Last time, Avril decided she had to make a break for it with her gems, after having spent far too long not doing anything about it. She killed the pilot and severely hurt the spymaster, then tortured the woman that followed her on and left her to die, only to find out that she had been anticipated and that her plot would go all for nothing, with the ship crashing and killing her at the end if it all.
Landing mourned the dead, and Sallah’s husband took her name as a memorial to her.
Dragonsdawn, Part Two: Content Notes: Gender essentialism
So, before we start, I’m still a bit leery about how Avril was all passion and anger at the end, there, because she was also previously described as being a very ethnic woman and all sexual passion and manipulation. That didn’t change her characterization away from the idea of the emotional black woman at all, but instead just changed her emotional passion from sex and manipulation to rage. It’s not a good mark on the narrative at all that it gave Avril almost no dimension, even as it used her as an antagonist.
I still think this entire sequence should have been earlier in the book, and especially now, with the plot of “disgruntled colonists” continuing after Avril’s death. Ted Tubberman, Bart Lemos, and Stev Kimmer are poking themselves in places where they’re not welcome, taking and requisitioning things that are not in their usual specialties, and spreading rumors meant to undermine the leadership, like “Avril and Kenjo were going for help and Ongola killed them to stop it.” Most of the people in charge of labs and supplies ask Benden and Boll for permission to exclude them from those areas, or have already banned them from coming. Benden wants to know what the plan is, if possible, but isn’t willing to go so far as to restrict Ted, Bart, or Stev to their stakes, claiming he doesn’t have the authority to do that.
Yet the administration seems surprised when Tubberman and accomplices put together a distress beacon and launch it into space. Benden and Boll haul Ted into custody and then want to know who gave him help in assembling and launching the thing. Ted is unhelpful, believing himself in the right for doing it, but the administration suspects Kimmer, Nabol, and Lemos assisted.
When figuring out a suitable punishment for Ted, Boll suggests shunning, which is permissible under the charter’s rules that forbid corporal punishment and is an effective excuse for everyone to ignore Ted. Benden likes it and has it promulgated. We spend a scene in the labs, where Wind Blossom points out that the beacon launch might actually be good, because now nobody can claim that all options weren’t exercised. A small tremor has everyone in the lab exceedingly unhappy, even though the shock absorbers that are protecting the artificial dragon wombs do absorb the shock. A quick shift to Benden and Boll receiving a visit from Jim Tillek, telling them that the dolphins have reported an active volcano close enough by to bring ash to Landing on the wind, probing the rumor mill, and offering to take a look at the readings from the probes Sallah sent before dying. Benden and Boll take him up on the offer, and Tillek goes off to see Keroon. Who is hip-deep in complete confusion – all the probes and the spacecraft Avril was on were destroyed before impact on the surface of the Red Star. So there’s something up there that’s hostile to the probes and spacecraft, if only they could figure it out. And Stev Kimmer is gone, of course, with supplies enough to stay gone for a long while, stolen from Landing, poking about, possibly looking for Kenjo’s second secret stash. Of course, none of the shuttles would work to get away, anyway.
The administration decides that they could send someone up in a shuttle to examine the trail of the wanderer and see if that’s where the danger is, or whether it’s the planet. They convince Nabol to do it by promising to make him a charterer and to give him Avril’s old stake. He demands Lemos also get charterer status and be his copilot, which also happens. This would be the biggest piece of news on Landing, except that twenty-seven eggs have just been moved to their Hatching Ground in the lab, with Sean and Sorka as the seniormost apprentices on the project. Sorka’s pregnant with Sean’s child, but she hasn’t told him yet. And then he finds out just by looking at her, and says that while he’s thrilled, he wasn’t sure this was the right time for it. And that they’re going before the magistrate to swear out their marriage as soon as possible.
The next Threadfall is off of predictions, which causes a mad scramble and a reinforcement of orders that nobody gets to help Ted Tubberman defend his stake. In the aftermath, though, Ned Tubberman, Ted’s son, comes up to point out that Ted has found a way of protecting his stake without the need for fire. And the flying captain of the day confirms that there was a patch of grass unharmed despite the Thread.
This should be momentous news and a giant scientific discovery for Landing, but…
There was a long silence, which Emily finally broke. “Ned, we do not doubt you, or Drake’s verification, but as your father said, shunning works both ways.”
“Are you too proud to ask him what he’s done?” Ned demanded, his skin blanched under his tan, and his nostrils flaring with indignation.
“Pride is not involved,” Emily said gently. “Safety is. He was shunned because he defied the will of the colony. If you can honestly say that he has changed his attitude, then we can discuss reinstatement.”
Ned flushed, his eyes dropping away from Emily’s tolerant gaze. He sighed deeply. “He doesn’t want anything to do with Landing or anyone on it.” Then he gripped the edge of the table and leaned across it toward the governor. “But he’s done something incredible. Drake saw it.”
He did, indeed, and everyone is interested in trying to get that information without breaking the shunning, hoping to work on the one confidant Ted has, who claims he is sworn to secrecy.
The day of the shuttle launch, which goes successfully, the eggs are ready to hatch. The signal is the convergence of dragonets on the lab where the Hatching Ground is. The candidates are already arranged and ready for the very first hatching of Pern.
The young people in the circle stood their ground, and Emily marveled at their courage, for that awkward creature was not the graceful being she had been expecting, a beast remembered from old legends and illustrations held in library treasures. She caught herself holding her breath, and exhaled quickly.
The creature extended its wings; they were wider and thinner than she had expected. It was so spindly, so ungainly, and its very oddly constructed eyes were flashing with red and yellow. Emily felt a flush of alarm. The creature gave a desperate cry, and was answered reassuringly by the multivoiced choir above. It lurched forward, its voice pleading, and then the cry alerts to one of joy, held on a high sweet note. It staggered another step and then fell at the feet of David Catarel, who bent to help it.
He looked up with eyes wide with wonder. “He wants me!”
“Then accept him!” Pol bellowed, gesturing for one of the stewards to come forward with a bowl of food. “Feed him! No, don’t anyone else help you. The bond should be made now!”
And there we have it. The bronze’s name is Polenth.
Several other eggs hatch and Impress upon their possible candidates, and all the observers cluster around Wind Blossom and Pol to talk about what happens next, after Pol is informed that the shuttle launch was successful, but it will take a week of drifting in space before it arrives at the right place for measurements. Then we find out something about the way that the dragons have been engineered.
“Do they always go female to female?” Emily asked Pol. “And male to male?”
“Since the males are expected to be fighters and the females egg-carriers, Kitti made it logical.”
“Logical to her,” Emily said, a trifle bemused. “There aren’t any blues or greens among them,” she suddenly realized.
“Kitti programmed the heavier males, but I believe they’re to carry sperm for the entire range. The greens will be the smallest, the fighters; the blues sturdier, with more staying power; the browns sort of anchor fighters with even more endurance. They’ll have to fight four to six hours, remember! The bronzes are leaders and the golds…”
“Waiting at home to be egg carriers.”
Pol gave Emily a long look, his tired face reflecting astonishment at her sarcasm.
“In the wild, greens don’t have good maternal instincts. The golds do,” Bay put in, giving the governor an odd glance. “Kitti Ping kept as much natural instinct as possible. Or so her program reads.”
Cocowhat by depizan
There’s a rather large problem here – because green dragons are females. The front-line fighters, according to the program Kitti Ping out in, are going to be women. Women who apparently have poor maternal instincts, and can therefore be sacrificed to the ravenous Thread. Women with good maternal instincts will get the gold dragons, instead. And only men get to be leaders, because bronzes Impress to men only.
This is supposedly the logical order to Kitti Ping, and I love that Governor Emily Boll is throwing as much shade on this as she can, since nobody else seems to have thought all that much about it. Or the part where someone could very easily be depleting necessary genetic diversity for the colony by sending out women to fight and die.
Unless there’s a retcon afoot, and green dragons have now always been males, despite Path having already been written. At which point, the glaring gender essentialism still shines through brightly – men as fighters, women as nurturers. This is only logical to a society that has ingrained these ideas into its fabric. The Pern colony does not appear to have those ideas that tightly wound, considering the sheer number of women in important positions we have seen.
In any case, Kitti Ping has condemned Pern’s dragonriders to sexism all the days of their lives. It casts aspersions on Mirrim and Path, that the tomboy nature of Mirrim makes her an unfit parent.
Women can’t fucking win on this planet, can they?
After a short interlude in space, where Nabol gloats about his fuel efficiency so that he can position the shuttle to collect whatever gems and metals that survived the destruction of Avril’s craft (call forward to Meron’s greed, to show how well-suited he is, and to show that the jumped-up steward is also following in Nabol’s lead about ascending to the position from humble beginnings), we see everyone keeping watch, with Sean nudging Sorka awake from a nap, right before more of the eggs hatch. Sean Impresses a bronze, Carenath, and Sorka Impresses a gold, Faranth, after someone has to tell her to look, since she’s been passing bowls of food to Sean since he Impressed. Thus, Sean and Sorka continue on their narrative, from exploration to dragonets to dragonriders.
The next scene is the debriefing, enter everyone but Wind Blossom ready to congratulate themselves on a job well done regarding the dragons, and everyone anxious to see whether or not the dragons will breathe fire and teleport (already referred to as going between at this point). Wind Blossom is unsure as to whether the hatchlings will be able to survive, flame, teleport, and reproduce, so she’s going to take what was learned from the dragon eggs that didn’t survive and stay a new program for another generation of eggs. She’s basically right, as a scientific principle goes – don’t assume, and when your antagonist is life-devouring, always have a backup plan or five.
Beyond that, we get a scene of the care and bathing of dragons, with oiling and itching and Carenath splashing Faranth with a sweep of his wings. Useful information about dragons learned: Their bones are made of boron and silicon, instead of calcium. And their fingerlike appendages are an improvement to the dragonets pincer claws. They also generally can bring the shy, fearful, and taciturn out and make them more outgoing, happy, and affectionate. Sean and Sorka settle into the practicalities of dragon-raising – what’s going to happen when they grow up, where will they be housed, are they going to have to get rid of the horses (yes), is this going to affect Sorka’s pregnancy (shrug), and so forth.
Here’s a good place to stop. Because you know a disaster has to follow something good, or it wouldn’t be Pern.