Monthly Archives: October 2016

These two weeks in the Slacktiverse, October 29th, 2016

(posted by chris the cynic, sorry about missing last week; written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

In Case You Missed This

Laughing Collie pointed us to the news that DNA analysis of Pacific Islanders suggest an unknown ancestor human subspieces.  It was already known that anatomically modern humans interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovians and DNA from those two speices survives in the population of actual modern humans.  This research, if confirmed, would point to a third such speices.

WanderingUndine shared “positive and relatively non-political eco-news of the week”:


Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for October 28th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is busily scribbling away.)

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 SandiferEruditorium Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Katherine DM Clover: Here on the Slacktiverse

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 have good reasons to believe your pet is actually an extradimensional being. Or for any other reason, really.

The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: Rescue Run: One Last Impossible Plot

Last time, a Federation ship received the Tubberman distress signal and dispatched a shuttle with a Benden in it to see if there are any survivors on Pern. They found Stev Kimmer, his brood, and the Fusaiyuki clan all living together, and Kimmer somehow in charge. Kimmer is desperate to get off the planet, but it’s the Fusaiyukis that are providing more information and resources to get themselves off the ground safely.

The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: Rescue Run: Content Notes: Sexual Assault Involving A Minor

The narrative resumes the next morning, after the clandestine fuel run, and Benden is sore all over from the haul. ni Morgana arrives soon afterward with numbweed salve and works it into Benden’s sore muscles. If that’s supposed to be a sign of budding romance between the two, I’m going to be be annoyed, because all we’ve seen so far is that Benden is attracted to her.
The two discuss that the Kimmer clan are stockier than they look at first, and then tell them what weight allowances they’ll have for the shuttle. Kimmer dismisses his daughters to go get things ready for the trip.

“Be damned grateful we’re getting off this frigging forsaken mudball,” Kimmer said angrily, rising to his feet. “Go on, now, sort out what you’ve got to bring but keep it to the weight limit. Hear me?”
The women removed themselves, with Faith casting one last despairing glance over her shoulder at her father. Benden wondered why he had thought any of them graceful. They waddled in a most ungainly fashion.

I know this is a fairly standard story trope, that once a man learns the alignment of a woman, they suddenly stop finding them attractive, but that just means I wish it would go away instead of being replayed endlessly. Also, this seems to have a little bit of a hint of “no fatties” with it that I can’t really untangle. In any case, it really rings of “oh, they were pretty before we found out they’re pretty devoted to someone we don’t like. Now they’re ugly.”

Kimmer tells the same story that Shensu did about why there are no survivors, but adds in the details that the ships that were in the harbor were Tillek’s, and so he must be dead because he would never abandon ships. Kimmer insists there can’t be anyone else because their instruments didn’t pick up anything, and that the best thing to do for the planet is to declare it uninhabitable. Before loaning Benden his sled to take a good look at the colony ruins, and then other stakes and locations, since they have power packs that can run the sled now. There’s still a lot of Kimmer insisting that he’s done everything he could to find survivors – to the point that it seems like a Suspiciously Specific Denial to have had so much text spent on it. While Benden is away, the caverns are just about finished packing up, although ni Morgana has suspicions of Kimmer’s daughters being up to something, something more than just stripping the cavern bare to bring stuff on the shuttle.

Benden is also apparently now on a first-name basis with ni Morgana, who has completed her research on Thread and whose suspicions are related to the fact that nobody standing watch on the shuttle has been able to stay awake during their watches, they all have headaches as if they’d been drugged, and the daughters are all exhausted and incredibly jumpy. It’s understandable that they don’t know about fellis and what it does, and how easily it can be disguised in other things so that it will be easier for Kimmer and clan to possibly steal the shuttle in its entirety and leave the rescue team behind, or to load it down with extra weight of some sort. They can’t have confirmed suspicions, though, because all the times that they scrupulously search everything, nothing out of the ordinary appears.

After a final feast, the shuttle lifts off for its intended rendezvous, only for it to be far too heavy (nearly 500 kilograms too heavy) to hit the right point and forcing Benden to insist on a slingshot course with the gravity wells of other planets in the system. Benden figures out how the excess weight got there, naturally.

“What I can’t understand,” Ni Morgana said in a flat voice, “is what they could have smuggled aboard. Or how?”
“What about your headaches, Saraidh?” Benden asked, seething with anger at Kimmer’s duplicity. “And those catnaps no one else’s had the guts to report to me.”
“What could they possibly have done in ten or twenty minutes, Ross?” Ni Morgana demanded. “Nev and I searched for any possibly smuggled goods or tampering.”
Benden pointedly said nothing and then scrubbed at his face in frustration. “Oh, it’s no blame to you, Saraidh. Kimmer just outsmarted me, that’s all. I thought removing him from Honshu would solve the problem.” He raised his voice. “Vartry, you, Scag, and Hemlet will conduct a search of the most unlikely places in this ship: the missile bins, the head, the inner hull, the airlock. Somehow they’ve overloaded us, and we have got to know what with and dump it!”

Lieutenant Benden, perhaps you could do a little less male angst and condescension toward ni Morgana and a little more fixing the problem. Cue the arrival of Stev Kimmer and the obvious knowledge that something is up from the apparently unceasing wails of Kimmer’s children. Kimmer suggests that there is weight to be lightened, with “malevolence in the gaze”, but Benden counters that Kimmer can “take a long step out a short airlock” if he doesn’t give up where the extra weight is. A short frisk reveals the entire Kimmer clan is clad in gold (which explains their excess weight when they were figured), but that’s not enough weight to account for everything. Benden explains to the now naked Kimmer that the only way everyone survives is by jettisoning the excess mass, because the cruiser can’t be raised and the current course means death to everyone.

This is the third time there’s been a plot involving a ship, precious metals and gems, and the likelihood that someone is going to die – Avril failed, Lemos and Nabol failed, and now, unless something happens soon, Kimmer’s going to bite it as well. The narrative is two for two so far in killing people who want to get away. You’d think Kimmer would have gotten wise, but apparently that’s not the case.

Benden hustled the naked, barefooted colonist down the companionway to the airlock and, palming the control for the inner hatch, shoved him inside, motioned for Greene to throw in the gold, and closed the hatch again.
“I mean it, Kimmer, either tell me what else is on board and where, or you go out the airlock.”
Kimmer turned, a contemptuous expression on his face, and he folded his arms across his chest, a gaunt old man with only defiance to clothe him.
[…Kimmer believes it’s a bluff…]
“I’ll have taken a Benden down with me,” the man snarled, his face contorted with hatred and sheer malevolence.
“But Chio, and your daughters, your grandchildren-”
“They were none of them worth the effort I put into them,” Kimmer replied arrogantly. “I have to share my wealth with them, but I’m certainly not sharing it with you.”

And Kimmer reminds us that he has always been about advancing himself at the expense of others, even to the point where those people die. And yet, somehow manages to have the luck of being indispensable to the people most likely to off him if they get the chance. Are we being wound up so that the eventual payoff is supposed to feel better? If so, the only reason going for that is that Kimmer keeps managing to avoid what should have rightly killed him.

ni Morgana pulls Benden back from the airlock, and explains to him what the extra weight is, having extracted it from one of the daughters using scopalamine as a truth serum. Platinum and germanium are stashed all over the ship in thin sheets and rolls everywhere, which, as they are found, are summarily piled up to be ejected from the ship. At which point, Benden notices the airlock is empty and immediately heads down to the Fusaiyuki clan to ask which one of them committed murder by spacing Kimmer. Nobody admits to it, and once all the extra weight is found, it is summarily tossed out the airlock, and the shuttle is able to course correct. The immediate threat disposed of, the crew of the ship now have the arduous task of reassuring the surviving daughters that they will not be reduced to poverty because of their rescue, from both the black diamonds they have and the money they’ll make by selling numbweed salve to the worlds of the FSP. In turn, the daughters and women reveal that Kimmer regularly impregnated Ito and Chio, the latter “two months after she became a woman”.

Cocowhat by depizan

That seems like am unnecessary detail to lay out, unless one believes the readers may be sympathetic to Kimmer’s death. He’s greedy, he’s endangered others, he’s always escaped problems, and he’s clearly not been a good patriarch of the Hold he took over. That he also is fathering children with women who are probably not done developing yet, if we take “became a woman” to mean “first menstruation”, only makes him that much more of a reprehensible human being.

This would have been the detail to leave earlier in the narrative to ensure that everyone knows Stev Kimmer is horrible and should not be allowed to escape again.

As things are, communication with the cruiser and the refiguring of trajectories requires both shedding more weight and a thrust blast that will knock out the entire crew of the shuttle to successfully get them enough velocity to make a meeting. Which happens after almost two weeks of drift, and then there’s two more weeks of drift afterward, which gets all the supplies down to the point of the emergency rations. Then one last burst to exhaust all the fuel on the shuttle, but it’s enough to ensure that everyone aboard gets back to their ship. The entire Rukbat system gets an official designation of uninhabitable and uninhabited, officially interdict, leaving the colonists that remain to live their lives for generations in peace. Everyone’s official report will say that Stev Kimmer killed himself once he knew his plan was finished. And that’s it, the this chronicle and for the book itself.

Which means…that was a filler story. The only real connection it has to Pern are the characters’ names. Otherwise, it didn’t do anything other than tell us about the eventual end of Stev Kimmer. And even then, it was another plot involving gems and shuttles and the near destruction of both, while the character that was avaricious ended up dead and their wealth scattered somewhere that couldn’t be retrieved. I’d almost say the narrative had a moral to teach in all of these sequences.

I’m also surprised at how easily the rescuers were convinced that there wasn’t anyone else there, because a civilization as advanced as the FSP surely has things like ground-penetrating radar on their sensor packages, such that they could bathe the planet in signals and see that the North was clearly inhabited by something giving off a big ping – or that the presence of the dragons would set off a thermal sensor somewhere.

Furthermore, this was the longest of the stories collected in here, so it was the biggest waste of time. I feel very unhappy at having spent all this time reading a story that turns out not to be about anything at all. I suspect even some of the bigger fans of Pern were sorely disappointed at this one.

Writer Workshop October 26th, 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: Escapism

(by chris the cynic)

Short version: escapism.  General thoughts, your preferred means of escape, things that work versus things that don’t, and anything else you might care to share that is remotely related to the topic.

Long version:

Historically escapism and escapist works and tendencies have been viewed negatively.  The thing being escaped is, after all, the circumstances of ones “normal” life.  (Quotes around “normal” because sometimes those circumstances are extraordinary.)

Sometimes, however, people need to escape.  When the “normal” can’t be coped with every second of every day because it’s too stressful, too depressing, too overwhelming, too dangerous, too hopeless, too banal or jejune, too tedious, or too whatever periods of escape can allow one to inject enough not-bad into their life to be able to deal with the rest of their lives.

Also, certain forms of escapism take the name to it’s logical conclusion and involve getting out of here (here being defined as where you actually are) and going over there, and thus amount to mental exploration or tourism.

Do you escape?  How do you escape? Do you have thoughts on the location of the line between healthy and overboard?  Are there any forms that resonate with you, or any that you fundamentally fail to get?

Also, for any who don’t know, we have a space set aside for political discussion.  This is due to the current election cycle in the US being one particularly filled with things that some people need to get away from, and thus would not like in open threads.  That’s a perpetual political thread, and won’t be closed or replaced unless it gets overly full.

[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.]

Hermione Granger Chapter Seven

Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism

Chapter Seven

Bagman and Crouch / Bagman and Crouch

They were, just as Mr. Weasley had said, on an empty moor. The sky was navy blue now, and a chilly mist clung to the ground. Hermione pulled herself up and brushed off the front of her jeans, while around her all the Weasleys and Harry did the same. Just in front of them were two men — two wizards — who looked rather tired and moody. One had a watch, and the other held a thick roll of parchment and a quill. Hermione could tell for certain they were wizards, because they had tried to dress as muggles, but apparently they’d never actually met any.

She sighed. One man was wearing a tweed suit paired with galoshes, the other a kilt paired with a poncho.

“Morning, Basil,” said Mr. Weasley to the kilted man, handing him the utterly disgusting boot.

“Hello there, Arthur,” Basil replied. “Not on duty, eh? It’s all right for some… We’ve been here all night… You’d better get out of the way, we’ve got a big party coming in from the Black Forest at five-fifteen. Hang on, I’ll find your campsite… Weasley…” he was searching the parchment list, while absentmindedly flicking his quill. “About a quarter of a mile’s walk over there, first field you come to. Site manager’s called Mr. Roberts.” Then he turned to Mr. Diggory and started to give him directions as well.

“Thanks, Basil,” said Mr. Weasley, and they all set off in the direction they’d been pointed. The tired group walked along in silence once more, surrounded by that eerie mist. Perhaps they were all wondering, as Hermione was, if they were indeed going in the right direction. But after about twenty minutes, she could make out a small stone cottage with a fence, and in the distance beyond it, more tents than she had ever seen in her life rising up the gentle slope of a hill towards what looked like a forest beyond. Everyone waved goodbye to the Mr. Diggory and Cedric, who were headed to a different site, and they approached the cottage door.

A man was standing in the doorway, and this man was most definitely not a wizard. She was a little surprised to see an actual muggle in the midst of all this wizarding activity, but told herself firmly that obviously they’d had no choice but to use muggle campsites for the event. Surely, she thought, they must have exhausted every other possibility before it came to this. The man standing in the doorway had a thin blond beard, and pale gray eyes the same color as the morning mist. He looked a little jumpy, Hermione though, and she instantly wondered what sort of day he must be having.

“Morning!” Mr. Weasley called out, brightly.

“Morning,” the man responded.

“Would you be Mr. Roberts?”

“Aye, I would. And who’re you?”

“Weasley — two tents, booked a couple of days ago?”

Mr. Roberts consulted a list tacked to the door, “Aye, you’ve got space up by the wood there. Just the one night?”

“That’s it,” said Mr. Weasley with a smile.

“You’ll be paying now, then”

“Ah —” and his shoulders slumped slightly, “right — certainly.” Hermione liked Mr. Weasley, or at least, she thought she did, but why had this not occurred to him before? Well, evidently, it hadn’t. Feeling helpless, she watched Mr. Weasley, stepping awkwardly away from the cottage door to stare in a perplexed sort of way at a roll of ordinary muggle money. She had just began to open her mouth, when she heard him say “Help me, Harry” rather feebly, and stopped herself.

With Harry’s consultation, he managed to pull up the correct bills, and hand them over to Mr. Roberts.

“You foreign?” said Mr. Roberts, looking at Mr. Weasley suspiciously.

“Foreign?” Mr. Weasley sounded genuinely puzzled, and Hermione bit the inside of her lip.

“You’re not the first one who’s had trouble with money, I had two try to pay me with great gold coins the size of hubcaps ten minutes ago.”

“Did you really?” he was trying to play it cool, but he was failing.

“Never been this crowded,” Mr. Roberts said, almost to himself, while he got Mr. Weasley his change. He looked out over the misty moor. “Hundreds of pre-bookings. People usually just turn up…”

“Is that right?” said Mr. Weasley, holding his hand out for the change, but Mr. Roberts was now lost in thought entirely.

“Aye,” he said, “People from all over. Loads of foreigners. And not just foreigners. Weirdos, you know? There’s a bloke walking ‘round in a kilt and a poncho.”

“Shouldn’t he?” Mr. Weasley said, and Hermione had to stop herself from groaning.

“It’s like some sort of… I dunno… like some sort of rally. They all seem to know each other. Like a big party.”

And at that moment, a wizard in plus-fours appeared out of thin air next to the door to the cottage. Without so much as a “hello” he turned his wand on Mr. Roberts and said “Obliviate!” rather sharply. Hermione recognized the charm at once, though she’d never seen it done in person, and it made her feel rather sick to her stomach.

Mr. Robert’s eyes slid out of focus, and all of the tension left his face, leaving it completely slack and relaxed, with a dreamy and unnerving look. His memory had been modified, that is, the spell had wiped the troubling memories of interacting with wizards from Mr. Roberts’ mind, so as he couldn’t try to sort them out anymore.

“A map of the campsite for you, and your change.” he was looking vaguely over Mr. Weasley’s shoulder.

“Thank you very much,” said Mr. Weasley.

The man in plus-fours accompanied them toward the gate to the campsite. He was obviously exhausted, and Hermione would have felt rather sorry for him if she could stop thinking about poor Mr. Roberts. As they walked on, he said “Been having a lot of trouble with him. Needs a Memory Charm ten times a day to keep him happy. And Ludo Bagman’s not helping. Trotting around talking about Bludgers and Quaffles at the top of his voice, not a worry about anti-muggle security. Blimey, I’ll be glad when this is over. See you later, Arthur.” And just like that, he disapparated.

Hermione wondered if there had ever been any research done into what kind of long term effects ten memory charms a day might have on the human brain. She decided that rather than ask about it now, she would look it up, once she was back at Hogwarts, with it’s fabulous library.

“I thought Mr. Bagman was Head of Magical Games and Sports,” Ginny said to her father. “He should know better than to talk about Bludgers near Muggles, shouldn’t he?”

Mr. Weasley smiled slightly as he answered, “He should, but Ludo’s always been a bit… well… lax about security. You couldn’t wish for a more enthusiastic head of the sports department though. He played quidditch for England himself, you know. He was the best Beater the Wimbourne Wasps ever had.”

They walked on through the campsite, between long rows of tents. The witches and wizards who were camping had, it appeared, made quite a bit of effort to look like muggles. It was sort of charming, in a way. Hermione saw what mostly looked like ordinary tents, though several had chimneys, and a few were so obviously magical she found herself saying “oh now come on!” under her breath. The decorative additions were ridiculous enough, but one tent was three stories high, and another had an entire front garden attached. Hermione wasn’t sure if she should find these mistakes funny, or be worried about security.

“Always the same,” Mr. Weasley had apparently settled on finding the situation rather humorous, “We can’t resist showing off when we get together. Ah, here we are, look, this is us.”

They were at the very top of the field, right up next to the wood, and just beyond a long row of tents was an empty space clearly meant for more. A small sign had been hammered into the ground, and it read WEEZLY.

“Couldn’t have a better spot!” said Mr. Weasley happily. “The field is just on the other side of the wood there, we’re as close as could be.” He hoisted his backpack from his shoulders. “Right,” he said with definite excitement in his voice, “no magic allowed, strictly speaking, not when we’re out in these numbers on Muggle land. We’ll be putting these tents up by hand! Shouldn’t be too difficult… Muggles do it all the time…” and his eyes cast about the group, as though he were looking for a muggle, and finally settled on Harry. “Here, Harry,” he said, “where do you reckon we should start?”

Harry Potter’s eyes got momentarily wide. Hermione remembered that his aunt and uncle didn’t like to take him on holiday, and guessed that he had no more idea what to do with the tents than Mr. Weasley. But Harry was a Gryffindor through and through, and was brave even in the face of tent poles. He took the first tent, still all wrapped up, from Mr. Weasley, and looked determined to have a go of it. She smiled at him.

“Well, let’s have a look at the instructions, shall we?” She said, as casually as she could.

Harry gave her a look as though she’d just passed him a life preserver, and half an hour later, with Mr. Weasley wielding the mallet and the Weasley children sitting on their packs, they finished erecting two rather shabby tents. And though it probably didn’t make much difference, what with all the obvious magic that was going on in the campsite, the Weasleys at least were in keeping with the rules.

Harry was staring at the tents with a worried look on his face. They were, of course, too small for all ten of the people who needed to sleep in them. That is, the tents were too small from the outside. Surely, it must have occurred to Harry Potter that the insides of the tents could have been magiced! She gave him a quizzical look, but in typical Harry Potter fashion, he didn’t respond.

“We’ll be a bit cramped,” Mr. Weasley, already halfway inside the first tent, called, “but I think we’ll all squeeze in. Come and have a look.”

They all piled in, and on the inside the tent was an old-fashioned three room flat. It smelled of cats, and she hoped very much that the second tent, which she and Ginny would be sharing, didn’t smell quite as strongly.

To her great relief, it didn’t. However, Despite their amenities, Mr. Weasley was determined to do some “real muggle camping” and so rather than using either of the full kitchens inside each of the tents, he planned to cook outside over and open fire. Hermione did not have the heart to tell him that if using the oven wasn’t muggle-like enough, the proper beds and bathrooms would have to go as well. She, Ron, and Harry were assigned to go get water (in a tea kettle and two saucepans) from a tap in the campsite, while the others gathered firewood.

Hermione took her saucepan, and set off with her friends. The sun had risen, and the mist was lifting, and suddenly she did not feel quite so sleepy anymore. She didn’t even mind the walk. She was fully in the wizarding world again, and somehow that felt more real here than at the burrow, and the city of tents was utterly fascinating besides. Because it wasn’t only English witches and wizards, oh no, there were people from all over who had come to the world cup. And there were tiny little children, and for the first time, Hermione found herself wondering what it might have been like to grow up with wizarding parents.

Outside of a rather exquisite looking purple tent, she saw a young mother trying to get breakfast started over a camp stove, while three young children crowded around her, continually interrupting. She guessed, from the set up, that the family had, like the Weasleys, chosen to stick to the rules to the best of their ability, and that’s why the tired looking witch was cooking outdoors. But the tent was so obviously magical — with its drapey purple fabric and glittery silver threads — that they could have saved their efforts, and besides that the children were all wearing wizards’ robes.

The middle child, she looked to be about five years old, was crying “I don’t want porridge!” at the top of her voice.

Just then, the pot that her mother was stirring flashed brightly, and turned into a pan, which was filled with bacon. The little girl who didn’t want porridge laughed and clapped her hands together with delight, and her younger brother burst into tears. Hermione noticed the mother sigh heavily, and then look around furtively before drawing her wand out of a pocket.

Up ahead a little ways, there were two tiny girls whose parents had at least tried to dress them in muggle clothes, only they’d done so with the same level of skill that the average wizard had in disguising himself. They were each wearing a warm woolly jumper, which would have made perfect sense on such a chilly morning, except for the fact that they were several sizes too large and the girls were wearing them as dresses. It looked as though they were each wearing a loose, knit, sack, and the excess sleeves trailed awkwardly, hiding their hands from view altogether.

As she watched them, each girl picked up a small broomstick off the ground, and proceeded to hop on. They only flew about a foot off the ground, but she hoped Mr. Roberts didn’t see it, for his own sake. Hermione hadn’t spent much time around younger children, but she guessed they were three or four at the oldest. They were laughing and smiling, their toes just barely skimming the top of the dewy grass. She turned to her friends. Ron seemed not to notice any of it, he had both hands on the kettle he was carrying, and his eyes straight ahead. But Harry, Harry Potter was beaming at the wizarding children.

Just then, a ministry wizard ran over, muttering “in broad daylight!” to himself.

Hermione, Ron, and Harry walked onward.

Closer to the tap, they entered a maze of bright green tents. At least, she thought they were bright green at first, but on closer inspection they were all covered with living shamrocks. Suddenly, she heard a shout of “Harry! Ron! Hermione!”

It was Seamus Finnigan, who was in the same year as them and in Gryffindor house, at Hogwarts. He was also, Hermione remembered, Irish, and he was beaming with excitement in front of his own plant covered tent. Dean Thomas, who was also in Gryffindor, was with him, as was a woman who could only be Seamus’ mother.

“Like the decorations?” Seamus’ smile was somehow growing ever wider, “the Ministry’s not too happy.”

“Ah, why shouldn’t we show our colors? You should see what the Bulgarians have got dangling all over their tents.” the woman fixed them with a suddenly serious stare, “You’ll be supporting Ireland, of course?”

All three of them assured Mrs. Finnigan that yes, they would, and they walked on.

“I wonder what the Bulgarians have got dangling all over their tents?” Hermione said, aloud.

Just then, the group of young wizards spotted the Bulgarian camp. They decided to go see for themselves.

After a short walk to the area where they had seen the Bulgarian flag, they found themselves in a cluster of tents which looked rather more ordinary than the Irish ones. Well, they looked ordinary except that each one had the same poster attached to it. It was a simple image, no text at all, of a young man’s face. He had very heavy black eyebrows, and intense black eyes, and although it was a wizarding photograph, he was hardly moving at all. The effect of all of those serious, sill-ish, faces surrounding them, was quite intense. They would have looked like muggle photographs, Hermione thought to herself, but they were moving just enough, mostly just frowning or breathing, to feel alive. It was eerie.

“Krum,” said Ron in an oddly hushed voice.

“What?” Hermione asked.

“Krum!” he repeated, this time a little louder, “Viktor Krum, the Bulgarian Seeker!”

“He looks,” Hermione struggled, looking from scowling face to scowling face, to find the right words, “really grumpy…”

But she’d said the wrong thing. Ron rolled his eyes dramatically saying, “Really grumpy? Who cares what he looks like? He’s unbelievable. He’s really young too. Only just eighteen or something. He’s a genius, you wait until tonight, you’ll see.”

And Hermione said nothing, because what on earth could she say?

Soon enough, they arrived at the tap, and retrieved their water. They saw many more Hogwarts students on the walk back. Oliver Wood, who had just graduated, and had been captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, made a big show of pulling Harry — and only Harry — over to his tent to meet his parents. Hermione exchanged a sympathetic look with Ron while they waited, clutching kettle and saucepan, now heavy with water. Then they saw Ernie Macmillan, from Hufflepuff house, and Cho Chang, from Ravenclaw. Harry blushed slightly when he saw Cho, and Hermione remembered that he had been rather taken with her. Ron seemed to find the whole thing rather humorous, which annoyed her a little.

They also saw quite a few teenagers who didn’t go to Hogwarts. Of course, as it was the Quidditch World Cup, it was to be expected really, but Harry, looking like a lost puppy, seemed surprised. Hermione could not, for the life of her, understand why he took so little interest in the wizarding world. Had it never occurred to him that there was a universe outside of England? He could be intelligent about some things, she thought, but he was lucky his parents had been wizards. If he had been muggle born, she thought, people would take his obliviousness as evidence that he wasn’t smart enough for magic.

Back at the tents, the campfire still was not started, owing to the fact that Mr. Weasley didn’t know how.

“Dad’s having fun with the matches,” Fred said, gesturing at Mr. Weasley with his eyes. And it really did look as though Mr. Weasley was enjoying himself, though he was absolutely surrounded by a pile of splintered matches.

Suddenly, he did manage to light one, but he shouted “oops!” and dropped it before anything could be made of the tiny spark.

Hermione found herself taking pity on him. Starting fires, she remembered, could be hard work when one wasn’t used to it. She headed over to him, saying “Come here, Mr. Weasley,” and gently took the box from his hands. She was glad to have something useful to do, and soon enough the fire was roaring. While they waited for it to heat up, they watched the various witches and wizards pass by, and Mr. Weasley pointed out who worked for the Ministry and explained what their department was. Or rather, he explained it to Hermione and Harry, his own children looked thoroughly bored and disinterested. Hermione was taking mental notes.

“That was Cuthbert Mockridge, Head of the Goblin Liaison Office… Here comes Gilbert Wimple; he’s with the Committee on Experimental Charms; he’s had those horns for a while now… Hello, Arnie… Arnold Peasegood, he’s an Obliviator — member of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, you know… and that’s Bode and Croaker… they’re Unspeakables…”

“They’re what?” she said with a bit of a start.

“From the Department of Mysteries, top secret, no idea what they get up to…”

When the meal was nearly finished cooking, she spotted the older Weasleys coming towards them, from the wood. “Just Apparated, Dad.” Percy announced, rather excitedly, “Ah, excellent, lunch!” And they all sat down together around the fire, eating eggs and sausages off of tin camping plates. Halfway through, Mr. Weasley jumped up and waved at a man who was striding purposefully towards them.

“Aha!” Mr. Weasley said, jovially, “The man of the moment! Ludo!”

It was, of course, Ludo Bagman. And it was quite clear that he had given less thought to security than the parents allowing their children toy broomsticks! He was dressed in yellow and black Quidditch robes, emblazoned with an enormous picture of a wasp across his front. He was a stocky man, with a squashed nose and a shock of blond hair. In addition to being the most oblivious to anti-muggle security, Hermione thought he was also the happiest person she’d seen all morning, which was saying something.

“Ahoy there!” He called out at them, and bounced to their little camp. “Arthur, old man, what a day, eh? What a day! Could we have asked for more perfect weather? A cloudless night coming… and hardly a hiccough in the arrangements… Not much for me to do!”

Hermione glanced around him, and happened to notice a group of haggard-looking Ministry wizards rushing past, pointing at the distant evidence of a magical fire sending violet sparks up into the air like fireworks.

Percy stepped forward at once, obviously eager to meet Ludo Bagman, despite what he’d said about how he ran his department.

“Ah — yes,” Mr. Weasley was positively beaming with pride, “this is my son Percy. He’s just started at the Ministry — and this is Fred — no, George, sorry — that’s Fred — Bill, Charlie, Ron — my daughter, Ginny — and Ron’s friends Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. Everyone, this is Ludo Bagman, you know who he is, it’s thanks to him we’ve got such good tickets.”

Bagman, still grinning, waved his hand as if to say it had been nothing. Then his face changed suddenly, “Fancy a flutter on the match, Arthur?” he said, jingling what seemed to be a large amount of gold coins in the pocket of his Quidditch robes. “I’ve already got Roddy Pontner betting me Bulgaria will score first…”

Hermione stared on in wonder as they discussed the terms, and Mr. Weasley agreed to put a Galleon on Ireland to win. Mr. Bagman looked disappointed, but considering how poor the Weasleys were, Hermione was shocked to see him risking money like that.

“Very well, very well… any other takers?”

“They’re a bit young to be gambling,” said Mr. Weasley. “Molly wouldn’t like —”

Just then Fred was on his feet, saying “We’ll bet thirty-seven Galleons, fifteen Sickles, three Knuts, that Ireland wins — but Viktor Krum gets the Snitch. Oh and we’ll throw in a fake wand.” George was nodding along seriously.

“You don’t want to go showing Mr. Bagman rubbish like that —” Percy said under his breath. But too late, Ludo Bagman already had the fake wand in his hand, and he looked delighted. The wand gave a loud squawk and abruptly turned into a rubber chicken, and Mr. Bagman roared with laughter.

“Excellent!” Ludo Bagman said, “I haven’t seen one that convincing in years!” I’d pay five Galleons for that!”

Mr. Weasley looked flushed, and he said “Boys… I don’t want you betting… That’s all your savings… Your mother…”

“Don’t be a spoilsport, Arthur!” boomed Bagman, and then he ranted about the odds and the terms and took down the twins names, while Mr. Weasley looked on helplessly. Then he said, “couldn’t do me a brew, I suppose? I’m keeping an eye out for Barty Crouch. My Bulgarian opposite number’s making difficulties, and I can’t understand a word he’s saying. Barty’ll be able to sort it out. He speaks about a hundred and fifty languages!”

“Mr. Crouch?” said Percy Weasley, “he speaks over two hundred! Mermish and Gobbledegook and Troll…”

“Anyone can speak Troll,” said Fred dismissively, “All you have to do is point and grunt.”

Hermione reflected that that, almost certainly, wasn’t true.

“Any news of Bertha Jorkins yet, Ludo?” Mr. Weasley asked, as Ludo settled himself down on the grass to wait for his tea.

“Not a dicky bird,” said Bagman, “But she’ll turn up. Poor old Bertha… memory like a leaky cauldron and no sense of direction. Lost, you take my word for it. She’ll wander back into the office sometime in October, thinking it’s still July.”

Mr. Weasley frowned slightly, “you don’t think it might be time to send someone to look for her?”

Bagman took his teacup from Percy with both hands, saying “Barty Crouch keeps saying that… But we really can’t spare anyone at the moment. Oh — talk of the devil! Barty!” and his face completely changed.

Hermione looked up and saw a man standing right next to their little fireside — he must have just apparated there — who looked much more like her idea of a ministry wizard than Ludo Bagman. He was an elderly man, with impeccable posture, dressed in a perfectly muggle-like suit and tie. His hair was straight and tidy, and even his mustache seemed perfect. He looked out of place next to Ludo Bagman, yes, but he also looked out of place at the whole event. There wasn’t a hint of oddity or whimsey about him, she thought.

“Pull up a bit of grass, Barty!” said Ludo, looking rather like a schoolboy and patting the ground beside him.

“No thank you, Ludo,” said Mr. Crouch in a crisp voice that sounded impatient, “I’ve been looking for you everywhere. The Bulgarians are insisting we add another twelve seats to the Top Box.”

“Oh is that what they’re after?” said Bagman, grinning, “I thought the chap was asking to borrow a pair of tweezers. Bit of a strong accent.”

“Mr. Crouch! Would you like a cup of tea?” said Percy, sounded a little awed.

“Oh. Yes. Thank you, Weatherby.” said Mr. Crouch.

Poor Percy went pink around the ears, and busied himself with the kettle. Of course, Fred and George were holding back giggles and hiding behind their own teacups. Hermione glared at them, but she wasn’t sure they noticed, they were so hysterical.

Hermione sat back, sipping her own tea, letting the talk go on around her. She wasn’t sure that she liked either of the men, if she was being honest, though she was trying hard to reserve judgement. Bagman was sloppy, lazy, and insensitive. And while Hermione could certainly see the need for following rules, there was something in Mr. Crouch’s demeanor that made her distinctly uncomfortable. When she looked up from her tea, and her thoughts, they were discussing flying carpets.

“Ali thinks there’s a niche in the market for a family vehicle,” Mr. Crouch was saying, “I remember my grandfather had an Axminster that could seat twelve — that was before carpets were banned, of course.” He spoke as though he wanted to leave nobody in any doubt that all his ancestors had abided strictly by the law.

“So, been keeping busy, Barty?” Ludo Bagman asked.

“Fairly,” she thought she detected a hint of sarcasm in Mr. Crouch’s voice. “Organizing Portkeys across five continents is no mean feat, Ludo.

“I expect you’ll both be glad when this is over?” said Mr. Weasley.

The look on Bagman’s face was priceless. “Glad!” He gulped in surprise, “Don’t know when I’ve had more fun… Still, it’s not as though we haven’t got anything to look forward to, eh, Barty? Eh Plenty left to organize, eh?”

“We agreed not to make the announcement until all the details —”

“Oh details!” said Bagman in exasperation, “They’ve signed, haven’t they? They’ve agreed, haven’t they? I bet you anything these kids’ll know soon enough anyways. I mean, it’s happening at Hogwarts —”

At that moment, Mr. Crouch pushed his teacup, still untouched, back into Percy’s hand, saying “Ludo, we need to meet the Bulgarians, you know.”

As they walked off, Fred immediately asked his father about whatever it was that was happening at Hogwarts. Whatever it was, it was clear enough that Mr. Bagman wanted them to wonder what it was, and Mr. Crouch didn’t want them to know.

“It’s classified information, until such time as the Ministry decides to release it,” said Percy. “Mr. Crouch was quite right not to disclose it.”

“Oh shut up, Weatherby.” said Fred. And Percy’s ears went red all over again.

By dusk, the entire camp seemed to be buzzing with excitement. It seemed that, whether they were wizards or muggles, large group sporting events seemed to have the same sort of effect on people. At some point the Ministry must have gave up altogether on stopping blatant and obvious magic, because suddenly it was like being fully in the wizarding world. And salespeople popped up nearly everywhere, they were just Apparating all over the camp, with trays of incredible merchandise. Hermione knew most of the objects were really just enchanted with rather simple charms, but she couldn’t help but marvel at the rosettes that squealed out the names of the players, Irish hats covered in dancing shamrocks, and Bulgarian scarves decorated with lions that really roared. There were even tiny collectible figurines of some of the players (the more famous ones, she thought) which would stroll across a palm or surface. She couldn’t imagine how awkward it must feel to know there were all those tiny versions of oneself out there in the world.

“Been saving my pocket money all summer for this,” Ron said to Harry, right next to her, as they strolled through the crowd of people buying and selling frantically. He bought one of the shamrock hats and a green rosette, but he also bought a figurine of Viktor Krum, whom she recalled he had said was the Seeker for Bulgaria, not Ireland.

“Wow look at this!” she heard Harry say, as she was examining flags which played national anthems. Suddenly he was off, dashing to a cart piled high with what looked like brass binoculars. Hermione sighed, and followed.

“Omnioculars!” said the saleswizard, rather eagerly. “You can replay action… slow everything down… and they flash up a play-by-play breakdown if you need it. Bargain — ten Galleons each.”

“Wish I hadn’t bought this now,” said Ron, and he looked down sadly at his so recently loved purchases.

“Three pairs.” Harry said firmly to the wiard.

“No — don’t bother,” Ron was going red, but Hermione knew better than to try to fight with Harry when he was trying to be generous. It could be a little uncomfortable, Harry had inherited a wizard’s fortune from his deceased parents, but she supposed it made him feel good to spread it around.

“You won’t be getting anything for Christmas,” Harry said cheerfully, passing the Omnioculars to her and Ron. “For about ten years, mind.”

“Fair enough,” Ron managed a grin.
“Thanks, Harry.” Hermione said, “And I’ll get us some programs…” after all, it would be dreadful to have no idea what was going on during the match.

In the jostling crowd of shoppers, they slowly located the other Weasleys, and managed to get in a little clump again. She’d just noticed that the twins hadn’t bought any souvenirs, and supposed it was because they’d gambled all their money away with Mr. Bagman, when a deep, booming, gong sounded somewhere out in the distance. It startled her, but all at once the forest was illuminated with green and red lanterns. They were clearly lighting a path to the field.

Mr. Weasley said “it’s time! Come on, let’s go!” and they all hurried off into those trees.



Deconstruction / Notes On The Source Text / SOME META STUFF

Did that chapter feel like it went on forever to you? It did to me, partly because it’s over twice as long as the previous chapter, and partly because it took me over three times as long to complete.

And partly because, once again, Hermione barely speaks.

This chapter is frustrating for a thousand reasons, but mainly it just feels like it drags to me. There’s no plot happening, they’re just setting up the camp and walking through it and cooking eggs and drinking tea and buying shit. And yet, there’s a ton of information in here that can’t really be skipped. The world building isn’t excellent, but there is some in here. And there’s foreshadowing and information about various characters that will come into play later. We need this chapter, I just wish we didn’t. And this is one of the faults of doing this chapter-by-chapter! If I was re-writing the entire story and structuring it myself, I feel like I would have done this differently somehow. I don’t want to say J.K. Rowling did a terrible job, because look, I didn’t write seven novels (yet). But it seems like there has to be a better way! This chapter feels like filler.

Also, I’m coming at this from a place of bias. I really, really, do not enjoy sports.

There’s a few things I want to talk about here, but fair warning that I’m a little off just now so it’s possible I’ll forget something. I’ve literally been working on this chapter over the course of three weeks (I wish I was kidding) so it’s a bit tricky.

What I’m noticing, more and more, is that these books aren’t merely told from the perspective of Harry Potter. No, they’re told from the perspective of Harry Potter in a world in which everything revolves around Harry Potter. Assuming the narrator is reliable, nearly everyone in this world defers to Harry Potter, prefers to talk to Harry Potter over almost anyone else, and wants to take time to explain things to Harry Potter. It’s as realistic as playing one of those videogames in which every towns person you meet reveals some other little bit of your quest. That is, it isn’t realistic at all.

The original text continues to more or less forget about Hermione. Occasionally it reminds us that she is there (it’s the THREE of them going to get water!) and every once in awhile it takes the opportunity to have Hermione mention that she doesn’t know about sports. She doesn’t know who Viktor Krum is, and neither does Harry but he at least has the decency to play along. The question of why Hermione is even here, other than the obvious narrative convenience, looms ever present.

Mr. Weasley has forgotten she is there altogether, it would seem.

He needs to know how to use muggle money (wait, why are they camping on muggle land with muggles taking their money? Doesn’t that seem counter to the Ministry’s whole attitude? We couldn’t have too many witches and wizards on the trains but we can have this? And knowing this, why the hell didn’t Mr. Weasley plan ahead and have the correct change ready? Planning, folks, it helps!) and he asks Harry. He needs to know how to put up a tent, and so he asks Harry. He needs to know how to light a fire, and so he tries himself until Hermione takes pity on him and does it for him.

Hermione is muggle born. Hermione has been camping. Hermione also takes the time to understand how the wizarding world actually works, unlike Harry who’s all “woah, wizards in other countries have like, schools?” Hermione is your greatest asset in this awkward nonsensical situation. And hey, that would actually make a great reason to invite her, except for the fact that he, and everyone else, is ignoring her.

And she’s nice and sweet through it all. Which is hard. It’s oh so hard. I had to struggle not to write this chapter way snarkier, because every time the text said something like “Harry said to Ron” I wanted to type “Harry said to Ron, not Hermione, never Hermione, god forbid he talk to Hermione.”

Ok, and, the implications with Mr. Roberts. Mr. Roberts is just doing his job. His job has suddenly gotten really really weird. He’s doing the best he can. Wizards have created this situation where Mr. Roberts is, unbeknownst to him, working for wizards at the biggest wizarding event of the year and the biggest wizarding event in England in many years. He hasn’t had the opportunity to consent to working this special event because he isn’t supposed to know that it exists.

So what do they do? Every time he gets suspicious, they zap his memory again.

That’s… really icky.

The wizarding world seems to have this idea that if they undo something, it never really happened and doesn’t matter. They think that if they put Dudley’s tongue back to normal, it’s no big deal and why should he be upset? And they think that as long as they remove the memory, it doesn’t matter what you saw and how it upset you. The idea that these people — people with incredible powers — can do whatever they want to you as long as they make you forget it afterwards, well, it kind of makes my skin crawl.

And it puts whats going to happen with Mr. Roberts later into a bizarre sort of context. What is the problem with the Death Eater’s little prank, exactly? Maybe it’s that they didn’t intend to wipe anyone’s memory of the incident. Shudder.

Furthermore, we know that overuse of memory charms can and does have a negative affect on people (Lockhart, way back in book two) and we know that memory charms can be cracked and the real memories remain… somewhere (it’s in book six). So the fact that this is the system the organizers of this very major event have decided on shows a total and complete lack of respect for the basic humanity of anyone who is not a wizard. And that should be upsetting to anyone, but it must particularly be upsetting to those young witches and wizards who have been raised by muggles and lived in the muggle world.

It undermines one’s confidence in reality.

For Harry, this inspires no existential crisis. He despises the muggle world and the time he must spend in it, and seeks full integration into the magical world with no remaining ties to the outside world. But Hermione is different. Hermione has a foot in both worlds, because she has no choice. Hermione loves her parents, and her extended muggle family, and her muggle friends. This has to be utterly terrifying.

But about Harry… for someone who wishes to completely integrate into wizarding society, he certainly seems to know very little about it. This is something that has bothered me about literally every single book (excluding the first one) since I read them through the first time, but why is Harry constantly surprised that there are magical things in the magical world? He spends more than half of his time in the magical world, and seems to find it interesting, yet, each time is like the first time for him. He never seems to wonder how wizards handle anything until he’s right up against it.

And it’s particularly galling here, because he’s a quidditch star at school. I know the Dursleys won’t let him participate in the magical world much, but you’d think Harry Potter would follow professional quidditch, at least while he’s at school. It turns out… no? He never mentions having a favorite team, never mentions wanting to go to a match, actually seems to have no interest whatsoever until he’s actually at the world cup. In this one thing, Harry and Hermione actually act about the same. Neither of them knew who was playing until the last couple of days, neither of them seem to care about the outcome of this match much, both of them seem more interested in experiencing this particular aspect of wizarding culture than they are in who wins. And yet, Hermione is a girl and commits the cardinal sin of saying Viktor Krum looks “grumpy” and therefore she is obviously clueless. Harry, on the other hand, is given a pass. It’s assumed that he either does know all these things, or he would if only he had the opportunity. Even though, if quidditch is such a big deal, you’d think living in a dormitory with multiple quidditch obsessed boys would have made it hard not to know everything there is to know about professional quidditch, especially when one is, you know, a sports star themselves.

Harry Potter is a master at avoiding acquiring knowledge he really should have, for the sake of being a better reader insert character.

There is a lot more we could get into in this horrible endless chapter, but I think that’s the major stuff I wanted to touch on. Apologies for the inevitable typos, because I don’t have time to edit as well as I’d like today.

Now one final thing! So part of the reason I’ve started this project is because I want to get better at writing fiction (I currently primarily write non-fiction/autobiographical type stuff) and in that vein, I’ve allowed myself to be talked into NaNoWrioMo. I’m super pumped! But I’m also a realist/defensive pessimist (my optimist spouse would say that the fact that I put that slash where I did is evidence of the levels of my pessimism). I have a one year old, and a partner who works most of the week, and I do paid freelance writing to pay the bills. So! Hermione Granger posts could get incredibly infrequent in the month of November and it’s not what I want but them’s the breaks. I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, and worst case scenario you’ll see me, and Hermione, in December.


Open Thread: Late-Month Check In, October 2016

(by chris the cynic)

First up, sorry: I should have posted this on Tuesday and when I didn’t I promised it for yesterday and didn’t get that done either.  Sorry.

What have you been doing of late?  How are you?  Are you still alive?  So forth.

[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.]

Deconstruction Roundup for October 21th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is still in a holding pattern they dislike profoundly.)

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.

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka RangiEruditorium 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 wish the very best for someone else for your own selfish reasons. Or for any other reason, really.

The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: Rescue Run: The Cockroaches Always Survive

Last time, we got to see Torene experience her first mating flight and her first sexual experience at the same time. Naturally, it was with Sean and Sorka’s son, perpetuating the dynasty of Weyrleaders in the family. We also got a boatload of mythology dumped in us in the story of the founding of Benden Weyr. And now, it’s time for yet another short story, this one yet longer than the last.

The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: Rescue Run: Content Notes: Male Gaze

So, having spent lots of time planetside, we get to cut back out to the world of the Federated Sentient Planets, with another person named Benden surprised about the orange flag on the Rukbat system. Ross Vaclav Benden reports to his superior officer about the flag, which contains the distress beacon that Tubberman sent up from Landing.

What are they doing out there in the first place? Apparently, despite the cessation of hostilities with the Nathi Empire, they’re still trying to annex the FSP. This cruiser, the Amherst, is out sweeping the boundaries of the Empire for Nathi incursions. So they’re in the right place to collect the message, and then decide what to do about it.

There’s some exposition about the colony and how this Benden had to endure having the famous uncle all throughout his days at the academy while the ship puzzles out that the distress beacon was cobbled together, aimed at the wrong place, and likely tossed off without the authorization of the colony authorities. The Oort cloud is of interest to one of the scientists aboard, Ni Morgana, and there’s a question about whether Oort clouds can generate dangerous life forms.

Having satisfied their knowledge, the captain authorizes a rescue run, to be headed by Benden, taking a shuttle and a few personnel down to Pern to establish contact and see what the current status is. After that, the ship collects a large sample of Oort Cloud material, which turns up the expected ice chunks, other rocky material, no sign of any weapon, and some material that Ni has not seen before. It’s definitely life, but isn’t responding to probing to see if it’s alive at the freezing space temperatures things are kept at. After an admonition to be careful, Ni is allowed to bring a sample up to a warmer temperature. A quick narrative cut has Benden and the captain summoned to the observation area to see the giant pulsating mass that activated and engorged Thread becomes, before it self-destructs from lack of food. Ni volunteers for the rescue run so as to be able to study Thread more. Another cut, and Benden is making checks before the mission is ready to launch and complaining to Ni about her choice of junior officer to accompany.

“Just what were you like as an ensign, Lieutenant?” Ni Morgana asked, giving him a sly sideways glance.
“I was never that gauche,” he replied tartly. True enough, since he’d been reared in a Service family and had absorbed proper behavior along with all the normal nutrients. Then he relented, grinning wryly back at her add he remembered a few incidents…”This sounds like a fairly routine mission: find and evaluate.”
“Let’s hope so,” Saraidh ni Morgana replied earnestly.
Ross Benden was delighted to be teamed up with the elegant science officer. She was his senior in years but not in Fleet, for she had done her scientific training before applying to the Service. She was also the only woman on board who kept her hair long, though it was generally dressed in intricate arrangements of braids. The effect as somehow regal and very feminine – an effect at variance with her expertise in the various forms of contact sport that were enjoyed in the Amherst‘s gym complex. If she had made any liaisons on board, they were not general knowledge; he’d overheard speculation about her tastes, but no boasting or claims of personal experience. He had always found her agreeable company and a competent officer, though they hadn’t shared more than a watch or two until now.

Waaaaaaaaitaminute. It can’t be a coincidence that the line before a paragraph describing how attractive Benden thinks Morgana is that we are treated to her full name, instead of the name that she and the narrative have been using up to this point. I think it’s supposed to help us establish her possible ethnic origin to help build a picture of the body that accompanies the braids that Benden finds fascinating and feminine, sufficiently so that it cancels or contrasts what most be a fairly athletic build based on her proficiency in contact sports. It wouldn’t be something, say, practical as a means of controlling and tucking away hair that might be very unruly if left fully loose, without having to use technology to clip or hold it in place. It has to be ornamental and prettifying, so that she can be elegant and regal, a woman that can be put on a pedestal even though she behaves in a much more rough and tumble way. And all of this has to be true-ish, even though Benden hasn’t spent any real duty time with her, either, making Ni Morgana an excellent example of a lady in a chivalric romance.

After this interlude into the pantsfeels of Benden, Lieutenant Zane provides a very concise explanation as to why Pern should never have been approved for colonization.

“There’ll be no one left alive down there. Ni Morgana had proved the Oort cloud generated that life-form, so it wasn’t Nastie manufacture. There’s no reason for taking a chance and landing on that planet if any of those things are alive down there! And they could be, with an entire planet to eat up.”

Precisely. If the survey team had done a proper sweep of the system for probable issues, they would have discovered Thread, and would have likely closed off the system entirely to colonization. Yes, we were told in the story that they were short personnel, but they didn’t study all the possible things in the system to make sure that the planet would be suitable and not have a collision or get too close to anything. The colony ships could be forgiven for not noticing, but the survey team needed to do more than they did before declaring the planet safe.

The plot then gives us the final meeting before and then the shuttle launch and approach, with a shrug by Ni during the descent described as “a shrug of her slender, elegant shoulders”, pretty clearly telegraphing what kind of pantsfeels Benden has for her, if the previous description wasn’t clear enough. The sweep over the site of Landing reveals no life forms or signs of people, excepting a small grouping at the Big Island. The exploded volcano and ash-covered site causes some exclamations about the likely fate of the colony. The dolphins, however, are rather happy to see something, but nobody on the ship speaks dolphin, so they can’t ask them what happened.

Since there’s no reason to deviate from the plan so far, the shuttle finds the landing grid that’s still under the ash and unloads personnel to take a look around. They find lots of dead Thread and evidence of the abandonment of Landing, as well as the evidence that Thread lands on the planet, even though Ni is not able to connect how Thread gets to the planet. Following along to the other beacon that pinged their sensors, the shuttle touches down and meets the civilization on the Big Island, currently commanded by: Stev Kimmer, currently in his 80s or 90s of age. After Morgana introduces herself, she mentions no signs of life at Landing, and Kimmer tells her everyone but his settlement must be dead, then, and he’s very glad to see them, since the genetic diversity of the place is starting to get a little thin. Benden looks at the people who are here, based on their features and resemblances and wonders if Stev has been committing incest with his descendants. The inside of the cavern is spacious, well laid-out, and contains murals and star charts on the wall and ceilings, which clues Morgana in on how Thread gets to Pern.

Age doesn’t appear to have softened any of Kimmer’s edges, and Benden has already noticed that there appear to be two factions in the cavern.

But Benden took note of the tension evident in the oldest three men. They stood just that much apart from the women and youngsters to suggest they had distanced themselves deliberately.
[…the children are described as having an Asian ancestry as Stev walks people through the cavern on a tour…]
“Did you have stonecutters?” Nev asked abruptly, running his hand over the glassy, smooth walls.
One of the older black-haired men stepped forward. “My parents, Kenjo and Ito Fusaiyuki, designed and carved all the principal rooms. I am Shensu. These are my brothers, Jiro and Kino; our sister, Chio.” He gestured to the woman who was reverently withdrawing a bottle from a shelf in a long dresser.
With a searing glance at Shensu, Kimmer hastily took the initiative again. “These are my daughters, Faith and Hope, Charity is setting out the glasses.” Then, with a flick of his fingers, he indicated Shensu. “You may introduce my grandchildren.”
“Pompous old goat,” Ni Morgana muttered to Benden, but she smiled as the grandchildren were introduced as Meishun, Alun, and Pat, the two boys being in their mid-teens.
“This stake could have supported many more families of only those who said they’d join us had kept their promises,” Kimmer went on bitterly. Then, in an imperious gesture, he waved the guests to the table and offered each a glass of rich, fruity red wine.

Yeah, that setup sounds a lot like after Kenjo was murdered by Bitra and Nabol and Lemos died in the shuttle accident, and then Tubberman got killed by his own creations, Kimmer was the only one left and seized control of the Big Island. I doubt Kenjo’s kids have forgiven him for what happened to their father, and Stev Kimmer taking over what is rightly theirs. By all rights, Kimmer should have been knifed, poisoned, or generally left outside during Threadfall. There doesn’t appear to be any reason for his existence to continue, unless there’s some sort of leverage or knowledge he has that’s indispensable to the running of the stake.

Incidentally, after serving the guests the best wine, both Benden and Morgana note that everyone else is drinking a watered-down version of it, which suggests that parsimony is also the way of the settlement – yet another reason for Kimmer to have been deposed.

Polite inquiry about what the situation was gives us Kimmer’s version of what happened, from a “forty year-old memory” that makes him angry at having been stranded after Bitra stole and lost the interstellar ship, and he insists very vehemently that there are no other survivors and that everyone here would have died without his assistance (Ito apparently asked Kimmer to take over after a difficult time giving birth to Chio), a premise that is clearly disputed every way except verbally by everyone around him. Once again, they’ve had forty years to leave Kimmer to Thread. Why haven’t they?

As Kimmer continues to detail his attempts to find survivors and any reason to believe anyone has survived, he also details his belief that Benden, Boll, and those that followed them were insane and are probably dead because nobody can beat Thread. Kimmer’s indispensable skill, it turns out, is in producing animals, grass, and other necessary food things for survival. The children “accidentally” let slip that they have vast quantities of gemstones and ores that would be useful back in civilization, which prompts Kimmer to exclaim that they will just be killed and their wealth taken, and then to have his facade crumble and beg to be rescued. While Benden tries to figure out how to get the survivors on board, if needed, Morgana asks for and gets all the useful reports on Thread and its origins from the Fusaiyuki sons, as well as a guide to go examine more of the dead Thread shells the next day.

We then get to peer in on Benden dressing down the ensign that suggested being able to rescue all the people in the cavern, before watching the herds come back, just beating out a brown winged creature. Which I have to assume is not a dragon, as a dragon doing this would presumably have alerted the rider to the presence of the stake. Before that path is followed too much, though, Ni and Shensu are hip deep in the specifics of their negotiations for Shensu’s help in studying Thread, while Shensu praises Admiral Benden and Kenjo for the work they did in fighting off Thread and throwing shade on Kimmer for what happened afterward, mixed with some bitterness about how long the rescue has been in coming. When Shensu asks to be taken away as his payment, Benden accepts, even though he explains the difficulty in doing so. Shensu then sweetens the pot by showing Benden and Morgana the secret fuel stash Kenjo had, while warning them against conversing, because the acoustics of the Hold makes eavesdropping very easy. The amount of fuel is clearly enough to fill the shuttle, so that people and their wealth can get away safely, and Shensu explains both how Kenjo’s flying made the stash, how he probably gave some away to Benden so that they could escape Landing, and how he’s now giving it away to a Benden to rescue them. There’s a short talk about what gems to bring with them for maximum value, and then Shensu shows what sort of lapidary skills he and his siblings have.

Shensu then explains that he’s sure there are no other survivors because there were ships ready to sail once, where Bitra and Kimmer were ready to just take off, but in three years, those ships never actually sailed. Which is not actually a good reason to believe nobody survived, considering the panic that happened at being to evacuate before Garben exploded, and if nobody knows which direction everyone actually sailed off in, then they don’t actually know what happened.

In any case, the officers and marines and Kenjo’s kids all haul fuel to the shuttle under the cover of night, and there’s still some left over when things are full up. This seems like a good place to stop, since we’re over the halfway point of this story. Next week, maybe we finally find out the ultimate fate of Stev Kimmer.

Board Business, October 19th, 2016

(posted by chris the cynic)

Irregular Business

Sorry about the lack of open thread, especially since it ought to have been the mid-month check in.  I’ll schedule a make-up to go up Saturday morning.  Anyone who wants an idea of why I might not be perfectly on top of things, feel free to go over to Stealing Commas, read everything related to my sister and her family and the things being done to them, get really depressed, remember that I’m still holding back some significant details, get even more depressed, and then wallow.

Regular Business

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