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Prequel Problems: Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern

Thande

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This one was an example where I remembered One Big Thing I Want To Complain About, and then when I went back and skimmed the books for research, realised that actually they're mostly quite gold standard in terms of consistency over decades and that was the exception rather than the rule...

Random question @Gary Oswald but have you ever read any of these? It struck me while re-reading them that they felt like the sort of genre you might have come across before based on your being Best Mates with Naomi Novik or whatever my headcanon is.
 
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Time Enough

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My Dad oddly had the Graphic Novel adaptation of the book (from folks that also did Dean Koontz and Stephen King adaptations) so I only know Pern from that.

But sounds excellent.
 

Alex Richards

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Right, this is really making me want to do a bit of a read/post through of the Coldfire trilogy in Chat, because it really feels like it draws inspiration from another backstory part of Pern to the one you mentioned.
 

Jared

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Right, this is really making me want to do a bit of a read/post through of the Coldfire trilogy in Chat, because it really feels like it draws inspiration from another backstory part of Pern to the one you mentioned.
Having read the Coldfire trilogy but nothing of Pern except one short story in Legends, I’m now curious what that inspiration is.
 

Alex Richards

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Having read the Coldfire trilogy but nothing of Pern except one short story in Legends, I’m now curious what that inspiration is.
I was thinking of the 'it's an alien planet, explicitly from the start an alien planet in the far future that's been colonised by humanity but some natural aspect of the environment that just couldn't have been predicted means that there's been the loss of all modern technology and humanity is stuck in a form of medieval stasis except for one explicitly fantasy aspect' setting.

Like replace 'Thread' with 'the planet fighting back with nightmares drawn from humanity's subconscious' and 'telepathic dragons' with 'the Fey' and it really starts looking very similar.

I mean, maybe that's just something that's got antecedents I'm not familiar with, but it still seems quite striking.
 

Thande

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The one that most blew out the continuity for me was Masterharper of Pern.

Such things as no female harpers and Queen riders, amongst others, were completely changed.
That's actually the one where I gave up part way in and stopped reading the series, so it makes sense I wasn't aware of that.
 

AndyC

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That's actually the one where I gave up part way in and stopped reading the series, so it makes sense I wasn't aware of that.
You didn't miss much. It's the one that I can't reread.
McCaffery was so in love with Masterharper Robinton that it warped the entire book.

- Remember that no women were ever Harpers and never had been for time out of mind? Well, Robinton's Mum had been one, and the Mastersinger at that. Makes the Harper Hall trilogy look weird in retrospect. "No, Menolly, you can't be a Harper," said Petiron. "No woman has ever been a Harper. Well, my wife was, I suppose." Doesn't really work for me. And the refusal to treat her as a normal apprentice in Dragonsinger until right at the end when she's proved herself... what?

- Robinton was friends with all the major characters of the recent past, and present at literally every major event. Up to and including the invasion of Ruatha (as a hidden disguised drudge), as well as secretly present when F'lar fought Fax early in Dragonflight.

- Robinton's surprise at the dragons talking to him occasionally, and mild shock the first time when Mnementh spoke to him in Dragonquest looks a bit weird when it turns out he spoke with virtually every dragon he met when he was younger (and the Benden Weyrleader and F'lar's father told him he could get a flight whenever he needed one and he'd personally take him).

- The disbelief at Lessa wanting to fly on Ramoth and the oft-repeated "Gold dragons don't fly" from Dragonflight looks a bit daft when you get told that it was literally only Jora who refused to fly, and everyone could still remember from before her.
 

kratostatic

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I've read most of the series multiple times (starting with Dragonsdawn because that's the one my parents had, something of a recurring theme with me and prequels), and they were some of my favourite books as a teenager. But I've never gotten around to the Harper trilogy, and honestly I don't feel like I'm missing much.
 

Iopgod

Well-known member
I'm not sure if the early editions of Weyr Search / Dragonflight etc. had the this-is-a-colony intro.

Moretta (and Nerilka's Story, which is set concurrently) has the most discussion of time travelling (and also demonstrates why it was discouraged / forgotten). (It is also has a plague.)

Im not sure I was ever particularly bothered by the lack of AIVAS in Dragonsdawn... just another one of those many hi-tech technologies that the colony was deliberately abandoning / forgetting. Or perhaps it was just that as I read DD / ATWOP as they came out, I didnt really read the books closely enough to notice (or just forgot) the discrepancy.

I enjoyed and read McCaffery a lot as a teenager, but haven't felt much of a need to re-read them in the last couple of decades... I suspect this coincided with when she stopped writing her own books.
 

Iopgod

Well-known member
I've read most of the series multiple times (starting with Dragonsdawn because that's the one my parents had, something of a recurring theme with me and prequels), and they were some of my favourite books as a teenager. But I've never gotten around to the Harper trilogy, and honestly I don't feel like I'm missing much.
Harper trilogy is how I was introduced to her work (and possibly Sci-Fi as a genre). I think I read the second one (Dragonsong?) first (as you do). Probably a better introduction to the series than Dragonflight (certainly less rape-y).
 

AndyC

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I seem to recall a discussion several years back where it was indicated that the intro was added later - McCaffery had started with the aim of a fantasy series, and pulled it into soft sci-fi later on.
It was possibly on rec.arts.sf.written, but I can't remember the full details.
 

Thande

Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
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I seem to recall a discussion several years back where it was indicated that the intro was added later - McCaffery had started with the aim of a fantasy series, and pulled it into soft sci-fi later on.
It was possibly on rec.arts.sf.written, but I can't remember the full details.
It certainly made it a lot more interesting IMO if so.

You can basically tell by which Pern books I was most invested in, but what I was really reading it for was this slow reveal of the setting's origins in-universe for the present-day people who lived there. This did live up to my expectations, and compares favourably to works like "The Wheel of Time" where we get like three hints of a fascinating backstory in book 2 and then it's never brought up again.
 

Iopgod

Well-known member
It certainly made it a lot more interesting IMO if so.
On the other hand, I may have been wrong about the intro: see https://www.tor.com/2019/02/27/the-fantasy-roots-of-pern-dragonflight-part-one/ (especially comment 26) for discussion.

On the subject of McCaffery and prequel / sequels, she also has the Dinosaur Planet -> Planet Pirates sequence, where the first two books of the later trilogy relate some of the events of Dinosaur Planet: Survivors and Dinosaur Planet from new POVs (though in my opinion not very consistently with the earlier books), and the third book continues the aftermath. A possible cause of the consistency problem is that the later books were "collaborations" (who knows how much of a real one) so the writing style is different. (I always liked Sassinak and Generation Warriors more than the rest of that sequence, but then I like Elizabeth Moons solo stuff as well)
 
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