Monthly Archives: July 2017

All the Weyrs of Pern: Throwing the Book

Last time, AIVAS unveiled the True Plot to defeat Thread – use the starship engines at specific points in the past to move the orbit of the Red Star in such a way that the final explosion will do the rest of the job, and seed the planetoid with a parasite that will kill the entities of the Oort Cloud that use that symbiont in their own lives. Jaxom is given the charge to do it, because he has already done it, and also receives proof that it works by jumping into the future. Xenocide is on the table as a consequence of defeating Thread permanently, and nobody seems inclined to give a reason why it shouldn’t happen just like that.

The second half of the chapter involved the execution of the plan to kidnap Robinton, which works without a hitch, but is foiled on the getaway when the kidnappers are spotted by a fire lizard and hell comes in its wake. We pick up in the aftermath…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 18: Content Notes: Murderous Intent,
Mob Mentality, “Enhanced Interrogation”

…where Robinton seems to be willing to forgive, now that Zair is fine, but he’s shouted down immediately by everyone else, with special sessions called of both the Lords and the Mastercrafters to sit trial of the persons involved. Lytol is scrambling to find precedent of a joint session, while Robinton continues to believe that it’s a failing of the Harper teachings, somehow, that brought on this plot and rebellion. Menolly kills that line of inquiry in fury before it gets anywhere and throws everyone else out so that Robinton can rest.

Of course, Robinton is right, and probably on the way that he is thinking – it is definitely a clear failure of propaganda that people plotted against the designated leaders of Pern and an even greater failure that they acted and succeeded at it. So there is clearly something wrong with the Harper teaching, in that it wasn’t robust enough to handle the rapid reintroduction of technology to the society that has built itself up to require large amounts of people in very stratified social roles.

Robinton’s cause isn’t being helped, either, by the generally extrajudicial attitude being taken by his supporters toward the plotters.

The riders had been forced to protect the nine men from being torn to pieces by the incensed crowd. Jaxom had them interned separately in some of the small, dark inner rooms of the Hold, supplying them with only water and dim glowbaskets. The little drudge who had served the Harper the drugged food was found, and although she was plainly of limited understanding, she was also placed in confinement.
The ship’s captain, it turned out, was one of Sigomal’s sons, which strongly suggested the Bitran Holder’s involvement. It was remarkable, N’ton commented, how willing a man became to talk after he had been dangled awhile in midair from a dragon’s forearm.
When a wing of Benden dragonriders had appeared at Bitra Hold, Sigomal loudly and indignantly denied any involvement in such a dreadful, contemptible business; he had bitterly denounced a son who would bring so much dishonor to his sire and his Hold.
F’lar admitted later that he had come very close to smashing Sigomal’s lying mouth–only Mnementh had saved the man. The big bronze dragon had been so incensed by his rider’s anger that a little curl of flame had escaped his lips, which had had the immediate effect of silencing Sigomal.

And beyond that, it appears that several of Norist’s smiths are implicated, and there is the name of the workman who built the wagon itself on it.

I realize that Pern has never been a democracy, and at its most egalitarian, it’s an oligarchy at best, but there’s a lot going on here that’s going to seem like arbitrary justice, especially for testimony obtained while someone’s life was threatened.

As it is, the trial proceeds on two counts – kidnapping and murder. The drudge that was the instrument of the poisoning is exonerated by reason of not knowing what she was doing, but just following orders to give specific food and drink to Robinton and his fire lizard. Since she was innocent, she also didn’t trip any hostile intent markers, either, so neither dragon nor did lizard knew anything was up. Thus, the Three-Laws Compliant way of poisoning someone with robots discussed in some of the early Asimov books and stories works just as well with drudges. Lessa is unhappy at the use of someone disabled in such a manner, and Sharra will keep her on as kitchen staff, since she’s apparently very good with the spit animals.

This seems to be a trend, actually, that the mentally disabled or neurodivergent end up in the kitchens, since Camo was the same. They all apparently are quite good at it.

Lytol looked for someone to speak and represent the defendants at their trial, normally a function of a Harper, but since there’s a massive conflict of interest in getting a Harper to do it, and nobody else is willing to do it, the accused have to defend themselves. Jaxom starts with the confessions of the men hired to kidnap Robinton, who implicate Lords Sigomal and Begamon as financiers and suppliers for the kidnappings and the attacks and sabotage earlier. Glassmasters and journeymen are also implicated as couriers and purchasers, all working under the direction of Norist.

During the trial, Sigomal protests his innocence, only to have his son testify firmly that he’s a leader of the plot, to which Sigomal punches him in the face to shut him up.

The wagon kidnappers explain that Sigomal hired them, but that they didn’t intend to kill anyone, only that their conspirator had to drink some of the poisoned wine to make it seem authentic. The ship kidnappers say that Begamon offered an island off his coast to harbor them until the ransom was done. Nobody in either crew is part of the Fishercraft, to Idarolan’s relief.

Norist has no regrets, and regrettably, because he’s a villain, the parts that he says that make sense are going to be lost.

“I did what my conscience dictated, to rid this world of that Abomination and all its evil works. It encourages sloth and dalliance among our young, distracting them from their traditional duties. I see it destroying the very structure of our Halls and our Holds. Contaminating our Pern with vicious complexities that deprive honest men of work and their pride in workmanship, turning whole families away from what has been proved good and wholesome for twenty-five hundred Turns. I would do it again. I will do all in my power to destroy the spell this Abomination has placed on you!” He extended his arm and swept his pointing finger at every one of the Masters who sat in judgment on him. “You have been deluded. You will suffer. And all Pern will suffer because of your blindness, your lapse from purity of our culture and knowledge.”
Two of his Masters and five of his journeymen cheered their master.

For all the bluster about purity (which might have a common antecedent with the Harper insistence on language purity), Norist’s main point is something worth considering – the introduction of mechanization does mean more idle bodies that may or may not be locked into learning the trade of their parents, and that could cause significant social problems if new work doesn’t spring up to put them in professions. Not to mention that once the threat of Thread is gone, that means there will be a lot more idle people with flame-throwing creatures. Pern has presumably had many Turns to parse out what the possible ramifications can be, and has hopefully already started making provisions for putting all of those characters to work. They haven’t done a thing about it, because Pern, but they at least had the opportunity.

As an aside, I don’t think the concept of magic made it to Pern, not like that, but it’s also entirely possible that the concept re-developed over the lost period. I don’t know that the word spell would have made it, but at this point, it’s more of an annoyance that words that don’t really have a demonstrated need to be there still keep showing up.

In any case, as the last piece of evidence before deliberations, Oldive testifies that the death of Biswy, the Robinton impersonator, was likely due to ingesting too much fellis by his own hand, and the subsequent heart failure that resulted. Jaxom drops the murder charges in light of the evidence, and the Lords and Craftmasters begin deliberations. After Robinton addresses the audience and attempts to convince everyone that the technology brought forth is nothing more than what the ancestors intended for the planet, and that the attempt to sever the link to the past provided by the AI is the great folly of Norist’s viewpoint. And then:

Master Robinton looked at the three abductors. “I forgive you for myself; but you took marks to do evil, which is a great wrong. And you tried to silence a Harper, and that is a greater wrong, for when speech is restricted, all men suffer, not just I.”

Nothing beats an opportunity for a little propaganda. Also, since when is free speech a Pernese value? Unless he means it solely for the Harpers, or maybe for the Lords, riders, and Crafters. A lot of this book has been about suppressing speech, and more than a few instances of the past, including the Renegades book, has been about preventing speech or putting someone in an impossible position over that speech.

As things are, the Lords and Craftmasters don’t take much time to deliver their verdict. Sigomal and Begamon are stripped of their Holds and sentenced to exile for their kidnapping… as the second part of the reasoning. The first is “to plot and carry out a punitive action in another Hold or common property, which is the designation of Landing”. It seems more important for them to be punished because they took action in another Lord’s sovereign territory than for actually kidnapping and planning on extorting a ransom for their hostage.

Gomalsi, Sigomal’s son, is also sent to exile for his acts, and for the crime of “setting himself up as a captain of a seagoing ship without qualifications,” which “offended all members of the Fishercrafthalls.” Norist is stripped of rank and exiled, as are all other Glass-smiths involved. All the others who are neither Lord nor Crafter are also sent into exile by Jaxom, as he apparently has the power to decide (as the Lord on which the offense happened, I guess). In a bit of mercy, Jaxom says their families can accompany, should they desire to do so.

That closes the court, and the rest of the chapter is lots of people, and Ruth, too, reassuring Jaxom that he did excellently in administering the court and fairly in his choice of punishment, and the actual act itself of exile. The last part is a lead up into the fact that there are only a few days left before the Plan happens, where Jaxom will have to get two separate groups of dragonriders to drop engines and parasites at their appointed places and times. It sounds like it’s going to be logistical.

These two weeks in the Slacktiverse, July 16th, 2017

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • Sorry for the lack of post last week, I knew I wouldn’t be around to make it, and wanted to do something about it, but never actually did.  I’ve actually got less than a week worth of stuff to share because for more than a week I didn’t write a damned thing.
    • The only fiction is from more than a month ago, I just only recently got around to posting it on Stealing Commas.  The thing is, it won’t make sense if you haven’t read a post at Ana Mardoll’s first (link on the fic page.)  It’s set in Narnia and involves a bow that will not easily miss.
    • I wrote about how I want to be able to recommend the game Starlight Vega but . . . a post’s worth of things.
    • I said I was sorry for the fact that I haven’t being writing much of anything worth reading, because I am.
    • And my monthly financial update came round, which has all of the explanation you could want of why I’m too stressed out to function right now.  Short version: while it’s spread out over four and a half months and presumably won’t actually kill me, the total amount is such that the only time I’ve ever been more financially screwed was when I had to get a new $6,000 boiler in the middle of winter.

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 July 14th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is almost to the point of having reconstructed a place for themselves.)

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

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

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 have long since tipped over the point of charitability forward another person. Or for any other reason, really.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Halfway-Competent Plotters

Last chapter, the major action was the discovery of a plot to kidnap Robinton and ransom him in exchange for the destruction of the AI, which is a damn sight better than “kill Jaxom and replace him with a puppet,” certainly. The action continues…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 17: Content Notes: Plotting xenocide, murder, poisoning, kidnapping

…or rather, doesn’t, as chapter 17 opens with the lack of attempts on the plot, even as most of the Crafts withdraw their masters from Bitra and Nerat Holds, although not from Keroon, as Lord Corman seems to be distancing himself from any possible plotters, the Weyrs keep a lock on the dragonriders, and the Harpers run down every whisper of a lead.

On board the Yokohama, Mirrim discovers where Thread keeps its genetic material, and not too soon after, a viable pathway for a pathogen to infect and spread through the organism. There’s a little wonder why the Ancients themselves didn’t do all of this destructive revenge against Thread, but it passes mostly in smugness, because there’s a thought that the AI might be having some feelings of its own.

“Aivas hates Thread, inasmuch as an inanimate machine is capable of hatred. He hates what it did to his captains and Admiral Benden. He hates what it’s done to us. He wants to be sure it can never menace us again. He wants to kill it in the Oort Cloud. He calls the project ‘Overkill.'”
Jaxom regarded her in puzzled astonishment. “He’s more vindictive than F’lar!”

No, it’s plotting contingencies, given that you have already demonstrated that dragons could potentially warp out to the Oort Cloud and back, given a sufficient oxygen supply. Then again, nobody said explicitly whether the AI had been programmed with a personality…

As it is, the overkill project essentially is to infest Thread with a malicious version of a parasite helper it already has, even though the work will likely leave Sharra too exhausted for the Gather.

Which makes it all the more interesting when AIVAS drops the bombshell on Jaxom that he’s already done two of the three necessary explosions for altering the path of the Red Star, using Ruth as the leader of a time travel group that created the current chasm with the two previous explosions. Based on the records already scanned in, that talk about bright flashes on the Red Star at the ends of the Fourth and Eighth Passes. When Jaxom protests that something might go wrong, the AI points out that if that were true, Jaxom wouldn’t be here talking now, and his group would similarly be missing from the timestream. Jaxom protests, but AIVAS tells him the only reason for the Long Intervals that it can determine is the detonation of engines in attempts to knock the Red Star out of orbit.

Jaxom changes tactics, telling AIVAS that no dragonrider would willingly time it 1800 Turns in the past, to which it tells him that nobody actually is going to know they’re warping across time as well as space, since all they’re doing is going to a picture. And they’ll already have oxygen, so they won’t notice the time lag for the temporal part of the journey. Jaxom doesn’t want to risk Ruth, but Ruth is pretty confident that it can be done. Still, Jaxom resists until AIVAS lets slip the real reason why it has to go that way.

“You already have, Lord Jaxom. You are the only one who could, can, would, has. Think this proposal over carefully and you will see that the project is not only within the capabilities of yourself and Ruth, but feasible. And essential! Three explosions at this point in time will not have the desired effect on the future path of the Red Star.

Ah-ha. There’s not enough oomph in the engines to blow the planet out of orbit, and AIVAS knows it. So, instead, with a dragon that can pinpoint in time, the engines are to be used strategically to nudge the planet away. Beyond that, though, it turns out that Jaxom will also be seeding the wandering planet with the malicious parasites each time he visits with an engine, as well.

“But if these mechanicals could be contaminated, infected with our disimproved parasite, they would carry it with them to destroy all similar life-forms in the Oort Cloud itself, probably including the note intelligent ones, too. Then, no matter what happens, Pern will forever be freed of this menace.
[…AIVAS explains the Long Intervals…]
“I’m also to be a disease carrier?” Jaxom was not sure which he felt more keenly: indignation, fury, or incredulity at the audacity of Aivas’s scheme.

Worse, Jaxom: You’re going to be the instrument of the xenocide of several intelligent species in the Oort Cloud. I’d like to believe that this fury and resistance is Jaxom’s conscience ringing alarm bells at this plan, but it is most likely just his reluctance to risk Ruth and himself on a mission like this.

So Jaxom demands proof that the Plan works. AIVAS has him pull up the plan of the current orbit of the Red Star, then tells Jaxom to jump forward fifty Turns, gather the same printout, and make comparisons. Every self-preservation instinct Jaxom had says not to do it, but Ruth’s confidence and his curiosity win out over the realization that time paradox is a definite risk. So Jaxom commits himself forward fifty Turns, grabs the printout, tries to tell the AI about his findings (and gets no reply. This seems significant, although I don’t know how) and hops back to admit defeat, as the new path clearly shows the wanderer in a decaying orbit around the fifth planet of the system. Having been snared into following through with the True Plan, Jaxom heads back to eat, sleep, and then enjoy the Gather that’s underway when he wakes up.

Jaxom and the protagonists have a good time at the Gather. So much so, that even though they are reminded of the plot by the conspicuous absence of the plotters, nobody notices that Robinton’s been switched for a dead man and his fire lizard poisoned until well after the switch is done. Fellis in the food and wine, served by one of the new drudges hired for the party, because of course you need extra staff to handle it, and who pays attention to drudges, anyway, and the kidnap plot succeeds.

It really shouldn’t, considering Lessa disguised herself as a drudge for a decade to beat Fax’s notice, and Piemur did the same for a shorter time to sneak in and gather intelligence on people shipping goods South. Why is anyone not on a trusted list getting anything to Robinton, knowing that there’s still a plot against him?

That said, props to the kidnappers for choosing the right venue and method most likely to succeed at the task, assuming you could get everyone distracted long enough to make the switch.

Suffice to say, once noticed, care is summoned for Zair and all the dragonriders and fire-lizards, save Jaxom, fan out to try and find where Robinton is being held (and naturally, Ruatha is beyond the maximum range of the locator device provided to Robinton.) No luck through the night, and searches are imposed on any and all travelers that intend to leave the Gather.

As you might guess, though, with add many fire lizards dispatched on the finding mission, it isn’t long before one notices a cart and wagon staying very far off the roads and trails and determines Robinton is inside, which essentially summons the air force to stop the wagon, which is searched, its secret compartment discovered and opened, and Robinton recovered and sprinted back for medical care after Sharra’s field assessment says he needs better hands than hers.

The chapter ends with the Healers ring to heal Robinton with the hope that he will survive it. Which is good for dramatic tension purposes, so we’ll leave off here and pick it back up next week.

Writer’s Workshop July 12th, 2017

(Posted by chris the cynic)

[We now have a place specifically for non-writing creative work now, if you’d prefer that.]

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: Cold Things

(by chris the cynic)

In this part of this hemisphere it is currently unpleasantly hot.  Thus cold things take on a certain interest.  Ice cream, ice ages, the Boomerang Nebula, chilled drinking water, so forth.

Thus the prompt of “Cold Things”.

[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.]

Deconstruction Roundup for July 7th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is older now, if not necessarily wiser.)

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.

Amarie: Amarie’s Dreamjournal

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Philip SandiferEruditorium Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

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 ready to remix the Duel Commandments to apply to bad breakups. Or for any other reason, really.