The Dragon Lady

I just got back from being a dragonrider this weekend, and boy are my dragon’s wings tired.

Wait, let me back up.

I first discovered Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books in 7th grade.  Our English class was doing units on different genres, and for one of them, I selected Dragonquest, the second book in the Dragonriders of Pern series.  It changed my life.

It was not my first SFF book.  But it was my first adult SFF novel, one that took place in a fully-developed secondary world that was so well fleshed out, so finely detailed, that I felt like I could live there.  It made me see exactly what SFF was capable of, when it came to building entire new worlds of imagination to explore.

It was not the book that made me start writing, or think of being a writer.  But it was the book that made me realize I wanted to write for the rest of my life.  Like most kids, my career aspirations by middle school had wandered all over the map, from botanist to musician, from ballet dancer to ichthyologist (yeah, I wanted to study fish for a while there, and I loved being able to say “ichthyologist”).  But the Dragonriders of Pern series honed my aspirations to a fine point:  I wanted to write, to be an author and create brilliant worlds like Anne McCaffrey.

I’ve been writing ever since.

Not coincidentally, I’ve loved dragons ever since.

I had the privilege of being able to meet Ms. McCaffrey once, at her Dragonhold home in Ireland, over 15 years ago.  I remember her as warm and welcoming, willing without hesitation to spend a morning entertaining a fan and feeding me lunch.  (She made me a BLT!)  Her hospitality, in fact, was a well-known side of her, as so many people will attest.  I will always remember her fondly as the woman whose works changed my life, and who was also kind enough to give me a lift to the train station.

And so, in deepest love for those books and the woman who wrote them, I find myself once a year at Fort Fest, an annual retreat for a Pern role-playing fan club.  I get to enjoy the great outdoors and hang out with fellow McCaffrey fans, the sort of folks who are hospitable and creative and have way too many dragon-themed toys and crafts.  (Although, can anyone truly be said to have too many dragon-themed toys and crafts? asks the woman who has dedicated an entire bookshelf just to her dragon figurines…)  It’s always a good time, full of games and music, feasting and costumes, nature walks and mutual complaining about all these fire lizards getting everywhere.

Fort Fest
The queen dragon watches all…

There’s no moral to this story.  This is just me telling you about a beautiful thing that exists because one woman, somewhere, had a beautiful heart and wrote beautiful stories.  That’s a true joy of art:  the hope that your work will resonate with someone, may move them to create something in their turn, may even change their life for the better.

So, make things.  Put them out there.  Who knows?  The story you’re telling might bring someone joy.  It might encourage someone to create in their turn.  It might be exactly what someone out there needs to hear.

3 thoughts on “The Dragon Lady”

    1. One of the things I like about dragons as a fantasy creature is the tremendous variety in their presentation in SFF. They can be all over the map and still be considered “dragons”. What really stuck out for me at the time I first read McCaffrey’s dragons was that it was the first time I’d seen them presented as life-long bonded companions to humans. Empathically-bonded companions are not uncommon as a fantasy trope, but there was something absolutely thrilling to young me at the idea of having a dragon best friend for life, who chooses *you* above all others. The idea of flying around on the back of your dragon bff never ceased to thrill me. That, plus the first protagonists I read about in her world were women, so not only did I enjoy the vicarious experience of being a dragonrider, these dragonriders could be girls like me. That was a HUGE revelation.


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