Monthly Archives: January 2018

Deconstruction Roundup for January 26th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has definite opinions on many things that just don’t come out that often.)

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

Philip SandiferEruditorium Press

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 craft an artifact so powerful that world leaders will sit up and take notice. About anything. Or for any other reason, really.

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Dragonseye: Anticlimax

Last chapter, Vergerin was held up as a model of virtue, because the narrative likes him, and K’vin finally got Zulaya by behaving how she wanted him to all along – right after K’vin rightly chewed another rider out for his own toxic masculinity. I’m still steamed about that, so we should just finish the book.

Dragonseye: Chapters XVI and XVII: Content Notes:

When we last left the new couple, they were about to sneak off on a clandestine observation of Thread in the south. K’vin and Zulaya find out they are far from the only dragonriders to have had the same idea and time for observation.

Consequently, he was perhaps not as surprised as he might have been to realize the airspace around them, and Meranath and Zulaya, was well occupied. With that extra sense dragons had, the two had averted a collision.

So it is canonical, then, that dragons do not just warp themselves out wherever they are envisioned, but do make adjustments for the presence of others. Then weyrling accidents are because juvenile dragons don’t have that sense fully developed? (If so, though, Moreta’s jump to nowhere should have thrown an error somewhere, along with any of the other dragons that do the same thing, since they are all mature enough to know better.)

In any case, the plan might be to just observe, but the dragons themselves have other ideas about that.

Thread!
The word seemed to rumble from dragon to dragon, and K’vin had to grab hold of the neck ridge as Charanth started to lurch toward what he had known all his life as his adversary.
I have no firestone! How can I flame it! What is wrong? Why have you brought me here where there is Thread and I have no fire to char it!
It’s all right, Charanth. We’re here to watch. To see.
But it is Thread! I must chew to flame. Why may I not flame when there is THREAD!

[…K’vin tries to reason with Charanth, and notices other riders having similar trouble…]
Then, all of a sudden, Charanth stopped flying toward Thread.
Oh, all right! The tone was that of a petulant child forced by a senior authority to follow orders totally against the grain.

So the queens kick in the override they have (and that Menolly observed in her fire lizard fair) and everyone lands and calms their dragons, before sheepishly admitting that perhaps this idea wasn’t quite as brilliant as they had envisioned. And having a laugh at it. Before someone thinks to thank the queens for their help.

Then everyone present is told that this meeting never happened, before K’vin suggests that the Weyrleaders should agree to rotate wings from every Weyr in for the first few sessions of Threadfall so as to give them practice before the actual thing happens in their neighborhood. Everyone present agrees to the idea, with the seniormost Weyrleader agreeing to present it to S’nan, so that he will listen and agree to it as well.

And that actually closes the chapter out.

Chapter XVII is essentially, “And then Thread came, and they fought Thread beautifully.” There’s some tweaking of S’nan for being serious about things, and lots of description of how the fighting goes, but it’s all from K’vin’s perspective, and in the jumble of everything, he can’t really focus much on anything other than what’s in front of him and whether his wings are staying in the formation.

There is one bit to draw attention to, mostly as the coda to P’tero and M’leng.

K’vin briefly thought of P’tero’s vain attempt to be included in the fighting force Telgar would launch. Maybe he should have put the blue rider in, sore ass and all, to prove that there was a lot more to fighting Thread than having the guts to do it. But to include P’tero would have been to exclude a perfectly healthy and less erratic rider. K’vin had not selected M’leng of the green riders chosen for the First Fall. That would ease discord between that pair: that one had gone and the other had not. Basically, they were good weyrmates, having a reasonably stable relationship ever since P’tero, who was the younger, had Impressed Ormonth.

So it ends well for them, at least at this point. It’s always possible their partnership will be cut short by tragedy, but K’vin exercises good leadership by not putting salt in P’tero’s ass. As he said when giving P’tero his talking-to, there will be plenty of opportunities in the future.

Yes, that’s a big gloss over an entire chapter, but the actual fighting mechanics of the dragons haven’t changed since we saw them before. Flame in formation, all the way through, turn, reload, flame again. Queens pick up the stragglers and help the ground crews catch and roast burrows before they go too far. This first official fall happens over Bitra, of course, because otherwise the plot wouldn’t have nearly as much impact and Vergerin wouldn’t be able to have a pat on the back for getting the hold right with Jesus…err, the dragonriders.

Let’s take a look at what’s next…oh, fsck. The next recommended book is The Masterharper of Pern. Well, at least it was nice having a book that didn’t have Robinton’s hands in it before we get his biography.

So…thanks for sticking around with this book, and also, go support your local public library. Without them, this series would be both expensive and painful. Thanks to the library, it’s just painful.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 19th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has definite opinions on many things that just don’t come out that often.)

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

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 craft an artifact so powerful that world leaders will sit up and take notice. About anything. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonseye: Profanity in Compound Meter

Last time, the history-erasing crew celebrated more success, the dragonriders took a vacation, and the most amount of screen time devoted to an actual gay couple had then mauled by lions. If you thought this couldn’t get worse, well, the narrative says “Hold my klah.”

Dragonseye: Chapter XVI: Content Notes: Toxic Masculinity, Consent Violations, “She Really Secretly Wanted It”

We last left P’tero recovering at Southern and feeling really horrible about how his actions led to the damage done to humans and dragons by the lions, and the fact that other people are being inconvenienced caring for him after his injuries. Because of him, several people have to stay longer in the South than originally envisioned, and they suffer consequences, too.

It was three weeks before P’tero’s wounds had healed sufficiently for the trip back. The makeshift infirmary had more patients since there were other hazards besides large hungry and territorially minded felines in the Southern Continent: the heat, unwary exposure to too much sun, and a variety of other injuries. Leopol got a thorn in his foot which had festered, so he joined P’tero in the infirmary shelter until the poison had drained.
Tisha and one of the Weyrfolk came down with a fever that had Maranis sending back to Fort for a medic more qualified than he in such matters. The woman recovered in a few days, but Tisha had a much harder time of it, sweating kilos off her big frame, to leave her so enervated Maranis was desperately worried about her. K’vin sent to Ista to beg a ship to transport her back North since he could not subject her to trying to climb aboard a dragon.
Her illness depressed everyone.
“You don’t really know how important someone is,” Zulaya said, having come down to reassure herself on the state of the convalescents, “until they’re suddenly…not there!”
Her remark sunk P’tero’s spirits. And Tisha was not there to jolly him out of his depression.

What is it about the Southern Continent that gives people firehead fevers when they visit? There doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason to who is affected by it, but it airways seems to be there. And Leopol gets a thorn in his foot because Readis did, but this one isn’t crippling, because Weyrfolk care and because it’s not a clandestine mission in defiance of a parental ultimatum.

Also, because my good will meter is running a little short, I’m guessing that we’re supposed to infer that Tisha gets the worse of the fever because she’s fat. This is a case where the author might not know science that we do, because there’s at least a few things published in our day that suggest fat people are sometimes better equipped to ride out certain diseases. That, and we also have HAES and understand that fat-shaming is a thing. Not one jot of this means anything to P’tero, who is still stuck in guilt and shame about having caused the whole series of events.

M’leng was, and appeared in the shelter.
“How dare you be so self-centered?” the green rider said in a taut, outraged tone of voice.
“Huh?”
“Tisha’s illness is not your fault. Leopol wasn’t wearing shoes when he was told to and so his infected foot also isn’t your fault. In fact, it isn’t even your fault that we picked that rock out of all the ones we could have picked. It was bad luck, but nothing more, and I don’t want Ormonth upsetting Sith anymore. D’you hear me?”
P’tero burst into tears. Just as he’d thought: M’leng didn’t love him anymore.
Then M’leng’s gentle arms went around him, and he was pulled into M’leng’s chest and comforted with many caresses and kisses.
“Don’t be such a stupid idiot, you stupid idiot. How could I not love you?”
Later P’tero wondered how he could ever have doubted M’leng.

Never underestimate the ability of your partner to help you out of a funk. But also, it can be very difficult to break a loop like P’tero is going through, when it is very easy for him to believe he is the cause of it and that he could have avoided the whole thing by doing all sorts of things that make perfect sense in hindsight but that would often have required ESP or experience to have done beforehand. If this sounds familiar, it’s the pattern that society often foists on the victims of crime, and especially women who suffer a sexual crime. There are things that women can do that increase their potential protection, but ultimately, it’s up to the person committing the crime to not do that, and more often than not, a victim would have had to see through an attacker’s front to the real person underneath. That’s not always possible, and there are lots of times where even being able to see what’s about to happen doesn’t stop it from happening anyway.

M’leng is doing the right thing in avoiding victim-blaming.

When P’tero gets back, his and M’leng’s weyrs have been repainted and given new fabrics. P’tero gets soft cushions for his bed and Z’gal and T’sen (another canonical gay couple!) gift him with a riding pad so that P’tero won’t bruise his ass riding around (because P’tero is determined to be back in fighting form by Threadfall). M’leng caps off the celebration by giving P’tero an Iantine-commissioned painting of the event, as described by M’leng, which means P’tero looks a lot more heroic…and both of them still have their clothes on. (Ormonth wants to know where he is in the picture, apparently able to see the picture in P’tero’s mind as he looks at it.) P’tero is…

“Wouldn’t you rather have it?” P’tero suggested hopefully.
“I’ve a copy of my own. Iantine did two, one for each of us,” M’leng said, beaming proudly at his lover.
So P’tero had to hang the wretched reminder of the worst day of his life on his own wall, just where he couldn’t miss it every morning of his life when he woke up.
“You’ll never know how much this means to me,” he said, and that, too, was quite truthful.
No one thought it the least bit odd that he got very, very drunk on wine that night.

…thoroughly embarrassed and definitely being pressured to go along with a narrative that he’s definitely not comfortable with, because it makes a better story. We should probably keep an eye out for signs that P’tero is not handling it well. I hope he and M’leng get to have a heart-to-heart about how the painting makes him feel, how the whole heroism narrative makes him profoundly uncomfortable, and that he needs reassurance that M’leng loves him all the same, even though he’s different now.

The narrative shifts over to K’vin, Zulaya, and B’nurrin making secret plans to go with and observe the Threadfall that will be blistering the Southern Continent. B’nurrin admits he wants to go because he’s “…scared [he’ll] be needing clean pants half a dozen times the first Fall [he has] to lead.” and eventually the two Weyrleaders make their pact. Zulaya then volunteers herself along.

“Well, queens’ wings fly a lot lower into danger than the rest of the Weyr does. Makes it quicker for me to change my pants, but that doesn’t mean I want to have to.”

Which sounds like a pretty solid boast from Zulaya, but also a little bit of trying hard to sound like the boys for what I have envisioned of Zulaya’s personality.

The narrative then whisks us away to Bitra Hold (Under New Management), where Paulin is showing the reinvigorated Jamson around. (Jamson’s only fault about his son’s management in his absence is that he voted to impeach Chalkin.) The narrative goes to several paragraphs of showing us how things have improved greatly in Thread preparation and grounds maintenance, before taking everyone into Vergerin’s office, which is similarly lavished with good descriptions. There’s also a mention of how Vergerin is paying for all of this – he found Chalkin’s stash hiding in one of the steps.

“It’s been a lifesaver, both to return unnecessary tithings and to buy in supplies. One thing Chalkin for do correctly was keep records. I knew exactly how much he had extorted from his people.”
Jamson cleared his throat testily.
“Well, he did, Lord Jamson,” Vergerin said without cavil. “They hadn’t even enough in stores to get by on this winter, let alone reserves for Fall. I’m still unloading what we couldn’t possibly use from what Chalkin had amassed.” He gave a mirthless laugh. “Chalkin would have weathered all fifty years of the Pass from what he had on hand–but none of his people would have lasted the first year, let alone have the materials to safeguard what they could plant out. Bitra being established after the First Fall, there were no hydroponics sheds, although the tanks are stored below.”
Jamson gave another snort. “And the gaming? Have you curtailed that?”
“Both here and elsewhere,” Vergerin said, flushing a little. “I haven’t so much touched dice or card since that game with Chalkin.”
“What about his gamesmen?”
Vergerin’s smile was grim. “They had the choice of signing new contracts with me–for I will not honor the old ones–or leaving. Not many left.”
S’nan barked out a cackle of a laugh. “Not many would, considering the hazards of being holdless during a Pass. You have done well, Vergerin.” He nodded an emphasis.

We are reminded once again that the difference between heroes and villains is that the narrative approves of the actions of one and disapproves of the actions of the other. The gamesters are over a barrel – they can either sign new contracts or be turned out (without references, presumably) into a world that is about to rain death upon them. It’s a false choice, and should raise some eyebrows about similarly of tactics between these related people. But no, so long as Vergerin keeps the company line, they won’t oust him.

This also continues to suggest that there are Bitrans stashed just about everywhere else in the world, running games and funneling their profit back to Bitra Hold proper. I can’t quite figure out the mechanics of the banking system that would be needed for it to work and not be rife with robbery, but then again, maybe Bitrans are the ones who do banking, too.

I’m also skeptical of the claim that Chalkin could have stayed fifty years without running out of food. Admittedly, a good pepper could probably make a go at it, but the technology level here doesn’t seem to support the idea of being able to preserve food for fifty years, unless someone has been studying the conditions and techniques used that can produce the jar of wine or oil that stays sealed for millenia in perfect conditions.

As for the visit, S’nan and Jamson gear up to inspect the property, wanting Vergerin to stay behind so he can’t influence the outcome, before the visitors notice that Chalkin’s portrait has been hung prominently in the view of exiting the office, and that Iantine has restored it to the original realistic idea he envisioned, where we are told that Chalkin had “close-set eyes, bad complexion, scanty hair, and the mole on his chin.” In case anyone wondered whether Chalkin looked evil as well as behaved that way.

Jamson harrumphed several times. “And Chalkin? How’s he doing?”
Paulin shrugged and looked to S’nan.
“He was supplied with all he needs,” the Weyrleader said. “There is no need to exacerbate his expulsion by further contact.”
“And his children?” Jamson asked, eyes glinting coldly.
Vergerin grinned, ducking his head. “I feel they have improved in health, well-being, and self-discipline.”
“They stood in great need of the latter,” Paulin said.
“They may surprise you, Lord Paulin,” Vergerin said with a sly smile.
“I could bear it.”
“As the branch is bent, so it will grow,” Jamson intoned piously.”

Pious to what, exactly, given that Pern is still nominally areligious? But also, there’s a thread here that suggests there was more than just talking applied to the children to get them with the program. It comes back after the the three peek in on a lesson from Issony where the children are present and participating.

“Issony’s been right that those youngsters needed competition. The holder kids need no incentives: they want to learn, and Chaldon is determined not to let mere holders get better grades than he. Oh, there’s still whinings and pleadings and tantrums, but Issony has my permission to deal with them. And he does, most effectively.”

Now, if we recall the last major conversation about classroom discipline, many of them, Issony included, said that things only got better in the classroom when teachers could beat their students with impunity. While nobody is saying it outright, I think the context and the phrasing is enough for us to assume that corporal punishment is the method preferred and “effective” for keeping the children in line.

Which becomes even more horrible in the next paragraph, when that implication could be extended to Chalkin’s Lady as well.

“Nadona?” Paulin asked.
Vergerin raised his eyebrows. “She’s learning much the same lessons as her children, but she’s not as quick a study, as Issony would say. She has her own quarters,” and he inclined his head toward the upper levels. “She stays within.”
“And leaves you to get along with the real work?” Paulin asked in a droll tone.
“Exactly.”

Satisfied with the tour, Paulin makes to leave and the other two join in. S’nan is not fond of the idea of gambling in the Weyr or other gamesters loose to cause trouble at Gathers, but Paulin and the narrative regard S’nan as stuffy and otherwise old-fashioned, and we are supposed to as well, as if the idea of a leader having large debts that could be called in or used as blackmail material isn’t something for everyone to be concerned about with regard to the integrity of their government.

In any case, the narrative returns to a livid K’vin giving P’tero a dressing-down and suspension from his fighting wing for trying to get back into the saddle too soon, before he’s completely healed up. The evidence is in the riding pad he received, spotted with old and new blood from the reopening wounds. P’tero is dismayed.

“But…but…Thread’s nearly here!” P’tero cried in anguish, almost in tears with frustration and the fear of being unable to show M’leng just how brave he really was. Not mock-brave, like the lion attack, but real brave in selflessness in the air.

K’vin is having exactly none of this macho bullshit from P’tero and repeats his grounding orders before stalking off in rage. When his dragon tells him that P’tero’s dragon tried to stop it, K’vin demands that he be told immediately if there’s someone out some dragon not one hundred percent fit for duty. Zulaya’s queen tells him that she would never have let anyone get into real danger and he tells her off, too, as he heads to where Zulaya is. Having her queen spoken to that way sets Zulaya off, and the two of them look to have a hashing-out, except

Zulaya stared at him, surprised, for K’vin had never reprimanded her or Meranath, those she had to admit privately that he could have legitimately done so on several occasions she would be embarrassed to admit.

So Zulaya adopts a more conciliatory tone while K’vin continues to thunder on about how he needs every rider ready and not to have secrets withheld from him.

If you’re wondering about the tone shift, because Zulaya has not deferred to K’vin before and generally kept her anger in company, you’re not alone. But don’t worry, the author has a reason for this. You see…

He began pacing now, and Zulaya watched him, smiling with relief and pride. He was going to be a splendid Weyrleader, much better than B’ner would have been.
He halted, just short of where she stood, his eyes, brilliant with his anger and frustration, fixed on her face.
“What on earth can you find to grin about right now?” he demanded, suspiciously, for there was a quality in her smile that he’d never seen before.
“That you’re in full control,” she said, leaving her smile in place.
“Oh, I am, am I?” Then, as she had always hoped he would, he took her in his arms be began kissing her with the full authority of his masculinity and his position as her Weyrleader, without a trace of hesitation or deference. Just what she’d always hoped she’d provoke him to.

K’vin was still very much in complete control even very early the next morning, before dawn in fact, when Meranath told them that B’nurrin and Shanna were waiting for them.

Cocowhat by depizan

Cocowhat by depizan

Cocowhat by depizan

…it was all a test, you see, to bring out K’vin’s latent control and dominance so that he would be able to lead effectively. Y’know, to become the very thing he just shut P’tero down hard for. (And sensibly, too, I might add – bravado would likely get people hurt or killed in actual Threadfall.) Because Zulaya apparently wanted to groom K’vin into being the kind of Alpha Male Dom she wanted as a partner, and apparently didn’t get from B’ner.

This is terrible writing, from a craft perspective. You don’t have a character give someone grief for doing a thing and then get rewarded for doing the same thing unless you want the reader to notice the hypocrisy.

This change of Zulaya almost certainly relies on people having read previous books in the series, or relying on being properly Genre Savvy about romance tropes, to know that when someone behaves in this aggressive, dubious-to-nonconsensual way toward a woman, it’s what she secretly wants and she’ll surrender to passion and lovemaking and the partner that displays enough (toxic) masculinity to win her. There are spots of foreshadowing earlier, if you count Zulaya smiling when K’vin makes a firm decision after she has offered him an alternate choice to go along with his suggestion as foreshadowing this outcome, instead of any of the hundreds of other reasons why someone might smile at that point.

Let’s also talk about what a terrible plan this is! Zulaya intends to goad and provoke K’vin, who clearly has the hots for her, to the point where he doesn’t care about anything other than getting his way, regardless of the consequences. She wants him to override her consent and dismiss her suggestions as a sign of true leadership. In anything but a carefully negotiated kinky relationship, this is going to be a disaster, and it’s erasing qualities that will be good for K’vin when it comes to leadership, like taking advice from field officers and benching fliers desperate to prove their machismo to their mates. If it is supposed to be a part of a good kinky relationship, Zulaya never actually articulated this and found out whether K’vin wanted to participate before doing this to him. Consent violations and manipulative behavior do not a good play partner make.

And if this were the end of the chapter, or the book, then that would certainly be a note to end on, but no, there’s still more. Because now it’s time to go South and observe Threadfall before having to fight it.

But I’m going to stop here so that I can avoid filling page after page of swears about how all of this turned out. Back next week with more plot.

Open Thread: Mid-Month Check In, January 2018

(by chris the cynic)

What have you been doing of late?  How are you?  Are you still alive?  So forth.

(sorry this is late)

[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 January 12th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has already been given less than courtesy by a person they have to work with.)

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 want to engineer a fabulous dance number down the middle of your metropolitan boulevard. About anything. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonseye: Taking A Bad Turn

Last chapter, business and a party, and also Iantine sexually assaulted Debera, who had to make an appeal to Morath’s innocence to get him to stop. But they’re still dating.

Dragonseye: Chapters XV and XVI: Content Notes: Fat People As Comedy, Gay Men Assaulted

This chapter opens with Clisser taking stock of all the singing and music done over the last few days, both the new suite and the not-mentioned until now Teaching Songs and Ballads, which are earworms. The Duty Song, we are told, will make sure everyone remembers what their Charter rights and responsibilities are, and Clisser spares a thought for all the students doing manual copying by thinking he should suggest a printing press be created by Kalvi. Which he then dismisses because presses need paper, and the word forests are going to be vulnerable to Thread. (Shows how much he remembers about papermaking, though, because Terran history reminds us that wood pulp is not the only thing that you can transform into paper.) Mostly, though, Clisser concerns himself with groundcrew assignments and waiting to hear how the curriculum was taking.

We, instead, are treated to Iantine having a laugh and a marvel at the size and splendor of his quarters in Benden, compared to what he had received at Bitra, as Lady Jane shows him around, makes explicit comparisons to Bitra, and then leaves him to himself. The things Iantine notices about Lady Jane are that she seems very fluttery, and that she wears almost no jewels except her wedding band.

Then we jump back to Telgar Weyr, where K’vin and Zulaya are having a discussion about everything that’s been observed and reported so far on the Weyrlings and their romantic behaviors. K’vin’s concerned about Iantine and Debera, but Zulaya waves him off by pointing out that for as much as they are besotted with each other, they stayed in public places. Jule, on the other hand, has apparently already taken another rider to bed, before her dragon is going to start having flights. The chief concerns Zulaya has are not trying to push the Weyrlings into fighting sooner than absolutely necessary, and trying to figure out how to retire the older fighters without offending them or provoking them into doing dangerous things to prove their worth.

Eventually they settle on the idea of taking their fighting wings south under the pretense of looking for artifacts and checking on the spread and penetration of the grubs. K’vin worries that the grubs will replace the dragons, but Zulaya points out the obvious psychological benefits of dragons charring Thread, even if the grubs are a useful second line of defense. On the day of the excursion, the narrative stops to engage in making fun of Tisha’s attempts to get on a dragon.

The morning had its moment of humor: getting Tisha aboard brown Branuth had been a struggle, involving not only Branuth’s rider, T’lel (who laughed so hard he had hiccups) but four other riders, the strongest and tallest.
[The dragon tries to see what’s going on and gets a cramped neck for it.]
“Stop that and get up here, T’lel,” Tisha was yelling, her thick legs stuck out at angles from her perch between the neck ridges. “I’ll be split. And if I’m split, you’ll suffer. I get should have said I’d come. I should know better than to leave my caverns for any reason whatsoever. This is very uncomfortable. Stop that guffawing, T’lel. Stop it right now. It isn’t funny where I’m sitting. Get up here and let’s go!”
Getting Tisha aboard Branuth had taken so much time that everyone else was in place and ready to go by the time T’lel did manage to get in front of Tisha.
“Not only am I being split, I’m also being bisected by these ridges. Did you sharpen them on purpose, T’lel? No wonder riders are so skinny. They’d have to be. Don’t dragons grow ridges for large people? I should have had K’vin take me up. Charanth is a much bigger dragon…why couldn’t you have put me on your bronze, K’vin?” Tisha shouted across the intervening space.
K’vin was trying to preserve his dignity as Weyrleader by not laughing at the sight of her, but he didn’t dare look in her direction again.

I’m thoroughly displeased with this idea that Tisha is a comedy figure because she’s a larger woman who needs assistance to get into a dragon that is too small for her. Why can’t K’vin take her on his bronze? She’s the headwoman of the Weyr, so presumably any questions about whether she’s high enough in rank to be accorded the honor should be settled. It would make things easier for everyone. I’m also skeptical that there aren’t stools or ladders people can use to mount dragons and that nobody has engineered a method for someone to sit side-saddle on a dragon, because there would have to have been a Lord Holder that complained loudly about how riding “split” was immodest and would provide views of his wife or daughters that nobody but her husband should be entitled to. This comedy routine shouldn’t be present because it’s making fun of someone because they’re fat. But also because the conspicuous absence of basic technology in this regard is unbelievable.

The trip south goes without incident, and everyone immediately procrastinates on their duties to go have a romp in the sand and the water. Tisha gets off of Branuth by way of water landing, and everyone essentially strips their clothes off and goes for a swim.

The narrative decides that we need to go see characters that have until now only been mentioned in passing (I believe): P’tero, blue rider, and M’leng, green rider, who are weyrmates and both confirmed to be men. The two of them ask permission to go off and lounge, and eventually both end up shirtless and pantsless while their dragons are off hunting herdbeasts. P’tero has designs for their privacy, and waves off a warning of a strange smell from his dragon as just new smells of the South.

And then the lions attack them. I’ll spare you the narrative part, but the gist is that both riders are hurt pretty badly, their dragons return and fight the lions, then more dragons arrive, led by Zulaya, and rip the lions apart in a fury. P’tero and M’leng pass out or are knocked unconscious, and that ends the chapter.

Nobody dies. Which is about the only grace I’m willing to give to this scene. As an earlier, younger reader, I wouldn’t have noticed that the first time there are confirmed gay dragonriders on camera, about to have a romantic interlude, they both get mauled by lions, which both conveniently stops the author from having to write gay sex and affection and probably makes a lot of homophobic fans very, very happy that the narrative has finally condemned what it had been trying to bury and not draw attention to in setting up a society where promiscuous dragons would result in gay orgies happening in the regular.

I was ready to give at least a little yay for representation on screen, finally, after all this time, but no. No cookies at all when you put a gay couple on screen only to have them be seriously injured, and especially not in a chapter where you’ve spent time previously making fun of fat people. (Yes, this isn’t actually a surprise to the people that have been following along with the comments made by the author about her understanding of gay men, but it’s the first time those views have intruded solidly in the text. I would prefer the clinical medical language that minimizes the gay population of Weyrs to this.

We’re going to intrude in on Chapter XVI for a bit, because after having written the characters getting attacked and hurt, the author turns around and writes in a rather good description of the guilt and embarrassment that follows from such an incident.

The shame of being attacked, of endangering M’leng, of being responsible for injuring nine dragons–when K’vin had particularly warned everyone to be careful–was almost more than he could bear. M’leng might say that P’tero saved his life–although he had to have his shoulder wound stitched–but P’tero knew that was incidental in the sequence of the attack.

And as more details come in about what happened, the embarrassment grows. Because a makeshift camp has to be set up to make sure the injured heal before returning. Because it requires fetching medics to stitch people up and tend to them. Because they had set themselves up on top of the place where a den of lions were, thank you Ted Tubberman.

And it’s not helping that there’s a narrative being deliberately circulated that’s untrue, at least in P’tero’s eyes.

He worried endlessly that M’leng would no longer live him, with such a scarred and imperfect body. M’leng, however, seemed to dwell so on P’tero’s heroism in protecting him with his own body that the blue rider decided not to mention the fact that it had not been entirely voluntary. M’leng had been unconscious from the moment of attack and had a great lump and a cut in the back of his head as well as the wound on his shoulder.
Zulaya had arrived to see P’tero trying to remove the claws from M’leng’s body, so there was little the blue rider could say to contradict the Weyrwoman’s version.
Tisha, coming to give him fellis early one morning, found him in tears, positive that he had lost M’leng with such a marred body.
“Nonsense, my lad,” Tisha had said, soothing back his sweaty hair as she held the straw for his fellis juice to his lips. “He will only see what you endured for his sake, to save him. And those scars will heal quite nicely, thanks to Corey’s neat stitching.”
The reference to the skill of the Head Medic almost reduced him to tears again. He’d caused so much fuss.

Tisha continues to reassure P’tero that everything is fine, and the dragonriders needed a lesson in their own vulnerability, and that the ostensible mission of the trip south succeeded. I’m going to cut off here, because what follows on from this involves more people and also is a catalyst for something else I’m going to shout about next week.

P’tero is written excellently here, based on my own experiences of being so embarrassed that nothing else can penetrate, even as others try to put a more positive spin on it. And also the same about having done a thing that might have saved a life, even though to you it didn’t seem noteworthy or heroic at all. P’tero would like very desperately to know that M’leng still loves him, despite his flaws, and also would like to be left alone, thank you, so as to have a proper processing and worry about everything that happened. If Pern had counselors, P’tero wants to see one who will help him work through his feelings and come to acceptance, instead of trying to spin him a new story and get him to accept what he knows isn’t true.

And if he had someone to talk through things with, maybe what he’ll get up to next time wouldn’t have happened.