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Old Jul 16 2008, 11:19 PM   #1
Eriflor
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Thumbs up Grubs

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Originally Posted by ElectricDragon View Post
<PARA SNIPPED>

I would view this as a way of opening up an arc in which the Southern Continent is gradually resettled in spite of Thread. Of course, I'd also have made the grubs less effective, essentially able to retard the spread of Thread and eventually destroy it, but not prior to significant damage (as in, you might lose some fields, but not an entire valley), so there would still be a need for aerial protection.

<PARA SNIPPED>
I've never really understood this business about the grubs. My first impression was that they lived in the ground and prevented Thread burrows from developing. Then it seemed that they also in some way made the vegetation stronger so it could resist Thread, but HOW? Surely the Threads would eat their way down the trees quite a way before getting poisoned or nullified by whatever the grubs were putting into the trees. Unless Southern Weyr was so efficient that no Thread EVER got by them. T'bor did say they'd never had any burrows.

AND how did the dragonriders fail to notice, after 7 turns of fighting Thread in the South, that trees outside the Southern Hold region were doing fine without their help?

Eriflor.
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Old Jul 17 2008, 12:11 AM   #2
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Default Re: AIVAS - a shellperson?

Always thought "grubs" were like worms in a compost heap, *see thread and yummy let's eat it, saves eating boring leaves all the time*.
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Old Jul 17 2008, 09:14 PM   #3
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I've never really understood this business about the grubs. My first impression was that they lived in the ground and prevented Thread burrows from developing. Then it seemed that they also in some way made the vegetation stronger so it could resist Thread, but HOW? Surely the Threads would eat their way down the trees quite a way before getting poisoned or nullified by whatever the grubs were putting into the trees.
I'll have to bump that thread...
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Old Jul 17 2008, 09:20 PM   #4
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Default Re: AIVAS - a shellperson?

Well, that's wierd, I could have sworn it was here, but apparently it's at AMCF.

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But the discussion about whers has got me thinkining - how do the grubs do it??? I realized I never really questioned that before. Not only do they appear to consume Thread, but they seem to give the plants added resistance to it.

My tentative theory is that they exude some kind of chemical which stops Thread from spreading, and this affects the trees as well so that while they're scarred by what Thread hits them, they're not engulfed by it as it expands.
Also, I think the grubs do get killed by thread, but reproduce fast enough that the population remains steady.

Whatcha think?
(This may be better in its own thread, actually.)
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Old Jul 18 2008, 08:05 AM   #5
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Default Re: AIVAS - a shellperson?

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Originally Posted by Brenda
(This may be better in its own thread, actually.)
Done!
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Old Jul 18 2008, 08:26 AM   #6
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How do they do it?

Anne-science.

Preventing thread from burrowing is one thing, but protecting the vegetation stretches my suspension of disbelief to snapping point.
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Old Jul 18 2008, 09:53 AM   #7
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Don't forget - in DQ, when F'lar was in Southern and watched Thread hit the ground, he noticed that the plants healed themselves.

This little blurb is what put Pern into the Fantasy category for me. That and

1. Lessa blurring her hand (DF)
2. Lessa speeding up one canine and slowing another (DF)
3. Mention of the Hatching grounds, where the sands increase their heat when a Clutch is hardening (DF)

Then the grubs. While most elements of Pern can be considered SF, I believe that there are some things that really draw it to fantasy instead.
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Old Jul 18 2008, 10:07 AM   #8
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however the grubs worked it was pretty much instantaneous because much was made of Tubmans homestead being unharmed in first fall....
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Old Jul 18 2008, 10:59 AM   #9
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Grass grows pretty damned fast...

You know how I'd have made this work? Thread doesn't blanket-cover the landscape the way rain does, and it falls in clumps. A lot of the damage to the ground and vegetation would be done by burrowing thread chemically changing the local environment - you see this in Dragonflight where the thread that does burrow causes wilting of the surrounding vegetation as well as consuming anything it strikes on the surface. With the grubs, I'd have them giving something toxic to thread to the plants, but not instantly effective, and the ground would of course be a no-go zone. You'd still get some damage from direct hits (and I doubt that the bits of greenery struck by thread would survive, even if the rest of the plant itself recovered fine), but no growth of thread on the surface from consuming grubbed vegetation, and definitely no burrowing.

And VERY definitely no magic healing!
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Old Jul 18 2008, 11:43 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Eriflor View Post
AND how did the dragonriders fail to notice, after 7 turns of fighting Thread in the South, that trees outside the Southern Hold region were doing fine without their help?
I just finished re-reading DQ and it explains that most of the Southern Weyr riders weren't farmcraftbred and the only one we know of (Brekke) purposely stayed away from farmcraft duties to sever ties with her past life. Therefore, all those in a position to notice the grubs, wouldn't have the knowledge to back it up. And after a Threadfall the grubs sink back down into the soil, so it's very difficult to find them unless you know what you're looking for. During a Fall the riders would be focusing on the sky. By the time they focused on the ground, the grubs would have done their job.
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Old Jul 18 2008, 02:54 PM   #11
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I thought that it was just that the grubs ate the thread before it could destroy the plant from the ground back up. The stuff going down wouldn't have time to do much damage.
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Old Jul 18 2008, 04:22 PM   #12
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Working together?, LIke soybean?
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Old Jul 18 2008, 05:07 PM   #13
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I thought that it was just that the grubs ate the thread before it could destroy the plant from the ground back up. The stuff going down wouldn't have time to do much damage.
Tell that to the sheep Sorka and Sean watched get eaten... Thread doesn't need all that long!

[And anything that can act as fast on Thread as Thread does on vegetation isn't really something I'd want living in my veggie patch, especially given its dubious genetic engineering...]
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Old Jul 19 2008, 11:35 AM   #14
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I've been following this discussion and I suspect we've got some misconceptions of how Thread functions.

If Thread hits an animal/human which is probably 90% water, it's going to consume that animal/human pretty quickly because in the final reflection there really isn't all that much there to eat. And you're generally not talking about a single strand of Thread hitting that animal/human, you're talking about a clump. So yes, that creature will be consumed rather rapidly as you watch. This will probably seem to take place much faster than it does. You're not exactly holding a stop-watch on the event, especially if you're treading water with a horse under a ledge in lake. Given that animals/humans seem to have plenty of time to writhe, squeal and scream, and possibly experience an emergency amputation in a desperate effort to save them in the event of a limb hit, the consumption obviously is not instantaneous. In all probability it takes several minutes to totally consume a creature, with that period being modified by the size of the creature and just how big of a clump hit it.

So I think we can dispense with the Star Trek death ray effect of the animal/human disappearing totally in a prolonged flash.

Plants are generally a bit more fibrous and less water-impregnated organisms than animals/humans. Thread hitting a plant may or may not be stopped by the plant. In fact, hitting leaves and limbs, the Thread will probably burn through propelled by gravity and eventually hit the ground, unless it smacks right down on the trunk/stem of the plant. A big enough plant, such as a tree or large bush, might arrest Thread falling through, and have the Thread "take root" within its own structure until the Thread destroys it. This plant will probably be consumed in minutes. Then the Thread is on the ground and burrowing.

The rest of the Thread falls through the canopy vegetation (burning a number of leaves and limbs along the way, but Thread is not anti-gravity capable, so unless there is enough dense mass there, it's going through or falling off--it writhes, but is never said to grip) and smacks into the ground. Once Thread is in the ground, it begins to consume all surrounding organic matter, ingesting roots and nearby ground-cover. Destruction of roots is going to cause wilting. As the Thread spreads and grows underground and along ground-cover it begins consuming surrounding plants and continues outward in a ring pattern until it has consumed everything, or encounters a water or rock obstacle it cannot cross, or until it "burns itself out." This spread is not exactly lightning fast, as demonstrated by what took place at the burrow in Nerat where Fandarel tested his HNO3 projector.

This "burn out" aspect of Thread is one that I think most people forget about, and it explains the "crop circle" effect. At some point, even in the presence of organic matter, this organism just dies. Why? We don't know. It's obviously not native to Pern. Maybe it eventually suffocates, or accumulates enough toxins alien to its system but native to Pern and dies. Maybe it becomes so grossly obese by its own biological standards that it suffers its equivalent of a heart attack or other systemic failure and dies. Who knows, but it does. We know that HNO3 isn't healthy for it and presumably there could be other fatal compounds. This goes a long way toward explaining why Pern is never completely denuded by Thread.

Again, no one is holding stop-watches on these burrows, and to the poor dirt farmers of Pern who toiled for years to make those fields productive, seeing them destroyed in minutes, hours or even days is pretty damned fast. To their perception, it spreads like wildfire, but even wild fires can take days to destroy an entire valley unless driven by strong winds. There is no equivalent of the wind to move Thread along once it's down.

Once Thread is in the ground, a Thread-resistant organism (and here again there must be some compounds that resist Thread even if organic) that is present would be able to attack and consume the Thread. Enter the grubs. Obviously, Tuberman engineered them with some sort of biological countermeasure/compound that lets them resist Thread's effects and consume it in turn. What compound? Couldn't tell you--I don't have his notes. But one might suspect that said compound is found in the bark of the skybroom trees since they are also Thread-resistant.

So that explains the grubs, but what about the plants healing themselves and being more verdant? They might be more verdant for a couple of reasons. One, it may have nothing to do with the grubs and may just be the environment. We are talking about lush, equatorial Southern; you'd expect bigger, healthier plants. But that doesn't explain the effect in the tubs in Benden Weyr, but again the solution could be simple: the grubs aerate the soil. It's also possible that waste by-products of the grubs provide nutrients which the plants absorb. So there's no recourse to magic here.

But what about the plants healing themselves? I don't recall if F'lar actually sees visible healing taking place as he watches. I do know that he saw old marks of Thread-score that healed over, which would allow for healing over time. But if he did see healing in real-time, what would be the explanation? Probably adaptation. We're talking about plants that have been getting rained on by Thread regularly for a couple of thousand years. We may be looking at the plants that have best adapted to survive and perhaps it is by a fast-acting biological mechanism. A growth promoting sap? It seals (scabs) the would similar to drying blood in a human, and then the adapted plant begins to rapidly regrow in the damaged area? Something simple and delicate like a leaf or frond may recover pretty rapidly, although I'd expect limbs and trunks to take longer and maybe wind up scarred.

Nothing I recall reading implied that the plants in any way poisoned the Thread, and if I recall correctly, F'lar was making his observations in an area that was predominantly brush (numbweed?) and may not have observed long-term damage on something like trees, or a tree being taken down due to a direct hit by a clump that consumed it due to being arrested in its fall to the ground.

Of course, no one ever said the grubs couldn't climb, and they may go up a tree under attack and eat Thread even as the Thread is consuming the tree. Like many other things in Pern, these events have not been written about in exhaustive detail. And that's appropriate enough given that for much of their history the Pernese simply lack the equipment and knowledge to make the necessary observations to figure out the puzzle.

--

As for observations about Lessa's display of mild telepathy and possibly some vague telekinesis (although this is dubious), it's not really a great leap if we're assuming the existence of telepathic, telekinetic, teleporting dragons. Obviously, if it's possible in their species it is possible a human might develop such capabilities. Apparently Lessa has. This isn't an inconsistent recourse to magic, but consistent with the foregoing assumptions.

Now, as we understand the science at this time, these things are impossible and magical.

Of course, less than a thousand years ago the world was flat, the sun orbited the earth, lodestones were the work of the Devil, and much of the technology we take for granted today would seem the work of sorcery.

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Old Jul 19 2008, 02:11 PM   #15
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Good arguments. Makes total sense to me!
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Old Jul 19 2008, 10:57 PM   #16
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I like to think that the grubs excrete some kind of chemical that strengthens the plants' resistance and their ability to recover from threadscore.
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Old Jul 24 2008, 11:42 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElectricDragon View Post
I've been following this discussion and I suspect we've got some misconceptions of how Thread functions.
Ahhhhhhh, thank you! This is what's been in my head for so long but never managed to get the words out properly. I agree almost 100%. The one thing I disagree with is the amount of time it takes to consume a creature. It's stated numerous times in the books that a herdbeast can be completely devoured in seconds. Yes, perception of time can be altered in traumatising situations, but it's stated so often that I'm inclined to think it's more fact than exaggeration. I would say 10-15 seconds to devour a herdbeast completely, depending on the size of the Thread, faster if it were a clump.

But as for the rest, I agree that falling thread would just burn through vegetation, barring a trunk, since leaves and thin branches are rather flimsy, there's not enough resistance to keep it up there and devour the whole thing.

As for why the Threads burn out, I think they just gorge themselves to death. You brought up some other interesting theories that I never thought of before, but with a single organism devouring massive quantities of matter, I think it's simplest that it would just die of over-consumption.

I never really had that much trouble accepting the grubs helping the plant heal. Either the grubs natural waste or it actively secreting something, both would work, it makes sense if Tubberman specifically engineered them to manufacture a substance that would very quickly heal a plant. Or the leaves, at least. Trunks would obviously take significantly longer. Doesn't seem at all magical to me.
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Old Jul 24 2008, 10:23 PM   #18
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The one thing I disagree with is the amount of time it takes to consume a creature. It's stated numerous times in the books that a herdbeast can be completely devoured in seconds. Yes, perception of time can be altered in traumatising situations, but it's stated so often that I'm inclined to think it's more fact than exaggeration. I would say 10-15 seconds to devour a herdbeast completely, depending on the size of the Thread, faster if it were a clump.

I think it's simplest that it would just die of over-consumption.
I believe I allowed that depending upon how much Thread hit a creature like a herdbeast, the time to consume it would be variable. I believe the commonly quoted standard is "a small clump" can consume a herdbeast very quickly. Bear in mind that even a small "clump" is still a "clump" and rather a different proposition than a single Thread.

Also, time dilation under stress is dramatically distorting. Take it from someone who has been in air combat maneuvering environments. That series of maneuvers it takes you three minutes to pantomime and describe while shooting down your watch took 24 seconds in real time. Watching what really happened, and how fast, on the play-back of a TACTS range gives you a real appreciation for the time-bending qualities of adrenalin. For the trained, like myself, it stretches out. For the untrained, everything flashes by in an instant. Many a newbie has gone through an engagement blissfully unaware of much of what happened around him, but completely wired.

I happen to concur with you on the most probably reason for burn-out. I wasn't seriously proposing that Thread suffocates or suffers heart attacks, that was just illustrative hyperbole.

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Old Jul 25 2008, 11:34 AM   #19
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I believe the commonly quoted standard is "a small clump" can consume a herdbeast very quickly.
Hmmm, I can't seem to find many direct references... I seem to recall it popping up fairly often, but the only one I can find is:
Quote:
Do you know what Thread can do? Drop out of a clear bright sky on a man and eat him, boots, balls, and all.
This is obviously exaggeration coming from many repeated threats of how dangerous Thread is. But with dragonriders, they must see it happen reasonably often, so they must have overcome the shock and overwhelming terror that would consume any of the normal folk, so I don't think they can be exaggerated THAT much.
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Old Jul 25 2008, 08:26 PM   #20
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The dragonrider still would have some sort of perception alteration. The fear of Thread seems to be an instinct in the population now. Also, as ElectricDragon pointed out adrenaline affects perception. And dragonriders still have some fear fighting Thread. That emotion is usually put in Threadfighting scenes. Therefore, all of these elements lead to inaccurate perceptionss.
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Old Jul 25 2008, 11:12 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Spaceman Spiff View Post
Hmmm, I can't seem to find many direct references... I seem to recall it popping up fairly often, but the only one I can find is:

This is obviously exaggeration coming from many repeated threats of how dangerous Thread is. But with dragonriders, they must see it happen reasonably often, so they must have overcome the shock and overwhelming terror that would consume any of the normal folk, so I don't think they can be exaggerated THAT much.
Don't know many aviators do you?

Q: "How do you know if there's a fighter pilot in the room?"
A: "He'll tell you."

"Two out-of-parameters missiles shots and three wild snap-shots with the guns equal 'Ace in a Single Mission' until someone reviews the gun camera footage..."

Great Lies of the Universe:
1. "The check's in the mail."
2. "I won't c--" ah, we'll just not finish that one as this isn't labeled an adult topic...
3. Anything a fight pilot says.

Come on, we're talking about people who refer to casual conversation with each other as "swapping lies." Believe me, the people telling the biggest tall tales on Pern aren't the Harpers. They're number three at best behind the flyers and the seamen.
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Old Jul 26 2008, 08:50 AM   #22
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I'm just saying that dragonriders wouldn't be NEARLY as scared-out-of-their-minds, hysterical, wetting themselves terrified as the average person, otherwise they would never hold out through a whole Fall. Of course there's fear, it would be impossible not to be afraid of something that could kill you so easily. But they seem to have more of a handle on it, and wouldn't make such outlandish exaggerations of of blinding fear as a Holder.

There may be some boastful dragonriders who stretch the truth, but they don't ALL seem like that. After all, Pern dragonriders are not the same as earth aviators
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Old Jul 26 2008, 03:58 PM   #23
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They're also on the back on a large, flame blowing, flying telepathic thing, which is not the same as being on the ground with a deadly rain with only a flame thrower (if that) to fight back!
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Old Jul 26 2008, 11:08 PM   #24
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I'm just saying that dragonriders wouldn't be NEARLY as scared-out-of-their-minds, hysterical, wetting themselves terrified as the average person, otherwise they would never hold out through a whole Fall. Of course there's fear, it would be impossible not to be afraid of something that could kill you so easily. But they seem to have more of a handle on it, and wouldn't make such outlandish exaggerations of of blinding fear as a Holder.

There may be some boastful dragonriders who stretch the truth, but they don't ALL seem like that. After all, Pern dragonriders are not the same as earth aviators
My point is that we have very few first-hand descriptions of a Thread-hit of this nature. The most detailed is from the eyes of two people who had never experienced it before and never even heard of it before.

Most descriptions of consumption by Thread actually take place in the stories immediately prior to Passes, when no one has had any first hand observation or experience in upwards of 200 or 400 turns. Most of the discussions take place in serious and apprehensive conversations where the cognizant parties are attempting to brace for the threat, or attempting to convince the non-believers of the threat. It's entirely possible a little hyperbole--whether deliberate or out of ignorance--might color the conversation.

"When is legend legend?"

Aviators don't usually embroider things out of fear, but out of boasting. And we've never known any dragonriders to be the slightest bit vain have we... And, honestly, none of us really fall that far from the tree. Aviation demands, breeds, and nurtures a certain personality type. Dragonriders would really be no different, it would just be a little more obvious because they are "chosen" through the process of Impression. Given that Kitti Ping designed dragons so well physically and mentally, wouldn't she design the dragons to choose a certain personality type? And what would she use as a model?

Flyers are notoriously and overwhelmingly, type-A, competitive, first-born, dominant, leaders, over-achievers, and ambitious. There are obviously exceptions, and not every flyer ends up as the squadron commander or as an ace. However, the general personality traits are sufficiently common they've been the subject of serious psychological study. Not every dragon-rider may appear to fit the model, but here again we have to remember: we know very few dragon-riders, and even fewer of them very well. And if you look closely, I think you'll find most of the dragon-riders do display a fair number of the traits described above.

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Old Jul 26 2008, 11:39 PM   #25
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They're also on the back on a large, flame blowing, flying telepathic thing, which is not the same as being on the ground with a deadly rain with only a flame thrower (if that) to fight back!
Which also happens to mean they're not on-hand when something that can't hop between the moment it is hit gets consumed. The holders would actually be better able to speak to that than any dragonrider.

A dragonrider that gets hit is taken between immediately and the hit is immediately arrested, or the initial hit is so bad that the pair is never coming back from between.

This is like an aviator holding forth about infantry combat.

We actually have very few observations of Thread consuming anything, and the observation under the least stress-distorted circumstances is the Burrow that Fanderel tests HNO3 on in Nerat, and that Burrow certainly isn't consuming anything in a flash.

Our other most detailed observation is that of Sean and Sorka, under a ledge, in the water, with horses to control, experiencing something they neither expected nor understood. Take it from a trained crash investigator: these are people you would definitely interview, but they would not rank highly for the reliability of details related.

Just think about the geometry of any possible observation of the herdbeast that Sean and Sorka saw hit. They're in the water, under a ledge and the beast was probably situated on a slope above them. It's entirely possible that if the beast fell, its carcass might be obscured by any intervening fold in the terrain. So, maybe the beast went down--and possibly out-of-sight--in a matter of moments. But once down, how long did it really take to consume all of the flesh, and just how long to consume the much more dense bone? And oh-by-the-way, you're observing this while you're trying to keep your head above water, your body under the ledge, your horse under control, observe the antics of the fire-lizards, observe what the Thread is doing to that herd beast, observe whether or not the Thread is going to get you through the water... Not exactly an environment for careful note-taking even in the strictly mental sense, especially for two people experiencing the first truly violent and life-threatening moment of their lives.

Think of what gets reported in combat. If every enemy soldier that was claimed killed, if every tank that was claimed destroyed, if every plane that was claimed shot down, was in fact lost, wars would be over in half the time. And many of those observations are made and reported in good faith by trained observers inured to the dangers. And they're still wrong.
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Old Jul 27 2008, 01:06 PM   #26
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It's been a while since I've read it, but I know there's a lengthy description of the first Fall that Jayge's family's train gets caught in in Renegades of Pern.
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Old Jul 27 2008, 03:48 PM   #27
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All fair observations, ED, but do you really think Anne was taking all of those things into account when she was writing them? We all know how many things can slip by, detail-wise. With how often it's alluded to, if not explicitly stated, it's my guess that it was her intention that Thread consumed things very quickly.
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Old Jul 27 2008, 04:33 PM   #28
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Two references from DD:
Quote:
The thick clumps of tough bushes they had ridden through only moments before were no longer visible, covered by a writhing mass of “things” that seemed to enlarge as they watched.
Quote:
She [Bay] had been shocked by the sight of a full-grown cow reduced in a few moments to a seared corpse covered by masses of writhing strings.
There's nothing terribly specific in the Renegades account, they were all sheltering in water so nothing was devoured completely, most of it was just describing them fending away Thread.

Although this seems to be happening very quickly:
Quote:
Three long spears of the stuff slapped into the tall standing trees on the bank. Their trunks flared briefly and then began to vanish. So did the brush and trees on either side. Jayge blinked, and there was a bald patch and something disgustingly pulsing, rolling—and with every turn more of the thick mulch disappeared and more trees fell.
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Old Jul 28 2008, 06:26 PM   #29
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All of those descriptions are in instants of shock, awe, or mortal danger. As ED points out, perceptions alter in such moments.
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Old Jul 28 2008, 06:34 PM   #30
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All fair observations, ED, but do you really think Anne was taking all of those things into account when she was writing them? We all know how many things can slip by, detail-wise. With how often it's alluded to, if not explicitly stated, it's my guess that it was her intention that Thread consumed things very quickly.
Maybe. Still, in Dragonflight, which is an account I can recall off the top of my head where Thread is actually allowed to burrow and not incinerated quickly afterwards. F'lar and Fandarel don't go to Nerat until the day after the Fall, and Nerat's forests weren't reduced to ashes. So it takes a significant amount of time at least. Factors do likely reduce, or increase, the speed at which Thread consumes matter. Consistency of the material, how direct a hit, how much Thread, and any defenses in the area(Pern survived somehow before the colonists arrived. It either has the fastest growing plant-life ever, or some built-in biological defenses). In Dragonsdawn, the Southern Continent isn't eliminated, and fire-lizards definitely couldn't have got every Thread. This may also have to do with built-in defenses, or even with the types of Thread: those that consume themselves, or survive to the next stage.
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Old Jul 28 2008, 10:09 PM   #31
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Barring evidence that Anne didn't take that into account, it's a reasonable explanation to extend more plausability to Thread's incredible devouring capabilities.
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Old Jul 28 2008, 10:16 PM   #32
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All of those descriptions are in instants of shock, awe, or mortal danger. As ED points out, perceptions alter in such moments.
I still maintain that since Anne repeats that it only takes moments, that this is fact. It's not good writing at all if she cannot get basic information across to the reader.

If there were other quotes to indicate that it does in fact take longer, then it would be more easy to bring it down to just because of shock, but it constantly refers to only taking moments. It would seem out of the way for Anne to write about the effects of Thread being compressed to moments because of shock, but never saying how long it actually takes. So I'm inclined to think that it really does take only moments.

And there's nothing to say that burrows are just as quick as their devastation above ground. Above ground they are more free to move/wriggle/whatever, and would take things in their path down very quickly (although I see them causing the most damage in their immediate vicinity, because they don't really seem to move of their own accord, just flop around randomly). But burrowing underground would naturally take longer for something that doesn't have very effective locomotion abilities.
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Old Jul 28 2008, 10:38 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Spaceman Spiff View Post
Two references from DD:



There's nothing terribly specific in the Renegades account, they were all sheltering in water so nothing was devoured completely, most of it was just describing them fending away Thread.

Although this seems to be happening very quickly:
It really wouldn't take too long to reduce brush once down, especially if a clump hit the general area.

The herdbeast is described as a dead (a corpse) in moments, but not completely consumed (and, in fact, still being consumed).

Regarding the trunks "flaring" the word could mean glowing, bursting into flame or simply swelling. Using the later term, it would make sense for Thread arrested in the wood to produce some sort of chemical reaction (especially since it "sears") that might cause the trunk to bulge before the consumption from within begins to reduce it entirely.

There is no doubt that Thread acts quickly, but I say again that no one has ever held a stopwatch to the process in canon to say how fast one man's "quickly" is versus another. So we have little grounds for pinning down a precise amount of time, and the stress and shock under which many of the recorded observations were made makes time relative to that individual's perception and circumstances.

Actually, failing to precisely pin down the relative time in these encounters is one of the author's better techniques in writing.

It puts me in mind of reading Bergerud's book on South Pacific air combat. He was one of the first writers to document (via anecdotes) a very common phenomenon that makes it into very few accounts of air combat: the "suddenly empty sky" phenomenon. Repeatedly aerial combatants reported intense descriptions of combats that lasted a matter of moments to minutes, after which they would report suddenly finding themselves flying "alone" in a sky "empty" of dozens or even hundreds of planes that were there moments before. Undoubtedly a number of things took place between the moment of termination of the intense combat and the moment of realization that they had become completely separated from that combat. That period may have been mere moments, or even several minutes devoted to intensely scanning the sky in multiple directions, checking guages, fuel, compass, etc... before realization caught up with cognition to register the fact that they had been spat out of the fight and were actually out of (immediate) danger.

Someone experiencing their first Threadfall might well experience a similar phenomenon of taking in many frantic impressions simultaneously while trying to dodge Thread, help animals, help other people, see the brush getting consumed, see the animal getting consumed, see the tree getting consumed, etc... These events could have taken quite a bit of time, but have been perceived as being almost instantaneous because by the time the brain could actually process what it had seen, several minutes may actually have passed. But to the overloaded, time-distorted, survival-mode mind, which jettisons counting time for immediate needs, this would have taken place in moments.

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Old Jul 28 2008, 10:39 PM   #34
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I seem to remember in Dragoneye, when some healers were discussing this, one of them mentioned watching old footage of this and it still only took moments. And that would be a situation where shock wouldn't be much of a factor.
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Old Jul 28 2008, 10:42 PM   #35
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All fair observations, ED, but do you really think Anne was taking all of those things into account when she was writing them? We all know how many things can slip by, detail-wise. With how often it's alluded to, if not explicitly stated, it's my guess that it was her intention that Thread consumed things very quickly.
The author is, of course, human, and is frankly advancing(ed) in years. However, the author has also included any number of astute observations, details and twists over the years as well. I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and a certain degree of craft. And maybe she didn't consciously consider many of these things, but did so instinctively. After all, her writings have sold a lot more than yours and mine, so she must be doing something right.
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Old Jul 28 2008, 10:48 PM   #36
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I still maintain that since Anne repeats that it only takes moments, that this is fact. It's not good writing at all if she cannot get basic information across to the reader.

If there were other quotes to indicate that it does in fact take longer, then it would be more easy to bring it down to just because of shock, but it constantly refers to only taking moments. It would seem out of the way for Anne to write about the effects of Thread being compressed to moments because of shock, but never saying how long it actually takes. So I'm inclined to think that it really does take only moments.

And there's nothing to say that burrows are just as quick as their devastation above ground. Above ground they are more free to move/wriggle/whatever, and would take things in their path down very quickly (although I see them causing the most damage in their immediate vicinity, because they don't really seem to move of their own accord, just flop around randomly). But burrowing underground would naturally take longer for something that doesn't have very effective locomotion abilities.
And you're not the least bit suspicious that she does go out of her way to avoid pinning it down precisely? I think it was a deliberate choice by the author to avoid saying something outlandish that could later be taken apart. If she was to define that a herd beast was consumed in 8 seconds, what happens when some bright person comes along and "proves" that no realistic chemical reaction could possibly convert X amount of mass in X time. Science-fiction writers leave things imprecisely defined all the time to cover the gaps in their knowledge and/or the existing science to allow for later developments/understanding. I've done it myself when writing science fiction.

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Old Jul 28 2008, 10:55 PM   #37
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I seem to remember in Dragoneye, when some healers were discussing this, one of them mentioned watching old footage of this and it still only took moments. And that would be a situation where shock wouldn't be much of a factor.
We don't know if the person making this observation was speaking from having viewed it once, or several times. If once, the first viewing could have been quite a shock and be subject to the same relativity. And IIRC, the person never gives precise time references for how long it takes.

The word "moments" is inherently imprecise, especially compared to "minutes" or "seconds." After all we see "moment" used/misused to describe everything from events that take an instant (like an explosion) or minutes (like the proverbial lovers staring into each other's eyes) or even hours (such as a sporting event).

Will the average reader assume something like "seconds" when they read "moments"? Probably. But don't assume the author is the average reader. Authors habitually like to play with language and choose what they say much more carefully (in both their precision and their imprecision) than most readers realize.

I've pointed out to another poster that the author very carefully avoids ever precisely pinning down the elapsed time of Thread consumption, but yet the author has nailed transits between to the wall at precisely eight seconds when not timing it or engaging in an interplanetary jump. This author is fully capable of precision, she just chooses to avoid it in this case...

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Old Jul 28 2008, 11:32 PM   #38
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I would assume if she'd meant seconds, she'd say seconds. "Moments" to me implies a few minutes. Still FAST, but it's not like it's reduced to a charred skeleton in thirty seconds. Plus, we know that ground crews have orders to give mercy to some victims, implying that the victims are living long enough to suffer horribly. Using "moments", not an actual measurement of time, just creates a general sense. I *sincerely* doubt she was at all thinking of time perception changing in stressful situations, because in general she is not a precise writer (the reference to eight seconds notwithstanding--she's also used three coughs as a measurement and I half wonder if the random choice of eight comes from bull riding.) She just wanted to convey the impression that it happens quickly. Because precise amount of time is not important to the story.
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Old Jul 29 2008, 05:59 AM   #39
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Hmm, I didn't realize that "moment" could be such a broad word, a moment had always meant a few seconds or so to me, such as, "He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts before he went on."

But if it can be stretched to minutes, then I suppose it all comes down to personal interpretation for how long it takes Thread to consume something.
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Old Jul 29 2008, 07:13 AM   #40
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It's just an indefinitely short length of time, but bear in mind that an author has the power to choose her words, and a good author will do so wisely and pick the most succinct and accurate ones. In this case, I don't think we'd be too far of the mark to interpret 'moments' as longer than seconds, but shorter than minutes. If she meant seconds, she'd have said seconds. If she meant minutes, well...

Anareth is clearly far more patient than I am - I just don't see moments > minutes in a descriptive passage. ["I'll be with you in a mo", on the other hand, is far more stretchable. The ideal is less than a minute; the reality generally somewhat longer.]
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