Dragonriders of Pern is a science fiction series written primarily by American-Irish author Anne McCaffrey,[a] who initiated it in 1967. Beginning in 2003, her middle child Todd McCaffrey has written Pern novels, both solo and jointly with Anne. The series (as of July 2012) comprises 23 novels and several short stories. Most of the short fiction has been collected in two volumes or incorporated in one of the novels, so Dragonriders of Pern is sometimes identified with the 24 books.[b] Two of the novellas included in the first novel, Dragonflight, made McCaffrey the first woman to win a Hugo or Nebula Award.
Life on Pern as presented in the novels resembles a pre-industrial society with lords, holds, harpers (musicians, entertainers, and teachers), and dragons, with the occasional examples of higher technology (like flamethrowers, telegraphs, chemical fertilizers, and powerful microscopes and telescopes).
Pernese people are described as belonging to four basic groups: Weyrfolk (including Dragonriders) who live in the Weyrs, the Holders who live in the Holds (cities, towns and farms), the crafters who live in Crafthalls (or are assigned to work their crafts in certain Holds), and the Holdless who have no permanent home (including traders, displaced Holders, and brigands).
One of the main threats to Pernese civilization in the series is Thread, which is described as a mycorrhizoid spore that periodically rains down on the planet due to the orbit of the Red Star. The Red Star is set out to be a rogue planet in the Rukbat system. The Red Star, characterized as a "Sedna-class inner Oort cloud object", has a 250 Turn (or Pernese year) elliptic orbit around its sun. Thread can reach the planet Pern for about 50 Turns while the Red Star is at perihelion. Thread is described in this series as an agent that consumes organic material at a voracious rate, including crops, animals, and any humans in its path.
The Pernese use intelligent firebreathing dragons and their riders to fight Thread. The riders have a telepathic bond with their dragons, formed by Impression at the dragon's hatching. Later books deal with the initial colonization of Pern and the creation of the dragons through genetic manipulation. The lengthy time period covered by the series as a whole (over two and a half millennia) allows room for new stories and characters, explored by each new novel released by the authors.
There are 23 Dragonriders of Pern novels and two collections of short stories through July 2012. Anne McCaffrey once requested reading the works in the order they were written. That differs greatly from Pern historical order, for several reasons. The McCaffreys have published stories set in several different periods of Pern's history from initial exploration to more than 2,500 years after landing (AL). Multiple stories feature the same events from different viewpoints. Some stories feature travel between times, even across centuries. Todd McCaffrey, writing alone or with his mother, has specialized in an early time period.
These stories take place immediately before and during the Ninth Pass, about 2,500 years after landing (AL).
The trilogy was released 1978 in omnibus edition titled The Dragonriders of Pern by Nelson Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club.
These stories take place immediately prior to and concurrently with those depicted in Dragonquest and The White Dragon.
The Harper Hall trilogy was released 1984 in omnibus edition titled The Harper Hall of Pern by Nelson Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club.Dragonsong was subtitled "Volume One of The Harper Hall Trilogy" on the front cover of the Bantam Spectra edition, March 1986.
"On Dragonwings", an omnibus containing Dragonsdawn, Dragonseye and Moreta, was published in 2003.
Since 2003, Anne McCaffrey and her middle child Todd McCaffrey have developed the history immediately before and during the Third Pass, about 500 Turns after landing (AL).
Weyr Search won the inaugural Hugo Award for Best Novella in 1968 and Dragonrider won the Nebula Award for Best Novella in 1969. (Both were finalists for both awards.) Dragonquest, The White Dragon, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern and All the Weyrs of Pern were among the five annual finalists for the best novel Hugo Award.
In 1991 Dragonflight, the first Pern book published, was released as a set of three graphic novels by Eclipse Books of Forestville, California. The story was adapted across all three graphic novels by Brynne Stephens. The first two graphic novels were illustrated by Lela Dowling and Fred Von Tobel, the third by Lela Dowling and Cynthia Martin.
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There are two CDs of music relating to the Teaching Ballads and the works of Masterharper Robinton and Menolly.
"The Masterharper of Pern" was made in 1998 by Anglo-Alaskan duo Tania Opland and Mike Freeman in collaboration with Anne McCaffrey at her request, and features the music of Robinton. The project began as an idea to include written music in the book of the same name, printed on the inner faces of the cover. By the time the composers had written and auditioned the early drafts at the author's table it was clear that making the songs a reality to their creator's satisfaction was finally possible. The CD project was completed some eighteen months later (1998) and released to the approval of the author and fans of the series worldwide.
The second CD pertaining mainly to the work another Pernese harper, Menolly, was completed in December 2008. Entitled "Sunset's Gold," this features Opland and Freeman with other musicians, and comprises twelve tracks of music recorded from 2006 to 2008. The CD includes the ballad "Four Hundred Turns" written by Anne McCaffrey shortly after she completed "Dragonflight." It was placed in a desk drawer where it lay forgotten for almost forty years until the author rediscovered it just as the CD project was underway. It had never been seen or published before.
Songbooks are also available containing the music from the first CD, with a similar book for the second in the works.
Prior to 1995, the motion picture and ancillary rights to the literary property were optioned by various entities, including Robert Mandell (for a cartoon series adaptation that was eventually redeveloped into Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders) and Kerry Skogland.
In 1996, McCaffrey sold the motion picture rights to an Irish company, Zyntopo Teoranta, who entered into a co-production agreement with Alliance Atlantis, covering development including advanced 3-D animation and compositing effects for television budgets. Distribution pre-sale efforts failed, and Zyntopo Teoranta entered into an agreement with Ronald D. Moore as showrunner to present the project to Warner Brothers Network.
There have been several games released based on the Pern series.
Pern fandom consists of a large variety of fan communities. The largest part of fandom is made up by clubs that allow their members to 'play' Pern by creating original characters within the setting of Anne McCaffrey's world. To avoid conflicts with Pern canon and trademarks, each club typically chooses a particular location and timeline as a unique setting different from Anne McCaffrey's established history of Pern. Most commonly, clubs are named for the main Weyr chosen as playing location.
Historically, the first clubs started out publishing printed fanzines containing fanfiction and artwork. With the advent of the internet, clubs using online technology such as roleplay via chat or email (PBeM) became popular. Text-based online virtual reality games, primarily MUSH and MUCK variants such as PernMUSH, have modeled Pern since the early 1990s. In the mid '90s, stringent rules were placed on the creation of new clubs and the governance of existing clubs, resulting in legal action against some fans. For example, no new fan-created MU* games were allowed while the game rights were licensed to Ubisoft for the development of the Dragon Riders: Chronicles of Pern computer game (released in 2001).
In November 2004, Anne McCaffrey relaxed her fandom rules significantly and allowed Pernese fanfiction to be posted freely throughout the Internet. Soon after, fanfiction sites such as FanFiction.net started offering the opportunity to post and read fanfiction based on Anne McCaffrey's works. The relaxing of the rules also resulted in the appearance of message board-based games as another popular club type. Fan sites no longer require approval and are not bound to the formerly strict canon rules, resulting in fan clubs testing out alternatives such as new dragon colors or off-Pern scenarios.
From 2000 until 2005, Anne McCaffrey's website offered a popular discussion forum and chat (The Kitchen Table) for fans to interact with each other and with the author. After its discontinuation in January 2005, several fan-organized discussion forums have taken its place as an outlet for fan activity.
Offline, the largest Pern fan gathering is WeyrFest, held yearly at Dragon*Con since 1992. Over the last few years, Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey were frequent attendees at WeyrFest, offering fans a chance to meet the authors in person. Anne was originally scheduled to attend the 2011 Dragon*Con, but had deferred her appearance until the 2012 event due to heart problems, just a few months ahead of her death in late November.
Leadership of these dragons and riders falls to Xhinna, female rider of a blue dragon, who must earn the respect of all who follow her and solve the problem of how to get sufficient numbers of dragon eggs, all while protecting her people and baby dragons from the predators and, worse, traitors!
Barnes & Noble lists a CD "Dragon's School by Anne McCaffrey" expected December 2011.. Confirmed 2011-10-09. Soon after release of Dragon's Time, Todd corrected that early date for the next book and did not comment on its title or completion of the epoch. Todd McCaffrey (7 July 2011). "Newsletter". (responses 18, 20, 24).