Monthly Archives: October 2020

Deconstruction Roundup for October 30th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is less than a week out from knowing how effective someone’s suppression campaign will be.)

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.

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 really want to make sure everyone who has the franchise exercises it so that nobody is stuck with more terror because another person determined they shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Getting Hlep From The Future

Last time, Xhinna attempted to vault herself forward in time to get Fiona and Lorana and bring enough help back with them to the Sky Weyr so they could survive long enough to get their hatchlings up to fighting strength. The problem is, because Xhinna jumped back in time to before when Lorana and Fiona untied the time knot, it apparently still exists, and it threatened to swallow Xhinna up before Fiona and Lorana sent her back to her original time and place, whereupon she passed out. This won’t be good for her worries that she’s only in charge because nobody else has decided they seriously want her job and are waiting for her to screw things up.

Sky Dragons: Chapter Four: The Growl Of A Mother: Content Notes: Bullying, misogyny, abuse, abuse apologia,

So Xhinna wakes up from having passed out to voices that she eventually identifies as J’keran and X’lerin, a brown and bronze rider, who say they’ve been dispatched from the future to help Xhinna make it all the way through the three Turns that she’s going to have to survive before she can rejoin Fiona and company back in the future. Although there’s something fishy about this story right from the beginning.

“Fiona?” Xhinna asked.
J’keran barked a bitter laugh even as X’lerin shook his head. “She sent us.”
“We volunteered,” J’keran said, his voice a mixture of pride and bitterness.
“We’re all T’mar could spare,” X’lerin said by way of agreement.
“Two browns, five blues, four greens, and, of course, X’lerin’s bronze,” J’keran enumerated. “With your blue and your friend’s green, that gives us just fourrteen, barely half a proper wing.”
“Well, there’ll be no Thread to fight,” X’lerin said jauntily.
“Tell us the rest, then,” K’dan spoke up from beyond Xhinna’s sight.
J’keran started to answer, but stopped at a glare from the younger X’lerin. Instead, with ill grace, he gestured for the bronze rider to explain.
“I’ve notes from Fiona, Lorana, T’mar, and Shaneese,” X’lerin said, gesturing toward his dragon in the distance. “T’mar told me we would have to stay here until the danger of jumping into the time knot—”
“Hmph!” J’keran snorted.
“—until the danger has passed.” He glanced over at Xhinna. “So that means we’re here for the next Three turns or so.”

So we can go over again the improbability of the continued existence of the time knot in our heads, like we did last chapter, and understand that it’s there very specifically to force this adventure to happen, instead of dissipating properly like it already should have once Fiona and Lorana resolved the fear pockets. Because continuity is for chumps when there’s an easy way of railroading characters into decisions.

Also, with the way that J’keran is already behaving, and behaves in this segment:

“Is Kivith too heavy?” Xhinna wondered suddenly. “We hadn’t really planned on making it permanent, just until we could find a better location. The hatchilngs—including K’dan’s Lurenth—all seem to enjoy the height.”
“Kivith assures me he is quite pleased at the moment,” X’lerin said.
“Something to do with a whole flight of queens and he the only mature bronze,” J’keran quipped.
“I think it’s too early to consider such things, J’keran,” K’dan told him evenly.
“Better too early than too late,” J’keran replied, not at all repentant. He leered at X’lerin as he added, “I’m sure there’ll be a proper bronze to attend to the matter.”
“J’keran,” X’lerin said, “perhaps you’d best get back to the rest of the wing and help with the off-loading of supplies.”
“Check with Javissa—she’ll find someplace to put them,” K’dan added frostily.

The discussion around him should probably not look like this:

“I don’t think he meant to be rude,” Xhinna said to her (Bekka), referring to J’keran.
“No, he probably did,” X’lerin said, shaking his head.
“He always was a bit of a hothead,” K’dan agreed, “I remember Fiona regaling me with his antics as a weyrling.”
“And the knot between really shook him,” X’lerin added.
“Not only him,” K’dan declared, giving the younger man a probing look.
“Not only him,” X’lerin agreed.

but of course, because J’keran’s one of the boys in a toxically masculine society, despite the fact that he’s already proven himself repeatedly to be unfit to be anything more important than a gong farmer, with an attitude that I suspect would have gotten him turned out from any formal military force for insubordination, he’s going to stick around because telling him to get lost would only make things worse, even if it’s the right thing to do, so that whatever disaster he’s going to bring gets averted, instead of having to be dealt with. He’s going to start with sowing some discord, it looks like, skipping over a segment we’ll come back to.

“What do you know of J’keran?” R’ney asked softly as he rode behind Xhinna one their way back to camp with two large wherries—his catch—slung beneath Tazith’s belly.
“He was one of the ones who went back in time with Fiona to Igen Weyr,” Xhinna replied noncommittally, her sensed alerted by the lack of tone in the other’s voice.
“Hmm,” R’ney said. “He seems rather…abrasive.”
“He’s been through a lot, and the loss of F’jian affected him more than some,” Xhinna said. She shrugged. “To be honest, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the riders at Eastern because I spent so much time with Fiona and the babies.”
“He seemed to be making an effort to be sociable with Taria,” R’ney said. “There was a green rider, V’lex, who looked upset.”
“Well, things will sort themselves out soon enough,” Xhinna said, trying to keep any sense of misgiving from her voice.
“I’m sure they will,” R’ney agreed.

I’m not going to say that in a society such as the Weyrs that jealousy wouldn’t exist, because jealousy is a thing that happens in both mono- and polyamorous relationships. But I would expect a society like the Weyrs are supposed to have been for all these years (even at this early point in their history) to have figured out most of the ways of expressing, communicating, and resolving jealousies as they arrive. So Xhinna being noncommittal about the fact that J’keran has taken an interest in Taria might be some of her trying to smooth over the jealous feelings she might have, or possibly correctly interpreting this behavior as J’keran trying to get a rise out of her for whatever reason, which is a game she’s not interested in playing at this point. But there are a lot of examples of bad behavior on J’keran’s part in this chapter alone which should result in either someone taking him aside and having a “come to Faranth” moment with him or someone with sufficient authority to make it stick telling him to get lost and hop forward to when it’s time for everyone to go home. He seems like a preventable disaster, so long as everyone isn’t going to cover for him in some way to make it seem like he’s not actually a callous asshole to everyone.

Oh, and speaking of disasters, let’s loop back to the bit we skipped over. Remember the part at the end of the last book where Fiona and Lorana unraveled the time knot and that meant the entire group that The Asshole At Telgar took with him into hyperspace came back? Presumably, they’ve been vaccinated by now, but it creates a certain amount of complications for the people in the future, too.

“We were only back a few days before she [Fiona] woke up in the middle of the night, convinced she’d heard Xhinna.”
“Well, I’m glad T’mar was wise enough to listen to her,” K’dan said, thinking back to a time when he had doubted Fiona’s intuition.

That’s rich, that you think of only one time, instead of feeling ashamed that you doubted Fiona and Terin both for the entirety of the last book. Anyway.

“Her, Lorana, and Talenth,” X’lerin said. “Even so, D’gan [ASSHOLE!] was totally—”
“D’gan? [ASSHOLE!] He’s alive?”
“Yes,” X’lerin said. “I’m sorry, I should have explained better.” He took a breath. “No one at Telgar understands it completely, but when we tried to jump forward in time to Telgar, we crossed with the riders who’d tried to jump to fight Thread—the lost riders of Telgar Weyr.
[…he explains the problem of being interlocked until the logjam broke…]
“And now she’s brought him—and all those lost riders—back to Telgar.”
“Oh,” Xhinna said with sudden understanding.
“That must be…awkward,” K’dan said.
“We’d only just started to see some of that…awkwardness when Fiona heard Xhinna’s cry,” X’lerin said.
“D’gan [ASSHOLE] was opposed to your going,” K’dan guessed.
“D’gan [ASSHOLE] doesn’t know you went,” Xhinna said.
X’lerin raised his mug to her with a smile. “Precisely.”
“You’d hardly be noticed in the throng of all those old Telgar riders,” K’dan said. He tipped his mug and took a hefty gulp of klah. “I can’t imagine him yielding the leadership to T’mar with any grace.”
“And the problem won’t necessarily be solved by the time we return,” Bekka noted. When the others looked at her, she explained, “It might be three Turns for us, but it may be less than a day for them.”

The old Bekka is back! (Never leave us again.)

This, I suspect, might have been a plot hook for a future book, perhaps the eponymous Dragonrider that never came to pass, as the leaders try to figure out what to do with That Asshole and his crew. The smartest and most effective solution available to them is “T’mar and Fiona are in charge at Telgar. You, asshole, since you cavalierly risked the lives of all of these people, we would normally send you away completely, but it turns out that your old weyr at Igen still sits empty, so we’re giving it back to you because we need the coverage during this Pass. If you can keep your riders alive until the next Weyrleadership change or the end of the Pass, whichever comes first, we’ll call it square and we won’t exile you and give your Weyr to someone else.” Which means it would not be the solution that actually happens, and what is much more likely to happen is that T’mar and That Asshole have a knife fight and someone gets killed and their surviving crew gets sent to Igen. If The Asshole got killed, I’d expect one of the Telgar juniors to go be Senior there with the explicit purpose of keeping those assholes on the company line until they’ve been substantially replaced by new riders that no longer have a grudge against Telgar for sending them away. If T’mar got killed, I would expect Fiona to grow Igen into a powerhouse Weyr with the explicit purpose of steamrolling That Asshole and reinstalling herself as Weyrwoman of Telgar (with the tacit or explicit approval of all the other Weyreladers and Weyrwomen). Alas, we won’t know what happened, unless it gets resolved in this book, which I somehow doubt it will.

Also, apparently, this is a skunkworks project to go back and help Xhinna out, which explains the small numbers of assistance available to her. Javissa came back, and Jirana did, as well, so now Xhinna has someone who she knows is a competent headwoman that she can hand those duties off to after Javissa is trained on the Sky Weyr way. Xhinna also thinks that she can hand off her own leadership responsibilities to someone else. Or, she thinks that everyone else will be expecting the rider of the only mature bronze to immediately step into the leadership role rather than allowing their already-unorthoodox Weyr to continue being unorthodoxly run. Fiona would absolutely have kept Xhinna on as Weyrleader just to goad her into developing her full leadership potential, I suspect.

Xhinna dropped her arm and turned to X’lerin. “So, Weyrleader, what should we do?”
“Me?” X’lerin gasped, sitting bolt upright. He threw a hand beseechingly toward K’dan. “You’re oldest. By the First Egg, you were my Weyrlingmaster—you should be Weyrleader.”
“I’m already Weyrlingmaster, father, and harper,” K’dan said, shaking off the offer. “And my dragon’s just out of the shell.” He jerked his head toward the bronze rider with a smile. “No, X’lerin, I’d say your position is clear.”
“Um,” X’lerin said, glancing around the table. “Ah…who managed everything before?”
Bekka cocked her head toward Xhinna. “She was in charge.”
“I ride a blue,” Xhinna protested. “I was just doing what was needed.”
“Fine,” X’lerin said firmly. “What’s needed now is for you to brief me.” His lips quirked. “After that, we’ll see.”

First Sergeants are there to make sure Second Lieutenants don’t get everyone killed. Good decision, X’lerin.

I also think it says a lot more about Pern and its social structure for Xhinna to say “Look! There’s a bronze rider! Very clearly, he’s the one who should be in charge now, because bronze rider!” We’d seen that Xhinna was feeling very uncomfortable about her position and its relative power, after the incident with Jepara and how Xhinna was beginning to feel like her position was sitting on shifting sand compared to the higher-ranked colors present in the dragonets, as if she were expecting someone to defy her, essentially, and only follow someone of higher rank. So now there is someone of higher rank, and if X’lerin has the politics chops that K’dan is supposed to have had (I see his waving off of the duties of Weyrleader as acting casual when the thought of actually leading causes him to need to change his pants), he’s going to get a sitrep from Xhinna, recognize that she’s the most experienced person he has and knows the terrain best, and essentially declare to everyone that in the absence of his direct orders to the contrary, do what Xhinna says, regardless of the color of your dragon or dragonet. And then publicly make an example of the first J’keran, err, jerk, who flouts that order or otherwise insinuates that Xhinna is anything other than a competent and capable commander. J’keran even gives X’lerin an opportunity to both consolidate his own power and to reinforce Xhinna’s.

“If I’d known what the cooking was going to be like, I would have volunteered quicker,” V’lex exclaimed as he came back for another helping.
“Well, you should have known, dimglow, as you had much the same in Eastern,” J’keran snarled, pulling him out of the line. “And if you think you’re going to gorge yourself to sleep—”
“J’keran,” X’lerin cut in smoothly, “I think tonight is a night where we can all eat our fill.”
“A jump between times is tiring and uses a lot of energy,” K’dan added.
“Well, at least wait until all the others have all had theirs, then,” J’keran grumpily told the green rider.
V’lex flushed, but turned away and moved to the back of the line.
“You should let the weyrfolk here eat first,” J’keran continued, raising his voice to make it carry. He glanced toward Taria and winked. “After all, they’ve been on short rations for too long.”
Seeing Xhinna tense, K’dan said quickly, “Xhinna did her best.”
“I’m sure,” J’keran said in a tone that belied his words. “It’s hard enough for a blue, but given his rider…” He let his words trail off. He cut a quick glance in Xhinna’s direction, smirking when he caught the expression on her face. He turned to Taria, placing his back to the others. “Did you want some more?”
Taria shook her head and and moved away quietly to sit beside Xhinna. E’ney joined them after filling his plate for a second time. He glanced in J’keran’s direction, but said nothing.
“He’s not usually like this.”
Xhinna looked up and saw V’kex standing before them. He gestured at the log on which she was seated. “May I join you?”
“Certainly,” she said, shuffling over to make room.
V’lex sat down, nodded to Taria and R’ney, and then quietly said to Xhinna, “He’s baiting you, you know.”
“He’s a brown rider, he has Turns more experience than I do—he outranks me in all things,” Xhinna said tonelessly.
“He could never have done what you did,” R’ney declared stoutly. “Single-handedly you saved us all.” He nodded toward the young queen riders who were all grouped around X’lerin and K’dan, chatting and giggling. “They know it.” He jerked his head toward the silent group of bronze weyrlings and added, “So do they.”
“Well, things will be different now,” Xhinna said.
“Different isn’t always better,” R’ney said.
Xhinna nodded, buoyed by his confidence in her, but saddened those words hadn’t come from Taria.

I’m willing to give X’lerin the benefit of the doubt on this – he’s only recently been told that he’s going to have to be the field commander for a long time, so what he knows is probably theory and such, and also because these are his bros, he doesn’t necessarily recognize that J’keran’s being a toxic asshole right now, because he probably believes, much like V’lex, that he’s “not usually like this” or he wants to see whether Xhinna will react to being taunted by this or an one of a hundred reasons that are wrong and do not excuse the behavior, but that are believable and realistic for a new field commander.

K’dan, on the other hand, has no such excuse, especially since his claim to fame, the thing that the narrative wanted to make sure that we saw right from the get go, is that he fought another boy to submission because he was being a bully to others and especially to women. What K’dan has here is mild rebuke for someone being a jerkass toward the person who can contribute the most to whether they all live or die, and who is deliberately trying to horn in on her territory with her girlfriend, instead of knocking him flat on his ass and telling him in no uncertain terms that this pissant juvenile behavior will stop. But, of course, as we have mentioned before, K’dan is someone who got famous for things he did early in his career and has been coasting on fame and connections for the rest of his life, without having to actually do anything with his privilege.

What Xhinna says about J’keran outranking her is societally true – he’s older, more experienced, and has a higher color dragon in the hierarchy. And what that means, apparently, is that he has carte blanche to abuse the people who are seen as underneath him without consequence. If I’m Xhinna right now, I believe I have an ally in R’ney, and that’s it, full stop, because everyone else in the camp just let me get bullied and didn’t step in to do shit about it, including the two people who should have stepped in long before this point. The authors are doing an excellent job of recreating the bullying environments of their earlier books, but instead of crafthalls where unaccountable people are allowed to freely abuse the people who are of lower rank than them, now it’s in the dragonriders themselves, the people who are theoretically supposed to have been the always pure heroes who keep the world safe from harm. (Not that they ever were, as we’ve noted all throughout this entire commentary series, but they’re narratively supposed to be the always goo guys who don’t make wrong or bad decisions unless someone individually is being a wrong or bad person.) And while J’keran is going to be our obvious example (and presumably, set up to be Xhinna’s main antagonist), he’s deliberately over-the-top with his antagonism. He’s able to be extreme because there are so many other people who accept and do the subtler versions of this discrimination, or who might be afraid that speaking out against him means they’ll be targeted next, or that, as we have seen time and time again in the hellscape that is 02020, the forces of authority will be called out to do violence to them to try and put them back into their perceived place in the society. It’s a perfect example of complicity with a terrible system because you don’t want to risk what privilege you might have in that system by standing in solidarity with your “lessers.” So neither X’lerin nor K’dan make J’keran stop, and Xhinna isn’t being supported enough to beat the tar out of him herself, and thus, good order and discipline is lost in Sky Weyr.

The narrative continues on for several pages of a successful attempt to capture a Mreeow from an attacking pair, one of which is killed after attacking a dragon, and the other is pregnant and gives birth to four kittens and then dies from the injuries she’s sustained trying to avoid capture. The entire reason this operation happens at all is because Xhinna realizes there’s tactical value to potentially having tame cats around their space, because it might keep other cats out and away from them. The captured cat is described as “very smart” as a reminder of whose cats these are descended from, and then we go on to the Pernese having trouble understanding what a purr is and why a kitten might do it, all the way to the part where one of the kittens sickens and dies through nobody’s fault. (And Jirana calls them Meeyus, since that’s the sound the kittens make, compared to their Mreeow adult selves.)

In the middle of this, though, there’s more of J’keran’s jerkassery and the people who should be shutting it down not doing a damn thing.

“J’keran hates them,” Xhinna said.
“That’s almost reason enough alone to keep them,” K’dan said sardonically. X’lerin gave the harper a surprised look and K’dan added, “Your brown rider has been making noises about how poorly the weyrlings are being trained.”
“I assume you put him in his place,” X’kerin replied crisply.
“Actually, I couldn’t think of a single word to say.”
“A speechless harper!”
K’dan leaned closer to the bronze rider. “I’m starting to get worried about how the younger riders are reacting to him.”
“And you?” X’kerin said, glancing at Xhinna.
“I’m just a blue rider,” Xhinna protested.

And before we go any further,

And a vey specific fuck you to K’dan, who, if I’m reading this exchange right, is trying to goad X’lerin into fixing the problem that is J’keran himself, since X’lerin is theoretically the person in charge. X’lerin, on the other hand, has very correctly stated that if J’keran is being an asshole about the way the weyrlings are being trained, the Weyrlingmaster should be the one to tell him where he can stick his baseless opinions. Or, if he’s feeling generous, meet with J’keran to hear out his complaints, and then tell him where he can shove them. J’keran is trying to undermine K’dan’s authority at this juncture. He might also be undermining X’lerin’s as well, but K’dan is the first person who should respond to this. If J’keran doesn’t stop being an asshole about it, after K’dan has done what he can to try and curb the problem, then he brings X’lerin in to shut things down, on the assumption that J’keran will listen to X’lerin. And if J’keran blows X’lerin off, then that’s grounds for dismissal and being escorted to the point where everyone jumps back to Telgar, with the escort making sure J’keran gets all the way back to Telgar and delivers his report, in great detail, to the Telgar Weyrleaders about the insubordinate behavior of this brown rider, for them to decide how to punish as they see fit, before returning back, eventually, to Sky Weyr to help out again. There should be an established process of chain of command and discipline for any Weyr, even an unorthodox one, such that everyone knows whose job it is to tell the person who is mouthing off that they’re out of line. This is rehashing the basic problem of K’vin and Zulaya, and Tullea and B’nik, except it’s not a Weyrwoman that’s making things hell for the Weyrleader to get them to be a strong leader, it’s the Weyrlingmaster.

But before that thread can be followed in any great detail, K’dan and X’lerin both turn on Xhinna for her comment about being “just a blue rider,” despite the reality that neither K’dan nor X’lerin have done anything publicly to back Xhinna and show everyone else that she is operating with the authority of the Weyrleader and/or the Weyrlingmaster behind her, even if she looks just like a blue rider.

“Oh, stop that!” K’dan snapped at her. “There’s no rider on Pern who is ‘just’ anything, least of all you.”
Xhinna’s eyes widened.
“Do you think Fiona chooses her friends lightly?” K’dan continued. “Or that she’d leave her children—our children—with just anyone?”
“No,” Xhinna said in a small voice.
“K’dan, please don’t break her,” X’kerin spoke up.
K’dan’s fierce expression crumpled and he reached a hand toward the blue rider. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s just that I will not have you tearing yourself down.”
“He’s right,” X’lerin said, looking at her. “There will be plenty who look at your Impression as a mistake and will question your right to ride a blue. So it’s up to you, blue rider, to show them how wrong they are. This”—he spread his hands out to encompass all of the Weyr—”is a great start.”

This is the direct opposite of an effective pep talk. Xhinna could go off on both of them right now about how if they really wanted to support her, they could actually reinforce her leadership and support her decision-making in public ways, rather than leaving her out to hang and have to guess whether or not the decision she’s made is going to be supported or is the right one. And X’lerin is basically putting all of the pressure on Xhinna to be Exceptional by telling her that it’s her responsibility to prove her naysayers wrong and that she does deserve what she’s received. The default position that Xhinna has to strive against is that she is a mistake, and that’s basically been a refrain regarding Xhinna for her entire life, and for reasons that are essentially spurious and unsupported. The weyrfolk were prejudiced against her because she was a lesbian (despite there being no such animus ever shown, alluded to, or hinted at until the author decided the world needed a lesbian couple), and the dragonriders are prejudiced against her because she Impressed a dragon that only men have Impressed before. (Or, if you believe that particular stripe of material, that says Xhinna is going to be “gay with a masculine personality” instead of the receptive partner, which in a misogynist patriarchy, is equally unacceptable because she’s behaving like a man while not being one, which is a perversion of the social order.) But, because this is a series written in and read by 20th and 21st c. Terrans, the mold is set that there will be Exceptional Women who defy their social expectations and become notable through their contrariness, rather than there being a fractious debate about how the exceptional women are an indictment of he underlying society, and how much talent is being lost and wasted because of strict gender roles. (That were baked into the society thanks to a misogynist geneticist.) Xhinna, Menolly, Kelsa, Nonala, Bekka, Jancis, Mirrim, Nerra and all the other Exceptional Women should be at the center of raging controversies about whether they should be exceptions that should be forgotten as unnatural or perverse or whether the society needs to change to make room for more women like them. We haven’t actually resolved those debates in our times, so they can stay unresolved on Pern, but they should be present, rather than disappeared. Some of the traditionalists, like H’nez, should be loudly shocked and dismissive that any women, bar gold riders, could ever amount to anything, while others should be more than willing to work with someone like Xhinna and defend her against her accusers. These are supposed to be world-shaking, society-upheaving events, and they don’t get that treatment. Instead, it seems like everyone else closes ranks and already has decided in their mind that women are illegitimate in these roles and should be bullied out of them as fast as possible. Which is regrettably true for a lot of places and institutions on Terra, but there have to be some pockets somewhere that believe differently. K’dan, consistently written, might be someone who backs Xhinna unquestioningly because he’s seen what she can do and also because his association with Fiona, Kelsa, and Nonla has made him realize that women can do a lot more than they’re being asked to do, and so Xhinna’s entry into the fighting corps should be celebrated in the same way that Kelsa and Nonala’s entry into Harperdom is.

Also, miss me with that bullshit that building up a Weyr and keeping people safe in a hostile environment for a long time is “a great start”. Xhinna’s already proven she’s got the chops to lead. What she needs is the confidence to do it and the reassurance that she’s not going to get the rug pulled out from under her if the political winds shift. And the best way to accomplish all of those goals is to crush J’keran. But instead, we get this:

“But if I hadn’t come here—”
“If you hadn’t come here, back in time, where would you have gone?” X’lerin interjected. “You knew you couldn’t jump back to Telgar or our time, and you saw Thread falling. Where would you go?”
Xhinna shrugged, but said nothing.
“Xhinna, you will be wrong many times in your life,” K’dan told her patiently. “But when you make a decision, stick to it. So far all your decisions have been good ones.”
“And understand this, Xhina,” X’lerin added. “It’s a foolish wingleader who doesn’t listen to all of his—” He winked at her. “—or her riders.”
“A blue could never lead a wing!” Xhinna exclaimed.
“Why?” K’dan glanced at X’lerin. “Just because it’s never been done, blue rider, doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.” He shook his head ruefully. “After all our Turns with Fiona, we should both know this by now!”

Cocowhat by depizan

This is terrible advice! And also, utterly unhelpful! Good leaders can recognize when they’ve made a bad decision and change. The best ones can figure out which bad-looking decisions will end up being good for everyone in the long term. Which really means that one of the best skills a leader has is knowing when to hold, when to fold, and how not to get tripped up by the sunk cost fallacy. K’dan’s advice is not helpful in the form he delivers it, because what he wants to say is “when you make a decision, be confident in it and don’t second-guess yourself unless you receive new information.”

Gyah. This entire sequence is infuriating, because of how wrong it is in both the broad strokes and the details.

There’s still another plot point to resolve before we get out of Chapter Four, but it’s not directly related to the way that everyone is letting J’keran have the run of the place and telling Xhinna to stick her neck out more when there are people who would happily chop it off around her. So we’ll have to stop for this week and pick it up next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is aggravated at a consequences system that doesn’t have a permaban option.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorum Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Sky Dragons: Realizing You’re In Over Your Head

Last time, Xhinna established a space for dragons and their riders up in broom trees, which are apparently thick enough and sturdy enough to support the weight of a full-grown dragon distributed among them, and then went and retrieved the group she couldn’t find initially to bring them back to the safe space she’s established.

Jepara, gold rider and daughter to Halla and Pellar, tried on the role of being person in charge and of being proud of her achievements and was swiftly given all the associated emotional baggage about what being a Weyrwoman means by Xhinna.

Sky Dragons, Chapter Three: A Leap To Screams: Content Notes:

The chapter opens with Xhinna showing the arrangement of Sky Weyrwoman is newest inhabitants, who are suitably impressed with Xhinna’s creativity and tease her that it’s on par with Fiona’s. It’s still a problem that they’re running out of supplies and don’t have enough dragons to scout new caches. K’dan is still stuck in what didn’t work before in trying to beef up their supplies.

She explained how they’d managed to catch wherries by the half-dozen.
“That’ll do until we can arrange pens for herdbeasts,” K’dan declared.
“No,” Xhinna said, shaking her head. “If we pen the herdbeasts, we’ll attract the Mreeows.” K’dan started to protest, but she raised a hand. “We don’t know if the Mreeows can climb.”

Climb, nothing, plenty of those Mreeows can jump your fences cleanly. Right now, Pern could really use a civil engineer who knows how to build fortifications properly. A castle-builder who could defend against Thread and neighbors would be the best to have, especially so that nobody has to crowd themselves underground. But, of course, nobody has really thought about what makes the subterranean Holds work and tried to build them above-ground.

Also, herdbeasts presumably would also attract the tunnel snakes, and while they can’t necessarily drag the carcasses back with them into the tunnels, they’re probably still venomous enough that they could kill (and possibly ruin) herdbeasts with enough bites. So a pen that can both keep the cats and the snakes out will have to be built, and nobody has yet really figured out how to achieve this marvel of engineering.

Xhinna gets ordered to rest by everyone else, along with Tazith, while others go out and try to bait wherries to collect food for the evening. Her nap, however, is interrupted by Coranth going on a mating flight, for which the only mature dragon to help with that is Tazith. The two of them manage to successfully navigate it, with Tazith ushering herdbeaats for Coranth to stuck the blood out of (and, one hopes the humans get to them and can haul them back for much-needed meat supplies) and a relatively short mating flight. Which in turn will introduce the complication of a clutch of eggs that will have to be protected and snake-proofed. Eventually. That’s a future concern, and right now, there isn’t enough food and supply to think about anything in the future.

A bad day’s hunt meant that either riders or hatchlings went hungry—so the riders went hungry. Everyone in the camp was gaunt, save the twins, who were extravagantly fed and spoiled by all.
“No luck,” Xhinna reported to Tariq, who had come something of the camp’s headwoman. Xhinna herself had become more Weyrleader than Weyrwoman. She consulted with K’dan and Colfet, but they deferred to her, partly, perhaps, because she had the only dragon able to fly, but also partly, she thought, because she had started with the job and they saw no reason—yet—for change.

And, truthfully and most importantly, they couldn’t do any better anyway. Well, Colfet, maybe, but his expertise is limited and right now, a generalist needs to be in charge.

Xhinna reads nervous to me because she knows what kind of position she’s in and what the optics are about her leadership. It won’t take much of a rebellion from anyone with a different colored dragonet to shatter what authority she can muster, and Jepara already tried it once, even though I still maintain she wasn’t very serious about it. K’dan, on the other hand, is one of Fiona’s favored, he’s already a legend in his own right for his past (real and imagined) accomplishments, and most importantly, he’s a man with a bronze dragonet. If he wanted to, he could install himself as Weyrleader and nobody would bat an eye at it. They might even feel some relief that someone proper is in charge, instead of a blue rider reaching well beyond her station. If K’dan was half the Harper everyone thinks he is, and someone who would be a worthy successor to Zist and all the politicking that he has to do, he would be aware of this dynamic and doing his best to reinforce the idea that he has confidence in Xhinna’s leadership and to be seen publicly asking her advice and guidance on what to do, so that it gets the message across about who is in charge here.

Apparently, though, being in charge of a small group is good for Xhinna’s relationship with Taria.

If there was one good thing about their situation it was that Xhinna and Taria were together more than they had been before. They shared their private time with a passion that they’d never known previously, a sense that every moment was a gift to be cherished, every caress an act of love, and every soft word a caress. They had arguments, some vociferous, but that was nothing new—they were only arguments, nothing more. What was different was how much esteem they shared for each other as they exchanged the news of the day and realized how, quietly, each had done so much, so well.

And they would probably do fine, were it not for the unique position that Xhinna is on and the additional stress all of that piles on her. It is nice, however, that Taria and Xhinna seem to be getting along quite well as a partnership.

Once again, Xhinna marveled at her luck. How could she have found someone so good as Taria? How could she have ever found the courage to open up when so many times before she’d been disdained, rejected? And then, to Impress Tazith, the most marvelous, amazing dragon to grace Pern’s Weyrs! She was the first woman to ride a blue and that made her a target for those who would say she couldn’t handle a man’s job, even more so than Taria or the other girls who Impressed greens. She knew this and she would rise to the challenge. She would not fail. She could not fail. But why?
Xhinna snorted with amusement as she found the answer: Fiona.

Taria asks about it, and admits that she’s jealous of Fiona because Xhinna idolizes Fiona, which Xhinna admits to, but says she loves Taria, and there’s a difference. Taria points out that Xhinna acts like a Weyrleader / queen rider, which results in Xhinna saying that Taria will always be her Weyrwoman, if that’s the case.

Thing is, Fiona’s the one who turned Xhinna down after her trip to the past, and tied to convince us that she really only thought of Xhinna as a friend. Which may be true, but we haven’t really resolved the idea of whether Xhinna still carries a torch for Fiona. She’s content and happy with Taria, but this seems like the sort of thing where there might be a certain amount of “notice me, Sempai!” involved. (Preferably without any Yandere tendencies.) Xhinna is essenially going to replicate Fiona’s trips to the past, albeit not necessarily intentionally, and from an even worse position that Fiona started from. If it works, Xhinna’s going to have accomplished something that nobody else has (or will) and for that alone, her name should be in the Records forever, whether officially or as a story passed down into legend about a blue rider who managed to create and run a Weyr of her very own.

What’s also worth mentioning in this is what Xhinna’s thought process is about being rejected so many times, which continues to imply that lesbians and/or bi women with interest in women are super-rare, or, if we’re supposed to believe what’s been said before, somehow frowned upon in the society, even in the supposedly supremely sexually libertine Weyrs. The most believable part of this entire sequence is the determination to show up all the men who are going to tell her she can’t hack it at their job, and who have been telling all the women green riders that they can’t, either, because we know that Pern marinates everything in toxic masculinity, and the dragonriders even more so than everyone else. Without Fiona’s backing and her friendship, Xhinna would be in the position that a lot of minoritized people are in when they’re the only people who are like them. Even if only a few of them were actively hostile toward her, the “bros before hos” attitude that permeates Pern would give Xhinna nowhere to turn to for support, except maybe the other green riders, and while it might make for some fire-forged friendships, it could just as easily flame out into a complete burnout, or worse, someone leaving Xhinna out to get Threaded so they don’t have her messing up their perfectly good traditions by being a girl on a not-gold dragon.

The narrative continues with the problem that there still aren’t enough supplies to feed everyone, with the additional problem that rain is driving all the prey to ground. Xhinna is trying to find a suitable space to house herds and establish a base, but nothing shows up even after several nights of searching. Everyone else is getting desperate, and the fact there’s no relief coming makes everyone worry that there won’t be anyone coming. There’s a small segment confirming that Fiona and Lorana have telepathy, and only between themselves, before Xhinna hits on a possible solution for the problem involving gathering some firestone and using Tazith’s fire breathing ability to clear a space on top of a plateau to house the herds and make it difficult for the cats to get to them. I assume this idea means a steep plateau where the cats can’t climb up it but that will have enough space for the herd to graze and wander appropriately. This plot has apparently already happened, as during the storms, the scouts noticed a fire, but assumed it had been started with a lightning strike. Re-thinking about it, though, they don’t remember any thunder, so now they’re pretty convinced they witnessed Tazith throwing fire instead. Which they did, because Xhinna then goes and steals some sacks of firestone and feeds Tazith some, and Tazith is able to belch sufficient flame to clear the desired area. Apparently Xhinna told Tazith to think of the second stomach to get it going. The first flame comes suddenly, but after that, there’s a pretty good consistent flame. Which lets Xhinna practice throwing firestone to Tazith from the spot where she would normally have to during Threadfall. The first throw goes long, but the rest are spot-on, and the two have a good time torching grass and growth and reveling in flying and flaming.

And then, the next morning, helping to build a corral that the dozen or so herded herdbeasts won’t be able to break out of. Tazith does most of the heavy lifting, and then the humans work to fill the gaps. With that done, Xhinna says that it’s time for her to attempt a plan that hasn’t been foreshadowed to this point – she’s going to try and jump forward in time to get some additional help from those who have already gone forward to get themselves.

There’s just one problem in the way.

Suddenly she tensed. Did she hear something?
Can’t lose the babies! Can’t lose the babies!
Fiona? Xhinna thought, hearing the women’s fear and panic, feeling it grip her just as she heard another voice, a man’s:
The Weyrs! They must be warned!
But they were saved! They were warned, Xhinna thought desperately. This time made no sense, it was a pocket of fear and panic—
And it threatened to overwhelm her. Her fear for the weyrlings, for injured Qinth, her fear of losing Tazith, of losing—
Go back, a voice said, breaking through the others. Go back, now!
Fiona? Xhinna cried in fear and hope.
Go back! Beneath Fiona’s voice, Xhinna felt an echo, another voice: Lorana’s. Go back! Free yourself!
I can’t! Xhinna wailed, as the sounds of the panicked voices seemed to grow louder.
Can’t lose the babies! Can’t lose the babies!
The Weyrs! The Weyrs must be warned!
It is an echo, a glimmer of an instant
, Fiona told her. Push back. You must go back now, while Tazith still has the strength.
But if Xhinna couldn’t get through, she wondered, how would they know at Telgar where to find the weyrlings in the Western Isle?
Red Butte! Lorana’s voice came to her. Leave us a message at Red Butte and we’ll find you!

There’s still the time knot thats preventing the dragonriders from getting through. Xhinna’s right, though – the time knot was supposedly dispersed, but apparently, it continues to exist in the past until it gets resolved in the future, rather than unraveling itself completely across time and space once it’s resolved.

Why is this? Plot reasons, as best as I can tell. Because whatever thing that Xhinna needs to go back is presumably the same strength that she would need to push forward and through to get to the Telgar of the future and then bring back an entire phalanx of dragonriders with her. And if it’s just an echo of the actual thing, I would expect it to be easier rather than harder to break through and get where you need to go. But that would basically ruin the plot of this book and Xhinna’s bid to be the most exceptional of the exceptional women in this entire series. (Go out with a bang, right?)

So Xhinna gets herself thrown back to the time that she came from, but the effort of fighting the echo pops her out well above the ground, and Tazith promptly passes out from the effort. And, apparently, so does Xhinna, because the first sentences of Chapter Four has Xhinna waking up and being told to take it easy, and that she wasn’t particularly easy to catch.

So, yep, both dragon and rider pass out, and that’s the end of Chapter Three, with Xhinna having tried to do the sensible thing and get herself help.

Deconstruction Roundup for October 16th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is upset at having a brain that doesn’t function and doesn’t have the courtesy to let them know when it’s misfiring.)

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.

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are entirely certain that the person who is currently in charge intends to stay in charge regardless of whatever the election process says. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Proving Yourself

Last time, Xhinna and the new dragonets left behind by everyone else had to scramble to find themselves a new place to live, and then took a time warp so as to not be caught out by the appearance of Thread without having enough dragons to be able to fight it.

And there are coconuts.

Sky Dragons, Chapter Two: Content Notes: Terrible Social Structures, Emotional Repression, Unpaid Emotional Labor Management

So, having managed to find a lot of coconuts to handle the problem of the humans needing food, Xhinna scouts ahead more for a suitable place to be. Tiona points out some odd trees, which have many more branches near their tops than their bottoms. These broom trees are clustered close enough together that Tiona wonders whether they could support Tazith’s weight. Xhinna lets Tazith try it, and after a prompt from Kimar about whether they could live in the trees, Xhinna recognizes that if the humans can navigate the broom trees themselves, it will make a perfect place for humans, dragons, and dragonets to stay safe from the predators on the ground, like the cats and the tunnel snakes.

Tiona, of course, is all adventure, and wants to race the rest of them down to the ground level through the tree branches, an idea that Xhinna firmly squashes on the principle of not wanting Tiona to have a broken bone so early on in life. The news that bones break, and the further horror of the idea of being put in a cast where things aren’t allowed to move for months on end is sufficient deterrent for Tiona not to go racing off on her own, but instead to wait for Xhinna to navigate with her and observe her possibly being able to go up and down from ground level to treetop. After Tiona and Xhinna are done navigating (and Tiona wins a “race” back to the top that was never really in doubt), Kimar tells Xhinna he saw wherries around, which heartens Xhinna quite a bit, because wherries are meat and oil and more than a few necessary supplies for her party if they can catch and kill a few. After spotting enough broom tree clusters to be able to support all the dragons, Xhinna and the twins pop back to tell Taria and everyone else about the plan, which is pretty solid, even if they’ll have to build fires on the ground and potentially abandon them in the face of attacks. Taria complements Xhinna on her planning and foresight.

Taria grinned at her friend. “It sounds like you’ve thought of everything, Weyrwoman.”
“You’re making a weyr and you’re a woman,” Tiona said reasonably. “And you’re in charge, like my mother.”

Xhinna is not interested in taking on that role, but Taria says it’s that or Weyrlingmaster, which Xhinna says immediately is K’dan’s job, and that turns a lightbulb on in her head about why she couldn’t find that party when she was looking frantically. It’ll be a bit before she goes to retrieve them in time and spirit them away so taht they’re already gone and safe by the time past-Xhinna goes looking for them and can’t find them, but it appears that Xhinna has been blessed with the ability to think in four dimensions, and to recognize that weird things are most likely the result of time-traveling dragons, rather than weird events that have no natural explanation.

This brilliance and ability to organize, though, is tempered by the narrative choosing at this moment to throw traditional societal roles at everyone, despite this not being a problem up to this point. Perhaps because Fiona would happily steamroll anyone who gave Xhinna shit about anything regarding leading and being in charge, and now Fiona isn’t here, so Xhinna’s connection to the power base is no longer present.

Anyway, to set this stage up, Xhinna decides that hunting wherries is a good idea. R’ney, the Smith who Impressed a brown, has nets to catch wherries in, and Jepara, a gold rider, has bow and arrows to shoot wherries with, and between the three of them, Xhinna expects to be able to manage things. Jepara is smugly confident in her own abilities and slightly dismissive of everyone else’s.

“She’s going to get herself hurt with that attitude,” R’ney said as he shook out the net.
“She might,” Xhinna said. “Better now than later, though.”
R’ney considered her response for a long moment before saying, “I suppose you’re right.”
“Taria and I have been handling the young for the better part of four Turns now,” Xhinna said. “I hope we’ve learned a little in that time.”

Except the narrative intends to undercut that statement as best as it can right afterward. The hunting wherries part is absolutely a success. R’ney and the net snag one that gets away from Jepara’s shooting, and Jepara bags three of her own with her bow and arrows, and is very proud of her actions.

“Well done,” Xhinna said as she picked out the forms of three wherry carcasses lying in the nearby trees.
“We’ll need the rope to get them out,” Jepara told her. She glanced toward the the blue dragon. “Where’s the smith?”
R’ney,” Xhinna said, emphasizing the honorific contraction, “is dealing with his catch.”
“I’ll bet he’ll be green with envy at my catch,” Jepara crowed.
“And, gold rider, if he is, you’ll be certain to ease his shame,” Xhinna said abruptly.
“That’s right,” Jepara said. Her look was challenging. “I am a queen rider, and that means you answer to me, doesn’t it? So why are we taking orders from you, a mere girl who rides a blue?”
“Because my blue is the only dragon who can fly right now,” Xhinna said. “And because it’s wise for youngsters to listen to their elders so that they might, one day, become elders themselves.”

First Sergeants are there to make sure Second Lieutenants aren’t dangerous to their troops. That said, Jepara is right, at least by all the structures that have been mentioned about Pern right now. Fiona, after all, was the Weyrwoman in charge of Igen when her dragon was still very small, despite the presence of grown or older dragons. (Admittedly, she was also the only gold rider, but still…) If we’re going strictly by dragon ranking, then Jepara is the Weyrwoman of their group, even though she’s inexperienced and doesn’t have a clue how to effectively engage with that role. It’s obvious to the readership as to why someone would follow Xhinna, the most experienced of the riders, in a matter of survival, rather than Jerpara, who is nominally the highest in the pecking order, but to Jepara and others, this is a question that needs answering.

Also, I’m noting that Xhinna is also pushing on Jepara the idea that the Weyrwoman is responsible for the emotional management of others. Literal emotional labor is so ingrained into the role of the Weyrwoman such that Xhinna reaches for that idea first to tell Jepara that she needs to suppress herself entirely and manage the emotions of all the men around her instead. It’s not “boasting of your own prowess is bad form when we all need to cooperate and not snipe at each other,” but “your job is to make R’ney feel better about himself first and foremost, your own feelings are secondary at most to everyone else’s.” And I’m still not okay with pushing that requirement onto every gold rider to manage everyone around them, because that’s not a healthy way of dealing with emotions. Of course, when Fiona finally exploded from all the stress of keeping up appearances for everyone else in the last book, the people around her treated it in stride, like this was something they expected to happen, and that it’s going to happen regularly, and that’s just how Weyrwomen let off steam when things get to be too much for them, rather than thinking that perhaps building pressure up until they explode is not a good or healthy way for Weyrwomen to behave.

So, now that we’ve noted this, let’s continue with Jepara trying to pull rank on Xhinna.

Jepara’s eyes flashed in rebellion for a moment, but Xhinna meant them unflinchingly. A moment later, Jepara said “Saruth’s hungry—we need to get back.”
“We’ll get back when we’ve got this straight between us,” Xhinna said, not moving.
“My queen is hungry, blue rider. Will you let her starve?”
“No,” Xhinna said. “Will you?”
Jepara’s jaw dropped in amazement.
Xhinna had heard only good things about Pellar and Halla from K’dan and C’tov so she couldn’t quite understand why their daughter would be such a wherry-faced brat. But with that thought came the answer: It was because her parents had such a reputation. She could do no wrong because they could do no wrong. Xhinna guessed that, devoted though they might be, Pellar and Halla had so many duties running Fire Hold—where they mined the precious firestone—that they’d lost track of this child, assuming she could easily adapt to their unconventional ways.
“Impressing a queen is a great honor,” Xhinna said softly. “Impressing any dragon is equally a great honor—” She turned wistfully toward Tazith, assuring him that she would not have any other than him no matter what. “—but with honor comes responsibility.”
She saw Jepara flinch.
“So, gold rider of a hungry queen,” she continued, “what are you going to do? Are you going to learn your manners and have your hatchling fed, or are you going to put on airs?”

I am entirely not okay with this characterization. Jepara is not very old, and has just come into her dragon, and is testing out the boundary of whether or not Xhinna is going to defer to her because she’s a gold rider. Xhinna, being the adult in the room, says no. From this, though, Xhinna has come to the conclusion that Jepara is the way she is because she wasn’t getting enough attention from Pellar and Halla, and then starts loading on to her the litany about the responsibility of the Weyrwoman. For someone who has supposedly been taking care of the young for the last four turns, Xhinna, you’re making a hash of it. And that’s before we get to another reason why Xhinna taking this tack is out of character for her.

“I’m sorry,” Jepara said, lowering her eyes to the ground. “It’s just that—”
“I know.”
“How can you know?” Jepara shrieked. “You’ve been in the Weyr your whole life! You know everything about dragons, and you act like you ride a queen yourself.”
Xhinna turned back to face her and shook her head. “I was an orphan. When I came to Fort Weyr, the headwoman took a disliking to me because I like girls more than boys. I had to keep quiet, keep out of sight, got the worst jobs, and had no one to—” She found the word hard to say, even now, “—no one to love me, even when I felt like I would die.”
Jepara’s eyes widened.

At which point I would like to remind us that this anti-lesbian prejudice appeared fully out of whole cloth along with the first acknowledged lesbian character, with no groundwork or other characters laid to make this prejudice have some sort of meaning, precedent, or other reason for existing. Instead, because the readers of 21st century Terra at this time are struggling with equality issues, the residents of a long-far-future world are still struggling with those same equality issues. Except, for the most part, opposition to the existence and rights of queer people comes from religious corners and those that purport to uphold traditional Terran values, by which they mean the values of white evangelical Protestants, and those people don’t exist on Pern! (At least not by name.) And there’s been no effort at all to establish why Pern might be hostile to the idea of a lesbian at all. Now, there are a lot of reasons why the headwoman might be particularly hostile to Xhinna because of her preferences. Maybe it’s something like “She’d rather live her life as an out lesbian, but because she’s in a position of power, or because there’s a jerk in charge at Telgar who doesn’t believe in anything different from ultra-masculinity and ultra-heterosexuality, she keeps herself closeted and is trying to teach Xhinna the same survival skills that she learned.” Which wouldn’t make it right, necessarily, but would make it understandable. But no, instead, because the reader is expected to sympathize with the plight of lesbians in their own time and extend that sympathy to Xhinna, the authors never bother to actually give us a reason to believe that a similar situation exists on Pern at all. (Even then, there would have to be more work to make this feasible, because Weyrs are supposedly notorious for big sex parties with whomever’s handy when the dragons get to mating, so I would still expect the general attitude to be “you can prefer whomever you like, but when the dragons are going at it, the person you’re going to prefer is the closest one, so plan accordingly.” Like it was with Jul so many books ago.

Xhinna concludes her lesson with getting to know Fiona and with more reinforcement of the idea that a queen rider has to shoulder all the emotional burdens of everyone in her Weyr, without complaint.

“And then I tried to Impress the queen, only she went to Fiona, so I hated her, too,” Xhinna said. Her lips turned upward slightly as she added, “Until I got to know her and realized she accepts me for what I do.” Xhinna shook her head and corrected herself: “No, she loves me because she sees something more in me than I can.”
“She loves you?”
“Like a sister,” Xhinna said. “You haven’t seen enough of our Weyrwoman; she uses friends like blankets and she gives off love like others give off heat.” She paused for a moment, then added, “When she left for Igen Weyr, I thought she was dead. And when she returned, I swore that I’d never lose her again. And now she’s back in Telgar; I’ve lost her, and so have her children.”
Her jaw set in grim determination as she swore, “But as long as they have me, Tiona and Kimar will have parents. And if something happens to me, then Taria will take care of them. Because that’s what we do, as weyrfolk, and particularly as dragonriders—we care for each other. We’re all we’ve got.”
She looked at Jepara and smiled. “Now that you’re one of us, you’re part of that, too,” she said softly. Jepara looked up at her with a hint of wistfulness.
“And we take care of each other,” Xhinna went on. “Which means we accept praise rather than crow over our success, we give aid when needed, we work to keep all our spirits up.”
She paused to let her words sink in, before finishing, “One day, gold rider, you may be a Weyrwoman in your own right, and the whole Weyr will look to you.”
“They look to you now,” Jepara said. “We all look to you.”
Xhinna nodded, unable to avoid that truth. “When Fiona comes back, she’ll be Weyrwoman, and I’ll be happier.”

I still think that Fiona’s at least panromantic, even if she’s narratively heterosexual, because she’s a gold rider, and if it weren’t for that part of the world being something the authors have absolute fidelity to, it would be much more narratively smooth and likely for Fiona to be bisexual, possibly even pansexual. And maybe if this series had been written in these times, Fiona would be, since bi visibility and trans awareness are now the hot-button issues of our times.

Also, this insecurity about what she’s doing is something that Fiona was trying to train out of Xhinna by continually putting her in charge of various things as a blue rider. Now, Xhinna may be nervous now because she doesn’t have Fiona backstopping her with her own authority, but, as Xhinna points out, she’s the most mature dragonrider here. Jepara is trying on roles here, but I don’t think she’d seriously want to have to be the person in charge of everyone at the age and inexperience she has, and if Xhinna had offered it to her, Jepara would have offered it back as soon as it became clear to her that she couldn’t hack it. The only question there would have been how many people would have been injured or killed before Jepara gave it back.

Really, this entire sequence would do better with someone more traditional trying to lecture Jepara about all this, because I would expect Xhinna to have understanding and empathy to the idea that Jerpara is acting out because she’s scared or because she’s trying on a new role for herself, and respond accordingly, with empathy about how it’s difficult and she gets nervous, too, but Xhinna is going to try and keep everyone safe as best she can, and it works better to do that if Jepara is willing to go along with her for now, and then, in the future, if Jepara wants practice at making decisions and learning how to be a Weyrwoman, Xhinna and Taria will help with that, if Fiona doesn’t come back soon. It would be an opportunity to try and raise a genuinely empathetic Weyrwoman, rather than one that represses everything and then explodes out of the sight of all but her most trusted people.

The narrative progresses, telling us that the crowd of dragonet-carers have begun to call their home in the trees “Sky Weyr”, which the narrative tells us Xhinna dislikes and has sympathy for Fiona’s dislike of “Eastern Weyr”, and I can’t really fathom why there’s such resistance to the idea of calling a place where dragons roost a Weyr, even if it doesn’t look like a traditional one. But that’s not expounded upon, as instead, the narrative lets us know that the group gets good at hunting and feeding themselves and their dragons, and that after they’ve managed to stockpile enough supplies, Xhinna declared tonight’s the night that she’s going to go retrieve the party she couldn’t find earlier by popping in to their time and hauling all of them back to their spot in the West three Turns earlier, thus preventing herself from finding them later.

Which goes swimmingly and according to plan, because Xhinna is good at what she does, especially since she’s allowed to think in four dimensions. And that’s the end of the second chapter, and a little into the third, with the new arrangement explained to everyone and everyone reunited to put their best attempt at survival going forward.

Also, it turns out Bekka is apparently afraid of heights, or there’s something about being up in the trees that unnerves her, despite, as Bekka reminds us, she’s run around Weyrs, which have significant amounts of heights in them. Perhaps the feeling of stone beneath her feet is more comforting than branches. Frankly, I think this is a narrative attempt to make Bekka into something a little less Bekka-Sue and turn her from a capable young Healer into a girl with some Healing talent, and I don’t like it.

We’ll stop here, with the reunification of all the dragonets and their eventual riders, within the safety of Sky Weyr, although they’re not out of the woods, either figuratively or literally, yet, when it comes to setting up survival. Next week, more logistics.

Deconstruction Roundup for October 9th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is upset at having a brain that doesn’t function and doesn’t have the courtesy to let them know when it’s misfiring.)

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.

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are entirely certain that the person who is currently in charge intends to stay in charge regardless of whatever the election process says. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Those Who Have Been Left Behind

Last time, Fiona and company warped themselves home, although Fiona got herself stuck in the same time rip that apparently has been holding the entirely of D’gan’s [ASSHOLE] ill-fated trip and replaying a moment for them on loop. Eventually, Lorana got everyone unstuck and brought them all safely home. Which means all of those dragons need to be vaccinated tout de suite, and presumably, we can hope that happens with that speed.

What thread we pick up, instead of the fallout that comes back from figuring out how to deal with That Asshole and his decisions, is of those who were left behind at Eastern Weyr to ride out their recovery time and then jump forward with the rest. Which may not have been the smartest idea, given the fact that the settlement that’s been constructed has been under consistent siege from the New and Improved Tunnel Snakes and the descendants of Ted Tubberman’s mentasynth-enchanced felines. And most of the dragons and riders that were nominally keeping them at bay have vanished forward in time.

Sky Dragons, Acknowledgements, Copyrights, and Chapters 1 and 2: Content Notes: Self-doubt

We start with the Acknowledgements section, which is, in my electronic copy, at the back of the books, but which, according to the text within, was likely at the front in the hardcovers, as there is news to impart to the reader that is aptly signaled by the copyright statement for this book: “© 2012 by The Estate of Anne McCaffrey, Literary Trustee, Jay A. Katz, and Todd McCaffrey.” Here’s what Todd has to say:

Usually, I insist on putting the acknowledgements at the end of the book. My thinking is that, like the credits of a film, they belong at the end—like taking a bow at the end of a play or other performance, where those who have made it all possible are singled out and honored.
Sadly, the circumstances of this book are not “usual.”
To some of you—and I’m so sorry!—this news will come as a shock. After we had finished this book but before it was copyedited, my mother, Anne McCaffrey, passed away. She was eighty-five, she died “in the arms of a handsome man” (her son in law, Geoffrey), she died at home, quickly.
So, firstly, let me acknowledge Anne McCaffrey for her brilliant work as author, mother, cook, equestrian, friend to famous singers, astronauts, and everyone in between.

Which is to say, this would be the last book, and neither Dragonrider, nor After The Fall Is Over, will come into existence as having been written by Anne, except if someone wanted to give her a credit for having done some of the work before another author finished it out, in the same way that Brandon Sanderson will finish the Wheel of Time books after Robert Jordan died in 2007. In the world where I started this project, this would be the final book of Pern written. We still get to stave off the end with one more after this, since Anne’s daughter took a swing at writing a novel of Pern.

Which reminds me, there’s one other thing that’s worth noting in the extra matter. In the About The Authors segment, there is this particular gem:

Todd McCaffrey is Anne McCaffrey’s middle child and has written three solo books on Pern as well as five collaborations with his mother, of which Sky Dragons is the last.
He and his sister, Georgeanne Kennedy, are the only two people designated by Anne McCaffrey to write in the Pern universe.

In case it wasn’t crystal clear that to the very end, Anne McCaffrey was extremely interested in making sure she held as much control over her work as she could. One wonders whether the various attempts at adapting Pern to screen run afoul of this particular clause, or whether they have one of the two children on board as an official writer for the screenplays and work involved. And, of course, by the end, Anne had loosened a very small touch on Pern and the legions of fans who wanted to write their own stories into the universe, enough to allow them to exist under very specific circumstances that basically forbade using any of the toys or time periods already written and that would allow their existence only solely on one site, subject to significant rules.

At this point, I have hopefully demonstrated sufficiently that there is more than enough room for many more stories in Pern, some of which might replicate the issues therein, but a significant amount, I suspect, that want to fix what has gone terribly wrong, select the parts they are interested in, and build a fresh narrative that is in the setting but perpetuates less of the errors of the original. Pern works very well as a loose sketch of a universe with certain constants that an author is free to interpret in the ways that make the most sense to them. It works much less tidily as the actual works that have been produced, and even less so if there is an expectation for those works to cohere to each other or follow a consistent timeline.

Understanding that this is the end of the Third Pass stories that we will get, let’s dive in.

Book One: Sky Weyr: Chapter One: A Dark Dream In Blue

Oh, right, should mention that – all of the chapters have titles for this book, which is new for the series. There aren’t any time signatures or poetry fragments here, either, which makes me wonder whether the literal death of the author meant those segments went by the wayside in the attempt to get the last book out fairly quickly afterward.

We start with Xhinna having a nightmare about the disaster of dragon eggs that just happened, where so many of the small dragons were killed by the tunnel snakes that worked their way through sand and stone to suck out the contents of the egg without alerting dragon or rider to what they were doing. Which also allows Xhinna to dream about oncoming Thread, and to let the reader know that she’s not like all the other riders.

She was the first woman to ride blue in all of memory, and as she looked at him [Tazith], her heart swelled with love and pride.
Brown dragons and bronzes always chose male riders, just as the gold queen dragons chose female riders. According to Tradition, the blues and greens were also ridden only by males. But times had changed.
A sickness had risen, a sickness that killed dragons.

And then it goes on to talk about Lorana and the genetics cure that she created, at the cost of Arith, before Xhinna wakes up from her nightmare to Terin asking if she’s okay. The implication here is that Xhinna riding a blue (and the other women green riders) only happened because there was a shortage of riders and dragons, and that she would never have been allowed to stand had there not been a desperate need for more riders. Which, well, maybe. But also, Fiona, who has been pretty consistently portrayed as someone who is willing to be heterodox if it’s pragmatic to do so, or if it rewards people who have been her friends, to the consternation of everyone else around her.

We’re also opening in the middle of an issue, because Qinth, the sole green dragon from all of the clutches, is still fighting for her life as she’s bonded to J’riz. Bekka, of course, is being the best healer she can be in the circumstance. And, as it turns out, Jirana has apparently come into having her precognitive abilities at ten years of age. We knew that things manifested early, but the narrative assures us that Jirana’s fine with this new set of powers and responsibilities thrust upon her.

Ten Turns was unusually young for Sight to manifest, but this adult responsibility did not prevent Jirana from being an extremely outgoing and passionate child.

Because the entire theme of the Todd books has been about very young children having very adult responsibilities thrust upon them and thriving with the challenge. The only time someone tried to insist that a child have a childhood is with Fiona, and that was fairly quickly brushed aside, especially after she got her gold dragon. So we shouldn’t be all that surprised that Jirana joins the parade of children who are coping under incredible stress excellently, well, and without any of the psychological effects of being placed in an adult role long before she is ready to take it on.

There’s an additional compounding issue – the camp is running out of food, according to Taria, since the herdbeast pens were opened thanks to snakes and cats and all of the herdbeasts have run off. Xhinna says they’ll dispatch someone to round up the herdbeasts, except there are no mature dragons in the party except Tazith and Taria’s Corath, which is quite the logistics oversight on Fiona and Lorana’s parts, since they’re the ones who helped plan out the time hop that would bring all the healthy and fit dragons back and only leave behind two mature dragons and a whole bunch of dragonets who can’t do the time hop yet. That’s a stellar plan. Which is lampshaded, to some degree, by the narrative right afterward.

“We should have kept more people behind as guard,” Xhinna muttered to herself. She knew that Weyrleader T’mar had planned to send a group back to them as soon as the dragonriders had settled once more in Telgar Weyr. No one had expected the strange knot that had sprung up between, trapping both the returning Eastern Weyr dragonriders and the lost, presumed dead, dragonriders led by the old Weyrleader, D’gan.
The knot had been broken, but only after Weyrwoman Fiona had jumped off her queen, Talenth, into the nothingness of between in order to send Talenth back to Lorana. It had been Lorana who had figured out how to break the jam and free the trapped dragonriders—old and new—but in the ensuing events, no one had thought to reinforce those who remained behind with Xhinna.

It’s not that nobody knew about the knot, after all, Lorana has been passing through it repeatedly through strength of will, and presumably, she would have told Fiona about it, but everyone knows about it now (nevermind that it wasn’t there before) but now that they’ve broken the knot, they presumably know that it’s going to be fine and can travel through it. Or they can do a warp in the present to the space they want to go and then warp into the past, so as to avoid taking the vector that’s known to have the knot in it. That nobody has come for the weyrlings and the remainder is something that should be chalked up to something other than ignorance. Unless the knot works a lot differently than I’ve envisioned it as is some sort of temporal barrier that has to be defeated at all attempts to cross the particular timeline that it exists in. (Still pay no attention to the part where it wasn’t there before, remember, the timeline is both consistent and predestined, rather than some multiple-universes theory where it might be possible that everyone is running on a different timeline with different rules now.)

Anyway, they set to finding food, butchering it to feed humans and dragonets alike, and then Xhinna makes the decision to move the camp to the rocky promontory that was unsuitable for a full complement of dragons, but will do just fine for the weyrling cohort to protect them from the snakes and the cats. Qinth is still too fragile to move for that night, which makes Xhinna swear for not thinking of it, but a few others will stay the night with Qinth and J’riz. And also, the narrative thinks about us and all that discussion had about how the dragonriders picked up all the skills they needed to survive – although the narrative doesn’t explicitly say that a right and proper staff came with the dragonriders this time, the narrative is pretty well hinting at the possibility.

Life at what they’d come to call Eastern Weyr had been more demanding on the dragons and riders than was normal. Not only had the dragons of Eastern Weyr needed to train and learn to fight Thread, but they’d also been needed to hunt for food, build lodgings, find firewood, and do all the other myriad other things that the Weyrfolk did at a regular Weyr. There wasn’t a dragon or rider at Eastern Weyr who didn’t have a deep and abiding respect for ordinary weyrfolk.

Oh, no, wait, it doesn’t say they came at all, just that the dragonriders who apparently effortlessly picked up their skills without having trained in them before had a deeper appreciation for the staff that made a dragonrider’s life so easy and allowed them to focus on their martial duties.

After that night, when Xhinna comes to collect the party, she can’t find them at all anywhere, which makes her very worried, because she has the twins with her and they’re not with either of their parents at this point. The twins themselves then get some description from Xhinna, of being about three but seeming older from all their time spent with adults. Tiona is the gregarious outgoing talkative daughter of Fiona and Kimar the silent, taciturn, and caregiving son of K’dan, rider of bronze Lurenth.

Kimar gave Xhinna a probing look, then turned to Tiona and hit her, hard.
“Kimar!” Taria exclaimed. “Why did you do that?”
Kimar shrugged just as Tiona went for his hair. Before another blow could be exchanged, Xhinna grabbed him and pulled him away from his furious sister, who had begun to growl in a near-perfect imitation of a Mreeow.
No, it was a Mreeow. The tawny long-furred thing came charging straight for Tiona only to find itself blocked by Taria’s swinging leg and pummeled by the fist of her free hand.
R’ney came charging in with a poker from the fire, and the Mreeow, deprived of easy prey, veered off and loped away.
As Xhinna’s breathing returned to normal and she saw that no one was harmed, she wondered why it was that the normally peaceful Kimar had chosen exactly that moment to hit his sister. Had he somehow known of or sensed the Mreeow’s impending assault? Certainly, if the toddlers hadn’t been so firmly in adult arms, one—or even both—of them would have fallen to the Mreeow’s claws or fangs.

And so we have a possible instance of the psychic powers passing down to the next generation for more than just the trader who’s cursed with precognition. Or Kimar saw what the others didn’t and did what would be the easiest way of protecting himself and Tiona from the impending attack by getting them up in adult arms. Which, I’m not going to say that this is too complex a thought process for a three year-old, because that’s pretty much in their wheelhouse, but it is a curiosity and something to keep an eye on.

Also, I don’t think big cats behave this way? Like, we can attest any potential weirdness to Tubberman tinkering with them, but I can’t imagine big cats willingly deciding to put themselves in the middle of a group of creatures with young. Especially a lone big cat who would be potentially fighting the entire group to try and get at the “easy prey.” Then again, these are also cats that appear and attack creatures that are much, much bigger than they are and that they really don’t have a chance at successfully being able to bring down unless they really bring the full pack to bear on one of them. So maybe one of the things that Tubberman tinkered with in their genetics was to make them aggressive to the point of overriding their self-preservation instincts. Or maybe they’ve all been infected with a particularly effective strain of disease or parasite that makes them attack things that will kill them so the parasite can continue to multiply and eventually try to jump hosts.

Anyway, after this near-miss, Xhinna is not okay wtih the current campsite and gets everyone to packing up again, and scouts ahead and wonders if now is the time to jump across the river to the other side, the side that Fiona had been warned away from, possibly as a “don’t come over here, it’s already inhabited” warning from a future-past Fiona trying to avoid meeting herself yet again. Before she can get too far into that thought, though, Taria calls her back to the camp, and then Xhinna spots Thread getting ready to fall on their site. The recognition of Thread ends the chapter.

Chapter Two: Flight To The Past

We’re going to peek a little bit more into Chapter Two and see that the plan, such that it is, is for the remainder group not only to hop across the river, but to bounce themselves three years into the past so as to give enough time for all the dragonets to mature and be effective before Thread comes back again. Coranth, Taira’s green, is injured by a Mreeow that attacks the dragons out of fear from the Thread falling just as they do the time warp again. And one wonders how life continues to survive on a planet with organic devouring rain when it’s explicitly pointed out there’s not enough rock for the humans and dragons to live on and use for their own hiding.

In any case, the remaining crew gets themselves warped back in time successfully, they bandage Coranth’s injury with a blanket, and then Xhinna goes out looking for food, and finds coconuts, which she brings back to the camp for food and drink.

“Nutfruit!” cried Taria, who had been woken by the giggling of the twins, as she spotted Xhinna returning. “Where did you find them?”
Xhinna pointed, and soon a large party set out to find more. The leafy outer covering of the nutfruit could be hacked away to reveal a hard-shelled nut. Inside, there was a thin, milky-white liquid—it could be drunk alone, but it was better when infused with mint or some of the other edible leaves they’d found on the Great Isle. The white flesh could be scraped off and eaten. It had a taste all its own.

Cocowhat by depizan

And nowhere have I felt more justified in using a Cocowhat than right there, when it turns out that coconuts thrive on Pern. Also, they’re really difficult to crack unless you have the right tools for the job and know where to hit them. And furthermore, that means wherever the Big Island is, it’s in a tropical climate, which at least jibes with Jassi, the one from far-south and somewhat tropical Tillek, being the one that understands what to do to survive in the space. Even though this island hasn’t been inhabited for a long time and wasn’t apparently scouted as a place to live, excepting perhaps by only a few people, there are groves of coconut palm trees, ready for the harvesting. So that, at least, takes care of food as the primary thing of importance, since coconuts are really good at providing a lot of different things to a group that knows how to use all the parts.

Also, all throughout this affair, Xhinna has been realizing and having a slight panic about the fact that, as the seniormost dragonrider among the group that’s here, she’s in charge of everything and everyone’s safety. Thus, Fiona talking about how Xhinna won’t be satisfied unless she gets to lead comes to pass in this instance.

We’ll stop here, before yet another interesting scheme pops into Xhinna’s head about how to keep everyone safe, at the Western Isle, once again three Turns back in time, with a bunch of children and dragonets looking to her to keep themselves alive. And before there’s a resolution to the “why couldn’t we find the injured grouping before we all fled?”

Deconstruction Roundup for October 2nd, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who had someone come by out of the blue today for a pleasant, if masked, conversation.)

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 concerned about all the possible ways that someone might end up being victorious but needing more than just victory to make it stick. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Time: Unraveling The Knot

Last time, the preparations to hatch an entire Weyr’s worth of dragons failed, because the extra-dangerous tunnel snakes broke through the stone floor of the Hatching Grounds and ate as many of the dragons in the shell as they could over time. Without the dragons or the humans specifically there to guard the eggs against threats noticing that this was going on. Less than ten percent of the eggs that were available survived, hatched, and found their partners, but Bekka, Jeriz, and Kindan all found their dragons. Bekka got a gold, Jeriz a green, Kindan a bronze.

Having healed up and raised up a generation of dragons, Fiona is leaving Xhinna in charge of the remaining set to shepherd them forward when it is time for them to join the fight against Thread.

Dragon’s Time: Chapters 10, 11, and the Epilogue: Content Notes:

So the newly-charged dragons make the jump forward, but they encounter the same resistance that Lorana and others have been encountering as they’re moving forward in time, the loop of D’gan [ASSHOLE] crying out that the Weyrs have to be warned.

Suddenly a fear welled up in Fiona. In front of her, strapped securely in their own harnesses were her children, her babies. She couldn’t lose them.
In the dead silence of between, Fiona screamed: Can’t lose the babies! Can’t lose the babies!
And she heard it again: The Weyrs! They must be warned!
And again she screamed, Can’t lose the babies! Can’t lose the babies!
Trapped. They were trapped.
The Weyrs! They must be warned!
Can’t lose he babies! Can’t lose the babies!

I can’t lose the babies, Fiona told herself. She knew what she had to do, her fingers worked furiously at her clips, unhooked them, and with one final, anxious cry, she stood and leapt–into the nothingness of between.
Talenth! Go to Lorana! Go to Lorana, Talenth!
And then she was alone. All alone.
The Weyrs! They must be warned!
Can’t lose he babies! Can’t lose the babies!

And that’s the end of chapter 10, with Fiona flinging herself into hyperspace so that her dragon and children can break through, everyone apparently held in this pocket of hyperspace by their fears, causing some sort of reliving the same moment over and over again. Which, like, how does Fiona know to do this to make it work? And how is Talenth not immediately trying to get back to her, or otherwise engaging in whatever behavior happens with “my rider just decided to kill herself.” Because that is what Fiona has attempted to do, from all accounts and purposes up to this point.

On the other hand, this repetition loop hasn’t been something we’ve encountered in hyperspace before. Because, after all, the last time someone made a warp mistake like that, we eventually found out that they were in an alternate dimension and needed to regain their dragon to move on to the end. We’re not going to see the keeper of hyperspace in this story, but from all the lore that we have before, he’s basically the only shot at an explanation that anyone is going to get about what’s going on with this weirdness. Until the actual explanation that happens in the next chapter, that is.

A dragon gold
Is not the only price
You’ll pay for Pern.

(No time marker, even though it’s back in the present time that this entire book started from. Or so I think.)

And that is not what Tenniz said earlier. But we’ve already had Tenniz’s actual prophecy as a chapter poem in a previous book, to now we have to alter it ever so slightly to make it a new one.

Chapter 11 is the last chapter, hooray. And starts with Talenth arriving with the children, who explain to Lorana what happened with Fiona in the void. Lorana leaves the children with K’dan (because now he’s got a dragon) and hops back into hyperspace to try and pull the traveling groups and Fiona forward back into their own time, but she can’t do it by herself.

Fiona, it’s me! I’ve come to get you! Lorana shouted, trying to find her friend, her sister/daughter/mother/fellow-wife in all the torment, anguish, confusion, fear, and anger. She couldn’t. She needd to free them all, to break the logjam. She pulled, she reached to D’gan locked in the moment of his worst fear, his worst nightmare, and found that she could no more break through now than she could when she’d found the power of all the Weyrs–the Weyrs!

So Lorana gets the genius idea to pull all of the marshaled strength of the Weyrs together, warp them back to this pocket of hyperspace, and use them to try and pull apart the two groups so they can all get home safely. Sonia asks why Lorana thinks she can pull this off now, and Lorana says it’s because now the two groups are entangled in the same pocket that she can get them out. Which, as explanations go, is no worse that some of the things we’re being asked to accept at this point, and besides, why are we asking for explanations when there’s a rescue to be had?

How the rescue is accomplished is equally as interesting, unless, of course, you’ve been following along and understand the full extent of the powers of both gold dragons and these particular riders by now.

Can’t lose the babies!
The Weyrs! They must be warned!

They are warned! D’gan, you saved them! Come back. Come back, D’gan! Lorana eased Talenth over to D’gan’s bronze Kaloth and reached out in the darkness. She engulfed the dragon in a sense of calm and felt it spread to the rider.
They’re safe? Kaloth asked for his rider.
Safe, Lorana thought firmly. And now we must get back.
Can’t lose the babies!
The babies are safe!
Lorana thought on the special link she had to Fiona. Instantly she felt the other calm, felt a surge of gratitude, joy, relief.
Lorana turned her energies toward the others who were slowly coming out of their fear, their worry. The dragons and riders of other Weyrs followed her example, radiating calm, soothing thoughts, adding their mental voices to hers.
And the cycle broke.
They were ready to go back, free of the fears that had trapped them between. Lorana felt her heart ease as she realized that they had done it, they’d saved the lost dragons.

Except Fiona’s still out there, but when Lorana goes looking for her, she can’t find her, and Lorana begins to panic before she’s unwillingly pulled back to Telgar with everyone else. Because Fiona’s not there any more, according to the other dragons, and since Lorana has just shown them what can happen when someone’s worst fears happen to them when they’re in hyperspace, nobody is risking Lorana creating her own loop to need rescuing from.

And yet, despite the fact that they’ve literally pulled two Weyrs worth of dragons out from hyperspace, where they apparently kept themselves alive by being trapped in a loop of their own fears, the assembled people tell Lorana that Fiona sacrificed herself to get everyone back. Because nearly nobody can be allowed to think in four dimensions by this narrative. Except Terin, apparently, who has figured out how to fit the last puzzle piece.

“You can’t break time,” Terin told her as she urged Lorana back into a sprint toward Talenth. “But you can cheat it!”
“Cheat it?” Lorana repeated, a faint glow of hope warming her voice. “But she’s gone!”
“And she would be, if you went back and got her!” Terin glared at T’mar and the Weyrleaders still grouped protectively around Talenth and called, “Get out of the way!”
She barreled through them and pushed Lorana back up on Talenth’s neck before they could react. Dropping back down to the ground, Terin called up to her, “Go! Bring her back!”

And so Lorana goes back for Fiona, searches for her in hyperspace, pulls herself to Fiona, convinces Fiona that everything is fine and the others are already safe, even though Fiona can still sense them there, and that she’s come back for Fiona now, in this moment, to cheat time and bring Fiona home.

Which they do. And then have to do rescue breathing and CPR to her because she’s been in hyperspace without a dragon, but it’s successful and Fiona opens her eyes, drags Lorana down to her level and whispers to her that she knew she would come. And Lorana reassures her that of course she would. And that’s the end of the chapter.

It will turn out all right

The Epilogue for this book is F’jian making what is likely his last trip through time to be there when Terin needs him most, although it doesn’t say explicitly this is the case for him. But F’jian meets his granddaughter, Torina, and arrives in time to say hello to his daughter, who is “silver-haired”, and C’tov, who is here, and Kurinth, and then he is in time at last to meet the person he’s here for.

“Terin?” F’jian said as he knelt at the down at the edge of the bed.
“You’re still beautiful,” an age-strained voice spoke back, and he heard others reach out to help his only love sit up in her bed.
F’jian lifted his eyes to meet the green eyes of the age-wrinkled, white-haired woman in front of him. “So are you!”

Much later, after the toasts were drunk and elderly weyrwoman and elderly bronze rider took their dragons between on their last journey, F’jian returned to Ladirth and the rider astride him.
Quietly he climbed up and took his position.
“Are you ready?” Lorana asked him softly.
F’jian nodded. “I am.”
As Ladirth circled the Star Stones, Lorana said, “It will be a long cold journey between.”
“No it won’t,” F’jian corrected her. “Not with all these memories.”
As the blackness of between gripped them, Ladirth relayed a message from F’jian to Lorana: We might not be able to break time, but we can cheat it!

And that is the end of Dragon’s Time.

The Acknowledgements have one element of interest, in that Dragonrider, the book that this book was supposed to be, is talked about as the sequel to this one. A book with that title will not come to fruition, as Anne dies in 2011, and the last book that bears her name is the one that we will be getting at next time, Sky Dragons.

This epilogue is damn creepy, though, because it really does show us that F’jian is present for every last thing in Terin’s life when she needs or wants him to be there, including her own death several decades after his. Which probably means he was also there for the birth of Terin’s child that he got her pregnant with, and several other stops along the way of their lives. Although if C’tov is the one she’s going to rest with, perhaps it’s possible Terin was able to find someone else to also love and spend time with that wasn’t F’jian. And maybe she needed him less as she was able to grow into a relationship with someone else later on.

Also, obviously, the dragons survive and things continue on, but the plot point of how they get there from here is left off. Obviously, the Telgar riders that have been trapped in hyperspace are a welcome boost to the fighting strength of the Weyr, once they’ve been properly vaccinated against the sickness that several of those dragons are still carrying. So that’s an additional six-seven hundred dragons that can be managed across the Weyrs, and that will extend the deadline out several hundred Falls’ worth. Presumably, that extension on time is enough to get the queen dragons revved up and producing enough clutches and eggs such that the dragons can eventually repopulate themselves and make more dragons than they’re losing as casualties from Thread. And that means everything will, indeed, turn out all right from that perspective.

But what happens with D’gan? [ASSHOLE.] Does he get to retake Igen Weyr as his own, with a queen or three to seed him with more dragons? Is the consequence of his monumentally stupid decision enough to get him barred from being a Weyrleader ever again? Does he demand to take Telgar back and get it, and Fiona retreats to Igen with T’mar, K’dan, and all of hers? Or does Fiona get T’mar and K’dan goes on to be Masterharper as Zist’s replacement? There’s still an entire book left to go, so maybe we’ll get a little bit of resolution there, but we apparently decided to spend our moment of closure on making sure that everyone knew that F’jian fulfilled his promise, rather than closing out the story or giving us a hint about what lays in store next for Telgar Weyr.

So, next week, it looks like we start again, with a new book, the last one written by the partnership of Todd and Anne. And, when I started the project, the one that was going to be the last one to work with. It’s really kind of weird, I have to say, to be at this point in the project. I started it with the understanding that there was plenty of material to work through, and yet, here we are, staring the end in the face.