Dragonriders of Pern

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Dragonriders of Pern

GenreScience fiction
PublisherBallantine Books
Atheneum Books
Bantam Books
Del Rey Books
No. of books23+

Dragonriders of Pern is a science fantasy series written primarily by American-Irish author Anne McCaffrey, who initiated it in 1967. Beginning in 2003, her middle child Todd McCaffrey has written Pern novels, both solo and jointly with Anne. The series (as of 2022) comprises 24 novels and two collections of short stories.[a][1] The two novellas included in the first novel, Dragonflight, made McCaffrey the first woman to win a Hugo Award for writing fiction as well as the first to win a Nebula Award.[2]


Map of the planet Pern

Humans have colonized the planet Pern in the Rukbat star system, but have lost much of their technology and history (including their origin on Earth) due to periodic onslaughts of Thread, a mycorrhizoid spore that voraciously consumes all organic material, including humans and their crops, given the opportunity. Thread comes from the Red Star, actually another planet. The Red Star has a 250-Turn (Pernese year) elliptic orbit around Rukbat, and when its orbit brings it close enough, Thread rains down on Pern at predictable intervals over about 50 Turns.

The Pernese use intelligent firebreathing dragons to fight Thread. A human rider has a telepathic bond with their dragon, formed by Impression at the dragon's hatching. The bonding instantly creates a very close, lifelong relationship – the dragon almost invariably commits suicide at the rider's death, and a rider whose dragon died bears a deep emotional wound which can never be fully healed. Later books deal with the initial colonization of Pern and the genetic modification of small native animals into creatures capable of carrying humans in flight.

The Pernese live in a pre-industrial society, with lords, holds, harpers (musicians, entertainers, and teachers), and dragons, with occasional examples of higher technology (like flamethrowers, the telegraph, chemical fertilizers, and powerful microscopes and telescopes). There are four basic social classes: Weyrfolk (centered on Dragonriders) who live in Weyrs, Holders who rule Holds (cities, towns and farms), Crafters, and the Holdless who have no permanent home (including traders, displaced Holders, and brigands). The society resembles feudal Europe, but with some significant differences – especially, farmers are organized in their own guild, independent of the Holders – rather than being serfs as in historical feudal societies. Also, there is no formal religion and nothing like the Medieval Church, the closest equivalent being in fact the Dragonriders, who have a planet-wide organization and to whom a tithe is due – though they are in no way sworn to celibacy (rather the reverse).

The series as a whole covers over two and a half millennia.[citation needed]

Publications by the McCaffreys[edit]

This list is arranged in publication order. For Pern historical order see the chronological list of Pern books.

There are 24 Dragonriders of Pern novels and two story collections, the latest published in 2018.[a] Anne McCaffrey once requested reading the works in the order they were written.[3] That differs greatly from Pern historical order, for several reasons. The McCaffreys have published stories set in several different periods of Pern's history from initial exploration to more than 2,500 years after landing (AL). Multiple stories feature the same events from different viewpoints. Some stories feature travel between times, even across centuries. Todd McCaffrey, writing alone or with his mother after 2002, has specialized in an early time period.

Original trilogy[edit]

These stories take place immediately before and during the Ninth Pass, about 2,500 years after landing (AL):

  • Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey (1968; composed primarily of McCaffrey's first two Pern novellas, "Weyr Search" and "Dragonrider", which were originally published in Analog science fiction magazine, in the October 1967 and December 1967 issues respectively)
  • Dragonquest (1971), by Anne McCaffrey.
  • The White Dragon, by Anne McCaffrey (1978; although published prior to Dragondrums, The White Dragon continues the adventures of certain Dragondrums characters; McCaffrey recommended reading Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums before The White Dragon; The White Dragon incorporates McCaffrey's story "A Time When")

The trilogy was released 1978 in omnibus edition titled The Dragonriders of Pern by Nelson Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club.[4]

Harper Hall trilogy[edit]

These stories take place immediately before and concurrently with those depicted in Dragonquest and The White Dragon.

The Harper Hall trilogy was released 1984 in omnibus edition titled The Harper Hall of Pern by Nelson Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club.[5] Dragonsong was subtitled "Volume One of The Harper Hall Trilogy" on the front cover of the Bantam Spectra edition, March 1986.[6]

Other fiction by Anne McCaffrey[edit]

"On Dragonwings", an omnibus containing Dragonsdawn, Dragonseye and Moreta, was published in 2003.

Books by Todd McCaffrey or both[edit]

Since 2003, Anne McCaffrey and her middle child Todd McCaffrey have developed the history immediately before and during the Third Pass, about 500 Turns after landing (AL):

  • Dragon's Kin (2003, Anne and Todd McCaffrey; set prior to the Third Pass)
  • Dragonsblood (2005, Todd McCaffrey; set after Dragon Harper and also 400 Turns earlier, a few decades after Dragonsdawn)
  • Dragon's Fire (2006, Anne and Todd McCaffrey; set during and after Dragon's Kin)
  • Dragon Harper (December 2007, Anne and Todd McCaffrey; set after Dragon's Fire)
  • Dragonheart (November 2008, Todd McCaffrey; set during Dragonsblood)
  • Dragongirl (July 2010, Todd McCaffrey; sequel to Dragonheart and Dragonsblood)
  • Dragon's Time (June 2011, Anne and Todd McCaffrey; sequel to Dragongirl)[b]
  • Sky Dragons (July 2012, by Anne and Todd McCaffrey; sequel to Dragon's Time; published after Anne's death)

Books by Gigi McCaffrey[edit]

  • Dragon's Code (2018, Gigi McCaffrey; set during the Ninth Pass)

Books in progress[edit]

  • After the Fall is Over (long in progress; sequel to The Skies of Pern) – the only work set after the Ninth Pass in "New Era Pern", the latest in Pern historical order,[c] this book may be finished by her children.


"Weyr Search" won the inaugural Hugo Award for Best Novella in 1968 and "Dragonrider" won the Nebula Award for Best Novella in 1969 (both were finalists for both awards). Dragonquest, The White Dragon, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern and All the Weyrs of Pern were among the five annual finalists for the best novel Hugo Award.

Other works[edit]

Gamebooks and companion books[edit]

  • The Atlas of Pern (1984) by Karen Wynn Fonstad. ISBN 0-345-31432-8 ISBN 0-345-31434-4 – authorized "Pernography" including annotated maps; illustrated descriptions of Weyrs, Holds, and Halls; chronologies; and more.
  • Dragonharper (1987), gamebook by Jody Lynn Nye
  • Dragonfire (1988), gamebook by Jody Lynn Nye
  • People of Pern (1988) by Robin Wood and Anne McCaffrey. ISBN 0-89865-635-4 – portraits and other illustrations
  • The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern (Ballantine, 1989) by Jody Lynn Nye with Anne McCaffrey. ISBN 0-345-35424-9. Second edition 1997, ISBN 0-345-41274-5 – Pern geography, society, flora, fauna, etc., including information not in the previously published fiction.

Graphic novel[edit]

In 1991, Dragonflight, the first Pern book published, was released as a set of three graphic novels by Eclipse Books of Forestville, California. The story was adapted across all three graphic novels by Brynne Stephens. The first two graphic novels were illustrated by Lela Dowling and Fred Von Tobel, the third by Lela Dowling and Cynthia Martin.[7]

Music of Pern[edit]

There are two CDs of music relating to the Teaching Ballads and the works of Masterharper Robinton and Menolly.

The Masterharper of Pern was made in 1998 by Anglo-Alaskan duo Tania Opland and Mike Freeman in collaboration with Anne McCaffrey at her request, and features the music of Robinton. The project began as an idea to include written music in the book of the same name, printed on the inner faces of the cover. By the time the composers had written and auditioned the early drafts at the author's table it was clear that making the songs a reality to their creator's satisfaction was finally possible. The CD project was completed some eighteen months later (1998) and released to the approval of the author and fans of the series worldwide.[8]

The second CD pertaining mainly to the work another Pernese harper, Menolly, was completed in December 2008.[9] Entitled Sunset's Gold, this features Opland and Freeman with other musicians, and comprises twelve tracks of music recorded from 2006 to 2008. The CD includes the ballad "Four Hundred Turns" written by Anne McCaffrey shortly after she completed Dragonflight. It was placed in a desk drawer where it lay forgotten for almost forty years until the author rediscovered it just as the CD project was underway. It had never been seen or published before.

Songbooks are also available containing the music from the first CD, with a similar book for the second in the works.[10]

Television and film adaptations[edit]

Prior to 1995, the motion picture and ancillary rights to the literary property were optioned by various entities, including Robert Mandell (for a cartoon series adaptation that was eventually redeveloped into Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders[11]) and Kerry Skogland.

In 1996, McCaffrey sold the motion picture rights to an Irish company, Zyntopo Teoranta, who entered into a co-production agreement with Alliance Atlantis, covering development including advanced 3-D animation and compositing effects for television budgets. Distribution pre-sale efforts failed, and Zyntopo Teoranta entered into an agreement with Ronald D. Moore as showrunner to present the project to Warner Brothers Network.

  • In 2002, Warner Brothers Network and writer Ronald D. Moore had completed sets and casting for a pilot episode, and were within a few days of filming. Moore had sent the pilot episode to Warners for final approval. It was returned with so many changes to the basic structure of Pern - making it more like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess - that it no longer much resembled the world created by Anne McCaffrey. As a fan of the Dragonriders of Pern series, Moore refused to continue. Filming was canceled, and rights ownership remained with Zyntopo Teoranta's assign, Kua Media Corporation (Canada).[12]
  • In May 2006, rights to the entire Dragonriders of Pern series were optioned by Oscar-winning production company Copperheart Entertainment.[13] Copperheart announced their intention to bring Pern to the big screen. In April 2011, Copperheart signed David Hayter as screenwriter and Don Murphy as executive producer for a film version of Dragonflight; the production was expected to begin in 2012.[14][15]
  • In July 2014, Warner Bros. optioned all 22 volumes of the series for a feature live-action film.[16] Later in November, Warner Bros. hired author-screenwriter Sarah Cornwell to adapt the first installment of the series.[17]


There have been several games released based on the Pern series:

  • In 1983, Mayfair Games created a board game Dragonriders of Pern featuring cards with Pern characters and locations. This game is now rare and valuable to Pern collectors.
  • In 1984, Gallimard published Dragonriders of Pern: The Book Game, a game in which two players use illustrated books to resolve aerial engagement against the "threads".
  • In 1983, Epyx released the video game Dragonriders of Pern for the Atari 8-bit computers and Commodore 64 in which the player could battle Thread and engage in diplomacy on Pern.
  • In 2001, a video game Dragonriders: Chronicles of Pern was created by Ubisoft for the PC and Dreamcast under license from Zyntopo Teoranta, the Irish corporation which owns the motion picture, gaming and ancillary rights. This game follows a dragonrider as he searches for young women to be candidates for impressing a new gold dragon, and battles the "bad guys" on an adventure across Pern.

McCaffrey threatened legal action against unauthorized text-based, online, role-playing game communities based on the Pern world. She approved of strict rules for the communities that cleared some of these MUDs.[18] In the 1990s,[19] PernMUSH was one such community.[20] The community's rules discouraged straying out of character from the Pern world.[21]


The Pern fandom consists of a large variety of fan communities. The largest part of the fandom is made up by clubs that allow their members to 'play' Pern by creating original characters within the setting of Anne McCaffrey's world. To avoid conflicts with Pern canon and trademarks, each club typically chooses a particular location and timeline as a unique setting different from Anne McCaffrey's established history of Pern. Most commonly, clubs are named for the main Weyr chosen as playing location.

Historically, the first clubs started out publishing printed fanzines containing fanfiction and artwork. With the advent of the internet, clubs using online technology such as roleplay via chat or email (PBeM) became popular. Text-based online virtual reality games, primarily MUSH and MUCK variants such as PernMUSH, have modeled Pern since the early 1990s. In the mid '90s, stringent rules were placed on the creation of new clubs and the governance of existing clubs, resulting in legal action against some fans.[22] For example, no new fan-created MU* games were allowed while the game rights were licensed to Ubisoft for the development of the Dragon Riders: Chronicles of Pern computer game (released in 2001).

In November 2004, Anne McCaffrey relaxed her fandom rules significantly and allowed Pernese fanfiction to be posted freely throughout the Internet. Soon after, fanfiction sites such as FanFiction.net started offering the opportunity to post and read fanfiction based on Anne McCaffrey's works. The relaxing of the rules also resulted in the appearance of message board–based games as another popular club type. Fan sites no longer require approval and are not bound to the formerly strict canon rules, resulting in fan clubs testing out alternatives such as new dragon colors or off-Pern scenarios.

From 2000 until 2005, Anne McCaffrey's website offered a popular discussion forum and chat (The Kitchen Table) for fans to interact with each other and with the author. After its discontinuation in January 2005, several fan-organized discussion forums have taken its place as an outlet for fan activity.

Offline, the largest Pern fan gathering was WeyrFest, held yearly at Dragon*Con beginning in 1992. Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey were frequent attendees at WeyrFest, offering fans a chance to meet the authors in person. Anne was originally scheduled to attend the 2011 Dragon*Con, but had deferred her appearance until the 2012 event due to heart problems, just a few months before her death in late November of that year. In 2013, Weyrfest was folded into Dragon*Con's Fantasy Literature track, along with Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The 26 books (as of 2022) are distinct: they exclude omnibus editions and the separate publication as books of the longest works later collected or incorporated. The short stories not collected are "Beyond Between" by Anne McCaffrey (2003) and "The Impression" (1989) by Jody Lynn Nye and Anne McCaffrey. The last of 29 listings is one book "in progress" by her children.
  2. ^ They had drafted two sequels to Dragongirl by December 2009, then called "Rider" and "Time" rather than vice versa.Anne McCaffrey (17 December 2009). "A Letter From Anne". Archived from the original on 2 May 2010.
    • By summer 2010, their editor (Shelly Shapiro) suggested and all agreed to the switch of titles. Todd anticipated, "the gap between Dragon's Time and Dragonrider is just about the same as the gap between Dragongirl and Dragon's Time", which was 11 months. Todd McCaffrey (8 July 2010). "Dragongirl, Dragon's Time, and Dragonrider". Retrieved 9 October 2011.
    • In a foreword to Dragon's Time, Anne called the collaboration "helping Todd wrap up this very dramatic part of Pernese history". She also confirmed the forthcoming title: "I think that Dragon's Time is one of our best and we're both eager to get started on the next one, Dragonrider". Anne McCaffrey (2011), "Letter to Readers", Dragon's Time, page ix.
    • On the other hand, Amazon.com lists Dragon's School by the McCaffreys, an "Audiobook, CD, Unabridged", for release 1 June 2012. The very short "Book Description" seems authentic but does not seem likely to wrap up this epoch. Amazon.com: Dragon's School. Retrieved 2011-10-09:

    Leadership of these dragons and riders falls to Xhinna, female rider of a blue dragon, who must earn the respect of all who follow her and solve the problem of how to get sufficient numbers of dragon eggs, all while protecting her people and baby dragons from the predators and, worse, traitors!

    Barnes & Noble lists a CD "Dragon's School by Anne McCaffrey" expected December 2011.[1]. Confirmed 2011-10-09. Soon after release of Dragon's Time, Todd corrected that early date for the next book and did not comment on its title or completion of the epoch.Todd McCaffrey (7 July 2011). "Newsletter".[permanent dead link] (responses 18, 20, 24).

  3. ^ Hans van der Boom reported 2008/09 that McCaffrey at age 82 had warned its completion may not be possible: "with recurring health problems, it is very hard to find the energy ...". The Pern Museum & Archives. Hans van der Boom. Retrieved 2011-07-21. See "Booknews: New solo Pern book by Anne put on hold!".
    Todd McCaffrey (15 May 2010). "Question from J.J."
    • In 2011, regarding collaboration with Todd, Anne McCaffrey said: "I still am a bit possessive when it comes to the futures of F'lar and Lessa.["After the Fall"] ... Not only have I enjoyed helping Todd wrap up this very dramatic part of Pernese history, but my own creative juices have been flowing thick and furious: I've been writing up a storm on my own, too".
    "Letter to Readers", Anne McCaffrey, Dragon's Time, page ix.
    • See also Todd McCaffrey Homepage, "Search Results for: after the fall"


  1. ^ Dragonriders of Pern series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  2. ^ Publishers Weekly review of Robin Roberts, Anne McCaffrey: A Life with Dragons (2007). Quoted by Amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-07-16.
  3. ^ Renegades of Pern Author Note
  4. ^ Dragonriders of Pern omnibus publication contents at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
    Dragonflight was subtitled "Volume I of The Dragonrider of Pern" on its front cover no later than its fourth US printing, June 1974. Dragonflight 4th US printing publication contents at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  5. ^ The Harper Hall of Pern omnibus publication contents at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  6. ^ Dragonsong title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Dragonsong 4th US printing publication contents at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  7. ^ "1991: Dragonflight". Total Eclipse blog. 31 August 2018.
  8. ^ "Anne McCaffrey: Year of the Dragons". Crescent Blues. 1999. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  9. ^ "Sunset's Gold from Opland and Freeman". The Worlds of Anne McCaffrey. 24 December 2008. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Opland-Freeman/Harperhall web page". Archived from the original on 30 January 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  11. ^ "The Dragonriders of Pern. The Best Series We May Never See Filmed". Observationdeck.io9.com. 13 June 2014. Archived from the original on 20 June 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  12. ^ "Ron Moore's "Pern" a No-Go". Sci Fi Wire. 5 April 2001. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
  13. ^ Kit, Borys (25 May 2006). "'Pern' booked for big-screen flight". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 3 May 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2008.
  14. ^ McCaffrey, Anne (12 April 2011). "The Dragonriders of Pern to be adapted for the big screen". Retrieved 7 July 2011.
    Chitwood, Adam (12 April 2011). "David Hayter to Adapt Dragonriders of Pern Series". Collider. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  15. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0808236/ Dragonriders of Pern [user-generated source]
  16. ^ "Warner Bros' New Franchise Play: 'Dragonriders of Pern' Book Series". deadline.com. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  17. ^ "'Dragonriders of Pern' Movie Lands a Writer". The Hollywood Reporter. 19 November 2014.
  18. ^ White, Mel (2007). "Law and Disorder in Cyberspace: How Systems of Justice Developed in Online Text-Based Virtual Communities". In Williams, J. Patrick; Smith, Jonas Heide (eds.). The Players' Realm: Studies on the Culture of Video Games and Gaming. McFarland. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-7864-2832-8.
  19. ^ "PernMUSH". mudconnect.com. Archived from the original on 22 September 2017. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  20. ^ Carton, Sean (1995). Internet Virtual Worlds Quick Tour. Ventana Press. pp. 158–159. ISBN 1-56604-222-4. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to leap on the back of a dragon and take to the skies of Pern, or just have a hankerin' to engage in some complex and satisfying role play, then PernMUSH may be for you. PernMUSH is a virtual world based on Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series where characters play the parts of dragonriders—brave souls who fly on the backs of dragons, the dominant life form of the planet Pern.
  21. ^ Lastowka, F. Gregory; Hunter, Dan (2004). "The Laws of the Virtual Worlds". California Law Review. 92 (1): 19. doi:10.2307/3481444. ISSN 0008-1221. JSTOR 3481444.
  22. ^ "Letter concerning Dee's Dragonrider Art Gallery". Chilling Effects. 1 April 1997. Retrieved 8 November 2011.

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