Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Dolphins of Pern: Strongly Out-Of-Character

Last time, Idarolan, T’lion, and Menolly meet dolphins, as Alemi continues to work on getting to communicate and reestablish partnerships. Everyone is apparently too focused on the AI to consider that dolphins are useful to more than Fishers.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter VI: Content Notes: Matchmaking, bullying attempts

Chapter VI opens with Aramina’s paranoia fading into the background in the light of Readis learning his ballads, another son joining Readis, and Alemi finally getting a son of his own. Aramina has plans for Readis to be Lord Holder of Paradise River, “though she secretly harbored the thought that he might be Searched for a dragonrider to the Eastern Weyr: He might be what she hadn’t had the courage to pursue.”

Sorry, that doesn’t fly. Not when you spent a couple chapters earlier in in this book detailing to us why Aramina is paranoid about Readis getting involved with dolphins. It’s not a lack of courage that Aramina suffers from, it’s fucking PTSD! Aramina was subjected to torture and murder attempts because of her talent. And yes, Lessa offered to make her a queen rider candidate, but it was right after she was done going through all that trauma. And is there any sort of actual rule that says older women can’t Impress, or is it just a societal thing that women over eighteen don’t get the opportunity any more? Why can’t Aramina try out for it anyway?

Aramina wonders if Readis might follow in the dual-status role of Jaxom, a question complicated by whether or not the Weyrs will disband if they succeed at permanently killing off the threat of Thread. Aramina concludes its good for Readis to have a backup plan, and he’d be able to ride and hold together, since Jayge is likely to live quite a while past the end of Thread.

As things stand, Menolly’s replacement Harper arrives, an Ista fisherhold child named Boskoney, but before he actually gets here, the narrative talks about his choosing, including a very vital bit of information about the Harper Hall:

“They have to have someone as alert, eager, and,” she added with a smile, “as adventurous an understanding of this environment as possible. We do have a lovely girl finishing her apprenticeship, if you wouldn’t mind a woman harper…” Menolly cocked her head at her friends with a slot from and twinkle in her eye.
“Of course we wouldn’t mind,” Jayge and Alemi said in unison, then smiled at each other.
“As well, but Hally won’t walk the tables for another nine or ten months and it’s not good to start the teaching process and then interrupt it for such a long time. The children of this Hold are eager to learn, and I don’t like to put them off.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Good news: we’ve got it officially confirmed that there are other women Harpers following in Menolly’s footsteps who aren’t obvious Doylist inserts.

Bad news: Menolly is selling her as a Harper based on her good looks instead of her musical talent.

Based on this and what happened last chapter, I would like the author to answer one question: Who is this impostor, and what have you done with Menolly?

First, Alemi and Jayge are both married with children. Which would be scandalous here on Terra, but it’s pretty firmly established on Pern that the Lords Holder do not give a flying fuck about monogamy, only about succession rules, so I’m inclined to give it a pass based on the consistency of the worldbuilding.

Second, however, that’s Menolly’s brother and best friend she’s essentially dangling a young beautiful woman in front of. I don’t normally expect siblings, especially sisters, to be deliberately sending subordinates into the presence of guys likely to objectify her with a wink and a nod that it would be okay to do that.

Finally, and most importantly, that’s way out of character for Menolly, who was relentlessly bullied by the popular pretty girls (remember that Menolly was supposedly an ugly giant with no compulsions to modesty in Dunca’s cottage) and then treated as a dumb girl by most, if not all of, the Masters when she finally got sorted out. The last thing that Menolly is going to do is send a woman out for her journey based on whether or not she’s going to look pretty while she’s at it. Especially if she wants someone eager and adventurous and willing to teach.

Either Menolly’s been replaced, or there’s some seriously powerful magic at work once you get married and have a child on Stepf–Pern, I mean. There’s just. no. way.

And it gets worse. While Menolly is briefing Jayge and Aramina on the possible candidates:

“Not at all,” Jayge said. “We’re quiet here and there are not that many children…”
“Yet,” Aramina added with a wink. When the excitement of that admission had abated, she asked if any of the men[, which Aramina and Jayge have sketches of, courtesy Perschar,] were married.
“Not yet.” Menolly grinned. “You’ve several lovely girls here among your holders. We have to give them some choice, too, and not limit it to smelly seamen.” She grinned at her brother.


Cocowhat by depizan

What is this bizarro-world where Menolly is knowingly trying to play matchmaker with the Harpers and commenting on the attractiveness of the young women here?

Unless…. Menolly is bi? It still doesn’t explain why she’s willing to throw a young Harper woman to these wolves, but it might help with why she’s noticing and appreciating the young women here (and perhaps some help in explaining, past “grew up in a sea hold”, why she was so comfortable being naked around the other girls at Dunca’s).

Otherwise, I’ve got nothing as to why the Menolly that’s been reasonably consistent up until now is suddenly desirous of sending the pretty ones instead of the skilled ones.

In any case, Boskoney arrives, exit Menolly, but the plot is actually focusing on T’lion, who usually transports Boskoney to and from Landing. Until he gets called in to see T’gellan, and the presence of his brother and a loud comment from his own dragon lets him in on why they want to see him.

That gave T’lion the clue he needed: K’din had been spying on his evening sessions with the dolphins.
“I believe you have some explaining to do, T’lion,” T’gellan said sternly, cocking an eyebrow at his young rider. Mirrim also looked repressive.
“About the dolphins?” T’lion hoped he sounded more relaxed than he actually was.
“Yes, dolphins is what Aivas called them.” He saw the Weyrleaders exchange glances as he casually dropped in that authority.

Well, there went the idea that Mirrim wasn’t actually the Weyrwoman of Eastern Weyr, which is too bad.

However, what that did is essentially wreck the system that’s been consistent in every other Pern book, because all the other Weyromen have always been gold queen riders and Path is definitely a green. Which makes me want to see how Eastern successfully functions all the more, because I doubt that a gold rider is going to meekly stand aside so that some green [bleep] can rule instead. And the gold queens are what Weyrs definitely need to produce the bronzes that are the backbones of Thread fights. So, really, what we need is a day or five inside Eastern, if we can get it. Too bad that won’t happen.

In any case, T’gellan and Mirrim question T’lion’s involvement with the dolphins, T’lion gives his answers, and the two conclude that it would be a good idea to see the dolphins themselves. T’lion cheerfully invites K’din along, a move that both Weyrleaders agree to while giving K’din what amounts to the stink-eye. The meeting looks like it might go well, with T’lion pleased that the dolphins are saying “we” instead of “oo-ee,” but one of them exuberantly soaks Mirrim and the other says that Mirrim’s pregnant because she can see the baby.

There’s also this bit, which may have been intended harmlessly, or even as a cheer for women, but instead hits a space that should be familiar to most women.

“You woman, not oomans,” Natua said.
Mirrim made an O with her mouth, amazed that he recognized the difference. “Thank you, Natua! C’mon in, T’gellan, you’re missing half the fun and the water’s…warm!”

Yep, women aren’t humans. They’re clearly some other species or alien entity altogether. Men are the default, women are different. Nice going, humans.

In any case, Mirrim is shocked by the announcement of the pregnancy, and the dolphins claim their sonar makes it possible for them to know that the baby is there. Given that ultrasound works on the same principles…well, maybe?

T’lion is mortified at this turn of events, and especially at such an exorbitant claim in front of K’din. T’gellan takes the sensible route and says they’re all flying, without hyperspace, to AIVAS to see if the claims are valid. Which exposes how much research and reporting T’lion has been doing for AIVAS, since everyone, including the AI, knows him by name (and AIVAS says straight up that T’lion has been reporting to him on it.) That said, the AI says the dolphins are right and gives an explanation of what sonar is and how it was used by the Ancients to detect tumors and growths as well as pregnancies. T’gellan and Mirrim have a happy embrace, and then T’gellan wonders if this trick could be put to use, say, in spotting infections, since the Weyr Healer had severe problems trying to save a leg from “blood poisoning” that only manifested after the infection had advanced significantly. AIVAS says it’s possible. Plans are made to send this information to the Healers, through D’ram.

There’s also something that exposes something that I think would be an increased problem (or, perhaps, “problem”, depending on the opinion of the rider involved) now that there’s a queen fighting wing equipped with flamethrowers that sallies out on Threadfall.

“That meeting with your dolphin friends took a most unexpected turn, lad. We thank you. [Mirrim]’s lost two babes because she didn’t know she was pregnant. We don’t want to lose another.
[…the plans to inform the Healers start…]
“It’s always been a problem for Weyrwomen to know when they be conceived…and stay out of between in the first few months. You’ll have women flocking to the shores to speak to dolphins.”

Considering that dragons are essentially the fastest transport around, how do Weyrwomen actually stay out of hyperspace long enough to get visibly pregnant? Are they tied down enough at their own Weyr that they can’t take a trip anywhere for months? If so, then how good are their headwomen? If not, what possibly keeps them out, since now they can fight on their own? Maybe if their dragon is visibly pregnant? That seems like it would ground a Weyrwoman for long enough that her own pregnancy might show. (Moreta, I think, complained about this very phenomenon, although she wasn’t pregnant, just her dragon.) It would be an interesting study to see how many children are born to Weyrwomen within a particular window of a gold dragon hatching a clutch.

I also wonder what the experience of the lost child is, as a biological matter. I’ve only read things about how uteruses expel failed pregnancies, so the only thing I could do is guess as to how they know they’ve failed twice, when supposedly they were both before the point where the baby bump was visible. Maybe the presence of morning sickness or something else before an extra-heavy menstruation?

And also, I think I take issue with the characterization that women will flock to the dolphins, because I think, even as far back as Dragonquest, there was an explicit mention of Hold women and others discreetly seeking the services of dragonriders to provide abortions-by-hyperspace. So clearly not everyone is interested, or maybe might be interested so that they can arrange a hyperspace hop. (This is where it would be nice to know how the mechanics work. Would popping into hyperspace the morning after always work, and thus provide a form of always-effective birth control? When is the window of opportunity best?)

I also would like to know what goes on between T’gellan and Mirrim that she is also happily wanting babies, considering for the longest time everyone, including her, expected her to be a spinster because of her attitude.

Getting to the plot again, the Weyr Healer is skeptical about dolphin abilities including when one of them pinpoints a place where infection is about to begin again, because there’s a needlethorn stuck in the arm of the child, and the headwoman suspected the kids was just faking to get out of chores. Once the dolphins have correctly diagnosed lots of known pregnancies, and then both a broken bone set poorly from a childhood injury and what is likely womb with “growths” that need cleaning, the Healer (after shuddering at the thought of operation, especially in having to go into the uterus through the vagina to do it) is finally convinced.

And then had to perform surgery on a dolphin to stitch up a wound, which will end successfully, despite all the healer’s protests, and which takes is to the end of the chapter. No dolphin segment here, even though I would have expected one about the story of the man who stitched up the dolphin and how this meant that the mans were remembering more of their contract.

The Healer’s reticence to stitch up a dolphin would make more sense, were it not that this is the Weyr Healer from Eastern, and therefore should be much more used to the idea of stitching up living nonhumans. T’lion even calls him out on it, and the Healer still protests. Anyway, maybe next week things will be back to the usual horrible instead of the special horrible.

Writer Workshop August 30th, 2017

(Posted by chris the cynic)

[Anyone who would feel more comfortable talking about non-writing creative work in a thread that doesn’t have “Writer” in the name, you may find this month’s creative corner thread useful.]

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 August 25th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has imprecations for the person that left things in such a broken state.)

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

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 posted for stories before breakfast and need another creative outlet. Or for any other reason, really.

The Dolphins of Pern: A Not Very Well-Kept Secret

Last time, Alemi figured out that RTFM works for dolphins as well as computers, Idarolan got to see and communicate with them up close and personal, Menolly came to be the Harper-in-residence, and everyone talked about what kind of a stubborn asshole Yanus is. I hope that’s not foreshadowing.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter V: Content Notes: Implied Neglect, Drudgeism

Chapter V starts with Alemi’s shuttle-dragonrider, T’lion, getting curious about the dolphins, too, although they’re very clearly not as good as dragons. We also find out that T’lion came to his bronze in the same way that Mirrim came to her green, which suggests these things happen more frequently than anyone wants to let on.

His brother, Kanadin, had been the official Candidate and, even though he had Impressed a brown, Kanadin had never quite forgiven his younger brother for making such a show of himself and Impressing when he hadn’t even been presented as a possible rider. Impressing a bronze was an even more unforgivable injury.
[…as one might expect, K’din didn’t believe his brother that it was an accident, and T’lion tried to brush it off as a consequence of the grounds, which didn’t have the high tiers of seating…]
It wasn’t as if T’lion had tried, in any way, to attract the hatchling’s attention. He hadn’t so much as moved a muscle. Of course, he had been so flabbergasted to find a little dragon butting him that he had to be urged by T’gellan–the Weyrleader–and the Weyrlingmaster to accept the Impression.
[…Even three years later, the rift is still present between the brothers…]
T’lion was very grateful to T’gellan, the Weyrleader, and his weyrmate, Mirrim, green Path’s rider, because they never once made the youngster feel uncomfortable.
“The dragon chooses,” T’gellan had said at the time, and often at other Impressions, shaking his head ruefully at dragon choice. Then he’d congratulated the stunned family on having two such worthy sons.

(My copy misspells Mirrim as Minim in that quote, but that’s pretty clearly a typo.)

I should certainly hope whatever Weyr Path and Mirrim are in is accepting of someone who becomes a dragonrider without being presented as a candidate. Although it would have been nice to see what the conversation was like between the two of them, because it would have said a lot about T’gellan as to how enthusiastically okay he was with T’lion’s situation. From the sounds of things, T’gellan is already laid back enough about dragon choice that this wouldn’t bother him much, but I can see Mirrim ready to give him both barrels about acceptance, only to be derailed when T’gellan says “Yeah, I’m okay with this.” It would be a nice touch of progressivism in the otherwise feudal-Randian Pern.

Also, Eastern appears to be the only Weyr we know of where the seniormost Weyrwoman is not the weyrmate of the Weyrleader. I wanna see Eastern operate now, so I can see what a functional Weyr with that situation looks like.

As T’lion reminisces, however, we get a wet fish slap of how -ist Pern still is, in the context of how T’lion prides himself on being a discreet and courteous chauffeur.

Or those who tried to order him about as if he were a drudge. No dragon ever chose a drudge personality! Of course, his being so young made some adults feel as if they had to patronize him…him! A dragonrider!

No dragon, perhaps, but at least one very famous dragonrider. Although they would argue that was before she became a dragonrider. And perhaps that Mirrim was a headwoman / dragonrider’s secretary / personal assistant. Still, the idea of the “drudge” as the untouchable caste and the repository of every societal vice is not cool. Maybe when Thread is gone, we’ll witness a drudge revolt, now that the threat that keeps them inside is gone forever.

As for the patronizing, T’lion should talk to K’van about his experiences. I’ll bet they have stories to share.

Ah, yes, the plot. Essentially it’s “dragon flies low, is startled by the dolphin speech”, and then a dolphin interlude that dragons still like them, and then more of T’lion enjoying having private space and liking the kitchen work, instead of seeing it as “drudge chores” like his brother does. (Woe to all you fools who never learned to do chores on your own. When the drudges revolt, you’ll be sorry!) And conveying Menolly a lot, since she’s too pregnant for hyperspace. Which gives him a lot of time to play with the dolphins and note that their pronunciation is shifting toward what is correct for this time.

Oh, finally.

When T’lion sees Alemi again, Alemi deduces that T’lion’s been talking with the dolphins, and the two compare notes about whether or not dolphins can hear dragon telepathy and the linguistic shift the dolphins have to undertake.

“How come they got so…twisted?”
“Ah…” Alemi held up one hand. “We don’t speak the way our ancestors did.”
“We don’t?” T’lion exclaimed, his eyes widening. “But the harpers are forever saying that they’ve helped keep the language pure, just as it’s always been spoken.”
Alemi laughed. “Not according to Aivas. He had to make adjustments to allow for”– Alemi hesitated briefly, trying to get the next words right–“lingual shifts. But let’s not rub harper noses in the fact. I certainly want to keep on the good side of my sister the Masterharper. I’ve only to mention her name and here she is! Good day to you, Master Menolly.”

Does nobody see the sinister implications of the Harpers essentially boasting that they’ve been able to prevent new words from coming into the language for so long? Essentially claiming they have stopped new ideas from getting in? And nobody calls them out on blatant hypocrisy when they throw Norist under the bus for essentially trying to do what they’ve been doing all along? And also, it appears that the information about linguistic shift had not been disseminated widely, possibly because it might break the monopoly of language and infallibility the Harpers currently hold. Somehow, I don’t think the Harpers are going to be spared when the revolution arrives.

Anyway, there’s flying Menolly around (and mention of archivists at Landing, so maybe someone learned proper Archives and Records Management from the AI before it turned itself off?), a worry that Menolly might go into labor and T’lion would be useless (for which he files away a note to ask Mirrim about it, good lad), getting kitchen-drafted, and then T’lion accidentally puts himself into the AIVAS room trying to grab a breather and a bite. Since he’s a dragonrider, though, after the initial embarrassment, AIVAS will talk to him, and appreciates and encourages T’lion’s continued interaction with the dolphins, dropping a nice tidbit that most of the dolphin names encountered so far seem to be derivatives, shortenings, or parts of the names of the original complement of dolphins that first arrived.

After T’lion reports, we switch to Idarolan, who has disseminated the reports he has on dolphin intelligence and tasks, consults the Records of the craft and makes correlations between various incidents and the presence of dolphins, and then gets his own printout and training sheet from AIVAS to spread among the Craft that is interested in more relationships with their dolphins. His efforts are rewarded personally by better fish hauls and avoiding unknown reefs by following the dolphins. It’s nice filler.

Where the plot actually wants to go is with Menolly and Kitrin and the children. Menolly wants to have Alemi come swim with them, and Kitrin mentions he’s off talking to the dolphins, but trying to do it in such a way that won’t upset Aramina or encourage Readis. She can hear the bell call when the wind is right, but she’s afraid Readis will get hurt because he would chase dolphins everywhere.

“Well, I can help distract him from that,” Menolly said. “At his age, they don’t have a long concentration span.” She gave a sigh. “You see to keep one step ahead of them, with something new to do, a game or a challenge. Your girls are a great help with him, by the way. Such biddable children.”
Kitrin sat a bit straighter, delighted at by praise of her Kitral, Nika, and Kami, and neatly diverted away from the previous topic.

Cocowhat by depizan

I don’t think the idea of “biddable children” should be seen as a virtue, but then again, I’m also a 21st century person with a mentality that children are intelligent enough that they can be reasoned with and given some freedom. I also think that women should be destined for something other than motherhood and child-rearing, even from the early days. (I also realize that it’s a societal thing that older children will be expected to help keep an eye on the younger ones.)

That’s mostly griping about how Pern is such a horrible society, which has been going on for books now, though. The reason this is extra horrible, however, is that Menolly should not be talking positively about “biddable children” at all. She is, after all, the child disowned cause she wasn’t biddable. The child maimed because she wasn’t biddable. The child who spent quite some time in hell at the Harper Hall because everyone assumed she was biddable, and has since been flying two middle fingers to Pern’s idea of what gender roles are. We haven’t been able to see what Menolly’s journey to Mastery was like, but it follows that it was probably a lot like her journeyman journey – full of assholes and dicks getting in her way because she’s a woman.

Unless motherhood and being married to Sebell somehow caused a complete Stepford transformation, Menolly’s past should make her someone that is utterly uninterested in traditional gender roles (or traditional anything) ever.

Then again, marriage and babies made Lessa a lot less of the firebrand that she was in the original books. Maybe that is what the author believes is true about marriage and babies.

Getting back to the plot, Menolly sneaks off to see Alemi. She hears the dolphins before she can see them, and then is introduced to them by Alemi. Who notice, of course, that she has a “babbee” inside. They talk about dolphin things, teaching words, and Menolly and Alemi sing a song for the dolphins, and then Menolly sings a Traditional ballad for all of them. The dolphins are attentive, and then go on from there.

Menolly and Alemi walk back and talk dolphins, fire lizards, and the brave new world their getting in to.

“We have much to be thankful to the Ancients for,” Alemi said in an expansive tone.
“Though I wonder,” Menolly replied thoughtfully, “if we will say the same in a few Turns’ time when Aivas unleashes all the wonders stored up.”
“I thought the Harpers were applauding all the–what is it Aivas calls it–input?”
“Knowledge is sometimes two-edged, Alemi. You learn about all the marvels that used to be and they set the standard for what can be, and maybe shouldn’t be.”
[…Menolly shakes off the worries…]
“Isn’t it up to the Harper Hall and the Benden Weyrleaders to see that we learn only the best of what there is?” He was half-teasing, half-serious.
“Indeed it is.” She was very solemn. “A great responsibility, I assure you.”

And there’s confirmation that the information from the AI is being selectively fed into the population by the people who have yet to show they have enough ethics to make an attempt at getting it right. There’s an argument to be made that dripping the information in is superior to opening the gates and seeing what all floods out, but nobody seems to be making that case, because nobody seems to be making the opposite case. Norist would have had a convincing case to the idea of giving everyone access to AIVAS instead of taking up the cause of Ned Ludd.

It also seems like Menolly is at least cognizant that the AIVAS trove could have unintended societal effects, but of course, she’s not going to get to articulate those further, because that would introduce doubt about whether what Our Heroes are doing is right and proper. These are questions that should have been resolved before tapping in as much as they have to the AI.

The dolphin segment at the end of the chapter is about the songs sung by the humans, which comes with the knowledge that dolphins carry their history in songs that have been taught to them over the generations, in much the same way the Harpers do the same for the humans.

Open Thread: Stuff in the Sky

(by chris the cynic)

Apparently the shadow of the moon traveled across part of the earth which, for those who had special glasses or pinhole projectors, was pretty cool.  I totally missed it, which is for the best since I had neither.

That doesn’t change the fact that the sky is filled with awesome.  This is true both in terms of close things, like the moon and the sun, and far things like the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field.

So the prompt is, basically, non-terrestrial stuff.

[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, August 19th, 2017

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

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • So there was this thing about ways in which we might seem strange to aliens that touched on how earth might be other species versions of an uninhabitable death world, and how we do things that don’t make sense like responding to lethal failure by trying the same thing again.  (And again.)  I wrote up a conversation between a human and an alien regarding the Bay of Naples and why there are still people there after Pompeii (and all the other times.)
    • That’s all I’ve got for this week.  It’s better than nothing, I think.

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 August 18th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who condemns white supremacists with greater ease than elected officials.)

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

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 are ready to tip statues dedicated to horrible ideologies. Or for any other reason, really.

The Dolphins of Pern: Pursuing The Not-Quite-Forbidden

Last chapter, Alemi got told not to involve Readis in dolphin tales, then went to AIVAS to get instructions on how to talk to the dolphins. Rather than read them, Alemi scouts, and then rings, the bell that summons the dolphins, establishing more contact and firmly cementing them as intelligent mammals instead of non-intelligent fish.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter IV: Content Notes: References to abusive family

Chapter IV opens with Alemi returning to a Paradise Hold and talking about what he did to Jayge.

“That’s all very well and good, Alemi, I suppose”–Jayge hesitated–“it’s good. We’ve got fire-lizards and dragons, why not intelligent life in the seas? The Ancients apparently knew what to combine to make a perfect world, so those doll-fins had their role to play…” He hesitated again.
“But you’re worried about Readis?”
Jayge let out an explosive sigh. “Yes, I am. He’s still talking about his mam’l…”
“They are,” Alemi said, regaining his perspective on the matter, “mammals.”
[…Jayge is confused that AIVAS has data on dolphin births and such…]
“Look, I’ll keep my findings to myself, then. You didn’t mention my interview with Aivas to Readis, did you? No. All right. I certainly won’t, but I’d like your permission, as my Holder, to discreetly pursue a closer relationship with these creatures.[…]”
[…Jayge asks what Idarolan thinks of it, and then assents…]
Alemi nodded, perversely pleased that he could try to establish himself with the dolphins without having to share the experience.

And also, doesn’t actually mention that he’s planning on building a bell (and a float for it) so that he can summon and talk to the dolphins. How is anyone going to keep a curious Readis from hearing the bell, or from piecing together that the bell summons the dolphins when you ring it? Especially when the narrative tells us that Alemi plans on building a bell bigger than the one that’s currently on his ship to use. It’s going to carry.

We also get more about the strained relationship between Alemi and Yanus, who remains unnamed.

Alemi was extra mindful of some of the precautions Aivas had mentioned–precautions Fishmen always observed but without knowing why: taking care of the size of the nets, as well as the old warnings of the “sin” of netting a shipfish. Even his father, who hadn’t the imagination to be superstitious, followed those precepts. Now Alemi knew the reason behind those practices, but he doubted his father would ever admit to it–much less admit that dolphins could actually talk and were intelligent. One of the many gulfs between them.

No, wait, hang on. The idea of “sin” and “hadn’t the imagination to be superstitious” do not belong in the same description. Yanus does these things in a near-fanatical devotion to TRADITIONS (traditions!), which suggests there’s something driving that belief. “Society collapses if we deviate from the perfect ways of our ancestors” is a perfectly good superstition.

That said, “sin” is a distinctly religious concept, and until AIVAS specifically made reference to it, Pern very specifically never had any sort of religious work. (Unless you count Harper ballads about the Cult of the Dragonriders. Which we probably should.) There’s no Being Represented By The Tetragrammaton, but also no Wiccan Rede, Wheel of Karma, or any other concept that would facilitate the idea of virtue and sin. Netting a shipfish might be a sign of ill fortune, but unless a theology developed somewhere while we weren’t looking, it wouldn’t be a “sin”. (This is where you need a continuity editor, no really.)

Anyway, Yanus’s stubbornness at being proven wrong would have an easier time being accepted if Alemi casually dropped something here about how long and how far Menolly has risen as a Harper, and yet, if you asked Yanus about her, he would say his daughter had ran away to become Holdless [x] years ago and he’s never seen her since. It’s probably bad enough that Alemi is a Masterfisher and went away from the Hold to go South.

There’s also a lot about more settlers coming south to get their own hunk of land to do work with. Which, essentially, temporarily relieves the pressure problem that’s been plaguing the North. Once there’s no more land to grab, though, the problems will start all over again unless the Lords decide there’s some way they can parcel out their land in smaller ways.

Or the end of the threat of Thread is the harbinger of the complete takeover by the Crafts and conversion of the feudal society into a capitalist one, now that there’s no overarching threat to hold the society together. (Assuming the dragonriders don’t get involved, anyway.)

Alemi does inform Idarolan of his plans, framing it as good research toward the end of making sailing and fishing safer – if all ships can summon additional help in bad situations, that’s a benefit to the Fishercraft. There’s a little praise of Menolly, as it’s her methods for fire-lizard training that Alemi used to get his well-behaved Tork.

After discarding the idea of using Jayge’s alarm triangle as a dolphin bell (has the triangle been here for longer than this book and the last one? Or is it an instrument that’s definitely came with the AI? It’s talked about as a “post-Thella” thing, but does that make it post-AIVAS?), Alemi asks Fandarel if he’ll cast him a nice bell. Fandarel says yes, but it will have to wait until all the other commissions are done. Robinton sends a handbell and the possibility that a bigger bell might exist somewhere else.

For the moment, Alemi concerns himself with learning the hand signals and commands for dolphins on the printout that AIVAS provided and shaking his head at the fact that the Pernese have had intelligent species there the whole time and have not put the pieces together. And then offers a useful explanation of the why, although it’s couched in yet another commentary on Yanus, who is finally mentioned by name.

“Yes, indeed, I can just picture my good father, Yanus, listening to a shipfish!” He snorted.
“Exactly,” Kitrin said with some heat, for a moment abandoning the little wrapper she was hemming for their expected child. “I mean no disrespect–well, maybe I do,” she added with a rueful expression, “but he is sometimes…”
Always,” Alemi amended firmly with a smile.
“So set in his ways. You know, neither he nor your mother have ever mentioned Menolly. Though your mother often remarks on ingratitude in my presence.” She sighed. “It’s as if Menolly never existed.”
“I think she prefers it that way,” Alemi said with a wry and slightly bitter grin, knowing all too well the treatment given his talented sister during her adolescence at Half Circle Sea Hold. “Both of them–mother and daughter.”
“Menolly’s never been back? Ever?”
“Not to the Sea Hold. Why should she?”
Kitrin shrugged. “It seems so…so awful…that they cannot accept her accomplishments.” Then she added shyly, “Sebell always remembers to send us copies of her latest songs. Alemi, when are we going to have a harper?”
He grinned, for he knew that had been the main reason for the trend of their conversation.
“Hmmm. I’ve asked Jayge and Aramina. Readis is growing old enough to learn his ballads and so are enough youngsters, including our own, for the hold to have its own harper. Enough for a journeyman surely, and we can offer many benefits here: decent weather and property to develop.”
“Ask if they’ve asked,” Kitrin said with unusual force. “I’m not going to see the girls, or our son“–and she said this defensively, one hand on her gravid belly–“grow up ignorant of what they owe Hold, Hall, and Weyr.”

And there’s the thing that should have come first – the easiest way of establishing that Yanus is stubborn to the point of disowning and insisting his daughter doesn’t exist because she bucked his traditional worldview.

Given how abusive Yanus is, I can’t make a judgement on whether Mavi is going along with this because she believes the same thing or because she’s too afraid of him. The questions about ingratitude might be solidarity or attempting to get information about Menolly without appearing sympathetic to her. I realize that Mavi allowed Menolly’s hand to heal improperly, but everything she’s done that’s hurt Menolly has been passive instead of active – she allows Menolly to come to harm instead of actively harming her.

Alemi does inquire of Jayge, who says that all the Harpers are essentially booked to transcribe AIVAS’s data banks. Alemi offers to lean on Menolly to get a Harper freed up to be sent to Paradise River. And gets Menolly herself, who needed to go somewhere warm to compose. And also to give birth to what will be her second child. She came with Camo, who is apparently not just great at taking care of fire lizards, but also children, by virtue, supposedly, of being “not much more than an overgrown baby himself.” Menolly apparently brought mostly instruments and writing instruments and only a couple changes of clothes for herself.

Menolly’s arrival in person causes a scramble, as they erected quarters only for a journeyman and Menolly is far too important for that kind of structure, but Menolly refuses fancier accommodations. In response, Kitrin organizes a baking and cooking storm to make sure there’s enough food of fancy enough making to be appropriate for her rank for the impromptu Gather put on in her honor.

Menolly’s singing brings memories of childhood and adolescence for Alemi (which I am beginning to suspect is a reasonably well-crafted way of bringing new readers up to speed that haven’t read the Harper Hall trilogy, or have forgotten enough of it to need the refresher – it’s been nearly a decade or more since those books came out) as well as what is the narrative’s answer to my speculation before about Mavi’s malevolence.

He had been furious with his parents’ vindictive attitude when she’d cut her hand on a venomous packtail fish and it looked as if the injury might prevent her from playing again. They looked so pleased!

What would have been more useful is if Alemi ever got to see or hear Mavi talk about it in a situation where she could be reassured that her talk wouldn’t get back to Yanus. Because everything that’s presented as evidence is always them together, and really, if you’re in a situation with an abuser and there doesn’t seem to be a way of getting out and living a life in your own (because fucking patriarchy and flesh-eating rain), then you order your life and your thoughts around making sure that abuser doesn’t hurt you, by whatever formula your brain comes up with that it believes will work. Mavi might have been pleased in the sense of “Oh, if that scars badly, then Yanus will stop abusing all of us” and not “what a blessing from God that will stop my wayward daughter from straying from His commands.” The difference is crucial, and the narrative is trying to elide it in insisting Mavi was enthusiastic about the abuse.

After a spell of singing, Alemi thinks to himself that Menolly’s songs continue to do their jobs as effective tools.

Still, that’s what harpering was about, wasn’t it? Getting people to think and feel and, most of all, learn. The Fishercraft fed bodies, but the Harpercraft fed souls.

Setting aside for a second the continuing problems of religious concepts invading the nominally atheist Pern, this line could be read in both a way that’s virtuous, if you believe the Harpers are educators and entertainers, or sinister, if you blame them as propagandists who have been trying to keep a world stagnant from progress for the last two and a half millennia. Think, feel, and learn (what we want you to) sounds very much like the Harpers, and it’s a little chilling in light of what Kitrin said earlier about making sure the children learned their obligations.

Which, actually, I should point out is an insistence that children learn a way of life that has as a keystone a situation (Thread) that could presumably be permanently removed in their lifetime. Because when the threat of being sent out in the deadly rain evaporates, what reason is anyone not currently being benefited by the social structure going to have to continue it? Especially if the dragonriders decide to take retirement and essentially remove themselves from Pern. Someone should be laying the groundwork for post-Thread civilization social contract. The Harpers have the responsibility for it, but they’ve all got their heads in the sand, it seems.

As things are, Alemi sneaks off one night and rings his ship bell occasionally, but only when he hits the Report sequence do the dolphins come, squealing “Bellill!”, because dolphins can’t possibly be expected to get a two-syllable word correct.

There are two good things that comes out of this – dolphins get fish, and finally, Alemi asks what “blufiss” are and gets shown so he figures out that they’re bloodfish and is then able to remove them with his knife. Getting close enough to them allows Alemi to see their distinguishing features and associate them with their names. After cleaning, everyone goes to sleep and there’s a short dolphin interstitial about how they are pleased mans are remembering more of their duties, but mans still haven’t figured out the dolphins know where the best fishing spots are, and there’s no bell for the dolphins to ring yet.

The next morning is frank talk between Idarolan and Alemi, with Idarolan promising not to mention dolphins to Yanus, because they both know that Yanus wouldn’t believe it anyway, much like how he doesn’t believe AIVAS exists. And Idarolan relays a very touching confession from Menolly about why she came.

“You’re why she came, you know. Told me one night she’d never had a chance to get to know you but you were the best of the lot.”
Alemi stared back at his Master. “She said that? About me?” He felt his throat get tight with pride and love of her.

Not that it was a particularity high bar to get over, but yes, Alemi, you were not awful to Menolly.

After that, Alemi rings a report bell and Idarolan gets his first up close with the dolphins…and is mostly bowled over by the legends being true, but also there’s some going over of the contractual bits between dolphins and humans. The mention of Tillek sends the dolphins into a frenzy, asking if there’s a Tillek present. The humans don’t get it, but it’s still essentially a good first contact, and Idarolan leaves with the idea of enlisting those Fishers he believes would be open to the idea of working with dolphins. And that’s the end of the chapter.

Have to say that the Fishercraft are definitely the best so far as a whole at adapting to their new realities.

Writer’s Workshop August 16th, 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: Mid-Month Check In, August 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.]