Monthly Archives: June 2020

Deconstruction Roundup for June 26th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to note with cynicism all of the entities in their life that could be making progress but don’t seem all that interested in it, despite what they say.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are trying to internalize the idea that there is no glory or fame in burning yourself out from doing the work. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: So Much To Unpack

Last time, we got about halfway through a chapter of Lorana sitting with Tenniz for what he says is the last day of his life, which has been happening in a sort of unhurried way, given that Tenniz has apparently made his peace with this fact and is fulfilling what he saw in the past, spending his last day with Lorana.

Dragon’s Time: Chapter 3: Content Notes: Death

Where we left off, Tenniz was in the process of explaining to Lorana that he’s come to terms with his own demise and that he’s not wasting his time on anger or seriousness, which would have been a better sell for me had Tenniz mentioned that he spent plenty of time already being mad and serious about the short amount of time that he had in life and the knowledge that he’s cursing his daughter with the same thing.

What’s also about to get weird is that Tenniz is about to start quoting proverbs and Lorana is about to start finishing them. Tenniz suggested earlier in the chapter that Lorana might have trader blood in her, which I suppose is our cue to think about what happens, but Lorana doesn’t say anything like “My dad used to say these things” or anything else that’s specific enough to be used that would be a clue as to where she picks up the parts of these proverbs. Because she also didn’t spend three years in the past with the traders to where she might have picked some of this up.

Anyway. On the idea that there isn’t going to be any more wine for them tonight, this sequence is what starts the really weird. Earlier, Lorana finished one of Tenniz’s phrases:

“Only a parched man really knows water,” Tenniz said, again in the tone of a trader saying.
[…and then fills a pot with water…]
“Only a dying man really knows life,” Lorana said, glancing at Tenniz.
“So it is said,” Tenniz agreed quietly. “But just as it is the path of wisdom in the desert to bear water, so it is the path of wisdom to learn life.”

Which, I suppose, could be worked out from the context of their conversation, but then it starts getting into direct quotations that Lorana has no business knowing, or if she does know them, the narrative forgot to tell us how.

“ ’Parched, you shall drink’ ” Tenniz quoted.
“ ’Hungry, you shall eat,’ ” Lorana said, hearing the catch in Tenniz’s voice confirm that she strangely knew the right words.
“ ’And–‘ ”
Lorana joined in with him–“ ’the stars shall guide you to your sleep.’ ”

And then the narrative jumps ahead to Lorana and Tenniz stargazing, as if “strangely knew” doesn’t ask for an explanation, or Tenniz confirming his guess that Lorana’s been around traders enough to have picked up a few aphorisms. or something. Tenniz has changed into the robes crafted for him to be buried in, but suggests that they can use a blanket for his burial shroud and gifts the robe and accompanying cloak to Lorana, saying “the dead have no belongings” as another trader aphorism. Lorana is understandably squeamish about carrying the goods of the dead, but Tenniz insists that since he’s still alive now, he can gift it to Lorana and everything will be fine. Lorana surmises this has to do with another prophecy and accepts the gift. (The cloak and the robes both have the emblem of a gold dragon flying over water, so it’s not like this hasn’t been prepared with Lorana in mind specifically.)

The stew is ready for eating, and it turns out Lorana’s understanding of trader norms goes to deeds as well as aphorisms.

Together they pulled the stew off the fire. Tenniz ladled the hot, pungent mix out of the pot and presented Lorana with the first bowl. Sensing tradition, Lorana took it with a grateful nod, then passed it back to him. Tenniz’s eyes lit as he took it and nodded in thanks.

This reminds me again of the Talents series, where there’s a character who is able to speak all of the many languages in the poor sector, where eventually it’s explained that they can access the language centers of the brain of the person they’re talking to, allowing them to speak the language as fluently as the other person because they’re basically borrowing their fluency. Since we know Lorana has the telepathic connection to Fiona that’s conscious and above-board, maybe this ability to speak aphorisms she has never heard and perfectly replicate customs she’s never seen is a low-level manifestation of Lorana’s telepathic ability. The narrative doesn’t particularly care about the explaining, as it has more important things to get to, apparently.

Lorana invites Tenniz to warm himself by Minith, which is something he treats with awe and wonder, and Minith says she doesn’t mind directly to Tenniz, which is even more awe and wonder from Tenniz about it. The stew itself is extremely spicy, which Tenniz suggests is a metaphor for life, and Lorana struggles through both having the very spicy stew and with coming to terms with the fact that she aborted her child (and possibly that she’s on deathwatch with the person responsible for that, but the narrative doesn’t say this), and eventually, Lorana seems to come to terms with it through some call-and-response aphorisms with Tenniz.

She felt ritual engulf her one more. “Even in the dark, there is still light.”
“ ’We are stars in the darkness,’ ” Tenniz replied with agreeing ritual.
“We burn bright, beacons for others,” Lorana said.
“ ’We cannot see our own light, only those of others,’ ” Tenniz continued.
“Our light lights others,” Lorana said, suddenly chilled with the power of the words, the sense of meaning that grabbed her, held her.
“ ’As their light lights us,’ ” Tenniz agreed, translating her words into the trader sayings of old. He glanced over to her and told her quietly, “You do not know our words exactly, but you have a trader’s ear for truth.”
“And so while there are stars, there can never be darkness,” Lorana said.
“ ’And in the darkness, there is always light,’ ” Tenniz finished.

So it’s not exactly the same words, apparently, but it’s close enough to hum a few bars, but now I want to know where this particular ritual comes from. Is it a dragonrider ritual, a beastcraft ritual, a family ritual, something they said at Fort, or at Telgar, or something else? Because the presence of this kind of ritual speech, much like the funerary rite we saw when Fiona took over Telgar, continues to betray the assertion that Pern has no religion. Or, we should figure out how trader wisdom got out to the people who aren’t traders and then twisted. Or we should acknowledge that Lorana’s powers are always a little on and she’s picking up on something from Tenniz. Some sort of acknowledgement. Or maybe there was something here that got cut and the authors didn’t read it back for continuity or their readers didn’t notice that this part was unexplained. (Or they did, and they were thanked and ignored.)

The narrative, though, leaves us with nothing to explain this, as it jumps ahead to Lorana waking up from having fallen asleep, and in the interim, Tenniz has died. Lorana does the duty she promised to Tenniz, wrapping him in the blanket, taking him to the hollow that Tenniz had described as where he wanted to be buried, and constructing a cairn above the gravesite of two hundred and fifty-seven brilliant white stones. (We know the exact number because Lorana was absently counting each stone as she put it in place.)

Having buried Tenniz, Lorana despairs of not knowing what to do going forward, even as she realizes that all of the funerary ritual and rite that she’s done was intended for her, to come to peace and bury her unborn child, and Tenniz happened to be the convenient excuse to talk to, and then eventually buried as proxy (as well as being buried himself). As she looks at the sky, she sees a single star, still burning in the sky before the sun comes up, and this apparently produces a flash of insight.

One last star burned bright, flaring with the rays of the morning sun. One star that was no star at all.
“I know what to do, Tenniz!” Lorana cried, tears streaming down her face.
“And you knew!” She almost laughed at the trader’s trick and she quoted him once more: “In the darkness, there is always light!”
“I know what to do!” Lorana cried loudly, startling Minith. She raced toward the queen, shouting “Come on, Minith!”
She pointed a finger skyward, straight at the brilliant light in the sky. Dragon and rider rose in the cold morning air, circled once, and then winked out, between.

Which is all and good for Lorana, figuring out what to do, but not so great for the reader. Because the star that isn’t a star could refer to a planet like the Red Star, or one of the ships in orbit around the planet, which were supposedly forgotten about until there were optic telescopes able to see them again. Or, perhaps, some other solution entirely that the authors have decided to keep from us and suggest that if we want enlightenment, we have to follow the same leap to a conclusion that Lorana did. I recognize that one of the tenets of writing certain types of mysteries is that the reader is supposed to have the same clues as the detective and be able to solve the mystery if they can follow the same logic, but for this to work, we all have to have the same clues. Instead, it’s been a chapter of Lorana behaving like she understands trader culture perfectly, and Tenniz remarking that she’s doing a really good job of following along, even if she doesn’t have the exact words down, so there’s the possibility that there’s a shared understanding that didn’t have to be articulated between them that we would need to know to fully follow along. Instead, we get a dragonrider jumping into the sky after jumping to a conclusion, and since the next chapter goes back to Fiona’s time, we’ll have to wait to figure out what’s going on.

Deconstruction Roundup for June 19th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to push hard for systemic change in their organization, despite a fairly clear lack of response from the management.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are trying to internalize the idea that there is no glory or fame in burning yourself out from doing the work. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: On Deathwatch

Last time, we set up the mystery of the present, involving F’jian’s disappearance late at night (where he’s showing all the signs of doing additional time travel), and Fiona got gaslit by the people who really should have been supporting her about whether or not she saw Lorana for long enough for Lorana to capture a sketch of her and then disappear back into time again.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter 3: Content Notes: Mortality

In darkest night I find you,
The sisters of tomorrow:
Heralding the dawn.

(The Unknown Time of Lorana and Tenniz)

There’s no time marker for this chapter, as it starts with Lorana and Tenniz, and apparently, Lorana doesn’t know where she is, or the narrative doesn’t want us to know where she is, but it’s pretty obviously in the time where Fiona is back in time, because Lorana has felt both infant Lorana and teenage Lorana before making sure she doesn’t accidentally reveal herself to Fiona before her time. So that gives us, essentially, a three-year window of time to work with, and, presumably, Tenniz has already arranged for his prophecies to be delivered at the appropriate time, so there’s really no harm in saying when they are that I can fathom, but maybe we’re supposed to think of this as a timeless space, somewhere that’s not governed by the demands of time.

Anyway, the chapter starts with Lorana asking Tenniz whether or not he could possibly be wrong about this being his appointed place and time to die. While Tenniz admits to the possibility, and that he would be super-embarrassed to be wrong about this particular one, he hasn’t been wrong before, despite seeing only glimpses, so, despite Lorana’s questions, he knows that today is the day that he’s going to die. And Tenniz intends to make his last day a pleasant one. Lorana is not so inclined toward the reality of death, as someone who still presumably has some time before her, but Tenniz has made his peace and knows Lorana has at least a couple of times already about her dragon dying and her baby dying. Tenniz mentions that he has a daughter and a son, in an offhand way also mentioning how old he is, that suggests it’s not just miners and dragonriders who decide they’re going to have kids young.

“You’ve a son and a daughter?”
“I’ve nearly twenty Turns,” Tenniz said.
“But you knew you were going to die,” Lorana said.
“I did and I do,” he said. He gave her a wry look. “As are we all in our own time.”
Lorana accepted that with a nod. “It must be hard on you,” she said.
“No harder than it was for you,” the young man replied. Lorana’s eyes misted as she caught his meaning. “We faced hard choices.”

All the way back at the beginning of this Third Pass set, I believe Kindan and Zenor didn’t really blink at the idea of getting married at twelve, to have kids and start a family, because the expectation was that they would be dead from mining by thirty. The dragonriders of this pass seem very keen on making sure their candidates, for fighting or for queen dragons, are about this same age. And, I forget how old Pellar was when he was part of thw watch-wher mating flight, but they’d arranged it all by age groupings, too, I think. Tenniz, however, knowing he’s going to be dead before he’s twenty, that I can understand him deciding that he wants to experience as much as he can before its his time, and that presumably would include things like sex and having children. Especially, as Lorana deduces in a little bit past the quoted section, because the traders want to make sure that the Sight continues to be passed down through the generations.

“They’re trying to keep this Sight of yours alive, aren’t they?”
“Among the traders it has saved countless lives,” Tenniz told her. “Even for myself, I would say it was more blessing than curse.”
[…skipping over some talk about breaking time that we’ll get back to in a minute, as well as Tenniz suggesting Lorana has some trader blood in her, because of her father’s profession…]
“You’ve been seen by others,” Tenniz said.
“Your father?” Lorana guessed.
Tenniz shook his head. “My mother,” he told her. “The Sight can go to either man or woman.”
“But only one,” Lorana guessed. “The Sight only comes to one in each generation.”
Tenniz gave her a wry look. “See? You prove my point,” he told her triumphantly.
“It was a guess,” Lorana said acerbically.

The point, in this case, being that Lorana has some trader blood in her, I guess, because someone without it wouldn’t have come to such a correct conclusion so quickly. I think it’s much more likely that, y’know, Lorana used LOGIC! It’s super-effective! but that’s me. Also, if the Sight only comes once a generation, that also means that whomever gets it is also apparently condemned to an extremely short life, as it seems to be the sort of thing where the previous holder has to die before the new one will start getting their visions. This is the first time we’ve seen any of the superpowers come with super-drawbacks, and it’s not necessarily a good look that it’s the traders, the nomad-expies, the Roma-types, that get their powers with such severe consequences. Plus, with the way that the traders want to keep the Sight alive, that suggests there’s some pretty intense pressure on the one who has it to have children before they go, so that one of their descendants will carry the gift/curse into the next generation. That’s yet another reason for people who are barely teenagers to start having those kinds of relationships, and further fodder for the textually-supported theory that the new author really has something about relationships and sex happening as young as possible.

(Also, I’m putting this out here just as something in case it turns into a bigger thing later, but given what we know now about the remaining time that Anne had left in her life, one wonders whether these conversations are both serving the plot and a dialogue between new author and old about what it means to be getting old and thinking about one’s death much more firmly. It’s not necessarily intentional, but there’s clearly a reading of the conversations this way if we want to go with it.)

Getting back to the bit that we skipped over, Tenniz tells Lorana that she’s heard everything she needs to know to avoid breaking time, and Lorana suggests that J’trel tried to break time, all the way back when he explained that he tried to go back in time and show his mother his new dragon, but he couldn’t visualize the coordinates well enough to make the jump. Tenniz suggests that many more people will try to break time, but none of them will succeed, but all of these failed attempts are the sorts of things that can be explained away by other means, not because the timeline actively interfered with them. It’s never clear what level of detail is needed to do the hyperspace hop. Presumably, the recognition points drills are supposed to help (and there were instances of pictures not being detailed enough to do a warp to), but it’s never said, say, that envisioning a person in enough detail as you remember them is a good enough anchor to warp back to them, or whether all that means is that you’ll try to appear in the same place that they are, which would be catastrophic for them. And it’s clear that Pern has a calendar system of some sort, even if they might not have timekeeping devices outside of the henges and the positions of the planets, so would it be possible to tell your dragon to do something based on a numerical conception of time and place, like “Fort Hold, five thousand feet above, thirty years ago today” and have that succeed? Jaxom successfully jumped fifty years into the future by adjusting a chronometer in his mental picture, and Lorana has jumped forward into the future by arranging the planetary bodies in the sky to match her intended destination, so there’s no reason to suggest that J’trel couldn’t have learned how to do that hop from the available information at hand and then tried to pop back in time. Again, the incuriosity of the Pernese works against their assertions that time can’t be broken, because nobody has really tested the limits of what they can do with the time travel. They figure out a use for it for things like saving themselves by doubling up on their Thread passes, or by sending weyrlings into the past to mature on borrowed time, but nobody has really done a lot of trying to mess with time in ways that would expose any fundamental weaknesses of continuity or to find things that the timestream really will not accept happening. The kinds of things where trying to warp back in time to prevent someone else’s death always has you appearing at the wrong time to prevent it, or the wrong place to get there in time, or any number of situations where it’s very clear that this is a fixed point that cannot be adjusted. Like, even when Kylara was observing herself repeatedly, over and over again, all we got out of that was people saying “What a vain bitch” and not “now we have to be very careful in and around that time and place because there are so many Kylaras there observing the one that time is pretty delicate in that space.”

I feel like I’m repeating myself. I probably am repeating myself, but a vague “time can’t be broken” really isn’t enough to explain away how, in all of the times that people have known about this ability, they haven’t really tried to use it to prevent a disaster or to spend more time with their loved ones or those kinds of things. Getting back to the plot, there’s a lot of companionable silence, making food (where Lorana marvels at the supplies that Tenniz has with him, and suspects Nuella’s hand in arranging all of this, since it’s good quality things and well-adjusted to Lorana and Tenniz’s preferences), talking about Jirana, Tenniz’s daughter, who will be the next one in the line to be blessed/cursed with the Sight, and Lorana trying to weasel as much information as she can get about the future out of Tenniz by trying to get him more drunk than she is and lead him into conversations where he’ll reveal information. This doesn’t work at all, but we do get a snippet of something that would have been fleshed out a lot more had the authors decided that they were going to admit there’s a mythology or a folk religious practice on Pern.

“You have mentioned your wife,” Lorana said, trying a different tack, “tell me about her.”
Tenniz thought for a moment before answering. “She has the prettiest green eyes,” he said. “I fell in love with her the moment I saw them.” He glanced at her wryly. “Green is such a dangerous color here on Pern, I suppose it seems strange of me to admire it so.”
“We need green to grow,” Lorana said with a flick of her fingers. “Just as Thread needs it to survive.”
“And sucks the land dry,” Tenniz said, his voice suddenly cold and hollow. Lorana met his eyes, but the trader lowered them.

This is the sort of thing that I would expect to happen on a world with a functioning mythology. Green is a bad color, because Thread devastates when it finds green. What does that mean for green-eyed people? Are they always looked on with suspicion? Do all of the Holds, Halls, and Crafts studiously avoid green in their heraldry because it’s seen as an invitation to destruction? Does any good at all come in green, or is that a forbidden color completely? What does that mean for green dragons and their riders? Did some of the cultural prejudice against green leak over, combined with green dragons’ much more amorous natures, such that green riders are tolerated because they’re needed but they’re not really liked by anyone? (And what would that say for Taria?) Did everyone think it completely appropriate that Mirrim, the troublemaker, the opinionated, got a green dragon because a green suits her nature so entirely properly and because they think of her as a curse to be inflicted on others?

All of these questions might not be answered, but this kind of worldbuilding, and thinking through the implications thereof, is what helps bring a culture to life and make it consistent. But again, that would mean that the authors would have to admit that even though the Ancients attempted to discard religion and superstition in their society, it came back in almost as soon as they weren’t looking. Because humans try to make meaning of things, and sometimes that making meaning involves conclusions that seem logical based on experience, even if they’re not logical at all in the formal or the scientific sense.

As Lorana and Tenniz continue to talk, Tenniz recounts that Shaneese spat in his soup because Tenniz said she would gladly share her man, which we have seen around the edges that it’s an insult, but I don’t think we’ve been with the traders long enough to know their culture and understand why that would be the case. From what we’ve seen, the dragonriders are by reputation freewheeling orgies, even if they’re a lot more monogamy for the Weyrleaders, the Lords are nominally marriage-monogamy but practically it seems that the Lords and their sons get to stick their dicks wherever they would like, so long as they don’t make the mistake of officially marrying or acknowledging more than one woman at a time, and the Crafts are a big question mark about how they handle all of these things, although they do have some amount of marriage ritual, even if we haven’t seen a corresponding insistence on monogamy, because that usually requires religion, and Pern doesn’t have one, officially. So the traders, other than their very weird mashup of Roma and aphorism-loving Arabian stereotypes (which we are about to see in full display), we don’t have a flipping clue what their values are with regard to monogamy and marriage to know why sharing her man would be such a problem. It’s like there’s a cultural assumption from the authors that has gone unquestioned in their work, because of course every society would construct itself in a religiously-Abrahamic way and morality unless otherwise mentioned. (Which reminds me of the absolute shitfit I threw at the AIVAS dying scene, because that underlying Abrahamic assumption was naked there, and the reader was expected to not even notice whose morals were on full display.)

Anyway, having mentioned Fiona, the talk turns to Lorana and her loss and Lorana asks Tenniz whether or not the price was worth it. Tenniz ducks the question and reframes it in such a way that Lorana is the sole person responsible for figuring out whether the price of her baby was worth it, with is a pretty dick move, Tenniz, considering you’re the one that made the prophecy that prompted it. Have a look:

Eyes bright with tears, Lorana nooded. Again, she said, “Because I don’t think Fiona would forgive me–”
“No,” Tenniz cut her off. She glanced at him in shock. In a hard voice, he continued: “You know better. She’s no stranger to hard choices. Tell the truth.”
Lorana let out a small sob and lowered her eyes. “I don’t know if I can forgive myself.”
“Yes,” Tenniz agreed. “That’s the truth.”
“And?” Lorana prompted, her voice pleading.
“And that’s the question only you can answer,” he said, pursing his lips in a grimace. “Always, in the end, only we can answer our own questions.”

Which might be good advice to someone who isn’t in the middle of grieving her own loss, with someone who has asked to inflict another loss on her through the certainty of his own incoming death. “Only you can know whether it was worth it,” may be accurate, ultimately, but it’s still a pretty terrible idea to throw at Lorana.

The plot moves forward to Lorana waking from a midday nap, worried that by falling asleep she might have missed Tenniz’s death, but Tenniz is still alive, and so they go about preparations for the evening meal, with Lorana listening hard to make sure that Tenniz is still alive, since in the darkening sky, it’s increasingly hard for her to see whether or not he still breathes. But there’s still time and lessons for Tenniz to impart to Lorana.

“Is it possible that you see too much of tomorrow? That seeing what you see causes you to give in? That you might die because you catch your death of cold tonight?”
Tenniz was silent for a long moment. “That is the greatest danger of knowing too much about the future.”
Lorana absorbed his words thoughtfully, lowering her eyes. For a long moment her mind churned on its meaning, on all that it meant and then–“You tricked me!” she shouted with a laugh. “You just wanted me to teach me the lesson you’ve already learned Turns before!”
“Yes, my lady,” Tenniz agreed with a light chuckle. “I did.”
“How can you be so happy at a time like this?” Lorana asked him, suddenly serious and angry, really angry in a way that embarrassed her, made her feel small and vindictive.

For as much as everyone talks about not being able to break time, I would have expected a certain amount of Calvinist fatalism to have set in for everyone. After all, if you can’t break time, why bother trying to do anything at all? Everything proceeds according to what has happened, is happening, and will happen, and there’s nothing anyone, even those with time machines, can do about it. That’s not Seldon’s psychohistory that predicts the big things but can be snarled and foiled by individuals, especially individuals with interesting abilities that can wreck the plan, that’s “everything is foreordained, so you won’t have the brilliant idea until you’re fated to, you won’t be able to save anyone other than what’s destined, why bother attempting agency in any form when it’s all written on the timeline from beginning to end?” I think everyone is supposed to be comforted or empowered by the fact that what is seen is often a fragment of the whole that comes to pass, and those results are way better than what was seen, and that pressing for more certainty would make it less possible for those good results to happen, but there still have to be a few people who understand this secret who have fallen into despair over it. (And a few others, I would guess, who have gained a sudden flash of enlightenment, as they have grasped the entirety of the Tao in that moment. Or who have beheld the wheel of death and rebirth in its entirety and declared this to be their last incarnation.)

Also, Lorana’s angry reaction is on point, really, as Tenniz is taking his existence lightly on what he says is going to be his last day in existence. Of course, he’s going to be sage about it in response, because he’s supposed to teach Lorana several things, but anger is one of those stages of grief, and it’s a natural response to get angry with someone who seems to be giving up on life.

“If I thought being somber and serious would give me another day with my wife, I wouldn’t be here,” Tenniz replied. He stood up with his supplies and moved toward the fire. “But I’ve known for Turns this day would come, I’ve had turns to adjust to the notion that I would die before my daughter was born, would never live to see my son a man.” He turned back to her. “I cannot see how being angry or solemn would make it any easier for me.”
He gestured around the plateau and beyond to the beauty that was unfolding in the setting sun; the promise of a brilliant night of stars. “I choose not to wrap myself up in grief over things I cannot change, cannot control, and, instead, take joy in all the gifts I’ve been presented. Rather than rail against the moments I cannot have, I will cherish those I do–rather than squandering them in useless rage.”
There was a long silence.
“It is strange,” Tenniz began again, in a softer, less emotional tone, “how those who expect to see tomorrow have so little appreciation for it.”
“I was talking to myself, wasn’t I?” Lorana said after a moment.
“ ’All the words we say aloud are heard by at least one pair of ears,’ ” Tenniz agreed with the tone that made it clear he was reciting another Trader proverb.

Not having been in a position where I know I’m dying, my days are numbered, and having made my peace with that, I don’t really understand Tenniz well enough at this point. Perhaps when I am older and more aware of my own mortality, I will be able to understand Tenniz better. This sequence is much the same, though, of pushing the responsibility for Lorana back on Lorana. It’s the same idea as the dragonriders who are happy at knowing when their own deaths will happen so they can get all of their affairs in order and leave nothing undone before going back to meet their destruction. I can understand how it would be freeing, in many ways, to know exactly the allotment of life you have and to be able to plan your life accordingly, to make sure that every day that you live has no wasted time in it, to not bother with many of the things that someone who doesn’t know how long they are going to live has to worry about. At the same time, I think back to the myth of Pandora (which would be really helpful right now, if Pern hadn’t discarded all of the stories of those who came before, y’know?) and that I’ve heard two different versions of the tale, one where in with all of the evils that Pandora let loose, there was also Hope, which made all of the evils bearable, the other where Pandora managed to slam the box shut before the last evil got out, which was Foreknowledge, the one that would have gifted all of humanity with the ability to completely see their own timelines, and what would happen, and that would essentially crush us all because we would know everything that was to happen.

For as much as this is apparently supposed to be Lorana working through her own grief and coming to terms with the decisions that she made regarding her own baby (decisions that might have been preventable if, say, Lorana had taken smaller hops rather than larger ones by charting out where in the future she could land that wouldn’t have Thread (or other people) around, and then similarly hopping backward in time in short enough hops to keep her child alive, or, just possibly, sending someone else to the picture in Lorana’s head. But no, the narrative has decreed it, through Tenniz, and so it must be done.) it’s also a meditation for Tenniz, who has known this day would come for all of his life and has been preparing for it. No, really.

“One of the gifts of the Sighted is to know our last night,” Tenniz said. He gave her a crooked smile. “It’s more of a blessing to know of a certainty that this night, and no other, will be my last.”

Lorana asks him the obvious question of what Tenniz is doing out here rather than spending his last night with his family and the people who love him best, which Tenniz doesn’t even answer at all, instead pulling out vegetables (carrots, tubers, onion, celery) and herbs to add to the evening meal.

It has to be a certain amount of painful, seeing your own death and knowing when it is going to happen, and knowing that you’re going to be denied the possibility of long life because of your ability to see into the future. What would be more helpful for Tenniz, even though I would probably complain that the doesn’t have the maturity to pull it off convincingly, because of his age, is for Tenniz to have talked about how he already got most of his anger out of the way early on, and how the things he’s said about others haven’t exactly been welcome, so he’s already had a life’s worth of being angry at everything and he made a decision to, as best he could, stop putting energy into being angry. The way that it is now, Tenniz is being painted as the wise sage who has transcended the petty human emotions around life and death, and at nineteen, unless he did some serious sitting underneath an enlightenment tree, he’s just not believable to me. (Which isn’t to say it isn’t possible, more things are possible than are dreamt of in our philosophies, but that this depiction is either leaning into exoticizing Tenniz, which is a bad take, or making him wise beyond his years and very easily mistakable as condescending to someone who is going through the third major grief trauma of her life, which is also a pretty bad take. Tenniz needs to be human here to be relatable, and the authors aren’t managing it, as much as they would like to be.

We’ve also crossed into the point where Lorana is, despite supposedly not having any trader blood in her that she knows of, is able to complete the trader aphorisms that Tenniz is quoting, but we’ll leave that for the next entry, as the night starts to go on and Tenniz spends his last amount of time with Lorana.

Deconstruction Roundup for June 12th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who seems to have survived being salty at upper management over their apparently anemic response.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 routinely trying to figure out whether what you’re doing is enough, because nothing seems like enough. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: More Balls To Juggle

Last time, we found out the book that had been promised wasn’t this book at all, and then watched as Lorana jumped forward into the future, hoping to get help for the past, only for Tullea, older and wizened, to rebuff her and send her back. The narrative then lingered long enough for us to find out that Tullea is actually less of a terrible person that she was to Lorana, and her causticness was because Lorana mentioned how Tullea had behaved, and the You Can’t Break Time rules that have never been explained were invoked, even though we see that things turned out all right for the dragons. Lorana even gets to have a kid, eventually. Although she’ll die never knowing of Tullea as anyone other than a bitch.

And Lorana met Tenniz and didn’t kill him immediately, but that’s because Tenniz is already going to die in a very short amount of time. (at least, that’s my headcanon) Tenniz then asked Lorana to bury him when he dies and showed Lorana where the gravesite is going to be.

Dragon’s Time: Chapter 2: Content Notes: Gaslighting

Rise up,
Fly high,
Flame thread,
Touch Sky.

(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.7.21)

Rather than staying with Lorana and Tenniz as they wait for Tenniz to die and have cryptic conversations about the nature of time, we pop back to Fiona and Kindan. Fiona is reassuring herself with Tenniz’s prophecy to her as she tucks into bed, despite the terrible day she’s had with Tullea being upset and Lorana being gone beyond the reach of Fiona’s ability to find her. Because if Lorana’s bit is true, then hers must be, too. Kindan is humoring her, mostly, and the narrative hops over to B’nik and Tullea, who have gone to the kitchen to talk (at T’mar’s suggestion, which I would like to read as less of a suggestion and more of a command in the vein of “take a walk unless you want your face caved in”) Tullea wants to send people back in time and do again what happened in the past, but B’nik (and Kindan, who has gotten Fiona to fall asleep) point out all the known safe time for this opportunity has passed. They also have a quick discussion about the placebo effect without mentioning it by name. Tullea is unmoved by the discussion of Fiona’s force of belief, preferring to sit in the cold hard reality of the numbers that are available. Tullea also points out that Lorana’s plan is a failure, at least as she sees it.

“So, if Fiona is right, Lorana has gone to the future to ask for dragonriders to help us,” C’tov said, looking to T’mar and Kindan for confirmation.
“Yes,” Tullea agreed, glancing toward the door. “So where are they?”
“I imagine it would take time to convince them,” H’nez said.
“Time then, not now,” Tullea said, shaking her head. “If Fiona was right, then Lorana would already be back and our Weyrs would be full.”

Before anyone has to admit that Tullea might be right, B’nik calls things off for the night, and as they are walking away, reminds Tullea that Lorana did save B’nik’s life. Tullea says she’s grateful for that singular thing and nothing else.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that, for whatever reason, the people who will be arriving in time are going to do so when they are most needed and not a moment sooner, because it seems to be a thing on Pern that any time travel solution doesn’t happen until the last possible moment. This is with people claiming early on that many people don’t have the skills to do pinpoint hops and so there always needs to be a certain amount of slippage built into any time hop. Unless the person who is doing time travel is always the most excellent of visualizers and passes theirs along. In any case, Tullea is mostly right. If Lorana had succeeded in the future, even if it took a lot of loops and things to do in that future time, the future dragons should be arriving shortly. If this were a series where time travel had been studied like it should be, the people in the know should know what the average slip is over time and be able to say “Well, the average temporal displacement error is about three days, so if they’re not here by then, we can safely assume the future trip plot’s target time isn’t this time window.” Because it’s quite possible that the future Weyr’s memory is that it took until all of the remaining Weyrs had combined their fighting strength into one flight stationed out of Telgar and then the big explosion of new dragons happened, because then they could be sure we weren’t going to accidentally telefrag anybody important to their own timelines. But that would mean thinking things through, and we’ve already demonstrated plenty that the authors are not doing that.

We pop over to Terin and F’jian, who have made up from the fight about F’jian getting far too much into his cups. Terin goes to feed her new dragon, with Fiona appearing with a bucket of scraps, which she passes on to Terin upon seeing she’s awake, before going to get food on her own. At being informed Bekka and Birentir are making the rounds of the injured dragons, Fiona is ready to abandon breakfast to go be the Weyrwoman in charge, but is told very firmly by both T’mar and Shaneese that she needs to sit and eat and take care of herself and the baby. (There’s also a bit where Fiona says she wouldn’t be up to klah, is informed she wouldn’t be getting any, anyway, because Bekka’s forbidden it to her, provoking the reaction that Bekka takes on too much responsibility and everyone else snarking at Fiona about where Bekka might have learned such things from.) F’jian arrives, apologizes for being late (to which Fiona points out that F’jian was helping Terin feed her dragon), and the discussion resumes with logistics of how many dragons are available and how they’ll need to be organized.

He [F’jian] opened his mouth for a smile and was startled when it expanded into a huge yawn.
“Somebody had a good night,” C’tov muttered to H’nez.
“F’jian, you’ll take the light wing,” T’mar declared, glancing over to catch his reaction. “You’ll be responsible for firestone and our reserve.”
F’jian nodded glumly; he’d expected no less for being late.

This isn’t quite a whatfruit thing, because it’s actually pretty easy to see the reason why F’jian is disappointed. But that deserves some digging into. As a United States reader in the 21st century, the hyper-masculine bro culture that bronze riders are patterned against have both explicit examples, the military and police forces of the United States being one of the easiest to call to mind, and less explicit examples that are woven in pretty tightly (“bros before hos,” and the continually shifting definition of what’s appropriately masculine and what isn’t, which is set against an underlying assumption that being unmasculine is a thing to be feared, called out, and otherwise shunned) into the culture. It’s background radiation to the point where it’s a cultural assumption rather than a thing that has to be explicitly stated. There’s obviously a glory culture in bronze riders, such that being held back in the reserves is seen as a punishment or something unworthy. Given the current way that Thread is eating lives left and right, it seems like the right attitude for this situation is to be happy (or secretly happy) to have been assigned to the reserves, so that you and your wing have less exposure to getting eaten by Thread. But no, F’jian is unhappy that he’s not going to have as much opportunity to get himself killed as everyone else is. It’s not a position that I understand myself, being far too fond of my own existence to want to be in a profession where there is a possibility that I might die, even in one where there’s the possibility for accolades and being feted as a hero if you survive long enough to enjoy them. Maybe having a dragon as a psychic companion that’s been bred and genetically engineered to want to fight Thread would change my psychic makeup and make me much more willing to have a go at getting myself killed, but sitting here where I am now, it seems to go against the basic tenets of survival to be disappointed that you’ve been assigned to the wing with the highest possibility of survival.

The dragonriders need to get themselves used to new wing configurations, as Benden is lending them some riders so they can have enough to keep fighting for their next fall. There’s a whole day allotted for this, because there’s a certain blithe assumption that since the dragonriders have done this before, they should have no trouble integrating new people into their formations. Which would be true if the training was in some standard way, such that someone could say, for example, “You’re a four” to the incoming rider and that would take care of most of the things that need to be dealt with. That’s how my collegiate marching band handled it, with the understanding that the people who were arriving into the formation had been practicing the various roles while they were not in the formation. There might be a couple of things that have to be done differently or that might need some special attention and drilling, though. Being a four was helpful for the first part of the pregame show, but after that, there needed to be more specific instructions for getting everyone in place for the various formations to come afterward. For the dragonriders, however, I have always envisioned that they do things in a fairly straightforward manner, sweeping in their lines and flaming the leading edge, with the next group taking their place behind them and carving the same swath, with each group rotating in at their appointed times so as to get as much as they can on their level, and then having the next group at the next altitude sweep the same way to collect what the first altitude missed, and so on until you get to the scramblers at the lowest level tagging all of the things that have gotten through the formation layers. Then again, I also assumed that dragonriders would choose to fight Thread in the places where they know the thermals and currents, rather than trying to fight it on ground that is terrible and unpredictable and likely to cause lots of injuries and deaths.

Anyway, point being, it shouldn’t be a difficult thing to integrate the other riders into your own, assuming (and why would I do that, now that I think about it) that everyone uses the same system for positions and drilling. If that’s not the case, then the complaint about not having enough time is an important one, and really, what should happen is for the Telgar riders to reform themselves into new wings and the Benden riders to stay in their own formation and the solely important thing is to make sure that everyone stays at their proper altitude. But it’s been a long-running thing of mine with this series that we don’t really see a whole lot of how the Threadfighting works, logistically, and we really should, given how much it takes importance in the stories.

The next two scenes introduce (one of) this book’s mysteries, which is the F’jian is both completely loving and happy with Terin and also sneaking out at night from their bed for unknown purposes, although there’s a woman’s voice involved. The weird is set up first with F’jian setting out dishes and gazing into Terin’s eyes and telling her she’s super-beautiful (they’re both very young, remember) and then Terin waking up in the middle of the night to hear F’jian talking to someone and then flying away, then waking to F’jian crying over her and telling her that she’s beautiful again. Because this is highly out-of-character behavior for F’jian, we stay with Terin as she tries to puzzle out exactly what’s going on with F’jian, with Fiona adding an additional wrinkle of having had Lorana come to her early in the morning and sketching her. Fiona didn’t get a good look at Lorana, and Lorana didn’t say when she would be returning, so the assembled basically think that Fiona is having a pregnancy dream.

Cocowhat by depizan

This would work in a world where, say, the ability of dragons and their riders to travel through time wasn’t already widely known and we don’t already have a giant time travel plot currently underway. At this point, everyone should be “oh, you got a visit from Lorana, okay, did she say anything important?” rather than

Bekka spoke up, her tone gentle. “Sometimes when people are pregnant they have strange dreams,” she suggested.
“It wasn’t a dream!” Fiona declared. “I was awake!”
“You said that Lorana woke you,” Bekka said. “I’ve heard of people who think they’re awake and having conversations and they’re only dreaming.”
“It was real!” Fiona cried, her voice rising as she glanced around at the disbelieving faces gathered around her.
“I dream of my daughter sometimes,” Birentir said to her gently. “I dream of her being almost as old as you are now, Weyrwoman.”
“It wasn’t a dream!”
“Could it have been?” Kindan asked her gently. “Could it not just have been a pleasant dream?” He paused, glancing into her eyes as he added in a wistful tone, “Sometimes I dream of your sister and she’s smiling at me.”
“It wasn’t a dream!” Fiona roared, flying to her feet and glaring angrily at everyone. “I know when I’m dreaming. It was real!”
She glanced around, saw no acceptance in the eyes of the others, and, with a sob, raced out of the Cavern.

AAAAAAIGH.

There’s no reason for them to disbelieve her! It’s like they think that since Lorana’s gone beyond the reach of their dragons to find her, on Minith, that she’s dead instead of somewhere in the future. Although she’s also in the past as well. This is one of those things where narrative tools become slightly unwieldy to describe what’s going on, and it also again highlights the question of how little the dragonriders appear to know about how their time travel powers work and what the timeline will and won’t accept for changes and the possibility of grabbing someone from their own timeline at a specific point and depositing them all over the rest of the timeline so they can accomplish what’s needed.

Instead, they collectively decide to gaslight Fiona about what she saw, starting with Bekka, which is not the character that I would use for that. Kindan, yes, Birentir, yes, T’mar, yes, because they’re all dudes who have a high chance of being ignorant, but not Bekka. Bekka’s not old enough to know enough, despite being a prodigy, and also there are all of these handy male characters nearby who, as they point out, are much more inclined to say that Fiona’s hallucinating in her grief at losing Lorana because they have all lost people and sometimes think on them fondly. Bekka might provide the unintentional nail in the coffin by saying that she’s known that occasionally pregnant women have dreams in which they think they’re awake, but she should be the last person speaking, not the first.

Anyway, apparently we need this sequence where everyone believes that Fiona is hallucinating a Lorana coming to her to draw her and then disappear again so that Fiona can end up in the Records room with a chip on her shoulder (and, actually, so that we can learn that some of Telgar’s records really are set in stone (“thin, fragile slivers of hardstone with the words deeply chiseled in them”)), but rather than letting her go through the whole thing in a tear, the mustiness of the room makes Fiona nauseous and she ends up passing out while looking at the Records and drooling a bit on them, a thing that T’mar razzes her for for when he comes back from training for lunch and Fiona is in the bath, having a soak and a sulk about the fact that she fell asleep in the Records Room. (Bekka also, at the end of the last segment, suggests Fiona has twins in her pregnancy.)

In any case, after T’mar gets done teasing Fiona, he also points out that F’jian has been fatigued to the point of nearly falling off his dragon, a thing noted in comparison to everyone still feeling muzzy-headed, which hasn’t had an explicit call-out in a while, so I guess it had mostly faded into the background with everyone’s continual caffeine consumption. Except now that Fiona’s been on a juice regimen instead of klah, she should be feeling the effects of being in time again. Maybe the falling asleep in the Archives is supposed to hint at this, although everyone in that context seems to be thinking it’s because Fiona’s stressing out completely about everything and she should not do that, to which the immediate retort is that someone should do something about actually relieving her stress, instead of complaining endlessly about the lack of dragons but not taking proactive steps to obtain more of them from other time periods, or delegating some, if not all, of Fiona’s duties so that she doesn’t have to do as much. But given how nobody is working to relieve Xhinna of all her burdens, we have our answer about that.

T’mar thinks that if F’jian were timing it repeatedly, more than the others, he’d feel the effects more. Fiona suggests, instead, that F’jian might be exhausted because he’s banging Terin a lot, or because Terin’s pregnant herself and it’s keeping F’jian up at night. (All the narrative says is “one for which congratulations might be in order”, so I have to interpret.) At this point, I wish there were specifics involved in what kind of feeling people get when they’re multiply-in-time, so that some Healer could ask F’jian about his symptoms and go “yeah, he’s timing it a lot more” rather than “no, he’s timing it like the rest of you, but this is garden-variety exhaustion on top of that.” Because this is the sort of thing that the Pernese should know as soon as they discovered the ability of their dragons to time travel. (At this point, insert the standard rant here about how uncurious and unscientific the Pernese are, despite that curiosity being essential to their survival several times around.) So we shouldn’t have to speculate about whether or not F’jian is tripping on time or not, because we should already know.

As it is, after T’mar leaves, Fiona remembers the upcoming fall is a night fall and asks if T’mar has thought about needing to train with the watch-whers for making sure the flamethrowers can be directed appropriately. Which he has, but it’s scheduled for a couple days from now, and Fiona closes out the chapter reminiscing about the fourth vial, and what it did to Arith, and whether Nuella was given instructions on when to use the fourth vial (which, again, would doom the watch-whers to extinction, as there’s only one known gold watch-wher to transform). After having traversed Lorana’s tragedy, Fiona remains resolute that she saw Lorana and wasn’t hallucinating, and that ends Chapter 2.

Deconstruction Roundup for June 5th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has helped a person close to them celebrate another revolution.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 entirely pissed off at the continued killing of black people by white cops and everyone complaining about the unrest that happens afterward as if it wasn’t completely warranted and justified by that killing. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: More Time Travel Complexity

Well, we were sold the idea that this would be Dragonrider, but there’s a Note To Readers right in the beginning of this book to tell us that this is not that thing, but some other thing entirely. In fact, this particular work is neither Dragonrider, as was advertised, nor After The Fall Is Over, which appears to have been a planned work closing out the Dragonriders of Pern by showing us what happened in the time after the Red Star was pushed out of orbit to the point where it no longer drops Thread on Pern. What it is is a collaboration, and one that was apparently worked upon by both sides and where Anne, the older author, is trying to communicate that she’s getting better about sharing and changing. Let’s take a look:

–and, I must confess, I am still a bit possessive when it comes to the futures of F’lar and Lessa. Still, I did talk over some of my ideas with Todd, and he sent me a long list of questions in response that proved thought-provoking, inspiring, and challenging.
I head read and enjoyed his Dragonheart and Dragongirl, and the truth is, the excitement was catching. And so I said: “You know, Todd, how hard it is for me to share…maybe you could show me how?”
Todd got the message and quickly agreed. And it’s been a lot of fun.
[…Anne is very proud of what they’ve made and eager to start on Dragonrider…]
Already we know that Dragonrider will break new ground and old tradition; still, Todd’ll do most of the writing and I’ll do the tweaking and critiquing, just as before.
And after that, who knows? He’s been so good about allowing me to take part in moving his characters around the playing board…maybe I’ll finally let him play with him play with my characters!

Perhaps I am jaded, having worked my way through so many of these works with a critical eye and repeatedly being proven time and time again that Pern is probably on a Bad Timeline, if not the Worst Timeline, but this does not reassure me at all about the work that is being done, in multiple directions.

First, if what Anne says is true, and that for some amount of their collaborative work, potentially including the very first book that was marked as a collaboration between the two, Todd has been doing the bulk of the writing and Anne has been critiquing and otherwise tweaking, then the era of the second author starts farther back than I had initially thought, and all the faults of previous endeavours should be reapportioned appropriately to match this burden of writing versus editorial. It doesn’t mean anyone comes out looking any better, only worse.

Second, the way this is set up is that Todd was the one who had to share and show his mother the way, rather than his mother being the one to decide to share and let Todd write in her era of Pern. Which sounds far much more like a parent telling the older child that they have to be the good example and share with the small child, including those things that the older child would like to keep to themselves, thanks. Which the older child does, because they know very well that if they don’t share whatever the small child demands, they’ll end up having it taken away by the parent as punishment for their “selfishness”.

Not that it would have gone any other way, because we have mentioned before that Anne was the kind of person who made stringent demands of her fans as to what they could do in her sandbox as well. I haven’t really seen any evidence that she was any less stringent with Todd, and this letter seems to confirm that.

Going onward to the note for readers new to Pern, it still says the Red Star’s orbit is cometary, which is right, even though we established a very, very long time ago that no cometary orbit like that would actually stick around throwing spores for fifty years. After the general thing, which still seems to go “authoritarianism, yay!”, we end up with a summary of the last three books in capsule form, a chronology of the major events that have happened so far, and a map of Pern. And then we get into:

Dragon’s Time: Chapter 1: Content Notes:

The way forward is dark and long.
A dragon gold is only the first price you’ll pay for Pern.

No time marker for this chapter.

This book opens with Lorana hurtling herself through time, knowing full well that this decision is going to kill her unborn child, but justifying it because of the problem of the dragons dying out and, apparently, because she believes she’s the only one who can accomplish the feat of jumping into a future past her own present time.

She was the only one with a sure sense of time and place–a gift, she thought, from her special link with all the dragons of Pern–and only she could make the journey forward to such an unknown, unseen time. She used the Red Star to guide her, picturing it and the stars in their stations where they would be fifty turns from her present.

Except that the method she describes, setting the stars and the Red Star into their proper place for a forward jump, is something that anyone who went to Igen or learned from the traders at Igen should be able to do. The precision of the jump is presumably dependent on the ability of the rider to visualize precisely, but Lorana doesn’t actually have to do this jump herself if what she’s planning on doing is grabbing dragons from the future and bringing them back to fight in the past, so they can ensure their own future. (At this point, Pern’s timeline is held together with string and tape and is praying they’ll get through this space without one of the paradoxes completely breaking everything. And, as we established all the way back where the time travel was first discovered, time travel stories become more and more about the time travel. At this point, it’s all about the time travel.)

All of this is to say that Lorana could have prevented the death of her unborn child by delegating the task of jumping into the future to someone else. I don’t want this to sound like this is the fault of anything but the narrative, however, because the narrative did tell us about the star method and anyone who had trained on it that was still alive would be able to use it. There’s no actual need for Lorana, specifically, to do this thing, other than to fulfill Tenniz’s prophecy and make things even more tragic for Lorana to have sacrificed her child for this. Because, for whatever reason, the narrative of this entire series has decided that when they need someone to suffer tragedy, it’s Lorana, or it’s Kindan if Lorana can’t actually suffer that particular tragedy, or it’s Fiona if neither of them are available.

And to twist the knife in, even more, Lorana’s trip to the future will yield her no dragons at all to come back with her, because when she comes to in the future, she’s dealing with the one person in her life who wouldn’t give her a drink in the middle of the desert, Tullea.

“Help?” Lorana said. She realized that word wasn’t enough and, after another breath, asked, “Will you send help?”
“Dragons from the future?” Tullea said. “Simple, quick, efficient! Oh, yes, no worries for those left behind.” She snorted and added viciously, “Oh, no! No, dragon-stealer, you won’t find any dragons in the future!”
“None?” Lorana opened her eyes only to find the room completely dark.
“None for you,” Tullea snapped back. “You were always meddling when you should have left things alone.”
“Where’s B’nik?” Lorana asked.
“Where’s his jacket?” Tullea retorted. She barked a bitter laugh. “Between, that’s where! Where you left it!”

And since the room is darkened, of course, Lorana can’t see anything, and Tullea hustles her to get going and leave already. Lorana tries to reach out to sense any dragons, only for Tullea to slap her back to herself and rush her onto Minith and send her away to time coordinates that Tullea has provided for her.

After Lorana disappears back in time, Tullea summons back the dragons that have been waiting in hyperspace so as not to give away the game, and then is unhappy at a much older Fiona about having to be bitchy at Lorana, because it means, apparently, that Lorana never learns the truth about Tullea.

“She said that you were horrible to her, gave her not one moment’s kindness.” She paused and added, “Nor one clue.”
“So she’ll never know,” Tullea mused to herself. “She never found out.”
“No,” Fiona replied sadly. “She never had a chance to learn how you’d changed.” She smiled at the older woman. “But I did.”

Which does not impress Tullea at all, and she grumbles at Fiona that she’s played her part in this, now it’s time for Fiona to let her go to her rest. Tullea does ask if Fiona ever got the opportunity to tell Lorana, but Fiona says she didn’t learn until it was too late. Tullea finally asks Fiona not to tell the current Benden Weyrleader, who is apparently Lorana’s son, and whose Weyrwoman is apparently Tullea’s daughter, about the fact that Lorana was here that night.

So, that’s not a good sign for Lorana at all, in that she is apparently going to die before she can find out that Tullea isn’t as terrible as she thought. Which does naturally lead into the question of what changed Tullea. At the end of the last book, we saw Tullea and B’nik’s relationship change from “bitchy Weyrwoman who may or may not still be multiply-in-time, who is very protectively jealous of B’nik, and the Weyrleader who isn’t quite sure how to handle her” into “strong Weyrleader who no longer has time for his Weyrwoman’s moods and bitchiness, for which she loves him even more now that he’s taken her firmly in hand and shown her her proper place.” This was because B’nik thought he was slated to die doing time travel. Which turns out not to have been the case, at least for the incident they thought was the problem and that Tullea had begged Lorana to find a solution to. Did Tullea just continue to be that way after B’nik’s death was averted? Or has there been enough time elapsed in this time tangle that Tullea is finally free of the time-twisting aggravation that made her unpleasant and her actual, unsplit self was finally able to come through, where everyone got to realize that Tullea is actually reasonable and helpful when she’s not having herself fractured across time and space? We saw a little bit of that Tullea when she came back from her own three-year warp and thanked Lorana sincerely for everything that had happened.

Because that question goes unanswered, we still don’t know whether the muzzy-headedness that Fiona has been suffering from and trying to stave off with massive caffeine doses is what Tullea has been suffering from, but instead of making her perpetually tired, it makes Tullea perpetually wired. Which would be a common point of empathy between them and might lead to smoothing over their relationship, but that would be removing Tullea from Designated Bitch status before the narrative wants to, and also doing some worldbuilding about how time travel affects dragonriders. At times, this narrative seems allergic to worldbuilding, and at other times, it seems like it wants to worldbuild hard on things that only make things worse. It’s not a good combination.

Geting back to Lorana, I really would not want her to die in a Moreta kind of way, jumping to no destination at all, or anything like that. We’ve still got one more book to get through, after all, so unless the last book is going to fully focus on Fiona, we’ve still got time for Lorana to do things and discern what it is that her purpose in history is. The time-jump that Tullea gave her, however, was not back to the original time Lorana departed from, but to a different time and place, where she pops out over Red Butte and essentially crashes to sleep from the time travel. Then she meets who it is that she has come back to see, and it’s Tenniz, who is camping out here because he has already seen his future, and knows that Lorana is the person that he is going to die in the company of.

Apparently, to hear the narrative tell it, Tenniz only saw a glimpse of the future, and didn’t know that what his prophecy was going to do was cause the termination of Lorana’s pregnancy. Lorana cries at his shock and apology, and then asks Tenniz if she’s paid enough. Tenniz replies that he doesn’t know, and this is about the time where I wish that someone would tell Lorana a small comforting lie. Even if Tenniz doesn’t know, he could say it in language that would be better for Lorana and might help her avoid being a perpetual state of grief about everything.

Lorana reaches out, reminded of a memory of Fiona, and can feel her in both places at this point in time, but she pulls back before Fiona can follow her all the way back to where she is, since neither of those Fiona have met Lorana yet, and it would be a bad idea to spoil time. Which, conveniently, is the next discussion that Lorana and Tenniz have, about cheating time. Lorana provides the example of Ketan, and Tenniz nods and says that what he sees comes to pass, but it doesn’t necessarily mean what he sees is exactly what happens. And divulges something particularly morbid.

“Among those born with this gift, it is common that the first thing they see is their own death.”
“Your death?” Lorana asked, wide-eyed. “Here? With me?”
Tenniz noddded twice.
“That must be horrible!”
“Not really,” Tenniz said. “I first started seeing around my eleventh Turn, and so seeing myself all ‘grown up’–as I thought then–seeing myself talk to someone whom I was really pleased to meet, was quite an enjoyable image.”

I wonder if there’s a sense of “when” that comes along with this sight, so that 11 year-old Tenniz or so knows not only that he’s seen his death, but he also knows that it’s going to be coming in ten years, or twenty, or something like that. It likely does, if the Sight as described here hews with the way that precognitives were described in the Talents series, since there’s a chapter, or a short story, or a short story that was adapted for a chapter, or something, anyway, where a precognitive makes a bet with a very wealthy man that he can predict the very minute of his death. Said very wealthy man is also suffering from a seemingly incurable disease that would normally kill him much sooner than the date that the precognitive says. So the wealthy man takes the bet, beats the disease (maybe it’s cancer and he goes into remission?) and then throws a party on his death day, where the very minute ticks down, and the narrative rather coyly tells us that because of all the excitement in that minute, his heart gives out and he died. Afterward, someone close to him thanks the precognitive for what he did for the wealthy man, because the wealthy man’s determination to prove the precognitive wrong is what helped him beat the disease and live a full twenty years longer than he would have otherwise. And thus, it becomes a perfect example of what Tenniz is saying, as well: the precognitive is right about the minute of the death, but for all the wrong reasons. A person wearing the Benden Weyrleader’s jacket is observed riding a bronze dragon and dies to Thread. What actually happens is that it’s another rider in the Benden Weyrleader’s jacket and his dragon has been dusted so as to look bronze in the light. Many time travel kinds of stories use this device so that they don’t have to adjust a timeline or worry about the many-worlds theory. Thankfully, after using it as a primary plot device for one book, JK Rowling got rid of the time travel device, and it didn’t reappear until the presumably canonical but generally disregarded stage play that involved time travel and did invoke the many-worlds theory version of time travel to achieve its end.

Getting back to the point I was making, if there’s an accompanying sense of when that goes along with it, that can’t be great for Tenniz, and I wonder how he arranged his life, in subtle and obvious ways, with the knowledge that he was running on limited time, and that he knew how much it was that he had left. I imagine he would have wanted to cram as much as he could into that limited amount of time, so that he wouldn’t feel like he missed out on anything before his time came. I can believe his serenity at this time having arrived, especially since he also has a racking cough that can’t have made his quality of life all that great for the whole time he’s had it.

The plot has Lorana and Tenniz discuss the dangers of revealing too much of the future, and in doing so, as Lorana explains what happened with Tullea and Tenniz offers subtle commentary on the matter, Lorana works out that she could have been played by Tullea, especially if she ended up telling someone like, say, Fiona, about what happened while she was in the future, such that the dragons hide in hyperspace, Tullea slaps her to stop her from noticing them, and time keeps its shape and sends Lorana back to Tenniz instead of back to her original time. Tenniz nocomments Lorana’s logic, but points out that what she’s come up with is equally as plausible as what she had thought before, and thus it’s a bad idea to reveal too much about the future, lest someone end up locking in a future that they don’t actually want.

Tenniz and Lorana both get up, as Tenniz has more things to show Lorana, and wants to do so while he still has time to do so. He says that Lorana and he are going to have a better time at some point in the future, and also that he’s seen how Lorana looks when she “piled the rocks.” Which took Tenniz some time to figure out, but he’s realized that what it means is that Lorana buries him after he dies. So Tenniz is taking Lorana to the place where he would like to be buried after he’s gone, and asks Lorana to bury him when he’s dead.

And that ends the chapter. With someone who Lorana has not met until now, and who has caused her an immense amount of pain with his prophecy and all the results from it before meeting him, asking her to bury him after his death. Which, if we think about it, means that Tenniz isn’t done hurting Lorana yet, since in addition to his prophecy of doom, Tenniz has arranged it so that Lorana can watch him die from something that is already clearly impacting his health. While there are some people in our lives that we wouldn’t mind watching die in a slow and painful manner, I don’t think that Lorana has that opinion of Tenniz (not yet). Plus, Lorana is the person who has seen and felt so much death of dragon and human alike, and yet the narrative is shoving more of this on her.

Much like how Tullea supposedly changed, but Lorana never found out, it seems like all of Lorana’s life is going to be tragedy, either experienced or witnessed. It’s actually kind of hard to remember that Lorana was the protagonist of the first book of this sequence, because since that book (and in that book), she had some temporary successes, but otherwise has been plagued with survivor’s guilt and a prophecy that tells her she can’t ever have actual happiness, because greater tragedies are yet to be visited upon her. It’s weird, because I thought we had trained authors out of the practice of writing novels where the point is to inflict as much tragedy on someone before killing them. The last bastion of that, as best as I had thought, were the stories where queer people weren’t allowed to have happy endings, and we’ve been trying to get those stories out of the canon as well.

So we’ll leave Tenniz asking Lorana to bury him for now and pick up with Chapter 2 next week.