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 on 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.

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17 thoughts on “The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: Rescue Run: One Last Impossible Plot

  1. depizan October 27, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    *rubs forehead* I do love a plot that could be prevented by your average, I don’t know, six year old? It doesn’t – or rather it shouldn’t – take a genius to work out that if no one on watch can stay awake and people have symptoms of being drugged that you (and whoever else you’re sure you can trust) should watch the watchers one night and see what happens. And our main characters are scientists and soldiers! Dear god, this universe.

    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

    Again I find myself wishing we had a lot more information about how everything works. Half a ton (1100 lbs) might be a plausible amount to be a problem, or it might be an awfully small amount to screw up a space shuttle. An actual hard sci-fi story would have given us all the information we need to properly understand the problem and feel confident that the shuttle wouldn’t burn up enough fuel to make this a moot point – or, conversely that it wouldn’t be a problem at takeoff. (Though that’s a freaking lot of stuff to sneak on board the ship.)

    A short frisk reveals the entire Kimmer clan is clad in gold

    Whut. I just…ung… Sure, of course they’d put this much effort into it. Even though I could’ve sworn some amount of valuables was going to be allowed. (And literally clad in gold? I just…wouldn’t the technology required to make clothes out of metal – in such a way that no one noticed – be way out of line with a struggling failed colony. Wearing plates of gold under their clothes, okay, I buy that…I guess. Though you’d think it’d be easy to mess up and have people weigh implausibly too much instead of plausibly too much.)

    Wait, no, if they were wearing this when they were weighed for the voyage, this can’t be the weight that’s throwing things off. It would’ve been factored in.

    Oh, the stupid, it burns.

    Platinum and germanium are stashed all over the ship in thin sheets and rolls everywhere,

    And these were invisible until now? The ship’s been searched many many times. You’d think someone would’ve gone “huh, mysterious thin sheets of metal rolled up everywhere. Maybe this is what they’re sneaking on board/why we’re overweight.”

    And there is no way in hell – except for authorial mandate – that Kimmer wouldn’t have been staked out for thread long ago. I don’t buy him as the magical source of food – barring actual magic – and it looks like his clan took the first opportunity the narrative actually allowed to rid themselves of him.

    I guess one could try to excuse it with fear or something, but they had so many ways of doing him in and they were so obviously not happy with him… no… I just don’t buy this. But he had to stick around because McCaffrey is obviously super fond of people trying to smuggle valuables in shuttles.

  2. Firedrake October 27, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    As I think I said before, Rescue Run was the story that had seen significant earlier small-press publication, in a chapbook in 1991, two years before this book came out (and I dimly recall it being circulated as samizdat among fans). I see it as an answer to the obvious question “why didn’t anyone ever come back to check on the health of the colony they’d planted”. I suspect that many of the other stories in this book were there as padding to get Rescue Run into mainstream print.

    (The only other story not seeing its first publication here was The Dolphins’ Bell, and that was only by a matter of months.)

    Readers here will be unsurprised to learn that astrogation Does Not Work Like That. This idea that the “battlecruiser”, the big ship, has limited delta-V reserves and is making a single pass of the system while the shuttle, the little ship, has enough dV to make interplanetary transits… I’m sorry, I just don’t believe it. Even if you do build the ships that way, the interplanetary travel will take months to years. It’s just another case of the tech doing whatever the story needs it to do.

  3. genesistrine October 27, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    FFS, another villain who’s pure Stupid Evil alignment? Come on!

    I find the idea of the crew somehow not noticing that everything’s been tinfoiled absolutely hilarious. Hey, didn’t that sofa used to be brown? And not crinkle when you sat on it? Oh well. Guess someone felt like redecorating. I love my new silver bedsheets, even though they’re a bit chilly!

    And like depizan said, there is absolutely no way that Kimmer wouldn’t have fallen downstairs or overdosed on fellis or had his head bashed in with a table lamp long before the shuttle got there.

    Wearing plates of gold under their clothes, okay, I buy that…I guess.

    That’s presumably what’s being hinted at with the fat-and-waddling bit. Because they put them on and then… never take them off again? In case there’s a sudden unexpected weigh-in? The hell?

    These books just keep getting stupider and stupider. How is it even possible to do that?

  4. WanderingUndine October 27, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    But the Great Question of the Ages remains unanswered — did Ross Bended and Saraidh ni Morgana ever become lovers?? Alas, we shall never know! /sarcasm

    @genesistrine: They almost got foiled…with foil. *snort*

    Cocowhat count for Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: 4.75. Surprisingly low, but you all have addressed many layers of this book’s memorably extraordinary whut-ness. Onward, to the great mostly-unknown-to-me!

  5. Silver Adept October 28, 2016 at 7:43 am

    The community could add on a couple cocowhats if needed or desired – the lack in these cases is often due to my not knowing the discipline well enough to be suspicious.

  6. genesistrine October 28, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    @depizan: And there is no way in hell – except for authorial mandate – that Kimmer wouldn’t have been staked out for thread long ago. I don’t buy him as the magical source of food – barring actual magic – and it looks like his clan took the first opportunity the narrative actually allowed to rid themselves of him.

    Even if they did have to keep him around because he had the password for the hydroponics system or whateverthehandwave, we’re told Threadfall ended a couple of years ago. So they can farm normally and there goes Kimmer’s supposed USP. So what were they keeping him around for these last few years again?

    @Firedrake: I see it as an answer to the obvious question “why didn’t anyone ever come back to check on the health of the colony they’d planted”.

    The pity is that it’s such an incredibly stupid answer. “Oh, this guy lied to us and tried to con us about everything else but he was obviously fully knowledgeable and truthful about there not being any other humans alive on the planet so nobody must ever ever come back here not even to study this unique form of interplanetary life.”

    There are so many more answers that don’t involve everyone involved having brain functions on the level of your average peanut. Deliberately hiding. Shipwrecked. Marooned. Drive malfunction dumped them in the Delta Quadrant. All other humans died out from Space Plague/ascended in a technological singularity/decided civilization was too much work/decided they were glad to see the back of the planet of the stupidest people in the galaxy. But every single person involved in this story has to be utterly, mindbogglingly incompetent to make it work.

    @WanderingUndine: But the Great Question of the Ages remains unanswered — did Ross Bended and Saraidh ni Morgana ever become lovers?? Alas, we shall never know! /sarcasm

    Nah, we know from the first couple of books that a female protagonist giving medical treatment to a male protagonist mean He’s Scored. Urgh. I suppose we should be grateful we were spared the sex scene, at least….

  7. depizan October 28, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    @genesistrine

    Threadfall ended a couple of years ago

    But there were dead thread at the landing site. How in hell could Thread leave corpses that would last several years!? That wouldn’t be likely under those conditions with vertebrates! WTF?

    On the list of other reasons why no one checked on the colony – there’s a war on. That’s a good way for paperwork/information to get lost or misplaced for decades. Or just to be super low priority due to the war.

  8. genesistrine October 29, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    But there were dead thread at the landing site.

    Yep. And one of the Fusaiyuki sons pointed ni Morgana at a place where there were Thread shells lying about for her to pick up. But the narrative is explicit that Threadfall’s been over for a couple of years.

    On the list of other reasons why no one checked on the colony–there’s a war on. That’s a good way for paperwork/information to get lost or misplaced for decades. Or just to be super low priority due to the war.

    True, but I can’t see that applying for 2000 years, unless the war actually knocked human beings out of space entirely. Even if the record of a colony there was lost you’d expect a new set of explorers to come through that sector at some point. But that applies even more to the “interdict” that’s supposed to stop everyone ever from coming to the Rukbat system again. No-one ever’s going to want Thread samples, or to observe and record the effect of Oort-type life on a planetary system, or to see what other useful stuff other than numbweed grows there, or make an emergency landing, or the space-teen equivalent of urban exploration?

    If you want some even more stupid; they had a bigger shuttle available all along but didn’t use it because then… we wouldn’t have had the putatively exciting bit of the story?

    “Well, Lieutenant, if Captain Fargoe had expected there’d be survivors, wouldn’t she have ordered a troop shuttle? They’d carry a couple of hundred people.”

    Not to mention that of course we have to have the bit about what hard work it is to make numbweed:

    “We had to gather the leaves and boil them for hours,” Hope said wonderingly. “The stink made it a miserable job, but he made us do it each year.”

    in spite of the fact that that’s a regular duty in earlier books because the Weyrs go through gallons of the stuff for obvious reasons, and why would Kimmer’s hold need that much?

    Just goes to prove all over again that once you hit a certain level of sales you never get edited again, I guess.

    It’s even more annoying since now I really want to read a good story about the situation. The children and younger adults have never seen a human being other than the close family they grew up with. All they know is the Hold interior. What are the family dynamics? How are they going to change now rescuers are there? The story of “everyone hates Kimmer and he gets young girls pregnant and is somehow still alive and in charge because um OOO LOOK OVER THERE” is stupid even for Pern, but there’s the germ of something that could be really good in the basic idea.

  9. depizan October 29, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Every time I think it can’t get more incoherent, it finds a way to. Wow. I’m…it’s kind of impressive. (Just not in a good way.)

    I suppose Thread shells could survive for a couple of years, since we don’t even know what in hell they are. (Thread does not seem to come encased in anything most of the time. If it did, it wouldn’t cause burns/eat people on contact.) But Thread corpses? Just lying about? So unlikely as to be impossible. Unless everything that goes into Earthly decomposition isn’t found on Pern. Which would cause other problems. Grim other problems.

    “Well, Lieutenant, if Captain Fargoe had expected there’d be survivors, wouldn’t she have ordered a troop shuttle? They’d carry a couple of hundred people.”

    And they had no way to contact the ship and request it? WHAT??? But that doesn’t make any sense! That may make less sense than the nonsense we already had!

    Even if the record of a colony there was lost you’d expect a new set of explorers to come through that sector at some point.

    Which would be the most plausible way for Pern to remain undiscovered for… good god, it’s really 2000 years? Ooookay. In any event, if we’re going to have any hope of Pern being off the records for a very long time, just plain losing the record of the colony because, hey, there’s a war on seems like the best way to go. Everything else is more implausible. (And what we’ve got may be most implausible of all.)

    why would Kimmer’s hold need that much?

    You’ve stumbled onto the secret of how he was The Source of All Food – he was trading it to the other settlers for food. (Not that that’s a great explanation, but it’s no worse than the canon explanations for things. Though, at this point, using it in magic rituals to summon food out of nowhere would be about as sensible as canon.)

  10. Firedrake October 30, 2016 at 5:31 am

    The problem I see with wiping the Pernese settlement/colonisation record is that it leaves behind a survey record of a dull-but-settleable planet. If you wipe the survey record too, it leaves behind a star that has never been surveyed that’s closer to home than the stars you’re surveying a few thousand years later, so you’d send a survey mission there when resources allow. You’d need a false survey record (“no livable planets, no mineral resources”) to keep people from going there.

  11. genesistrine October 30, 2016 at 5:51 am

    And they had no way to contact the ship and request it?

    Well you see the big ship is round the other side of Rukbat right now. For SCIENCE! reasons. And they didn’t drop a relay satellite or two to stay in contact with the small and presumably lightly-armed group of people investigating a reported alien attack because, well, it was years ago wasn’t it and it’s not like we’re out here looking for enemy alien activity oh whoops we are? Well, let’s see if they’re being active over there on the other side of Rukbat and work on our tans for a few days.

    if we’re going to have any hope of Pern being off the records for a very long time, just plain losing the record of the colony because, hey, there’s a war on seems like the best way to go.

    But again, in the situation as presented I can’t see why the sector wouldn’t be resurveyed if the records were lost. There’s no hint that the original survey was anything more than a sort of fill-in-the-blank-spots-on-the-game-map thing – check out the stars in this area, see how many planets of what type are there and whether there’s anything that might be useful/profitable/interesting either now or in the future around there; so if the records are lost someone would come by eventually to fill in the blanks again. Or colonial expansion would move into the area; Pern is provably survivable since the Kimmer/Fusaiyuki clan survived it; you just need to be able to seal yourself and your livestock in with hydroponics and air filters for 50 years out of 250, or do a quick bit of orbital adjustment to the Red Star. No reason to think some other group wouldn’t think that a minor price to pay for an Earthlike planet. It’s a fixer-upper! In an up-and-coming area! The big interests are moving into the area; there’s a Starbucks only 30 light-years away now.

    I’d like to suggest that the other side won the war, but then again they don’t seem to have visited either, and they must have some interest in the area since the Rescue Run lot were patrolling. So unless both sides knocked each other back to the Stone Age….

    It worked so, so much better before McCaffrey started trying to explain it.

    he was trading it to the other settlers for food.

    Using the teleporter in the basement! I think we’ve got it!

  12. depizan October 30, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Well you see the big ship is round the other side of Rukbat right now.

    And they can’t wait until it comes back? Just how long an orbital path is the big ship on?

    It worked so, so much better before McCaffrey started trying to explain it.

    This. Bad incoherent explanations are worse than no explanation at all. And Firedrake’s probably got the best solution – clerical error. Whoops, somebody tickied the wrong ticky box on the Pern report. Then, years later, someone reads the report and realizes it got flagged wrong…and then we can have that 2000 years out (Really, McCaffrey?) rediscovery.

    Because, even as incompetent as people in the Pernish future appear to be, this visit should just increase interest in Pern. You’d get people out for money coming straight there for the numbweed and the black diamonds. You’d get scientists coming straight there for the numbweed and the Thread. You’d get settlers with Thread resistant materials for building.

  13. Firedrake October 30, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    depizan – the idea is that the big ship is doing only one pass through the system.

    We know these FSP ships enter the system from a fair way out, because right at the start of The Survey Shavva says that they can’t look at the Oort cloud because they’re coming in normal to the ecliptic.

    That means they’re casually traversing 50,000 AU. It takes light 0.8 of a year to go that far. So the big ship must be using some sort of hyperspace drive just to do these missions in a reasonable time. So what are all these slingshots about?

    I mean, I get it, this series has no ambition to be spaceship fiction with rivets in it, because that’s not what Anne wanted to write. That’s fair enough. But she was so proud of having got people to work out orbits so that the Threadfall patterns from Dragonflight made sense (TTBOMK these calculations have never been made public). And then we get this.

    (Terry Nation didn’t know the difference between a galaxy and a solar system. Joss Whedon AFAICT didn’t ever mention the idea that all the Firefly worlds are in a single star system after the series had been broadcast and people started asking awkward questions about travel times.)

    Incidentally the real Rukbat (Alpha Sagittarii) is a blue B-dwarf with something like 60× solar luminosity… but never mind.

  14. depizan October 30, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    What I don’t understand about the sci-fi aspect of the Pern books is that it feels like McCaffrey’s going for something that looks like spaceship fiction with rivets in it. It’s like she’s both answering questions that she’d probably have been better off not answering, and doing so in a way that has the appearance, but none of the actual science/technical accuracy, of harder science fiction. And I don’t understand why.

    Though if I found the stories more satisfying and less “augh wtf why augh”, I’d object to the crappy sci-fi aspect a lot less. I’m perfectly happy to give Star Trek and Star Wars and any number of other various soft sci-fi or sci-fi-esque things a pass, because I like the stories they tell. And… hmm…

    I think why this irritates me so much is that it feels like the sci-fi equivalent of the people who write grim fantasy and then try to excuse the nastiness (especially, surprise, nastiness to women) as “realism.” McCaffrey pulls something similar with the genetic engineering of the dragons and the sexist crap (and other ick) that results from that. Which makes me not want to give her a pass on any of her wonky “science.”

    And…I’m probably really being unfair here, but this story feels as much like it exists to wrap up the remaining bad guy from Dragonsdawn (and make him super extra bad) as it does to answer the question of why no one ever checked up on the colony. (Especially as it succeeds at the first and fails utterly at the second.)

  15. depizan October 30, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    (It’s why, even though Terry Nation’s error you mention is rather large, I don’t really care. I’m not pre-annoyed at him. But Joss Whedon addressing one problem by creating another – how, exactly, does the star system of Firefly have a metric ton of habitable planets??? – irks me, because I am pre-annoyed at him, for things that have nothing to do with the science of Firefly.)

  16. genesistrine October 31, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    @depizan: Whoops, somebody tickied the wrong ticky box on the Pern report. Then, years later, someone reads the report and realizes it got flagged wrong…and then we can have that 2000 years out (Really, McCaffrey?) rediscovery.

    No rediscovery either, at least up until Ninth Pass….

    I think the only feasible scenario given what we’ve been told is that the FSP fell apart somehow; since we have essentially no idea of how it operates and what form of government it is it’s hard to tell how. Revolution? Decline? Attack of brain slugs? … no. Poor things’d starve to death.

    And…I’m probably really being unfair here, but this story feels as much like it exists to wrap up the remaining bad guy from Dragonsdawn (and make him super extra bad) as it does to answer the question of why no one ever checked up on the colony. (Especially as it succeeds at the first and fails utterly at the second.)

    That’s my feeling too. She suddenly realized she’d forgotten about Kimmer and needed to do something nasty to him while making clear what a bad, bad person he was.

    … how, exactly, does the star system of Firefly have a metric ton of habitable planets??? …

    They orbit actual-Rukbat. It’s so bright it has a humongously large liquid-water zone with room for tons of planets.

    Or it was aliens, of course. Planet-collecting aliens. What they’re going to do when they come back and find humans living on their toys….

  17. Firedrake November 5, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    The FSP does show up in other McCaffrey stories, of course – it’s mentioned in the Crystal Singer books, the Dinosaur Planet / Planet Pirates books, The Coelura, and the second Doona book (a late and unexpected sequel, to be fair). Wikipedia says it’s in the Brain/Brawn books as well but I haven’t found mention of it in text searches. (Yes, of course my entire ebook collection is full-text searchable.)

    But as far as I recall we never learn much about it; my unreliable memory says it’s basically there to be a sort of sketched-in background government that stops people from casually shooting each other, pays for the Space Navy, and so on. Once or twice a Senate is mentioned, but in passing, more because that’s the sort of thing that governments have than to show any serious world-building.

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