Friday, January 28, 2011

The Rough Guide to Space Opera: Anne McCaffrey - Blue Tyson

Anne McCaffrey is a competent writer and prolific novelist, particularly of science fiction tending to science fantasy, and has also produced some short fiction. She is most well known for the Pern planetary romances, about the more primitive descendants of a group of colonists who when to the planet rather than put up with conditions where they were. Before the descent into a medieval-with-more-conveniences level of technology, the colonists genetically engineered the local lizard life into much larger 'dragons', who can fly, teleport and communicate telepathically with humans. Thus the series has a significant science fantasy feel. The problem with Pern is that in regular cycles, and for astronomical reasons it is bombarded from space with 'thread', a toxic poisonous substance that is a danger to their entire existence. Without advanced technology the Pern people are forced to rely on teams of dragonriders who fly up to try and stop most of it from hitting the ground, by feeding their partners and steeds a chemical rock mixture that allows them to flame the threads.

The heart of the conflict in the novels other than being fried from space is the necessity to keep a standing paramilitary force supported in the many years when there is no thread, and the power they wield as a result. Also with the growing conservative nature of backsliding societies, the ability to keep what services they have going. Later novels actual deal with the process of rediscovery of some of what they have lost, and get more overtly science fictional again.

She also has a 'Ship' series about people who are too physically cripped at birth to viably exist but can have their brains housed in starships and be the driving force behind them. And be paired with human babe pilots of whichever flavour. These crossover into the Crystal Singer books about mining by sound. So there is a light romance flavour pervading McCaffrey's work throughout, whichever the setting.

The Talents and Tower and Hive series have people whose psionic abilities enable interstellar transport and communication, again. There is more that I have not read, Dinosaur Planet, The Planet Pirates, the Doona books, the Catteni Series (humans slave to evil aliens) etc., all of which are relevant to some degree or other.

In the beating a dead horse stakes the writing of the Pern books appears to have descended to her son, but at least this has been done while she was alive. The strongest word is certainly her early Pern novellas and novels.

Beyond Between is the story of what happens if a dragonrider gets lost while teleporting. Dragonflight is a novel about how to solve the problem of having too few dragonriders to face the next Thread threat. Dragonquest follows this with what do you do with the old riders from the past, once the threat is past, and trying technological improvements to look at the menace in space. Dragonsdawn tells the story of the colonists and their initial arrival, Thread shock and breeding experiments. Runner of Pern is the story of a young messenger and her adventures. The Smallest Dragonboy you could pair with the The White Dragon - where a strange runt in either case finds or chooses a friend. A Gift of Dragons is a collection of Pern stories. Weyr Search is the original award winning novella about time travel discovery desperation to get help to save Pern. Dragonrider is similar.

Beyond Between




Runner of Pern

The Smallest Dragonboy

The White Dragon

A Gift of Dragons

Weyr Search


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