Category Archives: Deconstruction: Pern

All the Weyrs of Pern: Spin Doctorates

Last time, more planning to build up AIVAS, more Craftmasters getting useful information, more people refusing help, and more of Piemur making fun of Jaxom.

All The Weyrs of Pern: Chapter Five: Content Notes: Misgendering, sexism

Chapter Five opens with a different entreaty, from the Benden Weyrleader to Robinton, asking him to be the public voice and strongest advocate for doing things the AIVAS way. Robinton doesn’t fully agree to it, because there’s much fuss about him getting sleep, then bathing and eating in the morning, such that it’s past noon when he sits to food with his handlers, D’ram and Lytol. Telling the story of the AI and the plan to beat Thread, Lytol asks the same question about why the colonists couldn’t beat it then, and why they didn’t come back later.

This is the third time the question has been asked of someone, which makes me wonder if someone is being defensive about a thing that’s extratextual, as if the fans of the series had been asking this question and having to settle for this answer. It’s clearly unsatisfactory to a good many people there.

“And yet … a musical instrument can only do what it is constructed to do, or one of Fandarel’s machines. Therefore, a machine, even one as sophisticated as Aivas, could only do what it/he was designed to do. It/he”–I really must make up my mind how I consider the thing, Robinton thought–“is unlikely to tell lies. Though I suspect he,” Robinton said, making up his mind, “does not reveal the whole truth. We’ve had enough trouble absorbing and understanding what he’s already told us.”

AIVAS has a preference for address. If it hasn’t shown that preference in your presence yet, Robinton, it’s because you’re not paying attention, just like Jaxom wasn’t. AIVAS prefers it pronouns, not he. But because humans want to anthropomorphize, we ignore the stated wishes of the intelligent being for our own comfort. This is bad practice, and I would have thought that having made contact with other intelligent species would have had lasting effects.

As it is, Lytol is skeptical, but D’ram is on board and suggests that Lytol come for the history lesson to be convinced. Robinton believes in it, too, although he thinks having to clutch his towel to prevent nudity affects the dignity of his pronouncement. This idly makes me wonder what a dragonrider and a former dragonrider really would think of male nudity, considering their societal requirements and the tendency of everyone to bathe in the local water pool in this place.

Rather than being a two-dimensional villain, though, D’ram lets on that Lytol’s skepticism is entirely warranted:

“He’s too pragmatic. He told me yesterday that we were far too excited to think logically about the repercussions Aivas will have on our lives. Altering the basic structure of our society and its values and all that twaddle.” D’ram’s snort indicated that he did not agree. “He’s been through several upheavals himself. He’s unlikely to welcome another.”

Uh, D’ram? Lytol is exactly right and should be listened to. Robinton should know that intrinsically, even though he’s enthusiastic about the possible changes. Which, actually, is a bit odd by itself, now that I think about it – Harpers have been tasked with making sure nothing changes for millennia, and yet the presence of an AI changes this? Because AIVAS is the most authoritative source on TRADITION there is?

Lytol is right, and so are all the people who have been snarking at the dragonriders about what their retirement plans are. The permanent removal of Thread as a planet-cleansing menace means that everyone will be able to live openly on their land, instead of having to pay protection to dragonriders and tribute to Holders. The cash system already in place could flourish incredibly. Holders might decide to fight each other for land and resources, now that there’s no threat of Thread and dragonriders. The Crafts could finance these wars and then break the entire feudal system by ruining the fortunes of the hereditary nobility and calling in all their markers all at once. The Holdless might stake claims and tell anybody who says this isn’t their land to get lost. An industrial revolution might happen. The Cult of AIVAS might take over and use the Harpers as its propaganda and enforcement arm.

Hell, the dragonriders might decide Pern is still better off under their rule and use their giant war machines to put everyone under their thumb. What’s absolutely true is that the only way to avoid change now is to bury the AI and kill everyone who has any knowledge of it. Since that includes the most powerful people on the planet, including the Benden Weyrleader, change is inevitable. It’s now a question of how well the cabal that has been running the world to this point will continue to do so, and how much resistance they receive from others.

After talking with Lytol, Robinton returns to a much-changed site of the AI, where a kerfuffle is developing because Esselin is not letting in people who are on errands from Miners and Lord Holders to collect the facts about the AI and report back. They have also been told that the AI is already omniscient, rather than having to bring the records of their own Holds to bolster its knowledge. Realizing that there are already too many to fit into a single go, Robinton tasks D’ram with organizing them into groups by lottery, and goes in to see Esselin and convince him that it’s worth letting even the smallest of officials in to see.

“But they’re only Stewards and small miners…”
“There are more of those than Lord Holders and Crafthallmasters and Weyrleaders, Esselin, and every single one of them has the right to approach Aivas.”
“That wasn’t what I was told,” Master Esselin said, resorting to his usual obstructive attitude, thrusting his heavy chin belligerently forward.
Robinton eyed him pityingly for such a long moment that even the thick-skinned Esselin could not fall to notice his behavior was unacceptable to the Harper.
“I think you will find before the day is out that you will be told differently, Master Esselin. Now, if you will excuse me…” And with that Robinton strode down the hall to the Aivas chamber.

Despite being officially retired, of course Robinton still has pull with everyone and can make it happen. If Robinton were a woman, the narrative would be conspiring and the game might be making argument that she has a tendency toward Suedom, but because it’s an old man instead, this persuasive power is unremarked on, and seen as reasonable, since he rose to the office of the Masterharper of the planet.

Also, I think that’s the first time in all of these books that I’ve seen the collective noun for the Crafthallmasters. Why they wouldn’t be the Craftmasters or the Mastercrafters, I don’t know, but there it is, nice big clunky word there.

Robinton peeks in on a much-enlarged AI chamber as the Smiths and Miners are being shown a crucible and being told that they can use it to remelt faulty and damaged items, and that mixing old and new metal often results in an improved final product. AIVAS gets to a stop point, asks Robinton what he needs, and the Smiths and Miners, save Jancis, file out with their new data. Robinton immediately opens the window to circulate out some of the smell. And we have plot development that has happened while we were elsewhere, much to my annoyance.

“And did you get any sleep last night, young woman?”
Her cheeks dimpled in a mischievous smile. “Indeed we did!” And then she colored. “I mean, we both slept. I mean, Piemur feel asleep first–oh, blast!”
Robinton laughed heartily. “I won’t misconstrue, Jancis, even if it mattered. You’re not going to let all this fuss and fascination delay your formal announcement, are you?”
“No,” she said firmly. “I want to bring the date forward.” She blushed prettily but kept the eye contact. “It would make things easier.” She gathered up her things. “The others are in the computer room. You might want to take a crack at it, too.”

So we’ll stop there for a moment while I get annoyed that Piemur and Jancis are engaged to marriage, and all we got to see was a little bit of flirting here and there. Although, now that I think about it, engagements, marriages, pregnancies, and childbirth have been basically handled off-screen since the beginning unless there’s a significant point to be made with them, such as the coupling of the Benden Weyrleaders or when Alessan proposes to Nerilka as a suicide prevention measure. Menolly and Sebell, Jaxom and Sharra, Mirrim and T’gellan, and now Piemur and Jancis have all had their wishes to officialize things reported to us after the fact and that’s interesting, as if someone doesn’t want to write any sort of romance into their stories for fear that it would stop being taken seriously as genre fiction and be relegated to “romance”. Which is utter speculation on my part, but I would be more inclined to believe that a clearly woman author, Grandmaster of science fiction or no, (her induction, if I remember my trip to the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, is in 2002, and posthumous) is more of an impediment at that time than the presence of romance.

These lack of romance bits are also denying us crucial worldbuilding bits, like how marriage actually works in things other than Sixth Pass Lords Holder society. Does Piemur give Jancis a promise coin? Something else? How many times do they need to make the formal announcement? How many witnesses are needed? Does one of them have to be a Harper? We don’t know, and nobody is telling.

Resuming…

“Me?” The Harper was dumbfounded. “That’s for young resilient minds like yours and Piemur’s and Jaxom’s.”
“Learning is not limited to the young, Master Robinton,” Aivas said.
“Well, we’ll see,” the Harper replied, hedging and running his fingers nervously over his face. He was acutely conscious that he could no longer retain the words and notes of new music and had few doubts that the problem would extend to other areas. He did not think himself a vain man, it excessively proud, but he did not wish to show to disadvantage. “We’ll see. Meantime, we have a minor problem…”
“With that lot out there, determined against all Master Esselin’s prejudice on seeing Aivas?” Jancis asked.
“Hmm, a minor miner problem,” Robinton heard himself saying, and groaned.
Jancis pleased him by chuckling. “It is apt,” she said.

So, Robinton didn’t want to believe himself vain or proud, but he’s totally not going to show any weakness to anybody, even though he knows his memory is starting to go and his mind isn’t able to pick up new things any more. Which is, y’know, pride. And makes me want to know whether Robinton has planned for his eventual decline of faculties. Has he been in contact with Sebell, and possibly Menolly, transferring the wealth of his experience and memory to a written form so that knowledge is not lost between generations? Has he made a directive as to what is to be done with his life when he slips to the point where he can no longer be himself? Has he been talking to dragons and AIs and Healers about the possibility of reversing the damage or staving it off for a long as possible? Confronting death is not easy for anyone, and having the knowledge that your decline is going to be gradual can’t help that, even if it does allow for more planning time. Are there funerary arrangements to complete? Does Robinton want to go anywhere in the past for nostalgia, or try to jump forward on time to the moment of triumph against Thread? We don’t know, and the narration is choosing not to tell us.

The petitioners outside are eventually admitted as a whole, after we are told that people have faith in oracles, and that it would take about 44 hours to explain the word adequately, since the file on religion is large. During the explanation, AIVAS refers to what it is, but then the book misformats and says “Or Aivas, to use the appropriate acronym.” Even though the audience in the chamber can’t hear the capital letters, they should still be printed that way, since it’s an acronym. There is also a rather neat, if unplanned, demonstration of capabilities where a set of crumbling and molded records on microscope manufacture are scanned, reconstructed, and then printed as a new copy, fully restored. This awes everyone sufficiently that they can be shuffled out swiftly, with instructions to give any requests for more time or any questions to be answered to Robinton. Who then also takes on the task of making sure Esselin doesn’t apply his own priorities to who gets to see AIVAS, and shares an admiration for the time-skipped before setting Esselin straight and finding D’ram in the computer room. Piemur tries to get Robinton involved in computing, but Robinton deflects by talking about how ill-suited Esselin is to their tasks.

He’s a thick as two short planks,” Benelek grumbled. “And he doesn’t like any of us coming and going as we need to.”
“I don’t have any trouble,” Jancis said, but her eyes danced with mischief. “All I have to do is give him a cup of klah or something to eat from the tray when I bring it in.”
“And that’s another score I’m going to settle with ol’ Master fuddy-duddy Esselin,” Piemur said heatedly. “You are not a kitchen drudge. Does he never see the Master tab on your collar? Doesn’t he know you’re Fandarel’s granddaughter and top of your own Craft?”
“Oh, I think he will,” Jaxom remarked without looking up from his board, fingers flying across it. “I caught his paternal act this morning, and I reminded him that the proper form of address for Jancis is Mastersmith. You know, I don’t think he had noticed the collar tabs.”

Or, perhaps, Esselin has the ingrained sexism of the planet that prevents him from believing that women can be anything other than drudges, wives, and queen riders. The same sexism that both Piemur and Jaxom have indulged in, before having that notion solidly disabused of them by Mirrim, Menolly, Sharra, and Jancis, in rapid and apparently very attractive succession. (Robinton has some of it, too – Jancis blushes prettily, but holds his gaze earlier.)

That said, if collar tabs instead of shoulder knots are the ways Smiths denote Mastery, then there are probably a lot of Mastersmiths that get mistaken for something else. So it could be genuine not noticing, were it not for the sexist attitude.

D’ram nominates himself as Esselin’s replacement as door guard, to which Robinton provides AIVAS’s earlier suggestion for just that, and both agree that dragging Lytol into it is also a good idea, before Mastersmith Hamian, who is of the same family as Toric and Sharra, concurs from the doorway before asking if he can inquire of AIVAS for the technique and technology to make plastics. The AI says that there shouldn’t be a reason why not, that there’s petroleum on the surface nearby, and that Hamian not only gather equipment to disassemble and reassemble in that vicinity, but to start drafting a staff to assist and to get ready to learn a lot of chemistry and physics to make it possible to make the plastics again. Hamian is ready, and heads out to pick up the machines for study. Conveniently, this also gives an excuse for Robinton and D’ram to relieve Esselin and send him firmly back to the archives. Not too soon after that, Piemur gets a program to run correctly. Despite his earlier recalcitrance, Robinton decides to dive in to computer assembly and programming.

There’s a quick time skip, and we’re treated to a scene where Robinton, waking up when his fire lizard tells him something is very wrong, attempts to stop vandals from smashing some of the battery tanks being used to give AIVAS power reserves. It takes Zair and fire lizards to fend them off enough before they flee. Robinton is furious that he dozed in the first place, even though the damage wasn’t enough to affect capacity and there are spares. And then we get treated to more tell without showing, before the chapter ends with everybody trying to find the vandals.

He knew there was a growing antagonism to Aivas, but he had not really considered, even for a moment, that someone would actually attack the facility.
But who? he wondered, sipping at the wine and feeling its usual efficacious soothing. Esselin? He doubted the fat old fool would dare, no matter how upset he might have been over losing his sinecure. Had any of Norist’s glassmen been at Landing that day?

I’d like to have seen that “growing antagonism”, thank you very much, because otherwise I have to just take your word for it or extrapolate a ton from the one confrontation with Norist on screen. The development of an anti-AI faction, in the way that, say, the Thella storyline from the previous book had been developed, with their perspective, would have been awesome.

Assuming, that is, that they would be treated as competent villains, instead of poor caricatures of them.

All The Weyrs of Pern: Fetch Quests

Last time, we learned a little more about the plan to beat Thread, that Toric is making trouble for K’van, and the first few workstations for AIVAS access came on-line.

And that the AI specifically would like Jaxom to be part of the cohort learning how to use the machines.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter Four: Content Notes: Cancer

Jaxom is on fetch quest duty, a problem of his own making, because he tries to be helpful to requests made of him and Ruth. Back home, Sharra steps in when she feels Jaxom is being taken advantage of, but Sharra’s not here, so Jaxom is doing a lot of running about helping, instead of assembling and programming machines, like he wants to. A stomach rumble reminds him that Sharra also insists that he takes meal breaks. Why isn’t she here? Sharra’s pregnant again, and we know hyperspace has an abortifacent effect. Grabbing food and witnessing the attempts to heal a burnt hand reminds Jaxom that he promised to bring Oldive to AIVAS, so off he goes to collect the Masterhealer, while avoiding the apparent throngs of Harpers that want information or their own rides. Once back to Landing, Jaxom escorts Oldive to the AI, where the three from the last chapter are busily tapping away. Everyone but Oldive eventually removes themselves to another room, so that Jaxom can learn how to assemble a computer properly from components.

Busy disassembling the makeshift table, Piemur shot Master Oldive an indulgent grin. “You’ll get used to a disembodied voice real quick, the kind of sense Aivas talks.”
“Go teach yourself to be sensible for me, Young Piemur,” Aivas said in a jocular tone that startled everyone.
“Yes sir, good Master Aivas, yes, sir,” Piemur quipped, bowing humbly as he backed out of the room, carrying the table board and nearly knocking himself down when he forgot to lower the board to get it through the door.

And thus, the reason why the dodge about whether the AI has a sense of humor – it’s the setup for a joke later.

Alone with the AI, Oldive hears praise from AIVAS about the strength and health of the planet, given the intent for an agrarian society. “To that end, they were receptive to many anti-industrial cultures, like the ancient [Roma], as well as retired military types.”

Oldive demurs the praise, given plague and other things, to which AIVAS points out the survival and strengthening of the whole as the good things, and tries to mollify Oldive by pointing out that plague hit the Ancients hard, too. Leaving the point behind, Oldive gets to querying about the patients with specific symptoms, and we cut away to Jaxom and the other computer people, where Piemur continues to tease Jaxom about his confusion and being behind.

Considering that Piemur nearly died from “pranks” that got nasty, I still find it curious that the narrative continues to insist that he would be mean to someone else about lack of knowledge or otherwise. And that he would use Jaxom, who has spent most of his life being bullied about everything, as his target. Unless we’re supposed to believe that Piemur is still upset with Jaxom for stealing his girl Sharra, even though he has Jancis provided to him by the narrative.

There is much frustration going about learning the computers, with accidental keystrokes erasing work, error messages, and other such things resulting in Benelek and Jancis getting a little upset and Piemur cursing that twilight means the LCDs aren’t easily visible. Lessa pops in to tell Jaxom that Oldive is done, and to rather firmly insist that everyone working at the machines gets some sleep. (Over Benelek’s desire to learn, but AIVAS takes Lessa’s side and remote-shutdowns the machines, assuring them their work is saved.) There is food and drink and Oldive has quite clearly had his mind expanded to the point where there’s a lot more to have to learn than even he knows.

Oldive also asks the next logical question about who to talk to about getting more time with the machine. Nobody appears to have thought that far ahead, and there’s a short squabble about how to use the workstations that have been assembled. Which Lessa cuts off by pointing out how tired everyone is and ordering the lot, including the Weyrleaders, to bed. Jaxom takes Oldive to Ruatha, where Sharra is waiting and pushing them into the office so they can talk. After food and drink.

“My dear, your female patient is suffering a gallbladder malfunction,” the old healer told Sharra. “Unfortunately, the man appears to have a cancerous growth, as we suspected. We can cure the one, for I have been given a specific medication for dissolving the gravel within the organ, but we can only ease the other from life.” Master Oldive paused, his eyes wide and bright with excitement. “Aivas has the most extraordinary fund of medical information, which he is quite willing to impart to us. He can even help us revive corrective surgical procedures, which you know I have yearned to do. Our Craft may have been limited to repair surgeries for lack of proper training, but he can help us recover much of that lost skill.”
“That would be wonderful, Master, but would we be able to overcome the prejudice in the Hall about intrusive measures?” Sharra exclaimed, her face mirroring her hope.
“Now that we have a mentor of unquestionable probity, I think that once we have proved the benefits to patients who will not men without dress take measures, we can overcome those scruples.” He drained his cup and resolutely rose to his feet.

The rest of the chapter is Jaxom gushing to Brand, the steward, about how new and exciting everything is, after Sharra and Oldive head to the infirmary, and Brand asking about whether AIVAS knows how to heat cold holds.

What I want to focus on, though, is that quoted passage. Up to this point, the surgeries that we had seen were for dragon wings, not humans. For a society like Pern, however, a distaste for surgery seems incredibly sensible, considering that while there were sterilization options for tools available in the Sixth Pass, there’s no indication those have survived to the Ninth. Furthermore, there’s probably no way of sterilizing the environment around someone, and so it would be very easy for infections to get into surgical sites and kill people. Oldive is right in that people who see no other way out will accept desperate options, but I don’t see that prejudice about surgery going away until there’s sufficient proof and knowledge available for it to be done regularly without complications.

Second, I know that science fiction stories are often excellent reflections in the time period that wrote them, but I was rather hoping that cancerous growths were a thing of the long gone past. I know that this time has been more than long enough for new mutations and methods to appear, but ugh, fatal cancers.

Next week will hopefully have a better ending note.

All The Weyrs Of Pern: Skepticism Abounds

Last chapter, the AI went to work in earnest, detailing what would be needed to give it more power, to create more workstations for access, and what kind of knowledge would have to be relearned so as to make good on the threat to defeat Thread permanently.

And a lot of people were introduced to AIVAS, many of whom are not convinced it holds the solutions…

All The Weyrs of Pern: Chapter Three: Content Notes: Homophobia

The conference the last chapter alluded to opens this chapter, with open skepticism that AIVAS (a “talking wall”) has anything useful for the planet at all. Robinton and Fandarel shut down that line of attack, and Lessa indicates the Lords are here mostly as a convenience and to avoid any accusations that anyone is hiding anything. Two Lords ask why AIVAS didn’t do anything about defeating Thread earlier in time, to which the Benden Weyrleader points out the problem of the volcanoes altering plans.

This is the right question, but it’s being asked of the wrong people. At this point, Lessa’s Ride is most likely part of the Teaching Song canon, which means every Lord should know that dragons can do the time warp again. And so they should be asking why future dragonriders haven’t already gone back in time and destroyed the Red Star before it could plague Pern. (Paradox notwithstanding, this is an excellent question, and deserves an answer, but that would mean explaining how the time travel works, which is more detail than anyone with narrative power wants to give about anything related to Pern.)

The questions continue, about why the dragonriders are so eager to put themselves out of planet-protection duty, and the wisdom of waiting until the quarterly meeting of the Lords Holder so that they can decide on whether to be on board with the plan. The Benden Weyrleader says that the Lords and the Craftmasters can make their own decisions, but delay is not a good idea on making use of AIVAS.

Master Glass-smith Norist, however, is more staunchly for TRADITION than even the Benden Weyrleader has been in the past.

“What that Aivas suggested I do in the Craft which I have Mastered, and efficiently, for the past thirty Turns, goes against every established procedure of my Hall!” Norist wasn’t going to give an inch.
“Including the now illegible ones in your oldest Records?” Master Robinton asked gently. “And here is Master Fandarel, fretting to get on with the restoration of an ancestral power station, quite willing to accept new principles from Aivas.”
Something akin to a sneer curled Norist’s thick, scarred lip. “We all know that Master Fandarel is endlessly fiddling about with gadgets and gimmicks.”
“Always efficient ones,” Master Fandarel replied, ignoring the disparagement. “I can plainly see that every Craft can benefit from the knowledge stored in Aivas. This morning Bendarek was given invaluable advice on how to improve his paper, Aivas called it, and speed up its production.[…] Bendarek immediately saw the possibilities and has gone back to Lemos to develop this much more efficient method. That’s why he’s not here.”
“You and Bendarek,” Norist said, a flick of his fingers dismissing the newest Mastercraftsman’s products, “may exercise your prerogatives. I prefer to concentrate on maintaining the high standards of my Halls without dissipating effort on frivolous pursuits.”
[…Asgenar calls Norist out as a hypocrite, since Norist has no trouble benefiting from progress, even as he resists it…]
“Glass is glass, made of sand, potash, and red lead,” Norist stated stubbornly. “You can’t improve on it.”
“But Aivas suggested ways to do just that,” Master Robinton said at his most reasonable and persuasive.
“I’ve wasted enough time here already.” Norist stood up and stalked off down the hall.
“Damned fool,” Asgenar muttered under his breath.

To put it mildly, this is what happens when a story escapes the original boundaries put on it. So long as Pern remains a closed world with demon rain that happens every so often, the world can stay static. You can get good narrative out of following the exceptional person that appears every so often before the rain comes that resets everything, because having innovation persist past everyone going into survival mode takes doing.

Once you’ve introduced the sci-fi component and allowed the AI to be revitalized, though, there has to be some role redefinition. The most consistent characterization would be to put the Benden Weyrleader at the head of the faction resisting change, because TRADITION and that the dragonriders have the most to lose from a new order. With help from Robinton, who’s already admitted to the Harper role in trying to keep things static. Maybe against Fandarel’s invention squad, assisted from the inside by Menolly and Mirrim, possibly also Lessa and Brekke, who are in favor of a new world for women. (Piemur and Jaxom could also help, occasionally, just because they want to keep their unique selves.) This storyline would have followed on from a better handling of Thella and the “Renegades” who would be fighting the established society. And would have been much less shy about showing off all the bad things about static Pern. And with the discovery of an AI, an immediate fight would break out for control.

But, because it’s already an established law of the universe that dragonriders can’t be wrong, there has to be a shift in thinking or an excuse found to justify why Benden is on board with this. And to displace the insistence on TRADITION to someone else. I can handwave it if I invoke Sith Lessa and claim that she’s been manipulating his mind over the course of their partnership to make him more open to the idea, but it would be nice if the narrative would give some justification past a single-minded devotion to a promise made many decades ago.

As it is, the conference adjourns, with some going back and some going to hear AIVAS tell the story of the colonists. After that, the assembled finally ask AIVAS the actual plan to beat Thread. Which gives them a deadline – in just about five years, there will be an opportunity to nudge the orbit of the Red Star in such a way that it will no longer drop Thread on Pern. The time-skipped dragonriders present ask why this wasn’t done in the distant past, and AIVAS mentions that the conjunctions were wrong and that it didn’t actually know enough to formulate the plan until after everyone fled to the north. (Time-traveling dragons, still.) So the new disciplines have to be learned and mastered, as well as a high degree of cooperation and coordination completed to make the plan work, all within this timeframe. AIVAS notes, accurately, that having the entire planet working on the task would make things easier. As everyone files out, gently but firmly dismissed by Master Terry, who needs to wire in a few more things to AIVAS, Robinton quietly asks whether AIVAS has a sense of humor. AIVAS dodges the question, and the scene shifts.

Fandarel is brought to the site of the hydro dam, and begins immediate work on determining what can be restored and how, accompanied by several other trusted Smiths to help with both physical labor and design ideas. They draft up a water wheel for the building that used to hold the power generation for the dam, and then we jump back to the Benden Weyrleader, who is unhappy at having not convinced all the Holders to sign on, before K’van details a problem with Toric – Toric wants the Weyr’s help to suppress a rebellion. K’van has told him no, that dragons don’t ferry Hold soldiers, don’t act as flying intelligence operatives for the Hold (to which Toric responded by trying to show dissent among the bronze riders about what their new Weyrleader should do as duty to the Holder), and then…

“He tried to bribe one of my blue riders with the promise of finding him a suitable friend.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Oh, there’s so much to unpack there. First, there’s the presumption that this is somehow an effective bribe. Communal Weyr living should mean that there is no lack of companionship and friendliness, unless that rider is particularly adept at irritating everyone to the point of having no friends. So that shouldn’t be a problem.

If this is supposed to be code for something which might be known extratextually, but hasn’t had actual mention in the text, it’s sloppy writing to start with. But also, it hasn’t actually been established that there’s anything different about blue riders. Because I think we’ve had…one? Two? blue riders that weren’t background characters to this point, so we shouldn’t have any reason to generalize.

And yet, even if that were true, and somehow had been set up properly, in the Ninth Pass, at this exact moment, we have exactly one green rider that’s a woman – Mirrim. So, um, men having sex with men should be a complete non-issue in Weyr culture. If, say, it had been established that Holder culture found same-sex relationships to be repugnant and that finding a suitable and discreet friend would be something a Holder son would be very interested in, then there’s a possibility that this makes sense. But the expected reaction from a dragonrider would be to laugh it off in someone’s face. Because everyone on the planet should be sufficiently steeped in dragonrider culture (or rumors about their wild sex parties and what it must be like to live there, if just having one fly over you can make you have sex with whomever is nearest to you) to know that the average rider is probably pansexual, even if they aren’t open about it to everyone. It should be a non-issue.

The Benden Weyrleaders, however, are *pissed*.

“You’d think he’d know better by this time not to try to bully dragonriders,” she said, her voice crisp with anger. When she saw K’van’s apprehensive expression, she gave him a reassuring touch. “It’s scarcely your fault Toric is as greedy as a Bitran.”
“Desperate, more like,” K’van said with a hint of a smile. “Master Idarolan told me that Toric had offered him a small fortune in terms and a fine harbor if he’d sail a punitive force to the Island. But he wouldn’t. And, furthermore, he’s told all the other Shipmasters that they’re not to help Toric in this matter. They won’t, either.”

Perhaps they are more upset about the ways that Toric tried to manipulate K’van than at this bribe-that-isn’t.

Also, I’m surprised at the restraint shown by the assembled when they had the Lord Holder of Bitra with the AI. Given that “Bitran” seems to be a six-letter word on Pern, and a machine that knew Avril Bitra, that nobody casually asked AIVAS about what the settlers thought of Bitra is a missed opportunity for petty cruelty.

And finally, Idarolan might be incorruptible, but we just spent an entire book pointing out that his subordinates, and many of the other Craft-trained people in the planet, are very much corruptible. Toric has supposedly been building an entire network of contacts and skilled people. If he really wants to invade that island, he probably has the people to do it with, including people who can sail the ships.

K’van tries to allay this last point by claiming that the reason Toric fails is because he can’t muster large enough ships to send a large enough fighting force to take back the island. And the Benden Weyrleaders decide to make a personal visit to inform Toric about all the interesting things going on at Landing. As well as for Lessa to chew Toric out for his behavior.

The scene cuts away to AIVAS giving Piemur instructions for plugging in a workstation. Which fails. And leads to a long recap of how everyone else is also facing trouble getting their machines working, despite having had to learn how to solder and using unfamiliar tools love a screwdriver. That the AI seems to have infinite patience is grinding on Piemur a bit. But he checks, rechecks, blows dust out if the workstation and plugs it in, getting the correct light and a prompt to appear. (No GUI for these interstellar travelers! Although the boot time on the terminal is quite impressive, considering.) After Piemur shouts for not and nearly causes a bad solder for someone else, AIVAS instructs Piemur to RTFM by typing in the README command. Soon Jancis and Benelek are also up and running, and the chapter closes with AIVAS asking if Jaxom will be among the students learning the system and Piemur expressing surprise at the prospect.

Well, of course Ruth should be involved. His timesense is leagues above every other dragon’s. If there’s an opportunity that requires a tight window to execute, Ruth would be the one to arrive at exactly the right time to give everyone enough time to do the right thing at the right time. Whatever that may be.

We’ll see what Jaxom is up to next week.

All The Weyrs of Pern: Make Haste

Last chapter, AIVAS finished telling the story of the colonists and what went wrong with them, and indicated that it held a solution to permanently ridding the world of Thread, if Pern was willing to return to a high technology world. The ruling Council of Pern is on board with the idea, and has busily been getting the AI up to speed about what Ninth Pass Pern is like.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter Two: Content Notes: Sexism and Patriarchy

Chapter Two picks up only a little while later, with lots of gawkers having come to see the strange machine with the moving picture show. And either a miracle or a failure of logistics happens:

Then she [Lessa], with Menolly and Jancis, found volunteers among the women to do the drudge work of washing down the walls of long-disused rooms and shoveling out the dirty ash that had seeped on around windows and doors. The largest room, which the women decided most have originally been intended for conferences, was prepared for that purpose again.
[…Lessa sends for furniture…]
All these were washed down, revealing bright colors that made cheerful accents in the otherwise bare rooms. The room farthest from all the activity was turned into a private retreat for the Masterharper, complete with a comfortable bed, a well-cushioned chair, and a table.

Oh, no, wait, nevermind. Because of course it’s the women who recruit only women to do the cleaning work. The men can’t be bothered to help with that. It is “nice” that Lessa, who spent years as a drudge hiding from Fax, is the one who spearheads the operation, and that Menolly, Master Harper and composer, and Mastersmith(?) Jancis are her lieutenants. Surely there are some apprentices somewhere that could be pulled aside and put to useful work so that they appreciate the drudgery.

Also, which Masterharper? Robinton or Sebell?

And then, insult follows injury.

“The only problem will be in getting him to use it,” Lessa said, giving the tale a final swipe with her cleaning cloth. She had smudges on her cheeks, across her fine-bridged nose, and on her strong chin. Her black hair was coming loose from its braids. Menolly and Jancis exchanged glances to decide who would tell her how dirty her face was. Jancis thought that the Weyrwoman’s disarray, as well as her energetic cleaning, made her suddenly more accessible. The young Smithmaster had always been scared of the famous Weyrwoman.
“Somehow I never thought that I’d see the Weyrwoman of Pern working like a drudge,” Jancis murmured to Menolly. “She does it with a vengeance.”
“She had practice,” Menolly said with a wry chuckle, “hiding herself away from Fax in Ruatha Hold before Impressing Ramoth.”
“But she looks as if she was enjoying this,” Jancis said in faint surprise. Actually, she was, too. It gave her a sense of achievement to return a dirty room to cleanliness and order.

So not only is Lessa the one organizing the cleanup effort, she’s enjoying doing the drudge work, as is Jancis. Because women are domestic, amirite? It’s not like that ten years hiding from Fax wouldn’t be a giant trauma scar for Lessa, unless dragon Impression is magic for your PTSD or something. And that Menolly would have scars from her treatment at Half-Circle and the Harper Hall. And likely Jancis, too, being the granddaughter of Fandarel and his efficiency monomania. She probably had to optimize everything before he would approve. That could make trauma, too.

But no, the women are enjoying themselves doing this work and happily volunteered to do it, and it helped Lessa get her anxiety out about the possible end of dragonriders and Thread. Actually, I’d believe Lessa doing it as a stress-buster much more than any other reason.

Maps get hung, Lessa passes an approving and silent judgment on Jancis as appropriate for Piemur and the AIVAS project, Menolly frets about trying to compose a song to explain all of this, and after Jancis goes out to get food and drink, Menolly frets that not everyone is going to be on board with the massive change that AIVAS represents. Lessa is dismissive of that, and suggests strongly that Sebell commission new Teaching Songs to promulgate the true origins of the settlers and Pern. Lessa is still enthusiastic about the prospects of life without Thread, and the narrative casually drops that Menolly is Harper Hall Master, which likely makes her Sebell’s second as well as wife and mother to his children. And also a rather meteoric rise to prominence in the Hall. I wonder how many of the teaching and other Masters were resistant to the idea of having a woman in charge of them at the hall. And I also now want to know what Menolly has done about the program of taking Holder daughters and trying to teach them social music skills. And what the gender percentage of Harpers is now that Menolly is in change of the Hall.

But we get none of that, as Jancis returns with food and klah, and talk returns to AIVAS and the work being done in building the workstations. Then comes the Benden Weyrleader, complaining that everyone insisted on getting talk time with the machine, to which Lessa sits him down firmly and makes him eat and drink while he complains.

F’lar gave her a rueful grin. “And you’re handling me as you usually do, aren’t you?”
Lessa gave him a look of mild indignation as she slipped back into her chair and picked up her half-eaten roll. “Reassuring you, dear heart.”
From Mnementh, Lessa heard an incredulous mental snort.
Don’t spoil the effect, she told the bronze dragon.
Not likely, Mnementh replied sleepily. The sun is exceedingly warm here in this Landing place.
Ramoth agreed.

I miss the Lessa that had manipulative abilities and mental powers. Because it would be a fun story of how she has managed to bend Benden, and eventually Pern, to her will, all while letting the Weyrleader take the heat and be the public face of it all.

Anyway, Sebell appears to take Menolly and get her on the access list. There’s an intriguing paragraph that would make a great fanfic prompt.

As he often did, Sebell wondered at his great good fortune to have won Menolly as his mate. He could not mind that part of her heart which was Master Robinton’s. Part of his was the Harper’s, too, along with his complete loyalty and respect; but Menolly was the joy of his life.

Because we have yet to really see what kind of relationships are considered proper and which ones aren’t on Pern, even though there’s plenty of possibilities to pick from.

Sebell passes by Oterel, Tillek’s Lord Holder, who grouses at not being able to get in and see the machine, and accuses Fandarel of nepotism, since Jancis is inside. Menolly gives as good as she gets at this point, which is a big change from the girl of Half-Circle Hold.

“If you were able to draw clear diagrams as she does, Lord Oterel,” Menolly said, “you would doubtless be in there.” She had disliked the testy old Lord of Tillek Hold ever since he had spoken out so vehemently against her attaining her Mastery.
Oterel glared fiercely back at her. Beyond him, Lord Toronas of Benden Hold covered a grin with his hand. “You’re impudent, young woman, far too impudent! You dishonor your Hall.”
Sebell gave him a long quelling look and then pulled Menolly into the small room.

And in front of the Masterharper himself. Given the way that the dragonriders and many of the Holders seem to hold their honor much higher than their reasoning facilities, I would have expected a stronger response from Sebell than just a withering look. Up to and including a knife fight. Menolly could have used the support at that point. Perhaps not something as formal as a duel, but an aloud musing to make sure that the master in residence at Tillek for the next cycle will be the most promising woman musician at the Hall, or some other thing intended to tweak Oterel for his rudeness.

As it is, the Harpers enter as AIVAS is giving final directions for an assembly. After the drafters leave (did nobody put more paper in the printer?), Menolly is added to the roster, with data on her duties as a composer and lyricist, her mate, Sebell, and their three children enough to get a good voiceprint. AIVAS asks for copies of her music, and reveals to her that it has an extensive collection of music in its data banks. Which will be left for the moment, as the more pressing needs of power and connectivity are handled.

The Lords outside are brought in and introduced, and Oterel gets to be pompous and disbelieving, Sigomal of Bitra learns that his Hold has a namesake, but not necessarily any details, Oterel gets his Hold’s namesake, and the other Lords present are asked to add their Records so that AIVAS has a more complete understanding of the history it doesn’t have. Wansor comes through with a question that he is reminded that he can scan in to get an answer before Toronas learns of his Hold’s namesake.

The return of Jancis, Piemur, and Benelek signals the end of the visit for the Lords, and as they go out, Menolly marvels at the way in which AIVAS seems able to handle each of them exactly the way they want to be manipulated. (For the third time in as many pages.) AIVAS pipes up and mentions Robinton suggested tact and flattery would be useful.

Boxes arrive and are scanned, and nothing really useful comes out of that segment except that apparently Mirrim and T’gellan got together as Weyrmates. Menolly approves, saying that Mirrim “had certainly bloomed and relaxed in the warmth of his preference,” which I give a significant side – eye at, even though there’s confirmation that Mirrim has not had her rougher edges removed. Perhaps sanded a touch. Still, Pern continues to rather ruthlessly put in heteronormatove pairings for any characters that might have had the potential to sit outside that mold and be happy. (Without becoming Bitran villains, or Thellas.)

After the boxes are distributed, there’s a conference called that pulls Sebell anyway, and Menolly, alone with the machine, asks for a sample of music, which turns up a recording of a song at Landing (after having to navigate the kind of music Menolly wants and give specifics) that leaves her speechless. It’s “Home on the Range”, which is apparently a tune that Menolly knows, even if not actually in that form. Which I’m willing to let slide a little bit more, since we can play music from a very long time ago, although we have to guess on certain things, since there’s no surviving record of how to do it.

The chapter ends with a parade of electronics arriving for inspection from the various Smiths (and Piemur) that have been working on them.

All The Weyrs of Pern – A New World Approaches

Well, then, we’ve firmly crossed genres now. What started as an exercise in Our Dragons Are Different has fully transformed itself into a hybridized science fiction story and the technology of the Ancients is now rushing in to fill what was a gap. With the rediscovery of the artificial intelligence in the South, clearly Pern is about to undergo a massive change. Not even the Harpers can stop what’s coming next.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Prologue and Chapter One: Content Notes: Misgendering

A mercifully short Prologue (without the backported spoiler data, now that the truth is known) opens with AIVAS returning to awareness after a long sleep, plugging a hole about how it could have stayed functional – occasionally the winds swept the ash and dust off the solar panels so that the batteries could recharge. We’re also told that AIVAS was tasked with the function of destroying Thread before it went to sleep as a primary priority task, which I don’t recall happening anywhere in Dragonsdawn, and also, I find it unlikely that an intelligence that was being used to help run Landing and several other stakes would prioritize Thread over continued operations. Then again, I’m also not a colonist, nor an author fighting with a story that’s clearly a square peg being sanded down to fit the round hole.

AIVAS observes Ruth, and categorizes him as an anomaly, but is as excited and nervous as an AI can be that has been waiting 2525 years for humans to come back, wondering if Thread has already been defeated and what new tasks will await if this is the case.

But then comes Chapter One, and while the AIVAS remains the narrator, sort of, the timekeeping system in place returns to the native Pernese one. Present (Ninth) Pass, 17th Turn. That’s a near-Whatfruit problem by itself, because AIVAS would have no conception of the time, since all it has done at this point is make a magical shift to comprehensiblity and then tell the story of the Ancients that we have collected in Dragonsdawn. There hasn’t been time to learn the strange timekeeping system the descendants have.

Anyway, the narrative picks up as AIVAS is telling the story to an increasing audience of Lords Holder, Craftmasters, and Weyrleaders, with accompanying pictures and graphics to illustrate. Once finished, everyone sits in awe for a moment. Robinton asks why the story stops so abruptly, and AIVAS points out that it received no new inputs. Fandarel wants to know if AIVAS can help rebuild the lost technology of yesteryear (affirmative), and the Benden Weyrleader…wants the place cleared out before more questions can be asked and nobody allowed in without express permission.

It falls to Lessa to be the amazed character, expressing wonder at everything seen and heard (rather than, say, Piemur, who would fit the bill nicely, or Jancis, if it had to be a woman), which AIVAS deflects by asking about whether the dragons are the descendants of Kitti Ping’s efforts. We’re told that Ramoth is the largest dragon on Pern, to Lessa’s discomfort, and the characters find out that AIVAS has external sensors it can access.

And then there’s the question of Ruth.

“And the white one?” Aivas went on. “It–”
“He,” Jaxom said firmly but without rancor, “is Ruth, and I am his rider.”
“Remarkable. The bioengineering report indicated that there were to be five variations, imitating the genetic material of the fire-dragons.”
“Ruth is a sport,” Jaxom replied. He had long since stopped being defensive about his dragon. Ruth had his own special abilities.

On the one hand, hooray for proper pronoun insistence, about twenty or so years before it became a social issue, not that the author could have foreseen it. On the other hand, here’s another one of those impossible slang pieces showing up. Admittedly, my variation of English doesn’t use “sport” to mean “an entity with genetic variance” in common speech, even though it does exist. The only other place I’ve seen it is in A Wrinkle In Time, and there it seems to have a pejorative meaning, even if everyone seems to be using it positively, as Jaxom is here. But there’s no reason for me to believe that the people of the Ninth Pass understand genetics well enough to understand mutations and variations enough to have a slang word for it that matches the slang of 20th c. Terra. Ruth is quite literally the first dragon on record to have a variation like this, after all. Perhaps the Masterfarmers and Beastmasters and herders have a basic grasp, since they likely engage in all sorts of breeding for traits, but there’s no evidence, unless we take it as truth that the Harpers were able to arrest the language so completely, that this word would survive Pern’s environment.

After talking about Ruth, there’s a little bit about proper titles to use when addressing the assembled crowd. AIVAS indicates surprise at the presence of Lemos Hold, considering it knows far more about Bart than the descendants do (just wait until they mention Bitra Hold), but shifts quickly to happiness at the idea of Telgar Hold. The Benden Weyrleader refocuses the discussion by asking AIVAS what it knows about Thread.

The standard scientific explanation of how Thread gets to Pern and its periodic return goes entirely over everyone’s head, including Fandarel. But there is a temporal calibration moment, from Robinton.

“With due respect, Aivas, we do not understand your explanation,” the Harper said wryly. “A great deal of time has passed since Admiral Benden and Governor Boll led the settlers north. We are currently in the seventeenth Turn–what you call a year, I think–of the Ninth Pass of the Red Star.”
“Noted.”

No, no, no, no, no! Not just “Noted.” There’s no reference point for that to make any sense. In a non-quoted part of the explanation, AIVAS admits that there’s up to a decade of potential variance between when Passes start and end. All it knows is that there have been eight passes before this one and this one is currently in year seventeen. Eight Passes of fifty years plus 17 = 417 years. Plus eight intervals of 250 years = 2417 years accounted for. AIVAS indicated it had been 2525 years – 2525 – 2417 = 108 years of flux that has to be dealt with. Not to mention that it hasn’t actually been definitively established that the Turn and the year are identical. What if the colonial calendar developed leap years? Or any number of timekeeping oddities that could have developed. The AI should still be getting to relate to things in Landing terms, not Ninth Pass terms.

Anyway, the Benden Weyrleader, after finding out that AIVAS has some theories about how and where Thread comes from, asks the big question – can entropy be reversed…err, is it possible that the threat of Thread can be removed? AIVAS answers in the affirmative – if Pern is willing to relearn what the colonists knew, is willing to reconnect AIVAS to the databases on the starships, and is willing to put in the time and effort to perfect all of this new knowledge.

The Benden Weyrleader is on board, because Sacred Duty. The Lords Holder are definitely on board, because no longer having to pay tribute or defer to the Weyrs would be highly profitable for them.

AIVAS only now asks for the Records of the various Halls and Holds so that it can make an assessment of the planet’s current tech levels and scientific understanding and formulate a plan to get Pern up to an appropriate level to beat Thread. After that, the assembled leaders determine that it would be best to restrict AIVAS to only those present in the room and Jaxom, so as to avoid having everyone making requests of it or getting to monopolize its time. A short discussion breaks out about who gets to use the machine first, when AIVAS points out that it doesn’t have to be limited, assuming some parts of technology are still intact. (They are.) AIVAS shows the necessary parts and says that they can be assembled, if all intact, into twelve workstations, which would both solve the problem of access and provide a foundation of knowledge and application toward building the technology needed to defeat Thread. AIVAS prints the necessary blueprints and component lists, mentions it will need some extra material (and that paper will do in a pinch, causing some grins), and then Lessa insists everyone gets sleep. Robinton will have none of it, of course, but his objection is curtailed by the fact that Piemur spiked his wine cup with fellis juice.

Fandarel takes charge of finding the materials and getting people to assemble everything for the morning, and most of the assembled file out for the night, leaving Piemur alone with the AI for a bit (even though Jancis is sleeping and Menolly and Sebell have arrived). AIVAS tells Piemur that it’s going to need more power than the solar panels to be able to run itself, and suggests rebuilding the hydroelectric facility in some way to do it.

AIVAS also solicits from Piemur, by only understanding what colonists would understand about a harper, and not knowing the extra functions of the Harpers, what exactly the Hall does, Sebell and Menolly, Robinton’s special status as retired Masterharper (and he uses the words heart attack to describe what happened to Robinton – not necessarily wrong, given what little we know of Healer terminology and knowledge, but not necessarily what I would expect someone on Pern to call it), and useful cultural data about who can be addressed without title and who insists on it, as well as new knowledge for AIVAS about the abilities of dragons.

“The culture and societies of your present-day Pern have evolved and altered considerably from the early days of the colony. It is incumbent on this facility to learn the new protocol and this avoid giving unnecessary offense.
[…]
Without intending any offense, is it currently acceptable to maintain the sports of the breed?”
Piemur snorted. “You mean Ruth? He and Jaxom are exceptions–to a lot of rules. He’s a Lord Holder and shouldn’t ever have Impressed a dragon. But he did, and because they thought Ruth wouldn’t survive long, he was allowed to be raised.”
“That is contradictory.”
“I know, but Ruth’s special. He always knows when he is in time.”
[…AIVAS asks for more information, having known about the ability to go through space…]
…So if a dragonrider times it without his Weyrleader’s express permission, he gets royally reamed–if he hasn’t come to grief messing around with timing, that is.”
“Would you be good enough to explain in what circumstances timing is permissible?”

Today is apparently slang day on Pern, as a “reaming” is not something I would expect anyone on far-future Pern to use correctly. But also, it kind of makes sense for it to be Piemur involved in all this casual conversation with AIVAS.

Piemur tells AIVAS the story of Lessa’s Ride, which prompts the AI to ask how many Long Intervals there have been (hey, look, chrono-correction! It’s like someone has been listening to me well before I started). Sebell and Menolly arrived with the records. Piemur hopes to get them to startle when AIVAS talks to them, and so introduces Sebell (described as “browner than ever”, which I can’t decide is a comment about a tan or that Sebell has actually been brown and nobody has thought to mention it) and “Master Menolly, Pern’s ablest composer.” (emphasis mine).

Menolly passed her Master exam! Woo-hoo! Couldn’t we have seen this as the B-story to Renegades, instead of the retreading of Dragondrums? I’m sure it would have been a lot more interesting and told a lot more about Pern.

Belatedly, Piemur remembers the security setup, and so has to ask Menolly and Sebell to leave so that he and Jaxom can feed the records into AIVAS. Menolly drags Piemur to bed, so it’s just Jaxom and AIVAS and a long night of scanning. And talking about Ruth’s time sense and the dangers of hopping about in time, at least to start. AIVAS is them also able to extract a working knowledge of roles, responsibilities, and politics on Pern while Jaxom turns pages. Jancis (who has also apparently passed her Master examination at some point? I thought she was introduced as a Journeywoman in the last book…) takes over for a bit before AIVAS calls a halt due to low energy reserves. Jancis then goes to brew klah and Jaxom and Ruth exchange a worry about whether the dragons will become superfluous when Thread is permanently beaten. And a good example of expected Pernese slang.

“A most felicitous happening, dear friend, not that it matters a lead mark how you and the other dragons came to be,” Jaxom said stoutly.

Although it does raise some other questions, like why Pern considers lead coins to be worthless, since it was supposedly a resource-poor world.

There’s also a little bit more about pronouns in a bit of a reversal of how AIVAS initially treated Ruth.

It? He? Referring to this–this entity–as an ‘it’ seemed impolite. The masculine voice was so rich and lively. Yet Aivas called it/himself a machine, the product of an advanced technological culture and, for all its knowledge, an inanimate device. Jaxom felt more comfortable thinking of Aivas as real, real as his own flesh-and-blood self.

Use the pronouns that the entity prefers, rather than your own ideas, but of course, someone would argue that this particular issue isn’t a relevant thing yet, so how could the author have known?

The rest of the chapter is the arrival of many dragons and important people. Lessa seems a bit put out that AIVAS is asleep when she has all these dignitaries present to see him, and the assembled crowd are told of how Sebell and Menolly couldn’t do anything, prompting the Benden Weyrleader to approve based on the obedience to orders and Fandarel to approve based on the fact that it’s a machine doing exactly as requested.

With no computer to talk to, Fandarel decides to make efficient use of time and go to the caves to gather the materials requested for making workstations.

It’s a magical world out there, once again. Time to go exploring.

The Renegades of Pern: The Last Loose End

Last time, the story of Thella came to its inevitable end at the sharp end of Jayge’s sword after one last attempt at revenge. With Toric brought to heel and Thella gone, and most of the others mentioned in the prologue either dead or enslaved, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything left to do, but then again, sometimes there’s a need for a winding down.

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XVI: Content Notes:

(Southern Continent, PP 17)

(The Next Day)

(This entry requires Unicode characters, otherwise it won’t make sense. most browsers have it in place, but just in case…)

Last chapter, woo! Which begins with Piemur awakening and being teased by Jancis that something exciting is going to happen today, but only after he swims, eats, and submits to ministrations. The thing itself is a blueprint describing the ad-min an-nex for a thing known as aivas. Which also has ceramic tiles and solar panels, according to the plans. Which gets Piemur in an excavating mood. But he needs Robinton’s help. Who pulls a green rider to take them there, which Robinton says is this enough for Piemur and Jancis, but not him, and besides, he has work to do…

“Lessa wasted little time distancing Weyrs from our problems,” the Harper said, more amused than offended. “However, you two go on. Not only is a green beneath my consequence, but I must construct a report on this matter for Sebell.

[Recordscratch]

“Beneath your consequence,” you say? Let’s not let our egos inflate quite so much, retired Masterharper. Whatever they would like to send you, accept gracefully.

Continuing…

Yesterday may have broken one thorn in the sides of the Lord Holders but–” He sighed deeply. “–only one, and it behooves me to sweeten the inevitable furor. I am thankful that Jayge is confirmed as a holder. I doubt Larad, or even Asgenar, will feel that the lad exceeded his authority, but he’s new to his honors. Some may feel he ought not to have killed Thella. The Telgar Bloodline is an ancient, and generally an honorable one.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Seriously, does nobody proofread the book for continuity? Larad disowned Thella earlier in the book. That, to me, would indicate any privileges of her bloodline would be revoked. And she’s also been out marauding and committing theft and murder. Plus, hell, since it’s Pern and all the Lord Holders are dudes anyway, she’s a woman, so that shouldn’t provide her any protection, either. I would expect the Lords Holder to essentially say, “Never liked the bitch anyway. Sorry, Larad, but it’s true.” That there is some sort of potential uproar about a holder killing a woman because her bloodline is older than his seems off. I might believe “jumped-up trader just offed a valuable community member and/or powerful bargaining chip for marriage,” but Thella was neither of those things, either, by her own actions and words.

As best I can tell, there should be no reason for anyone to be mad about Jayge killing Thella, except perhaps Larad. Because she’s family to him, even though he disowned her.

In any case, Piemur and Jancis head out, where they are met by Jaxom and Ruth, who they let in on their plans, and get help from Jaxom to excavate the solar panels. At which point, they decide to send out for Fandarel to see if he can make sense of the materials. He does, ish, but he also has the clout to round up an excavation team and get them to unearth the annex. There isn’t enough time to go in before night, so Fandarel calls a halt. Jaxom heads back to Ruatha, understanding that Sharra, who is “pregnant again”, will be annoyed to not be able to see for herself. (Babies ever after. Way to take a spirited woman out of the narrative there.) Ruth drops off Piemur and Jancis at Cove to report to Robinton, who is suitably impressed, and distressed that there’s so much stuff to catalogue and analyze from this location that nobody will be able to accomplish it in their lifetime, and it’s unlikely they’ll get what they already have done by the end of this Pass.

Jancis chides Piemur on his choice of name for Stupid as they take care of the runner. Piemur relates his story of going on walk to avoid being exiled by Toric for making eyes at Sharra, then talks Jancis through all the objections she raises about why Toric didn’t want to pair up Sharra and Jaxom. When Piemur asks about himself, she teases him and then the two of them have sex, with a nice fade to the next morning after one line alluding to the part where sex is involved.

The next morning is the final stages of the excavation of the admin building and the annex. Piemur seethes that everyone has one again taken over a thing that was private and small, even though he knows that Jancis can’t take precedence over Fandarel. When Fandarel and Robinton are ready to go in, Piemur demands that Jancis go first, by right if it being her hunch. The two Masters agree, and Jancis and Piemur set foot inside first.

Right now, I should mention that there’s a running theme of how Piemur believes Jancis needs to assert herself more and get what’s hers, with his help. Considering whose granddaughter she is, I don’t think it’ll be a problem, but there is this entire world and narrative’s weight losing back at her and telling her to do no such thing, unless she wants horrible consequences. Like Thella, Brekke, Mirrim, Kylara, and Lessa, y’know?

As it is, the party explores the area, and then gets into the room, where small red lights illuminate a few things, but the room itself is slowly lighting up and coming to life. Piemur can read the labeling on a light (panels charging) before it switches over to green, and notices the workstations that might have keyboards, though he has no concept of what they might be.

And then comes the big payoff.

“That corner says ‘AIVAS’, Piemur said excitedly, pointing to the obvious.
Robinton had turned to view the corridor walls and recognized familiar artifacts. “Charts,” he said.
  

Oops. Sorry. What was actually said was


r`NiTqR71[T 51Y 7zRx^5,T2$

Sorry, universal translator is a bit fuzzy, apparently. It said

VoicePrint non reconnu

You get the point. The book itself actually states what is said in intelligible language to the reader and then forces us to realize that the party in the room can’t understand it through dialogue. Not only is it confusing, this is a great example of why writers get told “show, don’t tell”. Especially for what happens next, after the party and the voice talk at each other and only have a few words in common, specifically the names of Benden, Boll, Keroon, and Telgar. Eventually, it seems like there’s some about of intelligibility filtering through.

“It sounds testy, but I think I’m getting the hang of its accent. My name is Robinton. I am Masterharper of Pern. This is Fandarel, who is Mastersmith in Telgar Hold. With us are Journeywoman Jancis and Journeyman Piemur. Do you understand me?”
“Lingual shifts have occurred, Robinton. Modification of the language program is now required. Please continue to speak.”
“Continue to speak?”
“Your speech patterns will be the basis for the modification. Please continue to speak.”
“Well, Masterharper, you heard it,” Piemur said, rapidly recovering his composure. “Here, sit down.” He pulled the chair from under the desk, brushed the seat off, and made a flamboyant gesture.
Master Robinton looked aggrieved as he sat. “I always thought the Harper Hall had succeeded very well at keeping the language pure and unadulterated.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Cocowhat by depizan

!

Cocowhat by depizan

!!!

Cocowhat by depizan

Let’s recap. The descendants of the colony have unearthed the system their ancestors used at Landing. Which has not been damaged enough in the intervening time, due to the ash, and therefore can spring to life again once enough power is given to it. This same system is artificially intelligent and was programmed with enough foresight and a running process to be able to scan for linguistic shifts, and successfully manages, in a matter of minutes, to adjust for two thousand revolutions’ worth of linguistic drift, despite the barest of shared words, and even then, not necessarily with the same accent or inflection. All hail the engineer that made this miracle. Because apparently when they built it, they could speak Koine Greek and Old English, or something.

We alsohave (yet more) confirmation that the Harpers have been charged with the task of suppressing innovation planet-wide since the inception of the guild, by according themselves the power of keeping the language static. Suddenly, Yanus’s fanatical insistence that Menolly conform and the Benden Weyrleader’s insistence on TRADITION have context, and it makes them even more horrible. Robinton, you’re a monster. Pern is a horrid dystopia.

After introductions are made, Jancis provides the idea of what a woman speaking sounds like, and everyone learns that the Dawn Sisters are spaceships, although they don’t support life at the moment, Jaxom arrives, pouts a bit that they started without him, and then Piemur finally clues Robinton in on the magnitude of what’s been found.

“you do realize, Master, that here is the key you’ve been hoping to find. A talking key. I think if you can just ask it the right questions, you’ll find out all the answers. Even some you didn’t know you needed to know.”
“Aivas,” Master Robinton said, straightening his shoulders and directing his next remark to the green light. “Can you answer my questions?”
“That is the function of this apparatus.”
“Let us begin at the beginning then, shall we?” Master Robinton asked.
“That is a correct procedure,” Aivas replied, and what had been a dark panel suddenly became illuminated with a diagram that those in the room identified as similar to one found in the flying ship Jaxom had discovered. Only this diagram had such depth and perspective that it appeared three-dimensional, giving the awed observers the feeling that they were hovering in space, an unthinkable distance away from their sun. “When Mankind first discovered the third planet of the sun Rukbat in the Saggitarian sector of space…”

And that ends the book, with the AI recounting the story of Landing and the trip to Pern.

The Renegades of Pern: Hurry Up, Already!

Last chapter, there was more excavation and discovery, this time with discovery of the warehouse and its accompanying stores, still shrink-wrapped. And Toric went off to smash someone he felt was taking things away from him. Yeah, that’s it.

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XV: Content Notes: Sex-negativity, Ridiculous Masculinity, Patriarchal Attitudes

(Present Pass, 17)

The chapter starts by continuing where the last left off – cataloging the discovered stores. Piemur wonders aloud whether the Ancients were clueless about Thread when they landed, because the way Landing is laid out has lots of windows, and then the clear scramble northward to caves without windows, demonstrating a deductive reasoning that many of the people more in charge than him clearly lack. They’re trying to match up the markings in the storehouses with the manifests that Piemur found the first day he went into the warehouse, but soon enough, he calls a break and then disguises it as a business trip to Paradise River.

He climbed on behind the girl, well pleased with himself. It would be perfectly legitimate for him to put his arms around her during flight.

And you’re still a creep, Piemur, for arranging yourself that way and not asking Jancis’s consent or opinion on the matter. Admit your crush and be willing to suffer the consequences.

Instead, there is bickering about the purpose disposition of the goods in their discoveries.

“It’s one thing if they contain artifacts — but otherwise they are being useful, efficient.” He threw in that word more out of pique than as a humorous reference. “They’re not being desecrated or misused. They’re not inviolable. They’re certainly durable.”
“Then you believe we should use the shirts and boots and other materials in that cavern?” Jancis turned on him, her eyes flashing and her jaw set in a determined line.
“If they fit, why not?”
“Because it’s–it’s profane, that’s what!”
“Profane? To wear a shirt because it’s a shirt and was made to cover nakedness; boots because they’re boots and made for walking? I don’t understand you.”
“It’s a misuse of historical relics.”
“Besides the building slab, Master Fandarel’s using some of those drills — sharpest steel he’s ever seen.”
“Grandfa is not wasting them!”
“These aren’t being wasted, either,” Piemur declared. He raised his hands up high in frustration, then brought them down smartly to his sides. “Go read the bloody carton labels! That’s what you came down here to do. I’m going back to the hold. Jayge’s right about the heat of the day. It affects some people’s thinking.”

And there’s a spat, and heat, but Piemur’s wits aren’t dulled enough to not notice the invading force landing on the beach and spreading themselves out. He wakes up and warns Jayge, and picks up some weapons to fight. Both Jayge and Piemur do try to fight the group of attackers, but they are overwhelmed and both knocked out, with the hope of Aramina having done as ordered and gotten herself and the kids. In the blackout, the viewpoint changes to Jayge, who comes to trussed up uncomfortably. But he does hear that Aramina escaped and that Thella has a plan to make Jayge suffer first and then die, with the knowledge that Thella has Aramina and has tortured her first. Thella also has complaints about the quality of the hired help, after they complain about how difficult it was to get by Jayge’s dogs.

“There were six of you, with swords and spears! More than enough to take a drudge slut.[…]

Here I had thought that drudge didn’t need any additional bits on it to be the worst insult ever. But apparently there had to be that extra knife twist for the woman. Although we have seen men for drudges, I also suspect that the “drudge” insult is meant mostly, if not exclusively, for women, so the “slut” part is just extra on top of that.

Secondly, how exactly is it that the word “slut” survives? Promiscuity is baked into dragonrider culture, and while the Holders have a lot more invested in keeping their women from having sex outside of approved channels, I don’t see that particular insult sticking around for a couple thousand years, even with a dedicated group trying to make everything static. Not to mention that it would have had to have survived long enough to be part of FSP slang before that. Language evolves.

Jayge is considering his options with regard to how to get out of his situation and some smug satisfaction that Thella’s searching is not going to be in the places where Aramina is. He can’t actually get out of his ropes, but good things happen to those in the favor of the narrative…

“Easy!” a quiet voice cautioned.
“V’line?”
“K’van.” The bronze rider was already sawing at Jayge’s bonds. “Aramina yelled — a good knack to rediscover at a moment of crisis. Heth responded. I can see why. Did Thella leave only the one guard?”
[…logistics and the knowledge that Aramina is safe…]
“You rescued Ara?” Jayge reeled more from relief than physical weakness.
K’van steadied him, eyes twinkling. “Plucked her out of the trees this time — her, Jancis, and the two children. Had to leave the canines behind.”

Well, previous theory goes out the window, then. Aramina apparently still does have the knack, and it was just slowly fading into the background. I wonder what it was, then, about that particular dragon that she didn’t hear them.
Jayge requests K’van to get help in dealing with Thella. K’van refuses, considering it a matter of Hold business and that fulfilling the request would be seen as interference, even as he helps get everyone unbound and back up to fighting condition. He’s hoping he won’t catch too much hell for what he’s already done because Heth heard Aramina and that was the end of the discussion.

Then, because it’s Pern, there’s time spent making sure all the women and children get to safety, including Aramina.

Aramina bristled. “I’m not running away again, Jayge Lilcamp!”
“I think you’d make it a lot easier for Jayge if you were out of Thella’s range,” K’van said firmly. “You and the children. Let him deal with her. It’s going to come to that one way or another, you know.” And with that the bronze dragonrider looked Jayge squarely in the eyes.
“And long overdue!” Jayge said savagely. “Go on, Aramina. She won’t find me such an easy mark this time.”
[…the defenders get themselves ready with weapons, a second dragonrider arrives, but is prevented from joining by K’van, and Farli returns with a report of having found Alemi and his men and reported what was going on to them…]
Jayge caught Aramina’s hand add she gets a fishing spear. “Oh, no, my love. You will take yourself and our children as far away from here as possible. Do you understand me? There’s no time to argue the point. You’re going.”
“And Heth and I will make sure she does.” K’van said unexpectedly, taking Aramina by the arm. “That much I can do.”
She hesitated one brief moment, then acquiesced, her shoulders drooping. “Just don’t let her slip away again, Jayge. I don’t ever want to be faced with this again.”

Uggggggh. Your masculinity is getting in the way of logic, Jayge, because Aramina is probably strong and capable of introducing Thella to Mr. Pointy based on the fact that she’s been doing the work of your Hold and raising your children, too. But no, we can’t have a competent heroic woman in the presence of men because Pern is all about the penis’s divine right of rule. (Which is, incidentally, how this whole Thella thing started anyway.)

In any case, Jayge and his five well-armed friends try to sneak up on Thella…who has fifteen underlings that they can see. Having Aramina along would have cut the odds to almost two to one with a surprise element. Having the dragonriders along would have made it better, too, but the mounted martial force apparently chooses not to interfere on anything that doesn’t directly affect them. Which makes it all the more problematic for Jayge to refuse Aramina’s help, after K’van refuses – he’s going to need all the help he can get!

The plan, such that it is, is to release the hounds, use them as a distraction (and possibly to do some damage) to pick off as many of Thella’s men as possible, then confront her when the odds are in their favor.

Thella also has a less than flattering description at the hands of Jayge, which could be some sort of metaphor about how her interval cruelty manifested in outward ugliness, but that would be for a different story.

Thella’s patience, such that it is, has worn thin and she orders her men to gather fellis plants and set them ablaze so as to smoke Aramina out of the trees. The first attempt is stopped by the man sprouting a knife on his back, and then Jayge orders the assault, having both humans and canines attempt as much killing as possible.

Jayge attempts to intimidate Thella using the idea of the loudness of his sword being drawn. Except that swords, when sharp, should be silent, not loud, and dragging an edge across a thing to make it be loud will dull things. Admittedly, one could easily make this mistake, since Audible Sharpness has been a trope for a very long time.

In any case, Thella and Jayge lock blades, and Thella taunts Jayge while circling him. Jayge has a small wonder as to why Thella might be doing that, but is too focused on responding to her insults to really think about it. Unfortunately for him, Jayge finds out that Thella isn’t bluffing about her skill with weapons, and he only barely avoids getting killed several times, until he is able to back Thella up against a tree (lucky) and then block her attacks and wound her severely on one arm (for Armald), then the other (for the lost people and horses in the ambush), and then across the middle, for Readis.

Before he can deliver the killing blow, though, Aramina stops him, at least until Thella tries one last time to get to Aramina and Jayge runs her through to protect his wife. Thus ends Thella.

The Benden Weyrleaders arrive as soon as Threadfall ends, and both of them are immediately in K’van’s face for “involving himself in a holder dispute.”

Cocowhat by depizan

I’m a bit chuffed at this particular choice of language, because this entire book has been all about denying Thella the opportunity to be a Holder, mocking her for being Lady Holdless, and otherwise denying her legitimacy to achieve that office. This, in the official opinions, is not a holder dispute, because there aren’t two holders opposed to it. If that was what was keeping K’van out of it, then he should have been able to charge right in without fear.

The remainder of Thella’s crew will be shipped off to be drudges for others, Thella’s death is meant to be used as propaganda against someone else getting the same ideas, at least for a while, and Lessa leans hard on Aramina to come back to Benden and be a queen rider, since that hearing dragons thing is a specialty of the Ruathan bloodline, and it might pass on to her daughter, too…

That ends the chapter. It has certainly taken long enough to get Thella, but this is not the last chapter of the book, because there’s apparently still something left to do after Toric is humiliated and Thella killed. (Thella is still a waste of a good villain. She was perfectly designed to expose and exploit the flaws and the problems associated with the society Pern created for itself, and instead gets wasted as greedy and vain instead of oppressed and sympathetic.)