The Dragonriders of Pern (CIC: ATG-6710-728-AM) is a series of science fiction novels by Anne McCaffrey with more recent contributions from her son Todd and daughter Gigi. The novels are set on the planet Pern, which is threatened by "Thread," a destructive organism that devours all organic matter it touches. To combat Thread, Pern's original colonists genetically engineered the indigenous dragon-like fire-lizards into large fire-breathing dragons. With their telepathically bonded riders to guide them, the dragons of Pern flame Thread out of the sky, protecting the people below.
The main series takes place during the Ninth Pass of the Red Star, actually an eccentric planetoid responsible for dragging Thread into Pern's orbit. This Pass occurs at a time when most of Pern no longer believes in the threat of Thread and the remaining dragons are barely sufficient to combat it.
Todd McCaffrey's contributions take place during the Third Pass. Other novels are set during the First, Second, and Sixth Passes.
Thread threatens Pern's existence every 250 Pernese years, or Turns, when the Red Star's elliptic orbit brings it within planetary spitting distance of Pern. Thread is actually a mycorrhizoid spore picked up by the Red Star as it passes through the Oort cloud on the edge of the solar system. When the Red Star passes near to Pern, there is a 50-Turn period (a Pass) during which the spores fall through Pern's atmosphere, where their protective coating melts off, releasing the long, silver spores. Thread eats any organic material it touches, but it drowns in water and is consumed by fire.
The 200-Turn period of Thread's absence is referred to as an Interval. Every fourth orbit, the Red Star misses Pern, and a Long Interval of 450 Turns occurs. The Ninth Pass begins after a Long Interval.
Ninth-Pass Pern has a low-tech, feudal society divided into three main sections: Holds, Halls, and Weyrs.
Pern's Holds are like medieval manors. Each Hold is run by a hereditary Lord or Lady Holder. Minor holds look to their main Hold for government and support in times of crisis.
Prior to the start of the Ninth Pass, the tyrant Lord Fax had taken over four major Holds and three minor ones, declaring himself "Lord of the Seven Holds." His death at the hands of bronzerider F'lar in the first book has repercussions throughout the main series.
The Halls are similar to medieval craft guilds. Each Hall is autonomous and led by a Mastercrafter, who is elected by his or her fellow craftmasters. Crafters begin as apprentices at about the age of 12, become journeymen after a period of training, and may choose to continue their studies and become masters. The most important Halls in Ninth-Pass Pern are the Harper Hall, led by Masterharper Robinton, and the Smith Hall, led by Mastersmith Fandarel.
The Weyrs are where the dragons live. At full capacity, each Weyr can house around 400 dragons and their riders as well as a considerable support staff. Each Weyr is autonomous and led by a Weyrwoman and a Weyrleader. The Weyrwoman is the rider of the most senior gold dragon, or queen. The Weyrleader is the rider of whichever bronze dragon catches the queen in her mating flight(s). There is only one inhabited Weyr at the beginning of the Ninth Pass—Benden Weyr—but there are six total on the Northern Continent.
Each Weyr, with its contingent of fire-breathing dragons, protects the Holds nearest to it. Every Threadfall, the Weyrleader leads the fighting Wings to meet Pern's enemy in the air. Each Wing is responsible for a certain portion of the Fall. Each rider in the Wing takes his or her direction from the wingleader, who in turn takes his direction from the Weyrleader. Even the gold dragons rise to fight Thread, aided by flamethrowers carried by their riders. They fly below the Wings and mop up any Thread they might have missed.
Pern has some fairly strict naming conventions, and ignoring these constitutes a charge:
- Dragon names end in -th. No dragon shares a name with any other dragon while living, if at all.
- Riders may call their dragons by nicknames, but dragons call their riders by name. "Ridermine" and "Mine" are not canon, and therefore their use is silly.
- When a male candidate Impresses a dragon, he abbreviates his name with an apostrophe. Thus, Fallarnon becomes F'lar, Naton becomes N'ton, etc. This follows the tradition set by the first dragons of Pern slurring their riders' names during the high-paced action of Threadfall. Women riders' names are not shortened in this way; nor is Jaxom's, but in his case it's because he is more a Lord Holder than a dragonrider, despite Impressing Ruth. Apostrophes are there to abbreviate the name, they are not there for decoration.
- Watch-wher names end in -sk and are based on the name of their Impressor or the hold they guard. The closer the match to their Impressor's name, the closer the bond. Thus, if Neshomeh had a close bond with a watch-wher, it might be called Neshomesk. If her bond is not so close, the wher's name might be Nesk.
Other conventions are simply conventions, not hard-and-fast rules, but should still be respected:
With the habit of abbreviating dragonriders' names in mind, many Pernese parents give their children names that can be easily shortened. This is not necessarily the case, though (no one had dragons in mind when they named Lord Groghe). Either way, Pernese names are often variations on sounds present in the names of either or both of the bearer's parents—for instance, F'lar and Lessa named their son Felessan; Lessa is the daughter of Kale and Adessa. However, this too is not necessarily the case. Robinton is named after his grandfather Roblyn, for instance, and Menolly and Alemi's parents are Mavi and Yanus.
The only names you shouldn't see on Ninth-Pass Pern are common names on Earth. They just don't exist except by accident, and the less likely such an accident becomes, the less acceptable the name becomes. For instance, one could probably get away with Dan, Rob, Sam, Kim, etc., and adding another syllable to the aforementioned to create something that sounds like an Earth name (e.g. Roben, Sammi) would probably pass with the parental variation convention in place; however, Daniel, Robert, Samantha, and Kimberly are right out. Furthermore, the Pernese aren't big on naming themselves after nouns, so Jewel, Flower, Virtue, and all their cousins are to be eschewed. Causing a dragonrider's contracted name to be a common Earth name with an apostrophe stuck in it, especially without any explanation, constitutes the most base and reprehensible method of cheating the aforesaid conventions. E'rik, Br'ian, and D'ave are (say it with me) right out.
Fire-lizards and other animals, such as runnerbeasts, are named whatever their owners feel like calling them. Jewel, Flower, and Virtue are welcome here.
Dolphins on Pern are fully sentient and name their own. Their conventions are not well-known, but the names in use during the Ninth Pass may be descended from the names of the original pod brought along with the colonists, of whom many were named after historical places and persons (e.g. Theresa, Amadeus, China, Oregon).
Pern's sentient, telepathic, telekinetic, fire-breathing dragons are what makes the world special. At its hatching, each dragonet bonds with, or Impresses, one human rider. From then until death, the two share a telepathic bond. The rider is responsible for the care and feeding of the dragon, and in return the dragon provides unswerving love and devotion. There is no closer bond than that between dragon and rider.
|Dragon Color Chart|
The dragons come in five colors. In order of size:
- Gold dragons (38–42 ft) are the egg-layers of the Weyr. They do not breathe fire, as they are incapable of processing the phosphate-bearing firestone. Golds are very intelligent, but they are haughty and possessive of their mates. They Impress girls only.
- Bronzes (35–38 ft) are the largest males, which is why they are usually the ones to catch the queens in flight and lead the fighting Wings. They are very intelligent, but sometimes vain. They Impress boys only.
- Browns (30–35 ft) are middle-sized males. Occasionally a large brown is a contender for leadership positions, but mostly they are lieutenants, or wingseconds, to bronze wingleaders. Browns are often credited with having the most sense of all the colors. They Impress boys only.
- Blues (25–30 ft) are small, sturdy males. With greens, they make up the bulk of the Wings. They are too small to fly the golds, but their riders can hold leadership positions such as Weyrlingmaster, Weyrharper, etc. Blues also tend to have the best sense for which humans are most likely to Impress. They Impress boys only.
- Greens (20–25 ft) are small, agile females. They breathe fire and are infertile, which is fortunate, because they rise often to mate. They are the most numerous dragon color with the number of greens equaling the number of all the other colors combined. They can be temperamental, but their dexterity in the air makes them the best Threadfighters. They Impress boys and girls, though the practice of presenting girls as candidates to any but a queen egg died out sometime after the end of the Second Pass. It was revived during the Ninth Pass when Mirrim quite unintentionally Impressed Path from the stands.
One exception to the above exists in canon: Ruth, a white dragon (though it is noted that he has hints of all colors in his hide), who was born from an unusually small egg and Impressed Jaxom, who broke the shell open himself. He is repeatedly stated to be unique; should any other oddly-hued dragon appear in a fanfic, it is most certainly a charge.
A note on measurements: There is a fairly major controversy on whether dragons are measured by meters or feet. The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern by Jody Lynn Nye with Anne McCaffrey gives lengths in meters, but Anne McCaffrey is said to have retconned this in a later interview. If anyone can find the location of that interview and cite it properly, it would be much appreciated. Proof here
Smaller and less intelligent, fire-lizards are the dragons' ancestors. Kitti Ping, a geneticist with the original colonists, genetically engineered the dragons from fire-lizards to provide a renewable fighting force to protect the colonists from Thread. They are indigenous to Pern and come in the same gendered colors as dragons, but only grow to about the length of a person's arm.
In the wild, fire-lizards go in groups called "fairs," led by a gold. Gold fire-lizards are attentive mothers, and a whole fair will often attend a hatching and provide their gold's hatchlings with food items. Hungry hatchlings may devour their clutchmates in desperation. Green fire-lizards lay small clutches mostly containing greens, but they are often careless with their nests and have poor survival rates.
Fire-lizards can be Impressed like dragons and are often kept as pets by people lucky or high-ranking enough to obtain an egg. They possess limited telepathic abilities, transmitting mostly images and feelings to their owners. It is impossible to tell the color of a hatchling still in the egg, even a gold, and anyone can Impress any color. The most fire-lizards ever owned by one person was ten, and they belonged to Harper Menolly. (In fanfic, possessing more fire-lizards than Menolly is a charge.)
Pern was a partially quarantined continuum until November 2004, when Anne McCaffrey lifted her proscription against fanfiction and instituted some rules and guidelines for it. Even before then, though, the Pern fandom was very large and very active in the form of offline clubs, on- and offline role-play, and yes, illicit fanfic, too (see the mission "Brown DragonRider of Pern" below). After the ban was lifted, of course, a Dragonriders of Pern section appeared on the Pit, and the fic came rolling in.
RP groups and fanfics typically center themselves around non-canon Weyrs, located in unexplored or at least unfrequented regions of Pern (such as the Southern Continent), and taking place well before or after the Ninth Pass. In the past, this was out of respect to two of Anne McCaffrey's rules, which stipulated that clubs and RPs should 1) avoid the use of Benden Weyr or Ruatha Hold, and 2) must not use any of Pern's major characters. Since Pern is a big world with lots of time and space to play in, this is generally okay as long as it's handled well, following the rules of the canon. When it isn't, you get:
As easy as it is to create a scenario that fits in with Pern's canon, fans seem to delight in going out of their way to avoid doing so. Perhaps the most common infraction against canon is ignoring the dragon color rules. Sometimes this is as simple as a girl Impressing a male or gender-swapped male-colored dragon, or giving dragons special markings. Other times, fanwriters go so far as to make up new colors entirely. While there are ways to make this plausible, the unfortunate truth is that many fans go for lurid shades ranging from the relatively tame (magenta, indigo) through the accident in the paint shop (sunset, storm, aurora) all the way to the completely ridiculous (stripes, polka-dots, rainbow). The further from the original five they get, the less plausible and more charge-worthy they become.
Other canon-breaking trends include the use of nicknames. Fire-lizards may be referred to as "flits," dragons may call their riders "Ridermine" or just "Mine," and naming conventions may be ignored altogether.
Sues and Stus
Sues love Pern. The lure of one's very own dragon is hard to resist, and when an OC falls into Suedom here, she does so in style. All the usual Mary Sue traits may apply, naturally, and in addition may be accompanied by one or all of the following:
- Hears All Dragons - the Sue has the ability to "listen in" on dragons, despite the fact that this is a very rare ability.
- Rides a dragon:
- A gold dragon - may have speshul markings
- A non-gold dragon that nonetheless is treated like one - may be gender-swapped or a speshul new color
- A male dragon
- Impresses in spite of some disadvantage, real or imagined, usually angsty - even if this is something that should have prevented her from being Searched in the first place, such as being physically deformed or mentally unsound
- Impresses "by accident" or in spite of supposedly not wanting to
- Becomes/already is the Weyrwoman.
- Also Impresses a gold, bronze, or speshul fire-lizard, or has more fire-lizards than Menolly, who Impressed nine at once and later a tenth.
Stus are observed less, though they may fall into the same traps as Sues with regards to unusual Impressions and dragons of speshul attributes.
Pern is actually a very slash-friendly canon, given the vast numbers of female green dragons with male riders who will likely be flown by male dragons with male riders—since the riders get caught up in their dragons' ardor during mating flights, male/male couplings are a normal part of Weyr life. By extension, female/female pairings likely wouldn't raise any eyebrows.
On the other hand, not all people on Pern are as accepting as Weyrfolk, and it's still possible to handle an otherwise-plausible slash pairing poorly. For instance, just because a holder Impresses doesn't mean he can immediately adjust to Weyr life, up to and including same-sex coupling. Candidates from the holds and crafthalls are warned in advance and ideally given plenty of time to get their heads around the idea before Impression, but even then their dragon's first mating flight is a highly charged emotional experience, for better or worse. Treating it casually can be a very bad thing.
Throwing canon characters OOC in order to facilitate a slash pairing is always charge-worthy.
Pern and the PPC
Pern minis are mini-whers.
Recruiting a dragonrider is a tricky business due to the fact that dragons are very, very big and as such are unlikely to thrive in Headquarters. If possible, non-disruptive dragonrider OCs should be allowed to assimilate with canon rather than recruited.
Agents Native to Pern
Derik is the only agent native to this continuum. However, Agents Alec Troven and Jennifer Robinson are both known to have lived there in their pre-PPC lives, and consider it like a second home. Oddly enough, all three were dragonriders with harper training. Alec's partner, Marc-C, has Impressed a gold dragon named Amaranth.
Agents with Fire-Lizards
Before the continuum was opened in November 2004, fire-lizards were contraband. However, Alec had one from his Stu days, a brown named Trey.
In the aftermath of the first PPC Badfic Game in April 2004, Alec illicitly gave a pair of eggs to Teena and Artemis as thanks for their help in saving Verra Rose from Sue-possession. Teena's egg hatched a gold, Artemis' hatched a bronze.
In the early summer of 2015, they traded one of Hera's clutches to Agents Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill and Supernumerary, who further traded the twelve eggs as shown in the table at right. Jennifer Robinson oversaw the Impressions and wrote a fire-lizard owner's guide for agents.
Missions in this Continuum
- "Brown DragonRider of Pern," Agent Dafydd Illian (DOGA) with Agent Alec Troven (DI) and Intern Neshomeh (DMS)
- "Every You, Every Me," Agents Grace Leon and Ally Malet (DF)
- "Harry Potter and the Dragonriders of Pern" (crossover with Harry Potter) Agents Nume and Ilraen (DIC), Nurse Jennifer Robinson (FicPsych), and friends
- "Unexpected Impressions," Agents Alec Troven and Marc-C (DI)
- Fan Fiction Rules at The Worlds of Anne McCaffrey
- McCaffrey's old rules as posted on the Galen Weyr RP's website. Neshomeh totally had nothing to do with this. Or any rule-breaking. You see nothing.
- PPC Basic Charge List for Pern
- "Unexpected Impressions" mission by Kippur.
- "Great news!!!", Alec's LiveJournal, by Kippur, Apr 21, 2004
- "A long ramble," Alec's LiveJournal, by Kippur, Apr 28, 2004
- "Re. Hmm." by Artemis, Apr 28, 2004
- "Fire-Lizard Hatching," role-play by various authors, Aug 8–Sep 4, 2015