Last chapter revealed a plot against Jaxom, that Mirrim is being held to a much higher standard than any of the other men around her (and that Jaxom thinks having a man in her life is good for her), and that the Plan, whatever it may be, will need all three of the colony spaceships to be operational.
All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 11: Content Notes: Patriarchal Double-Standards
Present Pass 20. We’ve time-jumped again. Despite still being in the middle of a furious cultural and technological revolution, since the goal was laid out at the beginning of the book that an attempt at permanent erasure of Thread, we’re charging ahead to get there by the end, sprinting by books worth of material in our haste.
We start on a Hatching, where the Benden Weyrleaders are musing that it’s nice so many people want to be dragonriders, with the temptation of Landing so close by. Benelek has been elected the first Mastertechnician, and Groghe is wearing insulating boots that make “The Dance of The Hatching Ground Sands” a thing of the past. They’ll be standard issue for dragonriders and everyone else, because they also protect against the cold of hyperspace, thanks to plant fibers embedded in the boots that protect against both extremes.
There’s going to be a new Weyr constructed, because all eight are currently at capacity and dragons are still laying, including Ramoth, who has laid thirty-five eggs, one of which is a queen egg. It will be in the South, preferably equidistant between Southern and Eastern Weyrs.
Lessa reflects on everything the Benden Weyrleaders have done these past few years…
Lessa experienced a flush of pride for what had been achieved by over the past Turns by an ex-drudge from Ruatha Hold and the bronze Benden rider whom noone had wanted to believe.
…and sells herself incredibly short. Just last chapter we were reminded that Lessa has better claim to Ruatha than Jaxom does, so having Lessa describe herself as an “ex-drudge” is very revisionist, trying to make her into more of a Cinderella story of humble beginnings to grand power. Lessa went into hiding because of Fax, and then stepped out once Fax was dead to try and reclaim her Hold. That’s more Fa Mulan, not Belle or Cinderella. And it also very strongly minimizes Lessa in the equation, since being a bronze rider already afforded the Benden Weyrleader large amounts of privilege to act (and take credit for) everything that’s happened. Lessa is being recast in the Exceptional Woman role that she had previously been able to avoid precisely because she wasn’t an ex-drudge raised up to the heights, but an aristocrat forcibly recruited and partnered by the Benden Weyrleader so that she wouldn’t go overturning the social order with her psychic powers and strong will. Which, you know, is a theme.
- Lessa can’t because she’s too powerful.
- Kylara couldn’t because she was too sexual with those below her station.
- Avril couldn’t because she was too much a caricature of a real person.
- Mirrim can’t because she’s trying too hard to be a guy.
- Jancis can’t, because nobody will take her seriously.
- Thella couldn’t, ostensibly because she’s too cruel to be effective.
- Menolly can’t because she’s got arbitrary restrictions to access and gatekeeping imposed on her.
The general gist of all these Exceptional Women is that they could be effective at changing everything, except that their society reacts incredibly violently to the idea of women holding any kind of power over men. Lessa was and is beaten and shaken, T’gellan is doing something to keep Mirrim in check, Kylara was permanently mindscarred by Brekke, through Wirenth, Avril was defeated by Sallah, Thella was hunted and eventually lost to Jayge on trying to capture Aramina, Jancis has the rest of the Crafthalls to contend with, even if she has powerful allies in Fandarel and Piemur, and unfettered Menolly was immediately censured and then physically maimed to stop her from using her talent before having to run a patriarchal gauntlet that she probably wouldn’t have made it through were it not for Robinton insisting she should. It’s a pattern where women are given incredible potential to change the world and then told they either can’t use it or can only use it in approved ways at the direction of men higher ranked than they are, one of whom they will likely be required to fall in love with or graciously accept the love of. This is a failure of storytelling, and I have to wonder whether there is some sort of editorial interference being run on these stories, under the discredited theory (even for then) that nobody wants to read books about strong women protagonists.
Back swirl bang hash mark question mark swirl bang.
Lessa also notices the graying of the Benden Weyrleader’s hair and wonders if it might be time to retire to Landing themselves, but dismissing the possibility until Thread is gone forever. F’lessan is part of team AI, and Tagetarl is the first Masterprinter to complement Bendarek as papersmith. Lessa looks for Robinton and D’ram, and wonders why those old men took to the new world so readily when others resist it so fiercely. Because retired Warder Lytol, retired Weyrleader D’ram, and retired Masterharper Robinton must have some inner quality that makes them superior to current Lords Sangel, Corman, Nessel, and Begamon and current Masterglass-smith Norist. Couldn’t tell you what it was, though, clearly.
The Hatching begins, and Lessa runs down the candidates for the queen egg…
Cona was Neratian, and Manora had reported that in the sevenday that the girl had been at Benden Weyr, she had already been in the weyrs of three bronze riders. That was not a bad trait in a queen’s rider; it was certainly preferable to a lack of sensuality.
Cocowhat by depizan
Kylara disagrees with you, Lessa. Unless your only problem with her was that she slept below her station, which is still highly problematic for someone billing themselves as an ex-drudge only a few paragraphs earlier to espouse. The retcon continues.
Lessa mentally goes over how the new Weyrleaders for the Ninth Weyr will be selected, and then settles in to watch the hatching, including the queen egg, Amaranth, which goes to the oldest candidate, Breda. Ramoth remarks that this one is likely to be a handful, as a “true daughter” of hers. We also find out that Breda is an orphan, raised by her Crafthall and otherwise without options for going out of her Hold. After the new candidates are at to their tasks, the Weyrleaders go to comfort the candidates that didn’t Impress. Unfortunately, that’s all we get to know about what happens to them (along with Lessa noting that Cona is nowhere to be seen, and settling on the idea that is probably for the best for Cona to get consolation in her own way) because Robinton waylays them and asks about why F’lessan is scouting land (not that’s he’s asking because he doesn’t know), treating us to this charming example of a double standard:
With three sons by as many weyrgirls, F’lessan had need to be absent from from their entreaties. He had provided well for each of his children, but he was no more ready to settle down with one than any young, handsome, and popular bronze rider. Manora had even suggested that the absence of that young charmer for a while might result in one or more of the girls settling for an older rider in a more stable, lasting attachment.
So it’s totally okay for a rider to impregnate someone and not form a lasting attachment to them, then? And it’s a good idea for a potential queen rider to be sleeping with the bronze riders? But sleeping with a Lord Holder as a queen rider is right out, and if you choose to have that bronze rider’s kid, you’d better not go asking him for any sort of support for child-rearing. Boys will be boys, and popular jocks, err, riders, can’t possibly be expected to settle during their wild phase. And if those girls get insistent, we’ll encourage the older riders to have a turn with them and attach to them for the support they want.
Sounds like what would have been the Jaxom-Corana arrangement, so at least it’s consistent. And what would make Lessa and Manora’s attitudes more…understandable, I suppose, is if there were a little bit in there about how those pregnancies were during mating flights, when everybody is all horny beyond control, but it’s not, and so the image I’m getting of F’lessan is that he’s a playboy even for the presumably promiscuous Weyrfolk. And that this is encouraged. (Also, weyrgirls =/=
queen riders, so F’lessan is likely sleeping beneath his station, too. Nice double standard.)
Something else in my head says that a much earlier book said children are raised communally in the Weyrs, so as to prevent attachments to biological parents (who could be killed by Thread at any point or so might end up in completely different coupling arrangements at any time, whether mating flight induced or not). If memory serves correctly, then this entire scene of weyrgirls chasing F’lessan makes even less sense, because parenting support should be coming from the Weyr, not the father.
And we still don’t know what happens to the candidates that don’t win. Presumably, Groghe’s daughter will go back to the family, but what about other candidates without families that want them to return?
Robinton keeps the topic on Toric, on finding a new supply for paper pulp, and other things he thinks are innocuous.
“Will we end up having to fight him [Toric] for holdings in the South?” Lessa went on, shooting him [Robinton] a fierce glance for his casual manner.
“My dear Lessa, no one, absolutely no one, is going to challenge a man, or a woman, mounted a-dragon! And let us hope there is never a point at which that is even remotely possible.”
“Southern Weyr?” F’lar reminded the Harper severely.
“Well, yes, now, but that was not aggression–it was abduction.”
Abduction born of desperation, I might note, and from one dragonrider to another, as a fight of equals. The only time we’ve seen anyone else challenge the dragonriders, the mere appearance of the dragons spooked both the horses and the humans sufficiently well to make the fighting force fall apart. So Robinton is correct, at least for now. Because firearms and explosives are probably also in the AI’s database, and they might very well get deployed in some way and he found out to be effective against dragons, too.
Having talked about F’lessan, the narrative shifts over to him playing hooky from both Landing and the Hatching, musing on whether or not he is going to be a Weyrleader (he thinks not, based on Golanth’s abilities), and then investigating a cloud of herdbeasts in different colors before both reflective water and thermals catch Golanth’s attention.
F’lessan is a recipient of one of six wristwatches on Pern (Piemur, Larad, Jissamy, Robinton, and Fandarel are the others), all constructed by Jancis. Hello, miniaturization and also tiny mechanisms and possibly quartz crystals and button batteries if the watches aren’t self-winding. We’ve leapfrogged well past the beginning of the industrial revolution and are well on our way to space age materials and items. On a world that was supposedly settled because it was resource and metal poor. I wonder if that’s been retconned, too.
F’lessan also asks Golanth about finding thermals to glide on, and gets more information than he, or we, bargained for.
My eyes see the variation of air, I smell the difference, and my hide feels the altered pressure.
Really? F’lessan was impressed with the explanation. Been listening in on my aerodynamics lessons with Aivas?
Golanth thought that over. Yes. You listen to him, so I thought I should. Ruth does, and Path certainly. Ramoth and Mnementh don’t. They prefer to sleep on the sun while Lessa and F’lar are here. Bigath listens, and Sulath and Beerth. Clarianth occasionally, but Pranith always and Lioth whenever his rider’s down. Sometimes the listening is very interesting. Sometimes it’s not.
Not only was that an unusually long speech for Golanth, but it gave F’lessan such food for thought that he was kept occupied with the ramifications until the edge of the vast inland sea became visible.
There are quite a few potential ramifications there. They’re not spelled out, of course, but I can think of a few, one of which should be “the intelligent creatures at have pair-bonded with are at least as smart as we are, if not smarter, he can follow along with lectures as well.” Which makes me wonder what a dragon with a working knowledge of science could do with their own abilities, like being able to teleport to a set of coordinates, or even better, to a very specific set of space-time coordinates, without having actually seen the destination in some way. Or possibly to give some assistance to their rider on helping understand or construct things. Or perhaps rearrange themselves into a more efficient coverage method for roasting Thread, doing the same job with less dragons.
F’lessan and Golanth continue to explore the area around them, taking note of the way the trees are growing in the area, and discovering the Xanadu settlement, which F’lessan thinks would be an excellent Weyr when Thread isn’t menacing from the skies. They move on to the Honshu settlement, the one encountered in Rescue Run, which Golanth only spots before dark because he sees herdbeasts going in one of the doors. After camping for the night, F’lessan gives it another shot, and while repulsed by the smell of the dung “up to midthigh in some places”, he explores enough to find a sled, sufficiently preserved to be recognizable as such from pictures that AIVAS had. Emboldened by this discovery, F’lessan explores more until he comes across the murals painted in the main hallway of Honshu that we last saw in Rescue Run, and takes it as independent verification of AIVAS’s account of things (even though he hopefully knows that the settlers had communication devices.)
F’lessan concludes this spot would be excellent for the Ninth Weyr, and the chapter ends, keeping tension alive for, well, until the next page. Which will have to be next week, I guess.