Dragonsdawn: Misfit Mobilization Moment

Last section, Thread continued to fall, the glaring holes in the EEC report (and the narrative) became more apparent, and the colonists decided they needed a central government again to keep them safe from Thread.

Dragonsdawn, Part Two: Content Notes: Feminine stereotypes

So, this chapter starts with the Reality Ensues part of what happens when you try to get an untrained non-military force up to spec with things they are untrained with.

“Practice” was not the appropriate term for the chaos that resulted. Kenjo was reduced to snarling preemptory orders over the comm unit as the inept but eager young pilots plummeted through the skies after Thread, frequently favoring one another with a glancing touch of HNO3.
Fighting Thread required entirely different techniques from hunting wherry or scoring a hit on a large flying machine driven by a reasonably intelligent enemy.
[…]
Nine domesticated dragonets fell victim to such inexpertise, and there was suddenly a marked decrease in the number of wild ones who joined the fray.
In the first hour of the Fall, seven sleds were involved in midair collisions, three badly damaged and two with cracked siliplex canopies which made them unairworthy. Even Kenjo’s sled bore scorch marks. Four broken arms, six broken or sprained hands, three cracked collarbones, and a broken leg put fourteen gunners out of action; many others struggled on with lacerations and bruises. No one had thought about rigging any safety harnesses for the flame-gunners.

Not everyone knows how to handle the sleds and the guns. And, apparently, nobody thought about what might happen to stop people from hitting each other or needed to accelerate and change direction in a hurry. This seems like a lack of basic thinking about the problem, or, possibly, the experts being unable to understand the beginner’s mind.

Having seen that they need more structure to their efforts, the squad leaders decide to keep each of their squads within a narrow band of altitude to avoid accidental flaming of each other and send them to sweep back and forth across the Thread, tactics that will still be basically in use by their descendants nearly two thousand years later, without improvements or changes. It does work at keeping the accidents down, however, and the tactical improvements shift to figuring out just what’s needed for ground crews, resupply, logistics, and medics. And another reminder that dragonets do know what they are doing, as Benden observes Sean and Sorka directing their fair to efficient ground work.

Much of the ground crew stays on for the night at their fighting line, with Sean and Sorka tending fire-dragonets by “slathering numb-weed on Threadscored wings and seared hide.” It’s only been a few days since Threadfall started, but all the vocabulary put into use by the descendants has already appeared, as well as the discovery of the numbweed plant (which may have been discovered in the eight years since Landing started) and its use. The narrative and the author, it seems, don’t want to go to the work of showing how these things arrived, and are just stashing them into the timeline wherever possible when the camera isn’t looking.

After tending to the dragonets, Sorka asks Sean for a massage of her shoulder, which also becomes a massage of her neck, and the two steal off for some sexytimes. (I think this is the first official confirmation of the two as a couple.) The narrative shifts away from them and to the conference of leaders, who understand their current solution is not going to work on the long term, as it relies on recharging the power packs for the sleds. Boll remarks that the dragonets are the best defense, but they’re too small, which sparks an idea from a lot of the other assembled leaders. We don’t get to see them explain it, though, because the narrative decides things are more important elsewhere.

More specifically, now is apparently the time to mention that Avril and company are still alive and gathering all sorts of gemstones to themselves. This morning is finding a beach with black diamonds for the taking. Avril collects everything she can, and apparently, Stev is unsurprised to find that the day after this discovery, Avril has disappeared, with a sled and the most precious gemstones collected.

Stev grinned maliciously. She might have ignored the mayday from Landing, but he had not. He had followed what was happening on the southern continent, and kept an eye to the east whenever a cloud appeared. He had made contingency plans. He had doubted Avril had. He would have liked to see her expression when she found out that Landing was swarming with industrious people, the takeoff grid crammed with sleds and technicians. So he roared with amusement when one of the apprentices anxiously reported that she could not find Avril anywhere.
Nabhi Nabol was not at all pleased.



Cocowhat by depizan

So, we are supposed to believe that Avril has not kept up with any news from Landing, despite having materials that came from there and would probably need to feed power from there. And despite a started desire to rule the planet as a substitute for not getting to rule by Benden’s side. And because she would need the craft that is stored at Landing to get out into orbit with her cargo. But in eight years, we’re supposed to believe that she has blithely assumed everyone would spread out and leave the craft there for the taking, and that the colony itself would succeed exactly according to its own timetable so that they’re wouldn’t be any people there that she couldn’t sneak in and steal the craft. Or some similarly improbable sequence of events. We’re supposed to believe that Avril hasn’t had enough interest in Landing to not know about Threadfall and all that has transpired, but Stev does. If the narrative explicitly mentioned that Stev had been hiding this information from Avril and redirecting her curiosity into greed and lust… it would still be unbelievable, but it would at least have a patina of a justification to it. Here, the narrative wants us to believe Avril is stupid, despite having portrayed her as a skilled manipulator of people earlier in the book, and giving her at least some credit to those skills. I can’t really believe that Avril would decide now is a good time to try and get away from Pern. It doesn’t work, and is the waste of a perfectly good scheme. There needs to be more explanation as to why Avril chooses this completely inopportune moment to go back.

The narrative changes to Kenjo, getting up into space on a mission to analyze Thread to see if the predictive programs are accurate, trace the source of the Thread and then destroy it before it enters the atmosphere. Kenjo is pretty pleased with how much fuel he’s hoarded and how he’s using it to fly a different kind of aircraft over the skies of Pern, aided by his wife, who appears to be a stereotype of some sort.

His wife, patient and calm, had ventured no opinion on his avocation, aiding him in its construction. A mechanical engineer, she managed the small hydroelectric plant that served their plateau home and three small stakes in the next valley. She had given him four children, three of them sons, was a good mother, and even managed to help him cultivate the fruit trees that he had raised as a credit crop.

She’s a saint, and apparently does all the necessary work for keeping them alive while Kenjo goes gallivanting off in the skies. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see toxic masculinity as Kenjo’s operating procedure in family relationships. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for her to keep Kenjo if she doesn’t want to. And the way that Kenjo is portrayed here, he wants to be back out in space, instead of in the ground, so maybe she will have the opportunity sooner rather than later.

The narrative switches back to Avril’s return to Landing, where she is livid and confused as to why there are so many people and the ship she was planning on using is gone (Kenjo’s got it right now). With nothing else to do, Avril disguises herself as a mechanic and sets off to poke around. Sallah spots her immediately, based on height, build, and gait, but dismisses the suspicion because the woman then stops to work on some equipment. After that, Sallah returns her attention to Drake, who is teaching volunteers how to fight off Thread. Here we hear the first contraction into “agenothree”, because we’ve gone too long without a call forward, but Sallah can’t keep her attention on the briefing, instead drifting in thought to her children and her husband. And the trouble she is having getting him to be lusty with her – to the point where she’s taken up trying to sex him up right when he wakes up, before he goes about on his day. At the end of the meeting, Sallah goes off to reminisce with a friend, with a casual remark asking about where Sorka is before the narrative shifts over to Sean, aggravated that Benden is asking for a cavalry unit with flamethrowers, and Sorka, who is trying to calm him down. As she watches Sean fume, Sorka notes to herself that his anger is actually a sign of how comfortable he is with her, and that he’s normally a very agreeable, sociable person, unless someone presses his Berserk Button about animals and/or dragonets. There’s a side effect of Sean’s anger – all their dragonets are out of the house, so once he’s calmed a bit, Sean decides it’s a good time for nookie.

But even when they were not in season, the creatures delighted in strong emotions, and with thirteen in a chorus of encouragement, the entire neighborhood would know what was happening in the Hanrahan-Connell quartets.

That has to be awkward. There’s no getting around dragonet gossip, so everybody knows when someone is knocking boots with someone else. I wonder if that makes the gossip more or less juicy when the fire lizards are involved.

After sex, Sorka frets that she hasn’t been formally married to Sean – her parents are on board, but his parents clearly have a different woman picked out for their son, someone in the Traveler community. Sorka also realizes that she really wants to have a baby with Sean, just in case something Thread happens to him, and now she understands they have enough credit to have their own stake together when they get paired.

The narrative shifts to Kitti Ping, her daughter, and the assembled high administrators of Landing, having a private meeting in Ping’s house. The chairs are arranged so that the short Ping is sitting tallest of all of the assembled, which Benden notices, before complaining in his mind about the discomfort of the stools. Everyone assembled has come to the same conclusion – Total Party Kill, unless Kitti and her daughter can use genetic engineering techniques to make the dragonets into dragons, with size, loyalty, and flaming ability to match. Kitti agrees, shocking everyone, but doesn’t guarantee any sort of success at the matter. And that ends the chapter.

Not exactly a cliffhanger, and the narrative runs into the problem of having to have things play out this way, or else it destroys its own timeline. The narrative has done a good job so far of keeping Thread menacing to the colonists, but it’s not always doing such a good job of holding the excitement of the reader.

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11 thoughts on “Dragonsdawn: Misfit Mobilization Moment

  1. depizan July 21, 2016 at 11:16 am

    fourteen gunners out of action; many others struggled on with lacerations and bruises. No one had thought about rigging any safety harnesses for the flame-gunners.

    Though, one assumes from the description, there were safety harnesses for the pilots. How do you make that mistake? They had to rig up the guns and seats for the gunners (at least, I hope they had seats), why would you not just automatically include safety harnesses on those seats? Did they just nail lawn chairs to the sleds or what? Why wouldn’t you copy the pilot’s seats?

    I mean, sure, in the heat of the moment, I can see a couple people hopping in a sled with one of their sprayers of flame throwers and no thought to how they’re going to stay put. But this is the planned air response. They’ve had time (not much time, granted, but more than 10 seconds) to rig these sleds.

    (And what do the sleds look like. I’m getting more and more confused. By the name, I’d expect something like an open Star Wars speeder. (Like the one we see Luke use on Tatooine.) But it sounds like they’re enclosed. And yet they hunted wherries from them. Which also means they should already have worked out the gunner thing. I am so confused.)

    on Threadscored wings and seared hide

    How big is Thread? It must be pretty tiny to be able to hurt the fire lizards and not kill them.

    And I remain confused as to what Thread does. And, well, pretty much everything about Thread. *sigh*

    He had followed what was happening on the southern continent, and kept an eye to the east whenever a cloud appeared.

    So it is canon that Pernese like to settle in the very swathes that Thread falls on, then? It’s clearly not being a planet-wide phenomenon at present. We may need some facepalming Picards to go with all the cocowhats.

    Also, would he really get enough from listening to the colony’s radio chatter – that is, would there be enough information going over the airwaves – for him to make sense of what was happening? Or was the initial mayday pretty detailed?

    And the trouble she is having getting him to be lusty with her

    Ah, Pern, you just can’t stop being creepy, can you. Has she tried discussing their sex life with him? Is this more evidence that he’s actually asexual? Maybe there should’ve been some communication somewhere in all of this.

    his parents clearly have a different woman picked out for their son, someone in the Traveler community.

    I thought most of the Travelers and other nomadic people got killed off. That both makes this odd and gives his parents either additional reason to want him to marry within what’s left of their community or reason for them to want him to bring someone into the reduced community. Either way, it seems like what’s happened should affect this.

    now she understands they have enough credit to have their own stake together when they get paired

    So the colony has some form of money and you have to buy stakes now? Also, she sounds awfully confident that they’ll get this Threadfall thing under control.

    Kitti agrees, shocking everyone

    She didn’t come along to do genetic engineering for the colony? Then why was a big deal made of her having special genetic engineering knowledge? Why are they shocked when she agrees, especially when they all (presumably even her) think it’s going to be TPK otherwise?

  2. emmy July 21, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    the creepy is a gift that just keeps giving, if I remember the specific phrasing of the Sallah/Tarvi stuff here correctly. Let me see…

    be able to arouse him to a dawn lusting when he was too drowsy to resist her caresses

    Perhaps that was the problem: Tarvi should be allowed the initiative. No, she had tried that tack, and gone through a miserable year before she thought of her “dawn attacks”

    So. Yeah. That’s a thing.

    No information given on whether or not she’s ever tried actually talking to her husband about it (He was the one who proposed, apparently, and she can’t find any evidence of him being in love with anyone ELSE, so she’s totally confused why he doesn’t act like she thinks a husband should. He apparently calls out something mysterious at the height of passion, but it doesn’t seem to be a person’s name, and she’s just baffled… and, again, apparently asking is right out of the question.)

  3. depizan July 21, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Augh. McCaffrey, the solution to all of the male on female rape in the previous Pern books was not to switch it up with female and male rape! The solution was to stop it with all the rape!

  4. WanderingUndine July 21, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Yes, I think this is the first reference to Sean and Sorka being a couple. Semi-unrelatedly, I recall the passage about the ride interrupted by the first Threadfall mentioned that Sorka “bobbled too much” to ride topless like Sean anymore. Like the description of Moreta’s body, this seems an unnecessary bit of sexualization. Maybe it’s just me.

    @depizan: It’s like how the Game of Thrones TV show “solved” its problem of gratuitous male-on-female violence by switching to massive amounts of “empowering” female-inflicted violence. Bah.

  5. emmy July 21, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    I thought the bobbling line was interesting, as a young reader, because that suggested she otherwise wouldn’t particularly care about running around with no clothes on while she adventured and explored. Somewhat shocking, but also sort of cool.

    Or maybe as a kid I was just really fed up with trying to understand fashion.

  6. Madame Canard July 22, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    @emmy that’s how I read it as a kid too. I kind of liked the suggestion that if it wasn’t for the physical discomfort she’d be OK with riding top less.

    In the here and now I wonder why the line went in at all.

  7. Brenda A July 23, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Apparently Landing had really emptied out over the last seven years, because it was a big deal last chapter when they decided to reboot it as a centralized government. It probably happened pretty fast, too. If Avril was ignoring announcements (pretty stupid unless she somehow missed the fact of Threadfall altogether) she would have expected a small permanent population, not a buzzing Center of Combat.

  8. genesistrine July 24, 2016 at 4:47 am

    @Silver Adept: There needs to be more explanation as to why Avril chooses this completely inopportune moment to go back.

    Not to mention didn’t she need the other guys to help her fly the colony ship? Is she planning to do it all herself now?

    As she watches Sean fume, Sorka notes to herself that his anger is actually a sign of how comfortable he is with her

    I… wow. That’s a new one. “He only gets angry when we’re alone because he’s so comfortable with me?”

    The narrative has done a good job so far of keeping Thread menacing to the colonists, but it’s not always doing such a good job of holding the excitement of the reader.

    Zero job here, I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to heat. One big problem, I think, is that AMC’s got this “everyone is rational therefore everyone agrees except shouty angry person and money-grubbing slut person” thing going on, which means there’s very little character conflict.

    @depizan: Though, one assumes from the description, there were safety harnesses for the pilots. How do you make that mistake? They had to rig up the guns and seats for the gunners (at least, I hope they had seats), why would you not just automatically include safety harnesses on those seats? Did they just nail lawn chairs to the sleds or what? Why wouldn’t you copy the pilot’s seats?

    More evidence for my “Noble Pioneers don’ need no steekin’ health and safety regulations!” theory. As well as all of us’ “oh dear lord these people are so shit thick how do they remember to BREATHE?” established fact.

    Regarding Thread size, I always visualised it as, well, threads. Thickish cobweb strands, that snarl up into clumps and tatters and drift with the wind. When it grows you don’t get thicker strands, just more of them.

    @emmy: No information given on whether or not she’s ever tried actually talking to her husband about it (He was the one who proposed, apparently, and she can’t find any evidence of him being in love with anyone ELSE, so she’s totally confused why he doesn’t act like she thinks a husband should. He apparently calls out something mysterious at the height of passion, but it doesn’t seem to be a person’s name, and she’s just baffled… and, again, apparently asking is right out of the question.)

    Aaaand this is apparently the only way AMC can do character conflict. By characters not asking WTF the other character’s deal is or being too outstandingly dim to figure it out. “Oh no, my husband, who I dosed with aphrodisiacs and jumped on first time, who only proposed when I got pregnant and loves our kids, will only have sex with me grudgingly and when he’s still dozy. But we had such hot sex the first time it must be True Love!”

    OK, to be fair it can sometimes take an outsider to point out the blazingly obvious in a relationship, but….

  9. genesistrine July 24, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    And, come to think of, not only has Sallah apparently not talked to her husband about what his deal is, she hasn’t talked to anyone. She doesn’t seem to have any friends she can actually have a proper talk with, rather than general gossip; no therapist, marriage counsellor or third-party advisor. What were those psychiatrists doing before they flew in to deal with Threadshock? Had they become turnip farmers or something in the meantime?

  10. Silver Adept July 26, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I’m wondering if the topless comment isn’t supposed to be a reminder that Menolly’s nude-sleeping habit isn’t some sort of novelty of the Ninth Pass, or that it’s some signal of having the fire lizard friend gene.

    Avril’s plot, such that it is, will be revealed later on, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be nonsensical.

    Sean is supposed to be The Stoic around anyone he didn’t intimately trust, so his emotional opening is supposed to be a sign of great trust.

    As for Sallah and Tarvi, it’s a forest of cocowhat trees. I have no idea what’s going on there other than a lot of marital rape.

  11. genesistrine July 26, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    I’m wondering if Tarvi’s got some kind of objectum sexualis thing going on. There’s that description of him early on: “He had joined the Pern expedition because all the glorious hidden “blood and tears of Mother Earth,” as he chose to describe the products of mining, had been pried from her bosom” which seems as though it might imply something, even though the bosom is the author’s description not his.

    But then again however thick Sallah is I think she’d probably clue in if he’s yelling “Pern!” at the critical point….

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