I’m currently doing a re-read of the Dragonriders of Pern series for the first time in a while. The series was extremely influential on me in my adolescent years, and it remains one of my favorite book series despite some of the contradictions affectionately referred to as Anne-consistencies by fans. The series will always have a fond place in my heart. I thought I’d take this opportunity to comment at length about it’s historical and personal significance.
First the historical significance: the Dragonriders of Pern series is a famous one in science fiction. The influential first two trilogies were released in the 60s and 70s, and the author Anne McCaffrey was part of a group of female authors who broke into the science-fiction genre in that time, which was traditionally male-dominated. A large part of the reason she wrote the Dragonriders of Pern series in the first place was because she was able to write strong female characters, which science-fiction was lacking.
Of course, anybody who knows the Dragonriders of Pern series also knows that Anne McCaffrey also wrote compelling and influential male characters. It is here that the personal significance overlaps with historical signifiance. The male heroes of the Anne’s books were often dragonriders–and for those who don’t know, dragonriders were by necessity empathic people. As an adolescent, I found it difficult to find role models in the Star Wars and Star Trek universes—but characters like F’lar, F’nor and Jaxom were people I aspired to be like. I”m extremely grateful that I had such fictional role models–characters who inspired me to be truly honorable and loving.
Of course, as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to appreciate Star Wars and Star Trek characters more and see the subtleties in them I missed as an adolescent. The Dragonriders of Pern has also distanced itself from my personal experience, as I’ve become Christian and am now 25 without yet having much romantic experience. Yet despite this distancing in some ways The Dragonriders of Pern series still has a power over me, and it still has just as much to say to me as Star Wars and Star Trek do. For like both of those illustrious series, and like all good fiction, The Dragonriders of Pern series offers many good messages and moral lessons that are valid for everyone, regardless of faith or personal experience.
It is also worth noting that Anne McCaffrey was reported to be a Star Trek fan herself, which makes me very glad indeed–for while Star Trek was conceived of and run by a male, and featured mostly male characters as leads, it’s goals were similar to those of Dragonriders of Pern, insisting on equality of men and women. And that’s something I can endorse a hundred percent.