Monthly Archives: April 2018

Deconstruction Roundup for April 27th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has had plenty of useful things happen this week.)

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.

Elizabeth SandiferEruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

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 have had someone confess they were putting you off because the alternative would have been to expose you to the depths of their rage. Or for any other reason, really.

The Masterharper of Pern: Espousal Bells

Last time, Robinton got engaged to a daughter of the Lord he’s serving under. And also heard very disturbing reports of women being assaulted in Fax’s neck of the woods, which he duly reported and was told nothing would happen.

The Masterharper of Pern: Chapters XIII and XIV: Content Notes: Natural Disasters, Spousal Deaths, Dragon Deaths, Suicidal Ideation,

It’s Espousal Day! For Robinton and several other couples, to be done at the Gather today. Which would sound a lot like having people get married on the day the priest is going to be there, except the Harpers are the priests, and so there’s a reason for it, but nobody says.

Robinton is looking good in his clothes, still a bit annoyed at having to sit court, and smiles when healer Clostan has mock horror for Robinton having to play for the Gather, even though he’s getting espoused.

Lord Melongel conveys Lord Faroguy’s regrets at my being able to attend the Gather, but the message is off, subtly.

“Now that’s the oddity. I’ve known Faroguy a long time. Had many messages from him, and he always inquires after Juvana. She spent a Turn with Lady Evelene, you know. Odd that he didn’t this time.”
Robinton felt a surge of concern. “If he is ill, could the message have come from someone else?”
“Farvene would have asked, too,” Melongel frowned. “Well, we’ve enough to do today without adding other problems. I see you’ve finished your meal so we’d best adjourn to the Court Hall. We’ve a full morning.”

And he just leaves it there, without either Robinton or Melongel even making a gesture at the possibility that Robinton already heard about – Fax is in control and sent that message off to deflect suspicion. That’s terrible characterization.

(I also note Melongel uses the familiar address for Faroguy, so perhaps Lords are exempt from having it drilled into their heads that business about “always Lord [X], even in your head.”)

Robinton and Melongel head toward the court building, which means going through the Gather, already in progress. Robinton notes “official crafthall and independent booths were doing a good business.,” a detail that has been curiously lacking at other descriptions of festivals, and that opens up a completely new line of questions that I would love answers to. How does one get an independent booth – is it just a matter of paying in enough to get a space? Does someone need to have achieved sufficient guild rank in their craft before they’re allowed to go independent? Is there a conglomerate of discount goods providers or a trading company that offer materials that don’t have the guild stamp but are good enough for the common people? And how regularly do they come? Is there price-fixing? Or is there a significant overt or subtle campaign from the guilds to only by guild goods in the same idea as “Buy American” or other such things? So many questions.

Before he gets to court, the family Robinton helped at the wall appears long enough to give him a carved wooden bowl as an espousal gift, the quality of which makes Lord Melongel sit up and take notice. Robinton then gets excused from court because F’lon has brought Kasia’s parents and Robinton needs to meet them properly before marrying their daughter. Things go well, although Juvana and F’lon keep talking about Robinton’s composition abilities and the popularity of his songs, much to Robinton’s annoyance and chagrin (because popularity is bad because it gets you noticed. Note the trail of trauma.)

Juvana and F’lon both tease Robinton about the fact that he’s going to have Melongel as a brother-in-law, and that they like him because that thought did not cross his mind until they pointed it out. Eventually, they go get the harp Robinton made for Kasia and that puts Robinton on familiar ground when they ask him to play some on it.

There are six couples set to be espoused at the espousal ceremony. Robinton and Kasia go first, and while we don’t get the exact text, we do get a summary of what the vows are like on Pern.

[…]he announced his intentions to be a loving, kind, considerate spouse, caring for her all his life, nurturing their children, and providing for the family.
[…Kasia repeats the vows, with a broader grin and a wink on the part about children…]
“We have heard your promises, Robinton and Kasia,” Melongel said, stern in his capacity as Lord Holder.
“And we have witnessed them,” Master Minnarden said while the other craftmasters murmured their traditional response.

I would have liked to see the actual text of the ritual vow, but that’s just me. I also see this sly reference to the “heard and witnessed” that will eventually bring Fax to a duel that kills him. It adds more questions, though – who needs to be present for a thing to be officially witnessed? Do they have to have rank? Is it necessary in writing as well? For a place that claims it has no lawyers, there are all these hints of an extremely well-developed legal system.

Merelan has advice for her son.

“Be as happy as I have been with your father,” Merelan whispered for his ear alone, and when he tensed, she held him slightly away, giving him a hard, long look. “For we have been happy…together.” And he realized she spoke the truth: that it had always been he who had the problem with his father. “You’ve the heart big enough to love an entire world,” she added. Then she released him.

Cocowhat by depizan

That’s terrible advice, given carelessly and clearly damaging to Robinton’s psyche. Because, as he does, it encourages him to see himself as the problem, the thing that kept his mother and father from happiness. That’s completely false. There’s got to be better advice you could give, Merelan, perhaps remembering that rough time where you spent a year at Benden because of Petiron’s behavior.

The party continues, and Robinton is ready to punch out F’lon for his continued teasing, but manages to avoid it through his mother starting her singing set. Kasia eventually suggests that F’lon is putting up a front because he’s in love with someone. Robinton asks Simanith if he knows, but Simanith only knows F’lon is concerned about Larna, and not the why. Robinton leaves it, though, because he has a spouse and a night with her, before they steal off to sail on their honeymoon.

Which is ruined after a few days by a giant storm that threatens to capsize the boat, which they manage to sail through and find shelter, but then comes the greater task of keeping Kasia warm and feeding her soup and then trying to figure out how to get somewhere that she can get a Healer because she’s not warming up at all. Robinton is not confident in his sailing skills, but Kasia is able to guide him in the instructions and they do eventually find another ship to rescue them. Which is Captain Idarolan’s ship, in another case of namedropping. And that’s chapter XIII, essentially – another potential disaster at sea for Kasia, and everyone at least back to land safely. This being Pern, however, I won’t turn off the disaster alarm until everyone is certain they’re healthy and there’s no sign of sickness or plot-induced fridging.

Which is why when Chapter XIV opens with Kasia still having a nagging cough, I’m not feeling good about the direction this is going. Then there are blizzards, for which Melongel opens up his storerooms to feed the hungry, and a fever ripping through the classroom to “the old aunties and uncles,” for which both Robinton (the dubiously healthy) and Kasia (the clearly sick) volunteer as nurses. Kasia gets sick with the fever, and the remedies that help others don’t seem to be helping her, in the same way that they don’t always help the aunties and uncles with “no stamina.”

Just before dawn on the fifth day of her burning fever and hacking cough, when Melongel and Clostan had joined the vigil, she opened her eyes, smiled at Robinton leaning over her, and, with a sigh, closed them. And was still.
“No, no. No! No! Kasia! Joy can’t leave me alone!
He was shaking her, trying to rouse her, when he felt Juvana’s hands pulling him away. He clutched Kasia to him, stroking her hair, her cheeks, trying to coax life back into her body.
It took Melongel and Clostan to pull him away from her, while Juvana arranged her on the bed. And Clostan forced a potion down his throat.
“We did all we could, Rob, all we could. It’s just sometimes not enough.” And Robinton heard the pain of the healer as plain as he felt his own.

In another call-forward to Menolly, Merelan sings the funeral rite and Robinton flings the harp he made into the water on the last note.

In “Things that piss Silver off mightily,” I don’t like being right when I worry someone is about to be fridged. Because Kasia’s entire existence in the narrative is to get over her grief, fall in love, marry, and then die to give Robinton the pain of a decreased spouse on top of his other traumas. She exists to be fridged.

As one might expect, the death of his spouse puts Robinton into a terrible depression. And, when F’lon comes to visit, the likelihood of some strong drinking. F’lon, however, has come to both express his grief for Kasia and to share his own grief for the death of Larth that turns L’tol back into Lytol. F’lon offers Robinton a quick and permanent solution to his grief.

“Couldn’t be simpler,” the dragonrider said drolly. “We go out to Simanith, he takes you in his arms, we go between and Simanith opens his arms”–which F’lon demonstrated with an upward flourish–“and only the two of us go on to Benden. Simple.”
“Yes, simple,” Robinton said, thinking almost wistfully of the cold black nothingness of between where one felt nothing, heard nothing, was shortly nothing.
Tears filled his eyes and his heart seemed to burst. He’d been cold so long now. It would be simple…but…it wasn’t simple.
“No, it isn’t simple,” F’lon said gently, and Robinton realized he had spoken aloud. “There’s something in us humans that clings to life even when the most beloved one we have leaves us. Lytol couldn’t go when we gave him the option. He was badly burned and too full of fellis and numbweed to be able to decide. And when he could, he decided to go back to High Reaches with his family.”
Robinton gave a start. “That’s not a wise place for anyone to be right now. Much less a…former dragonrider.”
F’lon shrugged. “His choice. He needs his family right now. I saw your mother is still here.”
“Yes, she’s been wonderful. Everyone has.”
“So, let’s get on with life, shall we?” The kindness in that soft gentle suggestion reached and thawed the cold “nothingness” Robinton had been enduring.
“Thank you, F’lon,” he said as he rose. “I think I’d better eat something, and you look as if you could stand a good meal, too.”
Indeed, F’lon looked haggard as well as weary, but at Robinton’s suggestion, his smile flickered. Stretching an arm across the harper’s shoulder, he wheeled him to face the door and then accompanied him out of the room and down to the warm kitchen to ask for a meal.

Everything is not okay for Robinton, as Tillek contains memories that can’t easily be evaded, but at least the crisis has passed.

If you are feeling like the nothingness, or that life would be better without you, and you are in the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be called at 1-800-273-8255. For queer youth, The Trevor Project is at 1-866-488-7386. There is also the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860.

There are also likely resources more locally for you, and if you are not in the States, there are resources and helplines for you. There are people that can help. And talk.

And the Bastard grant us… in our direst need, the smallest gifts: the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain’s peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word.
-Bujold, Paladin of Souls

Because sometimes that’s what we need. One right word, or something equally small, placed correctly, that turns things back from the brink.

Or sometimes it’s cold logic, knowing that the reason you might go for dying won’t actually fix the problem, because you can do the maths and realize that even if you could get your optimum result, it wouldn’t solve the issues. That kept me alive until things could get better.

Robinton throws himself into his work to try and keep the memories at bay, which means he’s present when it’s confirmed that Lord Faroguy is dead (because another badly drummed reply to their inquiry raises major suspicions, and they send a runner to confirm things), that Farvene, the heir, has been killed in a duel with Fax, and Bargen, the next son, cannot be found. Which means Fax rules in High Reaches, because the Council to elect a new Lord Holder has to be convened at the request of an heir, and there have been no requests. Robinton attempts to persuade everyone around him that Fax’s ambitions are greater than just High Reaches, and that the Lord Holds need to act, now. Melongel trots out “autonomy” and Robinton fires back that illegal possession does not entitle someone to that protection. Melongel points out they can’t prove it. Minnarden and Robinton press Melongel to see if he can’t get an alliance going, or at the very least spread the word to the neighboring holds to guard their borders against Fax. Robinton volunteers for reconnaissance, but Melongel tells him no, and that Gennell has arranged the necessary personnel for infiltration.

So Robinton goes on tour again, and when he comes across the border holder he talked to before, there’s way more refugees than the last time.

“More coming in all the time,” Chochol told Robinton in a lugubrious voice, shaking his head at the terror that drove them from their holds. “Someone ought to do something about that man. They say he’s got six, seven spouses, all of ’em pregnant.” Then he chuckled and his droll face lit up. “Can’t seem to get himself a son.”
Robinton laughed, too. “We don’t need more of his ilk.”

I realize that black comedy is a normal reaction to seeing a tragedy, but I can’t see the humor value in a fertility joke at this point. Especially with the knowledge that those six or seven “spouses,” since I can’t see anyone freely consenting to betrothal, are going to be in pregnancy and childbirth until they die of it. Someone most certainly needs to do something about this, and since the Lords won’t act…if only this story had been set post-Furiosa.

Coming back to Tillek is coming back to a giant pile of memories, and Melongel notices it enough to gently dismiss Robinton from his post and send him back to the Hall. That takes care of Chapter XIV, but it also sends Robinton back into danger. I hope Gennell has an assignment ready for him when he gets back.

Deconstruction Roundup for April 20th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who had quite the busy day yesterday.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Elizabeth SandiferEruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Libby Anne: Love, Joy, Feminism

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 just remembered why you didn’t like art class, because it seemed like everyone was objectively better than you at it. Or for any other reason, really.

The Masterharper of Pern: On Assignment, Part Two

Last chapter, Raid fired Robinton and he took an assignment in Tillek, which also involved mediating a dispute with a solution that seems clever.

The Masterharper of Pern: Chapter XII: Content Notes: Ablism, sexism,

Robinton and Groghe arrive in Tillek and meet Lord Melongel, who Robinton takes a liking to, as he’s a bit of a polymath Holder who understands fishing, ships, lumber, forestry, and agriculture, while also being qualified to serve as a ship captain. Master Minnarden gives a warm welcome to Robinton, and asks if he can use his talent with helping people understand to get some of the slower students up to the same level as the others. He also wants Robinton to train the choral singers, train up some apprentices for drumming, and possibly compose a bit, too. Minnarden also believes very strongly in the return of Thread, although he’s apparently in the minority about whether it will come back. He tells Robinton to learn fishing, as well, and also gives Robinton a book to study.

“If you haven’t memorized the Charter, you’d better, and study some of the more common infractions.” Minnarden grinned. “That aspect of our jobs can be quite interesting at times…” He paused to sigh. “And at others, about as infuriating as dealing with the dumbest, most insubordinate, mentally deficient adolescent male.”

That’s some terribly ablist rhetoric of you, Minnarden. I think we’re supposed to believe him uncritically, having witnessed an incident that would be rather trying in the chapter before. To do so would also further accept the continuity change that insists the Charter has always been there and there are records of infractions and that the Harpers do a lot of the justice process as impartial arbitrators, even though it’s still firmly established that Lords are absolute in their domains. So I’ll guess that Lords can overrule Harper decisions, and based on last chapter, that perhaps members of the family or other higher-ranking holders act as reeves and bailiffs for Lordly justice that doesn’t rise high enough to warrant formal court. Which doesn’t make sense, not really, unless there’s a decree worldwide that Harper arbitration is binding and must be backed with the force of the Lord’s law, regardless of where they are. Which might make Fax’s exclusion decision make more sense, so that he is the only source of law and that nobody refers to a Charter that he would then have to enforce if they cited it. Fax doesn’t seem like the kind of person, though, that would respect the Charter, and then would make sure the objection never escaped his borders, like Chalkin attempted.

Still terribly ablist.

Robinton also meets Kasia, who has perpetual sadness in her eyes because she lost her lover to an accident right before they were to be espoused (married, but y’know, ostensibly nonreligious world). But Robinton crushes on her, because when she’s not terminally sad, she’s pretty and sparkly and merry.

And she also has an eidetic memory and a good voice, which I think is something Robinton is really interested in, given his own gifts.

Robinton is not the only person who wants to woo her, but he does at least have the sense to pause over her still being in grief. (Also because she’s older, but that’s not actually important.) He still sets out to cheer her up from her grief, however, so it’s not actually as many points as it could be.

Since she’s envious of his harp, Robinton contrives to have one made for her, asking the local Masterwoodsmith to keep him some good pieces and to do a little of the fancy carving work, while he tries (repeatedly) to carve the rest of the harp himself. This work is interrupted by things like fishing trips, where the narrative trips over itself by making Robinton express an opinion that I don’t think he would have:

The female sailors surprised Robinton. He was accustomed, being Harper-trained, to women having equal status as performers and composers,

Lying cat says retcon! (Rehash the problem of Menolly here.)

but it had never occurred to him that other Crafts had promoted women to positions of trust and responsibility.

Cocowhat by depizan

Did I not just mention, last chapter, that the Masterhealer, who has been a friend since childhood, is a woman? It should not be a stretch of the brain for Robinton to think of women being in positions of responsibility in other Crafts. Unless, of course, Robinton has internalized an idea that there are “men’s crafts” and “women’s crafts” and his surprise is not that there’s a woman doing Craft work, but that there are women doing Men’s Craft work.

Robinton also gets to meet shipfish, and discusses them with a surprisingly knowledgeable sailor, Gostol. Robinton deduces correctly that they sing, but Gostol dismisses it as just putting air through blowholes, as if that’s not singing because it doesn’t involve a larynx.

Gostol also says that the shipfish rescue sailors, lead them to good caches, and are generally considered good luck signs that get fed regularly from the fishers. (I smell a retcon. If I recall correctly, originally, the shipfish were considered unlucky to get in a net, and forbidden to hurt, but all the stories of them helping were considered unverified rumors, and so nobody really paid attention to them.)

On the trip, Robinton tries to cheer Kasia up as much as possible, and has a moment of “does she like me?” when she uses his nickname and leans into him some while there’s a docking test going on for another crewperson. And the two of them stroll after they disembark, occasionally brushing hands and laughing, and Robinton is pretty sure that they have a thing going on, such that

He didn’t think–he just caught her about the waist, pulled her to him and kissed her.
He hadn’t known he was going to before he did, and as she leaned into him, arms about his neck, he was thrilled that she didn’t reject him. It was the sweetest of kisses but far too short because, hearing steps coming down one of the halls, they broke apart.

Cue Robinton fantasizing about their espoused life together, from a single kiss he stole from her, without getting her consent, without asking, in the heat of the moment. To his perceptions, she seems to be responding well to his advances. What he needs is a sit-down and a come-to-Jesus type of meeting about consent, but this is Pern, so none will be forthcoming. And he does come back toward reality when he figures out that Kasia might not actually ascribe any deeper meaning to their kiss…and then starts to pendulum back and forth between “I’m not good enough for her” and “She’s totally into me” while he works on the harp, hoping to get it done in time for her birthing day celebration.

He does, but didn’t want to present it in public, so he gets another gift, tells her he has something he wants to give her in private, and then watches the other gifts come through, several of which are quite pretty and valuable. Eventually, there’s a quiet moment, and he presents the harp, and she’s stunned by all the work that goes into it. She also calls him Robie, which I had expected to be a nickname of mother and son, and that the name she would use would be Rob. Or perhaps Robinton.

Because this is Pern, and Robinton is a main character, and because he’s already been established as being tremendously sexy, even in his older age, of course Robinton has guessed right about her affections, and the two of them end up having sex (at least, that’s what the narrative implies to me) in the workshop where he presents her with the gift.

Kasia tells him that her sister, Juvana, approves of the matching. Her sister knows because Kasia has been talking about “Rob” nearly incessantly to her. Everyone seems to think it’s a good match for all of them, because Robinton is much more understanding and perceptive than her last lover was, and Kasia seems to be on board with the idea of traveling around the world with him. So they announce their betrothal, with the intent to espouse in the autumn. And Robinton is encouraged to send a message to his parents announcing the engagement as well. Kasia has picked up on the fact that Robinton doesn’t talk about his father, doesn’t mention him as father, and otherwise generally tries to avoid talking about his father, even though he has a lot to say about his mother on the regular. She also notes that everyone is singing Robinton’s songs, not Petiron’s.

Juvana has an interesting thing to say about how their relationship will proceed, though.

“I have already discussed this with Kasia and she will protect herself, which is her duty, until such time as you are settled enough to contemplate children.”
Robinton blushed. He and Kasia had not discussed the natural outcome of their lovemaking, and he realized that he had been remiss in this regard.
Juvana went on. “I offer the suggestion that you should spend several years enjoying each other’s company, consolidating your new relationship, especially since neither of you need children to help in your professions.”

Juvana also goes on to give a blanket offer to foster any kids if it turns out that Robinton’s constantly moving nature makes it impossible for him to raise them, which is apparently an incredibly high honor to receive.

But I’m curious, again. When Juvana talks about Kasia protecting herself, what exactly is she talking about? Is it just not having sex with Robinton until they’re ready for children, or is there still some actual method of birth control that’s used and practiced on Pern? It would be fantastic if we could get a definitive answer one way or another. Augh.

Robinton is pretty overwhelmed that asking someone to espouse involves a lot of things that he’s not figured out were part of the deal. And then volunteers to go out on the long sweep of teaching so that he can get enough time to himself to compose a sonata for Kasia that’s threatening to stick in his head forever and ever unless he gets it out on paper.

While out on the tour, however, one of the cotholders has some terrible news for him coming out of the High Reaches.

“Once, twice, maybe, Harper,” Chochol said in his rough voice, pitched low so that not even the herdbeasts grazing nearby could hear what he said, “I would not worry. Anyone can come to a disagreement with his Holder. But there have been eight lots an they arrive scared of their shadows. Wounded, and the pretty ones have been badly handled.” He paused, indicating with a nod what he wouldn’t say about their condition. “Badly handled.” He emphasized the repetition with a second sharp nod. Then he pointed down the hillside, which was grassland with a few stunted trees. “Twice”–he held up two thick, work- callused fingers–“the women were sure that Lord Faroguy must be dead for such things to happen in High Reaches. Scared my spouse, that did. But we see anything coming up here and I tell her we’re in Tillek, holding with Lord Melongel, who’s a fair holder if ever there was one, and the time hasn’t come where one Lord’ll run over what another has owned since his Blood took Hold.”

We know, of course, that Fax will go on to do just that, breaking the social contract (and the actual Charter) in his quest to conquer and badly mismanage as much of the world as he can, but this is turning Fax into a retread of Chalkin, in terms of cruelty and brutality, if not rules-lawyering, and it looks like this Pass is going to let it happen again because of the autonomy rule. Which, if records were actually being preserved and kept, would point out that the Council of Lords has already once told a Lord to sod off (pound sand?) over Charter violations that were witnessed and reported to them. Including mistreatment of their holders and sexual violence. The author is asking us to watch the same story again and nobody has learned anything from the last time, which was in the last book, even if that book was theoretically several thousand years ago. After this report to him, Robinton is able to finish his Sonata for Kasia.

And she welcomes him back with open arms and there is talking and lovemaking in nearly equal quantity. Kasia tells him about how wonderful he is, over his own protests and worries that he’s essentially set himself up as the master negotiator based on good success on his first time around. I hear you there, Robinton. Expectations can be terrifying and follow you around all the days of your life.

Robinton makes his report to Melongel and talks about the reports he received from Chochol, which Melongel correlates with requests from holders for easement on tithes based on an unexpected number of dependents. Robinton speculates that Faroguy may be dead and nobody has been informed, which, if that is the case, is the first tactically sound move Fax has made all book – if nobody knows who is actually in charge, it gives Fax time to consolidate and expand his power. Melongel decides to provoke the issue by asking Faroguy to join them at Tillek’s next Gather, (which is the one where Robinton and Kasia will be espoused) and asks Robinton his opinion on Fax and whether Faroguy’s son, Farvene, would be able to keep Fax away from the levers of power. Their opinions are similar, and Melongel tells Robinton he wants him to sit in Court that morning with Minnarden and himself before dismissing him back to Kasia.

Robinton gripes about having to listen to the arguments and excuses and decide fines for infractions. Which seems to make the Harpers more bailiffs than arbitrators or mediators, although they theoretically derive their authority from the Charter and not the local Lord. That said, the local Lord is the person with the power to actually compel people, so it really does seem a lot more like the Harpers are not as independent as they say they are.

Robinton is also having doubts about his Sonata, and desperately would like to run a performance of it past someone with an ear to tell him if it will be any good, especially “the crescendo that was also an orgasm.” He is finally able to when his mother arrives, bearing a piece of work that Petiron wrote to be sung at the espousal. As before, it is a work entirely different than his usual oeuvre. Petiron is saying, perhaps, that he cares, in the way he can. Except he’s not there. It would be trivially easy for him to request time off for his son’s espousal, and yet, he’s not there. So he doesn’t necessarily care enough to stop work or travel.

Merelan reads the Sonata, plays it, and then gives Robinton a solid chiding when he says he hasn’t shown it to Kasia because he’s concerned it isn’t good enough. Merelan sends him away to do it immediately, which leads to an extended flashback of Robinton getting fitted for his wedding suit, where the tailor is trying to accentuate his body, but also jokes with Robinton about how he could not imagine Robinton showing off, not realizing that not showing off is Robinton’s survival mechanism for avoiding Petiron’s abuse and is showing up in all of his attempts to not gather fame and renown to himself because he still hasn’t resolved that part where drawing attention to himself brings negative consequences from his father.

The tailor convinces Robinton to buy more than just fine Gather clothing, but some shirts and pants as well, because they made his figure look good, even though Robinton is usually the sort of person to buy clothes off the rack for considerably cheaper. The long flashback done, Robinton copies out his Kasia songs for his mother to take back, and then realizes what time it is before landing in bed. Thus ends Chapter XII.

…it’s probably because I’ve been reading this series for too long that I cringe in anticipation of whatever tragedy is about to befall the couple at their wedding. We’ll find out next week.

Open Thread: Mid-Month Check In, April 20178

(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.]

Deconstruction Roundup for April 13th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is daydreaming of another world.)

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.

Elizabeth SandiferEruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka RangiEruditorium 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 join the parade on display here. Or for any other reason, really.

The Masterharper of Pern: Damage Control

Last chapter, Robinton was again warned away from trying to change Fax’s attitude toward education, and tragedies struck Benden Weyr in succession as an old Weyrwoman died and then the Benden Weyrleader and Lord Holder of Benden were killed in a dragon accident.

The Masterharper of Pern: Chapter XI: Content Notes:

The chapter opens with Robinton returning to Benden and checking in with Maizella. Lady Hayara has already taken a sleeping draught for her grief, and Maizella is about to do the same. Raid has taken charge, which Maizella thinks is too soon after the tragedy, and has requested Robinton drum out the news of the tragedy. And then Robinton has to man the tower all night to manage the replies and the messaging and the requests for dragon transport until someone can relieve him and he can get actual sleep.

That said, there is a really impressive response that organizes to bring food and help in the kitchens and provide people to talk to the family with. When F’lon wakes Robinton later, he lets him know that Fax tagged along (apparently grinning from ear to ear, despite the tragedy), that Gennell is asking for him, and that the other people of the family may not be all that happy with Raid taking charge. And that Robinton should bathe before dealing with any of this. Which he does, and then leaves F’lon to sleep while he goes out to do his duty.

Robinton reports in to a gathering of Masters (and it is only now that I fully notice Masterhealer Ginia is she, which suggests there’s another possible retcon going on there, although the Healer Hall has been much more all genders than the other halls, even in the past books), and there is some debate about who will lead Benden Weyr now as well as more skepticism about the return of Thread, before the Masters are summoned to a council meeting. Raid inherits Benden officially, and the Masters want to speak with any remaining bronze dragonriders, so they send Robinton to find them.

The riders are listening to Manora’s account that S’loner was having arm pains a lot (classic sign of cardiac issues in cis white men), and that Maidir wanted to go home, so S’loner used it as an excuse to get away. They report that back to the council.

Then we get to see Fax twirling his Snidely Whiplash mustache, as Robinton notices Lord Faroguy is clearly not well and Fax comments into Robinton’s ears about how he’s certain there will be another need for a council. While there are no specifics told, if I were Robinton, and especially because Robinton doesn’t like Fax, I’d tell Gennell about what I heard, just in case it becomes relevant and I need a witness or two to back my statement. But for now, Lord Faroguy is convinced to go see the Masterhealer, and Robinton is advised to make sure F’lon and Fax do not meet each other, lest tensions flare into more violence.

Robinton lets F’lon sleep and gets some of his own, before F’lon wakes him and then stalks back to Benden, having missed his opportunity to confront or whatever he planned to do. Robinton sees the Masters and gets sobering news that Faroguy has “a disease of the blood for which there is no cure for a man his age.” Which makes me wonder what it is, and if it’s Terran or Pern-native, and also, based on the way that Faroguy is described as wasting away, pings ever so faintly of HIV as the cause. Or that Faroguy has been poisoned in some manner. We’ll never know, as Robinton turns the discussion to Fax and his refusal to admit Harpers, with Gennell taking the information under advisement and telling Robinton to keep him informed.

And then Raid takes over Benden. And seems to be able to run it capably, if bluntly. Robinton tries to soften the edges where possible, until Raid calls him in to his office and fires him from being Hold Harper.

“I am Lord Holder and what I say is how things will be. I do not need you soothing down disgruntled holders or denigrating my efforts behind my back.
I hearby release you from your contract.” Raid tossed a pouch of marks across the table to Robinton. “I shall request a replacement from the MasterHarper. Without prejudice, of course, since you have discharged your duties with efficiency and energy.”
“You may drum that bronze rider friend of yours to convey you back. Give this”–he fielded a little roll of hide to join the pouch–“to Master Gennell. You do not suit me as Hold Harper.” Then he rose to his feet, to indicate the meeting was over.

Blunt, certainly, and probably perceived as very rude for not couching it or softening the blow, but also very direct, which can be a good thing in a leader.

Robinton heads up to the tower to request a dragon, and Hayon, after getting the truth, remarks that Robinton did quite a bit to soothe ruffled feathers, and that the rest of the family will miss him. F’lon arrives, gives Robinton a small amount of grief about getting canned, saying Robinton would be better employed elsewhere anyway, and takes him back. Gennell agrees with that assessment, essentially, and offers Robinton his pick of six locations to go next. Robinton picks Tillek, for the additional bonus of studying for his Mastery under someone who regularly attends court. Because “Applications of the Charter and the Precepts of Arbitration and Mediation, advanced aspects of the Harper Hall’s purview” is on his class list for Mastery.

This is the point where I crow ever so slightly and point out that there are lawyers on Pern, as I have always suspected. They’re Harpers, as I have also suspected. They just don’t do adversarial courts that much, and are instead arbitrators and mediators, because they are supposed to be impartial. So yes, the legal profession survived, it just got folded into Harper duties.

Accompanying Robinton to Tillek is Groghe, and the two are supposed to settle an issue over a broken fence between one of Grogellan’s herders and Melongel’s foresters. Both blame the other for not fixing the fence when a storm blew trees into the old stone fence and wrecked it. Robinton defuses the feud by saying both sides will build their side of the wall and provide mortar to make sure it sticks. When they both complain, Robinton says it will be interesting to see who can build their side first, tapping into their bickering and competitive nature. (This sounds like a folktale. Is it?) And then, to prove his point, Robinton says he’ll sing songs from on top of the fencepost between the two lands. He goes off to bed down with one side, Groghe with the other.

The description of the cot is rather interesting:

The main room was obviously where most interior work was done, but it was separated into sections: one for the women’s tasks, another for the men’s, with an eating area and well-made chairs at near the fireplace.
“I’ll show you where the bath is,” [Valrol, a son of the holder] said, and Robinton murmured thanks, rummaging in his pack for his towel, soap, and a clean shirt.
The bath was actually heated by some connection with the hearth, so it was not the cold wash that he could have expected.

Oh? Do tell about these “men’s” and “women’s” tasks, Robinton.

Also tell me where you’re getting travel soap and a towel from, given that what we had before was soapsand and possibly furs to dry off with, and what this engineering marvel is that allows for warm bath water without also dumping smoke into the space is. I’m very curious to know how these amenities made it all the way out to the frontiers. Is there a curious Smith around somewhere, or an engineer in the making? We find out that one of the daughters has been turning out exceptional woodcraft (in Robinton’s opinion), so perhaps she constructed the device? There’s so much here I want to know about, and yet will be denied again, because the author has no interest at all in making the details stick, much less be consistent.

Robinton sings that night, and it seems to do good in mending attitudes as well as fences, such that everyone is ready to go at the wall in the morning. Robinton leaves songs behind and an instruction to get the families singing again, which will help them stay good neighbors, along with the wall.

And that’s Chapter XI – Robinton still unable to get anyone to act against Fax, and then getting fired and reassigned, stopping along the way to fix a problem. For as much time as we’re spending outside the cities of Pern, we’re still not getting a whole lot of information about how this part of the world works. They exist to be a set piece in the plot, and then we’re on our way again to the city. Makes me wish the author had written a book about people who aren’t mobile and yet still manage to have adventure and the like. I think a lower decks episode would be quite illuminating.

Deconstruction Roundup for April 6th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is very happy to see so many on this week’s list.)

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

Chris the Cynic: Stealing Commas

Elizabeth SandiferEruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

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 join the parade on display here. Or for any other reason, really.

The Masterharper of Pern: The Inevitable Tragedies Begin

Last chapter, Robinton balked that Fax could just say no to education in his hold, and furthermore that his fellow Harpers aren’t forcing the issue. The narrative then tried to pass off the idea that the original charter survived all this time instead of being a rediscovery of the AI. Those two things created a situation where it should be incredibly difficult for Fax to pull off the same crap that Chalkin did.

The Masterharper of Pern: Chapter X: Content Notes: Fat-shaming

We are in a training montage, of sorts, from the beginning of the chapter, as it says Robinton spends three years at High Reaches, before noting that Faroguy certainly seems on top of everything, except Fax, which Mallan speculates might be because Fax is Faroguy’s from another woman before his legitimate heirs were born. Lobirn squashes that line of thought, and we are then treated to an account of “how Robinton lost his virginity.” Robinton’s grown up handsome, and Mallan goads him into dancing with a young holder girl, Sitta, who is interested in him, too, and then just manages to conveniently be wherever he is by chance. And welcomes him home from a trip with food and drink and an offer to warm his bed. (There’s also another woman, Marcine, who has her eye on him, but Sitta is so good at being everywhere she gives up, and Triana’s only really interested in him as a dance partner…) There’s even the equivalent of the sock on the door — tipping a chair against the table as an indication of a do not disturb.

Here’s how Sitta’s described:

It wasn’t that he hadn’t noticed her, with her delicately slanting eyes and her tiny figure, set off by the bright dark blue of her Gather dress.

And now I’m a little less okay with this. Mostly because it seems to be “huge guy, tiny girl” and a vaguely Asian fetish possibly going on, but also a bit because a name like “Sitta” suggests South Asian ancestry rather than East Asian and I’m a little annoyed that the author doesn’t seem to want to do the research.

In any case, Sitta is mostly a fling for Robinton, and the narrative shifts over to another name drop situation – Carola is ill, and the only other available queen is Nemorth, who bonded with Jora, who is afraid of heights. (Which makes me think of the person who trained the Rowan, also afraid of heights and imparting it on to the Rowan.)

Carola dies afterward, and Robinton knows before everyone else because he feels Simanith’s grief, but he doesn’t say anything. Soon after, Robinton is recalled to the Harper Hall for a new assignment. Lord Faroguy sends Robinton in with a full purse of money and a solid recommendation. F’lon has a laugh about how it won’t “matter a pile of old ashes” that Jora’s terrified of heights when Nemorth is ready to mate. Before having a laugh at Robinton when Simanith just drops off the edge rather than leaping into the air to get the speed to go into hyperspace. Robinton asks Simanith for a little warning the next time.

Robinton’s return means getting to see his mother again, which is slightly disturbing because she looks older and he’s not ready for that. He also sees Silvina again, and the child has become a pretty woman in his absence. And then there’s business and reunions and Master Gennell also telling Robinton that he should let go of Fax’s decisions about education.

“We can only do so much, Rob, and are wiser not to trespass where a harper’s life might be endangered.”
Robinton blinked in surprise. “Endangered?”
“There have been such problems before, lad, and there will again, but somehow it comes right. As long as Fax keeps his ideas to his own hold, I can do nothing. Nor is it wise to. That’s something you learn as you go on. Cut your losses when you have to. One small hold in the northern lands is not as vital as a larger one nearer home, as it were.[…]

Cocowhat by depizan

This keeps happening? And yet Pern still hasn’t created a solution, regardless of the “autonomy” clause? It’s okay that generations get lost on the regular and then have to be accounted for later? Just…insert last week’s rant, even more so now that we know that this is a thing that happens on the regular. That this hasn’t been fixed in this long is still highly improbable.

Gennell assigns Robinton to Benden and advises against arriving with F’lon, because Benden’s Holders and Benden’s Weyrleaders are not getting along with each other right now. Which gives Robinton time to catch up with his mother and to get told by both F’lon and Merelan that Silvina clearly fancies him. Petiron is off at Tillek, so it’s a nice time for Robinton, catching up and singing songs with Merelan. He knows something is different, but he can’t put his finger on it.

So Robinton travels by ship and learns he won’t get seasick, that he can handle runnerbeasts, that the Dawn Sisters exist, and that just about everywhere he goes, he can play an evening and get the best meal and bed available.

Except, of course, in a place where Harpers are distrusted. A small hold where Targus, the holder, is not happy to have a Harper, but his wife, Kulla, is more than hospitable to him. (Even if his runner doesn’t like the place.) Targus gives us a little insight as to why places might not be all in favor of Harpers.

“Preferable?” sneered Targus as his thick and slightly greasy fingers gathered the mark piece from Robinton’s palm. “Harper words. What’s wrong with ‘Is that good?’ Or do you always have to show off your larnin’?”
“Why’s Pa hate music so?” Erkin asked.
“He says harpers sing lies,” Mosser said, malice in his twinkling eyes.
“Didn’t hear a one,” their mother said stoutly. Then she waggled her finger at Mosser. “Nor you, neither, or you’d’ve stirred yourself out of the room when your pa left. […]”

And again, there is this tantalizing prospect of an entire space outside the narrative where people don’t believe in Harpers, not because their lords are actively keeping them away, but because they think the Harpers are spinning some sort of lie. If only these people would be more specific about what they believe, other than “they’re elitist, with their education and fancy words.”

Robinton makes it to Benden without further incident, and is greeted by Raid and Hayara, who bring him up to speed on everything (Maizella is about to be married, and has been helping the Hold Harper, joint-ail is affecting all sorts of people). After a quick call back to which staircase he should be using, Robinton goes to help Master Evarel in the classroom, and that starts the second stay. Eventually, Evarel admits to being old and retires to the south, leaving Robinton in charge of Benden. And not too soon after, Nemorth almost gets flown and F’lon is pissed about it, because Jora faints when Nemorth gets into heat (remember that bit where queen riders see through the eyes of their dragons?) and that makes Nemorth very concerned.

But it happens, eventually, and Nemorth has a clutch, and Robinton is entirely wistful about the fact he never got the chance to be a dragonrider. F’lon complains that Maizella’s spouse is fish-faced (Robinton agrees with this privately) and that he doesn’t believe in Thread. Which gives Robinton the opportunity to ask about the rift between Hold and Weyr, and apparently we’re back to the problem where the interval has caused disbelief in the reality of Thread.

The feast at the Weyr is fantastic (and, as another way of making sure that we understand the hierarchy, green riders help to serve the extra guests, while bronze and brown riders take seats to be served), but the narrative can still take time to shame Jora.

She was pretty enough, in a sort of overblown way, but was already getting more plump than was healthy for a rider, not to mention for a young woman. She was flushed with the success of her young queen, Nemorth, and making what appeared to be giddy confessions to Lady Hayara, who merely listened with a polite smile plastered on her face.
His [F’lon’s] tone turned disdainful. “Not only is she afraid of heights, but she’s nervous with Nemorth, and if S’loner hadn’t been helping, she’d’ve let the queen eat before her mating flight.” He snorted in contempt.

So, for what other purpose than “the narrative wants a chew toy” did Jora Impress? Yes, we have to eventually line up with whatever was said previously about her, which was also negative, but I would have thought that being terrified of heights would have been a draconic disqualifier. The rest of it is fat-shaming and the narrative forgetting that life in a Weyr would be the most food-secure situation a person could find themselves in. It’s quite possible that Jora is still adjusting away from starvation mode. Or that she would be perfectly healthy, were it not for the narrative.

Robinton leads the musical festivities, and that seems to keep spirits high, at least until Nemorth interrupts them by announcing the death of S’loner’s dragon, Chendith, and the deaths of both S’loner and Lord Maidir (eventually confirmed when Lady Hayara goes back to Benden and can’t find him) in what is determined to be an accident – S’loner had been having chest pains, so it’s possible a heart attack killed him at the crucial point, and Chendith took Lord Maidir with him, because he was the unlucky passenger. Lady Hayara said that Robinton’s music had been possibly mending the rift, but she couldn’t hear because Jora was talking (she didn’t say so specifically, but the implication is clear). Jora, of course, is far too drunk and passed out to be easily revived (because narrative chew toy), and the party gets broken up pretty soon afterward.

F’lon is unhappy that Robinton asked C’gan for transit back. Robinton points out that F’lon just lost his father, which F’lon dismisses as unimportant because Weyrbred and tell me again why Robinton isn’t also having trouble with this? He’s been concerned that Merelan will die soon, and he’s still stuck in the situation where Petiron won’t acknowledge him, so why is he still so put together? Is he going to fall apart once the immediacy wears off? The text notes that Robinton is envious of the fact that F’lon had a relationship with his father. But the chapter ends with Robinton heading back to Benden, so there’s going to be other crises to deal with before Robinton can process his own feelings.

I realize this is Act II, where the tragedies happen and the old guard gives way to the new characters, but these stories don’t seem to have situations where someone, say, lives a full life and then passes away in their sleep. Except Robinton himself. Everything seems to change in violence. Which might seem like a good idea to make backgrounds more interesting, but it also means just about all the main characters have tragedies and traumas in their backgrounds, too.

And maybe I’m starting to get sick of it.

Creative Corner, April 2018

(by chris the cynic)

This is a place to share about any and all creative endeavors.  Could be what you’re working on, what you want to work on, what you’re frustrated about being blocked on, plans, random thoughts, finger painting, crocheting, building a new world order, whatever.

It was created because, even though Writers’ Workshop was intended to be a place where any creative endeavor can be discussed, the name scared off people who weren’t writers.  (Which totally makes sense.)