|Cover artist||Fred Marcellino (first)
|Publisher||Atheneum Books (first hardcover)|
|Publication date||March 1976|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, Paperback)|
|Pages||202 pp (first edition)|
|LC Classification||PZ7.M122834 Dr3|
Dragonsong is a science fiction novel by the American-Irish author Anne McCaffrey. Released by Atheneum Books in March 1976, it was the third to appear in the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne or her son Todd McCaffrey. In its time, however, Dragonsong brought the fictional planet Pern to a new publisher, editor, and target audience of young adults, and soon became the first book in the Harper Hall of Pern trilogy. The original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy with Ballantine Books was not completed until after the publication of Dragonsong and its sequel.[b]
Dragonsong and the second Pern book Dragonquest are set at the same time, seven years after the end of the seminal Dragonflight — that is, more than 2500 years after human settlement, during the "Ninth Pass" of the Red Star that periodically brings a biological menace from space. Their primary geographical settings are not distant in space yet worlds apart: Dragonsong in an isolated sea-hold and Dragonquest at the centers of Pernese society, the weyrs and major holds, especially Benden Weyr. Near the end of Dragonsong, the protagonist Menolly is rescued by a dragonrider, and the action converges with that of Dragonquest.
McCaffrey finished Dragonquest, a sequel to the first Pern book, soon after her 1970 emigration to Ireland but she wrote several stories and a few books before completing the original Dragonriders trilogy.[c] Writing The White Dragon did not really begin until 1974/75 after the New England Science Fiction Association invited her to its annual convention Boskone as Guest of Honor, which included the special publication of a small book for sale on site.[d]
The market for young adults provided crucial opportunities while Dragonriders stalled. Editor Roger Elwood sought contributions of short work to anthologies and McCaffrey started the Pern story of Menolly for him, although in the end she delivered four 1973/74 stories that later became Crystal Singer. Editor Jean E. Karl, who had established the children's and science fiction imprints at Atheneum Books, sought to attract more female readers to science fiction and solicited "a story for young women in a different part of Pern". McCaffrey completed Menolly's story as Dragonsong and contracted for a sequel before it was out in 1976.
Having the arrangements with Atheneum in writing, McCaffrey was able to shop for a mortgage and buy a home, to be called 'Dragonhold' for the dragons who bought it. Twenty years later her son wrote that she "first set dragons free on Pern and then was herself freed by her dragons."
Like Crystal Singer, Dragonsong features a young woman with great musical talent. Beside fishing, its focus in Pernese society is the arts and education, in contrast to the military and political focus of the original trilogy. In this the action at Harper Hall rather than the Weyrs is akin to McCaffrey's own experience. At Radcliffe College, Harvard, she majored in Slavonic Languages and Literature. From her teens through her thirties, before she turned to writing full-time, she pursued musical avocations: piano lessons, voice training and performance, and assisting in amateur production of musicals and operettas.
The protagonist of Dragonsong is Menolly, a fifteen-year-old girl living in a fishing "Hold" in the fictional world of Pern. This novel starts seven years after Dragonflight, the first book set in the Pern universe.
Menolly, a young fisher's daughter, had dreamed all her life of learning the Harper's craft. Her musical talent is not valued in her fishing hold, especially by her parents the holders, as women in general tend to be less valued and have fewer choices than men in Pernese society. When her father denies her what she regards to be her destiny, she flees Half Circle Hold just as Pern is struck by the deadly danger of Threadfall, a deathly rain that falls from the sky. Menolly takes shelter in a cave by the sea and there, she makes a miraculous discovery that will change her life.
Menolly, youngest daughter of Masterfisher Yanus, Sea Holder of Half-Circle Seahold, is a gifted musician who is punished for using her musical talents after Petiron, the Harper who encouraged her talent, dies. Finding life at the fishing community unbearable because her father forbids her to express her musical talents, she runs away from home. Menolly takes refuge from falling Thread in a cave—and discovers hatching fire-lizards, the precursors to the great dragons which are Pern's primary defense against Thread. Isolated from civilization in her cave and forced to care for nine baby fire lizards that she Impressed, Menolly quickly learns to be resourceful and independent. Freed from the restrictive role forced upon her by her family, she indulges her passion for music.
Menolly is out foraging one day when she is caught in Threadfall. She is rescued by a dragonrider, T'gran, and his brown dragon, Branth, who take her to Benden Weyr. As she is adjusting to the liberal lifestyle of the Weyrfolk, she is discovered by Masterharper Robinton, the Masterharper of Pern, who has been searching frantically for Petiron's mystery apprentice. He discovers that she is the writer of two songs that Petiron (his father) sent him and offers her a place at the Harper Hall as his apprentice.
Fixed gender roles make Menolly an outcast, as she is unskilled at tasks which are regarded as women's work on Pern and excels in the male-dominated field of music. She chooses to live alone in the dangerously unprotected world outside the Hold instead of allowing her natural talents to be suppressed.
Seven Pern books including Dragonsong were published before The Atlas of Pern (1984), a companion book produced by Karen Wynn Fonstad in consultation with McCaffrey. Their geographical settings from peninsulas to stables are illustrated by maps and other drawings and their chronologies are explicitly presented in the Atlas.
The American Library Association in 1999 cited the two early Pern trilogies (Dragonriders and Harper Hall), along with The Ship Who Sang, when McCaffrey received the annual Margaret A. Edwards Award for her "lifetime contribution in writing for teens".
- Dragonsong title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database identifies five cover artists for US editions and hosts at least thumbnail images of their front covers: Fred Marcellino, first edition; Elizabeth Malczynski, first paperback; Rowena Morrill, 1986 ppb; Greg Call, 2003 ppb; and Sammy Yuen, 2008 ppb. The first paperback did not credit Malczynski; the database cites her Elizabeth Malczynski Littman gallery — where (2011-10-18) the first six works on display present her three paintings for wraparound covers of Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums (the Harper Hall trilogy).
• Official Pern Art at the Pern Museum maintained by Hans van der Boom identifies two cover artists responsible for all three books in French paperback editions, Didier Thimonier (Albin Michel, 1988/1989) and Wojciech Siudmak (Presses Pocket). The former earlier edition is entirely missing from ISFDB. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
• Neither ISFDB nor Official Pern Art reports a cover artist for the first UK edition (Sidgwick & Jackson, Oct 1976); neither shows even a thumbnail image. Jointly they do identify David Roe, Steve Weston, and Les Edwards for later UK editions. David Roe was the cover artist for the first UK paperback, the sources jointly note by reference to The Dragondaze Portfolio at his personal website. Retrieved 2011-10-19.</ref>
- The original trilogy was released as The Dragonriders of Pern in the first omnibus edition, October 1978 by the Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club. Publication Listing: The Dragonriders of Pern (omnibus, First edition Oct 1978). ISFDB.
The Harper Hall trilogy was released as The Harper Hall of Pern in the first omnibus edition, July 1984 by the Doubleday SFBC.
• Publication Listing: The Harper Hall of Pern (omnibus, First Edition Jul 1984). ISFDB. The front cover of a Harper Hall book named the Dragonriders of Pern series at least so early as the first UK paperback edition of Dragondrums (Corgi, 1981). Three lines at the bottom boldly proclaim "The latest tales of the magnificent Dragonriders of Pern from the author of The White Dragon."
• Publication Listing: Dragondrums (1st Corgi printing, 1981). ISFDB. Retrieved 2011-10-19.</ref>
- In fact, she wrote several stories and a few books 1971–75, before Dragonsong. Dragonholder 1999, pp. 74, 82–83, 94–95.
- She wrote the novella A Time When which would become the first part of The White Dragon.
• Dragonholder 1999, pp. 98, 101, 107.
• Boskone 12, March 1975 (no date). NESFA. Retrieved 2011-10-19.
• A Time When by Anne McCaffrey NESFA Press. Retrieved 2007-02-08.
- Dragonriders of Pern series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
- Dragonholder 1999, pp. 82–83, 95.
- "Jean E. Karl; Children's Book Editor and Author". Los Angeles Times. 2000-04-04. Retrieved 2011-10-19.
• Lipson, Eden Ross (2000-04-03). "Jean Karl, 72; A Publisher Of Books For Children". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-19.
• Jalowitz, Alan (2006). "Jean Karl". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
• Palmquist, Vicki. "Birthday Bios: Jean E. Karl". Children's Literature Network. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
- Dragonholder 1999, pp. 103–04.
- Dragonholder 1999, pp. 104–05.
- Dragonholder 1999, p. 113 (closing).
- "Anne's Biography". The Worlds of Anne McCaffrey. Pern Home. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
• Dragonholder 1999, pp. 6, 15, 27, 32, 34–37.
- McIntire, Sarah. "The Unlikely Hero Bandwagon". The Victorian Web. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
- "1999 Margaret A. Edwards Award Winners". Young Adult Library Services Association. American Library Association. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
Citations – books