I first discovered Pern, the most expansive world created by the venerable Anne McCaffrey and now written by her son Todd McCaffrey, over ten years ago. The world of Pern has been developed over the course of 22 novels and two volumes of short stories published over the course of the last 40 years. My first foray to the series was not with Dragonflight, the first book published in the series, but with Dragonsong, a much shorter book that still does a good job of explaining the way Pern operates, but steals some of the drama from Dragonflight and Dragonquest.
The setting of Pern is technically science fiction and takes place in the far future, but many of the books take place in the low-tech world that developed after the colonists arrived on Pern. The prequel, Dragonsdawn, indicates that this was part of the intention of the colonists when they decided to settle into Pern and not solely the fault of the great environmental danger, referred to as thread, that led to the world’s unique social structure and the centrality of titular dragons to Pern. Thread is a dangerous organism that falls from the sky which feeds on all manner of biological material almost instantly. It is brought to Pern by a planet known as the “Red Star” every 200 years or so, in cycles that last for 50 years. Entire lifetimes can be spent fighting a menace whose only weakness is fire, and which can only be repelled by stone and metal. Cue the dragons.
Pern is an interesting constructed world because of the universal threat that defines the entire structure of its society. People have banded together in a highly stratified society in order to ensure the collective survival. This structure is very medieval, with the Holders consisting of the farmers and their leaders tasked with maintaining law and order, the Craftsmen are directly analogous to guilds in our world, and the Dragonriders, or “wyer-folk,” are in the position of highest prestige, (which is equal parts army and church from a structural standpoint). To their credit, the novels do not focus exclusively on the experience of one group, though the Dragonriders and Harpers (musicians/historians/spies) do receive more attention than anyone else.
A series with 24 volumes has plenty of room to develop its world and the world of Pern has been exquisitely crafted. With two continents and 2000 years’ worth of stories to tell, the world of Pern is well worth exploring.
YouTube Channel: Watch Mojo.com
Featured image via Observation Deck