Monthly Archives: January 2020

Deconstruction Roundup for January 31st, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has only caustic contempt for an insurer that says doctor visits and emergency room visits are covered, but not the urgent care clinic.)

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: Eruditorum 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 mostly wondering why there still isn’t an instant solution to such terrible things as colds. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragongirl: Spinning Forward, Falling Back

The last book could qualify as a Bottle Episode, if it weren’t for the fact that most of the work that Fiona and cohort did in the past at Igen has consequences for the time period going forward, as well as providing a model for other Weyrs to do the same to bring their strength up and prolong their ability to fight Thread until Lorana can come up with the cure. It stopped, however, right after the jump back forward, and so now we have another book to go forward with and finish out the situation while Lorana is still at work trying to find missing rooms and then understand dragon genetics enough to engineer a long-term cure.

Before we get started, there’s the usual foreword note for readers who haven’t been reading each book in the series up to this point, and a chronology point with their related books, and also, as the last part of the chronology, we officially learn that yes, there are thirteen months of 28 days in the Pernese Turn, with one “Turnover” day that’s outside of the thirteen months, so that we can have a very Terran 365-day year. And, presumably, Turnover day is used for any micro-adjustments needed to the calendar to keep it synchronized so there’s never an extra leap day needed every so often. Which is mostly here to point it out and we can all pat ourselves on the back about being able to figure it out from contextual clues.

Dragongirl: Chapters 1 and 2: Content Notes: Queerbaiting

Heart, give voice to sing
Of life on dragon wings!

(Fort Weyr, AL 508.2.2)

I’m pretty sure we’ve seen this fragment before. Or maybe I’m confusing it with “On Dragonwings.” Either way, I think this is familiar territory in the poetry department.

This book picks up where we left off in the previous one – Fiona and the weyrlings’ triumphant return to Fort Weyr with sufficient fighting strength to continue flaming Thread. It’s still only a temporary booster, because all of those dragons are just as susceptible to the dragon-killing illness, but it’s enough for everyone to feel better about themselves for a while.

There’s a quick recap of the last book, about how, at the urging of a mysterious gold rider, Fiona decided to jump herself back in time and spend three years in the past. Now nearly seventeen with a mature queen, Fiona is returning to the space where they had seen her depart at fourteen. And the narrative hustles to give us the layout of Fiona’s heart while summarizing what she’s done.

He [T’mar] had been the one person who could help take that next step in becoming a queen rider. There was a bond between them, she knew it. More than shared peril, more than shared times. He had a piece of her heart, freely given.But, she thought with a breath of cold air, he didn’t have it all.
Kindan. He was also there, on the horizon. As a child, she had loved him, while he had loved her older sister, Koriana. During her time at Igen, in the past, she had met him again, but she’d been older, and he hadn’t recognized her. Now, as a grown woman, she had discovered that her feelings for him were no less than when she was a girl. Did she love him, she challenged herself, or did she just want to prove that she was as good as Koriana, whom he’d held in his arms as she died?
[…Terin asks for them to land by Xhinna, which prompts Fiona to think about her…]
Xhinna had been her best friend before she’d left for Igen, but much had happened since, and Fiona realized that Xhinna had become a memory, nearly lost in all that time. Now Xhinna was only three days older, while Fiona had aged three Turns. Could they just pick up where they had left off? Or start anew?

So T’mar, definitely, but not fully, Kindan, definitely, but possibly for the wrong reasons, and Xhinna? Xhinna’s a faded memory who has suddenly come back. This doesn’t bode well for those of us who were hoping to keep some queer representation in our books.

Cisca comes over with Xhinna, and there is a teary reunion, because in those three days, Cisca and Xhinna have been afraid that Fiona decided to take the one-way trip to hyperspace. Which is not a bad conclusion! Unless you thought hard about the fact that Fiona has also been muzzy-headed, and if you’ve come to the conclusion that the fuzziness is a symptom of being twice in time, then Fiona’s disappearance might be seen as having done the time warp again, and you hope that she warped with the weyrlings and will be back in three days. But it’s also a reasonable conclusion to wonder if Fiona cracked under the pressure and ran.

After giving her report to Cisca, Fiona begs off to apologize and make up to Xhinna for abandoning her, which results in them in the same bed, and a middle-of-the-night heart-to-heart about what Xhinna’s status is with Fiona, now that she’s “so old now!” After pulling Xhinna in for a hug and planting a “sisterly” kiss on her forehead, that is.

“Do you still want to be friends?”
Xhinna pursed her lips but said nothing, instead closing her eyes and leaning back against Fiona. A small sound escaped her lips, perhaps a sob, perhaps a sigh of contentment…or acceptance.
Melanwy, the aged ex-headwoman who had gone between forever with Weyrwoman Tannaz only a short time ago for Xhinna, and that same short time plus three whole Turns for Fiona’s time-jumping self, had scorned and loathed Xhinna because of the young girl’s nature. That same nature which had made certain that she would never Impress a queen dragon. But Fiona had accepted Xhinna for who she was–just as she had accepted blue rider F’dan for who he was. Everyone had a heart; just because different things set them beating didn’t mean there wasn’t something for Fiona ot love in all of them.
She knew that if she were to continue to be Xhinna’s friend, she had to make Xhinna comfortable in the knowledge that she would never be her lover but also make it clear that she would always accept Xhinna’s love. The two things were different, something Fiona grasped at a level beneath conscious thought even though, until very recently, she had never experienced the difference between loving and having a lover.

And the rest of the chapter is Fiona apologizing for doing what the mysterious gold rider said to do. Xhinna extracts a promise from Fiona not to disappear again, and then accepts friendship with Fiona (presumably on the unstated terms that Fiona has gone through in her head). Fiona is happy for that, and snuggles up to Xhinna, because she hates sleeping alone. (Terin, by the way, was understanding about Fiona not wanting her in the bed with them, and took the excuse to see F’jian.)

That said,

It’s not quite as terrible as Bury Your Gays, where Xhinna would have died (by circumstance or her own hand) so that there was never the possibility of an on-screen relationship between Fiona and Xhinna, but we still have a terrible wrenching of Fiona’s character, and Xhinna is accepting scraps when she should be able to eat at the table. This is not a situation that will end well, when one person only wants to be friends, but behaves in intimate manners, and the other is very clearly in love with them. Not to mention that in this very chapter, Fiona has been thinking about the possibility of polyamory, between T’mar and Kindan, but when there’s the possibility that the polyamory might also involve Xhinna, making Fiona bi, that we cannot have, and could never have had, because apparently being a woman who sees other women sexually means you’ll never Impress a gold dragon. That was at least by implication in other books, but now it’s been made explicitly textual. Way to queerbait for the entirety of the last book, and probably continuing significantly into this book, too.

I am also explicitly unhappy at this retroactive recharacterization of Melanwy into a queerphobic bigot. Because we waited an entire book to textually confirm that Xhinna is a lesbian, and now we are assigning terrible attributes to someone post-mortem. Even though it’s believable, Melanwy was never mean to Xhinna on that particular instance, even by implication, at least as best I could tell. Instead, it seemed much more like she was a terrible racist toward the dark-skinned Xhinna. Which makes more sense than a queerphobic headwoman in a Weyr full of gay and bi men. Not that it’s impossible, of course. If it were, we wouldn’t have nearly as many incidences of hypocrisy where virulently anti-gay pulpit-thumpers were also gay. It just doesn’t gel with the characterization as we saw it in the last book. And it also makes Melanwy, the character with dementia, as the only example of this prejudice, where I would expect Holder culture to have the giant strains of homophobia through their insistence on primogeniture and the need for sons. And it does so in passing, after she’s already gone, so we can all pretend that it’s not a thing that happens now and not examine too terribly deeply why the narrative is very strictly enforcing “no reciprocation” from Fiona to Xhinna, when it would make way more sense for everyone for Fiona to at least be romantically interested in Xhinna, even if they’re not intending to be sexual with each other. And I wonder if that’s what this “love for everyone” idea is supposed to be for Fiona, but it reads a lot more like “Fiona loves everyone, in the agape way, not the eros way, you perverts.” Where else, but in a Weyr, could a relationship like Fiona/Xhinna exist and be seen as perfectly acceptable? But no, can’t have that.

Short Fall,
Watch all.
Winds change,
Dragon’s bane

Augh, that doesn’t even rhyme in the last couplet! (And the footing seems off, too.)

(Fort Weyr, AL 508.2.5)

Chapter Two reminds us forcefully of the dragon sickness. In the three days of Fiona’s absence, several dragons have died and others taken sick. Which, incidentally, makes me wonder why they went back to any Weyr at all, because they’re all full of sick dragons. If the weyrling dragons are all healthy, then preventing them from being exposed to the sickness should have been a priority. They should have all gone somewhere else and then teleported themselves around when it came time to fight Thread in their space. It’s no guarantee that any of them were actually healthy, but they could delay exposure by not mingling with the sick dragons.

Anyway, it’s Threadfall day, so Fort Weyr is gearing up to go fight Thread and set up the field hospital that Fort Weyr becomes when Threadfall happens. As Fiona is passing by some of the riders, she says her kind greetings. We’re supposed to see a sign of maturity in Fiona in that she passes by H’nez, gives him the customary “Good luck, bronze rider,” and thinks

She might not like him, but she didn’t wish him ill; Pern needed all its riders.

H’nez is surprised by her kindness and returns a formal response. H’nez is still an asshole. He and Fiona have a bad relationship because he’s an asshole. Yet, as one might expect, it’s Finoa who changes with her leadership responsibilities and becomes the bigger person and buries the hatchet she could jusitifiably keep carrying with him. Because the old stodgy bronze rider doesn’t have to change, even when he’s been wrong all the time.

Fiona is far more familiar with K’rall, who reminds her of the promise she exracted from him about living long enough to see Talenth’s mating flight. And the dragons all go on, with a little bit of seeing T’mar, and F’dan, and P’der, and otherwise it seeming like there should be some nice montage music underneath that’s slow and romantic and otherwise shows all the feels and feelings involved with everyone. Once all the riders are gone, Fiona realizes they didn’t leave a watch-dragon, and Talenth pops up to take care of the duty. Which leads us into Fiona helping Tintoval get situated for her first run at being in charge of the field hospital. Tintoval does something that already makes her better than anyone else that has had a hand in trying to raise Fiona right.

“You did brilliantly,” Tintoval said. She grimaced in Cisca’s direction as she added, “I’m not quite sure you’ve heard that enough since your return.”

And while Fiona dismisses it as other things taking priority, Tintoval is right. There hasn’t been nearly enough telling Fiona what she’s been doing well as there has been grumbling or yelling or otherwise telling her what she’s done completely wrong. Tintoval also mentions that Fiona having spent three years in Igen means that she has more experience as a Senior Weyrwoman than Cisca does, which confirms some of the other things about how both Cisca and Fiona are probably way too young to be taking on this particular duty, and they would both have benefited from a much older Weyrwoman as Senior, but as with many stories of young people doing things, the presence of older adults, except as impediments, is absent.

The narrative pops over to K’lior and the wings fighting the fall, making decisions about who is to come back and gather extra firestone reserves, and things go as well as they usually do for Falls, with injuries and losses. F’dan’s dragon takes a hit and they warp out back to home. K’lior doesn’t realize what he does, but he manages to dodge the remainder of the clump that hit F’dan, flame it from twenty meters below his position, then return to where he would have expected to be in a matter of moments. K’lior spots H’nez and Gaminth trying to join the fight, but they take a quick hit and disappear. K’rall, H’nez’s second, says he didn’t send H’nez, so H’nez is being a glory-seeking asshole right now, but the narrative sets him aside to do a little more commentary on the progress of the Fall before it sends us back to Fiona (and Terin) managing F’dan and Ridorth and their injuries. F’dan is dead on arrival, Ridorth is dying quickly, to the point where Talenth isn’t sure that Ridorth will be able to take his rider with him when he goes on his own one-way trip. So Fiona mounts Talenth and leads Ridorth through to his rest. That brings a lot of shock from everyone, who, we find out later, thought that Fiona and Talenth might be deciding to go with them instead of leading them. H’nez, who got his dragon injured, is an asshole. One in pain, yes, and with a dragon in pain as well, but he’s an asshole.

“Honoring a dead blue while there are bronzes here injured?” a voice cried in shock. It was H’nez. Fiona turned to him, her face bone white with anger, but the bronze rider didn’t notice. “Your duty is–”
Fiona didn’t hear him finish, turning on her heels to walk away.
“Where do you think you are going?” H’nez bellowed after her. In the distance she could hear Ginirth’s pained bellowing and it tugged at her heart. “You call yourself a weyrwoman!”
Too much. Fiona twisted on the balls of her feet even as her hand rose and she leaped across the distance between them, her hand landing with a resounding slap on the side of his face, sending him reeling.
In the distance Talenth cried in dismay and anger, joined by Melirth.
“Get yourself under control, bronze rider,” Fiona said icily, eyeing the man who now knelt, hand raised to his injured face in surprise. Her own hand stung from the blow but she willed the pain from her consciousness. she reached out to Ginirth with her mind, apologetically.
[…Fiona gets Tintoval to get her a healing kit…]
She was about to say something reassuring to H’nez, words of peace and healing when she heard Talenth: He broke ranks.
“You broke ranks?” Fiona exclaimed, her eyes impaling H’nez with burning ire.
“When Ridorth and F’dan went between,” H’nez said, licking his lips, his eyes not quite meeting hers. Fiona felt his confusion, his anger–directed at himself, his sense of loss, and suddenly she saw the man in a different light.
“That’s for the Weyrleader,” she said, her tone dismissing the issue.

And Fiona is all business from there on out with H’nez, waving off his thanks as she goes on to tend to other dragons. Cisca and Fiona work together to help get a dragon stitched up, before Cisca tells Fiona that she’s a lot like H’nez, in that she’s willing to listen to herself over anyone else, and that Cisca needs someone who can work under her, or Fiona will have to find somewhere else to be. Fiona, for her part, says that she did what she had to do. Cisca reminds her that she doesn’t have to carry the burden of being a Senior anymore, and asks her if she can set it down or not. Fiona says she doesn’t know, and the chapter ends with the casualty count.

Let’s go back to H’nez for a moment. I, personally, consider it a sign of maturity in Fiona that she walloped H’nez at the first sign of backtalk, because nobody else seems to want to put him in his place, much less go through with actually doing it. The narrative disagrees with me, and I can’t tell if it’s a general “no, when Fiona resorts to violence she is being her worst self,” which would call back the stuffing suits incident where she got dragonriders to fight each other, with the additional bonus of getting Terin off the fence about her own crush, or whether it’s “Fiona chose poorly as to when she chose to react to him, catching H’nez at his weakest point, and she realizes this only after when she sees how H’nez and Ginirth are hurt.” Because the narrative hasn’t really done a lot of showing and telling us when it thinks Fiona did well. Other characters, like Tintoval, have said they think Fiona did well, but the narrative withholds its approval of what Fiona does, while not sparing us its disapproval. And Cisca goes after Fiona again for behaving above her rank, which makes Cisca look insecure, instead of backing Fiona and saying “H’nez is being an ass, you put him in his place, great. Propriety suggests you should come to me first, but for that kind of thing, ask forgiveness, not permission.”

I suppose H’nez exists to be the toxically masculine foil to the more reasonable Weyrleaders. But he rarely ends up as a foil, instead being the character that explicitly states the underlying assumptions that everyone is going on. And for as much as Fiona will get mad at him and put him in his place, ultimately, the narrative and the Weyrleaders take his side over hers, both implicitly and explicitly. Which is not a great position to take in books where the Weyrwoman is supposed to be powerful and slightly rule-flexible.

More things next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 24th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who may finally be getting over what they were coming down with last week.)

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: Eruditorum Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are mostly wondering why there still isn’t an instant solution to such terrible things as colds. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: First Times

Last time, Fiona had to handle a mating flight, got punished for doing the time warp again, although there’s still no canonical explanation on how anybody knew that’s what happened, according to the information we’ve gathered so far, got negged by T’mar pretty heavily, got hazed with the other weyrlings, and is otherwise getting close to being acknowledged as someone with competence, rather than as a tagalong child. It’s only taken her about three years to get to this point.

Dragonheart: Chapters 19, 20, and the Epilogue: Content Notes: The Politics of Sex,

White wine for wonder,
Red wine for blunder.

(Wherhold, Late Evening, AL 500.8.18)

Which is, peeking ahead, someone trying to foreshadow in a very clumsy way. This fragment contains no information at all in it, and I really want to see its larger context to have any idea at all about what they might be trying to get at here.

The chapter itself opens with Fiona and Terin arriving at the wherhold at night because they have to have a conversation with Nuella. Why Nuella?

Ever since her almost-kiss with F’jian, and T’mar’s comments about her weight, Fiona had been very careful of her behavior around the male riders. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust them, it was that she didn’t trust herself–or know how to handle her feelings.
Thus the trip to the Wherhold and Nuella, who was nearest her age.

I think Fiona’s first take is the more accurate one. Now that everyone has seen that her clutch of weyrlings are old enough to start going on mating flights, the thing they were leaving alone because Talenth wasn’t old enough has come back. And given that as much as Fiona would love to utter “I am not a prize to be won,” in the context she’s in, she will always be a prize to be won. Fiona is entirely correct to be wary of them and what they are doing.

At their arrival, Zenor determines pretty quickly that Fiona and Terin are here to talk about boys, and offers to excuse himself so they can talk frankly, but Nuella says he should stay.

“No, stay, Zenor,” Nuella said before Fiona could reply. She nodded toward Fiona. “Anything you say here stays between these walls. Zenor is an excellent listener, a good counsel, and he’s a boy–he has insights I might not.”
“I’ll get some wine,” Zenor says, rising from his chair and leaving quickly.

Bless you, Zenor, for your understanding and your entire willingness to get out so that Fiona and Terin will feel comfortable. Yes, Zenor might have insights, but he’s reading the room correctly and trying to make himself scarce. Nuella is at a disadvantage, on that she can’t see any of the body language that Fiona and Terin are putting on display about her insistence, and Nuellask is probably not going to be much help in that regard.

While Zenor is getting wine, Fiona starts talking about what she’s worried about as soon as Nuella gives her an opening. Fiona doesn’t feel ready, but also, she does want to, and there are significant considerations to think about.

“I’m afraid of the consequences,” Fiona said, nodding toward the sleeping baby. “Not just that, but also how it will affect the other riders.”
“Worry about yourself,” Nuella told her. “You can’t control how the riders will feel, and besides, they will have feelings whether you do anything or not–you and Terin are the only two eligible women for them.”
“There are trader girls, too,” Terin piped up.
“Not eligible,” Nuella said. “They won’t be going back to your time in nine months.”

Pregnancy is a serious consequence to consider for Fiona. (Also, apparently, the contraceptive effect of hyperspace hasn’t been told to Fiona yet, assuming it’s not Lost Knowledge.) And there’s a certain amount of scary choice available to Fiona (and Terin), in that if she chooses someone, she’s signaling before everyone else who she thinks might be the best Weyrleader. Which could be awkward for everyone if she doesn’t choose a bronze rider. Despite the still significant possibility that Fiona might be bi or pan and polyamorous, she’s going to be expected to choose one dude for her official partner. And possibly risk pregnancy from him every time there’s a mating flight or he wants her for sex (or at least the appearance of). This is (finally) one spot where being Weyrwoman is better than being Lady Holder. Even though Fiona’s choices are limited, she still has choices, as opposed to having had her husband already picked out for her by her father.

Zenor returns with wine, whose sole objective is to get Fiona and Terin drunk enough to be free with their talk, and that works quite well. In flashback, somewhere between bottles three and four, we find that Terin and Fiona are ready to talk about everything. To Zenor, as Nuella managed to disappear herself off to bed before too much drinking happened. They find out that Terin had her eye on F’jian, but it’s worried she’s too young for him, and that she’s not even on his radar. Zenor comforts get in this and says from what he’s heard, Terin would be a fine mate. Except all she really wants to do is kiss F’jian. Zenor assures her that’s fine, too, before turning the subject to Fiona and asking who she wants to kiss. Fiona doesn’t answer directly, but listening to Zenor talk about Kindan shakes loose what Fiona thinks of Kindan, and of T’mar, and here we have something akin to a culture clash, except Zenor is the one who seems more knowledgeable about things than Fiona does.

“Are you in love with him?”
“Kindan?” Fiona asked in response. “Or T’mar?”
“Or both?”
“A Lady Holder doesn’t–” Fiona responded instantly, her face set in a frown.
“A Weyrwoman can,” Zenor told her kindly.
“But he has Lorana!” Fiona objected.
“And you would never come between him and the one he loves,” Zenor observed respectfully. “But you don’t have to tear your heart apart to save his, no more than you have to avoid kissing T’mar.”
“Why would I want to kiss T’mar?” Fiona had asked, suddenly feeling very tired and very confused.

Zenor apologizes for seeing something that’s not there, and not too soon after, Fiona helps Terin into bed and falls asleep herself to sleep off the wine.

I admit, it’s very refreshing having a person who is decent to the people around them. I’m a little suspicious that the author has Zenor this way because he’s basically won the game – an orphan miner’s son who has risen to become part of the nobility and happily married to someone, already with a daughter. They’re the closest equivalent to a perfect patriarchal vassalage feudalism family. But Zenor is also compassionate and devoted to Nuella and able to step back and let Nuella have her own career and I think where I’m really confused is that somehow a feminist (or at least more feminist) man has managed to sneak into Pern and be part of the narrative.

I also want to know where Zenor is getting his knowledge about how a Weyrwoman can have as many lovers as she wants and that’s socially acceptable, given that Moreta isn’t for another three Passes, and there has been precisely zero indication so far that Weyrwoman are anything but monogamous cishet women. Maybe he’s assuming that someone with such power in a Weyr doesn’t have to follow any social stricture or rule. (Maybe the just-beneath-the-surface gleeful “queens rule” monarchy-ish of the wherhandlers is rubbing of on him.) And frankly, it’s nice seeing it suggested as a solution, but it seems remarkably unlikely to actually come to be. Which is a shame.

Terin and Fiona get back safe, T’mar figures they had crap for wine based on their hangovers, and training resumes. T’mar also has a minor insight.

“All the same, I’m glad that you two had some time to yourselves, away from all this…” He gestured to the gathering riders, groping for the right word.
“Maleness?” Fiona suggested.
“I was going for exuberance,” T’mar said, “but I think you’ve got the better word for it.” He paused a moment before adding solicitously, “Is it a great strain for you two?”
“Being the only two women who came from our time?” Fiona asked in clarification. At T’mar’s reluctant nod, she continued, “Yes, it is. A strain and a temptation, too.”
T’mar sighed. “I was afraid it would come to that at some point.”
“But do you think you could have managed without us?”
T’mar pondered the question for only a moment before shaking his head resolutely. “No.”
“So,” Fiona continued, “that being the case, we shall just have to persevere, shan’t we?”

Nothing comes of this revelation, other than hopefully the next group that jumps back will bring enough support staff with them to make it work. And training continues. Fiona and Terin regularly go to the wherhold to take care of Nalla in exchange for Zenor helping Terin fashion a gold ring that Fiona is pretty sure will be fit to F’jian’s hand. At a particular point, several months in, F’jian and J’gerd get into it over something that they aren’t willing to say in front of Terin, but before they can hash it out with each other, Fiona uses her command powers to get them to stop, asserts herself as the Weyrwoman in the face of F’jian snapping at her, and then orders both of them into the stuffing suits to properly have it out with each other, even though J’gerd said a formal apology. She’s encouraged in this but a mysterious voice in her head that doesn’t belong to anyone she knows.

“How long will you let them fight?” Terin demanded from behind. Fiona turned to the younger woman and pursed her lips before answering, “Until one of them can’t fight any more.”
“Won’t or can’t?” Terin persisted.
“Can’t,” Fiona told her firmly.
F’jian delivered the first blow, rocking J’gerd back on his heels. The brown rider kept his hands at his sides.
“You wanted this fight!” Fiona shouted at J’gerd angrily. J’gerd looked at her entreatingly, but Fiona shook her head, her anger growing. “You fight, brown rider.”
Reluctantly, J’gerd raised his hands to block F’jian’s blows, but the wiry bronze rider ducked around him and started pummeling the brown rider on his side, harmlessly.
“If you don’t fight now, J’gerd,” Fiona called to him, “I’ll have you fight again tomorrow and the next day until you do fight.”
“Why are you forcing him?” Terin demanded in horror.
“So that he will never want to fight again.”
“That’s stupid!”
“Yes, it is,” T’mar agreed as he crossed to Fiona’s side. “But it is the only way to get them to stop.

It’s an effective solution, but not the only one, given that we’ve already had plenty of commentary about how jangled nerves in the past ebb and flow with seemingly-random reasons. Honestly, what happens to someone as they exist twice in time is something that should be recorded and never forgotten, as well as possible remedies to the problems that develop over time, the longer you stay there.

Anyway, F’jian hits J’gerd in the face, and then the two of them have a proper scrap until Fiona calls a halt.

When F’jian was once more standing in front of her in his riding clothes, Fiona pointed to his cut. “I bet that stings.”
“Not much,” F’jian said cockily.
Before she could have second thoughts, Fiona raised her hand, spun on her heel, and slapped him hard on the cheek.
“I’ll bet that does,” she growled as she turned back to face him, her hand raised foot a repeat performance. In the distance, Talenth rumbled angrily, echoed by the distressed calls of the Weyr’s dragons.
“Yes it does, Weyrwoman,” F’jian cried, his tough stance disintegrating into the bewildered look of a young man uncertain of his ground and standing.
“Good,” Fiona growled, hating herself even as she said it. “Don’t make it necessary for me to do that ever again.”

Fiona is certain what she’s done is necessary for discipline, but she also has a smile when Terin finally kisses F’jian, helping cement that part of her plan, and when deciding on the punishment to give, Fiona suggests that F’jian be required to transport Terin to the wherhold on the weekly runs, a plan that T’mar gives an evil, understanding chuckle to. So there’s at least some part of this being a plan to get Terin to confess her interest in a way that F’jian can’t ignore. And I am all here for knocking F’jian off his pedestal, although slapping him does not seem like a useful way of doing it. Maybe if Fiona got some of her own aggression out in a stuffing suit, since behaving like the boys seems to have worked well for her in the past.

Of course, now Fiona is definitely not one of the boys any more. And she has a minor freakout with Mother Karina about it, but Mother Karina has no useful advice for her, and for as much as everything works out with F’jian and Terin, Fiona continues to get nervous about the inevitability of Talenth rising, and to notice that both Talenth and T’mar’s behavior is fluctuating on a daily basis.

(She also contracts with Terregar and Zenor to try and build a flamethrower that works on new firestone, sealing the deal with the promise of great profit if they achieve it.)

Fiona is upset that everyone is treating her differently, and she authorizes the Weyr to interact and mingle more with the traders and wherholders in an attempt to stave off loneliness for everyone. And then it’s time to clean up the place and get it ready for the riders that jumped forward in time and do some last drills. T’mar informs Fiona that they’re working on a strict deadline, as in a little over a fortnight, Talenth turns three and that’s the magic age where Fiona can expect her to have her first mating flight. For as much as Nuella’s statement of “If you’re not ready, you’re not ready” is something Fiona wants to believe, Talenth makes that impossible.

T’mar also pays Fiona a genuine compliment at her running of the place, and expresses his concern at how she’ll handle going back to being a junior Weyrwoman. The care and concern makes Fiona flush, and she runs, first to Talenth to reassure herself, and then to T’mar’s, where Fiona confesses her worries about Talenth rising and makes a decision.

“I–I don’t want her first time to be…my first time.”
“I see.” T’mar replied softly into the silence that stretched between them. He regarded her silently for a moment. “What about Kindan?”
Fiona shook her head soundlessly and buried her face against his chest, her arms loose around him.
[…T’mar agrees to it, there’s a fade-to-later, Fiona makes a crack at T’mar about having to do something three times to get it done, and there’s another fade-to-later as those extra times are getting taken care of…]
Drifting through euphoria and back to mere consciousness the words were said:
“I love you.”
“I know.”
But Fiona could never remember who said them, or if they were spoken simultaneously, or even uttered aloud.

And that’s Chapter 19. I can’t say that I agree with Fiona’s decision, on the basis of T’mar has been a jerk and an asshole to her and everyone else for a good long time. I don’t have an issue with her deciding she wants experience before Talenth rises, and if I could have seen more into her thought processes and how she chose him, that would be nice, because everything so far has been Zenor’s implications and Fiona’s panic about running up against her deadline. There’s consent sought and obtained, at least, and consideration given to someone who also has a place in Fiona’s heart (although it’s probably going to be that getting with T’mar means Fiona has finally given up on Kindan), but there’s still the fact that Fiona didn’t really get to choose when she was ready for sex. If she had wanted to wait longer, even after getting back, before having sex with anyone, she was eventually going to end up having sex because of a mating flight. (Previous solutions we’ve discussed about how someone might wait out a mating flight without actually having sex with someone notwithstanding.) So, as a “best of bad choices” decision, I still don’t like T’mar, but I can see where it might be the calculated decision of “a bronze rider who is not someone that will gain undue influence or prestige by having been the first person for Fiona to have sex with, and who has the necessary experience of sex that they can guide and help Fiona understand what happens during sex.”

I still don’t feel like Fiona’s actually consented in the way she would like, but also, with dragons and their sex rays, I’m not sure anybody really gets to consent when they would like and with whom they would like, whether they’re dragonriders or the people caught in the influence of the sex rays. So this whole thing leaves a bad taste, even though it wasn’t as violent or as terribly nonconcensual as some mating things have been.

Rider, dragon, hearts be true–
To this creed you always hew:
Flame thread, protect Pern
Fall after Fall, Turn after Turn.

(Igen Weyr, Evening, 501.3.18)…they can do so much better than that. This sounds amateurish in the worst kind of way, and it’s supposed to be something, I’m sure, that’s part of the Harper repertoire.

Chapter 20, such that it is, is Fiona and the rest of the riders saying goodbye to Mother Karina and the traders, and Fiona having a little weep about the likelihood that she won’t see Mother Karina again, and the traders promising that they’ll give the next group of riders the same potential for trade as they did the Fort riders. It’s not all that many pages, but it’s apparently necessary to close out the story of Fort’s riders at Igen.

Drummer, beat, piper,. blow,
Harper, sing, and soldier, go.
Free the flame and sear the grasses,
Till the dawning Red Star passes.

(Fort Weyr, AL 508.2.2)

I think this is the first time a song has acknowledged soldiers (since the beginning of the series, I am told), even though they have always been in existence and referred to as guards or men. I’m sure we’ve seen this construction before, although there may have been different roles in this, or maybe it’s that this first line about drummers and pipers has been begun many times, without someone sticking around or noting the verses to the song.

The Epilogue is “Fiona and the weyrlings make it home safely.” There’s one thing to note in it, though, and there’s going to be no space actually given to the fallout from it, because Epilogue.

“There’s Xhinna!” Terin called over her shoulder, pointing down to a forlorn figure coming from Fiona’s weyr and scanning the skies above her anxiously. “Wait until she finds out I’m as old as she is!”
Fiona twitched at the words and the worries they aroused in her. Xhinna was a distant memory, a treasured friend buried in a mountain of moments they had not and would never share.

Yeah. It’s still only been three days for Xhinna, even though it’s been three years for Fiona, and there’s going to have to be some reckoning and accounting and decision-making about what Fiona wants to say and do about Xhinna and Terin. The narrative seems to suggest that Fiona is going to put aside the prospect of a relationship with Xhinna in favor of the relationship she has with T’mar, and to ignore Zenor’s suggestions that Weyrwomen could have more than one relationship at a time. Because the narrative has yet to actually get comfortable enough with the prospect that there could be some other kinds of relationships, and they would be valid ones. I, personally, would like to see Fiona continue to have Terin and Xhinna sharing space with her, although Terin might be more interested in F’jian at this point. And if anyone wants to give Fiona grief about it, she can cheerily tell them she’s the Weyrwoman, and it would be a bad idea to fuck with her on this.

That’s Dragonheart! Four books left to go before we have exhausted the Pernese canon from all of the remaining authors. Dragongirl is next.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 17th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is probably coming down with something and will need the weekend to recover.)

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: Eruditorum 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 mostly wondering why there still isn’t an instant solution to such terrible things as colds. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: The Box Slams Shut

Last time, the weyrlings went on a training montage, got hazed, and otherwise took their places as trainees in the order of the dragonriders. So far, they’ve been flying the long way to anywhere they’ve been going, and as their training progresses, Fiona is being pushed more and more firmly into the box of the Weyrwoman’s role, as opposed to the greater freedom she had when hopping back in time.

Dragonheart, Chapter 18: Content Notes: Terrible methods of instruction, sex rays, negging, fat-shaming

Having been trained with recognition points and getting drilled on being able to provide pictures that are clear enough for a dragon to use as hyperspace endpoints, T’mar finally announces that it’s time for the dragons to start using the hyperspace transit system. Their first trip is arranged in groups, where there are dragons and riders at each of the endpoints of the journey that can send imagery for the transiting riders to use for safe jumps. Each dragon goes individually, and each success is confirmed before the next step is taken. The first rider, D’lanor, shakes off the first image he gets as not good enough. T’mar nods and smiles, suggesting that this was a test to see if D’lanor would take a bad image and try to use it. If he did, though, that would mean dragon and rider getting lost in hyperspace. If that really was a test, and T’mar was willing to let D’lanor get anywhere close to using that image, then he’s even worse of an instructor than I had complained about before, because at that point, it’s possible both dragon and rider die to prove a point. Which, given that they’re doing this to replenish fighting wing strength, is something nobody should even be flirting with.

Fiona goes last, in a group by herself, after all the others have succeeded at their tasks. She wants to go to the wherhold, and gets a picture in her head of it. T’mar told her earlier that at a certain point she has to trust, and so Fiona trusts herself and shifts the position of the sky so she will appear at the wherhold at night, to say hello to Nuella and Nuellask. Fiona succeeds, gives her greetings, is told by Arella to take T’mar’s ire, and then hops back to the correct picture given to her, hoping that she won’t be caught. Afterward, she pops back to her original destination, where T’mar is waiting for her with an earful.

“There is always some idiot who thinks they are special,” he told them [weyrlings] icily. “Some dimglow who thinks the drills are too much effort, that they know everything.”
He turned back to Fiona, glaring at her.
“Fortunately,” he went on, turning once more to the weyrlings, “we have a solution for this sort of behavior.” He paused for a long while, long enough for the sense of dread and shame to lodge deep in Fiona’s chest, sucking all of the joy of her unauthorized adventure right out of her.
“Our Weyrwoman has volunteered to man the Star Stones for the next month,” T’mar told the collected group gravely. “That will enable the rest of us to continue our training.” He paused. “We are done for today. Go about your duties.”
[…Fiona apologizes to Talenth for “neglecting her duty” and “failing to set the example”, even though Talenth doesn’t have a clue what’s wrong…]
When the others were out of earshot, T’mar approached her. “There’s always one idiot,” he repeated. “I knew it would be you.”
“That’s why you sent me last,” Fiona guessed, her heart falling deeper into her chest.
T’mar nodded curtly, his eyes boring into hers as they welled with tears, and then he glanced away and strode off briskly without another word.

And so Fiona ends up failing another one of T’mar’s secret tests, but I have one question to ask: How does he know that she’s done it? The wherhold has been told Fiona will be arriving, and that T’mar is angry with Fiona, but really, if she pops back into existence at the correct picture that she’s been given, she presumaly should appear at the correct time as if she hadn’t taken any sort of detour. And yet, T’mar knows she’s done a time hop and is ready to chew her out about it when she gets back. The closest thing I have to a guess on that is that it created a situation, like in Moreta, where the dragonriders suddenly could not sense Fiona’s dragon, because she’d jumped into the future and became unavailable. Or, I suppose, if she’d jumped into the past, she’d become similarly unavailable. But it would have to be only for a short amount of time, at most, if, again, Fiona came back at the right time and place, and we’re back to asking how T’mar knew Fiona had slipped through time. Presumably, less skilled riders will appear offset from the time they were supposed to be, because their recall isn’t perfect and things are just a little out of place, and that makes it obvious, but there’s no sign that Fiona has been wrong about anything from the narrative.

Terin actually provides the reason why T’mar was so upset and set Fiona to the Star Stones as watch dragon for a month for taking an unauthorized trip through time by wailing about what might have happened if Fiona hadn’t returned and storming out of their shared quarters. That problem sets into Fiona’s mind as she does her duty (after apologizing to everyone in the Weyr multiple times for what she did, and convincing herself that she’s the only Weyrwoman ever to be condemned like this) as she becomes worried about the other riders and whether they’re going to return safely from their trips through hyperspace. The punishment also continues to twist Fiona’s mental state into castigating herself for something that she did successfully, “continually standing as an example of what not to do.” She puts on her best clothes and throws herself into congratulating the riders on their safe return “until she wondered how she could have ever thought the journey dangerous.” Which, as written, sounds like it negates the fear and shame put into her by T’mar about what she did.

Fiona took a risk with her life, and she survived it, and she didn’t understand how much of a risk it was until after she’d done it and then considered the consequences. It’s like someone driving and only realizing how dangerous what they were doing until they have a near-crash experience and it sets into their head in a way that no person telling them it’s dangerous can. Grounding Fiona wasn’t going to do anything more to get her to understand, and it had a strong likelihood of backfiring horribly if Fiona hadn’t understood what was going on. Instead of contrite, Fiona could have easily decided that it wasn’t a big deal what she did, since she did it correctly, and that the punishment set to her was unjust and unwarranted and she wasn’t going to learn a damn thing from it because she didn’t do anything wrong. Fiona figured it out herself, no thanks at all to T’mar, who went straight on to punishment. One can only hope that before lighting into Fiona, he explained the danger to the other weyrlings, because he sure as hell didn’t do it to Fiona. (Perhaps he correctly intuited that Fiona would figure it out herself, sincce he seems to be fond of the idea that the people under his care should figure it out for themselves.)

In the last sevenday of her punishment, Fiona found herself actually looking forward to the duty, finding it a time where she could spend hours in thought and moments in short communication with returning riders. Her thoughts were occupied by considering the stores for the Weyr, the trade with the outlying holds, and the functioning of the Weyr.

So Fiona is settling into the role of Weyrwoman nicely, then, or at least the role of Weyrwoman as envisioned by all the men around her, concerning herself with logistics and supplies rather than adventure. She’s becoming the Lady Holder that her father raised her to be, after all, just with dragons to consider as well as everything else. I’m sorry for her, because it means Fiona’s become yet another casualty of the patriarchy of Pern.

And speaking thereof, in Fiona’s quiet contemplation (and Terin’s return to her quarters and occasionally sharing the watch with her), Fiona is finding herself more and more concerned for Terin’s well-being.

Fiona turned as she heard Terin’s approach and wondered idly how she was going to handle the younger girl’s imminent womanhood. Fiona had noticed how Terin had started eyeing the older weyrlings and had teased her gently about it, adding her own cogent observations to ease Terin’s embarrassment but she was worried that, being the only eligible partner for most of the riders at the Weyr, Terin might find herself overwhelmed with offers or worse–frightened by the intensity of emotion if one of the older greens took to the skies in a mating flight.
It was something that concerned Fiona about herself, too. Neither Talenth nor the greens of her clutch were old enough yet to rise, but those of J’keran’s older dragons might rise again at any moment. How would Terin react when the emotions of a mating flight combined with her growing emotions as a woman? How would Fiona?
And, Fiona admitted with a deep sigh, how would she react to Talenth rising? She wasn’t ready for it, she admitted to herself, and it scared her.

Cocowhat by depizan

Hang on, wait, “only eligible partner for most of the riders at the Weyr?” I thought only the bronze riders were exclusively het. Are we saying that what’s left in the weyrlings are disproportionately bronze riders, or is someone pushing back against the extratextual material and suggesting that there is a bigger population of het riders in browns, blues, and greens than the original suggestions were? There are still too many dicks on the dance floor for Terin and Fiona, it’s true, but I thought that bronze riders were rare compared to the other colors in any given clutch.

Plus, Fiona is sitting on a time bomb, in the sense that soon enough, she’s going to become a sexual being because of Talenth, whether she wants this or not, and the expectation is that she’s going to go through with it, whether she wants that or not. Terin, in theory, has the option of refusing. Fiona doesn’t. And that should be terrifying to anyone in that position. (And would have been for Fiona the Lady Holder, too, although in theory she would have older women to help her through this and give her advice. Fiona doesn’t really have anyone at the Weyr who can help her with this.)

The topic drifts to the question of whether or not Fiona and Terin will be able to settle back into being juniors when they get back, even with all their experience, before T’mar arrives and warns Fiona that one of the greens has been looking like she’s ready to mate soon, and would Fiona go talk to the traders about the possibility and see if everyone is situated to handle that? Fiona’s fine with it, and when she admits she learned a lot from T’mar, she comes to the conclusion that she did so because he was the one from his groups of weyrlings who disregarded the drill and suffered the same punishment. T’mar admits to it and then says, if there are no interruptions, Fiona is welcome to return to the drill the next day after she affirms she learned the lesson at least as well as he did.

Of course there is an interruption, because the green that had been looking like she was ready to mate, Sarinth, goes into mating flight mode. V’lex, the rider, is having a lot of trouble controlling Sarinth and getting her to just blood, rather than gorge, so Fiona lends him some of her power to help bring Sarinth under control. After Sarinth takes off and the other dragons follow, Fiona is part of the gestalt merge before T’mar pulls her back and tells her that she and Terin have to go see to the trader children while the flight continues (and a significant number of the pursuing dragons’ riders start showing their interest in V’lex). What this means is that Fiona gets the unenviable job of explaining to the trader children what is going on.

“She’s on her mating flight, and she jumped into the sky daring the boy dragons to see if they could catch her.”
She smiled, adding, “She’s only thinking about how high she can fly, how much better she is than them, and–”
Suddenly, an overwhelming emotion, a sense of elation and climax flowed into Fiona and she was temporarily speechless. Beside her she heard Terin gasp and some of the older children also cried out while the youngsters all pointed skyward, crying, “Look, they’re falling!”
Fiona, with her back to the scene, shook her head. “They’re just playing. The brown caught the green and it’s part of the mating game.”
[…someone asks if there will be more dragons, but greens don’t lay eggs, because the firestone makes them sterile. Fiona has to fight more sex ray effects, and ends up finding Terin’s hand and drawing her into a crushing hug…]
“Sometimes it’s nice to hug a friend, just because you feel like it,” Fiona said over Terin’s shoulder to the youngsters. Some nodded solemnly, seeking out friends and hugging them with all the innocence of children. Encouraged, Fiona directed them into a larger hug, more children joining in until she, Terin, and all the trader children were in one giant hug.
There was one sudden, final, joyful shout from the distant dragonriders, one final thrill pouring through the knot of children, and then Talenth said, Winurth flew her.

I mean, as trying to attempt to handle the power of the sex rays in an age-appropriate manner, not bad at all. Not all that fond of the idea of “it’s a game,” but that’s also because I think it’s possible to explain these things in age-appropriate manners, and perhaps that if someone had done a better jo with Fiona and Terin beforehand, they wouldn’t be scrambling to try and figure out how to handle what’s going on. The narrative seems pretty clear that Fiona, Terin, and the older trader children understand the emotions and sensations they are experiencing, and the younger children do not. It also seems pretty clear that the younger children are experiencig the same kinds of emotions and sensations, but because they don’t have words for it (or cultural baggage attached to it), they dn’t understand fully what’s going on. Which goes a long way toward explaining how young children experience the sex rays. They’re not immune to it, but because they haven’t got the words for what they’re experiencing, they don’t understand it well enough to have a reaction to it. A nicely-threaded needle, the longer I look at it, but the implications are still terrifying for everyone around.

“I was scared,” Terin confessed, lowering her head so that Fiona could finish braiding. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted at the moment–I felt so overwhelmed, not myself.” She paused thoughtfully, then declared, “I want to be myself, not someone dragon-flamed.”

There has to be something in non-dragonrider society that essentially says that if sex rays are involved, whatever happens doesn’t count for anything regarding “deflowering” or any other thing where the cult of virginity still reigns. Which has to be exploited in so many ways by young adults. And it’s still got to be terrifying to feel these things and realize how easily someone’s boundaries could be overriden, or have them consent to do things they would not do sober.

Fiona goes to see T’mar with Terin and they both suggest that firestone drills should probably start soon, because if Sarinth wasn’t already chewing, she might clutch.

“Oh,” T’mar said, dumbstruck. He turned toward Terin and sketched a bow in her direction. “Well caught, headwoman.”
“I just thought…” Terin began only to break off, blushing. “It’s just that…” She glances helplessly toward Fiona.
“We women tend to concentrate on such things,” Fiona said dryly, recalling one of Kelsa’s choice phrases.

This is excellently done and very believable — the world of Pern is definitely set up in such a way that dudes don’t have to think about pregnancy at all, or at least only have to think about it in the same kinds of ways that dudes in our time think about it, in regards to wehther a pregnancy will affect their social status. Since dragonriders raise children communally and have no property to pass on to heirs, dragonrider men basically don’t have to give a damn about pregnancy ever. Only the women do. So it would completely slip T’mar’s notice that greens can clutch if they haven’t been chewing firestone until it was well after the point where they would have wanted to stop the clutch.

When they meet with the traders, there’s a lot of shrugs around about how to get firestone on short notice, because Sarinth’s mating flight has accelerated the timetable for when firestone would be needed by several months. While there’s no way of easily establishing direct trade with the Hold pumping out firestone, Fiona thinks to re-consult the map that had the gold marked on it to see if there’s firestone marked as well. Selecting a suitable candidate, they fly over to the spot, to find there’s a mine waiting for them. There are directions on the door to close the door when they’re done, and directions inside to take what firestone sacks they need. Both directions look like they might have been written in Fiona’s hand, but the weyrlings are not going to look a gift dragon in the mouth, and immediately set to hauling out the amount of sacks they’ll need to start firestone drill.

Having things so nicely laid out for them makes Fiona and T’mar wonder again whether a future Fiona has been laying out everything for past Fiona so she can experience them as future Fiona remembers, and that the extra-strength issues some of the riders and weyrlings are experiencing might be because they’re not just twice in time, they’re thrice or more in the same time, which produces the more pronounced effects.

After hauling back the sacks they can, Fiona sets in to some food, and T’mar negs her. He tries to be subtle about it and let Fiona draw her own conclusions, but he’s definitely negging her.

“What?” Fiona demanded, seeing his look. “Can’t a girl be hungry?”
“Of course,” T’mar replied smoothly, his eyes twinkling. “But it would be a shame if Talenth strained herself.”
“I am not fat!” Fiona declared hotly, suddenly folding the bread in two and forcing it into her mouth.
“Merely a growing girl,” T’mar agreed, his grin belying his demure tone.
“Hmph!” Fiona snorted around her mouthful. She chewed quickly and took a long swallow form her mug of iced water. “Flying that far is hard work.”
“For a dragon,” T’mar responded.
“You’re just afraid I’ll get taller than you!”
“I like tall women.”
Fiona fumed, lips thin, but realized that any further response would only fuel the wingleader’s jest.
“So, we’ll start with the firestone after lunch?” she asked, desperate to change the topic.
“Not you, unless you want to make Talenth sterile,” T’mar replied.
“I thought I might watch.”
“I’m sure you’d be welcome,” T’mar said, adding with his former humor, “and you could use the exercise!”
[…At the exercises, Fiona chides Talenth lightly for sleeping. Talenth points out she did all the flying. Fiona points out she did the hauling…]
“I’m not fat, am I?” Fiona asked Terin, who stood nearby, eager to watch.
Terin eyed her for a moment then said, “Well, you’re taller than me.”
“So I’m fat?” Fiona demanded, horrorstricken.
“I don’t know,” Terin replied thoughtfully. “You might just be growing. I think you’d have to ask Mother Karina.” She shrugged. “But what if you are?”
Fiona had never thought of herself as fat; she’d always been skinny–everyone at the Hold has pestered her to eat more. “You’re only skin and bones!” they’d always said.
But perhaps her time in Igen had put more than meat on her–and she just hated the idea. Especially, she hated the way T’mar teased her about it.

When I started this book, I thought H’nez was the biggest asshole around, but by this point, it seems like H’nez is the loudest, most obvious, and most vocal asshole, but T’mar is the biggest asshole by far. Teasing Fiona about her weight is a dick move. And also, we note that in various periods of time, having some junk in the trunk is considered a good sign, that someone has been well-fed and has not had to do manual labor for their entire life. And given that the Weyrwoman’s role has mostly been “Lady Holder, but with dragons,” and the fact that Cisca has always, always been described in terms that are meant to evoke her beauty at least as much, if not more, than her strength, it seems like Fiona getting a little bit of meat would be seen as something good, rather than something that requires derision, mockery, and negging.

Spurred by T’mar’s earlier comments about her weight, Fiona took to flying every day, often helping the traders by carrying loads slung under Talenth to their various depots scattered around central Pern.

Which, again, if that’s what he wanted her to do, he could have asked directly rather than taking shots at Fiona’s weight.

The chapter closes out with more drilling on recognition points, but at Fort Weyr, Fiona hits a wave of dizziness that indicates she’s too stretched in time, and retreats immediately to Igen, where F’jian is able to catch her as she slides off of Talenth. Fiona finds herself reacting strongly to F’jian’s concern, and that spikes off a panic moment in Fiona to end the chapter.

“My pleasure,” F’jian responded with more warmth than Fiona found comfortable. Had he been about to kiss her? Had she been about to kiss him?
They were the same age or nearly, but Fiona was startled by the flood of emotions that surged within her. I’m not ready, she told herself firmly. Her body disagreed.

Oh, yay, puberty in both rider and dragon now. And on that confusing mix of sensations, the chapter ends.

I haven’t been mentioning the time frames as much as I should, so it’s worth noting that most of these segments, where a new drill item or technique is introduced, the weyrlings usually spend months on that new technique, integrating it into their practice, so large chunks of the year are going by in a sentence or two of uneventful daily practice by the dragonriders and their dragons. There’s training montage bits there, but the narrative thinks of them as training montage bits and spends more time on the things that are not routine.

I can see the end in sight! Two chapters and an epilogue to go. Next week, Fiona goes to seek advice about her rebellious body, and then engages in courses of action on that advice. Or would, if she could remember what she said.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 10th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who just went through a meeting that wasn’t terrible.)

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: Eruditorum Press (formerly Elizabeth Sandifer: Writer (formerly TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue))

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

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 mostly wondering how to spend your limited time doing all the things that will take up all of that time. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: Real Training

Last time, Zenor and Nuella got married and got made official members of the nobility, and another group of dragonriders made a leap forward in time, having healed sufficiently to make the trip. The only remaining group now is the weyrlings, whose dragons have to mature and develop into adults.

Dragonheart, Chapter 18: Content Notes: Embarrassment squick, hazing, terrible methods of instruction,

Weyrling and rider,
First jump, no higher.
Glide to ground,
Then go round.

(Igen Weyr, Early Morning, AL 499.13.11)

The chapter starts with Fiona “pestering T’mar” about when the young weyrlings are going to be able to officially start flying, which she apparently starts on her fifteenth birthday. From the beginning of the last chapter, a full Turn has passed, apparently without incident or anything useful to the narrative other than what was in the last chapter. Eventually, T’mar relents and lets the weyrlings, including Fiona, apply riding straps to their dragons. Then chides them for too much exuberance.

The first day, with straps on, T’mar inspects them and offers corrections, and then tells them to take the straps off and have the dragons glide.

The next day things were much better, but T’mar ordered them once again to remove their harnesses before the dragons flew.
“If one harness is wrong, they are all wrong,” T’mar said when the chorus of groans arose from the collected weyrlings.
“Whose harness was wrong?” Fiona asked.
“You don’t know?” T’mar replied, shaking his head sadly.
Fiona’s face burned with shame.
“Tomorrow, we get here before T’mar and we check everyone’s harness,” F’jian said.
The next day, to everyone’s intense relief, T’mar allowed the dragons to fly with their harnesses on.
“We’ll keep that up for the next sevenday,” he said, sounding pleased.
“I’ll bet they get did this to the other weyrlings,” Fiona muttered rebelliously to F’jian.
“Maybe not,” F’jian said with a shrug. “But of it makes us safer riders, what’s the harm in it?”
Fiona couldn’t say anything in response, suddenly recalling her angry exchange with T’mar Turns back and ahead at Fort Weyr.

T’mar, you’re an

This is not the way to do instruction! The first part, where corrections are offered, is the way to go. Yes, because it is a situation that could be life and death, sure, you can insist that each previous phase has to be done consistently perfectly by everyone before moving on to the next, but if someone asks what’s wrong, that’s an indication they need help recognizing what isn’t obvious to them yet. If you mock them for not knowing, you only establish that you are an asshole and should not be teaching, if it can be avoided. (Which, of course, it can’t.)

On that reasoning, we can also add the older weyrlings into the group of “people who are assholes,” based on how they react to the next exercise the weyrlings have to do – fill sandbags to their exact weight, equally distributed between left and right sides and checked with a balance beam.

The older weyrlings, however, found the whole exercise hilarious and were now lined up every morning, jeering the weyrlings and cheering the wingleader.
“We’ll get up before everyone,” Fiona swore one morning. Her words were met with a growl of approval from the rest of the weyrlings.

This is a terrible learning environment now, as well. I’m sure that the “we’ll show them all” attitude is exactly what they’re trying to engender, but the drum major academy I attended managed to produce this same “we’ll get there early” result without mockery or humiliation by explaining to us that while instruction started at 9, it was always curious to see everyone out and practicing by 8. We all caught the implication. Which made it fun that for the last day of the academy, they mentioned that things started at 9, and for that day, they never saw anyone at all before 9. Point taken.

What T’mar and the older weyrlings are doing is sabotaging the camaraderie between groups. If they intend for the young weyrlings to develop as a cohesive group, fine, but when it’s all done and the weyrlings are made full dragonriders, they’re going to have to undo all of this work to bring them into the fold as a full fighting unit. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people end up in the stuffing suits over all of this. Or if someone takes some Thread to the face because someone remembered who hazed them and is just a little bit slower than they could have been in resupplying their dragon, or leaves just a little bit of Thread behind to get back at their torturer. Or just flat refuses to be in any wing with any of them because they can’t achieve the required unit cohesion with someone who was an asshole to them.

T’mar’s instructional style continues to suck. After the weyrling dragons are able to carry perfectly balanced loads for several days, they head up to glide with the full weight still on them.

“I don’t think this is right,” she said to F’jian’s surprise. “Don’t you think T’mar would insist on them flying first with a lighter load to strengthen their muscles?”
“But they’ve been gliding for Turns!” F’jian protested. Fiona glanced toward T’mar and noted how the bronze rider stood, impassively looking their way.
“T’mar,” she called. “Shouldn’t we start with less weight?”
T’mar’s face slowly creased with a smile and he nodded.
“It was another test!” F’jian groaned beside her as he rushed to remove half the sandbags from Ladirth’s load.
Two full sevendays passed before the dragons were permitted to glide with their riders’ full weight in sand.
And then–
“No sandbags tomorrow,” T’mar said as the last dragon glided back down to the ground, landing lightly, his eyes whirling in shades of green with pleasure.
“No sandbags,” Fiona repeated, having learned always to repeat the wingleader’s orders for confirmation.

You know what was always one of the worst complaints about old adventure games? Trial-and-Error Gameplay, especially when those errors were lethal or worse, would screw up your gamestate such that when you came to a later puzzle, you had lost or used the thing you now definitely needed to use in this new situation. There tended not to be hints that you had messed things up, and in several memorable instances, an item that was permanently missable in the first segment of the game was essential to success in the last segment of the game, and there were no hints or other indications that the key had been missed until you were confronted with the lock.

Which is to say, if you only learn the correct procedure by someone indicating where you’ve messed up, after you’ve already messed up, your instructor is an asshole. If, however, this is supposed to be T’mar having told them and then silently not giving them any hints or instructions to see whether they remember it all correctly, that’s less assholery, but I don’t think that’s what we’re supposed to get out of these secret tests.

Repeating back what you’ve heard to someone for understanding is generally good practice, but the way it’s written in this snippet, and the way T’mar has been so far, makes me think that T’mar changes his orders if they’re not repeated back to him exactly the way he gave them or if someone leaves to do something without repeating them back to him. Because those would be the dickish things to do.

In any case, without sandbags means actual riders on board, and Fiona is ready to begin, but before she lets Talenth glide down, she has another insight.

Ready? Talenth asked excitedly.
Wait a moment, Fiona said, turning to look down at T’mar–he looked smaller from this height–asking, “Can you check my straps, wingleader?”
T’mar smiled as she passed another one of his silent tests and walked around Talenth’s neck, inspecting the straps from both sides and tugging on them.

It’s good practice to have someone check your work, yes, but if it’s another one of T’mar’s silent tests, it means that he wasn’t going to tell Fiona where she messed up and would force her to divine it after he had already called off the practice for the day because someone messed up on one of his secret tests. Frankly, it’s a wonder they’ve gotten as far as they have, if the person who’s supposed to be teaching them is laying gotcha traps for them every step of the way and forcing them to do it all perfectly without any help. If this is how all weyrlings get taught, no wonder they fall apart when forced to react to the real situation of Thread. They’ve never had to face a situation where they made a mistake and have to scramble or salvage it and keep going, instead of having to reset to the beginning and start again. In the basics, you want something to be drilled until it’s automatic, but after that point, you want to have a certain amount of reactive ability (and improvisation) in your people so that when, inevitably, it does not go according to plan, they can reform, regroup, shore themselves up, and continue to be effective. Wingleaders, potential Weyrleaders, and Weyrwomen should all be taught and given practice at handling situations where they are at disadvantage against the simulated opposition and see if they can find ways of getting around the problem, so that way they can react appropriately when they find themselves in that problem or something like it.

The weyrlings each take their gliee with a rider three times (T’mar says to always do things three times) and do that drill for two months before they actually start what T’mar officially calls weyrling training. J’keran leans into Finoa and suggests that T’mar was especially hard on her group because she was in it. Fiona, for her part, wants to continue with the training, but that, for her, requires finding a flamethrower to use. She brings it up with Azeez, who immediately tries to dissuade her from obtaining one, if it’s of the same type that gets used in the Holds.

“All the flamethrowers I know use the old firestone,” Azeez said with a grimace. “They’re prone to explode.”
“They won’t work with proper firestone?” T’mar asked, curious.
“No, they rely on mixing stone and water to produce flame,” Azeez said.

Cocowhat by depizan

That doesn’t make any sense, even if it “solves” the problem from a few chapters ago of how the flamethrowers operate. Because flamestone (the differentiating name for those who don’t want to call it “old firestone”) is extremely volitaile and highly reactive with water. And at this level of technology, I am highly doubtful that they can manufacture any sort of controlled burn or mechanism that prevents the reaction from immediately running its way back up into the fuel tank and exploding messily. The science doesn’t work for me. If someone can explain how this rock and water can be used for a controlled burn reaction with enough of a chance that they won’t die that someone might willingly use it, I would be very interested in how that works. (If it uses the “grease” that was supposedly used on flamestone to make it usable and transportable in humid conditions, that would be interesting, too.)

For the purposes of the plot, Fiona suggests first Stirger, then Zenor and Terregar, as someone who could put together a flamethrower that could run on the new firestone, and also keep it secret for long enough that it wouldn’t be in common usage when they return to their originating time. Which would have the same problems as the old flamethrower, really, unless the new firestone had a higher threshold to react with and would only consistently ignite far enough away to avoid a reaction running back up the fuel line. They’d probably have to do something different to create the new flamethrower. Not that they could extract dragon stomach acid, but if they could find or concoct an acid that wouldn’t eat the tank or somehow capture and pressurize the gas that came off of the firestone reaction and mixed it with enough liquid to generate napalm or something like it that could be passed through a flame and controlled that way. But that engineering knowledge would likely be gained through several probably-lethal experiments and accidents.

The dragons continue to practice gliding, with various child-size weights on them. After another two months, T’mar says everyone is ready to fly, and the honor of first flight goes to Fiona, who says she’ll only do it if she gets to have Terin as passenger as well. T’mar asks about Fiona’s weight. Seven stone, Fiona says, and adds that Terin’s not more than five stone, which is well under the amount of weight Talenth has already carried. T’mar gives his assent, “swatting Terin lightly on the butt, sending her on her way.” It goes well, although Talenth is a little mischievous about following directions of how high to go and how gently to come back down the first time.

After first flight, there’s one last thing to do, according to T’mar.

“There is one final tradition for new riders that must be observed,” he intoned solemnly. He arranged the thirty-three riders in three tightly-spaced ranks, with Fiona in the middle of the first rank.
“Close your eyes,” he ordered. “Keep them closed until I say you may open them.”
There was a rustle and breeze from dragon wings above them and then suddenly–
“Shards!” “Oh, that’s cold!” “Eeek!”
Before Fiona could twitch a muscle, she was drenched, head to toe in something that was very cold, very wet, and very smelly.
“You may open your eyes, dragonriders,” T’mar intoned solemnly. When Fiona opened her eyes, she found that the weyrlings were all surrounded by the older riders, who were all laughing hysterically.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” T’mar barked to the drenched dragonriders. “Into the water with you!”
Fiona needed no urging and found herself rushing past the other still-befuddled weyrlings to dive into the shallow lake and wash off the worst of the stench that engulfed her.
“When you’re quite done,” T’mar drawled, enjoying himself as much as the older weyrlings, “you may disperse to your quarters.” He paused. “You will have much work to do tomorrow.”

Hazing has no real place in camaraderie. You can have ritual and bonding and initiation and it doesn’t have to be cruel, embarrassing, or humiliating. I’m sure that the authors believe that after all of this, the riders will have a shared bond that will be unbreakable because of their shared torture, and that they’ll go on to enjoy doing it to the next crop of weyrlings, once they go back to their own time and have a new crop, but there are probably several of the newly-initiated that feel very little other than resentment toward their tormentors, even if they’ve finally joined the dragonriders club. I would enjoy it very much if several of those dragonriders resolved not to do such things to their own juniors and made their complaints to the Weyrleader, when they return to Fort, about the treatment received while they were growing up. And if K’lior isn’t listening, to make those same complaints to Cisca, backed by Fiona’s recounting of what happened. I don’t think anything will happen, not until Fiona ascends to Senior status, because people are very good at rationalizing terrible things as “harmless fun” when they get the opportunity to do it to other people, but Fiona might remember what happened to her and decide to put a stop to it.

Plus, as they continue to drill and learn and come fully into the craft of the dragonrider, “The older weyrlings took particular delight in attempting to catch out Fiona, F’jian, or J’nos” in the quizzing and testing that could happen at any time to the weyrlings. Which means the learning environment hasn’t actually improved, even though they’ve been initiated. And I’m sure everyone engaging in this pop-quizing with a focus on the leaders of the young weyrling cohort would justify it by saying leaders needed to know the material better than anyone else, but they’re not actually helping anything but those three’s stress levels and making it more terrible for them. I do not have experience with military service basic training camps, but it seems like that was the model being used for all of this dragonrider training montage, but remember that these are children of fourteen, fifteen, and possibly younger being put through this training. They’re creating child soldiers. This is at least some degree worse than what we saw in the Harper Hall for hazing and terribleness of instruction, because they’re being given weapons of war and indoctrinated into a mindset that says they’re the most powerful people on the planet. Small wonder that most of the people around them that aren’t dragonriders see them primarily through the lens of people bullying and abusing their power.

On their first long flight in formation, from Weyr to wherhold, it turns out Fiona regrets greatly not taking a last trip to the necessary, and by the time she and T’mar land, away from the formation that brough them there, Fiona dashes off to relieve herself, very unhappy with T’mar for keeping her up in the air and mounted far longer than everyone else. She asks him why he’s set them down here instead of with the rest, and he mocks her for asking the question.

“Why did we land here, Weyrwoman?” T’mar repeated challengingly.
Fiona swore silently to herself, meeting his mocking look squarely while she thought. “It’s a test, obviously,” Fiona replied, trying not to sound like she was playing for time–which she was, of course.
T’mar nodded.
[…Fiona works out that its a test for F’jian to see if he will make his proper courtesies and then send the dragons and riders over to where they are to refresh themselves…]
“And the test for me…” She trailed off, thinking hard, and then inspiration struck. “Is to see if I’m willing to let F’jian figure this out on his own!”
As if in response, they heard the rustle of dragon wings and the sky darkened as the small flight rushed into a landing near the river’s edge.
“Very good,” T’mar said with a congratulatory nod. “And why is it that you need this test, Weyrwoman?”
“Because a leader who doesn’t let her juniors learn on their own is no leader at all,” Fiona replied.
T’mar’s lips curved upward approvingly. “And so, what are your orders, Weyrwoman?”
“Orders?” Fiona replied, arching an eyebrow and matching his grin. “I expect I’ll be asking F’jian what he plans to do next.”
“Very good!”

ABSOLUTELY NOT. That is one hundred percent ass-backwards. A good leader does let their people learn on their own, but also provides them with guidance and feedback so that they can improve in places they don’t know they’re lacking. And gives them praise in the things they’re doing well. Now, there’s something that can be said for stepping back and letting someone lead, with the understanding that if they are going to do something that’s really not in the best interests of anyone, you’ll step in and make sure the bad things don’t happen. But, again, the way it’s phrased, and based on how T’mar has been given these tests, it sounds way much more like “throw F’jian into the deep end and see if he swims or not, and offer no help at all if he flounders.”

Plus, that the “correct” answer for Fiona is to wait until F’jian has made a decision about what to do next is teeth-grinding. She’s still Weyrwoman. Even when she has a Weyrleader with her, she’s going to be expected to have plans and suggestions about what to do next. But, apparently, she’s supposed to defer to F’jian and go along with whatever he has in mind, regardless of what she thinks about it.

Fiona is having her domain of power restricted to what others think she should have, and that power does not include decisions on how and where the dragons should be flying. Fiona is being finalized into the box that she’s been prepared for all of this time. She might still have some sway in the Weyr, about what happens in the Weyr, but she’s having what power she had taken away from her and shifted to the men around her. Not that she had a whole lot of power to start with, but beforehand, she would have volunteered her opinion or done something, instead of waiting for someone else to act and following them. This could be interpreted as a sign of growing wisdom, in that Fiona is not immediately volunteering her opinion on things, but I can’t really see it that way.

There’s one more major event for Chapter 18 before it finishes, and once we get done with that, the remaining chapters are much shorter than this one and 17 have been, so that’s good. More next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 3rd, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is equally as surprised as you are that they are here and posting.)

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: Eruditorum Press (formerly Elizabeth Sandifer: Writer (formerly TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue))

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’ve gotten a contributor copy for a book where you may have dragged your own workplace through the mud a touch, because they deserved it. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragonheart: Asking The Question

Last time, Fiona got herself involved in trying to speed Zenor and Nuella getting hitched, which was complicated by the presence of M’tal at the gold mine and wherhold and Fiona being utterly unable to play a role other than herself, even when she’s not supposed to be so nobly born.

Dragonheart: Chapter 17: Content Notes:

Before we progress with the plot, there’s a bit we skipped over while I was making the point about how terrible it is that Nuella is considering the same sexual tactics that dragonriders are to get Zenor. This involves the continuing mental strain that being twice in time is taking on them, and a way of relieving the tension, if only temporarily.

“It’s hard,” Fiona told her. “It’s harder on riders than dragons or weyrfolk. Terin doesn’t feel it at all. But the riders–we feel like there’s a noise or tension, a tingling, a jangle on the senses. It comes and goes and we’re never sure when. Some days are better than others, and the days aren’t all the same for all dragonriders. It leaves us both tired and edgy. Klah is good when we’re tired, rest when we’re edgy.” She frowned as she admitted, “There’ve been fights. Fights that shouldn’t have happened.”
“Fights?” Arella asked, surprised.
Fiona nodded. “We–T’mar and the wingleaders–handle them. If a douse of cold water won’t bring them to their senses, we put them in a ring with a stuffing suit and let them have at it.”
“Stuffing suit?” Arella repeated.
“A set of clothes full of stuffing so they can hit each other without breaking bones,” Fiona explained. “They usually wind up exhausted, all the fight gone out of them.” She gave Arella a grim look as she added, “And then they’re put on the worst details for the next fortnight or more.”

You were doing so well, Fiona, with a sensible solution to the jangle in their heads, and then you had to add the part where you then punish people for the things in their head that they can’t control. Like what happeend with Tullea that nobody was interested in investigating. Also, if stuffing suits existed in previous times, why haven’t they been used instead of allowing people to do stupid things like fight duels and kill Healers? Even if H’nez was clamoring for a sword because he feels super-insulted by whatever was said, why didn’t everyone insist that he take his whatever out in a stuffing suit? Admittedly, for an old Healer, he might have killed him anyway, and cooler heads or proxies should have prevailed, but in the moment, stuffing suits would have potentially been less lethal. And those things might have been useful for when Kindan and Vaxoram went at it, and, and, and. It’s another case of this invention of the “past” changing how we view the “future”.

Also, as noted in the comments of the last post, Fiona’s admission of fights contradicts what was said earlier in the chapter about nobody fighting ever.

In any case, having successfully delivered Nuella to M’tal, Fiona melts away into the crowd and they go to their actual task of convincing Zenor to propose to Nuella. The task goes into double-time when Fiona sees the ring he’s created (apparently the design and manufacture of such Zenor’s ring is unprecedented, because of a lack of talent and good quality gold). Zenor has an attack of the what-ifs along the way, but Fiona is absolutely determined to see this through to the end, and powers through Zenor’s worries about what might happen if disaster befell him with the insistence that Zenor is preventing Nuella from being happy when he says he wants to prevent future pain. Zenor proposes, Nuella accepts, and Fiona and F’dan go home, smug in their victory.

We get some insight into Fiona’s mindset.

Really, it was a joy to spend time with F’dan because he treated her like a full-grown person, able to take on any burden, sometimes demanding more of her than she thought she could give. And he did it all with a manner that was always respectful, always supportive. And, of course, he swore like some of her father’s guards–when they thought no one from the Hold was listening.
[…F’dan and Fiona negotiate that he’ll do her hair if she’ll give his legs a massage. We learn that it took a couple sessions of massage for Fiona to get over “any lingering squeamishness when dealing with human flesh, particularly male human flesh”…]
It had given Fiona a sublime sense of relief when she discovered that riders of blues and greens, while deferential to her as a Weyrwoman, treated her womanness as something unimportant to their relationship with her. Fiona had always understood intellectually why that was so, but it was only when she recognized it on a subconscious level that she truly allowed herself to open up to them. These older men, who did not see her as a potential mate, were free to see her as the person she was.

I’m not entirely sure the author realizes what kind of shade they’re throwing on the bronze and brown riders, but if it was intentional, that’s a pretty good burn. Fiona can only be herself with the greens and blues because they’re the only ones that don’t see her as a sexual conquest. We know, from long experience reading these books, that bronze riders tend to think with their little brain more than their big one, to the point where they are definitely sexualizing someone who wouldn’t have made it to the age of majority in most countries on Terra.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the entire sequence of Fiona getting her hair cut (Fiona likes having her hair played with) reads like the camp gay stylist at the salon to me. (Perhaps it does not to others, but F’dan is a blue rider, and therefore…) There’s fussing about and discussion of hair products, and when Fiona wants her hair cut very short for the heat, F’dan grouses that she’ll look like a boy and it will take away his “only joy” of styling her hair. F’dan also says he’ll grow his hair long again when he gets back to Fort, which isn’t helping my feelings that he’s supposed to be a lot more camp than I’ve been reading him up to this point. Plus, when he’s done, F’dan gives Fiona “an affectionate pat on the butt,” which passes without any incident.

While Fiona has gotten her hair cut, a M’tal from the future has arrived, but he apparently mistimed it and ended up earlier than where he wanted to be. There’s some delicate talk of what the future holds without too many spoilers for Fiona, and M’tal eventually recognizes Fiona as the strange girl from his distant past, because she looked so much like Koriana it stuck in his head. Pleasantries exchanged, M’tal disappears to his proper time coordinates, but not without significant worry about his health. The worry about how being twice (or more) in time is taken up at dinner with T’mar and N’jian, and everyone realizes they don’t know nearly as much as they should about time travel, other than that it’s discouraged. (Instead of having been documented and drilled as thoroughly as every other aspect of being a dragonrider.)

The traders made dinner, and we now know that coconut exists on Pern, or adapted to it. The traders have also come to ask if they can trade their services for shelter in the winter. Which has an ulterior motive of allowing the traders to sit still for long enough to help with the wedding between Zenor and Nuella. And also to provide more hands to help Terin, whom everyone thinks is overworking herself and not getting nearly enough sleep. Before too much of the details can be worked out, Fiona’s birthday cake arrives, because she’s now officially fourteen by days alive, and the custom of candles on a birthday cake has apparently survived, along with making a wish while extinguishing them.

In the next segment, while Fiona is getting ready to leave for the wedding, we learn a bit more about how Talenth enjoys having small bodies around to look after and how this might be because Fiona really enjoys having bodies around.

“I remember sleeping with Forsk when I was a child…I never felt so loved or peaceful.”
“You’re an odd one,” Karina said. “You seem happiest when In the center of a pile of warm bodies.”
“It keeps the cold away,” Fiona replied. More honestly, she added, “It feels like family would feel to me.”
Karina eyed her speculatively. “And you didn’t have that growing up the only child of the Lord Holder.”
Fiona said nothing.

Or Fiona really likes the company of others in her bed. It doesn’t be to be out of a desire for lost family and to try and do something opposite from a distant but loving father. It could be that Fiona feels most protected from predatory dragonriders when there are plenty of bodies around her. It could be that Fiona is attracted to Xhinna and Terin and wants them close by as a gesture of intimacy. (Even though Xhinna got left behind.) The universe is vast, it contains multitudes, and there’s no reason to believe that Fiona couldn’t also be bi or pan, despite whatever extratextual rulesets are being applied.

In any case, Fiona gets there, finds out she’s been drafted into the wedding party as Nuella’s maid of honor, there are way more Important Guests than Nuella had figured, and manages, in a Fiona-Talenth-Nuellask-Nuella chain of images, to show Nuella what she looks like in her dress, which cheers her immensely.

Before the wedding proper, Kindan announces the official forming of the Wherhold and its designation as the Goldhall of the Smithcraft, which makes both Nuella and Zenor part of the nobility, as Kindan addresses them as “my lord, my lady”.

The actual vows and ceremony are elided over, much to my annoyance, and then there is the glow-flying in formation (also, there are yellow glows and green glows in addition to the previous colors), and the rest of the night, aside from Nuella resolving to get one of the saddles that Arella and Jaythen used to ride their watch-whers, is Fiona finding as many excuses as she can to not get too noticed by Kindan, since he continues to take an interest in her even though she’s tried not to be noticeable and has spent much of the wedding dancing and feasting with others, and the next batch of healed dragonriders hopping forward to the agreed-upon time. F’dan’s last piece of advice to Fiona is to remind her that when he sees her next, she’s going to have a dragon that can mate.

Two time-jumps down, one more to go.