Category Archives: Deconstruction: Pern

All the Weyrs of Pern: Magic At The Gathering

Last chapter, dolphin language went on the agenda, AIVAS demonstrated it could take care of itself, and the preparations to make the spacecraft a suitable base of space operations continued. Sallah Telgar was buried, and everything got situated for a meeting of the Lords Holder that looks to have a big set of debates on the agenda.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 9: Content Notes: Sexism, Patriarchy, Randian Paradise

The beginning of the chapter is a sweep over Tillek Hold, site of the Conclave, including the new harbor that Ranrel has put into place that can apparently easily handle the increased sea traffic, even as the ability for passengers to get off their boats is tested through needing to put as many small craft to work as possible.

We find out that Sharra is due up to the Yokohama, to work with Mirrim on getting the algae gardens started again, so that atmosphere can be pumped into the cargo bay and the rest of the ship, before there is a digression into all the new color and fashion on display, all sourced in one way or another from the AI through Master Weaver Zurg. Except Jaxom, who is wearing drab colors in last season’s fashion.

Politics is certainly underway before the Conclave between Jaxom and Sharra:

As it is, it’s just too bad the Craftmasters can’t vote on the succession.”
“They should, you know,” Jaxom replied. “They’re as vital to the smooth management of Pern as any Lord Holder.”
“Ssh,” Sharra said, though her eyes twinkled at his heresy. “You upset sufficient Lord Holders without suggesting that innovation.”
“It’ll come! It’ll come,” Jaxom said. “Once the conservative element among the Holders are replaced.”

And Jaxom would be the person for it, having been the Holder-rider hybrid, backed by the dragons. I don’t know if this is maturity or proximity to the AI that has brought this idea forth for Jaxom, but if the industrial revolution continues on Terran paths, soon enough the Crafts will buy into the aristocracy and then eventually dismantle it completely. Lytol might be the only person that knows that, though. Otherwise, it’s a good idea if you want a more democratic aristocracy.

Speaking of Lytol, the narrative shifts away from Jaxom and Sharra as they go mingle, to where Lytol is keeping Robinton on a short leash as they discuss the likely votes, and Robinton breaches the same idea of Craft involvement to Lytol, who grunts instead of his usual caustic denial. Robinton wonders if its Jaxom’s influence, of course, but I’m guessing it’s AIVAS.

Robinton pulls over Jaxom and Sharra, talks about the great fashion on display everywhere, dropping the fact that Lytol used to also be a weaver (what hasn’t he done?) and Sharra complaints about Jaxom’s dress. Robinton takes the opportunity to make a dirty joke.

“I’d chosen such a beautiful fabric, one of the new brocades in marvelous dark blue-green, and he never managed a single fitting.”
“I fear he fit in other things,” Robinton replied, unable to forgo the wordplay.
“Oh, you!” Sharra rolled her eyes dramatically, laughing.
A singularly lovely ripple of laughter, Robinton thought, grinning back at her. Zair, perched on the Harper’s shoulder, chirped agreement.

Okay, maybe it’s not a dirty joke, but it sure reads like one. And I’m also wondering whether to read that laugh as the kind of polite laugh one gives to someone who thinks they are funny, but aren’t, but also might cause you physical or societal harm if you don’t laugh. Because Robinton certainly can, and I wonder if he’s taking advantage of that. Who is going to call him out for such a thing, since he’s a beloved patriarch and far more likely to be believed than her?

(Just how many of the paying students at the Harper Hall have stories of Harpers, or even Robinton, doing inappropriate things to them?)

Then the doors close, the kitchen opens with refreshments, and the wait begins…

…for those not blessed by the narrative, that is, which jumps to Jaxom inside after detailing the briefing he received the night before where everyone warned him against getting provoked when the anti-AIVAS slurs come out. Jaxom is impatient for the old guard to get out of the way to embrace the new ideas coming through, but promises he’ll behave.

The Lords seat themselves in blocks depending on who they are supporting for the question of succession, and Groghe asks Jaxom’s opinion on Toric’s vote, which Jaxom says is basically going to be “against Ranrel” because Toric is pissed off at Hamian, Jaxom, and the dragonriders, who he considers all to have betrayed him in one way or another. Groghe thinks Toric is making too much of it, and Jaxom shrugs and says, essentially, that Denol has no legal ground for his claim.

“You tell him, then, Lord Groghe. As I understand the tradition of Holding, he doesn’t lose the island, no matter who’s improving it–it remains incontrovertibly his as part of his Hold grant. No one can usurp his title to it. Especially not someone like Denol.”
Groghe swiveled in his chair to face with some astonishment at Jaxom. “Are you sure of that? I mean, about the Holding? That no one can supersede his claim?”
“Of course I am,” Jaxom grinned slyly. “That sort of irrevocable grant is mentioned in the settlers’ Charter. And remarkably enough, Pern still operates, and enforces, the rules and restrictions of that Charter, even if half the world doesn’t know it. So, once given, a grant can’t be rescinded. It can’t even be ceded out of the Bloodline of the original grantee. When the last of the Bloodline dies, challenge decides the new Holder.”
Groghe smiled grimly at that reminder of how F’lar and Fax had dueled to make Jaxom the heir to Ruatha Hold.

Cocowhat by depizan

I want to see that Charter, now, for several reasons. Most trivially, at this point, I want to see the rules of inheritance. If Jaxom is speaking the truth, and the charter doesn’t have anything like “land passes to the oldest son” and is more like “passes to a child of the Bloodline”, then Lessa, Nerilka, and Thella all had valid claims on their Holds. Yes, a patriarchal feudal system that insists that “no penis, no power” stopped all of them from being able to pursue those claims, but their claims are valid. Imagine the potential cultural revolution when every daughter is equally as eligible for her home Hold and whatever Hold she marries into. And since two of the three women had better claims of primacy than Jaxom (Bloodline, but baby), and Larad (younger brother to Thella), those Holds could have been under their direction the entire time. It would have made Lessa a much more formidable power in the world as both a Weyrleader and a Holder. And Thella might have been a better administrator than Larad and made things even more prosperous, if much crueler.

Second, this idea basically would null Fax as any sort of legitimate anything, so long as there was a surviving member who could trace their Bloodline back to the Ruathan one. Again, Fax murders a lot of people and conquers others, but once he’s dead, his name should have been scrubbed from the records and his descendants revoked out of anything he had, unless they continued carving the bloody swath. The Bloodlines at this point have presumably had sufficient time to mix and dilute that just about anyone could make a claim to being of that Blood. (Presumably, there are rules that prevent “one drop” claims, but still…)

Most importantly, though, who gives irrevocable land grants in perpetuity that survive until every last member of your extended family in every generation is dead? It’s like the charterers were setting themselves up for the problem of “too many people, not enough land” in the pastoral society they envisioned. And with no way off planet, either, so no method of bleeding off pressure by sending out colony ships to nearby habitable zones. Were they imagining that the low tech work would keep the birth rate down? Or that they would keep sufficient tech to maintain excellent birth control?

They basically said:


Ah, but wait, there’s more.

“Toric was awarded those specific Southern lands in compensation for Holding during the [time-skipped’s] incumbency of Southern Weyr,” Jaxom went on. “If you’ll remember, the Big Island is within the borders of that grant. No act of Denol’s can alter Toric’s title to the Island.”
“Even if Toric’s not put his own holders there?”
Jaxom grinned. “When Denol first came South, he agreed to hold for Toric. He can’t disavow that. I’m sure he thought that because others had been granted the right to hold in their own names, he could simply cross the water and claim the Big Island. It doesn’t work that way.”
[…Groghe seems impressed…]
“Meantime, Denol’s been improving the place with every cot and shed he’s built, every crop he’s planted. In fact,” Jaxom said with a slightly wicked grin, “if Toric gave Idarolan the word, Denol’s marketable goods could be collected and sold north, and the profit credited to Toric!”
“Well, that would solve that problem, surely.”
‘Yes, but Toric’s not listening, and certainly not reading any messages from Landing,” Jaxom said ruefully.

Cocowhat by depizan

So, not only does the land grant last forever and can’t be revoked, anyone who sets up shop inside that border is immediately a full vassal to that person and can have all their goods seized and sold on the say-so of their landlord.

How many Lords Holder and other landlords have been “accidentally” locked outside during Threadfall again? With their families and every known member of their Bloodline? Because if that’s the only way to break up a Hold and make the land available again, it’s going to be murder to be an aristocrat in this society. Presumably, both Holds and Weyrs are supposed to take only what they are allotted by contract, but it wouldn’t take much for the characters with the military power to decide to abuse that a bit, like someone grabbing a jeweled knife meant for someone else and saying “tough, it’s mine, unless you want to fight me for it.” Or a lot, like Jaxom is suggesting (and Groghe is totally on board with).

This society needs Thread as population control, and also needs Thread to force the issue of how to actually live together on a planet with finite size and resources. Ugh.

Jaxom and Groghe return to who is likely to back whom in the election, with the oldest (Blesserel) basically getting Bitra’s support because he’s so far in hock to them that any other ascendance would mean a default on the debt, and some ready to back the middle son (Terentel) because they don’t like the oldest and don’t want to support Remerel (and by proxy, AIVAS). There’s some questioning from Larad about whether or not Sallah looked human in death, but Lytol calls the Conclave to order before Jaxom has to lie too much about what he saw.

Lytol is chosen to chair the meeting, even though he has a vote out of respect from the Lords Holder for his job as being Warder to Ruatha. After pointing out the ancientness if their process to stop snark from many sides, he calls a first vote, which is conducted in secret ballot with ink pens and tearaway pads. Are those quill pens or ballpoints or some other style? I’d love to know, I really would, because it would help me figure out just how much technology has advanced in the last two years. Obviously there had always been copying methods and ink, but Jaxom comments that everyone at the table is using “new products” to exercise their franchise, suggesting these pens are a cut above your standard quill.

Lytol shuffles the votes as they arrive, so as to preserve the secrecy of their originators, then opens and sorts them before announcing a split vote. The debate proceeds from there, with advocates for the first two sons to speak before a second ballot is cast – Ranrel just edges out Blesserel, but there is still one vote for Terentel. Groghe and Larad advocate for Ranrel as the only one who has both fine honest work and that took interest in the running of the place while Oterel was dying. Sigomal and Sangel attempt to undercut the position, and Asgenar speaks for Ranrel to reinforce the good points. Toric jumps order to claim that Ranrel was expelled from the Hold, an expulsion Bargen says was retracted. Lytol puts the qibosh on that line of debate by pointing to the appropriate precedent:

“And the right of any male descendant to challenge the succession, no matter what bad feeling existed between father and son, has been upheld on numerous occasions.”

…yay, patriarchy. Way to exclude your competent administrators from holding actual power. But it’s not part of the charter, just precedent that it’s only sons.

Groghe needles Toric about father-son relationships, and a third vote is cast after nobody stands for Terentel. Ten for Ranrel. Lytol calls a recess to let the politicking happen, and while Jaxom stays out of any discussion, Groghe, Larad, and Asgenar to to work on the other candidates, telling Toric about his actual rights as Holder and discussing things with others. When back in session, another vote is called and Ranrel wins.

That matter settled, Jaxom updates everyone on the progress of the Plan, fields hostility, invites anyone who wants to go up into the Yokohama to see the planet for themselves, and promotes the increase in general welfare as proof that they’re going in the right direction.

Lytol held up the pad, the ink pen, and a sheet of the weather reports that Aivas had been producing for the past two Turns to the delight and relief of holders, major and minor. Then he pointed to the ornate clock on the wall, ticking away the minutes of the meeting, and to the new clothing in which Begamon was dressed, made from one of Master Zurg’s latest fine fabrics.
“I’ve also heard that you’ve new power to irrigate your fields and portable stoves to heat your orchards during frosts,” Lytol replied. “Not to mention the fact that your youngest granddaughter owes her life to Master Oldive’s new surgical techniques.”
“They’re things we can use, see, touch, Lytol.” Begamon waved his hand over his head. “Not something beyond our reach and our ken.”

Boy, that prohibition against surgery disappeared in a hurry, didn’t it? Presumably its effectiveness went way up with access to good technique, but it’s a bit odd that a deeply-held taboo disappeared, and yet there are some who are stubbornly holding out against the AI. A great example pops right up in Lytol’s next announcement, that the Craftmasters, save Norist, are in agreement on the construction of two new Halls – the Printers, loosely allied with the Harpers, to be housed in Landing, Ruatha, and Lemos (for better synch with Bendarek’s papercrafting), and the Technicians, loosely allied with the Smiths,

“I’ll say no to that one immediately,” Sigomal said, jumping to his feet. “That’s catering to the Abomination and–”
“There will be no vulgar epithets at this table, Lord Sigomal,” Lytol said at his most censorious. “Nor should I have to repeat that the Mastercraftsmen have no need of your permission. You have only to abstain from the purchase of any materials produced by a Crafthall which distresses you. Since it comes to my notice that certain projects of yours have benefited from new gadgetry of which only Aivas could be the source, you would be wiser to refrain from uttering such arrant hypocrisies in the Council.”
Gaping, Sigomal sank back
[…Jaxom notes that this is the first time Sigomal has professed an allegiance on the matter…]
“We will be duly informed when the new Mastercraftsmen are chosen and the parameters of their professional spheres decided. Let me further remind the Lord Holders that such additions to the Crafthalls require no ratification by this Council since the Halls have, by long custom, been autonomous. This is a formal notification of intent.”

But of course, the Lords are over a barrel and they know it – unless they want to only purchase unstamped goods of questionable quality with no warranty or support should they fail, or employ only those that have been dismissed from the official Halls, which would probably involve censure if discovered officially.

There’s bitching about why more are needed (because everyone is overworked with demand), whether this is a Charter thing (it’s not, but it came about in the First Pass), and a reminder that Sebell and Fandarel sought the opinion of their peers when they didn’t have to, leading to bitching about how if Norist didn’t assent, it’s not really unanimity. Then more about his this is all very sudden and fast, and that soon enough, machine parts will be rusting everywhere…

And probably the Weyrs, too, since this is all their fault.”
“Lord Corman!” Trembling with outrage, Jaxom wrenched his arm from Groghe’s grip and sprang to his feet, his fists clenched. “You may not disparage the Weyrs in my presence!”
He was only barely aware that Lord Groghe had risen beside him and clamped both hands on his left arm, while Asgenar, also on his feet, was restraining him on the other side. Larad was loud in his protest, as were Toronas, Deckter, Warbret, Bargen, and to Jaxom’s immense surprise, Toric.
“Lord Corman, you will immediately apologize to this Council for that remark!” Lytol roared.
With ten Lord Holders on their feet in protest, Corman had no option but to apologize. When he mumbled a phrase, Lytol icily demanded that he speak loud enough to be heard. Then Lytol stared at each of the standing Lord Holders until they sank back into their chairs.

…you were saying something about a lack of superstitions, AIVAS? Where someone laying blame where it can accurately be laid is immediately shouted down and required to apologize because it insults the Weyrs?

Lytol swears the Holders to silence in the matter, asks for a vote on encouraging the new halls, gets enough yeas, explains how the new Halls will be built and staffed, deals with more bitching, and then asks for any other business. Toric asks who gets to be Lord Holder of Landing, and has the joint administration explained to him, asks how much ground that actually covers, is told, and then sinks back into his chair.

Lytol wisely adjourns the meeting, and then delivers the news to Ranrel of his ascension. Jaxom heads to Robinton and delivers his report about what happened and who the difficult Lords are, which confirms what Sebell is hearing as well. Sigomal, Sangel, Nessel, and Begamon. Robinton is happy to have identified the dissenters, but Jaxom isn’t sure. He takes comfort in knowing that the “dissenters are few in number, and all of them old.” And thus, the chapter ends.

Frankly, for a first look inside the Conclave, it’s rather parliamentarian. As if it were a House of Lords instead of a house of lords. Perhaps it is Lytol riding herd on them, but I would have expected a lot more petty things to come through and a certain stubbornness to set in, but apparently when someone they mostly respect is in charge, things go smoothly. And hey, no knife fights!

…and so the point of the chapter was to elect Ranrel and show us the inner workings of a rather polite Conclave. I got a lot out of it because of the Charter point, but a reader who’s here for the plot might wonder what the point was. Maybe something that required the presence of these characters will happen next chapter.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Free Falling

Last chapter, we were denied actually seeing what happened with the rapid reintroduction of industrial age technology to a pastoral and vassalist feudal system, and instead thrown forward to the point in time where dragons and fire lizards went back to the spaceship, bringing back the corpse of Sallah Telgar, preserved sufficiently will in the vacuum and the cold to be transported back. A funeral and public burial is the works…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 8: Content Notes: None

…but we don’t get to see it immediately. Instead, we are treated to Jaxom and Ruth getting used to microgravity, Jaxom wearing the space suit that Sallah still had. Jaxom is tasked with finding the overrides for the cargo bay doors to see if they can be closed. Jaxom gets to the cargo bay, narrating his way down according to AIVAS’s instructions, and then comes face to face with the void and is talked through getting to the cargo bay console with emergency lights. Jaxom is able to use the manual override, although he uses too much force and almost throws himself into the air. Eventually, though, the doors do close and the mission finishes.

We shift over to AIVAS briefing the Power Trio on just how wobbly the wanderer is, noting a variance of nearly ten years from the fifty year default depending on the pass, and that the long intervals were…something. AIVAS calculates that the Ninth Pass will finish three years early, which is good news, and indicates that the time is right to start sending green dragons and their riders up to get used to microgravity. In pairs. Robinton praises AIVAS’s ability to manipulate people (!), a thing that AIVAS dismisses as just knowing personalities.

The next missions involving the Yokohama involve getting the oxygen-producing algae back up and running, and seeing if some bronze dragons can go out and collect some samples of non-activated Thread. Which produces a pretty big boggle from the assembled, until the AI tells them about the fact that Thread is only dangerous when in an environment that lets it be destructive. Even then, they’re not sure about it, even though the AI tells them it’s an essential item. Pressed for details about the plan, AIVAS deflects with an analogy about how beginners shouldn’t be expected to perform masterful music. The talk turns to the Conclave in a couple days and how the Lords might have a spirited debate about whether or not they give Landing and the AI their blessing.

Then comes the public funeral and ceremony for Sallah, brought in by dragons, borne by Holders, accompanied by a formation of fire lizards, and sealed in by Crafters (and then the accompanying music for the feast by Harpers). We don’t get to see it, though, because Jaxom appears at Robinton’s side to inform him of an attempt to attack AIVAS, taking advantage of the reality that everyone is at the funeral. Heading back to Landing, Robinton sees the aftermath, with plenty of bruised heads on both defenders and attackers and the knowledge that the AI can defend itself if needed, since it used a sonic barrage to knock the attackers out. Piemur has his bloodthirsty grin on again, as he notes one of the attackers has all the scars of being a glasssmith, and assumes everyone came from Norist as a result. As new information comes in, including that the raiders had expensive mounts, there’s more than a few Crafts involved in this particular incident (or at least more than a few Craftmasters). The arrival of dragons means protection for the AI and dialogue between Robinton and Lytol, where Lytol explains to Robinton that if he had studied history a bit more, he would have been better prepared for the cultural upheaval underway. Robinton doesn’t want to believe in Lytol’s cynicism as the right way, preferring his own optimism that technology will provide the way. Piemur backs Robinton’s optimism as a good idea.

Identification of the thugs produces a couple of Bitrans, used to dismiss all Bitrans as mercenaries that will do anything for money, but won’t give up or give in and stay loyal to whomever bought them. There’s a fisher in the group, identified by the net damage. The beasts and their equipment provide no help at all as to their origins. They are eventually shipped off to the mines of Crom for punishment. (Wait, penal mines? How long has this been the case? Have there ever been revolts?)

Otherwise disappointed, Jayge asks for an interview with AIVAS to talk about dolphins. The AI confirms that dolphins can talk to humans, but notes that both Pernese and dolphins would have to adjust their language to be intelligible to each other, and suggests young Readis be trained in dolphin. Jayge suggests that more kids learn dolphin as a way of keeping quiet about the intelligence of the species, which would really upset several of the humans to find out they’re not the smartest creatures on the planet.

Then again, several of the rumors in circulation about the hostile nature of AIVAS (including one where it becomes Skynet and will produce a colony drop to destroy the world) and how well protected it is suggests that there’s plenty of creativity, if not intelligence, at work in the rumor mill. Ultimately, the chapter comes to a close without any of the world-shaking consequences that have been hinted at or glossed over in the previous chapters, making this one a bit of a breather, even though there was the aftermath of an attack that had to be dealt with. Because everyone in the viewpoint always seems to be just behind the action these days, when that action is fighting, rather than in the thick of it, like in the earlier novels. Perhaps it’s because we’re working primarily with Jaxom, who people wouldn’t try to hurt, and Robinton, who is, well, getting too old for this shit.

Next chapter, perhaps, there will be more, as we are now set up for the Conclave of Holders, who have a lot to discuss.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Full Steam Ahead

Last time, AIVAS dangled technology and accounts of history in front of Our Heroes, who snapped it up without a second thought. There’s an anti-AI faction in the Glass-smiths, but they haven’t been given characterization that passes into the second dimension yet. And the march of progress continues anyway…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 7: Content Notes: Abuse

Present Pass 19. In other words, a two year timeskip, which is, well,

Cocowhat by depizan

The end of the last chapter was the beginning of an industrial and social revolution on Pern, with at least a cartoonish opposition group also getting off the ground. This should be an entire book’s worth of back and forth, with battles, victories, defeats, sabotage, changes of sides, and all the rest. But no, it gets skipped. Not interesting enough. We’re supposed to accept it as foregone that the technological side wins and continues their plans. Because they’re clearly Good.

This chapter opens with Lessa popping awake in the middle of the night and flailing a bit to try and figure out why, before the “lighted clock face” on the side of the bed reminds her that both Weyrleaders have an appointment at Landing early their time.

Cocowhat by depizan

Clocks are not electronic mechanisms, and so would make sense to have on Pern. Lit clocks means lightbulbs powered by batteries, radioactive or reflective painting, or that AIVAS somehow convinced others to synthesize a glow in the dark chemical and apply it to timepieces. These are not things that are just “oh, they have clocks now that glow in the dark!” Can dragonriders use a timepiece as an accurate mental model for time-hopping? Who came up with the time zone designations for the planet? Is there a mass transit system? There’s so much that’s been skipped that I guess we’ll have to piece together through observation.

The Weyrleaders get dressed, banter a bit, make sure the watchrider that’s fallen asleep gets scared witless for doing so (and demoted to carrying firestone sacks during the next Threadfall, normally a weyrling task), and then grab some breakfast before doing a time-jump back to Landing, speculating that today might be the day when AIVAS unveils the Project, the plan to knock the Red Star out of orbit permanently, and how that might affect the politics of choosing Oterel’s successor Lord.

Ah, and more crumbs of how the world has changed.

Lessa had to grin, remembering the fuss Ranrel’s innovative engineering had caused among those who derided or downright rejected any useful products of “the Abomination.” F’lar scratched sleepily at his scalp and yawned.
“And when the other brothers tried to belittle
Ranrel’s project, along comes Master Idarolan, raving about the facilities,” she said.
“That’s not going to hurt when the Lord Holders convene. His mate’s a Masterweaver. She’s interested in having a power loom. I don’t know where she found out that such things were possible.”
Lessa threw up her hands. “Everyone’s gone ‘power’ mad.”
“It sure reduces sheer drudgery.”
“Hmm. Yes. Well, eat up. We’ll be late.”


That is a violation of characterization. Lessa disguised herself as a drudge to escape Fax, and as recently as a couple chapters ago, roped women until helping her do drudge work. She should know exactly how drudgery is mind killing, body breaking, and how much drudges are exposed to violence of all sorts. She should be at the forefront of getting rid of drudge work through machine labor, not pish-toshing at the craze for electrically powered labor-saving devices. And every woman on Pern should be right there with her.

If anyone should be clueless or failing to understand the implications, it should be the Benden Weyrleader, since he has lived a privileged life, with servants and underlings and the ability to basically take whatever he’s wanted in exchange for protection. That he supposedly has the insight about labor-saving devices to her skepticism is violence done to her character.

Furthermore, the presence of power looms asks more questions. What does the power grid look like on Pern? Does every Hold have its own power station? Does it extend to outlying holders? Does Fandarel’s telegraph get used as a message relay between places? Are all the wires buried, because Thread is hot enough to slice through them? Is it water wheels and dams that provide power? I don’t know, and since we time-skipped, that’s probably never going to get answered.

Second, one of two consequences has happened. Either the output of Pern and its consumption of resources has gone up by the multiplier of these machines, to which I hope there is sufficient demand and need for that output, or there are a lot of people who were attached to a hold that are now holdless, as those Holders realized that with machines, they only needed to feed a fraction of their drudge and staff populations to get the same amount of output. If, say, Thella, Lady Holdless, were present, she could seize upon mechanization as the cause of societal ills, ally herself with the anti-AI faction (possibly through a proxy), and then cause great unrest and insurrection by pointing out that the Lords Holder and the Craftmasters profit from labor far in excess of whatever payment is delivered to the laborers. There should be, or should have been, a popular uprising at some point (or some point soon) that had to be stopped in some way. The fundamentals of the world have changed, but the author seems unwilling to make changes based on the new information. Perhaps because the life of the privileged hasn’t actually changed all that much…yet.

On the way to the meeting, there is triumph about the manufacture of light bulbs by Morilton, and Jaxom worries about the increasing number of people in the anti-AI faction, called “dissidents” by Jaxom, pointing out how Our Heroes think about who should be running the world.

The actual meeting is to send Farli up to the Yokohama to turn the life support system back on. We are treated to what should be a grisly sight, namely the body of Sallah Telgar, apparently preserved all these years in the airless ship, before Farli is sent to her task, since dragons and fire lizards can survive without oxygen for up to ten minutes safely.

(Also, despite it being logical to do so, dragons and fire lizards have no explicit telekinesis, despite being able to hyperspace themselves about.)

Farli doesn’t get it, possibly because Piemur doesn’t, and so the Benden Weyrleaders send out for Canth, the only dragon that’s gone off-world, to try and make an explanation that Farli will understand. Canth and Ruth both tell their riders that Farli gets it, just that she hasn’t been to the right place so as to go back there. After thinking Ruth could fit and deciding that waiting for the reconstruction of suits would take too long, as well as a silent acknowledgement that is HNO3, rather than agenothree, Jaxom is at a loss.

Ruth, on the other hand, gets it and pops up to the Yokohama with the perfect precision needed to fit. And with an anchor there, Farli can follow and achieve her task. Ruth rather enjoys microgravity, and while everyone on the planets is busily shouting for Rough to get back, he executes a few turns and floats and asks Jason if they can come back sometime before finally returning. There is much muted everything, and also one spot that deserves special attention:

“Ruth and Jaxom were not Weyr-trained. But don’t think Ruth’s going to get off easily for this escapade.” He managed a droll grin. “Judging by the look on Jaxom’s face, he’s had a fright that he won’t forget. That will inhibit Ruth far more surely than threats from you and me.” He gave her one of his little shakes. “More important, the less furor there is right now, the fewer rumors will abound.”
Lessa let out a heavy sigh, glared at him, and then gave herself a shake, releasing herself from his grasp.

That’s…not okay, Weyrleader. I’m sure we’re supposed to see that as an affectionate gesture (a part I skipped over at the beginning had Lessa muse about how the Benden Weyrleader is amorous in the mornings), but the shaking was violent and abusive and intended to keep Lessa in line when we last saw it. That it is still there at all, and still frequent, makes all of the anger I had at him come flying back in an instant, and I would like to impose a headcanon that Lessa shakes him off because he’s still an abusive prick (even though the narrative wants us to believe she loves him) instead of because of her irritation at Ruth’s independence.

Now that the bridge’s life support is sufficient, the AI intends to send up Piemur with Jaxom and Ruth so that Sallah’s remains can be brought back and a funeral given for her. Piemur idly muses whether the space suit will be salvageable, before the silence in the room points out the faux pas, and then AIVAS steps on that enough to suggest that retrieving the suit was part of the plan all along. Nobody has a shudder at the machine suggesting this, though, and an extra fire lizard is requested to accompany them so that someone other than Farli understands how to get up into the spaceship. Redundancy is a beautiful thing.

Oh, and it’s also minus 10 up there, which is either below freezing or very below freezing. Despite that, the AI believes its perfectly good for humans to go up and do something up there. And after only a little complaining about the cold, the two have an adventure getting used to microgravity and unloading the oxygen tanks that were strapped to Ruth, who is anchoring himself by wrapping his tail around something. Eventually, the two make it to their consoles to program the telescope arrays and check to make sure calculations are correct about the plan. After being transfixed by seeing the entire world from the perspective of the outside, that is. A shower of debris frightens Ruth and the lizards, but AIVAS pulls everyone back to task before they freeze up, which is now starting to have an effect on everyone present. Both Harper and Holder put in their programs and run them, go to put their oxygen tanks into the system, and then collect Sallah’s body to go back.

There’s also some speculation on the subject we’ve been wondering about for a long time – why Bitra Hold exists. Before the quoted part, Piemur says he’ll give “Bitran odds” that the ship is colder than hyperspace. AIVAS corrects him immediately to indicate it isn’t, but notes that they’ve been exposed to the cold a lot more on the ship.

Jaxom tried to feel reverence for the personality that had once inhabited the frozen shell they were handling. Sallah Telgar had given her life to prevent the defector, Avril Bitra, from draining the Yokohama’s fuel tanks in her bid to escape the Rukbat system. Sallah had even managed to repair the console Bitra had wrecked in her fury at being thwarted. Odd that a Hold had been named after such a woman, but then, Bitrans had always been an odd lot. Jaxom chided himself for such thoughts. There are some very honest, worthy Bitrans–a few, anyway–who were not given to gambling and the other forms of gaming that fascinated so many of that Hold. Lord Sigomal kept to himself, but that was far preferable to the late Lord Sifer’s well-known unsavory appetites.

This would be a nice moment for show, rather than telling, but “Bitran” is an expletive, it seems, for people of vicious tastes. And yet, the Hold persists, and is known for their enthusiasm in gambling, a thing that is apparently frowned on in proper Pernese society (despite people as influential as the Masterharper engaging in it on the sly). There’s no given reason why gambling is so frowned upon, given that there are no officially recognized religious practices on Pern nor any cultural reason to believe why it should be sanctioned in such a manner.

Perhaps Bitra Hold exists as the sanctioned unsanctioned space of Pern, where vice of all sorts is allowed to be openly on display, and discretion exercised about who comes to visit, so long as there are no threats to the society that originate from that knowledge. It would be interesting to learn that Bitra Hold has existed in several places over time, moving when the heat gets sufficiently large as to force the issue – or when troops come riding in to exterminate people with too much secret power.

Or maybe Bitra Hold exists only as a passphrase to enter the parts of other Holds that would contain vice. It would explain the pervasive prejudice and the continued existence of Bitra in the face of it. I don’t know how they settled in that particular name, but maybe it’s a happy coincidence.

In any case, Sallah is successfully transported home, removed from the suit, which is still usable with some minor repairs, and housed in a proper coffin, with Larad offered the opportunity to have a public funeral, which will have a full rendition of the Ballad of Sallah Telgar (currently a very popular story for gatherings). And all of this is conveniently timed to happen right before the Conclave of Holders, so that the pro-AI group can point to several marvels, including the retrieval of a worldwide hero, as reasons to sign on to the technological revolution at hand and accept the guidance of AIVAS. When accused of planning it all this way by Larad, Robinton has the good sense to look shocked about it, even though the AI most certainly did such a thing. Plans are made.

And there’s this tidbit:

Aivas remarked to Lytol that since someone would be expected to wear that suit, it was fortunate indeed that superstition was not a facet of Pernese culture. Lytol disagreed. He and Aivas immediately became involved in a discussion of primitive religions and arcane beliefs, so that Robinton was just as glad that he was free to leave for Telgar Weyr with F’lar. The Harper wondered fleetingly if he would have done better to have stayed to listen to what was certain to be a fascinating debate; but he was delving too much satisfaction in being the bearer of such remarkable tidings.

“Ah, look at the possibility of worldbuilding and having to justify ourselves! Time to escape to some other location so we don’t have to provide details!” Because I would like to hear that argument very much, thank you. I think that the narrative wouldn’t let Lytol win, but I suspect his position is a lot stronger than we’re supposed to believe. Lytol, after all, has been on both sides of the Cult of Dragonriders, and so probably knows better than most about superstition.

That makes this chapter a wrap. Maybe next chapter, someone will sit down and explain what has happened in the interim?

All the Weyrs of Pern: From Behind the Black

Last time, more knowledge dispensed from the AI, some skepticism came forth, from both unreasonable sources and very reasonable ones, and there was vandalism and destruction of some of the AI’s batteries, revealing the presence of an anti-AI group that supposedly had been noticed by Robinton, but that hadn’t been arsed to actually be put into the narrative until they attacked and did damage.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 6: Content Notes: Sexism, ageism, hagiography

The first paragraph of the new chapter makes sure to contrast itself with the vandalism by extolling how the power trio of the retired Harper, the retired Weyrleader, and the retired Lord Holder (Lord Warder, technically), each with a reputation for impartiality, worked extremely well and used their shared knowledge together in the administration of the AIVAS’s time and workstations. I have a feeling, although it might be unvarnished cynicism, that the composition of the administrative team may have also forestalled complaints about favoritism or partisanship by giving nobody an avenue to grouse about their pillar of Pernese society not being represented on the council.

From there, the next few paragraphs are dedicated to what happens when a new thing comes into view – it becomes an outlet for Holders to send their non-inheriting children to in the hope of foisting them off on someone else so they don’t have to be fed or cared for at their Hold. The AI, however, stops the practice by instituting an aptitude test to weed out the candidates that won’t cut it as students.
Then there’s a rundown of how the name characters do with the computers.

Lessa and F’lar never became proficient in their use of a console, mostly because, in the Harper’s estimation, they had little time to spend learning the essentials; but they did grasp the fundamentals of accessing information. [The Brown Rider Rapist] didn’t even try, but his mate, Brekke, joined the Masterhealer’s dedicated group in their striving to regain the lost medical techniques. Mirrim, determined to keep up with T’gellan, struggled on despite a most distressing start and succeeded. K’van became as adept as Jaxom and Piemur.
To the surprise and delight of his close associates, the taciturn Lytol became an avid user, accessing files from the widest range of topics. He insisted on taking the late shift, as he never required me than four hours of sleep anyway.
“Lytol’s always been a deep person, with unexpected reserves–or he wouldn’t have survived as long as he has,” Jaxom replied to those who commented on Lytol’s new obsession. “Though I don’t understand his fascination with all that dry historical stuff when there’s so much more that we can apply to living and working here and now.”
“On the contrary, Jaxom,” the Harper replied. “Lytol’s investigations may be the most significant of all.”

So, young dudes succeed, older dudes don’t get it fully, and the oldest dudes surprise everyone by picking it up really well. Mirrim, of course, had to stumble first, because she’s trying to rise “above” her gender and be a dude in all the important ways, but she has to be reminded that she will not ever be a dude, no matter how much she tries. Whereas Brekke, model of womanhood and sticking with your attacker, joins a group of the best Healers. And nobody young understands why the old guy would be interested in how things were before the demon rain came down, as they work on getting to stop the demon rain from ever coming back. Because apparently only the older people understand what sort of upheaval is about to happen when the biggest threat to life on Pern is no longer present. It feels very dudebro, long before that kind of thing was into common parlance.

The narrative then explains the classrooms that are put to use for instruction in the sciences, taking care to mention that the Weyrs are the most eager groups to send students for general and special instruction without noting that the Weyrs’ relative idleness is what permits them to send wings of students to study. Robinton peeks in on various classes, one on electromagnets, one eventually on refrigeration and the properties of liquified gases that ends up being an excellent demonstration on why personal protective equipment is necessary when a glass thermos explodes in the face of a Smith apprentice. The apprentice is wearing eye protection, thankfully.

There is eventually a discussion of the wisdom of rebuilding a settlement that has already been buried in ash once, but AIVAS assures them that it is still monitoring the volcanoes, with instruments that apparently are still functional some 2500+ revolutions later, and says it’s not likely they’re going to blow up again.

That, however, is apparently less important than the developing problem that Norist is presenting with his strongly anti-AIVAS position. Which should have been in the last chapter, before the vandalism, so that the damage doesn’t appear to have come out of nowhere and there is plenty of plot to work with in investigating whether Norist is responsible.


“As you know, he had threatened to disavow Master Morilton’s Mastery and disown all journeymen and apprentices who have produced glass according to the, ahem, spurious methods and techniques of Aivas.”
“He calls Aivas ‘the Abomination’!” Piemur said with a malicious chuckle.
[…AIVAS apparently doesn’t mind, and Robinton continues after a diversion on whether the AI finds the humans amusing…]
“As the duly elected Mastercraftsman, guiding his Halls, he can only be replaced at a convocation of all Masters. Unfortunately, the Glass-smithcraft is not a large one, and most of the Crafthallmasters are as dogmatic as Norist. On the other hand, I won’t sit by and see Master Morilton disavowed or harassed or humiliated because he has learned something Norist didn’t teach him. He’s certainly proved adept at the new skills.”

This is all really good development work, and sets up the upcoming conflict nicely. That is, if we weren’t in a situation where one of the sides in this argument still has mounted flamethrowers that could presumably be used to intimidate anyone and everyone around them into doing what they want. Pern continues to be a very strange place in that the people who have the power have significant restraint in how they use it. Blame it on the dragons, maybe?

Also, I think this is the first time we’ve really had it explicitly spelled out that the Guild Masters can blacklist people. It’s been hinted at in the last book (considering that expelled apprentices and journeypeople were part of Toric’s strategy to be the juggernaut of the South and Thella’s strategy to be the queen of the holdless) and we knew that craftmasters could blacklist a Hold that wasn’t treating them well, and if we want to think about it, the whole sequence of stamped versus unstamped goods at the Gather back in the Harper Hall trilogy suggests there’s an approval system in place, but knowing that a guildmaster can unilaterally decide if someone is part of the guild fits in really well with Pern, even if it is inconvenient to the protagonists at this point.

And inconvenience is all it will be, most likely, as Lytol decides he might go lean on Norist in the same way that Norist is leaning on Morilton and Wansor, and Jaxom and D’ram both decide to use their offices to get the high quality glass that’s being denied to Morilton.

The Benden Weyrleader asks a smart question, about whether there are closer sand pits that can do the job, Robinton enters the query, and alternative sites are also chosen for examination.

Robinton also remarks that the AI wants more of the bronze and green dragons as possible candidates for the plan, the details of which are not being provided. In further speculation and complaints about how AIVAS is not detailing the plans out, Lessa notices that Jaxom is being singled out for extra attention. Piemur adds that Mirrim and S’len are also getting the intense course, and speculates that the reason why is because their dragons are the smallest and the AI needs small dragons for the grand plan, especially Jaxom and Ruth.

Spoilers: Piemur is right. (Which, arguably, makes Jaxom the main character of the entire series, even if he’s not always in focus.) Since my memory is hazy about the actual eventual Plan, I won’t talk more about it until we get there, but there is a thing that needs to be addressed at this point.

As the comments have mentioned, now that we’ve rediscovered the AI, AIVAS is very deliberately manipulating everyone, through strategic release and withholding of information so as to further its goals and purposes. The aptitude tests are not just weeders for the excess sons, but are presumably looking for people with talent in specific areas that will take to various disciplines. The narrative, through Piemur, informs is that Jaxom has the best three-dimensional navigational mathematics skills, then has Robinton volunteer that he’s been getting fed literature and sagas that Pernese stories are paraphrases of, and privately tells us that the Benden Weyrleader studies tactics, Threadfall forecasting, and draconic healing. Piemur is, of course, fascinated by computers. Lytol has been getting a steady diet of politics, and

“I don’t think any of us realized that our present political structure was handed down from the very Charter of ancestors brought with them. That is historically very unusual, Aivas told me.”
“Why should it be?” F’lar asked, mildly surprised. “It allows Weyr, Hold, and Hall to function without interference.”
“Ah, but interference was a major factor in Terran politics,” Lytol replied. “Spurred by territorial imperatives and, all too often, sheer greed.”

Said the AI to the Warder whose Hold was annexed by Fax before he came to be in charge of it.

The narrative is proceeding with all of this on the assumption that the AI is telling the heroes the truth, even though there’s been instances where they have observed AIVAS using what might be described as “skillful means” to achieve its goals. The account of the colonists we read in Dragonsdawn is apparently the story that AIVAS has been telling everyone. There’s no guarantee that it actually is telling the full truth, and seems to be relying on the credibility it receives as a source of scientific knowledge to talk about social, political, and cultural things. Lytol’s skepticism is warranted, and we hope that he is examining the information received with a critical eye and trying to see if he’s getting the entire picture, because in Terran history we repeatedly run across the problem of having only a single source, and usually, that source is the winners of whatever conflict they are talking about.

AIVAS is faithfully attempting to execute its plan to rid the world of Thread. What else is it doing in service of that goal, and what isn’t it saying about those goals? Does AIVAS need to completely rework Pernese social structure so as to gain the manufacturing capacity for the plan? Who will be its mouthpieces and actors? Will AIVAS cut someone off if they start straying too far from the path?

Why do we keep ending up in situations where there are Our Heroes and Cartoon Villains any time an opportunity for social commentary arises? Are our books also records told and spun by AIVAS in service of a master narrative? We don’t know, and the narrative seems determined to indicate there’s nothing behind the curtain at all, move along.

Jaxom and Ruth head to Paradise River, collect some of the sample same, and talk to Aramina and Jayge, who have a story from young Readis and Alemi about squid dragging a boat into a current, a storm capsizing that boat, and shipfish returning them back to shore, and the boat the next morning. Which sounds like a normal story, except that Readis says that the shipfish talk to them while they’re being rescued. Jayge confirms the story, and asks Jaxom to talk to the AI about the shipfish, even calling them doll-fins. Jaxom says he will, and then does a quick time-shift back to Ruatha…in the middle of a blizzard. While fretting about how there’s a lot of stuff going on in her life, Jaxom hits on the solution of how to keep his wife nearby – bring her south on a ship. He purposes this to her, and is met with great enthusiasm, including sex, apparently.

We switch back to the south, where the AI has recommended that the Harper Hall build itself a printing press, so that all the “nonessential” things, like music compositions, can be replicated worldwide. Robinton is a little worried about having the personnel to create it, but AIVAS considers it the right time for this to happen, and details what will be needed to create such a thing, including mentioning the journeyman that brought the initial message to both men as an excellent carver who could create the requisite movable type for the press.

This is the invention that finally smacks Robinton squarely work to realize what sort of changes are about to happen.

The effects on Hold, Hall, and Weyr, only beginning to filter through, would be profound. Lytol, having delved into the history and politics of their ancestors, had always worried about what he called the erosion of values and the subversion of tradition by new demands.
[…and what about the dragons?…]
In Robinton’s estimation, the Weyrs deserved whatever they requested after centuries of service, but would the Lord Holders, and the Halls, agree? That concerned him the most. Yet it seemed to worry the Weyrleaders least. And what if, in the four Turns ten months, and three days specified by Aivas, the attempt should fail? What then?
Perhaps, and he brightened suddenly, all this new technology would absorb both Hold and Hall, to the exclusion of the Weyrs. Hold and Hall had always managed quite nicely to ignore the Weyrs between Passes. Perhaps things like power stations and printing presses were indeed valuable, but for more abstruse reasons, as well as the obvious ones.

Lytol may still be the only person on the planet who has an inkling of what all of this new technology will do to the society. Robinton is starting to understand and think about the right questions and effects. So he goes to AIVAS and asks if everything is really necessary. And gets a rather interesting reply.

“Not to the way of life you had, Master Robinton. But to accomplish what is apparently the desire of the majority of Pern, the destruction of Thread, improvements are essential. Your ancestors did not employ the highest technology available to them: They preferred to use the lowest level necessary to perform the function. That is the level that is presently being reestablished. As you yourself requested in the initial interview.”
Robinton wondered if he had imagined the tone of mild reproof. “Water-driven power…” he began.
“Which you already had available to you.”
“Printing presses?”
“Your Records were printed, but in a laborious and time-consuming fashion that, unfortunately, permitted errors to be made and perpetuated.
“The teaching consoles?”
“You have harpers who instruct by set lessons. You had even managed to rediscover papermaking before accessing this facility. Most papermaking techniques, Masterharper, are refinements of techniques you already employ, made easier by some basic machinery and of no higher level than your ancestors brought with them. It is little more than correcting long-standing errors and misconceptions. The spirit of the original climate is still intact. Even the technology that must be utilized to thwart the return of the wanderer planet will be of the same level as your ancestors’.
[…which could be better if communication were still a thing between here and Terra…]
He could scarcely fault Aivas for doing what had been specifically requested, that Pern be brought back to the level of knowledge it had originally enjoyed. It was obvious that Aivas was obeying the initial request that only what was really needed be revived. It was just stunning to realize how much had been lost.

And how would you know that, Robinton, unless you believe that what AIVAS is telling you is true? An entity that admits to manipulating you is still apparently highly trustworthy? And the machine is selling you this idea that it is only doing what the ancestors wanted, which is conveniently not fact checkable because it is the only surviving link to those same ancestors. It has supposedly had about 2500 years to think and learn about what went wrong, and there’s a good chance it might have concluded that the Randian paradise set up at the outset was the problem. Presented with a feudal arrangement along with some interesting intersections, AIVAS is setting itself up as the ruling entity of the planet, with the end goal of eliminating Thread. Those it favors, it rewards with technology. Those it opposes, it sends minions after to bring them into line.

AIVAS is positioned to become Skynet, should things go in any particular way, and nobody seems to be interested in that problem, since Norist’s objections are described as being basically “TRADITION CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA”.

Lytol might be the remaining hope for thinking through the consequences before diving straight in. We’ll find out soon enough.

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. [ETA: Memory bad. Induction is in 2005, death in 2011.]) 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.


“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.