Fangirl Friday: Dragons, Pern, and my misspent youth

HI, all!

Don’t worry; the Rogue One fangirl post is coming soon. I decided to go see it again, though, so I can cry over Carrie Fisher and get sucked into another of my nostalgia bubbles.

Today, though, I was thinking about fanfic, because I’ve been spending a shit-ton of time writing one (and holy crap it’s now pushing 220,000 words…it’s outta control…lol) and I’ve been reading a bunch of other fanfic and that got me thinking about the first fanfic I wrote, which in turn got me thinking about the Hugo- and Nebula-winning spec fic writer, the late Anne McCaffrey, who wrote two of my fave series back in the day, the Harper Hall trilogy and the Dragonriders of Pern books, both set on Pern.

Map of Pern (fanart, from the Pern Museum; source
Map of Pern (fanart, from the Pern Museum; source
Dragonflight, the first in the Dragonriders of Pern series
Dragonflight, the first in the Dragonriders of Pern series

That’s how my brain works. Hmm. Clexa fanfic–>writing a Clexa fanfic–>my first fanfic is Pern–>Dragonriders! Which is why I went there. I started writing the Pernfic probably 6 years ago, but I will never post it because McCaffrey, while she was alive, had some rules about fanfic and from what I’ve seen of the Pern fanfic world, mine is not a fit. Roundabout 2004, the restrictions greatly decreased and fanfic spread, so there’s that. But I’m kind of weird and I don’t really do fanfic like other people. That is, I used the Pern world, but my main characters are not canon, and nor are my storylines. I created my own characters to populate the parts of Pern I wrote in that fanfic.

Regardless, my point here is that when I was but a wee lass, McCaffrey’s books opened a huge window in my head. The views were amazing, because the world she created was so real to me through her work that it stuck with me. Obviously, because many years later, I started a fanfic based on that world.

The basic premise of Pern is that it was colonized by people from Earth, who had to come up with ways to deal with a number of Pern’s quirks. One of those is that every so often, its red moon would cycle close enough to its surface that it became accessible to masses of horrible, wriggling parasites called “Thread,” named so because when they fell from the sky, they looked like grayish thread. Thread is deadly. It destroys crops and kills you with searing pain if it touches you. So our colonists had to figure out the best way to deal with this ickiness.

Solution? I mean, besides constructing buildings out of rock (which Thread can’t readily penetrate). Bioengineering. Our intrepid colonists genetically engineered dragons, but what developed here is that each dragon, upon hatching, “Impressed” a human. That is, found the human on the hatching grounds with which it was going to share a telepathic bond. That bond was lifelong and unbreakable. And there were different types of dragons, named for their coloring. The smallest were greens and blues and if I remember correctly, greens were sterile females. Blues were male then browns, also male. The biggest male dragons were bronzes, and they were expected to mate with the golds, or the female queens.

For the most part, the dragons Impressed humans whose biological sex corresponded to the dragons’ (with some caveats; see below). The woman who Impressed a queen would take on a leadership role in the “weyr,” or community of dragonriders. The other type of community was a “hold,” which served in the capacity as a producer and craft class, if you will, while the dragonriders were sort of the warrior class, since their primary function was to fight Thread. To do that, the riders take to the skies and their dragons burn it before it hits the ground.

Dragonquest, book 2 in the Dragonriders series
Dragonquest, book 2 in the Dragonriders series

And here’s a nifty trick that the Pernese figured out: the concept of “between.” That is, dimension jumping. Except that “between” is this super cold, dark, still place rather than a specific dimension. Dragons and their riders learn to “go between,” which allows them basically to jump through a wormhole of sorts and travel very quickly around the planet. They’ll go between above their own weyr, for example, and a few seconds later, they’ll reappear over another part of the planet. They also go between while fighting thread, to avoid getting injured or killed. Plus, the coldness of between kills any thread that manages to attach. Obviously, you have to be careful on re-entry. So learning to work with your dragon effectively in both conventional flight and using between is crucial.

The Harper Hall and Dragonriders books take place after colonization, and the social and political structures are already long in place, with an emphasis on pre-industrial living. Sort of a medieval flavor in clothing, food, and transportation (unless you were a dragonrider, in which case you had your dragon).

So that’s the premise. Within this world are other social hierarchies and relationships, and various characters that occupy them. So you’ll find this really interesting cultural and political infrastructure built around fighting Thread, with dragons at the center, which in turn lends itself to all kinds of power plays and intrigue. And these books spawned an entire Pern industry, my friends. You can buy an Atlas of Pern a guide to Pern, and even get introduced to some of the music. But that wasn’t the case when I discovered them. I had no idea about the industry that was brewing around these books.

Harper Hall trilogy
Harper Hall trilogy

I read the Harper Hall series (geared toward a YA audience; Dragonsinger, Dragonsong, Dragondrums) first back in the day. The first two focus on 15-year-old Menolly, who is born into an isolated sea-hold, but she’s called to music and is able to apprentice at Harper Hall, which really is about music and harpers, because harpers of Pern tell the stories of their world through their songs. It’s oral history, passed along from hold to weyr, and thus music and harpers have a revered place among the Pernese. The third book, Dragondrums, features Piemur, who was a secondary character in the other Harper Hall books, and one of the few who made her feel welcome. He’s a singer, and as a boy, he’s doing soprano, but then that damn puberty kicks in and he has to figure out a new musical occupation — perhaps with communication drums.

As a young teen, I didn’t really fit in with many of my peers, and at that age, I didn’t really have the tools in place to deal with it or figure things out completely, so I spent a lot of time reading and making up my own spec fic stories. Both Menolly and Piemur resonated with me, because they faced a lot of adversity (including bullying and cruelty) and yet found their callings — that is, they realized essential parts of themselves (sound like a familiar journey, those of you who ended up LGBTQ?)

Then the Dragonrider series spoke to me again, because one of the characters, Lessa, is a poor serving girl in a kitchen who manages to Impress a queen dragon, and she is forced into becoming a leader at a young age, and has to take on adult responsibilities, but she’s successful at it. That was immensely inspiring, to see a woman doing that in a book I read in the 80s.

Heh. Thinking about it now, that’s probably one of the reasons the character of Lexa in The 100 resonated so deeply with me. Because she, too, was a woman who came to power early, like Lessa, and had to deal with a crap-ton of responsibilities. Lessa may have been the prototype in my brain for making me susceptible to characters like Lexa. πŸ˜€

Pern fanart, by Dan Milligan (source)
Pern fanart, by Dan Milligan (source)

Anyway, I will say that through young eyes, these books were magical. And they had strong female characters, which is so important for young girls to see — that kind of representation in media, whatever form it takes. However, there are some problems, and when I revisited these books after I’d put a few years between my teen and later years, they were pretty glaring:

  • Lack of rep in terms of people of color. Keep in mind the historical context, though. McCaffrey initially published these books in the late 1970s/early 1980s. She herself was white, and discussions about representation in terms of POC were just not as prevalent as they are now.
  • ETA! Brandon R (see comments below) made some points about POC rep. I concede some of that. But not all, because if you are looking expressly to see POC reflected as the main characters and drivers of Pern stories, I’m not in full agreement with BR’s points. You can see that in the comments below in my response.
  • Heternormativity. Everybody in these Pern books is heterosexual and cisgender. Which doesn’t seem logical, since the original colonists came from Earth and there are, of course, LGBTQ people on Earth. So why wouldn’t that travel? However, in terms of fanlore, there’s a rumor that McCaffrey made a really ignorant statement about homosexuality (while also indicating that some green and blue dragonriders are gay). I don’t know what to make of that statement, since I can’t confirm it, so I’m inclined to think it’s not true. Having said that, and having just griped about heteronormativity, there were green (infertile female) dragons who Impressed men. Now, in dragon mating, a female will rise to flight, and males will chase after her like horndogs and then one will mate with her. However, with the telepathic bond between rider and dragon, that means that the riders of the dragons doing the deed will hook up, too. It’s like this imperative, and they can’t fight it. So presumably, male riders bonded with greens were hooking up with male riders whose male dragons flew the female greens. But that wasn’t really explored in the books. Point being, pretty much zero queer rep.
  • ETA! Brandon R below (comments; see below) pointed out that I am a bad lesbian reader. BR is right: There is some queer rep, as he describes it below. My argument in response is that yes, this is true and I totes was a bad lesbian reader but I would argue that queer characters did not drive the primary storylines and weren’t intrinsic to the main plotlines. But I do stand corrected in my monolithic statement. Also, BR makes an excellent point about Ruth, the white dragon. So thanks for that.
  • Weird issues with consent. Yes, there are strong female characters, but one of the things that really bothered me was the whole mating thing in terms of the dragons. The golds (queens) were the ones that laid the eggs, so it was a big deal when a gold rose to mate, and most often, the male bronzes were the ones that mated with her. Remember that when a female dragon rises to mate, she enters this horndog haze kind of state, as do the male dragons flying after her (no queer dragons, either). Which means when the female does the deed with the male, their riders are compelled to do the deed, too. Well, that gets kind of dicey if you’re the rider of a queen (and you’re female) and you’re maybe 17 and some older guy is the rider of the bronze that mates with her. You’re compelled to fuck, basically, because of your dragon’s horndog haze and that telepathic connection overriding everything. And because Pern is inherently more sexist than not, the power dynamics imbued in this exchange creep me out. They did when I first read them, they still do now, though I don’t think that was intentional on McCaffrey’s part, to leave that creepy feeling.
Book 3 of the Dragonriders of Pern
Book 3 of the Dragonriders of Pern

So if you decide to journey to Pern, try to remember the historical context in which McCaffrey was writing them. She wrote the Harper Hall and original Dragonrider trilogies in the late 1970s/early 1980s. And writers are parts of the worlds in which they live and breathe, so McCaffrey wasn’t part of a culture that encouraged strong women and queer/POC rep in media and she had some traditional ideas about sex and gender. Do I think she meant to convey these issues with consent? No, not intentionally. Writers, after all, reflect the cultures in which they dwell. However, it’s important, I think, to point some of this out.

So yes, I can give you all a heads-up on some of the more problematic aspects of these books, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are some really beautiful and magical moments in them, and that there are strong female characters doing some really interesting and cool things. McCaffrey also wrote male characters who had to face their own adversities, as in the third in the Dragonrider series, The White Dragon. (As an aside, McCaffrey’s son Todd has continued writing Pern books. I have not read those, so I can’t speak to them, but I may, just to see his take on the world his mother created.)

And as for the lack (ETA: not complete lack; see below) of queer rep, well, I spent many a night in the dark making up my own storylines set on Pern, and they all had some serious queer rep going on. The world McCaffrey created — though hierarchical and structured a certain way within her mindset — still opened a lot of possibilities for my burgeoning creative streak, and for that, McCaffrey’s Pern books will always have a special place in my heart.

Because, really. Who wouldn’t want to ride a dragon, if given the chance?

Happy Friday, happy fangirling, and may The Force be with you.

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26 thoughts on “Fangirl Friday: Dragons, Pern, and my misspent youth

  1. A woman after my own heart! Oh Ann McCaffrey…where do I start? Both she, and Mercedes Lackey were two of my favorite authors growing up. I have so many of their books, and have read even more! And the Harper Hall trilogy were some of the best! However, i didn’t get into the actual Dragonriders books as much, perhaps for some of the squidgey reasons you mentioned about mating and consent. But I was also a sci-fi geek and loved her Brain ship, Talent, and Crystal singer series’…and more! But yes, all her books dealt with those three points you brought up, or rather…didn’t deal with.

    However with Mercedes Lackey, my other big love of the time, included a wider variety of characters, forcing yourself on someone was expressly forbidden and she dealt with the topic in a few books, and there were queer characters. (more male than female) There was even a race of mage/tree brothers that had a name for being attracted to the same gender. (shaych) She had a main character (with a trilogy) that was gay, as well as supporting characters. Though I had no clue about myself back then, I was incredibly drawn to the books. Thank you for your blog post and letting me traipse back down memory lane. Strong female characters have always been my ‘thing”.

    Leaving with this: My favorite (and regular series re-read) is the Deed of Paksennarion by Elizabeth Moon. πŸ™‚

    Thanks,
    K

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    1. K, Elizabeth Moon also has a sci fi series called “Vatta’s War” that l really enjoyed. Have you read that?

      I loved all of the other books you mentioned, as well. Geek on, my friend!

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      1. I have not read the Vantage series, but I have most of her Serrano Legacy books and all the ones from the world of Paksennarion. She is and amazing writer who draws from her years in the military to paint such vivid and realistic images of combat, war, and tactic, when she writes.

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      2. I LOVE her Paks trilogy and have reread it quite a few times. I’ll have to check out her other stuff for sure.

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  2. I loved the Pern series and have read them all. I may still have them. Not sure why, but I felt like the queen with her flying ability kind of had a little bit of say in which of the Bronzes she let “catch” her to mate. Or maybe that’s just how I read it πŸ™‚

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    1. That was certainly part of the understanding, but there were hints of bigger, stronger bronzes “taking” the queen — which raises weird questions about dragon consent. Certainly some of the weyrs did have an unspoken arrangement among leadership — the primary weyrwoman with the primary queen would be partnered up with the primary male leader (whose title was “Weyrleader,” for those who aren’t familiar), who was always a bronzerider and the other bronzeriders would usually defer to him, if they approved of his leadership and, frankly, hers. However, the possibility always remained that an upstart bronzerider could get a shot at the queen, if the queen liked the rider and if there was political crap going on in terms of the leadership. It wasn’t unusual for a weyr to have a power couple that didn’t really like each other but stayed together out of political expediency.

      But the other issue here is that a weyrwoman didn’t get to take the man (because everybody’s heterosexual and cis, remember) of her choice to be her weyrleader. She may have been deeply in love with someone else, but if he was not a dragonrider or a rider of a dragon other than bronze, neither of them had a shot at a healthy relationship. Basically, you got paired with the dude who flew your queen. And you were expected to do that, because your queen had to lay the eggs to help perpetuate the dragons. If you liked the guy, well, you were lucky. Though dragons played into this, as well. Riders could tell their dragons what they thought of certain riders, but sometimes dragons did their own thing, or they’d do something out of thinking that it was best for everyone. So even if you thought some guy was kind of a dick, your dragon might think he wasn’t as bad as you thought because you, a queen dragon, talked to his dragon and decided you liked his dragon, so he might not be so bad and you’ll let that guy’s dragon fly you, anyway. That, too, raises interesting questions about how dragons influence their riders.

      I remember thinking that Lessa’s partner, the bronzerider F’lar of Mnementh, was kind of a dick initially, if I remember correctly, and when he took her from Ruatha Hold back to Benden Weyr, he dragged her onto the Hatching sands. She was 21, I think, when she came to power and Ramoth rose to mate when she was 24ish. Three Turns after she got to Benden. And of course, Mnementh flew Ramoth, so F’lar became Weyrleader.

      Lessa as a character was difficult and not generally likable, though you understood her reasons for being that way, given the abuse she dealt with in the past. Even after she mellowed a bit, her reputation was always that she was short-tempered. But damn, she saved Pern by jumping between to go back 400 Turns to bring the weyrs forward to fight Thread, since in Lessa’s time, there are only, like, 200 dragonriders available to do it. So she was a badass in her own right, but the restrictions on women who Impressed queens carried gendered baggage and this weird arranged marriage imperative. That speaks as well to power in general, and how it’s structured and maintained and the cultural practices we put in place to do it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this post because, I, too, read and love the Pern series, each and every one of them. My favorite was the White Dragon.

    However, I am disappointed that you had to point out what was “wrong” IYHO about the books. Not every book has to address every issue! Just like every romance book needs to address hetero and gay issues. Why do you have to tear it down? Why can’t you just enjoy the books for what they are? That is where the blog should have ended, IMHO.

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    1. See Sacchi’s post, below.

      I thought those things were wrong when I initially read the books in 1980-1983 and in the years beyond. At the time, I didn’t have a toolkit to explain why I thought these things were wrong, but I sure as hell wondered where all the people of color were (after all, the Pernese were colonists from Earth–so…where are the people who aren’t white?), and I sure didn’t see any LGBTQ people represented in the pages (and I was already wondering what my deal was), and it made me uncomfortable at the time, these possibly nonconsensual sexual arrangements. As a young woman at the time whose parents worked very hard to make sure that I understood my bodily autonomy and my right to say no, reading some of those parts of the Pern books made me a little uncomfortable. So if I — someone who has not been sexually abused or assaulted — was made uncomfortable, well, then, I think it’s important to note that there were parts of these books that might cause some difficulties for some readers.

      After all, perhaps someone reading this blog is a survivor of sexual abuse or sexual assault and I certainly don’t want that person reading these books and thinking that I ignored those squicky aspects because I didn’t think they were important. For some people, they ARE important. And I certainly don’t want POC to read my blog and assume that they’ll find themselves represented in these books, because they won’t. And I certainly don’t want LGBTQ people reading my post and thinking that they’ll find themselves represented in the Pern books because, again, they won’t. I think it’s a matter of respect for readers that they know some of the cons before embarking on a journey through anyone’s books, especially in matters like diversity and representation. The cons you think don’t matter may matter quite a bit to survivors of sexual assault, to people of color who are parents and looking for YA reading materials, to young LGBTQ teens looking for representation. Those things matter. And that’s why I chose to point them out.

      All that said, I loved the Pern books. But they are products of the time in which they were written (which I pointed out above), and products of a writer who was also a product of the time in which they were written.

      Fiction writing isn’t timeless, in many respects. It’s a historical document, and a product of the social, cultural, and political climates in which writers work. It’s also a product of the writer herself, and how she filters the world around her. McCaffrey was a fabulous and consummate world-builder in many ways, and she wrote often spellbinding, magical stories. BUT they are products of their time (which I made clear above), and as a historian, I think it’s important to point that out, because it does help explain the things that didn’t sit well with me, and it helps provide a framework for future readers.

      Nothing is written in a vacuum. And looking back on the Pern books, my thinking has evolved even more as I’ve grappled with my own positions of privilege given my race, economic, and educational status and as difficult as working to unpack that has been (still unpacking), I’m grateful that I’m much more aware of how very important representation is for our big, messy, wonderfully diverse communities. Therefore, I will supply “buyer beware” comments in that regard.

      I do appreciate your comments, however. Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. I loved the Pern books, but I had to remind my daughter-in-law about the nonconsensual sex scene near the beginning, when she picked up a copy of Dragonflight at a yard sale and was thinking of giving it to my 10-year-old granddaughter (an avid reader), She’d forgotten about that. When my son heard us, he came down hard on my side. We’ll try with the Harper Hall series first, although sometimes it seems like telling a kid that a book or author was your one of your favorites is a death sentence for your suggestion.

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  5. Jesus, I must’ve blocked that out. Thanks for bringing it up. Thinking about it now, ugh. Have your granddaughter’s parents screen Harper Hall. I don’t recall nonconsensual sex scenes in those, and they are geared specifically toward YA, so that’s something.

    Also, I strongly recommend for your granddaughter Gail Carriger’s steampunk “Finishing School” series. It’s geared toward YA and features a strong young woman who goes to “finishing school” which is actually an espionage school. πŸ˜€

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  6. I did love Anne McCaffrey and I’d forgotten about Elizabeth Moon so thanks to K above for reminding me… the heteronormativity did strike me as strange even back then but I had no language to explain my discomfort. All books are of their day and should be read in context but it also means they should be challenged and people made aware… it’s like Enid Blyton – I adored those books growing up but now they make me cringe yet when I worked in a library they were still very popular. We need more lesfic that challenges us and enters the literary mainstream then heteronormativity may become less in ‘other’ world type books… pity Jeanette Winterson doesn’t sell as well as James Patterson or Lee Child…

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  7. McCaffrey’s homophobia was real – whether the tent-peg thing is genuine or not – (I’m inclined to believe it’s real mainly because I was aware of it long before I started reading on the internet). Just read Moreta- Dragonlady of Pern and the comments there about green riders not being “fully male”.to understand the way she felt in the real world, or – if you can get hold of them – some of the interviews in fanzines of the 80s – I wish I’d kept mine.

    I, too, loved her books when I was younger (I even owned the original short story – and incidentally I felt it was better before she softened the world…and her tendency to ignore her own canon around timelines bothered me too) but as I got older – particularly in my late 20s/early 30s the rape-as-romance thing bothered me too much (what else can you call F’nor’s first sexual act with Brekke) and I stopped buying them..

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  8. Loved this post, Andi. I too read all these as a teen. My favourites were the Harper Hall series, which I recently reread and still loved just as much, even though Menolly is just tooooo perfect. The whole music genius thing, F’lar wanted her for a dragonrider, the firelizard training, and she makes amazing fish stew etc.

    Reading the other books again later, I too was bothered by the things you mentioned and I’ll add the total lack of choices for women. They can be healers or work in the kitchen or be support people. Even when Lessa is weyrwoman, a lot of what she does is pour klah and bristle and be ignored. The whole kitchen drudge thing bothered me too.

    But despite all of the flaws seen by modern eyes, these books have a magic that lingers, and they are books I turn to to reread time and again.

    Thank you for this post. πŸ™‚

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  9. Lackey, McCaffrey and Moon were among my favorites as well. I loved Paksennarion! I found sci fi in elementary school after discovering Andre Norton. She led me to CJ Cherryh and Marion Zimmer Bradley and then to the others. Although Norton had no LGBTQ characters, she did start writing strong women in some of her later books. All of these authors were/are products of their times, but sci fi and fantasy are where I found my first strong women protagonists in literature.

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  10. Great write up.
    Loved the Pern books, especially the Dragon singer and Harper hall stories. Mercedes Lackey books are also great oath breaker etc and the Heralds series. I remember reading the short stories before they became books. But some of favourite books are by Elizabeth Moon, especially the Paksenarrion series – it is excellent

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  11. Hello,

    So I really appreciate posts about Pern and Anne McCaffrey. I’ve been a mega fan of this series and actually got to meet Anne in her home in 2007.

    As a gay male of european ancestry I do have a few things in your summary and analysis that I suppose I take issue with, and it sort of seems clear to me from what you’ve written that you have perhaps not read all the Pern titles written by Anne because there seem to be some misrepresentations to the world that you’re espousing.

    1. Queer representation: Actually Pern is crawling with heroic depictions of gay and bisexual (men). 50% of dragons are Green and Greens usually engage in mating flights with Blues and Browns. All of these are dragon colors most commonly impressed by men and when dragons mate their riders do as well, so like 90% of dragonriders engage in homosexual sex, even Bronzeriders do, especially when they’ve been raised in the Weyrs because there is a huge difference in the sexual morality/psychology of the people of Pern who have not been under the control of Puritanical Judaeo Christian mores for the entirety of their history. The books aren’t explicit about this in the early days and it isn’t until Dragonseye that Anne wrote POV characters that were Green or Blue riders, although in Moreta we also saw those characters much more clearly.

    2. Your statement that all dragons are cis is just incorrect as the most famous dragon of Pern is Ruth, the White Dragon, who is sexually indeterminate and asexual in practice. We think of him as a male but he’s really not as he doesn’t get triggered to rut by other dragons. Since dragons are assigned sex by color, he’s outside the system in that way and Ruth is pretty much…yeah the most significant Dragon of Pern ever.

    3. Race. If you think the people of Pern are all white you’re operating under a false assumption. As all the people of Pern are descended from a colony of like 6,000 ish people from most ethnic groups of earth. After 2,000 years of intermixing…the people of Pern are very mixed race, to the point where the false construct of race isn’t at all an issue, and there are few direct cultural ties from Earth to Pern. Melanin is dispersed based on climate same as it is on earth and since all humans inhabit the Northern Continent and Benden, Ruatha, and Fort are all quite northerly and tend to be where most stories are set, there is an impression of old Europe especially given the type of pseudo-medieval setting in the early books. I mean…the Dragons were created by an old Asian Lady in the books, and the original colony was full of people from all over Earth and it’s other early colonies and actually specifically was for some of the most marginalized populations left on Earth when the colony was founded (irish travelers, romani, innuit) are all ethnic heritages and more boasted by chracters in Dragons Dawn and the Chronicles of Pern.

    4. Consent is indeed tricky on Pern, especially when Dragons are involved with the whole super horny rutting system augmented by telepathic mental projection.

    The thing is when Dragons rise to mate, yes, their riders get busy and indiscriminately bone whoever is around and especially whoever catches the lady dragon …but…dragon mood projection affects more than just their riders and so in the Weyrs people are incredibly open sexually, and at very early ages…which is not anything new for people in history (how old was Juliette in the play by Shakespeare?) and present of our current world. What I appreciate about these books is that they bring up these questions, while also introducing vocabulary like autonomy. Also it is fair to point out that dragons are tele-empathetic aliens and the people who ride them are as well though to less demonstrable effect…consent can be detected before it can be expressed, and sometimes rough, crazy, animalistic boning is just fun. What is really interesting in a way is that the entire leadership of a Weyr is determined by the unpredictable nature of a non-human animal’s mating habits. Also, just because people’s dragons bone and they bone doesn’t mean they are each others primary partner…just…rigid monogomy is pretty much a novelty un the Weyrs…even though Anne falls to representing it over and over again in 9th Pass Pern though in Moreta she shows us that the leaders of the Weyr are only intimate when their dragons are involved and are free to pursue love elsewhere.

    Anyway just some thoughts in response to those I read, I sort of apologies for presenting everything as a counter/attack on the initial post/blog…I just found this blog while doing a search for some obscure Pern memorabilia and things written impelled me to respond.

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    1. My experience reading Pern — and I assume you’re talking mostly about the Dragonflight books, since Harper Hall dealt mostly with Hold-bound and fire lizards — focused almost primarily on heterosexual pairings — that is, the primary characters tended to be cis and het. Can we agree on that point? Those were given primacy, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that; McCaffrey was, after all, a product of her time and there’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with heterosexual main characters and storylines. Point being, if you’re looking for a queer–driven plot/character arc, I’d argue that Pern isn’t it. But you’re right, thinking back, and I stand corrected, that there is SOME queer rep, though it doesn’t drive the stories.

      I should have been more succinct in how I define queer rep. I will go upstairs into the blog and make that point and I will clarify and credit you.

      Thinking back on it now, was the supposition that blue dragons seemed to attract male riders, and by extension, queer cis male riders…? I recall a couple of mating flights that involved male same-sex riders and blue dragons, but I’d argue that they were not the focus of the books, not the focus of the stories, and certainly not the driving focus of the culture of Pern as McCaffrey conceived it or the larger plot and character arcs. In fact, I don’t recall the names of those characters. Do you? I’m asking because I’m genuinely curious. I don’t have my Pern books handy, so I honestly don’t recall the names.

      I also recall a discussion on a fanboard a while back about blue dragons flying blue but also green on occasion, and how riders of blue tended to be male, and a question came up as to whether the rider was already queer or whether there’s sort of a “look the other way” kind of viewpoint on the part of the Pernese with regard to same-sex hook-ups during a mating flight because when dragons are in mating flight, there’s not a damn thing you can do, basically, if you’re their riders.

      I will concur about Ruth and thank you for pointing that out.

      Having said ALL that, I think a case can be made for much less queer women’s rep than men’s. Perhaps my initial readings and then my later readings were geared toward looking for THAT rep and sort of filing the queer male rep away as, “okay, there’s a little bit…” but not having it resonate with me at the time because I was looking for other things. Not saying that as an excuse; just an explanation. We all read for different things, after all.

      Regarding race–I’m not sure I’m going to agree. I think by saying “oh, things are great and there are no racial constructs on Pern” sort of works to erase race and that kind of feels like it might be coming from a privileged position because the reality is, there are people of color right here right now who look to find themselves represented in books. And we all have cultural baggage around race, construct or not. We all carry that baggage in the societies in which we dwell, so we can read Pern as “post-racial” (whatever that might mean) or talk about how “advanced” Pern is because oh, there aren’t any issues with race, BUT is that really the case? Think about, again, the main characters and the main arcs, and how those characters were presented in cover images and in the text. So I think yes…an argument can be made that there were POC on Pern — I’ll stand corrected on that — but can we really make an argument that POC drove some of the primary stories? That is, were featured as main characters, and recognized as POC, even if it was just an “in passing” kind of thing because ideally, in a “post-racial” world, you don’t need to recognize a person’s skin color since nobody apparently cares about that BUT I’d argue that people right now, in our context, are looking for main characters in addition to secondary characters who are POC as we understand that.

      Does that make sense? I’m not sure I’m making sense.

      Anyway, this notion that Pern had different physical appearances, but race wasn’t an issue makes me a little uncomfortable given that I as a white person can say, “oh, aren’t these books great? They’re ‘colorblind’.” Are they? Or are the POC included simply as setting boosters? And yes, you make a good point about the woman who drove the initial dragon creation project, but her story…well, where’s the rest of it?

      Perhaps I’m arguing that we’re both right.

      I skimmed the books on my most recent readings, so I’ll own not doing a more careful refresher read, and thanks for pointing things out. Going upstairs to do some ETAs…

      Thanks for stopping by.

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    2. You made almost all the points I was going to make, so I’ll refrain, except that one phrase I remember most based on frequent usage had to do with dark and olive toned skin, so it’s funny how some read a lack of diversity there.

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      1. I always wonder, though…what precisely does that mean? Because does that automatically mean a person of color? Couldn’t one be Italian and have olive-toned skin? Does Italian make one a person of color? And does having “dark skin” make one automatically a person of color? Define “dark-skinned.” Couldn’t that also be applied to a white person who has spent a lot of time in the sun? And not all Latina/o/Latinx people have “dark skin” and yet their experiences are as people of color. Nor do Asian people necessarily have “dark skin.”

        Anyway, that’s where I automatically go when those terms show up. What precisely do they mean? And just describing a character with “dark skin” or “olive” skin does not necessarily speak to that person’s experience as a POC. All it does is provide a physical description sans any attendant indicators of what that even means. So if a POC is reading a book and a character is described as “dark skinned” without what that means in the context of the story, then it doesn’t mean there’s POC rep.

        Does that make sense?

        Thanks for stopping by!

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  12. I’d also like to mention that I am a survivor of sexual abuse, and am from a family deeply impacted by sexual abuse, and these books were incredibly helpful for me as young person in reconciling and understanding that.

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    1. ALSO, Brandon R–if you are monitoring replies here, check your email. I dropped you a line about doing a guest blog. If you don’t see it in your inbox, check your spam filter. Thanks!

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