Animals on Pern Candidates
Cards and Dragon Poker Dragons
Dragon Descriptions Dragons Speaking to Other than Their Riders
Drudges Firelizards
Gold Clutches Guardsmen
Mating Flights Musical Instruments
Religion Runners
Surgery Threadfall at Night  


In 1997, we received permission from Anne McCaffrey to reprint her original Renewable AirForce article. On 13-Oct-00, we received a request from her through her daughter Georgeanne (Gigi) Kennedy to replace it with an updated (and less dated, to paraphrase Gigi's words) version.

The new article appears below.


In the Beginning of Dragonriders of Pern™, females rode green or gold. Males rode blue, brown or bronze. (I made it easier for myself in the beginning by remembering that Boys impressed Brown, Bronze or Blue, and Girls impressed Gold and Green.)

Since greens are females and tend to be 'loving', they mated with any dragon they fancied. When not enough girls elected to stand on the Hatching Grounds after the first disastrous Plague, males with feminine personalities Impressed green dragons. Blue riders, not to mince words, tended to be gay with masculine temperaments. Browns, who were not so inclined to mate with a green's rider, made an arrangement so that two pairs of riders were involved in a green's mating.

The dragons act in the way they were bio-genetically designed. I went into considerable detail about it after long discussions with Dr Jack Cohen, a Reproductive Biologist of international reputation. The reason why the dragons Impress only certain candidates presented them is due to a factor built-in by Kitti Ping Yung, the bioengineer who designed them. Kitti Ping used Mentasynth, an alien chemical compound that could often alter certain functions of those receiving it. This was mentioned during early landing years and had been used on quite a few animals on Earth, such as the dolphins, who elected to join the colony. Mentasynth permitted dolphins to communicate in reasonably understandable language but other animals did not react as favorably (dogs for instance).

After the particular abilities of the indigenous fire-lizards were observed by two biologists, an attempt was made to treat a new found clutch with the Mentasynth. Their empathy with humans improved considerably. It wasn't until Thread began to fall and the colonists needed a renewable airforce that the possibility of creating larger animals with the same innate abilities (telekinesis and fiery breath), that the genetic material of the dragonets was used to create a new creature. In the course of designing the new creatures, Kitti Ping employed Mentasynth, to provide a telepathic link between dragon and rider, building on the empathy already apparent in the dragonets. She gave additional thought on how else it could be used to improve the new 'dragon' species and ensure that only the best, strongest, cleverest would propagate the species. While the main and most important application of the Mentasynth was to increase mental function and innate empathy in the 'dragons,' a secondary use was to allow the newly hatched young dragon recognize the most suitable symbiotic partner. At hatching, the dragon recognizes by the sweat pheromones the appropriate sexual partner. Therefore the dragonet, just out of its shell, would approach only the male or female candidates exuding the proper pheromones for its basic sex type.

The green dragons are particularly sensitive not only to the mental empathy of possible candidates but also to pheromones. Blue dragons also are to some extent, but it was long a Weyr practice to send mixed colors on Search. The Terran analogue - HLA - for this type of mate selection is similar to that of rat females who can recognize tissue type by the urine left by other rats. In fact, an A-type tissue rat, already impregnated by a B-type tissue rat, will abort the B-type embryos when she discovers an A-type tissue mate.

Therefore there is a valid, bio-engineered reason for draconic choice on the Hatching Ground and why browns, bronzes and queens make heterosexual Impressions.

Why has this never been mentioned before? Possibly because no one has asked. Also because in the initial seven books, there was no knowledge of the bio-engineering that went into the dragons, and certainly no way to describe the advanced technology until DRAGONSDAWN.

Now, Pern's Renewable AirForce was not just whomped up in an odd moment. There is a rational chain of command for very obvious reasons - ESPECIALLY DURING FALL. I designed Pern's Air Force quite carefully and, if it seems sexist to readers in this decade, I make no apologies for the world I designed over thirty years ago.

Consider this, for those of you who think a bronze or gold dragon are the only colors worth having: There are generally a THIRD more greens in any fighting weyr since they are the fighter pilots, whose skills often save the larger and less flexible dragons from getting Thread scored. Any Weyrleader would welcome, with great relief, the presence of each new green rider in his wing. But, since the greens are small and have exchanged speed and manoeuvrability for stamina, they generally fly only half of a Fall, being sent back to the Weyr to rest, returning only if a Fall lasts longer or is heavier than normal.

The blues are stronger, have a wider thrust of flame, and can last an entire Fall. The browns are stronger yet, with a wider and longer thrust of flame, which is another reason they are often appointed as wingseconds. The bronze, of course, is the strongest of the fighters, having great depths of reserve and the most potent flame in length, depth and duration: the bombers you might say. They are invariably wingleaders, with two wingseconds; either or both can be browns.

The queens don't like to be left out of the action and flame-throwers are their method of defence since they can't digest firestone. They fly low as it's the best way to catch whatever Thread might escape the upper level flights.

Back again to the different sexes involved. The greens, like their little cousins, are extremely affectionate, flirtatious, and when in season can be quite a problem to the Weyrleaders. However, some long-term unions were formed between greens and any of the other colors, bar the bronzes, who always hope to make the queen theirs in her next mating flight. The greens oblige any of the males including bronzes…or we'd have a heap of sexually frustrated, very unhappy virgin male dragons.

As the queen is wholly heterosexual, larger and stronger than even the largest bronze, and certainly any browns, she mates infrequently and only when she feels an irresistible urge to procreate. (To be totally whimsical, she's catholic, you might say.) Nevertheless, she is not as amenable to being caught as the greens are. She makes quite a show of her sensuality, evades and taunts all the dragons rising with her in a mating flight. As she is larger and stronger, her stamina is considerable. The bronze that catches her has to be the smartest, strongest and fastest of the flight. The higher he can take her before linking with her, the longer he has to impregnate her, which means a stronger and larger clutch. The stronger the impact of that mating is on the two riders also improves the clutch since the male is not inhibited by the queen rider's indifference. If Weyrleader and Weyrwoman are totally compatible, clutches invariably reflect that accord and include more of the larger dragons, and possibly a queen.

Finally, to those of you who are new to Pern, please remember this: War is not a word in the Pernese vocabulary. It's one reason so many people would like to live there. Including me.

Ciao now
Anne McCaffrey
Dragonhold-Underhill 30th September 2000

Reprinted with Permission


"Well, none of the illustrators have got my Pern dragon down right and it's very hard to explain what the differences are, except the dragon is NOT as reptilian as Whelan draws him - though his depiction is certainly eye-catching. They certainly don't have all those bits and bobs on them as the English version shows. They have heavier haunches, since they have to spring from the ground and put all that weight into the air and their wings are best as the umbrella type which Whelan does do very well indeed. Their heads are more horse-like...much broader through the occipital lobes since dragons are very intelligent. Their eyes are bigger and set forward in their heads - since their eyes are faceted they do have lenses on a fairly wide arc to see Thread falling out of the corners of their eyes, as it were. They have horse-like cheek bones, and their muzzle is well-shaped with wide, but not too wide, nostrils. Their chests are very broad with musculature for both front legs, which are shorter, and the wings. They do have ridges along the spine which stop at the withers, and start again below the wings. They have headknobs rather than ears. They have fangs but certainly not the raptor-type lotsa teeth as in dragonhead or even DRAGONSEYE where the dragons were really rather clunky. Strong teeth but not sharklike rows of them as the D'EYE would suggest. Their skins tend to look slightly mottled, as if someone had cleaned a paint brush in whatever and the various colors have allowable in red hair or even brunette. Or the various shades a bay horse can be. I know when I've seen a drawing if that IS my dragon but it's very difficult to describe accurately because the same words have different connotations to different people - as witness the variety of shapes dragons have taken for different artists....

"Ciao now"

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from then DragonRiders member April Santos, received 6-Apr-1997


"There are certain caveats in Impressing. One, the candidate must be in good health and working order (i.e. no physical disabilities such as blindness, deafness as raising a dragon requires a physically active person. They aint easy to wash and oil everyday.) So, no, unless the candidate was in the very early stages of pregnancy, she would not be admissable to the hatching grounds.

"Someplace, and I now can't remember where, I mention that Ramoth had to be forcibly taken from Lessa's vicinity when she was in labor with F'lessan since the queen reacted so fiercely to Lessa's distress. (I had natural childbirth, too, and it aint fun even if there is a reward at the end of it.)

"There should be sufficient women in good shape found on Search so that no one needed to present a pregnant woman, no matter how good a queen rider she might become. People love to put up bizarre circumstances...but one can be foolishly impractical, too. This is one position in Pernese life that is envied but actually has far more work attached to the honor than many would suspect.

"A weyrwoman is an executive, having to manage the entire weyr and often the Hold and certainly the attendant CraftHalls. It is definitely no sinecure and takes a lot of hard physical work and much organization. Swanning around on a gold dragon during Threadfall (in which she could get thread-scored or more damaged) aint a quarter of it. Just the part that's more visible and looks so tempting. Pern is a practically organized world. EAch to his/her own."

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from Debbie Griffin, DragonRiders member, received 14-Apr-2001


"'Poker' can be called by many names but it would be played the same way - or in the varied and sundry ways in which it can be played - five dealt cards, and one exchange...stud, wild card - whatever. There would also probably be varieties of solitare type games, maybe even bridge, whist, any of the card games that are familiar to us would have been carried along. Chess is, but I forgot what I decided we'd name it.

"They might even change K, Q, Jack, to local titles and use the first 4 holds' emblems instead of spades/hearts/diamonds/clubs. It's an open subject.

"And ANYONE can play guards - it's just that the Bitrans tend to be very sleight of hand-ish.

"Ciao now"

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from DragonRiders member Susan King, received 15-Jul-2000


"I think I've stated on several occasions that dragons will speak to those they want to speak to - as the dragons did to Robinton in MHoP. There has to be a good reason for dragons to do so and not all dragons are so inclined even if they have reason. Of course, Robinton was special, even as a child. But it is possible."

--from Anne McCaffrey in an email to then-Council member, Debbie Griffin, May-2000


"The 'drudges' are not simple. They are people--and you have met them in your life, particularly in cities--who do not care to use any initiative and better their conditions. But they most definitely want to have shelter during Threadfall and are willing to do the less appealing tasks for that shelter, food, and a place to sleep. They constitute a very small portion of the population. Don't be a bleedy heart--it's their choice. Ciao, Anne"

--from The Kitchen Table on Anne McCaffrey's home page, 17-Sep-2000


Q: Do firelizards speak telepathically, in words like a dragon or just empathic images? There were some points in the books where I wasn't sure.

ANNE: Fire-lizards don't have words - they express stronger emotions and can pick up the mood of the people they are beholden to. They can occasionally - the queens and the bronzes - project images or scenes to their people.


"A gold dragon who is big with eggs is watched so closely by her weyrmate and the other bronze dragons that, should anything happen to her traditional hatch[i]ng ground, you may be sure the bronzes would find a suitable place for her. Any warm sandy beach would do in the South - any quiet cul de sac, or cave large enough for her to enter, would do in the north. There'd be no conceivable way in which what you suggest [clutching at a different Weyr] could happen. Remember, even the youngest queen is able to communicate with every member of her own Weyr and every other queen. Talk about not having any privacy!!!

"Ciao now
"Anne McCaffrey"

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from Emelia Belland, then Webbie/Mentor Liaison on the DragonRiders Council, received 23-Oct-2000


"There is no army, as such, nor even more than guard contingents on Pern - since they eschew wars of human making, having a very difficult one to contend with from outer space. But the Lord Holders often have mercenaries, trained in blade and martial arts. Not a large force - except if you have a territorial menace like Fax - but suitable to the size and honor of the Hold. Crafthalls don't have any such personnel. Nor need them.

"I don't object to `captain' though you'll find I have used other terms - especially if you review RENEGADES OF PERN when the Lords of Lemos, Telgar and others go after Lady Holdless Thella. I may have used captain as well, and it would be a known title - though usually give masters of ships. So, while you won't have a company at your beck and call and under your orders, a couple of squads are not unlikely."

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from Kat Luna, then Liaison Officer on the DragonRiders Council, received 16-Aug-1997


"Mating flights are unlikely to occur at night. Dragons see very well in the dark but it's so much more interesting to be able to watch it that I never even thought of late night activities of this sort among dragons. The folks watching couldn't see, now could they, and that's half the double whammy of the whole affair. As dragons like the sun on their backs, it's more likely they'd pick a bright day for the event as well.

"And they most assuredly wouldn't rise during Threadfall; when other priorities command their attention and concentration. The day before, the day after, yes, but not on THE day. I think the dragons have more sense than most readers.

"The health of her rider might cause a queen to worry more about HER than her lust but a bad cold never kept anyone from making love, now has it. Nor, I suppose, if one is careful, the occasional broken leg or arm."

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from then DragonRiders member Carol Sanders, received around 6-Jul-1997


"G'day, and nice to have a simple, uncomplicated message to answer first.

"You obviously haven't read DRAGONSYE in which I do describe their efforts to save the one piano left. It didn't survive many more turns. And what instruments were available and carefully reconstructed.

"However, all percussion, a variety of pipes/flutes (while the skill to make them lasted), hammer dulcimer, g(u)itar because it was one of the easier ones to make, violin, but no double basses - finding proper woods for such a large instrument became difficult, some brass, more bugle than trombone, trumpet, harp, usually the smaller lap harp but occasionally a full concert harp - much prized - or the smaller floor harp...the Irish harp. No oboes or bassoons, attempts were made at harpsichord but since the dulcimer was easier to carry, and make, that took the place of a hammered instrument. The Harper Hall therefore tuned its whistle to what instruments it could create - no bagpipes, though I suppose they were possible...if there'd been a daft Scotsman who knew how. There was once an accordion and I can't remember what happened to it.

"I've commissioned a cd of Teaching Songs by MasterHarper Robinton which will be available about the time the book THE MASTER HARPER OF PERN comes out in Jan, using the instruments at his disposal...and the voices. Joanne Forman did a DRAGONSONGS recital tape which I believe she still is selling -Contact her at Box 1101, RAnchos de Taos, NM 85575. The cost is $8.95 plus two bucks postage. She has also done sheet music for Menolly's Twiddles and Sea Songs.

"Thanks for asking. Ciao now"

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from then DragonRiders member Ari Townsend, received 14-Oct-1997


"Vermin were not included in the colonists' manifest - save for a few laboratory mice. Of course, some of them could have escaped in the manner of such creatures...but I've had no occasion to mention them since tunnel snakes, a genus with an immense number of examples, do the same work as scavengers.

"No rabbits, considering the damage such could do without predators as the Australians discovered. And no Terran birds since the E&E folk noticed avians and did not care to jeopardize the life form with unnecessary competition. Most Pernese avian life forms did not make it past the first few Passes of Thread, not being sensible enough to find refuge or develop a defense as did the fire-lizards and wherries.

"Have a good new Year. Ciao"

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from DragonRiders member Mary Jane Dameron, received 2-Jan-1998


--This section removed at the request of the recipient of Anne McCaffrey's email regarding Ms. McCaffrey's prohibition of religion on Pern, 28-Feb-01.


"The Runners (from the Runners of Pern in Legends, Tor books) are really the first Crafthall on Pern - since people were trained to run messages of importance. from the very beginning. I do mention 'runners' sending word from a Thread burrow to the Hold. As Pern spread out, their facilities expanded, too, into some traditions which I elucidated in the short story. They don't have a Craft Hall per se, and candidates other than family (though it's the genetic traits they are fostering rather than family) are certainly welcome if they are long-distance runners, or even sprinters. But long distance runners are preferred. They do have Apprentice, Journeymen/women, but Stationmasters are usually retired runners, or ones who have been injured beyond returning to duty. I think you can pickup some other facts from the story and then what I posited in SoP. (Glad you liked it after all the nearly spoilers you were treated to.)

"Each station covers a certain territory, supplying runners, collecting messages and keeping the runner traces operational. (Theyuse a bouncy, cinder/sand/shavings mix, springy but with good drainage. Who needs to slug through mud) And maintain small shelters against Threadfall and dire storms. "Crossing" obviously means how many times one has run across the entire continent. (I myself was a sprinter - 100 yard dash - but my brothers competed for their universities as long distance runners. Our father taught us how to run properly so I really fear for those ladies jogging on the hard tarmacdam and ruining their feet while looking as pained as can be from what should be a pleasurable workout.) That is also why I had the runner traces made with proper footing for all weathers.

"Does that help? Ciao now and thanks for your particular interest."

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from DragonRiders member Lynn Tuer, received 30-May-2001


"There were men trained for surgical procedures on Pern but there were few because those who could have trained them in that specific area of medicine died before they passed more than 'repair' work on. No X-rays available, either, until dolphins could provide some guidance. However, a distaste/fear for invasive surgery did develop - see Masterharper of Pern where the Fort Holder died from a burst appendix rather than permit the MasterHealer perform an appendectomy. (That was a common, easy operation and numbweed and fellis would have rendered the work painless.) But 'surgery' had dwindled into necessary repair - rather that elective surgery. Caesarian sections were common enough - so were amputations - but surgical matters that would have required, for instance, X-rays or scans were impossible. With numbweed and fellis, the atrocities of Earth's Middle Ages up to say 1950's were not inflicted.

"Despite the fact I have twice taken advantage of prosthetic replacements to arthritic joints, I am more apt to use homeopathic medication than the g.d. antibiotics. Since modern medical sciences are now looking more carefully and less critically into 'natural' medicines and procedures, Pern reflects that. And, despite being able to bio-genetically engineer species on the new world, all that expertise was lost with the deaths of its practitioners - and no resupply. So, yes, Pern was/is far ahead of early medical procedures [medieval and renaissance medicine --ed.] on Earth.

"There are quite a few fans who have delved into the Healer Craft, including manuals on the imports and the indigenous herbs and plants. Try one of the Pern fan groups for their sources. Ciao now and thanks for your keen interest in the subject. (I do get expert assistance from physicians when I'm dealing with such problems on Pern.)"

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from DragonRiders member Kate Eltham, received 25-Sep-2000


"If you look at the suggested orbit of the Red Star, you'll see it comes between the sun, Rukbat, and the planet, Pern. So the daylight side of Pern gets the brunt of Threadfall. Actually, since Thread is luminous, the dragons would be able to track it down but not keep track of each other as easily."

--from Anne McCaffrey in response to an email from DragonRiders member Jessica Woods, received 25-Jul-2001

Dragonriders of Pern: A Fantasy-Fiction Writing Club -

The Dragonriders of Pern® is registered U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, by Anne McCaffrey, used here with permission. Use or reproduction without a license is strictly prohibited.