Monthly Archives: May 2021

Deconstruction Roundup for May 28, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has started a new project, because apparently you can’t keep me from not writing.)

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

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 still looking at the possibility of large costs to make things better, and wish that you had more money saved up (or that your government wasn’t composed of people who think only the rich should be given any help.)

Pawn of Prophecy: A Generic, Probably White, Small-Town, Farm Boy Hero

I took a whole week off! It was very restful. And now we go back into Volume Two of the Suck Fairy’s Greatest Hits. We made a decision about what to do next, which was determined by what was actually available at my public library, because I refuse to purchase these books to use for this purpose. Seriously. And, terribly enough, only the first volume of the Belgariad was checked in, and only in paper. Everything else discussed at the forefront had a multiple-week wait on it. (Except the first trilogy of Sparhawk, which was available in paper, and I seriously considered it, but ultimately, since I know I read the Belgariad first, I went with that one. And because, while I feel perhaps qualified to talk about the religious situation in the Elenium, I didn’t want to get into a whole bunch of “Christians and Pagans” issues, and, yeah. Maybe in another cycle.)

So! The good thing about this book is that it’s short, even in the compacted mass market paperback size that I have. The bad thing is that there are five of these books in that same size, plus some additional material that are apparently prequels. And that up the WTF quotient considerably. Hard hats on, batteries checked, armor in place, let’s go in!

There’s a map, like in any good fantasy novel. With all sorts of names and mountains and passes and places, too.

Pawn of Prophecy: Prologue and Chapter 1: Content Notes: Death by childbirth, racism, sexism, child abuse

Being a History of the War of the Gods and the Acts of Belgarath the Sorcerer

Which starts us with two gods, Belar and Aldur. Belar finds people, the Alorns, and takes care of them. Aldur? Not so much, but eventually a “vagrant child” seeks him out, learns “the secret of the Will and the Word and became a sorcerer.” The next line tells us that while the disciples of Aldur are few, “time did not touch them,” so they’re functionally immune to aging.

Then Aldur, as all gods apparently do, takes a stone, gives it a soul, and then works miracles with it. Which I would think would have to suck for the living soul being used as an artifact by a god, but what do I know? But, more importantly, just like any other item that’s been imbued with the essence of something powerful, it turns out somebody else wants it.

Of all the Gods, Torak was the most beautiful, and his people were the Angaraks. They burned sacrifices before him, calling him the Lord of Lords, and Torak found the smell of sacrifice and the words of adoration sweet. The day came, however, when he heard of the Orb of Aldur, and from that moment, he knew no peace.

I’m not really feeling this idea here. Also, apparently, when I said I was going to try and avoid certain religious aspects, I was deluding myself. Because Torak, as the most beautiful, but covetous, and one who apparently really likes burnt offerings and being called Lord of Lords, is pinging really hard as either the Being Represented by the Tetragrammaton, or as Lucifer, the angel who rebelled against that Being and was cast down into the fiery places. I know it’s a truism that speculative fictions are often more about our own world than the places they’re supposed to be describing, but I was kind of hoping for a better polytheism than this. (Get used to disappointment.) And just in case I didn’t have enough bad Lucifer vibes from this, Aldur looks into Torak’s soul when he tries to get him to put down the Orb so Torak can steal it.

Aldur looked into his brother’s soul and rebuked him, “Why dost thou seek lordship and dominion, Torak? Is not Angarak enough for thee? Do not in thy pride seek to possess the Orb, lest it slay thee.”
Great was Torak’s shame at the words of Aldur, and he raised his hand and smote his brother. Taking the jewel, he fled.

Okay, so the prettiest one is also the vainest one, the most prideful one, the most avaricious one, and the one who does violence to get what he wants, while the older, wiser one is a hermit and the mediocre one is content with their lot. If I had any sense at all that this set up were going to be played with, subverted, or made fun of, I might be willing to go along with this more.

Also, I feel like something should go on the Greater God/Anthropomorphic Concept List that reads “I will not pour any substantive portion of my power into an artifact or object. That’s just asking for it to be stolen and used for bad ends, or possibly even against me. Instead, I will distribute my blessings in such a way that they will be useful and gather me followers, but will not require major workings except in extremely great need.” Because there doesn’t seem to be a need for the Orb of Aldur at all, except to precipitate the war between the gods over it being stolen, and then used by Torak for destructive purposes, which pisses the Orb off (remember, it’s got a soul) to the point where it sets Torak on fire with an unquenchable flame that destroys his left side in fairly grisly detail.

Oh, and also, “the races of man rose up and came against the hosts of Angarak and made war on them” to get the Orb back, which is why Torak uses the Orb in the first place, to try and stop the races of man from killing his hosts. Which pretty well implies they’re not humans that Torak has in Angarak, and I am very much aware that at least three of you have just shouted “Bingo!” on your cards about the tropes involved. How are we doing on the Tolkein comparisons, since it seems that we have men, not-men, time-untouched sorcerers, artifacts of power, a Dark Lord that’s been maimed by holy power, and so forth?

Torak retreats, builds a fortress to hold the Orb, and time passes, by which he apparently becomes known as Kal-Torak, King and God, but eventually the people of Belar, with names such as Cherek Bear-shoulders, Dras Bull-neck, Algar Fleet-foot and Riva Iron-grip, find their way in and seek out Belgarath to help them. Did we mention that Belgarath’s wife, Poldera, is pregnant when they come to ask Belgarath’s help? Because she is. As it is, the raiders make it all the way to Mount Doom, err, the City of Night, Cthol Mishrak, and find where Torak has hidden the Orb. What would be a slight snag is resolved extremely quickly, though.

“It reads our souls. Only one without ill intent, who is pure enough to take it and convery it in peril of his life, with no thought of power or possession, may touch it now.”
“What man has no ill intent in the silence of his soul?” Cherek asked. But Riva Iron-grip opened the cask and took up the Orb. Its fire shone through his fingers, but he was not burned.
“So be it, Cherek,” Belgarath said. “Your youngest son is pure. It shall be his doom and the doom of all who follow him to bear the Orb and protect it.” And Belgarath sighed, knowing the burden he had placed upon Riva.

Well, that’s convenient. Also seems like the sort of thing that you should tell people before they go out questing for the powerful artifact, Belgarath. So they can remember to bring a child along for the purposes of carrying the orb. I mean, people are people, but it certainly seems like a people who have had a god put hatred for Torak in them (which Belar did) might have a thought or two about finishing the job the orb started as part of their essential makeup. But apparently Riva Iron-grip went “Phenomenal cosmic power? Nah, brah, we’re cool. The ability to once and for all get rid of the God and the people we’ve been literally bred to hate? Also no. I am perfectly content to bring this Orb back to a safe space and then condemn myself and all of my descendants to watch over it for…however long it takes.”

And, having stolen the thing, they’re making their getaway, but Torak notices it’s gone, blames his own people for being lazy, and then drives them out of their city to go get the thing back. Which requires Riva to then show Torak and the Angarak armies the Orb, which pisses it off immensely and it drives Torak away and destroys some of the army in fire. And yet, seeing what the Orb can do, Riva is still apparently pure enough to keep holding the Orb.

So they bring it back somewhere safe, but it’s not like Aldur is like “Give me that thing! I will place the soul in a human vessel, so it can have free will and a lovely lifetime, and then I’m destroying this, since it’s already caused so many problems.” Instead, all the gods get together and go “we can’t stay in physical form in this world, or Torak will come after us, so we have to become spirits to advise our people, nothing more.” So the artifact of destruction remains, Cherek and his sons go on to found kingdoms of their own with specific purposes, and Riva, gifted meteoric iron from Belar, forges a sword that takes the Orb as its pommel stone, a sword so big that only Riva can lift it, and that sword becomes the focal point of his throne. So, apparently, that bit about being pure of heart might be full-on horseshit, but given that the line of Riva keeps themselves to the island they chose to build their fortress on, maybe it stays true because the world allowed to the Rivan king is so small.

Belgarath, for his part, returns to find that his wife has given birth to twin daughters and died in childbirth. One of the daughters, Polgara, is going to turn out to be a sorcerer like him (By touching her, Belgarath apparently turned a single lock of her black hair white, and that’s the sign). The other, Beldaran, is eventually married off into the Rivan line, since she’s not going to be a sorcerer. And that’s the end of the prologue, with a still-physical, maimed God out there with his probably not human hordes, the rest of the Gods withdrawn away to the spiritual realm, and a great and powerful artifact with a soul being passed down through the generations of a kingly line, apparently in waiting for something to happen. That, and a time-untouched sorcerer’s wife got fridged, one of his daughters is going to walk the same path as he is, and the other got sent off to marry into the line that has the really powerful artifact because Aldur demanded that Belgarath’s line and the Rivan line be joined.

Now, having seen all this from the thirty-thousand foot view, we zoom very swiftly into Hobbiton, err, Sendaria, where a farmboy is about to go on a quest that will make him one of the most powerful people in the universe. Probably without the laser sword, though.

Chapter One opens with Garion (our farmboy) remembering fond memories of being in a farm kitchen, and at the center of it all, his aunt Pol, who runs the kitchen and always knows what a dish or a loaf or any other such thing needs, as if by magic, and she also always knows where Garion is at any time, to the point where he’s even tried to sneak out from under her eye, and it’s never worked. And, of course, the thing that Garion thinks is a bit weird about Aunt Pol is that white lock of hers that stands out completely from the rest of her very black hair.

The farm complex is described with more of a castle layout, with “sheds and barns and hen roosts and dovecotes all facing inward upon a central yard with a stout gate at the front.” The people who till the fields and work the farm also live in this complex, which again makes me think it’s more of a castle or a fortress than a farm. Here’s how the lord of the place, Farmer Faldor, is described:

Though he seldom laughed or even smiled, he was kindly to those who worked for him and seemed more intent on maintaining them all in health and well-being than extracting the last possible ounce of sweat from them. In many ways he was more like a father than a master to the sixty-odd people who lived on his freeholding. He ate with them—which was unusual, since many farmers in the district sought to hold themselves aloof from their workers—and his presence at the head of the central table in the dining hall exerted a restraining influence on some of the younger ones who tended sometimes to be boisterous. Farmer Faldor was a devout man, and he invariably invoked the blessing of he Gods before each meal. The people of his farm, knowing this, filed with some semblance at least of piety before attacking the heaping platters and bowls of food that Aunt Pol and her helpers had placed before them.

This attitude toward healthy workers, as well as the descriptions of the meals served there, has made Faldor’s Farm the envy of everyone else for miles around. Which, y’know, I can get behind this idea, since it seems to be working for him, or at least well enough to be able to feed himself, his family, and the families of the sixty-plus farmhands that live with him (since I’m pretty sure that Aunt Pol’s helpers aren’t the able-bodied men that are supposed to be out working the fields), as well as any auxiliary personnel they might have with them in this castle/manor and their families, since it’s not just the Farmer and his farmhands that live there.

The most important man on the farm, aside from Faldor, was Durnik the smith. […Garion likes to go to the forge and watch him work…] Durnik was an ordinary-looking man with plain brown hair and a plain face, ruddy from the heat of the forge. He was neither tall nor short, nor was he thin or stout. He was sober and quiet, and like most men who follow his trade, he was enormously strong. He wore a rough leather jerkin and an apron of the same material. Both were spotted with burns from the sparks which flew from his forge. He also wore tight-fitting hose and soft leather boots as was the custom in that part of Sendaria.

Wait, what? That makes it sound more like a fashion choice than a practical consideration, since, y’know, you don’t want baggy clothing near open flames or things that emit sparks that might catch clothes on fire. I’m a bit surprised that there isn’t also some leather on the legs after where the apron stops, even if only as guards, but this seems like a good setup for a smith. More importantly to the plot, though, as Garion continues to hang around the forge, Durnik starts imparting wisdom and answering Garion’s questions about that wisdom.

And so it went. Without even intending to, Durnik instructed the small boy in those solid Sendarian virtues of work, thrift, sobriety, good manners, and practicality which formed the backbone of the society.

Very “salt of the earth” sorts of things, so as to make sure that our farmboy is good-hearted and not prone to any of the vices that the world Out There has to offer for him. And, of course, the lord of the manor styles himself as just a humble Farmer and stays in the housing and works the land, rather than putting on the airs or the societal distance that other manor lords are doing, disconnecting them from the needs of their workforce. And Farmer Faldor is also at least a generically pious person, too, so he’s got the right kind of religion as well as the right kinds of virtues, and he clearly hires the right kind of people. Garion’s being raised in a bubble. The kind where the choice that he makes when confronted with something that bursts the bubble will determine whether he becomes enlightened or ensnared, holy or evil.

With today’s lens on it, it seems almost like Garion’s been brought up in the mystical Past That Never Was, where everyone around is wholesome and virtuous, has the right religion, the right values, the right skin tone, the right patriarchal attitudes, that kind of thing. Durnik considers answering Garion’s questions to be paying it forward from those who taught him how to be a smith, when Aunt Pol says that if Garion gets to be a bother, Durnik is free to chuck him form the forge and tell him not to hang around any more. Because of the way their interactions go, Garion thinks that Durnik would be a good marriage match for Aunt Pol, who grabs him by the ear, quickly tells him that it’s nonsense, that she doesn’t ever intend to marry, and that Garion shouldn’t say anything about this wild idea of his to Durnik or anyone else. With force and fire in her eyes that Garion hasn’t seen in Aunt Pol before. Having been shut out so strongly, Garion declares that he’ll be the one to marry her, which makes Aunt Pol tell him that there’s another wife for him in the future.

She laughed then, a deep, rich laugh, and reached out to touch his face in the darkness. “Oh, no, my Garion,” she said. “There’s another wife in store for you.”
“You’ll find out,” she said mysteriously. “Now go to sleep.”
“Aunt Pol?”
“Where’s my mother?” It was a question he had been meaning to ask for some time.
There was a long pause, and then Aunt Pol sighed. “She died,” she said quietly.

Which, y’know, way to hit the mood whiplash there, Polgara. Having been told his mother is dead, Garion cries it out with her, asks about what his mother looked like and whether she loved him, and Polgara tells him and reassures him that his mother loved him more than he can imagine.

And also, he apparently already has a destined wife, which should be odd for someone who is supposedly raised on a farm, being taught farmer-peasant virtues and values, and otherwise being raised to spend all of his life on this farm, possibly eventually apprenticing to and taking over for the smith. Garion, being a child, of course, doesn’t know this is a flag for having a greater destiny than what he’s being raised with, but it’s there for the reader. And the reader is supposed to assume that these small-town virtues and humble upbringings will make him suitable for the greater destiny that lies in store for him. Which, y’know, is the sort of story that gets told to a lot of white men, most of whom turn out to be mediocre, and many of the remaining ones after you get rid of the mediocrity turn out to be terrible trash fires. (Although many of the trash fires turn out to amass wealth and power that let them be more effective and expansive at being trash fires. I’m almost certain that bug in society has been marked WONTFIX repeatedly, no matter how many times it’s been filed.)

Why do I mention it like this? Because we’re about to get our first examples of overt racism and sexism!

The oldest boy was named Rundorig. He was a year or two older than Garion and quite a bit taller. Ordinarily, since he was the eldest of the children, Rundorig would have been their leader; but because he was an Arend, his sense was a bit limited and he cheerfully deferred to the younger ones. The kingdom of Sendaria, unlike other kingdoms, was inhabited by a broad variety of racial stocks. Chereks, Algars, Drasnians, Arends, and even a substantial number of Tolnedrans had merged to form the elemental Sendar. Arends, of course, were very brave, but were also notoriously thick-witted.
Garion’s second playmate was Doroon, a small, quick boy whose background was so mixed that he could only be called a Sendar. The most notable thing about Doroon was the fact that he was always running; he never walked if he could run. Like his feet, his mind seemed to tumble over itself, and his tongue as well. He talked continually and very fast and he was always excited.
The undisputed leader of the little foursome was the girl Zubrette, a golden-haired charmer who invented their games, made up stories to tell them, and set them to stealing apples and plums from Faldor’s orchard for her. She ruled them as a little queen, playing one against the other and inciting them into fights. She was quite heartless, and each of the three boys at times hated her even while remaining helpless thralls to her tiniest whim.

Cocowhat by depizan

This cocowhat should be less surprised and shocked and much more “Oh, this, really?” So we have the big slow strong one, the fast-talking one that nobody can keep up with, the supposedly normal one with the secret destiny who’s going to be more powerful than them all, and the girl.

And we specifically say it like that because we’re absolutely supposed to believe that this is just how girls are, little tyrants who manipulate the stupid boys around them in games that they hate, but that they can’t not play. In most stories, this kind of situation would come into being because the narrator would tell us or the narrative would show us that the boys were in love with the girl, and since she is apparently the only girl in their age cohort, they were all in love with her, or at least trying to work through their feelings about love and liking with her. And most of those stories then make her someone like the local lord’s daughter, where they’re trying to train her to be less dismissive and terrible about people because she’s eventually going to have to be liked by them if she wants them to do what she wants them to do. They try to humanize everyone so that the reader goes “Eh, they’re kids, kids do stupid stuff, and they’ll all grow out of it.” That’s not happening here. Instead, it’s “Arends are dumb, girls are manipulative bitches, and Garion is being brought up with solid earthy Sendarian values, which come about because Sendar is the only place with enough mixing of the races that they have to have come up with something other than blood purity as a measure of worthiness.”

The plot has Doroon climb a tree at Zubrette’s urging, which he falls out of and breaks his arm. Zubrette bolts at the first sign of something going wrong, and because Rundorig is too stupid to do anything, it falls to Garion to figure out what the hell they’re supposed to do. After he sees a man in a dark cloak astride a black horse that he’s sure he’s seen before, always seen, but that seems to vanish from his perception when he’s not directly staring at him. So much so that when Garion mentions how the man could have helped, he’s already disappeared, and Rundorig didn’t see the man or his horse at all. Rather than pursue that, they both sensibly decide to deal with the injured child in front of them, and bring him to Aunt Pol, who tells Doroon that he has to drink something, which tastes awful (intentionally) and then threatens to cut off the broken arm with a knife if he doesn’t finish the awful drink. Which gets what she wants done, which is that Doroon is sufficiently out of it so that she can reset the break, which hurts, sure, but then the arm is wrapped and splinted and Doroon is given back into the care of his mother and Durnik carries him to bed.

“You wouldn’t really have cut off his arm,” Garion said.
Aunt Pol looked at him, her expression unchanging. “Oh?” she said, and he was no longer sure. “I think I’d like to have a word with Mistress Zubrette now,” she said then.
“She ran away when Doroon fell out of the tree,” Garion said.
“Find her.”
“She’s hiding,” Garion protested. “She always hides when something goes wrong. I wouldn’t know where to look for her.”
“Garion,” Aunt Pol said, “I didn’t ask if you knew where to look. I told you to find her and bring her to me.”
“What if she won’t come?” Garion hedged.
“Garion!” There was a note of awful finality in Aunt Pol’s tone, and Garion fled.

“I didn’t have anything to do with it,” Zubrette lied as soon as Garion led her to Aunt Pol in the kitchen.
“You,” Aunt Pol said, pointing at a stool, “sit!”
Zubrette sunk onto the stool, her mouth open and her eyes wide.
“You,” Aunt Pol said to Garion, pointing at the kitchen door, “out!”
Garion left hurriedly.
Ten minutes later a sobbing little girl stumbled out of the kitchen. Aunt Pol stood in the doorway looking after her with eyes as hard as ice.
“Did you thrash her?” Garion asked hopefully.
Aunt Pol withered him with a glance. “Of course not,” she said. “You don’t thrash girls.”
I would have,” Garion said, disappointed. “What did you do to her?”
“Don’t you have anything to do?” Aunt Pol asked.

Garion, of course, doesn’t take the hint that Aunt Pol doesn’t want to answer his questions and gets sent to the scullery to scour out all the pots, which he complains about becaue it wasn’t his fault that Doroon went up the tree, and he doesn’t understand why Aunt Pol is mad at him.

I wouldn’t understand, either.

Also, I hate this entire passage, and not just because of the child abuse on display. I am not at all surprised that whatever warm feelings that Garion has had about his Aunt have vanished now that he’s seen what she’s like, and I wonder what the opinion of Aunt Pol’s kitchen helpers have about her and the way she runs the place to get those feasts out on time and apparently perfectly. Especially since she appears to always get her hands in everything with improvements and suggestions (that I now suspect that are the kinds of suggestions that you refuse at your own peril). She’s already threatened to cut off a child’s arm if he doesn’t do what she wants seriously enough that Garion isn’t sure she was joking, and apparently ten minutes alone with her is enough to completely break the girl the narrative wants us to not feel a bit sorry for because she goaded someone else to do something that resulted in them breaking their arm. All, at least according to her, without touching her, because you don’t thrash girls. And we don’t know what her parents thought about such a treatment, because they’re not at all mentioned in the plot, as opposed to the worried mother of the child with the broken arm. Because girls are bitches who get what they deserve, and it’s supposed to be even better coming from a woman. As opposed to the kind of thing where everyone should be horrified that someone who is supposed to be dear to the community is definitely not reflecting their values.

And she uses Garion to find and bring Zubrette to her, instead of going to find Zubrette herself, so that whatever punishment Zubrette gets, she’s making Garion complicit in it, and then she orders him out, so there won’t be any witnesses to whatever it is she plans to do to Zubrette to break her. That can’t be good for Garion’s mental health, knowing that he brought someone to be punished by Aunt Pol, even though he is apparently in the mood of how much he dislikes Zubrette at this point that he would have thought of just beating her as punishment. Again, these are the kinds of wonderful small-town virtues that Garion is being raised with. (And, even though the conviction and jail sentence for child abuse was before the writing of this book, both of the Eddings have that hanging over their heads, the kind of thing where someone might be pulling from their own experience, even if they’re not trying to consciously do so…)

We’re still not done with the first chapter. Because, with his play group suddenly reduced to him and Rundorig (Doroon has the broken arm and “Zubrette had been so shaken by whatever it was that Aunt Pol had said to her that she avoided the two other boys.”), they play different games, in this case, re-enacting a story they heard from some traders about the Battle of Vo Mimbre, a confrontation between Kal Torak’s hordes (again with the not mentioning them as humans, just as Malloreans and Angaraks) and the kingdoms of the west that eventually came down to a duel between Brand, the Rivan Warder of the time, and Torak, where Brand uncovered his shield, which caused Torak to drop his defense and get stabbed through the eye. Using kitchen pots and pans and wooden swords is all fun and games until someone gets hurt, which in this case is Garion, and he gets cut on the eye, and the rest of what happens afterward is Garion lashing out in anger at being hurt, sufficiently that Rundorig is bruised in several places and completely knocked out when Garion comes back to himself. Aunt Pol stitches up Garion’s eye and provides healing things for Rundorig’s bruises, and then Garion mentions Torak’s name, which Aunt Pol questions him sharply about before making a pronouncement.

“I want you to listen to me, Garion,” Aunt Pol said, “and I want you to listen carefully. You are never to speak the name of Torak again.”
“It’s Kal Torak, Aunt Pol,” Garion explained again, “not just Torak.”
Then she hit him—which she had never done before. The slap across his mouth surprised him more than it hurt, for she did not hit very hard. “You will never speak the name of Torak again. Never!” she said. “This is important, Garion. Your safety depends on it. I want your promise.”
“You don’t have to get so angry about it,” he said in an injured tone.
“All right, I promise. It was only a game.”
“A very foolish one,” Aunt Pol said. “You might have killed Rundorig.”
“What about me?” Garion protested.
“You were never in any danger,” she told him. “Now go to sleep.”

The rest of the chapter is Garion’s fitful sleep, where Aunt Pol is concerned that he’s too young for something, and he hears her ask for her father, and in his dreams, there’s the man wearing the dark cloak on the black horse, and there’s a face behind him that’s maimed and ugly and that he thinks he saw or imagined in the fight with Rundorig.

And that’s Chapter One, where we have discovered that Polgara the sorceress knows nothing at all about raising children, and quite possibly doesn’t care, either. And that our small town values in the middle of a supposedly cosmopolitan kingdom are things like “we don’t hit girls,” which is, I suppose, a small step up from various fundamentalisms in our world that believe corporal punishment is good for everyone, but is certainly not good. (Plus, as someone who grew up in a household that spanked, it doesn’t actually work to do anything other than build resentment or to make a child resolve to be less detected next time.) And, as Polgara demonstrates, you don’t have to hit a girl to destroy her. Garion gets hit when he tries to do what is a normal child thing and explain himself to his aunt. Even if this is an important thing, Garion is still a child and needs child-appropriate reasons to do things or to not do them. “Because I said so” is not a reason when you have time and space to explain to someone and they are out of the immediate danger. And while now we have a lot more research now that explains why none of these methods work, I’m pretty sure even at publication time, there was enough research to show why it didn’t work then, either.

Garion is being raised in a toxic environment, where one very notable part of that toxicity is his primary caregiver, in addition to societal attitudes about other races, and a set of values that are being uncritically taught to him as the best values and that his small town environment is the best of all possible places. He even has a wife picked out for him when he’s older. The only thing that obviously differentiates this world from a fundamentalist patriarchal Christian environment is that this is an explicitly polytheistic world. Because otherwise, Garion is being groomed to be the head of a household in the future, with all of the terrible expectations he will have of his wife and children inherent in that statement.

Thank the gods he’s going to be going on an adventure, right? So that there will be some opportunity for the world outside to get their ideas in his head and get him questioning things before it’s too late.

Deconstruction Roundup for May 21, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is absolutely facepalming at the way that something that should have been encouraging for people to get vaccinations is likely instead going to encourage people to flout them.)

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

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

  • I took the week off in celebration and gathering opinions about what to do next. What can I say?

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 having that part of your brain that shouts “words mean things!” trying to convince everyone else around about something that ultimately didn’t need any additional resolution effort, but that you are very unhappy about meanings being extended in places you don’t want them to go. Or for any other reason, really.

Deconstruction Roundup for May 14, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is in the middle of trying to be okay with the idea that people doing the right things for spiteful and fantastical reasons is still people doing the right things.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorum Press

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 wondering whether you should take it more seriously when people repeatedly tell you that you have a way of phrasing things that resonates with them. Or for any other reason, really.

The Dragonriders of Pern: Final Thoughts

All throughout this project, I’ve tried to maintain a posting queue, so that when I ran into a week where I had other things to do, or the mojo wasn’t coming, or I really needed to take a break from Pern and cuss it out thoroughly to my sounding boards, or to get their help in explaining something to me that doesn’t make sense, even if their help is “nope, doesn’t make sense to us, either,” I could post the next week’s item on schedule (Big thank you to azurelunatic and alexseanchai, who have endured far more of me blinking twice and swearing at Pern than anyone probably should.) Possibly tweaked a touch if the comments section has been particularly insightful between when the post was originally composed and when it was posted. Some of those earlier comments and theories worked their way into later posts when that thematic element reappeared, almost as if by clockwork. You can probably guess about how long my queue was by the appearance of such things.

This post, though, I have waited to compose the bulk of until after last week’s post has gone up and been commented on, because it’s supposed to be final thoughts, and you can’t write your final thoughts until after the final thing has been posted. It’s cheating if you do it beforehand. Or something.

First, though, I do want to thank all of the people who have left a comment on this six-year, once-a-week project. Trading theories, alternate universes, and the several tons of snark we’ve left about the decisions made about Pern has been a delight, and I have looked forward every week to seeing your commentary on the latest bit of WTF. Especially the weekly commentators who have stuck through all of this, genesistrine and Firedrake. MadamAtom has been around for a while as well, and deserves thanks. And WanderingUndine, who nicely summarizes the reaction counts for each of the works as we get to the end of them, to give us an idea of how far away from reality this particular work managed to go. Depizan, thanks for the use of the cocowhat, it has served us well and faithfully for all of these years, and there’s probably still some life left in it.

Ana Mardoll and chris the cynic get big thank yous for showcasing that literary reviews are a doable thing, and for being willing to host on the Slacktiverse for the weekly running showcase. Even if I’m also trying to archive it on AO3, for redundancy and Director’s Cut purposes.

(If I’ve missed someone, yell at me and I will get you in the post, because the small but determined community that’s appeared here has been really great for making sure that we made it all the way through to the end.)

And now, some final thoughts on all the various parts of Pern that we’ve come across in this journey:

I can really see now why the fandom basically pretends the last book in the series is the last one that happened before the Todd Era began, including some politely ignoring the Gigi book as well, since it completely upends Piemur’s characterization and replaces him with a more generically angsty teen. (Possibly, in both 1.0 and 3.0 Pern, Piemur has ADHD.) The Todd Era messed with things because it could, and because it really wanted to drive home the part where this was a really, really creepy thing that was going on. Sorry, it wanted us to believe that very young children were consenting and happy with the arrangements that bonded them with sex ray broadcasting organic flamethrowers, the grand majority of whom would not live to see their fifty year tour of duty end. The Todd era introduced certain things that might be useful here and there, like canonical leaders who rode blues and greens, and some amount of worldbuilding around the caste system and those who are outside of it, which, like the rest of Pern, could be mined and shaped into a narrative that will do a better job of not being creepy and thinking through the ramifications of what’s been set up by these bits, but for people who want their Pern to consist mostly of romance tropes and dragons, neither the Todd era nor the Gigi book are going to be any help with that.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people who only accept as their Pern what happened in the 1.0 universe, and some subset of those people who stop at Moreta/Nerilka and dismiss anything that happened after that, since that’s where we start getting the heavier SFnal elements appearing in the text, once there’s explicit acknowledgement of the lives and the machinations of the colonists, leading to the rediscovery of the AI. Pern could certainly have worked as a series that hints, sometimes very strongly, at the fact that it once was an SFnal place, and there are the artifacts of that all over the place for the reader to understand, but that the Pernese of all these years have never known, because they haven’t re-achieved (and may never re-achieve) the science and technology necessary to understand them. Pern’s a really fruitful ground for fanworks as a degraded science fiction world, but I think most people came to it and want to think of it as a fantasy world with a couple of weird artifacts rather than a degraded science fiction world, especially once the technology parts of it started coming back, even if it was to achieve the ultimate end of the nemesis that they’ve been fighting all the time. And, as I noted at the end of the Ninth Pass books, post-Thread Pern is going to go through a gigantic social upheaval, which would be interesting for people who wanted to write about politics, instead of mostly pretending they didn’t exist. So the before-colonists books provide a perfectly useful fantasy world with dragons and sex rays and all sorts of space for id to be, and there doesn’t have to be anything more.

As I was going along with this story, I tried to acknowledge that this was going to be a case of coming back to something you only hazily remembered and finding that the Suck Fairy had moved in. The place hadn’t changed, but with more adult eyes and more grown-up experiences, things that weren’t understood, or were hazy or unimportant suddenly stand out in very sharp relief. And, even if it didn’t sound like it at times, I tried to work on the idea that people aren’t bad, wrong, or otherwise problematic for liking Pern and continuing to like it. It’s totally okay to still like something when you’ve given it full consideration for all the things that it does wrong, and if you keep those things in mind when talking about it. Perhaps unsurprisingly for people who know this better, having done a deep dive with the intent of uncovering and talking about the flaws that the original materials have, I feel like I have a better grasp on how I would write Pern in a fanfic way, if I ever decided I wanted to do something of particularly long length or how I might include pushback and incorporate changes into my Pern that hopefully worked fairly seamlessly and made the experience better for the reader. That was significantly harder in the Todd Era, but even there, I can extract some useful things that might be helpful if anyone ever asks for works that don’t focus on the dragons and their riders (which seems unlikely, but we’ll be prepared for it.)

I also wanted this to be a thing that focused on the published things themselves, rather than what might have been said outside of them. Some part of that is because I believed that something that the author actually wanted to make true about their world, they would put in the actual material, rather than trying to hang on and insist that the worlds they created weren’t flawed in some manner, or that representation was totally there when it wasn’t, or other techniques that were popularized by the ever-sprawling franchise of a notable TERF who shall remain nameless. And some of it is because I wanted to avoid having opinions about other people’s opinions of the works. That’s a rabbit hole that goes deep, and it garners attention and combativeness a lot of the time. And, perhaps most importantly, if I kept things to the works, ideas like “well, they were a person of their time” could hopefully, mostly, be sidestepped, since we’re talking about a completely different world and another planet and society. Even though, yes, I know that in science fiction and fantasy, we are usually talking about our own world with enough of a weird filter on it for most of us not to notice.

In any case, there’s no more to be said for this particular series. At least, not right now. If there ever is a TV show, or if Gigi writes more, or if the Trust decides to let others have a thwack at Pern, we’ll be back.

But in the meantime, that means I need a new project. Any suggestions about something fairly ubiquitous that could follow along in the idea of the Suck Fairy’s Greatest Hits? There’s probably a lot there that the library has in digital forms.

Deconstruction Roundup for May 7, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who does not want to have to deal with coronavirus season like flu season. Get your shots if you can, people.)

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

Christine Kelley: Eruditorum Press

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorum Press

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 still delighted at being able to make something work that hadn’t before, because understanding finally arrived for you and you executed the correct commands to make it work. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Code: The Last Hurrah

Well. This is it. The last chapter of the currently-written Pern books. The plot with the men from Nabol is wrapped up entirely, with Jerrol and kin at the mercy of Lord Deckter, Sebell is healing, Jaxom has returned the egg (and gone to get the egg), so there’s little left for this chapter to resolve.

Dragon’s Code, Chapter 12: Content Notes: Death of a family member

I mean, there’s still the problem of Piemur’s voice not settling and there’s still the entirety of the Southern Weyr having warped themselves back in time. And, I suppose, the ailment that they’re suffering from as well. So there are loose ends to be finished, so that the series can be retired successfully and then left to the fandom.

And, I suppose, because it’s the farewell, there’s been space made in this chapter for a more personal farewell from the author. Because chapter twelve opens with Ama dying. After participating in the dinner in the previous chapter, on the fourth day after the end of the chapter, Ama has a stroke (I’m guessing, based on the description of how her face has changed, how she seemed confused, and then slumped over) and dies, surrounded by her family. This feels very much like the author taking a point of personal privilege and telling us how she felt about her own mother dying , how much she’s missed, and the sorts of things that you would tell someone at a funeral, after someone has died. The kinds of stories that come out when nobody is around to contradict them. In Piemur’s case, though, we only hear one thing about him, Pergamol telling him

“It could have been that sweet voice of yours that beguiled her, but I think it was all the antics you got up to—after she got over being vexed with you, of course. She always laughed at your windups, Pie. Didn’t she?”

As it is, after she dies, Ama’s body is carried on a stretcher to the lake and then let go to be buried in the water, with each of her family lighting a candle to accompany her. And apparently, there’s a song of lament to be sung. Even though everyone expects Piemur to take the lead, he’s too choked up with grief, and Pergamol is able to start the song. But he can only go through the first verse , and, after summoning Ama’s advice from the last chapter to let it rip, Piemur does sing, and unlike every other time in this book, his voice holds and he’s able to sing with greater confidence and volume as his body does what he wants it to. For reference, here’s the song, and it makes me think it’s sung to something like the unknown but haunting melody of the Question Song.

On again, go again
Take your last step
Free your worn body
And send it to rest.

Go again, show again
We’ll see it right
Marching ye onward
Toward peace in the night.

Go again, know again
You were loved true
Take heart in the honor
Shown b’those whom you knew.

On again, go again
We’ll think of you ere
Now rest our belov-ed
Turn to dust, turn to air.

And Piemur spends a week with his kin in grief and mourning, sending a message to the Harper Hall about what happened and that he’ll rejoin them when he’s ready. (At least the guild system gives him excellent bereavement leave.) When he’s ready, having come to peace with it all (and seen a fleeting image of Ama smiling at him), Piemur sends to the Hall that he’s ready to go back, and N’ton arrives to get him. Before he departs, though, Pergamol has a last “Well Done, Son Guy” moment with him, telling Piemur that he shouldn’t be ashamed of the voice that’s come in to replace the one he lost, and that he’s glad Piemur stepped up when needed, and that he’s proud of Piemur. And to not stay away so long between visits the next time.

On his return to the Harper Hall, Robinton and Sebell bring Piemur up to speed on the likelihood that Ista Weyr is going to be without both a Weyrleader and a Weyrwoman soon, and when asked of whether Benden approves of the next likely Weyroman of Ista, Robinton says he couldn’t say in a way that makes it unmistakable that there’s frost between Benden and the Harper Hall at the moment.

It was a huge pity, Piemur reflected, looking down at his hands; allies such as Benden Weyr and the Harper Hall had to remain in accord. Lessa hadn’t appreciated Robinton’s insistence that revenge was the wrong road to take. It could only be hoped that Lessa would relent and see reason, once the rest of Ramoth’s clutch hatched and Impressed, and life in the Weyr got back to normal.

Good luck with that. Since, y’know, this is the Lessa that spent ten years as a drudge so she could absolutely ruin the life of the dude that killed her family and took over her Hold. And that hasn’t likely been able to do a whole lot of the things she really wants to do because the Benden Weyrleader keeps reining in her impulses instead of letting her wreak glorious hell on the patriarchy that she chafes at.

Also, Robinton is also on board with this no-revenge plan? Well, I suppose what he suggested and insisted upon when he will be kidnapped for similar reasons will apply then. Perhaps he picked it up from Sebell, or Sebell was very convincing to bring others around to his way of thinking about revenge versus restoration. It’s still basically going to require a fundamental reshaping of society to achieve anything like what this anti-revenge platform is aiming for.

Robinton invites Piemur to stay at the Hall for as long as he likes, but Piemur is itching to get back to the South and do more exploring and being himself in the place that he now considers home, having finally managed to settle into a mature outlook on his life. Or something. He’s gained perspective, apparently, from Ama dying and him singing and now he’s ready to step into maturity. Or at least he’s become okay with the unknown stretching in front of him. While he’s riding Stupid, with Farli nearby, Piemur thinks about the Question Song, which is what he was apparently teaching to the cothold children the day Ama died. And while he doesn’t make any obvious connection as to why he might be thinking about it now, I think he might be thinking of similarities. After all, this is how it starts:

Gone away, gone ahead
Echoes away, die unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead,
Why have all the weyrfolk fled?

From there, Piemur’s thoughts turn to the conversation he had with Sebell about trying to see how it serves everyone better if Lessa isn’t allowed to exact her revenge and how they, as harpers, as the custodians of knowledge and heritage, have an overriding duty to keep everyone in balance and harmony, so the society doesn’t fall apart, and then, finally, to thinking he’s found his niche. And also, that perhaps that jango root that he had in Nabol might be the thujang that Meria was looking for to help cure the ailments of the Southern dragonriders. Which is what he leads with to Meria to bring her on board with his plan to get the Southerners “how to look forward.” And B’naj and Meria take Piemur back in time to where the Southerners have been this entire time, a place where there is no Threadfall so that the dragons aren’t restless at not fighting Thread, and also a place, apparently, where T’kul and his faction don’t care about being found by someone they claim is not part of their Weyr any more. After all, what’s the point of disappearing to an unknown time if you don’t keep disappearing when pesky people show up to try and convince you not to do that thing?

In any case, it’s time for the Big Damn Speech, and since Piemur’s been the one that we’ve been following this entire book, it falls upon him to singlehandedly convince the dragonriders that have nothing to come back to that they do have something to come back to. First, he lays out his desire: to be the advocate for the Southern Weyr with everyone else. And he says up front that he doesn’t believe all of them were involved in the plot to steal the egg. His main pitch, though, is to try and get the South to set aside their ways and come rejoin everyone else, same as everyone else’s pitch has been.

“Noble dragonmen of Pern, set aside the rules of your time. Don’t let your strict adherence to independence keep you isolated from the others of this Pass. I ask that you take my help and let me speak and act for you.” As he spoke, he looked directly in the eyes of the men and women standing in front of him, projecting his words so they could be could be clearly heard, and keeping his expression and voice open and relaxed.
“None of us can survive alone, dragonriders, not without one another. And we can’t exist as a whole when some of our parts are missing. Crafts, Holds, and Weyrs—we need one another. We are under constant threat from Thread and we have to defend against it together or perish. The Holds need the Weyrs just as much as the Weyrs need the Holds. And the Crafthalls enhance our lives. Together all serve to teach us that we must band together. Come back with me! Come back to where you belong in the Present Pass. You cannot face your future here. No one should have to face such difficulties alone.”
A dragon coughed near Piemur, and then a voice from the back of the compound growled loudly.
“Bah! You are just one person! How can you help all of us? Go back to your own time, harper!”
[…Piemur talks about the illness, indicates that he thinks Meria can help them, and continues to make his argument that the exiled and banished dragonriders are needed back in the present…]
“Noble dragonkind, I do not want to make judgment on whether your banishment was right or wrong. Or to mete out or seek justice,” he said, knowing his words would send a ripple through the crowd, making clear he was referring both to the theft of the egg as well as to their own exile.
“We could fight with one another, seeking revenge and retribution until we’re all but spent. But such actions are self-serving. They’re not for the good of us all,” he cried, and obeying an impulse he jumped down from Seventh’s back and slowly walked into the crowd.
“You all came forward to help fight Thread and keep the people of this Pass safe for the future. I would like to help you find your rightful purpose again. In this Pass! I know you can teach us, teach your descendants, many things. Just as you taught our dragons and riders to fight against Thread. But would you let us teach you how we can live together in this Pass?” As Piemur spoke, he walked among the dragonriders, looking from one to the next in appeal. “I would be honored to be your advocate, dragonmen.” He came to a stop, his progress impeded by the stooped figure of T’ron, who had stepped forward, barring Piemur from progressing any further.
“If you would allow me, I would be your voice—to speak on your behalf so your wishes would be heard.” Piemur’s words carried across the compound. He stood in front of T’ron, aware that all the [time-skipped] were regarding him keenly. He crossed one arm in front of his waist and slowly dipped his upper body in a deep bow.
When he straightened up, T’ron had stepped closer. He glared at Piemur.
“We’ve listened to you, harper, and heard your words. Go, and leave us now!” Tron’s voice, loud enough for everyone to hear, brooked no argument.

So Piemur goes back, crushed that his appeal didn’t amount to anything at all, and that his grand plan has fallen flat. B’naj offers his condolences and that there hasn’t been a harper that’s offered their help to the South at all, so he should feel good about that, at least?

Which is very nice of B’naj, since Piemur was going in there without even ace high and trying to bluff them all into believing he had a full house. “Let me talk to them, I can convince them to reintegrate you into society” is a hard sell for Piemur, considering that these are already the people who have been sent off once and it’s been long enough that the rest of the world clearly doesn’t give a rip about reintegrating them, or is sufficiently cheesed at their stubbornness that they’ve stopped trying. Plus, at least some of them committed a heinous act that there isn’t going to be any forgiveness for, regardless of how much the harpers are trying to push this as the better, smarter, less terrible idea. There’s no reason for Benden to do anything but wash their hands of them and leave them to die in the place that doesn’t even need to be flown over by dragons in the first place. Piemur’s got nothing to draw them back with other than his sincere belief that he can be their advocate and that deep down, the Southern Weyr wants to fight Thread until it kills them and go out like men.

To twist the knife further, Meria points this out to Piemur when she reports back on her own success with the time-skipped.

“Ther was nothing more you could have done or said to those riders to change their minds. B’naj told me what you said; he told me about the offer you made to them. I think there are a few of the older dragonriders who are just too bitter, and still too angry, to embrace the possibility of a hopeful future. I’m sorry they didn’t accept your offer, Piemur. I think you would’ve been an excellent advocate for them.”
Piemur pursed his lips in a brief grimace, nodding twice.
“But you should know that the dragonriders did hear what you said about getting help from me. At first, a group of about fifty riders asked B’naj for the jango root I had sent down from Nabol. They’ve had complete success with it, too, clearing up that wretched coughing once and for all. And when the others saw how improved their fellows were from the jango, the rest of the riders asked for some, too. I think their dragons put them up to it. If you hadn’t guessed that thujang is called jango now, it might’ve taken far longer to make the weyr fit and healthy again. So you see, some good did come from what you did. I hope that makes you feel a little better.”
“I’m really pleased the dragons and their riders are better, Meria. That is good news,” Piemur replied, but he couldn’t keep the disappointment from his voice. Meria scanned Piemur’s face, searching his eyes for a moment, then she nodded once, and reached out both of her hands to clasp Piemur’s. He could see that the gentle [time-skipped rider] was trying her best to console him, and he smiled weakly at her.

The jango root did more to advance the cause of bringing Southern back to the current time than Piemur’s words did, because the jango root solved a problem they were having, with immediate and obvious effects. Which still leaves them in the position of being exiled, without any queens, and on Benden’s shit list, so there won’t be any aid forthcoming if they ask unless they can convince Benden they’ve mended their ways and are willing to accept Benden’s authority over them about how things get done.(And even then, Lessa might say “It’s good to hear, but we’re going to wait until you all die out and then replace you with people who we know are on board with the mission.”)

But because we can’t have a Pern book end on a bleak note, (or at least, not one that doesn’t already have a sequel sold), the last pages of this book is B’naj and Meria coming to find Piemur to spirit him back to Southern Weyr in time for him to see all the dragons and dragonriders that had disappeared reappear around him.

“What you said swayed them! They changed their minds and decided to return. To this Pass, to this time!” B’naj cupped his hands around his mouth so Piemur could hear his next words. “It was the dragons who made their riders see sense. They told their riders to listen to you, Piemur!”
Piemur looked at B’naj, mouth open, incredulous. A dozen or more dragons trumpeted welcoming calls, vocalizing their pleasure while Piemur took in the full import of what the [time-skipped rider] had just said.
Surprised, exulted, and overwhelmed, Piemur jumped up on Seventh’s back and spread his arms out wide in welcome, overcome with relief. As yet another dragon bugled a call of triumph, Piemur threw back his head, a huge smile spilling across his face as he welcomed the dragonriders home.

And that’s the last current words of Pern.

But I also have to note that Piemur did not convince the dragonriders to come home. Piemur convinced the dragons, and the riders came with them. Which, y’know, I wish that particular conversation and discussion had been recorded in these pages, because Piemur’s appeal probably landed much better with the dragons and their instincts rather than with the dragonriders. And if it’s the dragons dragging the riders along, that says a lot about who has the upper hand in the dragon-rider relationship. I feel like it was probably something to the order of the dragons deciding they don’t want to be bored and restless in the past, not when they know there’s some Thread to fight if they go back to the time they left from, so the dragons decide they’re going to go back, and they inform their riders of the choice, possibly manipulating the connection they have with their rider to make the rider feel like it’s a good idea and to go along with it. Or maybe the dragons threatened to go back without their riders, who can enjoy learning how to do everything like non-dragonriders do. It’s clearly possible for dragons to exist at some remote time without their riders, although the connection gets obscured if they go too far afield. Still, the dragons probably had all the leverage in that discussion.

And here we are. And I have to wonder how this 3.0 Piemur then fits in with the subsequent discovery of the AI, the special classes that go along with it, and everything else, if he’s also supposed to be the advocate for the Southern Weyr with everyone else. Except I think that K’van is Weyrleader at Southern by that point, so whatever Piemur’s advocacy was, it doesn’t appear to have amounted to a hill of beans. As everyone suspected it would. But I’m sure he did his best to advocate for bringing the exiled back into the fold because he didn’t want there to be the wide rift between Southern and the rest of Pern.

That’s it. I can see why there haven’t been any more in the intervening years, if this is the story that got told, this the time period that got retreaded, despite there being an entire wide world and timeline to go gallivanting up and down and leave your own, more individual, mark on the book. You could build a completely different space, with different tensions and people, and that would have also been part of the internally complex and snarl-filled canon of Pern, but it would have been yours, rather than trying to stick to an ill-fitting script with new actors that have the same character names, but are playing them altogether differently.

There is an acknowledgment section at the back of this copy of the book, which gives us a pinned date of publication, March 2018, but is also where we learn that J’hon is based on the real person John Greene, who had passed by the time of the publication of the book, that there were people consulted about both the singing and the percussion aspects of the book, for the small segment that the technical aspects of music-making are on display. It is the beginning parts that I want to quote.

This story could never have been written if not for my wonderful mother, Anne McCaffrey. She created Pern and its marvelous inhabitants over fifty years ago. Thank you, Mum, whereever you are, out there in the cosmos, for permitting me to play in your world.
A huge debt of gratitude is also owed to my brother, Todd McCaffrey, who generously stepped back and allowed his little sister to mess around in the sandbox that he has been carefully guarding for so many years. To Shelley Shapiro, my editor, whose patience and indefatigable guidance encouraged me to keep writing even when I hadn’t a clue where the story was taking me. Todd and Shelley, you two are true Champions of Pern.
To Diana Tyler, my agent at MBA Literary and Script Agents, for her gentle encouragement and endless patience; and to Jay A. Katz, most trusted Trustee, for thankfully never exerting an ounce of pressure on me throughout the writing process. Diana and Jay, treasured family friends for many decades, there could be no finer Guardians of Pern than you two.

Because it’s worth nothing the similarities between how Todd characterized Anne letting him play in the sandbox and how Gigi says Todd let her play in the sandbox. Now, admittedly, I see less of Todd’s hand in this work than I might have seen Anne’s hand in Todd’s. I wonder how much of that is due to the way the Pern fandom appears to have rejected both of his named series and their works as unworthy of consideration or fanworks, such that if it appeared like he were having a hand in this Ninth Pass book, things would be equally as dismal for Gigi.

I also want to note, again, that there’s mention of the fact that Pern itself is held in the hands of a literary trust at this point, and that only Todd and Gigi are authorized to write official works of Pern, so if things didn’t go well for Gigi (and it doesn’t seem to be the case that they have, given that there hasn’t been any more works in the three years between the publication of this work and now), it’s highly unlikely we’re going to see any more Pern for our lifetime, unless the current Trust designates new authorized novels and writers. I would be very interested to see how many writers of our times would approach the supposedly-static society of Pern with fresh eyes toward raising the voices of the marginalized, or adding some grit and realism into the Randian fantasy world, of telling histories that have been forgotten or actively suppressed, and otherwise trying to come to grips with Pern as a property that spans several decades and that has changed tastes significantly about what constitutes a good novel. Which is what, y’know, AO3 is for, if you want the unofficial takes, but it would be nice to see some official ones, as well. I think it would spark at least a little bit of interest in the fandom to see writers with good credibility getting a chunk of the timeline to play in, so that we could see what they come up with.

That’s all of the words that have been written so far. There are no more adventures to be had. There are supplementary materials that could be examined, like the Dragonlover’s Guide or the essay collection Dragonwriter, but those are not stories of Pern, for the most part, they’re stories about Pern, and one of the fundamental fandom rules to play by is that you don’t harsh on someone else’s squee. (Even if you think their squee is totally problematic. If you asked, you might find out that they agree with you that it’s got problems that need to be addressed, and for them, they’ve made the decision to continue engaging with the source material. Possibly even to fix the problems that you’re pointing out and accusing them of enjoying uncritically.)

This post is long enough already. Final thoughts will come next week. And then, after that, who knows? Maybe I’ll finally take you all up on the suggestion to examine Restoree and see how it compares to Pern.