Anne McCaffrey Bleg

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According to Wikipedia's article on the Dragonriders of Pern series, Anne McCaffrey says to read Dragondrums before The White Dragon, even though the publication order (and presumably the order she wrote them) is the reverse. Does anyone know if she really did say this, and can it be substantiated? Wikipedia usually requires citation for such claims, but I see none about this claim.


Not a clue. I've been tentative about going into the Pern books fearing prancing unicorn fantasy (i know, its dumb, unfounded and kinda chauvanistic but there you go) even though i worked for the SFBC and had access to most of the series. I'll see if I can ask my old editor if she knows anything.

Jeremy - I don't know if Anne McCaffrey said that, but IIRC Dragon Drums takes place before The White Dragon even though it was written later. So if she said that, that's probably the reason. However, the order in which she wrote the Pern books is completely different from the in story chronology, and if you were to read then in chronological order, I'm sure you would be left wondering why certain things are not mentioned in "later" novels.

Rey - actually, the entire Pern series ends up being a "Hard Sci-Fi" series. Seriously. So you should have no worries about a prancing unicorn fantasy. There is literally no magic and (very minor spoilers ahead) almost all of the "fantastic creatures" (biggest case in point, Dragons) turn out to have been genetically engineered.

Wink, one online list I found says the books as taking places simultaneously. The Wikipedia page does agree with you that The White Dragon takes place later.

As for your spoiler, I think that information is actually revealed in the preface of the first book. It takes the characters in the books a while to find that out, but the reader knows it at the very beginning.

While it's accurate to say that dragons are genetically engineered, I'm not sure it's correct to treat their special abilities as being genetically engineered. The fire lizards have most of those abilities, at least in a lesser form, and they were on the planet when the settlers arrived. But it is a fantasy-like plot device with a scifi explanation, since those creatures' abilities presumably have a scientific explanation. If that's ever given, I'm not sure what it is yet.

Here's what one of my old editors said in response to the question:

Andrew Wheeler said...
Rey: McCaffrey has had a note on the card pages of her books for the last twenty years or so saying that chronological order of publication is her preferred reading order for the "Pern" series.

The Dragondrums/White Dragon question is a bit more complicated, since they're both the ends of trilogies. What I understand McCaffrey has said (on those card pages, and elsewhere) is that readers can start with either one of the two trilogies (either the YA books Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums; or the adult books Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon), then move on to the other trilogy, and then read the rest of the books in publication order.

Unless she's recently decided this question is very important, it looks like her answer is "finish whichever trilogy you started first."

How very messed up that I never even had a clue that her series was sci fi. Embarrassing to boot.

I find it hard to believe she'd advocate reading the Harper Hall Trilogy before reading the first two novels. They would spoil the main plot points in those books. The first two novels ought to be before the Harper Hall series.

The question is whether the third Harper Hall volume should follow the first two or whether it should wait until after the third volume in the original trilogy. I would have just assumed I should read them in publication order, but if she thinks The White Dragon should be first, and the publication order is an accident of two publishers not coordinating their releases, then I'll read The White Dragon before Dragondrums. The Wikipedia listing indicates that she does think this, but it doesn't even mention where or when she said this or give her exact words.

This advice does seem to conflict with what Andrew says. I haven't seen these card pages he's taking about. I don't even know what a card page is.

As for your spoiler, I think that information is actually revealed in the preface of the first book.

Ah...well, that info wasn't in the preface of the edition of the first novel when I read it close to 20 years ago. I was very pleasantly surprised when the series "turned" into sci-fi.

At any rate, I strongly suggest finishing the first trilogy before reading the Harper Hall trilogy. As you note, there would be major spoilers otherwise. And though The White Dragon and DragonDrums may be concurrent, the main trilogy takes greater importance in my mind, so it should be read first (even though the Harper Hall trilogy was much more fun).

Otherwise, published order is pretty much the right way to read them, as I noted in my previous comment.

...those creatures' abilities presumably have a scientific explanation. If that's ever given, I'm not sure what it is yet.

It is a natural ability, and the explanation of how it works is given (IIRC) in Dragon'sDawn, as well as in a supplimental book, something along the lines of "Encyclopedia of Pern" under the "Flora and Fauna" section.

But take all of this with a huge grain of salt as it has been a long time since I read these. Recently I tried to pick up some of the books I missed the first time around and I could just barely follow them since, though I could remember the world clearly enough, I could remember almost none of the events that took place on the world, especially the political ones that took place in the first three novels.

If I recall correctly, I read somewhere that McCaffery once referred to the Harper Hall Trilogy as a "gentler" introduction to Pern. The recommendation, I think, was that young readers, or those less inclined to read novels as long as the original Dragonriders Trilogy, or those who prefer stories like the Harper Hall Trilogy which focus more on human interests and less on political and technological events, may prefer to begin with the Harper Hall Trilogy, while others should begin with the Dragonriders Trilogy. There isn't really a particular reading order to the books aside from starting with on of the trilogies. Personally, I think it's best to start with the Dragonriders Trilogy, unless you, like me, think science-fiction is far superior to fantasy, in which case you may prefer to start with Dragonsdawn.

wink, et al. - I've got a pretty old copy of Dragonflight (not with me), and I think the introduction describes the Red Star and the Oort Cloud and such in proper astronomical terms, and perhaps mentions something vague about colonization, but I don't think it says anything about the dragons being engineered. The other book you are thinking of is entitled "The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern" (unless there is another one I'm not familiar with). I think the genetic engineering may also be mentioned in The Chronicles of Pern or Dragonseye, but I'm not sure.

BTW, I highly recommend the short story "The Dragon Masters" by Jack Vance, which won the Hugo for best short fiction in 1963, five years before "Weyr Search" (which grew into Dragonflight) won best novella. It was certainly a major influence on the development of Pern (though Pern does show significant originality).

No, it doesn't say anything about genetic engineering in those terms, but I think it does say they bred dragons from similar creatures that they found on Pern when they arrived.

Our copy of Dragonflight is the original edition with the bright green cover. It's not the first printing, but it is the original version that ever appeared. The only changes from the original would have been fixed typos.

We have the original edition of The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, and it does go into great detail about the genetic engineering. Since I haven't read the books before that, I haven't wanted to look at it too much in case it spoils anything. I know there's a later edition of that book that expands it significantly, but I haven't seen it. I'm sure it's the first edition Wink had in mind, though.

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