Monthly Archives: May 2017

Deconstruction Roundup for May 12th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is going back to the battlements yet 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.

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

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 concerned that your government is furiously trying to cover up something that would shake it to the very core. Or for any other reason, really.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Free Falling

Last chapter, we were denied actually seeing what happened with the rapid reintroduction of industrial age technology to a pastoral and vassalage feudal system, and instead thrown forward to the point in time where dragons and fire lizards went back to the spaceship, bringing back the corpse of Sallah Telgar, preserved sufficiently well in the vacuum and the cold to be transported back. A funeral and public burial is the works…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 8: Content Notes: None

…but we don’t get to see it immediately. Instead, we are treated to Jaxom and Ruth getting used to microgravity, Jaxom wearing the space suit that Sallah still had. Jaxom is tasked with finding the overrides for the cargo bay doors to see if they can be closed. Jaxom gets to the cargo bay, narrating his way down according to AIVAS’s instructions, and then comes face to face with the void and is talked through getting to the cargo bay console with emergency lights. Jaxom is able to use the manual override, although he uses too much force and almost throws himself into the air. Eventually, though, the doors do close and the mission finishes.

We shift over to AIVAS briefing the Power Trio on just how wobbly the wanderer is, noting a variance of nearly ten years from the fifty year default depending on the pass, and that the long intervals were…something. AIVAS calculates that the Ninth Pass will finish three years early, which is good news, and indicates that the time is right to start sending green dragons and their riders up to get used to microgravity. In pairs. Robinton praises AIVAS’s ability to manipulate people (!), a thing that AIVAS dismisses as just knowing personalities.

The next missions involving the Yokohama involve getting the oxygen-producing algae back up and running, and seeing if some bronze dragons can go out and collect some samples of non-activated Thread. Which produces a pretty big boggle from the assembled, until the AI tells them about the fact that Thread is only dangerous when in an environment that lets it be destructive. Even then, they’re not sure about it, even though the AI tells them it’s an essential item. Pressed for details about the plan, AIVAS deflects with an analogy about how beginners shouldn’t be expected to perform masterful music. The talk turns to the Conclave in a couple days and how the Lords might have a spirited debate about whether or not they give Landing and the AI their blessing.

Then comes the public funeral and ceremony for Sallah, brought in by dragons, borne by Holders, accompanied by a formation of fire lizards, and sealed in by Crafters (and then the accompanying music for the feast by Harpers). We don’t get to see it, though, because Jaxom appears at Robinton’s side to inform him of an attempt to attack AIVAS, taking advantage of the reality that everyone is at the funeral. Heading back to Landing, Robinton sees the aftermath, with plenty of bruised heads on both defenders and attackers and the knowledge that the AI can defend itself if needed, since it used a sonic barrage to knock the attackers out. Piemur has his bloodthirsty grin on again, as he notes one of the attackers has all the scars of being a glass-smith, and assumes everyone came from Norist as a result. As new information comes in, including that the raiders had expensive mounts, and there’s more than a few Crafts involved in this particular incident (or at least more than a few Craftmasters). The arrival of dragons means protection for the AI and dialogue between Robinton and Lytol, where Lytol explains to Robinton that if he had studied history a bit more, he would have been better prepared for the cultural upheaval underway. Robinton doesn’t want to believe in Lytol’s cynicism as the right way, preferring his own optimism that technology will provide the way. Piemur backs Robinton’s optimism as a good idea.

Identification of the thugs produces a couple of Bitrans, used to dismiss all Bitrans as mercenaries that will do anything for money, but won’t give up or give in and stay loyal to whomever bought them. There’s a fisher in the group, identified by the net damage. The beasts and their equipment provide no help at all as to their origins. They are eventually shipped off to the mines of Crom for punishment. (Wait, penal mines? How long has this been the case? Have there ever been revolts?)

Otherwise disappointed, Jayge asks for an interview with AIVAS to talk about dolphins. The AI confirms that dolphins can talk to humans, but notes that both Pernese and dolphins would have to adjust their language to be intelligible to each other, and suggests young Readis be trained in dolphin. Jayge suggests that more kids learn dolphin as a way of keeping quiet about the intelligence of the species, which would really upset several of the humans to find out they’re not the smartest creatures on the planet.

Then again, several of the rumors in circulation about the hostile nature of AIVAS (including one where it becomes Skynet and will produce a colony drop to destroy the world) and how well protected it is suggests that there’s plenty of creativity, if not intelligence, at work in the rumor mill. Ultimately, the chapter comes to a close without any of the world-shaking consequences that have been hinted at or glossed over in the previous chapters, making this one a bit of a breather, even though there was the aftermath of an attack that had to be dealt with. Because everyone in the viewpoint always seems to be just behind the action these days, when that action is fighting, rather than in the thick of it, like in the earlier novels. Perhaps it’s because we’re working primarily with Jaxom, who people wouldn’t try to hurt, and Robinton, who is, well, getting too old for this shit.

Next chapter, perhaps, there will be more, as we are now set up for the Conclave of Holders, who have a lot to discuss.

Writer Workshop April 10th, 2017

(Posted by chris the cynic)

[Meta Note: sorry about not getting a weekend post in last week, had some trouble adjusting to a (good) real world change, then my computer got hit hard by some very difficult to remove malware.]

[So long as I’m making meta notes, I haven’t changed the opening in spite of Ana Mardoll no longer doing these for the same reason the Doctor on Voyager always said, “Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” even after he was able to change it in the face of usually being called for non-emergencies.  After so long, saying something else just wouldn’t feel right.]

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!

Deconstruction Roundup for May 5th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is going to enjoy the freedom of independent life.)

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

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 concerned that your elected leaders have abandoned all pretense of being for anyone other than the richest person in their orbit. Or for any other reason, really.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Full Steam Ahead

Last time, AIVAS dangled technology and accounts of history in front of Our Heroes, who snapped it up without a second thought. There’s an anti-AI faction in the Glass-smiths, but they haven’t been given characterization that passes into the second dimension yet. And the march of progress continues anyway…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 7: Content Notes: Abuse

Present Pass 19. In other words, a two year timeskip, which is, well,

Cocowhat by depizan

The end of the last chapter was the beginning of an industrial and social revolution on Pern, with at least a cartoonish opposition group also getting off the ground. This should be an entire book’s worth of back and forth, with battles, victories, defeats, sabotage, changes of sides, and all the rest. But no, it gets skipped. Not interesting enough. We’re supposed to accept it as foregone that the technological side wins and continues their plans. Because they’re clearly Good.

This chapter opens with Lessa popping awake in the middle of the night and flailing a bit to try and figure out why, before the “lighted clock face” on the side of the bed reminds her that both Weyrleaders have an appointment at Landing early their time.

Cocowhat by depizan

Clocks are not electronic mechanisms, and so would make sense to have on Pern. Lit clocks means lightbulbs powered by batteries, radioactive or reflective painting, or that AIVAS somehow convinced others to synthesize a glow in the dark chemical and apply it to timepieces. These are not things that are just “oh, they have clocks now that glow in the dark!” Can dragonriders use a timepiece as an accurate mental model for time-hopping? Who came up with the time zone designations for the planet? Is there a mass transit system? There’s so much that’s been skipped that I guess we’ll have to piece together through observation.

The Weyrleaders get dressed, banter a bit, make sure the watchrider that’s fallen asleep gets scared witless for doing so (and demoted to carrying firestone sacks during the next Threadfall, normally a weyrling task), and then grab some breakfast before doing a time-jump back to Landing, speculating that today might be the day when AIVAS unveils the Project, the plan to knock the Red Star out of orbit permanently, and how that might affect the politics of choosing Oterel’s successor Lord.

Ah, and more crumbs of how the world has changed.

Lessa had to grin, remembering the fuss Ranrel’s innovative engineering had caused among those who derided or downright rejected any useful products of “the Abomination.” F’lar scratched sleepily at his scalp and yawned.
“And when the other brothers tried to belittle
Ranrel’s project, along comes Master Idarolan, raving about the facilities,” she said.
“That’s not going to hurt when the Lord Holders convene. His mate’s a Masterweaver. She’s interested in having a power loom. I don’t know where she found out that such things were possible.”
Lessa threw up her hands. “Everyone’s gone ‘power’ mad.”
“It sure reduces sheer drudgery.”
“Hmm. Yes. Well, eat up. We’ll be late.”

Nnnnnngh…

That is a violation of characterization. Lessa disguised herself as a drudge to escape Fax, and as recently as a couple chapters ago, roped women into helping her do drudge work. She should know exactly how drudgery is mind killing, body breaking, and how much drudges are exposed to violence of all sorts. She should be at the forefront of getting rid of drudge work through machine labor, not pish-toshing at the craze for electrically powered labor-saving devices. And every woman on Pern should be right there with her.

If anyone should be clueless or failing to understand the implications, it should be the Benden Weyrleader, since he has lived a privileged life, with servants and underlings and the ability to basically take whatever he’s wanted in exchange for protection. That he supposedly has the insight about labor-saving devices to her skepticism is violence done to her character.

Furthermore, the presence of power looms asks more questions. What does the power grid look like on Pern? Does every Hold have its own power station? Does it extend to outlying holders? Does Fandarel’s telegraph get used as a message relay between places? Are all the wires buried, because Thread is hot enough to slice through them? Is it water wheels and dams that provide power? I don’t know, and since we time-skipped, that’s probably never going to get answered.

Second, one of two consequences has happened. Either the output of Pern and its consumption of resources has gone up by the multiplier of these machines, to which I hope there is sufficient demand and need for that output, or there are a lot of people who were attached to a hold that are now holdless, as those Holders realized that with machines, they only needed to feed a fraction of their drudge and staff populations to get the same amount of output. If, say, Thella, Lady Holdless, were present, she could seize upon mechanization as the cause of societal ills, ally herself with the anti-AI faction (possibly through a proxy), and then cause great unrest and insurrection by pointing out that the Lords Holder and the Craftmasters profit from labor far in excess of whatever payment is delivered to the laborers. There should be, or should have been, a popular uprising at some point (or some point soon) that had to be stopped in some way. The fundamentals of the world have changed, but the author seems unwilling to make changes based on the new information. Perhaps because the life of the privileged hasn’t actually changed all that much…yet.

On the way to the meeting, there is triumph about the manufacture of light bulbs by Morilton, and Jaxom worries about the increasing number of people in the anti-AI faction, called “dissidents” by Jaxom, pointing out how Our Heroes think about who should be running the world.

The actual meeting is to send Farli up to the Yokohama to turn the life support system back on. We are treated to what should be a grisly sight, namely the body of Sallah Telgar, apparently preserved all these years in the airless ship, before Farli is sent to her task, since dragons and fire lizards can survive without oxygen for up to ten minutes safely.

(Also, despite it being logical to do so, dragons and fire lizards have no explicit telekinesis, despite being able to hyperspace themselves about.)

Farli doesn’t get it, possibly because Piemur doesn’t, and so the Benden Weyrleaders send out for Canth, the only dragon that’s gone off-world, to try and make an explanation that Farli will understand. Canth and Ruth both tell their riders that Farli gets it, just that she hasn’t been to the right place so as to go back there. After thinking Ruth could fit and deciding that waiting for the reconstruction of suits would take too long, as well as a silent acknowledgement that is HNO3, rather than agenothree, Jaxom is at a loss.

Ruth, on the other hand, gets it and pops up to the Yokohama with the perfect precision needed to fit. And with an anchor there, Farli can follow and achieve her task. Ruth rather enjoys microgravity, and while everyone on the planets is busily shouting for Ruth to get back, he executes a few turns and floats and asks Jason if they can come back sometime before finally returning. There is much muted everything, and also one spot that deserves special attention:

“Ruth and Jaxom were not Weyr-trained. But don’t think Ruth’s going to get off easily for this escapade.” He managed a droll grin. “Judging by the look on Jaxom’s face, he’s had a fright that he won’t forget. That will inhibit Ruth far more surely than threats from you and me.” He gave her one of his little shakes. “More important, the less furor there is right now, the fewer rumors will abound.”
Lessa let out a heavy sigh, glared at him, and then gave herself a shake, releasing herself from his grasp.

That’s…not okay, Weyrleader. I’m sure we’re supposed to see that as an affectionate gesture (a part I skipped over at the beginning had Lessa muse about how the Benden Weyrleader is amorous in the mornings), but the shaking was violent and abusive and intended to keep Lessa in line when we last saw it. That it is still there at all, and still frequent, makes all of the anger I had at him come flying back in an instant, and I would like to impose a headcanon that Lessa shakes him off because he’s still an abusive prick (even though the narrative wants us to believe she loves him) instead of because of her irritation at Ruth’s independence.

Now that the bridge’s life support is sufficient, the AI intends to send up Piemur with Jaxom and Ruth so that Sallah’s remains can be brought back and a funeral given for her. Piemur idly muses whether the space suit will be salvageable, before the silence in the room points out the faux pas, and then AIVAS steps on that enough to suggest that retrieving the suit was part of the plan all along. Nobody has a shudder at the machine suggesting this, though, and an extra fire lizard is requested to accompany them so that someone other than Farli understands how to get up into the spaceship. Redundancy is a beautiful thing.

Oh, and it’s also minus 10 up there, which is either below freezing or very below freezing. Despite that, the AI believes its perfectly good for humans to go up and do something up there. And after only a little complaining about the cold, the two have an adventure getting used to microgravity and unloading the oxygen tanks that were strapped to Ruth, who is anchoring himself by wrapping his tail around something. Eventually, the two make it to their consoles to program the telescope arrays and check to make sure calculations are correct about the plan. After being transfixed by seeing the entire world from the perspective of the outside, that is. A shower of debris frightens Ruth and the lizards, but AIVAS pulls everyone back to task before they freeze up, which is now starting to have an effect on everyone present. Both Harper and Holder put in their programs and run them, go to put their oxygen tanks into the system, and then collect Sallah’s body to go back.

There’s also some speculation on the subject we’ve been wondering about for a long time – why Bitra Hold exists. Before the quoted part, Piemur says he’ll give “Bitran odds” that the ship is colder than hyperspace. AIVAS corrects him immediately to indicate it isn’t, but notes that they’ve been exposed to the cold a lot more on the ship.

Jaxom tried to feel reverence for the personality that had once inhabited the frozen shell they were handling. Sallah Telgar had given her life to prevent the defector, Avril Bitra, from draining the Yokohama’s fuel tanks in her bid to escape the Rukbat system. Sallah had even managed to repair the console Bitra had wrecked in her fury at being thwarted. Odd that a Hold had been named after such a woman, but then, Bitrans had always been an odd lot. Jaxom chided himself for such thoughts. There are some very honest, worthy Bitrans–a few, anyway–who were not given to gambling and the other forms of gaming that fascinated so many of that Hold. Lord Sigomal kept to himself, but that was far preferable to the late Lord Sifer’s well-known unsavory appetites.

This would be a nice moment for show, rather than telling, but “Bitran” is an expletive, it seems, for people of vicious tastes. And yet, the Hold persists, and is known for their enthusiasm in gambling, a thing that is apparently frowned on in proper Pernese society (despite people as influential as the Masterharper engaging in it on the sly). There’s no given reason why gambling is so frowned upon, given that there are no officially recognized religious practices on Pern nor any cultural reason to believe why it should be sanctioned in such a manner.

Perhaps Bitra Hold exists as the sanctioned unsanctioned space of Pern, where vice of all sorts is allowed to be openly on display, and discretion exercised about who comes to visit, so long as there are no threats to the society that originate from that knowledge. It would be interesting to learn that Bitra Hold has existed in several places over time, moving when the heat gets sufficiently large as to force the issue – or when troops come riding in to exterminate people with too much secret power.

Or maybe Bitra Hold exists only as a passphrase to enter the parts of other Holds that would contain vice. It would explain the pervasive prejudice and the continued existence of Bitra in the face of it. I don’t know how they settled in that particular name, but maybe it’s a happy coincidence.

In any case, Sallah is successfully transported home, removed from the suit, which is still usable with some minor repairs, and housed in a proper coffin, with Larad offered the opportunity to have a public funeral, which will have a full rendition of the Ballad of Sallah Telgar (currently a very popular story for gatherings). And all of this is conveniently timed to happen right before the Conclave of Holders, so that the pro-AI group can point to several marvels, including the retrieval of a worldwide hero, as reasons to sign on to the technological revolution at hand and accept the guidance of AIVAS. When accused of planning it all this way by Larad, Robinton has the good sense to look shocked about it, even though the AI most certainly did such a thing. Plans are made.

And there’s this tidbit:

Aivas remarked to Lytol that since someone would be expected to wear that suit, it was fortunate indeed that superstition was not a facet of Pernese culture. Lytol disagreed. He and Aivas immediately became involved in a discussion of primitive religions and arcane beliefs, so that Robinton was just as glad that he was free to leave for Telgar Weyr with F’lar. The Harper wondered fleetingly if he would have done better to have stayed to listen to what was certain to be a fascinating debate; but he was delving too much satisfaction in being the bearer of such remarkable tidings.

“Ah, look at the possibility of worldbuilding and having to justify ourselves! Time to escape to some other location so we don’t have to provide details!” Because I would like to hear that argument very much, thank you. I think that the narrative wouldn’t let Lytol win, but I suspect his position is a lot stronger than we’re supposed to believe. Lytol, after all, has been on both sides of the Cult of Dragonriders, and so probably knows better than most about superstition.

That makes this chapter a wrap. Maybe next chapter, someone will sit down and explain what has happened in the interim?

Writer Workshop May 3rd, 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: Good News

(by chris the cynic)

Got any?  Good, interesting, not-bad, stuff of that nature.

[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.]