of North Carolina and its ilk have made this extremely topical, however it is important to remember that the post is old.

Trans* people hadn’t yet been turned into the bogey men of the day, after the fight against marriage equality failed, when it was written.  As such, when the post mentions legislation it’s not talking about the anti-trans* bathroom bills of today, it’s talking about then-current attempts to protect trans* people trying to use the bathroom.  Such attempts tended to be met with outrage and opposition, but I don’t have any stats on how prevalent that tendency was.

[/editor’s note]

(Written anonymously, edited and posted by chris the cynic)

A Place to Shit

This is an important matter so we shouldn’t mince words. It’s about shitting. Always and forever, beginning to end, it’s about shit. When people talk about who can use which bathrooms, they’re talking about shitting. They might also mention changing rooms or communal showers, just to throw you off, but it’s about shitting.

It isn’t about conservative family values or liberal human rights, it isn’t about traditional gender roles or celebrating diversity, it isn’t about protecting children, it isn’t about religion, it isn’t about equal protection, it isn’t about constitutional rights, or original intent, or what the founding fathers would say– it is about who should be required by law to take a dump in their clothes.

Some of the people who are on my side in this fight disagree with some of what I just said. They’ll claim, for example, that it is about equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. They’re wrong. It’s about shit.

In all but the most built up areas or most controlled environments, most people can usually find a place to pee.  It may be disgusting –it may be illegal– but you find a place where no one’s looking, squat, do the deed, and the problem is solved.  Pooping is different.

It generally takes longer, leaves behind more than a puddle or wet spot, smells worse, and leaves you in need of cleaning (wipe or wash, I won’t judge, but you’ve got to do something.)

Let me tell you a true story.

[Editor’s note] While some changes have been made to protect anonymity, none of the facts of the story have been changed. What follows is what happened to the author, just not always in the words she would normally use to describe the events in question. [/editor’s note]

I’m stopped at a McDonald’s near the beginning of my commute. I’m eating my regular and feeling kind of bad about the fact that I now have a regular even though I’m not a fast food fan and promised myself I wouldn’t get stuck in this rut again.

Then I notice that I’m feeling kind of bad in general. A slight twinge in my stomach. I’m just about done with my food and I consider using the McDonald’s restroom. Without thinking I touch my face. When did I last shave?

A woman like me was beaten in a McDonald’s restroom, dragged out of the restroom, publicly beaten again, and people cheered. It’s been on my mind since I first heard about it a few months before.

My face is kind of scratchy. My compact isn’t in my purse right now so I can’t actually get a look. Maybe I look normal. Maybe I have a five o’clock shadow. Last thing I want is for people to know what kind of a woman I am in a McDonald’s women’s restroom. Probably nothing will happen, but I risk being beaten and possibly killed.

I’m wearing jeans. Maybe I can pass as male. I look down at myself. My shirt isn’t that feminine and my breasts are pretty small, I could probably pull it off if I leave my purse in the booth.

But what if I can’t?

Probably nothing will happen, but I risk getting worse than a beating, and possibly being killed afterward.

Added by editor

(image added by editor)

It was only one twinge, and I don’t actually feel like I have to go to the restroom right now.

I finish my food and head home.

Soon the McDonald’s is but a memory and I’m on my way.

I feel another twinge.

I’m at the worst part of my commute for this. For an hour and a half there is nothing for me. Nowhere I can use a public restroom, no woods I can run into and squat, not even a ditch to duck into. I now know I should have used the restroom at the McDonald’s.

There’s nothing for me to do but keep going and hope I don’t get worse.

I get worse. The feeling isn’t just in my stomach anymore. It’s lower. One hand goes to my abdomen and tries to sooth it. It doesn’t help.

I’m definitely going to need to poop.

Soon I’m doing Lamaze breathing and bargaining with myself. I won’t even try to hold out until I get home. I’ll blast into the restroom at the gas station that marks the end of the nothing expanse so fast that no one at the gas station will know what hit the place. Then I’ll calmly walk out, feeling much better, and make some bullshit purchase so that they don’t bug me about the restroom being for customers only.

Pretty soon I realize I can’t even make it that far. I think I’m screwed.

Then I realize that there is a chance. There’s a bridge. I didn’t think about it before because it’s not like I can go to the bathroom on the bridge, but under the bridge . . .

Under the bridge is nothing and no one. There’s no way I can get under the bridge on the near side, but on the far side maybe there is a chance.

By the time I’m at the bridge I think I won’t even make it to the far side, but I surprise myself and do.

It’s only when I’m on foot, beside the road, trying to climb over a fence designed to prevent stupid people from going under the bridge that I realize maybe I could draw unwanted attention. I look at the cars passing, but only for a moment.

I almost kill myself getting over that fence. All that’s left is to go down the steep embankment the bridge is on, and I’ll be out of sight and able to poop.

The thought that I might have drawn attention is still on my mind. It’s probably illegal to be here. There was that damned fence after all.

An image of being arrested while squatting under the bridge pops into my head along with the word “indignity”. The image is fleeting. The word is not.

Two steps away from being out of sight and everything falls apart.

The first shit comes out like a fart. The word indignity is still in my head. I think, for the first time, “This is the worst indignity.”

It wasn’t that much shit, so maybe–

The next shit comes with the next step. It is nothing like a fart. It fills my panties, escapes into my jeans, and starts running down my leg. I think, “This is the worst indignity.”

I’m out of sight, there’s more shit in me, and it’s not going to wait any longer. I fiddle with the button and zipper, drop my pants and panties as quickly as I can, and then try to hold myself in a position where the shit coming out of me won’t land on or in my pants and panties. There’s no time to get them off, so this is my damage control.

Trying to keep the shit from getting on the outside of my jeans is all I have left. I think, “This is the worst indignity,” again.

It doesn’t take that long to be done.

That leaves me under a bridge my shit filled pants and panties around my ankles, and a pile of shit behind me.

I waddle away from the shit on the ground and then get to work on taking off my pants. It’s disgusting. Some of the shit reached my socks, none on my shoes, but taking off the pants. . .

Maybe if I’d used the belt loops removing them would have been less gross. I didn’t think of that.

Besides, there was stuff to do. My panties were obviously a complete loss. My jeans I needed. I couldn’t continue home half-naked. First I tried to dump the shit out of them. Then I tried to shake it out. Then I turned them inside out –there’s no good way to turn a full-of-shit pair of jeans inside out– and found a rock.

I used the rock to scrape as much shit as I could off of the inside of my jeans. I threw the rock into the water.

I returned to my discarded panties, and my socks, and used the non shit-stained parts of them to try to clean myself off.

I threw them into the water.

Many times I thought, “This is the worst indignity.” It was never true.

There was only one way things could end. Eventually I’d done all that I could, I turned my jeans right side out and put them back on.

As I felt the shit-smeared jeans going up my legs, and touching my naked butt, I thought again, “This is the worst indignity.” I didn’t like thinking that same sentence over and over again, but it was a relatively minor annoyance given what else I was putting up with.

I climbed back up the embankment and back over the fence with the shit that had stubbornly clung to my jeans rubbing against my butt and legs all the way. I never did stop thinking, “This is the worst indignity.” There always seemed to be something worse even as I got back to the road and continued my journey home.

It didn’t matter where the nearest restroom was anymore, of course, what I needed was a long shower and clean clothes to change into. Public restrooms don’t provide that.

As I went home, shit kept rubbing against me, the word “indignity” kept bouncing around in my head, and I wondered what sort of rashes might develop as a result of prolonged contact with human shit. Denim isn’t very forgiving when it comes to rubbing.

And that’s my restroom story.

* * *

I tell you that story because those are the options I face:

  • Use the Women’s Room and risk being beat up and possibly killed
  • Use the Men’s Room and risk being beat up or worse and possibly killed
  • Try to hold it and risk shitting my panties

When people talk about the which restrooms trans* people can use they’re trying to change those options, as well as the options non-female trans* people face.

Those who seek protections for trans* people are trying to make it so the first option doesn’t involve the risk of violence and thus I won’t even need to consider the other two. Those who seek restrictions for trans people are trying to take away the first option, forcing me to decide between the other two.

The restriction seekers want my options to be:

  • Risk being sexually assaulted, non-sexually assaulted, and/or killed.
  • Risk shitting my panties.

Any given time, deciding whether or not to use a restroom probably isn’t going to result in something bad, but once you do it enough times those small probabilities of bad things start to add up.  If a lot of people (like all trans* people) do it enough times those small probabilities become certainties.  Some people will end up shitting themselves if they stick to the safe route. Some people will end up assaulted (sexually or otherwise) if they don’t.  Some people will end up killed.

What all of this talk boils down to is where you can shit and how safe you will be when you do shit. As I said before: it is always and forever, beginning to end, about shit.

Perhaps things would be better if politicians and pundits just called this debate what it is, “The debate over who should, legally speaking, have to poop in their pants.” Of course, the most at risk people might not be wearing pants –I often don’t– but it’s at least honest about the core issue.

Talking about family values, traditional gender roles, human rights, constitutional rights, and so forth all misses the point. It’s about not taking a dump in your underwear. Anything else is distraction.

The right to shit in a toilet is not, in fact, enshrined in the US Constitution. Perhaps it should be. As it stands now, however, being able to avoid shitting yourself is a privilege that owners of certain public spaces (such as most restaurants and certain stores) extend to some of their patrons.

There are many possible reasons why an individual owner might choose to do this, but the constantly shot down bills about protecting trans* people using restrooms aren’t really about rights. They’re about making it so the people who choose not to shit themselves don’t risk violence by taking a dump in a toilet.

They’re also about making it so that men aren’t forced to use the women’s room (or shit themselves) out of fear and women aren’t forced to use the men’s room (or shit themselves) out of fear. Currently proposed protections for trans* people would also codify rules about who can be where. Right now anyone can use any restroom provided they can get away with it. If trans* protection bills pass, only men will be allowed to use the men’s room and only women will be allowed to use the women’s room.

This is not without problems (e.g. what about intersex people?) but those problems are extensions of the same question: who should be allowed to shit in a toilet, and who should be made, by threat of violence tacitly approved by the law of the land, to shit themselves.

I’d like to think that one day we can live in a society where everyone can safely take a dump in a toilet and thus no one is forced to endure the indignity of shit-filled jeans simply because they had a chance to use a toilet but were afraid of what might be done to them if they did.

But, for now, just remember that it’s all about shit.

Not the children, beyond the fact that they need to shit too, not gender roles, beyond the fact that all genders need to shit, not the founding fathers, not religion–  just shit.

[Editor’s postscript]

Ok, so, chris the cynic speaking again, a reminder about hosted articles since it’s been a while since we had one.  The above is not meant to be the end of discussion; it’s meant to be the beginning.

Above is what one person thinks (and an episode from her life that is relevant to those thoughts.) Now it’s time for other people to say what they think.  And, yes, that includes disagreements.  If you disagree with something she wrote, please say so.  Ditto for if you agree with any point in particular.  Make your voice heard.

That’s the idea at least.

[/editor’s postscript]

This week in the Slacktiverse, June 25th, 2016

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • Ignoring things like scholarship and religious tradition, I decided to try my hand at figuring out the nine realms.  (For those who don’t know, Norse myth says that there are nine realms, but listing of what the nine actually are survives to this day.)
    • Lonespark and I watched Jane Got A Gun.
    • In my own setting, the four realms, I wrote an in-universe poem about one of the liminal spaces, Limbo, which isn’t a true realm but instead more squishy.  I picture the author of the poem as a young human girl.
    • In real life, we burried my grandfather.  The living members of the family managed to make that a little slice of hell.
    • Also, overdraft fees are evil.  Any time a cost goes over one thousand percent I think it’s screwed up, but over fifteen thousand percent?  Yeah, evil.

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 June 24th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is finishing up an excellent conference today.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Amarie: Amarie’s Dreamjournal

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Philip Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

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 yourself contemplating a world where countries attempt to exit economic alliances. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonsdawn: Through The Eyes of Children

Last time, the Pern colony officially passed the point of no returning to space, the planet continued to be as advertised, and the process of bringing a full ecosystem online hit some bumps along the way, as various species of plants (like the cucumber family) and animals aren’t adapting as well as had been hoped, or are being actively attacked by the Pernese ecosystem.

And Sorka’s fire lizard was the talk of the town, Sallah wrestled with how to get Avril in trouble for her greed, Avril continued with her plan on how to get off the rock with enough gems to live in luxury, and Pern mentioned that it was the kind of world that had earthquakes.

Dragonsdawn: Part One: Content Notes: Speciesism, Anti-transhumanist sentiment

We’re picking up into a chapter (an ebook chapter, anyway), after the status reports, with Sorka noticing what seems to be puffs of fire coming from her bronze as the colony’s dragonets regularly go out and keep the wherries away from the chickens and other possible wherry prey. Everyone else is impressed with the tactical and team coordination abilities of the dragonets, with open speculation that the dragonets are communicating with each other, even though there’s no visible signs of that. So the scientists come by to talk to Sorka, who believes the bronze is the leader of the assault team. And has strong opinions about whether the dragonets are friends or pets (friends). The scientists ask for the notes that Sorka has been keeping about feeding habits and the size of Duke, when she mentions them. Then, there’s this:

“Really, you know, this is a fascinating evolution. Especially if those plankton eaters the dolphins report could represent a common ancestor for the tunnel snakes and dragonets.”
Mairi was surprised. “Tunnel snakes and dragonets?”

I’m also interested in this, but not because they have a common ancestor, but because they’re calling them tunnel snakes. so, apparently even the colonists have forgotten that snakes generally don’t have limbs. Tunnel lizards, I would believe, but not snakes. Especially as they are described:

“Yes, an aquatic eellike ancestor, in fact. With six limbs. The first pair -” He pointed at the dragonet still clutching his morsel in his front pincers. “-originally were nets for catching. See the action of the front claw against the stationary back pair? The dragonets dropped the net in favor of three digits. They opted for wings instead of stabilizing middle fins, while the hind pair are for propulsion. The dry-land adaptation, our tunnel snake, was to make the front pair diggers, the middle set remained balancers, especially when they have food in the front pair, and the rear limbs are for steering or holding on.”

So they’re hexapods, not snakes, not really. And considering they are considered pests and things that need to be killed or shooed away, I would have assumed the natural name for them would be “hexes”, given the etymology. But I’m not writing this, so I don’t count.

The scientists are looking for a clutch and ask if Sorka knows where one is, as well as the behavior of the older dragonets regarding protecting and imprinting of the hatchlings. And to see whether or not Sean would help them.

Sorka regarded the zoologist for a long moment. He had always kept his word to her, and he had been very good about Duke that first day. She decided that she could trust him, but she was also aware of his high rank in Landing, and what he might be able to do for Sean.
“If you promise, promise – and I’d vouch for you, too – that his family gets one of the first horses, he’ll do just about anything for you.”
“Sorka!” Mairi was embarrassed by her daughter’s proposal. The girl spent entirely too much time with that boy and was learning some bad habits from him. But to her amazement, Pol smiled cheerfully and patted Sorka’s arm.
“Now, now, Mairi, your daughter has good instincts. Barter is already practiced as an exchange system on Pern, you know.” He regarded Sorka with proper solemnity. “He’s one of the Connells, is he not?” When she nodded solemnly, he went on briskly. “In point of fact, this is the first name on the list to receive equines. Or oxen, if they prefer.”

I don’t quite understand why there is such revulsion at striking deals, since there’s no money to facilitate exchange. If it’s about currying favors with the scientists, well, that spirit of communal cooperation between people with diverse skill sets is pretty much what the whole colony needs to be successful. If it’s because there’s some overarching desire to stamp out the idea of power differentials and get everyone into a nice socialist paradise, then the whole idea of “everyone gets their own piece of land and all the products they can coax from it” has already pretty well screwed the socialist paradise idea completely. If, instead, it’s supposed to be about teaching Sorka that she has to be able to do everything herself, then her training should be more than just to join one guild. It very much seems like there are competing philosophical ideas here on Pern, and barring some sort of impending disaster, the colonies are set up to let those competing ideas try and succeed.

The bargain struck, Pol and Sorka go to find Sean and consult with him about eggs. Pol figures that he can treat Sean like any other opinionated young man, like the ones he had to deal with in academia before coming to Pern, and so, instead of offering a bonfire, which he knows won’t work, he gets Sean to talk about the horse he had back on Terra, and then promises Sean an identical horse from the eggs, thanks to his ability to genetically manipulate the eggs. Sean takes the offer, and soon after, Pol, Sean and Sorka are on a ship looking for clutches on the coastline, along with an extra scientist (that turns out to suffer from motion sickness) and Captain Tillek and his crew. Sean is also a little nauseous, but Sorka is happy and Tillek is giddy to be sailing. Sorka inquires about why Tillek’s map is mostly uncolored, and he explains it as a way of knowing what’s unexplored, and points out the additional markings he’s adding that indicate wind and current.

When the ship puts in for the night at a cove, Sean tells Sorka to go east while he goes west, which tweaks Tillek the wrong way about how he does it, but Pol stops Tillek from delivering a reprimand. Probably because Pol is more interested in the deal. But it’s nice to see there’s someone who wants to speak up for the women, even if he hasn’t done it yet. Sean and Sorka soon return with four possible clutch locations, two likely laid by greens, two by golds. Pol and Bay (the seasick scientist) are just looking for a couple specimens, one or two of each color, to bring back and analyze, rather than trying to cart off whole clutches. We’re also treated to a lecture from Pol about how poorly designed the dragonets are and how humans are even more poorly designed, with vulnerable brains and air pipes crossing food pipes in such a way that humans can choke. Tillek points out that other species have other problems, especially in the genitalia, to which Pol retorts:

“So you think having the playground between the sewers makes sense?”
“Didn’t say that, Pol,” Jim Tillek answered hurriedly with a glance at the two children, though neither were paying the adults much heed. “It’s a bit handier for us, though.”
“And more vulnerable. Oh my, oh my, there I go again, falling into the lecture attitude. But there are endless ways in which we humans could be profitably improved…”

Pol, I don’t think you know particularly well what getting hit between the legs is like for women. Or, for that matter, getting hit in the chest for anyone with child-nursing mammaries. If you want to talk vulnerabilities, there’s plenty to go around for every body type.

Continuing on.

“But we can’t do much yet, of course, with the laws that the Pure Humans forced through to prevent drastic changes.”
“Who’d want to?” Tillek asked with a frown.
“Not us,” Bay assured him hastily. “We don’t have that kind of need on this world. But I sometimes feel that the Pure Human Life Group was wrong to oppose alterations that would permit humans to use those water worlds in Ceti IV. Lungs exchanged for gills and webbing on hands and feet is not that great or blasphemous an adaptation. The fetus still goes through a similar stage in utero, and there’s good evidence for a more aquatic past for adults. Think how many planets would be open to humans if we weren’t so limited to land areas that met our gravitational and atmospheric requirements! Even if we could provide special enzymes for some of the dangerous gases. Cyanides have kept us out of so many places. Why…” She threw up her hands as words failed her.

Hrm. There was hopefully a very interesting discussion that happened between the Pure Humans and the transhumans about what makes humans humans and whether or not persons with those adaptations would be treated as having full human rights under the law or whether there would have been another series of angry conflicts regarding rights and privileged people and possible slavery. In the best case, the Pure Humans passed through a bill that said “no, you don’t get to alter humans unless you pass bills that say the altered humans are still humans and will not be discriminated against at all.” In the worst, the Pure Humans passed the bill to ensure that only unaltered humans would be called humans, showing their speciesist selves to their most xenophobic, and preventing the discussion from happening in the first place, condemning everyone to yet another iteration of the “we hate and want to try and subjugate those who are different than us” bullshit.

The plot continues with Sean getting up very early to sneak off and Sorka following after Sean leaves the cave. Sorka almost trips over the cache in a daydream about wanting to find the most beautiful spot, and almost gets so distracted by the hatching dance that she wouldn’t get the egg she swipes back to Bay. Having managed to get things in the right place at the right time, Bay ends up Impressing a gold, and then Sean comes back to camp with two dragonet corpses in tow. Everyone settles in to food, having achieved the mission they intended.

The narrative is about to shift characters again, so here’s a good stopping point. We’ll pick up with the Avril plot next time.

Writer Workshop June 22nd, 2016

(Posted by chris the cynic)

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

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

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

Open Thread: Pets

(by chris the cynic)

Do you have any pets?  Have you ever?  Did you ever want to?  For any or all of the previous, what were they?  Are there any animals that you think should or shouldn’t be pets?  Do you have a dream pet?  (Fictional animals count.)  Do you have any thoughts on the topic of pets in general?

Anything else on the topic of pets.

[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.]

This week in the Slacktiverse, May 25th, 2016

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • I haven’t gotten a lot of the things that I’ve been planning on doing written, but there’s probably a quote out there about blogging being what happens when you’re trying to do other things.  Or something.
    • While Odin’s campagin team has been reminded us of the lack of confirmed Jotun sightings in Midgard as evidence we should vote for him this election, I thought I’d give voice to the opposition campagin so please consider the brother-sister team of Fenris and Hel when you vote on which gods to support.
    • In an unrelated pantheon, I talked about Chronos and Cronos, who are easy to confuse (especially in our alphabet) but are not, in fact, the same person.  The short version is that Chronos is a god with ingrained purpose but no surviving story, while Cronos is a god with a well developed surviving story but no known ingrained purpose.  Putting them together thus allows for one fully rounded god but misses the fact that Zeus did not actually overthrow father time because Time as not his father.  For the long version, read the post.
    • I’ve been nominated for four categories in the annual Kim Possible Fannie awards, so of course I want you to vote for me.
    • As I was experimenting to find the least cruddy settings on which Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst (post forthcoming) would run smoothly on my computer, I decided to write about how one day I’d like a real gaming rig.  Of course, one day I want a donkey and there are no signs of that being possible either.
    • Had my monthly update on my finances.  Another month older and deeper in debt.  Same old story.

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 June 17th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has his last visit to schools to talk about summer programming today.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

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 need to talk about tragic events in your vicinity. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonsdawn: In For The Long Haul

Last time, we had the actual beginning of the book, in terms of proper action and conflict, and the first encounter with a fire lizard and two children.

Dragonsdawn: Part One – Content Notes: Racism, sex-negativity

This segment starts with a paragraph indicating both Sean and Sorka’s families disapprove of the friendship between the two, a surefire way of making sure they continue to hang out with each other, as they both observe the gold fire lizard. It’s hatching day for the eggs, so Sean and Sorka get to hear the fire lizard singing about the impending hatching, soon to be joined by other fire lizards in song. And then, feeding, as all the fire lizards create a supply line and food stash. Some tunnel snakes get bold and try for a hatchling, but get beat back by the dragonets whomping on them.

Some of the newborns make their way over to where Sean and Sorka are. Unlike Menolly, who was just trying to protect hatchlings from Threadfall, Sorka stands to up to feed them because she can feel their hunger. Sean can, too, but he has no interest in getting poked by the fire lizards. Sorka feeds a hatchling by hand, Sean has two, and before all is said and done, the two humans have Impressed three fire-lizards, not that they know this. Sean thinks about all the Travellers looking to get their own, as well as how the colonies are adapting to scavenging reptiles attacking children in their homes at night. The reptiles have bitten children in blankets, and attempts at using them as a foodstuff failed – snake flesh is poisonous and causes swelling in the mouth. So the word goes out among the Travellers that the snakes get killed, and the Travellers put in a request for dogs so as to help with that problem. The Travellers are unconvinced that the fire lizards will be all that helpful in dealing with the snakes, but they let Sean keep and look after them. Sorka’s family is much more enthusiastic about the presence of the fire lizard, and several scientists stop by to help examine it as well.

“Were you the only lucky one?” her father asked her in a low voice while the two biologists were engrossed in photographing the sleeping creature.
“Sean took two brown ones home. They have an awful time with snakes in their camp.”
“There’re homes waiting on the Canadian Square,” her father reminded her. “And they’d have the place to themselves.”
All the ethnic nomads in the colony’s complement had been duly alloted living quarters, thoughtfully set to the edge of Landing, where they might not feel so enclosed. But after a few nights, they had all gone, melting into the unexplored lands beyond the settlement.

Of course they disappeared. Since you all think of them as “ethnic nomads” and believe that they would be happy living together on the edge of town, part of the world they reject and only interact with on occasion, happy to shoulder the burden of being “those people” that everyone silently or openly accuses of being the cause of societal ills.

This is just another symptom of the racism of the Federated Sentient Planets. The language choices when discussing race to this point all try to get across the idea that racism and several other -isms are the problems of the distant past, the subjects of antiseptic language, certainly not applicable to today’s time. It sounds like White people talking about how racism ended and slavery ended and all these things of the past should be gotten rid of, because they aren’t needed any more. Because, of course, the White people don’t see it, or because the White people use definitions that say it’s done, even though it’s pretty clear that there’s something going on. If you accused anyone from the colony groups of being racists, they’d flatly deny it. And then arrange things so that all the nomadic groups are all together in the edge of town, because that would make them feel less constrained by the people who don’t understand any of them at all. Funny how future society manages to reflect the moral sensibilities of 1980s Terra.

On the plot again, the scientists, for their part, want to take and examine the fire lizard, which distresses Sorka and prompts an intervention from her father, asking for time to have the lizard acclimate to Sorka. The scientists describe the kind of observations they’d like Sorka to make, and she correctly deduces that the fire lizard attached to her because of how hungry it was when it hatched.

These bits of knowledge that the colonists are discovering that are already woven completely into the fabric of later Pern run the risk of seeming too clever, like an author winking at us in the ninth book, instead of things coming to a more natural discovery. Also, it turns out that we should have been paying more attention to the fact that the author is living in Ireland. Sorka’s Irish, but that seemed like just one of those elements for flavor, until…

“Good work, Sorka. Just shows what old Irish know-how can achieve.”
“Peter Oliver Plunkett Hanrahan,” his wife immediately chided him. “Start thinking Pernese. Pernese. Pernese.” With each repetition she raised her voice in mock emphasis.
“Pernese, not Irish. We’re Pernese,” Red obediently chanted. Grinning unrepentantly, he did a dance step out of the house to the tempo of “Pernese, Pernese.”

…oh, right. Clearly, those people hoping that stepping on to a new world would erase differences between ethnic groups, races, and religious beliefs are deluding themselves. To the credit of the author, there aren’t all that many people on this colonization trip that did think that. Most people here have instead been motivated by self-interest and greed.

Sorka’s discovery nets her the honor of lighting the evening bonfire to the cheers of the colonists and her incredible embarrassment. Even Boll and Benden are in attendance, cheering along. Sorka tries to give credit where it’s due by indicating that Sean has them, too, but she understands that such things will fall unheard and unremarked. After that, as it did in the Ninth Pass, there’s a run on “dragonets”, as they are officially named by the colonists. Sorka names her bronze Duke, and the colonists have to deal with the voracious appetite and the skin-cracking growth, for which her father makes a salve of “local fish oils” with a pediatrician and a biologist assisting – it’s super effective, and the pediatrician has the pharmacist make more for dry skin generally. The biologists keep trying to examine Duke with equipment, except Duke keeps disappearing every time someone wants to get their hands on them. When the biologists try, Duke hyperspace hops and settles on Sorka, very angry and very unwilling to move. This makes the biologists very “Hrm. SCIENCE?” about it, but Duke is pretty adamant about not being examined by anything, and eventually, Sorka heads off to meet Sean at the place where the eggs hatched.

The narrative shifts back to Telgar, who is settling in as the other viewpoint character for this narrative (yay, two women as main characters!), as she is contemplating how to get rid of an unwanted suitor, while that suitor performs aerial stunts on an air sled. Others in the area remark on the foolishness of the stunts, but Telgar beats a hasty retreat when one of the other women, Svenda, appears. Svenda does want the suitor and takes to “snide, jealous remarks” about the matter, despite Telgar assuring us that she’s not doing anything to encourage him. Her interests are apparently with a lanky engineer and miner of India-type descent, but she can’t seem to get him to acknowledge her feelings in the same way that she can’t get her suitor to go away.

As Telgar gets status reports from the mining team, she makes a funny and very accurate observation, prompted by seeing one of the team with a drink in hand.

One of the first things human settlers seemed to do on any new world was to make an immediate and intensive search for fermentables, and to devise am alcoholic beverage on the quickest possible time. Every lab at Landing, no matter what its basic function, had experimented with distilling and fermenting local fruits into potable beverages. The quikal still had been the first piece of equipment assembled when the mining expedition had set up its base camp, and no one had objected when Cobbler and Ozzie had spent the first day producing imbibables from the fermented juices they had brought along. Svenda had berated them fiercely, while Tarvi and Sallah had merely carried on with the surveying. That first evening in the camp the drink had been more than a tradition: it was an achievement.

Alcohol has some interesting properties, most importantly as an antimicrobial agent (at least for Terran microbes) – if you’re not sure whether the water is safe to drink, there’s a good chance you can kill most, if not all, of the hostile stuff in it by using it to make alcoholic drinks. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be particularly strong stuff to do the job. So, while it seems like a funny story or a thing to poke fun at people with, a working still is a useful survival tool. You can’t get all your nutrition that way, of course, but it does mean being able to drink in fluids.

The talk at the mining camp is that the current site is definitely going to work as a place to establish refineries and mine metals and minerals, and then use the waterways to transport the refined metals to Landing for use. At the level of technology established by the charter, which Svenda is unhappy with and considers foolish. The other news is that everyone is requested to go back to Landing for a Thanksgiving celebration, since the last load of starship material has touched down on Pern. Sallah is unimpressed, and her suitor pinches her chin while complimenting her work ethic as an attempt at a prelude to a kiss.

Seeing that he meant to kiss her, Sallah ducked away, grinning to take away the sting of rejection.

That’s probably why he is still pursuing you, Sallah – he hasn’t been given a direct and unmistakable enough no to get the hint. That’s not to blame her for her choices – given how well the descendants of these men will treat the women around them, it would probably take detonating a nuclear weapon of NOPE for them to get the hint. Past that, considering that this man is already more than willing to violate her personal space and boundaries for a kiss, despite getting no explicit permissions to even consider it, there may not be any sort of thing Sallah can do to discourage that kind of behavior. So, it might be that Sallah’s self-preservation that keeps her from giving a direct no signal, in case her suitor is the kind that would get violent upon rejection. One would hope that a future society would not still have douchebags like this, but again, we find that the future has the cultural norms of the Terran time period of the book.

As for Sallah’s B-plot, she saw the pilot, Kenjo, continuing to hoard and stash fuel for some unknown purpose. Then she overheard Avril talking about the rich gemstone seams on the planet and their use on “civilized” worlds with Stev Kimmer, convincing him that he wants to use his stake acres to own the island where those gems are. The narrative them reminds us that Avril is supposed to be seen as crude in more than just her avarice.

“I’m not going to live out the rest of my life in this backwater, not when I’ve discovered the means to live the style of life I very much prefer.” Again there was that rippling laugh and then a long silence, broken by the sound of moist lips parting. “But while I’m here, and you’re here, Kimmer, let’s make the most of it. Here and now, under the stars.”
Sallah had slipped away, both embarrassed and disgusted by Avril’s blatant sexuality. Small wonder Paul Benden had not kept the woman in his bed. He was a sensual man, Sallah thought, but unlikely to appreciate Avril’s crude abandon for long. Ju Adjai, elegant and serene, was far more suitable, even if neither appeared to be rushing a noticeable alliance.
But Avril’s voice had dripped with an insatiable greed.

It’s still a pretty standard trope, for whatever reason, to portray a woman with ambition as someone who will sleep with anyone to get her way. Considering the patriarchy that Pern will become, it’s tactically sound to do so, I suppose, but with the descriptor we got of Avril as having ethnic features, this also becomes the trope of the black woman with the voracious sexual appetite, the opposite of Sallah’s disgust and Ju’s likely more repressed or slow-burning variety of interest. Avril’s yet another in a long line of women being disapproved of by the narrative, although this time the narrative is using a character, rather than just stating it directly.

We’re told that the distance between Pern and any of the other members of the FSP wouldn’t bring anyone around to exploit the gemstones and precious metals, but Sallah is confused about why Kenjo is hoarding fuel and wonders how she can report Avril without also having to report Kenjo. She works out which of the senior staff would be best to tell about it, grouses at Avril for being selfish and working against the idea of a “secure, bountiful future, without prejudice,” and then everybody goes back to Landing for the party, where Telgar tells Ongola about the whole thing. It goes over better than expected, because apparently the senior staff has been planning for the eventuality that people will cause trouble, once they realize that there’s no going back and they really did sign on to be there the rest of their lives.

The party itself has a lot of musicians, dancers, and instrumentalists, all taking turns and helping with the music and song… until there’s an earthquake, that is, and everyone scrambles to see what happened and where. It turns out to have been a small quake that did no damage, but now there’s a team on their way to check it out. The next part picks up after the expedition went out, with the dolphins having rung the tsunami bell and complaining that none of the humans actually did anything about it, as well as status reports about the progress of plants, mining sites, and animals – in all cases, some varieties appear to be doing well, others are not thriving, and for the most part, genetic engineering is not being recommended for anyone or anything, as there’s enough diversity of species so far.

At that point, we’ll leave off, before Sorka starts to adventure again and likely makes another major discovery.