When I was a teenager back in the seventies, I discovered a wonderful world. It had dragons that could transport through space and time and Lords and Ladies, and a terrible menace from the skies but it was also NOT fantasy. There was no magic – it was set up as science based. And I loved science fiction. I wasn’t quite as into fantasy yet. These were already considered classics in the field, too.
Not only did Pern have wonderful intelligent dragons and nobility and and long dresses and songs, but it also had something I very much craved – strong female characters. They rode the biggest of the dragons, they had mental powers that could wreak revenge, they could fight alongside the men. Why, they could even be the viewpoint character. And they were romantic, with star-crossed love stories, or just love stories. Plus they had sex on occasion.
And did I mention dragons? Charming, loyal, LOVING dragons telepathically bound to their riders so tightly that if the human died, the dragon committed suicide, and if the dragon died, the human was considered only half a person, and might well follow. Which, for a lonely 14 year old, was beautiful. To love and be loved so very much, even though it was with with a non-human? Yeah, I liked that a lot. It spoke to me hard.
I didn’t give it much analysis, or notice, at the time, many of the problems in continuity, and certainly not in either the political set up OR the sexual issues that now glare at me. Sometimes it’s not smart to visit old friends – the charm wears off.
Although never on the dragons.
So, a discussion, if you will, on Anne McCaffery’s The Dragonriders of Pern as seen through the eyes of a feminist adult bothered by things the teenager never was.