Monthly Archives: December 2019

Deconstruction Roundup for December 27th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has been productively using their time off to see other people and hang out with them, as well as make solid progress on games)

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.

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you’re waiting for a little more money to kick in while you figure out what to do about your own needs to take care of things. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: Continuing the Setup

Last time, Fiona convinced Zenor and Nuella to move, the wherhold to come with them, and the Smiths to build them a hold in exchange for a ready supply of gold traded to them from the mine and Igen Weyr. She did this despite nobody actually believing er wen she claimed to be a dragonrider until she convinced them of it, sometimes in seemingly unrelated ways or because someone else gave prophecy and future vision that paved the way for Fiona. Which is to say, Fiona rarely succeeds by being herself, using her own abilities, and being direct, and instead is shepherded along by the narrative or rewarded for being indirect.

Dragonheart: Chapter 17: Content Notes: Sex rays,

Thread burn,
Thread score,
Rider heal,
Dragon soar.

(Igen Weyr, Late Evening, 498.9.8)

Okay, that’s just terrible. There’s no information conveyed in it, and I can’t imagine this being part of any song at all. Guh.

Chapter 17 starts with more dragons returning to full health, and some logistical plans coming to fruition, as the new wherhold gets up an running, as well as some key endorsements from the local Holder and Benden’s Weyrleader, M’tal. The biggest hurdle is that now that everyone is coming back to health, there aren’t enough food supplies to keep them all fed. There’s trade possibilities, but until the Wherhold gets up, running, and tithing gold for trade, the logistics don’t work. K’rall hits on the idea of having the majority of the currently-healthy riders hop themselves forward in time until they’re needed again to train the weyrlings in the art of flying in formation, leaving only enough riders and dragons behind to take care of the injured as well as to let the weyrlings continue to mature. Fiona gives the idea the thumbs-up, and K’rall recommends N’jian to train with the next lot that will be getting healthy and then bring them forward when they’re ready, so there’s no wasted time for them and they don’t become a burden on Weyr supplies, either. Everyone is going to try precision time-hopping using the star-navigation method the traders have taught them, and presumably will figure out how to avoid stepping on each other as they arrive.

The recommendation of N’jian surprises T’mar, and K’rall compliments Fiona for helping him keep an open mind. They also all complain about the muzzy-headedness getting to them, with K’rall suggesting that the static will only get worse with time and there will be fights the longer everyone stays twice in time. Of course, moving forward in time means they’ll miss the wedding of Zenor and Nuella, which in itself leads into some interesting commentary about what’s going on at the new wherhold.

“I heard from Arella that he’s [Zenor] been cursing nonstop since Stirger set up that solar forge.” With a shrug, she [Terin] added, “Of course, that might have been for the price he charged.”
The others smiled. Journeyman Stirger was a prickly, ill-tempered, opinionated, arrogant, and stubborn man, but he was honest enough to admit it. He was also quick to apologize and admit his mistakes. His apology to Fiona almost had her forgive him, and had caused her to realize she had some of her father’s tendencies to hold on to a grudge longer than sensible.
“Ah, but once Stirger thought up the idea, it was Zenor who figured out how to mass produce them and market them,” Fiona said. “And with that, he’s recouped Stirger’s price twice over.”
“And found himself rated apprentice to the Smithcraft,” T’mar remarked, remembering the dazed look of the young man when Mastersmith Veclan had sent down the package containing smith garb and badges.

Great job, Zenor. You’re finally coming into your due as a brilliant person.

I’m definitely not loving this decision by the narrative to frame Fiona as holding a grudge instead of forgiving, but I’m also a reader who has been exposed to significant data and anecdote about how women are culturally expected to forgive men that have been assholes to them. And continue to be assholes to them, just so long as the man manages to say the apology words, regardless of whether he actually means them in any sort of way. Stirger could be a prodigy at Smithing, and he’s still going to be an asshole who will rub people the wrong way. Some people will be able to deal with him. Some will not. And we should not have the narrative telling us Fiona’s holding a grudge past when she should let it go. If Stirger hasn’t changed himself, Fiona shouldn’t have to change her own attitude toward him, either. And even if he did, Fiona shouldn’t be forced to change her attitude toward him, either, because he was still a giant asshole to her in the past. Fiona gets to decide when she wants to forgive, if she decides to forgive, and the narrative is undercutting that in favor of trying to tell us an asshole isn’t that bad. That’s a very familiar refrain at the time of this writing. We can only hope that if this survives for a good long while, people in the future will wonder what we’re talking about, instead of nodding their heads along because they know.

There’s also talk about how Silstra is really the person in charge at that Hold, Zenor having managed to lure her away from the Smithcraft Hall, although there’s a swift acknolwedgement that Silstra had already trained her successor, and a jibe at Terin that she observed everything Silstra did and said and is now putting all of that advice given and seen to work “hounding the weyrlings like a queen dragon about to mate,” according to K’rall. Becuase you apparently can’t have a headwoman without the boys complaining they’re working too much and suggesting their headwoman is a shrew. It’s in jest here, but I can imagine it turning serious without too much prodding.

The plot proceeds apace, and a large group of riders jump forward into the future to preserve supplies. The weyrlings end up helping assist with th physical therapy for the injured dragons, and that makes sure everyone gets their glide time. There’s a small ping in the back of Fiona’s head about what things will be like going back to being a junior Weyrwoman, after having been a Senior with a full-grown dragon, but Fiona pushes it off as a problem for future-Fiona. And, as she’s talking with F’dan, we get the juxtaposition that a lot of women go through, where she has to be both on the pedestal of being a Lady and being one of the boys. (Fiona much prefers being one of the boys.)

“No,” Fiona told him bluntly. “You’re fully recovered. If you want to be warm, then get off your arse and hike on down to the Kitchen Cavern–the exercise will do you good.”
F’dan snorted at her tone and her choice of words. His had been a hard recovery, and he had learned early on in hsi physical therapy that Fiona had heard enough swearing from her father’s guards that he could only rarely cause her to blush. She had responded by teasing him about it, using his own words against him.

See? Fiona doesn’t blush when the dragonriders curse around her, and she’ll give as good as she gets. She’s one of the boys. But not when it’s someone of lower station being coarse around her. Then, she has to be the dignified Weyrwoman for whom such things are beneath her or that she orders someone else to execute swift revenge for. In-group behaviors and out-group behaviors, and so forth.

The plot has, as part of Fiona’s idea of how Zenor’s wedding should go, the riders constructing big glow balls they can use to illuminate Zenor and Nuella’s wedding. Also, apparently, glows come in red, green, and blue. T’mar and P’der realize that flying with glows is not only good for night sight, but is also useful for finding and correcting errors in formations. F’dan is begging Fiona to get Zenor to propose already, so they can put on the show before they’re fully healed enough to hop forward in time themselves. Which Fiona takes as a suggestion to T’mar. Who is not feeling it, even as he’s of pressured from Fiona and F’dan, but he also knows that he’s dealing with Fiona.

“I suppose if I said no, you’d just go anyway.”
“No,” Fiona told him, shaking her head emphatically. “I’d want to know why, and if I thought your reasons were totally unacceptable, then I might go.” She blew out a breath before adding, ‘But I expect that any reasons you have would make sense and I wouldn’t go just out of spite.”
T’mar gave her a frank look of gratitude.

There’s Fiona’s characterization coming through against the training she’s undertaking to become a Weyrwoman. What Fiona says is a good compromise between them. So long as T’mar isn’t being arbitrary about what Fiona is doing, or trying to keep Fiona in an ivory tower, Fiona promises she’ll take T’mar’s counsel under advisement. Because, surprise, once you have beings that can reason on their own, you have to actually reason with them and try to give them reasons they will accept as good. Much as the bronze rider contingent (and Cisca, to greater and lesser degrees) wants Fiona on obedient lockdown.

Getting back to the plot, T’mar gives his assent, and also mentions they’ll have to fly the long way, since F’dan has never been, which has both Fiona and F’dan complaining about the length of the trip and their soreness by the time they get there. Fiona dismounts the dragon in a risky way, drawing condemnation from F’dan about being reckless. Then F’dan tries to soften things some, since it’s clear to him that Fiona realizes what she did was reckless.

“You know, you’ve the whole Weyr on your shoulders only if you won’t ask for help.” He stepped behind her, quickly resting his hands on her shoulders. “And while there’s no one who doubts your courage, you’ve not cause to bear such a weight.”
“Cisca does.”
“Weyrwoman Cisca relies on the help of others and admits her mistakes,” F’dan said as he returned to his place by her side. He leaned down to wag a finger in her face, saying kindly, “Which is not to say you don’t have the same qualities, Weyrwoman. Just to say that you shouldn’t forget your friends.”
Fiona gave him a questioning look but found herself afriad to speak.
“Bold as I am, I count myself among them,” F’dan added. He looked ahead–giving Fiona time to wipe her suddenly teary eyes–and scanned their surroundings critically.

F’dan is right, at least to the point where it’s likely Cisca has a council of trusted people, and that Fiona doesn’t have to carry the burden of being Weyrwoman along. However, from what we’ve seen, since Fiona has to be both familiar and remote, a friend and a leader, attractive and available but also distant and severe, it seems likely the course of action that Fiona’s taken to herself is that she doesn’t want to trust anyone with the burdens she has because trusting someone means annoying someone else, and she really can’t have anything but a harmoniously running Weyr until everyone is ready to go home. And how would Fiona know who to trust with these decisions, anyway? Terin is probably the closest thing she has to a peer confidante who might know enough to give her useful advice about things, and Terin is younger than she is.

I also feel obligated to point out the part earlier where Fiona heard how much dragonriders give each other help, but nobody proactively volunteered to help Fiona with the things she needed to learn and do. That still seems to be continuing, where Fiona has to give orders, rather than take volunteers. That’s only going to tell her who can carry out orders, not who can be trusted to make good decisions, unless Fiona decides to put someone in a leadership position and find out if they can hack it. Which is one of the best ways to find leaders, sure, but there’s also the part where some of them might not be capable of it at all, and then you have to figure out how to get them out of that position.

F’dan and Fiona watch the lowering into place of a water wheel before approaching the wherhold to engage in their task. After a misunderstanding about why they are there, because Terregar is still used to dragonriders who come to take, rather than trade, an unknown dragonrider arrives and Fiona has to be hidden so as not to give away the future. The miners try to disguise her as one of their own. Fiona proceeds to not do very good at being hidden by getting super-excited at finding two nuggets of gold in the river, which attracts the attention of the unknown dragonrider, who turns out to be M’tal. Fiona has a brief flash of worry about having her find taken by M’tal (which makes me point and shout about how it’s not just Telgar Weyr that has to repair the relationships the holders and the dragonriders have with each other), before she makes herself even more visible by asking M’tal to accept the gold on behalf of Kindan, who everyone scrambles to cover and say that Kindan’s famous and well-known everywhere, and then Fiona speaks like a Lady, rather than a humble crafter, and everyone scrambles harder to explain it away as there being a mixed sort of folk at this wherhold, since they’ve already established there isn’t a Harper on staff. Fiona manages to get herself away from the space where she could continue to cause damage by pouncing on M’tal’s task of talking to Nuella and offering to go get Nuella for him. Zenor takes her up on the offer.

As Fiona is finding her way to Nuella, despite not knowing a thing about how the construction has gone so far, we get a nice paragraph of worldbuilding about how Holds are constructed.

She paused as the dark archway cut into the side of the hill came into view: the craftwork was perfect, the stones laid dry to form a tall archway that was recessed the regulation dragonlength into the hill, with room clearly set for two large steel doors, one set behind the other to provide double protection against Thread. She thought she could feel both Zenor’s mining craft and Terregar’s smith craft at work in its formation–a proper blend for Nuella’s queen.

I still wonder which dragon gets used as the regulation dragon. It’s probably a bronze, but it still would be nice to know. Additionally, how would Fiona know that the stones were laid withour mortar, and to call them dry? The smiths and miners, I wouldn’t bat an eye, but Fiona hasn’t hung around them nearly that much that I see her picking up both their terminology and their eye for knowing whether something has been mortared or not. (It’s a nitpick, but it also seems like careless use of language, which is not encouraging when you’re trying to set a world where things are theoretically consistent.)

In any case, Fiona finds her way to the kitchen, where she is immediately accosted by the cook for being a wet girl in the kitchen.

Fiona’s heart leapt as she took in the flour-smudged face, the stern look and the amazing smells arising all around her. This slim person was clearly of the same mold as her beloved Neesa, the head cook at Fort Hold since before Fiona was born.
“You must be Sula,” Fiona said, recalling Zenor’s glee at arranging to bring her with them from Mine Natalon.
“Of course I am. Now get out of here,” Sula responded sharply. “Don’t think to nab a dainty on your way out, either!” To herself she began muttering, “I work all day and night and these kids just gobble it up without a word of thanks.”
[…Fiona mentions that dainties would be a good idea to send out front, since M’tal is there. Sula calls for Silstra, who immediately identifies Fiona and asks what she’s doing here. Fiona sums up the situation…]
“Sula, who had been staring bug-eyed at Fiona ever since Silstra had identified her, finally found breath ennough to gasp, “My lady, I’m so sorry! I didn’t–”
Fiona stopped her with a raised hand and a grin. “You reminded me of our cook back at the Hold. It felt like being home.”
“Shards!” Sula exclaimed, shaking her head in dismay. “That a cook would talk so to a Lady Holder!”
“If she hadn’t, I’d be the size of a barge,” Fiona replied, still grinning. “I was always stealing from the kitchen.”
“I had you marked for a rascal,” Silstra murmured approvingly. Sula gasped in surprise. “You couldn’t manage your Weyr at this age if you hadn’t been a hellion as a child.”
“I only hunted tunnel snakes,” Fiona said in her defense.
“Exactly!” Silstra said. She turned to Sula. “But the Weyrwoman’s right about your dainties. Do be a gem and set out a platter I can bring down.”

In this situation, I am reminded of situations in military service where a person of lower rank may be expected or privileged to give orders to those of higher rank because the situation falls into their specific domain. Or other situation where someone may have a higher rank but is strongly encouraged to take and listen to the counsel of their more experienced lower-ranking officer. Because you disobey the head cook, headwoman, or anyone else who helps keep the house running at your own peril, even if you are the Lord Holder’s daughter. At least until you’ve learned how everything fits together, and then at that point, you realize you’re still not going to countermand them without a really good reason.

In any case, Silstra helps Fiona find Nuella. They discuss Zenor’s feelings of insecurity about proposing to Nuella before arriving at her space, and after Arella joins them, everyone talks a bit about Fiona’s insecurities about whether creating the things she remembers in her past is doing a good thing. Silstra leaves to help Sula, and Arella and Nuella quiz Fiona a bit about M’tal’s visit, before Fiona admits her stunt involving getting a gift to Kindan and the topic of the conversation turns to Nuella and her feelings about Zenor.

“He’s a handsome lad,” Fiona agreed. She saw Arella’s encouraging nod and, not wasting time to wonder how the wherhandler had divined her intentions, plunged on. “He’d be quite a catch.”
“Only if he’s willing to be caught,” Nuella said with a sigh. “I was hoping maybe when Nuelsk rose…”
Arella burst out laughing, pointing a finger accusingly at Nuella. “I never would have thought that of you!”
“Why not?” Nuella asked, her innocence vanishing. “I’ve heard enough about mating flights to hope–”
“You are a sly one!” Arella exclaimed.
Fiona felt uncomfortable with the tone of the conversation, not scandalized, but troubled all the same, feeling somewhat as though she were on the edge of a deeper understanding that only experience could provide.
“As it is,” Nuella persisted, “I don’t know if I can wait until Nuellask rises.”
“Ah, but it’d be so much better with a queen!” Arella said, grinning lecherously.

I’d like to believe that unease Fiona is feeling is because she understands that Nuella is suggesting using the sex rays to get Zenor in the same way that the bronze riders expect the sex rays to get one of them Fiona when Talenth decides to rise. The narrative suggests otherwise, of course, because it wants to maintain the idea of Fiona as an innocent and not acknowledge that Fiona might have been getting sex ed of a sort before becoming a dragonrider, possibly even getting told about the sex rays that follow dragon mating flights. So Fiona might understand enough about what’s being discussed to feel like she’s witnessing what she might have to go through in a fairly close future.

As a reader, the attitude Arella displays toward Nuella offends my sense of consent as an important part of establishing a healthy relationship. A different part of my brain points out that at least everyone who has a bonded creature, whether wher or dragon, has a consistent attitude about consent. In the best interpretation of this sequence, Nuella is feeling shy in the same vein that Zenor is feeling unworthy, and is hoping that Nuellask getting horny will get Nuella in the mood to ask Zenor to bed.

In the worst reading, the one that I think Arella is going along with, Nuella is considering using “I can’t help myself, the watch-wher made me do it” as an excuse for rape. Because, apparently, you can’t just ask someone to marry you if you’re a woman. This idea becomes even worse later on, when Arella, Fiona, and Nuella are talking about the differences and similarities between watch-whers and dragons.

“You’re the senior,” Arella reminded her. “You’ve got the gold.”
“You’re following Weyr traditions?” Fiona asked.
“It seemed right,” Nuella replied. “At least until we learn differently.”
“Besides, all the watch-whers obey the queen,” Arella added.
“And dragons,” Nuella reminded her. Fiona noted Arella’s sour look as the woman acknowledged that remark. For a moment Fiona wondered what it would be like the other way around, if the dragons obeyed the watch-whers, and then she realized they already had–in the night flight Nuella had led.

That behavior happens with the fire-lizards, too, doesn’t it? It seems like it would follow logically that the dragons have it, too, as a way of stopping them from deciding to strike out on their own and terrorize the countryside and all the characters that are in it. But maybe I’ve been headcanoning it all along because it seems useful to think about it that way as a way of providing a check on bronze riders even if the riders themselves can’t be mind-whammied by a Weyrwoman.

Continuing…

“I’m not so sure,” Fiona said much to Arella’s surprise. “I think the watch-whers are willing to listen to the dragons much the same way the dragons are willing to listen to their riders.”
“So, no difference,” Arella said with a dismissive shrug.
“No,” Nuella responded. “The Weyrwoman has a point. A dragon doesn’t have to obey her rider.”
“Think of a hatching,” Fiona said suggestively.
“Or a mating flight,” Arella added apprciatively. “If your dragons are anything like our watch-whers, then a mating flight requires the greatest control a handler–rider–ever needs.”
“It’s in the Ballads,” Fiona said in agreement, suppressing an internal shudder–could she control Talenth when she rose?

And I am reminded of Son of the Benden Weyrleaders and his self-control involved when his dragon went into mating flight with a green and the self-control he exhibited before deciding to take advantage of the sex rays. There’s really no way of avoiding this as the equivalent of slipping someone a roofie and having sex with them. And it’s terrible that this is an example of “people with sex ray devices think about using them” rather than “this was something the men would do to others.”

Grumble.

We’ll have more next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for December 20th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is ready for their year-end vacation 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

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are slightly disappointed that whatever the thing is that’s interfering with your life, it’s not something that has a documented plan for treatment. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: The Future Comes to Past

Last time, Fiona was transported to the Weyrhold and nearly got herself killed because Jaythen should never be trusted around people ever. And then, having collected her egg, traveled to Mine Natalon, where she was promptly attacked by an injured dog and hurt to the point of passing out.

Dragonheart, Chapters 15 and 16: Content Notes: The Patriarchy (yay.)

Rider to your dragon hew
Lest any harm should come to you.

(Igen Weyr, AL 498.8.12)

So, Fiona wakes up to find the Mysterious Weyrwoman has assured her dragon she’ll be fine, before her rescuer insists she stay still or she’ll get given fellis until she passes out again. Fiona, of course, has no intention of it, but her rescuer insists, and lets her know that in the two days she’s been out of it, Fiona has apparently been very chatty about herself and her mission, much to Fiona’s chagrin. Zenor, her rescuer, wasn’t necessarily putting stock in it while Fiona was feverish, but he may have to reconsider that opinion, especially after Fiona diagnoses her own injury and suggests how long she’ll actually be healing.

It turns out that Zenor is also caring for Nuella, who had been caught in a cave-in. Nuelsk (the green) saved her life, but either died from the cave-in or a tunnel snake bite or both. And so the green that we spent significant time with is killed offscreen for Fiona’s memory of the past to come true. This Zenor is sixteen, and Fiona briefly wonders what it would be like if she met Kindan at this early age before dismissing the idea as causing him significant pain if he ended up having both Fiona and Koriana leave him in the same lifetime. And because if she had done it, then the two of them would have been together in the future, and causing a paradox is a bad idea.

After sleeping some, Fiona is introduced to Renna, she gets to sit up and have food, and Fiona is very concerned about the watch-wher egg. Which is about to hatch. Fiona finds out most of the dogs went feral after their owners died from the Plague, which leads Renna into a rant about the lack of help from the dragonriders.

“What?” Fiona asked in shock, shaking her head. “No, that’s not true! They dropped masks and fruit at all the holds–”
“Except those looking to Telgar,” Renna told her harshly. “D’gan left us to live or die on our own.”
“And that fool Fenric locked himself in his hold until Nerra recovered enough to throw him out,” Fiona said, recalling her father’s words on the subject as he explained why he had supported Nerra’s claim to Crom Hold.

For serious, how did that asshole not get murdered? Sure, you can argue that Telgar believed anyone not a dragonrider is nothing, but surely someone would have pointed out to him that they need the peons for tithes, if nothing else. And when he said otherwise, they deposed him. Preferably off a cliff. He should never have gotten to the point where his arrogance caused the mass telefrag.

Zenor recounts to Fiona that it’s mostly the young that survived, those in the sweet spot not to get dead by the plague and then to not get dead by the starvation that followed. Fiona teases him about being sweet on Nuella when he goes to check on her, but it doesn’t get the expected response. Renna smoothly suggests Fiona needs a bathroom break, and while they’re away from Zenor, Renna fills in Fiona on the situation.

“Just so you know,” Renna said in a tight voice, “the last thing Nuella said to Zenor was, ‘Why did you let me live?’ ”
“But I thought Nuelsk saved her,” Fiona said in surprise.
“She pushed but Zenor pulled,” Renna said tersely, wrapping an arm around Fiona and guiding her to her feet. “So, your coming here with a queen’s egg and sounding like Zenor and Nuella are mated is just as addled as expecting a dragonrider to say a kind word.”
[…Fiona protests, but Renna asks where her dragon is, and the effort of using the bathroom exhausts Fiona…]
“You need your rest,” the redhead said, closing the room’s shutters.
“Thank you,” Fiona told her.
“See?” Renna replied with a quirk of her lips. “You can’t be a dragonrider–you’re too polite!”

Whomever takes over at Telgar is going to have to deal with their predecessor having done everything possible to get their environment to provide the Weyr with the most terrible goods they can get away with, if not outright refuse to tithe until they can be sure that it’s a new administration in charge. I realize that in our world, someone who is that incompetent could rule for a very long time, but you would like to believe that in fictional worlds, they don’t (unless the author is making a point about it).

Also, I thought watch-wher bonds were less intense than dragon ones, but I also have to acknowledge that Nuella is also losing her eyes and going back to the world of being blind and without a companion that can provide her with some ability to go through the world like she’s sighted. Since I doubt there’s much of a Blind culture on Pern for her to be proud of and associate with, this has to feel terrible for her.

When Fiona awakens again, Nuella is with her, and the two of them have a heart-to-heart about how Fiona doesn’t understand anything about the grief Nuella of experiencing right now. And eventually, Fiona summons T’mar to bring her back and stop hurting Nuella, before the fuzziness of being in two times gives way to laughing, and then crying, and then babbling on about the whole mission and what the future entails. Everyone around her chalks out up to the stress of what she’s trying to do even as they pay attention to her pronouncements of their future. Eventually, she begs T’mar to tell all.

“As you wish, Weyrwoman,” T’mar agreed, leaning down toward her to plant a soft kiss on her cheek.
“You kissed me!” Fiona declared in muzzy surprise. ‘I like that.”

And them she passes out until after the egg has hatched and Nuella Impressed. Which means it’s mostly the logistics of getting everyone set to go to Igen Weyr temporarily. Fiona is grumpy that she can’t think properly. And Zenor and Nuella take one of the Mine’s kids, Larissa, with them. And there are several pages of tantalizing the two new people with iced cream, good food, the regrettable need to have both trade and tithe with the wherhold, showing Zenor the maps, and a lot of trying not to say too much about the future at all. Nuella goads Zenor into promising he will ask her to marry him “When I have something worthy to offer you.” Nuella assures him he is worthy and tells him not to wait too long. And that’s the end of 15.

Good earth,
Fresh soil,
Hardy ground,
Less toil.

(Igen Weyr, Morning, AL 498.8.14)

I think that’s the first farmer-related poetry we’ve heard. Not too terrible.

Sixteen opens with Zenor and a few dragons going to visit the site of the future wherhold, because Zenor thinks having a sample of the gold he intends to mine will give him better leverage with the Smiths to send out people that can work the gold into tradeable goods. He finds out easily enough in the river bed. What we’re going to be focusing on is how blue riders are characterized in this segment.

Blue riders were eager fliers, and often their dragons became so overcome by their riders’ enthusiasm that they overexerted themselves and strained their muscles.
[…]
“Let’s go!” S’gan replied enthusiastically, taking off in a lope.
As Zenor made to follow, K’rall laid a hand on his arm. “Let’s not go too quickly; this is likely to be a long search, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Zenor agreed with a smile, matching his pace to that of the older dragonrider. He noticed that D’teril, the other blue rider, was racing after S’gan, but that the two younger brown riders were taking their cue from K’rall. “Are they always like that?”
“Blues are quick, agile,” K’rall explained. “They tend to Impress those with similar traits.”
T’del, one of the brown riders, cocked a questioning look toward K’rall.
“Not all blues are the same,” K’rall said in response. “But if you were to place a bet in a race, bet that the fastest rider is a blue.”
“Blues start quick, browns finish,” T’del said, grinning.
“True.”

Which makes me wonder about the decisions being made by the geneticists. They had five possible colors to choose from, each apparently with their own potential attributes, and they chose to make dragons out of all five. Given how they supposedly set up the dragons with their genomes, why did they choose all five of them, rather than just deciding they were going to build ultimate armies of gold and bronze and scatter them all around Pern? (If it exists, it’s probably in my notes from Dragonsdawn or First Fall.) Weyrs have adapted, sure, to use the smaller and faster greens and blues in addition to the staying power of the browns and bronzes, but if the idea of Thread fighting is essentially to blanket the affected space in flames, why wouldn’t they select the ones with the best distance and greatest capacity for throwing flame, once they figured out who they were? Even if evolution moves slowly on Pern, the dragonriders have obvious preferences for bronze and gold dragons for fighting Thread, and clutches should be adjusting for this.

The other part of Chapter 16 is Fiona and T’mar going to see the Mastersmith. Fiona is sent on her way wearing the jacket of the Igen Weyrwoman, while T’mar keeps the Weyrleader jacket firmly in his hands, so as not to pretend to a rank he doesn’t have. They wear Igen both to spite the asshole and also so that they blend in better with the locals.

And there’s also a part here that’s another example of Good Girls Don’t Want Publicly. Because Fiona first protests the jacket is going to make her far too warm in the Igen climate.

“I’ll roast in that!” Fiona declared in a feeble attempt to avoid wearing the jacket, but she knew, even as she spoke, that she would not only wear it, but she wanted to.

So, privately, the narrative tells us Fiona definitely wants to wear the symbol of being the Weyrwoman. But instead of expressing that desire (and likely catching blowback from the bronze riders about it), when the bronze riders put the jacket on her and talk her up, Fiona doesn’t agree with them.

“You look a proper Weyrwoman,” K’rall said approvingly.
“I’m too young.”
“It’s not the age,” K’rall said solemnly. “It’s the decorum.”
Fiona couldn’t argue with that, particularly as the words made her beam with pride. She turned to T’mar, who bowed slightly to show his approval.
[…Fiona has a small grumble about how far she’s going to have to walk and then asks if everyone is sure she’s needed…]
“And I’d honestly prefer it if you were there as Weyrwoman,” T’mar told her. He looked awkwardly at the wherhide jacket he’d looped over his forearm. “I’d prefer not to claim honors I haven’t earned.” He met her eyes. “You have the right to claim to be Igen’s Weyrwoman.”
Fiona’s eyes dress in delight even as she shook her head demurely.
“You do,” T’mar assured her. “And I don’t doubt that your time at your father’s Hold will help in our dealings.”

Remember, Fiona wants this. Every time the bronze riders say she’s ready for it, it makes her smile and her eyes dance. But Fiona doesn’t say “Thank you, this feels right.” Instead, she demurs and otherwise behave like how a Lady Holder would be expected to behave in that situation. I understand that everyone has to learn how to survive and adapt to their environment, but the Fiona who get a dragon to get away from it all is rapidly disappearing and getting replaced with someone more in the mold of what the bronze riders want in a Weyrwoman. We should be mourning Fiona’s loss of freedom, even if she doesn’t realize this is what’s happening.

At the Smithcrafthall, Zenor is uneasy that there are no sentries posted and no crowd gathered to gawk at the dragon and passengers. When they open the doors and are greeted by the cacaphony inside, it becomes a bit more obvious why nobody came to see them. It seems to be a Smith trait to achieve hyperfocus to the point of being able to block everything else out. Since nobody is greeting them, Fiona asks Zenor how he would find Dalor (the head of the mine since Natalon died in the Plague), and uses his response (find where people are working on problems) to correctly spot, and go over to, the group that has the Mastersmith in it. Where Fiona is promptly gatekept by a journeyman Smith (Stirger) to the point where Zenor steps in with his hands raised to threaten Stirger about running his mouth off before Mastersmith Veclan assents to see the party in his office and calls for Silstra. On the way there, he notes the Igen symbol on Fiona and has a small conniption about it, but T’mar and Fiona explain Fiona’s right to wear it well enough that he doesn’t ask more questions until they’re inside his office. Where Zenor finally twigs that he did, in fact, know Silstra before she married Terregar, and Veclan realizes Zenor is from Mine Natalon because of it. Silstra arrives and is shocked at Zenor’s presence and wants to know what he’s doing there with dragonriders.

Because it’s about to become relevant, here’s an example of Stirger’s rudeness.

His thoughts were obvious: Why was a young girl doing the talking?
“Igen Weyr?” the man next to Veclan repeated scornfully. “Why don’t you say Telgar?”
“I wasn’t speaking to you,” Fiona snapped at the rat-faced man. “I was talking to the Mastersmith.”
“Then you should learn manners, weyrgirl,” the rat-faced fan growled back.
“Weyrwoman,” Fiona corrected, her tone carefully set so as to make the correction sound reflexive, as though she’d spoken absently. She eyed the man a moment, noted the journeyman badge on his breast, then said to Veclan, “I do hope it’s customary for the Mastersmith to do the talking in his own Hall.” She turned to the other man, adding, “And out of courtesy I would speak to you by name.”

There’s a qualitative difference between “The Asshole At Telgar has soured relationships between dragonriders and everyone else” and “The Patriarchy insists that any man can speak for all women and something is seriously wrong with men who let women speak for them.” If the author was aiming for the first, they landed squarely in the second instead. In the society that the authors want to envision, a small girl claiming to be a Weyrwoman might not be believed on her say-so, but presumably there are ways of proving that she is who she says she is (many of which would rely on an Approved Man vouching for her). Being condescending off the bat because there’s no way a small girl could be Weyrwoman is our world bleeding through, and the “manners” comment echoes what H’nez did earlier about “manners”. Both of those comments rest on the unquestioned assumption that any man is better than even the best woman, so if a man is offended, the woman is at fault.

I can see the Smiths being contemptuous toward dragonriders as a group, the way Renna was, because their experiences have been profoundly negative. Silstra expresses this kind of contempt by asking Zenor what he’s doing hanging out with dragonriders. Stirger, however, is allowed to harass Fiona and nobody rebukes him for doing so until Zenor is ready to throw down on her behalf. This bodes terribly for the future. Veclan, for example, has some views about Silstra that might get him a pop on the nose, too. Zenor and T’mar are trying to move clutter, and Veclan says not to bother.

“That’s not necessary,” Veclan said, “and you’ll only upset Silstra. She’s convinced that I can’t keep the place tidy by myself and she’d feel lost if I didn’t allow the rubbish to pile up.”

Because the only thing she’s good for, and by the way, she’s not your wife, is for cleaning up messes and making sure the Hall runs smoothly, apparently.

Fiona has Zenor show Veclan the gold and ask for support in starting a hold and craft hall. Veclan calls in another master, and the negotiations begin in earnest, even though Silstra points out that Weyrs do not trade with others. After an hour, however, it’s pretty obvious to Zenor they’re not going to get anywhere.

“It’s obvious there’s no trade here.”
“Dragonriders don’t trade,” Stirger declared once more.
“We would,” Fiona responded, rising from her chair and propping her crutches under her arms. She turned to Silstra.
“I am sorry we couldn’t come to an agreement,” T’mar said, also rising.
Zenor glared at Silstra. “Kindan would have listened.”
“Doubtless,” Stirger drawled. “After all, he is a harper, and likes a good tale.”
Fiona bit back an angry retort, instead venting her anger and disappointment in a sigh.

Why is Stirger there? Other than to continue the theme of asshole men that Fiona has to deal with to get anything done, I mean. And, more specifically, incompetent asshole men who somehow end up being the primary actors in the situation, despite the presence of people with more power that don’t do anything to rein those assholes in. I mean, even accounting for the toxically masculine environment, Stirger is driving away an offer of trade and gold, because he’s unwilling to accept that Fiona speaks the truth or for anyone. It’s not his decision to make, it’s Veclan’s, but Veclan seems quite content to let it go.

Fiona asks Zenor to ask them about the ring, and there’s some some more future knowledge let out to try and convince the Mastersmith and Silstra, but they still don’t believe Fiona until she finally breaks through with something unrelated to their ask at the Hall.

“I still do not understand what the Weyr gets from all this.”
“Honor more than anything,” Fiona replied without thinking. She gestured toward Telgar Weyr. “I have heard too many stories about the Weyrleader there. Honor has been lost by him; it is up to the rest of the Weyrs to rebuild it.”
“No gold for you?” Veclan wondered, eyeing Fiona shrewdly.
“I have a gold!” Fiona exclaimed hotly. “And not all the metal of Pern is worth one instant with her.” She started to move around him. “I’ve wasted enough time away from her.”
“Very well,” Veclan called to her back. “Go back to your Weyr, Weyrwoman. You’ll need more than one dragon to bring all our gear anyway.”
Fiona slowed and stopped, not believing her ears. Hopefully, she turned back to look into the Mastersmith’s eyes. “You mean you will help us?”
Veclan nodded, smiling.
“Why?” Fiona asked in surprise. “What changed your mind?”
“The way you spoke of your dragon,” Veclan told her. He shook his head admiringly as he added, “I wanted to believe you when you spoke of honor, but it was when you spoke of your gold that I realized you were telling the truth.”

And the first Weyrwoman Veclan’s met that’s willing to trade, emphasis on the word trade in the original, with the unspoken implication that dragonriders generally take instead and don’t bother with compensation. As we saw in the earlier series, dragonriders decided they wanted the prize for the winner of the games to go to The Asshole At Telgar, regardless of who actually won. And the other riders who tried to take knives and other things that had been commissioned for others in previous series that we’ve covered. So this is a novelty for the Mastersmith. And I don’t really know why Fiona’s anger about gold is the thing that convinces him, when so many other things could and should have before.

The rest of the chapter is getting Nuella, Nuellask, and Zenor introduced to the current wherhold and explaining to them they’re going to be moving into new digs, Talenth desperately wanting to play and nap with Nuellask, and, eventually, Talenth convinces Fiona to sleep with her, and T’mar brings Terin in to sleep next to Fiona, before admiring the work they’ve done to get Igen Weyr stood up.

Deconstruction Roundup for December 13th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has found their organization equally lacking in how they might handle people with dehumanizing agendas.)

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

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are trying to find somewhere that you can make a real and actual difference and mostly just failing. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: The Confidence of Future Knowledge

Last time was basically a lot of “Fiona continues to grow into the role of the Weyrwoman” with an extended detour into the sort of thing that is creepy in the ways of “countdown until underage celebrity is legal” is creepy.

Dragonheart: Chapter 14: Content Notes: nonconsensual pranking and making fun, The Patriarchy (thbbbpth),

First flight,
Wings delight.
Weyrlings soar,
Dragons roar.

(Igen Weyr, Morning, AL 498.7.8)

Would it be too much to ask that for these books, if we’re going to have poetry fragments, that they’re all from the same poem? I’m sure that there’s enough culture on Pern that a relevant fragment can be found with enough searching, but it would be better if we could judge a full poem or song on its own merits, instead of having to infer everything from the fragments we have.

In any case, the chapter starts with Fiona deciding it’s a good idea to let the weyrlings start gliding their dragons again, after asking T’mar and being told they’re “your weyrlings”, and this leads to T’mar saying how terrible it would be if Talenth was injured before her mating flight, which Fiona bristles at and declares her dragon will outfly every bronze. We know this won’t happen, but it does seem to be a pretty standard declaration among gold riders.

T’mar leaves to learn how to navigate by stars, and wishes Fiona a happy birthday before departing. Fiona is confused about what he’s getting on about, despite the extended riff about time and birthdays in the last chapter, and Terin helps explain what’s going on — today is the calendar day of Fiona’s birthday, even though, because of time hopping, she hasn’t accumulated the necessary days to be physically fourteen. Once it’s cleared up, Fiona teases Terin about turning one in twelve days, and Terin says she’s trying to collect data for all the weyrlings and older riders. And they reflect soberly about the fact they’re spending three years to return in three days, and Xhinna is going to have to adjust to the Fiona that is now a year older than her, rather than several years younger.

Fiona has her birthday with grace and food, then kicks Terin out of the kitchen on the regular so she can let T’mar and F’jian exercise their cooking skills. Both of them appear to be very competent.

T’mar started with Terin’s bean recipe and added roast herdbeast marinated in a hot spicy sauce of his own invention. F’jian preferred to highlight garlic in his cooking, spicing up chicken breasts with a sweet and sour sauce that filled the entire Kitchen Cavern with its tantalizing scent.
For herself, Fiona concentrated on sweet juices, trying some of the newer fruits that the traders had brought in from Keroon and Ista–pungent fruits with an amazing tang. She mixed these with rice from Ista and produced a pudding that tantalized everyone. Of course, Fiona presented the dessert to Terin as baby food–and delighted as Igen’s headwoman turned nearly as red as the food in front of her.

So chicken survives as a word. Given that supposedly nothing tastes like it, or everything does, I’m not going to think too hard about it. Mostly because egg-layers definitely were going to exist on Pern as part of the diet, and I suspect that chickens thrive in a lot of different environments.

I’m also…interested is the wrong word, but it’s close enough, in that both of the boys are making meat dishes with sauce and spice while Fiona creates the dessert with fruit and rice, as if perpetuating, subtly or otherwise, that grilling and meat is man’s province, fruit and rice and dessert is woman’s. I’m thrilled there’s no shaming of the men doing cooking and being, by all accounts, fucking awesome at it. I’m just unhappy that we didn’t continue in the theme of “Fiona can stir-fry, so she handles the meat things while the boys produce salads and sides.” Because she’s the one with the most on-camera experience, and meat, generally speaking, is the most expensive part of any meal and the easiest to get wrong.

What I am not interested in, however, is that this teasing about birthdays and the like seems to be taking a more sinister direction, bent on embarrassing each other. And, for some people, that might be the best expression of affection they have, but it seems like the thing that can easily trip over into hazing and bullying. Or retaliation. And T’mar is uninterested in playing, as he “firmly deflected every effort” to find out when his birthday is. Fiona gets K’rall to help out with that, and T’mar has some reservations about whether K’rall will actually defer to Fiona once he’s healthy, but Fiona says that so long as her dragon is queen at Igen, everyone else will fall in line. And Fiona continues to think that T’mar might be seeing her in a different light. (She’s still thirteen.)

When K’rall returns to the dining hall, Fiona accidentally leads everyone in toasting his continued good health. She worries she’s overdone it, which T’mar confirms with a small shake of his head. K’rall asks what he can do for Fiona, and she immediately sets him to a useful task.

“One thing that I absolutely require is for you to start rounds with the other injured riders,” she replied promptly. K’rall raised his eyes at that but Fiona persisted. “It’s vital that injured riders see other riders recovered from their wounds–”
“Gives them hope,” K’rall murmured approvingly. His eyes twinkled and his craggy features creased as he said, “You’ve your father’s way with words, my lady.”

Fiona tells him to hush because he’s using his face muscles too much and they might strain, and the topic shifts to the problem of recognition points in the wrong time and the proposed stars and planets time system. Which they really already should know.

And K’rall provides a date to Terin that she says will be perfect and K’rall, when he sees what the plan is for T’mar, declares T’mar will hate it with a wide grin. Which brings this much closer to “someone should check in and see what T’mar actually wants, not charge ahead with their own plans to embarrass him.” I admit that I have a serious embarrassment squick, especially over things that other people might consider harmless or fun stories to tell, but this seems like the sort of thing that would backfire horribly if it weren’t under the complete control of an author.

Fiona’s opinion of K’rall improves with his recovery.

In the week since his first dinner in the Dining Cavern, her respect and affection for the gruff old rider had grown immensely. K’rall was less conservative in his thinking than Fiona had initially guessed. In face, she realized that a lot of what she’d branded as hidebound in his behavior was more a result of caution and a certain amount of fear of failure. And a lot of that fear, Fiona had decided, had vanished with his first Thread injury and its slow recovery.
Father always said that many sticks-in-the-mud were saplings trying to grow new leaves after winter, Fiona reminded herself.

And Fiona thinks about what kind of assurance it would be to Bemin of this time to see that his daughter had grown up “healthy wise, and strong under his parenting.” K’rall says she’s too young to go see him, which is good advice for stopping the immediate idea.

I would squash the idea by saying the premise is wrong. I don’t think Bemin’s parenting had much to do with anything, other than maybe helping to prepare Fiona for a role she would have to accept at far too young an age, regardless of whether it was Lady Holder or Weyrwoman. I am similarly disinclined to follow Fiona’s idea that K’rall is actually more liberal, genial, and showing his true self now that he’s much more healed, given how much he refused to work with Terin and Fiona before. Injury makes grumpy assholes out of a lot of us, but it’s a pretty big ask to say that K’rall turned around that much. I’d be more inclined to think that he’s behaving well because he thinks the Weyrwoman is flirting with him (still thirteen!) and flattering him.

The actual thing Fiona has planned is to celebrate Impression Day for T’mar and the other riders, with weyrlings delivering small cakes to riders and a big cake having been prepared for T’mar. Because it’s not actually malicious or embarrassing (and because the author controls the reactions of the characters), T’mar is stunned, and K’rall approves of the idea and wonder why they hadn’t already thought about it. Fiona suggests it will be a Weyr tradition soon enough.

It makes sense to celebrate Impression Day for dragonriders, as it’s usually the day they think of their lives changing for the better. It’s also a group celebration for those that are present, so it avoids singling anyone specifically out. Except Fiona made the biggest cake for T’mar, so he was singled out, sort of.

The next bit of narrative is relief that the traders are coming back to resupply the Weyr, so there’s another ice run made to have material on hand. When the traders say they can’t move that quantity of ice, Fiona says she’s anticipated that response, which earns her another “soul of a trader” comment, because Fiona says they’ll hold back a hundredweight of ice for the wherhold, on the assumption that the traders know where Aleesa is. Which they do, and Fiona volunteers herself as the person to go, since she’s the one who has the most knowledge of how her past is supposed to turn out and she looks like a harmless young girl, so she’s the least likely person to get shot at.

I’ll bet your father wishes you were a boy,” T’mar replied, shaking his head in admiration.
“I’m quite happy being a woman,” Fiona said, smiling.

And Fiona is absolutely wrong about not getting shot at. The problem is that, instead of making her think and exercise caution, it only makes her angrier.

“Oh, this is too much,” Fiona muttered angrily to herself. She was scared, but she was angrier than she was scared and she knew that that meant someone was going to come off the worse for it–and not her.

Getting shot at again pisses Fiona off enough that she starts yelling at the people shooting at her. Which doesn’t actually help anything, except that Fiona gets Talenth to prove she’s the real thing by having her talk to Arelsk, which does actually improve the situation, because it puts Fiona firmly in the category of prophesied person, rather than intruding girl. It also allows for a very deft retcon.

A smile crossed Fiona’s lips as she sent a silent thank-you to tree late ex-dragonrider [Mikal], wondering to herself if his Sight came from trader blood.

This way, the crystal energy and folk magic weird guy turns out to have been someone with precognitive abilities and totally an integral part of the narrative. If this was planned, someone was apparently banking on being able to do this several books in the future, not really worrying that much about whether the series would get canceled before this payoff could be put into place. Much more likely, this was something the author came up with as a way of making the plot move that didn’t cause too much (more) of a continuity snarl than had already happened.

Having managed to prove herself, Fiona forges ahead and explains the future to Arella and Jaythen enough for them to understand the dire straits the dragonriders are in. And again tells, with greater details, the story of cuddling with, and then hunting tunnel-snakes with, Forsk. The key part in this version of the tale is how Fiona always deflected, changed the subject, and said things that carried the implication that she wasn’t putting herself into danger so that she never actually had to promise to not hunt tunnel snakes. This kind of Exact Words manipulation has Jaythen recalling other devious folk and Arella agreeing that they’re all women and that he should keep that in mind.

Fiona then gets to get actual proposal: a safe hold for the wherholders in exchange for the queen egg. After a certain amount of “Come on, don’t bullshit me” about whether Fiona can deliver on that promise that involves disclosing more of the future, everyone seems willing to talk. Because Fiona can’t quite keep from saying enough of the name, Arella deduces who it’s for, but also points out she currently has a green (Kisk-Nuelsk). This puts Fiona back into “don’t bullshit us” territory with the wherhold, who are ready to throw her out. So Fiona tries to press her lack of advantage through sheer aggravation.

Tears of rage and disappointment threatened to overwhelm Fiona. She sat there, shaking her head. “No,” she murmured to herself. “No, it has to be this way!”
With the speed of a tunnel snake, Jaythen whipped around, wrapped his hand tightly around her arm, and yanked her off the floor. “No, it doesn’t, holder girl!” he shouted, propelling her toward the exit.
Fiona turned back, determined not to leave only to find herself twirled tightly against his chest, a gleam of metal suddenly visible down by her neck, just below her line of sight.
“Don’t think I won’t!” Jaythen whispered in her ear, his words filled with a desperation and a longing that seemed like madness to Fiona.

There seems to be a running theme in Todd’s books that dudes cannot be trusted to understand anything and Pern’s patriarchy is so built-in that for a woman to be listened to, she has to hold some sort of power over the man she wants to get to do something. I don’t think this is an intentional theme, any more than Anne’s depiction of Pernese patriarchy was intentional and thought-through. But everywhere Fiona goes, there’s an old dude standing in her way and refusing to listen. H’nez, K’rall, and now Jaythen. K’lior sometimes, too, when he’s in “bros before hos” mode, and Cisca went along with that. Before that, nobody really wanted to help Lorana out or investigate the whys of Tullea’s mood shift, and there was the whole bit where Kindan and Vaxoram fought over the honor of the girls, and how Kindan brought the entire patriarchy down on his head for sleeping in the same bed as Koraina. And speaking of Cisca, the parallel running theme through these books seems to be that the most effective power that women have to get men to do what they want is sex appeal. Fiona gets her best results when she’s flirty, Cisca seems to do the same, Kelsa wins with Bemin because she’s attractive to him.

It’s a great example of how science fiction tends to reflect the culture that is written in, especially when it’s trying to imagine something that’s completely different from current society. Because Pern is focused on the dragons and the Thread and the insistence that hereditary monarchy is the form of government Randians with a pastoral fetish will go to when their personal Galt’s Gulches are threatened, there hasn’t been any questioning of the idea that the men are indisputably in charge when push comes to shove, even if the queen dragon can force other dragons to do what she wants. Even in this space, where Todd puts acknowledging and trying to reconcile some of the Early Installment Weirdness around Lessa’s abilities, it ends up not making a difference. Sure, queen riders can control minds, but it only works on the weak-minded, and bronze riders are trained from early on to resist that power, so the status quo is preserved.

And this unexamined privilege shows a weakness, or a deliberate decision, at least one of the two (could be both) in how this situation came to be and will be resolved. Because Talenth has already said hello to Arelsk, so Fiona’s claim about being a dragonrider is true. Which should give her enough breathing room for everyone else to evaluate her other claims. Now, Jaythen has been portrayed fairly consistently as someone who hates dragonriders and might be suffering from mental illness, but he’s allowed to take control of the situation through physical means despite Arella having a channel where she could ask about the truth value of Fiona’s statements, through Arelsk.

Fiona, for her part, assesses her situation as life-threatening and, having been unable to achieve a diplomatic solution, decides to use her power of compulsion to get herself out of immediate harm.

She paused, her blood pounding in her veins even as she forced herself to speak calmly, quietly, using all of the power Cisca had cautioned her against, saying, “Put the knife down.”
“You’d best do it now,” an elderly voice said harshly from behind them. “Or by the First Egg, I’ll send your Jaysk between forever.” Aleesa.

To put it mildly, that is exactly wrong. There’s no resolution as to whether Fiona succeeded, Jaythen resisted, if anyone could feel what was going on, nothing! Because even the possibility that Fiona might exercise power over a man not of her dragon’s clutch and that is far older than her is too much to play out. Fiona, remember, was wowed at by Cisca and K’lior about how much of that power she had, but she hasn’t had a single success she can attribute to herself and that power other than Melanwy, and Melanwy is suffering from dementia.

Instead, Aleesa shows up and makes a direct threat at Jaythen, exercising the power she definitely has over him by threatening his watch-wher. It’s not a physical overpowering or a mental one, but threatening his weak point to get him to behave. In the face of an authority that can hurt him, Jaythen behaves. Because of the fact that dragons will obey their queen, dragonriders behave. Because he desperately wants another child, Bemin behaves.

Even this next segment, after Aleesa very firmly tells everyone to do what Fiona asks, where Fiona appeals to Kindan’s trip to the wherhold, follows the pattern.

When Jaythen drew breath to argue, she [Aleesa] cut him off with a chopping motion. “You know better than to raise a hand to a woman, or did you forget why we helped Kindan?”
“You helped me that day,” Fiona said, forcing her voice to be calm and controlled, turning around and raising her eyes up to the older man. “If Kindan hadn’t defeated Vaxoram, none would have survived at Fort Hold.”
“Or here,” Arella said. “If it weren’t for Kindan standing up for a woman’s right to follow her dreams, there would have been no one to remember us, no dragonriders to come to our aid.

Jaythen is unconvinced, and the argument itself rings hollow, because Kindan beating Vaxoram is one man physically dominating another and subsequently enforcing his will on his social sphere. So long as Kindan believes in letting women dream and is willing to back that belief with his fists or swords, that space exists. In his absence, women do not enjoy any of those dreaming possibilities. If Kelsa had beaten Vaxoram, and the next challenger, and Nonala started giving bloody noses, and Kindan provided aid, support, and being a useful second to them, that space would be more firmly established, but even then, it forces Kelsa and Nonala to play by the rules of the patriarchy and win their right to be themselves by proving themselves better than any of the men around them, in a way they have to recognize. Much like the patriarchy at home, there’s no winning the game in any way where a woman’s legitimacy isn’t dependent on the men around her choosing to recognize it. And that’s despite there being actual ways that women can obtain and hold power over men that isn’t dependent on men legitimizing them.

It’s one tiny thing, but it speaks volumes about what assumptions are left unchallenged on Pern. It’s yet another reason why transformative fandom brings their toolbox to the yard when they want to play on Pern – there’s a lot of repair work to be done.

Aleesa tells Fiona about Mikal’s last word when Fiona mentions the name of the queen watch-wher from her time, and they’re both the same thing, so Aleesa is on board with the whole plan because she sees the inevitability of it coming to pass. (And chuckles at Fiona’s attempts to hide where the other seer she’s met resides.) Aleesa warns Fiona against believing she knows how things will come to pass, when all she knows is that they will, and after everything is settled, Fiona ends up taking a nap as the adrenaline leaves her.

Talenth wakes Fiona with the news that Aleesa and Aleesk are outside, and Fiona realizes that Aleesa has decided it’s time for her and Aleesk to take a one-way to hyperspace themselves. Fiona asks Talenth to wake Jaythen and Arella and have them meet her outside. Where Fiona catches Aleesa before she can “go in peace”, as Aleesa puts it, she demands that Aleesa say goodbye to her daughter, because even though she was two, Fiona didn’t get to have her mother say goodbye to her.

Arella wants to plead with Aleesa not to leave, but she has one final part of Mikal’s prophecy to use against her daughter.

“Mikal told me–that was my secret.” Fiona felt the old woman smiling toward her. “He said I’d be seen off by a Weyrwoman, with all honor.”
Fiona felt tears welling in her eyes as she clasped her hands together and bowed low to the old woman and her watch-wher.
“WherMaster, on behalf of all Pern, I honor you,” she said, her voice catching on the word “honor”.
“Arella,” Aleesa said, looking toward her daughter, “I’m sorry I was such a hard mother. You deserved better.”
Arella could make no reply, her eyes streaming with tears. She shook her head helplessly.
“Jaythen,” Aleesa went on, then shook her head in exasperation. “You are the most difficult, stubborn, angry excuse for a man I’ve ever known.” She paused long enough for him to react, before adding, “But I love you like you were part of my heart.” She continued sadly, “You should not be the leader of the wherhold but its hunter and protector.”
“I think I’d like that,” Jaythen admitted. “I’m not good with people.”
Aleesa snorted in agreement before turning back to Fiona. “Now, I’ve said my good-byes. It’s time for me to leave.
Fiona rushed forward beyond Aleesa and knelt at Aleesk’s side, her hands cupped together. “Let me help you mount.”
“I’m sorry we didn’t have more time together,” Aleesa said as she accepted Fiona’s aid and climbed up on the back of her gold. “I’m sure our fights would have been legendary.”

I certainly agree with you there, Aleesa. And with your assessment that Jaythen needs to be a hunter and protector and basically never interact with anybody who isn’t already fully integrated into the community unless it’s to throw them out or kill them. Because Jaythen has been the cause of most of the problems the wherhold has experienced on the way to legitimacy.

The rest of the chapter is Fiona heading to Mine Natalon, getting attacked by an injured guard dog, trying to get away from it while still carrying the queen egg, having someone shoot at the dog but be worried about hitting Fiona, eventually getting Talenth to teleport the dog away far enough so the archer can kill it, and then collapsing and passing out from her injuries.

Which is an awkward spot to end a chapter, but there we are. Next week, we have more of the past being experienced by someone from the future.

Deconstruction Roundup for December 6th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has found they do have limits when it comes to people being ablist assholes.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew:
  • Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

    Froborr: Jen A. Blue

    RubyTea: Heathen Critique

    Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

    Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are steadily working your way through the leftovers so lovingly cooked from last week. Or for any other reason, really.