Welcome, Again, to Elliott RWI!

In my first post to this webspace, I noted a desire for this website to do a number of things: host research projects, connect to writing samples, offer course materials, and maintain a professional portfolio. It is doing that, but I thought I might make it a bit easier to navigate. (There is a navigation menu at the top of the page, but not everyone seems to find it amenable to use.) So, if you are looking for

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      • DeVry University materials, click here
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I am sure some updates will occur as matters progress. What appears above should make things easier to handle in the meantime, however.

Elliott RWI Logo 1

Updated 9 December 2019.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 119: Ship of Magic, Chapter 18

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series soon.


The following chapter, “Malta,” begins with the title character rehearsing a grievance against Davad Restart. Her desire to attend a soiree in style thwarted initially, she inveigles her way into the beginnings of scandalous behavior to prepare for the event on her own. That she knows she needs to avoid the eyes of her mother and grandmother marks her knowledge of her error as she proceeds to the formal ball, recalling earlier instances of the event.

https://www.gov.mt/en/About%20Malta/PublishingImages/flag.jpg
Not quite what is meant…maybe?
Image from the official website of Malta, used for commentary

When she arrives, she marks her contemporaries in attendance and arriving, including a friend of hers, Delo Trell. The latter is still attired as a child; Malta’s appearance in a gown cut for a grown woman causes others to mistake her for a different sort of person entirely. Restart, however, recognizes her and swiftly bundles her back to the Vestrit home so as to quash further scandal. She attempts to rebuke him, to no avail, and the pair are greeted by an icy Ronica. Dramatic outbursts ensue, and Malta finds herself bundled off to bed, sulking as she ponders Kyle’s responses to come and the delicious feeling of being seen by a young man.

I re-read the present chapter as the father of a young daughter who is not at the age Malta is but who is quite engaged in proclaiming herself “a big girl” and insisting on doing things for herself and by herself–including attire, coiffure, and makeup. I am not as versed in such things as I could be (or perhaps should be), but I do know that I was somewhat taken aback when she started insisting on makeup, and I can imagine that, as my daughter gets older, she will have some of the same kinds of longings–for drama, for grace, for relief from the sedately respectable routine of her parents’ lives–without the hard-won understanding that indulging them leads to various forms of trouble, just as Malta. Again, it is an affective reading, but, again, I find I cannot help but read thus.

Too, as I reread, I find myself thinking of Hobb’s penchant for emblematic names in the Realm of the Elderlings novels, and linking the name of Malta the character to that of the country. There is certainly a mercantile connection; Malta the character is a daughter of a seagoing mercantile family, while the country, owing to its geography, was long a center of maritime trade. Too, the country has a deep history, something that serves as foreshadowing for Malta’s involvement in the events of the novels yet to come.

This is a re-read, after all. I have seen what’s coming, and a character who gets a chapter to herself is already marked as one who will be important later on…

Help me move ahead into the new month?

Confidence

Had I more confidence
I would not do so well now as I do
Hiding away from the fear of the world
While crowns are passed around by people
Who refuse to mask themselves in the new version of a masque described before
In the color of blood
And many of whom are in many other circumstances
Happy to hide under hoods

Study: Sneezes spread germs farther than we knew - Chicago Tribune
Say it, don’t spray it
Image from the Chicago Tribune, used for commentary

I would instead chafe at not being able to
Do some specific, certain things
That I should have done when I was younger but did not do so much
Rather than what rubs me raw now
Something for which no ground talc offers ease
But only urges on the festering cancer
Malignant within me
And other white powders would be of no avail
I sniffle enough and too much
My nose ever full of the spreading miasma
No sudden convulsion will clear
As it calls to me attention I am happy not to have

Can I get some help buying tissues?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 118: Ship of Magic, Chapter 17

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The next chapter, “Kennit’s Whore,” begins with the Marietta pulling into port in Divvytown, Sorcor reporting to Kennit the crew’s activities and decisions since liberating several slaveships. Kennit reminds Sorcor that other pirate crews may not be so sanguine about their escapades. The disposition of crews and ships under Kennit’s overall command receives some attention, and Kennit goes ashore to sell his captured cargo as a lot.

The eponymous, about whom consensus seems clear
Etta by CyanideMilkshake on DeviantArt, image used for commentary

Negotiations proceed, with a local broker making a ploy towards an enduring business arrangement. There is a tacit offer of marriage to his daughters to secure it; Kennit does not accept it, but he does make an agreement, as he explains to Sorcor afterward before sending him back to the Marietta and heading for his preferred brothel. His wizardwood charm offers him some warning as he proceeds, and he finds a waiting trap for him when he arrives. Fortunately for Kennit, he is able to spring the trap, if with difficulty; Etta aids him against his attackers, and he takes her from the brothel as his crew arrives to support him, springing to his orders to gather in their crew from the rest of the town.

The chapter is relatively brief and focused. For all that, it serves to deepen the impression of Kennit as a mercenary, unpleasant person–not unlike Regal in the Six Duchies in outlook, though much more effective (and much more closely examined, to be sure, which the third-person narrative permits far more than a first-person). His gestures are to serve his own ends, to build loyalty and acclaim rather than simply to do good, and I find myself in mind of many people I suspect of doing the same thing. (No, I am not going to name names. I have to live here.)

It is only as I reread the chapter for this project that I realize or recall a pun. Kennit’s ship is named the Marietta. He seems to have, for many intents, married Etta. I am ashamed that it only strikes me now–but strike me, it does, and I am reminded of Hobb’s stance on specificity of wording, as presented, as well as her penchant for meaningful, emblematic names in the Six Duchies novels. It should be no surprise to see such a pun in place. Especially for me.

Reader, can you spare a nickel, even?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 117: Ship of Magic, Chapter 16

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The succeeding chapter, “New Roles,” opens with Althea–masquerading as “Athel” aboard the slaughter-ship Reaper–settling into her role as a ship’s boy. The adjustments she has been making are rehearsed as she sets about her assigned tasks. By chance, Brashen is serving aboard the same ship, and the two of them confer briefly; it is all that her guise as a ship’s boy will allow.

Image
This looks about right.
Brashen and Althea from Liveship Traders by Jenny Slife on Twitter, image used for commentary

Below deck, Althea considers her situation and the fact that Kyle had been correct to call her spoiled before. She ruminates on the decisions that had led her to that point, as well as on the help she had had in reaching it. Brashen, meanwhile, considers his own circumstances; he is serving as second mate on the Reaper, the work of which ship he reviews in his mind. Althea’s presence on the ship weighs on his mind, however, and he asks after “Athel” when a sailor comes to him for medicine. What he learns is some comfort to him.

Aboard the Vivacia, Wintrow struggles with the rigging. He does have some appreciation for the seacraft involved, though, and he finds himself conferring with Mild again. The conversation turns to the ship’s intended function as a slaveship, which sickens Wintrow. Mild makes clear that Wintrow has to regard Kyle as captain and not father while aboard, and their conversation leaves him somewhat eased.

The Reaper pulls in to her first port for work, and “Athel” is tasked with assisting the skinners, whose numbers are down due to infighting. It is more a harvest than a hunt, and the bloody, gory work sweeps “Athel” up in it as it happens again and again over successive days. Brashen warns her against calling attention to herself. She also starts at a strange rock formation that looks like a dragon mired in stone; the flight of the Six Duchies dragons is mentioned in passing.

Aboard the Vivacia, Wintrow confers with the ship. She shows him Ephron Vestrit’s memories of their present port of call, and he shows her an appreciation for beauty and a joy in it that she had not understood from his forebears. When he goes ashore in his sailor’s getup, he finds himself in trouble with locals and chivvied back to where visitors are expected to be. When he is returned thence, shirtless, he finds himself facing a rigged game; he refuses to participate in it, prompting Mild to step up in his place. Mild is injured, and Wintrow is held to blame.

A few things come to mind regarding the present chapter. The first is Althea’s disguise. I put the assumed name in quotations because it is a guise, one that has to be performed continuously but one that remains still an assumed identity rather than an embodied one; Althea is not a trans man but an actress in a male role. If I am offending in the discussion, it is through ignorance; I will amend it if needed, but I think the distinction is one that needs to be made. And, irrespective of punctuation practices, I do mark that the assumed name reads as “noble” or “prince” for all that it is held by a putatively humble ship’s boy.

Wintrow’s abortive softening into sailing life is another thing that stands out. In the present chapter, he draws closer to being part of the Vivacia‘s crew in fact, not only in name. But he cannot leave behind a part of his life that is increasingly behind him, and it gets him into trouble. Part of me looks at the circumstance as a warning against recreation; had Wintrow stayed aboard ship or close to it, even to read, he would have been in better shape. He did not, though–and perhaps could not, in the event and if I allow myself to think of a character as a person. I ought not, though, as I well know.

Finally, at least for the present, the link back to the Six Duchies was not unwelcome. It is no secret, of course, that the Farseer and Liveship Traders novels exist in the same milieu; the Farseer books mention Bingtown, and there has been mention of the Duchies and the Red-Ship War in the present novel previously. But it is good to see the more explicit joining of the two in the present chapter; the comments made near the stone dragon help to fix the order of events and relative time between the series. And while it does not necessarily help address some things I’ve commented on before, it does, at least point towards a connection that could run deeper than then anticipated.

Reader, can you spare a dime?

A Rumination on Cursive

As I was writing in my journal a few days back, I found myself musing on the pen-hand I use to do so. Part of why I keep the journal is to give myself something like consistent practice with the physical act of writing (I get quite enough of typing, as I think is clear enough), though I know many would say that the way I write has never been good and is not getting much better, if it is at all. Still, I spend more time doing it than a great many people do, so it’s not an issue of practice so much as it is of other things. (Incompetence is a likely candidate.)

Journal and Pen
Yep, this again.
The picture is still mine.

Thinking on it, though, I remembered or realized or recognized that “cursive” is not a single thing. There’s a version in HTML coding with which I’m familiar, for one thing:

𝒜 ℬ 𝒞 𝒟 ℰ ℱ 𝒢 ℋ ℐ 𝒥 𝒦 ℒ ℳ 𝒩 𝒪 𝒫 𝒬 ℛ 𝒮 𝒯 𝒰 𝒱 𝒲 𝒳 𝒴 𝒵
𝒶 𝒷 𝒸 𝒹 ℯ 𝒻 ℊ 𝒽 𝒾 𝒿 𝓀 𝓁 𝓂 𝓃 ℴ 𝓅 𝓆 𝓇 𝓈 𝓉 𝓊 𝓋 𝓌 𝓍 𝓎 𝓏

It’s not the same that I “learned” in school, to be sure. That was something between Zaner-Bloser, Palmer, and D’Nealian, as memory serves. (For the record, I think the last is the closest to what I did not learn well.)

An example of Zaner-Bloser cursive taken from Wikipedia and which I am told is public domain
An example of Palmer cursive taken from Wikipedia and which I am told is also public domain
An example of D’Nealian cursive taken from Wikipedia and which is used under a Creative Commons license from Andrew Buck

None of them is the way I write now, though. My A and my T are perhaps the easiest examples; I write an A that an old girlfriend used, and I borrow my T from that Tolkien uses. And in the latter, I am reminded most strongly of the ways in which our backgrounds shape us, even in things as seemingly insignificant as what form of a character we use to represent some set of sounds.

It is because we are shaped in such ways that curricular decisions–and teaching cursive in schools, which I still expect my daughter will face in a few years, is a curricular decision–matter, and all such decisions are inherently political in the sense that they emerge from and tend to reinforce the structures and beliefs of particular groups of people. (Yes, this is often partisan as US politics understands the term, but it is not exclusively so.) To follow the example, whether cursive is taught in the classroom or not is a political decision; having it indicates a belief by the school’s governing body or bodies that it is worth spending instructional time on, which means there are other things which are not given that time, but not having it suggests that the school’s governing body or bodies believe it is not worth the time, which, in turn, can bespeak an orientation towards other forms of knowledge or an expectation that the students’ homes will teach them such things–and that has implications about those homes that can be followed but too often are not.

More–and I speak from my experience in this–such things often get used as short-hand for assessing the worth of a person. Like all “mannerly” things, cursive gets used to determine in- and out-groups (making it once again political in that it helps determine who “belongs” where and with whom), the form of the letters being used to justify (not) reading the words that they form. I well understand the demands of grading; I did enough of it in thirteen years of teaching. I know that, given course loads and class sizes, shortcuts become more and more inviting. I also know that untangling writing is a demanding task; I am a medievalist, after all, and I have the sensation that many who complain of my pen-hand would have some sort of conniption to see what some of the scribes I’ve seen left behind on the page. But I also know that the ability to think through a thing and explain it well is a different skill-set than calligraphy, and I know that telling a convincing story has damned little to do with manual dexterity, and many, many brilliant people have been excluded for dismissive, elitist reasons such as using the wrong letter Z.

Hell, I’ve had pieces win awards and get me paid that earned failing grades when I turned them in in my poor pen-hand.

This is not to say I am against teaching cursive, or any particular form of cursive, in schools. I am against teaching it without thinking about and having a damned good answer for why it’s done–and “because that’s how I had it” isn’t good enough; we’re supposed to be trying to make things better for the kids now, and they can’t be better if they stay the same. It’s an art, and the arts should be taught in school–but it is also the case that there is only so much instructional time available, and including a thing necessarily excludes others, so there ought to be good reason why the one is kept and the other discarded.

I’m not prepared to venture into that particular question at the moment; I expect I’ll have other opportunities. And I expect that as my daughter gets further into schooling–assuming such things continue to exist–I’ll have more subjects to consider. I’ve already been struck by the differences in our experiences, my daughter’s and mine, and I think she has generally gotten the better ones (barring the global pandemic, clearly). For now, though, I have some more that I need to write.

Pens could be cheaper; help me buy some more?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 116: Ship of Magic, Chapter 15

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The following chapter, “Negotiations,” begins with Torg taunting Wintrow with the Vivacia‘s itinerary. Wintrow considers his current situation as he works on the task assigned him. After Torg stalks off, Wintrow and a young crewman, Mild, talk, with Wintrow soon offending the other through his priestly approach; Mild upbraids him for acting like the deck is a monastery, like his sailor’s self is a monk yet. And the ship speaks to him as he considers matters further, relaying the crew’s discontent and an anecdote about a departed crewman.

natalia_davinci
Pretty boy…for now.
Wintrow Vestrit by @natalia_davinci on Gramho, used for commentary

That night, Althea calls upon the ship again and speaks to Wintrow. They agree to hold Kyle to his promise about the Vivacia, though Wintrow voices his doubts that Kyle will follow through on his promise. She bids him trust the ship, though the ship’s treatment of Torg gives her some doubt.

At the Vestrit home, Ronica awaits a visitor, musing on Rache until the visitor arrives. Said visitor is a Rain Wild Trader, whom Ronica welcomes with an old ritual. They confer together for a time, the relationships between the two groups of Traders receiving some explication. Then they come to business, the expected payment on the Vivacia; the Vestrits are short, and Ronica offers a compromise. The Rain Wild Trader, a Festrew, invokes the familial form of the debt, which Ronica side-steps based on the family’s current situation. They dicker for a bit, and they strike a deal, though the looming specter of a marriage up the Rain Wild River remains present between them.

Meanwhile, Keffria and Kyle lay together. They confer about Malta again, and about Wintrow, and Kyle insults her. He manages, somehow, to convince her to allow herself to be assuaged, and they return to sleep.

Ronica, however, remains awake, and Althea calls upon her in the night. She asks only if Ronica remembers Kyle’s oath; Ronica avers that she does, and Althea vanishes into the night. And all the while, the serpents following Maulkin press on to an unclear goal.

Leaving aside the hazing Wintrow undergoes and what is either his failure to understand his current situation or his laudable assertion of his own identity, the chapter’s focus on the entanglement of family and finance for the Vestrits is an interesting point. There is a certain delicious irony in Althea appearing to Ronica after the matter of the Rain Wild Traders is concluded, and Althea’s myopia in pursuing her own goals for the Vivacia even as the ship’s cost is not yet met stands out. What comes across, both from Althea and from Keffria not meeting the Festrews, is that Ronica has not trusted her daughters, not really, with much of what they need to know to run the family business as one. Some small part of Kyle’s complaint is justified; he has not been told things that he probably should know. (That does not mean he would handle the knowledge well, however.) But whether that is for the best…and it certainly does not justify his actions.

I can still use your help!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 115: Ship of Magic, Chapter 14

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The next chapter, “Family Matters,” opens with Kennit and Sorcor taking their captured slaveship, the Fortune, into port with a crew largely taken from the former slaves. When they are in port, Kennit reviews the charts from the captured ship as he lets it be known that he is taking offers on her. The ship’s status is rehearsed; it shows the stains of its service, and Kennit is struck by the condition of the former slaves as he tours it. The assigned captain, Rafo, notes the likely histories of the former slaves, and they misinterpret the reflexive eye-watering as tears shed for their condition.

The Print that Changed the World: The Description of the Slave ...
Something like this, perhaps, to great shame?
The Brookes diagram, on the Lafayette College website, used for commentary

When Kennit goes ashore, he finds his crew strangely eager. He also finds himself the center of an impromptu celebration, lauded as a savior by the freed people and the port town. He takes the chance to expand his influence, effectively bringing the town under his willing command. His empire has begun to form.

In Bingtow, Kyle and Keffria dine in advance of his shipping out. She asks to see Wintrow again, but is denied. Althea has still not returned to the Vestrit home, and Kyle is convinced she will return penniless; he presses Keffira to take her in hand when she does. He also presses for heartless economic decisions about family holdings, and their daughter, Malta, interrupts with questions about preparations for an upcoming social event. Keffria protests her suggestions, but Kyle sides with his daughter against her mother. When, afterward, Keffria voices her objections to Kyle’s permissions, he rebukes her angrily.

After Kyle storms off, Keffria muses on the changes in their relationship. Her reverie is broken by Ronica coming in. They confer about Kyle, Ronica casting aspersion on the idea of the Vivacia becoming a slaveship, rehearsing what she has learned of the conditions in them. She also notes the shifts to local government that have occurred, with new interests beginning to have a sizable voice. The threat to the Rain Wild River and the Traders upon it is also noted, and Keffria realizes that Kyle’s ignorance of Trader matters is a threat to them all.

Hobb goes to great pains to depict the evils of slavery in the chapter, both among the pirates and in Bingtown. She also goes to some pains to note the dehumanizing aspects of enslaving people, emphasizing that the system is destructive for all involved in it (though clearly more so for the people put into bondage than for those who put them into it). Keffira serves as an embodiment of the consumer who benefits from slave labor, able to justify it only insofar as she is able to avoid thinking about the practice. And, like many who are now in similar situations, she is unable to divest herself of entanglement in a corrupt system, certainly at a single stroke.

It is something which more people need to consider, certainly.

Care to lend a hand?

 

Another Rumination on Taxes

It is, once again and after a delay, Tax Day in the United States. I still have no doubt that, as this piece finds its way to the part of the Internet where it can be easily seen, people are still rushing to get materials together so that they can rush again through tax programs and hope once more they do not end up being audited, or so that they can speed down to one tax preparation office or another and pass the task off onto another. (Full disclosure: I still work for Liberty Tax Service in Kerrville, Texas, doing their social media work and the occasional odd job.) All the while, they are still like to complain about both the burden of filing taxes and actually paying them.

Lots of these today.
Image by Daniel Acker, taken from ProPublica.org and used for commentary

I find that I am not as sanguine about the matter this time as I was last. While I did get back some of what I paid in, having been stimulated, I look at how other countries have handled things and feel like I have been cheated; if I have been stimulated, it was not enough to get me where I’d like to go, and I feel unsatisfied. (Yes, I know, “that’s what she said.” Ha.) There is some word that more might be coming, but I am in doubt of it; I might well be called Thomas for this supposed fiscal messiah, ready to finger where the spear has thrust in before. I do not doubt that any such would be purchased in blood.

The thing is, I do not think the solution is necessarily to cut taxes. I am in a position to be able to get by without additional stimulation; indeed, what I got before did not go to daily expenses so much as to debt servicing, and though I need to do a fair bit of that work yet, I was not going to have to choose between paying what I owe and getting to eat. I know many people did have to choose that and still have to choose, and there is not enough philanthropy coming from individuals to solve that problem. (Clearly not; how many could be housed and still leave the wealthiest as the wealthiest? Yet they are not housed, nor yet are they fed and clothed, not even by those who claim that “the greatest of these is charity” as they “earn” more in a day than I do in a month or more.) But that what has been offered is better than nothing does not mean it is enough; I can be grateful for what has come and still want more to do so.

Or is it such that I should “count my blessings and seek no more,” as some have said to me? And if it is so, why should I try for better? Why should anyone?

Care to see if you can get me into a higher tax bracket next time?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 114: Ship of Magic, Chapter 13

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The chapter that follows, “Transitions,” opens with Brashen waking aboard the Paragon and considering the events of the previous night, and his situation. Realizing his straitened finances, he makes to head out and look for work. The ship greets him and advises him of where Althea has gone and warns him of some of the concerns in the work he purposes to do. The ship also turns to morbid talk of suicide and killing before Brashen leaves.

There’s a reason she keeps popping up, perhaps.
Amber: Liveship Trilogy by eternity8 on DeviantArt, image used for commentary

Meanwhile, Althea tries to pawn her jewelry in Bingtown, finding some success in addition to the increasing demands of daily living on one’s own. The shift in economics strikes her strongly, as does her withdrawal from Bingtown society. And she startles herself to arrive in Amber’s shop, at which she marvels before startling again to find Amber ensconced therein. The two speak of the Vivacia and slavery, with Amber speaking cryptically of a nine-fingered slave boy. She also gives Althea the gift of an intricately wrought bead in exchange for the chance to assist her later on.

Aboard the Vivacia, Wintrow works under the unkind tutelage of his father’s crew and considers his circumstances. Kyle summons him to his cabin to talk, and he does more to talk at him than with him. When Kyle offers an earring in token of an offer of early command, Wintrow refuses, citing his religious convictions; Kyle is angered by the refusal, and when Wintrow asks why Althea not be given the opportunity, Kyle angrily retorts that her sex makes her unfit. Wintrow argues against the sexism from Bingtown history, and Kyle replies from his own family background before dismissing Wintrow from his cabin. The second mate, Torg, returns him to his berth and locks him in, and Wintrow finds sleep amid despair.

In the night, Ronica calls on the Vivacia. Ronica tries to reach her husband through the ship, to no avail. She also learns that Althea has visited several times and leaves a message for her with the ship.

Once again, I find myself reading affectively as I reread the present chapter. It is not because of Kyle’s continued misogyny, the assertion that women somehow need to be protected from the concerns of working life, that they need to be kept happy and pampered; I know that I am in part the product of my upbringing in a part of the world that still does not do terribly well with issues of gender parity, and I know that I still have biases on which I am working, but I hope I am not the kind of tyrant Captain Haven is. Nor is it because of the foreshadowing of foresight coming from Amber, whose identity is known to Hobb’s readers at this point but which I will not make much of at the moment. No, it is because of Wintrow.

Wintrow, both as depicted and as he regards himself in the present chapter, excels in the environment of the monastery. Aboard the Vivacia, however, he is “Nothing remarkable….An indifferent ship’s boy, a clumsy sailor. Not even worth mentioning.” And while some of the attitude can be put down to adolescent angst and the upset at being utterly displaced, the shock is one I have seen described by those leaving academe, as well as one I have felt myself as I have done so. The university system as it has been in the United States and other places in the world is one that emerges from the monastery, and there is much of the monastic still about it in popular conception and, indeed, in the minds of some of the powerful within it (as witness some comments by a notable medievalist in May 2019, with which many disagree vociferously). So a monkish character might well invite identification from a bookish reader–and, as someone who spent twelve years in college earning three degrees in English (and focusing on medieval/ist literatures, no less!), I qualify as such a reader.

I did well in school, perhaps not as well as Wintrow in the monastery, but still enough to think that I was somehow special; life outside academe, though it goes well for me now, has disabused me of that notion. And I had my shift, my change well into my 30s; how much worse it would have to be for an adolescent…

Again, I read affectively, something I should know better than to do, given my academic background and formal training. But I still do it, which may be why I could not find a permanent place in the professoriate to which I trained.

It’s hot, here, but it’d be cool of you to send support!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 113: Ship of Magic, Chapter 12

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The next chapter, “Of Derelicts and Slaveships,” starts with the Paragon recalling times underwater, interacting with serpents. He is interrupted by Althea, with whom he begins to converse, if sullenly. She asks if she can sleep aboard him, and he agrees, though he notes that Brashen is staying aboard him, as well. She boards him for a night’s berthing, anyway, and he reflects on their earlier relationship.

Quite the figurehead.
Paragon by willowplwn on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Brashen soon returns and makes for his own bunk. Althea asks for his advice, and he advises her to return home, and swiftly, noting that his own situation is in part because he waited too long to do so, himself. He also notes to her that she will have trouble finding work aboard ship because of her family connections, the Traders being fractious. He also warns her of the dangers of being a woman among a mostly-male crew, and she despairs of her course of action.

Elsewhere, the Marietta closes on a slaveship after failing to catch a liveship, the Ringsgold. Kennit and Sorcor confer regarding the pursuit, Kennit assigning it to Sorcor. He watches, coldly calculating, as his mate conducts a successful capture, and his attentions turn towards the serpents that follow the slaver. He finds himself entranced by them until the battle is ended, and he finds himself rebuking Sorcor after the mate reports the victory and its cost to the crew. He also assigns the taken ship to another crew member and considers the need to eliminate Sorcor.

The chapter makes a motion towards Althea adopting a trans identity. A number of scholars speak to such concerns in Hobb, though most focus on the Six Duchies novels rather than the Liveship Traders works. Katavić, Melville, Mohon, Räsänen, Sanderson, and Schouwenaars each offers an example; I need not reiterate what they have already aptly discussed, though what they do discuss begins to apply in the present chapter.

The chapter also reinforces earlier impressions of Kennit. He remains more concerned with money than with people–unsurprisingly for a pirate, of course, but still stunning against what he himself admits is a horrible situation. Similarly, the cooling regard in which he holds his mate is striking, even if not unsurprising for so mercenary a person in so mercenary a profession and position as piracy. The mate is a threat to him, particularly after the boost of a successful raid he led, and such a position as a pirate captain’s is not a stable one. Parts of the old internet chestnut The Evil Overlord List come to mind, particularly the comments about lieutenants (and I admit to being happy still to be able to bring that bit into the work I do; it remains fun, and I am not doing this for money or acclaim at this point, even if a bit of funding would be welcome).

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