The Skies of Pern: Ramifications

Last time, a night spent under the stars turned into an all-out brawl between Zaranth, Golanth, their riders, and a horde of big cats. Zaranth taught the rest of the dragons their telekinesis to get them to help fling the cats away, and Ramoth was able to deflect a killing blow through a snap amount of timing it. All four are resting up as we go to the meeting of the Council, which has much to discuss.

The Skies of Pern, Part 4, Segments II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI: Content Notes: Ablism, Toxic Masculinity, Sexism,

(Telgar Hold, 3.1.31)

Lessa stays the viewpoint character while she and her mate prepare for the suddenly very full council meeting, having to discuss an attack on the Printer Hall, a confirmation of a new Lord Holder, a different attack on dragons, and the proposal to make the Dragonriders of Pern into the Astronomers of Pern. There’s a nice detail about the “Telgar shield of white, bright red, and medium blue” to remind us that heraldry is still very much alive and well in this world.

Larad gets the elevator version of what happened, and Lessa stresses that the knowledge that has been used to heal everyone has a significant AIVAS component to it, so that anyone listening would get the hint. Lessa also notes the dragons have a significant color improvement to themselves, and is as gracious as she can manage when Larad’s wife, Lady Dulsay, suggests that it’s a burden to be at the council meeting instead of taking care of her son.

Also let slip, in a discussion of how Lord Sangel, all his sons, as well as several others of his line, all died in a plague, is that the Healer Hall has and has been using vaccinations! Presumably not in quite the same way they figured it out in Moreta, but that’s still a significant advance in medicine.

When the local-to-Telgar Weyrleaders arrive, Lessa asks if Larad and Dulsay have met them.

“Oh, yes. They arrived the very next day,” and Lessa was surprised to see Lady Dulsay blush. “Most respectful to let us know how the Weyrleadership had been decided.”
“Good of them to be prompt to introduce themselves,” Lessa said, suppressing a desire to grin. Why was it that holders were invariably embarrassed by mating flights? It wasn’t as if Dulsay and Larad hadn’t been very much attached to each other when they had formally wed.

As a characterization bit, this is useful for showing how much Lessa had internalized dragonrider values in the decades since she came to the Weyr from her hold. I don’t think it’s quite as nice, though, that it suggests dragonrider values don’t think all that hard about even the obvious consequences of their actions. Everything we’ve been told so far about Hold culture mirrors a lot of what Latin Chtistendom’s values were. They’re focused on making sure the Bloodlines stay (relatively) pure, that marriages are to political advantage, and that property rights can easily and cleanly be passed on to the next generation of nobles. To achieve this, sex has to be heavily regulated and controlled. (Which is what Dunca’s function was at the Healer Hall – a chaperone to try and make sure the marriage-eligible daughters of Holders didn’t become ineligible by having a fling with a passing Harper.) Right next door, however, are the anarchic hedonists that they pay tribute to. Dragonriders own no property (at least, while they’re in active service), have a small amount of military ranking as their social structure, and every so often, as the lusts of themselves or their dragons consume them, they participate in free sex with no regard to rank or Bloodline. They even decide who is in charge by sex. Furthermore, there’s a high probability that the holders have experienced those powerful sexual urges by proxy thanks to being close enough to a mating flight flying overhead. If they extrapolate that dragons and/or riders feel like that much of the time, you can imagine what a Holder might conclude is what goes on in a Weyr much of the time. And that’s without knowing whether the new Weyrleaders were being deliberately graphic to induce embarrassment in the prudes or not. Even people who know the mechanics of sex, and may have even had a significant portion of it themselves might be embarrassed if they heard or saw something pornographic (or a sex act) in a public. Or if they were suddenly all-consumed with lust, and when they came back to themselves, they were naked in a field and had very clearly had sex with whomever had been nearest to them at the time the lust started. So there are lots of reasons to be embarrassed.

The meeting itself gets underway fairly easily, but Toric is immediately ready to try and disrupt it by claiming he got no news of the attacks by the felines. Nobody wants to back him up on this complaint, and so he sits down. Larad is ready to start the agenda with the matter of confirming a new Holder at Southern Boll, but Kashman, the Lord where the Printer Hall is situated, wants to discuss the “anarchic behavior[…]of Lord Jaxom, Weyrleader N’ton, and Masterprinter Tagetarl who arbitrarily exiled twelve people alleged to be Abominators” first. Groghe reminds everyone present about what they’ve already agreed to, but it takes Sebell projecting his voice above the brewing argument before anyone feels like paying attention. Toric tries to get out of having to follow the agenda, but he doesn’t have as many allies as he thinks.

“Why don’t you just agree to the girl and let us get to the real issues?” Toric demanded.
“But she’s a woman!” Kashman protested. “There hasn’t been a Lady Holder, except in a temporary capacity for…”
“Not since Lady Sicca ran Ista,” Groghe said. “My grandfather had great respect for her. For that matter, all of us here, bar you who are new come to the Council honors,” and Groghe emphasized that, “know that Lady Marella’s been running Boll for the past five Turns since Sangel began to deteriorate. Lady Janissian has been her steward and she certainly proved her worth during the Fireball Flood. Those cousins of hers removed themselves and their belongings to high ground and stayed there without lifting a finger. Neither of them should hold.”
“For that matter,” Lessa said, “Emily Boll held those lands in her own right. As I see it, that Holdership has come full circle and about time.”
Lady Dulsay, Adrea, Master Ballora, and Palla were bold enough to second her.

Bargen of High Reaches (who has turned out to be Lord post-Fax after all) insists on the Council considering other male relatives of Sangel’s, but each of them is found deficient nearly immediately, and Toric irritably asks for a vote so they can get on with the meeting. While the votes are being cast and collected, we learn something we’ve always suspected, but hasn’t actually been confirmed until now.

“Holding began with Paul Benden. There’s nothing wrong with Fort’s Bloodline. But that form of inheritance is not in the Charter, you know.”
[The Benden Weyrleader] regarded [Lessa] in mild surprise. “No, actually, it isn’t. Holders and all those traditions came later.”

And those traditions managed to not only come in conflict with the Charter, they buried that Charter until it was unearthed with the AI. For as much as this timeline would like you to believe that the Charter has always been with Pern, there’s only a few ways where the vassalage system could have grown out of the Randian pastoral paradise envisioned by the colonists. Suppression of said Charter is one of the easiest.

Janissian is confirmed and invited to sit at the table, at a gathering hosted by Larad. How much Thella must be fuming from the afterlife, and even more so that there was an installed Lady Holder within the living memory of the Council members, by the brother that she was passed over for. Thella should have had her hearing, by rights, and at least have been formally removed from consideration for some reason, rather than been told “lol no, no girls allowed.” because there were other men in the line that would have had precedence over Janissian by rights of primogeniture.

Of course, if any of Sangel’s sons had survived, this conversation would not be happening, because then they could just confirm him, regardless of how God an administrator he would be, because son and Bloodlines.

I hope Janissian manages to pass her Holdership to her daughter.

Then the meeting turns to the business at the Printer Hall, and Kashman wants to know why the accused were not brought to him for justice. Lytol and Sebell remind him that Crafthalls are autonomous, and since the offense happened in a Crafthall, they do not have to defer to the local Lord Holder. Kashman wonders how people from so very far away were in the right place to pass judgment, which betrays that Kashman doesn’t know enough about fire-lizard messages, yet. Bargen closes the rhetorical door in Kashman’s face by pointing out the precedent already in place and that the correct procedure was followed for exile, then requests to move on to the topic of keeping the skies clear. The Benden Weyrleader begins to present the recommendations, to Toric’s (and a few others) outrage at being taxed more, before the dragons outside roar and restore order that way. Fandarel points out his Hall can’t make the telescopes needed, but withdraws his concern when told they’ll use the ones in the Catherine Caves. Jaxom and Larad point out they’ve already started the work on building their observatory spots, the entire council is abuzz about the Western Continent site, and the Benden Weyrleader sets Toric up to ask all the right questions about how the dragonriders will be able to support themselves, either with holds or by joining the Star Hall, in the After, and that lets the Benden Weyrleader point out that the dragons have a new tool in their box that they can use to divert objects that get too close to Pern for comfort. The rest of the council votes to approve and supply the idea, much to Toric’s aggravation. The rest of the segment is Toric wandering the grounds for an arranged meeting with Dorse that never happens, but Fifth is there and stands in his place. We learn that Toric is also curious about the circumstances of the deaths of Robinton and AIVAS, but the narrative cuts away to Honshu without revealing any details of the meeting.

Thankfully, it’s Tai (3.01.31) recovering that they’re focusing on, and Tai is getting significantly annoyed that everyone keeps treating her like she can’t do anything. However, she’s getting taken on a tour to see everyone else (not by walking herself, which would be too much strain, but being carried from place to place), in the order of Golanth’s rider, who seems cheered by her presence, Golanth, who still has a lot of healing to do, and Zaranth, who took the lightest damage and is healing very well. The other people there cheerfully admit that they’re taking Tai on the tour because both Golanth and his rider will believe Tai if she says that she’s seen the other and they’re getting stronger and recovering, which is an important part of both of them getting stronger and recovering. Her tour complete, Tai sits at the bronze rider’s side while the narrative shifts over to other places.

As it turns out, not every dragon has the knack for telekinesis, and those that do definitely lack the fine control needed to move things safely by themselves. In pairs they seem to be able to exert the necessary control, but it’s essentially learning how to cut paper into art when your life has been swinging sledgehammers. Plenty of not-dragonriders are hard at work setting up the new observatory sites. Plenty of others are trying to assemble everything they know about dragons. When the narrative hops back to Honshu, the focus is still on healing the dragons and riders.

Eventually Tai hits her limit of peopleing and heads out to be by herself for a time, slipping away from the very attentive medics while the other rider and dragon sleep. Her choice of a swim means a pod of dolphins comes by and clicks and plays and asks questions and eventually surround Tai as she sleeps in the ocean. When she comes back, she discovers Golanth’s rider out of bed and trying to get to his dragon. Eventually, and with help from Zaranth, Tai helps undo the stitches holding Golanth’s eye closed, so it will stop itching. And, as it turns out, Golanth has a small amount of sight in the damaged eye, which makes his rider, and Tai, weep with joy. Zaranth helps deposit the two back into bed, so they don’t have to walk all the way back, and the two of them talk about Tai’s adventure and have a peaceful sleep together.

At least, until they get discovered, but right before that, there’s the first time we see on page that someone offers Tai a choice. I don’t know if it’s because the Honshu Weyrholder is now “a far cry from the dashing, blithe, youthful Benden Wingleader” due to his injuries, or that he’s finally realizing what’s gone on in Tai’s life about choosing, and the ways he’s also contributed to her trauma and their injuries, but finally, he asks her consent.

“I’m going to insist that we occupy this room from now on. It’s big enough so you won’t be bashing into me. You’re a quiet sleeper anyway. I don’t think you moved all night.”
“They have to be somewhere,” they heard Keita shouting.
“That is, if it’s your choice, Tai?”
For a split second–wanting to throw her arms about him in an excess of relief–he didn’t know where it was safe to embrace him. So she demurely rubbed her head against his left shoulder. “I choose. I choose you in any condition and any way I get to choose you.”

I’m not fully sure this is a free choice, because Tai still has trauma to work through, but this is definitely the most consensual the Honshu Weyrholder, or any other dragonrider, for that matter, has been about whether or not their mates get to choose the relationship. It doesn’t erase the previous terrible everything, but it could be, with a lot of work, the foundation of a good relationship.

There’s a little more of affection and application of healing salves and suggestions that the Honshu Weyrholder get out and swim some himself, and a short bit of how being telekinetically moved by the dragons is much more teleportation rather than telekinetics, but essentially, it’s happy making up time for those two/four.

Which means the narrative can move forward and return to the subject that it started with – Shankolin, son of Norist, who now has the backing of Toric to go observe and plan the destruction of the Admin building at Landing. Which is a terrible idea if you’re Toric, but it’s also possible that Toric has been backing and bankrolling the faction since its inception, through intermediaries such as Dorse. If there’s ever evidence that can be traced back to Toric, like the notes that he’s personally written to get Shankolin in to see the remains of AIVAS, he’s sunk as a Lord, and likely on his way to exile as well. But Toric’s hat seems to be having ambitions that are way beyond his ability to execute, as well as routinely thinking himself the smartest in the room.

Shankolin, as he passes by Monaco Bay, dismisses the story of dolphins ringing the bell due to his inland upbringing. As if the narrative needed to establish again that he’s pretty resistant to new ideas. Arriving at Landing, he meets with his contact, who turns out to be Master Esselin, and Toric is apparently calling in favors with Esselin to get him to help Shankolin. Esselin destroys and buries the note Shankolin gave him from Toric and leads the Luddite leader into the AIVAS chamber, even as Shankolin recoils from things like lights that come on at dawn and an archive full of books. He’s plotting explosive destruction for the whole complex when he arrives at the AIVAS chamber and strides over the threshold to see the terminated computer.

That was as far as Shankolin got. From the opposite wall of the chamber two narrow shafts of light struck him on the chest at heart height. He was dead before he fell backward.

Not that we don’t appreciate a good deus ex machina, but praytell, if AIVAS is deactivated, then who’s running an upgraded defense protocol that can recognize someone from before and apply lethal force? Thankfully, after Lytol and D’ram arrive to see what happened, they speculate that AIVAS didn’t fully turn itself off, and that things like the self-defense protocols were still active, and recognized Shankolin as a threat. Pinch is notified and comes to confirm the death.

Pinch hoped it took a long while before Lord Toric realized that Fifth, too, was no longer available. Now, if he could just find Fourth and neutralize her, they might forget about Abominators.
Esselin did not recover from the shock he had received and died a few days later of a hemorrhage in the brain. Or so the Healer at Landing said. The incident was forgotten as quickly as possible and Tunge soon resumed his duty of keeping the Aivas Chamber neat and tidy.

And thank you for that chilling reminder of how easy it is for Our Heroes to be every bit as ruthless as their opponents. Since Pinch knows that Toric is involved, I’m surprised he hasn’t met a convenient end, like Esselin did. No doubt the Healer responsible did everything he could to save the Master who had been caught assisting an enemy of Pern. Brrrr.

The narrative leaves us on that beat to go back to Honshu, where a smart carpenter suggests building a ramp for Golanth to get up and down from while his wing continues to not be functional, and there’s a laugh about asking how much the dragon weighs. The ramp gets built, and in the noise of that, people have enlarged the beasthold to be a big enough weyr for Golanth to get in away from the rain, and that triggers the realization in his rider that their days of being dragonriders are over, and had been since the attack. And the realization that a grounded Golanth won’t be able to mate, either. The Benden Weyrleaders, arriving from conveniently off-screen, point out the problem of getting Golanth aloft is easily solvable when you have telekinetic dragons. Which allows him to squelch the bad mood and enjoy his dragon’s joy. Tai also reaffirms her choosing of the rider, to put the cherry on top of this sundae.

And the narrative flits away again to Southern Hold (3.23.31), because Toric is still a loose end. And it’s receiving a shipment of canines from a handler that identifies himself as Pinch. Said canines are muzzled, but also trained to hand and voice signals. Toric thinks they’ll be great to have his sons train, and maybe keep a pair for himself as guard dogs. And then ruminates, after a Runner tells him there’s no messages for him, about how Fifth kept his organization too secret to be discovered, how Dorse was worth every bit of his salary to cause trouble, that Kashman might be a useful ally against Jaxom, and that Esselin hasn’t given him any other messages.

He then notices Fourth is here to meet with him, and Pinch observes the two of them talking, stays a bit to help the sons train the dogs, then leaves instructions and sketches with Sintary before returning to the Harper Hall.

Back to Honshu, where the bronze rider seems to be settling in well…when he’s not thinking about all the things he can’t do now.

The facts that he would never lead a wing again and that Golanth might never fly Zaranth. That he didn’t like–especially since Zaranth was a young dragon and would need a good male to keep her company. He, [bronze rider], certainly didn’t wish to share Tai with another rider–any other male. She enjoyed being with him now, relaxed, eager, and he wasn’t going to have her response to him destroyed by some heavy-handed rider with no sensitivity for her marvelous, intricate personality.

I don’t know whether to classify this as progress or not. He seems to have finally made it to the spot where he considers consent to be important, as well as the part where both partners should enjoy themselves, but he’s still thinking of Tai as his to share or not share as he decides, which is still very wrong and makes me worry what he’ll be like if Tai and/or Zaranth take a fancy or want a fling with someone else. Not that the author or the narrative would allow it, since Tai is supposed to be the reward received for leveling up his humanity to his point.

The bronze rider does find inspiration from other sources, though.

Abruptly, another revelation occurred to him. Lytol, with his scarred and seamed face! He has been dragonless for Turns, ever since his brown Larth has died in a routine training flight at Benden: a training flight during which R’gul had allowed his dragon the chance to chew firestone and flame. Only Larth had caught flame in the face and so had Lytol. The dragon had managed to land his gravely wounded rider with the last breath in him. That should have been the end of the rider, as a person–a dragonless man.
Tradition said dragonless riders suicided rather than live without their dragon. But Lytol had defied that convention and had become far more than a dragonrider. He had been a Lord Holder for Jaxom’s minority; he had then turned his hand to help Master Robinton and D’ram to manage Landing as a major Hold to the satisfaction of everyone involved. Now, Lytol and D’ram, in addition to bearing blind Wansor company, had accepted yet another role for which they were unusually qualified: as wise consultants for the complex society of the planet. Briefly [he] wondered, even as his soul cringed at the thought: would he have had the courage to build a new life-lives, in fact–as Lytol had done, if Golanth had succumbed to his injuries?
[He] gave a snort of disgust for his self-absorption. The time he had wasted. As Tai had said, there would be a way. Lytol had made several, and the example of the man’s quiet heroism rebuked him.

Okay, almost inspiration. Or what passes for inspiration when filtered heavily through toxic masculinity, anyway. I’d bet the bronze rider would get a very different picture if he actually talked to Lytol about all of it. But he has to get over himself first, as when he has a setback later on, this is how his thought process goes:

“I forgot the cane,” he said through clenched teeth. The euphoria of his ride here on Golanth instantly dissipated. He glanced across the sands to the Hold, a long walk for a man with a lame leg. He did not want to fall on his face in front of Lytol or D’ram. How humiliating that would be. He was still incapacitated. His dragon was still injured. He would never again be what he had once been: the carefree self-indulgent bronze Wingleader from Benden Weyr!

So there’s still a lot of work to be done about accepting who you are now.

Before he has to think too hard about all of it, though, a set of dragons arrive to practice their lifting of Golanth and to see if he can handle the hyperspace hop. Which he can. And then we get Lessa reflecting on her son’s life, and the terrible possibility that it might have ended with the attack, and a short conversation with the Benden Weyrleader about the Luddite faction, where we hear yet more of how Our Heroes think about them.

“Such people are afraid of what they don’t understand, won’t understand. So they pretend to despise and reject it since they can’t and won’t understand. They retaliate by defiance and witless destruction. And claim they’re acting on behalf of people and for reasons those people don’t understand either. It may just be a sign of our changing times. And life on our planet is indeed changing.”
“For the better?” she murmured.
He tipped her head up with one finger and lightly kissed her lips. “Definitely for the better.”

And if you’re part of the upper economic stratum, yeah, things are getting better on Pern. But there’s all those people who aren’t, and they can see how new technologies can be harnessed to enslave them even further. Those people aren’t getting any consideration at all, and it’s unsurprising that they turn to destruction as a way of getting their voices heard. It doesn’t work, with the deck so stacked against them, but it’s one way of trying. I think the next several waves will not be about destruction but subversion. Perhaps a sympathetic Printer will run off a few copies of the equivalent of the 95 Theses and let them spread around. Maybe the Runners will join in as soon as they find out that radio will replace them fairly soon. There are plenty of people who might join up because they see the writing on the wall and they’re tired of enriching the few. I’m waiting for the book where the general population of Pern is in open rebellion.

After this reflection, the bronze rider and his dragon are conveyed to Cove Hold by telekinesis. It turns out that the dragon can handle the hyperspace part by himself at least, although the dismount of the rider is pretty rough, and the aforementioned long walk, where he’s supported by Tai in an unobtrusive way. Which helps him realize the way he is going to have to order his life now – with support from others. The components for remote control of the Honshu telescope are ready for transport, and the bronze rider asks if he can properly study astronomy so as to have work to do at Honshu for the rest of the Fall and After. Then there’s a long explanation to Erragon and Wansor about dragon telekinesis and the suspicion that AIVAS wanted the dragons to push the wandering planet out of orbit, and the possibility that the cometary disaster could have been averted with a push to change its own orbit before impact. (Time-traveling dragons, we note, could avert the whole thing, but I guess we’re supposed to not question what would happen if they did do any of the things they’ve speculated about changing in history.) They ask for a northern array of weather satellites to help feed telemetry to the Yokohama, and point out that dragons can now lift things into orbit without an issue and can help position them, at least for the fifteen minutes they can hold their breath. And that’s the end of the book.

So we’re rapidly headed toward a story of Schizo Tech kind of world, where the peasants have to work the ground by hand and the elites will have radio technology and weather satellites at their disposal. I can’t see that diminishing the appeal of the Luddite faction any, especially as the disparities become more obvious.

Also, we’re hurtling pretty close to the point where stories about dragonriders are going to lose their appeal. There won’t be any more Thread, it’s unlikely dragons are going to corner the market on transport, and astronomy is only exciting when there’s something bearing down on the planet. But even then, the dragons can just move it away. What happens now?

There’s apparently one more short story before we get to that answer.

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Deconstruction Roundup for August 24th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is dealing with missing a part of their hearing range.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Eruditorium Press

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are fighting multiple possible ailments at the same time. Or for any other reason, really.

The Skies of Pern: Forward the Future

Last time, it was proposed and adopted that dragonriders would take up the mantle of sky-watch when there was no more Thread to fight, and that three new sites for telescopes would be established so as to provide continuous coverage and observation of the sky, to spot the next celestial problem before it arrived.

And Tai continued to no longer show the signs of trauma, as if by magic.

The Skies of Pern, Part 4, Segment I: Content Notes:

(Honshu Weyrhold, 2.26.31 and 2.27.31)

This segment starts with Tai, who is overwhelmed at the fact that she got to talk, and people supported her points, and mentioned how much help she had been. As if, say, she was a valued, smart person instead of being seen solely as a green rider for others to let their sexual frustrations out on.

There’s also the requisite Mirrim-bashing:

When Mirrim would have marched her off to the kitchen, [the Honshu Weyrholder] had kept her by his side, to explain to the younger Weyrleaders how they established the scan, set the remote imager for timed exposures, and how to determine the significance of the images and why so many exposures of the night sky were required. Palla seemed almost as overwhelmed by the company she was in as Tai, and the two exchanged sympathetic glances. Palla was the only other young dragonrider who understood the immediate task.
Then [the Honshu Weyrholder] issued the invitation for those interested to adjourn to Honshu. And eleven riders and dragons had flown to the weyrhold. That had been the heady part, especially with Mirrim present–showing off the observatory and bringing up images of the minor planets above the horizon.
[…reactions to the information are varied…]
Mirrim pretended interest but Tai was aware of get restlessness, so when she offered to find out what there was to eat in the weyrhold, [the Honshu Weyrholder] hold her by all means to find it and serve it up. He snagged Tai by the hand.
“She knows where everything is–” [he] murmured in her ear and paused significantly, “in the kitchen. Let her.”
Revived by baskets of bread, cheese, fruit, cold river fish, meat, and klah that Mirrim served, the spontaneous first session of Astronomy for Weyrleaders–as [he] jokingly called it–went on till well after Rigel had set.

I have some questions about this setting. Tai, for one, seems to have spontaneously inherited everyone else’s distaste for Mirrim, I don’t think the narrative has done nearly enough to establish the idea that Tai actively enjoys spitting Mirrim. What we have seen in terms of actual confrontation is Mirrim getting on Tai’s case about saving objects instead of people, and Tai seemed cowed by it, instead of resentful or defiant.

Second, in a gathering full of Weyrleaders, Master Crafters, and so forth, I can’t see any of the really high-ranking people calling time out so they can help in the kitchen. I can see Mirrim asking Tai for help, because they’re the low-ranking riders and kitchen detail always goes faster when you have help. I’m sure there were many snide remarks not noted in the narrative about how Mirrim is only good for the kitchens. In a world where people are polite to each other, instead of the terribly classist way that Pern is, Mirrim would ask Tai for help in the kitchen, someone else would note that Tai has important expertise in the subject at hand, and could someone else volunteer to help Mirrim? Or at least call a break so that everyone can help in the kitchen and make some food.

That, of course, doesn’t happen, and we get a telling reprise where Mirrim is getting impatient (possibly from a lack of understanding, since I don’t remember Mirrim being present for any of the science classes) and Tai is told specifically not to help Mirrim in the kitchen, in a way that I’m reading has heavy overtones of “that arrogant bitch needs to be put back in her place, in the kitchen, where she belongs.” I might wonder why Mirrim hasn’t poisoned a few people, if this is the consistent treatment she gets. (Because the people that succeed the terrible people might be even worse, I know.)

Also tellingly, Tai is the one cleaning up after the food and is directed, after she insists that she can take the stairs, that instead she will “have enough time to put the kitchen to rights after Mirrim’s been messing in it and then we’ll both take a quick swim in the river”, a thing that Tai points out (mentally) in the next sentence is effective manipulation of her. Because she apparently enjoys being told what to do and to get back into the kitchen.

Which she might! But there’s been no presumption of equality at all in any of her relationships in her life, so we can’t say for certain that Tai actually would do these things if she had free choice not to. The kitchen itself turns out to be another opportunity to bash Mirrim.

All the lights were on and most of the cupboards left half ajar. There was rather more of a mess to clean up than shed’ve thought. Had Mirrim done this on purpose? No, Talina had been with her; Talina night be indolent but she wasn’t spiteful. Mirrim still didn’t believe her about the pelts.

I am again entirely unsure why there is so much written cattiness into Tai at this point. It clashes strongly with the reserved and generally amiable person we’ve seen before. We’re supposed to like Tai and cheer for her, and we haven’t seen all that much of a personality that enjoys these kinds of games and negging. And yet, when Mirrim gets involved, it’s a near-universal negative opinion of Mirrim that overrides everything.

I wonder why the kitchen was left in such disarray. It could be spite, but it could equally be that the guests were calling down harassment of the kitchen demanding their food faster than it could be prepared, and there was no actual time to clean up before everyone had to leave for the night. Maybe Talina sniffed at the idea of cleaning up after herself, having “graciously” deigned to help Mirrim, and Mirrim wasn’t having the idea of cleaning it all up herself. (And maybe hoped that Tai would find a way to get the other resident of Honshu to do the cleanup, since he partook of the food.)

As things are, the humans and dragons take a wash in the river and lay down to sleep in their exhaustion, with Tai wondering

Why was it that the tenderest of his kisses affected her more than the passionate ones–which she enjoyed, too? It was his tenderness toward her that undid her most.

Perhaps, Tai, it is because you have been starved for actual affection from anyone, repeatedly traumatized, and are now clinging to the one person who has shown a modicum of care and affection to you. You can do so much better than him, objectively speaking, but I’m not judging you on the decision to go and get as much of what you have been missing for so long. I am judging him for using manipulation tactics to make you cling to him more, rather than giving you the space and support you need to find effective coping for your traumas.

The plot moves forward by putting the two riders and their dragons in the middle of a surprise feline attack, with Tai waking up right before it starts. By Zaranth flinging one of the cats away telepathically. The cats are numerous enough that they cause damage to the dragons almost immediately.

Golanth’s rider flings the blankets off quickly and sufficiently enough that Tai gets tangled in them (and is this unable to join the fight immediately), Zaranth tells Golanth that finesse is not needed for the felines, the narrative points out that since their riders are also in danger, the dragons won’t drop off the felines they have on them in hyperspace, and then Zaranth is basically a one-dragon wrecking crew of getting felines away, but also telekinetically zips Tai to the Honshu Weyrholder’s side, where she gets one hit in by cracking the blanket into the face of one feline and covering the face of another, before she’s pushed down by said Weyrholder and he continues to wrestle with a feline.

And then the dragons appear and start throwing flame indiscriminately around at the felines, much to Tai’s horror. Dragons might take a roasting, she points out in her head, but humans don’t. Zaranth speed-teaches the other dragons on attendance about how to telekinetically toss big cats before there’s one that somehow manages to evade all the defenses and is headed straight for a vulnerable spot that could kill Golanth.

Who then tells the attending dragons to “TIME IT” in such a way that apparently there’s a little bit more time for movement of some sort, and the cat that would have scored a kill shot misses it, still causing damage, before being splatted.

At which point, I say “Wait a minute,” because if you’re going to invoke the time travel power at this point, why not warp back to a point well before the incident begins and clear out the felines before they can attack? We still haven’t yet had a situation where someone has tried to yank the course of observed time off the rails and onto another pathway. And nobody has yet told us what the rules about time travel are, either. We’ve had more than a few situations where we end up with a stable time loop because it turns out that the time travel has always been there, but as far as I know, the other dragons could appear before this even happened and stealthily take them out. If this is the destined timeline, then we need to know why.

As it is, all the dragons and riders are alive, although critically injured and needing significant surgery. Tai wants to see the extent of the damage, but is told fairly forcefully by Lessa and Sharra that she is not going anywhere until she’s done with her own healing. Lessa quips sarcastically about Tai’s reputation as “biddable” before finally convincing her to take a fellis draught and heal.

The narrative then gives us the Benden Weyrleaders fretting about the effects of the attack. Neither Golanth or his rider are likely to return to full capacity, and Lessa is a bit put out that Golanth seems to listen to Zaranth more than Ramoth, which amuses the Benden Weyrleader.

They both go over the sequence of events, of learning the telekinetic “motion” and Ramoth doing a split-second time-and-distance hop to push the last cat away from killing Golanth. (Who yelled about timing it because “Greens don’t know the mechanics of timing it without guidance,” the narrative tells us. Bullshit, says I, because they always talk down about greens, but there’s no evidence to back up my assertion.)

The two have an extended cry over what could have happened today with the attack, and then the two of them get down to the question of dragon abilities.

“The theory has always been that, if we knew the time, we could forestall a–a fatal–accident,” he said in a low, shaky voice, reaching for her hand. “Like Moreta’s death.”
“Theory,” she said with a derisive shrug. She sipped slowly from the cup of water, willing her body to stop shaking. [Golanth’s rider] hadn’t died because Golanth hadn’t died. Golanth hadn’t died because Ramoth had prevented it.
It isn’t theory, Ramoth said, her mental tone tart, I timed it to the exact moment. Golanth showed me just how he had saved [his rider] and himself from being crushed by the tsunami wave. He was most resourceful to act on his own initiative. He learned something important that day and was too tired when he got back to Landing to tell even me. Today, Zaranth showed us how to push without touching. I admit that I had never thought greens could do something so unusual. I saw how she did it. Very clever of her. We two taught the others. But it was I who timed it to save Golanth from that last feline. Only I could have done that.
Lessa managed a shaky little laugh. Only you, my dearest.

Ruth was part of the fighting force, we were told in a part that I skipped over quoting, so not really, Ramoth.

I do admit that today I learned something from a green dragon. Ramoth sounded as chagrined as her rider had ever heard her. I have told the others what Zaranth showed me how to do, how she pushed the felines away, she added calmly. It is a useful skill for all to know.

Which leads into a discussion of AIVAS’s confusion as to why the dragons had not manifested the third tele-skill they were supposed to have, and the logical conclusion that we’ve already arrived at – a sufficiently convinced dragon (or wing thereof) with telekinetic powers could theoretically divert a cosmic object away from planetary impact.

I do want to know, though, when the first organized expedition to find and prevent Moreta’s death will be. There’s enough records to make a good guess as to the when, and a rider deposited at the beginning of the appropriate Pass could probably do some amount of jumping to narrow the field of possibilities and then land at a spot where they could leave records for another rider as to the appropriate day and go from there. But I am still thinking of this time travel item as something more than a useful deus ex machina and as a thing that should/would be used more.

Plot continues as Tai wakes up and Manora gives her the skinny on what’s going on. Tai follows the same line of reasoning and remembrance about why the AI was disappointed, and for once, we finally get a thought about why time travel isn’t used more than it is, from Manora.

“I believe that is the paradox of timing it. [The Benden Weyrleader] said something about causality. The beast had aimed, jumped, and even by timing back, Ramoth could only make the most infinitesimal alteration in the second she had, but she deflected a lethal blow. I gather that there was so much going on at that moment it is miraculous she managed what she did. And this started with a dislike of trundlebugs?”

I think this is the first mention, in all of these books, that there are rules regarding time travel and limits to the amount of monkeying around you can do. Being dragonriders, I suspect this knowledge was gathered by fatal Weyrling accidents. But at least there’s the implication that there are limits and rules and that some dragonriders may even know them.

Mirrim also gets mentioned, because she apparently can’t let the matter of the pelts go:

“Oh, yes, the pelts. Mirrim mentioned those,” and somehow Manora implied that, although Mirrim might be been talking a lot, Manora was not the sort of person who heeded gossip. Tai felt a surge of gratitude for Manora.

I almost have to interpret this as Manora putting on an act for Tai, because as headwoman, I would expect Manora to know just about every bit of gossip there was to know. I think her judgment would be on whether she felt it was worth validating or repeating, not on whether she heeded it. Manora has repeatedly been savvy to interpersonal relationships, though, so she could probably figure out from what Mirrim said that Tai wouldn’t benefit from hearing any of it.

Since Tai has been down, significant time has passed, which makes her panic because she was supposed to be at the council meeting and convincing others to support the astronomer idea. Manora suggests she’s already done more than enough to make everything interesting. Time passes, and Lessa shares some regrets with her headwoman.

“I have never been much of a mothering person,” Lessa admitted quietly to Manora when they shared a pot of klah.
“Why should you have been?” Manora asked mildly. “With you neck deep in Weyr business that only you could manage and every woman quite happy to take care of him? A much more sensible custom than what goes on in holds, Lady Lessa,” Manora replied, “especially for as lively a lad as [her son].”

Wait, what now? The custom of communal raising in the Weyr is more sensible than…the fostering of children to be raised in different households? Is it that Manora feels the day care of the Weyr is better? Or that career-focused women in Weyrs can do better work by not having to take time to raise their children? I could use some clarification here, but none is forthcoming.

Instead, we go outside, where dragons are keeping vigil over the rest and recovery of the two dragons, and Lessa and Ramoth replay the events again, with some amount of green-shaming, and Ramoth comes to the conclusion that the dragons all need practice at this new technique of theirs.

That’s a long segment. We’ll pick up next week with the council meeting.

Deconstruction Roundup for August 17th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has one ear completely stuffed up and nothing seems to be unblocking it.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are having honest-to-Prime hot flashes and wondering what the reason is. Or for any other reason, really.

The Skies of Pern: Reparations

Last time, Tagetarl learned about and received reinforcements for a suspected Luddite strike on his hall. Golanth learned how to move things he wasn’t physically touching, and the Honshu Weyrholder proceeded as if he had obtained actual consent from Tai to begin a relationship with her.

The Skies of Pern: Part 3: Segments IX, X, XI, XII, XIII: Content Notes: Continued Consent Violations,

(Honshu Hold, 2.9.31)

The frame for this segment is that Golanth’s rider has sufficiently gathered equipment and programs to restart the Honshu telescope. He wants Tai to be there when it goes online. Since this segment is from Tai’s point of view, we get some information about what she thinks of the whole affair.

He had a tendency to jump in different directions, as if he enjoyed catching her off-balance. He probably did. She’d thought that, once Golanth had flown Zaranth, [his rider] would disengage from her, perhaps more kindly than others had. In the contrary, he had insisted that she remain at Honshu, that she choose a room of her own–though they mainly shared the large one he preferred, […] He encouraged her to talk about her interest in astronomy and managed to bring texts from the Archives that she was certain Master Esselin did not realize he had borrowed. He was very conscientious about returning them.

Given what Tai has experienced at the hands of other dragonriders, the offer of safety and interest from someone who also likes keeping her off-balance sounds like a proper nightmare. I would expect Tai to be in a fight-flight state about this person that didn’t obtain her consent and is signaling very hard that he wants her to stay with him, possibly with the threat of force to keep her there.

A sparkle in his eye was all the warning she had before he swung her up in his arms and twirled around. She clung to his shoulders, not fearing that he would drop her, but so she had this excuse to touch him. She wasn’t yet accustomed to either his spontaneity or his preference for touching but she was learning to welcome them.

Cocowhat by depizan

Um, no. Given Tai’s past, I would believe “Tai screamed in terror and had a panic attack and/or flashbacks” at being touched with no warning, not “Oh, this is strange yet pleasant.” I don’t care how good the sex supposedly is, it doesn’t magically heal traumas like that.

We’re also supposed to believe that Tai doesn’t see him in any sort of threatening way.

Over the last few sevendays, she had seen few seriously he took responsibilities, exuding an optimism that could fire those around him, and how he never shirked tasks, like the Benini Hold planting, which he could have delegated to another rider. He was certainly not the casual reckless weyrbred lad Mirrim had described.

Except there’s higher-than-chance odds, based on what we saw from the way Golanth’s rider pursued Tai, that it’s not a sense of duty that propels him in these manners.

There’s more flirting and swooning that I still find strongly out of character for Tai, and a discussion about how the felines might be intruding into human spaces again, despite their deterrence efforts like dragon dung/firestone mash concoctions that make the place smell strongly enough of dragons to be discouraging to predators. And more speculation about why Honshu was abandoned, as well as the run of spectacular good fortune that was needed to get all the power generating materials repaired and the components online so that this moment of bringing the telescope back could happen, including the thought that AIVAS might have had a sense of humor (Piemur was certain of it, Jancis was horrified at the concept).

Zaranth also frightens Tai by swooping down out of the sky without warning, encouraged by Golanth to do it and other “bad habits” that Zaranth enjoys.

There’s a lot of “the sincerity of Golanth’s rider makes him endearing to Tai” as they haul in the final components, hook it all up, and run calibration on the scope to make sure it all works appropriately, which it does. The narrative is trying very hard to make us not think of all the ways that F’lon’s sons and grandson have been terrible to women, even if the degree of terrible changes from person to person. And the narrative has us contrast what Tai observes with what Mirrim has said about Golanth’s rider, to try and further convince us that Mirrim doesn’t know what she’s talking about. The likely truth is that Tai doesn’t have enough experience to know, given that her previous experiences with relationships were all overtly terrible and traumatic, and that Mirrim could still be absolutely right about him, if something happens where he no longer behaves in this new way.

For now, the focus is on the stars, and that’s where they leave it to get back to the promised assault on the Printer Hall. Tagetarl is the viewpoint character, and he’s been doing his best to try and act natural and normal. He’s also kept what Pinch has said from Rosheen, trying not to worry her. We also get useful insight into how Our Heroes view their opposition.

How did you tell an Abominator from any other ordinary man or woman? It was the set of their minds: their self-appointed mission to deny choice to others, to neutralize all the useful things that were already in operation. […] Any thinking person would examine what was sensible to add to what Pern already had–like printing, but he required no one to read or buy his books: that was their decision. For all the amazing diversity of processes and products that the Ancients had used, just learning how to faithfully execute some of the designs was enough to discourage making the unnecessary. As Master Menolly said–and he knew Sebell basically agreed with her–not everything and anything new meant an improvement. But people should make that decision themselves, not have it arbitrarily denied.

Tagetarl sounds almost like a tech bro at this point. He doesn’t grasp the ways that he and the ruling cabal of the planet are making decisions and denying people choice themselves. Of course, since he’s one of the good guys, his choices are good and progressive for everyone, including the underclass that nobody talks about, and the servant class that only seems good for a joke. And he washes his hands neatly of the whole thing by proclaiming that all he’s doing is providing things for others to use or not use, as they want to. Never mind anything about how his books print a single version of the world and don’t allow for alternatives. Or how technology is fundamentally changing everyone’s lives and pulling them toward something different than what they had before. Or the still very valid case to be made that the descendants aren’t meant to have that kind of tech at all.

But this other faction is bad because they destroy the choice of others to participate or not in the world that’s being shaped for them without their participation and input. If Pern really was Rand’s wet dream and every person was self-sufficient, the line that everyone can participate or not would be much more accurate. In this feudal arrangement, Tagetarl may believe every word of it, but he’s lying.

Pinch breaks Tagetarl’s thoughts by alerting him to the presence of danger, which in this case is the leader of our Luddite faction, come to claim the book he ordered a sevenday ago. He pays appropriately, with Weaver’s marks, calling Tagetarl a “Master Harper” in the process (Tagetarl immediately says “MasterPrinter”, even though he is a Harper of Mastery rank) all the while clearly casing the place, and “took the Ballads from Tagetarl’s hand much as one would grasp something dirty or repulsive,” which further distresses Tagetarl. When there’s a shipment of wine delivered to him that he knows he didn’t order, Tagetarl is ready to blow the whole operation, but remembers what he’s been told and manages to accept the shipment without arousing suspicion. And he gets mistitled again.

“Shipment for Master Harper?” the wineman announced, lifting his hand for attention.
“MasterPrinrer,” Tagetarl corrected for the second time in a few minutes and wondered why no one could give him his proper rank today.

This is supposed to tip the reader off that this is probably a co-conspirator, but I also want it to be a mark that the opposition understands that the divisions between Harpers and Printers are largely artificial, and that they want a free press and for the Harpers to be honest about the stranglehold they have on information and approved publishing.

Tagetarl knows he’s facing a conspirator, and tries to get more information out of him about who sent the wine, gets a drudge(-Pinch) to carry the skin in so that the wine merchant doesn’t get inside, tries to nose around in the cart himself (nothing doing), and asks for a deliberately inferior vintage of Benden white to see if the conspirator knows anything about wine, and seems satisfied that he does not when the wine merchant doesn’t bat an eye at the request.

At no point during this entire sequence does anyone get named, not the person who sent it (“The Lord Holder”), nor the person picking up the book (because it’s not known yet), or the wine merchant. If someone wasn’t on the alert to an attack, everything would be plausibly deniable, and also not really interested in arousing suspicion. The opposition has sophistication to their operations.

Tagetarl gets to observe Pinch test the wine with material that is apparently supposed to determine if stream water is drinkable, and the wine reacts poorly, so they hide it away. Rosheen arrives at that point, notices Pinch, and is finally clued in on everything. She’s mostly upset that they had guests and she didn’t make enough for dinner.

After finishing their part of toasting the health of who brought them the drinks, everything closes up, Rosheen gives Tagetarl some amount of grief about hiding things from her, and the two settle in to wait for the attack.

The attackers have trouble getting in the front door, given that it’s fastened and barred in a near trick lock. They can’t climb the gate because they’re isn’t enough space for them to fit in between the door and the archways. Someone who did get in as an advance party tries to torch some buildings, but the retardant holds true.

Eventually a big man heads in to break into the hold attached to the hall, and manages not to wake the dead by muffling the sound of the glass breaking. Tagetarl moves to club the man when he gets close, only to hit Rosheen’s iron pan instead of the man’s head, because she tripped the intruder with the broom before walloping him with the pan before Tagetarl made his move.

And that is basically the only action Tagetarl has for the night, because once the intruders manage to knock down the doors to the hall with brute force, they find themselves on the receiving end of a swarm of angry fire-lizards that drive them into a net trap, where they are captured, and the arrival of a dragon in their courtyard. It’s Ruth, with Jaxom.

Then the mob summoned to help the Print Hall arrives and has to be let in, only to be disappointed that all the fun has already happened and they’re here only to witness what happens afterward. They’re more than ready to dispense justice by dragging the net behind a ship and leaving the lot to drown, but Jaxom has other ideas, and we get to see what the Charter supposedly recommends.

“According to the Charter,” and Jaxom swung slowly around to the audience, his eyes seeming to touch everyone in the front ranks, “by which we have been well governed for the past twenty-five hundred Turns, a Lord Holder, a Weyrleader, and a Master of any Craft may hold a trial.”

This trial, however, is not like the previous one, where there was at least the whisper of an adversarial system. It really is a trial in name only and would be better characterized as “can dispense whatever justice they want.” There is a part where the captured intruders are asked for their names, ranks, and affiliations, but since nobody volunteers any of those things, the trial turns over the matter of justice to the offended Master Printer and Master Harper. Tagetarl wants answers, but the slogans he gets in reply inflames the mob enough that they’re ready to haul the lot off and drown them anyway. (Apparently, the books themselves are abominations, even if they contain traditional material, because they use new techniques.)

Since someone in the group identifies the whole group as Luddites, they receive the same treatment as the group before them – exile to an island only known to N’ton. Exile, being the death sentence that it is, finally breaks the line of the Luddites, and the mob is more than happy to help apprehend any who try to escape them.

“And what are these established procedures of yours, Lord Jaxom?” Captain Venabil demanded, heaving from his exertions.
“A Lord Holder, a Weyrleader, he a MasterCraftsman may enforce any Council decree,” Jaxom said. “It is in the Charter, if anyone cares to check. We must do so before sufficient witnesses.”
“WE WITNESS.” “WITNESSED!” “WE WERE HERE!” “DROWNING’S EASIER. QUICKER!” “EXILE ‘EM!” “AWAY WITH THEM!”
Raising his arms, Jaxom faced the crowd. “Those of you who do not care to be witnesses to the judgment of this incident may step back without prejudice.”
Later Tagetarl was to remember day no one stepped away.
“Then the decree of the Council will be enforced. Weyrleader N’ton, you may send for assistance,” the Lord Holder of Ruatha said formally.

There is an abrupt mood shift after this sentence, as apparently the mob (with Captain Venabil as leader) that was more than willing to drown the intruders is suddenly struck with the gravitas of sending people away to live their lives out with only themselves as company. The mood gets very somber, and the Captain respectfully salutes the three men who are making decisions about other people’s lives, which is never easy, the text tells us.

After the disappearing of the catch, we find out that Jaxom might have condemned Dorse, his step-brother (and consummate bully, we might add) to exile, because nobody identified themselves. And that Pinch realizes the leaders were not part of the group that attacked, so the problem isn’t solved yet. Tagetarl is encouraged to write a concise summary of events (one that won’t include the possibility of Dorse being among the group), and accepts help from a group of carpenters to rebuild the gates that were smashed in. Stationmaster Arminet insists on distributing that summary everywhere the Runners go, for no charge, so that there isn’t a doubt about what happened this night. He calls it a “community announcement”, rather than a Harper Hall one, to justify it.

There’s one quick pop over to Ruatha, where Jaxom confirms to Sharra that it was Dorse in the group, and that he’s having regrets over having condemned his milk-brother to exile, even though there was an opportunity for Dorse to identify himself. Jaxom and Sharra both fret a little that Dorse’s presence might mean that Toric is somehow wrapped up in this revitalization, even as Sharra insists that Toric has no loyalty from any of his family, even as she confirms his avarice is legendary and unlikely to stop, even when brought to heel by the Lords and Weyrleaders.

The final segment for this act and part is a meeting at Cove Hold between all the Weyrleaders, various Masters, and their guests to suggest a to what the profession of the dragonriders should be After thread – sky-watchers, building a network of the few remaining telescopes to scan the night sky for other celestial objects that might prove a threat to the planet should they touch down. Lessa is the viewpoint character. Seeing Jaxom and Sharra arrive, she wants to have a word with him about establishing a second Printer Hall so as to prevent there being a single point to attack that would destroy presses. T’gellan arrives with Talina, his Weyrwoman, and Mirrim, who Less describes thusly:

Well, Mirrim was to be expected and, while Lessa knew the girl could be domineering and arrogant, she had great sympathy toward a fosterling she had trained.

Cocowhat by depizan

I am again struck by the apparently universal attitude that Mirrim is terrible, which apparently even includes someone who was parental toward her before she became a rider. I have yet to see demonstrated any actual reason why someone would be upset at her.

Tai’s description from the Benden Weyrleader doesn’t fare much better.

“Attractive but not pretty,” [he] murmured to his weyrmate after a very brief glance at [the Honshu Weyrholder]’s companion. “No wonder he’s so often at Honshu now.”

Cocowhat by depizan

What does that even mean? Am I supposed to read it as “Ah, she’d be good to look at when our dragons are mating, but she’s definitely not a keeper” or “Oh, she’s good-looking enough for someone of Asian descent, but our boy needs to find a properly beautiful blonde woman for his wife”? Or some other terrible combination somewhere? There’s no way I can parse out that sentence that doesn’t suggest something terrible in the assessment.

The meeting does finally offer an explanation about why dragons can’t just catch rocks in space and divert them. They’re moving too fast and they’re too hot to grab, according to K’van, but they also have access to computers that could probably predict reliably where a rock is going to be, and if you had a wing or Weyr of dragons convinced they can move the rock, then odds are the rock gets moved. And, given that Golanth already has finesse problems with learning how to move things outside the body, once enough bronzes get trained on the matter, they can probably stand just to the side of an object’s path and shove it into a corrected orbit. Since we have yet to see an actual upper bound for the telekinesis, it’s entirely possible the dragonriders could learn to throw celestial objects around. And then possibly hold the planet hostage with the knowledge that they could perform a colony drop on them at any time.

In any case, the suggestion is made that dragonriders reform themselves as the Astronomers’ Craft in the After, which makes the very traditionalists among the group balk entirely at the idea, and even explaining the progress already made and the way that the telescopes would help make people believe the dragonriders are still in their traditional duties doesn’t quite dent the objections. G’narish raises the theory that the comet was a reaction to the displacement of the Wanderer. Lytol shoots it down by claiming the maths were perfect and there should have been a minimum of displacements. It relies on AIVAS, though, and it’s not here to be questioned. And it still assumes that the Rukbat system has no other intelligent life in it, which may not be true, either.

Showing pictures taken from Honshu of asteroids big enough to blow up the planet does get through to the traditionalists, as does pointing out the regular manufacture of binoculars makes it easy for night watch riders to scan their portion of the sky for anything unusual and the army of retired Fishers that would be more than happy to be useful training riders to watch the sky.

The observatory sites are decided, such that in addition to Landing and Honshu, Ruatha can hold an observatory and one will have to be established in the Western Continent, with riders that can watch at night and do their other jobs in the daytime. Telgar might get one as well, since J’fery thinks Larad would be open to it. G’dened is still on the question of what dragonriders will do when presented with another object, but he’s told that they’ll think of something in time, either through research in the archives or figuring out some science to make it work. The cherry on top for most people to get on board with the new project is an offer to watch the stars at one of the various telescope sites.

And that’s the third part in the book. We are clearly not going to speak of how Tai is going to get over the traumas she suffered repeatedly at the hands of her lovers, including the most recent one. We are never going to get an explanation as to why everyone hates Mirrim. And for as much as everyone wants to dismiss G’dened as a cranky old man, he does have the right question — what happens when there’s another Fireball, or worse, something bigger?

Maybe Part Four will answer these, but I doubt it very much.

Deconstruction Roundup for August 10th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is exceeding proud at the accomplishments of others.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are feeling good about things because they are done, and anxious because you have to share them. Or for any other reason, really.

The Skies of Pern: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Last time, F’lessan and Golanth became (at least in my opinion) stalkers of Tai and Zaranth, which culminated in Zaranth having a mating flight that completely triggered Tai, based on her past experience, and F’lessan applying a magical healing cock to wipe away the trauma and get them both to fall in love with each other. *ptui* The Honshu Weyrholder and Tai are still in bed, but the action shifts to the Harper Hall.

The Skies of Pern: Part 3: Segments V, VI, VII, VIII: Content Notes: Continued Consent Violations

(Harper Hall, 1.28.31)

Pinch startles Sebell by slipping into his office unheard, and the two talk about how it’s likely the missing prisoner is the same as the scarred man leading the Luddite faction, and they both come to the conclusion that it’s one of Norist’s sons that’s the missing person. They speculate that he might have regained his hearing, although they don’t necessarily treat it seriously yet. When Pinch returns from a chat with the prison warden, they take it as an assumption that his hearing has returned, and that it is one of Norist’s that leads the faction.

They also mention that the meteorite strikes have plenty of people assuming and petitioning the dragonriders, as the de facto air force, to stop the next strike from happening, even though meteorites can outpace dragons for speed and heat.

And then it’s back to Honshu (2.1.31) for Tai opening up to the Honshu Weyrholder about her past and astronomy, and him asking her about Zaranth’s ability to move things. Which eventually ends up with the Honshu Weyrholder throwing a bowl at Zaranth to provoke her, having determined that only things that will irritate her will engage her ability, and having it reappear on the tray he threw it from.

“You may not throw things at my dragon!”
“It was aggravating of me but look how she reacted.”
It took him time and much coaxing to calm Tai down, a pleasurable enough activity since her body responded to his deft caresses even if she did not wish it to.
[…Tai suggests a blanket and wine for them, once “she did see what he had been trying to prove”, and practice with trundlebugs for Golanth…]
Carefully he lifted the thong of the binoculars from her neck and put them to one side and practiced making love to her. That was the most important reason he had brought the mattress out to the terrace and suggested they lie down and challenge each other at identifying stars.


(The cat says fuck everything. I agree. Image via giphy.)

So much for that new leaf you were claiming, bronze rider. You violated Tai’s consent and are continuing to do so, since I still haven’t heard her actually say yes to any of your caresses or anything else. I hope Mirrim gets to tear you a new one while everyone else watches.

The narrative, of course, didn’t see anything wrong with this scenario, and it’s now moving forward with Zaranth teaching Golanth how to move trundlebugs. He splats the first one, causing everyone to retreat hastily at the smell. The second time, Golanth manages to not kill them, but he moves them a very long distance away, proving other dragons can do it, but they need to figure out the finesse necessary.

Then it’s on to Fort, where Tenna’s return means she’s asked by Torlo to arrange a meeting with Haligon. There’s time enough to note there are electric lights outside now, that Tenna and Haligon are still in an “It’s Complicated” relationship, that Groghe is losing a step, now that he’s eighty-nine, and that there’s still a (warranted) fear that hand radios will supplant Runners. The best the narrative can do is have Tenna be reassured that it won’t happen for a very long time.

Torlo delivers news that the Runners have traced the origins of the messages that the Luddite faction is using to communicate, and that they tend to stop Runners on the traces, rather than coming into the stations. Torlo mentions Pinch probably wants to know this, making Haligon blanch that Torlo knows about Pinch, and suggests that Haligon send a fire-lizard immediately to Tagetarl to be on his guard against an attack. Haligon goes to see the Harpers by a secret staircase right after dropping Tenna off, and Beauty heads off to deliver the message.

The narrative shifts to the Printer Hall, where Tagetarl notes the arrival of the fire-lizard as confirmation of the hints dropped previously by Rosheen and the way that Stationmaster Arminet had discreetly discussed his security measures a few days before. The note itself is cryptic:

Runners confirm trouble at Wide Bay. Guard the Hall. Assistance planned.

Tagetarl runs through possibilities of what might be making trouble, what kind of trouble, and what assistance might be planned, but can’t get to any conclusions.

At least one part of the assistance turns out to be having the Hall under the watch of a flock of fire-lizards, summoned by the local queen, Ola, after Beauty likely left instructions. Another ends up being Pinch, who arrives with “It’s me” after almost being splashed by Tagetarl wielding a hot klah pot. Tagetarl corrects his grammar, and then Pinch points out the likely entry point of the Luddites (the same one he went in), commends Tagetarl on the fire lizard defense force, and introduces his companions, each of whom has brought a bucket of flame-retardant varnish for the wood bits of the Hall to apply.

Tagetarl doesn’t understand why he would be a target, and Pinch explains that the written word has truth-establishing power, and so the reports, books, and other things he prints can fight the rumors and stories that are being passed around by the other faction that want things to go back to the way they were. Yes, even with all of the advances in medicine that can cure what user to kill, and the ability to put knowledge down in a more fixed and durable form, Pinch tells Tagetarl.

Tagetarl panics that he doesn’t have enough people to ward off an attack, and tailspins further as Pinch points out to him that he’s probably been helping the enemy get the layout of the land by indulging their curiosity to see the process at work, and likely telling them about the opposition they’d be up against, too. Pinch seems very confident that his extra muscle will help with that, as well the flame-retardant.

There’s also this part, as Pinch is explaining the plan to stop the Luddites.

“We’ve arrived timely, too, since Beauty was here and my suspicions have been confirmed by the Runners.” He grinned brightly at Tagetarl. “Dragonriders aren’t the only ones who can be where they’re needed when they’re needed.”
Tagetarl’s jaw dropped at what was almost a profane remark from a harper.

And here we are again at the idea that the nominally non-religious Pernese have something sacred (dragonriders) to be profane against. Pinch is being deliberately irreverent, either about fighting Thread or time travel (and likely both), and this goes back to the theory of mind problem genesistrine pointed out in relation to which characters know what facts and secrets. I have no trouble with Pinch knowing what is supposed to be a closely-guarded secret (except when it isn’t) of the dragonriders, but it’s Tagetarl commenting on the possible profanity, which suggests that either Tagetarl knows the secret and is surprised at Pinch’s casual attitude (less likely) or that Pinch is being flippant about dragonriders and his irreverence for the planet’s saviors is strongly socially inappropriate (more likely). But I can’t tell which it is, because I can’t rely on previously established norms about what is secret and what is not.

Pinch is still casual about the possible danger, tells Tagetarl not to notice him, but to send up provisions for the extra people, and definitely not to sample anything offered in exchange for books, just in case, which makes Tagetarl panic even more. Pinch demonstrates a few calls that will be used for communication before going out to lend a hand.

There’s also this continued part where Pinch mentions all of the new people are experienced with brushes, with implications of knowing more than just the brushes they’re using to paint on the fire-retardant, but Tagetarl can’t figure out why those people are so familiar to him.

The next segment goes back to Honshu, so I’m going to stop, because I’ve had basically enough of what’s going on there for this post. Back again next week.