Monthly Archives: December 2016

Deconstruction Roundup for December 30th, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is more than ready for the turning of the year.)

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

Philip SandiferEruditorium Press (formerly Philip Sandifer: Writer (formerly TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue))

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Eruditorium 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 are not really up for celebrating holidays because there’s nothing during those times that gives you joy. Or for any other reason, really.

The Renegades of Pern: The Girl Who Heard Dragons

Last chapter, we followed Thella as she raided a hold in Asgenar’s domain, took a short break to follow Piemur as he expressed admiration for Toric’s otherwise unremarkable ambition and abusive tendencies, and then returned to Thella as she learned about Aramina and then killed the informant that brought her the information. There’s no reason to believe that Thella is actually any sort of competent administrator at all or even a competent leader of raiders.

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter Five: Content Notes: Attempted Child Abduction, Verbal Abuse

(Present Pass 12, Igen and Lemos Holds)

Hooray, we stick with the same person through a second chapter! It’s Thella, and she’s pissed that someone has blocked up the secret entrance to an Igen cavern. It’s not done well, as the “hardset” (cement) holding the stone in place crumbles with some prodding from Giron’s sword. (Is it cement? Or something like quicklime that would hold until poked strongly?) Not too soon after, Thella and Giron see Aramina. Thella isn’t impressed at how Aramina looks, but also wants proof, because Aramina is the wrong age to be kidnapped and brainwashed and too young to be bribed appropriately.

Thella overhears, as she heads for breakfast, that the local Lady is sending healers and food rations to help the holdless, and so resolves that this hold can be burgled more often, since they have resources to spare. Her best informant, who turns out to be the seaman left behind by the captain in the prologue, notes that there are now random patrols through the cavern looking for the thieves that lifted all of the grain from Kadross Hold. They’ll pay handsomely for leads on the organized band that did it, too.

Wait. Thella stole the entire harvest from a Hold for herself? Almost single-handedly ensuring that entire hold will go hungry, excepting the richest, and this creating the holdless…huh. In the hands of a competent villain, destabilizing the society and then recruiting from the recently holdless to continue the destruction would be a brilliant plan.

Anyway, Thella is pleased that people are noticing her skill, displeased that the search is this far out, which causes her to re-evaluate whether or not to raid here. After her informant casually extorts her by dropping her name into an empty room, Thella gets information back out of him about Aramina, where she is, and the skill of her woodcarver father, then gets shooed out. So Thella goes to learn more about the family to see if she can find leverage to use against Barla and Dowell to take Aramina.

Giron returns, signaled by a soft call to announce himself and avoid getting skewered by Thella’s throwing knives, with a portion of bread and soup given by charity.

She wanted to say she did not eat dole food, that Thella, Lady Holdless, did not accept Igenish charity, but the bread looked crusty and was still warm, and the shellfish would be succulent.

I know that it’s a broken record by now, but Thella’s attitude manages to stay intact despite having lived for several Turns as a holdless woman herself. In many other stories, the experience of poverty is humbling. Then again, Thella hasn’t really experienced poverty, either, so she hasn’t had the opportunity to be humble.

Also, because I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, the contradiction of Thella, Lady Holdless is one that someone should be either snickering at or asking whether Thella had all of her faculties with her to declare herself ruler of all those without rulers. Then again, it would be a brilliant gambit if you then intended to cause, say, worldwide uprisings against the system and overthrow everything. Which Thella has no intention of. This entire premise is entirely wasted. Blargh.

Anyway, Giron confirms that Aramina’s got the gift, so Thella dresses as a Lady Holder from a low-ranking Hold and asks Dowell for a commission of chairs and offers up a quarter mark for sketches, and then when she comes back for the sketches, she’s actually very impressed with the designs. But she feels a bit annoyed at spending too much, in her opinion, on the chairs, even as she makes sure good wood gets stolen to be provided. And tries very hard to convince Dowell and family to come live with her, but they’re definitely planning on going back to their hold near Ruatha. And, as we know from The Girl Who Heard Dragons, the family leaves before Thella can get them, because Thella has to lay low while people looking to recruit to the mines and for the smiths go through the holdless population and pick up who they can, including people for Fandarel’s distance-writer wire-burying project. Thella had a plan to drug the family, kidnap Aramina, threaten her to compliance, and spirit off.

Thella tries to figure out where everyone went, with Giron’s help, but she still has to be herself in the middle of her anger.

Halfway back to her lair, Thella realized that she had followed Giron’s orders without protest. She was furious with him, and with herself for losing control, and outraged that the meek-mouthed Dowell and his affected wife could have outguessed her. She only hoped he had taken the carved wood with him. She would have those chairs off him for his hide!
[…Giron returns and they prepare pursuit..]
“Watch that, Giron!” She meant both noise and rough-handling. She did not hold with needless mistreatment of animals. She would have expected better management from a dragonless man – or maybe he was revenging his loss on other animals.

Because it’s an affront to her that someone who had a dragon gave orders to someone who was a Lady Holder. The animal treatment would be a better hook to hang that particular hat on.

The pursuit begins…and we switch people again! Now we’re back to Jayge, from the first chapter, who was in the same caverns but is thankfully back on the road again, away from

the constant appeals from the Smithcrafthallers and the Telgarans to “take a hold of himself,” “be useful,” “learn a good craft,” and “make enough credits to bank with a Bitran.”

*recordscratch*

Cocowhat by depizan

I mean, I probably shouldn’t be throwing a Whatfruit at this. After all, we saw something like moneychangers at the Harper Gather in Dragonsinger, we have a system of currencies where any authority that wants to can issue their own marks or credit chits for their own goods, and yet there is some sort of way that their values are pegged or float against each other, and now we find out that not only are there banks (which operate profitably, generally, through usury of various sorts, a thing that has not ever been alluded to as part of the society), but the residents of Bitra Hold (descendants of that profit-seeking clear villain herself) are renowned for their ability at it. I shouldn’t be surprised at this. I shouldn’t. And yet, I am entirely flabbergasted that there are banks, and I want to know everything there is to know about how they work, whether there are conglomerates across the planet with branches in every Hold, whether there’s an official Usurer’s Craft somewhere, and whether or not the bankers have managed to buy or bribe their way into the Conclave of Lords Holder.

Once again, my model of the universe of Pern is completely kicked over by the presence of what is likely a throwaway line.

Getting back to the plot, Jayge is on his way in metal-covered wagons that can resist Thread, having wondered why his compatriots stayed behind to be functionally drudges so many Turns ago, mused on the things that are worse than Thread, and then enjoys the scenery, the woods, and gets a bit apprehensive any the presence of dragons in the sky. Even though others have been far kinder, Jayge still hasn’t gotten over his first impression of dragonriders. Jayge also wishes someone could breed a beast that has all the tenacity of the herdbeasts and all the intelligence and grace of the runnerbeast. The real reason why we’ve switched to Jayge is so that when Thella and Giron arrive, we don’t have her perspective, and thus Jayge can spot them as people not to be aided, even with their cover story of chasing thieves into the back trails. Jayge does his best to provide noncommittal, not very informative answers to Thella about where Dowell might have gone. Armald, one of the others, recognizes the people as Thella and Giron and tries to direct them in the right direction, explaining after they thunder off that they really wanted to cooperate to avoid Thella’s rage coming back on them. And after they arrive, Thella and Giron leave and the narrative shifts back to them, making this change of perspective POINTLESS.

So, Thella and Giron chase Dowell and family, but are delayed in their pursuit by the presence of enough dragons in the area to signal an immanent Threadfall. Which delays them further, both in the actual Fall and in the increased presence of personnel in the forests. They do find the hidden wagon, but darkness prevents Thella from investigating to find Aramina’s cave. And then there’s more dragonriders and mounted patrols in the area, which frustrates Thella.

“They were looking for us! I know it,” she said, cursing as she veered around a thicket. “C’mon, Giron. We’ll find that girl. We’ll find her. Then we’ll pay back that Lilcamp trader boy. Cripple his beasts, burn the wagons. They won’t get as far as the lake, you can be sure of that. I’ll get him for informing on me. I’ll get him!”
“Lady Holdless,” Giron said in such a derisive time that she paused in her furious progress. “You’ll be got if you’re not quieter moving through this forest. And look, someone’s been this way recently. The bushes are broken. Let’s follow the signs.”

Ah, there’s the snark I was hoping for. And another casual note about how Thella’s temper means she should be basically without allies and otherwise paranoid that the ones she has are going to knife her when they get the chance.

The chapter closes out with the part in The Girl Who Heard Dragons where Thella and Giron briefly have Aramina in their control, before Heth disrupts everything and the two have to flee empty-handed.

Writer Workshop December 28th, 2016

(Posted by chris the cynic)

[Added note:] Since this is the last writer’s workshop of 2016, it would seem appropriate to talk about any related thing you wish to talk about that took place any time in the year. [/added note]

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: Year End Check In

(by chris the cynic)

Sort of like the monthly check in, except the topic is your whole year.  The good, the bad, the whatever.  Whatever you feel like sharing about this Gregorian year which will be with us much longer.

 

[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 December 23rd, 2016

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who lost a dog yesterday.)

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 Rangi: Eruditorium 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 are not really up for celebrating holidays because there’s nothing during those times that gives you joy. Or for any other reason, really.

The Renegades of Pern: A Disjointed Plot

Last time, we spent a full chapter rehashing Dragondrums from the perspective of the Southern Hold, so that a few paragraphs could be spent on how Giron got away and we could see that there are dolphins (“shipfish”) around there.

Oh, good. This chapter has Thella.

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter Four: Content Notes: Abuse, Murder

(The time marker for this chapter is rather vague, just Present Pass 12. Presumably, this is after 02.04 in Chapter Two.)

The action picks up with Thella and seventeen raiders arriving at their destination. Paragraph two mentions Asgenar’s foresters, so we can situate our temporal marker as toward the end of the short story we just read. If this is also a filler chapter, that’s going to end poorly. Thing is, the blurb at the front of the book is Giron’s threat to Aramina, so we’re going to have to go through it.

Also, by the end of the second paragraph, Thella has threatened all the people she is with by flipping a knife idly and saying she’ll feed anyone to Dushik that steals anything other than the target stuff. Considering what kind of patriarchal nightmare Pern is, maybe this is necessary for continued survival, but it doesn’t inspire a lot of feelings that Thella is a competent leader.

Readis, from Chapter One’s trader group, is Thella’s contact that informs her of caravan movements. (Jayge was a decoy protagonist.) The narrative tells us Thella has no compulsions about stealing Craft messages from their sleeping couriers, and that she understands drum code, since she’s a Holder daughter. This further cements the idea that drum code is really meant to be a way for aristocrats and crafters to communicate, rather than some sort of trade secret for the Harper craft.

Thella outlines the plan, involving using the Threadfall scheduled for today as cover, then sneaking in and stealing their beasts when the ground crews go out. She also commits a capital Pernese sin by referring to Asgenar without his title, a disrespect of tradition she encourages in her men as well. Even though she used the title earlier in the plan. Some habits need encouraging, I suppose.

Thella has also fully graduated from “woman who wants a fair shake and some autonomy” to “evil villain” or at least “thrill seeker”.

And to think that once she would have settled for having a Hold of her own, to be acknowledged by the Conclave as a Lady Holder in her own right. So much had changed since she met Dushik. She had found far more to excite her: the thrill of planning and executing a raid, and taking exactly what she had set out to acquire, but no more. Success inspired her to set more hazardous goals, more difficult puzzles. […Dushik snores…]
Since that Gather day she had found a fast more satisfying challenge: choosing victims instead of being one. When she and Dushik had returned to the Gather tents to hire some carefully selected holdless men and women, she had already begun to plan. There would be many laden runners and carts leaving the Gather, and if it all went well – and why would it not? – not all of them would reach their original destinations. She and Dushik would choose what they needed to supply her mountainhold – and the desperate holdless who hovered on the edges of Igen’s Gather would bear all the blame.

Yes, we can be pretty sure at this point that Thella holds no higher ideological purpose than revenge and living the good life away from the society that wanted to dispose of her as a useless woman in a world of men. And that she’s more than willing to use other people in the same lot as she had a scapegoats, having learned practically nothing from her time spent as one of the Holdless.

Right about now is when I complain about how we’re still seeing Pern from the perspective of the aristocracy. This seems to be a function of the world that’s been built – all the really properly common people are tied to the land, slaved to a household, or wandering the world on trade routes. Yet we can’t seem to sustain the perspective of the common person and make the narrative work. Even a “disgraced” aristocrat like Thella hasn’t had to adjust her perspective on everything because she has turned out to be scarily competent at being a raider and leader.

Then again, if we see who she idolizes, perhaps get competence is not very surprising at all.

Four Turns earlier one of her men had brought her a copy of the Harper Records on Lord Fax’s activities in the Western Ranges. Now there had been a man whose vision and grasp she could admire! A real pity that the man had died so early in what had promised to be a spectacular Holding. With cunning, he had outrageously taken over seven holds. Several times she had used his surprise tactics, scaling the heights of well-positioned holds and coming stealthily in through upper windows just at dawn, even the watchwher’s night vision was useless. He had probably been tricked into the duel that killed him. Or good judgement had deserted him – no one challenged a dragonrider. Dragons had unusual powers, and they did not let their riders get injured. She still hoped to learn exactly what dragons did for their riders, apart from going between and fighting Threadfall. Giron would not talk about Weyrlife – yet. she would have to encourage him.
The most depressing part of that harper account was that no one had attempted to take charge of what Fax had so ingeniously secured. Ruatha Hold had been given to a baby, Meron had taken hold of only Nabol, and the other five had been reclaimed by Bloodkin of those Fax had supplanted. Then Meron, who ought to have learned more from Fax, had become enamoured of Thella’s half-sister, Kylara. Well, Kylara had not been very smart in Thella’s estimation: she had lost her dragon queen. And Meron was dead, too.

So, yeah, Thella is supposed to be a villain, and I think we’ve overkilled that idea by now. Also, what’s the point of making Thella and Kylara part of the same family by marriage, unless we’re supposed to conclude that some people are just genetically disposed to villainy, or to attempted feminism. Because at this point, Fax’s name is still likely spoken with a spit and a curse, as well as Meron’s.

What I still don’t know, even as we are treated to this fawning over Fax’s techniques and ambition, is why other Holders or their children haven’t tried it themselves. It clearly worked, but for the intervention of the dragonrider, and Thella isn’t wrong that Fax got tricked into it. Even in this era, surely someone should be able to invade their neighbor without permanent consequence or immediate retribution. Younger sons, especially the kind that would go off to Southern, should be particularly prone to trying to invade just off the border so as to make a Hold for themselves.

Thella’s thoughts drift to the question of trying to acquire fire-lizard eggs, since they would be very helpful in detecting sweep riders and other dragons in the vicinity that might spoil an otherwise perfect raid by being in the wrong place at the right time to observe and then pursue them. She remembers she decided they’re not worth it, because they’re too loud, based on meeting some at a Gather at Bitra.

The next few paragraphs are about the various members of Thella’s crew and their strengths (and weaknesses) before it’s time to move out. Thella has to threaten a few people with her whip to get them to move while Thread is ahead of them and moving away, and the delay kindles Thella’s rage. Thankfully, the plan appears to go smoothly after that, and we get to see the first incarnation of Thella, Lady Holdless, at least by her own reckoning. The grain she is after is stolen without a hitch.

The next scene is Asgenar telling T’gellan that the raids his holders have been suffering are too organized and planned to be random attacks from just the holdless. Thella is too good at what she does not to attract attention from anyone who cares to look and see that the pattern points to a hold supplying itself by raiding others. Asgenar resents this, as do his tithed Holders. T’gellan suggests turning loose the holdless that Asgenar suspects aren’t part of the raids and asking then to keep an eye out in the caves for anyone suspicions. Asgenar is wholeheartedly in favor of this plan, and is okay with converting some holdless to vassals to make it work. Then, the various Lords of Thella’s operating space convene with Robinton, who has been receiving the reports of the stolen goods so as to make restitution. Robinton suggests sending in one of his better journeymen to try and find the group of raiders, and then the narrative informs us this has already happened. The Holders agree to this plan.

Robinton is anticipated, though, as we find Thella’s agent in Bitra reporting on the meetings and that the communication towers were busy, but not using a known drum code. There are more dragonriders around, as well, and that gets Thella to decide to go to ground for a while. Readis reporting on the personnel at the meeting and warns Thella that Harpers, and especially Robinton, are srs bzns and not to underestimate their abilities to find and spread information. Thella isn’t having any of it, at least not for now.

Then we switch over to Piemur seeing Haiman. I guess that’s why the last chapter was needed? Haiman is giving Piemur permission to explore and survey for Toric, including potentially seeing mines and ruins along the way. Haiman thinks he has a better route to deliver ores from the mines to ports, but he needs to build some paths and know what the land and rivers are like. Piemur is along to record it all.

Piemur has also done reasonably well with his responsibilities in the south.

He had been diligent, too, because Toric was a totally different personality than Master Robinton, Master Shonagar, or Master Domick and his drum tower masters. Piemur had felt Toric’s hard hand once and took great care not to feel it again. He knew that the Southerner was very ambitious, far more than anyone – except possibly Master Robinton – knew.
[…the Southern Continent is vast and beautiful…]
Soon Piemur’s first loyalty to the Harper Hall was going to come into abrupt conflict with his sneaking admiration for Toric’s ambitions. Or the ambitions of someone like Lord Groghe, who had that mess of sons to settle, or Corman, who had nine. If they found out how much good land was available, they might even defy Benden’s orders. Saneter kept telling Piemur that Master Robinton was well-informed of all Toric’s doing, but Piemur was beginning to wonder if Saneter really knew!

If by well, we mean “works under the threat of abuse from Toric”, that is. And from what we experienced in Dragondrums, getting beat is nothing new or exciting for Piemur, based on his experiences in the Harper Hall.

I’m not quite understanding why everyone seems to have this admiration for Toric, too the point where their other loyalties are compromised. He seems to be a bog-standard greedy Lord Holder who’s not above using whatever is at his disposal to get his way, including threats, intimidation, and abuse. This shouldn’t be any sort of special power or ability to influence people. Of course, since Pern is supposed to be a Randian paradise, perhaps ambition is prized as a universal good, even when that ambition has lots of very negative things that go along with it.

The last part of this entire bit is Piemur seeing “two huge spotted felines” sunning themselves on an island. So Ted’s work still survives and thrives many generations later.

Before the chapter finishes, though, we switch back to Thella getting information that one of the people in the caverns can hear dragons, and this would be just the thing Thella needs to avoid the dragonriders without the need for noisy fire-lizards. There’s a bit of casual leering in a digression from the describing:

“The ma’s still a looker, got big -” Hastily he caught himself, realizing he spoke to a well-endowed woman. “Fax did like a good piece to warm his furs. If the ma was Ruathan Bloodline like she claims, it could be in the Blood for the girl to hear dragons. The Benden Weyrwoman’s Ruathan, you know.”

Because we needed to be reminded at this point that Thella is conventionally attractive, and therefore evil? Because she’s already been tied in pretty firmly with the family of Kylara thing.

This is a pattern, still – conventionally attractive women are almost always villainous, and women who aren’t manage to be heroic or protagonist-y. There’s a blinkered spot in the writing here.

The chapter finishes with Thella learning the details of Aramina and where she is, then having Dushik kill the “deaf” man informing on Aramina. “If deaf men could tell tales, dead men would not. Dushik obliged her, as always.”

And that’s how the chapter ends, with Thella violating another of the Evil Overlord’s requirements by killing an underling that has provided highly useful information because the smell was getting to her. She’s not going to be a successful anything if she keeps killing the competent ones.

Writer Workshop Second Solstice, 2016

(Posted by chris the cynic)

I was originally going to write “Winter Solstice” but that doesn’t apply to everyone.  I’ve always been using the Gregorian calendar to date these, and whoever you are wherever you are, this is definitely the second solstice of the Gregorian year.  Thus what I went with.

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!