The Renegades of Pern: Still Treading Water

Last time, we skipped ahead in time, with more of Piemur attempting to explore the South, and finally getting to go range away from Toric. Where he met Aramina and Jayge and their tiny tot Readis in the ashen remains of Paradise River Hold. I’m loath to believe that a continent change is enough to dissuade Thella from pursuing them both out of revenge, but there’s plenty of places to hide in the South, so maybe that’s it.

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XI: Content Notes: Sexism

(Present Pass, 15.08.28 – 15.10.15)

The chapter starts with Saneter desperately wishing Piemur was there, as T’kul and B’zon have gone off (to their deaths, if I recall correctly), the other dragons are making a racket and there isn’t a fire-lizard to be found anywhere. Which puts Toric in full panic mode, because something is happening that Benden probably needs to know about and there’s no way of contacting them fast enough for it to be relevant. They both then hear the cries of dragons at the death of one of their own, and Toric rushes out to find out what happened. He’s intercepted by D’ram, who is the new Weyrleader of Southern, relaying the news that we have already heard about how Salth overexerted himself in the mating flight, so basically the time of the old guard has come to a close, all hail Benden who controls all and sees all.

Toric is very pleased with this development, although he hides it well enough to adopt a neutral tone about T’kul’s death. The narrative then lets us contrast his quiet ambition with Mardra’s loud and public grief, which disgusts Toric because he’s heard more than enough of Mardra and T’kul fighting. Toric heads back to Southern, musing on how much he needs Piemur.

Speaking of, we switch scenes to Piemur, Jaxom, and Sharra (and Ruth and fire-lizards), at the cove where Menolly and Robinton washed ashore, delivering the news of T’kul’s death and Robinton’s heart attack.

“That arrogant, addlepated, insufferably egotistical, altruistic know-it-all!” Piemur shouted, springing to his feet. “He thinks Pern won’t manage without his meddling, without him knowing everything that happens in every Hold and Hall on the entire planet, North and South! He won’t eat properly, he doesn’t rest enough, and he won’t let us help him even though we could probably do the same job even better than he can because we have more sense in our left toenails than he does.” He knew that Sharra and Jaxom were staring at him, but he could not stop. “He’s wasteful of his strength, he never listens to anyone, even when we try to get him to see sense, and he’s got this wild idea that only he, the Masterharper of Pern, had any idea of the destiny of Weyr, Hold, and Hall. Well, this serves him right. Maybe now he’ll listen. Maybe now…”

It’s nice to know how much you care, Piemur, but I’m quoting you mostly for truth, because that really is what Robinton has been doing this whole time. And getting away with it, because it’s nice to have a direct line to the author and the author’s designated avatars. Piemur learns of this from the information about how the dragons kept Robinton alive. He decides Sebell doesn’t need to know about Jayge and Aramina at Paradise River Hold for now.

Piemur also has an opinion about the relationship between Jaxom and Sharra.

Piemur knew that, but he just did not like the idea of Sharra and Jaxom together. Perhaps Toric saw it another way. An alliance with the Ruathan Bloodline, and a kinship with the Benden Weyrwoman, Lessa, might prove invaluable to him.
[…Farli gives Piemur the missing piece of the queen egg puzzle, as the fire lizards all flock to Ruth forever…]
Piemur was unhappily sure of Jaxom’s feelings toward Sharra. And, knowing her as well as he did, he was dismally convinced the attraction was mutual. Either if neither of them knew it yet. Or maybe they did. But Piemur did not intend to make it easy for them. He would have to think of distractions.

And what might your reasons be for wanting them not to get together, Piemur? As you have noted, the alliance of bloodlines might be good, and would certainly help bring Toric further into a solid legitimacy argument for Southern. If that’s what you’re working for, then Sharra and Jaxom are a good match. But I suspect Piemur still thinks he has a chance for her. Bad Piemur.

Jaxom’s recovery is a useful excuse for delay, and so Piemur makes himself useful by helping create maps of his notes, detailing his system for measurement and observation, and telling stories.

“Those big spotted felines, by the way,” he told Sharra, “are not local to Southern. I saw them all along my way.” He tapped his elongated map. “Farli always warned me soon enough to avoid a direct encounter, and I’ve also seen some huge canines no cook would ever want to use as a spit turner.”

So we have very large dogs or wolves along with the cats that have no reason to be here? What exactly were these colonists thinking, bringing the large animals with no reason for being there? They had the opportunity to tailor their ecosystem to their liking. And yet, they seem to have brought and released things that are lethal.

As things go, Piemur’s distractions go on long enough for the arrival of people to build Robinton’s retirement home, which allows him to melt away into the thicket. He still wants to tell Sebell about Paradise River, but since he doesn’t know where Sebell is, he’s not going to exhaust Farli trying to find him. So Piemur sends back maps to Toric and others, and bides his time until things are complete, and takes the tour with Sharra, marveling at the craft on display, until the point in time where Robinton summoms him.

Since we’ve actually already seen that, the scene shifts away back to Toric, who is gathering allies for a meeting with D’ram, Sebell, and N’ton. Toric is suspicious of D’ram poking into his business at the Hold. The meeting group are talking about the reestablishment of Southern, and say they want to have the dragons fly and hunt the wild game, so they won’t be needing as much tithe – and they brought their own staff with them, so the ones currently attached to the Weyr can return to the Hold. Toric wonders what dragons will be able to see on hunting flights, which could spoil his plans. But also,

He could appreciate D’ram not wanting those slatternly drudges about a freshened Weyr. He did not want them about Southern, either. But there was an easy solution for that.

Okay, so slatternly has two definitions: “untidy and dirty through habitual neglect” or “of, relating to, or characteristic of a slut or prostitute”. While it’s entirely possible that Toric means the first, I suspect the second is what is meant, because Pern rarely passes up the opportunity to demean women, especially sexually. Toric’s solution, while unstated, isn’t going to be good for the drudges, who are already treated horribly.

There’s also a gift from Fandarel, a telescope (sorry, “distance-viewer”) that comes along with some casual commentary about wanting to open up regular trade with the North and that the mines Toric is operating could be the sites of ancient mining as well.

No, it was not compensation he was getting, Toric reflected. No matter how smoothly their ideas were presented, his full cooperation was expected. Those bloody [time-skipped] and that wretched queen egg had done him more damage than he had supposed! But he could make certain not to lose so much as a fingerlength of land he already held, or the riches above and below the soil. He also knew the place N’ton must have seen. Sharra had reported it to him the previous Turn. He had marked the huge lake and the three rivers that flows from it on his private map. He must be very careful. He must seem to cooperate while sending reliable men and women to hold what ought to be his.

Which will be quite difficult to do, Toric, against dragonriders. They’re bigger, stronger, and much more likely to cause discord among the people. They also have the Harpers supporting them. So you are still basically trusting that you can hide your work from them, now that they are quite literally in your backyard and looking for land of their own. Good luck with that, Toric.

Realizing he’s over a barrel, Toric does his best to be friendly to his visitors, and we cut back to Robinton, convening a meeting of himself, Jaxom, Sharra, Piemur, and Menolly. Robinton is ready to find more evidence of the Ancients, with a fairly detailed plan of how to do it. Piemur feeds him useful places to go looking, but keeps Paradise River from him for later. Just before their party sets out to find more things to show Robinton, Wansor and Oldive arrive. Oldive pronounces Jaxom fit for travel and lectures them on keeping Robinton alive. Wansor brings a bigger telescope with him, which they point at the Dawn Sisters and discover that they are the spaceships that brought the Ancients to the planet. Piemur is incredibly happy at this discovery, and the chapter ends with no real progress or novelty again.

Looking at b-roll is fun and all, but I still have yet to figure out what Toric’s purpose or conflict is, other than that he’s been smuggling and expanding, which isn’t illegal unless the dragonriders say it is. Thella’s been removed from the narrative, and so there’s no driving action that I can figure out for this chapter. We really need to be moving forward, because the book is about to be done.

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8 thoughts on “The Renegades of Pern: Still Treading Water

  1. saidahgilbert February 9, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Okay, so slatternly has two definitions: “untidy and dirty through habitual neglect” or “of, relating to, or characteristic of a slut or prostitute”.
    I did not know about the second meaning. So all this time, I have been thinking that the people of Pern liked using dirty servants/slaves for their housework and in their kitchens.

  2. WanderingUndine February 9, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    “Slut” used to have the same dual meaning — sexual promiscuity or, as one online dictionary put it, “low standards of cleanliness.” (Or both at once for some individuals, I suppose). Both uses are/were specifically applied to women.

  3. genesistrine February 10, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    It’s a traditional way to justify slavery too. “They’re lazy and dirty so they don’t deserve any better”/”they have no morals; their women will sleep with anyone”.

    Looking at b-roll is fun and all, but I still have yet to figure out what Toric’s purpose or conflict is

    I’m not sure I agree with the first part – theoretically yes, but we really don’t seem to have learned anything new or different from the Toric/Piemur stuff other than that Piemur fancies Sharra and Toric’s actively landgrabbing as much as he can, which could be done in a couple of sentences. If we’d learned something new – i.e. that Piemur was actively manipulating Toric into being against an alliance with Ruatha, or even contemplated doing that – then it could be interesting, but at this point in the narrative everyone involved just seems to be sitting around picking their noses.

    Toric’s purpose seems to be to be set up as a future antagonist, the same way that most of this novel seems to be extended setup for, presumably, the next one.

  4. depizan77 February 10, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    @ genesistrine

    Toric’s purpose seems to be to be set up as a future antagonist, the same way that most of this novel seems to be extended setup for, presumably, the next one.

    Oh, is that what its doing. I swear, this book seems more and more like McCaffrey just scraped up a bunch of things she’d cut from previous books and a couple of half-finished short stories and stuck them all together and pretended it was a coherent whole. I know I’ve already griped about this, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a book that seemed less like an actual complete thing before.

    Or maybe I’m just vaguely irritated because the book suggested by the cover I remember this book having would be FAR more interesting than this mishmash. Or at least, I always took the cover (combined with the title) to suggest a story of traveling merchants taking in people who’d been turned out of their holds or weyrs for various reasons while they did their traveling merchant thing and dealt with threadfall and the other hazards of Pern. You know, if Star Trek (the original series) was Wagon Train to the stars, kind of a Wagon Train across Pern.

    (I realize now that McCaffrey would never write that book. It would go against everything she thinks Pern should be. But the extent of my knowledge of Pern when I first saw the cover was having read the first Menolly book… which did not encourage me to read any more Pern books.)

  5. genesistrine February 11, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Well, I hope that’s the plan, or that there is a plan at all rather than first-draft wibbling around….

    The parts with Jayge are interesting because, as you say, we’re getting a glimpse at how Pern’s underside operates; for example the whole proto-passport thing where he has to have this chain of good references to establish that he’s a reputable person is fascinating. Expanded into your Merchants of Peern idea that would make a cool story.

    But as is Toric and older-Piemur aren’t particularly interesting people and they’re not doing particularly interesting things, so the part of the book involving them comes across as wasted paper.

  6. depizan77 February 11, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Jayge is – unless I’ve forgotten someone – the first protagonist who really isn’t a member of Pernese nobility. Which is why that kind of view of things should’ve been the entire book! Not whatserface who’s supposed to be a villain protagonist, except that’s not convincing because it’s so clear McCaffrey considers her wrongity wrong wrong. And definitely not Toric and Piemur, who couldn’t be more boring if they tried.

    Which is odd, really, because their stories could’ve been interesting. But it’s like a bit of the same problem with the – damn it, what’s her name – Thella bits. Nothing will actually shake up the social order of Pern, so who the hell cares about Toric’s ambitions. And Piemur isn’t in conflict with him, which he should be for their bits to have any narrative weight.

  7. genesistrine February 11, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Piemur was originally working class – the son of herders, lost his major talent at the beginning of Drums and spends the rest of it finding out what he can do other than being a boy soprano. He ought to be politicking and spying like hell in Renegades; working on Toric to get his thinking in line with what the Masterharper wants, doing information management work on him (or on the Masterharper, if he has started to favour Toric over Robinton), spinning news, pointing out different interpretations, working on Toric’s family to make them work on him too….

    But he just sits on his arse vaguely lusting after Sharra and waiting to be sent out to map places. Robinton must be SO disappointed.

  8. depizan77 February 12, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    True, but he doesn’t stay working class. (Then again, Jayge may not either. The book isn’t over yet.)

    And, yeah, his place in the story is really, utterly wasted.

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