Monthly Archives: November 2019

Deconstruction Roundup for November 29th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has had to figure out how to do useful things in the face of some serious incompetence.)

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 have made more than enough for everyone and now have to put it all away in a fleet of leftovers containers. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: Something Actually New

Last time, Fiona, at the behest of an unnamed gold rider, hopped back in time, so as to inspire her weyrling cohort to do the same, because this was already a thing that had happened in the gold rider’s past, prompting me to grouse that solutions involving time travel tend to aggravate their underlying narrative problems rather than fix them. Fiona is speculating this unnamed gold rider is herself from the future, ensuring her own past, but the narrative does not confirm this.

Dragonheart: Chapter 12: Content Notes:

A sea of sand,
Harsh clime for man.
Mountains rise high,
Igen Weyr is nigh.

(Igen Weyr, Morning, AL 498.7.2)

This is where I wish more forms of poetry than song lyric survived in Pern, because this chapter’s really feels like it wants to be a haiku or some other, more minimal, form that doesn’t have to adhere to a rhyme scheme.

“Sea of sand,
Mountains rise.
Igen Weyr’s skies.”

Maybe something like that, instead.

Instead, the chapter opens with the arrival of Fiona and Talenth slightly ahead of the weyrling crew, where the sun is beating down hard on them, but also, someone has conveniently left a tent of supplies to get them started. Fiona surveys what she sees, and after thinking this place could be her home, realizes that she’s the Senior here, at least compared to the weyrlings, and starts giving orders to the weyrlings to go clean out various parts of the Weyr, while keeping an eye out for tunnel snakes.

“Tunnel snakes!” J’nos blanched. “I don’t know how to handle tunnel snakes!”
“If you find any, let me know,” Fiona told him. When the brown rider’s eyes bugged out, she explained, “I used to hunt them back at my father’s Hold.”
Fiona was surprised and pleased by the hushed exclamations of the other weyrlings as the news spread.

Apparently, this bit of knowledge makes Fiona Little Miss Badass, while also making the conversation she had with Nuella, and the earlier references to Fiona’s proclivities around tunnel snakes have a reason for existing. Chekov would be happy.

Fiona tasks those weyrlings that aren’t cleaning with getting the older and recovering dragons and riders out of the heat and helping Terin store the supplies left for them, and then T’mar arrives with the group that left before Fiona’s did and is definitely unhappy with Fiona and the weyrlings’ presence, but accepts that they are there and doesn’t try to countermand her when she gives orders. (Including setting up numbweed pots and absolutely forbidding P’der from being watch dragon because he needs to rest and recover.) When T’mar asks her who should be watch rider, she tells him that’s his problem and goes off to do something else.

The scene shifts to Fiona stirring a pot of smelly numbweed. Terin reports that cleaning is nearly complete and on schedule, including the queen’s quarters.

“How did you manage to get them to obey you?”
“You’re the senior Weyrwoman,” Terin replied with no hint of duplicity. “I just made it clear to them that it’s what you needed.” She smiled as she added, “You know how it is with weyrlings; the boys practically fell over themselves to help.”
“And after all those firestone drills, they’re used to following your orders,” Fiona guessed.
“It’s not like there are any other weyrfolk around,” Terin agreed. “Shards, you and I are the only two women here!”

And here we are, showing the problems of a single-gender workforce, but I’m more interested in Terin’s remarks. Not that she’s leaning on Fiona’s position, that makes sense, but that the boys were all trying very hard to be helpful, with what I suspect I’m supposed to read as “because they want to get in the good graces of the Weyrwoman when it comes time for Talenth to rise.” Which would only be a concern of the bronze riders, as everything is set up, not the entirety of the weyrling contingent. Unless there’s more of the unstated “it’s a very bad idea to get on the bad side of the Weyrwoman” that wasn’t fully explained earlier at work here.

As it is, there’s still some numbweed work to be done, and Fiona is really flexing her muscles as a Senior in taking care of it.

“I’ll have J’keran get someone to take over,” T’mar called from the entrance. He gave Fiona a sheepish look as she neared the entrance. “I’m sure that there has to be some weyrling who’s earned it.”
“Don’t you dare!” Fiona cried, eyes widening angrily.
T’mar took a half-step back, his confusion evident.
“This numbweed is for everyone,” Fiona told him. “Everyone works on it. I will not have people taking it as a punishment. What sort of numbweed do you think you’ll get with an attitude like that?”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” T’mar confessed with a frown. “Very well–”
“Shall I set up a roster?” Terin offered.
“Yes,” Fiona said with a firm nod. “Every person who’s able will be on it–except for you.”
“Why not me?” Terin asked, looking ashamed.
“Because you’re going to be doing all the tallying around here,” Fiona told her firmly.
“You’ll be our Records keeper,” T’mar told her with a suitably grave expression.
“Headwoman,” Fiona corrected.
“Headwoman?” Terin and T’mar echoed in disbelief and surprise.
“Can you think of anyone else more qualified here?”
“I suppose not,” T’mar admitted after a moment. He turned to Terin. “Headwoman it is.”

I mean, Terin did just say that there were only two women here, and the Weyrwoman gig is filled, so Terin really is the only other person who might conceivably know enough of what should happen to run the place, even if she might have to get help from the other weyrlings to have bodies to do the work or to actually know how things are done. This also makes me wonder what the boys were expecting to do while they were there. (T’mar, in a bit not quoted, admits that he didn’t bring food or bedding, despite knowing they were going back in time to a place that had been abandoned for years, after Fiona admits the same.) In all the cases, it looks like the leaders made a decision, and the underlings said they would go through with it, and nobody gave a fig about what the logistics of that might actually entail and what other persons and supplies might be needed to make that work. As it is, Fiona and T’mar work together to familiarize themselves with their new digs, and unintentionally spot a Trader caravan heading their way while they survey the space from the air. Given that it’s a trek across a desert space for any caravan, it’s clear to Fiona and T’mar that these Traders have been tipped off about the presence of dragons in Igen again. That said, we’re continuing in the maybe-good, maybe-bad expansion of available cultures on Pern in the description of the traders and their colorful caravan.

Fiona was surprised to see how big the man was, taller than T’mar by a head and so broad-shouldered she thought he could easily lift one of the workbeasts single-handed.
“Azeez at your service,” he said, bowing low to them. He gestured toward his dray. “The sun is high; we would be more comfortable talking in the shade.”
[…T’mar worries it would be an intrusion, Azeez points out they’re more likely to be uncomfortable in the heat than he is…]
Fiona nodded politely, surreptitiously studying his clothing: he wore long, flowing robes, and his head was topped with a piece of cloth that draped down over his ears and neck and was tied into place with a brightly colored piece of knotted rope.

So, we have the late Tannaz, who was going to teach Fiona how to cook like Igen does, and now we have Azeez, who also has z in his name, and is dressed essentially like someone who lives in a desert climate does. While nobody has yet been an outright stereotype of the Middle East as portrayed in Western interpretations of the Tales of a Thousand Nights and One Night, I’m waiting for it to happen.

Since Fiona admits to being from the future, the traders admit the mysterious Weyrwoman sent them on their way to find this batch of dragonriders. Fiona thinks she can trade on the knowledge of the future, but the first agreement the Weyr and the traders come to is about safety and security – if Fiona can get the watch-whers to relocate, they’ll out-territory the “canines” (who are then called wolves) and that will mean less lost livestock, and the excess can be turned into dragon food for all of the sets of dragons that will be coming to use Igen as an R&R waypoint. Fiona already knows that Nuella moved the Wherhold to near this location, but is now putting together that she’s going to have to accomplish this part of Nuella’s history while she’s back in time. Mother Karina, the person who might speak for the traders, if Azeez doesn’t, figures out about how far from the future Fiona and company have come from, and Fiona consequently figures out the potential worth of that information.

“I think I see how you can profit from that information,” Fiona guesed.
“You can?” Karina raised an eyebrow.
“Of course,” Fiona told her. “You know now that ten Turns in the future the dragons will be so injured that they need to send us back in time, so you know that their need for numbweed will be great and you can trade that knowledge profitably to those who grow and harvest numbweed, helping them make greater profit and helping yourself to your rightful profit in carrying the goods in tithe.”
“You could be a trader,” Karina said. Fiona accepted it for the compliment it was.

And now that she’s not having to deal with being twice in time, Fiona can put her full faculties to use, which is probably why she’s suddenly leveled up a lot in competence and ability. To make a better deal with Karina’s traders, Fiona decides to offer something that would make Sean spin in his grave.

“Dragons can carry heavy loads. We could deliver our goods anywhere on Pern.”
“As long as you weren’t seen,” Azeez reminded her.
“Would it not serve you well to have us carry goods for you?” Fiona asked, directing her question to Mother Karina.
The old woman leaned back and roared with laughter. It was several minutes before she recovered enough to speak. “You should be a trader!”
[…Fiona closes the deal and they move to haggling the price…]
“I think,” Mother Karina pronounced slowly, “that we have a trade.”
“For our services you will provide…?” Fiona prompted.
“We will provide you with a twentieth of the profits we make on all goods carried by your dragons,” Karina said with a smile.
“I think, given the time we will save and the extra goods you’ll be able to transport anywhere because of us, that we should at least get the full tithe–a tenth–of all profits.”

Fiona gets her price and the rest of us get what can be charitably described as a complication in what is possible on Pern, courtesy of one of the traders, Tenniz.

“I see a sickness,” Tenniz spoke, his eyes still unfocused, his words brilliant in a way that Fiona could not quite understand–shiny with purpose, almost as though he were in another place. “Thread is falling, yet fire-lizards and dragons are not flying against it, coughing out their life force, dying.”
“You have a sister,” Fiona responded, shivering with insight and urgency. “Her name is Tannaz. She must go to Fort Weyr.”
[…there is formal friendship between Tenniz and Fiona, which Fiona is warned cannot be retracted once given, according to trader custom…]
“The traders of the desert are not like others,” Karina said to T’mar. “While all traders owe allegiance to the Lilkamp, we trace our line back to those who roamed the ancient Earth, trading, searching, reading the ways of the world.”
“You have the blood of dragonriders in your veins,” Fiona guessed.
“Many traders do,” Azeez said with some pride. “Many riders who have lost their dragons take to wandering and find themselves becoming traders by choice.”
“We desert traders have a bit more,” Karina said, and Fiona could feel the other traders swell with pride. “We brought with us a talent different from that required to ride dragons.”
“You can see the future.” Fiona saw Karina’s look of surprise face into an approving grin.
“You who travel back in time as though it were merely a road less traveled would see that, as with all roads, it can be mapped,” the old woman said.
That gave Fiona an idea. “Such an ability would be invaluable in predicting sandstorms,” she offered.
“It is good for trade all around,” Azeez admitted with a wicked grin.

Before I get into the substance of “whoa, precogs on Pern,” I might be reading too far into things, but Karina feels a lot like she was tracing her ancestry to the Tinkers, Travelers, Roma, and others that had been forced onto the colony ship and then written out of the story after the first few Threadfall. Given certain stereotypes about the supernatural abilities and connections of the Roma and other wanderers, it seems like we’re supposed to just accept that Roma-descended traders would have ESP-type abilities, and specifically, abilities regarding predicting the future, as if it were obvious. If that’s the case, it greatly sours this fix-it proclaiming that not all of the people who wandered were killed in Threadfall.

Additionally, for fans of Pern who haven’t read any of Anne’s other series, the presence of precognitives on Pern could be a shock, given that not even the AI himself seemed to mention the possibility they existed. But, through the course of all of the series she wrote, Anne did a significant amount of welding between the nominally-fantasy-with-SF-origins Pern and SF-with-ESP-and-Psi Talents series, so much so that I think they’re part of a shared universe, even if they’re nowhere near each other in narrative time and space.

And I know that the question of which side of the fantasy/SF divide Pern lands on is forever fractious, but the divide itself is what causes that problem. The history of fandom is one where science fiction’s fanboys (and, almost inevitably, they are boys) decided they didn’t want to play or share space with the girls, so they claimed science fiction was for boys and totally legit writing, and fantasy was for girls and would never be good enough for them. Anne then becomes an example of someone who smashed through the walls of the boys’ club, Kool-Aid Man style, and helped make sure the way stayed open for other women to gain legitimacy. It all could have been avoided if the boys hadn’t decided to segregate, but welding Pern into the same space as the obviously SF Talents space deliberately opens up the available space and gives legitimacy to others whose SF might be around the borderlands of fantasy or straddling the two.

Which is a really long digression to say that the presence of a precognitive on Pern seems like Todd engaging in more of the same welding and legitimacy-granting effort that was started by Anne, rather than an organic growth from the narrative. Pern itself, except for the AI, seemed fairly uninterested in developing, exploring, or looking for evidence of psi powers in general, except for as they relate to dragons. As far as we know, based on the stories set on Landing and elsewhere, there’s no indication of any psi abilities past telekinetic, telepathic, teleporting dragons and strong implications that the people they bond to are sensitive to telepathy with dragons. (And possibly each other, maybe.) And even the AI was more interested in the dragons’ capabilities than the riders’.

So now we have to adjust our models to include the knowledge that there are people who can see into the future and that those people, including children, manage to keep themselves hidden from the dragons. Especially the blue ones that go out on Search. And they do it so well that they do not have a mention ever in the latter annals and stories. It probably sounded like a good idea at the time, and another way of making sure that when people look at Pern as a whole, they see science fiction with dragons, but it does generate problems for consistency of the narrative already established. More points for fanfic authors to make their stamp or provide patches and fixes, I guess.

Tenniz is also not done making predictions about Fiona.

“You are with the beacon [the unknown Weyrwoman],” Tenniz told her, his voice full of awe. “She is so powerful, she can change everything. And you will change her.”
Tears dripped from his eyes and his jaw trembled with fear. “You will face difficult choices. You will control all Pern. You are in the beginning and at the end.” His expression grew bleak. “I can see the beacon going out in your presence.”

Which, as prophecies go, is nicely cryptic so that nobody gathers any information they’re not supposed to have yet. Fiona’s frightened by the prophecy, but resolves to be her very best self because she’s descended from nobles and riding a dragon, so it’s her duty to be awesome.

Fiona and T’mar go back, and Fiona is persuaded to take a nap, even as she’s still giving advice to Terin on where to find glows and what trees to cut to make matresses from. When she wakes up, the traders have nearly arrived to the Weyr. (And also, the situation of who is tired and who is wired seems to have reversed, now that the group is back in time.) Terin is slightly a-fret because she’s all of ten, but Fiona and T’mar remind her she’s headwoman, and both of them support her, so if anyone gives her shit, they want to know about it so they can explain in very small words why it’s a bad idea. And they also tell Terin to behave herself.

The traders arrive and set up, and Mother Karina mentions she was all of ten when she picked up the Mother moniker. Terin seends weyrlings to collect the lunch sacks.

Karina gestured to the boiling water. “And what were you hoping to put in your pots?”
“Food for injured dragonroders and growing weyrlings,” Terin replied promptly. A small grin slid over her as she added, “And anyone else that feels need.”
Karina cocked her head at those words. “Is that so? Is it a habit of the Weyr to feed those who wander nearby?”
“Always,” Terin replied solemnly. “We’ll share the last crumb.”
“Big words from such a small girl,” Karina replied.
“Only the truth,” Terin replied, her eyes flashing. “I am an orphan myself. I was taken in as a baby, parents dead from the hunger.” She raised her head in challenge to the older woman. “So you see, I have reason to be my word.”

After asking Terin what she means by that, Karina approves of Terin, by saying there must be a lot of trader stock in weyrfolk, the two of them settle in to making lunch, with Karina leading, since none of the northerners have seen lentils before in their lives. Azeez mentions that after lunch is usually too hot to do anything but nap, which leads to a confession that the traders have been using Igen as a stop and a base for the years that it has been abandoned, to which Fiona is grateful that somebody was. And T’mar intends that the traders stay in Igen in the regular.

“We talked about this when we met,” T’mar continued. “We could carry supplies for you.” Azeez nodded, still no closer to comprehension. “And you would need to store them, occasionally?”
“We could store them here?” Karina asked, eyes alight with the prospect.
“Whatever we can do to help,” T’mar offered.
“For a reasonable fee, of course,” Terin added from her place at the table. She caught Karina’s eyes challengingly and locked with them until the older woman threw up her hands in surrender.
“Another with the soul of a trader!”

And that’s chapter 12, where Igen Weyr is re-established under Fiona’s auspices, with Terin as her number one and T’mar as the muscle to make sure all the boys behave themselves. And with the assistance of traders that can see the future and will help make sure all the riders coming back in time are well-provisioned. By essentially proving they could have been traders themselves.

And also, flashing eyes really seems to be Todd’s go-to for expressing anger, whether by just about every woman or by a few men as well. It’s becoming a tell more than anything, and one would hope an editor said, “Hey, y’know, people react in different ways, so maybe we should change a few of these out.”

Plus, because I know it’s going to be part of a future chapter, I’m also significantly concerned about the whole “two women in the Weyr” thing when one of them is a gold rider who will be all of fifteen at most when Talenth decides she needs to lay some eggs and the other will be at most twelve when the sex rays hit. This sounds like a terrible idea, and I wonder if the traders are going to conveniently be there to provide more people when it happens, just so we don’t have to contemplate what fraction of horny dragonriders are going to go for Fiona exclusively and what are going to go for Terin when T’mar’s dragon is the one that wins the mating flight.

These and more things next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for November 22nd, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is going to help someone move stuff, most likely, in a very short amount of time.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

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 finally coming to the end of drafting your assignments and have a little breathing space. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: A Taste Of Real Freedom

Last time, Fiona got gaslit by the Weyrleaders and T’mar into thinking her problem with T’mar’s cavalier attitude toward safety and life was really her own hangups about being in a role where she might have to let people die to save others or to keep the dragonriders as a whole going. Those two things are not actually related to each other, but Fiona went and apologized to T’mar for giving him a public dressing-down about the safety of his passengers because the Weyrleaders insisted she do so.

Dragonheart, Chapter 11: Content Notes:

Right after Fiona apologizes to T’mar, Nuella and Nuellask (who has added letters to her name, probably signifying the very tight bonds the two have at this point) arrive and have a conference with the Weyrleaders, a conference Fiona is eventually invited in to. Fiona knows how to greet Nuellask and where to scritch because of some time spent with Forsk. Nuella is amused about this for reasons not fully related to the watch-wher.

“But sometimes, when I was lonely, I’d go into her [Forsk] lair and curl up with her when I was tired.”
“From catching tunnel snakes, no doubt,” the woman, whom Fiona realized must be Nuella, guessed with amusement in her voice. “Kindan complained of it to me on several occasions.”
“Complained?” Fiona repeated, feeling irked with Kindan. “I got a quarter mark for each head!”
“And never got bitten, except the once,” Nuella added approvingly.
Fiona looked at her in surprise. “How did you–how did Kindan know about that?”
Nuella laughed. “No one keeps secrets from harpers for long.”
“But I treated myself and kept the cut hidden!”
“You still needed stores and you had to ask someone, even if hypothetically, about treating snakebites,” Nuella replied, her voice full of humor. She held out a hand, which Fiona took and shook eagerly. “I’m Nuella, as you’ve no doubt guessed.” She continued. “And rest assured, no one would have known except that Kindan was keeping such a careful watch over you.”
Fiona was too embarrassed to reply.
I thought it was a particularly good idea to ask Kelsa if there’d ever been songs written about treating snakebites,” Nuella confided approvingly.
“She wrote one just afterward,” Fiona remembered, then groaned, glancing over to the older woman in horror, “and she consulted Father on it! You don’t suppose she told him…?”
Nuella laughed and shook her head. “I have no idea,” she replied. “All I know is that after the song was written, Kindan showed up at my camp very agitated and tried to slyly teach the song to me.”
“He was afraid you were going to go after tunnel snakes?”
Nuella shook her head, her grin slipping. “I’d already done that,” she confessed. “I think he was just trying to be certain that I knew how to handle the bites if I ever did again.”
With a shock of horror, Fiona realized that Nuella was referring to her first watch-wher, the green Nuelsk, who had died of snakebite.

Oh, so that’s what happened to Kisk-Nuelsk. Is this the first time anyone has mentioned the change between the green and the gold? If it happened before, I would have thought I mentioned it. *rummage through notes* Nope. Got nothing. So we learn of the fate of Nuelsk through Fiona’s memory, which doesn’t then explain Nuellask’s existence at all, since, last I checked, the only known gold watch-wher was Aleesk.

I’m a lot dubious about “Kelsa wrote a song about snakebite,” but that’s mostly because I can’t imagine how terrible the Archives really are at the Harper Hall if every solution to “how do we remember this stuff?” really is “Write a song about it!” I know there’s the Teaching Songs, and presumably, there’s a standard Harper repertoire, occasionally influenced by those who have the gift of music, like Menolly, Petiron, and Kelsa, but it seems like everything having a song is just too much of everything. Maybe Verilan is slightly pleased that Kindan and Vaxoram burnt some amount of the materials on the Archive, because they can’t have all been winners.

Also, I’d like to take a moment to give a shout-out to both Fiona and Nuella for hunting tunnel snakes, especially to Fiona for making some very good wages killing them (and only suffering the one bite.) This is effective storytelling in that it tells us, the reader, that Fiona has always been a fireball who was going to chafe hard at the restrictions society was imposing on her, and it lets us know that Nuella might be one of the few characters who understands Fiona and the two should probably become fast friends, if not confidantes.

Nuellask meets Talenth, who wants to play, but regrettably, everyone has to finish up their war council meeting, and H’nez gets his nose tweaked twice in swift succession.

“I still think it’s a bad idea,” H’nez grumbled. “The Records say nothing of watch-whers fighting Thread–”
“Actually,” Cisca interrupted smoothly, “they do.”
“When?” H’nez asked abruptly.
“As of last night, when I wrote the report,” the Weyrwoman told him.
H’nez was not amused. “If they’re so useful, why was there no mention before?”
“I doubt anyone ever thought to mention it because it was obvious,” K’lior told him. “Watch-whers watch at night and guard holds–we all know that. Probably no one thought it worth mentioning that at night they also guard the holds from Thread.”
“We haven’t trained for this,” H’nez protested.
“I accept responsibility for that,” K’lior said.
“If all goes well, we won’t need you,” Nuella assured H’nez.
“Not need…?” H’nez repeated, his tone full of disbelief.
“If the weather holds, the Thread will all be dead,” Nuella said, “and then neither dragon nor watch-wher will have to fight.”

K’lior, that’s a fantastic explanation. Too bad that it’s completely wrong, since we saw at the end of the last book that Wind Blossom insisted this knowledge stay secret for still unfathomable reasons. Because plot, I suppose. And that mention Cisca makes of watch-whers fighting Thread will also be forgotten through time, even though it should be repeated with every generation to make sure it doesn’t get lost again.

Nuella’s jab at H’nez is pretty good, too, in terms of popping someone’s ego appropriately. Of course, I still believe H’nez shouldn’t be anywhere but Telgar.

The new day dawns promisingly, with snow, and Fiona and Tintoval wonder if just asking dragons and riders how they feel might give a good bead on figuring out how sick the dragons are, but Cisca points out the mental bond can bleed from dragon to rider and spoil any results. Tintoval asks for Xhinna’s help in preparing for the injured, and Xhinna’s sense of duty wins out over her desire to “beat the weyrlings at sacking firestone,” as Fiona puts it. Fiona seems to be accreting a nexus of strong women to herself, which I approve greatly of, and hope they all break off and start their own Weyr and throw all the social conventions to the wind. (It won’t happen, but I wish, okay?) There’s a short scene that’s basically “we’re so glad we have the right firestone now,” and another that’s “K’lior is worried things are going to go pear-shaped because his dragonriders aren’t running on high alert,” before we get to Zenor and Nuella (now happily married) having a fight about whether or not Nuella needs to go out with Nuellask to fight the Thread. Zenor says she needs to think about her children and family and staying alive to raise them. Nuella says it’s her duty to be out there leading the charge, even if Nuellask knows how to run the operation herself. Two of her children, Zelar and Nalla, overhear, and Nalla tips the scales in Nuella’s favor by quoting the statement about how dragonriders must fly when Thread is in the sky, even though Zelar says it’s not the same thing.

“No flying upside down,” he chided her.
“It musses up my hair,” Nuella responded, not–Zenor noted–necessarily ceding to his request.
“Bring her back,” Zenor said to Nuellask. “She and I have more babies to make.”
“Gladly!” Nuella responded with a laugh. “I want six, at least.”
“Excellent,” Zenor agreed, his eyes dancing.
“And Nuellask wants a few us clutches herself, I’m sure.”
“Which is a good thing,” Zenor said, “as it seems your babies start with hers.”

I am glad Nuella and Zenor are agreed about the relationship they have with each other, and they seem to be doing well in parenting. It might be the healthiest relationship I’ve seen on screen out of all of these books, and a large part of it is because Zenor seems willing to let Nuella be who she is, rather than expecting her to be wife and mother solely.

So K’lior’s bad feeling is right, as the weather is too warm and the corresponding Thread count too high for the watch-whers to consume themselves, so a quick makeshift team, including Cisca and an already hurt Nuella, rallies the whers and has them direct the flamethrowers where they need to go and shoot. Which gets them through the night, but not without some burrows slipping through, which turn out to be well-established in the wrong places, necessitating the destruction of a forty year-old forest. K’lior is pretty pissed about the necessary destruction, and apologizes to Lord Egremer about it. Egremer asks for the loan of some weyrlings to help ease some things and save some time in the rebuilding. Which sparks an idea in K’lior, who thanks Egremer for his inspiration and then hightails it back to Fort Weyr to explain to Cisca that if they throw the weyrlings back in time, they’ll have enough time to mature fully and then pop back as full dragonriders ready to kick Thread and take names. Cisca thinks it’s brilliant. The rest of the war council, sans H’nez, is on board. H’nez, however, has landed on K’lior’s shit list, finally.

“No one knows if this is going to work, anyway,” H’nez said. K’lior glanced sourly in his direction–H’nez had been late in joining the fight the night before.

We’ve finally found out what it is that gets you on the Weyrleader’s bad side, and…well, of course it has to do with fighting Thread instead of being an asshole. Which, we note, H’nez continues to be.

K’lior turned to T’mar. “When can you be ready?”
“In two hours,” T’mar replied. “When do you need us back?”
“Excuse me,” H’nez said, “but I think I should be the one to go.”
K’lior turned to him with a raised brow.
“I’ve had the most experience leading flights of dragons; I’ll be the best at training them and handling their injuries,” H’nez explained.
“T’mar is handling the weyrlings now,” K’lior said. “and the decision as to who goes is mine.”
H’nez flashed angrily. “Then pick me.”
K’lior eyed him with distate for a moment, then turned his attention back to T’mar. “The healer will need to stay here.”
T’mar nodded in agreement.
“Weyrleader!” H’nez snapped through gritted teeth. All eyes turned to him. “If you will not let me lead the Flight back to Igen, then I demand that you send me to another Weyr.”
“H’nez!” M’valer gasped.
K’lior merely nodded. “I can not send you until this illness has been cured,” he told H’nez. “at that time, however, you may go to any Weyr that will have you. In the meantime, as we have more wingleaders than wings, you are to fly in M’kury’s wing.”
H’nez nodded stiffly, rose from his chair, and rushed out of the room, ignoring K’rall’s and M’valer’s outraged expressions.

Oh, for fuck’s sake, finally. I still think it a terrible thing that K’lior waited until H’nez did himself in by his own words and actions, instead of sending him off or demoting him to a flyer as soon as it became apparent he was unsuited to leadership, but there’s probably some unwritten rule somewhere that I’m not aware of, being just a reader of the book and not fully immersed in dragonrider culture and how bronze riders work. Anyway. H’nez has been neutralized for the moment, although I’m not counting him out to try something when he thinks nobody is looking, because guys like him don’t just slink off or merely wait their time out.

Fiona offers to go back in time, but she’s nixed because she’s the heir and there’s no way they’re risking the juvenile queen on this mission. As Fiona explains it to Xhinna, the riders are going to use the position of the Red Star, and then calculate what it should look like Ten Turns ago to get their picture, which should sound rather familiar to us, given that the position of the Red Star was what was used for the giant time hops that Jaxom and Ruth led, and several other intentional-or-otherwise time hops that have been done before. Given that dragonriders keep time by the Red Star, which is apparently the most regular object in their orbit, it makes sense that it keeps getting used for time-point fixation. So T’mar and the weyrlings pop back in time to do their thing, which resolves a certain number of the paradoxes involved and will hopefully bring those weyrlings back to full alertness when they stop crossing their timelines. Xhinna and Fiona and F’jian all talk about the lack of riders in the Weyr, and how they would much rather be in the past, growing up, even though their dragons can’t actually carry them, much less send them back in time.

When Fiona yawns, Talenth tells her to go to bed, and says she’ll be in shortly, but she has to think first. Which is the latest in a few signs that Talenth might not be like other dragons, but it’s been small things like Fiona can tell Talenth to listen for other riders, and that works perfectly well, but is actually somewhat unusual for dragons when noted. Fiona is awoken in the middle of the night by the same mysterious queen rider she saw before, who has an imperative for Fiona and Talenth: come back with her to Igen Weyr, so that the other weyrlings will see them go and do the same thing themselves. Because this rider, whomever she is, is from the future and now has to make sure that her own past happens as she remembers it. So Talenth, Fiona, and Terin make the hop with the queen rider. Xhinna is left behind at the insistence of the queen rider, which I’m sure will sour whatever relationship Fiona and Xhinna had. And the chapter closes with Fiona puzzling out who this mysterious rider might be from the future.

Who was this person? Fiona wondered. Who rode a gold and could bring them back in time?
A growing sense of wonder overcame her as she considered the most obvious answer: Could this be Fiona herself, come back from the future?

Well, if it is, we have the Lessa Paradox all over again. Although, I suppose, given the chronologies involved, it would first be called the Wind Blossom Paradox, or the Lorana Paradox, long before it became the Lessa Paradox. In any case, we keep having these situations that are extremely vulnerable to the Bootstrap Paradox happening with greater frequency as the new author settles in, and that’s not a trend that I want to see continue. Aside from my annoyance at how directly Pernese time travel interferes with itself and the grumble I have about the bootstrap paradox, the reliance on time travel as the solution to all problems and the construction of narratives that require time travel to solve makes it sound like the new author doesn’t feel confident in their ability to tell the story they want. There’s so many more things on the table to pick up and run with, like the terrible similarity between Lady Holder and Weyrwoman that Fiona is experiencing. Or how all the people that Fiona keeps putting in positions of usefulness see the world. There’s Thread and heretofore unseen illness and a lack of knowledge that is punishing everyone and a race against the clock to find a solution. That’s good enough without having to bring time travel into it. There’s so much going on that things that could be explored more get rushed past. Maybe not all of it makes it into the final work, but Fiona is more of a plot device than a character at this point.

Chapter 12 starts next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for November 15th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is going to have a fun time this weekend, assuming everything goes according to plan.)

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

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 finally coming to the end of drafting your assignments and have a little breathing space. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: Terrible Decision-Making, All Around

Last time, Fiona learned a lot more about what it means to be a weyrling and what sort of responsibilities she’s going to have to take on a a Weyrwoman supervising them.

Dragonheart: Chapter 11: Content Notes: Trolley Problems and Faulty Logic, Gaslighting

I reached out
And you were gone.
I cried out
But you had flown.

(Fort Weyr, Morning, AL 508.1.19)

Cisca and Fiona debrief about the incident in the morning, and Fiona mentions her mysterious voice told her things were going to be fine despite this setback. (It was there, but the mysterious voice isn’t doing much but being reassuring, so it’s not always important.) The two of them then try their hardest to convince everyone else that everything is going to be fine as well, despite no actual evidence of progress. Fiona gets to go drill the weyrlings today. Tajen and T’mar are going to try Fiona’s suggestion of trailing firestone sacks behind the dragon. Fiona ships J’gerd off to drill the older weyrlings, and Xhinna gives Fiona advice about drilling the younglings – all things are tests, especially anything that looks like a mistake or a missed command. Fiona does well, especially when Talenth gets involved and when Fiona rotates who is giving commands.

Xhinna proved as adept at drill as Fiona had expected, giving her orders in a well-timed cadence that actually made the drills work better.
“That was amazing!” Xhinna told Fiona when they finally called halt, he eyes shining with joy. “I could almost feel how they’d be in the air and–” She cut herself off abruptly and dropped her eyes to the ground.
Fiona could guess what the other girl was thinking: that it was something she’d never experience. She wanted to say something to reassure her, to give her hope, but she couldn’t think of anything that wouldn’t sound false or silly.

Talenth ends up promising Xhinna an egg from her clutch, when the time comes. And this is another one of those times where I really have to boggle at the hoarding of knowledge and material by everybody on Pern. Like, the fife and drum corps is not a new concept in any sort of way, and yet it seems like Fiona notices Xhinna’s natural cadence and this is some sort of novel idea and improvement to the previous drill idea. We already have Harpers for the Weyr, so how hard would it be for an apprentice drummer to be put on loan to a Weyr to practice their rudiments in such a way that gives the weyrlings a beat and cadence to practice their drill to? And since it’s not like the dragonriders need any sort of secrecy to fight Thread, why not have a drummer on hand when fighting a Fall to keep time and tempo so that the dragons fight Thread as efficiently and rhythmically as possible? Maybe the Songmaster can compose a song for the weyrlings to memorize that contains their drill in it, so all they have to do is hear the right command and the tempo and they can do it. There’s always the possibility that a weyrling will be without rhythm at all, of course, but it’s always interesting to see how many things are being rediscovered that should never have been forgotten in the first place.

Drill goes well, T’mar and Tajen say the trailing firestone idea works, but they don’t particularly like it compared to having weyrlings do resupply. Even though having six sacks floating seems to make this idea work fairly well. The return of the rest of the fighting groups means a leader meeting where everyone’s numbers are basically terrible, and that’s worse because High Reaches won’t help (because of the time plot) and Telgar won’t help (because there’s an asshole in charge). Fort currently has about a wing’s worth of reserves over the minimum needed to fight a Fall properly. Fiona suggests that wing could be the firestone reserves, using the same technique of floating sacks behind, and then the reserve wing could join the fray and patch holes that might have appeared through casualties, a suggestion swiftly adopted and then assigned out to be put into practice with the next day’s drill.

Fiona is getting a lot of mileage out of the outsider perspective trait, since Cisca and company seem to be actively encouraging Fiona to examine all of their issues and practices to see if there are improvements to be had, and Fiona seems to be coming up with solutions on the regular.

The more the book gets into the details, though, it continues to leave out a lot of things. Like, is firestone mined to a certain size and weight so that there’s a standard-within-tolerance expectation of how long a flame a dragon can sustain per rock? (Does it change depending on the dragon’s color? If so, is every dragon wing composed solely of one color?) Does an attacking wedge of dragons sustain their flame for a set amount of time before peeling off and letting the next wedge smoothly take their place while they float back to the back of the queue to reload? How does a wing or wedge or flight accomplish resupply without Thread advancing some amount of ground, given that the point is to make sure no Thread touches down?

These things don’t have to be explicitly said in painstaking detail, but they should be known, so that when characters speak or act, they’re doing so in a way that shows the author has thought of it and plotted it out. You need a series book of research, even if the research itself doesn’t need to go into the narrative.

As it turns out, the next day, Xhinna and Terin present Fiona with a new problem – the next scheduled Threadfall will go through sundown and dragons do not see well on the dark. Fiona runs the problem past the other Weyrleaders, and everyone goes “…shit.” Some of the Thread might freeze, but there’s going to be space for Thread to burrow that the ground crews aren’t going to be able to cover. The Weyrleaders are appreciative, even if it means having to do more things.

“You have a habit of finding difficult friends, don’t you?”
Fiona looked up and saw that he was smiling at her.
“Don’t stop,” Cisca told her heatedly. “We need these sorts of friends; they keep us from making terrible mistakes.”
“Indeed,” K’lior said, his expression thoughtful. He raised an eyebrow toward Cisca in some secret communication that seemed to Fiona that they were dragons communicating telepathically.
“Yes,” K’lior said after a moment. “I think we shouuld encourage this Terin to stand on the Hatching Grounds.”
“Nothing short of a full revolution for you, is there?” Cisca wondered, her eyes dancing at Fiona.
” ‘Need drives when Thread arrives,’ ” K’lior quoted in reply.

And so, at least at Fort, we seem to be headed in the direction of getting plenty of eligible candidates from places unexpected to sit for dragons. Which is excellent, and it’s nice having Weyrleaders who think this is a good idea, rather than trying to obstruct it for any sort of TRADITION reasons or otherwise. Cisca and K’lior seem to be both practical and pragmatic, except when it comes to getting rid of people that needed to step down or be dismissed, I guess. Which can be a big flaw in the wrong conditions.

Fiona continues to do the thing she does best, in providing outside perspective to the dragonriders that sorely need it.

“What about the watch-whers?” Fiona asked. “I know my father’s Forsk will be eager.”
“Watch-whers?” K’lior repeated, running a hand through his hair in exasperation. “What could they do?”
“They can see at night,” Fiona replied, undaunted. “And I know that father has been training with Forsk, getting guidance from Kindan, M’tal, and Nuella.”
K’lior groaned. Cisca looked at him worriedly. “The watch-whers,” he explained. “When M’tal was here at the Hatching, he wanted us to train with the watch-whers.”
“And you said no,” Cisca guessed.
And I said no,” K’lior agreed disconsolately. “Could you imagine H’nez…?”
“He would have been apoplectic,” Cisca agreed.
“Well, there’s nothing we can do about it now,” K’lior said with a heavy sigh. “We’ll fight the Thread tonight and see if perhaps we can train with the watch-whers before the next Fall.”

Or, perhaps, the consequences of not being able to throw H’nez out on his ear when needed will come back and bite the Weyrleaders in the ass more directly. Also, watch-whers are an important part of things, and the fact that they can see in the dark and eat Thread should not have become part of lost knowledge, but again, Pern.

As it is, the first night-time raid is a disaster for K’lior, because the dragons can’t see, but it turns out the watch-whers and Nuella turn up to help them out anyway and remind everyone that they’re the night crew for Thread, because the watch-whers will eat the stuff up. There’s some concern about how there aren’t enough watch-whers to fight a full onslaught if all the Thread is live (since, remember, they work on heat-vision, they can tell what’s live and what’s dead in terms of Thread), and Cisca is put out that she missed out, but mostly it’s “Nuella was flying upside-down and said hello. Since she’s blind, I’m not sure she noticed,” from K’lior, to which Cisca says, “Yeah, no, she noticed. I’ll bet her mate will be unhappy about that stunt. And also, don’t get any ideas.”

H’nez is grounded for the next Fall, due to injured dragon, and T’mar has Fiona accompany him to the Harper Hall. Once Fiona gets under the archways, she’s lifted off her feet by an unknown person, who nearly gets kicked in sensitive areas for assaulting her like that, before Fiona identifies it as Verilan, and the two have a conversation about how much Fiona’s grown before heading in to Zist’s office, where Bemin, Kelsa, Zist, and a few others are seated. Kelsa tells Fiona that she’s pregnant, which nets an “About time” from Fiona. (Exact quote.) Fiona rattles through the reasons why there might be so many dignitaries present, but those reasons have been covered, it’s mostly to be sure that Fiona’s okay with it. Which she is, and thinks that both her mother and Koriana would have wanted it. Koriana gets named, Lady Sannora does not, but such is the way with siblings, I suppose.

Then they get to the real reason they called for the meeting – Fort Weyr is getting a healer again, a newly-promoted master by the name of Tintoval. She will hopefully have a better tenure than the last healer did, perhaps by virtue of being someone H’nez is less likely to get into duel fights with, even if H’nez will have to be told, repeatedly, that he has to listen to her. T’mar also wants to relay the news about the watch-whers fighting Thread, but Forsk was apparently in the thick of it, so everyone already knows.

When it’s time to leave, Fiona notes there aren’t enough straps to make sure everyone’s secure in. T’mar brushes off her concern, so Fiona gets a grip on one strap with one hand and holds on to Tintoval with the other. There’s a little turbulence on the way back, and Fiona hurts herself holding everyone down, which provokes T’mar into a fit that Fiona could have been lost. Fiona is pretty pissed that they endangered the new Healer and doesn’t understand why T’mar, and then Cisca and K’lior, are pissed at her in return. I follow Fiona’s confusion, even as the whole thing is supposedly explained by K’lior and Cisca.

“But T’mar was–”
“–wrong,” K’lior finished for her. “He should have used the straps.”
“He said he didn’t have any,” Fiona protested.
“He could have borrowed some from the Harper Hall,” K’lior replied. “Master Zist is used to dealing with dragonriders and is smart enough to keep some on hand.”
“As, no doubt, does your father,” Cisca added.
“Then you agree–”
“I do not agree with your public humiliation of a wingleader,” K’lior interjected harshly. “T’mar’s a good man; he would have learned his lesson without your childish outburst.”
“Childish!”
“Childish,” Cisca agreed, but her tone was softer than K’lior’s and she shot the Weyrleader a look that Fiona couldn’t fathom. K’lior shrugged in response, leaving Cisca to continue, “An adult would have realized that T’mar would punish himself harshly for his error and–”
“–an adult would accept the realities of being a queen rider,” K’lior finished.

Cocowhat by depizan

Yes, T’mar should have made better choices. Also, Fiona’s a Weyrwoman, it’s within her remit to remark that T’mar made poor choices. Fiona is not in the wrong, here, which makes it even more aggravating that Cisca and K’lior are acting like she is, even after having acknowledged that Fiona isn’t wrong.

“And let someone else die?” Fiona demanded in anguish and fury, her eyes filling with tears.
“If need be,” Cisca answered softly. She gestured to herslef and Fiona. “Without us, there would be no queens. And without the queens, there will be no Pern.”
“So our queens are nothing more than brood mothers?” Fiona demanded sourly. “And you and I are–” She found she couldn’t finish the sentence and so said instead, “But what about Tannaz? Why did you let her go between?”
“It wasn’t my choice,” Cisca told her. She shook her head sadly. “You know that it wasn’t really Tannaz’s choice, either. Kelsanth was dying; there was no cure.”

Fiona finally comes to the terrible conclusion herself, that being a queen rider and a Weyrwoman isn’t any more free than being a Lady Holder would have been, especially in this situation where queens are precious and need to be protected. Which is the sort of thing that’s been more obvious or less obvious as the previous series have gone on. Fiona exchanged one cage for another, but at no point was she ever going to be free.

Cisca and Fiona have a heated exchange about whether Fiona’s going to give up in despair because there’s still no cure for the dragons, or whether she’s going to fight it all the way through, and then when Fiona resolutely says she’s not giving up, Cisca asks her

“Will you be a leader and an inspiration, or will you be a whiner and an embarrassment? Will you bear your responsibilities, or bow under them?”
“But–to let her fall!” Fiona wailed. A torrent of emotions broke over her and she began to cry.
Realization dawned on K’lior’s face. “You aren’t angry at T’mar–you’re angry because you would have let her go!”
“I held on!” Fiona declared, holding up her aching arm as proof.
“Of course you did,” Cisca replied proudly. “You’re a Weyrwoman.” She glanced to K’lior. “We’ve never questioned that.”
“But,” K’lior persisted, “if it had come to letting her go or falling with her–”
“I would have let her go!” Fiona cried, dropping her head into her hands and shaking it in shame and sorrow. “I would have let her go.”
Strong arms wrapped around her and she was pulled tight against Cisca’s tall body. “Of course you would,” Cisca agreed with her, “because that’s what you would have had to do to protect Pern. You would have hated yourself for it, probably never have forgiven yourself, but you would have done it.” Cisca pushed her away and put a finger under Fiona’s chin, gently raising it so she could see the girl’s eyes. “And that’s what makes a great Weyrwoman: doing what has to be done even when she hates it.”
“That’s why you let Tannaz go,” Fiona said with sudden understanding.
“Yes,” Cisca replied, the words torn out of her, and again she crushed Fiona in a tight embrace, the sort of embrace a mother gives her daughter; the sort of embrace Fiona had always longed for. A short moment later, however, Fiona pushed herself away and glanced toward K’lior. “And that’s why you called me in here.”
The Weyrleader nodded, a corner of his lips turned up in a bitter smile. “Better to know your mettle now than when we are in worse straits.”
Fiona nodded. She stood as tall as she could and said to K’lior, “Weyrleader, I apologize for my outburst at Wingleader T’mar. I was distressed and took my temper out on him. I regret it.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Cocowhat by depizan

Cocowhat by depizan

I don’t even understand this sequence. Fiona’s really mad at herself that she would have engaged in self-preservation when the chips were down, and that’s somehow emblematic that Fiona will be able to make the hard decisions when it’s time, and that’s what they want in a Weyrwoman, so now Fiona understands their position, accepts it as correct, and apologizes for it?

I don’t know if that’s gaslighting, but if it isn’t, it sure as hell is in the same family. T’mar’s still wrong, Fiona’s still justified in taking it out on him, his feelings be damned, and Cisca and K’lior should be supporting her rather than telling her she was wrong to do it and convincing her that she’s really mad at herself instead of at T’mar. He might very well beat himself up about it in private, and that’s well and dandy, but everybody, including Fiona now, is trying to make the greater sin in that Fiona said something and was harsh with him, rather than that he endangered lives.

“Seriously,” Cisca said, turning again to Fiona, “it is often hard for a young Weyrwoman to accept the realities of her position.”
“To let healers die that I might live,” Fiona said by way of example.
“If that is what is needed to protect your queen and the future of Pern,” Cisca responded emphatically.
“It just doesn’t seem fair,” Fiona said softly.
“It isn’t fair,” Cisca agreed. “It’s up to us–Weyrwomen and Weyrleaders–to make it as fair as we can.”
“And when we can’t,” K’lior added, “it’s our responsibility to make certain that no sacrifice is in vain.”

Cisca also says she expects Fiona to deal with T’mar on her own before the Weyrleaders go out to formally meet Tintoval.

But we’re still talking about different things here. T’mar didn’t follow safety regulations and endangered lives through his carelessness. Fiona told him there were problems, but he blew her off. Consequently, Fiona injured herself trying to make sure that T’mar’s carelessness didn’t cost the life of the Healer the Weyr desperately needs. Everyone is yelling at Fiona that she can’t endanger herself for other people, because she’s too precious. If that were the case, really, then Fiona shouldn’t be let out of the Weyr for any reason at all. Like she wouldn’t be let out of her Hold ever, either as someone to be married away or when she was properly married, because she would need to produce at least an heir and a spare to ensure succession.

This does not tie into “sometimes, as a leader, you have to make choices that will kill people,” unless everyone is tacitly admitting here that T’mar’s carelessness was instead a deliberate test to see if Fiona would let Tintoval go and only care about herself. Which is an extremely shitty thing to do to Fiona and Tintoval, even if T’mar was confident there wouldn’t be any real danger and they could catch Tintoval if she were jostled out of her seat. There are way many more ways of doing a test like this, and in reality, with Threadfall already underway, there won’t be any need to test this idea, as Fiona, should she ever become Senior, will have to send riders out to die, or at least be okay with the Weyrleader doing so.

This entire sequence seems to be here for the purpose of gaslighting Fiona, inflicting trauma on her, and making it very clear to the reader just how little has changed for Fiona because of her Impression. And, just, ugh. It’s fucking terrible, because it’s all about prioritizing the feelings of a dude over the very real problems that Fiona is absolutely right to point out.

The narrative goes on with Fiona showing Tintoval around, answering questions, and coming to see one of the sick dragons, where I am reminded that names ending in consonants are men’s names, not women’s names, and therefore there’s the possibility of confusion if someone hasn’t seen Tintoval before hearing her name. “A new healer,” the voice inside began hopefully. “Does he–”
He broke off as they entered. S’ban was dressed elegantly in wherhide breeches and a thick blue sweater accented with a gold chain around his neck. For a moment his face showed his surprise at Tintoval, and then it darkened. “I’m not sure that Serth will tolerate a woman’s touch,” he warned them. When Fiona opened her mouth to argue, the blue rider amended quickly, “I mean, a woman who is not a queen rider.”

And, along with name confusion, we get slapped with the casual sexism of Pern. (Yay.) Because there’s no reason to believe that the dragon gives a damn about what gender the person is that’s trying to heal them. Instead, it’s the rider assuming that Tintoval can’t be capable, because she’s a woman, never mind that she’s just recently been promoted to her Mastery and so is exactly the person that can fill the great big gaping hole in Fort Weyr’s ability to keep the people and the dragons healthy.

Tintoval explains she was named because her father, also a blue rider, expected her to be a son so much that he had her named before they knew. This would be the perfect place for a trans narrative, where Tintoval says, “And he was right about having a son, even though I look like this.” and we get representation and someone doing important work. But that’s not going to happen. Instead, we get more of Tintoval being competent, some teasing of Fiona from Tintoval about her crush on Kindan, which leads into wanting to think about the problem of catching riders too injured to fly their dragon well, a few bits of reaction to the Weyr seeing Tintoval for the first time, and Fiona being deliberately snubbed from the Weyrleader’s table (there’s no place for her) because she hasn’t apologized to T’mar yet. So Fiona goes to do it, and we get more of Fiona gaslighting herself and others joining in.

“She didn’t,” he [Bemin] would probably have said, “and you weren’t angry with the bronze rider because of that.” She could imagine him sighing and drawing her close. “Lying does not become a Lady Holder, particularly if she lies to herself.”
[…Fiona sees T’mar and makes her way over…]
“Wingleader T’mar,” Fiona began, “I wish to apologize t you for my outburst this morning. I should not have been angry with you.” She bit her lip and forced herself to continue. “The truth you spoke was not one I was prepared to hear. I regret my harsh words.”
[…T’mar accepts it and makes a place for her at his table…]
T’mar waited until she was seated, then leaned in close to her. “You are not weyrbred; you learned something to day that our children know as soon as they can talk.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Then why the fuck is everyone coming down on Fiona like a ton of bricks? Unless nobody actually stopped and thought for half a second about how Fiona doesn’t understand this truism of their life and perhaps someone should explain it to her.

“I am holdbred,” Fiona agreed, “but my father is a Lord Holder and many of the same truths apply to Lady Holders as [they do] to Weyrwomen.” She frowned. “It’s just hard to accept.”
“Harder as a Weyrwoman, I believe,” T’mar told her. “As a Lady Holder you could renounce your claim, but as a Weyrwoman…” He shook his head.
“Is it always this hard?” Fiona asked him frankly. “Am I the only one…?”
“No,” T’mar assured her. “I think every Weyrwoman battles with this issue.” He waved a hand toward Cisca. “I know that she did, before Melirth rose.”

No, you’re not the only one. Every Lady Holder being trained up to be a nice marriage token and then household-runner, every Weyrwoman, basically every woman on Pern has the same issues that you’re running into, Fiona. Those that choose to strike out on their own, like Thella or Kylara, or even Brekke, had she been given half a chance, are almost invariably painted as villains by both society and the narrative (who wants to make sure that there are no women that want something different and that might be sympathetic to the reader in their wanting). So your options are to conform to the society that insists your value is only in how well you play a narrowly constricted role for men or to strike out and risk the wrath of that society and the narrative itself.

It’s hard to accept because Pern requires doublethink on par with the United States’ constant talk about Freedom, Liberty, Equality, and the bootstraps illusion, when even cursory research or examination of a perspective other than a privileged white man shows that all the talk being talked has basically no walk being walked behind it. Fiona thought that she could get out of the cage of being a Proper Lady Holder by ascending to a position that theoretically is above just about everyone, only to discover that she doesn’t have any of the actual power that comes with it, and by the time that actual power comes around, she won’t be able to use it except in approved ways anyway, because she’ll have to have a minder/husband/Weyrleader by her side instead of ruling the place by herself. Or at least being able to do what she wants to do, instead of what everyone that’s putting her on a pedestal expects her to do.

We haven’t seen Fiona have that realization and the mental breakdown that’s likely going to follow from it. There’s hints of it, because Fiona continues to be super-anxious about what will happen when Talenth rises to mate. (I don’t think it’s solely about the sex part, even if that’s what the conscious worry is about. I think Fiona is worried that when Talenth rises to mate, that will slam shut the last door Fiona has to get out of the situation before she no longer can. Fiona is facing an existential crisis at thirteen. The same one she would be facing as a Lady Holder, to be sure, but the stakes are, somehow, much higher than she would have expected to have as a Lady Holder. I kind of want to see what happens when a dragon goes to live with the watch-whers or something similar, where the dragon and rider simply close themselves off completely to being found by anybody else and go find a community of similar renunciants and lives out a life without having to become a Thread fighter, or leader, or Weyrwoman. Not that someone could hide dragons easily in the inhabited lands, but maybe some raids and a few other things to get a space for themselves and their dragons established and they could just opt-out as much as possible from the life and destiny set in front of them. That would be nice to have as an option.

There’s still nearly half of this chapter to cover, and this post is long enough already, so we’re going to stop here. I keep thinking back to the beginning piece, where the author mentioned rising tensions between dragonriders and holders, and have to wonder how much of this conflict between what’s expected in dragonrider culture and what’s expected in holder culture is really all that different, at least for the women allowed to participate in either realm, and how much of the conflict is really between the world as it is described to us and our own sense of ethics and morals about the treatment of others. But maybe that’s because I’m looking at this series with a lens toward showing where things don’t make sense, rather than being swayed by the presence of neat dragons and potential world-ending threats and engaging in some reader self-insertion (which is really easy to do in all of these novels) that might make me want to be more apologetic for Pern than I might otherwise be. Because it’s still got a decent concept, even if the executions leave a lot to be desired.

More next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for November 8th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who now has more than a few stories that need to get going and get done.)

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

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 getting ready for an election that has a high probability of being a trash fire. Or for any other reason, really.