Monthly Archives: September 2018

Deconstruction Roundup for September 28th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who made a decision and is riding out the part of their brain telling them they are making a grand mistake.)

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 Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are telling your brain that you are going to be okay because it believes very firmly you are going to be unprepared for the next disaster. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Kin: Goodbye Ally

Last week, we puzzled over why there aren’t more watch-whers in service for the mines, I got extremely mad that someone who wilfully disregarded safety protocols is still around, and the plot says there’s a wedding about to happen. Fun.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter II: Content Notes: Weaponized Anger

New additions to the song mean what we have so far is:

In early morning light I see,
A distant dragon come to me.
Its skin is bronze, its eyes are green;
It’s the loveliest dragon I’ve ever seen.

The narrative itself stays with Kindan being rudely awakened by Sis (Silstra, who is getting married) and then dumped out of bed by Kaylek, who seems to have acquired the bully family member role for this story. Kindan was hoping for more sleep to remember his dream, because it had his mother in it. This is important because his mother died during his birth, and while Sis and his father don’t blame him for this, all of the other siblings in the family apparently do.

Is it just not a thing in these stories for people to have all of their parents alive and healthy?

The narrative then illustrates that Sis might be Kindan’s only ally among the siblings, as Jakris, an older brother, forces him to toss out the washwater and clean the basin it was in, since he used it last of all of them, which guarantees Kindan is the last to eat breakfast. Additionally, were it not for Sis turning them around and making them clean their own dishes, the other siblings would have left all the dishwashing for Kindan.

I would not be surprised at all if Kindan has very strong opinions about whether he wants his sister to marry.

Kindan is told to go see Janella for his chores, but habit (and wanting to avoid making Sis unhappy) takes him to the mine entrance, where he thinks it might be a good idea to change out the glowbaskets, even though the mine is closed. Hearing voices in the mine, he calls out and meets an old man who tells him he’s supposed to be at the Harper’s cottage. After Kindan leaves, a young girl who remains hidden from view offers to take the old man through a shortcut that will get him to the Harper’s cottage before Kindan, and who has the same sort of giggle as the unknown person who diverted Kaylek in the last chapter. But we follow Kindan instead, where Zenor tells him that they’re auditioning to sing at the wedding, and that Kaylek (who can’t stay in tune and apparently sounds like a gravel slide) has already been told he’s not suitable. He enjoys singing, the narrative tells us through Kindan, but he doesn’t have the talent.

When called in to the cottage, Kindan recognizes the old man’s voice and is ready to tell him off for entering without permission, only for his brain to catch up to him and realize the old man is a Harper and belongs there. Kindan gets chewed out for being rude, the Harper insults Kaylek, and then the audition begins in earnest, after the Harper notes his specialty and Mastery is in voice and uses his voice and projection to try and intimidate the two boys. Then we get his name, Master Zist.

Zist has faint echoes of Shonagar, in that he spends a significant amount of time yelling at the boys about their posture and breathing before they start singing, but he’s needlessly cruel to Kindan, having him practice a difficult song for the wedding through lunch and using the circumstances of Kindan’s birth against him.

“You are not listening to me! You do not pay the slightest attention. You can master this song, you just choose not to. Oh, you are such a waste! To think your mother died giving birth to you! You’re not worth it at all.”

Unsurprisingly, Kindan quits the cottage in a rage, and almost immediately runs into his sister, who is all starry-eyed about how the man who taught their mother her favorite song is here. Kindan gets an idea from this, goes back to the cottage, and sings back to Zist that same song. We only see the first four lines of it, which conveniently happen to be the four lines of song that we’ve collected so far from the beginning of the two chapters.

“In the end, he looked truculently at the Master and said” I can, too, sing. My sister says that I can sing as well as my mother. My sister says that I am worth it. And my father, too. And they should know–they were there when I was born.” Tears streaked down his face, but he didn’t care. “My sister said that my mother’s last words were that I wouldn’t need much caring but I’d be worth it.”
Master Zist was in shock. “That voice,” he muttered to himself. “You have her voice.” He looked up at Kindan and there were tears in his eyes, too. “Lad, I’m sorry. I get should have said…I had no right…Could you sing it again, please? You have the same lyric quality she had.”
[Kindan tries, but he’s still choked up with grief and anger, and Master Zist goes to get tea to help ease his throat.]
“I drove you too hard, lad. I have never driven a student so hard. I shouldn’t have done it to you, either. It’s just that–that I want this to be the best day for your sister and your father. I want to give them that.”
“So do I,” Kindan said.

And here I feel the influence of the new author as well. Students who talked back to the masters or flounced like that were likely to be beaten in the original run. Here, instead, Kindan manages to bowl over the Master (and who turns out to be the MasterHarper) and get him to apologize for treating Kindan like shit.

Based on this exchange, I also want to know what kind of relationship Master Zist had with Kindan’s mother, because I wouldn’t expect sounding like someone to reduce a Harper to tears if there wasn’t special significance to it.

With a proper relationship established, Zist abandons trying to force Kindan to sing what he wants and instead decides to work with what’s available and familiar, which is what he should have been ready to do as soon as he arrived. The two of them have a conversation about how Dask, the watch-wher, can fly at night and they conclude that perhaps the air is heavier at night and that helps Dask get aloft. Zist makes note to investigate it further when he gets back to the Harper Hall.

Given that we’ve already established watch-whers can use hyperspace and are bonded, likely telepathically, to a human, it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch for them to have or use the telekinetic abilities to augment their otherwise anatomically unhelpful wings and get themselves aloft. And they would fly at night because of the high photosensitivity of their eyes.

But since this is the Third Pass, and we haven’t recovered that scientific data yet, it’s entirely plausible to believe the “thicker air provides more buoyancy” suggestion, based on what is observable.

Kindan and Zist rehearse better, although Kindan learns the hard way that proper singing is exertion of the body and the muscles, before Danil arrives with a fresh suit of clothes. Zist has tea and pastries available. We learn there’s a trader custom for a bride and groom to spend their wedding night in a trader caravan, and that the MasterTrader of Crom insisted that tradition be followed.

Kindan is sent outside while Danil and Zist talk, and with nothing better to do, Kindan wanders and thinks about how the camp will change when it’s time for Thread. He not sure he actually wants to be a miner, nor is he particularly keen on the idea of being stuck under stone for fifty years. But he rationalizes it away by saying that firestone, coal, iron, tin, nickel, copper, and salt are all necessities of Pern, and by thinking about all the things that Dask can do now (a canary that can dig and haul ore, and a useful help for night shift miners) and the plans that Danil has for Dask. Even that, though, is mostly experience-based rather than any formal education, although there’s the possibility that Kindan might be considered to stand for a watch-wher egg (which sounds a lot like the Impression ceremony, just without the fanfare). Danil calls Kindan back for more rehearsal, Zist cryptically remarks that Danil is “quite a man” before beginning, and then we’re off to the wedding.

Kindan isn’t sure he looks anything more than silly, but Zist reassures him that he looks fine. We learn that traditionally, weddings are performed so that the sun rises as the vows are completed, but because Dask is part of the ceremony, it will be at sunset instead, with a bonfire lit as the vows are completed.

Dask can, indeed, fly, and like the fire lizards, sings with the music while using glows to illuminate both bride and groom as they make their entrances. The wedding goes off without a serious hitch (Zenor forgets his entrance because he’s still marveling at Dask, and Kindan has to improvise his song a little bit to accommodate Dask singing along), and as Kindan is headed back to change into his everyday clothes, he meets Nuella, who asks him to bring her to the party. Kindan recognizes her, but willingly helps her get to the party and get food to eat before going off to a spot where Nuella won’t have to worry about being seen.

Zenor is already there, and Nuella contrives a spilled cup to get Kindan to head back to the party and replace it. Nuella and Zenor talk, both about how Kindan thinks Nuella is a trader girl, rather than her real identity as Dalor’s twin (and therefore Natalon’s daughter). There’s an unstated reason as to why Nuella wants to stay hidden, but it involves a fear of Natalon’s. Zenor notes that Nuella can’t stay hidden forever. Nuella wants Zenor to teach her how to dance, at some point in the future.

Kindan, for his part, gets sent off to bed by Kaylek on his fourth trip for food, and wakes up cold (because a brother has stolen all the blankets) and then realizes the regular routine he’s accustomed to is no longer going to happen, because Sis will be gone. So he makes fire and breakfast and klah, and the oldest, Dakin, is happy to not have to do it himself, and accompanies Kindan to the trader caravan to bring klah to the happy couple and say his goodbyes. Journeyman Jofri is also going with the caravan, and gives Kindan advice about Master Zist, as well as an admonition that “He’s been through hard times” that I’m very interested in learning more about. The rest of the family and much of Natalon’s arrive to also say their goodbyes, and the trader caravan is off. Danil thanks Natalon for the wedding, and Natalon signals that it’s time to get back to work. That ends Chapter II.

Kindan is probably in for some changes.

Deconstruction Roundup for September 21st, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who somehow managed to get some nice feedback from a work they weren’t sure worked at all.)

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 Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are considering burning a significant amount of your reserves to fix a terrible problem. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Kin: Away From The Weyrs

I’m thrilled you’re still here and wanting to continue. Of course, we might end up catching up to the current set of Pern at some point, which will be rather different to have to wait for new material to work with when we get there. There’s still a half-dozen or so books to work through first, however.

We’re in collaboration territory now. This is a dual-billed book, with the more famous author on the top of the book, and the lesser one underneath. It remains to be seen whether this is a true partnership between two people or whether this is more like James Patterson collaborations, where I suspect the “with” author did most of the work as Patterson did enough to get his name as the name that sells the book. It’s a chapters book rather than a parts book, which makes things easier for good stopping points, and we shall see if we can detect the influence of the second author on the first. In a perfect world, that would mean things get better, but we will have to see.

Dragon’s Kin: Prologue and Chapter I: Content Notes:

The SFnal prologue returns, and it’s sporting some new verbage. For example, we now have explicit mention that the settlers “had set out to create an idyllic, low-tech farmers’ paradise, escaping the ravages of the late Nathi Wars.” Which I find interesting, given that, at least for me, “low-tech” seems to have also meant that medical care and governmental structure also went very low-tech, with the results being the various plagues that afflict the population that’s been enclosed by Thread.

The new prologue also says First Fall happened eight years after the arrival of the colonists, which I’m very sure is a retcon of some sort, because that’s a nearly sensible amount of time for everything to have gotten set up to be taken by surprise by Thread.

Then we get the story of the abandonment of Southern, the genetic engineering of Kitti Ping that creates dragons, Wind Blossom’s “mistake” that creates watch-whers, and the reorganization of society into Lord Holders, Weyrleaders, and the Crafts, who are noted to be democratic institutions from the outset, in that their MasterCrafter (and this is now the official way to refer to the head of the craft, with the camel case) is always elected.

Here, though, the Prologue diverges from its predecessors in that it starts to set up the story proper, rather than talking in generalities about the glorious society and the awesome dragonriders. Partially because our setting for this story is the end of the Second Interval, and also because new author, I think. Where previous books in the series might use a part of Chapter One for a little bit of exposition, possibly from the viewpoint character, here the omniscient narrator takes care of it themselves.

The Prologue says that Pern relies on coal, mostly to forge steel for plows, wheels, and joints for dragonrider gear, and the easily-mined veins have been tapped out. So the MasterMiner, Britell, sends out journeymen with the techniques of mining into mountains and tells them that those who succeed in establishing themselves will be promoted to the Mastery. Britell’s secret favorite is Natalon, who shows “a willingness to experiment” and is taking watch-whers as well as miners to his camp.

[Natalon] had enlisted watch-whers, hoping to use their abilities to detect tunnel snakes and bad air–both the explosive gases and the odorless, deadly carbon monoxide which could suffocate the unwary.
From what Britell had heard, the watch-whers were something of a mystery–their abilities ignored as commonplace.
Britell planned on watching that Camp carefully, particularly keeping an eye on the work of the watch-whers be their bonded wherhandlers.

Cocowhat by depizan

(That may be a record for “fewest pages before Cocowhat.”)

I don’t mind that watch-whers fulfill the canary role for miners, but I do want to know how they learned about those abilities and also why they aren’t in widespread use in the mines. Tunnel snakes are a problem, sure, but we saw what kind of destruction got wrought when someone sparked a pocket of explosive gas when Shankolin was in the mines as punishment. And carbon monoxide is a silent killer. If they already know that watch-whers can protect against those things, then why isn’t every potential mine assigned a watch-wher for safety purposes? I can’t think of a feasible reason why they would be “ignored as commonplace,” save perhaps a mine whose entire inhabitants are prisoners and there is only a small amount of guards there to keep them in line. I know Pern has enough indifference to prisoner life that they wouldn’t invest in safety, but these are theoretically all miners and people that the narrative would think of as good.

Having set the stage, Chapter I begins, not with a temporal mark, but a rhyming couplet:

In early morning light I see,
A distant dragon come to me.

Since it sounds like a song, it’s probably going to be worth putting all of these couplets together if the author doesn’t do it somewhere in the text.

Our viewpoint character for Second Interval Pern is Kindan, and he is getting the best vantage point he can for what is eventually revealed to be a trader caravan (using “drays” – draybeasts – oxen? – to pull the wagon.) Furthermore, one of the residents of that caravan, Terregar, is betrothed to Kindan’s sister, and wedding preparations are in full swing at the camp.

Interspersed with this is a layout of the valley, as Kindan describes it, with temporary housing, coal processing facilities, the mine proper, a proper hold for when Thread returns, and the Harper’s quarters. (We do not seem to have any issues at this point with nonbelievers at the end of this Interval.)

Kindan, we find out, is the child of the watch-wher’s bondmate, Danil, and had the watch-wher, Dask, is “the camp’s sole remaining watch-wher.” Which says there were more, but the mountain’s dangers likely claimed the others.

I’m already starting to see the signs of influence from the new author, though, as we’ve learned more about watch-whers fan we have in all the previous books, and then there’s this sequence that gives us a much more realistic picture of how dragonriders are seen (and where they go):

The thought of Impressing a dragon, of becoming telepathically linked with one of Pern’s great fire-breathing defenders, was the secret wish of every child on Pern. But dragons seemed to prefer the children of the Weyr: Only a few riders were chosen from the Holds and the Crafts. And no dragon had ever visited Camp Natal on.
“You know,” Zenor continued, “I saw them.”
Everyone in Camp Natalon knew that Zenor had seen dragons; it was his favorite tale. Kindan suppressed a groan. Instead, he made encouraging noises while hoping that Zenor wouldn’t dawdle too much longer or Natalon would be wondering at the speed of his runner–and might remember who it was.

We might finally be getting a lower decks episode, now that at least partial control of the narrative and where it goes is in the hands of someone else.

As Zenor runs off, having collected Kindan’s message and extracted a promise from him to help wash the watch-wher as payment, we learn that Natalon is twenty-six and in charge of the camp, and that since the camp hasn’t yet become an official mine, Natalon isn’t “Lord Natalon” and nobody knows how to address him. Which makes me wonder how the order of titles works on Pern. In Natalon’s case, I would assume that in the lack of any other title, he should probably be addressed by his guild rank, Journeyman. Of course, that assumes there isn’t another title that could be used, or that Natalon isn’t the kind of person who would self-style to something before becoming an official Lord. Or Master, because proving the mine would also grant him his Mastery. So if the mine succeeds, which title gets used, and if they both do, which one comes first? Is he Lord Masterminer Natalon, Masterminer Lord Natalon, or something else? And if his successor is also a Masterminer, what then? Masterminer Alain, Lord Natalon?

Zenor opts for grabbing Natalon’s sleeve, which interrupts him in an argument. Tarik, whom scuttlebutt says is pissed that he didn’t get to lead the camp and is actively trying to show Natalon as unworthy, is fighting both Danil and Natalon about the importance and efficacy of the watch-whers, and where effort should be put with regard to roadways or mine supports. Zenor is also ill-disposed to Tarik because his son, Cristov, beat Zenor after Zenor unwisely insulted Tarik. We don’t know what the comment was, just that the resulting fight left bruises.

Ah, also, Tarik is Natalon’s uncle, which might also explain some of the animus.

“We must use our labor wisely, Uncle,” Natalon answered soothingly. “I decided it made more sense to fell more trees to use in the mines for shorings.”
“We can’t afford any more accidents,” Danil agreed.
“Nor lose any more watch-whers,” Natalon added. Zenor hid a grin as he saw Kindan’s father nod in fierce agreement.
“Watch-whers aren’t much use,” Tarik growled. “We’ve made do without them before. And now we’ve lost two, and what’ve we got to show for it?”
“As I recall, watch-wher Wensk saved your life,” Danil answered, his voice edged with bitterness. “Even after you refused to heed his warnings. And I believe that your abusive behavior is what decided Wenser to leave with his watch-wher.”
Tarik snorted. “If we had enough shoring, the tunnel wouldn’t have collapsed.”
“Ah!” Natalon interrupted. “I’m glad to hear that you agree with my reasoning, then, Uncle.”

I realize that the Pernese attitude toward the preservation of lives is, at its very best, callous, but in what universe does someone who ignored safety protocols and caused the deaths of others get to stay at that mine? Yes, there’s no OSHA, but it seems like that offense should have resulted in immediate expulsion. And if not that, severe consequences, regardless of whether that person is family. Even more so if it could be proven that their behavior drove away a vital safety check. To say that they’ve managed without the whers has an undertone of not actually caring about the death toll of the miners that come to work. Again, in a prison mine setting, this makes sense, but theoretically these are all volunteers and employees. They stand to profit tidily if they stay alive. Anyone reducing those chances, especially through a disregard for safety, is dangerous and should be sent away until they can prove they will obey the safety protocols.

Zenor takes a small detour on the way back to chat with Nuella, who is very eager to meet a new Harper, if one has come in the caravan, and is very tired of being inside all the time (at the insistence of her parents, apparently). Such that she plans to dress up in trader colors and dance at the feast tonight and nobody will be the wiser.

Kindan, for his part, at the feast mostly eats and listens for gossip. Right about the time the bubbly puts pies are ready, his just older brother, Kaylek, comes to tell him to wash the watch-wher, intending to prevent him from getting any pies. Danil saves him from that fate, but insists that the job be done very thoroughly after the bubbly pies. Danil then steers said son toward a craft girl he wants him to meet.

The rest of the chapter watch-wher washing, which is unremarkable, really, except that Kindan twigs to the fact that Zenor has someone shadowing him and asks about his detour earlier (but gets no details, even after that shadow is instrumental in diverting Kaylek from discovering Zenor and giggles a bit after Kindan heads to bed), and that watch-whers can go through hyperspace without needing a clear picture from their bondmate, something dragons supposedly can’t do (or don’t do, or whatever handwave is necessary for the disaster of Moreta to have happened / will happen). At least, that’s how I’m reading Dask disappearing to the pond to get a bath and then returning by the same method, because Danil is nowhere to be seen when this happens. Here’s another thing that dragons could learn from something they consider beneath them, but manage not to do in all those Passes and Intervals that the watch-whers have been around.

Next week, a wedding, I guess.

Deconstruction Roundup for September 14th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is thinking about giving career advice and trying not to scare the person off..)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are more than ready to be done worth all the things that ail you. Or for any other reason, really.

Ever The Twain: A Jaxom Ploy

Last week, we met Nian and Neru, twins who might or might not have a telepathic bond with each other, who were plucked from their coastal hold on Search – the dragons were sure of Nian, and Nian hid Neru well enough from the dragons that they took him as well, just in case. There was some tacit admission that the Weyr lives a lot better than the Hold they came from does, a designated Mean Girl who turns out to also be a fainter at wounds everyone agrees were pretty nasty to see, and a day of chores and food for everyone.

Ever The Twain: Content Notes:

The second morning dawns with a gong alarm to wake everyone up. Nian is a bit disoriented, but still very focused on the idea that Neru needs to Impress. As morning chores are being assigned, the dragons start humming to indicate the hatching is about to start, and everyone heads back, full of nerves, to change and go to the grounds. Nian sees Robina while she’s washing up and the narrative isn’t willing to cut Robina a break.

Robina was in the washroom, vigorously brushing her blond hair with her fingers.
“I don’t think the dragons will notice your hair, Robina,” Nian said encouragingly, but the girl glared at her.
“That’s all you know, twinling,” she snapped back, a petulant expression on her face. Her brushing increased in vigor, and she swore that she saw that sand still fell from her locks. “Let me alone,” she added nastily.

Yes, what a bitch Robina is, because she’s pretty, and blonde, and might still have sand in her hair despite her best efforts and someone is insulting her by referring to that hair after treating her poorly yesterday. There’s no way for Robina to know that Nian is being serious and nice with her comment. But the narrative is more than ready to pile on her for being upset at the protagonist.

And then it’s the hatching in earnest. As seems to be the case with all of the hatchings we’ve seen, a bronze pops out first and everybody says how that’s a good sign. The second egg to hatch is the queen, and this bit happens, because Robina deserves no sympathy:

Robina was already hastening toward the little queen, though she was clutching at her stomach as she approached. It amused Nian that the snotty Robina was also subject to nausea and nervousness.

Yet not a little while before, Nian declared in her own head that she would “die of shame if she spewed up all that porridge and redberry jam.” Empathy is still a finite resource on Pern, only for the deserving and the worthy.

Despite hearing a voice in her head declaring themself to be very hungry, Nian is still very focused on Neru, who is having some serious anxiety that everyone around him is Impressing and none of the dragons seem to be showing the slightest interest in him. Before he can get too far into that idea, though, the queen dragon trips Nian and walks up her back to get her attention, giving her a mental earful about how hungry she is and wondering if Nian can even hear her. Quinth, as she calls herself, has also given Nian a nosebleed by tripping her, and can’t really understand why Nian is so focused on her brother, instead of giving Quinth the attention and food she clearly deserves. Quinth does get fed. The Ista Weyrwoman comes by and helps Nian get clean, commenting on how it was obvious to everyone but Nian that Quinth wanted her from the moment her shell cracked. “Queens are very determined,” we’re told.

This turn of events, of course, sets off Robina.

“How did it happen that she was chosen by the queen and not me?” demanded Robina, standing in front of them, pointing an accusatory finger at Nian.
I didn’t choose her, Quinth said to Nian, flicking a wingtip at Robina in dismissal.
“Well, this is outrageous!” Robina retorted, as she dodged Quinth’s wing tip for fear of being pushed into the hot sands. When she regained her balance, Robina placed her hands on her hips while tapping one toe in the sands.
“There are green dragons hatching, Robina,” the Weyrwoman said pleasantly, pointing to the right. As Nian glanced in that direction, she saw Orla patting a green dragon with one hand and shoving meat toward it with the other.
“They are the most valuable dragons in Threadfall,” the Weyrwoman said. “And far more difficult to train. Take a challenge once in your lifetime, Robina. It would do you good.”

We haven’t met the Weyrwoman until now, and there’s no textual explanation as to why the Weyrwoman would know Robina by name and disposition. Perhaps we’re supposed to assume that Robina has been here long enough and loud enough to attract the Weyrwoman’s attention, being the daughter of the Masterfarmer might mean she was Searched first. And the author certainly seems to believe this is putting her in her place, except for one small thing…

Eyes wide with outrage, Robina stamped toward the exit, head high. Amazingly enough, a shiny wet green dragonet was stumbling after her as fast as it could go.

…all of those things that are supposed to be terrible about Robina underlie something quite positive, as she’s attracted the attention of a dragonet. I can’t tell why, honestly, unless this is supposed to be a final snub at her, that she’s good enough for a dragon, but not the one she wanted, or that we’re supposed to snicker at how quickly she’ll lose her snobbish demeanor as the lowest ranked dragonrider and/or how that attitude will be raped out of her over time as her green dragon rises to mate again and again. (Mirrim remained Mirrim with Path, so that’s no guarantee.)

As it is, Neru has come back to an egg that’s got a serious crack in it, and is verbally encouraging the dragon inside to break out. Nian moves to go help her, but the Weyrwoman holds her back.

“We’ve discovered that if an egg doesn’t crack on its own, the occupant is probably damaged and it is best to leave nature to take her course.”
“And let the dragon die?” Nian was appalled.

Well, shit. This confirms that we can’t be post-Ruth, then, because that would have overturned that kind of thinking, or at least made them think twice about it. This hatchling has made at least one crack in the shell, which is more than Ruth did, I believe, so there’s even more of a chance there’s a viable dragonet inside.

Nian asks her dragon for her advice, and finds out that her dragon may be much more suited to her personality than she wants to admit.

A Hatchling must break his own shell? she asked her dragon.
It shows the strength of the dragon within, Quinth informed her.
How do you know that? You’re only just hatched yourself.
There are things dragons know instinctively about other dragons, Quinth replied with a faint reproof in her mental tone.
But my brother has to Impress, Nian said in almost a moan, her eyes on the shell of the egg beside her brother, who was stroking the casing and urging its occupant to try again.
It is as hungry as I was, Quinth told Nian. It only needs food.
Tell the Weyrwoman so we can break its shell for Neru.
There are some things one must do for one’s self, Quinth replied. I made it and I was hungry. I am still hungry.
As Nian scraped another handful of meat out of the bowl, nearly the last, she had a sudden, decisive idea.

Nian puts two and four together and hatches yet another Indy Ploy, loudly declaring she needs more meat for the glutton and then telling Quinth to trip her as she passes by the egg. Quinth does so eventually, and surprise, surprise, Nian manages to put the heavy bowl right on the egg as she falls down, smashing enough of the egg to free the dragon within. Neru Impresses Larinth, a bronze, and Nian gives her some of Quinth’s food bowl to feed him with, which sets Quinth off that her rider was giving her food to some other dragon, but other riders immediately provide enough food bowls that Quinth has to shut up and swallow the meat being shoved in her mouth or choke on it.

The Weyrwoman and the Weyrlingmaster check Larinth out to make sure he’s okay, even as Quinth assures Nian that he is definitely okay in that same tone that suggests it’s obvious to her.

I still don’t understand why a Weyr wouldn’t want to try and improve their fighting strength, if the other dragonets know whether there a viable dragon in there or not, but apparently Pern is so hardcore Rand that apparently Kitti Ping programmed it into their DNA, and so no help is ever given to any dragon ever.

Having satisfied themselves with Larinth’s health, the Weyrwoman asks if Nian’s trip was as accidental as it seemed. Nian sticks to her story that Quinth was hungry and trying to get at the meat scraps in the bowl. I’m not sure anybody actually buys it, and Nian is pretty sure that the Weyrwoman didn’t buy it, and as the twins get helped off to the barracks, H’ran gives Nian a wink, suggesting he knows the truth, but there’s a live dragon who’s made an Impression, so nobody is really going to do anything about it. Conna comes to congratulate them, which makes Nian worry that she’s going to say something about the circumstances of their search, but she just grins and says, “It is always what the hatchling decides, my dear,” and that’s it. Nobody is going to say that Neru is somehow not legitimately a dragonrider. H’ran even seals it by using the contracted form of Neru’s name when they enter the space in a little while.

Once they actually get on their way to the barracks, we see that the green that was chasing Robina caught up to her, and Robina is intently and blissfully shoving food into the dragonet’s mouth.

All that’s left, really, is for Neru to thank Nian for all her help and admit that he had a giant fit of jealousy (his first about Nian) at the fact that Nian was very clearly Searched and he wasn’t. Nian confesses she was horrified at the thought of stealing his dream and being separated from him in the same day. Neru points out that as a queen rider and a bronze rider, they are going to be separated, since Nian’s queen will become a junior queen at some other Weyr, while Neru stays put at Ista. But since they both have dragons, Quinth reminds them, they’ll always be no more than a thought away, and never alone.

There’s a lot spoken about, but not actually elaborated on, how strong the bond might have been between the twins before the dragons, and what it might have been like if only Nian had Impressed, and hints, again, at what the economics of Pern are like, and not nearly enough of people standing a bit slack-jawed at how much nicer everything is in the Weyr compared to home. And why that might be.

Well, that’s it. Those were the last words that we have credited solely to Anne McCaffrey. At the first author, anyway, the Dragonriders of Pern is finished. Everything past this point attested to the series is officially attributed with or solely to her son, Todd. We can stop now, if you want. We can keep going, if you like – there’s at least seven more books’ worth if we go into and through Todd’s work. Or we can switch gears, if you like – there are other Anne series, or perhaps there are other works you’d like to go on a similar ride with.

It took a few years to get there, but we’ve ridden it out.

It’s been quite the time spent with all of you, and I’ve had a lot of fun (and cocowhats) trying to puzzle this thing out and resolve the narrative issues and prejudices and figure out how this place actually works. (Poorly.)

So there’s one more book series, with a co-authors credit between Anne and Todd, next, if we continue. About miners and watch-whers. It looks like it might be shedding some light on a spot that we haven’t seen in focus yet, which always makes me happy, and anticipate another continuity snarl.

If you’re in board with it, we’ll start Dragon’s Kin next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for September 7th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is dealing with a cough that refuses to go away, and that wants to escalate to complete blocked airways.)

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 Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are unsure of what to do next, now that you’ve reached a decision point in your life. Or for any other reason, really.

Ever The Twain: A Twin Story

Last time, we saw the beginning of what Pern will look like in the immediate aftermath, as the dragons wind down their protective duties (ish) and the wealth gap between the haves and haves-not seeks to widen itself exponentially.

However, we have a short story to go to before we move on. This one was also collected and published in A Gift of Dragons, in this millennium, no less. 2002 is the year in question, and we have twins as protagonists.

Ever the Twain: Content Notes: Faint-shaming

Our story starts with a little self-insert fantasy from Neru, often called Ru, flying with his dragon called Nerith, before being abruptly called back to reality by having someone in his peer group step on his Berserk Button, calling his twin sister, Nian, “Ninny.” Neru threatens Flamel, the responsible party, with “yet another bloody nose”, suggesting this is not the first incidence of this sequence. Flamel is up for some boxing, but one of the other children, Orla, intervenes long enough that the adults arriving on scene dismiss the children as a lot to go to their lessons with the Harper. Who is explicitly tagged as being unhelpful in the matter, having called it “childish bickering” when the last fistfight in the matter erupted in front of him. Typical Harper behavior, given what we’ve seen from inside the Hall.

We get the first taste that these twins might be more than just a pair born together as Nian contemplates the upcoming reality that the twins are going to be separated soon.

Being the more reserved twin, she couldn’t imagine life without her brother at her side, even if she could always sense him. When her parents had moved Neru to a bedroom in the lean-to, she had spent many wakeful nights without his comforting presence beside her, even though she was well aware that boys and girls were always separated when they got to a certain age. But being in totally different places…She gave herself a mental shake. It would do no good to worry now.

Neru’s prospects seem to be an apprenticeship at a Hall somewhere, later suggested that he might be a good fit for the Harpers, while Nian can look forward to being married off to “a farmer on the North Shore.” Nian will later mentally voice her unhappiness at that idea, having met her prospective husband and found him dull. The twins, however, have hatched a plan to see if they can’t Impress a pair of fire-lizards, so they can send messages to each other over the distance and not feel so far apart. Orla gently teases Neru about the possibility of being a dragonrider, and that since there’s a queen egg, it’s possible Nian might manage it, too.

“Who would want a Ninny for a rider?” Nian asked scornfully.
“You shouldn’t call yourself that, Ni,” Ru said with a fierce scowl. “A ninny you’re not. Don’t even think it of yourself.”
Nian glanced gratefully at her brother.
“You can’t let the teasing of a dimwit like Flamel get to you,” Orla said with equal severity. “As we used to say, ‘Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never hurt you’.”
Nian gave a snort and wished she could shake off such jibes as easily, but she didn’t have that kind of confidence. No one ever teased Orla. Orla was self-assured and pretty, with very curly black hair that framed her oval face. Her nose was straight and small, her mouth wide and friendly. Orla had all the feminine qualities that Nian did not see in herself. She didn’t consider herself even marginally attractive.

I’m guessing this is at least set somewhere in the AIVAS, if not post-AIVAS period, mostly so that I don’t have to wonder, yet again, how ancient-even-for-colonists phrases and words managed to survive the future, and also this long on Pern. If the computer exists or existed, I can handwave it as old slang becoming fashionable again with the youngsters.

More importantly, though, I can’t say I’m at all pleased with the way that nobody is taking the problems of the kids seriously, not even the kids themselves. Names do hurt, and they can and do affect the way children develop. Children internalize the messages you put in front of them, like “Girls aren’t good at math and science,” or, perhaps as we learned with Piemur’s hazing, “The adults won’t intervene until someone gets seriously hurt.” I suspect Nian might also be internalizing “pretty people don’t get picked on,” which is… maladaptive, to put it nicely.

That said, Nian and Neru, so far, sound like actual children and siblings, and are protective of each other, even if nobody else is going to be. So when Flamel lays into Neru again about his obsession with becoming a dragonrider, Nian tries to defend him, although Flamel doesn’t treat her as a serious threat. He does treat Orla’s threat to reveal that he picks on them because he has a crush on Nian seriously, and beats a hasty retreat before it can actually be said aloud. “I pick on you because I like you” is another trope of childhood I despise, but thankfully this is the only time it gets used.

As the kids head in for their lessons, we find out that not only is Orla pretty, she’s a fairly skilled weaver and appears to be the only child that might be considered for an Artist’s Hall, which we haven’t seen exist since Hall Domaize all the way back in time. Apparently they survived? Or maybe were revived in the AIVAS times? But now Orla’s starting to look like a perfect person, which might set some teeth on edge if she weren’t a secondary character.

Before the lessons can get started, though, there’s a wild clamor that dragons have come on Search to Lado Hold, and so the children are lined up as prospective candidates for the blue and green riders to examine. There’s one man (R’ditk) on the blue and two women (Sarty and Conna) on the greens, further confusing the time this story takes place, but suggesting it’s at least past the point where Mirrim has impressed Path, or it’s on the revised timeline where there have always been green women riders and nobody actually noticed until it was pointed out.

In either case, there’s a good crop from Lado Hold – Orla and Chaum are picked up straight out, and while everyone hopes that both twins are selected, the initial foray looks like Nian will go and Neru won’t. This distresses Nian, because if that holds she’ll “have deserted him [Neru] and stolen his dream all in the same moment.” Nian is not having that.

Her change of opinion is enough that Oswith calls Conna in for a consultation.

She is very strong! Oswith told her rider. I can hear her, Conna. But she will not go without him.
Remaining at Oswith’s side, Conna looked at the twins.
“What is your name?” she asked Nian.
“Neru and Nian,” the twins chorused in unison.
[…Neru goes through the same despair Nian did…]
“Have you ever been separated from each other?” Sarty asked, startling everyone.
“No, rider Sarty,” Neru replied.
“We’re just better together at everything,” Nian added stoutly.

The riders point out that the dragons have only really been interested in Nian, distressing Palla, the twins’ mother. The riders also say that it’s customary to ask the Lord and at least one parent for permission to take the children on Search, which I don’t remember being part of the process at all. There were some mentions of people who had been held back from it, but that sounded more like Lords or parents who were adamant their child had other plans, rather than denying a request made in the first place.

Seeing the possibility that they might be separated and Neru’s dream crushed, Nian comes up with a gem of an Indy Ploy to postpone the separation and asks if Neru can accompany her as family to the hatching, since it’s unlikely anyone else from Lado Hold will make it.

Conna paused a moment and looked at her dragon, lost in a telepathic conversation.
The boy is strong but his twin shields him from me, Oswith said to her rider. I cannot see his potential clearly. Perhaps he should come along as a candidate, too.
“Oswith is undecided about Neru as a candidate, but we will bring him with us regardless,” Conna said finally. Both twins let out their breath in a rush. “Never fear, Nian, your brother will remain with you until the Hatching. There is, however, no guarantee that any of those selected on Search will Impress; the hatchlings make that decision.”

And since we have yet to have a story where a viewpoint character actually failed to get a dragon, we still don’t know what happens if they don’t actually Impress.

Also, Oswith had mentioned not a few paragraphs earlier that Nian wasn’t going to come without Neru. Oswith was very certain about Nian’s potential. Yet that same potential is interfering with Oswith evaluating Neru. I’m a bit surprised that nobody went, “Well, shoot, this one has to come with us with that kind of potential, so we should totally go along with this idea she’s floating.” Oswith and Conna seem much more ambivalent about the whole matter than I would have expected, since they discovered such a strong potential in Nian.

There is a flurry of packing and goodbyes, and we find that Nian is still firmly in the camp of “Neru has to become a dragonrider,” even if she’s less certain about her own prospects. When they arrive as candidates at the Weyr, as part of the tour and explanation, there’s something that makes me wonder if becoming a rider, or even getting Searched for it, is something that people aspire to for mundane reasons as well as religious and majestic ones:

“There’s always something to eat for hungry riders. We keep klah, soup, and porridge warm all day and all night.” She pointed to a hearth at the far end of the cavern where, indeed, pots sat at the back, keeping warm. “And fresh bread when it’s ready.”
Ru grinned at his sister. He was always hungry, now that he was growing tall and filling out his bones. Pretty soon he’d be taller than Nian.

Coming from a place where a bad harvest or a bad catch might mean starvation, to be told there was infinite food available might make someone scheme to figure out how to stay at a Weyr even if they never Impressed. Instead, we get a joke about the neverending appetite of teenage boys, and the tour continues, where the candidates get shown where they will be staying while they wait.

She pointed to the curtained passage that led to the baths and necessaries.
“And we expect everyone living in the Weyr to be clean for breakfast and dinner every day.

So not only is there infinite food, but indoor bathing and toiletries. Perhaps a Lord Holder’s child wouldn’t be impressed by this, but there’s a lot more excitedness about choosing one’s alcove than there is at the fact that for at least a little while, all of these people are going to be fed, housed, and can care for themselves with extravagance.

After the tour, and a snack, the Weyrlingmaster, H’ran, introduces himself and runs through how the candidates know if a dragon is theirs, and also many of the common dangers associated with dragonets finding their match. He shows them the barracks, and then the eggs themselves, as several of the unprepared do the “Hatching dance” on the hot sand. They go amongst the eggs, and we’re introduced to Robina, the Masterfarmer’s daughter, who will be taking on the role of the designated stuck up snob, who believes she was promised the queen egg. After the candidates meet the eggs some, H’ran gathers them to help out with necessary chores, like changing the dressings on dragons that were hurt in the most recent Threadfall. The twins get on with C’tic and Brith, helping peel and replace the dressings on the dragon with speed and a good touch.

And then someone faints, and we are reminded that dragonriders are not good people.

To one side of the infirmary, one of the other riders exclaimed in dismay, “Shards. We’ve got another fainter. Someone get me a cold compress while I brush the sand off her; she certainly hit the dirt with a bang!”
Neru peered around those gathered to assist the fainter and he chuckled. “It’s the girl in blue, Ni,” he said with a little smirk. “The one who fancied your egg.”
“There’s usually one who’s not good with wounds,” C’tic said. “Has someone brought the restorative? That one will make a fine rider!” His tone was sarcastic.
“You’d think she’d be used to injured animals, being the Masterfarmer’s daughter,” Nian murmured to her brother.
“Now, she can’t help the way she is,” Neru said with considerably more charity than his sister expressed, “even if she was promised the gold.”
“I’d pity the gold,” Nian replied.

The author really has a problem with women who exist outside a fairly narrow band of possible personalities. And tends to use other women to deride them, so as to set up minimum solidarity between the women against their hostile world.

Neru is also right – some people faint at the sight of blood, and perhaps Robina’s dragon is much more messed up than Brith. But given that the narrative already shamed a queen rider for vertigo and for getting fat, it’s at least consistent in being terrible about possible queen rider ailments.

Brith also gives the twins a thrill by responding directly to them when Neru asks a question. Neru thinks it might be a sign of legitimacy, and Nian lets on again that the twins might share a telepathic bond of their own.

“And you can always hear them?” Nian asked. “I can usually hear my twin brother–especially if he’s in trouble.”
“Ah, I thought you two looked alike.”
“Oh, we’re not completely alike,” Nian said. “Neru’s much stronger and smarter. He’ll make a splendid dragonrider.”
“You both will,” C’tic surprised her by saying.
“How do you know that?”
“My dragon told me so,” C’tic said, and his smile was kind, not teasing.

After finishing the changing of bandages, the twins all of they can help again. Brith takes the opportunity to suggest that Nian might find a good career as a dragon healer. Nian is surprised by the suggestion, but the dinner bell rings before there’s any explanation on why Nian is startled.

We also finally get an acknowledgement of how different the situation at the Weyr is compared to Lado Hold.

“Hey, this is great food,” Neru said after he took his first heaping forkful.
“It’s meat, you mean,” Nian said, teasing her brother.
“Makes a great change from all that fish,” Neru replied, selecting yet another slice from the platter in the center of the table.
“Just don’t make a pig of yourself here,” she added in a low tone so no one else would hear her. “We’ve never gone hungry, you know, and we must uphold the honor of Lado Hold.”
“Humph,” Neru grunted and gestured around the table where the other candidates were equally as diligent in reducing the contents of the various serving dishes. “Tell that to the others.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Nian said with great dignity.

Yes, this is worth mentioning – I’d bet most of the candidates have had to deal with scarcity and hunger, and I’d bet almost all of them have not had meat except for very special occasions. Because herdbeasts and milchbeasts are extremely resource-intensive, and if nobody can put a sharp stone, stick, or arrowhead through the brain of a wherry at distance, it’s grains, roots, crops, maybe fruit, and maybe fish for your diet. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the candidates have an adverse reaction to having that much meat in a single meal to process, because their bodies have not gotten used to it from having a meat-rich diet.

Nian also acknowledges the oddity of having a Harper/singer in the Weyr playing regularly, since the Hold Harper only performs intermittently and it’s a special occasion when he does.

And they both grin at the perpetual availability of hot water as they decide they want a bath before others think about it when dismissed for the night. I think they’re at least peripherally aware that Weyr life is several steps up from Hold life, but they’re not acting like they’ve been transported up to a standard of living that would be nearly inconceivable.

Nian’s bath and shampoo brings back a memory of asking why her mother married, if she doesn’t like fish, which nets a very practical answer: they loved each other, the husband had land, even if she didn’t know it was going to smell of fish, and he could provide food for everyone, even if it is just fish for dinner (although he also apparently spends significantly to put some beef on the table on occasion). Nian could look forward to some or none of those things in her arranged marriage.

Robina interrupts the memories by angrily demanding when Nian’s going to be done, since she was first in, and then insults her as a “…twinling from a fish hold. I suppose it’s as well if we let you get really clean.” Which provokes Nian to point out that Robina must really need to clean all the sand out of her hair (from fainting), and then Orla tells Robina to stop nagging, and Robina stomps off, which conveniently (but not intentionally) gives Nian the opportunity to give her bathroom to one of the other girls waiting, which sets Robina off even more, but Nian is moving away from that space and can’t hear any more of it.

After a bit to herself, Orla asks to come in and talk with Nian. They start with Robina. Orla focuses on how she’s never seen a Master’s daughter be so arrogant. Nian focuses on how pretty she is in a single line before talking about how she fainted and how that has to count against her. Then they both admit that the wounds they saw on the dragons were “stomach-churning”.

Cocowhat by depizan

I guess I’m unreasonable in expecting that might elicit sympathy instead of scorn, like it did for Debera when the boys were confronted with the reality of having to carve their own dragon food.

The conversation between Orla and Nian ends with Orla desperately wishing for Nian’s straight hair (which makes me immediately want to picture Orla as Black in a world without proper hair care products) and Nian saying she wouldn’t want straight hair if she had it.

Since the hatching starts next, we’ll take a break and pick back up next week.