Welcome to the August 22nd diary of My Favorite Authors/Books! For those who are not familiar with us, this is a new series where a Kossack takes the opportunity to tell the rest of us why they love a certain author or book. Is there an author whose books you never miss? A particular book that you love so much you want to tell random people on the street about? This is the place for you.
As it is my birthday today, I wanted to discuss a series of books by a Mother~Son team, which have been my personal favorites since the early 1970's. Yes, I am that old.
The series is called The Dragonriders of Pern. The name of the planet comes from an acronym: Parallel Earth Resources Negligible. The authors are Anne and Todd McCaffrey.
Meet me below the Fleur-de-Kos for an in-depth look at the Dragonriders of Pern and their magnificent Dragons!
Pern Worldmap from "Renegades of Pern", copyright Anne McCaffrey, et al
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Anne McCaffrey is the creator of Pern, and along with her son, Todd, has produced a series of stories published from 1967 until the present day; it includes 21 full-length novels, 2 anthologies and several short stories
, the latest of which is the co-authored "Dragon's Time
", published in the US on June 28, 2011 by Del Rey Books
This series of stories has been translated into at least 22 languages, including Japanese, Finnish, Hebrew, and authorized Braille.
Anne McCaffrey has won a variety of awards for her Pern and it's universe. The first Pern story "Weyr Search" was published 1967 by John W. Campbell in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. It won the 1968 Hugo Award for best novella, voted by participants in the annual World Science Fiction Convention. The second Pern story "Dragonrider" won the 1969 Nebula Award for best novella, voted annually by the Science Fiction Writers of America.
McCaffrey was the first woman to win any Hugo or Nebula award.
190 years before colonization, during the short story Survey:P.E.R.N. c
, we see a glimpse of pre-human Pern...
The planet has two major land masses known as the Northern and Southern Continents. The Southern Continent has a warm, tropical climate, lush vegetation, and fertile soil. The Northern Continent has a cooler climate and is covered by less hospitable mountainous regions.
Despite the vibrant plant life of the planet, the EEC team (The Exploration and Evaluation Corps) were puzzled by a random pattern of circles of bare earth, which they found across the entire world. Eventually, they labelled the planet with the acronym:P.E.R.N. c Parallel Earth, resources negligible (i.e., insufficient to support interstellar commercial investment), suitable for colonization.
With only ten days for exploration and writeup, what they don't have the time to learn is the cause of those odd patches of bare dirt.
It will impact the planet's future colonists, in unimaginable ways.
Orbital Dynamics of the Red Star and Thread
Thread is brought to Pern by another planet in its solar system, the inexactly named Red Star. The Red Star has a two hundred and fifty Turn (Pernese year) elliptic orbit around its sun, Rukbat.
When at aphelion, the Red Star travels as far as Rukbat's Oort Cloud, the natural habitat of Thread. As the Red Star moves through the Cloud, some of the Thread falls into the planet's gravity well, remaining there as the Red Star leaves the Cloud on its journey sunward. As the Red Star approaches perihelion, gravitational perturbations and outgassing from the Red Star's interior launch Thread on trajectories that impact Pern.
Thread remains dormant in inner-system space as a small, icy ovoid, but is reactivated by passage through Pern's atmosphere. Heat and atmospheric friction burn off it's inorganic shell and release a mychorrizoid lifeform of "thread-like" strings, which float down to the planet surface in sheets, tangles and clumps - and engulf and devours all organic life.
PEOPLE OF PERN
In the first novel in the series (chronologically), "Dragonsdawn
", McCaffrey introduces the backstory of Pern and it's human-dragon mentasynth
Originally from Earth, a Moon colony, and the colony at Alpha Centauri, these people had lived in a technocratic society recovering from a war with an alien race, the Nathi. The colony was led by Admiral Paul Benden (hero of the Nathi War, and experienced battle commander) and Governor Emily Boll (Governor of First Centauri Colony during a seige by the Nathi). The colonists wanted to return to an agrarian society with a low level of technology, therefore the supplies and equipment which they brought with them were limited in scope and number. They were looking forward to a world without high technology - and the danger it brought from species such as the Nathi.
The Pern Colonial Expedition from the Federated Sentient Planets, was made up of the colony ships the Yokohama, the Bahrain, the Buenos Aires and the 6,000 crew and colonists they carried (most of them in hibernation-sleep). The colony fleet achieved geo-synchronous orbit above their destination and people and cargo were shuttled down to the surface. They landed nearly without incident, and began the long work of colonizing a new planet.
They had merely nine years of bucolic life, when the rogue Red Star brought the first Thread to the new Pernese - and altered their entire colony forever.
DRAGONS AND THEIR ORIGINS
When men first landed on Pern, they quickly discovered that there was a native species which seemed much like the fabled dragons
of Earth literature, only these Fire Lizards
, or Dragonets
, as the colonists called them, were the size of domestic felines.
The first colonists to find and impress a Fire Lizard were an adventurous pair of young teens, one from a family of Animal Veterinarians and one from a family of Travelers (Irish Gypsies), respectively, Sorka Hanrahan and Sean McConnell. You'll meet them in Dragonsdawn. These two young folk become mythic heroes, remembered forever after as the leaders of the very first Dragonriders of Pern.
Once the First Pass of the Red Star occurs (an orbit bringing it close enough to Pern for Threads to fall), Kitti Ping Yung, the preminent bio-geneticist of the Federated Sentient Planets, and the only human who had ever been trained in the Menta-synth technique at the Great Beltrae Halls of the Eridanis, created a solution to the disaster which had befallen the Colony.
The original work of Kitti and Wind Blossom (Kitti Ping's granddaughter, or possibly, her daughter - this is one of the great Pernish conundrums) was to use the Eridani techniques to alter animals, and plants, the colonists had brought (mostly as frozen sperm & egg), so they'd be able to adapt and thrive on Pern.
It is this skill which Kitti applies to the native Fire Lizards, and transforms them into a new species, large enough to carry a human a-dragonback and fly into the air to attack and destroy the Thread before they could reach the ground - and wreak death and destruction on a massive scale. Because these dragons can not only fly - but they chew phosphorus-bearing rock and produce a fiery breath of phosphene gas, and fire is one of the few ways to kill Thread!
Kitti also programmed the genetic code of the newly hatched Dragons to yield successively larger specimens as time went on. The original hatchling dragons were the size of horses at maturity. 2000 years later, during the time of the 9th Pass, the largest dragons ever hatched were Mnementh and Ramoth - and Ramoth is the size of a lear jet, forty-five feet from nose to tail!
General description of Pernese Dragons:
They are carnivorous, oviparous, warm-blooded creatures. They have six limbs - four feet and two wings. Their blood, referred to as ichor, is copper-based and green in color. They have multifaceted eyes which change color depending upon the dragon's mood. On their heads they have small headknobs, similar to those of giraffes.
Pern's dragons come (usually) in five colors: Gold (female Queens), Bronze (largest males), Brown (smaller than bronzes, males), and the smaller types, Blue (males) and Green (female, non-fertile after chewing firestone and producing flame).
Unlike the dragons of Earthly renown, they have a smooth hide rather than scales. They are described as having forked tail ends, but most Pern art (including book covers) depict their tails as having spade-shaped tips. The dragons usually get from one place to another by going through a teleportation process known as 'going between'.
Anne suggests reading the books, as a new reader, in the order in which she wrote them. I tend to disagree. Because the series is so large now, I believe a reading according to the internal chronology of the series is now a better path to fully explore this world and it's characters. A list is located at the end of the diary.
What makes Pern such a successful series, with readership around the globe, and spanning three or more generations of readers?
The personal stories of these courageous fighters, who they are, and how they become Heroes, is what I believe to be the heart and soul of the universe of Pern.
Let's look at Lessa, one of the main characters of the first book written by Anne McCaffrey in the Pern universe...
Orphaned by a military invasion of her family's Hold (much like a middle-ages Duchy in England or France), and the slaughter of her entire family by the soldiers of the invader Fax at the age of eleven, Lessa spends the next ten years living as a drudge
When the rest of her family is killed by a cruel usurper, Fax, she survives by disguising herself as a drudge (a menial servant) partly through simply adopting a slovenly appearance, but also using her hereditary telepathic abilities to make others see her as far older than she is. She escapes notice completely. Her only friend is a watch-wher, a somewhat telepathic animal that guards the castle. Lessa also psychically influences other Hold workers to do less than their best work, or to become clumsy or inefficient. Her idea is to make Ruatha unlivable, so that Fax will renounce it.
F'lar, wingleader at Benden Weyr and rider of the bronze dragon Mnementh, finds Lessa while Searching for candidates to Impress (bond with) a new queen dragon, as the current queen has a batch of eggs due to hatch very soon, including a crucial golden egg.
She's hiding in plain sight, as it were.
Until a Dragonrider on Search, and his dragon, Mnementh, discover her...
Drummer, beat, and piper, blow,
Harper, strike, and soldier, go.
Free the flame and sear the grasses
Till the dawning Red Star passes.
F’lar, on bronze Mnementh’s great neck, appeared first in the skies above the chief Hold of Fax, so-called Lord of the High Reaches. Behind him, in proper wedge formation, the wingmen came into sight. F’lar checked the formation automatically; it was as precise as on the moment of their entry to between.
As Mnementh curved in an arc that would bring them to the perimeter of the Hold, consonant with the friendly nature of this visitation, F’lar surveyed with mounting aversion the disrepair of the ridge defenses. The firestone pits were empty, and the rock-cut gutters radiating from the pits were green-tinged with a mossy growth...
Honor those the dragons heed,
In thought and favor, word and deed,
Worlds are lost or worlds are saved
From those dangers dragon-braved.
Mnementh and now Canth, F’nor’s brown, extended their wings, flapping to catch their riders’ attention.
F’lar stared as the dragon slewed his head back toward his rider, the great eyes gleaming like sunstruck opals.
“There is a subtle strength in this valley,” F’lar murmured, gathering the import of the dragon’s agitated message.
“A strength, indeed; even my brown feels it,” F’nor replied, his face lighting.
“Careful, brown rider,” F’lar cautioned. “Careful. Send the entire wing aloft. Search this valley. I should have realized. I should have suspected. It was all there to be evaluated. What fools have dragonmen become!”...
In your lair,
Watch well, watch-wher!
Who goes there?
“That watch-wher is hiding something, and only someone of the Blood of its Hold can arrange that, brown rider,” F’lar said emphatically. He gestured around the room and toward the window. “Ruatha has been overcome. But she resists … subtly. I say it points to the old Blood and power. Not power alone.”
... At that moment he heard the unmistakable elation in Mnementh’s roar, followed by the curious warble of the other dragons.
“Mnementh has caught her,” F’lar cried, grinning with jubilation. He strode down the steps, past the body of the former Lord of the High Reaches and out into the main court...
“Ruatha is mine!”
“Ruatha?” F’lar’s laugh was derisive. “When you could be Weyrwoman?”
“Weyrwoman?” she breathed, staring at him in shocked amazement.
“Yes, little fool. I said I rode in Search … it’s about time you attended to more than Ruatha. And the object of my Search is … you!”
She stared at the finger he pointed at her, as if it were dangerous.
“By the First Egg, girl, you’ve power in you to spare when you can turn a dragonman, all unwitting, to do your bidding. Ah, but never again, for I am now on guard against you.”
Mnementh crooned approvingly, the sound a soft rumble in his throat. He arched his neck so that one eye was turned directly on the girl, gleaming in the darkness of the Court.
F’lar noticed with detached pride that she neither flinched nor blanched at the proximity of an eye greater than her own head...
“You can be Weyrwoman,” he repeated with gentle insistence.
“Weyrwoman,” she breathed, incredulous, and gazed around the inner Court bathed in soft moonlight. He thought she wavered.
“Or perhaps you enjoy rags?” he said, making his voice harsh, mocking. “And matted hair, dirty feet, and cracked hands? Sleeping in straw, eating rinds? You are young … that is, I assume you are young.” His voice was frankly skeptical. She glared at him coolly, her lips firmly pressed together. “Is this the be-all and end-all of your ambition? What are you that this little corner of the great world is all you want?” He paused, then with utter contempt added, “The Blood of Ruatha has thinned, I see. You’re afraid!”
“I am Lessa, daughter of the Lord of Ruatha,” she countered, stung to responding by the Blood insult. She drew herself erect, her eyes flashing, her chin high. “I am afraid of nothing!”
F’lar contented himself with a slight smile...
Some of the series major characters, who truly come to life upon the pages Anne McCaffrey wrote:
The vainglorious Avril Bitra of Dragonsdawn. A bad, bad gal, who gets exactly what she deserves, in the end.
The steadfast Sallah Telgar, colonist and one of the twelve pilots of the Yokohama's three shuttle vehicles. Born and raised on First Centauri, died on board the Yokohama during Avril Bitra's misadventure with the Captain's Gig; her body was interred at Telgar Hold more than twenty-five centuries later in Turn 2525. Whose full tale is only learned after 2 millenium, in All the Weyrs of Pern. A quiet hero whose end wrenches the heart.
"One among many Pernese hero's but certainly among the first and certainly one of Pern's most special and valiant women. After Sallah's heroic death and sacrifice, Tarvi, and his children with him, changed their family name from Andiyar to Telgar thus starting the Telgar Bloodline.
As of the Ninth Pass, Tarvi and Sallah's descendants continue to be the Lord Holders of Telgar Hold."
The hero-in-waiting Jaxom and his unique (even amongst dragons) Ruth, a bit on the runty side, and the only white dragon, ever. From the most unlikely of beginnings, this pair manage to do the impossible!
The indomitable Bronze dragon Mnementh, life-bonded to F'lar the Benden Weyrleader at the beginning of the 9th Pass of the Red Star.
The lyrical Menolly of Half-Circle Seahold. Through trials and tribulations, this talented musician eventually has 9 FireLizards and becomes the first female Journeyman Harper in more than a generation.
The impetuous Piemur, who dreams of becoming a Dragonrider as a youngster, and goes on to become one of the first Men to walk the Southern Continent in 2000 years.
The Pern series is comprised of a number of trilogies (from the earliest years of publication) and then a long string of inter-connected novels and short stories.
You can see the chronological order to read them in here.
This is the published order, including short stories and anthologies and the order that Anne McCaffrey suggests reading them in:
By Date of Publication
1968 - Dragonflight (Portions of Dragonflight were originally published in the October 1967 issue of Analog Magazine as the short story "Weyr Search")
1971 - Dragonquest
1976 - Dragonsong
1977 - Dragonsinger
1978 - The White Dragon
1979 - Dragondrums
1983 - Moreta: Dragon Lady of Pern
1986 - Nerilka's Story
1988 - Dragonsdawn
1989 - The Renegades of Pern
1991 - All the Weyrs of Pern
1993 - The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall (a collection of short stories)
1994 - The Dolphins of Pern
1997 - Dragonseye (published as Red Star Rising in the UK)
1998 - The Masterharper of Pern
2001 - The Skies of Pern
2002 - A Gift of Dragons (a collection of short stories)
2003 - Dragon's Kin (with Todd McCaffrey)
2005 - Dragonsblood (written by Todd McCaffrey)
2006 - Dragon's Fire (with Todd McCaffrey)
2007 - Dragon Harper (with Todd McCaffrey)
2008 - Dragonheart (written by Todd McCaffrey)
2010 - Dragongirl (written by Todd McCaffrey)
2011 - Dragon's Time (with Todd McCaffrey)
2012 - Dragonrider (being written with Todd McCaffrey)
???? - After the Fall (working title - currently on Hold)
1967 - Weyr Search (originally published in the October 1967 issue of 'Analog' Magazine)
1973 - The Smallest Dragonboy (published in Get Off the Unicorn and A Gift of Dragons)
1986 - The Girl Who Heard Dragons (published in The Girl Who Heard Dragons and A Gift of Dragons)
1989 - The Impression (published in Dragonlover's Guide to Pern)
1993 - Survey: P.E.R.N.c (published in Chronicles of Pern - originally published in 1993 as "The P.E.R.N. Survey")
1993 - The Ford of Red Hanrahan (published in Chronicles of Pern)
1993 - The Second Weyr (published in Chronicles of Pern)
1993 - Dolphin's Bell (published in Chronicles of Pern - also published in Hard Cover in 1993 as a standalone novella by the Wildside Press. This edition contains illustrations and border decorations by Pat Morrissey)
1993 - Rescue Run (published in Chronicles of Pern - also published in Hard Cover in 1991 as a standalone novella by the Wildside Press. This edition contains illustrations and border decorations by Pat Morrissey)
1998 - Runner of Pern (published in Legends, Editor: Robert Silverberg and A Gift of Dragons)
2002 - Ever the Twain (published in A Gift of Dragons )
2004 - Beyond Between (published in Legends II, Editor: Robert Silverberg)
PERN ON THE SILVER SCREEN
Over the past 20 years, there have been any number of instances when talk of a Pern movie or a TV series has arisen. In 1999, Alliance Atlantis Entertainment had optioned the rights, begun to set up the studio sets and produced storyboards and was ready to start casting... and the deal fell apart.
However, this spring there has been news of a new project, based on Dragonflight...
TORONTO and LOS ANGELES (April 12, 2011) – Steven Hoban’s Copperheart Entertainment has closed agreements with David Hayter (“WATCHMEN” AND “X-MEN” WRITER) and Benedict Carver’s Dark Hero Studios, Don Murphy and Susan Montford’s Angry Films and Entertainment One to adapt the classic science fiction/fantasy novel “Dragonflight” by Anne McCaffrey into a feature film.
In “Dragonflight”, the first in the epic “Dragonriders of Pern” series of novels, an elite group of warriors take to the skies on the backs of giant, fire-breathing, telepathic dragons to save the wondrously exotic planet of Pern from a terrifying airborne menace.
Personally, I cannot wait to see these magnificent characters and their world come to a theater near me! I've been reading these stories since 1974, when I was a young lass of 13. Fortunately, Hollywood cinema magic has finally reached a level where a true rendering of The Dragonriders of Pern can be created for all the world to share. I hope you'll try out some of these great stories, and come to love Pern and it's People as much as I have.
I'll leave you with the concluding words of Dragonsdawn, I find them quite sufficient unto the moment:
In step, the dragonriders walked forward, past people grinning foolishly in their pride. Sean recognized many faces: Pol and Bay looking about to burst with pride; Telgar, tears streaming down his cheeks, Ozzie and Cobber on either side of him; Cherry Duff upheld by two sons, her black eyes gleaming with joy. He caught sight of the Hanrahans, Mairi holding up his small son to see the pageantry. There was no sign of Governor Emily Boll, and Sean felt his heart contract. What Peter Chernoff had said was true, then. This moment would not be the same without her.
They reached the ramp, and somehow the queen riders had dropped a step behind the others and Sean stood in the center. When they halted, he took a step forward and saluted. It seemed the correct thing to do. Admiral Benden, tears in his eyes, proudly returned the salute.
“Admiral Benden, sir,” said Sean, rider of bronze Carenath,” may I present the Dragonriders of Pern?”