The Dolphins of Pern: Collegial Experiences

Last chapter, we finally passed the last parts of All The Weyrs of Pern and are now sailing one again into times not already known, with the setup that Readis has been enrolled in a boarding school to learn the data that AIVAS left behind.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter X: Content Notes: None noticed

It has been three years since then, the narrative tells us at the beginning of the chapter, denying us the ability to see what sort of political machinations went into Pern with the death of Robinton.

Save a few – Sebell is able to get the other Masters to go along with Robinton’s educational plan, a plan they had firmly rejected while Robinton was alive. That plan puts the Harpers in charge of most of the new education, so much so that the Harpers are no longer primarily the house of musicians. Menolly, appropriately, is quite bitter that it took Robinton dying before the other Masters were willing to listen to his plan.

Fandarel has less trouble with the adoption of technology, and both Smiths and Healers now have to attend courses on the knowledge AIVAS left behind that pertains to their Crafts. Oldive, unfortunately, still gets stiff resistance to the new techniques AIVAS left along his own masters, but is able to impart them to the new apprentices that are more concerned with easing suffering and saving life, rather than their own egos. (Perhaps not unlike the Healers of the era of the author and us…)

Dolphin sonar is adopted reasonably well, as are power generators for most Holds, although an ultrasound can only tell that something foreign is there, and not necessarily what it is.

And there’s a Computer Craft, even though the Smithcraft is not yet able to recreate circuit boards and transistors that will be necessary to build new machines. (Groghe wanted to have one of his own, likely as a status symbol, but it was not to be.)

Readis’s studies include physical education, including team sport from the AIVAS files (baseball, association football, and polo) and unspecified water sport, which Readis suspects is in deference to his disability, but also sees it as possibly practical knowledge, with as many people as there are taking journeys by sea.

There’s a field trip to Honshu, where F’lessan has appointed himself caretaker and Holder (ish) of the museum collections of murals, tools, and artifacts, although the word isn’t used specifically in the narrative. F’lessan asks Readis about his studies and his future plans, specifically for the time when he’s not going to be Holder on account of Jayge being quite healthy and young.

Readis wants to be a dolphineer. F’lessan approves.

“And with you living right on Paradise River and the sea, you must make good use of them.”
Readis mumbled a noncommittal answer. This was not the time to confide home problems–nor the person to confide them to.
Oblivious to the boy’s hesitation, F’lessan went on. “You might even start up your own crafthall. That’s what Benelek did, you know, by learning all he could about Aivas’s terminals.”
“He did?”
“He did!” Then F’lessan gave Readis a mischievous grin. “Right now, you and all the other Landing students have a brilliant chance to make sure that Pern becomes what the Ancients wanted it to be before Thread interrupted their progress.

That would make more sense if we had more than just the word of a xenocidal AI with a demonstrated capacity for omission and shading as to what the Ancients actually wanted. Certainly they wanted Thread gone. Anything past that is no guarantees, as even in the canonical books we have, there’s an expected technology level well above what Pern even has now. Later on, when Readis quotes the charter to Alemi, it only mentions “a good standard of living using the lowest possible form of technology needed to supply essential services and a good, rounded lifestyle” in a bid to avoid overspecialization. If we knew what they considered “essential services”, that would help, because Pern was theoretically fulfilling that requirement before AIVAS. Like all subsistence life, it was brutally hard and didn’t leave much time for anything but work, but it was stable and working.

It’s up to us, and you and the next generation, to be sure we pick up the plan where they left off and see that Pern becomes the planet they envisioned. That’s what most be done if Pern is to be what it could be. D’you see that? That’s what Master Robinton wanted. It’s what my parents want. But not all the Holders or Mastercraftsmen. They’re still hanging back with what’s comfortable and familiar. He narrowed his eyes slightly to assess the impact of his words on his audience. “It’s going to be difficult, the next twenty-odd Turns, to set in place what Pern will be now that Thread has stopped.”

Readis does point out that it hasn’t stopped yet, and F’lessan acknowledges that.

However, as much as F’lessan wants to paint the more reluctant to go along into the technological era as villains, many of them are looking at this revolution as loss of their power. Holders will no longer be able to use the threat of Thread to maintain their populations. Crafters will find themselves undercut by the technological production of goods or mass farming techniques or other reasons why they might want to hold on to their monopoly powers. Dragonriders have essentially put themselves out of work unless they decide to engage in the practices that Sean Connell found abhorrent to the majesty of the dragons.

Not everyone is on board with this change, because a lot of people who have power now stand to lose it.

Readis is not concerned with this, though, but instead with the possibility of being both a master dolphineer and a Lord Holder.

Of course, his mother would have an attack if he even whispered of his interest in the dolphins around her. She persisted in believing that it was the dolphins who had put his life at risk when it was the other way round. His father might understand, especially now that the dolphins had shown to be useful in so many ways, guarding the coastline and warning them of bad squalls and good fishing. Certainly mastering another Craft would only show the Lord Holders that Readis, son of Jayge and Aramina, was that much more capable of managing an important Southern Hold like Paradise.

Utterly possible, Readis. But there’s still a lot of ableism to get through before you could be confirmed.

Back at the school, Readis goes diving into the archives to see what the actual plan was for Pern, and discovers the charter. And that F’lessan was considered not a very serious anything until he took hold of Honshu.

However, since dragons aren’t part of the charter, Readis ends up in the same situation as the reader – now that there’s a definite end point to Thread, what do the dragons do afterward?

We get a small clue in that blues and greens have taken up shipping as a possible trade, which young dragons of brown and bronze, pre-Theadfall, can join in without it being demeaning to them. Master Samvel notes Readis’s distraction, and essentially gives him the advice that the dragonriders will tend to themselves, and so there’s not really a big need for worry about that question.

Which pushes Readis back in the direction of dolphins, their communication signals, and research into SCUBA gear for further underwater matters. Readis thinks it would be good to commission a crafter to make an aqualung, and maybe a wetsuit, if they could, and runs the idea past Alemi, who thinks it’s a good idea but isn’t willing to stamp his name on it for cover, because Aramina. Who is again noted as being irrational about dolphins and Readis, even if there’s at least a partial grasp going around as to why Aramina is very touchy on the subject of children being injured over close association with intelligent creatures.

Alemi suggests talking to Jayge, but Readis declares it a non-starter and instead shows the plans to T’lion at Landing, who willingly signs in as a partner and then offers to have Readis see the pod that answers his bell. They swim with dolphins and clean Gadareth and then come back to the shore to continue pooling money together to commission the aqualung. And T’lion talks about working in the mines with Gadareth and overflying all the possible spaces he might want to settle down in at retirement.

T’lion returns with the news that Readis is not the only one interested in commissioning an aqualung, and that the main stopping point right now is that there isn’t any elastic material that will be able to hold the mask to the face and create a watertight seal. Idarolan wants one, much to the consternation of the other Masterfishers, who think he’s too old to get involved in such things. Toric has already ordered ten. T’lion put in a good word for Readis, but it looks like they’ll have to wait. T’lion also suggests that Readis follow in the tradition of Northern Lord Holders and get himself established with a small hold on the Paradise River lands, where he could, essentially, run a dolphineer hall of of his garage.

On that note, and the waiting part, the chapter ends.

This tension between Aramina’s PTSD and Readis’s willingness to bend every rule that’s in his way (and receive support from everyone else about it) is going to explode horribly when it comes to fruition. But since nobody on Pern still practices the therapeutic arts, and somehow, nobody rediscovered its virtues over the 2500-year period, Aramina is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to coping and functioning effectively with her traumas.

Next week opens with what may very well be the first indication that technology is causing society to rupture at the seams. (In a good way, in theory.)

14 thoughts on “The Dolphins of Pern: Collegial Experiences

  1. genesistrine September 28, 2017 at 1:41 am

    Hang on – Pern didn’t have team sports? I thought all you needed for team sports were a sufficient number of bored people and something for them to hit/kick/throw around? It’s another one of the great human fundamentals that seem to be missing from Pernese….

    And with everything AIVAS did bring back it didn’t bring back counselling/therapy/psychiatry?

  2. Firedrake September 28, 2017 at 3:15 am

    Considering all the complexity that goes up onto making a SCUBA regulator, lacking elastic straps to hold the mask on seems frankly paltry.

  3. genesistrine September 28, 2017 at 6:13 am

    @Firedrake: they’ve got a spacesuit manufacturing industry.

  4. Silver Adept September 28, 2017 at 8:03 am

    @ genesistrine –

    I think they have team sport, but I’d be willing to guess that if pressed on that idea, the narrative would just say that children were too busy tending the farm/their Craft apprenticeship/the dragons to engage in team sports past a certain age, even at a Gather. It’s only now with a group of students whose job it is to be students that it becomes team sport (because the Ancients did it.)

    And no, nobody has apparently gone looking in the files for the art of healing the mind, and AIVAS is never down mentioning it to anyone on screen, even though there were Healers present in droves. Oldive didn’t consider it important, I guess.

    @ Firedrake –

    Quite. And there will be much more complex devices on display that work perfectly. Lacking an elastic seems more like a plot requirement than an organic inability. Especially because spacesuits.

  5. genesistrine September 28, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    @Silver Adept: I bet it’s a case of Pernese being unable to generalise – “but that’s elastic for use in spacesuits! You can’t use it for scuba suits!”

  6. genesistrine September 30, 2017 at 6:00 am

    Re team sports: Maybe it’s more Randian nightmare genetic engineering. The ‘geneers tried to knock out religion and accidentally took out a chunk of creativity too, and the lack of team sports is evidence that they tried to take out co-operative endeavour too.

    Re mind healing: even weirder since there was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference in Dawn to a couple of counsellors in the colony. Randian Supermen obviously don’t need therapy, and no-one else matters….

  7. Silver Adept September 30, 2017 at 8:02 am

    @ genesistrine –

    Entirely possible. I would have expected someone to try and use a spacesuit and helmet combination for a deep sea dive, as it would keep a lot out. It might be bulky and hard to maneuver in, and maybe the atmospheric pressure might hurt someone, and the first divers will undoubtedly die from the bends, but nobody has tried it, even now that innovation seems less forbidden by TRADITION (tradition!) now that the origins are a bit more clearly known.

    As for team sports and psychology, then who are supposed to be the intended supermen and who are supposed to be the gene-altered uncreatives that don’t need sport or support? At least at the beginning, creativity would have been very needed.

  8. WanderingUndine September 30, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    First the mention of chowder, which I suppose has been around for a long time, now the development of SCUBA gear. Pernese society is looking increasingly sensible and appealing. Too had they don’t have tomatoes as far as I recall, or they might start making Caprese foods (by some other name), the true hallmark of an enlightened civilization. :-p

    (Joking. Mostly. I drew that conclusion about Caprese food after visiting enlightened Costa Rica, where the lovely tomato-basil-mozzarella cheese combo is ubiquitous)

  9. genesistrine October 1, 2017 at 1:51 am

    The people who pay the genetic engineers or who are them get to be the supermen; everyone else gets to grow potatoes and scrub floors.

  10. Silver Adept October 1, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    @ genesistrine –

    I guess the drudges are an attempt to create a servitor class and that went awful, too.

    @ WanderingUndine –

    There’s a lot to be said for the countryside and some of the bits of culture that came with the settlers. It’s just all the other things are getting in the way of those small and beautiful bits.

  11. genesistrine October 2, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Wouldn’t surprise me. The original settlers already had the charter/contractor split, and it’s always seemed dubious to me that everyone was entirely on board with the thought of their descendants tending their own vegetable patches and making/washing their own dishes for ever and ever afterwards when they could get someone else to do it for them.

  12. Silver Adept October 6, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    In theory, yes, they are supposed to be okay with it, but even in Rand-world, if you can get someone else to be your slave, then that’s okay, because that means you’re the better person and you deserve your slaves.

  13. genesistrine October 7, 2017 at 1:20 am

    And they deserve to be slaves, because they don’t have have the get-up-and-go to be anything else.

  14. Silver Adept October 8, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Of course, because predestination.

    Although, it would be an interesting alternate interpretation if it turns out drudges aren’t lazy or stupid, but engaging in a work slowdown as a strike against the legal code that allows for lifetime slavery and the enslavement of the next generations by their parents or grandparents.

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