Monthly Archives: May 2018

Runner of Pern: A Comedy of An Error

Last time, we got Tenna to Fort Hold for a Gather by having her get run off the runner traces and into sticklebush, which required several days of healing to get Tenna back on her feet. She’s currently making the rounds with Rosa and the man Rosa intends to date, Cleve, and has had decided which person is Haligon out of two that could have fit the bill based on the descriptions given.

Runner of Pern: Content Notes: Background Radiation Sexism

I stopped at that point because we’re about to meet a Pernese custom that hasn’t been mentioned before now. And that would definitely have influenced my reading of earlier books if I had encountered it before this point.

“There he is!” Rosa said suddenly, pointing across the square to where a group of young men were surveying girls parading in their Gather finery. It was a custom to take a Gather partner, someone with whom to spend the occasion–which could include the day, the evening meal, the dancing, and whatever else was mutually decided. Everyone recognized the limitation and made sure the details were arranged ahead of time so that there wouldn’t be a misunderstanding of intent.

Oh, really? It’s a social custom for people to pair up for parties, with an expressly negotiated agreement of what that responsibility will entail? That sounds both highly regressive (what if you don’t want a partner? Do men get to refuse, but women have to accept a partner or be thought someone of low morals?) and moderately progressive (negotiated limits on dates!) for Pern. It feels like an author having had two decades of experience and fans putting this in here.

I also have a sinking feeling a lot of those agreements aren’t going to be respected by the end, or that someone in no state to consent will be pressured to do so.

The “he” spotted in this case is Haligon, and Tenna spots a perfect place to cause embarrassment and muck his clothes.

Tenna went right up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and when he turned around in response, the arch smile on his face turned to one of considerable interest at her appearance, his eyes lighting as he gave her a sweeping look of appreciation. He was looking so boldly that he did not see Tenna cock her right arm. Putting her entire body into the swing, she connected her fist smartly to his chin. He dropped like a felled herdbeast, flat on his back and unconscious. And right on top of some droppings.

Nice punch. As Tenna heads back, another “lad in brown” stops her and asks her what the hell is going on. She explains that it’s revenge for Haligon pushing her into sticklebushes, which stops the somewhat mirthful look on the other lad’s face cold when she shows him the healing injuries.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” And he sounded sincere, his expression somber. Then he gave his head a little shake and smiled at her, a trifle warily, but there was a look in his eyes that told her he found her attractive. “If you promise not to drop me, may I say that you don’t look at all like most runners I’ve met.” His eyes lingered only briefly on her bodice, and then he hastily cleared his throat. “I’d better get back and see… if Haligon’s come to.”

Of course, when Tenna gets back, she finds out that she flattened Horon, Haligon’s twin and a bad man in his own right, and was explaining herself to Haligon. The other girls don’t consider it a bad thing that Horon got knocked out, and they brush off Tenna’s worry when she sees Haligon headed to the runner station, because

“Torlo would love to remind him of all the harm he’s been doing runners.”
“Even if they weren’t as pretty as you are,” Cleve said.

And there’s that word again. Everyone seems to think that Tenna’s pretty, but nobody seems to have the presence of mind to keep it to themselves.

Tenna has business still, in acquiring her leathers, and there’s a piece at a tanner’s that she has her eye on, in nice emerald, a good color for a runner for her area. (Apparently, runners like to match their leather colors to the colors of the soil and ground around them, so the Southern Boll runners like red-browns.) The tanner quotes her nine marks as the price (which is the highest price I’ve heard at a Gather to this point, given that Piemur could get lots of bubbly pies for an eighth mark,) and everyone agrees it’s robbery at that price. And Tenna can’t afford it anyway, because she’s only got four. They look for other leathers that might suit for shoes, but don’t really find anything as spectacular.

Tenna is ready to give up and settle for something when Lord Groghe approaches them, asks for some time at a free table, orders drinks, and apologizes to Tenna in a low voice that won’t travel past the table. Groghe says Haligon is reckless, but he doesn’t knowingly cause injuries, and that Torlo had informed him about several other near-misses. Tenna accepts the apology and asks Groghe to make sure that riders stay off the runner traces.

“I have been well and truly told off, Runner Tenna.” He smiled back at her, his eyes dropping for a split second to her bodice. “You’re a very pretty girl. Blue becomes you.” He reached over and gave her hand a pat before he rose. “I’ve told Torlo the incursions will cease.” Then in his usual booming voice, he added, “Enjoy the Gather, runners, and the wine.”

Does Tenna have some sort of curse on her that every person around her has to tell her that she’s pretty? Because this is well past ridiculous, especially given the description Groghe gets a few paragraphs later.

“But Lord Groghe’s a fair man, even if he usually thinks women are half-wits. But he’s fair.” Then [Rosa] giggled again. “And he said how pretty you are, so that helped, you know. Haligon likes his girls pretty. So does Lord Groghe but he only looks.”

I would like to make a cutting remark here about only looking, but as far as I can tell, it’s accurate.

Haligon joins the table by unrolling the emerald leather that Tenna had her eye on in front of her and sincerely apologizing for the trouble he caused. And then, after getting her apology, asks her for a dance.

Tenna pretended to consider. But she was secretly thrilled, for despite their first encounter, there was something about Haligon that she found very attractive.

And here’s where I start I steam up a tad, because we’ve left the Comedy of Errors and are much more into the territory of Much Ado or the Taming of the Shrew, and I want, just once, for someone to go through the story without ending up falling in love with someone, even though she’s pretty.

Haligon asks if Tenna will be his meal partner, and she accepts.

Tenna returned to the station long enough to put away the beautiful leather. And long enough to get many requests for dances and to be supper partner from other runners who congratulated her.
“Told ya so, dinnit I?” Penda said, catching Tenna’s arm as she was leaving. The woman was grinning from ear to ear. “Pretty girl’s always heard, ya know.”

The word reappears. And again on why Tenna gives Golly first dance with her.

as much because he didn’t expect to get any dances from such a pretty girl as because he asked her first

…and I’m just…rgh.

In any case, Haligon joins Tenna for the next dance, a slower one, “despite the fact that half the male runners at the Gather were now crowding about for a chance to dance with her.” He pulls her in close, and they talk about why she runs and he continues to apologize for his actions as he realizes the severity of what he’s done. There is one more comedy moment where Tenna asks if Haligon paid asking price for the leather, and Haligon refuses to say how much, even though everyone knew how much Haligon needed that leather as apology.

After dancing, Haligon takes Tenna to the shadow of a deserted stall.

She smiled to herself, rehearsing a number of deft rejections if she needed them.

Okay, so she’s not fallen that far for him. That helps some, although there’s a fair amount of kissing going on despite this rejection preparation.

They kissed quite a bit between dances. He was far more respectful of her person than she expected. And said so.
“With the punch you can deliver, my girl,” he answered, “you can bet your last mark I’m not about to risk my brother’s fate.”
He also found other chilled drinks for her to drink instead of more wine. She appreciated that even more.

Which makes me upset – he’s not respecting her as a person, he’s respecting the fact that she can knock him out with a punch. I suspect that in any other story, Haligon is not nearly as gentlemanly as he’s being portrayed here. And so the continued problem of men not respecting women on Pern continues. We can probably thank Groghe and his attitude toward women for that.

Haligon and Tenna do the toss dance, which we finally get details about – apparently, the idea is for the men to throw their partners high enough in the air for them to do a full rotation before being caught. (Kind of like in pairs figure skating or ice dancing.) Tenna and Haligon are a good enough team that Tenna can turn a couple rotations in her dress and execute a finale that leaves Tenna only a little bit above the dance floor when she’s caught by Haligon.

Torlo then tells Tenna she’s on the list to run in the morning, so Tenna calls bedtime and Haligon asks her if she’s wanting to see him more in the future, when he has his own holding and is going to try and breed “runners…beasts, that is.”

“I might.” She smiled up at him. This Haligon was more of a temptation to her than he knew.
Now he smiled back at her, a challenge sparkling in his eyes. “We’ll just have to see, won’t we?”
“Yes, I guess we will.”
With that answer, she be him a quick kid on the cheek and ducked into the station before she said more than she ought right now after such a limited acquaintance. But maybe raising runners–both kinds, four-legged and two–in the west wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

And, story. That’s the end, and my hopes for Tenna staying a childfree career runner are pretty much gone. There was so much promise there.

But, then again, the narrative was doing its utmost to tell us that Tenna was pretty as a way of making sure we knew what kind of story we were really in, and that there would be romance before all was done. So I suppose I shouldn’t have gotten hopeful about it.

And, here at the end, I guess I haven’t actually learned a whole lot more about the world than when I started. Just a look in on a runner and the way that runners work. And a romance.

Well, I guess that means we’re on to another novel, The Skies of Pern, next. Which is putting us close to the point in time where Pern turns over to a new person.

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Deconstruction Roundup for May 25th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is ready for gaming things this weekend.)

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

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 a need for assistance in mundane or magical matters. Or for any other reason, really.

Runner of Pern: A Peek At Another Craft

Last time, we had to deal with the fact that the previous book was put in place so that someone would feel a bit better about the sudden departure of Robinton, and so that the author could try and make changes to the timeline while pretending not to do so.

Thankfully, as a bit of a breather, we have Runner of Pern.

Runner of Pern: Content Notes: Background Radiation Sexism

In the guide I’ve been using for which things to tackle next, this is slotted in quite late in the sequence, but noted that I could have read it any time after the first book. This suggests a very high degree of stand-alone-ness.

Our viewpoint character is Tenna, an apprentice express delivery runner, who is in the middle of a long-distance delivery run, which gives her a convenient way to gush over the people who founded the runner stations (a practice that arose during First Fall) and their ability to cover legendary amounts of ground on any given day.

Lopers had been able to put themselves in some sort of trance which not only allowed them to run extended distances but kept them warm during snowstorms and freezing temperatures. They had also planned the original traces, which now were a network crisscrossing the entire continent.

Also importantly, runnerbeasts are too expensive for the average person (as they should be), and drums are great for short messages when the weather is good, so letters get carried in pouches by human runners.

The traces are also apparently easy to tell from the space around them – the springy texture changes to something else when you stray from the path.

We are told that Tenna has runner in her bloodline, sufficiently so that her mother tells her “It’s for how long, not will you, for a female” in regard to Tenna’s nervousness about whether she’ll be selected to be a runner. Which is nice – it’s been a while since we’ve seen a group that’s perfectly fine with having women in it and not caring all that much about sexist crap.

Even better, Tenna might be our first explicitly childfree character.

Tenna had decided a long time ago–when she had first been considered old enough to mind her younger siblings–far she’d prefer running to raising runners. She’d run until she could no longer lift her knees. She’d an aunt who never mated: ran until she was older than Cesila was now and then took over the management of a connecting station down Igen way. Should something happen and she couldn’t run anymore, Tenna wouldn’t mind managing a station. Her mother ran hers proper, always had hot water ready to ease a runner’s aching limbs, good food, comfortable beds, and healing skills that rivaled what you could find in any Hold.

I’m quite sure that the narrative will do something about this by the end of it all, but it’s nice to have someone saying they’re not interested in kids, and to have an aunt who didn’t have any sex at all. I knew these people had to exist in Pern. It’s terrible that it’s taken this long to see one.

Mallum, a runner that Tenna is familiar with, is scheduled to give her the Runner final exam, but he comes in hobbling and Cesila immediately sets to healing the heel that’s been injured, and Mallum sets to hitting on everyone that’s helping him heal up.

“And is this the lass of yours as is to be taken for a run?” he asked, relaxing his expression from the grimace he’d made when the poultice was first applied. “Prettiest of the bunch.” And he grinned at Tenna.
“Handsome is as handsome does,” Cesila said. “Looks is all right but long legs is better. Tenna’s her name.”
“Handsome’s not a bad thing to be, Cesila, and it’s obvious your daughter takes after you.”
Cesila sniffed again but Tenna could see that her mother didn’t mind Mallum’s remarks. And Cesila was a handsome woman: lithe still and slender, with graceful hands and feet. Tenna wished she were more like her mother.

So Mallum looks Tenna up and down and pronounces her a good body type for running. The next day, after rest, Tenna and Mallum go out on a short run, after Tenna shows Mallum her runner shoes, which have cleats or spikes on them. The spike length varies based on the toughness of the ground. Mallum also checks Tenna’s clothes to make sure she’s not going to get blisters and that she’s warm enough to run before they set out. And dragons fly overhead by coincidence before disappearing into hyperspace.

The next day starts with Mallum giving advice to Tenna about running, a lecture she has heard many, many times before from other runners and her relatives. Runners are also described as carrying small things like numbweed or poultices and wearing a very specific long-tailed orange headband in addition to their message pouches. And the nuclear disaster-level background radiation of sexism continues, even as Tenna yes keeping good pace with Mallum.

“Running with a pretty girl’s not hard to do,” he told her when they took one brief pause.
She wished he didn’t make so much of her looks. They wouldn’t help her run any better or help her become what she wanted to be: a top runner.
[…and they stop at the destination station…]
Old Irma came out with a grin on her sun-dried face for them.
“Will she do, Mallum?” the old woman asked, handing each a cup.
“Oh aye, she’ll do. A credit to her Bloodline and not a bother to run with!” Mallum said with a twinkle in his eye.
“I pass, do I, Mallum?” Tenna asked, needing to have a direct answer.
“Oh, aye,” and he laughed, walking about and shaking his legs to get the kinks out even as she was doing. “No fear on that. Any hot water for m’poultice, Irm?”
[…there’s water and conversation…]
“Not when I’d a chance to run with such a petty girl,” Mallum said.
“Just like a man,” Irma said dismissively.
Tenna felt herself blushing, although she was beginning to be he wasn’t just teasing. No one else had ever commented on her looks.

I like Tenna a lot so far. (And I’ve checked the copyright on this work – 1999. This might be an author starting to catch up with the times. Or so we can hope.) And Irma, too. Mallum, on the other hand, certainly seems like the kind of person that is right at home on Pern.

So Tenna takes a message back home, where she’s congratulated on joining the runners officially and then comes a quick montage of Tenna running local routes and ending up being the only runner that can take a priority message northward into a snowstorm, which nets her “extra stitches on her belt, marking her rise toward journeyman rank” for her excellent time made. Which is the first time I have heard the Runners are arranged in a guild structure like other Crafts, and now I want to know a lot more about how that gets done. Because presumably it’s all about good time.

When we get back to Tenna, she’s taking a run to Fort, and we learn that runners are good at spotting useful herbs and that they carry tablets that can be chewed to ease cramps in the leg. And there’s the possibility of renegades (which would not have made any sense if I had started with this before doing Renegades of Pern), although the only known acts of violence against runners happened at Lemos and Bitra (no surprises there). Tenna is mostly concerned about the possibility of tunnel snakes, and is hoping that she has enough time to stay over for the Gather at Fort and get some more leather using “runner-station chit.” and possibly bargaining a bit with it.

Something catches her ears, and once she figures it out, Tenna has to fling herself off the runner trail as a person on a runnerbeast thunders by. And then, after the danger has passed, has to make sure that she doesn’t get any complications or needles working their way in from the sticklebush that she threw herself into. Which makes her incredibly cranky about why there was a rider on the runner traces and all the potential damage and delay that could have happened to the messages. No further mishaps happen and Tenna reaches her waypoint, taking some time to heal and complain about the rider, whom the staff of Three Hundred (as all the runner stations are known solely as numbers) know and suggest that he was running an experiment (as well as trying to cut a half hour of time off the trip).

“You’d better tell him. Maybe a pretty runner’ll get it through his thick skull because the odd crack or two hasn’t.”
His reaction made Tenna feel that her anger was righteous. It’s one thing to be angry on your own, another to have confirmation of your right to be angry. She felt redeemed. Though she couldn’t see why being pretty would be an advantage if you were giving someone what-for. She could hit just as hard as the ugliest runner she’d ever met.

This person will later praise Tenna’s good time and say that it “[s]hows you’re not just a pretty face.” So there’s this tension between Tenna being pretty and being effective, which is really much closer to the Terra of our times than a far-future/past society.

Tenna goes up for a soak for her tired muscles, and we note the description of massage tables and oils in a place and time that doesn’t seem like massage of that nature would exist, but perhaps that art survived or was rediscovered quickly as runners become a worldwide network. And because it’s Fort, it has the benefit of easy hot water. The station master’s wife comes by to put some medicine in the tub to help pull out the slivers and figure out how Tenna wants to spend the night.

And also to talk to her about Haligon.

“Pretty runner girl, you are. You give Haligon what-for next time you see him.
“How’ll I know him?” Tenna asked acerbically, though she dearly wished a confrontation with the rider. “And why is ‘pretty’ a help?”
“Haligon likes pretty girls.” Penda gave an exaggerated wink. “We’ll see you stay about long enough to give him what-for. You might do some good.”

Okay, so I’m all in favor of people complimenting an athletic build (as Tenna presumably has, having trained to be a runner from early on) as pretty. It continues to feed the idea that the author has a preference for women with smaller chests and thinks of them more as heroes than women with more classically sexy builds, but apart from that, it’s fine.

That said, the repetition of the word pretty is starting to sound like a plot point. After Tenna soaks, gets massaged and slivers plucked from her by Penda, and has a nap, she shows up to dinner. After everyone shakes their head at Haligon’s recklessness (and tells her that Groghe was informed about the near-miss), the word reappears again.

“You’ll be right then. I’ve seen your kin on the traces, haven’t I? Betchur one of Fedri and Cesila’s, aincha?” He smiled knowingly at the others. “You’re prettier than she was and she was some pretty woman.”
Tenna decided to ignore the compliment and admitted to her parentage. “Have you been through Station Ninety-Seven?”

It’s like the narrative is telling us that we shouldn’t believe Tenna’s desire to be childfree and run, because she’s too pretty to accomplish this task. Given what we know about the author’s willingness to use force as “romance”, I’m edgy about the possibility that Tenna may not get a choice.

Tenna’s remaining injuries are noticed, examined, and a Healer sent for to make sure that she’s going to be fine from the sticklebush. Tenna doesn’t want the healer, because healers cost and that would mean she couldn’t get good leathers at the Gather. Torlo points out that since one of Groghe’s runnerbeasts caused the incident, Groghe will pick up the tab for the Healer. Journeyman Beveny does three good things immediately on arrival – he asks Penda to help, he conducts the examination publically, and he listens to what the runners are suggesting as medicines to draw out the remaining slivers that Tenna might have. (Tenna is embarrassed by the attention, but recognizes it as runner standard, based on her own observations at Ninety-Seven.) Beveny mixes and applies a poultice, notable for not being too hot when applied, and then leaves with the idea of checking on Tenna tomorrow. And then dinner happens, with runners being drafted to get Tenna food, drink, and utensils, on the idea that Tenna shouldn’t move. (The embarrassment returns to Tenna over the attention, but she again remembers it as runner standard.) Others help her to bed.

The next morning, there’s still one sliver stuck in her, so Beveny leaves more poultice, and something to soak in the tub with. Tenna is wondering why all the attention, and Torlo points out that he wants the Healer to see the injuries so that when they complain about Haligon, the Healer will back them up. Beveny also insists Tenna stay resting, lest she re-infect the wound with the dust and dirt of running. This puts her in Fort for the Gather, as she wants, but leaves her without clothes for the party. Rosa and Spacia offer to lend her clothes, except nothing they have would fit her, and in a flash of inspiration, they take Tenna to Silvina at the Harper Hall to get fitted. Silvina has a practiced eye and puts her in a near-perfect dress…but Tenna needs some padding in the chest to fill it out correctly. (Which gets done by Silvina, and then stitched into place.) Spacia has a bit of a laugh about being to pad herself, but preferring that to being top-heavy and bouncing around.

I’m a bit surprised nobody has created a sport bra or a binder that would help with that problem, but I continue to be surprised at the things that Pern lacks that I would have expected to have been developed by now.

Everyone smiles at Tenna, having it in their head that she should look her very best when she gives Haligon the business.

The next day, the last known sliver pops out, and Tenna takes a short run to the docks to collect ship manifests and mail and doesn’t pay much attention to the soreness in her shin on the way back. Day after that is Gather day, and Tenna is enchanted with everything, even if Rosa and Spacia are skeptical about the return of Thread, despite the astronomical indicators working.

The two others point out Haligon, and that makes Tenna get on board with making herself as pretty as possible before she gives him what-for. And admits to herself that she might be pretty.

The girls hatch a plan, based on a lack of runner cords, that Tenna might be mistaken as a Harper when she rattles Haligon’s cage. Rosa’s dress rips, and she sends Tenna to collect Cleve, Rosa’s intended, away from Felisha, who has designs on him as well. Cleve is all too happy to take an excuse to leave Felisha, who acts as a Clingy Jealous Girl.

This is where we get Tenna’s plan: to trip Haligon somewhere publically, like the dancing square. (In addition to charges being leveled like reckless behavior and causing a loss of income.)

Tenna and Cleve wander the stalls, where she gets a glimpse of herself in a Glasscraft mirror and almost doesn’t recognize herself. She Cleans Up Nicely, I guess.

Here’s a good place to stop, before anyone gets up to violence.

Trying to restart the weekend posts, also I could use help

(posted by chris the cynic)

I’m not going to look it up, but I figure it’s been at least six months since we had a “This Week” post, and before that I was doing such a bad job of getting them up consistently that I drove away all contributors months before that.

That said, there was never a problem with the idea, instead it was that I really screwed up the implementation.  So we’ll see if anyone submits anything, and then see where things go from there.

Here’s a reminder of what it’s all about:

The short version is that you can share things with everyone else by sending links and descriptions of the Slacktiverse Authors group email.  What things?  Well, there are three sections:

  1. The Blogaround
    • If you done something somewhere online and want to share it, it goes here
  2. In Case You Missed This
    • If you read something and want to share it, it goes here
  3. Things You Can Do
    • If you know of a person or cause who/that needs support, it goes here.

When things are up and running consistently submissions for 1 and 2 should be things you’ve made, posted, or encountered since the last time you submitted (even if it’s been way longer than a week) while submissions for 3 obviously need to be current (because otherwise they’re things you can’t do.)

The traditional version, on the other hand, goes like this:

The Submission Deadline for the weekend post is 20:00 (8PM) US Eastern Time Saturday.  (It’s not exactly enforced, but getting it in by then assures that it’s seen when the post is being made.)

Anyone who has submissions for the weekend post should send them in.  Some people wonder if they really deserve to be in the post.  The answer to that is always the same: You do.  So try not to be afraid and do try to send in submissions if you have them.

The sections of the weekend post are as follows:

The Blogaround

Any denizen of the Slacktiverse who has posted an article to their own website since they last submitted to a weekend post is invited, enticed, and cajoled to send a short summary of that article along with its permalink to the group email. That summary and link will be included in the next weekend blogaround. This will help to keep members of our community aware of the many excellent websites hosted by other members.

Remember, this is since you last submitted to a weekend post, not since the last weekend post. For example, if the last time you submitted was a month ago, everything you wrote since then is fair game.

In Case You Missed This

Readers of The Slacktiverse can send short summaries of, and permalinks to, articles that they feel might be of interest to other readers.  These should be sent, as you might expect, to the group email.

Things You Can Do

Anyone who knows of a worthy cause or important petition should send a short description of the petition/cause along with its url to the group email.

As noted in the title, I do need help.  It’s actually what got me to finally make a start toward reviving the weekly post after months of thinking about it but never doing anything.  It made me think of the fact that if the weekend post were still a thing, I could have just put this in “Things You Can Do”.

Apparently that thought was the push I needed.

As is generally the case when I need help, it’s about money.  (Paypal link.)

Things were actually looking unusually good (my high interest debt is now under $8,000) because of help from friends of friends, but then my food money was in limbo for a while, and (if I did my math right) I’m going to fall $731.43 short of paying the bills that are due this month.

Apparently it only takes a couple months without food money to make everything go from, “I’ve never been this hopeful about money,” to “I don’t know how I’ll manage to stay in my house.”

Deconstruction Roundup for May 18th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is ready for cinematic…something, tonight.)

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

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Vaka Rangi: Eruditorium 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 have engaged in some neat science programming this week. Or for any other reason, really.

The Masterharper of Pern: What Is The Sound Of One Man Snapping?

Last chapters, Robinton got a son, who is special needs, and an apprentice, who is incredibly talented and can soak up things like a sponge.

Fax engineered F’lon’s death, and the worst that happened to him is that his travel visa was immediately revoked, instead of his life.

The Masterharper of Pern: Chapters XVIII and XIX: Content Notes: “Mercy” infanticide ideation, fat-shaming, abuse,

This chapter opens with what should have been going on all the time – Nip reports, on his travels, that mysterious acts of sabotage are plaguing Fax’s territories. Timber burnt, grain blighted, mines collapsed, fishing ships disappear, rebellions in the provinces which are put down brutally, but otherwise nothing that overthrows Fax, but does keep his energy focused on trying to keep his territory together.

Terathel dies, Larad is confirmed, and there’s a problem in the account of such things.

There was a brief flurry when Larad’s elder half-sister, Thella, insisted that the Conclave had to hear her right to the Holding. Lord Tesner of Igen, the most senior of the Holders, was outraged at her impudence and refused her admittance. The other Lord Holders and Masters were only too happy to second his motion. Robinton looked for her during the following reception, wanting to see a woman who was brave enough to speak up as eldest in the Bloodline by there was no sign of her. He often wondered what happened to her because she disappeared from Telgar Hold shortly afterward.

I’m mostly calling bullshit on the idea that Robinton wanted to meet the brave girl, since he’s not doing too great on the bit where girls are flocking to the Hall. And the narrative makes no note of his vote on the proposal to reject Thella. The narrative is covering your ass, Robinton.

And tries to do so big time when this gem appears.

Robinton wished he had more contact with [F’lon’s sons], and not only because they were F’lon’s lads. He could have wished for one of them as his. He had once wished that Camo wouldn’t survive his first Turn, as so often happened to babies.

Cocowhat by depizan

Cocowhat by depizan

You are a terrible person, Robinton. And your attitude is still far too common among parents of disabled children, or children on the autism spectrum, and even here in 21st century Terra, we have people praising infanticide as a way of relieving the poor suffering parent of their burdensome child.

Furthermore, what’s happened to the state of medicine if we’ve gone from “we can perform an appendectomy on you” to a clearly high infant mortality rate. Midwifery and obstetric care can’t have taken that big a nosedive in this shirt time period, right?

Nip arrives, reports Fax is up to something, belatedly realizes what, and both he and Robinton ride to Ruatha to try and prevent the tragedy we already know has happened. Nip and Robinton realize they’re too late, and ride immediately to Fort to sound the alarm. The Lords ride in to demand Fax knock it off, and Fax calls them out to invade him, if they want him gone that bad, and threatens them that he’ll kill them all for trespass on his territory if they don’t get out by nightfall. The Lords leave, and then set to arguing about what they could have or should have done to get Fax to listen. Robinton splits off from that group, because he’s pissed and has no intention of listening to recriminations and what-ifs.

And yet, they apparently can’t unite enough right now, in their rage, to raise a force to surround Fax and then meticulously invade him from all sides and grind him into dust? They’ve had every pretext and justification in front of them. They’ve just seen slaughter and invasion. They have every right under the Charter to blockade, starve, and crush Fax. Why aren’t they?

Because the plot says we have to wait, or the continuity won’t line up. Some good the Charter has done, having been so meticulously retroactively applied to that continuity. It made much more sense when the Charter was lost to everyone.

The rest of the chapter is essentially Nip telling Robinton it was a bad idea to do the thing. Chapter XIX opens up with real progress on the matter: The Crafts, mostly silent to this point, say “get forked, Fax” and pull out as many of their personnel as they can and refuse, in the face of bribes and lucrative incentives, to go back to those spaces. The Healers are the only ones who don’t, Oldive says it’s a matter of principles, and nobody gives him or the Healers grief over it.

Then there’s a training montage, of sorts, that plays out over five Turns while Robinton (and everyone else, apparently,) waits for instability to topple Fax from the inside. Sebell turns out to be ferocious at physical exercises and a quick hand and mind in helping everyone else out, gathering his journeyman rank, and being sorely missed by Robinton on his year abroad at Igen. Sebell also suggests that Trailer, an excellent drummer with a penchant for shirking work and playing pranks, might be best apprenticed to Nip. Which is a smash, and Trailer becomes Tuck, Nip’s shadow and oh my gods the puns are terrible.

As much as Sebell is essentially young Robinton, Tuck is young Nip and delivers the news that someone is seriously sabotaging Ruatha, who is on their fourth (fifth?) steward without any ability to turn a profit.

“Hmm. That’s interesting. A kind of subtle rebellion?”
Tuck gave the sort of snort that Nip affected. “With that bunch of drudges? They’re the most useless incompetents I’ve seen. And since I’ve been north–” He gestured with a thumb. “–I’ve seen every sort of way to avoid hard work that’s been invented. And then some. The only jobs that get done in a halfway decent fashion are helped along by an overseer with a whip standing over the workers. Fax has only so many men and too many holdings.” He grinned broadly. “Though his supply of metal-knotted whips seems inexhaustible.”
[…]
“What could be happening there?” Robinton asked, more or less rhetorically. “If there is no one able to foment trouble, is it trouble, or pure carelessness on the stewards’ parts?”

The answer, I suspect, lies with Auric Goldfinger.

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.

Ruatha is on four or five here, and should be getting intense scrutiny from Fax as to why it can’t seem to do anything right. That should be opening up other opportunities for the outside forces to chip in and harry Fax and make him spread his resources dangerously thin. If the forces arrayed against Fax are interested in doing so, they could spark rebellion against him. But again, for plot reasons, nobody is doing anything, and it doesn’t make any sense. Even one Weyr of dragons would be enough to obliterate Fax many times over. Admittedly, that ruins their non-interference policy, but we’ve all forgotten Chalkin at this point, and I don’t think the dragons would suffer too much bad press for making Fax disappear.

And because the narrative still can’t let go of it, even in death, Jora is shamed.

Robinton had had the details from a letter sent to Master Oldive by Lord Raid’s journeyman healer, who had been brought by R’gul to try to keep the weyrwoman alive. Remembering how Jora had gorged herself at the Impression Feast–and that had been Turns ago now–he had no trouble believing that the woman had died of overeating. The healer had been appalled at the state she was in and had agreed that she should be interred between.

Cocowhat by depizan

Oh, wow. So now we get to the point where Jora is apparently so grotesque that even in death everyone agrees she should be dropped off in hyperspace rather than being buried in ground (as, presumably, the rest of everyone is). And “overeating” is not a cause of death. Choking is. Heart attack is. Suffocation is. Any one of a number of complications that can happen to someone is. But “overeating” is not a cause of death.

Furthermore, nobody seems to have given a tunnel snake’s ass about why someone might feed themselves that significantly. We already know Jora was violently afraid of heights. (And that Pern has no psychiatrists or psychologists.) Did having bulk help her feel more connected to the ground?

Did Jora have a condition that made her feel perpetually hungry, or one that made making fat way easier than burning it? What kind of food insecurity did Jora experience, and how much of that might be driving her choices regarding food and the way her body stored energy? The healers of a far future, pseudo-Latin Christendom society sound far too suspiciously like the medics of our own time, both in being willing to chalk up any malady to Death Fat and in refusing to consider any other course of action other than “have you considered losing weight?” as viable. The narrative said Jora was fat at the beginning of the series as well, but it’s added an extra degree of fat-shaming in the interim.

Before the narrative dwells too much on this, a runner arrives with a message for Robinton to “do a Nip and Tuck” and make for Ruatha, because Fax and dragonriders are on a forced march there. Silvina and Sebell object to Robinton going, although Silvina eventually helps him perfect his drudge disguise.

So Robinton disguises himself and gets inside as a drudge to help clean the place up before Fax gets there, then gets sent down to take care of Fax’s animals. And there’s a moment that would be good character development if it weren’t such a non-apology.

Although he knew very well that the drudges in the Harper Hall and Fort Hold were well cared for, he discovered a heretofore unexpected sympathy for those whom life had deprived of the wit or energy to achieve more than such lowly positions.

Because unless you’re visibly disabled, it can’t be the machinations of a system designed to make most people subsistence farmers and essential house slaves as to why you’re a drudge. You must be too lazy to apply yourself to better things.

Robinton eventually manages to trade himself up to guard thanks to a clothes change and therefore get himself in the room where it happens. I’m glossing over the fact that all the drudges and soldiers have rough speech phonetically rendered so as to make them bumpkins rather than the smooth-spoken Harpers and Lords. So we get to see the same scene from the beginning of the series from the perspective of Robinton, with the exception that apparently Robinton can feel ripples of power in the room (remember, the series started with the idea that Lessa had some amount of psi power and was using it), but knows it isn’t the dragons or their riders that are the source of it. And a few other touches.

“Oh, dead, dead, poor Gemma. Oh, Lord Fax, we did all we could, but the journey…” She ran to where Fax was sitting.
Casually Fax slapped her and she fell sobbing in a heap at his feet.
Robinton saw [the eventual Benden Weyrleader] reach for his dagger hilt. Women in the Weyr were rarely treated in such a harsh manner. It would definitely go against a dragonrider’s grain.

Excuse me while I laugh at this idea, given how the Benden Weyrleader will treat Lessa. Robinton should be more concerned that the son will die in the same way as the father. But that is not mentioned, and the scene continues, with Robinton noting the drudge (Lessa) is much less drudgey than she was when she left, before Fax punches her out and then gets into the fight with the Benden Weyrleader. At the utterance of the “dragonwomen” sneer, Robinton makes the comparison, noting that the son has his temper much better in hand than the father did.

Fight, death, et cetera. The younger of the two sons asks if anyone else wants to contest the outcome, and then Robinton finally gets a “second good look” at Lessa and recognizes who she is supposed to be. He also immediately tags her as the source of the strange behavior and waves of power, because she’s a full Ruatha-blooded woman, and the narrative really hopes we haven’t been fans since the beginning, so that we don’t notice the tinkering to get the old to rejoin the new.

Nip frightens Robinton by appearing, and then Robinton users his position and the friendly dragonriders to convince Fax’s remaining soldiers to head back without further issues. They set to getting rid of the body, getting Jaxom a nurse, and getting word out for successors to go in and claim their holds back. And the book ends with the watch-wher trying to protect Lessa and her disappearance to Benden.

The acknowledgements right after, on the other hand, rather than being a retread of narrative, are quite fascinating.

As usual, I am indebted to a variety of people for their help and input in writing this volume, not the least of whom is Master Robinton (aka Frederic H. Robinson), who was quite upset that I had ended his life so abruptly. I would suspect it of a tenor, but for a baritone to insist on another encore is almost unheard of. But I have recently been asked–via the impressive Del Rey Web site–to explain certain facts that had not previously been brought to light about Pern pre-Dragonflight history. As Robinton had a fine Pernese hand in most of it, it behooves me to tell the story from his viewpoint.
[…]
This time, my gratitude to Marilyn and Harry Alm as first readers is immense since they saved me from several time discrepancies and inconsistencies. Their knowledge of Pern is extensive and better remembered than mine at times.

And there’s also many thanks to the musical helpers.

But that acknowledgement pretty well admits this book is Retcon: the Novel for Pern. And why it has such a hagiographic viewpoint toward Robinton and wanted to remake him into a much better person than he is.

I chuckle slightly at the comment about avoiding discrepancies and paradoxes, given that this is what the series book and the continuity editor is for, but also that the entire published canon is still being published, and so one could theoretically look things up as needed. But also a bit because having timeline readers when you are trying to rework the timeline entirely strikes me as the person who fixes the obvious holes and then leaves the things that are going to become holes soon enough as “repeat business.”

And so, we put another novel in the books and instead turn our eyes to one of the short stories, “Runner of Pern,” which might shed some light on the network of communications that traverses the planet.

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