Category Archives: Deconstruction: Pern

The Dolphins of Pern: Not As Dumb As You Think

Last time, Toric schemed, decided the hurricane was a good time to put his scheme into action, and expressed hatred for dolphins, Readis helped dolphins after a hurricane and got yelled at and struck by Aramina for it, prompting him to leave Paradise River rather than promise Aramina he wouldn’t have anything to do with the dolphins.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapters XII and XIII: Content Notes:

In grand Pern tradition, the action shifts over to K’van, at Benden, who is fully aware of all the settlements Toric has been building, and suspects that Toric intends to move on his plans soon. The Benden Weyrleader says there’s not much to do regarding a Holder, but K’van points out that all these settlements are outside the boundary markers of Southern Hold as established, and he and the Benden Weyrleader exchange some knowing glances about what to observe next, as K’van describes the discreet spying being done on Toric, as well as the apparent scheme of Toric selling land he doesn’t own to settlers that will then back him later when the Council comes to meet. The hurricane provided the evidence needed to confirm suspicions by exposing settlements that were previously hidden by the treeline.

Lessa is in favor of a (currently metaphorical) scorched-earth policy regarding Toric, but the Benden Weyrleader and K’van are both in favor of the idea of exposing Toric to the Council of Lord Holders and letting them handle him. Although Benden is not above using dragons to impart a lesson, one that apparently worked rather well the first time it was used on a similar situation. Lessa eventually catches on, and starts laughing, and proclaims that Robinton would be as well.

While we shift over to the return of the injured dolphins at Paradise River, those playing along at home can either research or chuckle at whatever plan Benden has in mind.

Jayge is hoping that three days is enough to get Readis to come back. Unfortunately, neither he nor Aramina is really ready to forgive Readis.

He wished that Aramina had not been so didactic about issuing that ultimatum to Readis. Although he understood her panic, and certainly agreed with her that Readis had acted disgracefully, he also understood his son will enough to know that forcing the boy to promise against his conscience would make him rebel. The boy was of the right age to resent a mother’s restrictions. Jayge earnestly hoped that the three anxious days would be enough for Readis to have made his point and make an honorable return. By this morning, Aramina had been beside herself with remorse at driving her oldest child away. Jayge doubted that she’d renew her demand that Readis stop seeing the dolphins, but he was equally certain she would never cease blaming the creatures for the trouble they’d caused her and hers.

So they’re not actually ready to forgive Readis, they just want him back because they’re worried he’s not going to survive out there. The narrative does acknowledge Jayge and Aramina are here because they think Readis will come back to check on the dolphins, but there’s no indication that they have gone looking for Readis in the time between when they decided to get their child back and this point in time. Which might have been this morning, according to that text block above. And truce would only last until the next time Readis is with the dolphins. This has the hallmarks of being the kind of family relationship between a highly anti-LGBT parent group and a kid that intends to live their life out of the closet. Running away and finding a supportive household may be the best option for everyone involved.

T’lion, T’gellan, and Persellan also arrive to check on the dolphins. T’lion has been unpersoned by Persellan in regard to having destroyed the book, for which Jayge thinks T’lion is lucky to only have been given the silent treatment (although it’s really Persellan addressing the air in front of him and T’lion responding, because T’lion is the only one with firsthand knowledge of what transpired).

As Jayge waits for Readis and the dolphins arrive, we find that “Worry conflicted with a rising and righteous anger that Readis, who had always been treated with respect, would repay their kindness in this fashion!”

Except the part where his mother slapped him and told him to get out if he wouldn’t promise her something and his father didn’t intervene.

This “ungrateful child” narrative might work better if the child didn’t have damn good reasons to repay their “kindness” in such a way. There’s never any real confirmation to Readis that his parents love him just as much despite the injury and that they consider him a fit and fine son. It’s pretty explicit that Aramina takes no interest in his dolphin fascination (because triggers) and Jayge doesn’t seem to have taken any interest, either, because of Aramina’s vehemence. There’s no evidence on camera that we’ve seen to this point that Readis has been treated with any respect, culminating in the slap and dismissal from a few days ago. Even now, Jayge sides with Aramina that Readis is wrong and believes himself that Readis has been out long enough to satisfy his tantrum, but he’s unwilling to examine the idea that he and Aramina are going to have to budge, more than just failing to forbid Readis, if he wants a happy household and a child that feels he’s been treated with respect.

They’re not ready to forgive Readis and welcome him back. They want their son to obey. That’s not a recipe for a successful family. It’s a recipe for an abusive one.

Once Jayge gets a good look at the injury, he admits to himself that Readis was right, and that nobody at the Hold suffered injuries as severe as the dolphins. He doesn’t actually say this out loud, of course. Persellan examines both dolphins, cuts stitches and sends them on their way. One of the mothers of the injured dolphins leaves T’lion with a very pretty shell, and one of the injured dolphins gives Persellan a kiss. After seeing what the two boys used the book for, Persellan forgives T’lion for taking and ruining it.

With no Readis present, T’lion begs Jayge to ask T’gellan if he can go find Readis, although the actual request doesn’t mention that part. T’gellan assets, so long as T’lion is back in time for his required copying so that Persellan gets a new book in short order. T’lion feels confident and happy to tell Readis of the news and a plan to get himself apprenticed to learn Healing so he can use it on the dolphins, but T’lion searches for a while and gets no leads. He promises Jayge and Aramina that he’ll try again tomorrow, and that’s where the chapter ends.

If T’lion finds Readis, and gives him the news, I’m still not sure Readis has any reason to come back. If Readis has found a place that provides shelter, he can make fire, forage, and has dolphins he can call to help with the fishing, he’ll be just fine on his own (until he gets hurt). Menolly proved you could do it, so Readis has precedent. It’s probably going to be up to Jayge to apologize well enough to Readis to bring him back. I’m still not sure he’s in the right frame of mind to do it.

Then we jump into the next chapter. The narrative has a gun on the mantel to fire, and this is the appointed time. Just as the Benden Weyrleaders are sitting down to food, the call comes in that Toric is on the move. And in the same way that they had intimidated the attackers storming Benden all the way back in Dragonflight, the queen dragons get to intimidate the sailing ships into turning around and returning, while the bronze dragonriders transport Lords Holder to the settlements to show the evidence of Toric’s ambition.

The narrative changes to Toric gloating about the profits of his enterprise and planning future settlements.

He disliked resorting to the Ancients’ names–they’d had their chance and lost it to Thread–but since Aivas had identified places by what it had in its memory, the old names for the Southern Continent had been seized upon with great enthusiasm as “a link with their heritage.” Toric was not of that mind. He had the future to plan for and that was what he’d been doing while everyone else on the planet seemed to be wallowing in ancestral accomplishments and striving to reconstruct all sorts of devices. He was probably one of the few who did not regret the silence of Aivas or the demise of the old Harper–who had been a meddler of the first order.

He’s right about Robinton, and if it weren’t for the fact that he’s a designated villain, Toric would totally work as an Ayn Rand hero, pushing forward with progress in the face of all the backward-looking traditionalists obsessed with their past.

As it is, of course, the gloating stops when he realizes there’s too much noise for an empty Hold, right before the Benden Weyrleaders and a select committee of Lord Holders (Groghe, Larad, Asgenar) bid him have a look at his own front yard, where the ships and all the personnel that should have been at the settlements are crowded. Along with the rest of the Lord Holders.

Toric blusters, insinuates Groghe is going along with this because he has pen–Hold size envy, that the South is not for dragonriders to parcel out, and that this is Hold business. The leaders of the Weyrs point out that its not in his Hold they’re interfering, and the Benden Weyrleader promises that at the end of the pass, some twenty-two turns away, nobody will have to tithe to the Weyrs again, because they will have their own lands and halls.

Toric presses the matter of why dragonriders get to choose when places can be settled, because the Charter said everyone gets to choose their own land. To which Asgenar points out that Toric has been charging all of his settlers exorbitant prices for every part of their settlement and any other thing they had, and one of the settlers pipes in the they have not actually been able to go to their settlement sites until now.

As a conciliatory gesture, the Benden Weyrleader promises that if the people who are here to settle can “prove [their] holdings, they will be officially granted [to them,] […] Free and clear,” which elicits a cheer.

Toric’s patience runs out and he charges the Benden Weyrleader to take a swing at him, which is easily dodged, and then Larad, Asgenar, and Jaxom seize Toric and cart him away for a private conference. Before the conference begins, Benden releases the settlers to go settle their lands as they had intended, but with the extra bonus of not being beholden to Toric if they don’t want to be.

The conference itself is the other Lords Holder dressing Toric down about not abiding by the covenant decided, nor figuring out any way of guarding against abuse or foreknowledge of special sites. And explain to him that the reports the dragonriders have collected have been going back to the council of Holders, and that there have been no special favors asked or granted for dragonriders or sons and daughters without land, and that nobody gets to apportion land without the agreement of the dragonriders and the Holders.

Toric has one reasonable question, and it’s one we’ve been asking since we knew the dragonriders would have an end point.

“Is that what you’ll become when you’re no longer needed to char Thread? The guardians of order on Pern?” Toric glared at F’lar.
“That is what some of us will certainly be doing,” F’lar said equably, “when, as, and if“–he paused significantly–“such overseeing is needed.”
“And who decides the when, as, and if, might I ask?”
“You may, and–”
“There will be guidelines for that, too,” Larad interrupted.
“Which we,” Groghe said, “in the Council will decide and refer to the special Gathers that will let everyone, Hold, Hall, and dragonrider, have a vote on the matter. Or will you absent yourself from that meeting as well?”

So the dragonriders will be the police force of Pern in the future, although it’s a remarkably democratic method of determining the guidelines for their use. For a moment, I wondered if Pern were going to go the way of mass democracy, but apparently not.

After Toric receives his final warning about sticking to his own lands and not trying to make himself bigger by sneaky annexation, with R’mart indicating that Toric doesn’t want to know what the penalties will be if he violates those prohibitions, K’van delivers the stinger.

K’van! Toric bellowed, and when the young Weyrleader turned in the doorway to face him, Toric raised his fist. “If I see a single one of your riders anywhere near this Hold…”
“Ah, but you see, you won’t, Lord Toric,” K’van said with a soft smile. “But then you have been too busy to notice that the Weyr is empty and we have settled in a much more congenial location, heretofore unoccupied.”
“With the full consent of the council of Lord Holders,” Larad added. “Good day, Toric of Southern Hold.”

And that’s the end of the chapter, with supposedly another humiliation dealt to Toric. Of course, that’s not likely to stop him, as none of the other ones have, either. In theory, all of his new neighbors should help keep him in check, but it’s probably going to have to be the demonstrated willingness of the dragonriders to physically put him in his place before he’ll actually give in.

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The Dolphins of Pern: Intelligent Signals

Last time, Readis talked with F’lessan, who encouraged him to embrace the role of guiding Pern to a satisfactory post-Thread society, and T’lion, who encouraged him to get a plot of land of his own and start running a dolphineers house out of it. Readis also used T’lion as a business partner and cover to request some underwater breathing gear discovered in the AIVAS archives.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter XI: Content Notes: Speciesism, child abuse

The chapter opens with Fandarel coming to see the Benden Weyrleaders, with R’mart, G’dened, and Talmor also in attendance because of work being done on the relocation of dragons. The dragons indicate the presence of Masterminer Nicat, but he does not appear immediately with the Master Smith, and there is a nod that since they had similar outlooks on efficiency, Fandarel might be the one that misses AIVAS the most.

“Maybe he has this ‘radio’ he’s been so eager to produce,” Lessa said, her smile partly for the many attempts the huge Smith had made to initiate some sort of instant communications system for those who had neither dragon nor fire-lizard. He’d been at it since that half-successful attempt at the beginning of the Pass.
“That would account for Master Nicat’s appearance,” F’lar said. The Masterminer had collaborated with the Mastersmith to find the raw elements, like metals, crystal, and some of the plastics that Aivas had listed as necessary to the production of “electronic” devices.

I…thought that most plastics were petroleum products and had to be manufactured, but at least there’s been statements that petroleum exists in some quantity on Pern. And it’s thoroughly possible to generate a good crystal radio with the technology that Pern has, since the telegraph idea did work. I admit, I didn’t think it possible to manufacture vacuum tubes, but there’s power, so it’s entirely possible. And there are glowing timepieces, so presumably fine gears and quartz are in use, too. It would be entirely possible to produce an electro-mechanical line of sight kind of radio.

Fandarel enters, sees the products of the meetings so far, and asks for more slowness in the settlement of the South, as well as confirming that there are a lot of bribes going around to get people South unofficially. When Lessa asks where Nicat is, Fandarel holds up an object “almost lost in his huge hand”, and calls Nicat through it.

“Ah! You’ve produced the radio!” Lessa cried.
“I have produced an electronic device,” Fandarel corrected her. “An improvement on the radios that were mentioned in the history files, and more nearly what the Ancients used to communicate when they were setting up their stakeholds. The old weather satellite that has been giving us predictions is also able to bounce signals, as is the Yokohama. With such hand units as these, we may communicate across long distances–once we’ve made them more efficient.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Oh, hellno. You want me to believe that we’ve gone from hydro power for printing presses and large industry to transistor two-way satellite radios in the span of four Turns? Even if guided by the invisible dead hand of the AI, that’s asking a lot and handwaving a lot of infrastructure that would have to be put into place. I would believe a vacuum tube radio at a desk somewhere connected to an absurdly high up broadcast tower, but satellite-bounced handheld units says that miniaturization has happened effectively, as well as battery construction and something like circuit boards. Although, now that I think about it, a few chapters back, there are requests to put terminals with database connections into various Holds in the North, which means I missed the spot where Pern developed a telecommunications infrastructure to handle all of that terminal material and its either absurdly-strong wireless connections or its transcontinental buried communications cables. For a supposedly resource-poor world, Pern is coming up aces with the metals and materials needed for high technology.

And they are transistor radios because Fandarel admits as much in the context of the discussion about bribes (Toric and others are apparently offering them) and available settlement land.

“We will need a work force to make the transistors required and to assemble the components. They will have to be trained, and we will need at least one knowledgeable person of journey rank to oversee the work. Master Benelek needs all the young folk he can train for the terminals and cannot give the Hall more time. I have a long list of those who have requested this efficient and effective little device.

Unless the galactic civilization back home is using much more exotic materials in their technology, Pern had a lot more resources than anyone was led to believe.

So Fandarel’s swamped, Nicat is overwhelmed for mining demand, and is now being asked to provide high quality stonemasonry to be shipped South for settlement-building, asking for people he doesn’t have. The Benden Weyrleader wonders why he agreed to supervise the move, to which Fandarel and Nicat both say he’s the only one who could be trusted with it. Eventually, Fandarel requests the elderly of Nicat’s workers to help assemble more radios, as it seems to be doing well for the elderly Smiths, who are happy for the extra income. Everyone promises to day that the holdup of going South is because there aren’t enough qualified people, which is actually true.

Fandarel leaves a radio with the Benden Weyrleaders, and then the two Masters take their leave. After that whirlwind, Lessa and R’mart tag-team an important observation.

“I wonder if he knew just how much he [AIVAS] was altering our whole lives,” Lessa said, making a sweeping movement with one arm.
“Quite likely he did,” R’mart said sardonically, “which is why he quit on us before we could disconnect him, or whatever it is one does with a machine.”
“He could have stayed around until we were well into the transition,” Lessa said, sounding slightly mutinous.

By its own admission, AIVAS deliberately shut itself down at the crucial point so that the humans wouldn’t get into disagreements with it. R’mart correctly articulates that it was a deliberate decision meant to forestall anyone walking off the path set in front of them, or seriously disputing whether the path was the right one at all. It’s a very Robinton thing to do.

The Benden Weyrleaders take a walk after the meeting ends, and we get the first confirmation of the reasons why the dragonriders are so ready to go independent, even when they have a gravy train waiting for them even in the post-Thread era. Possibly because nobody has died or taken over the Weyrleader spot at Benden during this entire time, and because Lessa ends up causing the situation that he remembers, the Benden Weyrleader has the sole institutional memory of the end of the last Long Interval: One Weyr, with three Holds tithing their worst fruits instead of their first fruits.

The Benden Weyrleader suspects that at the end of Thread, all the Holds and Crafts are going to, if not immediately give them the finger and proclaim they’re not sending any more tribute, over time decide that the time of dragonriders has passed and they don’t need to honor those old obligations any more. He’s not wrong. The long tail of loyalty could go for several generations, but eventually it’s going to be unprofitable. An independent Confederation of Weyrs would make it much easier for the dragonriders to continue being part of Pern, even though the laying numbers are going to take a nosedive. Assuming they don’t slot into the role of being the world police or military, deliberately outside the Holds and the Crafts and keeping them both from overrunning each other out of pique.

Lessa thinks dragonriders will slot into those roles afterward, but also thinks Toric will be the one to bring the action to break the traditional covenant as revenge for being deceived at the true size of Southern.

The narrative then shifts over to the dolphins ringing the bell at Tillek to warn Idarolan of a “bad blow, bad bad bad blow” coming. Because Idarolan is pod leader for the fish boats (and because he built a very nice marina and hospital for the dolphins). Idarolan asks Iggy, the dolphin, to chart the course on a specific dolphin-friendly map he had made, and then asks them to warn any fishing boats in the path before giving thank you fish to all the messengers. Idarolan drafts messages to be sent by fire-lizard to the land holders in the path of the hurricane, before musing that Toric would be annoying if he didn’t get the first message, that people who believed the uptick in bad storms was due to the Red Star being knocked out of orbit are lacking knowledge, and that how people got on without dolphins was a bad old time.

The action then shifts to Toric receiving Idarolan’s message, after a short internal monologue about how he’s been sowing seeds of discord in all the Lord Holders about how Benden shouldn’t be allowed to control the land apportionment in the South, as well as all the settlements he’s gotten supplied with all the people who resent the society as it is currently constructed (or those who have been promoted instead of themselves). He intends to sabotage the dragonriders, and believes this big storm might be the perfect time to put the plan into motion.

He’s also entirely not on board with dolphins.

The shipfish may have proved unexpectedly useful in telling fishmen where the schools were running, but he was not at all their advocate. He resented talking animals: speech was a human attribute. Mammals or not, the creatures were not equal to humans, and there was no way he would change his mind on that score. Humans planned ahead: dolphins only cooperated with humans because humans amused them, created “games” for them to play. Life was not a game! The very notion of providing amusement to an animal irritated Toric to the core. And he didn’t like their latest “game”: patrolling the coastline. He had his own plans for the coastline.

Okay, at this point, barring authorial interference, I really can’t see how Toric is allowed to continue. He got sent down to Southern as a way of trying to get him out of influencing others, and then Jaxom and Lessa and everyone humiliated him, and he’s theoretically had Piemur (although last we checked, Piemur had divided loyalties between Robinton and Toric, assuming he wasn’t playing a long con) as a Harper assigned to him for years now. Toric hates intelligent animals, the Benden Weyrleaders, and most of the other Lord Holders that he thinks have slighted him on a regular basis. Toric should be a person that nobody listens to because he doesn’t seem to have done anything to gather himself allies, and all that we’ve seen of him seems to indicate he has a very caustic personality. Yet somehow he’s the voice of the dissatisfied, as opposed to someone more winsome and better connected to the Lords Holder. Toric (and Norist) are the people that the actual group interested in social change facepalms at, because they’re cartoonish. They would only rise to power if it turned out that Groghe was a supporter and decided it was a good time to legitimize them.

Sure, the plot needs villains, but it needs better ones if we don’t want to have them come off as strawpeople.

The next section is essentially “the hurricane comes, and does what it does best – uprooting nature and structure alike in its path.” Of note is that Landing and Monaco Bay don’t take a lot of damage, but Cove Hold and Paradise River are flooded out, and T’lion remarks that during the windstorm he couldn’t actually get enough altitude to safely travel between. I don’t think that’s strictly true, unless there’s been a requirement for speed or something that could only be obtained by flying to warp into hyperspace. I would totally understand not going because the destination has too much wind to safely navigate, because not all dragons have the ability to safely navigate to Ruth’s accuracy, but there’s not a requirement that I know of that says the takeoff point has to also be in the air for things to work.

With the storm died down some, Kami and Readis go back to Paradise Hold with T’lion, and Gadareth has to use an underwater bugle to call the dolphins, since the pier and the bell are both essentially gone. There are hurt calves that require Healer stitching, so Readis asks T’lion to fetch Temma and bring her there to do it while Gadareth holds the dolphins steady. Temma has too many humans to come, and so does Persellan, when T’lion returns to Eastern to try and collect him.

So T’lion grabs the supplies, and Persellan’s book of technique, and he and Readis try to stitch up the calves themselves. T’lion manages to get the wounds closed up, at least, with all the internal bits inside.

And then realizes he’s lost the book. Cue frantic diving until Readis finally comes up with it. But it’s been soaked and clearly there’s ruinous damage. Readis proclaims he’ll print off the requisite information from Landing, as the two try to dry out the book and preserve some of its information. They talk a little bit about how humans still will need to take care of dragons and dolphins in the post-Thread era before Jayge busts them and lays into Readis about coming to help the dolphins before making sure the humans were all safe and healing. It’s apparently a bad example as a Holder to not tend to the people first.

Which, I suspect, Readis would be doing, if he were Holder. But he would probably still dispatch someone to help the dolphins if he could. T’lion essentially steps in front of Readis to take the heat by asserting that he’s dolphin liason for Eastern, but his and Readis’s stories tangle and Jayge finds out they’re both not where they were told to go, and absent from studies. And about the book, which everyone pretty much admits was a bad thing to take, even as Readis insists that he can get another made, and a better one. T’lion slinks off, and Readis is getting marched home to face up to the consequences of everything he’s done so far with the dolphins.

The way one was too short for Readis to prepare himself for his mother’s condemnation. She’d make sure he never went to the cove again. She would certainly extract a promise from him to have nothing to do with dolphins ever again. It was a promise that Readis could not in conscience give.
[Readis commits to the idea of the dolphineer, and that he’s going to become one.]
As badly as Readis thought his mother would react, the actual storm that followed his father’s account of his son’s various offenses against his Hold and against parental teaching and tolerance, his consorting with dolphins, and his absence from Landing school, brought such a tirade down on his head that he was unable to speak out in self-defense. Until she ranted that he was without conscience, loyalty, or honor in his devious and unworthy association with shipfish.

This is one of those situations that is supposed to come off as humans being the real monsters, since we’ve had two instances right next to each other about how dolphins, while intelligent, are lesser beings than humans and don’t deserve our help or sympathy for all the help they’re getting. Yet Pern has been living with intelligent animals for the entirety of its existence. Dragons and fire-lizards have been integral to the survival of the planet during every Threadfall. And yet, all the humans around dolphins seem to think of them as having the importance of pets when disaster strikes. That fits with the overarching Randian idea of Pern (“I got mine, fuck you.”), but it still seems very weird that a society that depends entirely on intelligent non-humans (and their handlers), had just been relieved of their existential that by another intelligent non-human (and its handlers) has such a callous attitude toward another non-human intelligent species. Unless they need handlers, too, before humans will respect them, which, ugh, speciesists.

Aramina’s outburst about loyalty and honor and devious behavior also suggests there’s a much greater core of feudal and filial piety going on in Hold culture than I would have thought. Matters of loyalty have, to this point, been mostly handled by violence or the threat thereof. The Harper attachment to Robinton was essentially a function of his incredible charisma. If there was supposed to be a deeper bond of loyalty present everywhere, I doubt there would be as much bribe attempts or concerns about bribes being accepted. The feudal society bolted on as a survival mechanism is still losing out to the Randian core, which suggests the whole thing is about to fly apart once Thread really is gone. Toric’s plan is essentially trying to kickstart this.

Readis, however, has been presented with an opportunity to try and rules-lawyer his way out of trouble, not that it’s going to work.

“I have, too. I have never been alone with the dolphins or in the sea. There has always been someone else with me.”
“That isn’t at issue…”
“But it is. I promised you the day after the dolphins rescued me and Unclemi that I wouldn’t go by myself to swim and I never gave. Not in ten Turns!”
“But you were a child! How could you remember that?”
“Mother, I remembered. I have obeyed. I have never come to harm from the dolphins…”
“But you have neglected your own family and the Hold’s needs at a time when we needed everyone’s help, everyone’s loyalty…”
“The dolphins are part of Paradise River Hold,” Readis began, but she slapped his be as hard as she could. He staggered back, rocked from the insecure balance of standing on the toe of one foot.
For a moment there was complete silence in the room. Aramina rarely used physical punishment, and the slaps she had given her children for naughtiness had been admonitory, not punitive. She hadn’t even so much as tapped his hand in rebuke since he had started at the Landing school.
“Dolphins…are…not…part of this Hold!” she said fiercely, stringing out the words to emphasize her anger and denial. “I’m sure there is work to which your father can put you now. You will do it and you will never mention those wretched creatures in my presence again. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Readis managed to say. “I understand.” He could not at that moment call her “Mother.” He turned his head to his father, awaiting orders.
Jayge, whose expressionless face told Readis nothing, beckoned for Readis to follow him.

And this is a reasonably good example of why smacking/spanking doesn’t work as a disciplinary measure. Making things worse, Aramina is not in any sort of mental state that would provide child-appropriate reasons why what Readis did upset her so much. “I’m upset because a disaster happened, I didn’t know where you were, you were doing something I told you not to do, and I really could have used your help” is what Aramina wants to say. Unfortunately, since dolphins very clearly stand on her own triggers, Aramina may never be able to handle discipline related to those things in a child-appropriate way. And Readis’s explanation that he adhered firmly to the letter of Aramina’s prohibition without understanding that he clearly violated the spirit of it is only going to come across as defiance to Aramina. So Readis gets hit without understanding and told that his worldview is wrong from someone who doesn’t have firsthand experience with the dolphins.

As someone who was disciplined that way, my experience says the only lesson Readis is going to learn from this is that his mother can’t be told anything about dolphins, and that he needs to be much more careful about how he interacts with dolphins, so that only his trusted people can see him do it. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Readis concludes that adults in general can’t be trusted with this any more, and that he’s going to have to conduct any further dolphin business out of the sight of everyone.

In essence, Aramina has crushed any possibility that Readis might come to her about problems, desires, or anything else for the immediate future, and quite possibly for the long term future as well. Trauma sucks.

Readis gets put to work helping dress the unexpected amount of meat provided by having to kill animals that got severely hurt in the flooding and the storm, and when he stumbles home, he decides that he’s not ready to face the family yet and sleeps in one of the barns. Which causes a miniature panic in the morning when he’s not where he’s supposed to be, although Readis only discovers this when he’s awoken by his sister on the lookout for him. So Readis gets in trouble again.

Later Readis would realize how strained everyone had been then, tempers and patience too stretched to allow for any tolerance, but when his mother insisted that he give his word that he would never again have anything to do with shipfish–and get use of that term as well as the tone of voice she used further inflamed him–then he, too, lost his temper.
“That is a promise I cannot make!”
“You will make it be abide by it,” his mother told him, her eyes sparkling with anger, “or you cannot live in this hold!”
“As you will,” he said, cold despite the trembling in his guts. He stalked down the hall to his room where he filled a travel sack with everything he could lay his hands on.

And so, because he won’t promise not to associate with dolphins, Readis leaves home, with Aramina yelling at him to get back here this instant. And that’s the end of the chapter.

It’s a pretty solid Menolly story here, with a child disfigured by an accident that wasn’t allowed to heal properly. Although Readis is by ignorance and neglect rather than having an active malevolent force in his life. And Readis storms out after a fight instead of waiting for a quiet moment to get completely away. But they’re both on the way to being the very first of their Craft against an environment that doesn’t particularly think they’re capable of doing it. We’ll have to see if Readis gets rescued by a dragonrider trying to outrun Thread or not.

So many broken family dynamics on Pern. It’s incredibly sad.

The Dolphins of Pern: Collegial Experiences

Last chapter, we finally passed the last parts of All The Weyrs of Pern and are now sailing one again into times not already known, with the setup that Readis has been enrolled in a boarding school to learn the data that AIVAS left behind.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter X: Content Notes: None noticed

It has been three years since then, the narrative tells us at the beginning of the chapter, denying us the ability to see what sort of political machinations went into Pern with the death of Robinton.

Save a few – Sebell is able to get the other Masters to go along with Robinton’s educational plan, a plan they had firmly rejected while Robinton was alive. That plan puts the Harpers in charge of most of the new education, so much so that the Harpers are no longer primarily the house of musicians. Menolly, appropriately, is quite bitter that it took Robinton dying before the other Masters were willing to listen to his plan.

Fandarel has less trouble with the adoption of technology, and both Smiths and Healers now have to attend courses on the knowledge AIVAS left behind that pertains to their Crafts. Oldive, unfortunately, still gets stiff resistance to the new techniques AIVAS left along his own masters, but I’d able to impart them to the new apprentices that are more concerned with easing suffering and saving life, rather than their own egos. (Perhaps not unlike the Healers of the era of the author and us…)

Dolphin sonar is adopted reasonably well, as are power generators for most Holds, although an ultrasound can only tell that something foreign is there, and not necessarily what it is.

And there’s a Computer Craft, even though the Smithcraft is not yet able to recreate circuit boards and transistors that will be necessary to build new machines. (Groghe wanted to have one of his own, likely as a status symbol, but it was not to be.)

Readis’s studies include physical education, including team sport from the AIVAS files (baseball, association football, and polo) and unspecified water sport, which Readis suspects is in deference to his disability, but also sees it as possibly practical knowledge, with as many people as there are taking journeys by sea.

There’s a field trip to Honshu, where F’lessan has appointed himself caretaker and Holder (ish) of the museum collections of murals, tools, and artifacts, although the word isn’t used specifically in the narrative. F’lessan asks Readis about his studies and his future plans, specifically for the time when he’s not going to be Holder on account of Jayge being quite healthy and young.

Readis wants to be a dolphineer. F’lessan approves.

“And with you living right on Paradise River and the sea, you must make good use of them.”
Readis mumbled a noncommittal answer. This was not the time to confide home problems–nor the person to confide them to.
Oblivious to the boy’s hesitation, F’lessan went on. “You might even start up your own crafthall. That’s what Benelek did, you know, by learning all he could about Aivas’s terminals.”
“He did?”
“He did!” Then F’lessan gave Readis a mischievous grin. “Right now, you and all the other Landing students have a brilliant chance to make sure that Pern becomes what the Ancients wanted it to be before Thread interrupted their progress.

That would make more sense if we had more than just the word of a xenocidal AI with a demonstrated capacity for omission and shading as to what the Ancients actually wanted. Certainly they wanted Thread gone. Anything past that is no guarantees, as even in the canonical books we have, there’s an expected technology level well above what Pern even has now. Later on, when Readis quotes the charter to Alemi, it only mentions “a good standard of living using the lowest possible form of technology needed to supply essential services and a good, rounded lifestyle” in a bid to avoid overspecialization. If we knew what they considered “essential services”, that would help, because Pern was theoretically fulfilling that requirement before AIVAS. Like all subsistence life, it was brutally hard and didn’t leave much time for anything but work, but it was stable and working.

It’s up to us, and you add the next generation, to be sure we pick up the plan where they left off and see that Pern becomes the planet they envisioned. That’s what most be done if Pern is to be what it could be. D’you see that? That’s what Master Robinton wanted. It’s what my parents want. But not all the Holders or Mastercraftsmen. They’re still hanging back with what’s comfortable and familiar. He narrowed his eyes slightly to assess the impact of his words on his audience. “It’s going to be difficult, the next twenty-odd Turns, to set in place what Pern will be now that Thread has stopped.”

Readis does point out that it hasn’t stopped yet, and F’lessan acknowledges that.

However, as much as F’lessan wants to paint the more reluctant to go along into the technological era as villains, many of them are looking at this revolution as loss of their power. Holders will no longer be able to use the threat of Thread to maintain their populations. Crafters will find themselves undercut by the technological production of goods or mass farming techniques or other reasons why they might want to hold on to their monopoly powers. Dragonriders have essentially put themselves out of work unless they decide to engage in the practices that Sean Connell found abhorrent to the majesty of the dragons.

Not everyone is on board with this change, because a lot of people who have power now stand to lose it.

Readis is not concerned with this, though, but instead with the possibility of being both a master dolphineer and a Lord Holder.

Of course, his mother would have an attack if he even whispered of his interest in the dolphins around her. She persisted in believing that it was the dolphins who had put his life at risk when it was the other way round. His father might understand, especially now that the dolphins had shown to be useful in so many ways, guarding the coastline and warning them of bad squalls and good fishing. Certainly mastering another Craft would only show the Lord Holders that Readis, son of Jayge and Aramina, was that much more capable of managing an important Southern Hold like Paradise.

Utterly possible, Readis. But there’s still a lot of ablism to get through before you could be confirmed.

Back at the school, Readis goes diving into the archives to see what the actual plan was for Pern, and discovers the charter. And that F’lessan was considered not a very serious anything until he took hold of Honshu.

However, since dragons aren’t part of the charter, Readis ends up in the same situation as the reader – now that there’s a definite end point to Thread, what do the dragons do afterward?

We get a small clue in that blues and greens have taken up shipping as a possible trade, which young dragons of brown and bronze, pre-Theadfall, can join in without it being demeaning to them. Master Samvel notes Readis’s distraction, and essentially gives him the advice that the dragonriders will tend to themselves, and so there’s not really a big need for worry about that question.

Which pushes Readis back in the direction of dolphins, their communication signals, and research into SCUBA gear for further underwater matters. Readis thinks it would be good to commission a crafter to make an aqualung, and maybe a wetsuit, if they could, and runs the idea past Alemi, who thinks it’s a good idea but isn’t willing to stamp his name on it for cover, because Aramina. Who is again noted as being irrational about dolphins and Readis, even if there’s at least a partial grasp going around as to why Aramina is very touchy on the subject of children being injured over close association with intelligent creatures.

Alemi suggests talking to Jayge, but Readis declares it a non-starter and instead shows the plans to T’lion at Landing, who willingly signs in as a partner and then offers to have Readis see the pod that answers his bell. They swim with dolphins and clean Gadareth and then come back to the shore to continue pooling money together to commission the aqualung. And T’lion talks about working in the mines with Gadareth and overflying all the possible spaces he might want to settle down in at retirement.

T’lion returns with the news that Readis is not the only one interested in commissioning an aqualung, and that the main stopping point right now is that there isn’t any elastic material that will be able to hold the mask to the face and create a watertight seal. Idarolan wants one, much to the consternation of the other Masterfishers, who think he’s too old to get involved in such things. Toric has already ordered ten. T’lion put in a good word for Readis, but it looks like they’ll have to wait. T’lion also suggests that Readis follow in the tradition of Northern Lord Holders and get himself established with a small hold on the Paradise River lands, where he could, essentially, run a dolphineer hall of of his garage.

On that note, and the waiting part, the chapter ends.

This tension between Aramina’s PTSD and Readis’s willingness to bend every rule that’s in his way (and receive support from everyone else about it) is going to explode horribly when it comes to fruition. But since nobody on Pern still practices the therapeutic arts, and somehow, nobody rediscovered its virtues over the 2500-year period, Aramina is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to coping and functioning effectively with her traumas.

Next week opens with what may very well be the first indication that technology is causing society to rupture at the seams. (In a good way, in theory.)

The Dolphins of Pern: Consequences

Last time, Readis got infected by a thorn from the sea and it spread to the point where he’s likely to have lasting physical damage, Robinton expressed confidence that Pern won’t exceed its original mandate, and everyone continued to figure out how the dolphins fit into all of this.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter IX: Content Notes: Ablism

The narrative fast-forwards four Turns through the run up to and the execution of the plan to alter the wanderer’s orbit to end Thread as a threat forever. Readis is used as a surrogate for everyone who assumed that altered orbit meant the immediate cessation of Thread and Jayge sketches out the idea of Thread leaving after the current Pass ends. Physically, Readis has some effects from the thorn.

Jayge grinned at his son, tall for his eleven Turns, and tried not to glance down at the wasted right leg, which cocked on tiptoe beside the uninjured left foot. He ruffled Readis’s curly hair and thought instead that it was unfair for the boys in the family to have the curls while the two girls had straight hair.

And to think this could have been prevented, had someone actually believed the dolphin report the first time. (The narrative said T’lion got busy and didn’t remind Readis to have his foot checked out. But again, nobody took the dolphin seriously, despite having no reason not to.)

Also, it is apparently either a preference of Jayge’s or of Pernese men that their women have curly hair. How many bets on whether or not the curling iron manages to make itself into the list of technology that’s okay?

As things are, the actual reason for the scene is that Readis and his sisters have been enrolled in a school at Landing. Readis is suspicious.

“You mean, because of my leg I have to go away?”
“There’s not a thing wrong with Kami and Pardure, my young lad!” his father said sternly.

Barring the awkward phrasing there, as Jayge would probably be more familiar with his son, after all, Jayge is not exactly doing a great job of telling Readis that his disability isn’t the reason for his removal. If there’s “nothing wrong” with the other two, all of means is that they got in for some other reason. Given the type of place Pern is about disability, it’s entirely possible that Readis is being sent away because of that disability, so that he, like Menolly, can turn out to be cripspiration for others about what you can do when you put your mind to it.

Readis was not completely mollified. He hated anyone making concessions for him. He rode the small runner Lord Jaxom had trained for him only because Ruth said that he, the white dragon, had selected the beast for Readis, who had been so good about scrubbing his hide all these Turns. The little creature had made it possible for Readis to go wherever the other youngsters of the Hold roamed: the boy was as good a rider as he was a swimmer. Aramina preferred him to use Delky, the runner–anything to keep him out of the water and away from the dolphins. She could not be convinced that the dolphins were not responsible for his illness and subsequent crippling. It was Aramina who had heard about the proposed special classes to be held in the Admin Building, using the information machines that were the legacy of Aivas. Menolly had told Alemi, who had requested the concession not only for his eldest daughter, but for Readis as well.
[…how will he get there? Dragons…]
[Readis had] never been able to convince his mother that T’lion wasn’t in some way responsible for his illness. He’d told her time and again that the dragonrider had told him, twice, to go see Temma for the thorn and he’d forgotten. So his illness, and his bad leg, were not T’lion’s fault, but his own.

And we have Aramina doing what, really, many people would do, but also likely exacerbated by her own experiences – trying to find a spot to plant the blame on when there isn’t necessarily a place to put it. Because humans like to believe they can control things, and Aramina’s trauma is around a thing she theoretically could control by suppressing it. If she could have stopped T’lion, or if Readis wasn’t so obsessed, the tragedy could have been averted. Like if only ten year-old Aramina could not talk to dragons.

Getting back to the plot, the classes at Admin are Robinton’s idea, with AIVAS’s support – train the youngsters, who don’t have preconceptions, so that they will spread the good tech and knowledge, making it possible for everyone to have power generation and electric tools. Jayge is studying wind and hydroelectric power, to figure out which is best suited for what Hold, the powered looms, lights, and fans are good for comfort, and Alemi is very keen about manufacturing ice to keep the fish catches fresher longer.

There is a calculation here – this training, while good for Readis in general, will “also make the boy more acceptable to the Council of Holders when it came time for him to be confirmed in his holding.” – because his disability will work against him, Jayge? How ablist is the Council, then, hmm?

On the day before the planned start for the school, however, Robinton dies and AIVAS suicides, and so there is eventually a very large cluster of loudly weeping adults and keening fire-lizards. The narrative follows Readis as he essentially helps care for the adults during the night and in the next morning when he wakes up, by taking care of morning chores and feeding the smaller children. Eventually, the entire hold is bid to come out to Monaco Bay for the funeral and burial at sea.

Essentially, the entirely of Pern, humans, dragons, fire-lizards, and dolphins alike, turns out for the burial. Ruth stays behind in vigil even after everyone else leaves.

Three days after that, class begins. Readis is part of class twenty-one, named after the Turn, under the direction of Master Samvel, and the Transition Phase (so named later) begins. But Chapter IX ends.

Not a lot of content here that’s unique, because the funeral and material we’ve already covered takes up most of it. Chapter X starts with a time-skip, so we’re again going to be denied seeing the immediate aftermath of the death of Robinton and AIVAS, skipping what is likely a pivotal point in Pernese history. I wish that we spent more time in the interesting and important points in time and instead of glossing over them and spending more time with our heroes, whomever they may be.

The Dolphins of Pern: Something Else Entirely

Last chapter, Toric gave a very good impression of Snidely Whiplash, if he were also a Social Darwinist and utterly devoted to Rand. And there were dolphin meetings, like there have been for the last several chapters, where the dolphins have to keep re-proving themselves to new audiences.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter VIII: Content Notes: Arbitrary Skepticism, Child Endangerment

At the end of the last chapter, the Harpers and Healers decided its time to inform Lessa that there’s yet another intelligent creature on Pern and it’s worthwhile to pursue a partnership with them. As it is presented to Lessa (by Alemi and Robinton), who is apparently nonplussed at this new knowledge, the dolphins were here longer than the dragons and are more useful than the fire-lizards. Alemi takes this cue and says that the dragons seem to like them, with the narrative saying this means he is “not letting himself be intimidated by the diminutive but forceful Weyrwoman of Benden.” Which is still apparently the running gag of Pern – Lessa is short, and a woman, and yet she intimidates grown men! Isn’t that funny?

No, it isn’t.

There’s a quick bit about the Healers, but also interestingly…

“Master Oldive had a very puzzling patient, which the dolphins at Fort Hold diagnosed as having an internal growth in the belly.”
“And that caused enough problems with his Hall,” she said dryly. “I really don’t like the idea of cutting into human bodies.” She gave a little shudder.
“No more than when a child is hard to birth,” Alemi said, knowing that Lessa had had to have that surgery.

Wait, how many kids does Lessa have ? I only know of one, and F’lessan predates the discovery of AIVAS. Which suggests the Cesarean does, too, according to this quote, and would have to be part of the Healer canon of acceptable technique for surgery and if we can have people recovering from C-sections, what exactly is the prohibition on surgery there for? Pern has sterilization materials and apparently enough training on their proper use that an OR would be possible, even if they have very little knowledge of germ theory.

Lessa settles down some when told the dolphins won’t interfere with the AIVAS plan, but she pops right back up at the idea of dolphin intelligence.

“Sea creatures with names?” Lessa exclaimed and her frown returned. That the dragons knew their own names at birth was an indisputable mark of their self-awareness and intelligence. To hear that the dolphins also had names smacked of heresy to the Weyrwoman.

There’s that one of those words again, the kind that might not belong. Because heresy requires orthodoxy (which we have in spades, thank you Harper Hall), but also imparts a generally religious flavor to the whole thing (which we seem to be even more rapidly moving toward, despite the statements initially that there aren’t theisms or religions in Pern).

Also, Lessa seems oddly perturbed at the possibility of another intelligent species. Maybe she wants the dragonriders to stay extra special?

As it is, Lessa heads out to do more land inspections so that new Holds can be granted in the South, and we finally get an idea of what kind of personnel are needed to get one up and running, even if the exact arrangements aren’t made clear.

Still, sometimes one has to wait until there were sufficient representatives of the crafthalls to provide self-sufficiency within each new holding, and at least one journeyman or journeywoman healer who could tend the needs of several holds.

So, essentially you need enough crafters to oversee the work of resource extraction, construction, husbandry, farming, and teaching, plus medicine, then enough people to do all that work underneath the supervision of those crafters, in the name of the noble who is going to get the land grant and all the profits from it.

Tell me again why anyone expects this system to survive for very long past the end of Thread? Inertia, maybe?

As it is, Lessa surveys, but the narrative switches to Jayge, furious at being invaded. He asks Alemi if the dolphins will patrol his seas and alert them to any more intrusive boats and their passengers. Because while Alemi and Jayge are sympathetic to “the dreadful conditions of the holdless, crammed into the caves at Igen and other, even less salubrious places in the North”, rules are rules and you can’t just cross a border illegally and expect to be able to make a life for yourself, no matter how awful it is where you are.

Alemi reflects on having to help flush out the renegades that Toric wanted dealt with, acknowledging how easy it would have been with dragonriders, while approving of their avoidance of “partisan leanings”. Alemi thinks it’s appropriate for dragonriders to have a retirement space, that Idarolan said there’s more than enough land for everyone in the South, and that it would be greedy to ask for more than what one really needed to do the job. And then Robinton interrupts, telling us that the entire sequence between Jayge and Alemi and all of this is a flashback, and the correct time period is right after they both left Lessa at Benden. Who isn’t being told about the dolphin patrols. Robinton wants to know more about the dolphins and their treatment by human Healers, as Alemi marvels that Robinton is free, given that there are “archivists and harpers” arranging and copying the information in AIVAS’s data banks. Unless they’re also new for AIVAS, I guess I have to take back the previous comment about there being no archivists on Pern to organize and make available the data and knowledge they have. I can still complain about the fact that if they have existed, they’ve done a shit job at it.

As they talk, Robinton is surprised to learn that dolphins, being mammalian, have many of the same disease issues and problems that humans can have, like heart attacks. Alemi mentions having come across six dolphins all beached and dead, which were usually matters of pollution, according to the AI. Robinton offers a spirited defense as to why that won’t happen again:

“We can–perhaps–be grateful that what the Ancients had, Pern’s resources will not provide. That will be our saving.”
“Oh?” Alemi wasn’t above a little prompting.
Master Robinton’s mobile gave lot with a knowing smile. “Despite all we have endured since the Dawn Sisters took their orbit above us, the world has stayed remarkably well in the parameters set out by the colony founders. Of course, we couldn’t know that we were abiding by those precepts”–he grinned roguishly at Alemi–“but the fact of the matter is that we did keep to just the technology needed to survive. Once the threat of Thread is abolished, we can improve the quality of our lives and still remain within these precepts: a world that does not require as much of the sophisticated doodads and technology that so obsessed our ancestors. We’ll be the better for it.”

That’s not even the slightest bit true, Robinton, but it sounds nice. Fandarel’s drive for efficiency could easily be matched by a Jancis-Piemur partnership for innovation. And every entity that wants to live as a land holder will develop new technology to displace anyone who has been there before. Now, if Pern has somehow managed to come into being as a world without any radioactive elements, it’s entirely possible it will take a very long time to develop space technologies…and atomic weapons, but they have electricity and whatever they can extract out of AIVAS before it self-terminates, assuming that the termination wipes all the data stores. If the data survives AIVAS, then essentially it only takes however long understanding the science takes before they jump from steampunk to cyberpunk. And it really just takes a dragonrider deciding to test the limits of the dragon’s abilities before there’s mining of space objects and/or waystations set up between Pern and the galaxy the colonists tried to leave behind. There are far too many ways that post-Thread Pern can exceed those precepts, and it won’t take much of a deliberate action to do so.

Robinton suggests the dragons will be there after Thread is gone, and the action shifts back to T’lion taking flak about potentially neglecting his dragon in his enthusiasm for dolphins, even though the dolphins are quite helpful and Gadareth doesn’t feel neglected at all. Alemi is knowing and conspiratorial with T’lion about talking and working with dolphins, and their propensity to fling water at everyone they like. In going to collect Boskoney, Menolly’s replacement at Paradise River, to take him to Landing, T’lion tells Readis that he talks to dolphins, which will no doubt precipitate a lot of headaches from Aramina about someone having encouraged Readis. Especially since T’lion enjoys talking to Readis about the exploits and stories he has with dolphins. So the two of them hatch a plan to have Readis come to Alemi’s dock and talk and swim with the dolphins while T’lion is there. That way, Readis isn’t breaking his promise to go be at the water alone, and he gets to indulge in dolphins. Who specifically say Readis’s foot has a thorn in it, even though Readis doesn’t feel anything. So when Readis takes ill, everyone thinks it’s just a fever that he’ll get over, but T’lion gets the information that Readis stepped on a sea thorn, which is worse than the nasty land ones. He eventually tells Boskoney everything, and that manages to get Readis to a dolphin, and they get the poison out, but not before the possibility of Readis not getting full use of his right leg. Boskoney doesn’t tell T’lion this while he’s in the middle of recriminations, but instead mentions that Readis is now under Healer orders to have to swim on a daily basis. Which is a still-uncomfortable reminder of suffering that T’lion’s brother endured, but the swimming part is at least a little bit of a buoy for him. The chapter ends on this note, with Readis happy that he gets to swim with the dolphins and everyone else mostly just happy he’s alive.

I’m pretty much over the arbitrary skepticism about dolphins at this point. If their sonar can diagnose things, then someone should be thinking about it when there are injuries, and using it if they’re lucky enough to have them nearby. Essentially, Readis was preventable at this point, because the dolphins are there and happy to do stuff like sonar. But there seems to be a thing from the author that talented children are supposed to be disfigured in some way as a way of keeping them from…hubris? Upsetting the social order before its ready? I don’t know.

Next week, we get to see the consequences of actions.

The Dolphins of Pern: Because We Needed A Plot

Last time, Menolly behaved like someone who hadn’t been traumatized by patriarchy, Mirrim and T’gellan met dolphins, and the Weyr Healer stitched up one.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter VII: Content Notes: Randian Morality

Chapter VII picks up the next morning, where everyone is waiting to hear about Boojie, the dolphin that got stitches. He’s fine, and the Healer asks for him to come back in a week to get the sutures out, before saying he’ll talk about the whole thing to Idarolan and Oldive, who are the two most likely to be interested in the incident.

The actual plot picks up again with T’lion wanting to see Alemi and tell him about the sonar, but the place where Alemi usually is has no sign of the Fisher, but plenty of other people and activities going on. T’lion tells Jayge about it, and he asks T’lion to go get Alemi to reinforce them. They settle on asking the dolphins, since T’lion isn’t supposed to interfere in Hold matters. The dolphins get Alemi, and T’lion hears the story of how all these people who were going to establish an illegitimate Hold were captured and then sailed back to their departure point, with punishments and stories with a moral of “if you want to go South, ask first.” all around. And a dig at the “self-styled Lady Holdless Thella.”

Which then brings us to Toric. Who is pleased that other people are being invaded, and who extrapolates that the ban’s vigorous enforcement means the dragonriders are keeping the choicest land for themselves. He’d like to see people end up holding in those spaces where the dragonriders want to go, as a big middle finger to the entire enterprise. And because he’s apparently the most Randian of them all.

It didn’t matter to Toric that these would-be settlers could die from sampling exotic-looking and sweet-smelling tree fruits, that there were hungry and feral beasts quite able to take down a full-grown adult, that there were the most insidious dangers from thorn-poisoning and fevers. Toric’s notion was that the strong survived–and if the unfit died, they merited no mourning. What irked him the most was that the Benden Weyrleaders felt they had the right to apportion the South where they wished to bestow it. Just because they’d found some document that told how the Ancients had dealt with settling? Land was held by those strong enough to hang on to it and improve it.

It gets better, but let’s stay here for a second and point out that Toric is perfectly okay with other people dying because they don’t know any better about the south, because he figures the strong will survive. Which is really more “the lucky and those with the privilege to send others out to die will survive,” and is essentially a textbook example of how White people, rich people, and others who believe they are “self-made” or otherwise got to where they are on their own singular effort delude themselves into believing the society at large that supports them doesn’t exist or is somehow leeching off of their individual superiority through mechanisms like taxes. Even clear evidence of prior practice or the actual intent of the Ancients isn’t enough to sway Toric away from the idea that he, and only he, is correct and authoritative on all matters.

And then there was that infamous meeting of Weyrleaders and Lord Holders–which he had been unable to attend while he was involved with ousting the renegade Denol from Ierne Island. That’s when all those old-womanish Lords had actually established that the dragonriders had the right to control the Southern Continent land grabbings. “Out of respect for the services dragonriders have given Hold and Hall over the centuries of Threadfall.” As if tithing to support the indolent riders hadn’t been reward enough for dragons doing what they had been bred to do. Much less the gratuities that had always been lavished on dragonriders.

Ah, of course, if someone is improving and holding on Toric’s land, that’s another story and the interloper has to leave immediately. As with most Randian myths, the hypocrisy is very easily laid bare when what should be a proper Randian event happens to them.

Also, Toric seems very inclined to forget that dragons are doing what they are bred to do – spit flame and kill things. And that essentially the social contract between the mounted flamethrowers and their riders is “we take care of you so that you don’t kill us in addition to the Thread.” With the destruction of Thread, that contact can be renegotiated, sure, but everyone not a dragonrider is essentially sitting behind the 8-ball in terms of their actual bargaining power. There is essentially nothing stopping the dragonriders from going “Thread is gone now, we’ve chosen a nice island for all of you to live on, and we’re taking the rest of the planet for ourselves.” There might be grumbling, but essentially there’s no check on them but themselves. Toric believes the riders sit around and do nothing because his land is seeded with grubs, and therefore any damage done by Thread is healed remarkably quickly. He takes the infrastructure for granted and accuses the military of doing nothing. If anyone actually wanted to take his threats and positions seriously, a flyover could destroy most of what he’s spent so long to build up.

When Toric had heard of that decision, he had been infuriated, especially as it had been voted in behind his back. He’d have stopped the whole notion right then if he’d been able to come. The first insult to him had been that the northern Lords hadn’t waited until he could come to a meeting that, when all was said and deplorably done, affected him more than any of them, since he was the only confirmed Lord Holder in the South. And lord of a Hold so much larger than anything in the North, including Telgar, that it had been ludicrous to hold such a meeting without him. Of course, the Weyrleaders had planned it that way, knowing he would protest. Knowing he would have been able to sway some of the indecisive idiots who had their titles by default and certainly wouldn’t have been able to survive a season in the South. He’d’ve seen that the Southern Continent would be wide open for those with the guts to work to hold any land–and apply for confirmation to a full Council of Lord Holders and no Weyrleaders present, for it wasn’t up to dragonriders who held and where! Not in Toric’s lexicon.

Toric does have a point that he should have had a seat at the table, since he is the Lord of Southern. But, he had the opportunity to attend – he would have had to suspend or delegate his campaign against Denol to a field marshal or general while he went to the meeting. He chose not to.

If he’s so certain the decision would have been different with him there, presumably he could appeal and request the Council reconsider the matter, as Lords and without dragonriders present. I think he would find it a difficult appeal, for reasons of not pissing off the mounted flamethrowers and also not wanting to be painted as awful evil people by the Harpers. He’s certainly welcome to try, though, but that would mean he has to believe that the council is composed of his peers. Since Toric believes himself an ├╝bermensch, the council can’t possibly be composed of people enough like him for acknowledgement of their authority.

Essentially,

Toric is also bitter about having been tricked by the dragonriders into accepting less land than he should have, by his own reckoning, and that the dragonriders didn’t help him oust Denol.

But there’s a plan. Hamian can go to Landing. His spies report back on developments at Landing. He seeds his chosen people into settlements in the South, so that they will be beholden to him after Thread is done and they are confirmed as Holders, so Toric’s bloc will override the North’s plan to let the dragonriders settle on the South as a retirement. Because, after all, the old document said that those who hold the land have it, right?

After this interlude where Toric is resurrected as a villain, we go back to dolphins. Boojie is fine, gets his stitches out, thanks the Weyr healer, who seems on board with the idea of being dolphin Healer now. Oldive and Menolly are supportive of more work with dolphins, and after T’lion tries to be modest about his involvement in all the dolphin things, Menolly and Oldive is where we go, who are on a journey of their own to ring up some dolphins in the Fort harbor, so that Oldive can ask for, essentially, ultrasounds for three difficult cases.

“You’re having trouble convincing your Craft of the ‘Surgical’ treatments the old records recommend.”
“Indeed!” Oldive’s comment was heartfelt. “The Cesarian to release a womb-held baby is permitted, and the one to remove the pendicks, but not the lengthy repairs or deep delving that Aivas reports were last measures even then. But we don’t have the medicines that the Ancients did that would dissolve or shrink other conditions to which occasionally people are subject.”
[…Everyone arrives in the harbor, to find a rather large audience of Fishers on hand…]
Master Idarolan had, of course, informed [Masterfisher Curran] of dolphin intelligence. Sebell, also spreading such news, had met with considerable skepticism, especially from those inland who had never seen dolphins escorting ships.

Knowledge travels slowly, and new knowledge even more so, but it’s rather interesting to see that finally, there’s skepticism about things that Harpers say, rather than everyone unquestioningly believing them. I’d like to believe this happened before now, but it hasn’t apparently become a thing until it needs to be for the plot.

In any case, food before dolphins, including caviar and chowder for the guests. Then Menolly gets the honor of ringing in the dolphins, having also mentioned that bells are there for dolphins to ring, too. Lots come, joyously, at the sound, and Menolly resolves to write them a song. The dolphins and humans exchange names, and the dolphins are very happy to hear Oldive is a medic. So much so, that when four present themselves to be de-bluefished, they dunk Oldive and Menolly from the boat. And then I Bit sonars Oldive and determines his hump despite all the clothing Oldive has on to hide it. So that’s settled. But there are too many parasites to get done in one day, even with all the volunteers, so the dolphins are asked to come back the next day and have more done, while Menolly learns that the Tillek is the oldest, wisest dolphin who keeps all the history and knowledge of the dolphins. (And also a female, because of course generational knowledge is carried by mothers and women.)

Oldive sends back a subordinate to bring out a patient who needs dolphin help and is also the kind of patient that asks questions about everything, narratively because she’s afraid of everything. And everyone decides that Lessa probably needs to be informed about all of this. Which will start in the next chapter.

The Dolphins of Pern: Strongly Out-Of-Character

Last time, Idarolan, T’lion, and Menolly meet dolphins, as Alemi continues to work on getting to communicate and reestablish partnerships. Everyone is apparently too focused on the AI to consider that dolphins are useful to more than Fishers.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter VI: Content Notes: Matchmaking, bullying attempts

Chapter VI opens with Aramina’s paranoia fading into the background in the light of Readis learning his ballads, another son joining Readis, and Alemi finally getting a son of his own. Aramina has plans for Readis to be Lord Holder of Paradise River, “though she secretly harbored the thought that he might be Searched for a dragonrider to the Eastern Weyr: He might be what she hadn’t had the courage to pursue.”

Sorry, that doesn’t fly. Not when you spent a couple chapters earlier in in this book detailing to us why Aramina is paranoid about Readis getting involved with dolphins. It’s not a lack of courage that Aramina suffers from, it’s fucking PTSD! Aramina was subjected to torture and murder attempts because of her talent. And yes, Lessa offered to make her a queen rider candidate, but it was right after she was done going through all that trauma. And is there any sort of actual rule that says older women can’t Impress, or is it just a societal thing that women over eighteen don’t get the opportunity any more? Why can’t Aramina try out for it anyway?

Aramina wonders if Readis might follow in the dual-status role of Jaxom, a question complicated by whether or not the Weyrs will disband if they succeed at permanently killing off the threat of Thread. Aramina concludes its good for Readis to have a backup plan, and he’d be able to ride and hold together, since Jayge is likely to live quite a while past the end of Thread.

As things stand, Menolly’s replacement Harper arrives, an Ista fisherhold child named Boskoney, but before he actually gets here, the narrative talks about his choosing, including a very vital bit of information about the Harper Hall:

“They have to have someone as alert, eager, and,” she added with a smile, “as adventurous be understanding of this environment as possible. We do have a lovely girl finishing her apprenticeship, if you wouldn’t mind a woman harper…” Menolly cocked her head at her friends with a slot from and twinkle in her eye.
“Of course we wouldn’t mind,” Jayge and Alemi said in unison, then smiled at each other.
“As well, but Hally won’t walk the tables for another nine or ten months and it’s not good to start the teaching process and then interrupt it for such a long time. The children of this Hold are eager to learn, and I don’t like to put them off.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Good news: we’ve got it officially confirmed that there are other women Harpers following in Menolly’s footsteps who aren’t obvious Doylist inserts.

Bad news: Menolly is selling her as a Harper based on her good looks instead of her musical talent.

Based on this and what happened last chapter, I would like the author to answer one question: Who is this impostor, and what have you done with Menolly?

First, Alemi and Jayge are both married with children. Which would be scandalous here on Terra, but it’s pretty firmly established on Pern that the Lords Holder do not give a flying fuck about monogamy, only about succession rules, so I’m inclined to give it a pass based on the consistency of the worldbuilding.

Second, however, that’s Menolly’s brother and best friend she’s essentially dangling a young beautiful woman in front of. I don’t normally expect siblings, especially sisters, to be deliberately sending subordinates into the presence of guys likely to objectify her with a wink and a nod that it would be okay to do that.

Finally, and most importantly, that’s way out of character for Menolly, who was relentlessly bullied by the popular pretty girls (remember that Menolly was supposedly an ugly giant with no compulsions to modesty in Dunca’s cottage) and then treated as a dumb girl by most, if not all of, the Masters when she finally got sorted out. The last thing that Menolly is going to do is send a woman out for her journey based on whether or not she’s going to look pretty while she’s at it. Especially if she wants someone eager and adventurous and willing to teach.

Either Menolly’s been replaced, or there’s some seriously powerful magic at work once you get married and have a child on Stepf–Pern, I mean. There’s just. no. way.

And it gets worse. While Menolly is briefing Jayge and Aramina on the possible candidates:

“Not at all,” Jayge said. “We’re quiet here and there are not that many children…”
“Yet,” Aramina added with a wink. When the excitement of that admission had abated, she asked if any of the men[, which Aramina and Jayge have sketches of, courtesy Perschar,] were married.
“Not yet.” Menolly grinned. “You’ve several lovely girls here among your holders. We have to give them some choice, too, and not limit it to smelly seamen.” She grinned at her brother.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZOMGWTFBBQ!

Cocowhat by depizan

What is this bizarro-world where Menolly is knowingly trying to play matchmaker with the Harpers and commenting on the attractiveness of the young women here?

Unless…. Menolly is bi? It still doesn’t explain why she’s willing to throw a young Harper woman to these wolves, but it might help with why she’s noticing and appreciating the young women here (and perhaps some help in explaining, past “grew up in a sea hold”, why she was so comfortable being naked around the other girls at Dunca’s).

Otherwise, I’ve got nothing as to why the Menolly that’s been reasonably consistent up until now is suddenly desirous of sending the pretty ones instead of the skilled ones.

In any case, Boskoney arrives, exit Menolly, but the plot is actually focusing on T’lion, who usually transports Boskoney to and from Landing. Until he gets called in to see T’gellan, and the presence of his brother and a loud comment from his own dragon lets him in on why they want to see him.

That gave T’lion the clue he needed: K’din had been spying on his evening sessions with the dolphins.
“I believe you have some explaining to do, T’lion,” T’gellan said sternly, cocking an eyebrow at his young rider. Mirrim also looked repressive.
“About the dolphins?” T’lion hoped he sounded more relaxed than he actually was.
“Dolphins?”
“Yes, dolphins is what Aivas called them.” He saw the Weyrleaders exchange glances as he casually dropped in that authority.

Well, there went the idea that Mirrim wasn’t actually the Weyrwoman of Eastern Weyr, which is too bad.

However, what that did is essentially wreck the system that’s been consistent in every other Pern book, because all the other Weyromen have always been gold queen riders and Path is definitely a green. Which makes me want to see how Eastern successfully functions all the more, because I doubt that a gold rider is going to meekly stand aside so that some green [bleep] can rule instead. And the gold queens are what Weyrs definitely need to produce the bronzes that are the backbones of Thread fights. So, really, what we need is a day or five inside Eastern, if we can get it. Too bad that won’t happen.

In any case, T’gellan and Mirrim question T’lion’s involvement with the dolphins, T’lion gives his answers, and the two conclude that it would be a good idea to see the dolphins themselves. T’lion cheerfully invites K’din along, a move that both Weyrleaders agree to while giving K’din what amounts to the stink-eye. The meeting looks like it might go well, with T’lion pleased that the dolphins are saying “we” instead of “oo-ee,” but one of them exuberantly soaks Mirrim and the other says that Mirrim’s pregnant because she can see the baby.

There’s also this bit, which may have been intended harmlessly, or even as a cheer for women, but instead hits a space that should be familiar to most women.

“You woman, not oomans,” Natua said.
Mirrim made an O with her mouth, amazed that he recognized the difference. “Thank you, Natua! C’mon in, T’gellan, you’re missing half the fun and the water’s…warm!”

Yep, women aren’t humans. They’re clearly some other species or alien entity altogether. Men are the default, women are different. Nice going, humans.

In any case, Mirrim is shocked by the announcement of the pregnancy, and the dolphins claim their sonar makes it possible for them to know that the baby is there. Given that ultrasound works on the same principles…well, maybe?

T’lion is mortified at this turn of events, and especially at such an exorbitant claim in front of K’din. T’gellan takes the sensible route and says they’re all flying, without hyperspace, to AIVAS to see if the claims are valid. Which exposes how much research and reporting T’lion has been doing for AIVAS, since everyone, including the AI, knows him by name (and AIVAS says straight up that T’lion has been reporting to him on it.) That said, the AI says the dolphins are right and gives an explanation of what sonar is and how it was used by the Ancients to detect tumors and growths as well as pregnancies. T’gellan and Mirrim have a happy embrace, and then T’gellan wonders if this trick could be put to use, say, in spotting infections, since the Weyr Healer had severe problems trying to save a leg from “blood poisoning” that only manifested after the infection had advanced significantly. AIVAS says it’s possible. Plans are made to send this information to the Healers, through D’ram.

There’s also something that exposes something that I think would be an increased problem (or, perhaps, “problem”, depending on the opinion of the rider involved) now that there’s a queen fighting wing equipped with flamethrowers that sallies out on Threadfall.

“That meeting with your dolphin friends took a most unexpected turn, lad. We thank you. [Mirrim]’s lost two babes because she didn’t know she was pregnant. We don’t want to lose another.
[…the plans to inform the Healers start…]
“It’s always been a problem for Weyrwomen to know when they be conceived…and stay out of between in the first few months. You’ll have women flocking to the shores to speak to dolphins.”

Considering that dragons are essentially the fastest transport around, how do Weyrwomen actually stay out of hyperspace long enough to get visibly pregnant? Are they tied down enough at their own Weyr that they can’t take a trip anywhere for months? If so, then how good are their headwomen? If not, what possibly keeps them out, since now they can fight on their own? Maybe if their dragon is visibly pregnant? That seems like it would ground a Weyrwoman for long enough that her own pregnancy might show. (Moreta, I think, complained about this very phenomenon, although she wasn’t pregnant, just her dragon.) It would be an interesting study to see how many children are born to Weyrwomen within a particular window of a gold dragon hatching a clutch.

I also wonder what the experience of the lost child is, as a biological matter. I’ve only read things about how uteruses expel failed pregnancies, so the only thing I could do is guess as to how they know they’ve failed twice, when supposedly they were both before the point where the baby bump was visible. Maybe the presence of morning sickness or something else before an extra-heavy menstruation?

And also, I think I take issue with the characterization that women will flock to the dolphins, because I think, even as far back as Dragonquest, there was an explicit mention of Hold women and others discreetly seeking the services of dragonriders to provide abortions-by-hyperspace. So clearly not everyone is interested, or maybe might be interested so that they can arrange a hyperspace hop. (This is where it would be nice to know how the mechanics work. Would popping into hyperspace the morning after always work, and thus provide a form of always-effective birth control? When is the window of opportunity best?)

I also would like to know what goes on between T’gellan and Mirrim that she is also happily wanting babies, considering for the longest time everyone, including her, expected her to be a spinster because of her attitude.

Getting to the plot again, the Weyr Healer is skeptical about dolphin abilities including when one of them pinpoints a place where infection is about to begin again, because there’s a needlethorn stuck in the arm of the child, and the headwoman suspected the kids was just faking to get out of chores. Once the dolphins have correctly diagnosed lots of known pregnancies, and then both a broken bone set poorly from a childhood injury and what is likely womb with “growths” that need cleaning, the Healer (after shuddering at the thought of operation, especially in having to go into the uterus through the vagina to do it) is finally convinced.

And then had to perform surgery on a dolphin to stitch up a wound, which will end successfully, despite all the healer’s protests, and which takes is to the end of the chapter. No dolphin segment here, even though I would have expected one about the story of the man who stitched up the dolphin and how this meant that the mans were remembering more of their contract.

The Healer’s reticence to stitch up a dolphin would make more sense, were it not that this is the Weyr Healer from Eastern, and therefore should be much more used to the idea of stitching up living nonhumans. T’lion even calls him out on it, and the Healer still protests. Anyway, maybe next week things will be back to the usual horrible instead of the special horrible.