Monthly Archives: December 2017

Deconstruction Roundup for December 29th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has completed another full circuit of the roundups and looks forward to the next.)

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

Libby Anne: Love, Joy, Feminism

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 want to understand the mystic properties of the turning of the year. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonseye: Finally….oh.

Last chapter, there were finally enough stars aligned for the council to take action against Chalkin, and they summarily impeached him and drew up plans to capture him in his hold to inform him of their decision and sentencing.

All without giving him the option to defend himself in the court.

We also learned about yet another atrocity that was known to someone, but nothing was actually done about it.

Dragonseye: Chapter XIII: Content Notes: Crimes Against Humanity (Torture), Sexism, untreated PTSD

As one might guess, the actual capture is anticlimactic – even though the watch-wher sounds an alarm, nobody investigates. Everyone gets into Chalkin’s chambers, and while the first daughter doesn’t scream, the second one does. That alarms the guards, but as soon as Paulin announces Chalkin is impeached, and those who stay loyal will join him in exile, the guards say “Fuck it, we’re out,” just as the reinforcements arrive.

And then Chalkin wakes up.

Chalkin showed every fiber of his cowardice, trying to bribe one Lord Holder after another, with hints of unusual treasure if they assisted him. If anyone has been in the least bit tempted, their resolve was strengthened when the broken, shivering wrecks were released from “cold storage.”
“The place was full,” Issony said, looking shattered by what he had seen on that level. “Border guards, most of them, but they didn’t deserve that from Chalkin!”
Even the hardiest of them would bear the marks of their incarceration for the rest of their lives.

Hang on. This is from the character who, last chapter, mentioned that a girl had died from a week in that space while he was there, but now, now he’s shattered by the presence of men in the area who have suffered the same treatment. These men are mostly the same people who were, just a few chapters ago, committing atrocities against others.

“Iantine? Did you bring…ah, you did. Do a quick sketch of them, will you,” Issony said, pointing to the two so close to death: the two who had been castrated for rape. All that could be done for them was to ease their passing with fellis juice. “To show S’nan. In case he has lingering doubts as to the justice of what was done here today.”

Issony, you’re an asshole. You couldn’t manage compassion for the girl killed in this manner, but fellis is ready for the castrated rapists to overdose on so they go quietly.

This scene would go over much less problematically, actually, if Issony wasn’t there at all. Iantine has been portrayed as both sympathetic and empathetic throughout the book. Since he’s the one with the artistic talent anyway, he can be making sketches of his own accord, to make evidence of what happened here, as a stark reminder to the council of their utter failure to act when they had the evidence that horrible things were happening to innocent people. Iantine would be rightly shocked and scarred again at seeing something worse than what he had already thought was the worst thing someone could do to others. Issony being present screws with what is supposed to be a moment of genuine realization and horror, because he’s seen this before, and he didn’t do anything about it.

As it turns out, the raiding party, having secured Chalkin (who of course has a breakdown that confirms him as guilty and gives the council yet more crimes to conflict him of) is soon greeted by Vergerin himself, who has been hiding as a stablehand ever since he realized that Chalkin would be likely to kill him if the council ever got around to removing Chalkin from power. And we know he’s good, too. The narrative tells us.

He had unwound the layers that clothed him and stood with a quiet dignity in the midst of the warmly dressed riders and Lord Holders. It was that innate dignity that impressed Paulin. Nor was he alone in noticing it.

See? He’s very clearly a noble and upright character, because despite the fact that he’s got the smell of shit all over him, he exudes a dignified aura that all the assembled nobles notice.

And then, probably because the narrative still fails to recognize that it’s giving legitimacy to the person who just got deposed, Vergerin references the succession gamble himself and confirms Chalkin cheated, and Paulin nods his approval that Vergerin kept his promise, despite all the evidence present for the last several chapters that Chalkin is a monster that has been doing horrible things to his people all the time he’s been in power.

Chalkin appears, sees Vergerin, accuses him of breaking the promise, and tries to hurt him, but is restrained by other Lords. His wife, Nadona, accuses Vergerin of taking everything from her and Chalkin, and appeals to her brother, the Lord Holder of Nerat, to do something. She gets nowhere with this appeal, and the narrative takes pride in telling us “Irene took some pleasure in applying the slaps that cut Nadona’s hysterics short.” Because slapping women around to sit them up is a time humorous and totally okay thing to do on Pern, we’ve established, no matter how much of an abuse it is on Terra.

As Chalkin is hauled out for exile, Paulin takes Vergerin to the nearest room and pours him a drink, “impressed by the man’s control in a difficult situation.” Nadona, having seen the writing on the wall, has chosen to stay behind and raise her children, rather than follow Chalkin into exile, backed by her excellent knowledge of what her Charter rights are. It takes five men (and a knockout blow from Bastom, as it turns out later) to load Chalkin on the dragon that takes him to exile on one of the islands.

Iantine’s portrait of Chalkin is noted, laughed at for being what it is, and then ordered taken down and fixed to what Chalkin actually looks like. Iantine himself is glad for the opportunity to correct it and thinking a bit about possibly seeing if Debera would take him on as a mate before K’vin returns him to Telgar, where Leopol shows that he really is a palette swap of Piemur.

“One, you rode away on a Fort Weyr dragon. Two, you’ve been gone overnight so something was up. Especially when the Weyrleaders are gone, too. Three, we all know that Chalkin’s for the chop, and four, you’ve come back with a portrait and it isn’t the one you’ve done here.” Leopol spread his hands.” It’s obvious. The Lords and Leaders have got rid of Chalkin. Impeached, deposed, and exiled him. Right?”
[Iantine nocomments.]
“But I’m right about Chalkin, aren’t I? He won’t get ready for Threadfall, he’s been far too hard on his people, and half the Lord Holders owe him huge sacks of marks in gambling debts.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Oh my GODS and GODDESSES why hasn’t this been mentioned until now? If Chalkin has that kind of leverage on the Lords Holder, this should have been a much tougher sell to get him removed. All Chalkin has to do is threaten to expose or collect the debts and he should have sympathetic votes in the council. Even if he’s committing atrocities within his own borders, the leverage he has should be enough to stop anyone else from acting against him, especially if it requires unanimity.

Plus, the scene we had with Chalkin would be playing out differently. Rather than trying to bribe everyone with new riches, Chalkin should be threatening to call in every debt that he has and bankrupt all the Lords he can if they continue to depose him. Chalkin can’t be both the mastermind of a planet-wide gambling operation and not smart enough to realize what leverage he has on everyone else. It doesn’t work that way. Chalkin is either Stupid Evil and the mastermind is yet uncaught, or he’s competent and would know to go straight for the gambling debts.

Iantine’s attempts to not give away any information to Leopol are wrecked by Tisha essentially asking him the same questions, which the narrative suggests is a consequence of everyone already knowing the things that Iantine is trying to protect. Iantine answers Tisha, to Leopol’s great amusement, and Iantine asks a very good question that gets a very creepy answer.

“Do I have no privacy here?” Iantine demanded, raising his hands in helplessness. “Is there no way to keep secrets?”
“Not in a well-run Weyr there isn’t,” said Tisha.

We’re supposed to believe these are the good guys, but cult, cult, cult! Strange sexual practices, an unnaturally cheery attitude toward everything, a society that claims to actively prevent people from having secrets. Pernese Weyrs or Stepford, Connecticut? This should be terrifying to Iantine based on the trauma he suffered at Bitra and the things that he’s observed since. Like this:

He didn’t really want to show the latest drawings he’d done. The two castrated rapists had died shortly after he finished the sketches. He intensely regretted how pleased he had been with their sentences. Had they any idea of what additional torment Chalkin would inflict on them when they asked to be returned to their hold? No, or they wouldn’t have gone.

These are not normal things to witness. And to sketch as evidence. Iantine very much needs space to process these things and a trained counselor to talk them out with, but the only person who might function in that role has just told him that his confidence will not be kept. Iantine should be ready to crack, if he hasn’t already done so a few times over.

And in this case, it wouldn’t necessarily help to have someone open the painting that he was ashamed of and start howling in laughter, which is what Tisha and Leopol do on seeing what Iantine painted to Chalkin’s satisfaction. The narrative, however, just says

Iantine was in sore need of a good laugh, and if his inner anxieties kept him from joining in wholeheartedly, at least he was made to grin.
Tisha’s amusement alerted the rest of the Weyrfolk to Iantine’s return, and the table was shortly surrounded by people having a good laugh over what Chalkin had considered to be a “satisfactory portrait” of himself.

Because Iantine had a direct line to the author, I guess, because there’s nobody in any of this sequence that outright says that’s why they’re having such a loud laugh. It would be just as easy for Iantine, in his more fragile state, to assume that everyone was laughing at his workmanship, rather than the ridiculousness of Chalkin. But that doesn’t happen, because magically being able to intuit the right reason, as well as to set aside the terror and trauma that he’s witness to be able to smile. When Iantine talks to K’vin, a few scant hours later, though, he sounds a lot more like someone who might be suffering a touch (or more) of PTSD.

“How many people Chalkin had in those appalling cells,” Iantine said, blurting it the words before he realized what he was saying.
K’vin put a sympathetic arm around his shoulders. “I think I’ll be a few bad dreams over that myself,” and he gave a deep shudder. “Perhaps you’d best get some rest…”
“No, I’d rather not, if you’ve something else for me to do,” Iantine says truthfully.

No, K’vin, you won’t. Because you are bonded on a telepathic and empathic level with another creature that will help you get over it fairly quickly, aided by your own sense of justice. Iantine doesn’t have that, and is looking specifically for things to do so that he doesn’t have to think about it. Iantine needs a serious debrief and some therapy, neither of which he will get.

The narrative shows us a touch of how K’vin’s not all that upset about it, as he and Iantine talk about the portrait that Iantine did of Zulaya, and it’s pretty clear, even to Iantine, that K’vin’s more upset about having a beautiful woman (that he might even be in love with) as his Weyrwoman who doesn’t have any affection for him at all in that way. Iantine notices, but doesn’t say anything, about how the public pairing of the Weyrleaders doesn’t have any of this clear emotional content that K’vin is showing now.

The chapter itself, after having put us through all of this characterization and drama, ends with Clisser going to Kalvi with the plans drawn up for the astrological reminder structure, what we now know of as the Eye Rock and the Finger Rock, and Clisser asks Kalvi to have it done by the solstice. That’s it. If that’s supposed to be our breather, it belongs on the next chapter. Otherwise, it’s just mood whiplash.

Open Thread: End of the Year

(by chris the cynic)

It’s the last open thread of the year.  This even if I forget next week’s, which, let’s be honest, I probably will.

There are a lot of ways to react to something ending.  Some popular ways are: not at all, reflection, and putting the damned thing behind you and not giving it any more thought.  The first one doesn’t really yield much to say, but the second and third possibly could.

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]

Deconstruction Roundup for December 22nd, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is currently somewhere above the world at this point.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you want to talk about how you’re not sure that it’s the end of the year yet. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonseye: Stuck Until Subterfuge

Last chapter, a judicial process took place, which was legal by the laws of Pern and relatively without precedent, making it both judicial and extrajudicial at the same time. Unsurprisingly, the defense was less than spirited, and the defendants were convicted and exiled or castrated for their involvement.

Dragonseye: Chapter XII: Content Notes: Crimes Against Humanity (Torture, Murder)

None of this is enough to budge Jamson, though, who is incensed that “a Lord Holder’s right to deal with his own folk” was usurped by the trials, even as he agrees with the sentencing. Paulin and Thea stumble their way into a realization – if they can get Jamson to leave because of his health, Gallian will be invested, and then they will have a unanimity. Gallian is worried about jeopardizing his succession, but Thea assures him that things will be fine, and Paulin wants to get impeachment done before Chalkin retaliates against the people in his Hold. Which he will, of course.
Gallian is still nervous about all of this.

“I suppose I should get accustomed to making decisions, not merely carrying them out.”
Paulin clapped him on the shoulder encouragingly. “That’s exactly it, Gallian. And I’ll guarantee, not all the decisions you’ll be called upon to make will be the right ones. Being a Lord Holder doesn’t keep you from making mistakes: just make the right wrong ones.” Paulin grinned as Gallian tried to absorb that notion. “If you are right most of the time, you’re ahead of the game. And you’re right in this one for good reasons which you’re father declines to see.”

That’s a refreshingly honest take on leadership – yes, there will be mistakes, but try to make ones that don’t end in disasters.

Gallian wants to know what will happen to Chalkin once he’s impeached. Paulin says exile, because it’s the only way to make sure Chalkin doesn’t keep causing trouble. In the matter of succession, the uncle of the children, Vergerin, is mentioned as a potential, but Paulin thinks Vergerin gambled away his succession. Which, you know, might be an issue if anyone was willing to cede Chalkin enough respect to consider that a bet with honoring. As the two discuss heredity, Thea returns from her attempt to convince Jamson, which was successful – not because she convinced Jamson to leave over his own health, but with some acting and the application of rouge, Thea appeared sick enough that Jamson decided to take them both south until Thea recovered.

Thea then asks about succession, and is told about Vergerin, and Thea repeats that he gambled his succession away, before Gallian leaves to be appointed as the High Reaches Lord Holder pro tempore. What is to follow, of course, will be kept away from Jamson until it’s too late to object.

Four days later, when Lord Jamson and Lady Thea had been safely conveyed to Ista Hold, the rest of the Lord and Lady Holders and the Weyrleaders convened an emergency meeting at Telgar Hold and formally impeached Lord Chalkin for dereliction of his duties and responsibilities to Benden Weyr, for the cruel and unusual punishment of innocent holders (Iantine’s drawings were submitted as well as the proceedings of the recent trials), for refusing to allow the Charter to be taught so all would know their rights (Issony gave testimony on that account), and for denying these rights to his holders without due reason.

Let’s add one important detail to this decision – Chalkin is not present to give a defense. Gallian is surprised that there isn’t another trial, but Paulin says that Chalkin just had his. Again, Chalkin is not present at these proceedings, has no opportunity to give a defense, an explanation, or submit any evidence in his favor. Yes, the narrative and the characters have been doing their level best to prove to us that Chalkin is a monster, but if the case is that good against him, Chalkin should be able to offer his defense. The trickiest business would be figuring out how to get him to appear before the council, given the autonomy granted and the general non-interference of the dragonriders.

S’nan makes a point of refusing to use dragonriders to get Chalkin, but M’shall is totally for it, and the matter quickly becomes a question of “who has been enough in Bitra that they could produce a viable way of grabbing Chalkin and cutting off his ability to escape?” and “who will succeed Chalkin?”

Vergerin, of course, because he’s of the Bloodline, and they intend very firmly to follow the Charter on inheritance, even though there’s a third instance of “but he gambled it away”, which M’shall finally says something about how he heard Chalkin cheated on it. The dissonance is still…something. They’ve already impeached Chalkin, but they’re still totally willing to abide by a wager that involves him winning something.

To appease the council, Paulin says that each hold that has a child versed in hold management should send them so they can assist Vergerin in getting Bitra back up and ready in time for Thread. Which just leaves the question of getting Chalkin before he goes to ground. Issony and Iantine are called him, because they have the expertise of having lived there, and between the two, they help the Council plan how to cover all the possible exits.

But then there’s also one other thing about Bitra that we haven’t yet been exposed to.

“There’s another level,” Issony said, tapping the right-hand corner of the paper. “You were lucky not to visit it.” He gave a snort. “Chalkin calls it his cold storage.” The teacher glanced around the table. “A lot of small cubicles, some horizontal, some vertical, and none of them long enough or wide enough for the poor blighters shoved in ’em.”
“You can’t be serious?” S’nan’s eyes protruded in dismay.
“Never more,” Issony said. “One of the kitchen girls spilled a tub of sweetener and she was immured for a week. She died of the damp cold of the place.”

Cocowhat by depizan

And nobody found this abhorrent, or what?

There’s a wordto describe what kind of place that is. They’re oubliettes, which means they are places where people are put to be forgotten until they die. Issony is a teacher, and in theory knows what the Charter says and what the law was like, and yet he waits this long to talk about the place where murder and torture happens for things as small as spilling sugar. Murder is supposed to be punishable under the Charter, and yet it seems that the outsider thinks this is normal discipline between a Lord and his servants.

The chapter finishes with the plan drawn up and ready to go for the morning, at the point where the guards and the watch-wher are felt to be least effective.

We’re more than halfway through the book, with all sorts of heinous activities as having taken place, and now, finally, we’ve managed to get to the point of removing the Bitran Lord Holder, because a lot of people have either turned away or been bound by rules rather than trying to do good. No wonder their descendants can’t defeat Fax.

Writer Workshop December 20th, 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!

Open Thread: Mid-Month Check In, December 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.]