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Today’s guest is Anya from the science fiction/fantasy blog On Starships and Dragonwings! She posts a lot of reviews with a clear analysis of each book’s strengths and weaknesses, plus her Sci-Fi and Fantasy Fridays are a great way to find other reviews, giveaways, and discussions related to SFF around the blogosphere. I’m happy she is here today to discuss her discovery of a special book series that played a major role in her enthusiasm for science fiction and fantasy—especially dragons!

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How it all started for me: Anne McCaffrey’s Pern

I remember seeing an audiobook with a dragon on the cover in my parents’ car. They had lots of audiobooks so I always liked to look at whatever was laying around most recently. This time, though, I was especially intrigued since there was a dragon! While my love for dragons hadn’t fully developed at that point, I was a kid and fantasy critters are pretty much a win at that age ;-). I recall asking what it was about and if I could read it and my parents saying that it was a bit too old for me (which I discovered later was 100% true since there were sex scenes and I was about 11 at the time…).

It was pretty inevitable that I would end up reading Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books, however, since we own at least one copy of every single book set in Pern, often two, and a whole lot of other McCaffrey books. I can probably be blamed for a lot of the duplicates since I wanted copies of my own when I was a teen; you know how that goes I’m sure ;-). I managed to pick up the first three books before stumbling upon any others, which I credit to my parents. I had a habit of randomly choosing books from the shelf on weekends without any regard to if they belonged to a series or who they were by. Therefore, really the only way that I could have actually started with the first book is with intervention.

The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffreyI adored that strange purple paperback with small pictures of dragons on it, to the point that I think it is completely unusable at this point. I ran into a problem when going to the bookstore to find the next book in the series though: there wasn’t a definitive next book. There were so many to choose from since McCaffrey wrote her books in a world, not really a series, but I was one of those kids who made lists and stuck to them. There had to be a “proper order,” hadn’t there?? The Internet was a recent discovery for me at the time, so I was only too excited to go to the official website where there actually conveniently was a recommended reading order :D. I was a kid in a candy shop bookstore >.>. As far as I can remember, I religiously followed that reading order as I worked through every single book set in Pern. I took breaks from Pern now and again (the Harry Potter books were coming out around then), but I am fairly certain I’ve read every single Pern book that Anne wrote. I have even read a couple of Todd’s, though it just wasn’t the same and I didn’t stick with his :-/.

My love of dragons 100% stems from Pern, and that’s saying a lot as most of you know, hehe. I started choosing books from the bookstore by a very simple criteria: Is the word dragon in the title? Yes? Awesome! For the record, not all books with “dragon” in the title actually have dragons in them >.>. However, between my parents’ collection of other fantasy and sci-fi books and their strong encouragement of me purchasing any and all books I wanted from the bookstore, I quickly discovered that there were lots of other cool worlds to visit besides Pern.

Pern always has had a special place in my heart, however, to the point where I daydreamed of a family trip to Ireland to visit Mrs. McCaffrey back when it was still an option. She had horses too, what more could a geeky kid want?? I remember reading on her website that as long as fans scheduled a visit in advance, she was happy to have tea with them, oh how a kid could dream. I also emailed Mrs. McCaffrey once to suggest actors for the film that simply had to be upcoming, right?? I’m still waiting for that film by the way *ahem*.

I even discovered the world of fan fiction because of Pern through text-based roleplaying games. I was so desperate to visit Pern and be a dragonrider that I was quite happy to spend hours writing out stories with other fans about my character going to a Hatching and impressing any sort of dragon that she could. I didn’t really care if I got a Gold or a Green, I just wanted a dragon! Fun fact: those roleplaying sites were actually against McCaffrey’s fan policies and would routinely be ordered to shut down D:. We kind of kept going though >.>.

In the end, I’m sure that I would have discovered fantasy and sci-fi even if I hadn’t seen a book about dragons sitting in my parents’ car, but who knows if I would be quite the fan that I am or quite as obsessed with dragons ;-). Between my mother’s love of the genre and my first introduction to true fanatic obsession with it myself, I never even realized that I wasn’t supposed to like speculative fiction since I was a girl. To me, women read and wrote science fiction and fantasy right from the start. I fully realize how incredibly lucky I am to have had such a great experience with the genre. Even though Anne McCaffrey is no longer with us (and therefore I can’t have tea with her at her horse ranch!), I am so grateful that she imagined a world filled with dragons and Harpers and alien organisms that fall from the sky and eat all organic material they touch!

On Starships and Dragonwings