All the Weyrs of Pern: Struggling for Understanding

Last chapter, more technology porn and a polite meeting of the Holders, where we found out that the Charter of Pern is boggling in the way it sets the world up for giant conflict later on. There’s still feasting and dancing to be had, though, so we’re going to stick with this setting…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 10: Content Notes: Patriarchy

…and start with how much Master Idarolan got drunk over the stress of the election. Classy. It does tell us that there was a backup plan to move the Fishercraft Hall all the way down to Monaco Bay if Ranrel hadn’t been elected, but otherwise it’s basically Jaxom and Sebell helping Idarolan avoid pissing himself by taking him to “the nearest head” (a fine nautical term for Tillek Hold) and then trying to sober him up after he passes out soon afterward. With Sebell gone, Jaxom ducks into the stall with Idarolan when more people enter the head.

For his trouble, he overhears a plot to kill him while he’s up in space and put Pell, one of Barla’s sons, in charge at Ruatha.

That’s Barla, as in mother of Aramina and mother-in-law to Jayge. I wonder what the opinions of those three would be with regard to such a plot.

Jaxom doesn’t see the three plotters, and neither does Sebell, so we skip ahead past the festivities for Jaxom to go home and fly Thread with Ruth. And learn the name of his second son, Shawan. Before going off to fight, Jaxom confides in Brand, the steward, about what he heard at Tillek, and Brand points out that not only would they have to deal with Jaxom’s sons, but F’lessan’s as well, since Lessa also has a birthright claim on the place. (He refers to it as a deferral, rather than what it actually was.)

Then there is Threadfall, described again with new reverence from Jaxom now that he knows more about the history of the dragons. (And a lot of “ancient” and “age-old”.)

And one tiny accident where a flying strap nearly breaks in the middle of a sharp turn. Jaxom takes the tongue-lashing in good humor after he determines it’s not sabotage, and cuts himself new straps that night.

Then it’s on to Landing to take Sharra up into space. Mirrim is excited.

As soon as they entered the Aivas building, Mirrim, who had been chatting with D’ram, ran to greet them.
“I’m ready when you are,” she announced.
“Easy, girl!” Jaxom laughed. Her association with T’gellan had calmed her considerably, but she still tended to become overzealous in her enthusiasms. Not necessarily a bad trait, Jaxom realized, but it could be wearing on her companions.

Not necessarily a bad trait, the author realized, after having had Jaxom make fun of Mirrim’s enthusiasm and the assertion that having a man in her life has made Mirrim much more bearable to everyone. Have we had any suggestions of how T’gellan handles his weyrmate? The Benden School that we’ve seen so far isn’t one I’d want to have replicated worldwide.

Preparations continue, with the AI briefing Jaxom about the tasks at hand for this trip. Once that is done and the dragons are getting loaded, Jaxom gets fed up with Mirrim adjusting and readjusting the burden on Path.

“You’re wasting time, Mirrim,” Jaxom said finally, when she insisted on padding the knots across Path’s back. “The load sits fine and we’re not flying straight, you know.” Privately he wondered if Mirrim was covering up a case of nerves. Sharra was composed enough, and so was S’len, though his face was flushed with excitement.
“I just don’t want them shifting,” Mirrim replied stiffly.

Oh, Mirrim.We understand that you’re struggling against a patriarchy that insists women are useless except as a babymaker and possibly, domestic servant. And that you’re an Exceptional Woman among the dragonriders, so you’re suffering under extra scrutiny for everything that you do and everything that happens will be taken as representative of your entire gender. Jaxom doesn’t fully get it, since he’s had the silver spoon since birth. So yes, there’s nerves there, but the burden on Path is only the surface item of a much deeper set of nerves.

There’s some useful information about draconic capabilities, although AIVAS is still having difficulty with the inability to use telekinetic abilities.

For instance, how much weight could a dragon carry? For which the answer was: your much weight did a dragon think he could carry? An answer Aivas found specious–and certainly not helpful when what was needed was hard numbers.
Then there was the question, How do dragons know where to go? “Their riders tell them,” did nothing to explain the actual process to Aivas. While Aivas did accept teleportation, it could not understand why telekinesis was so impossible a concept to explain to the dragons and the fire-lizards. Especially when Ruth had indeed understood what Farli had not: to go to the Yokohama.
In checking the details of this joint trip to the spaceship, Jaxom had asked Ruth if he could carry two riders, as well as two padded barrels, one of pure water and one of carbonated water. Ruth’s felt had been affirmative although, as Aivas saw the load, it was more than the dragon’s slight frame ought to be able to bear.

So dragons can violate physics by being able to carry more than what their frame should be able to, and instinctually know how to traverse hyperspace to a picture in their minds. But they don’t understand how to move things with their mental powers.

Anyone asking about the science behind the dragons, in other words, is going to get nowhere. (Not that it would ever stop the determined fans of the series and their fanwork capabilities to try and make it work anyway.) I saw speculation on a wiki, I believe, or the fansite that I’m taking the reading order from that the dragons do have telekinesis, but it’s a field they exert on themselves and whatever they’re carrying, with the mental powers kicking in whatever additional lift is needed to pick up even things that should be impossible to physically lift. But because that field is instinctual, instead of learned, the dragons lack the ability to understand it and project it. Thus, no telekinesis and no way of pulling objects through the void to them instead of pulling themselves through the void. It’s as good an explanation as any without any actual data, which is in perennially short supply for a series that is trying to reinvent itself as a science fiction story.

There is the transfer to space, and the “it’s bigger on the inside” moment of witnessing Pernrise and then Mirrim unstraps Path a little too forcefully and pushes herself up to the ceiling. “Mirrim had been too startled to cry out; also, she had no great wish to show to disadvantage.” says the narrative, still pointing out the extra weight Mirrim is suffering under without acknowledging the cause of it.

The riders get to watch the planet on the viewscreens, and then S’len pops over to a different ship, the Bahrain, to help get it ready as well with oxygen and algae, while Mirrim and Sharra take care of the Yokohama. Jaxom reorients the telescopes and gives AIVAS more data about the skies. Once the Yokohama is done, Mirrim and Sharra shift over on Path to the Buenos Aires to do that ship as well. With algae in place, everyone goes back to Landing, where there is a lesson in bacteria and antibiotics waiting for them, to be delivered to them, from Oldive and Brekke, described incredibly improperly as “introverted”. There is now an ultrasound machine from Fandarel and petri dishes and microscopes from Morilton. The lesson is actually on how to turn the various components of bacteria against each other so to defeat them without antibiotics. But before we get too far into the weeds, the chapter ends.

There’s a lot of possible plots warping by in our focus on the end result of the Plan. The plot against Jaxom would be a good one, as might the formation of the new Halls discussed in the last chapter. There’s a lot going on which might provide worldbuilding or a clearer picture of what is going on in relation to the industrial revolution underway, but no, we’re resolutely zipping past those things because the March of Progress can’t be stopped and shouldn’t be stopped.

I wonder what we’ll blow past in the next chapter.

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14 thoughts on “All the Weyrs of Pern: Struggling for Understanding

  1. depizan77 May 25, 2017 at 11:26 am

    For his trouble, he overhears a plot to kill him while he’s up in space and put Pell, one of Barla’s sons, in charge at Ruatha.

    That’s Barla, as in mother of Aramina and mother-in-law to Jayge. I wonder what the opinions of those three would be with regard to such a plot.

    …Brand points out that not only would they have to deal with Jaxom’s sons, but F’lessan’s as well, since Lessa also has a birthright claim on the place.

    As plots go, this one doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. Is Pell supposed to be involved in it, or do the conspirators plan to control him in some fashion? If he’s not involved, he might not even try for Ruatha, especially with that many other people who have claim (and closer claim) to it. Even if his involved, it’s still kind of odd, because, again, it’s not like he’s the immediate next in the line of succession.

    Also, if they’re planning to kill him while he’s in space, unless they’re going to sabotage something, it would appear that the list of suspects is limited to people who’ll be accompanying him to space. And, considering sabotage, Jaxom could just some trusted people to watch his equipment and then see who goes poking around to sabotage it.

    This does not appear to be a hard mystery to solve. But it does appear to be a very poorly thought out plot. (Then again, what would we expect from people who plot where people can overhear them unseen.)

    As soon as they entered the Aivas building, Mirrim, who had been chatting with D’ram, ran to greet them.
    “I’m ready when you are,” she announced.
    “Easy, girl!” Jaxom laughed. Her association with T’gellan had calmed her considerably, but she still tended to become overzealous in her enthusiasms. Not necessarily a bad trait, Jaxom realized, but it could be wearing on her companions.

    Not only is that not necessarily a bad trait, she doesn’t even appear to be being unusually enthusiastic. I mean, hell, they’re about to take dragon’s to space. Her enthusiasm seems completely normal. In fact, if the text didn’t tell us she was being overenthusiastic, how many readers would see her as such?

    S’len, though his face was flushed with excitement.

    But, presumably, it’s the right amount of excitement, since he’s a man. Or something.

    Though, given how well Jaxom knows most of the people going with him to space and the plot, he should be suspicious of anyone in the party he doesn’t know well (like S’len?) or be being extra cautious with his own preparations, not rolling his eyes at Mirrim’s. Did he already forget the plot against him? (Are Dragonriders to arrogant to believe in plots against them?)

  2. genesistrine May 25, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Yay, realpolitik on Pern!

    Pathetically useless realpolitik, but at least a try….

    It’s ludicrous that there isn’t more of it, what with the inheritance pattern. The 3 main contenders for Tillek we saw last chapter should be politicking like mad against each other, and should have been doing it for years. Why isn’t Blesserel’s gambling problem being used against him? (Why doesn’t it disqualify him? And, relatedly, it’s interesting that Blesserel’s in hock to “the Bitrans” – is that the Lord? A crime syndicate? Or is it the equivalent of Regency characters being in debt to “the Jews”, and Bitrans run all the moneylending for… reasons? Why are “Bitrans” an undifferentiated hivemind of greed?)

    Idarolan is perfectly right to be worried that if Blesserel wins; as he says, “He’d mortgage us mast, spar, hull, and anchor when we wasn’t looking!” – Blesserel would have the legal right to, and that can’t possibly be the first time that’s happened in Pernese history. The Crafts must have developed some kind of defense against that, even if the peasantry can’t! How the hell can Pern’s setup keep getting worse every book!?

    @depizan: Also, if they’re planning to kill him while he’s in space, unless they’re going to sabotage something, it would appear that the list of suspects is limited to people who’ll be accompanying him to space.

    Plus, when he’s in space or in the air he’s in very close proximity and telepathic contact with A. FUCKING. DRAGON. What do they think they can do that Ruth can’t teleport in and rescue Jaxom from? Fuckwits. They want Jaxom dead those are the worst possible places to try and murder him. Assassination while Ruth’s asleep would have a decent chance; poison, likewise. But since his successor would have to be approved by the other Lords, how do they plan to get Pell picked?

    Bloody stupid plan, or, in other words, Normal For Pern.

    Not only is that not necessarily a bad trait, she doesn’t even appear to be being unusually enthusiastic.

    Yeah, the narrative is still heavily invested in “whatever Mirrim’s doing she’s doing it Not Quite Right.”

    Poor Mirrim.

  3. Silver Adept May 25, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    @ depizan – Pell is unaware of being the target for promotion, and the idea is that he’s too stupid to rule by himself, so he would be easily manipulated by the conspirators.

    In a few chapters, we’ll see sabotage efforts succeed at being sabotage, even if they don’t result in deaths, because apparently dragons aren’t skilled enough to collect riders that fall off of them, despite having made themselves into a giant slide for Canth to roll down and come to a stop when warping back from the Red Star all those books ago.

    @ genesistrine re: succession – it’s a wonder there isn’t a lot more infighting and straight up murder going on in succession fights as shadowy interests try to manipulate things on their favor. Idarolan might be pure, but I’d bet there are Fishercraft folk who would happily go knock heads if it meant a better candidacy for Ranrel. Or that “the Bitrans”, nebulous and shadowy mafia that they are, aren’t putting out discreet hits on candidates opposing their preferred debtors, or spreading marks and misinformation about upcoming election candidates.

    Pern only works without major fights if there’s an infinite expanse of new land to claim. There isn’t, so we should be seeing a lot more vicious politicking, even though that would crush both the feudal ideal we have and the Randian Paradise Pern is supposed to be.

    And poor Mirrim. She’s the designated “girl exceeding her place”, now that Lessa, Brekke, and Menolly have all found their places (and husbands) in the establishment and Kylara and Thella have been killed. The narrative can’t let anyone exceeding their place to unpunished, so I foresee Mirrim as punching bag until someone new takes over.

  4. genesistrine May 26, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    So the Cunning Plan is:

    1: Murder Jaxom (somehow)
    2: Get Pell elected by the rich white male elite (somehow)
    3: Become Pell’s BFFs (somehow)
    4: Profit (somehow)

    We’ve seen before that villain plans on Pern are abysmally stupid, but this is not villains planning. This is drunk teenagers bullshitting. “Hey, you know what we could do? We could kill this guy and then the next guy in line is just like us so we could be best buds! And then we’d be, like, Lords! We’d be the ones saying ‘get out all your stuff is ours!’ How cool would that be! Yeah!”

    Re: succession: And why isn’t Idarolan telling the Conclave he’s going to pack up his Crafthall and move if Blesserel wins? You’d think that would be relevant information, but apparently the Pernese land-owning elite take no notice of the Crafts’ opinions….

    (Also there was none of this with Meron’s successor – that seemed to be accepted just fine with Robinton’s selected Weyr/Craft/Lord reps. Was that an example of Robinton managing to ignore standard procedure and this Conclave election is only happening because he’s losing his grip? Or has AMC forgotten her earlier books at this point?)

  5. depizan77 May 27, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    I think even drunk teenagers could do better! If nothing else, they’d probably be fantasizing about putting someone they’re already friends with in power.

    But I’d still expect Jaxom to take it more seriously. The overall plan is completely ridiculous and doomed to failure, but that doesn’t mean that these twits couldn’t hurt or kill him. It’s like he mistook Brand’s reassurance that they couldn’t get Pell in power for reassurance that they wouldn’t try their plot.

  6. Silver Adept May 27, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Re: The plot: It’s pretty bad, yes, and the resolution is going to be disappointing.

    Re: succession – if I recall correctly, they manipulated Meron to name a successor in the presence of Harpers, which might be the equivalent of a will. It basically blows up the idea that the Crafts and the Lords are fully independent, though.

    I was going to say that the same indifference shown about Lordly permission for new Crafts should work in the opposite direction as well, except, of course, that if Idarolan moves the crafthall, that’s a significant source of revenue that’s just gone to a rival lord, and so there should be a much bigger push against Blesserel for that reason alone. But in this theoretically Randian paradise, there seems to be an assumption that Tillek will just be able to compensate with other Crafts. At least until all the debts get called in and the Lord of Bitra also becomes the de facto lord of Tillek, too.

    The author needs a continuity bible and a historian to help smooth the pathways in addition to the science consultant whose advice has been tweaked to serve the narrative, instead of being the narrative to work at the correct pace of the science.

  7. genesistrine May 28, 2017 at 3:44 am

    @depizan: well, they’ll have to get from Telgar to Ruatha/Landing first, and since Pern’s only fast transit method is well out of the reach of minions Jaxom may be thinking he’s got a few months….

    @Silver Adept: they tortured Meron for not naming a successor. Oterel apparently never named a successor and didn’t get tortured.

    I went back and checked; Meron is forced to name a successor in front of 3 Lords (including Oterel, interestingly, so it’s not as though he doesn’t have a good idea of why he should designate an heir ASAP if he hasn’t already), his local Weyrleader and the Masterharper, and Robinton specifically sent for those particular Lords as well as T’bor, which implies they’re an acceptable quorum.

    So WTF is going on with “Lords gotta pick an heir!” this time round I have no clue. There’s no mention I can find of how Oterel died, but if he died in a horrible accident that wiped out him and his designated heir maybe, but you’d think there’d be more drama about it (or at least a mention), and since Oterel was one of the elderly stuffy comedy Lords it seems old age is likeliest.

    So either the author completely forgot her own political setup or the finding of the original Charter empowered the Lords to kick the Crafts and Weyrs out of Hold politics on the grounds that they weren’t part of the original setup. Which would be a fascinating political consequence of finding AIVAS except, again, it would have been mentioned.

    (A slightly nicer fix; the crafts/weyr/peasants can call a referendum to force an election if the heir looks likely to be awful due to, e.g. a gambling problem. But realistically that’s far too nice for Pern.)

    The author needs a continuity bible and a historian

    Oh god yes. Or at least a faint clue about how human beings actually work.

  8. depizan77 May 28, 2017 at 11:51 am

    How can Jaxom be sure none of the conspirators are from Ruatha/Landing? He doesn’t know who they are.

  9. genesistrine May 28, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Accents? Or have Harpers prevented accents as well as linguistic drift?

    Doesn’t make any difference really, though – it’ll still take them just as long to get there, assuming they don’t have a dragonrider buddy. Which seems a safe bet in McCaffreyworld.

  10. depizan77 May 28, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    Yeah. Jaxom read the guide and knows that dragonriders and their friends are never villains. (Which also means he’s not a villain.) So he’s safe.

    *sigh*

  11. genesistrine May 29, 2017 at 5:38 am

    Which is a real loss to tense plotting; surely some dragonriders aren’t thrilled at the thought of losing their cushy tithing arrangement and would be up for sneakily shuttling plotters around?

    Mind you, if we’re rewriting this book the Conclave should have been to decide whether to replace Jaxom as Lord because he’s spending all his time on AIVAS’ project and now his wife is too.

    Which would have some absolutely wonderful chances for infighting, rudeness and old grudges coming out of the woodwork – imagine the fun when someone told Lessa to stop sticking her nose in this is Lord business!

  12. Brenda A May 29, 2017 at 11:41 am

    I think the reason they got together to interfere with Meron’s succession was because he had let Nabol get so run down, and had been conspiring with the exiled Oldtimers, and they were determined to put a stop to all that. So they tricked him into naming the one honest relative. That was the reasoning behind it, anyway.

  13. genesistrine May 29, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    The reasoning in the book was that Meron had deliberately refused to name a successor out of spite, which would lead to civil war as the potential heirs fought for the succession, so he had to be forced to name one before reputable witnesses before he died.

    But apparently Oterel never named a successor either, though strangely enough no-one felt the threat of civil war merited torturing him, and there was never any mention of a conclave of Lords being able to pick an heir from the list in Meron’s case. I guess this is conclusive proof that Robinton just wanted a chance to torture Meron….

  14. Silver Adept June 1, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    It is entirely possible that the governance of Pern changed from Randian autocracy to a parliamentary Council with elections in the last time-skip, but that’s the sort of thing that should be mentioned. If it always was this way, then it certainly seems like Robinton and others present, including Oldive, were going for the angle where they could inflict maximum pain before getting what they want…

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