Monthly Archives: March 2018

Deconstruction Roundup for March 30th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is much enjoying a full day to do things.)

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

Elizabeth SandiferEruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

YamikuronueOther: Please Specify

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 give voice to those who keep getting told they’re too [X] to be taken seriously. Or for any other reason, really.

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The Masterharper of Pern: On Assignment

Last time, the narrative right Menolly’s story looked much better on Robinton and gave it to him, Petiron continued to be an asshole, and the massive Harper Hall conspiracy to keep Robinton’s contact with Petiron to a minimum continued all the way through Robinton’s promotion to journeyman and subsequent assignment to High Reaches Hold.

The Masterharper of Pern: Chapter IX: Content Notes: Dealing with trauma

Chapter IX begins with Merelan suggesting that Robinton ask F’lon to take him to his assignment in High Reaches. Robinton thinks it would be seen as showing off, Merelan thinks it would be good for his reputation.

There’s another change at this point:

He hadn’t so much as laid eyes on his father since the night before, but that didn’t surprise him. He was now separated from his father, both as parent and teacher. His relief was intense, his concern for his mother immense. She seemed so frail, and her hands trembled a bit as she wrapped his pipes and put them in one of the packs.

We also find out that Gennell deliberately promoted Robinton while Petiron was out of the hall, which makes Robinton cringe and worry even more for his mother, who believes that Petiron will get pissed, and then go back to composing.

The arrival of a dragon indicates that F’lon has been asked to take Robinton to High Reaches anyway. Three Masters appear to get his baggage and put it on the dragon. And then Robinton is off, and Master Lobirn is unimpressed with him. And very unimpressed with the compositions of Petiron. And also uses Robinton’s compositions quite a bit, although he doesn’t know that they’re Robinton’s. Robinton’s patient demeanor helps him win over Lobirn, even as he gets the slow, the young, and the duty of going out to the far-flung holds and talking to them, as well as leaving them music to use when he’s not there. It keeps him busy, but it also means that Robinton occasionally gets close to hurting himself when he’s distracted trying to compose and isn’t paying attention to the road. But at least he can sing and play loudly without any fear.

It’s different than the Hall, and because this book is a parade of names, Robinton meets a young Holder at High Reaches named Fax, and Fax is, being a villain, already exactly the way he will be when Lessa meets him much later.

Even on his first encounter with the young holder–a question of who took the steps first at a landing where several halls met, Robinton felt uneasy in the man’s presence. Fax was aggressive, impatient, and condescending. A nephew of Lord Faroguy, he had recently taken Hold of one of the Valley properties, which he ran with a heavy hand, demanding perfection of all beholden to him. Some craftsmen had asked for transfers to other holdings.
Robinton heard unsettling rumors about Fax’s methods, but it wasn’t for a harper to criticize–or to take precedence over a holder, so he had courteously allowed Fax to go first. All he got for his deference was a sneer, and he noted that Fax, who had been striding with urgency to get somewhere, now slowed his pace deliberately. What that proved escaped Robinton completely, but it did give some of the rumors more credibility than he had originally thought.
One evening Fax went out of his way to get Robinton on the wrestling mats: not with himself but with one of his younger holders.

This is one of those things where it would be good to know how inheritance works. Because if there’s a way to do things on a trial basis, or if someone is merely regent rather than lord, it should be no trouble at all to yank Fax out of his position or give him a severe dressing-down for the way that he’s handling things. Or approve transfer requests of anyone who wants to leave and note the reasons why. Or exercise some other sort of check on him to remind him that even those who have absolute power in their own domain still have to interact with others. Like having Craftmasters pull their people out in protest over treatment. Fax is already being a bully and is likely not being a profitable holder. But this is probably more of the same bullshit that stopped Chalkin from being tossed out for his actions, because the sovereignty of the lord is so sacred that even human rights abuses can’t move the Lords to action.

And then the narrative chooses to tell us exactly why Fax stays in power, after the Harpers all unofficially agree to take some self-defense lessons.

In any event, Fax did not request a harper for his holding. That was his decision and his folk would be stinted by the lack, but only Lord Faroguy could require his holders to provide education. Since Fax’s holding appeared to be so much more profitable under his management, Lord Faroguy had little reason to question his methods. Somehow Fax managed to keep from his uncle the fact that his profits were obtained by whippings and threats of eviction.

Cocowhat by depizan

IN WHAT UNIVERSE IS THIS PROFITABLE. (Outside the extremely short term.) Fax is terrible at this ruling thing, and his mistakes start with the decision to keep the Harpers out. Who is responsible for telling all the peasants that their lot in life is to serve their lord unquestioningly? Harpers. Who then gives the peasants the hope that they might be raised from this drudgery through the intervention of dragonriders, even if it’s got less odds than winning the lottery here? Harpers. And who are the people that will best testify on your behalf of someone accuses you if doing something you don’t want to admit to? Harpers. They’re your best friend if you want to stay in power. Fax should be sweet-talking them, rather than being a dick toward them. What I wouldn’t give for a villain that understands politics.

I can’t see this kid turning into the Fax we had at the beginning of the series without seriously figuring out how to get his act together. (Then again, that Fax expelled all the Harpers from his conquests, instead of trying to corrupt them to his side or, as is being presented here, never having asked for them in the first place. Yet another retcon at work.)

The narrative sends Robinton up to the drum heights, where, lacking better things to do, he composes a song for the miners and slips it into the rotation. It does extremely well, but it also tips his hand to Lobirn, who figures out in short order that Robinton composed all of the music that he’s been using and most of the stuff coming out of the Hall. Lobirn is nonplussed at this discovery, but getting the truth out of Robinton about when most things he uses were composed seems him into a howling fit of laughter. Once Lobirn calms down, he explains the revelation and the reason why it’s so damn funny

“The joke’s on Petiron! That conceited, condescending, consummate composer hasn’t half the talent of his own son!”

Which is only true if your desired end result is catchy tunes and songs that are easy to teach and remember to others. That’s very much a Harper goal, and so in that regard, Robinton is miles better than Petiron. But that shows a lot of the subjectivity that’s involved in determining talent. Fax, I suspect, wouldn’t think Robinton is any better than his dad, because Fax believes in main strength and cruelty.

Anyway, the narrative gives us yet another sign that Robinton is still struggling with the abuse from his dad.

However, this respect generated an unexpected side effect: it made him realize all the more keenly the relationship that Petiron had been unable to give him. In order to abate his bitterness, Robinton began mentally to refer to his father as Petiron, rather than “father.” Maybe one day he could forgive the slights and the terrible hurt Petiron had inflicted on him–but not yet. Meanwhile, in his growing pleasure in Lobirn’s continued good favor, painful memories of striving for an acceptance that had never come began to fade.

That kind of dissociation is to be expected from the trauma that’s been inflicted, and if, say, there were counselors on Pern, they might be able to help him get through the trauma, instead of leaving him to work it through himself, and to figure out how not to be re-traumatized every time Petiron is around. It’s good that he’s building healthy professional relationships with others and that they are telling him that he’s doing well, and hopefully he can manage to continue doing just that.

We also get to see more of Chalkin’s legacy.

“Fax does not wish his holders to be educated, Rob,” Malian said, crossing his hands behind his head and tipping his chair back. “Simple as that. What they don’t know won’t hurt them–because they also won’t learn their rights.”
[…Robinton is agog at this…]
“But he’s denying them their rights under the Charter!”
“He denies there is a Charter, you mean,” Malian put in.
“The Charter also guarantees that a holder has autonomy within his holding,” Lobirn pointed out.
“But his holders have rights.”
“Don’t be so naïve, Rob. That’s exactly what he’s denying them access to,” Mallan said, dropping his chair to all four legs for emphasis. “And don’t go putting your head in that snake’s pit. You’d never match him in a fight, and you come on strong to him on that point and he’s every right to challenge you. And be sorry that he just happened to break your neck!”
Robinton turned to Lobirn for support, but the Masterharper shook his head.

So there’s a lot there. Yet again, instead of being something new that nobody had dealt with before, Fax has been transformed into a Chalkin retread. With what we know now, there should be Records on how one deals with the recalcitrant.

Secondly, that’s a serious retcon to say that these Harpers know about the Charter (and in a little while, there will be an even more egregious retcon that says the original Charter is preserved between glass somewhere,) instead of the Charter being a thing that only was rediscovered with the unearthing and subsequent communication with AIVAS. In that same part that talks about the preserved Charter, it is also apparently taught as a Teaching Song, first in simplicity and then in complexity.

Also,

Cocowhat by depizan

The casual attitude of Mallan toward the denial of education is pretty out of character from the mission of the Harpers. Yes, there is an unstated threat that anyone who points out that Fax is denying Charter rights will then have to fight him (on the grounds of “challenging his autonomy”, I guess) and will likely die in the subsequent duel. And also, in an unquoted portion, Lord Faroguy is not apparently insisting on education for those people. (Which makes sense and doesn’t – the opportunity to bilk the peasants is tempting, but it also means that you can’t have them do anything that’s any sort of complex at all, unless you’re willing to spend the time showing it to them repeatedly.)

The obvious response is “Surely the Charter would have provision to penalize anyone who failed to provide basic education.” But the narrative has us covered there.

A holder was not doing his duty by his people to deny them this information.
On the other hand, there was no provision made to punish holders who did not disseminate the information contained in the Charter. This was one of the shortcomings of the document. When Robinton had queried that in class, Master Washell had responded with a snort and then the notion that it must never have occurred to the writers of the Charter that anyone would be denied such rights.

Cocowhat by depizan

Absolutely not. There is no way that both “there are no provisions in the Charter about how to punish someone who fails to inform someone of their Charter rights” and “the Council of Lords did not pass legislation / make a decision in the aftermath of the Chalkin incident to ensure that nobody would ever be denied knowledge of their rights and responsibilities under the Charter, autonomy be damned” are both true. If you want me to believe that the Charter always has been passed down through the ages (it hasn’t), then you can’t also assert that after the betrayal of one of their own that almost gave Thread a foothold, the remaining Lords didn’t act to prevent it from happening again. And they could point immediately at the “autonomy” clause as the problem. (At least, not if you want consistency…)

It would be possible for the Lords to have fixed things, and then those records get lost or improperly preserved in writing or song, but I also suspect that Chalkin was the first in a line of problems that Fax is now picking up, so there would have been even more opportunities to come up with solutions and preserve them. Unless there’s deliberate “forgetting” going on, by would require complicity on the part of the Harpers, who have a vested interest in transmitting the history and culture of Pern to the next generation, so that’s…unlikely.

On the other side, most constutional documents don’t spell out punishments if people don’t teach this information, but they’re usually backed by a significant corpus of law that will more than happily spell such things out. Pern’s charter canonically has punishment for rape in it. So I would believe very strongly that the Proceedings of the Council of Lords are written down somewhere and copied from generation to generation as well, and therefore there should be a corpus of law that has developed just from having to deal with questions and enterprising individuals over the 2500-year history of the planet. Even if there were several Black Death type events in the history of the planet.

Ugh. Robinton hopes that the knowledge will still get through to all of the holders anyway, from have people willing to teach, and that closes out Chapter IX. It’s a mess. Then again, it has been a while since the originals, so maybe we aren’t supposed to notice this so easily.

Deconstruction Roundup for March 23rd, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is taking care of business before evening revelry.)

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

Elizabeth SandiferEruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen 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 liveblog your conference experiences. Or for any other reason, really.

The Masterharper of Pern: Everything Is Terrible

Last chapter was basically going to the Weyr and seeing what there was to see, having Falloner give Robinton the tour, and otherwise taking an interlude.

Problem is, Merelan is planning on going back to the Harper Hall. Where Petiron is. Who Gennell sent a composition from in an attempt to get her back.

The Masterharper of Pern: Chapter VIII: Content Notes: Child Abuse, Bullying, Hazing, Neglect, Demeaning Women to Raise Men

As much as I would like to believe this missive from Gennell is a plea that Petiron is entirely out of control and will she please come back and help him, if that were the case, it would make things be terrible if she came back for him. But it would be awesome if it were the case and Merelan said no.

For now, however, Merelan just writes that she has to serve out her contact at Benden Hold, so that she can train the Weyrsinger more and so that she can have pull enough to get a good journey-level Harper to Benden.

She also wants to take Maizella back to the Hall with her, thinking that it will be good for her. And that she might have a singing partner in Halanna. Which sounds like a rather interesting way of doing things. Unless Halanna is supposed to be the older woman to scare Maizella with “I used to be you, until they beat me, starved me, and refused to let me go until I became the woman I am now. And I’m MUCH HAPPIER NOW THAN I WAS BEFORE. (Quickly! Run while you can!) But otherwise, I can’t see a reason to put two headstrong people together.

Maizella’s parents were delighted to think that the Mastersinger even suggested the idea for their daughter. That was after Lady Hayara gave birth to a son.
“I’d have preferred another girl,” she admitted to Merelan when she and Robie dutifully visited her. “It’s so much easier to just marry them off suitably than have to worry about all the rivalry among boys to succeed. I mean, I know that Raid will make a good Lord Holder, but…”
Falloner had spent one evening explaining to Robinton why it was better to be in Weyr or Hall because, if you were a male in a line for succession in a Hold, you had to guard yourself against jealous brothers and cousins.
“But don’t the Lord Holders all get together in one of their councils and decide?” Robinton asked and got a snort for his ingenuousness.
“Sure, they decide, but it’s usually the strongest one they pick, the one who’s survived long enough to present himself as a candidate….”

The casualness that Hayara has about marrying daughters off makes me upset in behalf of all the daughters married off into politics or other alliances without any thought of whether they want to be part of it.

Also, primogeniture is a terrible system when you have more than one son and a limited amount of land. And there seems to be a very causal attitude toward the idea of brothers killing or hurting each other to make sure they’re the only one that can be named as successor. Which would make Pern more terrible than the actual Terran period it modeled itself on, as Terra tends to stash younger sons into the priesthood (here, the dragonriders choose that themselves) or the military (and there’s no real inter-Hold warfare going on, so there’s no options there).

Pern is such a terrible place to live. Unless, perhaps, you get lucky enough to be part of the 1%. (The parallels to our Terra are prescient. And also terrible.)

The narrative essentially continues on to the point where Robinton and his mother go back to the Hall, with Maizella coming to study for a year with them. (Didn’t know it was a limited time contract. I’d always assumed that the women were there until they were sent back or they completed their course of study.) There’s also an idiom here that I don’t have a good reason to believe survived, “stepping on no one’s toes,” but the linguistics of Pern have long since been absolutely beyond logic or consistency.

When they get back, with Spakinth showing off by appearing much closer to the Harper Hall than C’rob would have ever wanted (Merelan pleads mercy), there’s a fucking welcome back chorus for them

Grinning, she waved at those gathered on the steps. Then she began to clap again as a chorus from the second story assembly sang a loud musical welcome.

We’re glad you’re home
We’re glad you’ve come
We welcome you
With Heart and voice
And hope you’ll never leave.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

Cocowhat by depizan

Run away, run away, run away!Especially since someone (although Petiron is not immediately visible) has arranged for this rather creepy song to be song, as well as all these other people, Masters and other familiar people, to be there waving to her. (Including Silvina, who we know will be Robinton’s headwoman when he’s in charge of the Hall.) Merelan is apparently delighted by all of this, enough to ignore the part in the lyric that says they don’t want her to leave again. She does have enough presence of mind to tell Robinton not to mention the melody Petiron wrote, unless Petiron mentions it first. Because Petiron did not send that melody to her, Gennell did.

As it turns out, Petiron is not there, because he was out helping another Hold have a Gather. He was certain that he would be back in time, so nobody sent word to delay Merelan until he could be present for her.

Merelan asks if Halanna went. She did. The others ask about Maizella, and Merelan describes her thus:

“She’s a well-behaved young lady,” Merelan said, chuckling as Master Gennell’s obvious apprehension eased. “I’d scarcely inflict the Hall with another…” She cleared her throat and suggested that Robie might like to finish his drink with his friends.

Charming. Although that can be read as either “ha, ha, like I’d do that again” or “zOMG, you think I would intentionally inflict that on all of you again?” I can be charitable for Merelan in this one.

It takes Petiron a few days to get back, and there’s an actively hurt horse with them. But there’s been a change in Merelan, one big enough that Robinton notices.

He couldn’t understand his mother’s reaction. She’d worried about Petiron not being there, and now she didn’t seem to care that he was safely home.

I can guess. Merelan is probably pissed off at Petiron. At minimum, pissed at him for not being there for Robinton (and herself?) when they returned from the Hold and being unpleasantly reminded of all the reasons why she left in the first place. I suspect that inquiring about Halanna suggests that Merelan may also suspect that Petiron took Halanna for romantic or sexual reasons as well. Either of these reasons by themselves would be enough to cause an “out of cope” error, but together, they’re probably causing a full on “nope, can’t be bothered to expend energy or care on this” situation.

That Petiron doesn’t immediately come to see his family once he gets back doesn’t help. And while we’re not treated to the entirety of the angry shouting match that ensues, due to Robinton, our viewpoint character, shutting a reasonably soundproof door and then reinforcing that idea with a pillow wrapped around his head, we do get a little of his internal monologue, and it is entirely the monologue of an abuse victim trying to figure out the way to please his adviser.

Even Lord Maidir was nicer to him than his father was. Why couldn’t he please his own father? What had he done wrong? Why couldn’t he do something right? He probably oughtn’t to have said that he could take Londik’s place. But he could. He knew he could. His mother had said that his voice was every bit as good as Londik’s, and he was the better musician. And she didn’t just say things like that to make you feel good–not about professional matters.

This is the part where I get sad that the cycle of abuse is really hard to break. And we’ve already seen plenty of Robinton being abusive and cruel in his adult years. Still not a matter of excusing Petiron. Just that it’s going to be so hard for Robinton, because he’s going to grow up in the worst parts of an abusive parent and a school that will drive him to his limits.

The narrative picks up again with a bone of contention between the parents – Petiron insists that Robinton audition for the role that Londik is leaving behind, because that is the procedure and Petiron doesn’t want to be accused of favoritism. Merelan points out, quite rightly, that Robinton has been working with all the masters who will be auditioning him and that they could all honestly pass him through without the audition, because they already know his capabilities.

He has to audition in front of his dad and mom for this, which should be a serious conflict of interest. Even if they are the highest-ranking people there in their disciplines, they should be recused from this so as to not have any thought of impropriety or nepotism.

Robinton nails the audition, including sight-singing a composition of his father’s after one pass at it with his eidetic memory. He can do the trills, the runs, the complex tempo shifts, and the interval leaps that will grate on the audience’s ears. (Which, if I haven’t mentioned this enough by now, sounds like terrible music composition, the kind of thing someone creates to display their own ego and skill, and not to make music that will be remembered or re-sung.)

Everyone applauds and seems convinced that this is satisfactory. Petiron is stunned that his child of ten could do what just happened, but rather than congratulate his son or offer any sort of praise, Petiron says that Robinton needs to be more careful with his dynamics when he’s sight-singing. This threatens to set Merelan off. Gennell intervenes with Petiron before that can happen, telling Petiron he’s wrong on the matter of dynamics, and then shutting him down on the idea of teaching his son, because Petiron teaches journeymen, and his son is not old enough to even be an apprentice. So Robinton will continue to get special lessons from his mother, as well as his regular classes for children of his age. (Gennell gives Robinton a wink after this, one that Petiron doesn’t see.) Gennell then heads off with Petiron, telling him about how Igen wants a repeat of a program done last year, and how it would be a good spot to debut Robinton.

Then one of the other masters comments on how Gennell doesn’t miss much, even if he doesn’t always seem to be paying attention, and the moment we could have had about how everyone has to keep cleaning up after Petiron’s incitements and won’t someone please teach him how to social in ways he can understand is gone. Because Petiron was just an asshole to his son, his wife was about to tell him off about it, and someone else just had to intervene to make sure things didn’t explode messily in front of the son who just did something spectacular and rightly should be praised for it.

Robinton, for his part, resolves to memorize the piece that was mentioned by Gennell from last year’s show so “that way, he wouldn’t annoy his father.”

Fast forward until Robinton is twelve, accepted as a Harper apprentice, and getting ready to go live in the dormitories with the other apprentices.

If Robinton did not realize until he was full-grown how deftly the Harper Hall conspired to save him from his father’s perfectionism, he was consumed with relief when “protocol” required him to join the other apprentices in their dormitory the day after his twelfth birthday. Instead of being on better terms with his father after two Turns of solo work, he seemed to annoy Petiron even more, no matter how hard he tried. In fact, it got so everyone noticed, and the other singers made a point of telling him how well he did, loud enough for his father–who gave him only a nod now and then–to hear.
He knew his transfer upset his mother, and yet he was positive it would make things a lot easier for her. It was only too obvious that his father couldn’t wait to see the back of him. And in his case wasn’t the same as that of the other apprentice lads: he’d lived in the Hall all his life, so he wouldn’t be homesick in the dormitory. Although he would miss his mother’s loving care, he was earnestly looking forward to leaving the family apartment.

Not wrong. Things probably will improve in the household without him there, since he’s been a point of contention between both parents since his birth. His mother won’t have to be constantly on guard against his father. Things will be filtered through to Petiron appropriately so that he doesn’t crush his son with negligence and abuse.

But it appears there’s been a tiny lapse, right at the end, as Petiron asks to see some amount of music that he sees Merelan putting into Robinton’s bag, and is able to follow the chain all to the point where Petiron realizes that Robinton has composed all the things that are being used by the masters and clamored for by the apprentices. And wonders just how much has been hidden from him.

“You hid from me the fact that he has perfect pitch, has a good treble voice, and has been writing music?”
“No–one–has–been–hiding–a sharding thing from you, Petiron,” Merelan said tensely, enunciating every syllable and using a swear word that shocked Robinton as much as it did her spouse, who recoiled from her controlled anger. “You–simply–his not hear, and did not see. Now, act the father for once in your life, and carry this carton to the dormitory. It’s much too heavy for Rob.”
[…Petiron leaves, and Merelan offers a final apology…]
“Wait a minute, dear.” She turned back to him, her face drawn with sadness and despair. “I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have lost my patience with the man. But I can’t keep on saving his self-esteem, catering to his enormous ego, and always at your expense, Rob.”

And then Robinton goes to live with the apprentices.

This apology is genuine and heartfelt, and very much too little, too late. Because Merelan has been doing just that, even though she’s also been giving Petiron the business about his parenting, and she did leave Petiron for a bit. But it’s hard leaving someone you love, even when you have the evidence of their abuse in front of you. It’s even harder to do if you don’t have really good support, demonstrated good support, a plan, friends, and a way to get back on your feet. And then even harder if it’s a place like Pern, where an unattached woman with a child could easily be denounced, smeared, or otherwise stripped of her way of making a living on the say-so c her abuser.

It’s really fucking hard to get away from someone. Believe someone when they express doubts and show your support for them. If you can, indicate to them what you can help them with if they are making sounds life they need to leave. And then, follow through on it if they go. Because desperation will kick in, or they’ll decide it’s the right time to do it, and they’re going to need that help.

Robinton gets settled in before the obligatory hazing begins.

He kept a suitable expression on his face when the head apprentice, a tall well-built lead from Keroon named Shonagar, rattled off what was expected of first-year apprentices, how they were the “lowest” of the “lowly” in the Hall, and the traditions of their new status. He also told them about the necessity of spending a night alone in the Weyr to prove their bravery.
“Harpers run into all kinds of problems and difficulties. This isn’t just singing songs to folks in a hold in the evenings. It can be a dangerous life,” he said, thoroughly solemn, “and you have to prove, now, that you can take it.”
[…Shonagar says there will be no exceptions…]
Robinton had rehearsed with Shonagar many times–Shonagar was a good second tenor. More important, he was fair-minded and really did keep good order in the apprentice dormitories. Though his position as head apprentice was not an official rank, Master Gennell encouraged his leadership. Shonagar would allow no bullying or improper behavior in the dorms.

Cocowhat by depizan

Shonagar, the one who beats Piemur when he’s a master and doesn’t actually do anything to stop bullying going on among the apprentices, even when confronted with the evidence that it is going on? That one apparently doesn’t tolerate bullying or improper behavior. And also, the narrative is telling us this right after Shonagar starts hazing the new apprentices and tells them about the initiation they have to pass. Which is an open secret, sure, but that’s the definition of improper behavior and bullying. That this is written in a time where collegiate fraternity life has hazing as a tradition and stereotype, and that can go to pretty terrible extremes, is not an excuse for the essential wrongness of the action.

Robinton ends up volunteering for the first night in the Weyr when everyone else doesn’t go, and while it’s dark and cold, Robinton has studied the plans of the place (and told others to do the same). So he goes exploring, finds a warmer spot and has a seat before going too far into the darkness. And mentally thanks Falloner for showing him around Benden Weyr, so that he’s not totally lost and scared. So he goes to sleep and gets woken by the others looking for him. Shonagar threatens him with violence to not say anything to the other apprentices.

Still want to tell me that Shonagar doesn’t tolerate bullying in the Hall? Because this is much more like the Shonagar we met from Piemur’s perspective.

The last thing I need in this tale of spousal and child abuse is a narrative trying to gaslight me about bullying. Especially since the previous books set in the Hall were also about child abuse and bullying that was normalized and accepted. The narrative expects us not to remember what it has already done. (Which, admittedly, might be easier when you have a few decades in between these novels, rather than a once-a-week airing of grievances.)

Robinton intends to follow the letter of Shonagar’s threat and not talk to any of them about his night, but he will show the other apprentices that he’s slipped matches and tinder into their pockets before they leave.

Robinton becomes a favorite among the apprentices for advice and comfort, as well as a tutor for the slower students. But he still can’t get anything from Petiron about doing well.

Halanna and Maizella were also soloists, but though Petiron remarked favorably on their performances, he had not so much as a nod for his son. The apprentices, being as astute as they were, did not fail to notice this. But if any complained, he’d shrug and remark that his father expected him to be note-perfect.

Petiron…

Robinton learns drum code, which is how he learns of the laying of a clutch, and hopes that dragonriders come to Search him, but nobody comes, the dragons hatch, Falloner, who becomes F’lon, gets his bronze, as does a weaver, Lytonal, who becomes L’tol, (and then Lytol), and his idea of being both dragonrider and Harper fades out. So he throws himself into his life at the Hall, and it suits him, and his mother smiles more, and things seem better for a while.

And then his voice cracks a little past thirteen, and there’s no saving his treble self from puberty. His mother takes it in good grace, jokes that his father is going to accuse him of doing it on purpose to screw up the performance for the Equinox, and then make sure that the replacement is up to standard in time. Merelan says this with a chuckle, but I don’t think it’s actually a joke. That’s probably what Petiron will do, in all seriousness.

Robinton has an important question for his mother — what will he do when he’s in journeyman composition and has to do assignments for his father? His mother dodges the question, and time passes, where his father sends him to the back of the chorus and his mother instructs him in how to use his new baritone voice. And if willing to be a bit more critical of Petiron around him.

“[…] Don’t you dare belittle what you do so very well. Far better than he ever could. The only real music he ever wrote–” She stopped, pursing her lips in irritation.
“Was the music he wrote while we were in Benden.” Robinton finished the sentence for her. “And you’re right. Speaking quite objectively as a harper, my father’s compositions are technically perfect and demanding, brilliant for instrumentalists and vocal dexterity, but scarcely for the average holder or craftsman.”

So things are back to being more harmonious because Robinton doesn’t have to hide and Merelan doesn’t have to hide him, and Robinton progresses because his father never gets the opportunity to determine what is his and apply his impossible standard to it unless it’s something Robinton has to be physically present for.

And F’lon comes to visit, long after Robinton heard about his Impression. The dragon attracts attention, and the two are as old friends, even in front of the hall where everyone is. F’lon confirms that S’loner decided not to Search and thinks that Robinton would have made a good rider. Also of note is that dragons’ mental voices tend to sound like their riders’ audible ones. There is hospitality, and Robinton tries to ignore Petiron’s scowl at him and not to remember all the stories of fathers doing things with sons that the other apprentices had told.

Also, his mother is ailing and this causes Robinton no small amount of distress. And Maizella mentions that Merelan fainted after a performance, and the healers want her to take a sabbatical somewhere warm. Robinton doesn’t get the chance to convince her, though, because Merelan collapses after singing another of Petiron’s compositions at the Equinox ceremony. That gets Petiron on board that his wife needs rest. Robinton, of course, is ready to blame himself for all of this, because when you’re continually being neglected, or abused, you tend to try and focus on the things that you think you can control, like yourself…

“You mean, after giving birth to a big lug like me?” Robinton demanded. He had overheard his father complaining that having a child had seriously damaged her.
“You weren’t all that big at birth, for all of you now,” Lorra said in her droll fashion, “so don’t cover yourself in midden dung in guilty reparation. You have never been at fault.” She cleared her throat, realizing that her emphasis implied she knew who was. “Merelan’s always lived on nerve. It’s the energy she uses to sing and perform at the level she does that drains her so. But there comes a time in a woman’s life when she isn’t as resilient as she was in her twenties.”

…even when it’s entirely the truth that this is a situation of of your control, or that someone else can do a lot more to make better than you can. Still traumatized, Robinton is. And significantly so at the prospect of losing his mother.

What’s not helping is that when Merelan returns, Petiron focuses on her and excludes his son, to the point where he even doesn’t casually insult the baritones, who Robinton unofficially leads and whose section members are trying to do their very best as a way of shielding Robinton from Petiron.

Gennell eventually calls in Robinton near the end of the term before he’s supposed to go into composition and tells him that he’s passing him out of composition. Everyone knows that Robinton knows the material, and they’re not going to subject him to his father as a teacher, but that leaves a term-long hole in his schedule that has to be filled. Robinton suggests being an itinerant teacher for that term, and Gennell denies him while hinting that there’s a really good story that we’re not getting because we’re doing Robinton: The Early Years.

“Not that all those unassigned holdings would accept a harper if I had one to send them,” Gennell said drolly. And when Robinton looked apprehensive, he added with a sigh, “There are some holds that profess not to require the services we provide.”
“I find that hard to believe,” Robinton said, appalled. Not want to learn how to read, write, and reckon? How could people get along in life without such basic skills?

I do not find this hard to believe at all, and I really want to see what goes on in these remote, Harper-less holds. We had a peek in Chapter I that many of those places hold the idea that Harpers are evil people who steal away children from the community. Those same communities are probably like many of the land-tied peasants whose entire lives would be performed mostly without the need to read or write or do maths, and most likely, they aren’t concerned with the cult of the dragonriders past the point that riders exist and will protect them.

They don’t need Harpers. But I want to spend time there and figure out the whys and how life on the fringes work.

Gennell does note that Robinton likes teaching, and promises to set him to a Harper that needs an assistant to help teach, if Robinton promises in return to keep writing catchy tunes and ballads. You know, like that girl we met much earlier in the series who also had the uncanny knack for catchy tunes and endless composition and who was frowned upon by her father for doing so.

Robinton is very happy at the prospect of being able to get out and stretch his wings and not have to deal with Petiron’s constant disapproval and the tension that was always there between Petiron and Merelan. Robinton also is happy to have been clued in on the possibility that the journeyman promotions might be happening soon. Soon turns out to be that very night, and twelve apprentices are promoted up, eleven from their final years as apprentices, and one from the third years – Robinton himself. As Gennell puts it:

“However, when the fundamentals of our craft have been well and truly learned, I insist that we hold no one back from the rank they are entitled to by knowledge and ability, and in this case, rare talent.”

Oh, no.

Oh, hell no.

If that sounds familiar, it should. Let me pull up the relevant quote from Dragonsinger.

“However, when the fundamentals of our craft have been well and truly learned, I insist that we hold no one back from the rank they are entitled to by knowledge and ability, and in this case, rare talent.”

And in both cases, wild applause happens, including from the masters.

Cocowhat by depizan

The narrative has just pulled off its greatest theft yet – it has stolen Menolly’s story away from her and given it to Robinton. Instead of being a pioneer in the Harper Hall who walks the tables early and is their first girl journey-rank ever, Menolly is slotted in as the girl Robinton, only replicating his feats at the Hall and being the second ultra-talented composer of earworms and catchy tunes. Menolly’s accomplishments have been cut out from underneath her and made lesser, and with the retconning in of other women at the Hall, she no longer has a place of pride or uniqueness for anything she’s done. Menolly’s story, coming from a Sea Hold and persevering through adversity, has been appropriated for a dude who has had the benefit of being at the Hall all his life. Menolly deserves better than this.

The last useful thing is that we are told Petiron slipped out at some point during the celebration, and Merelan stayed, and Robinton thinks this is as it should be. Because this is how it has been for his entire life. And that’s Chapter VIII.

Deconstruction Roundup for March 16th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is anticipating another conference in a short time.)

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

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 are watching people run about on a court flinging a ball between themselves. About anything. Or for any other reason, really.

The Masterharper of Pern: Convenient Absence

Last chapter, Robinton and Merelan went to Benden Hold to escape Petiron’s abuse. Robinton made a plot-important friend in Falloner and his performance of the Question Song has netted him an invitation to Benden Weyr, which is where we pick up.

The Masterharper of Pern: Chapter VII: Content Notes:

Falloner slips off the wrong side of Falarth, the transport dragon, so as to not have to be officially acknowledged, and introductions are made of the headwoman of the Lower Caverns, the Weyrsinger, C’gan, who is a blue rider, and Miata, who handles lessons at the Weyr.

I can’t remember if there have always been Harpers at Weyrs or not, but the distinction of C’gan being a singer is apparently an important one, because not five paragraphs later, Robinton is wondering whether or not he can be both Harper and dragonrider, despite theoretically having met someone who is both of those roles in C’gan. (I’m also not thrilled that the person interested in singing is described as slight and boyish and, according to draconic typing, very much gay, because it sounds like the stereotype of camp gay.) Robinton’s wonderings stop at Impressing a bronze or a brown, and don’t go any further.

Falloner gives Robinton the tour, including the crevice where everyone spies on the eggs in the Hatching Ground and some of the spaces he probably shouldn’t be in, like the Archives. There’s also a week and a nod to how Robinton is going to be both old and a workaholic:

As they flashed by, Rob caught a glimpse of his mother talking to some of the old aunties and uncles at one of the tables. Well, that duty would be over, so he wouldn’t have to nod and smile at the oldsters. The look of them, not to mention sometimes their smell, distressed him. People shouldn’t get that old. When harpers could no longer work, they went back to their birthplaces or down to the warmer, southern holds.

I’m going to note that the narrative is pinging about with various nicknames for Robinton, which seems like something characters would do. The narrative, I would expect, would stick with a single name.

Also, not cool about the older people, Robinton. They’re boring to you now, but many of them hold the memories you’re going to need.

Finally, it seems very weird to me that Pern, which is generally a very whitebread cultural approximation of Latin Christendom, has this universal thing of “everyone is everyone’s auntie and uncle.” Which isn’t to say there weren’t extended families and more than a few kinship bonds between families in the same space, but it seems very out of place that it has extended to the point where even people who aren’t in the same space you are get the respectful titles due to an elder. (Even if they do smell.) Given how things are set up in the planet, it doesn’t seem like it would have developed the cultural idea of everyone older than you being an aunt or an uncle. But maybe I’m the one being weird.

The tour continues until the dinner bell rings, and Robinton gets to sit with Falloner. There’s more reference to Noodle Incidents as everyone who’s a grownup tells Falloner to behave, and we see a young Manora, currently given charge over Larna, whom Falloner declares needs to be taught manners, even if all that happens is the teachers get in trouble. Robinton can sense that the grouping around Falloner often have issues with each other, and diverts the topic where he can back onto safer ground. Before food, and then singing, where the important part is that there a dragon that tells Robinton that the dragons listen to the music as well, and that S’loner gives Robinton a wink when he says as much aloud at the end of the night. Then it’s back to Benden Hold the next morning.

Where there is a package waiting for them from the Harper Hall – Petiron has written something new and Gennell has sent it along. Merelan plays it, of course.

“I think I can say,” she began slowly, “without fear of contradiction”–a little smile turned up the corners of her mouth–“that this is the most expressive music your father has ever written.” She wrapped both arms around her gitar. “I think he misses us, Robie.”
He nodded. The music had definitely been more melancholic, where his father usually wrote more…more positive, aggressive music, full of embellishments and variations, with wild cadenzas and other such flourishes. Rarely as simple, and elegant, a melody as this. And it was melodic.
She picked up Master Gennell’s note. “Master Gennell thinks so, too. ‘Thought you ought to see this, Merelan. A definite trend toward the lyric. And, in my opinion, quite likely the best thing he’s ever written, though he’d be the last to admit that.'” Merelan gave a little laugh. “He’ll never admit it, but I think you’re right, Master Gennell.”

Don’t take him back, Merelan. Also, Gennell, you’re being an asshole, although there’s a fifty-fifty on whether you realize it. Because if Merelan wouldn’t have wanted to see this from Petiron himself, then you’re helping Petiron by sending it under your own seal. It can be the sweetest love song in the universe, and it’s still a thing that Merelan might not actually want to hear or see, because Petiron is still an asshole, even if not having her there is changing his compositions and inspiring new ideas. There are lots of assholes who use their breakups and relationships as song fodder. (There are good artists that do the same.)

It’s just that this seems a lot more like a dude playing a piano in the front lawn of his girlfriend’s house and vowing not to quit until she takes him back. It sounds romantic, if you don’t play attention to the details.

Chapter VIII is a big chapter, so we’ll leave off here. But just peeking in, I can see that there’s talk of going back to the Harper Hall.

Open Thread: Mid-Month Check In, March 2018

(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.]