Weekly Charity Match #011: Amnesty International

I apologize for the late entry; I’m on a work trip this week and it’s thrown off my entire schedule. It’s been a chaotic weekend for the Trump administration as well, with his National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, resigning over substantiated allegations of significant ties to Russia, and the admission that he had lied about conversations with the Russian government. This is hopefully the first among many resignations from the Trump administration – including, ideally, Trump himself…

Last Week: CAIR

Thanks to Maria E., Madeleine B., and our anonymous matcher, we raised a total of $180 for CAIR last week!

This week: Amnesty International

With Trump’s refusal to participate in the international efforts to aid refugees from Syria and elsewhere, the work of NGOs becomes even more important. Amnesty International‘s work in support of human rights is known around the world, not only assisting refugees but also fighting against torture, capital punishment, and other abuses.

Donations to Amnesty International are handled by the individual national sections that make up the organization; from the main website, click the “Donate Now” link in the upper right and select your country.  Forward your donation receipts to matching@pyrlogos.com; I’ll match the first $100 donated (regardless of section), and enter you into February’s art giveaway as well.

Call to Action

The chair of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, claims that there is no need to further investigate Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia because the problem is “taking care of itself”. I disagree. If anything, Flynn’s resignation demonstrates the validity of the criticisms leveled against Trump himself since even before the election – that he is beholden to the interests of a foreign government.

Please call your representatives and ask them to continue the investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia, and also to demand Trump’s tax returns and other documentation about his assets and holdings, which he has still not made public. These two things are connected, and the picture they paint is not a pleasant one.

 

 

Weekly Charity Match #010: CAIR, continued

Multiple court orders later, Trump’s attempt to ban many Muslims from entering the United States appears to have largely failed.  However, Islamophobia continues to play a large role in the new president’s conception of foreign affairs.

Last Week: ACLU

Thanks to donors Jessica, Lorna Q., Kelly D., Christine H., Eric A., Lara H., Maria E., and an anonymous donor, we raised $2,815 for the ACLU.  Wow.  It was a big week for the ACLU overall, receiving nearly $30 million in donations, and I’m glad we could be a part of that.

Also, congratulations to Christine H., winner of January’s art giveaway!  A new month means a new giveaway; donations from February 1st through the 28th are eligible for February’s prize of a hand-drawn and colored portrait of anyone you want.

This Week: CAIR

With the outpouring of support for the ACLU, I feel like I kind of short-changed the Council on American-Islamic Relations by including them in the same matching week; I didn’t come close to meeting my matching limit.  They’re doing important work, not just filing lawsuits on behalf of American Muslims but also fighting the broader trends of Islamophobia.  They’re going to be pretty busy during this presidency.  Donate to CAIR here, and forward your donation receipt to matching@pyrlogos.com – I will continue matching donations up to the $500 limit I set last week.  (Donations to one of their regional chapters – like CAIR Seattle – will also count!)

Call to Action

After multiple delays and a lot of bad publicity, the Senate is voting on Betsy DeVos’s nomination as Secretary of Education today (February 6th).  We are so close to successfully defeating this nominee – one of the worst prospective members of one of the worst Cabinets the country has ever seen.  If you see this before the final vote happens, call your senator and request that they vote against confirming Ms. DeVos.  After that vote happens, keep on your senators to oppose the other odious nominations – and push back against the appointment of Steve Bannon to the National Security Council as well.

Weekly Charity Match #009: ACLU/CAIR

Trump’s executive order to ban Muslims from entering the country is dangerous and wrong on so many levels.  It’s immoral, it threatens Americans abroad, it will be used as another recruitment tool for ISIS, and its overly wide ban prevents even long-time non-citizen residents of the US – holders of green cards, workers’ visas, and others – from returning to the homes where they have lived and worked for years.  In many cases, his order keeps people from their families currently living legally in the US.  Not content to ignore the existing refugee crisis, Trump is actually creating more refugees with this order.

Even given his erroneous justifications, this is still badly implemented policy.  Of the four countries of which the September 11th terrorists were citizens – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Lebanon – none were included.  Trump has business interests in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE, as well as Turkey and Azerbaijan, two other Muslim-majority countries not included in the order.  This is not to suggest that the order should be extended – it should be rescinded – but rather to demonstrate that the only thing restraining Trump’s Islamophobia seems to be his own greed.

And unlike most of Trump’s reprehensible policies, this one became a crisis for thousands of people with a stroke of Trump’s pen.  So that’s why I’m starting this week’s match early, and increasing its scope.  There’s still time to donate to the Disrupt J20 legal fund as well.

This Week: ACLU and CAIR

I’ve raised money for the ACLU here before, and while I was intending to go a little longer before repeating an organization, the Muslim ban is an immediate emergency.  The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Trump on behalf of two people detained on that order, and is also helping many other people who found themselves stranded as a result of the ban.  Donate to the ACLU here.1I mentioned ACLU’s peculiarities with respect to tax deductions last time.  The legal work they’re doing here, including the lawsuit, can be supported through donations to the ACLU Foundation as well.

I am also including a second organization this week: the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  They have been on the front lines of the fight against Islamophobia for over two decades, and today they announced a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban.  They are also assisting American residents currently stranded outside the country by the ban.  Donate to CAIR here.

Due to the gravity and immediacy of this problem, I’m increasing my matching limits as well.  We’ll match the first $500 in donations to each organization.  EDIT 1/30: Another anonymous donor has contacted me with matching funds; the first $100 to each organization will be double matched, for a total of $1,200 in available matching funds this week – just forward your donation receipts to matching@pyrlogos.com.  As usual, each donation to either organization2This is an exception to the one-entry-per-week rule; donating to both organizations means two entries in the giveaway. will also count as an entry in the monthly art giveaway.

Call to Action

Call your representatives and senator – here’s a handy tool to find them – and make it clear that you oppose Trump’s anti-Muslim executive order.  Tell them the stories of legal residents of the US leaving the country and suddenly learning they couldn’t come back.  Point out that those residents have effectively been deported without due process.  Raise the moral question of our refusal to admit refugees; remind them that Anne Frank was denied a US visa that would have saved her life, and that in her case, as in thousands of others, the United States’ refusal to admit refugees was literally a death sentence.  Point out that the ban doesn’t affect the countries where Trump owns real estate.  Whatever you need to do to convince your congresspeople that this is an immoral, illegal, and unjustifiable act.

We need to fight this, and we need our Congress fighting it too.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I mentioned ACLU’s peculiarities with respect to tax deductions last time.  The legal work they’re doing here, including the lawsuit, can be supported through donations to the ACLU Foundation as well.
2. This is an exception to the one-entry-per-week rule; donating to both organizations means two entries in the giveaway.

Weekly Charity Match #008: Disrupt J20 Legal Fund

So, the inauguration happened.  Then, the Women’s Marches happened.  At least 2.5 million people, on seven continents – that movement is still in its infancy, and has a lot of growing to do (see the ongoing arguments about intersectionality), but we’ve put the Trump administration on notice, and it’s time to follow that notice up with action.

Last week: Islamic Center of Eastside

Thanks to donors Carrie E., Rebekah C., Maria E., and Eric A., we raised a total of $280 for the Islamic Center of Eastside to rebuilt their arson-damaged mosque.  Thank you, everyone!

This week: Disrupt J20 Legal Fund

Over 200 protestors were arrested at the inauguration.  Many of them will face “felony riot” charges, carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.  The Disrupt J20 Legal Fund will be helping the protestors fight these trumped-up charges.  It takes a lot of courage to risk protesting an authoritarian president in the nation’s capital, and I do not intend to leave behind the people that took that risk and found themselves in a jail cell at the end of the day.  As usual, I’ll match the first $100 in donation receipts sent to matching@pyrlogos.com.

Call to Action

The organizers of the Women’s March are launching an action campaign to follow up the marches across the world.  Continue making your voices heard.

Weekly Charity Match #007: Islamic Center of Eastside

One of the many disturbing facets of Trumpism that I haven’t yet talked about here is Islamophobia.  Trump’s insistence that Muslims are categorically dangerous to America has inspired a rash of hate crimes and bolstered the xenophobic outlook of his supporters.  This week, I want to combat that with a clear demonstration that we welcome and support our Muslim neighbors.

Last week: ProPublica

Thanks to donors Abigail W., Eric A., and their matching employers, last week we raised a total of $350 for ProPublica and its mission of independent journalism.  Thank you so much!

This week: Islamic Center of Eastside

For our next charity, I’m focusing a little closer to home than usual.  Early on the morning of January 14th, a fire devastated a mosque in Bellevue, Washington; investigators believe it was the result of arson.  The mosque, the Islamic Center of Eastside, has been vandalized repeatedly over the last six months.  The Islamic Center is now raising money to rebuild; they estimate it will take half a million dollars to fully recover from this attack.

As usual, we’ll match the first $100 donated; go to LaunchGood to donate, and forward your donation receipts to matching@pyrlogos.com.  In addition to the matching donation, each donor is also entered into the art giveaway drawing at the end of the month.

Call to Action

The Affordable Care Act is in danger – and with it, millions of Americans’ access to health care.  The Republicans have claimed to be following a “repeal and replace” plan, but seven years after the ACA was passed, they still don’t have anything even resembling a replacement plan.  Put simply, if the ACA is repealed, thousands of people will die.  That said, Congress’ recent attempts to circumvent ethics rules, which they were forced to backtrack after public outcry, shows that they will react to a sufficiently large and vocal opposition.  So: call your Congresspeople!  Bustle has some scripts you can use.

Thinking About Dragaera: Dragon

“He steals the thing, Morrolan accuses him of stealing the thing, he gets outraged.”

“Oh. Is he a Dragon or a Yendi?”

“They aren’t all that different, Vlad.”  I started to speak, but Kragar quickly said, “I should qualify that.  Yendi are like that all the time, but a Dragon on a campaign is capable of subtlety when necessary.”

Dragon is the eighth Vlad Taltos book, published in 1998.  The bulk of the action takes place early in Vlad’s career (after Taltos and before Yendi), but the interludes and epilogue take place after Yendi; the events of Dragon were in part precipitated by the conspiracy discovered in Yendi.

About dragons

The dragons of Dragaera mostly live in mountains.  Unlike typical Western-mythology dragons, they neither breathe fire nor fly, but they do have prehensile, psychically-sensitive tentacles around their necks.

About Dragons

So far in the series, I think we’ve seen more Dragons than any other Dragaeran House except the Jhereg.  Morrolan and Aliera are both Dragons, as well as Cawti’s former partner, Norathar, who is now the Dragon Heir.  Vlad’s lieutenant Kragar is a former Dragon, though he doesn’t like to talk about it much.  Sethra the Younger is also a Dragonlord; while we don’t know the House of her mentor, Sethra Lavode, her multiple stints as Warlord at least indicate a Dragonish tendency.

Dragons hold both honor and warfare in high esteem, and are eager to use the latter to prove the former.  They take insults seriously and generally respond with bloodshed, though they are not, generally, as quick to anger as Dzur.  Dragonlords seek military power rather than political power; the various intrigues in previous books have shown that most Dragons would much rather be Warlord than Emperor.

As I discussed in the post about Jhereg, perhaps the biggest difference between Dragons and Jhereg is in their opinions on what constitutes proper circumstances and methods for killing people.  Dragons are happy to lead thousands of soldiers to their deaths in battle (or to be one of said thousands of soldiers), but consider an individual assassination to be dishonorable, and killing someone for money to be anathema.  Similarly, dying in battle brings one a unique type of honor in the eyes of one’s fellow Dragons.

About Dragon

The narrative in Dragon follows three threads.  The beginning of each chapter (and the entirety of chapter 17) relate Vlad’s experience in the Battle of Baritt’s Tomb; in the tradition of war tales, he starts that story with “No shit, there I was…”  In each chapter except the last, some prompt or another triggers memories of how he ended up in that battle in the first place, and the bulk of each chapter covers those events in order from the beginning.  Three interludes plus an epilogue cover a separate sequence of events that happen much later (after the events of Yendi).  Brust’s fondness for playing around with narrative structures is clearly evident here.  But to make this synopsis comprehensible, I’ll start in order from the beginning.

Vlad has apparently been relating his memories to some sort of metal box, and in fact Vlad’s first-person narrative is directed at said “odd, shiny contraption with presumed ears at both ends” as well.  We don’t get a lot of details about who has paid Vlad to talk to the box, or what the box actually is,1That said, the hints seem to point at Sethra Lavode; I can’t think of anyone else who has both shown interest in Vlad’s life and likely has the technology to record his memories. but he’s telling the story three years later.

Morrolan has sent a message asking to hire Vlad (preferred as an alternative to his method of getting Vlad’s attention in Taltos).  Baritt has died, which Vlad saw coming, having already met his shade on the Paths of the Dead.  Baritt had a large collection of Morganti weapons; Morrolan expects theft and wants Vlad to be able to trace the stolen weapons.  Vlad inspects Baritt’s estate, but finds himself unable to enter the room full of Morganti weapons; on Kragar’s suggestion, he brings in Daymar to help tone down their effect.  In the process, Daymar casually mind-probes Vlad (to which Vlad reacts threateningly), and then suggests setting up a psychic trace for anyone entering the room.

The theft happens soon thereafter; a Dragonlord named Fornia has stolen one of the weapons with the apparent intent of provoking war with Morrolan.  Then some of Fornia’s men try to intimidate Vlad out of the situation, which of course makes him determined to put one over on Fornia however he can; the ensuing fight results in Vlad recuperating at Castle Black.  Rather than staying out of it, Vlad is now determined to see Fornia punished.

Morrolan asks Vlad to accompany him on a trip that turns out to be a visit to the Serioli.2The Serioli were also responsible for the creation of Morganti weapons, as an attempt to make war too horrible to contemplate.  As Morrolan points out, it worked – for the Serioli.  The Serioli greets the five of them – Morrolan, Vlad, Loiosh, Blackwand, and, obliquely, Spellbreaker.  Spellbreaker is someday to become a Great Weapon3“Remover of aspects of deity”, which Morrolan summarizes as “Godslayer”, but is not yet; first another Great Weapon4“Artifact in sword form that searches for an object of desire when the path is true”, which readers may recognize as having been translated more succinctly as “Pathfinder”… must be found.  The two were/are to be created together, but the Serioli can’t clarify the temporal confusion any further.  The Serioli also refers to Vlad as being of “the Old People”, or rather, of the “people from the small invisible lights”.5The implication seems to be that the Easterners – Vlad’s race – originally came from a distant star, and are an older race than either the Dragaerans or the Serioli.  The brief discussion of Great Weapon history/future seems to be all that Morrolan came for, and the three (or five) of them return to Castle Black.

Vlad reports to Captain Cropper’s company within Morrolan’s army, assembling beneath Castle Black.  He has a bit of trouble adjusting to military standards of deference.  He meets his Dragon squadmates – Virt, Napper, Aelburr, and their corporal, Rascha – and begins learning the routines.  Vlad has to get used to drum calls, maneuvers, and the other routines of army life.  He mentions to Virt that he’s not used to being treated civilly by Dragons, having introduced himself as a Jhereg; Virt says “it’s taken some effort” and points out that they’re all going to be relying on each other to not get each other killed.  Vlad’s squadmates’ reasons for volunteering in the army range from personal to professional, but Virt is surprised to learn that Vlad’s reason is a personal grudge against the opposing commander.  Between that and his Jhereg title, they are starting to understand that he’s an unusual soldier.

They move out the next day, and of course it starts raining.  While there are a lot of military practices Vlad never quite takes to, complaining comes naturally.  The weather, the food, the marching, the fact that the Captain gets a horse6Vlad mentions that he hasn’t seen much of horses before; I suppose that’s one part of the taltos legend that doesn’t relate to Vlad., the tedium of guard duty, on and on.  Eventually the army reaches a position they intend to hold, and Vlad is asked by Morrolan and Cropper to help delay the attack they expect in the morning.  Vlad sneaks into the enemy camp and steals eleven of their banners.

The enemy attack is indeed delayed, and Vlad starts planning ways to get out of the battle – but he realizes he can’t run while Virt is watching.  He gets wounded in the battle, but earns some respect from his squadmates in the process; not long after he’s stitched up, the army is on the move again.  Eventually they get a moment to breathe and hold services for the soldiers who died in the battle, whose bodies will be sent to Deathsgate Falls.

A few days of marching and waiting later, Vlad discusses the distinction between Dragon and Jhereg notions of killing with Virt.  Vlad thinks Dragon killing is too impersonal, done in bulk.  Virt notes that Jheregs have people killed for business, and that fighting over control of a brothel or over a barony is just a difference of scale.  Vlad eventually understands that a Dragon’s “enjoyment” of war isn’t all that different than Vlad’s enjoyment of seeing the various parts of an assassination plan come together well.

Another imminent battle means another mission, and Vlad takes the rest of his squad with him to torch the enemy’s supply wagons.  In the next morning’s battle, Vlad’s squad survives multiple assaults with only a couple minor injuries.  While Vlad felt like he understood the context of the army’s earlier actions, he has begun to wonder what they’re doing, and the narrative flashes forward to a conversation he has with Sethra Lavode about it; we see another viewpoint of war and assassination being similar in terms of how attention to detail and keeping things simple helps you succeed.  On the other hand, Vlad notes that running an army and running an Organization are still fairly different.

The final battle approaches, and Morrolan describes Vlad’s last task: to take the stolen sword from Fornia during the battle.  Dragon honor holds that taking the sword during the battle is appropriate, while thievery is not.  Vlad is confused and annoyed by the seemingly arbitrary difficulties being forced upon him.  During the battle, Vlad’s military experience grows, as he has to participate in multiple charges, and learns that the time he has spent with his comrades makes it very difficult to abandon them in battle.  Suddenly, Vlad is in bed; it turns out that he took a spell to the back and woke up a couple days later.  The battle is still going on, but Vlad is out of it for the time being.  He never quite recovers the full memory.

Vlad goes for a walk the night before the battle concludes, and wonders whether the only difference between himself and a Dragonlord like Morrolan is the amount of power they are able to wield – and what that meant about the rank-and-file Dragons like his squadmates.  He is unsatisfied with his answers, or Loiosh’s answer that Dragons are the way they are because they can’t help it.  He also encounters the Necromancer, in what seems to be a dream state (as Loiosh didn’t see her at all), and she heals him somewhat.

Late in the battle, Vlad is finally able to leave his unit to seek out Fornia directly.  This is the part of the story that is being told in the first few paragraphs of each chapter, before memory takes him back into the rest of the story.  He approaches Fornia, and Daymar arrives (through or around Fornia’s teleport block).  Vlad surrenders to avoid being killed, trusting in Dragon honor; meanwhile, Daymar mind-probes Fornia at Vlad’s request and as a result Vlad understands Fornia’s plan: to draw Morrolan into single combat in order to draw out the Great Weapon he believes is hiding within the sword he stole.

Morrolan’s arrival on the scene, while somewhat part of Fornia’s plan, still throws everything into chaos.  Fornia fails to notice Vlad’s approach from behind until too late, and Vlad’s strike (with one of his dead squadmates’ swords, not at all his usual weapon) takes off both of Fornia’s hands.  The battle is effectively over at that point, though Vlad does run away from Fornia’s honor guard – and meets up with Sethra Lavode in the process, who helpfully tells him that he should have run earlier when it would have done any good.  She asks Vlad whether he understands Dragons any better than he did before; he says no, but she disagrees.  After the dead and the living are honored, Vlad returns home.

Tomorrow I’d go back to making crime; it was so much kinder than war.

The interludes and epilogue are set years later.  Sethra the Younger had recovered the sword after Vlad disarmed Fornia, and wants to exchange it for Kieron’s Greatsword, held by Aliera.  She asks Vlad to act as go-between for the negotiations, and while he is reluctant at first, Cawti convinces him to do so for Aliera’s sake.  Aliera believes the Great Weapon has been finding its way to her, and to deny it would be to invite further trouble.  She and Sethra meet at Vlad’s home, where her reaction to Sethra’s request for the sword of Kieron is “come take it”.  Between scenes, Morrolan breaks up the ensuing fight (at Vlad’s urgent, psychic request), also causing Pathfinder to be released from the sword Sethra bought.  Aliera takes up Pathfinder, leaves Kieron’s broadsword by Sethra’s unconscious body, and Vlad finally puts the entire incident behind him after one more session with the weird metal box.

The Dragon Thesis

When discussing Jhereg, I described the Jhereg and Dragon Houses – and their theses – as being opposed over the question of the appropriate methods and motivations for killing others.  Dragon returns to that topic, again by contrast with the Jhereg, but this time we see much more of the Dragon point of view.

For methods, warfare is okay but assassination is not.  Single combat, face to face with both combatants armed and ready, is fine; attacking someone whose guard is down is simply not done.  Even in the middle of battle, there are niceties to be observed; Napper objects to Vlad’s plan to attack Fornia’s group from behind without so much as a yell to warn them.

As for motivations, Dragons kill for honor, or to right a wrong; they also kill for simple glory, though at a larger scale than the Dzur do, and the glory they attain is still limited and governed by Dragon notions of the propriety of their killing.  The war is precipitated, more or less deliberately, by both Fornia’s theft of the proto-Great Weapon, and by his understanding that a public accusation of theft would be an insult that must be answered with warfare.  That said, Morrolan’s and Sethra’s ultimate motivations are more far-reaching – the goal they seek to attain with war is, in fact, peace, and most Dragons will claim to have similarly lofty ideals underpinning their martial nature.

The Dragon notion of honor in combat is, to some extent, performative.  Sethra and Morrolan need to defeat Fornia not only to recover the sword he stole, but also to make a very public point to other Dragonlords contemplating opposing them.  At the same time, Dragons restrain their conduct during war – e.g. not abusing prisoners – not only as a point of honor but also because keeping those conventions intact ensures they will benefit from them as well if their situations are ever reversed.  Dragon duels of honor are similarly about demonstrating your virtue not only to your opponent but also to Dragaeran society as a whole.

Antithesis

The antithesis to the Dragon point of view is again the Jhereg approach.  Vlad argues with Morrolan several times over more expedient ways to recover the sword and prevent or end the war; Vlad of course prefers the theft and/or assassination approaches for both speed and efficiency, but Morrolan’s Dragon honor requires that he instead spend hundreds if not thousands of lives to resolve the issue.  As in Jhereg, Vlad is constrained by Morrolan’s sense of honor, this time because he is acting as a subordinate in Morrolan’s army, but he chafes at the restriction constantly.

Jhereg violence is also performative, to some extent.  Assassinations aren’t done as a warning to the victim – barring revivification, it’s a little late for such a warning to be useful.  Rather, the Jhereg murders are carried out as a signal to others that the person ordering the killing is not to be trifled with.  The Jhereg also adhere to their own code, which forbids killing a target in their own home, for much the same reason as Dragons – once you break that rule, others may not feel compelled to follow it either, and suddenly you’re not safe in your own home anymore.

Synthesis

The synthesis between the Jhereg and Dragon viewpoints takes place in several ways.  The methods of the two Houses are combined through Vlad’s nighttime excursions to sabotage the enemy; Vlad uses the skills he has honed as an assassin, but instead of murdering his enemies, he inconveniences them and buys his own army a few crucial hours.  The story’s main climax, during which Fornia is defeated and the sword recovered, is accomplished through Vlad’s misdirection and his backstab of Ori combined with Morrolan’s martial prowess, capped off with Vlad using a Dragon’s broadsword in a very un-Dragonlike way.

The motivations behind the killing are also somewhat blended; while the war is prosecuted by Dragons under the constraints of Dragon honor, it is precipitated by a theft from the house of a recently-dead Dragonlord – an act so un-Dragonlike that to accuse a Dragon of it is itself a sufficient pretext for war.  Fornia’s Jhereglike behavior is itself motivated by a desire for power, but that is a motivation common to both Houses.

A more abstract synthesis of viewpoint is also achieved throughout the story as Vlad comes to better understand how Dragons approach war.  During his conversations with Sethra about the theory of warfare and the management of entire armies, Vlad compares the preparation and planning involved in a war to that required in an assassination, and sees more similarities than differences.  As part of a squad in Morrolan’s army, Vlad experiences the boots-on-the-ground perspective of battle, and as he holds his own in the line of battle, he comes to be accepted by his Dragon squadmates.  He develops respect for them in turn, and that respect and understanding motivates more Dragonlike behavior from him, to the point that he becomes extremely reluctant to leave them in the middle of battle, despite having originally planned to bug out at the first opportunity.

Vlad is also reluctant to admit that he’s learned anything, in a conversation with Aliera right after the battle:

“…But tell me: Do you understand us a little better now than you did when you signed up?”

“No.”

“I think you do,” she said.

I didn’t answer, and presently she walked away.  At least she didn’t salute.

Memory and Honor

Memory is also a major theme in Dragon.7As obvious statements go, this one ranks just below “This book features members of the House of the Dragon” – Chapter 1 is titled “Memory Is Like A Watchacallit”.  As in Orca, the narration points to a context for Vlad telling the story; in this case, he is relating it to some kind of device meant for preserving his memories by recording his story.8We’ll get a little more context on this when we discuss Issola next…  Accordingly, Vlad’s narration jumps around the sequence of events – each of the first sixteen chapters starts with him describing the climax of the Battle of Baritt’s Tomb before getting diverted, by some memory or another, back into the sequence of events that lead into the battle.  Vlad remembers some things he had previously forgotten (including a detail about his trip to the Paths of the Dead; which detail, he does not say); he forgets other things, as the chaos of the battle and the wounds he takes leave him with gaps in his memory on multiple occasions.

The theme of memory isn’t just here to flavor the text and make the narrative structure more interesting.  Memory is tightly tied into the idea of honor that the Dragons hold so dear.  Your personal honor is about how you are known and remembered, both in life and in death.  It is about your peers remembering the honorable things you have done – and about there being no dishonorable acts to remember, either.  Dragaerans, living some two to three millennia, have long memories, and a stain on your honor may take hundreds or even thousands of years to repair.  And certain Dragaerans have even longer memories than that; the undead Sethra Lavode is known to have lived for at least ten thousand years, and likely much longer, and one of her greatest advantages as a military commander is her long memory of battles and wars past.

Vlad’s actions during the war will be remembered by the Dragons he served with; to them, that defines his honor.  This is even more true for the Dragons that fell in battle, whether their souls survived or not; the memory of their actions is all that is left, and each Dragon strives to ensure that they will be remembered well.

Other interesting notes

  • “Javelin shooters” – i.e. bows, using fletched “javelins” that we would recognize as arrows – seem to be a somewhat esoteric technology on Dragaera.  At least, Vlad doesn’t recognize them by name, and has to have the concept explained to him.  This is an interesting departure from the usual fantasy milieu, where the bow and arrow is nearly as ubiquitous a weapon as the sword.
  • During his recovery from the spell injury, Vlad asks whether there was a little girl on the battlefield.  His squadmates say no, so apparently Vlad was the only person who saw Devera there.
  • Baritt’s death was an assassination, carried out by Laris and ordered by the Sorceress in Green, after he broke with the other conspirators in the conspiracy that Vlad pulled apart in Yendi.
  • We now understand better Sethra’s insistence on Vlad’s naming the artifact he took from Loraan – it will be a Great Weapon someday.  Ironically, “Spellbreaker” won’t be its eventual name – but it’s still accurate, for the moment.

Next time

In Issola, we’ll encounter the second major turning point in Vlad’s arc, as well as a significant amount of cosmological exposition…

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. That said, the hints seem to point at Sethra Lavode; I can’t think of anyone else who has both shown interest in Vlad’s life and likely has the technology to record his memories.
2. The Serioli were also responsible for the creation of Morganti weapons, as an attempt to make war too horrible to contemplate.  As Morrolan points out, it worked – for the Serioli.
3. “Remover of aspects of deity”, which Morrolan summarizes as “Godslayer”
4. “Artifact in sword form that searches for an object of desire when the path is true”, which readers may recognize as having been translated more succinctly as “Pathfinder”…
5. The implication seems to be that the Easterners – Vlad’s race – originally came from a distant star, and are an older race than either the Dragaerans or the Serioli.
6. Vlad mentions that he hasn’t seen much of horses before; I suppose that’s one part of the taltos legend that doesn’t relate to Vlad.
7. As obvious statements go, this one ranks just below “This book features members of the House of the Dragon” – Chapter 1 is titled “Memory Is Like A Watchacallit”.
8. We’ll get a little more context on this when we discuss Issola next…

Weekly Charity Match #006: ProPublica

The first few days of the 115th Congress include an attempt to dismantle the House’s ethics office, Republicans trying to rush through confirmation on Trump’s Cabinet nominees before their ethics investigations and background checks are completed, and the long-expected effort to revoke the health insurance of millions of Americans.  It’s hard to keep on top of it all, especially since most corporate media has no interest in criticizing the Trump regime in any depth, so this week’s non-profit is deeply necessary.

More on that after we review our impact from 2016.  And read on to the end to learn about the new donation incentive: a monthly art giveaway!

Year Five Weeks In Review

Last week’s donation from Rebekah C. plus our match resulted in $50 donated to NARAL.  That brings us to a total of $1,475 raised for five charities in November and December last year!  Thank you to everyone who has donated so far.

If we can do that in five weeks, what can we do with the fifty-one weeks left this year?  I’m going to be ambitious and set a goal of $20,000 raised through the Weekly Charity Match this year.  Let’s get started!

This Week: ProPublica

From their website:

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.

They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them.

When you donate to ProPublica this week, send your donation receipt to matching@pyrlogos.com, and we’ll match the first $100 in donations.

New: Monthly Art Giveaway!

To further incentivize donations, it’s time for me to pull out my art supplies again… In addition to the matching program, every forwarded donation receipt, regardless of the amount1Limit one entry per person per week; you don’t need to split your donation up into multiple smaller donations just to generate more receipts., will count as an entry into a monthly art giveaway.  I’ll draw a custom portrait for a randomly drawn donor, and mail them the original art.  (I’ll post a scan here too, unless the donor asks I do otherwise.)

Call to Action

We’ve seen recently that the combined voices of many can sway Congress’s decisions, simply by letting them know that we’re paying attention.  This week, via @derekcnel on Twitter, a request to call your Senator and ask them to allow the ethics review process to continue:

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Limit one entry per person per week; you don’t need to split your donation up into multiple smaller donations just to generate more receipts.

Weekly Charity Match returns January 9th

While I liked the “Matching Monday” name (because Alliteration is Awesome!), it’s not just a Monday project; donors have contributed on every day of the week, and I usually make my matching donation sometime over the weekend.  So, the “Matching Monday” series will be called “Weekly Charity Match” going forward.

And while I’d hoped that the holiday vacation would be somewhat refreshing, even with the travel involved, I hadn’t counted on both of my kids catching various illnesses, and one of them spending nearly the entire 11-day trip sick.  So I’m picking this project up again next week.  (I am, of course, still accepting donation receipts for NARAL.)

Finally, I’ll be announcing a new donation incentive next Monday as well.  Stay tuned!

Matching Monday: Off for the Holidays

Thus far, I have not received any donation receipts for NARAL, which has me questioning the future of Matching Monday just a bit.

I don’t want to lose momentum on this project.  I also don’t want to get frustrated with it.  The holidays are an expensive time of year between gifts, travel, and the various minor expenses of winter; they’re also a busy time for much the same reason.

We’ll be back on January 2nd with another charity to support, and during the break I’ll still continue collecting donation receipts for NARAL; even if I have nothing to match I plan to make a donation to them anyway.  But I’d much prefer to have my match maxed out again.

I’m also going to be thinking about ways to improve the project; if you have any thoughts, feel free to comment!

Happy holidays, everyone, and I hope what’s left of the year is an improvement on what we’ve seen of it so far.

Matching Monday #005: NARAL

It’s been a rough week for me personally, in addition to the ongoing sociopolitical problems we face.  A lot of my motivation in writing this at the moment is simply wanting to live up to the commitment I made of doing one of these posts every week.  Five weeks in, and I’m sure many if not most of us are already tiring of the fight.  A wise lady on one of my favorite blogs1Seriously, Making Light is one of the only places on the Internet where the usual “don’t read the comments” advice for high-readership blogs doesn’t apply, thanks to an invested community and careful, compassionate moderating. has some advice on how to keep up the resistance without burning ourselves out.

(And for those of you who were following my Dragaera posts and wondering what happened to them – my post on Dragon is nearly complete.  Should have it up later this week.)

Last Week: ACLU

Thanks to Maria E., David B., and Eric A., we donated a total of $355 to the ACLU.  Thank you, everyone!

This Week: NARAL

With new anti-choice legislation being pushed in Indiana, Ohio, and Texas, it is clear that opponents of women’s reproductive freedom have been emboldened by Trump’s victory just like other factions of his supporters.  NARAL Pro-Choice America is on the front lines of the fight to allow women to have control over their bodies.  Like the ACLU last week, NARAL participates in lobbying efforts as well as public outreach, so while donations to NARAL itself are not tax-deductible, donations to the NARAL Foundation are.  In spite of that, this week I intend to make my matching donation to NARAL itself since so much of the battle over abortion rights is still being fought in state legislatures across the company; I’ll still include donations to either entity in the amount I match (up to $100 as usual).

NARAL will accept donations in honor of others, so this week I’m recommending we “honor” Rep. Tom Price, consistent anti-choice legislator and Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services.  You can have a notification of your contribution sent to him at:

Congressman Tom Price
85-C Mill Street, Suite 300
Roswell, GA 30075

And, as always, forward your email donation receipts to matching@pyrlogos.com to have them counted!

Call to Action

Last week, Shaun King announced the Injustice Boycott, aimed at pressuring the cities of New York and San Francisco to address their racial injustice issues, and at defunding the Dakota Access Pipeline and divesting from companies that support it.  Read the announcement and join the boycott; while the boycotts in NY and SF are planned to start on January 17th, they are working on defunding DAPL immediately, and it’s easy to help out.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Seriously, Making Light is one of the only places on the Internet where the usual “don’t read the comments” advice for high-readership blogs doesn’t apply, thanks to an invested community and careful, compassionate moderating.