Monthly Archives: July 2020

Deconstruction Roundup for July 31st, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is probably carrying a lot higher baseline stress levels because of all of the people around who seem to be unable to follow simple directions to keep others safe.)

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.

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 watching in resignation (as horror went out the window some decades ago) as the entity that was already showing that it had contempt for everything that didn’t keep them in power started using that power openly to express their contempt. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: Deliberate Attempts At Embarrassment

Last time we left Fiona, she and everyone else were trying to convince Terin that she had to move on quickly from F’jian apparently stepping out on her, even though he protests that he hasn’t. But he can’t say what he’s been doing, or it torques the timeline, even if it would exonerate him from the accusations. Bekka and others have been shipped to the Healer Hall on Talenth to collect Betrony and Zist and bring them back to consult on pregnancies and on making sure enough knowledge of dragons and their care is given to Healers that might find themselves stationed at a Weyr and need to help with both dragons and their riders in a pinch.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter 5 (continued): Content Notes: Sexism, hammering on the embarrassment squick,

We pick back up with Talenth and her passengers popping out over the Healer Hall, with a triumphant yay from Bekka for having completed it. (Fiona and T’mar are both keeping na eye on it because they think them might have to reassign riders and dragons so as to get enough people together to fight Thread, given how few of both are left. Since Fiona thinks Bekka is a dragon candidate, I’m not sure how much of this is a useful trial, but the success of it still makes it seem like the idea has a proof of concept. Arriving at the Healer Hall, they meet Bemin, who asks about Fiona’s health, but while it’s Bekka who is talking to him about what’s going on, Bemin keeps looking at Seban and Birentir to confirm what Bekka is saying, despite having addressed her as “healer Bekka.” If you were looking for one of those subtle signs of sexism, here’s your sign.

As the foursome try to sneak their way through the Harpers, despite trying to be quiet, they catch Zist’s attention (and his bellows). Zist complains about not being able to nap because there are people singing too loudly and out of tune. Kelsa tells him that if anyone was singing out of tune, she would have heard it (and, the implication being, stopped it). Zist roars back that new mothers are always tone-deaf (cue me rolling my eyes so hard at this, because the “we’re assholes to you because we’re fond of you” attitude was just as terrible when the masters were doing it to students, and also, I would love to know how many different ways Kelsa and Nonala have plotted to axe all of the other faculty and take over for themselves, because of the constant sexism they have to face.) In any case, Kelsa has Kemin, her child, on her hip, and Bekka asks to take her for a bit, after which is is revealed that Kemin is still colicky and that Bekka will try to pass off the child once he stinks things up. Which she does, and is told that the Masterharper can wait while she changes Kemin’s diaper. And so off Bekka goes, having to do something that she doesn’t want to do for a child that isn’t hers. The unstated assumption here, of course, is that Bekka, as a girl, will eventually have children of her own and will need the experience of changing them when they are stinky, because being childfree isn’t seen as a valid life choice here, unless you’re someone who has connections to dragons, and even then, it’s still not necessarily seen as a valid life choice.

While Bekka is gone, everyone agrees that she should be raised to journeyman rank on her knowledge, Birentir says Seban should also be raised, possibly to a Mastery. There’s some discussion of Fiona’s pregnancy, which Bekka returns in the middle of, and both Betrony (who arrived during the discussion) and Zist think the best thing for them to do is go visit Telgar Weyr. So the two masters leave Birentir behind to run the place in their absence and pop back to Telgar with Bekka and Seban. Upon hearing that there are Masters in the accompanying party, Mekiar (the older, not-always-quick one, right?) runs to get some wine. Shaneese informs Fiona that “We’ve something on, as always”, which makes me blink and try to remember how many times we’ve been told that a Weyr always has some food on the hearth, because I know it’s been more than once, but I don’t think it’s been specifically mentioned constantly.

The incoming party, with the help of the men already there, decide that it’s time to tease Fiona about her previous behavior.

She [Fiona] tried to keep any nervousness out of her voice, but she’d had Turns enough in the old Harper’s bad books to harbor some residual misgivings, partly from several still-undiscovered episodes from her childhood.
“Catching tunnel snakes, my lady?” Zist asked, moving forward jauntily and catching her outstretched hand in his. His eyes turned back to Kindan as he continued, “Or merely discombobulating more of my harpers?”
“And Weyrleaders,” T’mar put in smoothly, his eyes dancing as he caught Fiona’s distraught look. “Don’t forget that, Master.”
“That’s old news,” Zist said with a wave of his hand. “As are the rather ribald Records that–”
“Oh, no!” Fiona cried, pulling from Zist’s grip and burying her head in her hands.
“–Verilan assures me were not actually written by the Lady Holders to whom they were ascribed,” Zist finished, his voice rumbling with humor.
“They were being mean to me!” Fiona said in her defense.
“They most certainly must have been, for you to have created such–interesting–depositions,” Zist agreed drolly. He glanced at Kindan. “You really must read them sometime, they are works of art.”
“Honing another talent, Fiona?” T’mar teased shamelessly. Fiona lifted her head and fumed quietly. “It was Turns ago.”
“Not all that many,” Zist corrected.
“Turns for me,” Fiona declared. “You may recall that we spent three Turns back in Igen.”
“And her behavior was much corrected,” T’mar agreed, the twinkle of his eyes belying his words.
“Oh!” Fiona said, stamping her foot in frustration. With a deep sigh, she turned once more to the Masterharper. “We’ve some wine and food, if you’d desire, Master.”

And then Betrony asks about Fiona’s “good news” and Fiona is exasperated at the fact that apparently all of Pern knows, or will soon.

Also, my opinion of Zist continues to sour, if I had any good opinion of him to start with, because he is deliberately bringing up this thing in front of everyone else while Fiona is trying to be formal and properly a host. I’m kind of interested in what Fiona did in more detail, but not in this context of embarrassing Fiona. While it probably didn’t fool Verilan or any of the archivists, I want to know what sort of thing that Fiona would have written about the other ladies who were being mean to her. (And also, that the “finishing school for young ladies” service that the Harpers have engaged with has been so for a very long time, and it seems that the obsession with rank and with cliques has persisted over quite some time. Zist calls it ribald, which makes me think that Fiona has been spinning tales of encounters between the young ladies and various suitors (whether they’re other lords or otehr harpers) that are pretty explicit about what happened. In a more sympathetic context, we might find out something to the nature of “Fiona attributed the acts to others, but what she was really writing was what she had hoped would happen between herself and Kindan.” or “Fiona wrote exactly what she knew, or at least thought she knew, happened in the cottage between the ladies and their various suitors, but added more detail and scandalousness depending on how much that lady had been mean to her that week.” Something that would get us some more context than “Aww, Fiona’s embarrassed about something she did when she was younger, isn’t she cute when she’s flustered like that? Let’s make fun of that response and about the skill of her forgeries when she was younger.”

Because that kind of thing would be something that would hammer on my embarassment squick hard if it happened to me, I would probably resent everyone involved in it for a very long time afterward, and I would do my best not to spend any more time than necessary with anyone involved in it for a while. Unfortunately, it would be seen as rude or a problem if Fiona were to freeze out Zist, T’mar, and Kindan for their role in doing this to her until they apologized.

Zist wants to talk with Kindan for a while. With Thread incoming, Fiona grabs a deputy to help run drill and preparations while Kindan is indisposed.

“Dragonrider,” Zist said, extending his hand and nodding courteously.
Xhinna paused just an instant before extending her hand in response.
“Did I hear the Weyrwoman aright,” Betrony asked as he extended his hand in turn, “you ride a blue?”
“Five women Impressed in the last two Hatchings,” Fiona said. “Only Xhinna Impressed a blue.”
“Could you imagine the look on old D’gan’s face if he’d seen that?” Betrony chortled in surprise, shaking his head.
Zist nodded in fierce agreement. “I could imagine him bellowing about Tradition until he was blue in the face.”
“We’ve done what we could without him,” T’mar said dryly.
“Although now, we’d sorely love all those dragons,” Xhinna said. “He had over three hundred with him.”
“Even if it meant his displeasure on seeing you?” Zist asked.
“Master,” Fiona spoke up, her eyes gleaming, “I don’t think D’gan would stand a chance in either a battle of wills or wits with our blue rider here.” She caught Xhinna’s surprised look, felt the girl’s warm appreciation of her words. “Xhinna, the Masterharper wants to let Kindan bend his ear for a while, I was wondering if you could take over for him with the weyrlings.”
“It might be better to let X’lerin or W”vin have the duty, my lady,” Xhinna said demurely.
“True, but I didn’t ask them,” Fiona said. “Next time.”
Xhinna nodded unhappily and departed.
“You aren’t making her position any easier,” Kindan murmured in Fiona’s ear while they walked toward the Kitchen Cavern.
“She’ll never be happy following,” Fiona said. “Blue or no, she wants to lead.”
“She could lead a wing,” T’mar agreed, “if she could get them to follow her.”
“Blues don’t lead wings,” H’nez said, glancing apologetically toward Fiona. “They haven’t the endurance.”
“Pardon, wingleader, but I have to question that,” Seban spoke up diffidently. “My Serth had no difficulty keeping up with your wing.”
H’nez frowned thoughtfully, then nodded. He glanced toward Fiona. “There is a danger of pushing too hard, too fast.”
“Yes,” Fiona agreed, eyeing the wiry wingleader with respect. She said to T’mar, “H’nez has a point. We need to be wary of trampling on Tradition just for the joy of it.”
I don’t trample on Tradition,” T’mar said.
Fiona grinned and walked silently on.

Also, this entire sequence is a list of people in power who are doing exactly squat about helping Xhinna into a leadership role or, y’know, Kindan doing what he was supposedly really good at and crushing bullying where he finds it. (The Peter Principle, it him.) Fiona’s telling Xhinna to do things in a leadership role, even though Xhinna’s clearly uncomfortable about it, and T’mar and Kindan provide the immediate context of all of it, specifically that there are weyrlings who resent or otheriwse dismiss Xhinna’s authority to lead or to do things, where they would accept another dude doing it. In the context of making fun of D’gan [ASSHOLE] and how apopletic he would be about it, H’nez responds with stereotypes about blue riders, which the green rider pushes back on. So H’nez floats a balloon that changing Tradition is a thing that should go slowly and not suddenly, and Fiona, who has made an entire career of herself giving two middle fingers to Tradition, says that he has a point. Except that our own Terran history, at least to this point, shows that change of that magnitude does not come from waiting for the keepers of tradition to come around to your point of view and then magnanimously decide to change their minds. It comes from activism, seizing power, stomping on any and all traditions that are harmful, no matter how enshrined they are, and doing active work to make a better and more equitable place. Whatever Fiona’s actual powers are in the Weyr, which seem to be fairly considerable regarding the running of the place, she can (and possibly should) use them to make people who aren’t on board with the plan of women on fighting dragons and women being able to lead miserable. And Terin can do the same. And Shaneese can do the same. And Jeila can do the same, too, especially, since she’s got H’nez as her weyrmate, and he probably would do quite a bit to retain that access to a potential Weyrleadership through her. Like, send the Marshals. And freeze out your beloveds when they demonstrate they’re not on board with this idea. The idea that people become strong and leaders through suffering and hardship is on brand for Pern, but it still means putting people, people that Fiona wants to have as allies, through some amount of suffering that she could try and mitigate.

Having done this part, the two Masters do some glad-handing and conversation with the Weyrfolk, before Bekka says it’s time for Betrony to take a round of the injured dragons and riders. Fiona asks Betrony to see if he can get Jeila to be okay with an examination of her pregnancy. It sets H’nez on guard, but Fiona very specifically tells H’nez he’s not allowed to worry about it, same as how Fiona’s not allowed to worry about anything regarding pregnancy, on the same theory of contagion that was drilled into Fiona about sharing any of her emotions that aren’t happiness and positivity.

And then we learn that for as much as small dragons are constantly needing to be fed, big ones don’t eat nearly as much.

It had been nearly a week since the queen had last eaten, so it was about time. She escorted her queen to the beast pens and watched, calling out encouragement as Talenth took down a fair-sized meal and ravenously tore it apart. Fiona felt her blood grow hot with the passion of the gold over her meal. She wondered idly if T’mar were free or Kindan, then shook her head, dispelling the notion firmly. Dragon passions were strong, but she would not let them be her master.
Even as she thought that, her stomach rumbled, not pleased with the smells her nose was reporting, and Fiona moved upwind of her queen’s feasting.

Well, that’s a seriously interesting biology problem. As best I can recall, bigger things require more energy to keep going, and unless dragon digestion is both very slow and very efficient, a dragon existing and sustaining itself, including hyperspace warps and flying, on one beast a week makes me laugh. Because humans, who are much smaller (and possibly much less efficient) need to eat food much more often than that (and, depending on what the actual volume of consumed food is, might eat more than a beast themselves during a week). Of course, it’s possible that Kitti Ping figured out a super secrete genetic something and made it so that dragons could draw energy from hyperspace, or have the Pernese equivalent of chlorophyll, and it comes in all of the dragon colors, such that they only need the occasional top-up by consuming a beast once they’ve become full-grown, but otherwise, it doesn’t seem like dragons only eating once a week is anywhere near reality.

Also, those are some pretty strong emotions coming over Fiona if the feeling of her dragon enjoying a meal makes Fiona think about grabbing T’mar or Kindan for a quickie before shaking it off. Or Fiona is thinking a lot about sex these days if the feeling of how her dragon is enjoying food translates into thoughts of sex for her. Because I would think that the feelings of pleasure derived from food versus those derived from sex would be different in the mind, even if the biological processes are much the same. So, yeah, there’s a something that has to be worked out, as well.

Having fed Talenth, Fiona gives her some scritches and a little oiling until Talenth takes a nap. Once she’s solidly asleep, Fiona ducks into Kurinth’s weyr to help Terin oil her dragonet, and also to continue to talk to her about the need to forgive F’jian. Fiona says she’s very sure that Terin can hold a grudge against F’jian for an entire Turn, if she wants, to which Terin snorts that she wouldn’t be able to, because everyone would be dead from Thread by then. At this point, however, we’ve finally noticed that what’s known is much different than what’s been assumed to be the truth. Fiona has returned to being a sensible person about all of this, mentioning that what’s actually known is that Terin heard a person, a woman, and that F’jian has been timing it. Jeriz suggests that, in fact, F’jian might be timing it to Terin, which doesn’t make any sense to either Terin or Fiona, because as far as they know, Fiona’s jump into the future was unsuccessful. (This is, I am told, dramatic irony, a rather impressive-sounding name for “the audience knows something the characters do not.”) Jeriz offers trader wisdom, “Talking angry is better than angry silence,” which is a reasonable thing to say if the matter involved is a miscommunication where hearing and talking about what’s bothering you will clear things up and allow for harmony to come back. For things where that’s not actually the case, however, no amount of talking will make things better, and, in fact, talking about the thing is likely to make things worse, instead. F’jian has already said that he can’t talk about what’s happening with him, so there’s no help there. About the only thing that could help resolve the issue is if Terin is willing to talk about it and the two of them can come to an agreement about what things are going to look like from now on, and that assumes that Terin wants to have that conversation seriously. It’s a long shot, really, for things to get better with more talking at this point, so while I’m sure the quotation is supposed to be helpful, I wouldn’t see it as actually being helpful, unless there are a lot more circumstances at work that haven’t been shown. Not that Jeriz knows this or has the experience to know it. After all, he wasn’t the child who inherited Tenniz’s precognition.

After talking with Terin, the Masters ask for Bekka and Kindan to come back with them for the night. Everything’s been arranged for apppropriate substitues, and Fiona thinks to sic Terin on the weyrlings to give her something to do, along with X’lerin. Bekka knows something’s up, but Fiona isn’t divulging any details, and teases Bekka that if she keeps riding on Talenth, Talenth will forget whose dragon she is. Bekka stalwartly says that won’t happen, and Fiona says that it won’t matter soon, anyway.

“Besides, you’ll have your own queen soon enough,” Fiona predicted.
“I’ve got enough work to–”
“I think I’ve heard enough of that excuse,” Fiona interjected. “If I can do it, you can.”
Bekka, wisely, said nothing.

I realize that we didn’t necessarily sign up for a lecture on sexism and the ways that women can also still be sexist toward other women and girls, but this part of the chapter is really providing a number of object lessons on it. This time, it’s an out-of-tune exhortation to “lean in” from someone who has a whole lot more privilege and ability to command help than Bekka does. Because Fiona has an entire staff to help her take care of her dragon right now, and it’s a really blithe assumption that Bekka would have the same. Terin seems to have that staff, but it’s always characterized as eager weyrlings trying to help and painted more as them trying to curry favor with her, rather than because they’re Terin’s specific staff. So, if Bekka were to get a staff to help her take care of a dragon and to relieve some of her duties as a Healer and midwife, then maybe it would make sense for her to get a dragon. Bekka’s objection to having more put on her plate is sensible, not silly, and it galls even more that it’s Fiona pushing her.

The people leave to Fort and Fiona goes up to Terin’s weyr to recruit her for helping out with the Threadfall, specifically “Enough sulking, we’ve got work to do!” Which the narrative tells us Terin settles into pretty quickly after an “initial burst of anger” at having her feelings dismissed and being ordered around by Fiona, who continues to be a poster child for someone who does not lead effectively at all. Fiona manages to get some distance from Terin to have a sit-down with Jeila and bring her up to speed on the situation with Terin and F’jian, and both of the two gold riders come to the conclusion that F’jian is probably telling the truth, but they can’t do much more than that.

There’s still more in this chapter to get to, in the preparations for Threadfall phase, so we’re going to stop here, before Jeriz gets discussed and then comes over to see Jeila, as well as the conclusion of the chapter where several other tragedies have to strike to balance out the advancement in rank that Bekka and Seban will be entitled to.

Deconstruction Roundup for July 24th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is probably carrying a lot higher baseline stress levels because of all of the people around who seem to be unable to follow simple directions to keep others safe.)

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.

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 watching in resignation (as horror went out the window some decades ago) as the entity that was already showing that it had contempt for everything that didn’t keep them in power started using that power openly to express their contempt. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: Demanding What Is Not Yours

Last time, Fiona abused Jeriz and began grooming him to be the kind of child who won’t fight for his own boundaries where she’s involved.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter 5: Content Notes: Demanding forgiveness of apparent adultery,

Rider to your mate be true
Follow heart in deed and do
All the best your strength can find
So you will rest in heart and mind.

(Telgar Weyr, AL 508.7.27)


What even is this? Unless, if we’re being generous, this is supposed to be mean polyfidelity and being a good person to your mate, whomever they may be, by treating them well.

Because, no. Dragonrider culture is set up to not have monogamy and not have fidelity between lovers except by their own arrangements. The closest we get is the expectation that the Weyrwoman will be publicly loyal to the Weyrleader while they are both in charge, which lasts as long as the Weyrleader’s bronze keeps banging the senior queen. Junior queen riders are not held to such strictures, as best as I can tell, (and there have been a few different times where it’s been approvingly looked at for potential queen candidates to sleep with as many riders as she wants to) and none of the bronze, brown, blue, or green riders are under any such need or requirement for monogamy, nor does it seem like that’s expected of them, with how often green dragons go on mating flights and the expectation that all the boy dragons will go chase.

That we have all these instances of monogamy is very clearly the imposition of the narrative on the society, because these things are supposed to follow a certain amount of romance tropes, but there’s no reason at all for any Weyr to be anywhere near any sort of monogamy. Or, for that matter, any particular watch-wherhold, even though we’ve only ever seen the one, and the watch-wherhold at least arranged things and had explicit understanding that mating flights are exempted from any relationship contracts that have been formed.

But this poetry fragment is here because F’jian is under suspicion for cheating on Terin outside the boundaries of their supposedly-sexless relationship, and it is with F’jian and Terin that we start the chapter, both having gone to bed early because of being run to exhaustion in drills, even if they were released early to get more sleep before having to fight Thread. Terin is pretty sore, moreso than she might otherwise be, but she refused an after-drill bath with Fiona and Jeriz because “Jeriz might seem small and young to Fiona, but to Terin he was little more than three Turns her junior and she was still young enough to be body-conscious.” Which sounds about right for someone of thirteen, although the way it’s constructed, it sounds a lot like Terin is concerned that the ten year-old Jeriz will see the thirteen year-old Terin as a sexual being, and that’s embarrassing. But not Fiona, who is all of seventeen? Even though Fiona is very much trying to establish herself as Jeriz’s mother figure (and thus, if there’s a relative taboo on Pern among the dragonriders, which I am assuming there is, even though there’s always the possibility that mating flights might end up in a situation where dragons and riders that are related to each other might end up mating), I would presume that Fiona would be the one who would be seen more sexually.

Also, it kind of clashes a touch with the greater cultural situation of Pern, because indoor plumbing and private baths are, as best as I can tell, great luxuries reserved for the very wealthiest, so there would be a lot more communal bathing and nudity. Which would presumably make for less body-shyness, assuming that a person’s body wasn’t seen as an outlier of either too beautiful or too ugly. (Unless, of course, there’s a cultural thing or worse against mixed bathing.) Terin is entirely allowed to be shy, and Fiona is entirely allowed to be shameless, and those are both fine, but there’s underlying assumptions here that appear to be clashing with explicit narrative matters in earlier books.

Anyway, Terin is trying to pretend she’s asleep, although she’s having a panic about the Threadfall and that her love might be taken away from her. She reaches out to her queen, but Kurinth is fast asleep, which has Terin chuckle about the kind of support she gets for the oiling of Kurinth, which makes me wonder who is taking care of the children if Xhinna and Taria really are allowed only to focus on their dragons.

The little boys were always eager to please, as were the young girls. Released from their chores to help the weyrwoman, they ran screaming across the Bowl only to walk, silently and cautiously, up the queens’ ledge, fearful of being rude, hopeful of getting a chance to help. Terin was glad to let them–not only for the ease it gave her but also because she genuinely liked the small ones and loved their wide-eyed prattling.
She decided that, perhaps, she was being just a bit silly not to bathe with Fiona just because Jeriz was about.

I do not like the use of the word “silly” there, because it makes Terin sound like she doesn’t have perfectly good reasons to be shy around Jeriz. Terin gets to decide who she wants to be naked around, and she doesn’t have to justify it to anyone else.

I wonder if all the children are so eager to please because they think that being friends with a gold rider will increase their chances of finding themselves in a candidate robe. Well, at least for the boys, because the girls are going to be disappointed, unless they now want to follow in the Xhinna/Taria example and get a fighting dragon for themselves.

Terin doesn’t fall asleep, and instead she hears F’jian get out of the bed and pops out to confront him about what looks to him like complete infidelity, despite F’jian’s protests that he’s not stepping out on her and he’s still devoted to her, despite that Terin has heard a woman’s voice, as well. But he can’t tell her where he’s going, and F’jian doesn’t even try to give any sort of oblique hint or say something like “no, I can’t tell you, because the Clock Roaches will get me” or some other thing that would give Terin something to chew on and prove F’jian’s innocence, even if it only did so in a retrospective way. But F’jian disappears all the same, and because of this, Terin goes to see Fiona, because she’s just watched, as best as she can tell, her boyfriend deny he’s cheating on her when he’s been caught and then go to the woman that he’s cheating on her with.

This still doesn’t make sense to me with regard to how I would have expected dragonrider culture to develop based on the reality that the dragons go off on mating flights regularly. I should probably give up on WTFing at the worldbuilding, and yet there’s so much content there. We’re continuing to spend time and ink on this, however, after a short interlude where Kindan apparently manages to pick Jeriz up and deposit him outside the bed when he says he has to get out of the bed, and then pluck him back from the edge of the bed and set him in his place. F’jian is pleading his case with Kindan to see Terin. Kindan tells him it can wait until the morning. So in the morning, F’jian comes back with breakfast and repeats his request to see Terin. Terin wants F’jian to go away. F’jian begs to talk with Fiona, who agrees to it to get him away from Terin. F’jian tells Fiona that he’s been time-twisting , and that he can’t say anything more about it. Which is more than he told Terin, and which at least provides an explanation of what he’s been up to, even if Fiona (and T’mar, summoned by Fiona, who arrives on scene as F’jian is telling Fiona that he’s been doing the time warp again) doesn’t accept it as proof that F’jian is innocent.

What it does do, however, is finally get T’mar to ground F’jian.

“You’ve been dead on your feet for the past sevenday, man, and now you tell me you’ve been timing it!” T’mar shook his head savagely. “You don’t fly tonight. You may kill yourself, but I can’t risk you killing others.”
[…seeing he’s getting nowhere with either of the Weyrleaders, F’jian slinks off. Fiona frets that there are others who are timing it as well…]
“Affairs of the heart aren’t usually conducted in broad daylight, Weyrwoman,” T’mar told her gently. “As far as I know, only you operate that way.”
“So I should have known better,” Fiona repeated.
“Yes,” T’mar agreed. “Beyond saving Pern, beyond looking out for strays, beyond your queen and your Weyr, beyond all that you do, you should have known better.”
“But she’s my friend!” Fiona protested. With a wan look at F’jian’s retreating form, she added, “And I thought I knew him.”
“You probably did,” T’mar said.

Cocowhat by depizan

These authors have decided they just don’t care about the worldbuilding or anything previous if it gets in the way of the story they want to tell now. Yes, there’s been groundwork laid that suggests what Fiona is doing is somehow culturally Not Done, but the text has suggested, at least until this book, that it’s a function of Fiona being Senior Weyrwoman that causes people to wonder about her two boyfriends, and the unorthodox situation of how Fiona got her boyfriends, and how Lorana is also in the mix. If we look back historically, of course, there’s the strain of “most of the women in these books are happiest in a monogamous marriage-like relationship,” but that was always a function of the narrative, and there have been plenty of examples of dudes having multiple partners, some explicitly so and on the regular.

I suppose there’s the possibility that we’re supposed to be condemning of F’jian solely because he broke his relationship contract with Terin, but that would require the narrative to actually tell us what the fuck it is, rather than having to deduce the contours of it only by seeing the reactions to how various actions are being perceived. If F’jian and Terin made a relationship contract that they would wait and that F’jian would not go having sex with other women, that’s something worth mentioning explicitly, and talking about how that works with F’jian’s bronze dragon, since his dragon is of fighting age and therefore chasing-greens-and-golds age. Does he run to Terin as soon as someone realizes there’s a mating flight on? How will that work when Terin has to disappear because it’s not her dragon? And furthermore, why are people expecting children this young to form these kinds of relationship contracts in the first place? Because, whether it’s miners or dragonriders, it’s still deeply fucked up that thirteen is the age of consent and/or marriage. (And, again, lifelong monogamy doesn’t make sense with dragons that hare off and go fucking and are deeply psychically linked with their riders to the point where those riders get the urge to go fucking themselves and lose their sense of self while they’re in that state.)

The fuckery doesn’t let up, though, because there’s still more aigh to be had in continuing to discuss F’jian’s apparent rampant infidelity. First, Kindan tries to excuse it as a mistake borne out of fear:

“Sometimes,” the harper said slowly, “when we’re very afraid of losing that which we desire most, we make terrible mistakes.”

Which is not helping at all. “F’jian was afraid of losing you, so he decided to go bone someone else” is not a coherent argument. “F’jian was so afraid of losing you, so he decided to jump through time for purposes he can’t tell us about” is not really much better.

And then Fiona does something that only ups the WTF quotient, as well as continuing to convince me that the authors haven’t actually thought about characterization and their past works for a good long while.

“Terin, love,” Fiona told her softly as she sensed the youngser relax, “you’re going to have to forgive him.”
Terin tensed under her hands and leaned forward out of her grasp. She turned her torso so she could stare at Fiona. “Forgive him!”
“Yes,” Fiona said, nodding grimly. “Forgive him.” Terin snorted her opinion of that. “If you don’t forgive him, you’ll never move on from this–and you’ll never forgive yourself.”
“She’s right,” Kindan said, glancing at T’mar for agreement, but the Weyrleader was watching Fiona in amazement. Kindan smiled to himself, realizing that some of his lessons had rubbed off on the impish Weyrwoman. Sensing T’mar’s rapid thoughts, Kindan continued, catching Terin’s eyes with his own as he said, “It took me a long time to recover from Koriana’s loss.” Fiona gasped at the mention of her sister. Kindan nodded to her. “I blamed myself for not being quicker. I blamed Lord Bemin for–anything I could think of. His eyes fell to Fiona. “I blamed you for living and trying so hard to take her place.”
“I could never take her place!” Fiona declared. “She was my sister, Kindan.”
“You never knew her,” the harper told her quietly. His lips twitched upward for a moment as he added, “But she would have been so proud of you.”

Cocowhat by depizan

That’s not, no, aigh! There’s some useful advice in there, but it’s all oriented in the wrong direction. Terin does not have to forgive F’jian anything. Even if what he’s doing is harmless, and Terin is accusing him of a thing he’s not done, F’jian is behaving suspiciously and refusing to say what he is up to. The best hint he has he gave to Fiona, but even then, it’s not really a situation where F’jian is keeping trust and open communication with Terin. It is a possible useful piece of advice to Terin that she will have to forgive herself, or she won’t be able to get past it, but forgiveness is the last stage, the one past acceptance, and it’s still up to Terin to decide when she wants to engage in forgiveness. Nobody gets to demand that Terin forgive F’jian at all, and especially not Fiona or F’jian, no matter what F’jian says or does to ask for that forgiveness. And even as Kindan talks about his journey to forgiveness, we note that he got to choose when to forgive, even if who he is blaming is entirely caused by the illogic of grief.

Since they’re in a sharing mood, Fiona decided to share her own need to forgive as a way to further convince Terin that she needs to forgive F’jian.

“Which is why I’m telling you: You have to forgive him.” She paused to let her words sink in. “You rise above the pain when you do, trust me.”
“Who did you forgive, Fiona?” Kindan asked her softly.
“You,” she told him, raising her eyes to meet his unflinchingly. “When I saw you with Lorana and, even before, when I’d heard you were with her.” She smiled sadly and turned her head down toward Terin. “And it was then, when I could forgive myself for loving him, forgive myself for being jealous of Lorana, that I discovered I could love them both.”
“So if I forgive him, then I can love him?” Terin asked, arching her head back to catch Fiona’s eyes. “I don’t want to, Fiona. There’s too much pain.”
“Pain’s part of love, sweetie,” Fiona said, leaning down and kissing Terin affectionately on the nose. “You know that.”
“Pain’s part of living,” Jeriz piped up. All the others turned to him in surprise. “ ’Love is extra, pain’s a given,’ ” He flushed as they stared at him. “That’s a saying we traders have.”
“Well, that’s a saying we weyrfolk will keep,” Fiona said, including him with a wave of her hand. She looked back down to Terin. “Love is extra, pain’s a given.”
“Terin’s lips puffed out in a pout and she lowered her head, shaking it slightly. “So I have to forgive him?”
“Forgive him,” Kindan said. “It’s not for him, your forgiveness, it’s for yourself.”
“Because until you do, you lock yourself up in your anger, you can’t move on,” T’mar agreed.
“All I want to do is crawl back into bed,” Terin said miserably.
“Then do so,” Fiona told her. “We’ll take our breakfast in the Cavern.”

Uuuuuuugh, this is terrible. Even if it’s true, which it isn’t, it’s phrased awfully. The grand majority of all of this is “I had to forgive myself before I could move on,” not “I had to forgive the person who hurt me before I could move on.” Because I am sure as fuck not forgiving the person who hurt me, and who continues to hurt me, even though it’s been years since they were actively in my life. Because there’s still the consequences of what it took to get them out, and I’m going to be paying for that for years yet to come. So they’re still hurting me. If there’s a thing to be forgiving myself for, it’s for believing that there was something I could have done that would have made it work. Or being gentle with myself about whether or not I could have known and what signs I had and ignored to try and make it work. Those are the things I can forgive myself for, or be gentle with myself for. But that doesn’t mean in any way, shape, or form, that I have to forgive the person who hurt me for hurting me. What Fiona, Kindan, and T’mar are demanding of Terin is that she forgive F’jian because…he’s said he’s sorry? Because boys will be boys? Because they can’t afford to have Terin be bitter and angry against someone who might end up being her Weyrleader? They’re not actually articulating a reason as to why Terin has to forgive F’jian, instead they’re talking about self-forgiveness and not being too harsh with yourself. This is an important distinction, and it’s the difference between putting the blame where it lies and blaming the victim for not behaving according to a broken script.

Jeriz volunteers to stay with Terin while she’s recovering, and Terin tells him that if she gets cold he has to snuggle with her. This gets approving nods from Fiona, Kindan, and a half-salute from T’mar, which makes Jeriz feel good, we’re told. The narrative spends some significant amount of time on pointing out that Telgar Weyr, and most of the dragonriders, are falling into despair and wishing that whatever the appropriate solution is, it would come a little faster, and a little better. Given the history of solutions at this point, though, they’re probably only going to arrive at the last moment they’re needed, rather than beforehand, for reasons that are never really determined but that could be sensibly explained as trying to reduce the amount of time that a person spends twice in existence. (Except the solution that worked the last time caused someone to suffer through several years of muzzy-head before they returned from the trip in time to help themselves, so perhaps the danger is more immediate, like accidentally erasing yourself, or the dizzy that came from Fiona having Talenth at the same time in two different spaces.)

Fiona is despondent herself and frustrated that she can’t do anything to raise the morale of the Weyr, since that’s her job in these tough times. She talks a bit with Mekiar about how bad things are, and he points out that Fiona’s not usually one to complain, which he takes as a sign that Fiona might be having multiple children, since she’s already to a grouse stage and she’s not ever really showing. So Fiona sends for Bekka to get a second opinion. Bekka confirms it as her opinion that Fiona’s carrying twins, but she didn’t want to say anything because there’s always the possibility of miscarriage and other complications and Fiona didn’t need the extra stress of worrying about potential children. Instead, Bekka confides that she’s more worried about Jeila, who is small and likely to miscarry. Bekka also demands that Fiona not worry about her potential children (or anyone else’s children, for that matter,) and Birentir backs her in that opinion and says that Bekka knows what she’s talking about.

Fiona looked at the healer, surprised in the change in him since he’d first arrived, full of arrogance and self-importance. More than anything, she realized, it was Bekka’s unassuming performance of her duties that had changed him.

And that’s a real interesting form of idea there, the thought that by being resolutely competent, Bekka has won over Birentir and changed his opinion of her competence.

Because there’s a certain amount of “Fiona stomped all over Birentir’s ego before insisting that he stay with her and then teach Bekka what he knows” here, too. And we know that Bekka can be loud and opinionated when it’s something in her apparent expertise, so I can’t image that Bekka is mostly silent with Birentir and he, in turn, notices and appreciates her competence in matters of healing. Birentir had to have done some changing of his own from the arrogant prick that he was. Now, it’s entirely possible that working at Telgar has helped with that and he has a greater appreciation for working under a woman’s direction and listening to the women around him. Or it’s possible that now that he’s not having to prove himself to get to a post, he’s stopped having quite as fragile an ego and things are better now.

Or maybe it’s because he’s finally got some expertise that he can use as leverage. More specifically, Birentir adds that new techniques and dragon healing should be something to bring to the Masterhealer’s attention as an extra potential incentive for getting Betrony to take a trip out to Telgar.

“Dragons?” Fiona repeated, surprised. “I would have thought he’d leave that to the Masterherder.”
“Who, as we both know, has no interest whatsoever in dragons,” Birentir said, shaking his head sadly. “No, I think those healers who can expect to be assigned to the Weyrs should have an opportunity to learn at least part of that craft in their own Hall.”
“That would probably be better than learning it the hard way,” Fiona agreed, her lips twitching at the various memories of ichor-soaked nights desperately trying to sew Thread-torn wings.

Cocowhat by depizan

You’re telling me that in all the time she spent at Fort, following Cisca around and participating in the actual repairing of dragons, that nobody thought that Fiona needed to know how to do suturing beforehand. Or to teach her soon after the first time when it became apparent she didn’t know what she needed to know? (And I wonder whether stitching flesh and stitching cloth are similar enough that knowing one will let you be reasonably competent at the other. If so, Fiona presumably had some instruction in stitching cloth (unless she ditched those lessons to hunt tunnel-snakes) and wouldn’t be starting from zero. It might be a different thing to stitch with a dragon thrashing around in pain, sure, but if the technique is the same, then maybe there shouldn’t have been quite so much panic.)

I entirely agree that it makes sense for Healers to know how to stitch up dragons, since the health of the dragon and the health of the rider are related to each other, so being able to save two lives by repairing one is a good trade. I boggle slightly, however, at the Masterherder’s complete disinterest in dragons, since that’s where I would expect the greatest knowledge of anatomy and technique to reside if he truly were the master of the Beastcraft. If the Masterherder is not actually the leader of the Beastcraft, then it makes more sense, as it should be the head of the Beastcraft who knows all about the dragons, because dragons really aren’t herd anything. What it sounds like, however, is that the only people who know anything at all about dragons and how to stitch them up are Weyrwomen, and that’s rife for knowledge getting lost if Weyrwomen die before they’ve passed their knowledge on. Although I still haven’t really seen a whole lot of what Senior Weyrwomen are supposed to be teaching their juniors, except whatever they learn by going around on the rounds and possibly drilling or supervising the weyrlings and whatever they learn about their own dragon by raising them. All the guilds and crafts have formal apprenticeships to learn the craft, but the Weyrwomen don’t seem to have that in any official capacity themselves. None of it makes any sense, as usual, because there’s just not enough detail put into the world past whatever the plot needs at that exact moment.

We’re going to stop at this point in the chapter, because there’s still plenty to go before we get done, and there’s still a few gems to go.

Deconstruction Roundup for July 17th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to try and find where the balance point is between keeping an eye on everything that needs keeping an eye on and getting entirely burnt out from having to keep an eye on too many things.)

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.

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: The Practice of Abuse

Last time, there was some drill done by the weyrlings to see how many of them are feelign completly muzzy-headed, and Fiona got a personal page named Jeriz, who is Tenniz’s son. He was very specifically told he wasn’t Fiona’s drudge, and Fiona offered to teach him to read and let him learn everything he wants to know about dragons and Weyrs in trade for Jeriz helping Fiona stay on time and on task throughout the day. Both Fiona and Terin have said that Jeriz is a cute boy, which would normally be anodyne enough, but, as we’re about to find out, Jeriz being cute and small (and prone to being bullied before he came to Telgar) is about to turn out very poorly for him.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter Four (concluding): Content Notes: Abuse, manipulation, “they secretly wanted it” defenses, abuse of power, boundary violations

There’s one more scene left to this chapter, after Fiona gives encouragement to the weyrlings about the care of their dragons (having noticed that many of them are still suffering pretty hard from the muzzy-headed-ness and being tired) and Jeriz and Fiona go and oil Talenth. It’s in the Records Room, and it reads to me from start to finish as almost one continual boundary violation, with Fiona using trickery and pleading to get Tenniz to agree to further violations of his boundaries. Both Fiona and the narrative, though, want us to believe that this is the sort of thing that Jeriz secretly wants but his manly pride won’t let him admit to. Which, you know, could be a good point, if Fiona had respected Jeriz’s boundaries and let Jeriz dictate what he was actually okay with, instead of cajoling and pressuring him into accepting what Fiona wants. It’s a different way of abusing Jeriz than what Shaneese was doing, with severity, letting him freeze, and otherwise treating him in such a way that he believes he’s going to be Fiona’s drudge, but it’s no less of abuse. With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the highlights:

He was small enough that his weight didn’t crush her and cuddling him was a joy; Fiona hoped her sons would be as cuddly at his age. Jeriz at first had resisted the treatment, but relented when it became clear that it was the easiest way to work on reading.
[…Jeriz falls asleep as Fiona works on Records, and Fiona dares to kiss him on the forehead, which wakes him up…]
“Get off!” he said, erupting from the chair. He turned back and glared at her. “I’m not your son.”
[…Jeriz says Fiona was droning on, and that’s why he snoozed…]
Fiona got the impression that Jeriz felt his pride had been assaulted.
“Sorry,” she said, nodding toward the nearby chair. “You can sit there, if you prefer.”
Jeriz idled toward the chair, but seemed reluctant to take it. He sat in it for a moment, then got it. “It’s hard and cold.”
Fiona hid a smile. “I’m sorry,” she told him. “You can have your choice of chairs, but they’re all pretty much hard and cold.”
Jeriz thought that over. “I suppose I could sit with you.”

Or you could get a chair that’s not hard and cold, or send for a cushion for Jeriz (and Fiona, unless she already has one) so that the chairs are no longer hard, even if they’re going to be cold for a bit. Fiona is basically making sitting on her lap the only attractive option, forcing Jeriz to make a decision between suffering physically and pissing off the Weyrwoman, which is something that Shaneese has probably told him he cannot do in any circumstance, or having his boundaries violated. Yes, we’re still a long ways out before the idea of encouraging children to have healthy boundaries enters widespread use in 20th and 21st c. Terra, past “tell anyone who wants to touch your private parts no.” And by widespread use, I mean that some grownups are actually willing to admit that children have preferences and desires and those should be respected as a way of teaching children that their boundaries are important, even with family members, and the importance of respecting other people’s boundaries when they are expressed.

The boy moved back over to her, trying to find the most manly way of sitting back in her lap. “One condition, however,” Fiona told him. Jeriz looked up.
“I need to understand how to raise boys, I’ll have some of my own soon enough,” Fiona said. “Little girls like sitting on laps and being tickled and falling asleep and being cuddled.”
“They’re girls,” Jeriz said with all the contempt of a boy barely ten.
“Well, I’m used to them,” Fiona said. “So, you’ll either learn to accept that or you’ll have to work out with me the proper way to treat boys.”

Cocowhat by depizan

This is deeply fucked up. Not just for the gender essentialism involved, because there are definitely girls who hate all of those things, boys who love them, and enbies who range from “gimmegimme” to “fuck off.” The best that Fiona might say in that situation is “I liked all of these things.” Instead, we get xkcd #385 from both Fiona and Jeriz. If it wasn’t abundantly clear before, it’s crystalized for all to see that Jeriz was raised in a culture and a context that says girly things are bad. Which, regardless of whether it’s the background radiation leaking through again or an indictment of trader and Weyr culture, this shit is not good, and actively undercuts whatever patina of empowerment keeps getting shoved at us by the narrative to tell us that no, really, women can do things and wield some sort of power on Pern (so long as it’s a male-approved power, a soft power, and doesn’t actively contradict a male wielding power when exercised).

“Do boys like being tickled?” Fiona asked.
“Sometimes,” Jeriz said doubtfully.
“They don’t like sitting on laps, though, do they?”
“Well, sometimes.”
“And being cuddled, how about that?”
“Not like girls.”
“I see,” Fiona said, patting her lap suggestively. “Well, let’s try this out, then.”
“You won’t tickle me?” Jeriz asked.
“Not unless you ask,” Fiona said.
“Tickling’s supposed to be a surprise,” Jeriz snorted.
“So I’m to surprise you?”
“But not often,” Jeriz said. “And you’re to stop when I tell you.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I’ll get mad.”
“I see,” Fiona said. She frowned. “That seems rather one-sided. Perhaps you should sit on the other chair.”
“No!” Jeriz said. “I mean, I suppose it would be all right once in a while.”
“Once in a while is all I imagined,” Fiona told him.
“And only in private.”
“Naturally,” Fiona agreed. “So, should we try again?”

That’s abuser tactics, Fiona. That’s manipulation, and stating to Jeriz that his having a boundary with you is unnaceptable and will be punished. That’s centering yourself and your feelings when you should be centering Jeriz and his feelings and comfort.Especially if you have an inkling that Shaneese has had a personal beef with Jeriz because he’s Tenniz’s son and this is entirely petty revenge. If this is what Fiona does as a parent, Fiona is going to be a fucking terrible parent and her children are going to want to get away from her as much as possible and have as little contact with her as possible. And somehow, yet again, either because the editors and readers wouldn’t or couldn’t fix it, we have a protagonist, nominally the person doing the good things in the novel, showoing themself to be one of the worst villains of the story. It’s not a cute way of getting Jeriz to admit to what he wants, it’s manipulative behavior designed to get Jeriz to do what Fiona wants, with Jeriz’s wants made secondary and unimportant.


Jeriz nodded and sat back onto her lap. Fiona kept her arms to her side, her back straight. Shortly, Jeriz started fidgeting. “What is it?”
“You’re not comfortable,” Jeriz said. “You need to sit back and let me lean against you.”
“That would be cuddling,” Fiona warned him.
“And if you keep your arms like that I might fall off, if I fall asleep,” Jeriz added.
“So you don’t mind if I put an arm around you?”
“Not too tight,” Jeriz allowed, leaning back against her.
“You know,” Fiona began conversationally as she wrapped an arm lightly around his midriff, “there’s a thing that girls do.”
“Well, mothers, more than girls,” Fiona said.
“What’s that?”
“Well, when they love someone who’s littler, they find it almost impossible,” and Fiona wrapped both arms tightly around the suddenly squirming lad, bending over and kissing him lightly on the crown of his head, “not to cuddle and kiss them!”
Jeriz grunted in annoyance and squirmed once more, for show’s sake, before quierting and snarling, “That’s what my mother said.”
“Mothers do that,” Fiona told him.
“You’re not my mother.”
“But I’m going to be a mother and I need all the practice I can get,” Fiona said.
“Well…” Jeriz stopped struggling. “I suppose if no one else knows.”
Fiona smiled, loosening her grip on the boy, raised her head, and went back to reading her Records. A while later, Jeriz turned, resting his head on her chest, his legs over her side, his breath slowing back into slumber. He was still not quite asleep when Fiona leaned over and kissed his head once more, but this time, he only sighed in contentment.
Fiona could feel the boy’s trust in her growing, could feel the pain and fear inside him easing.
Somehow, she thought to herself, we must prove worthy of that trust.
She thought of the child growing inside her and added, we must give you both a Pern that lives.

That’s the last line of the chapter, so at least there isn’t any more of this manipulative behavior. And there isn’t any more of this “but Jeriz secretly wants it” from the narrative, too, because what we really needed to add to this travesty of manipulation and abuse is that. This is essentially the “but she secretly wanted it” defense to sexual assault of women, just genderswapped and being used on a child by a teenager. Fiona makes Jeriz actively ask for his own boundary violations because he’s concerned about his own safety should something happen while he’s on Fiona’s lap. Because an arm around him to make sure he stays in place is “cuddling”, not safety. And then Fiona violates Jeriz’s boundaries again by squeezing and snuggling him and saying she can’t help herself from doing it, even as he struggles against it. But it’s okay, because the narrative knows (or Fiona knows, or the narrative knows and has told Fiona through whatever power she has to sense everyone’s true emotional state) that Jeriz is struggling against it only for show, and he clearly wanted it because he falls asleep in Fiona’s lap soon afterward and then sighs in contentment when Fiona kisses his forehead. Instead of the possibility that Jeriz has just been completely stressed out by the repeated violations of his autonomy and boundaries, and once the stress hormones leave his body, the fact that he was already tired (since he was falling asleep during the study sessions) comes back with a hurry, and the additional exhaustion of having been completely stressed out by Fiona and her manipulations. Jeriz can’t risk displeasing Fiona by moving to another chair or leaving the Records Room entirely, because Fiona has much more power than Jeriz does in the Weyr. So Jeriz does what he can – since right now his abuser seems to be happy, it’s time to catch some sleep and see if he can’t heal some.

This is abuse. Fiona is grooming Jeriz to be someone who has his boundaries violated regularly and not to speak out about it or to think that there’s any other way that he could have a good relationship to Fiona. And because Fiona’s a woman in a position of power, there’s really nobody other than Kindan or T’mar who could get her to stop doing it. And neither Kindan nor T’mar is likely to believe Jeriz over Fiona. Nor is there anyone, save maybe Shaneese, that would get Jeriz out and put him somewhere out of Fiona’s sphere of power. And really, to get Shaneese to act, Jeriz would have to piss Shaneese off enough that she’d throw him out and ask forgiveness from Fiona later. That’s dicey at best to see if there’s something Jeriz could do that would cause it, and it would leave him outside of Telgar Weyr without a support system or any way of surviving.

And all of this is happening to a kid who we have already learned tended to get bullied and lose the fights he gets into because he’s smaller than other children his age. And whom Sahneese has further hurt by letting him freeze and otherwise providing no comfort, despite being family of a sorts. So, all of this happens in the context of Fiona knowing that Jeriz has already been a victim of bullying before he came to the Weyr. If the people that sent him were hoping that a new location would be enough for Jeriz to get away from the bullies, their hopes aren’t going to be fulfilled, even though Jeriz’s situation appears to have improved through the lack of physical bullying happening to him from the people his age.

Just when you thought Pern couldn’t get any worse, even with the new author’s shittier takes on just about everything, Pern manages to find a new depth to sink to. Villain protagonists, indeed.

Team Thread forever.

What the fuck?

Chapter Five starts next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for July 10th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to try and find where the balance point is between keeping an eye on everything that needs keeping an eye on and getting entirely burnt out from having to keep an eye on too many things.)

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 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: Deductions and Stories

Last time, we spent time with Fiona as she tried to puzzle out the situation between F’jian and Terin, with a side order of Xhinna and Taria keeping their feelings to themselves about whether they’re wired wrong to be women and have blue and green dragons. Fiona swiftly and remorselessly attempts to disabuse Terin and Xhinna of the notion that they’re somehow wrong, but she’s fighting years of Xhinna and Taria being told they’re wrong for being lesbians despite it not having any precedence at all in Pernese society. (Because there have been no on-page lesbians until those two) Fiona diagnoses it as the time-twisted muzzy-headedness and prescribes caffeine as the solution.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter Four (continued): Content Notes: Patriarchy, Misogyny, child cruelty and abuse

After Fiona realizes that the sensation she had earlier, with the dizziness and the double-dragon speak, might be her dragon talking to her from two different points in space at the same time, we go back to Terin and F’jian. F’jian is determined to make me eat my earlier words about being happy at being in the reserves, describing it as “the harder duty” as he lays out what the rehearsal schedule will be before the night Threadfall that’s coming up. We have another sequence where Terin wakes up because F’jian feels like he’s gone, but he’s there, and he’s telling Terin that she’s beautiful and that he loves her and that she should sleep. Which is now beginning to sound a bit more like what Kylara was doing in observing herself at earler points in time, except it’s F’jian coming back over and over again to see Terin. Which suggests that one of the two of them is going to bite it soon, and if F’jian keeps coming back to see Terin, it might not be F’jian that’s going to die. After all, “This is yours and no other’s” was all that Tenniz said to Terin in prophecy, and if it meant that she would get a gold dragon, then that part’s already done and Tenniz has no more future words for Terin.

We skip ahead to Terin finding Fiona in the Records room to call her to food, but it’s dinner, not lunch, and while Fiona is apologetic, Terin suggests that Fiona needs to have someone force her to take breaks and eat. Fiona counters and gets the heat off herself by correctly pointing out that Terin has the muzzy-head, too, and then insisting that Tern share what’s going on in her life.

So, Terin told her about the night before.
“He’s not seeing anyone else,” Fiona said firmly. “I would have heard if he was.”
“Then what is he doing?”
“I hate to say it, but could you be dreaming?”
“Like you about Lorana?”
“Perhaps,” Fiona said, waving a hand to ease the tension. “And for the same reasons, it would be it would make sense for both to be dreams.” Terin’s eyebrows went up. “Me, for dreaming what I’d like, you for dreaming what you fear.”

I imagine Fiona being pretty half-hearted about this, since she doesn’t really want to believe that she’s dreaming herself, and that she really wants a better answer than that. Fiona suggests secret training and Terin shrugs about how useful that would be. They both dismiss the entire contingent going back in time to Igen, and Tern pleads with Fiona that if they’re going somewhere else, to some other time, that Fiona would take Terin along with her, please. At the possibility of Southern as a destination (by which they mean the Southern Continent, not Southern Weyr, which won’t be established for a long time), Fiona dismisses it because they might “get infected with the dragon sickness or worse.” This would be handy for someone who studied the genetics module to tell them that they wouldn’t get infected with the old dragon sickness, because the new genetically-modified dragons don’t have the same pathways of infection as the old ones do, but there’s always the possibility that proximity to dragons would help the old infection mutate faster and try to figure out how to infect the new dragons.

As Fiona and Terin arrive to dinner, the story gets repeated again to L’tor, the wingleader of the on-loan-from-Benden contingent, and Fiona suggests someone getting her a guard to make sure that she eats and sleeps and knows what time it is. Shaneese, ever-powerful henchwoman, has a suggestion of someone who would be perfectly suited to the job, but she’s not sure if she should give him over to Fiona. It’s Jeriz, who is Tenniz’s son (the one who he said wouldn’t get precognition), sent by Mother Karina to Fiona. At the initial meeting, Fiona says hello and extends her hand, but Jeriz isn’t very talkative, which annoys Shaneese greatly. Also, more evidence to the theory that Fiona is an empath as well as telepathically linked to Lorana.

The boy looked up and Fiona was pierced by his brilliant green eyes, eyes that were set in a swarthy trader face and looked out from under unruly, long black hair. Fiona was shocked at the beauty of the boy just as she caught his hidden fury, anger, rage, and–beneath all them–his great fear and loneliness.

Remember, of course, that Tenniz also said that green was an unlucky color among the traders, so it’s possible Mother Karina sent him out to somewhere where his eyes wouldn’t be a problem. Also, it’s likely she sent him out here because Tenniz or someone else saw it happening, and you can’t break time.

Anyway, Fiona tempts Jeriz first with the prospect of getting to see a queen dragon up close, and then with a trade that will be mutually beneficial to them both. If she can lead Jeriz into the right pathway to make the trade, that is.

“Are you willing to make a trade?”
“What for? I’ve got nothing!”
Ah! Fiona thought to herself. Another who cannot see their own worth.
“I could trade you nothing for nothing, but it seems a poor choice.” Fiona said. She frowned for a moment. “How about this: I help you and you help me.”
“You’re a Weyrwoman, you don’t need my help.”
“Then you’ll come out best in the bargain, won’t you?”
[…Fiona explains that she needs a minder to keep her on schedule for eating. Jeriz, after saying anyone can do that, asks what Fiona can do for him…]
“What’s the most important thing for a trader?”
“Trade,” Jeriz said simply.
“Knowledge,” Fiona corrected him. He gave her a thoughtful look. “Trade is easy, knowing when to trade and what to trade, that’s hard.”
[…Fiona offers to give Jeriz the run of the Records while she’s in there and to keep whatever knowledge he picks up as his price in trade…]
Jeriz’s breath caught and he exhaled, his shoulders slumping, his eyes going back to the ground. He seemed to completely fold in on himself even as he shook his head once, silently.
Suddenly, Fiona had a thought. “I can teach you to read, too.”
Jeriz’s eyes locked on hers and he took a step forward so he could whisper into her ear, “And you won’t tell anyone?”
“No one,” Fiona swore solemnly, hiding her exultation at having guessed correctly. She lowered her voice so that only he coule hear her, “Not even Shaneese.”
Jeriz stuck his hand in hers and shook it firmly. “Deal.”

I mean, Shaneese is still in the room with them while Fiona is working out this deal to teach Jeriz to read, even though she says that not even Shaneese will know. Unless they’ve been conducting these negotiations very quietly, which would preclude the need for Jeriz and Fiona to get closer to whisper to each other, Shaneese now knows that Jeriz is illiterate. Because Shaneese never leaves the room, even though, presumably, for this scene to work as written, Shaneese would need to not be in hearing distance of either Fiona or Jeriz in between her last line, which is right after Fiona explains that knowing where to put the chalk mark is much more important than the chalk mark itself.

So, somewhere in here, Shaneese mysteriously left, or the blocking changed so that Jeriz and Fiona are far enough away from Shaneese for this conversation to work. The scene hops forward to Fiona talking to Jeriz about the complication to his illiteracy – he told Kindan he could already read. And we have an interesting conversation about what the expectations of literacy are on Pern.

“Not everyone on Pern reads, you know,” Fiona said as they reached Talenth’s weyr.
“Traders do!” Jeriz stopped, looking at the huge queen who lay in front of him, her head raised, staring at him intently.
“Here, you’re weyrfolk,” Fiona told him.
“They said you knew how to trade,” Jeriz said, unable to tear his eyes from Talenth.
“I’m flattered,” Fiona said. “But I’m a Lord Holder’s daughter, I was taught since I was very young.” She paused. “And I read a lot.”

We have worldbuilding here that contradicts what I would have thought was the standard for a Harper education. Even though it would be more appropriate for the time period Pern loosely basses itself on to have a large swath of illiterate folk, we’ve always been taught that letters and numbers are a standard part of the Harper education for everyone.

Jeriz gives a very flowery greeting to Talenth, that Kindan approves of, nearly causing Jeriz to topple with the sneakiness of his entrance. And then while Fiona is willing to call Kindan a friend, Jeriz isn’t sure which of the honors of being a Harper or a Weyrlingmaster is more important, and therefore the correct form of address to him.

“He’s a weyrlingmaster and a harper,” Jeriz said, clearly torn as to which honor ranked higher. Decisively he squared his shoulders and looked up at Kindan. “Harper and Weyrlingmaster, I hope I cause no offense.”
“None at all, provided you are willing to call me Kindan in private,” the harper returned easily, striding forward with a steady gait and extending his hand. “And how shall I call you?”
“My name iz Jeriz,” the boy said. “I’m the Weyrwoman’s drudge.”
The swat to the back of his head was neither hard nor expected.
“No drudge,” Fiona snapped. “You’re here to help as weyrfolk or trader, whichever you wish.”
Jeriz raised his hand to his head, but said nothing.

*snaps fingers* And here I thought we might get a resolution to that issue. On the relative scale of how important the Pernese think things are and how willing they are to try and spite them, I’d say Weyrlingmaster wins out because the dragonriders are much more highly respected than the Harpers are.

Also, how interesting it is that Fiona gives Jeriz an immediate dope slap to the idea that he’s the Weyrwoman’s drudge. I’d call him the Weyrwoman’s page, but that particular office doesn’t exist on Pern, as best as I can tell, unless it’s part of the Lord Holder world. Fiona is very clearly wanting to reinforce the idea that Jeriz has a higher social status than a drudge. Even though there’s a high percentage of on-page drudges being people who have learning or physical disabilities, so Jeriz is not wrong with that description. That suggests the possibility traders also have drudges, which doesn’t make sense to me, given their nomadic lifestyle and descent from people who have historically been marginalized. It doesn’t seem right to suggest they might subject their own children to drudgery as has been described in the books so far. (Maybe Jeriz picked it up in context from all the places the traders have visited.)

Anyway, Jeriz gets hustled into the bath to clean up, after Fiona sympathizes with him about being small for his age and apparently getting into a lot of fights about it. And suggests that he would probably be hunting tunnel snakes in a Hold, because he’s small enough to fit in the tunnels to do it with. After the bath, Fiona combs his hair and we advance again to Terin asking politely if she can join Kindan, Fiona, and Jeriz in Fiona’s bed. Jeriz, of course, got invited in when it was clear to Fiona that he was shivering in his cot.

Once Fiona sends Kindan and Jeriz to get themselves ready, and then asks Terin about what’s going on. Terin says the strange thing happened again, but F’jian says he swore that he couldn’t say where he was going, and that Terin would understand. Terin, of course, doesn’t understand at all. I presume that it has something to do with the additional time-twisting that’s going on that hasn’t been made clear to us.

“Terin,” Fiona began slowly, feeling out her words. “Do you love him?”
“I don’t know,” Terin said quickly. Then she shook her head. “No, that’s not true. I love him, I just don’t know if I can trust him.”
“I understand,” Fiona said. Terin wasn’t a jealous soul, Fiona knew, but she wanted certainty in her life. Fiona was sure that if F’jian had another love and was honest with Terin about it, she’d eventually come to accept it. She merely wanted a solid relationship, with the rules known.
Even though, with nearly fourteen turns, Terin was as old as some who were already settled, she was still young enough to be unsure of herself, to want to take things slowly. Perhaps more slowly than F’jian, but that was her right and her decision. Fiona couldn’t fault her; she’d waited for her own time.

Cocowhat by depizan

That doesn’t make any of this better! Terin’s thirteen, and apparently plenty of people have settled down into long-term relationships by this age. There’s no reason for them to be this young, aside from the clear fetish this author has for very young girls getting into relationships. Also, how does Fiona know that Terin craves stability and would be entirely okay with F’jian taking a lover, just so long as she knew about it? I’m not saying she’s wrong, because being up front and communicating is pretty key to having a working polyamorous relationship, but I think we’re hearing Fiona’s empathic and telepathic skills at work again, giving us information that Fiona wouldn’t otherwise know.

Also, what happens to those young women who don’t end up in a relationship and don’t have a dragonet to cement their status in the hierarchy? What happens to them and where do they go? There seems to be an assumption everyone will get paired off at some point, barring Shaneese, although I wouldn’t be surprised if she Beatrice’d her way out of getting attached to any man until Fiona set her up with T’mar.

And it is in that context that we get Fiona and Terin’s assessment of Jeriz.

“So that’s Tenniz’s son,” Terin said as she watched the small boy follow Kindan out. She waited until they were out of earshot before adding, “He’s cute!”
“It’s the eyes,” Fiona agreed. “He has the most beautiful eyes.”
“He is going to have a full Flight of admirers when he gets older,” Terin predicted.
“Two, if he’s not picky,” Fiona agreed. “That is, if he decides to stay with the Weyr.”

I would like to read this as Fiona suggesting that if Jeriz turns out to be bi- or pansexual, he’ll have quite a few more people interested in him than if he’s only interested in one gender identity. It’s far more likely that Fiona is just making a comment about what standards Jeriz will have about taking lovers, but I’m having a moment of really wanting to explicitly queer this story more than just the explicit lesbians and the possibly-gay or possibly-bi riders that are in the background.

And also, I’d like to remind the reading audience that Weyr culture is still theoretically pretty libertine about sexual attitudes, and so there shouldn’t be a whole lot of disapproval attached to the idea of Terin wants to have a go at Jeriz. Or if Fiona does. When he’s old enough.

Right. Plot. The breakfast table has Fiona being informed that all of the weyrlings are concerned they’re going to die because they’re all muzzy-headed. And bless Fiona for being someone who inherited the SCIENCE! gene, because she devises a series of tests to figure out whether the newest crop of weyrlings are feeling things as bad as the O.G. time-twisted. So Fiona is setting herself up as the original generation, Terin is going to be used along with the other new generation weyrlings, and Jeriz is going to join the drill as the control (not that it’s mentioned that way) because he has no dragon at all and shouldn’t be affected. With that settled, apparently, it’s pregnancies all around, as Fiona suspects that Shaneese is pregnant by T’mar and has been trying to hide it from her. Fiona gets to this by opening with how much Terin is worried about F’jian, which nets her a dirty look from Terin. (Apart from “babies are the natural and wanted outcome for every woman ever,” what is with all of this “everybody’s pregnant! But they’re being cautious about saying so” going on?)

Fiona then explains that Jeriz is working out pretty well, once he stopped freezing himself in the cot and accepted being warm in Lorana’s bed. Shaneese doesn’t seem to be impressed with this, but she resists Fiona’s pressing question as to what she has against Jeriz. Instead, she tells the other half of the story about the time she spat in Tenniz’s soup.

“I left because I was shamed,” Shaneese said. “Tenniz shamed me.”
“How?” Fiona asked, eyes wide with surprise, prepared to hear the worst.
“No,” Shaneese said quickly, “he did nothing like that.” She sighed. “In fact, I think he told the truth. And, perhaps if I’d been older, I would have appreciated the gift he gave me.” She snorted at a memory and looked up to meet Fiona’s eyes. “Instead, I spit in his soup.”
[…Shaneese explains she was sixteen and pretty at the time. Fiona and Terin say she still is pretty, which she waves away…]
“For a woman, a man must be worthy,” Shaneese continued. “And so, when Tenniz said what he said…”
“What horrible thing did he say?” Fiona asked. “That you were ugly?”
“He said that I would be second wife and enjoy it,” Shaneese said, looking directly at Fiona. “That I would gain great honor and much happiness after a time of sorrow.”
“Yeah, he always seemed to speak in riddles,” Terin agreed.
“Among the traders, being second wife is considered a great shame,” Shaneese said with a sigh. “Rarely do we even consider such things and almost always in times of great hardship.” She sighed again. “And then, the first wife is always considered the better, the superior.”
[…Shaneese didn’t believe Tenniz, Tenniz didn’t understand why Shaneese wasn’t happy about his vision of the future, and so Shaneese spat in his soup…]
“I suppose that beats tunnel snakes in the bed,” Terin said, glancing meaningfully at Fiona.
“It was only one!” Fiona protested. “And you said you wouldn’t tell anyone!”
“Seems to me,” Terin said, taking another roll and buttering it, “that if you two are wives to the same man, you ought to share such exploits.”
Fiona thought on that and nodded, telling Shaneese, “It was Kindan, Turns back when I was a child and he’d been ignoring me.”
“A tunnel snake?” Shaneese repeated?
“It was only little,” Fiona said in her own defense. “And I screamed a warning before he got in the bed, so he wasn’t bitten.”
“Tunnel snakes are rare in the desert,” Shaneese said. “But they are very deadly. You’re lucky you weren’t caught.”
“Oh, believe me,” Fiona said, rising from her chair and rubbing her behind in painful memory. “I was caught!”

Somehow, I can understand Fiona’s putting Kindan’s life at risk as a thing that kids do and get punished for rather than Shaneese getting punished for giving Tenniz a spit soup for essentially saying that Shaneese would take a shameful position and enjoy it. It’s like a precognitive telling a daughter in a 20th century Terran religiously conservative household that she’s going to become a porn star and love every moment of it. Why, other than internalized misogyny and patriarchy, would you punish Shaneese for doing what she did? Does the person with the Sight suddenly become immune to the consequences of what they are saying? Or is this yet more of the author not paying attention and letting their background radiation of “boys will be boys” infect this idea so that Tenniz gets away and Shaneese gets punished?

So I can understand why Shaneese might have it in for a child that looks a lot like his father, and reminds her of the place where she came from. And I can’t think of this particular instance of excusing Tenniz and punishing Shaneese as intentionally representative of the privilege accorded boys in trader culture, because I feel like Mother Karina is supposed to be seen as a strong and powerful woman who doesn’t need a man. Someone who Fiona could look up to as a way of running her Weyr with an iron fist. (And Terin, too, potentially.)

At the same time, there’s still no solid reason why the traders are people with beliefs in monogamy as the most important thing, even if they’re willing to entertain the idea of a second wife as an economic necessity. Because that suggests that women can’t survive on their own in trader culture, and again, Mother Karina basically says “nope” to that. And individualistic traders really doesn’t make sense in crossing the desert and in conducting business, because if you have a resource and everyone needs it, hoarding the resource results in everyone getting harmed or dying, and their hurt and dying eventually redounds on to you, because they have something that you need for your continued survival and not hurting. So why should someone who is going to be second wife feel shame for it, given how many ways there are for someone’s husband to die that neither he nor his wife would have any control over?

The traders are grouped in trains and such because that’s how they all survive together. Especially if there’s any sort of prejudice against trader groups anywhere. Given who they are supposed to be based on, and they clear stereotype being set up of them as shrewd and clever people looking out for their own interests that goes with it, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the prejudices that 21st c. Terra has about traveling folk survived, even if the authors really really want us not to believe that.

After all, the authors still haven’t figured out that the religion they claim left by the front door has gone around to the unlocked back door and set up in the kitchen. And the nearly-completely-consistent characterization of drudges as people with mental disabilities that means it’s entirely okay for them to be treated as less than human. Because the Shunned contain among their number plenty of people who were accused by powerful people of things they didn’t do or Shunned for things they refused to do for the powerful. Why would we believe even the silent claim that other prejudices have left Pern?

Plot-wise, Fiona and Tern go to see Kindan, and there are warm-up stretches and Fiona makes a discreet suggestion to Kindan for the training to go much like it did at Igen, with gliding and seeing flight and otherwise having both the humans and the dragonets do the drill together so that they’ll be strong dragons by the time they’re ready to fly and fight. Having split the group the way he likes, with Tara at the head of the third group, Kindan sticks Jeriz in the second group, telling them that Jeriz is playing the role of a rider from another Weyr. (Who, by implication, wouldn’t know what to do in a Telgar drill, and that hurts the idea I had earlier about drill being mostly standard instead of highly individualized.) Fiona and Terin each take one of the other groups under the same premise, but we only get to see that there is running and stretching and a little bit of drill, “wheel left, right, and form to line ahead. He had them practice “flying” between each other, taking care to avoid touching their outstretched fingers–“wings”–while making the maneuvers progressively more complicated.” Which, again, sounds like the kind of thing where each of the various weyrlings would have a number role and rotate through the roles so they have experience being able to do any of the necessary parts their wing will need to do (since it’s explicitly said that all weyrlings should also expect to be able to lead the drill, even if in practice, it’ll only be browns and bronzes doing it). Also, I have to ask why dragons would be flying between each other in the middle of a literal firefight against Thread. That sounds like the kind of thing that gets dragons injured and killed because they were expected to do precision flying.

Of course, maybe all of this drill and such is an attempt to make the riders not panic and the dragons not completely break their lines and instinctually pursue Thread to the detriment of their higher-order thinking. Which doesn’t seem to be working, given how much the narrative has talked about the riders feeling superfluous or gestalting with their dragon during the fight. Do, tell me again why the riders have to be on the dragons to make it work, and why we can’t have dragons without any flame do a hyperspace hop for a refuel, then pop back to their start position for a new run. We still have the problem of the mental feedback coming from dragons dying or getting injured, but then we’re not also exposing the much flimsier and easier to kill riders to Thread as well.

We’re almost through this chapter, but it’s worth stopping here so that we can devote sufficient time to screaming for the rest of the fuckery left to come. More next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for July 3rd, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who continues to be a loudmouth in what they hope are productive ways with their organization.)

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: Who Do You Believe?

Last time, Tenniz died. After trading aphorisms with Lorana under the stars (but not exactly the same phrases), which Tenniz suggested was because Lorana’s descended from traders, but the narrative never actually confirmed or denied. Having watched Tenniz die and buried him, Lorana had a flash of inspiration about what to do now, and disappeared into the timestream.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter 4: Content Notes: Sexism, Misogyny, Toxic Pregnancy-Positivity, Lesmisia,

Dragons and riders rise
To the sky
Look above you, scan wise
Time to fly
Time to flame
Thread from sky.

(Telgar Weyr, AL 508.7.23, later that evening) – which is two days after Chapter 2’s time marker, so it’s later that evening from when Chapter 2 left off.

If this is a dragonrider poem, I have questions about how the dragonriders in the last book were somehow caught by surprise by Thread falling above their heads, since you know, one of these poetic bits literally tells them to do the thing that the adventure party is reputed to never do when they enter a new room. And it’s in the context of Thread-fighting, so it’s even more egregious that these riders didn’t look up when they didn’t see what they were expecting. (And that they don’t come at a target space and time from high and drop to an appropriate altitude then they know for certain they’re above the Fall.)

Anyway, Chapter Four is not concerned with the still increasing amount of WTF that the poetic fragments are causing here. Instead, we start with C’tov telling F’jian to have a serious caffeine infusion because he wasn’t able to stay upright on his dragon. I already know the answer is “because MANLY BRONZE RIDER machismo would be so insulted if they did it,” but if F’jian is having this much trouble staying awake and upright, shouldn’t someone ground him? Since dragonriders seem to be organized in at least a loose sense of military ranking, even if F’jian is a Wingleader and a bronze rider, at the very least, T’mar should be able to tell him to sit his ass down until he’s actually able to handle his flying flamethrower properly. Because he won’t do them any good in that condition, even if they need all the dragons they can scramble. Instead, C’tov suggests taking a higher dose of stimulants. Which leads to J’gerd making some other suggestions about what might be occupying F’jian’s stamina.

“Probably a longer night before that,” J’gerd added with a knowing grin from farther down the table. F’jian ignored him, pouring himself some more klah.
“J’gerd, you should drink less of that wine,” H’nez said, “unless you like flying sweep.”
The brown rider gave the wiry bronze rider a startled look and shook his head swiftly. He apologized to F’jian, “Sorry, I meant no disrespect to your lady.”
“You’re a good lad, J’gerd,” C’tov said, coming over behind the brown rider and resting his hands on the other’s shoulders. “Not too bright, but good.”
The others roared with laughter at C’tov’s ribbing and J’gerd turned red, shaking his head in chagrin.
“Don’t listen to him anyway, F’jian,” another rider called. “You know he’s just jealous.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Ugh, the toxicity, it oozes. Not to mention that kind of thing would trip my embarrassment squick so hard and have me hoping that I could just take meals at some other time than when everyone else is. Plus, we learn yet again that there is a certain amount of prestige attached to various roles when it comes to Thread fighting. Riding sweep is apparently not one of the favored ones, despite it being important for making sure that no burrows get past all the flamethrowers on the ground and in the air. But, of course, the glory is in fighting the invader as it arrives, not playing cleanup after all the fun is done.

Also, Terin is at this point, a whole thirteen. And has been in the relationship with F’jian for the last three years. Yeah. It’s a wonder they’re still together, honestly, given F’jian’s apparent maturity level. If the fight that had Terin aggressively cleaning a queen’s weyr is an indication of how they have conflict with each other, I am very surprised that they’re still together. Especially now that Terin has her own power base to rest upon and doesn’t have to curry favor with anyone if she doesn’t want to.

On the plot, Fiona asks Terin how she’s feeling, and Terin responds that she’s also flattened-tired, which gives Fiona some thoughtful thinks about the possibility that Terin and F’jian might be time-twisted. Which Terin guesses at, but also, we have to re-evaluate what kind of relationship Terin and F’jian have had for the last three years.

“So you’re not the reason F’jian is so tired,” Fiona guessed.
“Fiona!” Terin said with a bite in her voice. Heads swiveled in their direction and Terin’s face blushed to match her hair. [Ah, did we know that Terin has red hair? Seems like it’s a bit of an in-joke that there’s always someone with flaming red hair in each book…] More quietly, she added, “I told you, I’m not ready.”
Fiona cocked her head inquiringly.
“Closer to when Kurinth rises, that’s when,” Fiona said. “There’s no point in rushing things.”
“No,” Terin said quickly. The Weyrwoman’s eyebrows rose. Just as well as Terin knew Fiona’s mind, Fiona knew Terin’s. “Well, maybe.”

At which point Terin outlines her worries about what she heard from the previous night and Fiona suggests going up to see F’jian and make sure that everything’s okay.

Also, I’m pretty sure I have been operating for the last several books of Terin and F’jian’s relationship on the idea that they are absolutely knocking boots with each other. Now, based on the quoted bits above, I think we’re supposed to believe that Terin and F’jian have not been doing that for the last three years. Which makes me wonder about what F’jian has been doing if/when his bronze goes chasing greens or the various gold mating flights that he’s been around for, as well. We saw that the watch-wher community had basically made it the rule that whatever happens during a mating flight doesn’t count because nobody is in control of themselves for much of the mating flight, but we’ve never had that officially confirmed for the dragonriders. Nor have we had full proof that any rider could hold themselves fully back from the gestalt while their dragons were going after it. Except the Son of the Benden Weyrleaders, even though he eventually willingly gave into it. This smells very firmly of retroactive continuity at work. Perhaps this is one of the changes that was insisted on by Anne in her return to the world? Stop having the really young characters have lots of sex with each other and others? (Yeah, right.)

As it is, Terin points out on the way to see F’jian that Fiona isn’t nearly as muzzy-headed as Terin and F’jian appear to be, which Fiona shrugs off as possibly having gotten used to it enough, which is not the first explanation that I would go for, which is that Fiona isn’t currently time-twisted, and F’jian and Terin both are. Terin finds a F’jian wrapped in the blankets, but when she goes to touch him, she finds that this F’jian is really cold. Fiona calls for Talenth, but gets an echoed version of her in her head and a big swarm of dizziness before passing out completely.

The next scene is Fiona explaining to an assembled crowd of worriers that she’s fine and what happened to her that had her passed out. Apparently, Talenth called for Bekka when Fiona passed out, and Fiona files that away for future reference by thinking in her own head that people that dragons know by name tend to end up with dragons of their own in the future. Not that Bekka was having any of it the last time Fiona tried to drag her in front of a clutch of eggs (and with good reason.) Fiona knows that Bekka is hiding something from her, but Kindan isn’t encouraging that line of thinking, insisting that Fiona needs to rest and wrapping her up in his arms in the bed to help with this.

“Every day with you is a treasure,” Kindan told her feelingly.
Fiona found herself idly amazed at his words; they were the nicest thing she’d ever heard him say.

And if Kindan and Fiona’s relationship were based more on pantsfeels and banging than the crush that Fiona has on Kindan and Kindan’s crush on Koriana being acted out on Fiona, that would be a step up in the intimacy level. Instread, I want to know how far the pit has to be dug for something like this to be something that gets over the bar of “best thing said ever,” because that seems like the sort of thing you would say to someone that you were in love with on the regular. Except for the part where Kindan really has been working out his issues about not getting to have Koriana with Fiona and hasn’t actually said a whole lot about whether he loves Fiona, since he was the most resistant of the three to the idea of having Fiona along with Lorana. If only Pern had kept the art of therapy so that everyone could talk to people about what they were feeling and eventually learn how to communicate with each other. Alas. [/sarcasm]

The next morning, Fiona and Terin check in on each other, and Fiona advises Terin to keep an eye on F’jian, because despite the fact that F’jian slept the night with Terin, Fiona is keeping in her head the detail that the F’jian they first encountered was very cold, like he wasn’t in bed all night. Because, consistently for Fiona’s character for this book (and that I’m writing that says something), she’s willing to believe Terin rather than gaslight her about what happened! (Consistency across two whole chapters is a terrible thing to have to celebrate, but here we are.) Terin embarrasses herself by calling after Fiona, who’s headed to the Records room, about whether she intends to find more dizzy Weyrwomen. Which is what Fiona’s headed to do, and Terin intends to follow her, except she has to feed Kurinth, and then oil her, and then she’s too engrossed in caring for her dragonet to remember what she was doing before. (Terin believes that she’s neglecting her dragonet shamefully with all of the other things that she’s still doing, which says a lot about how much the psychic bond rewrites a person who has formed it.)

Fiona, however, makes it to the Records Room, and for once, we get a description of what might be contained in the Records and how they might be organized!

The Weyrwoman Records were broken into several sections through hundreds of Turns of practice. Some sections were devoted to the tallying of goods received, some to the parceling of those goods throughout the Weyr, others again to injuries and losses. And then, dusty and disregarded, was a special section set aside for the musings of the Weyrwomen themselves.
At Igen Weyr, Fiona had quickly grown bored with the sort of gossip she’d read in the old Weyrwoman Records. At the time, her interest in babies lasted long enough to coo over them and hand them back to their rightful owners.
Now, as she glanced down at her belly, she accepted that she needed a slightly more enlightened outlook.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

Apparently, the Weyrwoman records aren’t hidden in with the others, they’re separate, and furthermore, the reason the Weyrleaders don’t look in them, I guess, is because they’re apparently clearly marked as to which ones are the records of tithes received and materials distributed and which ones are “the diary of the Weyrwoman.” Since the Weyrwoman, and not, say, the headwoman, is in charge of making sure all the supplies are accounted for. I’m pretty sure someone is uncritically recreating the idea that the Lady of the House is responsible for all of the accounts and in charge of the servants, even if the person who actually handles the day-to-day operations and is someone else. (And has been for some time, because, after all, all the way back in Nerilka’s Story, there was some glee about Anella being utterly unsuited to the running of a household and not knowing what it all entailed.)

Anyway, apparently, all you have to do to keep a record out of the eyes of the boys is to make sure it’s very clearly labeled as the Weyrwoman’s diary and nobody will touch it for fear of cooties. Even though it would be a prime source of understanding for a Weyrleader or anyone else who wants to know what the Weyrwoman is thinking about.

Also, I stridently object to the use of the word “enlightened” to describe Fiona’s outlook change, especially because Fiona was thirteen at the time she went back to Igen. Most thirteen year-olds that I know of wouldn’t be interested in learning all of the details about the process of making and raising babies, especially not as advice from the adult women in their lives. Of course, that’s with a viewpoint that considers thirteen year-olds to still be children with childhood still to happen before they become adults, and that’s not really an attitude reflected on Pern, where it seems like 12/13 is the time when someone gets married in the nobility and where a lot of the gold riders Impress their dragons. So there’s a certain amount of “well, if you weren’t interested in sex and pregnancy before, you’re going to have to get interested soon, because the boys aren’t going to wait around until you are ready” that’s built into Pern (and that’s another reason why F’jian supposedly waiting for years seemed weird to me, because I can’t imagine him actually agreeing to that when everything that he’s been told up to that point has essentially been “once you get your dragon, you’re set for status and you can have anyone you want.”

Fiona, at the time, wasn’t interested in all the details. That she is now older and interested in the details is not “enlightenment,” unless you believe that every person who can carry a baby should be carrying one, that their highest purpose and calling in life is to want and have babies, and that everyone who can carry a baby secretly wants at least one. Which has been the unofficial cultural expectations of the narrative and their endings, even though it has been very careful not to slip into that overtly, by talking about methods of abortion and having characters who are very clearly living fulfilled lives that do not have children of their own.

Now, it’s entirely possible that I’m reading too much into this because, as we will see, Fiona, at least as the narrative describes her, does want children and has always wanted children (in the abstract, at least, since at Igen she was disinterested in the baby gossip, according to the narrative).

She was always going to have children, there was never any question in her mind. And she was going to have girls and she was going to have boys and she was going to love them all. She knew a large part of that was her reaction to being an only child after the devastating Plague that had killed so many throughout Pern–including all her brothers and sisters. But she was also honest enough with herself to accept that she liked the idea of babies, that she liked the idea of toddlers. She knew enough, from her turns in Fort Hold, about the problems each presented, but she had grown up in a world where each new child, each squall, each smelly diaper was something quietly treasured. There was always a small pang of sorrow in the coos and aahs of the older folk around Fiona as they eyed new babies. She could see the babies that they’d known before the Plague echoed in their sad eyes.
And Fiona also recognized that part of her wanted babies to make up for those that her older sister, Koriana, could never have.
And now, apparently, she needed to know a lot more about the whole situation, particularly those babies with dragonrider parents. She knew Bekka too well now, and the look she’d given Birentir had been a special look, the look Bekka gave when she was afraid and didn’t want to scare anyone else.
Unfortunately for Bekka, Fiona had seen and recognized that look. And, fortunately for Fiona, the Weyrwoman knew just what to do about that–even if it meant poring through stacks and stacks of musty, old, boring Records.

Scratch that last suggestion, and also, Pern needs therapists. Because all of those reasons that Fiona thinks are hers for wanting babies are strongly influenced by people that are not Fiona. Fiona has noticed that the older folk miss their own children, and think of new children as precious. Fiona wants to have children because her older sister died from the Plague before she could have any. Fiona wants children because she hated growing up as an only child and never got the experience of having living siblings to grow up with. (I might also add in what was suggested in the last book, that Fiona wants children because she wants physical anchors of the people she loves (or at least lusts after) in case they are taken from her by Thread or other disasters.)

So why does Fiona want children? The narrative is silent on this, hoping that we won’t notice it under the pile of “Fiona has been taught since she was very small that she has a duty to have children and she’s internalized this strongly enough to believe that it’s her own motivation.” And then what happens if Fiona has a child and finds out that she absolutely detests having a child that she can’t hand back to anyone to get away from her? She likes hanging around with the younglings, she likes cooing over the babies, but she hasn’t a clue about whether she’s willing to accept the responsibility of raising one when they’re full of shit. Or would we see Fiona’s small raised mostly by Xhinna, Taria, Terin, or committee, and so Fiona wouldn’t have to deal with the bad parts as well as the enjoyable ones, like how all dragonrider children nominally are?

Again, Pern needs therapists, because Fiona has a lot of trauma to work through before I’m willing to believe the narrative telling me that Fiona wants children because she wants children.

Getting back to the plot, Xhinna and Taria come to fetch Fiona for lunch, which gives Fiona the opportunity to grill them both for information, since the weyrlings are apparently the best information network in the weyr, since they’re essentially invisible. Fiona asks about F’jian, and the response she gets says there’s more to it than she’s been told.

The room grew suddenly tense and Fiona felt Taria try to shrink into herself. Fiona gave Xhinna a challenging look.
[…Xhinna says it’s only talk…]
“What sort of talk?” Fiona asked as they started down the queens’ ledge.
“He’s worried, Weyrwoman,” Taria spoke up, much to Fiona’s surprise. She’d always seemed the more diffident of the two, silent and willing to let Xhinna take the lead, but it was clear that Taria had her own mind. That much had been clear for a long time, really, just as it was clear that Taria had spent much of her time since meeting Xhinna exalting in her presence. “He’s worried that he won’t survive, that he’ll leave Terin before…”
“Before his time,” Xhinna finished diplomatically.

Fiona inquires further about whether or not F’jian is stepping out on Terin, but both of them say it’s not the case, and insist they would tell Fiona about things that would upset her if she really wanted to know. (Xhinna says this by way of saying she hasn’t said anything at all about Lorana, which tells Fiona that there are actually some lines that Xhinna won’t cross at all. Which, y’know, I’m beginning to believe the theory that Fiona has a low-grade empathic or telepathic field on at all times, because she seems to be really good at intuiting other people’s emotions and thoughts and the true meaning of the same.)

Fiona “suggests” that the three of them have lunch in private, which earns Fiona a “strained” look from Kindan and an approving comment from Shaneese. Xhinna and Taria try to dance their way around whatever’s bothering them, but Fiona is not going to be dissuaded from figuring it out, and eventually, she manages to extract from Xhinna and Taria their worries.

“It’s not the others,” Xhinna said. “Kindan wouldn’t let them and–”
“They’re a good lot, all round,” Taria said. “I’ve known most of them all my life and they’ve never said a mean word–except when we were all little and silly.”
“But the dragons–”
“I can’t help if I don’t know,” Fiona told her friend in a calm voice.
“Fiona, is it possible that it’s wrong for dragons to Impress women?” Xhinna blurted.
“No,” Fiona said instantly. “Not at all.”
“Golds, sure,” Xhinna agreed in a contentious tone.
“No, your Tazith chose you, Xhinna,” Fiona said. She glanced toward Taria. “Just as Coranth chose you.”
“But we’re so tired,” Taria protested. “All the time.”
“And you feel like you’re walking through thick mud,” Fiona said. The others looked at her in surprise even as Fiona continued. “And you’re slow, you can’t do sums, you’d do anything for a nap, and when you wake, you still feel tired.”
“Yes,” Xhinna agreed. “That’s the muzzy-head?”

Holy fuck, someone actually communicated for once! Admittedly, it was more like pulling dragon’s teeth, but they finally arrived at a useful conclusion and information.

Also, what the fuck?

Cocowhat by depizan

Not as much Kindan putting an immediate squash on any thought that Xhinna and Taria don’t belong in the weyrling group, because that’s his job to do, and he has quite a bit of practice getting young boys to shut the fuck up about whether or not girls belong in the previously-hallowed halls of only dudes. (Still negative millions of points for not actually making it so that Xhinna and Taria can focus on being dragonriders instead of having to do second shift as well, but it is at least consistent characterization for Kindan to want to squash any sort of bullying possibilities that might arise in his cohort.) Instead, despite this being the fourth book in a series where the muzzy-headedness has been known since the first, and deduced as to what the cause of it was from the same book, apparently nobody says anything about it? Or Kindan is yet again failing at his job because he didn’t line up all the recruits on day one and say “if you are experiencing this set of symptoms, that’s normal, you’re just currently twice in time. The best solution we have for it so far is for you to drink the highly-caffeinated beverage on the regular. We don’t know why giving your system a jolt like this works, but it does.” Or for Bekka or Birentir to do the same, because this muzzy-head is a known thing and has been for a while. Especially when it’s something that could affect whether or not someone can stay on their dragon or follow and memorize their drill, this seems like something that would be important for the Weyrlingmaster to mention. Instead, Fiona tells both Taria and Xhinna to drink plenty of klah because it keeps the muzzy away, and gathers an insight into her own fainting dizzy spell as possibly what happens when two copies of your dragon exist in the same time and they both talk to you. That would certainly be very disorienting.

We’re going to stop here for the plot because it’s a convenient scene break, and I still have one more thing to say about this entire exchange, which is that I think Shaneese needs to do some more henching and re-put the fear of, well, whatever the equivalent of the deity would be on Pern. Because we had earlier wagging tongues about Xhinna and Taria that disapproved of their relationship, and/or Xhinna’s skin color, and while both of them are fast off the line to reassure Fiona that the weyrlings aren’t making any suggestions (or that Kindan is coming down hard on anyone who does), they’ve clearly had enough exposure to other people thinking they’re an aberration, unnatural, or otherwise wrong to have internalized their symptoms as a result of their unnaturalness, rather than as something that can (and should) have been explained to them as a result of their being somewhere else in time at the same time. (It also still reads weird to me that lesbianism is seen as weird or wrong in the first place, but in the context of the supposition above that all people who can get pregnant must be pregnant, then lesbianism would get clucked at because it wasn’t producing any babies.)

This whole thing also has a certain ring of the situation where the teenage character suffers through the things that are definitely hurting them and not telling the people who can help with it because they’re too busy or don’t want to be a bother or think that someone will think less of them if they couldn’t handle it all themselves. Which would be a thing that would happen with dragonrider culture indoctrination and in being the new curiosities, so they would have to perform twice as well to get half the recognition. And the fact that this is making sense for Pern says a lot about the failures of the worldbuilding to build a really good place for everyone and the complete successes of the worldbuilding about being consistently terrible to women and girls who are in unique circumstances or very male-dominated ones. (Also, we did that beat in the Harper Hall trilogy, about suffering in silence. And, to some degree, with Kindan. Like, at this point it’s a trope and should probably be let go of gently.)

We’ll kick back into the plot next week.