Monthly Archives: April 2017

This week in the Slacktiverse, April 29th, 2017

(posted by chris the cynic; written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for April 28th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is getting ready to pay back karmic debts incurred.)

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.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip SandiferEruditorium Press

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 skilled at convincing people that they should band together for their own good. Or for any other reason, really.

All the Weyrs of Pern: From Behind the Black

Last time, more knowledge dispensed from the AI, some skepticism came forth, from both unreasonable sources and very reasonable ones, and there was vandalism and destruction of some of the AI’s batteries, revealing the presence of an anti-AI group that supposedly had been noticed by Robinton, but that hadn’t been arsed to actually be put into the narrative until they attacked and did damage.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 6: Content Notes: Sexism, ageism, hagiography

The first paragraph of the new chapter makes sure to contrast itself with the vandalism by extolling how the power trio of the retired Harper, the retired Weyrleader, and the retired Lord Holder (Lord Warder, technically), each with a reputation for impartiality, worked extremely well and used their shared knowledge together in the administration of the AIVAS’s time and workstations. I have a feeling, although it might be unvarnished cynicism, that the composition of the administrative team may have also forestalled complaints about favoritism or partisanship by giving nobody an avenue to grouse about their pillar of Pernese society not being represented on the council.

From there, the next few paragraphs are dedicated to what happens when a new thing comes into view – it becomes an outlet for Holders to send their non-inheriting children to in the hope of foisting them off on someone else so they don’t have to be fed or cared for at their Hold. The AI, however, stops the practice by instituting an aptitude test to weed out the candidates that won’t cut it as students.
Then there’s a rundown of how the named characters do with the computers.

Lessa and F’lar never became proficient in their use of a console, mostly because, in the Harper’s estimation, they had little time to spend learning the essentials; but they did grasp the fundamentals of accessing information. [The Brown Rider Rapist] didn’t even try, but his mate, Brekke, joined the Masterhealer’s dedicated group in their striving to regain the lost medical techniques. Mirrim, determined to keep up with T’gellan, struggled on despite a most distressing start and succeeded. K’van became as adept as Jaxom and Piemur.
To the surprise and delight of his close associates, the taciturn Lytol became an avid user, accessing files from the widest range of topics. He insisted on taking the late shift, as he never required me than four hours of sleep anyway.
“Lytol’s always been a deep person, with unexpected reserves–or he wouldn’t have survived as long as he has,” Jaxom replied to those who commented on Lytol’s new obsession. “Though I don’t understand his fascination with all that dry historical stuff when there’s so much more that we can apply to living and working here and now.”
“On the contrary, Jaxom,” the Harper replied. “Lytol’s investigations may be the most significant of all.”

So, young dudes succeed, older dudes don’t get it fully, and the oldest dudes surprise everyone by picking it up really well. Mirrim, of course, had to stumble first, because she’s trying to rise “above” her gender and be a dude in all the important ways, but she has to be reminded that she will not ever be a dude, no matter how much she tries. Whereas Brekke, model of womanhood and sticking with your attacker, joins a group of the best Healers. And nobody young understands why the old guy would be interested in how things were before the demon rain came down, as they work on getting to stop the demon rain from ever coming back. Because apparently only the older people understand what sort of upheaval is about to happen when the biggest threat to life on Pern is no longer present. It feels very dudebro, long before that kind of thing was into common parlance.

The narrative then explains the classrooms that are put to use for instruction in the sciences, taking care to mention that the Weyrs are the most eager groups to send students for general and special instruction without noting that the Weyrs’ relative idleness is what permits them to send wings of students to study. Robinton peeks in on various classes, one on electromagnets, one eventually on refrigeration and the properties of liquified gases that ends up being an excellent demonstration on why personal protective equipment is necessary when a glass thermos explodes in the face of a Smith apprentice. The apprentice is wearing eye protection, thankfully.

There is eventually a discussion of the wisdom of rebuilding a settlement that has already been buried in ash once, but AIVAS assures them that it is still monitoring the volcanoes, with instruments that apparently are still functional some 2500+ revolutions later, and says it’s not likely they’re going to blow up again.

That, however, is apparently less important than the developing problem that Norist is presenting with his strongly anti-AIVAS position. Which should have been in the last chapter, before the vandalism, so that the damage doesn’t appear to have come out of nowhere and there is plenty of plot to work with in investigating whether Norist is responsible.

Anyway,

“As you know, he had threatened to disavow Master Morilton’s Mastery and disown all journeymen and apprentices who have produced glass according to the, ahem, spurious methods and techniques of Aivas.”
“He calls Aivas ‘the Abomination’!” Piemur said with a malicious chuckle.
[…AIVAS apparently doesn’t mind, and Robinton continues after a diversion on whether the AI finds the humans amusing…]
“As the duly elected Mastercraftsman, guiding his Halls, he can only be replaced at a convocation of all Masters. Unfortunately, the Glass-smithcraft is not a large one, and most of the Crafthallmasters are as dogmatic as Norist. On the other hand, I won’t sit by and see Master Morilton disavowed or harassed or humiliated because he has learned something Norist didn’t teach him. He’s certainly proved adept at the new skills.”

This is all really good development work, and sets up the upcoming conflict nicely. That is, if we weren’t in a situation where one of the sides in this argument still has mounted flamethrowers that could presumably be used to intimidate anyone and everyone around them into doing what they want. Pern continues to be a very strange place in that the people who have the power have significant restraint in how they use it. Blame it on the dragons, maybe?

Also, I think this is the first time we’ve really had it explicitly spelled out that the Guild Masters can blacklist people. It’s been hinted at in the last book (considering that expelled apprentices and journeypeople were part of Toric’s strategy to be the juggernaut of the South and Thella’s strategy to be the queen of the holdless) and we knew that craftmasters could blacklist a Hold that wasn’t treating them well, and if we want to think about it, the whole sequence of stamped versus unstamped goods at the Gather back in the Harper Hall trilogy suggests there’s an approval system in place, but knowing that a guildmaster can unilaterally decide if someone is part of the guild fits in really well with Pern, even if it is inconvenient to the protagonists at this point.

And inconvenience is all it will be, most likely, as Lytol decides he might go lean on Norist in the same way that Norist is leaning on Morilton and Wansor, and Jaxom and D’ram both decide to use their offices to get the high quality glass that’s being denied to Morilton.

The Benden Weyrleader asks a smart question, about whether there are closer sand pits that can do the job, Robinton enters the query, and alternative sites are also chosen for examination.

Robinton also remarks that the AI wants more of the bronze and green dragons as possible candidates for the plan, the details of which are not being provided. In further speculation and complaints about how AIVAS is not detailing the plans out, Lessa notices that Jaxom is being singled out for extra attention. Piemur adds that Mirrim and S’len are also getting the intense course, and speculates that the reason why is because their dragons are the smallest and the AI needs small dragons for the grand plan, especially Jaxom and Ruth.

Spoilers: Piemur is right. (Which, arguably, makes Jaxom the main character of the entire series, even if he’s not always in focus.) Since my memory is hazy about the actual eventual Plan, I won’t talk more about it until we get there, but there is a thing that needs to be addressed at this point.

As the comments have mentioned, now that we’ve rediscovered the AI, AIVAS is very deliberately manipulating everyone, through strategic release and withholding of information so as to further its goals and purposes. The aptitude tests are not just weeders for the excess sons, but are presumably looking for people with talent in specific areas that will take to various disciplines. The narrative, through Piemur, informs us that Jaxom has the best three-dimensional navigational mathematics skills, then has Robinton volunteer that he’s been getting fed literature and sagas that Pernese stories are paraphrases of, and privately tells us that the Benden Weyrleader studies tactics, Threadfall forecasting, and draconic healing. Piemur is, of course, fascinated by computers. Lytol has been getting a steady diet of politics, and

“I don’t think any of us realized that our present political structure was handed down from the very Charter of ancestors brought with them. That is historically very unusual, Aivas told me.”
“Why should it be?” F’lar asked, mildly surprised. “It allows Weyr, Hold, and Hall to function without interference.”
“Ah, but interference was a major factor in Terran politics,” Lytol replied. “Spurred by territorial imperatives and, all too often, sheer greed.”

Said the AI to the Warder whose Hold was annexed by Fax before he came to be in charge of it.

The narrative is proceeding with all of this on the assumption that the AI is telling the heroes the truth, even though there’s been instances where they have observed AIVAS using what might be described as “skillful means” to achieve its goals. The account of the colonists we read in Dragonsdawn is apparently the story that AIVAS has been telling everyone. There’s no guarantee that it actually is telling the full truth, and seems to be relying on the credibility it receives as a source of scientific knowledge to talk about social, political, and cultural things. Lytol’s skepticism is warranted, and we hope that he is examining the information received with a critical eye and trying to see if he’s getting the entire picture, because in Terran history we repeatedly run across the problem of having only a single source, and usually, that source is the winners of whatever conflict they are talking about.

AIVAS is faithfully attempting to execute its plan to rid the world of Thread. What else is it doing in service of that goal, and what isn’t it saying about those goals? Does AIVAS need to completely rework Pernese social structure so as to gain the manufacturing capacity for the plan? Who will be its mouthpieces and actors? Will AIVAS cut someone off if they start straying too far from the path?

Why do we keep ending up in situations where there are Our Heroes and Cartoon Villains any time an opportunity for social commentary arises? Are our books also records told and spun by AIVAS in service of a master narrative? We don’t know, and the narrative seems determined to indicate there’s nothing behind the curtain at all, move along.

Jaxom and Ruth head to Paradise River, collect some of the sample same, and talk to Aramina and Jayge, who have a story from young Readis and Alemi about squid dragging a boat into a current, a storm capsizing that boat, and shipfish returning them back to shore, and the boat the next morning. Which sounds like a normal story, except that Readis says that the shipfish talk to them while they’re being rescued. Jayge confirms the story, and asks Jaxom to talk to the AI about the shipfish, even calling them doll-fins. Jaxom says he will, and then does a quick time-shift back to Ruatha…in the middle of a blizzard. While fretting about how there’s a lot of stuff going on in her life, Jaxom hits on the solution of how to keep his wife nearby – bring her south on a ship. He purposes this to her, and is met with great enthusiasm, including sex, apparently.

We switch back to the south, where the AI has recommended that the Harper Hall build itself a printing press, so that all the “nonessential” things, like music compositions, can be replicated worldwide. Robinton is a little worried about having the personnel to create it, but AIVAS considers it the right time for this to happen, and details what will be needed to create such a thing, including mentioning the journeyman that brought the initial message to both men as an excellent carver who could create the requisite movable type for the press.

This is the invention that finally smacks Robinton squarely between the eyes to realize what sort of changes are about to happen.

The effects on Hold, Hall, and Weyr, only beginning to filter through, would be profound. Lytol, having delved into the history and politics of their ancestors, had always worried about what he called the erosion of values and the subversion of tradition by new demands.
[…and what about the dragons?…]
In Robinton’s estimation, the Weyrs deserved whatever they requested after centuries of service, but would the Lord Holders, and the Halls, agree? That concerned him the most. Yet it seemed to worry the Weyrleaders least. And what if, in the four Turns ten months, and three days specified by Aivas, the attempt should fail? What then?
Perhaps, and he brightened suddenly, all this new technology would absorb both Hold and Hall, to the exclusion of the Weyrs. Hold and Hall had always managed quite nicely to ignore the Weyrs between Passes. Perhaps things like power stations and printing presses were indeed valuable, but for more abstruse reasons, as well as the obvious ones.

Lytol may still be the only person on the planet who has an inkling of what all of this new technology will do to the society. Robinton is starting to understand and think about the right questions and effects. So he goes to AIVAS and asks if everything is really necessary. And gets a rather interesting reply.

“Not to the way of life you had, Master Robinton. But to accomplish what is apparently the desire of the majority of Pern, the destruction of Thread, improvements are essential. Your ancestors did not employ the highest technology available to them: They preferred to use the lowest level necessary to perform the function. That is the level that is presently being reestablished. As you yourself requested in the initial interview.”
Robinton wondered if he had imagined the tone of mild reproof. “Water-driven power…” he began.
“Which you already had available to you.”
“Printing presses?”
“Your Records were printed, but in a laborious and time-consuming fashion that, unfortunately, permitted errors to be made and perpetuated.
“The teaching consoles?”
“You have harpers who instruct by set lessons. You had even managed to rediscover papermaking before accessing this facility. Most papermaking techniques, Masterharper, are refinements of techniques you already employ, made easier by some basic machinery and of no higher level than your ancestors brought with them. It is little more than correcting long-standing errors and misconceptions. The spirit of the original charter is still intact. Even the technology that must be utilized to thwart the return of the wanderer planet will be of the same level as your ancestors’.
[…which could be better if communication were still a thing between here and Terra…]
He could scarcely fault Aivas for doing what had been specifically requested, that Pern be brought back to the level of knowledge it had originally enjoyed. It was obvious that Aivas was obeying the initial request that only what was really needed be revived. It was just stunning to realize how much had been lost.

And how would you know that, Robinton, unless you believe that what AIVAS is telling you is true? An entity that admits to manipulating you is still apparently highly trustworthy? And the machine is selling you this idea that it is only doing what the ancestors wanted, which is conveniently not fact checkable because it is the only surviving link to those same ancestors. It has supposedly had about 2500 years to think and learn about what went wrong, and there’s a good chance it might have concluded that the Randian paradise set up at the outset was the problem. Presented with a feudal arrangement along with some interesting intersections, AIVAS is setting itself up as the ruling entity of the planet, with the end goal of eliminating Thread. Those it favors, it rewards with technology. Those it opposes, it sends minions after to bring them into line.

AIVAS is positioned to become Skynet, should things go in any particular way, and nobody seems to be interested in that problem, since Norist’s objections are described as being basically “TRADITION CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA”.

Lytol might be the remaining hope for thinking through the consequences before diving straight in. We’ll find out soon enough.

Writer Workshop April 26th, 2017

(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: Background Noise

(by chris the cynic)

The sound of rain on a tin roof, the crackle of a fire, the murmur of conversations all flowing together into some unintelligible mass at a food court/cafeteria, wind through the leaves, the tick-tock of a clock’s escapement . . . the world is full of ambient noises.

Are there any you particularly like?  Any you dislike?  Do you ever seek out noise?

[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.]

This week in the Slacktiverse, April 23rd, 2017

(posted by chris the cynic; written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for April 21st, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is in the middle of transition things, again.)

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

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip SandiferEruditorium Press

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 skilled at getting people who are waiting for things to happen to not have strong emotional variance. Or for any other reason, really.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Spin Doctorates

Last time, more planning to build up AIVAS, more Craftmasters getting useful information, more people refusing help, and more of Piemur making fun of Jaxom.

All The Weyrs of Pern: Chapter Five: Content Notes: Misgendering, sexism

Chapter Five opens with a different entreaty, from the Benden Weyrleader to Robinton, asking him to be the public voice and strongest advocate for doing things the AIVAS way. Robinton doesn’t fully agree to it, because there’s much fuss about him getting sleep, then bathing and eating in the morning, such that it’s past noon when he sits to food with his handlers, D’ram and Lytol. Telling the story of the AI and the plan to beat Thread, Lytol asks the same question about why the colonists couldn’t beat it then, and why they didn’t come back later.

This is the third time the question has been asked of someone, which makes me wonder if someone is being defensive about a thing that’s extratextual, as if the fans of the series had been asking this question and having to settle for this answer. It’s clearly unsatisfactory to a good many people there.

“And yet … a musical instrument can only do what it is constructed to do, or one of Fandarel’s machines. Therefore, a machine, even one as sophisticated as Aivas, could only do what it/he was designed to do. It/he”–I really must make up my mind how I consider the thing, Robinton thought–“is unlikely to tell lies. Though I suspect he,” Robinton said, making up his mind, “does not reveal the whole truth. We’ve had enough trouble absorbing and understanding what he’s already told us.”

AIVAS has a preference for address. If it hasn’t shown that preference in your presence yet, Robinton, it’s because you’re not paying attention, just like Jaxom wasn’t. AIVAS prefers it pronouns, not he. But because humans want to anthropomorphize, we ignore the stated wishes of the intelligent being for our own comfort. This is bad practice, and I would have thought that having made contact with other intelligent species would have had lasting effects.

As it is, Lytol is skeptical, but D’ram is on board and suggests that Lytol come for the history lesson to be convinced. Robinton believes in it, too, although he thinks having to clutch his towel to prevent nudity affects the dignity of his pronouncement. This idly makes me wonder what a dragonrider and a former dragonrider really would think of male nudity, considering their societal requirements and the tendency of everyone to bathe in the local water pool in this place.

Rather than being a two-dimensional villain, though, D’ram lets on that Lytol’s skepticism is entirely warranted:

“He’s too pragmatic. He told me yesterday that we were far too excited to think logically about the repercussions Aivas will have on our lives. Altering the basic structure of our society and its values and all that twaddle.” D’ram’s snort indicated that he did not agree. “He’s been through several upheavals himself. He’s unlikely to welcome another.”

Uh, D’ram? Lytol is exactly right and should be listened to. Robinton should know that intrinsically, even though he’s enthusiastic about the possible changes. Which, actually, is a bit odd by itself, now that I think about it – Harpers have been tasked with making sure nothing changes for millennia, and yet the presence of an AI changes this? Because AIVAS is the most authoritative source on TRADITION there is?

Lytol is right, and so are all the people who have been snarking at the dragonriders about what their retirement plans are. The permanent removal of Thread as a planet-cleansing menace means that everyone will be able to live openly on their land, instead of having to pay protection to dragonriders and tribute to Holders. The cash system already in place could flourish incredibly. Holders might decide to fight each other for land and resources, now that there’s no threat of Thread and dragonriders. The Crafts could finance these wars and then break the entire feudal system by ruining the fortunes of the hereditary nobility and calling in all their markers all at once. The Holdless might stake claims and tell anybody who says this isn’t their land to get lost. An industrial revolution might happen. The Cult of AIVAS might take over and use the Harpers as its propaganda and enforcement arm.

Hell, the dragonriders might decide Pern is still better off under their rule and use their giant war machines to put everyone under their thumb. What’s absolutely true is that the only way to avoid change now is to bury the AI and kill everyone who has any knowledge of it. Since that includes the most powerful people on the planet, including the Benden Weyrleader, change is inevitable. It’s now a question of how well the cabal that has been running the world to this point will continue to do so, and how much resistance they receive from others.

After talking with Lytol, Robinton returns to a much-changed site of the AI, where a kerfuffle is developing because Esselin is not letting in people who are on errands from Miners and Lord Holders to collect the facts about the AI and report back. They have also been told that the AI is already omniscient, rather than having to bring the records of their own Holds to bolster its knowledge. Realizing that there are already too many to fit into a single go, Robinton tasks D’ram with organizing them into groups by lottery, and goes in to see Esselin and convince him that it’s worth letting even the smallest of officials in to see.

“But they’re only Stewards and small miners…”
“There are more of those than Lord Holders and Crafthallmasters and Weyrleaders, Esselin, and every single one of them has the right to approach Aivas.”
“That wasn’t what I was told,” Master Esselin said, resorting to his usual obstructive attitude, thrusting his heavy chin belligerently forward.
Robinton eyed him pityingly for such a long moment that even the thick-skinned Esselin could not fall to notice his behavior was unacceptable to the Harper.
“I think you will find before the day is out that you will be told differently, Master Esselin. Now, if you will excuse me…” And with that Robinton strode down the hall to the Aivas chamber.

Despite being officially retired, of course Robinton still has pull with everyone and can make it happen. If Robinton were a woman, the narrative would be conspiring and the game might be making argument that she has a tendency toward Suedom, but because it’s an old man instead, this persuasive power is unremarked on, and seen as reasonable, since he rose to the office of the Masterharper of the planet.

Also, I think that’s the first time in all of these books that I’ve seen the collective noun for the Crafthallmasters. Why they wouldn’t be the Craftmasters or the Mastercrafters, I don’t know, but there it is, nice big clunky word there.

Robinton peeks in on a much-enlarged AI chamber as the Smiths and Miners are being shown a crucible and being told that they can use it to remelt faulty and damaged items, and that mixing old and new metal often results in an improved final product. AIVAS gets to a stop point, asks Robinton what he needs, and the Smiths and Miners, save Jancis, file out with their new data. Robinton immediately opens the window to circulate out some of the smell. And we have plot development that has happened while we were elsewhere, much to my annoyance.

“And did you get any sleep last night, young woman?”
Her cheeks dimpled in a mischievous smile. “Indeed we did!” And then she colored. “I mean, we both slept. I mean, Piemur feel asleep first–oh, blast!”
Robinton laughed heartily. “I won’t misconstrue, Jancis, even if it mattered. You’re not going to let all this fuss and fascination delay your formal announcement, are you?”
“No,” she said firmly. “I want to bring the date forward.” She blushed prettily but kept the eye contact. “It would make things easier.” She gathered up her things. “The others are in the computer room. You might want to take a crack at it, too.”

So we’ll stop there for a moment while I get annoyed that Piemur and Jancis are engaged to marriage, and all we got to see was a little bit of flirting here and there. Although, now that I think about it, engagements, marriages, pregnancies, and childbirth have been basically handled off-screen since the beginning unless there’s a significant point to be made with them, such as the coupling of the Benden Weyrleaders or when Alessan proposes to Nerilka as a suicide prevention measure. Menolly and Sebell, Jaxom and Sharra, Mirrim and T’gellan, and now Piemur and Jancis have all had their wishes to officialize things reported to us after the fact and that’s interesting, as if someone doesn’t want to write any sort of romance into their stories for fear that it would stop being taken seriously as genre fiction and be relegated to “romance”. Which is utter speculation on my part, but I would be more inclined to believe that a clearly woman author, Grandmaster of science fiction or no, (her induction, if I remember my trip to the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, is in 2002, and posthumous. [ETA: Memory bad. Induction is in 2005, death in 2011.]) is more of an impediment at that time than the presence of romance.

These lack of romance bits are also denying us crucial worldbuilding bits, like how marriage actually works in things other than Sixth Pass Lords Holder society. Does Piemur give Jancis a promise coin? Something else? How many times do they need to make the formal announcement? How many witnesses are needed? Does one of them have to be a Harper? We don’t know, and nobody is telling.

Resuming…

“Me?” The Harper was dumbfounded. “That’s for young resilient minds like yours and Piemur’s and Jaxom’s.”
“Learning is not limited to the young, Master Robinton,” Aivas said.
“Well, we’ll see,” the Harper replied, hedging and running his fingers nervously over his face. He was acutely conscious that he could no longer retain the words and notes of new music and had few doubts that the problem would extend to other areas. He did not think himself a vain man, it excessively proud, but he did not wish to show to disadvantage. “We’ll see. Meantime, we have a minor problem…”
“With that lot out there, determined against all Master Esselin’s prejudice on seeing Aivas?” Jancis asked.
“Hmm, a minor miner problem,” Robinton heard himself saying, and groaned.
Jancis pleased him by chuckling. “It is apt,” she said.

So, Robinton didn’t want to believe himself vain or proud, but he’s totally not going to show any weakness to anybody, even though he knows his memory is starting to go and his mind isn’t able to pick up new things any more. Which is, y’know, pride. And makes me want to know whether Robinton has planned for his eventual decline of faculties. Has he been in contact with Sebell, and possibly Menolly, transferring the wealth of his experience and memory to a written form so that knowledge is not lost between generations? Has he made a directive as to what is to be done with his life when he slips to the point where he can no longer be himself? Has he been talking to dragons and AIs and Healers about the possibility of reversing the damage or staving it off for a long as possible? Confronting death is not easy for anyone, and having the knowledge that your decline is going to be gradual can’t help that, even if it does allow for more planning time. Are there funerary arrangements to complete? Does Robinton want to go anywhere in the past for nostalgia, or try to jump forward on time to the moment of triumph against Thread? We don’t know, and the narration is choosing not to tell us.

The petitioners outside are eventually admitted as a whole, after we are told that people have faith in oracles, and that it would take about 44 hours to explain the word adequately, since the file on religion is large. During the explanation, AIVAS refers to what it is, but then the book misformats and says “Or Aivas, to use the appropriate acronym.” Even though the audience in the chamber can’t hear the capital letters, they should still be printed that way, since it’s an acronym. There is also a rather neat, if unplanned, demonstration of capabilities where a set of crumbling and molded records on microscope manufacture are scanned, reconstructed, and then printed as a new copy, fully restored. This awes everyone sufficiently that they can be shuffled out swiftly, with instructions to give any requests for more time or any questions to be answered to Robinton. Who then also takes on the task of making sure Esselin doesn’t apply his own priorities to who gets to see AIVAS, and shares an admiration for the time-skipped before setting Esselin straight and finding D’ram in the computer room. Piemur tries to get Robinton involved in computing, but Robinton deflects by talking about how ill-suited Esselin is to their tasks.

He’s a thick as two short planks,” Benelek grumbled. “And he doesn’t like any of us coming and going as we need to.”
“I don’t have any trouble,” Jancis said, but her eyes danced with mischief. “All I have to do is give him a cup of klah or something to eat from the tray when I bring it in.”
“And that’s another score I’m going to settle with ol’ Master fuddy-duddy Esselin,” Piemur said heatedly. “You are not a kitchen drudge. Does he never see the Master tab on your collar? Doesn’t he know you’re Fandarel’s granddaughter and top of your own Craft?”
“Oh, I think he will,” Jaxom remarked without looking up from his board, fingers flying across it. “I caught his paternal act this morning, and I reminded him that the proper form of address for Jancis is Mastersmith. You know, I don’t think he had noticed the collar tabs.”

Or, perhaps, Esselin has the ingrained sexism of the planet that prevents him from believing that women can be anything other than drudges, wives, and queen riders. The same sexism that both Piemur and Jaxom have indulged in, before having that notion solidly disabused of them by Mirrim, Menolly, Sharra, and Jancis, in rapid and apparently very attractive succession. (Robinton has some of it, too – Jancis blushes prettily, but holds his gaze earlier.)

That said, if collar tabs instead of shoulder knots are the ways Smiths denote Mastery, then there are probably a lot of Mastersmiths that get mistaken for something else. So it could be genuine not noticing, were it not for the sexist attitude.

D’ram nominates himself as Esselin’s replacement as door guard, to which Robinton provides AIVAS’s earlier suggestion for just that, and both agree that dragging Lytol into it is also a good idea, before Mastersmith Hamian, who is of the same family as Toric and Sharra, concurs from the doorway before asking if he can inquire of AIVAS for the technique and technology to make plastics. The AI says that there shouldn’t be a reason why not, that there’s petroleum on the surface nearby, and that Hamian not only gather equipment to disassemble and reassemble in that vicinity, but to start drafting a staff to assist and to get ready to learn a lot of chemistry and physics to make it possible to make the plastics again. Hamian is ready, and heads out to pick up the machines for study. Conveniently, this also gives an excuse for Robinton and D’ram to relieve Esselin and send him firmly back to the archives. Not too soon after that, Piemur gets a program to run correctly. Despite his earlier recalcitrance, Robinton decides to dive in to computer assembly and programming.

There’s a quick time skip, and we’re treated to a scene where Robinton, waking up when his fire lizard tells him something is very wrong, attempts to stop vandals from smashing some of the battery tanks being used to give AIVAS power reserves. It takes Zair and fire lizards to fend them off enough before they flee. Robinton is furious that he dozed in the first place, even though the damage wasn’t enough to affect capacity and there are spares. And then we get treated to more tell without showing, before the chapter ends with everybody trying to find the vandals.

He knew there was a growing antagonism to Aivas, but he had not really considered, even for a moment, that someone would actually attack the facility.
But who? he wondered, sipping at the wine and feeling its usual efficacious soothing. Esselin? He doubted the fat old fool would dare, no matter how upset he might have been over losing his sinecure. Had any of Norist’s glassmen been at Landing that day?

I’d like to have seen that “growing antagonism”, thank you very much, because otherwise I have to just take your word for it or extrapolate a ton from the one confrontation with Norist on screen. The development of an anti-AI faction, in the way that, say, the Thella storyline from the previous book had been developed, with their perspective, would have been awesome.

Assuming, that is, that they would be treated as competent villains, instead of poor caricatures of them.

Writer Workshop April 19th, 2017

(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: Mid Month Check In, April 2017

(by chris the cynic)

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.]