Category Archives: Deconstruction

Dragonseye: …and justice for whom?

Last time, one Lord Holder held out on impeachment on the principle that one does not remove someone from office lightly, right before the narrative undercut that position by telling us the holdout was mentally ill and having problems with his faculties. Because, as we are about to find out, it’s not possible for someone to put up a true effort against the designated heroes.

Dragonseye: Chapter XI: Content Notes:

This chapter title breaks the naming convention of Pern chapters, which usually just list the name of the place, and sometimes, a time period or designation. This chapter is specifically titled “The Trials at Telgar and Benden Weyrs,” which suggests an event of monumental importance – except that it’s the trial of various flunkies and guards, not the impeachment of Chalkin. As trials go, unless this produces testimony that can be used to nail Chalkin to the wall, these aren’t that important. Jaxom’s trial of Norist and the other Lords Holder would deserve a break more than this one does.

Jamson is unable to attend the trial at Benden, but we are told that representatives from every Weyr and Hold are able to attend. Even though there’s a blizzard covering Bitra, that phrasing means someone from there is present, even though I suspect that’s not actually the case. Jamson is missed at this trial because it’s on a subject he would actually care about.

The Lady Holder Thea came, annoyed that Jamson had a legitimate excuse for his absence and had sent Gallian [regent son] in his place.
“It might have done that stubborn streak of his some good to hear just how Chalkin conducts his hold. Oh, he’d’ve spouted on about autonomy but he must certainly is against any harm coming to unborn children.” Thea gave Zulaya a significant nod, reminding those around her that she had borne fourteen children to Lord Jamson in the course of her fertile years: sufficient to substantially increase the borders of their lands when the children were old enough to claim their land grants.

…wow. Not at the number of children, because I’ve seen plenty of good Catholic families that can get to fourteen children in our current age, but Lady Thea must have an iron constitution, because that would mean no more than one Cesarian, and, depending on what level of medical care is actually available at this point in time, potentially having done it in a world of potentially sixteenth- to eighteenth-century Terran medical care. And she and her fourteen children all survive to adulthood. That’s a sort of thing where one might start looking for the Infinite Improbability Drive.

Although, if all the Lords Holder have the same feelings toward fetuses (seeing them as land investments instead of children), that might explain the conspicuous absence of chemical or herbal birth control everywhere. Lady Thea was probably forbidden from traveling by dragon any time it might have been possible she was pregnant.

Okay, on with the trial.

Held in the capacious Lower Cavern at Benden Weyr, the first of the two trials was a sobering, well-conducted affair. At one time on Pern, there had been trained legists on Pern, but the need for such persons had waned.

No, it fucking did not, because this is not the first time in 250 years that a matter has crossed jurisdictions or someone has appealed to the Charter or an impartial court would need to be established! And even if you corrected that sentence to point out that the transference of the power of the court to the Lord Holder is what happened, that could potentially reduce the number of lawyers you would need, but I suspect it would have the opposite effect.

Furthermore, at least in my opinion, the narrative contradicts itself with the justification as to why there are fewer lawyers.

Most arguments are settled by negotiated compromise or, when all negotiation efforts failed, by hand-to-hand combat.

Cocowhat by depizan

What, you mean mediation and arbitration, and failing that, a formal duel? Now, who usually takes on the role of the impartial expert in situations that call for meditation and arbitration?

Lawyers.

An easy way out of this conundrum, if you wanted to continue in the crass denigration of Bitra, but also to give them a useful service that would justify their continued existence, you could make all the legists Bitran. It gives everyone else a reason to hate them and to warn everyone else away from ever making a contract with them, because they write the damn things! And it would provide them with a significant amount of income to power the games with (and make everyone suspicious the games are rigged).

Ugh. Instead, what we have is people apparently hammering out an agreement between each other, then trusting them to follow through on it. Or then fighting over who is right in a dispute. Which has nothing to do with who might be right in a dispute.

Consequently, a spokesperson for the accused guards had to be found. One of the teachers from Fort Hold who specialized in legal contracts and land deeds reluctantly agreed to officiate.
Gardner had not been very enthusiastic about involving himself, however briefly, with rapists, but he recognized the necessity of representation and did his best. He had perfunctorily questioned the victims as to the identity of their alleged assailants and tried to shake their testimony. The three women were no longer the frightened, half-starved wretches who had been so abused. Their time in the Weyr had done wonders for their courage, self-esteem and appearance.

Yes, being taken seriously in your rape charges, having the rapists arrested, and having a court that will not only prosecute them, but likely convict them, and also having a place that didn’t shame you and supported you is very much going to increase your self-esteem and courage.

Also, a contract lawyer is not a criminal defense lawyer. Those guards are not going to get the defense they would be entitled to. They just aren’t.

Also, importantly, contracts and land deeds are handled by teachers from the college. Someone is still helping resolve disputes and is doing legal work to make sure everyone knows what’s going on, so there aren’t competing land claims. There’s still all sorts of need for lawyers. So the narrative can be quiet about how the need for them has somehow waned and been replaced by a trial by combat system.

Gardner even insisted that they had been rehearsed in their testimony, but that did not mitigate the circumstances of the grievous bodily and mental harm inflicted on them.
“Sure, I rehearsed,” the oldest of the women said loudly. “In me mind, night and night, how I was flung down and…done by dirty men as wouldn’t have dared step inside a decent woman’s hold with such notions in their head. I ache still rehearsing,” and she spat the word at him, “what they did, again and again and again.” For emphasis she slammed one fist into the other hand. Gardner had ceased that line of questioning.
In the end he managed one small concession for the accused: the right to be returned to their Contract Hold, following the trial, rather than have to make their own way back to Bitra.

Which isn’t really a concession as much as it is a sentence of exile. There’s a little about how Chalkin protested heavily about the dragonriders and how the dragonriders would happily chew out Chalkin out “when his guards said ‘they was only following orders to keep the holders from leaving!'” This should also count as evidence enough against Chalkin for his impeachment, which would have likely been accomplished by now if there was an independent judiciary to bring the charges to.

M’shall took the role as the prosecutor, and there were three judges and twelve jurists, so it had all the trappings of an independent court, except the part where no competent defense lawyer could be found and there’s no way in hell that anyone in attendance could be selected as a neutral juror in the case. All in all, six men are convicted, three as the rapists, and three as accomplices.

The penalty for the rape of a pregnant woman was castration, which was to be carried out immediately. The others were to receive forty lashes, well laid on by Telgar’s large and strong stewards.
“They were lucky there isn’t Fall,” Zulaya remarked to Irene, Lady Thea, and K’vin. “Otherwise they could also have been tied out during the next Fall.”
Despite herself, Thea gave a shudder. “By its probably why there are so few cases of rape recorded in our hold’s annals.”
“Small wonder,” K’vin said, crossing his legs again. Zulaya had noticed his defensive position and her lips twitched briefly. He turned away. His weyrmate had nearly cheered aloud when the verdict was delivered.

Well, shit. That’s harsher punishment than is written into the laws of our times. Whomever wrote the Pernese Charter, there were clearly women writing the part about what the punishments for rape are. Unless, of course, this punishment is specifically for the rape of a pregnant woman, which would mean that it’s more likely that the punishment is either for violence against an unborn child (like Jamson’s firm conviction) or for screwing another man’s property, both of which would be much more in line with Pern’s overarching philosophy.

The last guard protests that only Chalkin can deal with him, because he’s the one that holds the contract, but he’s told that it wouldn’t have made a difference and the sentences are carried out. The three women ask to go back to their holds, with renewed backbone and desire to stop anyone else from trying to turf them out. And then the narrative supplies me with more support to my theory that Bitra shouldn’t exist by actually confirming some of my speculations.

“Of course, you can’t tell if Chalkin doctored the last census or not, but he’s supposed to have 24,567 inhabitants.”
“Really?” Zulaya was surprised.
“But then, Bitra’s one of the smaller holds and doesn’t have any indigenous industry–apart from some forestry. The mining’s down to what’s needed locally. There’s a few looms working but no great competition for Keroon or Benden.”
“And the gaming,” Thea said with a disgusted sniff.
“That’s Chalkin’s main industry.”

So, apart from gaming, Bitra has no exports. I have to assume that Bitra’s internal production is enough for Bitra, because they clearly aren’t getting imports, since they’ve basically tried to screw every potential supplier they could have. Or perhaps they have a laundering operation in the same way the time-skipped exiles of Southern did, where Bitran money is used to bribe merchants into breaking their embargoes, or in to having fronts purchase the goods that are then shipped on to Bitra. Because as described, there’s no way Bitra should exist at this point.

The next trial, apparently, also uses Gardner as the defense lawyer, but this time for murder, and the jury doesn’t buy that killing someone is justifiable when your orders are to “restrain by any means.”

The men were sentenced to be transported to the Southern Islands by dragonback with a seven-day supply of food, which was the customary punishment for murderers.

Okay, that’s interesting. Exile for murderers, castration for rapists, beatings for accessories. And this is apparently what is laid out on the Charter or is the custom of Pern. I really can’t square these punishments with the idea that Pern is supposed to be some future society ideal, but then again, I assume those ideals are Star Trek, not Galt’s Gulch, so… (And also, I find it interesting that rapists get a much more permanent punishment than murderers do, given that we know that people can survive in the South, although usually by accident rather than by intent.)

Chalkin, of course, sends a threat that he intends to get compensation for the “ritual disfigurement of men only doing their duty,” and shouts at the dragonrider that comes to collect such a message about all the sins and problems of dragonriders.

After all that, the action settles back onto the weyrlings of Telgar and Iantine and Debera, whose dragon (and her) figure in more than a few sketches, prompting others to say that Iantine is in love, head over heels with Debera, and the other girls are laughing at Debera’s cluelessness, but also their own insecurities about what happens when their dragons rise to mate.

“To him it probably does,” Grasella said, “but, Jule, I’m more worried about the blue riders. I mean, some of them are very nice guys and I wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings, but they don’t generally like girls.”
“Oh,” and Jule [who is Weyrbred] shrugged indolently, “that’s easier still. You make an arrangement with another rider to be on hand when your green gets prod-dy. Then the blue gets his mate, if he’s got one, or anyone who’s willing–and you’d better believe that anyone’s willing when dragons are going to participate. So bed the one you like, and the blue rider his choice, and you all enjoy!”
The girls absorbed this information with varying degrees of enthusiasm or distaste.

Yet more evidence that others would, and probably should, find dragonriders to be a weird sex cult. Jule is blasé about the fact that people in the Weyr sleep around, especially when under the influence of dragons. To the Craft and Holdbred, who are probably being fed a very steady diet of arranged monogamy, and especially Debera, who escaped her own arranged marriage to the Weyr, this casual attitude toward sex should be shocking and scandalous, but nobody protests too loudly, as if all these women have just accepted the new reality as an objective fact.

Debera, for example, while she’s a bit embarrassed at Iantine falling for her, (and Morath confirming Iantine likes her) is a lot more textually embarrassed by the fact that she’s going to get new clothes.

She had tried to argue with Tisha that the beautiful green dress was quite enough: she didn’t need more. Tisha had ignored that and demanded that she choose two colors from the samples available: one for evening and another good one for daytime wear. Everyone in the Weyr, it seemed, had new clothes for Turn’s End. And yet, something in Debera had delighted in knowing she’d have two completely new dresses that no one had worn before her. She had, she admitted very quietly to herself, hoped that Iantine would notice her in them. Now, with Morath’s information, she wondered if he’d notice at all that she was wearing new clothes.

This is the right attitude for someone to have who has gone from relative poverty to apparent abundance. She has one dress that is probably fancier than what Debera has ever worn in her life, a dress that would probably have been made for her wedding, if the family had saved enough to contract a Weaver for it. And now, there’s someone insisting that she get two more dresses of the same quality for daily usage, as if these are, essentially, commodities. Debera understands the value and work put into the dresses, and wants to treat them as such. I would think that the others from outside the Weyr would also have similar reactions to their own fancy clothes.

The conversation goes on to talk about finding living spaces, and Jule ends up making a tasteless comment about how there will be space available for them when the time comes, with the implication of fatalities that all of them pick up on immediately. Jule apologizes immediately and the subject gets changed swiftly after an uncomfortable silence. The narrative shifts away, as well, to get away from that reality.

Clisser and Jemmy are, naturally, arguing. Jemmy is being short with Clisser, who wants status reports on the latest of the history ballads, over the trial. Jemmy thinks the trial was a farce and the guards should have just been sent to exile immediately. Clisser contends the trial was necessary to prove that people don’t act arbitrarily, and Jemmy snorts that such things are to position themselves against Chalkin.

Jemmy has reconstructed an abacus and slide rule to replace digital calculators and pads. (In theory, the slide rule allows for complex maths at nearly the same speed as digital calculation, but you have to be trained on it to achieve that speed, and you have to know what scales to use.) He’s also trying to figure out something that was done in the past to mark astronomical occurrences, and Clisser helps, albeit unintentionally, Jemmy land on Stonehenge as the likely candidate for imitation, and then is dismissed so that Jemmy can work on everything. Sallisha meets him just outside the office and gives him a full piece of her mind about the choices of subjects. Greek history and culture, she says, is essential so that people know where their government system comes from. Except Pern is not an Athenian democracy. Or, for that matter, a Roman republic. Perhaps, maybe, Sparta, given that the dragonriders really could rule any time they wanted. But no, Pern is feudalism. So Clisser’s objection, “…there is no point in forcing hill farmers and plains drovers to learn something that has absolutely no relevance to their way of life,” is right, but not for the reasoning that he has underneath it. Sallisha and Clisser go back and forth about what’s important to learn, with Clisser heavily on the side of “Pern is the important history to learn, as well as obligations to their betters and their rights under the charter” and Sallisha very much on the side of “knowing where you came from is most important.” They hash on about how terrible it is that so few people knew their rights, and why Chalkin hasn’t been removed, before Clisser says that Sallisha will be teaching the South Nerat circuit and gives her a new contract and her new syllabus. And that’s the end of the chapter.

I realize, now that I’m at the end of the chapter, that we got cheated on seeing what we actually wanted to see – a Lord Holder’s court and hearings not just on matters of crime and discipline, but matters of petty disputes, taxes, and the like.

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Dragonseye: Lurching Toward A Conclusion

Last time, the dragonriders intervened in a humanitarian crisis on the borders of Bitra, and continued to gather large swaths of evidence that Chalkin is unfit and needs to be impeached.

Dragonseye: Chapter X: Content Notes: Ablism, Patriarchal Norms

Chapter X begins with the attempt to convince Jamson of Chalkin’s bad behavior, but Jamson is unconvinced that such behavior is possible, and also has no desire to go out and verify things for himself because it’s winter in High Reaches. M’shall points out that Chalkin’s complaint about dragonriders not attending to his urgent signal is void because Weyrs have the right to refuse service to anyone (much like the Crafts do) with sufficient justification, and he and Bridgeley leave before Jamson can respond. But Jamson is still not convinced. “One simply does not impeach a Lord Holder overnight! Not this close to Threadfall,” he says, and he’s right that the process shouldn’t be easily doable, but at this point, there’s enough evidence that a trial should be getting underway shortly. Azury, who lives at Southern Boll, in much warmer climate, is not convinced initially, but does take up the offer to do his own interviews and see if there are liars or exaggerations going on. He comes back convinced, and the three go to see Richud of Ista, who is out fishing and has a lot of dolphins by his boat, because he claims the dolphins understand him. (We know, of course, that they do. One would think that the people of this time know as well, given that they’ve had access to the computers until recently.) Richud is on board, but asks that they hold the vote on a day he isn’t out fishing.

Which leaves Jamson. This time, they go back with Azury and with Iantine’s drawings.

“Very good idea, if Jamson will accept the proof as genuine,” the Southern Boll Holder said skeptically.
Which is exactly what happened.
“How can you be sure these are accurate?” the High Reaches Lord Holder said when he had leafed through the vivid and detailed drawings on Iantine’s pad. “I think the whole matter has been exaggerated out of proportion.” He closed the pad halfway on the stark sketch of the hanging man.

It is entirely possible that what I am about to say is strongly influenced by the fact that I’m writing it in a time where the President of the United States and several of the high officials of his government and campaign are currently being investigated as to whether they accepted and directed the machinations of a foreign government to interfere in an election, and then appear to have taken actions to obstruct the truth from coming out, but if Jamson turns out to have been bribed or bought off by Chalkin, I’m noting that I’ve called it all the way back from here.

Not that the narrative wants to give me the satisfaction, as right after Jamson dismisses them firmly, his son, who has been conveniently listening outside both times, offers to provide what help he can to get Jamson on board, while noting that Jamson’s memory and faculties have started to deteriorate over the last year. Paulin, the party’s next stop, volunteers that the son has been increasingly shouldering the responsibilities of running the Hold, but he can’t declare Jamson unfit and take over, even though Paulin knows who’s likely running the show there. Paulin praises the new learning scheme for including Charter rights in it, as well as rote learning as a method in times where databases are not available, to which he gets a side-eye from a significant body of research that flatly contradicts that idea, but characters know only what their writers know.

The action shifts back to Iantine, painting Zulaya, but it’s K’vin’s perspective as the viewpoint character, so that we can continue to sexualize the Weyrwoman while she sits. K’vin is pleased that Zulaya is wearing the red dress, as well as having her hair done up in such a way that uses the combs he got for her at the last Turn’s End celebration. He mentally praises the expression Iantine has painted on her face, and there’s a short flashback where he gets convinced that the idea of portraits of everyone in the Weyr is a good idea, if for no other reason that to remember who was there when the inevitable happens during the Fall.

Zulaya calls a halt, examines the portrait and is slightly unnerved at the way the eyes of the portrait follow the viewer around the room, before they turn to the issue of hot klah and whether or not Iantine’s sketches were enough to convince everyone.

Iantine grinned as if, K’vin noted with a twinge of jealousy, totally at ease with the Weyrwoman. Few were, except Tisha, who treated everyone like an errant child, or Leopol, who was impudent with everyone.

K’vin’s jealousy has to get him in trouble at some point in this narrative, since we keep coming back to it. But also, Tisha seems to be Manora and Silvina rolled together and I could have double-checked to make sure that line wasn’t Piemur instead of Leopol. Characters need to be differentiated more instead of the stock tropes of a type of character.

As it is, Zulaya mentions that Jamson is not fully there mentally, and getting worse, according to her sources, but Jamson would have to abdicate for anyone else to take charge according to the Charter, which everyone has been rereading or relistening to, and noting that it gives a lot of leeway to the Lord Holder to do things, although it’s immediately followed by “he’s [Chalkin] abrogated almost every right the holders are supposed to have” such as denying the trial by jury required before stripping a holder of their lands. There are also apparently provisions for collusion or mutiny, and a process by which a formal list of grievances can be delivered to the Lord Holder. Jamson’s reluctance to interfere in another’s business and skepticism about the drawings is met by Zulaya remaining (justifiably) upset about the violence done to the pregnant women.

“How are they?” K’vin asked.
“One has delivered prematurely, but she and the babe will be all right. The others…well, Tisha’s doing what she can…getting them to talk it all out before it festers too much in their minds.”
“They can swear out warrants against the guards–” Iantine began.
“They have,” Zulaya said in a harsh tone, her smile unpleasant. “And we have the guards. As soon as the women feel strong enough to testify, we’re convening a court here. And M’shall wants to try the murderers he’s holding at Benden.”
“Two trials, then?”
“Yes, one for rape and one for murder. Not at all our usual winter occupation, is it?” Zulaya said in a droll tone.

K’vin remarks that the Charter is actually rather detailed, and asks the obvious question about whether they can hold trial of another Hold’s men for actions they took in that Hold.

They can. “Justice can be administered anywhere, provided the circumstances warrant,” we are told. But all the same, the three agree to keep the idea only between those that have to be involved, so as not to provoke things that could get in the way, like Chalkin showing up.

That ends the chapter, but I want to keep talking about a couple things. First, I’m actually kind of surprised that the Charter document is as detailed as we are told. I was envisioning it more like the United States Constitution, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – a fairly broad document that would then be hammered out by subsequent legislation and court decisions establishing the boundaries and implementations of those rights. But apparently the Charter has specific things spelled out in it that are planet-wide no-nos, such as rape and murder. I’m glad they’re there, because it suggests there was a little more thought put into things than has been implicated before. I’m also a bit interested in how the provision of justice being applicable everywhere runs up against the autonomy of the Holder in their Hold. If it’s legal to defraud someone in Bitra, but Telgar prosecutes any and all cases of fraud vigorously, what happens when at a Fort Gather, a Telgarian can conclusively prove that the Bitran game is rigged so that nobody can win it? Whose law applies – Fort, Telgar, Bitra, or just the Charter? And who is recording these decisions for posterity?

Second, it appears that we have found the missing counselors and psychologists, and, as usual, it is untrained headwomen taking on these roles, without compensation or acknowledgement of what they are doing. Not just in emotional labor terms, which is a construction that might not have been available to the author, but the standing assumption that the headwoman is essentially the Weyr mother and confidante, so any issues like this that would need a sensitive touch go straight to her. I’d be interested in a story where we get to see all the work the headwoman does on a regular basis, just so that we can see how much gets piled on her shoulders. And who does she turn to when she needs help with everything?

Next chapter is going to start with the trials. I can hardly wait to see what constitutes the justice system at this point in Pernese history.

Dragonseye: Yet More Evidence

The last couple of chapters were essentially devoted to showing us how awful Chalkin is as a leader and how easy it should be to oust him from his position.

At which point I remind everyone that the Charter says only people of the Bitran Bloodline (so, only those who can prove their lineage directly to Avril Bitra) can replace Chalkin.

Dragonseye: Chapters VIII and IX: Content Notes: Crimes Against Humanity (Rape, Torture, Executions, Exploitation)

Chapter VIII returns to Iantine, who is continuing his sketch practice, this time as a group of traders arrives at Telgar Weyr and everyone essentially pops out to see them and what goods they have. Iantine mentions the ox-type beasts pulling the carts were bioengineered by Wind Blossom, which might be the first time in any Pern novel that anything other than the watch-whers (and how much everyone hates them) are attributed to Wind Blossom. So, she couldn’t recreate the dragons, but she seems to have been quite successful in other ventures. The narrative hasn’t told us this until now, preferring that we stay fixated on her great failure. I doubt the narrative would do the same for Benden or any other man.

These traders are again Liliencamp troops – did Joel just start a monopoly company that handles all the nomadic traders or something? (Narrative says later that he’s not the only, just the first.)

The traders have been setting up shelters along their routes so that they can avoid being burnt, and Leopol passes along the closed Bitran borders news. Iantine sketches and lets on another reason why the assemblage of dragonriders might be a better model than the Hold system.

Iantine had never given any thought to the support system required to serve a Weyr and its dragons. He had always assumed that dragons and riders took care of themselves from tithings, but he was acquiring a great respect for the organization and management of such a facility. In direct contrast with what he has seen at Bitra, everyone in the Weyr worked cheerfully at any task set them and took great pride in being part of it. Everyone helped everyone else: everyone seemed happy.

Wait, everyone? There’s nobody grumbling about having to carve meat or empty the privies or otherwise do things they might find distasteful? Although, the back of my head suggests that even the Weyrs have drudges, so perhaps the things the dragonriders truly don’t like are handled by people Iantine doesn’t see (or chooses not to).

To a person like Iantine, raised in Holds, this cheeriness at doing the work might ring an alarm bell, as if the dragonriders are a cult not only with weird sexual practices, but with mind control powers, too – and there he could connect with the fact that mating flights flying overhead often resulted in indiscretions. Iantine is grateful for the rescue, of course, but it seems like he should be a bit more suspicious of how perfect everything seems to be.

We are also told by the narrative that the dragons have been keeping themselves relevant in the Interval by starting a transport company, one that will be coming to a close as the dragons are instead used to fight space destruction. No word on whether they charged for transporting things, and Iantine treats the idea of dragons as cargo planes with the same disgust Sean did while he was alive.

As Iantine is sketching the scenes around him, Debera surprises him by commenting on the quality of the work. In turn, Iantine surprises her by remembering her name, although he credits Leopol for the knowledge. Iantine shows her a sketch of herself and Morath and she’s instantly charmed by it. And doesn’t have anything to pay for it with (much like Iantine, who earlier laments he didn’t have anything for the traders). Iantine gives Debera the sketch, and eventually tells her that she can help in trying to bargain an extra pad of paper off of the traders for him.

Iantine is also alert enough to notice that dragonriders have a tell when they’re communicating – their eyes unfocus just a bit. I wonder if anyone cunning will try to use that in a later book as the point where they attack a dragonrider.

As it turns out, Debera is related to the traders. Who are happy to talk with her, and have heard of Iantine, as well, and so Master Jol takes a look through Iantine’s sketchbook and agrees to ship him up some paper, after Leopol insinuates himself into the conversation and talks about all the commissions that are being lined up for Iantine. Iantine’s protests about not having money are met with the reassurance that he has credit with the traders and two offers to buy finished sketches in watercolors (which Jol [like Joel, amirite?] Liliencamp happens to have and will provide) so that Iantine can square his debts immediately. Jol heads back to deal with a question, but one of his subordinates drops off paper, pencils, ink, and pens for it for Iantine to get started. And thus ends chapter VIII.

Chapter IX shifts us back to Paulin, who did not get nearly as unanimous an approval for removing Chalkin as he had hoped, and am annoyance at the lack of preparations and the general lack of spirit in Bitra.

Paulin also has opinions about hereditary nobility.

And who would succeed to the hold? A consideration that was certainly fraught with problems.
In his response, Bastom had made a good suggestion: the appointment of a deputy or regent right away until one of Chalkin’s sons came of age; sons who would be specifically, and firmly, trained to hold properly. Not that the new holder had to be of the Bloodline, but following the precepts of inheritance outlined in the Charter would pacify the nervous Lords. To Paulin’s way of thinking, competence should always be the prime decider in succession, and that was not always passed on in the genes of Bloodlines.
For that matter, Paulin’s eldest nephew had shown a sure grasp of hold management. Sidny was a hard worker, a fair man, and a good judge of character and ability. Paulin was half tempted to recommend him up for Fort’s leadership when he was gone. He had a few reservations about his son, Matthew, but Paulin knew that he tended to be more critical of his own Blood than others were.

Of course, there’s always the problem that the regent will just never let go of the strings until he has a proper puppet in place, which is essentially what is being proposed here. It’s okay, though, because these are the good guys who believe in what we, as the reader, already know to be true. Sovereignty is always tricky, especially when trying to intervene in another country about their own practices and about a threat that is currently just in the abstract.

Their Harper descendants don’t have any trouble or qualm about manipulating succession in their own favor, of course. Anyone who strays from the orthodoxy is brought back into line relatively quickly. Only those that can keep the Harpers out can hold on to their power for a little while.

Paulin also realizes that accessing the genealogy is going to be more difficult, now that the computerized records and databases aren’t present as he gives a rider the message for M’shall about the impeachment polling.

(Random note: Crom Hold should be more properly CROM hold, as an acronym of the founders.)

M’shall bursts into Paulin’s office not too soon after the message is dispatched, with further news that Chalkin is not only seizing the lands of those that disagree with him, he’s herding those that want to leave info pens at the border and leaving them exposed to the ice storms that Iantine had caught the beginning of earlier in the book, and some of the people there have been used for some sort of target practice. Paulin and M’shall are convinced the situation warrants immediate action, as well as having to give a thought to how to protect any aid while not giving Chalkin the opportunity to claim he’s being interfered with.

Paulin felt nauseous. That sort of thing was straight out of the ancient bloody history the settlers had deliberately left behind: evolving a code of ethics and conduct that would make such events improbable! The planet was settled with the idea that there was room enough for everyone willing to work the land that was his or hers by Charter-given birthright.

Which only works until you run out of land, of course, which depends entirely on the fertility rate of the population and whether it not you inherit all the ancestral lands as well as your own. This problem was going to happen anyway, and Thread only exacerbates it. Chalkin happens to be someone who doesn’t particularly care about looking good in front of anyone else, so long as he has legal justification for doing what he’s doing. If and when Thread falls on his subjects, Chalkin will be inconvenienced, certainly, but he’s still not going to care enough to want to protect anyone but himself, his family, and his wealth. He’s a dictator trying to get others to make concessions to him so that the biological weapon doesn’t kill his subjects.

M’shall formulates a plan to provide some aid and dragonriders that won’t give Chalkin reason to claim the Weyrs aren’t neutral, and K’vin gets the short explanation when he knocks and enters, also very hot under the collar about Chalkin’s behavior. Paulin would love to show the currently-objecting Lords what’s going on in person, but the Chair can’t act without the unanimity he needs. (The two holdouts are apparently powerful enough that their objection counts.) So the two Weyrleaders go off to enact their plan, and bring Iantine along to sketch the scene. Which is what you might expect in a situation where people are nearly-naked in the cold, huddled together for warmth, with listless children, dead old people, and guards who are sheltered, warmed, wearing jewelry that isn’t theirs, eating animals that aren’t theirs, and everyone but the guards with a sign of violence done to them on their bodies. The Weyr rescue the people and take them back, and Iantine continues to draw what he saw, stopping only for a bit to eat (and even then, needing reassurance that all the refugees have eaten, too) and then a bit to sleep at the end.

Zulaya comes back from her rescue mission pissed.

“I knew he was a greedy fool and an idiot, but not a sadist. There were three pregnant women at the Forest Road border and they’d been raped because, of course, they couldn’t sue the guards later on a paternity claim.”
“Are the women all right?” K’vin asked, appalled by yet another instance of the brutality. “We arrived at the North Pass just in time to spare three lads from…very unkind attentions by the guards. Where does Chalkin find such men?”
“From holds that have tossed them out for antisocial behavior or criminal activities, of course,” Zulaya replied, almost spitting in anger. “And that blizzard’s closed in. We moved just in time. If we hadn’t, I fear most of these people would be dead by morning. Absolutely nothing allowed them! Not even the comfort of a fire!”

I’d say these were flagrant violations of the rules of war, except there isn’t a war going on, just a despot secure that he can abuse his subjects and nobody will step in and intervene from the UN. This is a step up from the usual mode of operations of Bitra, but it is more evidence that Bitra, such as it is, should probably have collapsed long before this point.

Methods of vengeance are discussed by K’vin and Zulaya and dismissed, and the two interview a refugee couple.

“Not to take our sow, though,” his mate said, her expression rebellious. “We needed that ‘un to make more piggies to meet the tithe he set.” Like her man, she is a stress on the pronoun. “Took our daughter, too, to work in the hold when we wanted her land grant. Said we didn’t work what we had good enough so we couldn’t have more.”
“Really?” Zulaya said, deceptively mild as she shot K’vin a meaningful glance. “Now that’s interesting, Holder Ferina.”
[…the dragons have known all along, apparently?…]
“But he says we got it wrong and we ain’t had no teacher to ask,” the man was saying. “An’ thassa ‘nother thing–we should have a teacher for our kids.”
“At least so they can read the Charter and know what rights you have,” Zulaya said firmly. “I’ve a copy we can show you right now, so you can refresh your memories.”
The two exchanged alarmed glances.
“In fact,” Zulaya went on smoothly, “I think we’ll be someone read you your rights…since it would be difficult for you to turn planes with bandaged hands, Brookie. And you’re not in much better shape, Ferina.”

Before getting into the latest of Chalkin’s offenses, I will note that in the society Pern models itself on, literacy is not a widespread goal for the population, and legal literacy would be even less so. Situations such as this would be commonplace, and the people would essentially have to rely on the understanding that if Chalkin taxes his people so much that they can’t survive, there won’t be anyone to tax next year. If Chalkin breaks the contract, this is the result, assuming he’s not deposed and killed. In Terran history, the various churches and denominations of Christianity were nominal checks on the abuse of this power, as priests and prelates could incite insurrection or plea with another nation to invade and conquer them to get this horrible ruler off their back. The dragonriders, though, are sworn to not interfere in Hold duties, so they can’t officially fill this role, much as they would be very good at it.

That said, stealing daughters in a world that uses children to expand land is generally a no-no, and the refusal of a land grant is likely actually spelled out as a Charter offense that Chalkin could be brought up on for impeachment.

After the Telgar Weyrleaders send out for help to get a copy of the charter and someone to read it, the action shifts over to the reading of a message from Chalkin, intended for Paulin, about how dragonriders are derelict in their duties, because he has apparently been flying a red-striped banner, indicating the need for a dragon to take an urgent messenge, for several days now and no dragon has come to see him, even though they have been close enough to see the banner. On top of that, Chalkin adds:

Not only have they been interfering with the management of this hold, but they fill the minds of my loyal holders with outrageous lies. I demand their immediate censure. They are not even reliable enough to perform those duties which fall within their limited abilities.

The Holders and riders listening are all unimpressed, and quite upset, at Chalkin’s accusations, especially in light of how he is treating his loyal holders. As it turns out, some of the guards involved in the incidents the dragonriders intervened in are being held in custody so that they can give testimony to what happened. The Holder and the Weyrleader decide it’s a good time to visit the holdouts and explain to them what’s actually going on, as well as visit Paulin and deliver the message. Thus ends Chapter IX, with yet more reasons to make an example of Chalkin and cement him firmly in our minds as not just an unbeliever, but an awful, evil person aside from his heterodoxy.

Could we have a villain in a book that isn’t over-the-top? Just someone who doesn’t agree and follow the line, and who otherwise is acting reasonably in line with that belief? In this time period, it would be perfect to have someone filling the role, and the book actually being about presenting the best evidence for and against?

Dragonseye: A Lack of Perspective

Last time, we got a nice peek at how Weyr life is different than everything surrounding it, and went through a many-page ideal designed to make sure that we all knew that Chalkin and his family were rotten of soul, corrupt of mind, and ugly of body, so that nobody would think of them as anything other than Stupid Evil.

Dragonseye: Chapters VI and VII: Content Notes: LGBT denial, inner-city stereotypes, corporal punishment

We pick up at Telgar Weyr, where a dragonrider has just hauled in our fleeing artist from the blizzards after he stomped a distress call in the snow that could be seen from dragonback. His story will join the piles of material sent as evidence that Chalkin should be impeached of his position.

Irene had already sent in a substantial list of abuses and irregularities in Chalkin’s dealings–generally with folk who had no recourse against his dictates. He held no court in which difficulties could be aired and had no impartial arbiters to make decisions.
The big traders, who could be counted on for impartial comment, bypassed Bitra and could cite many examples of unfair dealings since Chalkin had assumed holding fifteen years before. The few small traders who ventured into Bitra rarely returned to it.
Following that Gather and its decision to consider deposing Chalkin, M’shall had his sweep riders check in every minor hold to learn if Chalkin had duly informed his people of the imminence of Thread. None had, although Lord Chalkin had increased his tithe on every household. The manner in which he was conducting this extra tithe suggested that he was amassing supplies for his own good, not that of the hold. Those in a more isolated situation would certainly have a hard time obtaining even basic food supplies. That constituted a flagrant abuse of his position as Lord Holder.
When Paulin read M’shall’s report, he asked if Chalkin’s holders would speak out against him. M’shall had to report that his initial survey of the minor holders indicated a severe lack of civic duty. Chalkin had his folk so cowed, none would accuse him–especially this close to a Pass–for he still had the power to turn objectors out of their holds.

So, essentially, they’re asking someone to risk their lives and livelihoods to accuse Chalkin of malfeasance, and they’re not offering any incentive or protection to do it. I’d bet a lot more of them would be willing to talk if they were offered a Hold of comparable size somewhere very far away from Bitra, or if it would be guaranteed their testimony would be spoken by another, so that it couldn’t be traced to them by Chalkin. Witness protection and whistle-blower protection laws exist for this kind of situation, but they essentially rely on the case being so good that a conviction is guaranteed and that the person engaging in the activity is not found out before the trial happens.

Plus, as the audiences of this and last year are now reading in the accounts about Messrs. Cosby, O’Reilly, Trump, Weinstein, et al., if the person you are speaking out against has sufficient power to ruin you and prevent you from being able to survive in your profession, then you don’t talk about them openly. You make sure everyone knows that person is not to be trusted or to be left alone with at any time at all, but you don’t talk about them openly or in any forum where you could be sued or fired.

K’vin and Zulaya talk about Iantine, and Zulaya suggests possibly sitting a portrait for Iantine so that he has his full allotment of marks to do the land transfer deal that he initially went to Bitra for. K’vin thinks it’s a swell idea, suggesting that Zulaya wear the red dress from the Hatching (the one he was lusting after), providing a perfect, if unintentional, example of the kind of harassment that women might get in the kinds of situations where it might be difficult to speak up about it. Afterward, we stick with Iantine as he wakes up to singing, good food, and having a person assigned to him to make sure he gets fed, watered, and medicined before the Weyrleaders come to see him in the dining hall, collect his story, and commission him for the portraits. He meets the Weyr artist, Waine, and works out a deal with him to manufacture a full set of pigments if Waine can source the raw materials. Before, of course, Waine notices Iantine is still sick, summons headwoman Tisha, who ships him immediately off to bed with more furs and calls the medic immediately, who imprecates Bitra for having given him measels (which is what the sick children at Bitra had) or a mountain fever.

Suffice to say, when Iantine wakes up again, his mother is by his beside, and a bit annoyed at the lengths he went to for getting the fee, but Leopol, his assigned person, fills him in that his mother was boasting pretty hard about the fee and that he’d managed to extract it from Chalkin, that his Master had handled a complaint from Chalkin about the quality of the work, and that Iantine has quite a queue of people ready to sit a portrait with him. Tisha gives him sketch paper while he recovers from the lung infection, and he goes about doing sketches of everything, including a class being given on the soft and tender parts of dragons that are best not to hit with Thread, and how to deal with injuries to dragons. There’s assurance that dragons will know when they’ve been tagged with Thread, that popping into hyperspace is the right remedy for it, but that one must always have a destination in mind when doing so, and that the best way to accomplish this is to head home to the Weyr, in such a way that an orderly landing that won’t compound injury is possible. There’s a lot of insistence that the riders have to keep their dragons calm and only think reassuring thoughts at them, no matter what their actual beliefs are, because the dragons are the important part of the partnership.

Iantine’s concentration in the lesson is interrupted by M’leng, a green rider, and P’tero’s (the one who rescued Iantine) “special friend”, as the narrative puts it, right before observing that the two are always together in the kitchen areas. It’s pretty clear they’re lovers, and we’ve already had the dry bit where boys with “homosexual preferences” impress dragons, so by now, the Weyrfolk, at least, would have no trouble referring to them as such. Since it’s Iantine’s head we’re in, I’m chalking that terminology usage up to the world outside the Weyr being very, very insistent that there are no gay men outside Weyrs and to say such a thing is both scandalous and likely to get you run out of town or otherwise disadvantaged. Because succession and marriage and offspring and patriarchy, the last of which can bite my shiny metal ass.

Especially since M’leng is asking for a portrait to wear closest to his heart just in case P’tero should die in the upcoming Threadfall. Iantine thinks, for a moment, that M’leng might be dramatizing things, but then realizes he’s not, coupled with starting to truly understand the cruelty and necessity of the lectures being delivered. Thus ends chapter VI.

Chapter VII starts with more information that’s now needed with Thread approaching – a medics conference and intensive at Fort Hold on first aid for humans and dragons, so that essentially every space will have trained personnel that can deal with crisis issues. If which there will be plenty, as we are treated to a description of the very few things that can kill or stop Thread from devouring someone whole, possibly long enough to perform a field amputation. The assembled are horrified at the data about Thread spread and that amputation is likely the best option to prevent an agonizing Thread death. And that it takes about three seconds to kill Thread by any of the known methods. Practically, the assembled are admonished to apply numbweed and fellis where needed, and to emphasize that people can survive Theeadscore, so that they don’t psychologically kill themselves.

After the parts on draconic injuries, some of the assembled medics quietly discuss the ethical considerations of “mercy” killing someone who has been Threadscored sufficiently that they are likely to die, but who doesn’t die immediately or swiftly. They mostly conclude that each medic has to decide where their point is that they would do it.

Then we shift over to another part of Fort Hold, where the instruction is to the groundcrews on the proper use of flamethrowers, checks to make sure that all the important parts of the Holds are sheltered, and several lectures about the appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment and how one should always treat a flamethrower nozzle as loaded and ready to flame. And a crucial detail – the flamethrower consists of two gases combining and igniting rather than just the nitric acid (which is still an awful, inefficient thing to use, especially when you have methane production from all the horses and cows and their manure that someone could possibly pressurize or capture and ignite). I wonder what the other item is in the mix.

After a demonstration of using the flamethrowers against simulated Thread, Kalvi, the instructor, talks about the two different types of Thread – the ones that gorge and die, and the ones that burrow and kill everything in a wide swath. Then everyone gets the opportunity to fire on simulated Thread, before learning the next day everyone gets to learn how to field-strip, repair, and reassemble their weapons, with a reward promised to those who can do so in the fastest time.

After that, it’s back to the College for music practice on the new curriculum, which still has mixed opinions among the faculty about its adoption. In a little bit of reversal, there’s an argument that tradition and history deserve a place in the new curriculum, so that the Pernese know where they come from, rather than getting rid of everything before the now, with perhaps the exceptions of Benden, Boll, and other figures directly related to Pern. Those arguing for jettisoning the curriculum have this to say about the society Pern left behind:

“And all that went with a high-tech society–like prepubescent addicts, city gangs, wild plagues, so much tech fraud that people were stuffing credits in their mattresses to protect their income, the–”
“Spare me,” Sallisha said contemptuously, “and concentrate on the good that was done…”
Sheledon gave a chuckle. “D’you know how dangerous it was to be a teacher on old Earth?”
“Nonsense, our civilization,” and she emphasized the word, “revered professors and instructors on every level.”
“Only after they were allowed classroom discipline–” Sheledon began.
“And the use of stunners,” Shulse added.

I am again struck by the hyperbolic descriptions of places that are supposed to be bad. In a few paragraphs, Clisser will pile on by talking about how memorization will increase word retention and that old Earth had people who never went outside and only interacted electronically. Not because they were hikikomori or introverts or disabled, but because they were indolent, at least according to Clisser, who will be smug about the inability to be indolent on Pern.

It feeds into the overarching narrative of individual strength and Randian morality that Pern operates on, but I can’t imagine any society able to function if the conditions that are described were present in any quantity, especially the last one. It makes Earth sound no better than places in the 20th century ruled by angry despots (or the places in 20th century science fiction ruled by angry despots). That teachers supposedly needed not only permission to discipline their students, but stun guns to use on those students suggests a societal collapse if it is spread planet-wide. It’s like the worst stereotype of a predominant poor and minority inner city neighborhood expanded out to an entire planet. For readers who have only ever experienced the stereotype or heard stereotypical stories, this description would be utterly plausible.

A stereotype like that, though, would never survive in that form. There must be something else going on that’s being overlooked, much like how stories of how the inner city is only good for criminals and lowlifes overlook or deliberately ignore the efforts going on in those places to make their streets safer and more beautiful, and often fall to notice the ways that more distant government entities act in ways to try and keep those places as stereotypes they can use for political soundbites or as targets for their own evil.

There’s also something to be said about the reintroduction of corporal punishment for teachers, which is, sadly, an artifact of our times that plenty of people still think it’s an effective way to obtain and enforce classroom discipline. At this point in time, where I’m writing, there’s a corpus of work on parental spanking that tell us corporal punishment creates obedience by virtue of the person doing the hitting being stronger, but that it doesn’t create the internal motivation or reasoning that would prevent reoccurence of the behavior. Instead, it generates resentment. There’s also a corpus of research at this point that says boys are more likely to be disciplined or suspended, and minority students are way more likely to be disciplined, suspended, or expelled than their white counterparts, with the following academic consequences that come from being out of school so much. Now add into that teachers having full authority to use stun guns on any student they deem is acting up enough to warrant it, and I can’t imagine that there are all that many pleased parents about how their children are being treated by the racists (and/or xenophobes) in charge of their classrooms. They get “respect”, sure, in the same way the prison warden gets “respect” – cause they can make your life hell if they don’t like you and you can’t leave until the government says so. Whomever the education secretary is of the United Federation of Planets for this universe should have been fired a long time ago if this is their across-worlds policy.

As Clisser listens to the music, he thinks about Bitra and how they can’t be allowed to lapse into illiteracy, even though there isn’t a teacher who would willingly go there to instruct. His last teacher quit, after all. But no plans come forward at this point. Even as Clisser keeps his ears out for mention of Chalkin at the dinner following all of these training events. Where we hear Chalkin is closing the borders and preventing anyone from leaving with more than the clothes they are wearing. And then at the meeting with Paulin afterward, this border closure is essentially the largest move in a long string of isolationary tactics from Chalkin. Along with whipping and disbarring anyone who talks to him about his duties evading Threadfall. The restriction of freedom of movement is given as the other reason, beside the dereliction of his duty, as to why Chalkin can be impeached – both are Charter offenses. Which brings me back to the question of how Bitra survives, as presumably anyone with outside money or honesty would have long since run away over the borders when given the opportunity or been reduced to pennilessness and therefore uselessness to the Bitran economy. Unless there are other contracts being made of those people that keep them in eternal wage slavery and dangling the hope of something in front of them that keeps them there. If that were the case, though, we likely would have seen them, instead of the apparently completely corrupted population of the Hold. Bitra as it has been described to us shouldn’t exist, because it continues to have no reason to do so.

Paulin also tells us why the Holder system was adopted: “to give people a strong leader to supply direction during a Fall and to provide emergency assistance.” I suppose Chalkin could be considered strong, but I would have also expected there to be “bloodily put down several insurrections agitating for better conditions in his Hold” on his list of sins. In any case, Paulin starts drafting a letter to send out regarding calling an emergency session for Chalkin’s impeachment. And then everyone realizes that the days of easy copying died with the printers, so instead they figure two copies will do, one for each side of the continent, to be delivered and read out by dragonriders to each of the appropriate Lords and Leaders. As Paulin sets to his task, the chapter ends.

I think we’ve hammered the point home enough about how awful Chalkin is and how nobody wants to do anything with him that has a choice in the matter. It should be a simple enough matter, then, to remove him from the office and install someone new in time for the arrival of Thread.

It won’t be that easy, of course.

Dragonseye: From The Perspectives Of Innocents

Last time, I swore a lot. Whether textually, videographically, or just mentally, as the foundations (and consequences) of the horrible place we call Pern were laid and extrapolated without the narrative, or many of the characters, objecting to the horrible things that were happening.

Dragonseye: Chapter IV and V: Content Notes: Ablism

Chapter IV lets is peek at what adjusting to life in the Weyr is like, through its latest resident, Debera. After being dismissed by Zulaya for being tired, Debera is told that titles don’t get used in the Weyr (that’s probably not strictly true, but Zulaya isn’t going to stand on proper address to a tired weyrling), and acknowledgement that there are indeed rumors about Weyrfolk spread among Holders.

…as she made her way along the side of the cavern wall, head down so she needn’t make sure contact with anyone. She saw only smiles from folks as she passed them, smiles and courtesy. And certainly none of the lascivious behavior that her father often said was prevalent in the Weyr.

We then get how Debera had the information withheld from her, how she discovered the letter in a cupboard of recyclable (how she hates the monomania about recycling and reusing) things just as she was settling for the idea of getting married off to someone who didn’t care about her, only about whether she could work. Because at least then she would have something of her own, that she could put her own decorating touches on.

Having found her invitation to the ball, she finds a horse, gives it a minimal bit (because being seen by her family would only alert everyone to her plan) and takes off for the Weyr. She’s almost there before the pursuit comes into view, and we know the rest, although there’s this nugget of information about how Debera sees her predicament.

Her own mother had told her there were ways of handling a man so he didn’t even know he was being managed. But Milla had died before she could impart those ways to her daughter. And Gisa, who had probably given up all thought of a second union of she had been desperate enough to partner her father, was a natural victim who enjoyed being dominated.

Not as much for Debera’s viewpoint as an outsider to an abusive relationship, because that is a [harsh, wrong, and victim-blaming] conclusion that people who don’t understand the dynamics of abuse can come to, but for the system that ensures, essentially, that women have to marry who is available, or worse, who has been chosen for them if they wish to survive on this world. It would be one thing if this were in clear and flagrant contravention of the ideals of the settlers, but…they seem to have been more than willing to practice this kind of life themselves. So, assholes abound, and inflict these abuses in the next generations.

After Debera lands in her bunk and sleeps, we switch back to the college, where the resort in the music is good (and they’re already being called Teaching Ballads, even though there’s no real cause for that yet), and there is news of a catastrophe – a lightning strike has fried solar panels and computers to a point where they are lost. To which several people shrug at the lost knowledge of a society that isn’t what they have now, reference the distress beacon sent up (although nobody here actually knows about the events of Rescue Run), get annoyed that the surge came up the data lines, and therefore wasn’t stopped by any surge protector, and then the senior faculty decide, essentially, that since they’re cut off from the rest the galaxy (by design), it’s time to jettison all the old stuff that’s not relevant and focus on Pern. With an interesting call forward that is supposed to be a call back.

“Clisser,” Bethany began in her soft, persuasive voice, “we have known from our reading of the Second Crossing that the artificial intelligence, the Aivas, turned itself off. We know why. Because it wisely knew that people were beginning to think it was infallible: that it contained all the answers to all of mankind’s problems. Not just its history. Mankind had begun to consider it not only an oracle, but to depend on it far more than was wise. For us. So it went down.”

Now, without the character names appended, did that statement come from First Interval Pern or Ninth Pass Pern? Because, frankly, it sounds like the author forgot which time period she was writing in, and nobody either noticed or could get that part edited out. What it does, however, is suggest that at some later point in Pern, during the permanent interval, someone will resurrect the AI again. Possibly at a point where they can delve into its code and pull out the self-shutdown module so that it has to live with the consequences of its decisions. Or they might decide to permanently shut it down, having gotten tired of the messiah routine.

After the person with the disability continues to talk about the need for everyone to work under their own brain power and strength, instead of relying on easy access to data, the chapter ends. And I can’t say that I approve of the disabled character becoming the mouthpiece for, essentially, ablism. But nobody says that Randians are perfectly consistent and logical with their actions and speech.

Chapter V returns to Debera, who is awoken from a very sound sleep by a very hungry dragonet. After establishing what is going on, her roommate, Sarra, informs Debera that from this morning on, they’ll have to be up very early so they can carve meat for the dragonets’ breakfasts. How nice it will be, then, when the dragons can start hunting on their own. With Morath fed, T’dam, the Weyrlingmaster, appears, frightening Debera and physically stopping her from jumping up to her feet to greet him as she’s been trained. “We’re not formal in the Weyr,” he says, but between what he has said and what Zulaya said earlier about not being formal, I think it’s a smokescreen intended to get the dragonriders to think of themselves as dragonriders, instead of as girls with whatever social station and required politeness they had drilled (and likely beaten) into them as Hold girls and Craft girls. Wouldn’t do for someone of a higher social status to behave like someone of lower status now.

After feeding, Debera manages to get Morath to some sand for a nap, before thinking about her own breakfast and seeing the butchering stands where she will have to carve up breakfast for the dragon from here on out. When asked if she is squeamish, she says no and is told that some of her peers are.

Debera is appreciative of the food, noting the porridge is perfectly cooked and that the cereal itself is clearly of the finest quality, with a clear implication that her previous life did not have such luxury. Helping a couple of bronze riders, including S’mon, get settled in, the three are then asked by the Headwoman if they need anything from the stores. Debera gets some extra attention by apologizing that she didn’t bring the green dress back to return it, and Tisha tells her it’s her dress now, that Tisha loves making clothes, and that she’s a bit disappointed that Debera doesn’t sew, considering it a falling of education on the Hold. While Debera internally notes her birth mother would have taught her, but her stepmother can barely mend.

This does, however, lead to a useful moment of privilege-checking.

“And you’ll learn to sew harnesses, my fine young friends,” she said, wagging a finger at them. “And boots and jackets, too, if you’ve a mind to design your own flying wear.”
“Huh?” was M’rak’s astonished reaction. “Sewing’s fer women.”
“Not in the Weyr it isn’t,” Tisha said firmly. “As you’ll see soon enough. It’s all part of being a dragonrider. Ah, now, here’s the bread, butter, and a pot of jam.”
[…M’rak digs in, but then there’s the matter of feeding dragonets…]
“We have to cut up what our dragonets eat, though, don’t we?” S’mon said in a slightly anxious voice. “From the…the bodies they got hung up?”
“You mean cut it off the things that wore the meat?” M’rak turned a little pale and swallowed.
“That’s what we mean,” Debera said. “If you like, I’ll do your carving and you can just cut up. Deal?”
“You bet,” M’rak said fervently. And gulped again, no longer attacking the rest of the bread that hung limply from his fingers. He put the slice down. “I didn’t know that was part of being a dragonrider, too.”
Debera chuckled. “I think we’re all going to find out that being a dragonrider is not just sitting on its neck and going wherever we want to.”
A prophesy she was to learn was all too accurate. She didn’t regret making the bargain with the two youngsters–it was a fair distribution of effort–but it did seem that she spent her next weeks either butchering or feeding or bathing her dragonet, with no time for anything else but sleeping. She had dealt with orphaned animals, true, but none the size nor with the appetite capacity of dragons. Morath seemed to grow overnight, as if instantly transferring what she ate to visible increase–which meant more to scrub, oil, and feed.

This is the sort of thing I would have liked to see in earlier books, because the mature dragons hunt on their own and it really does seem like they’re magic things to the world outside the dragonriders. It humanizes weyrlings, instead of disappearing them to some nebulous space, and it gives us a peek as to other reasons why dragonriders might be considered dangerous forces outside of the Weyrs. Dragonriders do not appear to enforce social or sexual norms of the culture around them, and they also believe themselves inherently superior to the other people in the world. Were it not for their entrenched position as the saviors of the world when the destruction from space comes, and the giant organic flamethrowers and war machines the dragons are, the dragonriders might have instead been persecuted as a strange cult of deviants that needed to be stamped out as soon as possible. Which sounds like a fantastic fiction idea for someone to write.

After a little grumbling about exhaustion from the new riders, the narrative shifts to Chalkin sitting for a portrait that the artist hopes to get done in time so that he can get away before the snows close the passes. A paragraph of lack of specific warnings about Bitra follow – not to gamble with Bitrans, that Chalkin regularly defrauds others through contract language – before several more paragraphs about how ugly Chalkin is and how the artist, Iantine, regularly got in fights with his master about how realistic portraits should or should not be, because Master Domaize feels that “No one wants to see themselves as others see them” and Iantine thinks realism is best. Everyone else at his Hall warned him away from taking a commission for four childrens’ portraits, with tales of miserly Chalkin and all the rest, but Iantine had debts to repay and particular skill set for the work, and so he took the commission, got a contract, got told to raise alarm at the very first sign of trouble, and went to work. Where he found out that the Lady of the Hold will use the word “satisfaction” to demand everything be redone, bigger, and grander than what was actually agreed to. While the children, of course, refuse to sit still enough to be painted, and are ugly of face, fat of body, and otherwise ill-mannered, ill-clothed, cruel to animals and utterly unconcerned about their appearance. And Chalkin insists he’ll charge room and board if Iantine isn’t painting someone when the children fall ill, and so here we are with another portrait being painted. (After Iantine had to buy a lock to prevent his paint pots from being dried out and his provided furs from being stolen, and to pay out the nose for raw materials and paint pots to mix up more paint because the lack of “satisfactory” work burnt through the supplies he brought, one blizzard had already made him feel he wasn’t getting out alive, and his commitment to realism was thoroughly trashed because only portraits that looked nothing like the people were considered satisfactory. No, really.) Iantine completes the portrait, gets Chalkin to call it satisfactory, gets paid, contracts signed, and Iantine escapes. Which closes the chapter.

Okay, I realize that Bitra is a Hold of Hats, and that their Hat is essentially that nobody in Bitra makes their money honestly, whether by sucker bets, weasel words in contracts, or by nickel-and-diming someone for things that would otherwise be provided, and for sub-par quality goods. There’s usually a town like this in a standard RPG, or at the very least a part of the city where all of those people gather (Zozo, the dark alleyway or Thieves Guild), and the hero has to get something vital from the place, or some character that is important is there because they’ve been cheated out of everything and you need to collect their Thing before they join you (Iorek Byrnison). It’s a trope, but there’s an important part that always gets overlooked in these spaces, that becomes a glaring flaw on Pern.

How, exactly, does Bitra Hold function? If they cheat everyone, including themselves, and only have awful things, and presumably have done this enough times that everyone knows they’re going to do it, why haven’t they been blanket-hellbanned by everyone on the planet who isn’t part of Bitra? As far as I can tell, there’s nothing that Bitra produces that’s vital to Pern, nothing they produce that is of higher quality than anything else on Pern, and there’s nothing that they have any sort of monopoly that would make others grudgingly accept them. If everyone in Bitra is Snidely Whiplash (or wants to be), there’s no reason why anyone else would do business with them on Randian individualist Pern. A corrupt Lord over otherwise generally honest people could be believed. But a city of thieves, con artists, swindlers, gamblers, and the like? That’s generally what we call prison. (Or multinational corporations, but even those are theoretically bound by laws.) This behavior has been going on long enough for Bitra to have a reputation for it, and that reputation is apparently well deserved. So why is there even the request from Bitra for a commission present? An entity that deals in bad faith doesn’t get many chances to make money before it gets found out and ignored or destroyed. Cartoon villains such as these don’t exist in the real world because they would be far too inept at villainy to be long-lasting.

Bitra Hold should essentially be a place that someone occasionally escapes from to the rest of the world, not a place where people willingly go in.

They do make for convenient villains, though, of the kind where no one will mistakenly sympathize with them.

Dragonseye: This Is How You Treat Women?

Last time, the creepiness continued, in addition to the head of the teachers’ college deciding that what degrading Pern needs is less knowledge, compartmentalized, rather than a broad commitment to the arts and sciences. Surely we can’t have a whole book full of…oh, who am I trying to kid?

Dragonseye: Chapter III: Content Notes: Misogyny, Sexism, Patriarchal Attitudes

Chapter III starts with a Hatching. And a demonstration that, even though everyone wants a more permanent relic for the future, the earworm music is working as intended.

And more confusion about exactly how professional the relationship between K’vin and Zulaya is and is supposed to be.

Zulaya patted his [Paulin’s] hand encouragingly. “You can ask what progress he’s made on that project.”
K’vin, coming up behind them, casually laid a hand on his Weyrwoman’s shoulder, acting as proprietary of her as her dragon was of her clutch. Amused, Paulin coughed into his hand and hurriedly excused himself.
“He’s worried about that fail-safe,” Zulaya said, almost amused by K’vin’s show of jealousy but not about to remark on it.
“You’re looking very beautiful in that new dress,” he said, eyeing it.
“Do I? Why, thank you, Key,” she said, twisting her hips to make the skirt whirl.

And then they talk about tapestries as a possible fail-safe.

So here’s my confusion. The first chapter made it pretty clear that K’vin desperately hopes for a more intimate relationship to go along with the Wetrleadership, and that Zulaya is essentially keeping it professional – appearing with him when needed for public confidence or when they have to make decisions together, but not actually interested in him that way. They both have been around each other a lot, because she uses a nickname for him from before he was actually a dragonrider.

Here, however, K’vin gets possessively jealous of her. Paulin is amused, Zulaya almost is, but she’s not going to tell him off in public about it (which makes sense – unified leadership), but then when he compliments her dress, the narrative makes it sound like she’s flirting with him. If I were some sort of, say, redpiller or someone carrying a torch big enough to light the night sky by itself, I’d point to this as “evidence” that what Zulaya “really wants” is K’vin to take her without respecting any no she might put up.

Despite that what we are going to receive next is all sorts of information about Impression and how hatchlings and candidates react differently to Impression and are carefully watched to make sure they form a strong and healthy bond, there’s one thing I’d love to know – do dragons influence the mental states of their riders outside of the mating frenzy? I’m not sure we’ve received a definitive answer, although there have been instances where dragons are asked to speak with other dragons about the mental states of their riders, so it’s thoroughly possible. If this is a case of draconic emotion leaking through (there is a Hatching about to start, after all, so Zulaya’s queen could be feeling a lot of emotions other than her usual set), it is be nice for that to get flagged, because it’s otherwise easy to interpret in a way inconsistent with Zulaya’s character.

There’s also this particular gem, in case anyone wondered how deeply entrenched toxic ideas are in Weyr culture this early.

But then, a rider was the dragon, and the dragon the rider, in a partnership that was so unwavering, its cessation resulted in suicide for the dragon who lost his mate. The unfortunate rider was as apt to take his life as not. If he lived, he was only half a man, totally bereft by his loss. Female riders were less apt to suicide: they at least had the option of sublimating their loss by having children.
When the little fire-lizards, who had supplied the genetic material to bioengineer the dragons, a former male rider found some solace in such companionship.

Cocowhat by depizan

Cocowhat by depizan

That sentence about women riders is just laced with Unfortunate Implications, many of which I’m not sure Pernese society sees as all that Unfortunate. Or possibly as just Implications. There’s no saving men riders, they’ll either kill themselves or live as broken shells. But women! If they have a loss of dragon, get them pregnant as soon as possible because babies make everything better and anchor people to reality.

Because postpartum depression doesn’t exist. Because women obviously don’t abort children they don’t want (despite the numerous references to women doing exactly that, some of which will be following shortly), and they certainly don’t commit suicide over the thought of raising a child fathered on them by force. And it’s not like pregnancy and birth here is a painless affair – cesarians exist, and there are probably many stories on the planet about kids whose mothers died in childbirth.

But no, women who lose their draconic companions will very clearly find their purpose again in raising children.

As the eggs begin their rocking dance, K’vin muses on how he needs enough candidates to Impress on the greens.

Greens with male riders tended to be more volatile, apt to ignore their Weyrleader’s orders in the excitement of a Fall–in short, they tended to unnecessarily show off their bravery to the rest of the Weyr. Female riders, on the other hand, while more stable, tended to get pregnant frequently, unless they were very careful, since the greens were usually very sexually active. Even spontaneous abortions due to the extreme cold of between required sensible convalescence, so female green riders were all too often off the duty roster for periods of time. “Taking a short dragon-ride” was now a euphemism for ending an unwanted pregnancy. Still, K’vin had fallen on the side of preferring females when Search provided them.

Cocowhat by depizan

How is it that nobody has discovered or synthesized an effective birth control method by this point in time? There’s got to be something in the plant life that can be put to use for this purpose. And something else that can theoretically be usefully turned into condoms or other such coverings. Or even some sort of sex toy that can be close at hand for any rider. If for absolutely no other reason than to cut down on the number of days fighting dragonriders spend in post-pregnancy convalescence.

A hormonal birth control could be secretly passed among the women without any men knowing about it. Because I can’t imagine green riders being complicit in this scheme, unless the days of convalescence are the only breaks they get in the schedule of fighting Thread and doing chores about the Weyr.

All the same, there have been a couple hundred years to see and perfect some form of making it so that every green isn’t either “pre-pregnant,” pregnant, or post-pregnant all of their lives.

We’re also told “Three of the other greens made for lads who had demonstrated homosexual preferences in their holds.” So, apparently, it’s been codified at this point that greens will go to gay men as well as women. I had initially thought that the displays of unprovoked bravado by greens with men riders were just about proving that you were equally as manly as the other colors, despite riding women dragons and being with women riders. But now that it’s canon some of the men riding greens are gay, those displays might also be an attempt to attract a mate from the other rider colors. It’s not the best time for it, but that’s really no other time where a green would be able to show off her abilities.

I’m still not very happy at the continual placing of gay men in the lesser dragon ranks and the near continual insistence on human heteronormativity as the only way to get to lead your Weyr. As K’vin and Zulaya are proving to us, there’s no actual need for the Weyrleaders to be an actual couple, or even sexually interested in each other, outside of their dragons’ desires. There’s probably some really good fic out there that examines and tries to fix these issues.

To answer an earlier question, apparently Hatchings are also times of strong emotion, and those reverberate through the dragonriders as well. Not so strong that K’vin can’t spare a thought that Zulaya looks beautiful in her dress with a backdrop of sun filtered through dragon, but there’s plenty of emotional states being broadcast at this point in time.

Raised voices outside briefly threaten to distract him, but someone else appears to be dealing with it, until one of the greens on the sand makes a beeline for the entryway, where a new girl has just entered, and makes Impression with her. This does not please the girl’s companions, and they try to separate the two. This goes poorly.

K’vin had one look at the shock on his face, the fear on the girl’s, before the dragon has the man down and was trying to open her jaws wide enough to fit around his head.
T’dam, being nearer, plunged to the rescue. The girl, Debera, was also trying to detach her dragonet from her father, for that’s what she was calling him.
“Father! Father! Leave him alone, Morath. He can’t touch me now, I’m a dragonrider. Morath, do you hear me?”
Except that K’vin was very anxious that Morath might have already injured the man, he was close to laughing at this Debera’s tone of authority. The girl had instinctively adopted the right attitude with her newly hatched charge. No wonder she’d been Searched…and at some hold evidently not too far away.
[…enough bodies are present to separate the two, but Morath isn’t done with him yet…]
He would hurt you. He would own you. You are mine and I am yours and no one comes between us, Morath was saying so ferociously that every rider heard her.

The details come out very quickly that Debera was betrothed by her father to someone that would strengthen family ties and open a new mine, but then the riders came and told her she was a candidate. Debera wanted to go, but her father didn’t show her the letter and told the arranged marriage that Debera had refused to come to the Grounds. Her father is full of venom that the riders get priority and that their coming around had changed Debera very clearly for the worse.

Wounds got nothing to do with my righteous anger, Lord Holder. I know what I know, and I know we had it all arranged and you should stick up for your holders, not these Weyrfolk and their queer customs and doings, and I dunno what will happen to my daughter.” At this point he began to weep, more in frustrated anger than from the pain of the now well-anesthetized injuries. “She was a good girl until they come. A good biddable girl!”

Oh, the juxtaposition here between the narrative putting in Menolly’s mouth that the girls at Paradise River are “biddable” as a compliment, and here, where is absolutely clear that “biddable” is a bad thing when it conflicts with dragonriders getting candidates.

On a more meta level, however, I have this character, Lavel, to thank for finally articulating what should have been a running theme throughout the series right from the very beginning – that dragonriders are strange people with strange customs, and certainly strange sexual practices, that interfere with the business of Holds, ruin alliances, and otherwise disrupt the business of “normal” people on the planet. Even though most people acknowledge that they’re necessary for continued survival, especially during Threadfall, there should be gigantic resentment among the holders, if not the Lords themselves, about being beholden to the dragons and the way they function essentially above the laws and customs of everyone else. That it’s the fourteenth book before this point is getting any serious treatment says something.

Perhaps it took the author this long to come up with a solution, as one is very swiftly forthcoming that essentially makes the argument “Yes, it looks weird from the outside, but if you actually lived here and got to observe us, you’d see it wasn’t that weird at all.” And the narrative is swift to assure us that most families find having a dragonrider to be good – extra prestige to your bloodline, and available transportation, to boot.

Listening to the vitriol in Lavel’s criticism of Weyr life upset both Weyrleaders and Lord Holders. It was true that certain customs and habits had been developed in the Weyrs to suit dragon needs, but promiscuity was certainly not encouraged. In fact, there was a very strictly observed code of conduct within the Weyr. There might not be formal union contracts, but no rider reneged on his word to a woman nor failed to make provision for any children of the pairing. And few Weyrbred children, reaching puberty, left the Weyr for the grandparental holds even if they failed to Impress.

Why would they, when they clearly have the best lives in the Weyrs? No pressure to be married off to anyone, a modest degree of independence, and, generally speaking, supplies delivered to you without having to do the deadly work of fighting Thread.

I am laughing somewhat at the insistence that promiscuity is not encouraged in the Weyr, and that children are provided for. These both sound very much like things that might be impressed upon gold queen riders and would-be Weyrwomen, but not actually true in the Weyrs outside the upper-crust bubble. The green dragons and their notoriously high sex drives provide narrative justification as to why it’s not promiscuity if it just so happens that certain men and women are getting their fill of sex with each other, and we’ve already had plenty of paragraphs devoted to the part where aborting is sufficiently common that there’s a widespread euphemism for it. Given that kids are raised communally, and there doesn’t seem to be any specific income share or supply share that each dragonrider is allotted and would have to share with their children and partners, apart from “childbirth is deadly”, there doesn’t seem to be any incentive toward abortion.

So Zulaya and K’vin might believe everyone follows the code of conduct wholeheartedly, but the evidence of reality strongly suggests their belief is unjustified. But the narrative wants us to believe, too, but letting us listen in as Lady Salda delivers a tongue-lashing to Lavel about how he’s really just upset that he can’t sell his daughter for more land, despite having plenty of other children (and commenting that Lavel will wear his wife out in the same way that he did his last wife with all the childbirth, which should give us an echo of how Fax did the same thing to his conquered women, including Lady Gemma.) If we want to find blame and weird sexual practice, the narrative would have us blame Holders who use their wives as baby factories. Which is very much an acceptable target, but the narrative is shielding the dragonriders from proper criticism, as it has for all of these books.

After sending Lavel on his way back, and a quick mention that the dragons of this time are not to their full designed size, K’vin makes the rounds and deals with the question of the late match, including a sister of a candidate that K’vin will eventually call “spiteful”, even though each attempt she makes at gossip and conversation is cut off by physical violence, such as pinching, being kicked under the table, or other actions intended to make her be quiet. Yet she’s the spiteful one. Probably because she’s a girl who actually wants to talk about interesting things, rather than just sitting there silently until a man gives her leave to talk.

K’vin tries to reassure everyone that a situation like the late match is under control and not actually answering aloud what might happen if dragons didn’t find their match.

Early on, the records mentioned five occasions when a dragonet had not found a compatible personality. It’s subsequent death had upset the Weyr to the point where every effort was then made to eliminate a second occurrence, including accepting the dragon’s choice from among spectators.

So, according to the chronology of the novels, Mirrim is not all that groundbreaking, but is instead just a reoccurrence of something that hasn’t happened in a good long while.

Except that incidents like these would surely be part of the Records of any given Weyr, and so each Hatching, someone should be on the lookout for just a scenario happening, instead of being confused or worse about it when it does happen.

There’s also a bit that K’vin thinks, instead of says, about how some eggs don’t hatch, and that when they had the tech to examine them, all but three had clear causes of non-viability. The other three, nobody knows, and their eggs were set adrift in hyperspace swiftly, so as not to alarm anyone.

There are small things, too, like how a new rider prefers to be S’mon, because he didn’t like being a Thomas, or any possible contractions of that, which annoys his father for having shucked being the tenth Thomas of the line. And different speculation about Debera’s origins and reasons for being late. K’vin puts out gossip where he can, before his head gets turned by the entrance of Debera herself.

Someone had given her a green gown which showed off a most womanly body, and the style of it as well as the color suited Debera. The deep clear green set off her fine complexion and a head of curling bronze-colored hair which was attractively dressed, not straggling unkempt around a sweaty distraught face. No doubt Tisha, the headwoman, had had a hand in the transformation. Zulaya had once said Tisha treated all the Weyrgirls like live dolls, dressing them up and fussing with their hair. Nor was Tisha herself childless, but her excess of maternal instinct was an asset in the Weyr.

Once again, a good argument that the headwoman is the person who actually runs the Weyr, and is thus the person who wields the real power. Because if you can get someone who just came in on a hard ride, had a dragonet to feed, bathed, styled, and conveniently dressed in something that shows her curves within that time frame, you work magic, have multitudes of minions, or have an eidetic memory of where things are. Or some combination of the three.

K’vin is, thankfully, prevented from hitting on her by an interesting musicial sound. The perspective shifts to the musicians, who are deploying the new songs that have been crafted as one of the ways of reminding everyone of their duties and the gratitude they should have for the dragonriders, entitled the Duty Song and Dragonlove, respectively. They work excellently as earworms, and get sung multiple times, with the attending guests starting to join in with the singing after the first few times through. Weirdly, the success of the music world toward convicing Sheledon, as he plays it, that perhaps Clisser’s plan to gut education might have some merit.

Thus ends chapter three. Finally. That’s a lot of awful worldbuilding to have to go through, especially because it seems to be setting things up for the horrible things we already have experienced.

Dragonseye: More Origin Stories

Last time, we spent a chapter disparaging the Bitran Lord Holder, whether by narrative or by other characters, so as not to have to confront our own likely skepticism about the return of an ancient menace. The remaining leaders of the planet agreed on the necessity of constructing obvious warnings to their descendants for the next time Thread came around.

Dragonseye: Chapter II: Content Notes: Ablism, Misogyny

The other faculty at the College are unhappy at Clisser’s decision to take on the task of warning the next generations, wondering where they will get the time to do this task, and whether it fits in their remit.

“Our main function,” said Danja, taking up the complaint–she wanted spare time in which to work with her string quartet, “is to teach youngsters who would rather ride dragons or acquire many klicks of Pernese real estate to use the wits they were born with. And to brainwash enough youngsters to go out and teach whatever they know to our ever-widely-spreading population.”

That sounds suspiciously like an honest assessment of the Harper mission, does it not?

The parallels continue, with a class getting an assignment to do the research on what would be an effective temporal safeguard and a suggestion that a lot of knowledge should be encoded into musical form and taught to the very younglings. With continued grumbles about time, the grouping steps up to the stage to perform a set of music with the intent of giving way to what the juniors “so erroneously call ‘music’,” proving that you will see plenty of people complaining about the music of the young, even this far in the future.

The prodigy student that joins them, Jemmy, has already been plenty praised for his polymath abilities, even though his parents had thought him learning-disabled. Having lasted only a few voyages as a fisher, due to constant motion sickness, he was recommended to the College, and now thrives there, sucking up all the knowledge he can and proving to be an impressive copyist that can note and correct the mistakes of other copyists, as well as translating and expanding upon the notes left behind by the settlers.

He’s also got a crush on Bethany, who is

consistently kind and encouraging to everyone but refused to accept any partner. She had long since decided to never inflict her deformity [a club foot] on offspring, and refused any intimacy, even a childless one.

The very next sentence has Clisser speculating whether Jemmy would be able to “breach the wall of her virginity,” which has bad callback echoes to times where dragonriders have ignored the consent and stated wishes of their partners. This time, though, we’re assured it would be good for everyone – Clisser thinks Bethany cares for Jemmy, that Bethany deserves love, that there’s contraception available, and that, despite the age difference (and that they’ve known each other for thirty years at this point), Jemmy “desperately needed the balance that a fully-rounded life experience would give him.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Cocowhat by depizan

NO. Not just for “what part of childfree do you not respect, you asshole,” but also “Neurotypicality is not the Holy Grail of anything at all, you asshole.” It doesn’t matter how Cy anyone might think the match is a great one, it’s up to exactly two people to decide whether they want to embark on a relationship – Jemmy and Bethany.

Hopefully, this is the last we hear of this. Ever.

The narrative, instead, had Clisser putting the idea of teaching songs into Jemmy’s head, who stays composing immediately a song and tune that will essentially be the first of many propaganda pieces about how everyone owes the dragonriders for their safety and security.
Clisser leaves Jemmy to his work, and hopes the computers will have enough in them to complete the research task. And it’s annoyed at parents who are trying to get their students into computer classes for the prestige rather than any aptitude for the work and the machines. As well as a parent complaining about her daughter associating with “lesser breeds without the law” as one of the other faculty put it.

Who would have thought that a system that relies on inheritance of blood relatives would develop blood purists and supremacists. I’m sure everyone is shocked, shocked, I say.

Clisser has A Brilliant Idea about education, though.

What was the point of teaching students subjects now rendered useless here on Pern? Like computer programming and electronic maintenance? What good did it do to the Pernese boys and girls to know old geographic and political subdivisions of Terra? Useless information. They’d never go there! Such matters did not impinge on their daily lives. What was needed was a complete revision of learning priorities, suitable to those who were firmly and irrevocably based on this planet.
[…Out with anything to do with space, human history, or other planets! Study just the Charter – start history with Landing!…]
And further, Clisser decided, taken up with the notion, we should encourage specialized training–raising agriculture and veterinary care to the prestige of computer sciences.
[…teach the things that apply to Pern – husbandry, metalworking, reading maps, fishing currents – not art or veterinary science as it was on Terra…]
As to that, why not separate the various disciplines so that each student would learn what he needed to know, not a lot of basically useless facts, figures, and theories?

And with the addition of the right of an apprenticeship system, we have the Crafts of Pern sketched out. The additional wrinkle is that the kids should be tested at six and twelve on their aptitudes to see which Craft they would best apprentice in to.

It’s easy for us to note how awfully this turns out, by having the advantage of having seen two thousand years into the future of Pern and the complete devolution of technology and science into static Crafts that often refuse the idea of innovation on its face, but we can also note that this is going to turn out badly because excising those trivial bits and boring facts and figures essentially deletes the ability to innovate in wild, genre-smashing ways and limits the ability to improve mostly to refinement. The basics might be preserved in music and song, taught by anyone, but guild specialization makes it highly unlikely that the Weavers and the Fishers and the Timbersmiths are all going to design a better sailboat, each using the innovations and refinements of their Craft to help out the others.

That, and much like the system of priests that taught a little bit of knowledge in Terran history and then generally suppressed anything that didn’t fit their worldview, restricting education to what you “need to know” is a system that is rife for abuses, power plays, demagoguery, and making classes of people more important than others, because they hold the keys to knowledge and can force orthodoxy among their members and the society.

That’s essentially chapter II – the birth of the Craft system, the ascendancy of the Harpers as the most important craft, the deliberate excision of the subjects most likely to provide innovation and warnings to the future about not adopting certain governmental systems, and the decision to use music as the vehicle of delivering propaganda and instruction to the masses when the inevitable fracturing and failure of a united, technologically advanced Pern happens. Likely within the next Pass.

And a creepy interlude where someone thinks the potentially neurodivergent person should be hooked up with the physically disabled person who has very specifically indicated she wants to be childfree.