Headscratchers: Dragonriders of Pern
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- Why the hell is there a hold named Bitra? As thoroughly noted in Dragonsdawn, Avril Bitra was a consummate bitch, and spent her scant time on Pern mining gemstones so she could escape the planet and live in luxury rather than having kids and founding a hold—and proceeded to die a presumably messy death in space. I could believe that the hold was named in honor of her, except for the fact that, you know, the bitch part. The characters that knew her all hated her guts, and even the men she was cooperating with didn't seem to have any love lost for her. How did a hold bearing her name ever come to be at all, let alone one of the big famous ones? (Lemos and Nabol bug me as well, since you know, the men with those names also died in their primes and weren't exactly saints, but I could conceive of them at least having relations in the interim).
- IIRC, Bitra was founded by a group of dissident types who believed Bitra was actually an awesome martyred hero who died trying to save Pern.
- As far as Lemos and Nabol Holds go, Bart Lemos and Nabhi Nabol managed to somewhat salvage their reputations when they agreed to attempt a flight to the Oort Cloud to gather Thread spores. Granted, they did it in order to secure the rights to what would later become Ista, but as they both died in the attempt, the Holds were likely named in honor of that final sacrifice. As to Bitra Hold, this is what The Dragonlover's Guide To Pern has to say on the matter.
"[Avril Bitra] is believed to have been heroically martyred for the sake of the colonists of Pern when she single-handedly piloted a small ship with faulty controls head-on into the wandering planet, the colonists' name for the Red Star. The original founders of Bitra left Benden Hold because of disagreements they had over Bitra's role in the foundation of Pern. Their view was that Admiral Benden and Governor Boll stood by to let Pern fall to the terrible menace while only Bitra and her colleagues tried to save it. Bitra was called the champion of the lost cause, who was failed not by her skills but by a sabotaged starship. In the end, despite the opposition, the Hold was named as a memorial to Avril Bitra."
- Some fanfic works with the theory that Bitra Hold was named during a time of political dissension in general, not just over Avril's actions, and naming the hold 'Bitra' was a thumb-in-the-eye to the establishment. Play up someone the mainstream considers to be a villain as a misunderstood hero in leather pants and some people will flock to your cause while others shun you.
- That big to-do about who gets to be Weyrleader in Dragonflight. What, so the dragons wouldn't have a problem about father-daughter incest if R'gul weren't such a greenbowler?
- Considering Kylara's plan in Dragonquest to get F'lar by having her Prideth replace her mother Ramoth to mate with Mnementh (her father), probably not. Kylara directly says "It isn't as if there's anything wrong with mating your father..." (slightly paraphrased as I don't have the book on hand), and Prideth's objection is that "Mnementh is Ramoth's," not that he's her father.
- The relationships between the dragons themselves always threw me off. The justification for making the golden dragons "breeders" instead of "fighters" was that they had good maternal instincts. But when Prideth and Wirenth are killed, Ramoth makes no acknowledgement of the fact that they were her daughters - and Prideth, the less-mourned queen, was her very first gold. She notes that Amaranth (in All the Weyrs of Pern) is "a true daughter" to her, but never refers to other dragons as her children. They just don't seem to have a sense of family among themselves. Furthermore, even though Aramina says that dragons talk to each other, their real affection seems reserved for their riders. Well, until Skies of Pern anyway, where all the dragons suddenly become very chatty, and the Todd McCaffrey books where the dragons apparently talk to anyone and everyone. So does a dragon have a sense of identity as a dragon, along with any acknowledgement of familial ties, or are they so attuned to their riders that that's all that matters (with the exception of weyrmates)? The latter would make sense, since many weyrmated dragons would appear to be brother and sister...
- IIRC, the 'good maternal instincts' at the firelizard level mostly meant that the golden mothers were willing to protect the nest until the eggs hatched and the babies impressed, whereas the greens would lay eggs and forget they existed. In both the lizards and the dragons, once they're Impressed, they appear to be treated like any other member of the group. Ramoth does care about people messing with her eggs!
- And on that disturbing note...Given that dragonriding seems to run in families, is it possible that a dragon could mate with the dragon of another family member? (Squick). Or would the rider's "inhibitions" on that level prevent this?
- On that same note, it's always been said that the dragon chooses and the rider complies, so... It's possible, I do believe, that that might happen... But let's not get too much into that. It gets a bit disturbing really. But then again, if you think about it, family ties exist mostly within humans only, in cases of animals, it's a matter of who is the most suited for breeding the next generation of little ones and if dragons have that sort of mindset... well...
- Wrong, familial ties are actually quite common amongst the animal kingdom. It's just that dragons have pretty little of this in them.
- Basically, yes, and that's actually what throws many Holders (but not always Crafters, where the mores are more relaxed) off — roughly speaking, many holders think of Weyrs as of brothels where everyone sleeps with everyone regardless, and this was actually mentioned several times in the books. And that's the reason why most Weyr children are fostered or adopted, instead of being raised by their own parents, in addition to the "easier to cope when your father is killed by the Thread" reason. It Values Dissonance in full swing, plain and simple.
- Considering how, during Long Intervals, the total population of queens per generation is typically reduced to one, it's clear that close inbreeding has long been an absolute necessity for dragons to survive as a species. Being genetically engineered, they were probably created without the adverse recessive traits that normally make inbreeding so harmful to a bloodline.
- About the Riders and incest thing... it's strongly implied (maybe outright stated) in one of the books that it's possible to 'substitute' a partner during such a tryst. If two dragons happen to mate whose riders are related or just don't like each other, the Weyrfolk can pair each Rider off with a compatible partner of the appropriate sex who does not provide the same complications. In fact, this often happens when a dragonrider marries a non-dragonrider. Their spouse takes on the role of sex-partner instead of them being unfaithful, and the other half of the dragonrider pair gets a substitute (usually from among the Weyrfolk).
- Not saying you're wrong, but this must have been a very late addition to the lore, as it bears little resemblance to the world shown in earlier books (and I haven't read the last few / Todd's). The idea of a dragonrider marrying at all sounds baffling, and a weyr-dragon marrying a non-dragonrider sounds like a world-shattering scandal, not something so frequent that one could say how it's 'often' handled! (Disregarding Jaxom, who wasn't exactly a weyr member and whose dragon was outside standard dragon sexuality.)
- I don't know about the "spouses" part of it, but I believe it's mentioned somewhere in the first three books that substitutes can be utilised.
- Stated outright in Dragonseye (Red Star Rising in the UK), in the context of female greenriders wondering what to do when/if their dragon rose to mate, given that blueriders generally "didn't like girls".
Skies of Pern timetravel
- In The Skies of Pern, F'lessan and his dragon, Golanth end up mauled by giant kittycats. They would have been killed if Golanth's girlfriend, Zaranth, hadn't discovered telekinesis, and mummy and daddy Ramoth and Mnementh hadn't come rushing to the rescue. As it is, they end up permanently disabled - Golanth is unable to fly properly, while F'lessan limps. Very tragic, but why didn't Ramoth time-travel back earlier to catch the felines before they attacked? The dragons have used Time Travel to prevent things that have already gone wrong (such as missing Threadfall in Dragonquest), so why didn't they make the jump a few minutes earlier (or even wiped out the felines before they attacked)? Actually, there are a lot of issues with time-travelling on Pern - for example, why the hell didn't someone leap back in time to haul Prideth out of the way before Wirenth rose to mate? That ability seems pretty damn selective in when it's going to prevent tragedy...
- There is a simple, internally consistent, yet sad answer to these questions: Stable Time Loop. All of Pernese time travel is a stable time loop. It's the same reason why Jaxom is prevented from saving Robinton. It's also established that being too close to your past self=really bad.
- Yes, it is consistent, but it still doesn't make sense. (Robinton, I grant you, but implications were that it was "his time to die" and even time travel wouldn't put the brakes on it). To quote Cracked.com's comments on Harry Potter, " "We've made it to the past! Now we've only got a few minutes to go back and stop the dementors!" No you don't, you have as much time as you need. It's f* cking time travel. If you mess up, just go back and try again." Ramoth did go back in time to save them, but she picked the most useless point she could do so. Why didn't she pick a better point to intervene? She could have killed the felines years in advance! It's not like dragonriders don't use time-travel to "cheat" - Ruth and Jaxom in particular time-skip for really trivial reasons, and I can't read Dragonheart without getting a nosebleed at all the hopping around in time. So why is it when it could actually be of some practical, non-convoluted use it's suddenly taboo? Sorry, this is a bugbear of mine - Stable Time Loop or not, it still looks like a plot hole to me.
- Stable Time Loop or not, I think there's also the reason for Anne simply wanting to make that a plot point. As to that point, it could be that Ramoth wasn't able to pinpoint that set of time. It is said that Ruth had an uncanny ability to time very accurately, but that's not an ability that is shared by all dragons. In most cases of timing, it is hinted that the dragon has to be aware of exactly what the area is like at that time. After all, it was shown that Ramoth had jumped too far into the future when she went back to retrieve the dragons from the past. So as far as destroying the felines 'years' in advance... not so simple.
- If Ramoth corrected the problem in advance, the cats would never threaten F'lessan & co. Ergo, how would she randomly in the future have the sudden urge to hare off after some pride of cats in the middle of the Southern continent? That's the point of the Stable Time Loop - there really is only so small a margin in time between when Ramoth knows there's a problem - and nothing that leads to her knowing there's a problem can be changed, so everything before is cast in stone - and the time where it's too late to do anything.
- In "Moreta," why on earth did Moreta not stop to rest?!! She knew time traveling was dangerous (she'd chewed out K'lon for it, and he was a damn sight more careful than she was), and she was on an aging dragon to boot. Surely Holth's comment of "I am too tired to think that far right now" should have sent alarm bells ringing in an experienced dragonrider? What an Idiot indeed.
- Moreta was tired, too, as well as perhaps not yet fully recovered from her own illness, and she wanted to go home. Plus, trying to help everyone get the flu vaccine so fewer people would get the disease (or at least, fewer fatal cases) tends to push things like resting to the back of your head. And Moreta probably thought that resting when hundreds of people needed her would be selfish, even with time-travel.
- See above long-winded rant on time travel. And wasn't the worst of the epidemic over by that point? Been a while since I finished Moreta.
- Moreta was tired, Holth was tired, they both weren't thinking straight. The probably just wanted to get home and didn't think too much upon the dangers of jumping between when they did. Not to mention, the book quotes that Holth had 'an extra spring' in her steps, which hints that she tends to leap before the full command is given.
- This is true. Which is why they tried to implant the rule that no rider should rider another's dragon. Not that that worked out... Lessa had it done none the less. Thankfully, nothing actually happened.
- It's still pretty stupid to continue delivery to the point of absolute exhaustion. A nice little twelve-hour sleep in the middle of delivery would have posed no problem for a creature capable of traveling through time. And even so, a twelve-hour stopover couldn't have hurt anything - a delay that short will make little to no difference in a mass inoculation, which is measured in days, not hours.
- My best guess on this one is that since they were trying to carry out a super-complicated timing pattern in order to get everyone inoculated on the same day and stop the virus in its tracks, they were afraid to stop lest they lose track of the exact parameters they were working with. If you're visualising each jump based on the previous one, then stopping will make it much more likely that you'll mess up and jump to the wrong point when you try to get back into the swing of it, and at this point in the series missing the timing slightly and meeting yourself coming or going might have been fatal. Obviously, they could and should have stopped to rest after finishing the last delivery, but they just weren't thinking straight.
- Mirrim in the first female greenrider in a long time, despite implications that green dragons will take a female partner if at all possible (in Red Star Rising, it's implied that all the female candidates are claimed by greens). So why weren't more girls picked out of the stands before then? Path had to make a supreme effort to go get her girl, who was standing in the viewing area, so presumably other greens could have homed in on female onlookers. And why wouldn't search dragons sense a girl's potential as a greenrider, or a candidate for a queen dragonet be picked by a green instead?
- Perhaps it's because there was a decrease in the number of female partners being chosen by greens and so the searchriders didn't search for them any longer. As for a queen candidate being picked by a green, there are different characteristics that each dragon looks for, and seeing as how they are queen candidates, it's highly likely that they aren't suited to being greenriders in the first place.
- Given that Brekke told F'nor that Mirrim would make a good greenrider candidate, which F'nor clearly thinks is a shockingly radical idea, it's possible that Mirrim was mentally "open" to Impression in a way that other women weren't.
- Prior to Lessa's and F'lar's administration, most female candidates for Impression were forced onto the Hatching sands, scared out of their wits. That's hardly a state of mind that's likely to capture a fighting dragon's interest. Large non-Weyrfolk audiences, with young people of both sexes in attendance, also hadn't been present at Hatchings during the Interval. So the greens may have been forced to choose boys, simply because boys are all they were given to choose from.
- It's also mentioned that because of a Double Standard (and very odd ones at that), most Holders will deliberately hide their daughters as far away from Searching Dragonriders as possible to prevent them from being chosen. Because of the overwhelming mating-instincts of dragons, and generally looser perspectives on sex among the Riders, the Holders believed that all women working with dragons were essentially whores, and only being incredibly formidable (like Lessa) would prevent them from treating you as such. That, and fear of being killed by a dragon.
- The Double Standard comes in when you realize that pretty much every male Dragonrider with a green dragon was homosexual (or at least bisexual)... and they don't seem to mind this, but they mind their daughters being in same-sex relationships.
- Except their daughters would never be in SAME-sex relationships. Females can't Impress male dragons. (There don't seem to be lesbians on Anne's Pern, despite fans writing homosexual female blue riders.) The objection is just to their "sleeping around" (and at least early on when there was still land to go around, losing a marriage bartering chip and someone to produce children to claim more land.)
- First two statements above were both Jossed (or Ascended Fanon, depending on your POV) by Dragongirl, where a woman Impresses a Blue. Perhaps it's "Straight women can't impress male dragons?"
- Well, I think it has more to do with the fact that women can get pregnant. Men can't. So yeah, not quite the double standards, but perhaps a more simple reason of not wanting to have so many kids running around Pern. Of course, this makes even more sense when one remembers just how frequently a Green rises.
- Actually, since going between ends a pregnancy, except within the first month, having female green riders would not increase the population. Green dragons are fighting dragons, and fighting thread involves a lot of going between. That was one of Mirrim's problems later on, she wanted a baby, but kept miscarrying, because she couldn't tell she was pregnant in time to stop going between, and save the baby.
- Given that line of logic, doesn't that mean that Lord Holders should have been neutered once they hit thirty? Seems that powerful men taking advantage of Pernese Droit de seigneur were responsible for more offspring than they could reasonably keep track of. A single Lord was probably responsible for more population growth than you could possibly blame on a green dragon. They didn't seem too worried about overpopulation (at least until the plague hit, a la Moreta.)
- Remember that there's no majorate or salic law in Pern, and Lord Holder's heirs aren't always their eldest sons — in fact, they are elected (by the other Lord Holders and usually from the incumbent's bloodline, but still elected), so most Lord Holders like to "throw their seed wide", to ensure that at least one of their offspring would be acceptable to their colleagues to keep the post in the family.
- If anything, the situation on Pern is usually the exact opposite of "trying to keep them from breeding too much" - the population was tiny to start with and supposed to be fruitful and multiply, and then kept having disasters dumped on them. LOTS of kids is repeatedly held up as a virtue. Putting a woman on a fighting green means either that she can't have babies, due to all the betweening, or she's out of action, depriving the wing of a fighter. It's clearly stated in one of the stories set during the rise of the first weyrs that they thought it was a good idea to encourage gay men to become green riders so that the greens would stop taking maternity leave.
- It's also possible that girls of the right mindset to ride fighting dragons were kept in their Holds, away from the Searches. If the only female candidates found by the dragonriders were the important girls, the daughters of Holders, and if they were found to only be good for riding gold dragons, it's possible that an opinion formed among Weyrleaders that only boys should ride greens.
- I always thought if men could impress green dragons, women could be brown or bronze riders, and there could be male gold riders too. I just figured that they existed but Anne just hadn't said anything about them.
- Speaking of which, what was F'lar and Lessa's reaction to Mirrim's Impression? Robinton says, in Dragondrums that they were so delighted with their son's Impression that they didn't mind, and the Weyrleaders are the ones who encourage Mirrim to go to Path. Yet in later books, someone else comments that Lessa was "furious." (Why? What possible objection could Lessa have to a female dragonrider, never mind that Mirrim could hardly be held responsible for Path's choice?).
- This Troper always figured it was because she found Mirrim annoying and was now stuck with her.
- This Troper agrees. Mirrim had never been the easiest character to get along with. It's pointed out by some of the other characters at times.
- Hatchings are really joyful and overwhelming even for the non-riding spectators, so Lessa and F'lar were probably too caught up in the moment to think about anything else until the Hatching was over.
- The Skies of Pern retcons Lessa's reaction yet again (she reminisces sympathetically about helping to "raise" Mirrim).
- People tend to remember things the way they want to, not the way they really happened. Lessa would probably rather think of herself in a kind, nurturing light regarding Mirrim.
- This Troper also agrees. Mirrim isn't the easiest person to get along with. Painful at times really. Lessa was probably really just more annoyed at the rider herself than the fact she impressed.
- Conservation of matter and energy. Every Dragon that dies goes between, taking all of its mass and all of the energy it contains with it, taking away that much of Pern's resources, never to be returned, right? How is Pern not a barren wasteland of nothingness by now?
- Because a dragon of any size is still really, really small when compared to an entire planet.
- But sooner or later, all that built-up loss of energy is going to take its toll, right? This Troper believes that it's because of Thread. All that ash and dead Thread that escaped from the Red Star into Pern probably helped to balance out the energy toll in some way or another... This might explain why the Red Star is so barren, come to think of it.
- Sooner or later? Dragons have only existed for a few thousand years! There hasn't been time for their suicides to take away any significant amount of Pern's biomass.
- It's not hard to calculate out. Assuming a dragon has a comparable length:weight ratio to a terrestrial bird, a 20 meter green would weigh close to 50 tons (This isn't a perfectly reasonable calculation, but it is a decent point to start). Carbon in a living organic creature tends to run at about 20%. This would mean each green dragon (the vast majority) takes 10 tons of carbon out of the biosphere. Meanwhile, Earth's atmosphere contains about 720 gigatons of carbon, the soil 2000, and the oceans 38,400 gigatons more for a total of 40,900 gigatons. Assuming that the biosphere will be damaged by losing just 1% of its carbon, and that the Red Star adds nothing via Thread, that still 40,900,000,000 green dragons that have to die before the issue arises. It will take at least hundreds of thousands of years, possibly millions, before the issue raises its head even at the 1% level. With less conservative estimates, it will take more time for the dragons to screw up their biosphere than Earth has seen since the last dinosaurs died.
- In Dragondrums, Piemur notices that huge schools of fish come to surface after Threadfall to eat drowned Thread. I wouldn't be surprised if the ashes from burning it made really good plant food, so it probably does make up really well for the dragons going between to die.
- My God, Sci-Fi fans really have no sense of scale. Do you understand how tiny a portion of a planetary mass makes one dragon? You can bleed billions of dragons per hour, and it will still take millennia for it to be noticeable. The whole time dragons existed on Pern? Around 2500 years, so the lost mass is really negligible.
- It's not about planetary mass, it's about biomass. Which is much, much smaller, see below. Even further than that, if the biology is anything like Earth's, the major limiting factor would be fixed (plant-available) nitrogen. I don't know how much of this there is, but it's small enough on Earth that our planet could not support our current population if someone hadn't invented a process to chemically fix nitrogen sometime in the past 100 years. But as someone said above, no doubt drowned Thread and Thread ash return nitrogen & other elements of fertility to the soil and seas.
- On the other hand, as Mike pointed out in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, there is a world of difference (pun intended) between the mass of a planet and the portion of that mass that is involved in the life cycle. It's not just the dragons themselves - according to the Dragonlover's Guide, they also excrete wastes between, and 3000 dragons at a time for 2500 years adds up to a big pile of...well, you know what I mean.
- Except that it's stated that dragons store waste in their tails and release it while between. Which in and of itself makes no sense, since that means a whole lot of fertilizer is just vanishing forever.
- Does Word of God state that getting lost between is permanent? My personal Fanon has always been that if you screw up the jump imagery, you emerge from between as a cloud of dust. Same for dragons committing suicide. The biomass is all still there, just spread out over a wide enough area that it's invisible to the eyes.
- Why is it that, in Dragonflight Lessa must go back in time to fetch the Oldtimers? If she had not gone back to get them, they would have continued living and wouldn't have vanished. As it is, she takes a bunch of people out of their own time and causes many more problems than she solves.
- Stable Time Loop. The Oldtimers' vanishing in the past is historical record and has been for centuries before Lessa was even born, let alone started time travel experimentation. Lessa was just doing what she was supposed to have always done.
- As has been said, Lessa was living in a world where the dragonriders had already gone forward. Also, at the time she would have had no way of knowing how the Oldtimers acted; they only became Jerk Asses after they came forward and had to deal with the changes that resulted from the Long Interval. (Witness the Oldtimer who tried to requisition a specific knife being made for somebody. I imagine that was somewhat tolerated towards the end of the 8th Pass due to the fact that the Crafter and Lord Holder involved would have grown up under the threat of Thread; during the 9th Pass, people saw it as the jerk move it was (The Crafter in question actually offered to make a similar knife for the rider, but that was refused, even though it would have resulted in both getting what they wanted—the rider wanted the knife because of its workmanship).)
- Two of the most important things that the Oldtimers brought with them was their expertise in fighting Thread, and their Records. The latter is arguably more important, because if they'd been left behind, the Records could well have moldered and been rendered illegible, like most of Benden Weyr's Records. That's the reason why F'lar went looking for Records in the abandoned Weyrs, he was hoping to gather all the information he could on Thread fighting (as well as solving the mystery of where the Weyrs went). If Fort et al had stayed behind, they likely would have fallen into complacency like Benden Weyr before F'lar took over, and the Dragonriders, along with Pern, would have been doomed.
Jaxom and Ruth
- Why does Jaxom constantly Wangst about Ruth's sterility/Asexuality in The White Dragon? Wouldn't Ruth mating with a green (and consequently, Jaxom sleeping with the green's rider) put him in a bad position with the other, sexually conservative Lord Holders, never mind the fact that Jaxom is heterosexual? Surely it would add fuel to the argument that Ruth belongs in a Weyr? To me, it always looked like Ruth saved him a major headache. It's not as if it's an issue of continuing Ruth's bloodline, since only the bronzes have any hope of siring baby dragons.
- Technically, any male dragon, bronze, brown, or blue can sire baby dragons (Canth, a brown, offered to fly Wirenth so F'nor and Brekke could get together). ...I see what you mean, though.
- My guess is that Ruth's asexuality only underlined how OMG DIFFERENT he was from the other dragons, and Jaxom was just finding excuses for angst.
- Or Jaxom was just being a teenage male, and projecting his own insecurity about not being macho onto Ruth's nonexistent libido.
- This Troper agrees with both comments above this one. Not to mention, Ruth's asexuality was MEANT to underline his difference from the other dragons. Makes sense considering that he's a mix of all colors... which means of both genders. Jaxom's insecurity, of course, only leads even more to point just how much of a Gary Stu he actually is in the books.
- It could be because Jaxom was fed up with being different. He's one of the last Ruathans left, the son of Fax, who is always being stared at and isolated. He went against tradition and Impressed a unique dragon who everyone thought would die, and who people thought might not be a proper dragon. And then he ends up with the tiny Ruth, who's pretty much asexual. It's hammering in the point that Jaxom's pretty much a freak among Holders and riders alike.
- There's actually a scene in The White Dragon that gives us, very subtly, exactly the OP's point. So subtly that it went right over this troper's head when she was a teenager and finally, on the umpteenth reading last year, smacked her over the head with the realization that heterosexual dragonriders, at least in the era when men ride greens, are a serious minority. Basically, Jaxom briefly witnesses the preamble to a green mating flight, with a group of sweaty male riders milling excitedly around the male green rider, and it makes him really uncomfortable, and a few subtle things are said about how he... kind of hadn't thought about that part. After that he doesn't Wangst so much about Ruth not being interested.
- If I remember the book correctly, It was less about mating specifically, and more about how Jaxom felt he wasn't truly a Rider or a Lord Holder (Jaxom's position as Lord Holder was insecure, since the other Lord Holders weren't keen on having a Rider as Lord Holder. Jaxom was excluded from almost all the Weyr did as well, so he felt disconnected from the Riders too. Jaxom wanted Ruth to rise as proof Ruth could do anything the larger dragons could. Which also explains why Jaxom largely stopped once he remembered almost all Green Riders were male (Remember the only Green Rider Jaxom really knows is Mirrim.)
Dragon's Fire continuity
- There's a major continuity error in Dragon's Fire. Early on, Pellar throws a fit when Kindan comes to Master Zist; Master Zist comments that it's quite normal for a master to have more than one apprentice, though usually the senior apprentice is just moved up to journeyman when a new apprentice comes in. Stops and thinks a minute, then says essentially "Okay, you're now my Journeyman, though you still need to take some classes." Much later, after Pellar's been with the other watch-wher keeper, a rider comes to collect him - and gives him a suit of blue clothes, proper Harper apprentice clothes. And Pellar is delighted at this. Huh?
- I'm relatively certain that apprentices don't wear all blue, just blue accents on normal clothes. The full blue outfit is reserved for becoming a journeyman, and thereby reaching official Harper status.
- This Troper isn't sure about the apprentice part but is certain that blue clothes are a sign of being an official harper. Which is why, in the books, they've called it Harper Blue.
- Actually, there is no error. Pellar wasn't sure he was recognised as an actual apprentice before. It was the recognition that Pellar was recognized as a proper apprentice that he was thrilled about.
Torene and Alaranth
- In Chronicles of Pern: First Fall, one of the stories is about Torene and her queen Alaranth. Basically, Torene clashes with a guy called Mihall, who has a bronze (can't remember what the bronze was called) and when Alaranth rises to mate, Mihall's bronze flies her. When Mihall and Torene are having sex, Mihall says something like 'There's no way I was going to let anyone else have you'. I get that maybe he was that strongly in love with her, but doesn't Torene get any say in who she ends up with?
- Right then and there? Not much, especially if her dragon liked his. Besides, it's heavily implied that Torene felt the same about him. Not to mention Weyrleaders aren't required to be an official couple.
- As is made quite clear in "Moreta". While she respects Orlith's preferred bronze's rider for his skill at leading in Threadfall, she doesn't have much affection for him as a person, and they maintain separate quarters and a business relationship outside of mating flights.
- On that matter. No, Weyrleaders don't have to be official couples, but yes, it was implied that Torene did feel quite strongly about him. But it does rather ruffle this Troper's feathers that just because he's a male, he gets to make decisions like that. Then again, outside of certain female characters in the entire series, all females in the book seem to be lacking in proper brains to make their own decisions anyways.
- Except he really had no say in it. Yeah it still a jerkassish thing to say, but really it's just him being a blowhard, since the decision wasn't up to him, no more then it was up to her. When dragons mate, the riders have no say, green riders may be able to make arrangements, but every thing we seen shows that when a queen and bronze mate there riders have no choice but to do so as well.
- The wishes of the riders and the Weyr do have influence on the mating flight, that was why R'gul was weyrleader in "Dragonflight" and not F'lar, the Weyr as a whole was couldn't accept him as Weyrleader, and therefore even though Mnementh was bigger and stronger he didn't catch the queen, conversely it seems pretty clear later in the book and in the later ones that if you cut off Mnenemth's wings, he would still somehow manage to fly Ramoth, because of the influence of their riders. So in this case I would guess that Mihall's desire had an influence, and that Torene's did as well she just didn't say anything out loud about it.
- It was an expression of his determination to do everything he could to win the mating flight. His dragon used some kind of trick (doubling back somehow? I just remember there was a trick, his dragon turned up somewhere hers didn't expect him & caught her) and when he said the above quote, Torene realized he had planned this with his dragon because he wanted her so much. That doesn't mean it makes sense for him to talk like it was all up to him, but Mc Caffrey can be a little into the "dominant, pushy male = hot" thing, as demonstrated in many scenes.
Oldtimers and Lessa
- Lessa bringing the Oldtimers forward. Didn't anybody stop and think that if she hadn't gone back and gotten them, then the weyrs would still be populated by Lessa's time, and there would be six working weyrs without any time-travel necessary? That's aside from the fact that the Holders used the missing weyrs as evidence that the dragonriders weren't needed anymore, so if the population of those weyrs had never vanished, the holders would have had far less ground for their no-more-thread arguments.
- Actually. This was already mentioned up there. Two reasons though. The one given above. The Stable Time Loop, as well as the fact that it was just... Plot related as to show that dragons can time.
- It had to happen because it already happened? Uh, no. That would make any time-travel into the past justified unless it causes a complete paradox. Especially considering that in this case, doing so made things worse in the interim, and caused future problems because of Oldtimer vs. modern attitudes. That's aside from the genetic issues of the entire dragon species being so severely inbred over centuries. No, it sounds more like time-travel as Applied Phlebotinum.
- This is more an issue with the weird causality issues of the universe than with Lessa, though—she went back to get them not because it seemed like a good idea at the time but because the Weyrs already weren't there, and they needed them desperately. Maybe if she had just decided to stay put, the timestream would have suddenly changed around her, but would you count on that if you were in her place? (Also, while going back to get the Oldtimers created trouble down the line, it also meant that Pern was suddenly supplied with five full-strength, experienced Weyrs. That's not a bad thing, and it probably saved lives in the short term.)
- Along with being experienced, it's mentioned in the second book that the Oldtimers taught the modern Benden Dragonriders quite a lot about dealing with Threads. And on top of THAT, you have to look at Benden Wyr in particular — it was woefully understaffed, had only 150 or so Dragons (as opposed to the nearly 400 or 500 in the second book, seven years after the Oldtimers came forward), and you have to wonder if they really would be better off. Six weak Wyrs, all with a small number of dragons, without any Thread-fighting experience, weighed against having five experienced and strong Wyrs (1800 dragons!) available right in the nick of time.
- There's a sociological issue involved as well: during the previous Intervals, the dragonriders grew decadent and complacent, and lorded their position over the Holders. Having that many more idle riders around is just going to burden the population even more and create still more resentment toward supporting the Weyrs (F'lar had a hard enough time getting them to cooperate as it was).
- (continued from above) The bigger issue, however, is one that plagues all time travel. Where does a time loop like that start? In Terminator, we see it start with the need to protect Sarah Connor, and unwittingly (or not) creates John Connor in the process. It's a stable time loop (in the first movie), but it also has a very clear beginning, a reason for starting the loop that doesn't boil down to "because it happened". The only justification Lessa had for going back to the past was a hunch that she already did. This, of course, brings up all the ridiculous time-travel related questions: why did she only bring them forward in time in the nick of time, rather than some time before the Threadfall even started (except for the series' answer "because")? Why didn't they exploit it more often? It's TIME TRAVEL. If someone had thought to travel back and stop the fight between Wirenth and Prideth, would that have made a time loop where those two didn't die "just because", or was it impossible because it already happened? It Just Bugs Me that time travel isn't really given the consideration it requires in this series.
- It only makes sense if once something is changed only the changed version is remembered (and written). This makes it seem like you can't change the past. If someone thought to use time travel to get reinforcements from the past for a bunch of Wyrs on decline after a long pass, then the timeline would adjust so they were always gone, which is just what happened. When AIVAS was not fooled, used time travel to kill thread off forever regardless of the consequences, the Oort Cloud creatures countered with the plague of Moreta's time. It is either ingenious or Mc Caffery never bothered to make it ontologically consistent, just stable.
- The whole point of the stable time loop concept is that you can't change the past because the present, including everything you remember about the past, has 'already' been determined by the outcome of every time jaunt backwards to a point before 'now' that's ever happened and that's ever going to happen. And since this is true for every 'now' you'd care to pick from the timeline, the future is just as set in stone as the past; if you're predestined to travel back in time to do X (because you did in fact arrive and do X in the past), you will, and if you're not, then you won't. Free will? Doesn't exist here, though nobody may be aware of that (because they never were predestined to realize it, of course).
- Alternatively, time loops exist because the act of traveling back in time in anything BUT a stable time loop erases the timeline that existed beforehand. So someone goes back in time, and changes things, and everything progresses from that point forwards, but the original timeline now no longer exists, so despite the fact that they succeeded, nobody knows. This handily explains the whole "Travel back in time to fetch the old weyrs" problem, as well; in the original timeline, all of them stayed and slowly declined over the 400 year wait, eventually leading to having many weakened weyrs that could not defend the planet successfully. They discover time travel, and go back in time to bring the old weyrs forward to their own time in desperation, which they succeed at doing, leading to the disappearance of the dragons. This changes the timeline to the current one, where they disappeared, leading to a stronger Pern come 400 years later, at which point they go back to a slightly earlier point, take the dragons before the alternate timeline can, and return to their own time. Therefore the appearance of a stable time loop is maintained, but the facts are fundamentally altered. That's the real problem with time travel; you have no way of knowing if you have actually succeeded since you'll be wiping out your own timeline in the process of success.
- I think there's a few things to look at on the time loop front. One, as wonderful as Anne's work was, she occasionally had problems with thinking through implications of her work, and was fairly resistant, as I remember, to self-correction when she made a decision. It was also in the days before wikis and forums, and so her potential beta reader pool, if any, was probably limited. As a result, it's mostly handwavium.
- That being said, one could look for solutions. Depending on your opinion of Todd— I don't like his work, but it is a theoretical solution— one could try to get a solution hashed out for debatable levels of canoncity. Regardless of said opinion, it's possible that solution COULD work out as a reasonable or rational one but still not be acceptable to the majority of fans. I know I might have a knee-jerk reaction there, even knowing that I know this. If we're just looking for justifications regardless of canon status, that's a different story.
- One way of looking at it is the old saw of time being an illusion, and that from some perspective in the Pern continuum, all of the events are happening simultaneously. Though the use of the word perceptive is possibly a bad one since there isn't supposed to be a privileged observer position. Maybe there is in the FS Pverse! It also raises questions about free will, though there are people who argue that there isn't free will in a linear timeline. I suppose if free will exists at all, it may have a certain similar achronal existence of its own.
- Other possibilities I can think of is that Anne was wrong similar to her change on the sexual orientation thing. Maybe loops are highly stable, but come from recursive reinforcement. IE, an event happens for one reason or another— a lot of weyrfolk die off, causing their dragons to suicide, or KPY's poor choices on the minimum Gold numbers meant a few bad clutches wiped out the other Weyrs, who concentrated their numbers over time in either case, eventually leaving Benden alone. Lessa makes the trip to fix it, and suddenly the universe's conservation of effort makes THAT the reason why everything happened. No loop begins to collapse until you actually observe something about it. Details may be changed by elements that happen external to the loop, but if they impinge upon the loop, the prior loop is preserved. The problem with THAT is it makes Time into a Fate-like force/entity that forces things to happen. Which, again, there might be a Privileged Observer in this universe.
- Of course, anything like that opens the whole can of worms in alternate timelines, creation/destruction of universes, temporal inertia, etc., so it may not be worth the effort.
- I guess the summary is: to justify it, we either have to change the understanding of physics in this universe, or we have to change the meaning, in small amounts or in large, of the author's statement. The former is traditional to all sci-fi, the latter may be more satisfying, especially for fanfic. :P
- The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern mentions that dragons defecate through their tails. That... makes no biological sense when they could just have an anus in the normal place and not have a Threadscored tail basically be a death sentence.
- Dragon colostomy bags, dude.
- Not to mention that on Earth, creatures having anuses away from the end of their tails are exceptions, not the rule. Indeed, one of the defining traits of Chordata (the phylum composed of us vertebrates plus a handful of "invertebrate" taxa like sea squirts) is that members of this group have a post-anal tail at some point in their lives. Seeing how dragons here are descended from native fauna rather than vertebrates, it makes sense that they might not have traits which define vertebrates on Earth.
- Touche. I probably should have thought of that, being a biology major... (Most Writers Are Chordates?) Still seems like it would be a liability during Thread time, but then again, the dragonets could teleport so there wouldn't have been much pressure not to keep their tails the way they were.
- dragons were engineered, not evolved, so it's probably just that Kitti Ping made a minor mistake during the genetic manupulation. She herself said she was working under about the worst possible conditions and had time pressure ( as well as the fact that her training had only covered minor modifications of species, not basically making a whole new species) as well. Essentially, she was concentrating on getting dragons functional, not ideal.
- I believe the excretion-from-tail aspect was described as belonging to the original dragonets before Kit Ping started fooling with them.
- Yup, and one of the biologists who came on the original expedition actually thought it was a better solution than having the anus and sex organs so close. (Also, a threadscored tail wouldn't be a death sentence—they store the dung until they defecate Between. The hole is just that—a hole. Threadscoring severe enough to be an issue would be enough to kill the dragon from the severity.
- My question is why all the dragons aren't suffering from major physical and mental deformities from serious inbreeding. During the 400 turns after the Weyrs disappear, Benden Weyr is eventually reduced to a single queen. When a single queen breeds with a limited selection of bronzes (sometimes only one like Ramoth with Mnementh), it greatly decreases the variability of the gene pool. So why aren't dragons suffering from some major genetic diseases?
- The simple answer would seem to be that Kitti Ping zapped such potential genetic landmines out of the dragons when she designed the original batch. And lacking the evolutionary pressures to induce mutations (and sports like Ruth usually dying un-hatched), a limited gene pool wouldn't hurt the dragons much.
- She'd pretty much have to have done so, since the initial batch was so small.
- Well, while genetic inbreeding can be the death of many species, dragons here have obviously gone through many genetic bottlenecks (like with Ramoth) where you had only one or two queens. Dragons with defects either, like said above, never hatch, or never pass on genes a la Ruth. Many species of birds in island ecosystems have survived similarly, despite being very closely related, because those genetic diseases were weeded out over time.
- And we also learn in Dragonblood that due to the way dragon DNA is structured it is much, much harder for it to randomly mutate, which further helps keep the gene pool free of the normal side effects of inbreeding. Though the book does show one of the disadvantages in not having a more genetically diverse group, since one disease almost wiped out the entire dragon race until a way was found to alter the dragons' genetics to make them immune.
- Now that I think about it, Ruth's unusual size, coloration, etc, could be an early sign that the dragon population is starting to accumulate a few bad traits in its gene pool... Good thing he's shown as unlikely to breed.
- The only result of the extensive inbreeding from the Oldtimers' disappearance is the fact that Ramoth and Mnementh are both comparable in size to a Cessna (or are half the length of a football field/pitch depending on whether or not you use feet or meters), which is far beyond what Kitti Ping had originally programmed.
- Kitti Ping actually included precautions against harmful mutations in the genetic code: a) they rarely hatch if there has been mutation b) they end up like Ruth. There have been mutations, though. Originally, there was a genetic limit to the size of dragons keeping them to the size of Oldtimer dragons. With Ramoth and Mnementh, mutation had removed that restriction, resulting in far larger dragons.
Long mating flights
- It's claimed that the longer mating flight is, the better and bigger will be the egg clutch. Is there any other reason, besides flight being the test for the strongest and smartest male to win and pass his genes on?
- A longer flight results in the male having more time to fertilize a larger number of eggs?
- It was said that it's the whole flight, not particularly the fertilizing part, that should be long to get a good clutch. It was more along the lines "the further and higher the queen will rise."
- Given that descriptions of mating flights usually involve the bronze catching the queen and the two of them coupling as they fall, the higher flight may give the bronze more time to transfer the equivalent of sperm before they have to break off to prevent a crash landing. While a human male transfers far more sperm than are needed for fertilization in a couple of seconds, there's no reason to assume that holds true for dragons.
- Probably not. Someone probably realised at some point that the stronger the dragons involved, the longer the flight, and that got turned into 'Long flights mean good clutches'.
- Actually, no. In Chronicles of the First Fall, a mating flight was abnormally low due to it being the first one (the female dragon had overeaten before the flight) and it produced few eggs, to the point that dragons would not have been able to sustain fighting Threadfall. The same dragon flying properly produced a much larger clutch. So it IS the length of time the flight lasts that is important. Best guess is that each egg is fertilised sequentially, not simultaneously.
- I always figured that the queen dragon is ovulating during her mating flight — the longer she flies, the more eggs she releases. That was why F'lar was angry at Jora, who couldn't restrain her queen from eating and subsequently had short flights and small clutches. As for why it's good for the species, that seems obvious — the bronze dragon with enough strength and stamina to keep up with the queen becomes the father of her clutch and passes his genes along.
- The sex/mating flight scene in The Skies of Pern bugs me. It's abundantly clear that Tai is afraid of the impending sexual encounter, and that her other mating flight experiences have been tantamount to rape. F'lessan thinks this is absolutely terrible, but the most helpful response he can come up with is to urge her over and over to "choose" him (even though she's never thought of him "that way" before and she's terrified) so that her experience with him will not be rape. (It's not even clear whether she does so, but it turns out afterward that everything's magically okay and she had a wonderful time.) Can't he give her her freedom, instead? Get out of range, lock himself in a room and slide the key to her under the door? He doesn't even consider how he might achieve this and so the scene is not believable as some kind of redemption. A bounded choice isn't a real choice.
- He didn’t have much choice. He was the only rider in the area and his dragon was going to mate with her dragon no matter what. They were going to have sex no matter what. His mind was already overwhelmed with dragon mating urges and it was hard for him to think clearly — to consider, like you said, locking himself up — he had to fight to stay human. Maybe he simply didn’t think about it because in the Weyr "The dragon decides, the rider complies”. All he is doing is urging her to accept the inevitable and to try to find pleasure in it. She would have to face this problem anyway, because Zaranth would continue to rise. I also think that it was stated that if riders don’t have sex something bad may happen to their dragons. I agree that the scene in itself is not handled very well. Tai should be still traumatized and it should take much more time and effort to help her, but these are “Dragonriders of Pern” where good sex tends to magically solve emotional problems.
- Yeah, that is the most logical explanation. As you noted, though, it wasn't really well played for the "redemption" outcome. I haven't heard about bad effects for the dragons if the riders don't have sex... is that a Todd thing?
Tenim and firestone
- What the heck was going through Tenim's mind when he came up with the plan to destroy (what he thought was) the last firestone mine on Pern? Did he seriously think that his own stockpile of the stuff - skimmed off the top of a regular shipment of firestone - that he gathered for less than a year would be enough for 3000 dragons to use every day for more than fifty years to spare the planet from destruction? In addition to this, how do you suppose he intended to get the dragonriders to work with him?
- Tenim wasn't destroying the firestone, just the mine. His plan was to reopen the mines under him.
- In The White Dragon, a dragon dies offscreen, and this is treated as a rare event — Jaxom rushes home (times it, in fact) in order to comfort his foster father, an ex-dragonrider who lost his companion many years before. However, it's established that when any dragon dies, every dragon in the world lets out a howl of mourning. By a conservative estimate, there are thousands of dragonriders in the world at that time, and when a rider dies, his dragon inevitably suicides. Even assuming an average lifespan of 100 years, shouldn't there be a dragon dying every month or so, at least?
- Perhaps the suicide thing was meant more as "when a bondmate passes violently and suddenly, with no chance for the two to say goodbye"?
- It's also that the dragons are born in clutches, so they are in age clumps, not scattered all over the calendar, and those clutches only come relatively close together as Fall approaches. There may be 20 or more dragons that are all the around the same age in a Weyr. Death from anything other than injury or mistiming (basically, from old age,) will also tend to occur in clusters, probably sometime around the middle of the Intervals, where very few of the books are set.
- Why is there such a fuss over Menolly becoming a harper when Merelan was a widely respected Mastersinger only one generation prior? What's the big deal over having female harpers, and when did things change in that one generation?
- The 'fuss' is largely from Menolly's father, who happens to be a chauvinist prick. Lord knows that nobody at Harper Hall gave a crap.
- While Half Circle is shown as more sexist than the Harper Hall, there were quite a few people in the Hall who very much gave a crap about Menolly. A journeyman condescendingly tells her she's "obviously" supposed to be with the other girls, who are students rather than apprentices. Dunca, the dorm mother for the female students, hates Menolly for several reasons; one of which is her talent being developed under Petiron. One of the music teachers flat-out told her it was a waste of time to educate women to be Harpers. Benis, Lord Groghe's son, accuses her of theft and tries to take her money away at the fair. Et cetera, et cetera. Basically, the entirety of Dragonsinger was people arguing back and forth about whether Menolly should be a Harper.
- Singer isn't Harper. Merelan is seen as primarily a performer — a lady with a lovely voice and the skill to use it well performing the music someone else wrote; Harpers regard themselves as Teachers and Diplomats and Intelligence Agents and Capital-M Musicians as much as Performers. Look at how the Harper Apprentices need to learn not only how to play instruments, but make them competently and that they need to learn music theory and composition, preferably in different styles.
Fire Lizards mating
- Whenever Fire Lizards mate, any humans impressed to them are compelled to share in the experience. We also know that multiple fire lizards can be impressed to the same person, such as Menolly. So, what happens when two fire lizards who are impressed to the same person mate?
- Not many people have multiple fire lizards, but I strongly suspect that that person's spouse/mate is in for a very intense encounter.
- Otherwise, probably A Date with Rosie Palms.