Dragonsdawn: The Morning After

Last time, there was a lot of governance and philosophy around keeping an eye on potential troublemakers, and then the narrative snuck off to watch Sallah drug her otherwise ace love interest with an apparently effective aphrodisiac and then have sex with him. And we’re supposed to be okay with that, like all the other instances of sexual assault and rape in this series.

Dragonsdawn: Part One and Part Two: Content Notes: Depictions of Death

The narrative zips back to Landing, where animal births and dragonets are the order of everything – the dragonets are extremely effective at keeping the sheep and goats protected.

Oh, and Pol and Bay discover what happens when dragonets that are Impressed mate with each other, and then decide to put in for shared housing afterward. Because of this, there’s permission sought and granted to enhance the empathic abilities of the dragonets with “mentasynth” techniques. Which works quite well, and generates some new issues – enhanced dragonets communicate their emotional states very well, for example. And the dragonets can tell without fail when someone is about to give birth, animal or human, so the obstetricians just have to spot dragonets on a roof to know where they’re going to be needed, and can tell how well things are progressing by listening to the intensity of the dragonet songs.

The actual action of this section is a mate giving birth to the colt that will become the copy horse that Sean bargained for. Sean is very happy to see him, but has apparently maintained skepticism about the matter, and continues to do so as to whether this horse will turn out completely the same. Which utterly pisses Sorka off, and she storms away, leaving Sean completely confused as to why. Red offers no help whatsoever on that regard to Sean, but then privately muses about the relationship between the two that he sees. That his daughter has been menstruating for a year at this point, and clearly dotes on Sean, who has improved his reading and writing skills and taken a real shine to animal husbandry. Others are seeing them as a couple, and Red isn’t sure if this exasperation is the beginning of a new phase. Sorka has had sex ed, after all, but Red feels out of his depth and resolves to talk to his wife about the matter. His second trimester pregnant wife that’s working at the day care center, that is. I don’t quite think that anyone has yet figured out that empathic dragonets affect people other than just their impressed partners with their emotional states.

The narrative sends us back into Avril’s perspective, where she is irritated at people not telling her things, somewhat suspicious of her allies, and then lets slip her actual purpose for joining the expedition to us – she wanted to rule the planet. Lest this be seen as legitimate ambition, right after that motivation is revealed, Avril recalls lying her way through the lie detector that was supposed to weed her out. Having failed to secure Benden, Avril now just wants to get away on a ship, and is unafraid of using her sexuality to assemble a cast of useful cronies. And to possibly try and foement sufficient discord to overthrow Benden and rule the planet herself. Which hasn’t happened yet. So, instead, she’s biding her time.

As if anyone on this goody-good world is checking up on anyone else! “We are all equal here.” Our brave and noble leaders have so ordained it. With equal rights to share in Pern’s wealth. You just bet. Only I’ll get my equal share before anyone else and shake this planet’s dirt off my boots!

It seems like this should have been part of the plan – give everyone the option of returning back to the FSP with whatever wealth they have accumulated after a set amount of time, in case they get buyer’s remorse or they find that they can’t hack it in a low technology world. They only have the one opportunity, of course, and nothing else, but it seems like after three to five years, those who want to go will know it.

Avril is meeting with Stev Kimmer at this point, and he shows her emeralds and other gemstones that he has already pulled out. In her calculating way, Avril makes with the politeness and interest, even as she still tries to figure out how she managed to have Benden lose interest in her. And she’s rather miffed about having received a tiny share, despite being the navigator that got the colony ships safely to their destination. Returning out of her reverie at the impatience in Stev’s voice, they both head off to discover and see more of the gemstones. And this ends Part One.

I still feel like much of this part could have been deleted or moved to a place like the Dragonlover’s Guide, as it feels a lot more like the history of the colony, through the perspectives of a few people, than the beginning of a story. Avril hasn’t exactly made a whole lot of progress on her plan, and the bits not involving Sean, Sorka, and the dragonets have mostly been nods to other things and logistics. In terms of having a plot, this segment really doesn’t. And then Part Two starts with Threadfall, right at the beginning.

We also get the earliest recorded date of Pern – 4.5.08, which makes me wonder again what the actual months and years are like on Pern, considering the only official designation so far has been the seven day week. If everything is the same as it is on Terra in terms of rotational period and revolution period, great, but that should probably have been explicitly acknowledged somewhere.

Also, in between the two parts, there has clearly been a time skip, as the child that was still in Sabra’s womb is now three years old.

In any case, Part Two opens with Sabra Stein-Ongola trying to puzzle out why the family dragonet is trying to keep the family inside, after the dolphins have been trying to explain that marine life have been rushing to food and the herders are trying to figure out why the dragonets are trying to keep the animals inside. Nobody understands the danger coming, of course – it looks like a gray cloud off in the distance, threatening rain, perhaps, but not anything more. Sabra notices the conspicuous lack of dragonets, even though there’s a birth impending, and tries to get a hold of someone about it.

The dragonets, on the other hand, go to whom they think will be able to understand best – Sean and Sorka. Who sort the pictures they’re getting from their respective fairs and then notice the oddity of the cloud that is arriving. Before they do anything about it, though, the dragonets spur their horses into a panic gallop back toward shelter, with the dragonets providing stabs and spurs every time the horses try to obey their riders. The available shelter, in this case, is under a ledge in a deep lake in a ravine. Eventually the two get a proper look at what they are running from.

“Why?” Sorka still asked. “It’s only rain coming.” She was swimming beside Doove [her horse], one hand on the pommel of her saddle, the other holding the reins, letting the mare’s efforts drag her forward. “Where’d they all go?”
Sean, swimming alongside Cricket [his horse], turned on his side to look back the way they had come. His eyes widened. “That’s not rain. Swim for it, Sorka! Swim for the ledge!”
She cast a glance over her shoulder and saw what had startled the usually imperturbable young man. Terror lent strength to her arm; tugging on the reins, she urged Doove to greater efforts. They were nearly to the ledge, nearly to what little safety that offered from the hissing silver fall that splatted so ominously across the woods they had only just left.

When it arrives to the lake, the horses are in full panic, the fish are ready to eat their fill, and Sean and Sorka observe the dragonets puffing flames at the Thread as it falls, keeping them and the horses safe.

“Jays, Sean, look what it does to the bushes!” She pointed to the shoreline. The thick clumps of tough bushes they had ridden through only moments before were no longer visible, covered by a writhing mass of “things” that seemed to enlarge as they watched. Sorka felt sick to her stomach, and only intense concentration prevented her from heaving her breakfast up. Sean had gone white about the mouth. His hands, moving rhythmically to keep him in position in the water, clenched into fists.

Watching Thread at work is apparently very nauseating. But here we are again, with someone on Pern in the water, under a ledge, while the Thread rains down around them, and with a runnerbeast, err, horse, that is. And about the right age, too, for both Menolly and her fair and Piemur and his Stupid. History repeats, apparently.

Back at Landing, Bay agrees the behavior of the dragonets is odd to Sabra and goes to get Pol, who doesn’t like the look of the incoming clouds, right before the dragonets return in force and basically herd everyone inside, stinking of sulfur and agitation. They’ve also brought friends to make sure all the life forms get inside. We get another look at what happens when Thread touches a thing.

They could see the individual elongated “raindrops” strike the surface, sometimes meeting only dust, other times writhing about the shrubs and grasses, which disappeared, leaving behind engorged sluglike forms that rapidly attacked anything green in their way. Pol’s nicely sprouting garden became a waste of squirming grayish “things”, bloating larger within seconds on each new feast.
[…Thread continues…]
She had been shocked by the sight of a full-grown cow reduced in a few moments to a seared corpse covered by a mass of writhing strings.

Pol observes the inability of Thread to eat stone and the vulnerability of plastics, while Bay points out the firepower the dragonets are bringing and their living shield over the house that is bringing a new life into the world during the Fall. The narrative does a quick flip to Ongola, who is sounding the alarm as he deals with having been hit by Thread, trying to raise all the hunters and fishers out and about, so as to try and get them under shelter, and showing us how he ended up getting hit, the way the Thread ate his wool sweater, and the vulnerability it has to water. The settlements report in and send offers of aid, including one Sallah Telgar-Andiyar. So, apparently, that one night in the caves was enough for both of them to firm a contract partnership. I do really wish we knew what Telgar’s victim had thought about this whole affair and what went into the discussions about partnerships, but I guess we won’t get any of that.

In passing, it’s noted that the Thread cloud didn’t register on any meteorological instruments, so there wasn’t any advance warning before the dragonets started trying to protect everyone. Even with the dragonets, the casualties of everyone who has gone out, and of the nomadic camps, is severe, since Thread eats just about everything, including some of the building materials for houses. It’s a bit convenient to have all the ethnic nomads basically reduced to a tiny fragment of their previous selves, which I’m sure will make the unacknowledged racists a little happier that their planet is no longer contaminated by different groups.

As it is, the main administrators and scientists convene to try and get answers and explanations – the otherwise unexplained pockmarks now have an explanation, and according to those that investigated, the period of time between attacks is about 150 years. Which leaves the only unanswered question as to how long the attack will last. Thus ends the first segment of Part Two.

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21 thoughts on “Dragonsdawn: The Morning After

  1. depizan July 7, 2016 at 10:53 am

    the obstetricians just have to spot dragonets on a roof to know where they’re going to be needed

    Because they’re never needed until right before the birth? Maybe humanity in general has been genetically engineered prior to this. I’m still getting the impression that birth is way easier and less risky than it would be under these circumstances. (Or maybe they did bring along some method of duplicating medical supplies.)

    Avril recalls lying her way through the lie detector that was supposed to weed her out.

    This is extra odd, considering that the various nomadic groups were foisted on them. But what traits were they looking for and looking to exclude. (And why in the galaxy did she want to rule this colony? Because villains just want to rule the world? I’ve always felt that they wouldn’t enjoy that half so much as they think.)

    the Thread cloud didn’t register on any meteorological instruments

    Once again, I feel like the futuristic colonists are operating with technology that’s less good than Earth technology at the time the book was written. I mean, it could turn out that thread is made of ~~~something~~~ that doesn’t show up on instruments, but that just feels super convenient. Especially as I can’t figure out any reason why it wouldn’t show up.

    the otherwise unexplained pockmarks now have an explanation, and according to those that investigated, the period of time between attacks is about 150 years.

    If they figured that out by dating the pockmarks, shouldn’t they be able to figure out how long it lasts by the age range of the pockmarks?

  2. genesistrine July 7, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    @Silver Adept: Oh, and Pol and Bay discover what happens when dragonets that are Impressed mate with each other, and then decide to put in for shared housing afterward. Because of this, there’s permission sought and granted to enhance the empathic abilities of the dragonets with “mentasynth” techniques.

    Because having creatures that are closely enough bonded with their humans that they trigger them into having sex when they mate is so awesome that the link has to be made stronger.

    I would just like to point out that there is, apparently, no age restriction on fire lizard Impression.

    Sorka has had sex ed, after all

    There is a hell of a lot of variation in what “sex ed” covers over and within different cultures, and there’s no hint as to where Pern and/or the Hanrahans fall on the scale. Sorka’s menstruating, so she’s fertile. Have her parents had the contraception talk with her, or aren’t they worried about the possibility of a grandchild in a year or two? Or is that all part of ~NATURE~ too?

    And the lie detector is hilarious. How many other people lied their way through it I wonder, and what did they lie about? Pern just gets clusterfuckier every post….

    Watching Thread at work is apparently very nauseating.

    I can believe that; it must trigger most people’s wiggly-maggots-ugh response anyway, even without the eating-its-way-through-everything thing.

    @depizan: I’m still getting the impression that birth is way easier and less risky than it would be under these circumstances.

    They’ll be healthy women who’ve had good childhood and maternal nutrition, and went through a screening process that could easily have included “weed out anyone who looks likely to have childbirth problems”. I’m inclined to let that pass.

    the Thread cloud didn’t register on any meteorological instruments

    Once again, I feel like the futuristic colonists are operating with technology that’s less good than Earth technology at the time the book was written. I mean, it could turn out that thread is made of ~~~something~~~ that doesn’t show up on instruments, but that just feels super convenient. Especially as I can’t figure out any reason why it wouldn’t show up.

    Well, yeah. What “meteorological instruments” are we talking about? Anemometers? Rain radar? Bits of seaweed nailed over the door? Is Thread invisible to radar? It’s dense enough to sink in water….

    the otherwise unexplained pockmarks now have an explanation, and according to those that investigated, the period of time between attacks is about 150 years.

    If they figured that out by dating the pockmarks, shouldn’t they be able to figure out how long it lasts by the age range of the pockmarks?

    I’m trying to figure out methods. The pockmarks are presumably where Thread got lucky and ate everything, and nothing could regrow until the Pass was over, so the date of the oldest plants/organic remains would give you that date. But as for figuring out when the Pass started the only thing I can think of would be ice/lakebed cores – pollen counts should drop dramatically when Thread starts munching its way though the flora. You should be able to get a pretty decent idea of the periodicity that way; a nice table of historical Passes.

    But I bet you anything you like this gang of divs didn’t have any interest in historical climate change on this planet they’ve stuck themselves with. Team Thread yay! EAT the humans EAT the humans YAY!

    (*let’s pretend we don’t care where the seeds for regrowth came from after 50 years of uncontrolled Threadfall….)

  3. depizan July 7, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    They’ll be healthy women who’ve had good childhood and maternal nutrition, and went through a screening process that could easily have included “weed out anyone who looks likely to have childbirth problems”. I’m inclined to let that pass.

    If they actually seemed like a futuristic society, tech-wise (not counting the genetic engineering and space travel), I’d probably give it a pass, too. But just in this section we’ve got weather instruments (of some sort) that somehow don’t pick up thread (for unexplained reasons) and lie detectors that are just as wildly inaccurate as modern day ones. (And that’s after volcanology fail and a complete inability to find signs of thread both when the planet was first scouted and now, even though there really probably should be evidence for it on the planet. And now apparently there is, because consistency is for people who aren’t Anne McCaffrey.)

    The pregnancy thing just bothers me more than most of it because it’s yet another example of her weird treatment of women. It’s like she, like the colonists, thinks nothing can go wrong in childbirth because it’s ~~natural~~. Women are just made for it, so no biggy. Which is an attitude that has a bad effect on real women out here in real life.

    Not that I’d want to see how she’d handle someone having unexpected complications of pregnancy. I’m sure that would just be a different horrible fail instead.

    I don’t know. I can’t quite articulate it, but I’m just super skeeved out by everything around the colony’s approach to reproduction and continuing itself. Like there’s this undercurrent of women are for breeding, as it should be. And dismissing any possibility of pregnancy complications just feels like more of that.

  4. WanderingUndine July 7, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    Personally, I’m glad Part One wasn’t omitted or relegated to a reference book. I enjoy exploring-strange-ecosystems stories as a rule, and found the developing society here (and in the rest of Dragonsdawn) more interesting than the one it became for the remainder of the Pern books. And while the utter obliteration of the Tuareg camp — plant-based-plastic houses, all of the people except two babies in a metal cabinet — may have been “convenient” for some of the other colonists, for me it was the single most haunting and chilling paragraph in the whole series. I’m normally a fan of all-consuming monsters, so that’s impressive.

    But again, this was the first Pern book I read, so everything was as new to me as it was to the colonists.

    And yeah, I’ve always been annoyed by the approving depiction of mandatory and always-welcome pairing and parenthood that on Pern didn’t change much with time. I’d like to see a positive portrayal of a Pernese character — especially a woman — who doesn’t have or want children. Or one who is and remains happy without being in romantic or sexual relationships.

  5. emmy July 8, 2016 at 10:29 am

    On the meteorology side of things, I wonder if she meant that threadfalls don’t register on barometric pressure readings the way ‘normal’ storms do? It’s a common tool for weather forecasting, and commonly used on ships (McCaffrey liked sailing, right?).

    Even given the later hypotheses about Thread, I’d think it really ought to show up on radar, so ‘logically’ Pern must not be using radar. I guess they figure it’s not needed for their low-tech, no-flying world. How much infrastructure do you need for working radar systems, anyway? Decent radar and air traffic control WOULD be handy at some points in Pern’s history.

  6. Firedrake July 8, 2016 at 10:49 am

    I can’t help thinking that Thread clouds in space really ought to show up to naïve optical observation – at least with a decent telescope or pair of binoculars.

  7. depizan July 8, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    @ emmy

    I’d think it really ought to show up on radar, so ‘logically’ Pern must not be using radar. I guess they figure it’s not needed for their low-tech, no-flying world

    Which seems rather dim of them (not that that’s inconsistent with what we’ve seen so far), since it puts them at unnecessary risk from severe weather (tornadoes, hail storms, lightning, etc).

    @Firedrake

    But why would they study space? They are but simple folks.

    In other words, yeah, this is looking more and more like they only didn’t have warning of thread because they have all the collective wisdom of pocket lint. Perhaps genetic engineering wasn’t necessary for the Pernese of the future. . :\

  8. Silver Adept July 9, 2016 at 8:02 am

    So, a thing that I haven’t been calling much attention to in my focus on the social aspects of the colony is that the people have what they refer to as “sleds” that are flying machines of some sort – they’re about to become more important because Thread, but there is actually a radio tower and things in the air on Pern almost daily, so air traffic control is a thing, and radar might be, too. So for Thread to have escaped notice by the instruments requires it to be a stealth invader that can rain mass death. It is most likely that this part is a meteorology fail, and that “people who can detect bad weather patterns” were apparently not on the list of necessary personnel to take to an unknown world.

    As for the rest of these excellent comments, fertility is always celebrated as a good thing on the colony. And it’s almost always in monogamous couples. Plus, with dragonets broadcasting on a wide band, I’ll bet there are a lot of couplings that happen between people who would otherwise never want or desire to be together, just like it is in later Passes.

    I’d love if the narrative gave more detail about what sex ed entails, but Mairi is intentionally vague about it in her own head and so we don’t know. With all the pregnancies, I’m guessing the answer is “not much.”

    As a space fantasy, while Pern was rampantly misogynistic and static to an impossible degree, it at least tried to keep to a consistent set of rules. Dragonsdawn is messing that up to a considerable degree, calling into question as to whether or not the Ancients were actually smart enough to survive on a different world in colonial conditions.

  9. depizan July 9, 2016 at 10:39 am

    there is actually a radio tower and things in the air on Pern almost daily, so air traffic control is a thing, and radar might be, too.

    Radar really should be a thing if there’s air traffic. If the “sleds” are all fitted with the equivalent of TCAS , maybe they could get away without radar. Assuming that they only flew in good weather.

    (Of course, TCAS actually requires radar, but the colonists might not know that.)

    Then again, given everything else in the colony, I wouldn’t be shocked if they thought they could fly by the seat of their pants and just see and avoid each other and otherwise throw out all aviation advancements because civilization sucks ™ .

  10. genesistrine July 9, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    @depizan: I don’t know. I can’t quite articulate it, but I’m just super skeeved out by everything around the colony’s approach to reproduction and continuing itself. Like there’s this undercurrent of women are for breeding, as it should be. And dismissing any possibility of pregnancy complications just feels like more of that.

    Oh, no argument about the wider context. Creeeeepy. She has the “all women naturally want to have babies” thing thoroughly internalised – though it’s interesting that she seemed perfectly comfortable with the Pernese fostering system in earlier books, to the point that she admitted that it was better that Lessa hadn’t been the one to raise Felessan. But the colonists have none of that in evidence, even though you’d think the contract system would lend itself to it.

    @WanderingUndine: I’d like to see a positive portrayal of a Pernese character – especially a woman – who doesn’t have or want children. Or one who is and remains happy without being in romantic or sexual relationships.

    I’d suggest Silvina, but I’ve read ahead…. She and Manora seem to get along perfectly happily with no romantic ties though – headwomen do seem to be acceptably single as a general rule.

    @emmy: On the meteorology side of things, I wonder if she meant that threadfalls don’t register on barometric pressure readings the way ‘normal’ storms do? It’s a common tool for weather forecasting, and commonly used on ships (McCaffrey liked sailing, right?).

    That’s a really interesting point. The Thread cloud wouldn’t form in response to meteorological conditions like a normal cloud would, but surely that amount of mass coming in from space would displace some air and cause some pressure change? But how much faster would that travel than the Threadfall?

    But what you should see is the Thread hitting atmosphere – it should look like a humongous meteor shower. Though all the Threadfalls described seem to happen during the day….

    @Firedrake: I can’t help thinking that Thread clouds in space really ought to show up to naïve optical observation – at least with a decent telescope or pair of binoculars.

    Um, I dunno. Small spores, against a black background. Even if they’re light-coloured, trying to distinguish them from stars/nebulae/non-Thread through a moving atmosphere with binoculars/telescopes that are presumably designed for ground observation rather than astronomical….

    Of course the Pernese still presumably have whatever observational equipment was mounted on the starships and useless once they’d arrived, but they seem to have dumped the concept of weather satellites in favour of dolphin warnings (that they then ignore…).

    @depizan: Then again, given everything else in the colony, I wouldn’t be shocked if they thought they could fly by the seat of their pants and just see and avoid each other and otherwise throw out all aviation advancements because civilization sucksTM.

    My bet’s on that.

  11. Firedrake July 9, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    genesistrine, you may well be right. My argument is that something that looks like rainfall under a cloud, i.e. a dark smudge against the Rayleigh-scattered daytime sky, is going to be a dark smudge against the starry sky too. (And that’s assuming it’s so thoroughly black as not simply to reflect light and be seen that way.) Yes, there probably is a sweet spot where it’s not obvious, especially if they don’t look at their night sky much.

  12. depizan July 9, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    But what you should see is the Thread hitting atmosphere – it should look like a humongous meteor shower.

    Wait… Thread is vulnerable to fire. How is it surviving atmospheric entry? If it weren’t all wiggly while falling from the sky, I’d say, okay, it has some kind of protective shell. But a protective shell that burns up completely yet perfectly protects something vulnerable to fire is getting pretty far into convenient.

    Um, I dunno. Small spores, against a black background.

    Yet they’re concentrated thick enough to be mistaken for clouds once they’re in the atmosphere. Wouldn’t they block out the stars en mass? (I really do not have a good feel for how this whole Threadfall business works.)

  13. genesistrine July 9, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    We’re told it’s spores in space and Thread once it hits atmosphere, so I’m assuming it grows on the way down. I dunno, expecting anything on Pern to make sense when looked at up close is… optimistic to say the least.

    Also Thread seems to have had an attack of revisionism in this book. All the previous descriptions have it as burrowing – it eats stuff on the way down, but then goes underground and spreads; it doesn’t stay on the surface and wiggle around grossing people out. Does it somehow change tactics over the centuries? Or is this just more McInconsistencies?

  14. Wingsrising July 10, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Thread really is treated weirdly and inconsistently throughout the whole series. Because the earlier books (later in time) act as if even one Thread left to burrow can destroy vast tracts of land — that indeed it will keep going indefinitely — but this can’t possibly be true, or all life on the planet would have been destroyed long before humans arrived. (And indeed, that might be why it’s revised here: because obviously the colonists, not knowing about Thread, wouldn’t have destroyed it all in midair, and if the burrows weren’t self-limiting that would have been the end of the book right there as everything was destroyed.)

    My biggest annoyance with the treatment of Thread, though, is that in Dragonsong McCaffery herself noted (in the voice of Menolly) that the whole point of dragons is to clear all the Thread mid-air, so there’s little if any Thread to fall on people who happen to be outside… then promptly forgets about it later in the book, when Menolly and dragonriders both treat her being outside in Threadfall as an emergency. In reality, the way the situation is described it would make sense that people would want to be inside during Threadfall as a safety precaution (as some Thread does sneak through the dragons) but it wouldn’t be the life-or-death thing it’s treated as being unless you were in an area not protected by dragons.

  15. genesistrine July 10, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    all life on the planet would have been destroyed long before humans arrived

    True, but it’s pretty poor form to retcon it by completely changing Thread behaviour. My preferred fix would be to have the grubs or a similar lifeform pre-existing and the humans wiping them out either accidentally or because ew, gross, and our ecologists say they don’t have a unique role in the ecosystem so who cares anyway.

    (This works better in the original prologue, which gives the colonists a couple of centuries to spread out and mess up the anti-Thread ecology, but I like that timescale better anyway. It would give us more of a chance to see the kind of society the Pernese are trying to build. And to see it foul up appallingly, on all the evidence….)

    Though that of course means that – horrors! – F’lar and Lessa were wrong when they decided the grubs were created by the genetic engineers, but it was still a perfectly sound hypothesis from what they knew.

    I actually don’t mind the disconnect between dragons-clear-Thread and people-are-terrified-of-Threadfall – they’re brought up to be terrified of Thread and stay undercover during Fall, so they freak out and panic even though it’s technically not justified.

  16. depizan July 10, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    The behavior of Thread has always been wildly inconsistent – a single thread eating everything, or even large swathes of stuff, also doesn’t fit with the fact that we’ve had people get Threadscored along. I guess they could all have been lucky and the Thread grazed them or bounced off them, but that also doesn’t seem entirely consistent with how its described. (If Thread “burns” on contact – that is, eats through some sort of contact dissolving agent and then absorbs stuff through its cell walls – how are fish and the grubs and whatnot able to eat it? Does that make more sense than it appears to? And if the fish have adapted to be able to eat it, wouldn’t those adaptations have been noticed by the colonists? Wow, fish here sure have extra powerful mucus membranes in their digestive systems! (or whatever))

    The sad thing is, F’lar and Lessa being wrong about the grubs would actually be more interesting. And make Pern make more sense. You’d expect some land life to adapt.

  17. genesistrine July 11, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    AFAIR all the Threadscored people we’ve seen in previous books have been dragonriders in lizard leather, though, with immediate access to freezing-via-teleport – until we get to the one guy in DD who finds Thread takes plenty of time to chomp its way through his woolly jumper. :sigh:

    Fish eat “drowned” Thread – I don’t imagine it needs to breathe if it burrows, so maybe the water dissolves whatever the acid or enzyme or what-have-you is that it eats its way through organics with? Though that raises the question of does rain or damp air make Thread less virulent too? How damp does earth/mud/swamp have to be to drown it?

    Re F’lar and Lessa being wrong, I’m becoming more and more convinced that McCaffrey was some sort of secret Objectivist. It was the logical and rational conclusion to draw! Therefore it couldn’t possibly have been wrong!

    But yes. I’m wondering what Jack Cohen actually did with this ecology barring hexapodal tunnel snakes – there are so many interesting possibilities that have been totally ignored. Once you realise that Pernese ecology must have evolved to deal with Thread and recover after a 50-year-period of Thread devouring everything organic on land and above an unspecified depth of water… plants with underwater/land-based forms and seeds that can grow into either depending on where they fall? Ones that secrete calcium/silicon shells? Animals that can hold their breath underwater for an hour, or have the instinct to make breathing bubbles like the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diving_bell_spider ?

    You could have so much fun designing that ecology, and then having puzzled colonists trying to figure out why the hell things evolved that way, but nope….

  18. depizan July 11, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Fish eat “drowned” Thread

    Even if it did need to breathe, we still have to assume that (unless the fish do have special mucus in their digestive tracts) the water also neutralizes the whatever. … Unless Thread is literally eating people. But that’s really, really not how it’s been described. (At least not until this book.)

    How damp does earth/mud/swamp have to be to drown it?

    Could you cover yourself in a layer of mud and be safe? (As long as you kept the mud moist. Or maybe even if you didn’t. It doesn’t eat dirt, right?)

    You could have so much fun designing that ecology, and then having puzzled colonists trying to figure out why the hell things evolved that way, but nope….

    YES! That could’ve been so cool. It’s not just a colonization story, it’s a scientific mystery. (Sort of like that one guy who wrote medical sci-fi…James White, I think?…or Star Trek.) Sadly…

  19. Lodrelhai (@Lodrelhai) July 12, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Is it possible that Threadscores as we see on dragonriders are actually burns? Thread’s supposed to fall in casings, and has to build up some massive heat while falling (which somehow burns off the casing but leaves the fire-sensitive organism inside unscathed). I suppose it’s possible the casing actually is unharmed by the fall and shatters on impact to release the Thread, but then dragonfire and flamethrowers need to be hotter than reentry temperatures to get through the casing. Also, that wouldn’t explain how cold temperatures kill it in the air – I seem to remember back in DQ Thread had already started falling but nobody realized it because all patrols ran into was this strange black dust in the air.

    Personally, I’m interested in how Thread could’ve possibly evolved to act the way it does. The stuff exists, dormant, in the system’s Oort Cloud. The Red Planet apparently picks it up when passing through, brings it to the inner system, where it falls on planets, burns off its protective casing, eats whatever it finds, and apparently dies. How does it reproduce? How did it end up in the Oort cloud? What kind of environmental pressures made it endure the extreme cold of deep space and the extreme heat of reentry, made it actively thrive in the same moderate temperatures as humans, but made comparatively mild temperatures of fire and ice fatal?

  20. genesistrine July 17, 2016 at 6:08 am

    @Lodrelhai: I guess it’s possible, but I don’t think it is because it’s burning-hot – you’d expect it to cool falling through the atmosphere and burn less at lower altitudes, which is never mentioned. Not that “never being mentioned before” doesn’t show up a lot in this series.

    The casings only came in in DD – well, the ones that landed and someone – Ted? – is collecting, anyway. And you’d think if those had existed previously in the series people would be all over them and roofing their houses with them and making Threadfall armour and flamethrower ground-crew boots and hats out of them, because they’ve got to be Thread-proof, right?

    I think Thread as something from a universe with different physical laws is a possibility. The kind of environment where it’d do well seems to be roughly human-habitable environments (pressure, temperature, maybe oxygen levels maybe not) but with low enough gravity that it could fire its space-adapted spores to fresh ground that it couldn’t get to any other way – separate worlds with thick enough atmospheres to burn away the casing and trigger the Thread hatch. The re-entry heat could be like those forest seeds that only germinate after a forest fire.

    But for that you need a lot of planetary bodies close to each other with separate and reasonably thick atmospheres at Earthlike pressure and temperature but with low enough gravity for biological spore launchers to work, and I don’t think that’s a possible thing with the laws of physics as we know them.

    Unless it’s originally from some form of habitat, like the giant-space-bag-of-breathable atmosphere in Karl Schroeder’s Virga series. Either naturally evolved or, as has been suggested, a bioweapon that got out of hand.

    Though given the Red Star’s anomalous orbital behaviour “slightly different laws of physics” is a very tempting explanation for me.

  21. zandilar July 18, 2016 at 2:17 am

    Umm.. On the topic of radar not picking the thread up… Radar isn’t perfect. In 1982 British Airways Flight 9 flew through volcanic ash in Indonesia because the weather radar hadn’t detected it. It almost crashed, except that they were able to restart some of the engines once they were out of the cloud. Happened again to KLM 867 in 1989, with the difference being that it happened during the day and even visually the ash was difficult to identify (again they were able to restart the engines). So who knows what the Pernese radar can detect? I suppose it is possible that the composition of thread is not detectable by their radar (which may not be the most up to date/state of the art equipment, because of any number of factors – power requirements, the size and weight of components, the colonists desire for a low tech society etc).

    Anyway, just a few thoughts I had while reading…

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