Dragon Harper: Doing Anthropormorphization Wrong

[Mari Ness has a new post, as well, where the problem of temporal paradoxes is used as a frame to point out some of the more egregious wrongs of Pern society. It feels a lot more like this is the stuff that we are there for and that Mari Ness actually wants to talk about. For as little as my opinion matters, I approve of this shift in topics. It’s still going at warp, though. By the time we get done, we might be caught up with each other.]

Last time, Kindan fought Vaxoram and won, using all of the technique and psychological warfare that he had been taught by Mikal, which made Vaxoram Kindan’s servant until Kindan decides he doesn’t want one any more. And somehow, Vaxoram just accepts this and doesn’t try very hard (if at all) to get Kindan to revoke his servitude or otherwise be so terrible that he’ll just dismiss him to get out of his hair. But it’s been forty years since Weyr Search and Dragonflight, so perhaps the Lessa method of being such a pain in the ass that you can get someone to renounce their claim on you has fallen out of vogue in the intervening time.

Ah, and also, the fire lizards hatch, and Kindan gets one, as does the daughter of the Fort Holders.

Dragon Harper: Chapter 4: Content Notes: Bad Anthropomorphization,

Vaxoram gets sent back to the Hall with the news and that Kindan is staying the night to help at the request of Lady Sannora. (He asks whether Kindan trusts him on his own, and Kindan looks at him for a bit and nods a yes, because whatever magic that has Vaxoram willingly taking on this role is still in place.) Once Vaxoram leaves, he’s the subject of the conversation.

“That boy!” Lady Sannora exclaimed to her husband. “Did you see the scar under his eye?”
“He was fighting,” Lord Bemin replied, turning his head to eye Kindan thoughtfully. “There was a duel. He lost.”
“I don’t approve of duels,” Lady Sannora pronounced, her face set in a grimace. “What overmuscled cretin picked a fight with him?”
Lord Bemin raised an eyebrow in Kindan’s direction.
“I did,” Kindan said, meeting the Lord’s and Lady’s outraged looks steadily, though he felt the heat in his cheeks. “He had threatened to use his strength over a woman,” he explained. With a shrug, he added, “Several women, actually.”
“Why didn’t you kill him?” Bemin’s eldest son, Semin, demanded.
“Because, my lord,” Kindan replied, “I believe in second chances.”
Semin was surprised at Kindan’s response.
“And because it would have done more harm than good,” Issak chimed in from the other side. He inclined his head toward Kindan. “Master Murenny recounted your thinking to me.”
Was there a hint of respect in the journeyman’s eyes?

I’m very impressed at Sherlock Bemin’s ability to deduce the entirety of what happened between Vaxoram and Kindan by observing a scar and the behavior of the two boys with each other, but still look “outraged” when Kindan owns up to being the one who fought Vaxoram. This doesn’t improve Kindan’s standing, I’m sure, and Koriana asking for Kindan to sleep in the same room as her really doesn’t, but Issak is there as a chaperone, at least in theory, so Bemin assents.

As the commenters have pointed out, this is Kindan repeating a lie, or at least, something that we didn’t actually see on screen, since all we have was Vaxoram making a rude joke about Kindan and Nonala as a possible sexual couple. Unless we’re supposed to read that the constant bullying stream given to Kindan, Kelsa, Nonala, Verilan, and so forth, qualifies as threatening to use his strength over a woman. In a system less focused on toxic masculinity that thinks swords are effective methods of resolving disputes, a tribunal or other court proceeding would presumably bring the truth out with the witnesses. (Or it wouldn’t, and then you can have the swords, if you need to, but still…)

In the middle of the night, Koriana gets cold and her fire lizard hungry, so Kindan ends up sleeping much more proximal to her than propriety suggests, as in touching heads and knees. Vaxoram discovers them this way and immediately wakes Kindan and goes to town on making sure it looks like Kindan and Koriana have spent the entire night very properly apart. Since the second set of eggs, from a different clutch, are hatching, not too soon after propriety is manufactured, the rest of Koriana’s family arrives. Koriana’s two brothers are eagerly awaiting their fire-lizards, and Koriana’s taken it upon herself to personally aggravate Sannora as much as possible, given that “It was clear that Lady Sannora was unhappy with the thought that Koriana had spent the night in his [Kindan’s] presence.” Kindan muses on this very idea at nearly every exchange between Koriana and Sannora.

The hatching, however, goes extremely poorly, as Koriss, Koriana’s queen, hisses and squawks at both of those hatchlings, a bronze and a brown, as they leave their shells, and both of them disappear into hyperspace at the threat before the Impression can be made. The brothers are very unhappy about this, and Koriana winds both of them up further by being utterly unsympathetic to their situation. Before it explodes completely, Issak gracefully extracts all the harpers with a promise to report the whole thing to the Masterharper and send along any advice he might have about it. Issak takes on the duty of the report and sends Kindan and Vaxoram on, but not before obliquely trying to give some advice to Kindan.

“It wasn’t us and you know it,” Vaxoram replied. “It’s that spoiled Bannor and his airs.” He glanced toward Kindan. “And don’t be too certain his sister is any better.”
Kindan bristled.
“It doesn’t matter,” Issak told him, holding out a placating hand. “You’re not a Lord Holder candidate, and Lord Bemin will trade his daughter to his advantage.”
“Trade?” Kindan repeated in outrage.
“She’ll go willingly, when the time comes,” Issak said to cool Kindan’s anger.
“It’s for the good of the Hold,” Vaxoram added, gloating over Kindan’s outburst. “You must understand, you’re a harper.”
“And harpers aren’t good enough?” Kindan demanded.
“Not for Lord Holders,” Issak agreed with a sad shake of his head. He said to Vaxoram, “Help him to understand.”

To be honest, it’s a bit refreshing for someone to come out and say plainly how little respect there is for women on Pern, in contrast to the poem at the beginning of the chapter. Plus, although I’m not sure anyone in this conversation actually realizes it, this is also a great look at why feminism has to be intersectional if it is going to be effective. If Harper (and maybe some Craft) girls are supposed to be respected everywhere but Holder girls are still expected to dutifully marry and bear children to the advantage of the men in their life, and dragonrider girls are expected to submit to the authority of whichever rider manages to catch their gold, then Harper girls aren’t going to get anywhere on a quest for respect, even if there are men championing them to the sexist society.

Selora doesn’t help, either, in how she explains why Koriss frightened off the other hatchlings.

“A strange thing happened, Selora,” Vaxoram continued as Kindan sat down, too lost in concentration on Valla to speak. “Koriana’s little fire-lizard–”
“Koriss,” Kindan interjected suddenly.
“–Koriss,” Vaxoram agreed with a playful smile, “frightened off the two hatchlings that came to her brothers.”
“Males, were they?” Selora asked, cocking her head shrewdly.
“Yes,” Kindan agreed, his eyes narrowing. “How did you know?”
“She frightened them away on purpose,” Selora said. “Didn’t want her siblings paired with her mistress’s siblings.”
“Why?” Kindan asked in confusion.
Selora started to reply by had a coughing fit instead. “You’ll find out in time, I’ve no doubt,” she said, a grin spreading across her face.

Because scientists in Pern have extensively observed fire-lizard behavior in the wild and domestically and have concluded that they behave with hostility toward hatchlings from other clutches because they want to keep their gene pool pure. Like, if it was another gold? I could entirely see some sort of “MY territory” display, because, as we have already seen, gold dragons in heat that get close to each other fight viciously over the potential mate pool. (And possibly gold fire-lizards, too?) But they’re not gold or green. Based on the fire lizard behavior we’ve seen so far, it would seem more likely for a gold to want to build as big a harem as possible so as to be able to drive off other golds. But instead, two candidates for generic diversity are scared off, apparently, because the gold fire-lizard doesn’t want brothers from another mother? This is pretty weird anthropomorphization, honestly. Like, maybe for Holders, because of things like lines of succession, blood purity, and primogeniture, it matters who you came from, but those concepts are pretty meaningless to fire-lizards. If, instead, it were speculated that Koriana is a person with an incest taboo, and everybody knows that fire-lizards influence sexual behavior among their bondmate, then it makes reasonable sense for Koriana to not want either of her brothers to have fire-lizards, because incest taboo. This is never hinted at or suggested in any way. I somehow doubt that Menolly, Robinton, and Sebell are the only ones to have discovered this aspect and explicitly talked about it. And yet.

The magic that is Vaxoram continues to be shown in a positive light, even though we’re seeing plenty of spaces where he hasn’t changed much internally, just externally. Or, rather, the narrative is trying to convince us that he’s changed internally.

Somewhere in that time [TWO WEEKS] Vaxoram moved from being a brooding, vanquished opponent to being truly dedicated to Kindan. Kindan could never point to the exact moment nor quite understand why, but there it was.
[…Nonala notices, and Vaxoram seems surprised by the revelation…]
“But why, though?” Kelsa wondered later when she was alone with Kindan, helping him oil Valla’s patchy skin. “Why has he changed?”
Kindan thought for a moment. “Master Murenny said that Vaxoram had come to the Harper Hall with a great voice as a child. When it broke wrong, he couldn’t find any new talent to replace it. He came from a small hold, Master Murenny said.”
“So he was afraid,” Kelsa guessed, nodding sagely. “And now he’s got something to do, guarding you.”
“Maybe,” Kindan agreed. Kelsa cocked her head at him questioningly. “Maybe there’s more to it. Perhaps because the worst has happened to him, he’s realized that he has nothing to be scared of.”
“Maybe,” Kelsa replied, but she didn’t sound convinced.

Instead, Kelsa asks about Kindan’s crush, Kindan says there’s almost nothing to the rumors, and Kelsa points out that rumors also say that Lady Sannora fell in love with a Harper who didn’t return her love, and Kindan guests correctly, after some prompting, that the Harper in question was Master Murenny, so Kindan was dealing with extra prejudice when it came to her daughter.

That’s the end of chapter 4, with us no closer to the real reasons for Vaxoram’s apparent change, and really, only Kelsa exhibiting any degree of skepticism about whether it’s a real change or a surface one. And it is happening so swiftly that it stains credulity. I mean, if “defeated by the protagonist” were that kind of magic, then Toric wouldn’t have continued to be a schemer well into a second book.

I’m also still really grumpy that we’ve closed off what would be a really good story about friendship and more to instead get this crap about pining for someone above your station, who is probably showing interest in you to spite her parents. Yeah, love is great, sure, and strikes where it will, but this sort of story has been done, repeatedly, and I see no new twist or interesting spin on it that would make it anything less than a tired retread.

More next week.

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Dragon Harper: Doing Anthropormorphization Wrong

  1. genesistrine April 11, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    I actually first read Vaxoram’s “You must understand, you’re a harper” remark as meaning “harpers have to know enough politics to understand the political necessity for arranged marriages” rather than “you’re too low-class for her”, but I guess the latter’s probably the correct interpretation.

    Because scientists in Pern have extensively observed fire-lizard behavior in the wild and domestically and have concluded that they behave with hostility toward hatchlings from other clutches because they want to keep their gene pool pure.

    Well, Selora’s mistaken anyway, since she thinks the fire-lizards were all from one clutch rather than two. Menolly’s fire lizard fair is a set of siblings (with one later extra), but we can only assume that wild fairs are normally related. It does seem reasonable, though.

    two candidates for generic diversity are scared off, apparently, because the gold fire-lizard doesn’t want brothers from another mother?

    I don’t think that’s what Selora’s getting at; I think she’s saying that golds won’t let their potential mates Impress on their human’s siblings because fire lizard sexytimes might lead to incest between their humans. (No mention of parents or other close relatives though, which… ugh.)

    Though that doesn’t explain why she chases off a *brown*. From all we’ve been told before browns have no chance in a queen mating flight. (There was the suggestion that Canth might, but that never got tested…) It also doesn’t explain why it’s not a well-known fact that queen lizards won’t let their human’s siblings impress their possible mates. Fire-lizards are *valuable*; everyone should be well aware that they’ve got no chance of impressing a bronze if their sister (or brother, presumably) nabbed a gold.

    And we know that dragons have no such inhibition, because we saw twins Impress a gold then a bronze at the same Hatching back in that Ever the Twain short.

    The authors seem to have suddenly decided that fire-lizard sex is like dragon sex in that the humans of the pair involved *have* to have sex with each other too. Which means, presumably, that F’nor, Lord Groghe, Sebell and other queen lizard Impressers in the Ninth Pass had *far* more varied sex lives than we’ve been led to believe.

    with us no closer to the real reasons for Vaxoram’s apparent change

    I have a horrible suspicion he’s meant to have found his level. Look at AMC’s remarks on drudges. They don’t have the ambition or the skills to be anything else, they like what they are, don’t be a bleedy heart. I suspect the authors may be thinking that *Vaxoram is accepting his natural status as a servant*.

    I’d prefer *not* to think that, but it does fit remarkably well….

    (And is even grosser considering an upcoming revelation about Vaxoram.)

  2. Silver Adept April 11, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    You’re probably right – it was likely meant as the former, given how later parts of the book will continue to refer back to Kindan’s apparent inability to play politics, but since it’s in the context of Vaxoram gloating at Kindan, it also seems to serve duty as the latter, and that’s the one that made more immediate sense to me.

    I was finally able to re-read that passage and get what you were getting at. A capital letter on Mistress would have helped fantastically at that point so that we were talking about the lady of the house rather than the fire lizard not wanting others in her nest. Because the way it is now, it is very easy to read Selora s pinning the blame on the fire-lizard and not the human.

    Which opens up all the other questions that you’ve asked, too — why isn’t this common knowledge, given how much fire lizards are a status symbol? What other people have had remarkably adventurous sex lives because of their fire lizards? (And I think we’re supposed to believe that in Ever The Twain, we don’t have to worry about the incest taboo because one twin is going to stay put and the other move, and never the twain will they cross paths, with regard to mating flights, again.

    If Vaxoram is finding his level as a servant to Kindan, there’s some additional swearing needed, because it would fit in with the repeated themes of Pern about people getting above their place and needing to be beaten back and down by protagonists. That theme is one that keeps coming back and really should have been given a humane death long before this point, but it seems like the classist assumption that everyone has a place, everyone should know their place, and everyone should be happy with their place keeps popping up. Perhaps this is the wreckage of some other thing in the authors’ lives, but it seems exceedingly weird to me and my context. Then again, I’ve also never been part of a hereditary nobility, so the analogues I have are things like race relations and gender relations.

  3. Michael I April 12, 2019 at 7:03 am

    I will note that there has previously been some indication that fire-lizard sex does have some of the same effect as dragon sex (e.g. the Menolly-Sebell scene in Dragondrums when one of Menolly’s bronzes mates with Sebell’s queen), although my impression is that the effect seems to have been portrayed as not quite as strong as dragon sex.

  4. Silver Adept April 12, 2019 at 9:52 am

    This is the tricky part about having a book that is set chronologically earlier, but is published later. In Dragondrums, yes, there’s this knowledge and the idea that the effects of a fire lizard aren’t as strong as the dragons.

    We, the reader, can use the information from the future / past here, but in the actual story, it would have to be established that people know about these things all over again, which is what genesistrine and I are complaining about – the authors seem to assume their characters know what the reader knows from the books, rather than thinking about what their characters would actually know, and even then, it seems like the characters should know a whole lot more than they actually do.

  5. genesistrine April 14, 2019 at 2:45 am

    since it’s in the context of Vaxoram gloating at Kindan

    Well, assuming he was gloating over “ha ha Kindan’s in LURRRVE with a girl he doesn’t have a chance with ha ha” rather than, say, “wow, SOMEONE wasn’t paying attention in rights-and-duties class” or whatever. It’s not like we haven’t seen Kindan massively misinterpreting things Vaxoram says recently…

    I think Selora parses out as saying: “[She] (the gold) Didn’t want her (the gold’s) siblings (the other fire lizards) paired with her mistress’s Koriana’s siblings.” (Bannor and Semin)

    Which raises all the questions of why fire lizards (and not dragons) would give a damn about inappropriately incestuous sexual feelings, especially since this is hellworld where at any time you might get zapped with sex rays from a mating flight overhead and randomly have to bang anyone around, siblings or not. And given that the Holds practice fostering (when the authors remember, at least) if the twins were a non-issue male and female Hold kids should be too; they’re likely to be separated as well.

    And if it IS an issue WHY THE HELL ARE THEY LETTING KIDS IMPRESS THEM WTF PERN?

    why isn’t this common knowledge, given how much fire lizards are a status symbol?

    Issak even says he’s never heard of this before. So it can’t be a thing fire lizards in general do; it’s just Selora talking out of her arse.

    My first interpretation of that scene was that Koriana was narked about her brothers’ “we can’t let Koriana be the only one with a fire lizard!”, her queen picked up on that and shooed off the new hatchlings. Which makes more sense to me of why she sent off the brown as well, and fits in with the way Koriana’s behaving to her mother. Which would be an interesting way of introducing a character as kind of a cow, but doesn’t seem to have been what the authors were doing.

    (Also while I was checking Selora’s wording there I spotted this, which I think deserves pointing out):

    Semin answered with a disgusted look, adding snidely, “Though why you would want a green…”

    Kindan glanced at Bannor, wondering if the younger holder was hoping for a green. Gold and green fire-lizards were female, just like gold and green dragons… or watch-whers.

    “You can’t be certain from the size or color of the egg,” Kindan said suddenly. “Nor from past experience,” he added as he noticed both older lads looking at him expectantly. “I impressed a green watch-wher, and now I have a bronze fire-lizard.”

    “Forsk is green,” Bannor said, glancing toward the kitchen entrance. “Forsk is bound to Father.”

    Ah, so it wasn’t a question of preferences, Kindan thought to himself. Perhaps it was jealousy. Perhaps Bemin’s sons envied their father his bond with the watch-wher. Clearly from the number of his offspring, there was no question of Bemin’s virility. The knowledge that Fort’s Lord Holder was bonded to a green watch-wher eased some of Kindan’s unconscious worries about himself and his prior acquaintance with a watch-wher.

    There’s a fair bit to unpack there: but it’s very obvious that as far as Pern goes *wanting* a green fire-lizard or wher would be considered to make you gay (and kinda gross), having a green fire-lizard or wher makes people think you’re gay, and if you’re gay you can’t possibly have married a woman and had kids. And also that Kindan has a bit of Gay Panic about having Impressed a girly girly green wher.

    Just in case we thought hellworld was any more woke in (checks) 2007.

    the classist assumption that everyone has a place, everyone should know their place, and everyone should be happy with their place keeps popping up. Perhaps this is the wreckage of some other thing in the authors’ lives, but it seems exceedingly weird to me and my context. Then again, I’ve also never been part of a hereditary nobility

    Neither have the authors. But it’s a very common trope in generic-European-mediaeval-styled-fantasy; royalty/nobility is the best people, blood tells, happy peasants tilling the fields and so on, and anything that wants to disrupt that is Evil Dark Foreign and you can kill its minions with no problem. (No responibility is taken for any analogies in modern politics)

    It’s more unusual in SF, though you see it showing up more in the more science-fantasy end – eg Pern, Star Wars seems to be heading that way until TLJ comprehensively and canonically put the boot in hooray (and got All The Hate for it strange eh?). (Special mention for the Elected Queen of Naboo in that context; somebody’s going to be able to write an interesting dissertation on simultaneous USanian fascination with royalty and fetishisation of democracy using that as a supporting point.)

    @Michael I: yes, though as you say it seems to have been portrayed as not as powerful. (Though there’s also evidence that the dragon sex rays aren’t as powerful as they’re portrayed either; we’ve got to see inside F’lar and F’lessan’s heads and it certainly looked as though they had enough control to stop if they wanted; they just didn’t want to).

    the authors seem to assume their characters know what the reader knows from the books, rather than thinking about what their characters would actually know, and even then, it seems like the characters should know a whole lot more than they actually do.

    This. God it’s annoying.a

  6. Silver Adept April 14, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    Figuring out whether Kindan is massively misinterpreting would help if the narrative had ever given us any indication that Kindan wasn’t anything but the super-special protagonist of the story. There’s more than ample opportunity for the narrative to come out and actually say that Kindan’s perspective is his own but wrong, but the narrative seems to hew to the position that Kindan is always right in his perceptions and interpretations.

    Regarding Koriss, the narrative seems to be setting us up to fail, no matter how we try to parse it, because we’re either stuck with “Selora’s right, this should be common knowledge about fire-lizards, and zOMGWTF why are we letting kids bond with creatures that might overwhelm them with sex rays” or “Selora’s talking out her ass, fire-lizards don’t give a damn about who any of them bond to, but Koriana did, Koriss picked up on this, and Koriana is most definitely less than perfect a person, Kindan, why can’t you see this?” and we end up in a situation where the narrative’s chosen boy is unable to see what should be plain to him because he’s in love, but the narrative refuses to say that this is exactly the situation he’s in, even as all the other characters around Kindan tell him that it’s not going to work out. But the narrative is staunchly “Kindan is my chosen and will be perfect in everything he does.” Ugh.

    I missed the implications there that having a green dragon-family bonded to you was a suggestion that you were gay, but that’s actually consistent worldbuilding with everything else that we’ve seen so far about green dragonriders not named Mirrim, who is still seven Passes away, and not any of the original groups of dragonriders that Kitti Ping said would be promiscuous sex-driven terrible mothers for bonding with their green dragons. (Because Pern is such a void of lost knowledge at this point.) But yeah, 2007 is not any sort of enlightened time for Terrans.

    I also note that while we know about the fact that dragon sex rays exist and happen on the regular given how often the greens apparently rise to mate, we don’t ever hear anyone talking about them or having them interrupt something important. Like, the morning run gets delayed because a dragon takes off from Fort Weyr and all the apprentices are too busy shagging each other to complete their run. Because that seems like the sort of thing that would be used maliciously by bullies or somehow channeled by them into acts of great sexual violence, and yet we never hear about it or how the dragons can get just really annoying around mating season, because everybody starts walking on eggshells, eyeing up whether these are the people they want to lose control of their sexual urges around at any given time.

    I think we were talking some about where Pern might belong, genre-wise, in the previous post about it, and so the genre confusion continues with this idea of pure bloodlines and everyone being happy with their lot, rather than a story about the structure becoming oppressive and needing reform or revolution. Science fantasy really does seem to fit the bill remarkably well, even if it would make the authors frown at you and say you were wrong.

  7. genesistrine April 19, 2019 at 9:48 am

    actually consistent worldbuilding with everything else that we’ve seen so far about green dragonriders

    The bit I found really interesting/irritating (interestating?) was the implication that being gay would be icky and undesirable (as well as possibly knocking you out of the inheritance, if “having heirs” is an important part, and Pernese assume that gay men are incapable of having children.).

    given how often the greens apparently rise to mate, we don’t ever hear anyone talking about them or having them interrupt something important

    That’s a *really good* point, especially considering that we’ve been getting more and more of Pern from ground-level.

    where Pern might belong, genre-wise, in the previous post about it, and so the genre confusion continues

    That was sparked by the first Mari Ness post, which seemed to be predicated on the idea that there is SCIENCE FICTION and there is FANTASY with no overlap. But Pern is actually a really good poster child for “fantasy using SF terminology”.

  8. Silver Adept April 21, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    It’s more of this idea that’s never actually spelled out that the Holder/Crafter culture is far more repressed about these things than the dragonrider culture is, but we only ever pick up on it if we’re paying attention to details like this. Nobody from the dragonriders jokes about the uptight Holders, and none of the Holders snipe at the dragonriders behind words about their debauched lifestyle choices. There’s no actual text about any of this. It’s all subtext. I would have thought the more supported in-text idea would be that being bonded to a green watch-wher made you more promiscuous, not that it meant you were gay, but…ugh. The whole series needs better editing.

    And that follows on with the whole “our lives are never disrupted by mating dragons” bit, which somehow means that everyone can be exclusively hetero and never have had a point in their life where the dragon flew overhead and the Lord who was supervising and his supervising foreman ended up as sex partners. Maybe nobody talks about it, maybe nobody acknowledges it as having had a gay experience, but you would think something like that might move the needle on perceptions of orientation or just an understanding that sex happens because dragons and there are ways of working around that. The society that’s been set up here exists on foundations that only work if we utterly contradict earlier books that talk about dragon and dragon-related sex rays.

    Pern really is a good idea of a blend of terminology and ideas and making both concepts work, but for people that have to have their categories utterly separated, they’re going to be really confused, or they’re going to be chucking evidence that doesn’t fit their conclusion out the window.

  9. genesistrine April 22, 2019 at 6:56 am

    I would have thought the more supported in-text idea would be that being bonded to a green watch-wher made you more promiscuous, not that it meant you were gay

    I think the stereotype that’s supposed to be invoked there is “promiscuous passive gay”, sincce Pernese dragon bonding is based on the idea that you’ve got the gay orientation that penetrates and the gay orientation that gets penetrated and nobody’s ever a switch.

    the Lord who was supervising and his supervising foreman ended up as sex partners

    Well, it’s Word of the Author that only the one being penetrated is going to turn gay… (not, apparently an uncommon belief of some men; “you’re not gay if you’re exclusively the one doing the penetrating”).

    Maybe nobody talks about it, maybe nobody acknowledges it as having had a gay experience, but you would think something like that might move the needle on perceptions of orientation

    Or maybe everyone’s massively traumatised and blocking out their memories, as we’ve already seen with Tai. Every time I think hellworld can’t get any more horrifying and depressing….

  10. Silver Adept April 23, 2019 at 8:54 am

    I think I’ve been studiously ignoring that assumption of “passive gay,” since it seems to be a product of Word of the Author rather than anything actually set down in the books, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen any description of the sex rays being discriminate in their way. Perhaps the “chased” partner’s sex rays might appeal to those who would rather be penetrated and the “chaser” partner appeals to those who would rather penetrate, but I also tend to categorically reject the idea that everyone is always one way or the other, no switches, no situations where someone might be feeling bold, or where it might depend on situation and who’s nearby as to whether someone would want to penetrate or be penetrated. Of course, it would help if the author ever actually gave us anything more than a fade-to-black on how things worked. (But if they did, I’d want it to be with people who were of age to consent and who had worked it out beforehand that they were okay with it should the sex rays hit them, because these authors haven’t got a clue about that.)

    Massively traumatised and blocking would also make sense, except I would expect that to result in specific types of behavior toward dragons and their riders, related to those traumas, and we don’t see anyone twitch or start screaming uncontrollably when there are dragons around. Or otherwise behave in ways that strongly suggest they don’t actually want dragons near them, because they know that only bad things happen when dragons get near them.

  11. genesistrine April 25, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Well, we’ve never had a description of a mating flight that isn’t male human bonded to male dragon/female human bonded to female dragon so anything else is strictly speaking guesswork. We have seen occasional examples in the books that contradict How The Author Says It Works (the Dragonquest brown/green couple who are very obviously heading off for a private mating flight rather than going in for the all-comers chase of a “normal” mating flight, for example), but as a general rule I think when the author has made it so clear how she thinks sexuality works that can at least be taken into consideration.

    (And then roundly ignored if preferred.)

    they don’t actually want dragons near them, because they know that only bad things happen when dragons get near them.

    Would they even necessarily know? What’s the range of a sex ray barrage, and how low does a mating flight fly?

    God, that’s even worse. At least if you can *see* a mating flight you’ve got some small warning, but if the sex rays can suddenly hit out of nowhere….

  12. Silver Adept April 26, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Yikes. I had always assumed that dragons made enough noise when taking off or were sufficiently visible on the horizon that people could put two and two together, but it is entirely possible that the people below don’t know because mating flight reaches sufficient altitude that nobody can see the dragons in the sky when they’re hit by the sex rays. That would make it even worse.

    I agree that we can consider the author(s) take on things as they make it known, but I guess I would have expected it to show through more in the work itself, if that makes sense? For a world that posits sex and sex rays and two very distinct ideas of proper sexual practice that seem mutually incompatible, there’s a surprising lack of sex that isn’t het and compatible with the most repressive form of sex on the planet. They don’t come into conflict, usually, and when they did, as with Kylara, the shaming was directed at her in a way that would also be compatible with the Holder point of view. So there should be two, but it’s a false choice, you end up in the same place anyway.

  13. genesistrine April 27, 2019 at 3:25 am

    That’s the Sixties for you, I reckon. Doylistically speaking, I think that’s where the whole “tee-hee mating flights make unsuspecting holders mindlessly horny” thing comes from; it’s Sexual Liberation therefore it’s Good Full Stop, not to mention Dubcon Isn’t Rape, which were pretty common attitudes back then. As well as, to be fair, the fact that gay people exist and shouldn’t be stigmatised.

    But it’s being written by someone who gets that intellectually but doesn’t know how to write romance/sexual interaction other than het/good-girls-can’t-say-yes/people-who-have-a-lot-of-sexual-partners-and-don’t-settle-down-in-a-het-pairing-are-bad, and can’t quite bust out of that. And has the (apparently still not uncommon in some age ranges and cultures) fixed idea that gay pair relationships always have one as the “man” and one as the “woman”.

    There’s less excuse for sticking to it for 50 years, but then again when you hard-code dubcon into your worldbuilding right from the start you’re kind of stuck. Not that I don’t think she couldn’t have done more to ameliorate it, but well, privilege and a ton of people buying and loving your books as-is is a hell of a drug….

  14. Silver Adept April 28, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Right. When you do something that’s commercially successful and garners you awards, there’s a strong temptation to not change anything at all about it, because the formula works. Even if that becomes less and less defensible a position to be on over time, because attitudes change and people start wanting different stories set in the same world as yours. Not expanding your own horizons so that you can tell new stories is not usually a formula for success. (And in our current world, sometimes brings the troll hordes with the chant of They Changed It, Now It Sucks when you try to de-center the privileged and their stories.)

    I’m still a bit curious about how we ended up at this weird hybrid of Good Girls Don’t, but if you override their consent or otherwise take their choices away, then it’s fine for them to enjoy it and get as much as they can, and that women with agency and choice are dangerous, but I suspect it’s because the Free Love and Sexual Liberation are being played up as bigger than they actually were because it suits conservatives to paint those ideas in as negative a light as possible when they’re writing history, so that women don’t get it in their heads that they can be choosy sexual creatures and men don’t get it in their heads that they need to ask consent, listen to their partners, and respect a no if that’s what they get.

  15. Firedrake April 28, 2019 at 10:36 am

    @Silver Adept – that same attitude happens in romance in the 1960s-1970s: it was felt that the presumed-female reader wouldn’t want a heroine who was “easy” (because such people are Bad Girls and the Enemy), but she also wanted to enjoy some racy bits (now that those are allowed to be publised) – thus rape and dubcon because if you can’t help it that’s OK. All hail the patriarchy.

  16. genesistrine April 29, 2019 at 12:34 am

    Well, it’s supposed to be why “rape fantasy”/dubcon is still popular – not so much Good Girls Don’t, but Good Girls Can’t Say Yes (Because Admitting To Sexual Feelings Would Be Slutty And Bad). Nancy Friday’s compilations of interviews with women about their sexual fantasies first started coming out in the 70s, and have a ton of “out of my control” fantasies in (as well as the reverse).

    Plus, human sexuality being what it is, even some powerful and in-control people like to be controlled, or at least play-controlled, sometimes as any domme can tell you.

    And Free Love and Sexual Liberation in the 60s could be interpreted (by some men at least) as “if you don’t have sex with me personally you’re not properly sexually liberated”. It’s a nice idea, but there never was an idea so nice that *some* arsehole wouldn’t be able to use it coercively. It’s not conservatives playing up an aspect of it; it’s what happens in practice when the ideal gets interpreted through the lens of patriarchy – “consent” wasn’t necessarily considered as important since everyone should automatically consent to sex because it was a good and freeing thing.

  17. Firedrake April 29, 2019 at 4:54 am

    @genesistrine (sorry for spelling you wrong before): in my limited experience it’s usually the powerful-in-life people who want to be play-powerless, and vice versa.

    My wife confirms that that aspect of free love was definitely a thing in the sixties – along with “well, if you didn’t want to get laid, why are you here”.

  18. Silver Adept April 30, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    I see. I’m too young for that kind of Free Love and Dubcon experience to be culturally meaningful. Not much I can do about that but yet to understand secondhand.

    I can still give the finger to The Patriarchy ([flat sarcasm]yay[/flat sarcasm]) for promoting ideas such that dubcon is the easiest way to get people what they want to read without them being able to desire sexy readings.

  19. genesistrine May 3, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    I was born in the late 60s, so I don’t have direct experience of it either, but I got plenty of warnings and war stories, not to mention books (like these ones…) where it’s implicit in the framing once you notice, but invisible otherwise.

    @Firedrake: sounds about right.

    My respects to your wife!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: