The next chapter, “Departure of the Paragon,” opens with Amber, Althea, and Brashen conferring about their status and that of the Paragon. They fall into an old pattern before Amber changes the subject to Lavoy, whose conduct has brought the flaws in their ill-matched crew to the fore. The ship fares little better, having reacted timorously to every change in course during sea trials, and the ship’s fear infects the crew.
Ashore, Restart conducts Ronica, Keffria, Malta, and Selden to see the Paragon off. Malta muses on the disjunction between her station’s demands and the restrictions of her family’s penury. The family greets the liveships they pass before coming before Paragon, where Brashen–now Captain Trell–greets them and welcomes them aboard. Malta considers the crew, including her aunt and Amber, and marks an exchange between the two as she remains above deck while others go below. Malta converses somewhat uneasily with Amber, unsettled by her oddness.
The Paragon is brought into the conversation and prophesies Malta’s death. She suddenly finds herself in a strange void, pulled between opposing forces and struggling to remain herself amid them. Outwardly, though, there is no show of the struggle, and onlookers think only that she is somewhat addled by the excitement of the liveship’s launch. Soon after, however, boats from the surrounding liveships are sent to help tow the Paragon out where sails can be set and the ship can get fully underway; the crew and well-wishers say goodbye to one another, and the ship leaves, sped by the Vestrits’ prayers.
As I have written the rereading entries for the Liveship Traders novels, I have found myself concerned with pronouns. More than usually, they are an issue of concern, and I find myself caught between tradition and accuracy. Traditionally, ships take feminine pronouns in English, including ships with masculine names. But this also only applies to inanimate vessels, which the liveships are not quite. Although they are not alive, as such, they do seem to have their own personalities and existences, and while sex is not necessarily a concern for the vessels–being built, the applicability of the term is questionable–gender identity certainly is. But how much of that gender identity is imposed upon the liveships by virtue of their construction–and the process of their quickening, which requires the deaths of family and is not always of a unified gender identity–and how much of it is accepted and adopted by them is unclear.
It might well be thought that I am worrying too much about the issue with the books. I can already hear objections being raised, many of which are…unkindly put. (I live and have lived where I do, with and among whom I do, and while I know stereotypes are not reality, I also know there are some folks who seem to do their damnedest to enact them. Pardner.) But I know that it is important that I get things right in the world in which I live, where people do suffer indignity from having their preferred forms of address ignored. I do not want to show disrespect in such ways, so I need to practice. How fortunate, then, that I have fiction with which to do so!