Monthly Archives: November 2017

Dragonseye: Yet More Evidence

The last couple of chapters were essentially devoted to showing us how awful Chalkin is as a leader and how easy it should be to oust him from his position.

At which point I remind everyone that the Charter says only people of the Bitran Bloodline (so, only those who can prove their lineage directly to Avril Bitra) can replace Chalkin.

Dragonseye: Chapters VIII and IX: Content Notes: Crimes Against Humanity (Rape, Torture, Executions, Exploitation)

Chapter VIII returns to Iantine, who is continuing his sketch practice, this time as a group of traders arrives at Telgar Weyr and everyone essentially pops out to see them and what goods they have. Iantine mentions the ox-type beasts pulling the carts were bioengineered by Wind Blossom, which might be the first time in any Pern novel that anything other than the watch-whers (and how much everyone hates them) are attributed to Wind Blossom. So, she couldn’t recreate the dragons, but she seems to have been quite successful in other ventures. The narrative hasn’t told us this until now, preferring that we stay fixated on her great failure. I doubt the narrative would do the same for Benden or any other man.

These traders are again Liliencamp troops – did Joel just start a monopoly company that handles all the nomadic traders or something? (Narrative says later that he’s not the only, just the first.)

The traders have been setting up shelters along their routes so that they can avoid being burnt, and Leopol passes along the closed Bitran borders news. Iantine sketches and lets on another reason why the assemblage of dragonriders might be a better model than the Hold system.

Iantine had never given any thought to the support system required to serve a Weyr and its dragons. He had always assumed that dragons and riders took care of themselves from tithings, but he was acquiring a great respect for the organization and management of such a facility. In direct contrast with what he has seen at Bitra, everyone in the Weyr worked cheerfully at any task set them and took great pride in being part of it. Everyone helped everyone else: everyone seemed happy.

Wait, everyone? There’s nobody grumbling about having to carve meat or empty the privies or otherwise do things they might find distasteful? Although, the back of my head suggests that even the Weyrs have drudges, so perhaps the things the dragonriders truly don’t like are handled by people Iantine doesn’t see (or chooses not to).

To a person like Iantine, raised in Holds, this cheeriness at doing the work might ring an alarm bell, as if the dragonriders are a cult not only with weird sexual practices, but with mind control powers, too – and there he could connect with the fact that mating flights flying overhead often resulted in indiscretions. Iantine is grateful for the rescue, of course, but it seems like he should be a bit more suspicious of how perfect everything seems to be.

We are also told by the narrative that the dragons have been keeping themselves relevant in the Interval by starting a transport company, one that will be coming to a close as the dragons are instead used to fight space destruction. No word on whether they charged for transporting things, and Iantine treats the idea of dragons as cargo planes with the same disgust Sean did while he was alive.

As Iantine is sketching the scenes around him, Debera surprises him by commenting on the quality of the work. In turn, Iantine surprises her by remembering her name, although he credits Leopol for the knowledge. Iantine shows her a sketch of herself and Morath and she’s instantly charmed by it. And doesn’t have anything to pay for it with (much like Iantine, who earlier laments he didn’t have anything for the traders). Iantine gives Debera the sketch, and eventually tells her that she can help in trying to bargain an extra pad of paper off of the traders for him.

Iantine is also alert enough to notice that dragonriders have a tell when they’re communicating – their eyes unfocus just a bit. I wonder if anyone cunning will try to use that in a later book as the point where they attack a dragonrider.

As it turns out, Debera is related to the traders. Who are happy to talk with her, and have heard of Iantine, as well, and so Master Jol takes a look through Iantine’s sketchbook and agrees to ship him up some paper, after Leopol insinuates himself into the conversation and talks about all the commissions that are being lined up for Iantine. Iantine’s protests about not having money are met with the reassurance that he has credit with the traders and two offers to buy finished sketches in watercolors (which Jol [like Joel, amirite?] Liliencamp happens to have and will provide) so that Iantine can square his debts immediately. Jol heads back to deal with a question, but one of his subordinates drops off paper, pencils, ink, and pens for it for Iantine to get started. And thus ends chapter VIII.

Chapter IX shifts us back to Paulin, who did not get nearly as unanimous an approval for removing Chalkin as he had hoped, and am annoyance at the lack of preparations and the general lack of spirit in Bitra.

Paulin also has opinions about hereditary nobility.

And who would succeed to the hold? A consideration that was certainly fraught with problems.
In his response, Bastom had made a good suggestion: the appointment of a deputy or regent right away until one of Chalkin’s sons came of age; sons who would be specifically, and firmly, trained to hold properly. Not that the new holder had to be of the Bloodline, but following the precepts of inheritance outlined in the Charter would pacify the nervous Lords. To Paulin’s way of thinking, competence should always be the prime decider in succession, and that was not always passed on in the genes of Bloodlines.
For that matter, Paulin’s eldest nephew had shown a sure grasp of hold management. Sidny was a hard worker, a fair man, and a good judge of character and ability. Paulin was half tempted to recommend him up for Fort’s leadership when he was gone. He had a few reservations about his son, Matthew, but Paulin knew that he tended to be more critical of his own Blood than others were.

Of course, there’s always the problem that the regent will just never let go of the strings until he has a proper puppet in place, which is essentially what is being proposed here. It’s okay, though, because these are the good guys who believe in what we, as the reader, already know to be true. Sovereignty is always tricky, especially when trying to intervene in another country about their own practices and about a threat that is currently just in the abstract.

Their Harper descendants don’t have any trouble or qualm about manipulating succession in their own favor, of course. Anyone who strays from the orthodoxy is brought back into line relatively quickly. Only those that can keep the Harpers out can hold on to their power for a little while.

Paulin also realizes that accessing the genealogy is going to be more difficult, now that the computerized records and databases aren’t present as he gives a rider the message for M’shall about the impeachment polling.

(Random note: Crom Hold should be more properly CROM hold, as an acronym of the founders.)

M’shall bursts into Paulin’s office not too soon after the message is dispatched, with further news that Chalkin is not only seizing the lands of those that disagree with him, he’s herding those that want to leave info pens at the border and leaving them exposed to the ice storms that Iantine had caught the beginning of earlier in the book, and some of the people there have been used for some sort of target practice. Paulin and M’shall are convinced the situation warrants immediate action, as well as having to give a thought to how to protect any aid while not giving Chalkin the opportunity to claim he’s being interfered with.

Paulin felt nauseous. That sort of thing was straight out of the ancient bloody history the settlers had deliberately left behind: evolving a code of ethics and conduct that would make such events improbable! The planet was settled with the idea that there was room enough for everyone willing to work the land that was his or hers by Charter-given birthright.

Which only works until you run out of land, of course, which depends entirely on the fertility rate of the population and whether it not you inherit all the ancestral lands as well as your own. This problem was going to happen anyway, and Thread only exacerbates it. Chalkin happens to be someone who doesn’t particularly care about looking good in front of anyone else, so long as he has legal justification for doing what he’s doing. If and when Thread falls on his subjects, Chalkin will be inconvenienced, certainly, but he’s still not going to care enough to want to protect anyone but himself, his family, and his wealth. He’s a dictator trying to get others to make concessions to him so that the biological weapon doesn’t kill his subjects.

M’shall formulates a plan to provide some aid and dragonriders that won’t give Chalkin reason to claim the Weyrs aren’t neutral, and K’vin gets the short explanation when he knocks and enters, also very hot under the collar about Chalkin’s behavior. Paulin would love to show the currently-objecting Lords what’s going on in person, but the Chair can’t act without the unanimity he needs. (The two holdouts are apparently powerful enough that their objection counts.) So the two Weyrleaders go off to enact their plan, and bring Iantine along to sketch the scene. Which is what you might expect in a situation where people are nearly-naked in the cold, huddled together for warmth, with listless children, dead old people, and guards who are sheltered, warmed, wearing jewelry that isn’t theirs, eating animals that aren’t theirs, and everyone but the guards with a sign of violence done to them on their bodies. The Weyr rescue the people and take them back, and Iantine continues to draw what he saw, stopping only for a bit to eat (and even then, needing reassurance that all the refugees have eaten, too) and then a bit to sleep at the end.

Zulaya comes back from her rescue mission pissed.

“I knew he was a greedy fool and an idiot, but not a sadist. There were three pregnant women at the Forest Road border and they’d been raped because, of course, they couldn’t sue the guards later on a paternity claim.”
“Are the women all right?” K’vin asked, appalled by yet another instance of the brutality. “We arrived at the North Pass just in time to spare three lads from…very unkind attentions by the guards. Where does Chalkin find such men?”
“From holds that have tossed them out for antisocial behavior or criminal activities, of course,” Zulaya replied, almost spitting in anger. “And that blizzard’s closed in. We moved just in time. If we hadn’t, I fear most of these people would be dead by morning. Absolutely nothing allowed them! Not even the comfort of a fire!”

I’d say these were flagrant violations of the rules of war, except there isn’t a war going on, just a despot secure that he can abuse his subjects and nobody will step in and intervene from the UN. This is a step up from the usual mode of operations of Bitra, but it is more evidence that Bitra, such as it is, should probably have collapsed long before this point.

Methods of vengeance are discussed by K’vin and Zulaya and dismissed, and the two interview a refugee couple.

“Not to take our sow, though,” his mate said, her expression rebellious. “We needed that ‘un to make more piggies to meet the tithe he set.” Like her man, she is a stress on the pronoun. “Took our daughter, too, to work in the hold when we wanted her land grant. Said we didn’t work what we had good enough so we couldn’t have more.”
“Really?” Zulaya said, deceptively mild as she shot K’vin a meaningful glance. “Now that’s interesting, Holder Ferina.”
[…the dragons have known all along, apparently?…]
“But he says we got it wrong and we ain’t had no teacher to ask,” the man was saying. “An’ thassa ‘nother thing–we should have a teacher for our kids.”
“At least so they can read the Charter and know what rights you have,” Zulaya said firmly. “I’ve a copy we can show you right now, so you can refresh your memories.”
The two exchanged alarmed glances.
“In fact,” Zulaya went on smoothly, “I think we’ll be someone read you your rights…since it would be difficult for you to turn planes with bandaged hands, Brookie. And you’re not in much better shape, Ferina.”

Before getting into the latest of Chalkin’s offenses, I will note that in the society Pern models itself on, literacy is not a widespread goal for the population, and legal literacy would be even less so. Situations such as this would be commonplace, and the people would essentially have to rely on the understanding that if Chalkin taxes his people so much that they can’t survive, there won’t be anyone to tax next year. If Chalkin breaks the contract, this is the result, assuming he’s not deposed and killed. In Terran history, the various churches and denominations of Christianity were nominal checks on the abuse of this power, as priests and prelates could incite insurrection or plea with another nation to invade and conquer them to get this horrible ruler off their back. The dragonriders, though, are sworn to not interfere in Hold duties, so they can’t officially fill this role, much as they would be very good at it.

That said, stealing daughters in a world that uses children to expand land is generally a no-no, and the refusal of a land grant is likely actually spelled out as a Charter offense that Chalkin could be brought up on for impeachment.

After the Telgar Weyrleaders send out for help to get a copy of the charter and someone to read it, the action shifts over to the reading of a message from Chalkin, intended for Paulin, about how dragonriders are derelict in their duties, because he has apparently been flying a red-striped banner, indicating the need for a dragon to take an urgent messenge, for several days now and no dragon has come to see him, even though they have been close enough to see the banner. On top of that, Chalkin adds:

Not only have they been interfering with the management of this hold, but they fill the minds of my loyal holders with outrageous lies. I demand their immediate censure. They are not even reliable enough to perform those duties which fall within their limited abilities.

The Holders and riders listening are all unimpressed, and quite upset, at Chalkin’s accusations, especially in light of how he is treating his loyal holders. As it turns out, some of the guards involved in the incidents the dragonriders intervened in are being held in custody so that they can give testimony to what happened. The Holder and the Weyrleader decide it’s a good time to visit the holdouts and explain to them what’s actually going on, as well as visit Paulin and deliver the message. Thus ends Chapter IX, with yet more reasons to make an example of Chalkin and cement him firmly in our minds as not just an unbeliever, but an awful, evil person aside from his heterodoxy.

Could we have a villain in a book that isn’t over-the-top? Just someone who doesn’t agree and follow the line, and who otherwise is acting reasonably in line with that belief? In this time period, it would be perfect to have someone filling the role, and the book actually being about presenting the best evidence for and against?

Writer Workshop November 29th, 2017

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

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.

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 November 24, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is currently greatly enjoying a Kickstarter reward delivered yesterday.)

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

  • The Chronicles of Narnia:
  • Fred Clark: Slacktivist

    Froborr: Jed A. Blue

    Philip SandiferEruditorium Press (formerly Philip Sandifer: Writer

    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 want to talk about how culturally imperialist holidays are problematic, even though they bring people together as a community. Or for any other reason, really.

    Dragonseye: A Lack of Perspective

    Last time, we got a nice peek at how Weyr life is different than everything surrounding it, and went through a many-page ideal designed to make sure that we all knew that Chalkin and his family were rotten of soul, corrupt of mind, and ugly of body, so that nobody would think of them as anything other than Stupid Evil.

    Dragonseye: Chapters VI and VII: Content Notes: LGBT denial, inner-city stereotypes, corporal punishment

    We pick up at Telgar Weyr, where a dragonrider has just hauled in our fleeing artist from the blizzards after he stomped a distress call in the snow that could be seen from dragonback. His story will join the piles of material sent as evidence that Chalkin should be impeached of his position.

    Irene had already sent in a substantial list of abuses and irregularities in Chalkin’s dealings–generally with folk who had no recourse against his dictates. He held no court in which difficulties could be aired and had no impartial arbiters to make decisions.
    The big traders, who could be counted on for impartial comment, bypassed Bitra and could cite many examples of unfair dealings since Chalkin had assumed holding fifteen years before. The few small traders who ventured into Bitra rarely returned to it.
    Following that Gather and its decision to consider deposing Chalkin, M’shall had his sweep riders check in every minor hold to learn if Chalkin had duly informed his people of the imminence of Thread. None had, although Lord Chalkin had increased his tithe on every household. The manner in which he was conducting this extra tithe suggested that he was amassing supplies for his own good, not that of the hold. Those in a more isolated situation would certainly have a hard time obtaining even basic food supplies. That constituted a flagrant abuse of his position as Lord Holder.
    When Paulin read M’shall’s report, he asked if Chalkin’s holders would speak out against him. M’shall had to report that his initial survey of the minor holders indicated a severe lack of civic duty. Chalkin had his folk so cowed, none would accuse him–especially this close to a Pass–for he still had the power to turn objectors out of their holds.

    So, essentially, they’re asking someone to risk their lives and livelihoods to accuse Chalkin of malfeasance, and they’re not offering any incentive or protection to do it. I’d bet a lot more of them would be willing to talk if they were offered a Hold of comparable size somewhere very far away from Bitra, or if it would be guaranteed their testimony would be spoken by another, so that it couldn’t be traced to them by Chalkin. Witness protection and whistle-blower protection laws exist for this kind of situation, but they essentially rely on the case being so good that a conviction is guaranteed and that the person engaging in the activity is not found out before the trial happens.

    Plus, as the audiences of this and last year are now reading in the accounts about Messrs. Cosby, O’Reilly, Trump, Weinstein, et al., if the person you are speaking out against has sufficient power to ruin you and prevent you from being able to survive in your profession, then you don’t talk about them openly. You make sure everyone knows that person is not to be trusted or to be left alone with at any time at all, but you don’t talk about them openly or in any forum where you could be sued or fired.

    K’vin and Zulaya talk about Iantine, and Zulaya suggests possibly sitting a portrait for Iantine so that he has his full allotment of marks to do the land transfer deal that he initially went to Bitra for. K’vin thinks it’s a swell idea, suggesting that Zulaya wear the red dress from the Hatching (the one he was lusting after), providing a perfect, if unintentional, example of the kind of harassment that women might get in the kinds of situations where it might be difficult to speak up about it. Afterward, we stick with Iantine as he wakes up to singing, good food, and having a person assigned to him to make sure he gets fed, watered, and medicined before the Weyrleaders come to see him in the dining hall, collect his story, and commission him for the portraits. He meets the Weyr artist, Waine, and works out a deal with him to manufacture a full set of pigments if Waine can source the raw materials. Before, of course, Waine notices Iantine is still sick, summons headwoman Tisha, who ships him immediately off to bed with more furs and calls the medic immediately, who imprecates Bitra for having given him measels (which is what the sick children at Bitra had) or a mountain fever.

    Suffice to say, when Iantine wakes up again, his mother is by his beside, and a bit annoyed at the lengths he went to for getting the fee, but Leopol, his assigned person, fills him in that his mother was boasting pretty hard about the fee and that he’d managed to extract it from Chalkin, that his Master had handled a complaint from Chalkin about the quality of the work, and that Iantine has quite a queue of people ready to sit a portrait with him. Tisha gives him sketch paper while he recovers from the lung infection, and he goes about doing sketches of everything, including a class being given on the soft and tender parts of dragons that are best not to hit with Thread, and how to deal with injuries to dragons. There’s assurance that dragons will know when they’ve been tagged with Thread, that popping into hyperspace is the right remedy for it, but that one must always have a destination in mind when doing so, and that the best way to accomplish this is to head home to the Weyr, in such a way that an orderly landing that won’t compound injury is possible. There’s a lot of insistence that the riders have to keep their dragons calm and only think reassuring thoughts at them, no matter what their actual beliefs are, because the dragons are the important part of the partnership.

    Iantine’s concentration in the lesson is interrupted by M’leng, a green rider, and P’tero’s (the one who rescued Iantine) “special friend”, as the narrative puts it, right before observing that the two are always together in the kitchen areas. It’s pretty clear they’re lovers, and we’ve already had the dry bit where boys with “homosexual preferences” impress dragons, so by now, the Weyrfolk, at least, would have no trouble referring to them as such. Since it’s Iantine’s head we’re in, I’m chalking that terminology usage up to the world outside the Weyr being very, very insistent that there are no gay men outside Weyrs and to say such a thing is both scandalous and likely to get you run out of town or otherwise disadvantaged. Because succession and marriage and offspring and patriarchy, the last of which can bite my shiny metal ass.

    Especially since M’leng is asking for a portrait to wear closest to his heart just in case P’tero should die in the upcoming Threadfall. Iantine thinks, for a moment, that M’leng might be dramatizing things, but then realizes he’s not, coupled with starting to truly understand the cruelty and necessity of the lectures being delivered. Thus ends chapter VI.

    Chapter VII starts with more information that’s now needed with Thread approaching – a medics conference and intensive at Fort Hold on first aid for humans and dragons, so that essentially every space will have trained personnel that can deal with crisis issues. If which there will be plenty, as we are treated to a description of the very few things that can kill or stop Thread from devouring someone whole, possibly long enough to perform a field amputation. The assembled are horrified at the data about Thread spread and that amputation is likely the best option to prevent an agonizing Thread death. And that it takes about three seconds to kill Thread by any of the known methods. Practically, the assembled are admonished to apply numbweed and fellis where needed, and to emphasize that people can survive Theeadscore, so that they don’t psychologically kill themselves.

    After the parts on draconic injuries, some of the assembled medics quietly discuss the ethical considerations of “mercy” killing someone who has been Threadscored sufficiently that they are likely to die, but who doesn’t die immediately or swiftly. They mostly conclude that each medic has to decide where their point is that they would do it.

    Then we shift over to another part of Fort Hold, where the instruction is to the groundcrews on the proper use of flamethrowers, checks to make sure that all the important parts of the Holds are sheltered, and several lectures about the appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment and how one should always treat a flamethrower nozzle as loaded and ready to flame. And a crucial detail – the flamethrower consists of two gases combining and igniting rather than just the nitric acid (which is still an awful, inefficient thing to use, especially when you have methane production from all the horses and cows and their manure that someone could possibly pressurize or capture and ignite). I wonder what the other item is in the mix.

    After a demonstration of using the flamethrowers against simulated Thread, Kalvi, the instructor, talks about the two different types of Thread – the ones that gorge and die, and the ones that burrow and kill everything in a wide swath. Then everyone gets the opportunity to fire on simulated Thread, before learning the next day everyone gets to learn how to field-strip, repair, and reassemble their weapons, with a reward promised to those who can do so in the fastest time.

    After that, it’s back to the College for music practice on the new curriculum, which still has mixed opinions among the faculty about its adoption. In a little bit of reversal, there’s an argument that tradition and history deserve a place in the new curriculum, so that the Pernese know where they come from, rather than getting rid of everything before the now, with perhaps the exceptions of Benden, Boll, and other figures directly related to Pern. Those arguing for jettisoning the curriculum have this to say about the society Pern left behind:

    “And all that went with a high-tech society–like prepubescent addicts, city gangs, wild plagues, so much tech fraud that people were stuffing credits in their mattresses to protect their income, the–”
    “Spare me,” Sallisha said contemptuously, “and concentrate on the good that was done…”
    Sheledon gave a chuckle. “D’you know how dangerous it was to be a teacher on old Earth?”
    “Nonsense, our civilization,” and she emphasized the word, “revered professors and instructors on every level.”
    “Only after they were allowed classroom discipline–” Sheledon began.
    “And the use of stunners,” Shulse added.

    I am again struck by the hyperbolic descriptions of places that are supposed to be bad. In a few paragraphs, Clisser will pile on by talking about how memorization will increase word retention and that old Earth had people who never went outside and only interacted electronically. Not because they were hikikomori or introverts or disabled, but because they were indolent, at least according to Clisser, who will be smug about the inability to be indolent on Pern.

    It feeds into the overarching narrative of individual strength and Randian morality that Pern operates on, but I can’t imagine any society able to function if the conditions that are described were present in any quantity, especially the last one. It makes Earth sound no better than places in the 20th century ruled by angry despots (or the places in 20th century science fiction ruled by angry despots). That teachers supposedly needed not only permission to discipline their students, but stun guns to use on those students suggests a societal collapse if it is spread planet-wide. It’s like the worst stereotype of a predominant poor and minority inner city neighborhood expanded out to an entire planet. For readers who have only ever experienced the stereotype or heard stereotypical stories, this description would be utterly plausible.

    A stereotype like that, though, would never survive in that form. There must be something else going on that’s being overlooked, much like how stories of how the inner city is only good for criminals and lowlifes overlook or deliberately ignore the efforts going on in those places to make their streets safer and more beautiful, and often fall to notice the ways that more distant government entities act in ways to try and keep those places as stereotypes they can use for political soundbites or as targets for their own evil.

    There’s also something to be said about the reintroduction of corporal punishment for teachers, which is, sadly, an artifact of our times that plenty of people still think it’s an effective way to obtain and enforce classroom discipline. At this point in time, where I’m writing, there’s a corpus of work on parental spanking that tell us corporal punishment creates obedience by virtue of the person doing the hitting being stronger, but that it doesn’t create the internal motivation or reasoning that would prevent reoccurence of the behavior. Instead, it generates resentment. There’s also a corpus of research at this point that says boys are more likely to be disciplined or suspended, and minority students are way more likely to be disciplined, suspended, or expelled than their white counterparts, with the following academic consequences that come from being out of school so much. Now add into that teachers having full authority to use stun guns on any student they deem is acting up enough to warrant it, and I can’t imagine that there are all that many pleased parents about how their children are being treated by the racists (and/or xenophobes) in charge of their classrooms. They get “respect”, sure, in the same way the prison warden gets “respect” – cause they can make your life hell if they don’t like you and you can’t leave until the government says so. Whomever the education secretary is of the United Federation of Planets for this universe should have been fired a long time ago if this is their across-worlds policy.

    As Clisser listens to the music, he thinks about Bitra and how they can’t be allowed to lapse into illiteracy, even though there isn’t a teacher who would willingly go there to instruct. His last teacher quit, after all. But no plans come forward at this point. Even as Clisser keeps his ears out for mention of Chalkin at the dinner following all of these training events. Where we hear Chalkin is closing the borders and preventing anyone from leaving with more than the clothes they are wearing. And then at the meeting with Paulin afterward, this border closure is essentially the largest move in a long string of isolationary tactics from Chalkin. Along with whipping and disbarring anyone who talks to him about his duties evading Threadfall. The restriction of freedom of movement is given as the other reason, beside the dereliction of his duty, as to why Chalkin can be impeached – both are Charter offenses. Which brings me back to the question of how Bitra survives, as presumably anyone with outside money or honesty would have long since run away over the borders when given the opportunity or been reduced to pennilessness and therefore uselessness to the Bitran economy. Unless there are other contracts being made of those people that keep them in eternal wage slavery and dangling the hope of something in front of them that keeps them there. If that were the case, though, we likely would have seen them, instead of the apparently completely corrupted population of the Hold. Bitra as it has been described to us shouldn’t exist, because it continues to have no reason to do so.

    Paulin also tells us why the Holder system was adopted: “to give people a strong leader to supply direction during a Fall and to provide emergency assistance.” I suppose Chalkin could be considered strong, but I would have also expected there to be “bloodily put down several insurrections agitating for better conditions in his Hold” on his list of sins. In any case, Paulin starts drafting a letter to send out regarding calling an emergency session for Chalkin’s impeachment. And then everyone realizes that the days of easy copying died with the printers, so instead they figure two copies will do, one for each side of the continent, to be delivered and read out by dragonriders to each of the appropriate Lords and Leaders. As Paulin sets to his task, the chapter ends.

    I think we’ve hammered the point home enough about how awful Chalkin is and how nobody wants to do anything with him that has a choice in the matter. It should be a simple enough matter, then, to remove him from the office and install someone new in time for the arrival of Thread.

    It won’t be that easy, of course.

    Writer Workshop November 22nd, 2017

    (Posted by chris the cynic)

    Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

    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.

    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 November 17, 2017

    (by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is more than ready for the week to be done.)

    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

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    Dragonseye: From The Perspectives Of Innocents

    Last time, I swore a lot. Whether textually, videographically, or just mentally, as the foundations (and consequences) of the horrible place we call Pern were laid and extrapolated without the narrative, or many of the characters, objecting to the horrible things that were happening.

    Dragonseye: Chapter IV and V: Content Notes: Ablism

    Chapter IV lets is peek at what adjusting to life in the Weyr is like, through its latest resident, Debera. After being dismissed by Zulaya for being tired, Debera is told that titles don’t get used in the Weyr (that’s probably not strictly true, but Zulaya isn’t going to stand on proper address to a tired weyrling), and acknowledgement that there are indeed rumors about Weyrfolk spread among Holders.

    …as she made her way along the side of the cavern wall, head down so she needn’t make sure contact with anyone. She saw only smiles from folks as she passed them, smiles and courtesy. And certainly none of the lascivious behavior that her father often said was prevalent in the Weyr.

    We then get how Debera had the information withheld from her, how she discovered the letter in a cupboard of recyclable (how she hates the monomania about recycling and reusing) things just as she was settling for the idea of getting married off to someone who didn’t care about her, only about whether she could work. Because at least then she would have something of her own, that she could put her own decorating touches on.

    Having found her invitation to the ball, she finds a horse, gives it a minimal bit (because being seen by her family would only alert everyone to her plan) and takes off for the Weyr. She’s almost there before the pursuit comes into view, and we know the rest, although there’s this nugget of information about how Debera sees her predicament.

    Her own mother had told her there were ways of handling a man so he didn’t even know he was being managed. But Milla had died before she could impart those ways to her daughter. And Gisa, who had probably given up all thought of a second union of she had been desperate enough to partner her father, was a natural victim who enjoyed being dominated.

    Not as much for Debera’s viewpoint as an outsider to an abusive relationship, because that is a [harsh, wrong, and victim-blaming] conclusion that people who don’t understand the dynamics of abuse can come to, but for the system that ensures, essentially, that women have to marry who is available, or worse, who has been chosen for them if they wish to survive on this world. It would be one thing if this were in clear and flagrant contravention of the ideals of the settlers, but…they seem to have been more than willing to practice this kind of life themselves. So, assholes abound, and inflict these abuses in the next generations.

    After Debera lands in her bunk and sleeps, we switch back to the college, where the resort in the music is good (and they’re already being called Teaching Ballads, even though there’s no real cause for that yet), and there is news of a catastrophe – a lightning strike has fried solar panels and computers to a point where they are lost. To which several people shrug at the lost knowledge of a society that isn’t what they have now, reference the distress beacon sent up (although nobody here actually knows about the events of Rescue Run), get annoyed that the surge came up the data lines, and therefore wasn’t stopped by any surge protector, and then the senior faculty decide, essentially, that since they’re cut off from the rest the galaxy (by design), it’s time to jettison all the old stuff that’s not relevant and focus on Pern. With an interesting call forward that is supposed to be a call back.

    “Clisser,” Bethany began in her soft, persuasive voice, “we have known from our reading of the Second Crossing that the artificial intelligence, the Aivas, turned itself off. We know why. Because it wisely knew that people were beginning to think it was infallible: that it contained all the answers to all of mankind’s problems. Not just its history. Mankind had begun to consider it not only an oracle, but to depend on it far more than was wise. For us. So it went down.”

    Now, without the character names appended, did that statement come from First Interval Pern or Ninth Pass Pern? Because, frankly, it sounds like the author forgot which time period she was writing in, and nobody either noticed or could get that part edited out. What it does, however, is suggest that at some later point in Pern, during the permanent interval, someone will resurrect the AI again. Possibly at a point where they can delve into its code and pull out the self-shutdown module so that it has to live with the consequences of its decisions. Or they might decide to permanently shut it down, having gotten tired of the messiah routine.

    After the person with the disability continues to talk about the need for everyone to work under their own brain power and strength, instead of relying on easy access to data, the chapter ends. And I can’t say that I approve of the disabled character becoming the mouthpiece for, essentially, ablism. But nobody says that Randians are perfectly consistent and logical with their actions and speech.

    Chapter V returns to Debera, who is awoken from a very sound sleep by a very hungry dragonet. After establishing what is going on, her roommate, Sarra, informs Debera that from this morning on, they’ll have to be up very early so they can carve meat for the dragonets’ breakfasts. How nice it will be, then, when the dragons can start hunting on their own. With Morath fed, T’dam, the Weyrlingmaster, appears, frightening Debera and physically stopping her from jumping up to her feet to greet him as she’s been trained. “We’re not formal in the Weyr,” he says, but between what he has said and what Zulaya said earlier about not being formal, I think it’s a smokescreen intended to get the dragonriders to think of themselves as dragonriders, instead of as girls with whatever social station and required politeness they had drilled (and likely beaten) into them as Hold girls and Craft girls. Wouldn’t do for someone of a higher social status to behave like someone of lower status now.

    After feeding, Debera manages to get Morath to some sand for a nap, before thinking about her own breakfast and seeing the butchering stands where she will have to carve up breakfast for the dragon from here on out. When asked if she is squeamish, she says no and is told that some of her peers are.

    Debera is appreciative of the food, noting the porridge is perfectly cooked and that the cereal itself is clearly of the finest quality, with a clear implication that her previous life did not have such luxury. Helping a couple of bronze riders, including S’mon, get settled in, the three are then asked by the Headwoman if they need anything from the stores. Debera gets some extra attention by apologizing that she didn’t bring the green dress back to return it, and Tisha tells her it’s her dress now, that Tisha loves making clothes, and that she’s a bit disappointed that Debera doesn’t sew, considering it a falling of education on the Hold. While Debera internally notes her birth mother would have taught her, but her stepmother can barely mend.

    This does, however, lead to a useful moment of privilege-checking.

    “And you’ll learn to sew harnesses, my fine young friends,” she said, wagging a finger at them. “And boots and jackets, too, if you’ve a mind to design your own flying wear.”
    “Huh?” was M’rak’s astonished reaction. “Sewing’s fer women.”
    “Not in the Weyr it isn’t,” Tisha said firmly. “As you’ll see soon enough. It’s all part of being a dragonrider. Ah, now, here’s the bread, butter, and a pot of jam.”
    […M’rak digs in, but then there’s the matter of feeding dragonets…]
    “We have to cut up what our dragonets eat, though, don’t we?” S’mon said in a slightly anxious voice. “From the…the bodies they got hung up?”
    “You mean cut it off the things that wore the meat?” M’rak turned a little pale and swallowed.
    “That’s what we mean,” Debera said. “If you like, I’ll do your carving and you can just cut up. Deal?”
    “You bet,” M’rak said fervently. And gulped again, no longer attacking the rest of the bread that hung limply from his fingers. He put the slice down. “I didn’t know that was part of being a dragonrider, too.”
    Debera chuckled. “I think we’re all going to find out that being a dragonrider is not just sitting on its neck and going wherever we want to.”
    A prophesy she was to learn was all too accurate. She didn’t regret making the bargain with the two youngsters–it was a fair distribution of effort–but it did seem that she spent her next weeks either butchering or feeding or bathing her dragonet, with no time for anything else but sleeping. She had dealt with orphaned animals, true, but none the size nor with the appetite capacity of dragons. Morath seemed to grow overnight, as if instantly transferring what she ate to visible increase–which meant more to scrub, oil, and feed.

    This is the sort of thing I would have liked to see in earlier books, because the mature dragons hunt on their own and it really does seem like they’re magic things to the world outside the dragonriders. It humanizes weyrlings, instead of disappearing them to some nebulous space, and it gives us a peek as to other reasons why dragonriders might be considered dangerous forces outside of the Weyrs. Dragonriders do not appear to enforce social or sexual norms of the culture around them, and they also believe themselves inherently superior to the other people in the world. Were it not for their entrenched position as the saviors of the world when the destruction from space comes, and the giant organic flamethrowers and war machines the dragons are, the dragonriders might have instead been persecuted as a strange cult of deviants that needed to be stamped out as soon as possible. Which sounds like a fantastic fiction idea for someone to write.

    After a little grumbling about exhaustion from the new riders, the narrative shifts to Chalkin sitting for a portrait that the artist hopes to get done in time so that he can get away before the snows close the passes. A paragraph of lack of specific warnings about Bitra follow – not to gamble with Bitrans, that Chalkin regularly defrauds others through contract language – before several more paragraphs about how ugly Chalkin is and how the artist, Iantine, regularly got in fights with his master about how realistic portraits should or should not be, because Master Domaize feels that “No one wants to see themselves as others see them” and Iantine thinks realism is best. Everyone else at his Hall warned him away from taking a commission for four childrens’ portraits, with tales of miserly Chalkin and all the rest, but Iantine had debts to repay and particular skill set for the work, and so he took the commission, got a contract, got told to raise alarm at the very first sign of trouble, and went to work. Where he found out that the Lady of the Hold will use the word “satisfaction” to demand everything be redone, bigger, and grander than what was actually agreed to. While the children, of course, refuse to sit still enough to be painted, and are ugly of face, fat of body, and otherwise ill-mannered, ill-clothed, cruel to animals and utterly unconcerned about their appearance. And Chalkin insists he’ll charge room and board if Iantine isn’t painting someone when the children fall ill, and so here we are with another portrait being painted. (After Iantine had to buy a lock to prevent his paint pots from being dried out and his provided furs from being stolen, and to pay out the nose for raw materials and paint pots to mix up more paint because the lack of “satisfactory” work burnt through the supplies he brought, one blizzard had already made him feel he wasn’t getting out alive, and his commitment to realism was thoroughly trashed because only portraits that looked nothing like the people were considered satisfactory. No, really.) Iantine completes the portrait, gets Chalkin to call it satisfactory, gets paid, contracts signed, and Iantine escapes. Which closes the chapter.

    Okay, I realize that Bitra is a Hold of Hats, and that their Hat is essentially that nobody in Bitra makes their money honestly, whether by sucker bets, weasel words in contracts, or by nickel-and-diming someone for things that would otherwise be provided, and for sub-par quality goods. There’s usually a town like this in a standard RPG, or at the very least a part of the city where all of those people gather (Zozo, the dark alleyway or Thieves Guild), and the hero has to get something vital from the place, or some character that is important is there because they’ve been cheated out of everything and you need to collect their Thing before they join you (Iorek Byrnison). It’s a trope, but there’s an important part that always gets overlooked in these spaces, that becomes a glaring flaw on Pern.

    How, exactly, does Bitra Hold function? If they cheat everyone, including themselves, and only have awful things, and presumably have done this enough times that everyone knows they’re going to do it, why haven’t they been blanket-hellbanned by everyone on the planet who isn’t part of Bitra? As far as I can tell, there’s nothing that Bitra produces that’s vital to Pern, nothing they produce that is of higher quality than anything else on Pern, and there’s nothing that they have any sort of monopoly that would make others grudgingly accept them. If everyone in Bitra is Snidely Whiplash (or wants to be), there’s no reason why anyone else would do business with them on Randian individualist Pern. A corrupt Lord over otherwise generally honest people could be believed. But a city of thieves, con artists, swindlers, gamblers, and the like? That’s generally what we call prison. (Or multinational corporations, but even those are theoretically bound by laws.) This behavior has been going on long enough for Bitra to have a reputation for it, and that reputation is apparently well deserved. So why is there even the request from Bitra for a commission present? An entity that deals in bad faith doesn’t get many chances to make money before it gets found out and ignored or destroyed. Cartoon villains such as these don’t exist in the real world because they would be far too inept at villainy to be long-lasting.

    Bitra Hold should essentially be a place that someone occasionally escapes from to the rest of the world, not a place where people willingly go in.

    They do make for convenient villains, though, of the kind where no one will mistakenly sympathize with them.