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Old May 9 2014, 09:48 PM   #1
Brenda
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Default Deconstructions

One of the blogs I follow linked to another blog where someone has begun a "deconstruction" of the Pern books, starting with Dragonflight.

Here are the first two posts:

http://slacktiverse.wordpress.com/20...rregularities/

http://slacktiverse.wordpress.com/20...-contrivances/


I'm not clear whether the person writing this is familiar with the books or is reading it for the first time. They seem to mainly be pointing out flaws in the characters and in the plotting. Still, it's interesting to read the discussion.

The other blog is anamardoll.com, where there is an ongoing series of deconstructions of the Narnia books, which has been really interesting - but now it's going to be a while before I can read those books again.
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Old May 9 2014, 10:32 PM   #2
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Default Re: Deconstructions

That's really interesting,thanks for posting. And I have to agree. F'lar and Lessa don't come off too well at the beginning.
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Old May 10 2014, 09:06 AM   #3
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Default Re: Deconstructions

No, they don't.

I do find it interesting how much of Lessa's past is simply brushed under the carpet. Sure, she Impressed a queen, but she's not an inherently nice person at all.
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Old May 10 2014, 10:42 AM   #4
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Actually, I NEVER liked Lessa as a person. Didn't really care for F'lar either. They're just too hard and cold to warm up to.
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Old May 10 2014, 01:07 PM   #5
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Default Re: Deconstructions

It's hard to remember, now, that it was such a big deal at the time to have a strong female protagonist, because there have been a lot more since then.
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Old May 10 2014, 02:02 PM   #6
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Default Re: Deconstructions

Is Lessa really all that strong, given how quickly she caved in to F'lar? How did she go from sedition to accepting what can only be called rape and physical abuse? And how in the world did that acceptance turn into love?
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Old May 10 2014, 06:26 PM   #7
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Default Re: Deconstructions

I wonder if the website is run by Sara Slack?
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Old May 10 2014, 07:42 PM   #8
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Default Re: Deconstructions

More likely to be a spin off from the Slactivist community, I'd have thought.
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Old May 10 2014, 11:51 PM   #9
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Default Re: Deconstructions

I recently re-read Dragonflight myself, and it's really interesting how "three-part" Dragonflight is, in tone and everything. The first part is really minimalist, the second sort of a bridge, and it doesn't bloom into the "McCaffrey" voice we know and love from the other books until the last third.

So far I don't disagree with much of what the blogger says, although it doesn't stop to highlight the things she does well so it's rather tilted on "this is what's wrong" side of things.
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Old May 15 2014, 05:33 PM   #10
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Default Re: Deconstructions

This person is forgetting that Mrs. McCaffrey was a product of the time she grew up in. Everything about F'lar, F'nor, and Lessa, even their unpalatable traits, was considered pretty daring at the time it was originally published.
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Old May 15 2014, 08:08 PM   #11
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Default Re: Deconstructions

I know. It's definitely possible to take all that into account without excusing it. They're not acknowledging it at all. To be fair, this is the impression a new reader would be getting.
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Old May 15 2014, 08:17 PM   #12
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Default Re: Deconstructions

This is from one of the comments:

"Deconstructions are not quite the same things as critiques. The goal is to ‘deconstruct’ the work and look at all its flaws and underpinnings, and sometimes, for fun, people ‘reconstruct’, suggesting ways to fix the work or new interpretations."
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Old May 20 2014, 04:06 PM   #13
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Default Re: Deconstructions

Forgive me for quickly chiming in here, but for one thing, I have not yet gone to the links provided here yet (but I will shortly), and the other thing I wanted to quickly comment on about Dragonflight - it was a culmination of three stories published in one SF/F magazine in 1968 through 1971 (?), so, yes it does come across as disconnected and seperate.

But some of the observations made here in this thread do seem to match what I've also read, although my impressions come out quite the opposite.

Lessa is a product of a high empathic human being bent on survival and revenge. The only tool in her toolkit is her ability to empathically/telepathically cloud men's minds.

This worked great on the drudges of Ruatha, and even the men in charge of the Hold, but it would not work at all on any Dragonman, because Dragonmen already have a better shield against such mind powers, augmented by their links to their dragons.

So, Lessa is naturally put in a tenacious position, and has discovered that her only defense, her only tool for survival has been stripped from her by F'lar.

What else could Lessa do, but to agree to go with them, even with private thoughts that she could eventually overcome the dragonmen and win out? However, what she did not expect is that the Weyr way of life, while controversial to 'modern 21st century philosophy' is perfectly acceptable on Pern, if not only necessary social acquiescence to ensure the survival of all human life on Pern. This is science fiction at its best: the hypothosis that social changes are necessary for the survival of human life on a different planet.

I like F'lar & Lessa, but I agree that their characters could have had more illumination; Anne wrote them as heroes of Pern first, explaining what they did to save Pern from Thread, and the choices they had to make, etc., but there was a lot of room left to form a lot of their character that was never touched on; the discarding of Lessa's past was only briefly touched on, after all, when a girl with such power impresses the largest queen dragon on Pern, all of your waking hours will be completely devoted to the care and loving of that dragon.

Lessa's past therefore takes a back-seat to Ramoth, and Lessa couldn't have been happier to do so. She (in my mind) put her painful past in a place far away from her, and the replacement is the empathic link of another being who thinks only of care and love. Who wouldn't make that trade, and in so doing, completely discard the broken and painful past?

As for F'lar & Lessa loving one another, as it always showed them united in their quest, but having very different approaches and ideas on how to go about them, which is great, but how much of that would be love if the empathic links to Ramoth & Memnenth weren't there?
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Old May 21 2014, 03:55 PM   #14
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Default Re: Deconstructions

Do you mean "tenuous position"?

And I think you're right; Ramoth was the better deal, so Lessa accepted her. There might've been times during her Weyr education that she wished she hadn't, especially in dealing with R'gul, but it was still the better deal. From Ramoth, Lessa re-learned empathy and responsibility (slowly, but she did). She might not have had the chance for empathy had she been left to Ruatha.
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Old May 27 2014, 12:41 PM   #15
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Default Re: Deconstructions

Another one has been posted. I've read better deconstructions than these - they're not analyzing, they're just venting their scorn.

http://slacktiverse.wordpress.com/20...life-new-name/
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Old May 30 2014, 08:07 AM   #16
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Default Re: Deconstructions

I can't see the point of those "deconstructions" What a waste of time. Write your own stories, don't pour scorn on other peoples.
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Old May 30 2014, 08:54 PM   #17
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Default Re: Deconstructions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lily View Post
I can't see the point of those "deconstructions" What a waste of time. Write your own stories, don't pour scorn on other peoples.
Yes, that!

My background is in accounting, and I can't help but notice numbers. We all know that there are occasions when Anne's numbers don't quite add up right. But there are hundreds of thousands like me who can add up the numbers, and there is only one Anne who could imagine and communicate these stories. If such things bother a person so much, no one is forcing them to read the books.
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Old May 31 2014, 02:07 AM   #18
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Default Re: Deconstructions

The point?

The point is that it's fun. It's interesting. It's not simply heaping scorn on something. For one thing, invoking the 'suck fairy' as they've done over on that blog is NOT the same thing as saying that something sucks. If you've never heard of that particular piece of SF fandom terminology before, it refers to how something that would have passed without note/been quite acceptable at the time of writing is now glaringly off. Yes, we all love Pern for one reason or another, but it IS fundamentally flawed. It's a classic, yes, but it's OLD. Anne was ahead of her time in many, many ways, but a product of them in others, and she chose to cling to certain tropes. The ones she wrote into Dragonflight are honestly far more forgivable than her portrayal of Torene several decades later, when society had moved on and Anne had failed/chosen not to adapt.

Honestly. Here's a challenge for all of you. Go and READ Dragonflight again, line by line, go and interrogate the text from whatever the hell you think the correct perspective is, and lay out the genuinely good stuff for readers that still holds up. If you can do that without including the ultimate wish fulfilment of: the downtrodden young adult gaining the ultimate friend and defender in Ramoth, the 'I'll show you all!/I was right all along' recognition that Lessa and F'lar get in turn, and the bodice-ripping trope of nice virgin gets manly man without batting an eyelid sexually - well, it's a good read, but there's not a great deal left after you take that out. Thread, which is woefully poorly thought out and criminally underused in canon IMO, is still a cracking inclusion. The time travel also lifts the story several notches. But the rest? It's wish fulfilment, and badly dated wish fulfilment at that.

I do think that some of the complaints raised in the deconstruction are overplayed and could be countered, but you do that by addressing those points, not sweeping them under the carpet.


So sayeth Kath, who HAS written stories of her own, and is no more or less qualified to point out Pern's merits and flaws because of it.
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Old May 31 2014, 10:01 PM   #19
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Default Re: Deconstructions

Thank you for explaining that term, Kath.
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Old Jun 1 2014, 02:35 AM   #20
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Default Re: Deconstructions

I agree with Kath in spirit, although I think she discounts the wish-fulfillment aspects of Pern far too easily. "Handsome male rescues princess in peril" is an enduring pan-cultural trope that still resonates. The twist that Lessa rescues herself was innovative at the time and is commonly used in almost all modern media to allow a fig leaf of feminism. And the idea of magic soul-bond creatures, which she did originate? Has become a very common trope in genre fiction.

I actually think large parts of Dragonflight hold up as a story for those reasons and I think it's the easiest to adapt once you file off the social objections. (And frankly, in a world where people believe "Game of Thrones" has a feminist message, I am not convinced it needs so much filing.) It's most of the rest of the series that I think fall apart; only a few of them have what I'd actually call a plot, and many of them also fail as either high-fantasy adventure or science fiction.
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