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Old Apr 17 2006, 09:02 AM   #1
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Exclamation Mccaffrey Project...

Science Fantasy: McCaffrey’s Techno-Feminine Touch.
Science fiction is known for its cold, scaly dragons and magical, mystical powers. Readers around the world are drawn to the intriguing parallel worlds where mythical creatures dwell with unsuspecting heroes and heroines who uncover their latent abilities and do things to greatly influence society. Authors are constantly creating powers and creatures to include in new novels filled with challenging quests for their role model characters. Anne McCaffrey is one of those authors. She has created the foreign planet of Pern where dragons and their riders share a telepathic bond and sear the falling Threads that burn any organic substances. McCaffrey brings with her a feministic viewpoint that catches the interest of women all over the globe. The gentler, warm-blooded dragons Anne McCaffrey created allow the reader to become even more comfortable with the novel and help suspend disbelief. Anne McCaffrey’s critically acclaimed new science fiction genre, science fantasy, is based on scientific fact while bringing a gentler, feminine view to the science fiction realm.
Anne McCaffrey fills her novels with scientific facts while bringing her own ideas into the science fiction domain. In fact, McCaffrey returned to college and took “supplementary courses in physics in order to create [a more] credible science fiction” (Anne). The magic element in McCaffrey’s books is undoubtedly included but is so tightly woven into the everyday lives of the people that it becomes, within the first few chapters, such a normal occurrence that one can easily overlook it. Debra Rae Cohen, author of Crawdaddy, reported that McCaffrey’s novels do not contain “random magic, [there is] no Tolkienesque created language… but a meticulously logical civilization, finely crafted” (Anne).The way social classes and society on the planet Pern are constructed is similar to our own. The more privileged individuals rely on those less fortunate for their food, clothing, and entertainment. Those persons with extensive education and power are held in high favor and looked up to in times of need. This set system acts as a grounding point and helps prepare the reader to take a step into the supposedly ‘unbelievable.’ However analogous our world is to theirs, the creatures of Pern are those of myths and magic.
Dragons are the largest and most important of all the mystical animals of Pern. The dragons’ fire is the only substance able to destroy the Threads (silver ribbon-like things that destroy any organic substance they come in contact with). In other science fiction novels dragons are depicted as repulsive fiends that plague the human race. McCaffrey tried a new approach to these misunderstood beings and created a new kind of gentler, warm blooded dragon. Readers find that they can relate to Anne McCaffrey’s dragons much easier than the traditionally cold blooded monsters. Lady Maelin, a fan of McCaffrey’s novels, comments in an online discussion forum:
“With the dragons being warm and soft, it allows the rider and the reader to get up close and tactile with them… The comfort from both mental and physical [interactions], that you could get with the warm blooded dragon is so much more than that is in other stories of the hard scaled and cold dragons that we all have read or thought about. I would have accepted a different dragon, but that is just it, it would have been very different. You can imagine being close with a hard or cold dragon, but it would seem more foreign. After all is said and done it is the warm and soft to the touch that would make it more inviting.” (General Pern)
Greenrider Tresa also posted a reply to the discussion question, “I used to ignore books on dragons until I saw Anne's. The dragons just look so likeable, without scales and horns and stuff. So I don't think I could have gotten into it and learned to like dragons if she'd gone the traditional route…it's much easier to form a bond with something warm and soft than cold, hard and scaly” (General Pern). The mental image of placid, warm blooded dragons that share telepathic connections with their riders is much easier to accept and believe than the colder dragons whose cruel natures seem to push away at readers’ attempts to try and understand them.
A reader can also find difficult the task of connecting with and understanding the main character. Edra C. Bogle writes in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, “Most of McCaffrey's protagonists are women or children, whom she treats with understanding and sympathy…the injustices these characters suffer…are at the heart of most of McCaffrey's books” (Anne). Lessa, the main character in Dragonflight, waited ten long years in hiding for her chance to eliminate Fax, the power hungry man who kills off the rest of her family. When F'lar comes to look for likely candidates to impress dragons, Lessa set her plans into action. Unfortunately, the results were not quite what she anticipates. Lessa ends up in Benden Weyr, where she impresses the Queen dragon, Ramoth. Even though Lessa is now Weyrwoman and dragonrider, her troubles are far from over. Thread has not fallen for centuries, and the Holders have become unsupportive. Now with danger approaching, Lessa must regain their loyalty and miraculously repopulate five empty weyrs (Dragonflight). Lessa could let all the problems fall on F’Lar, but
she puts aside her needs and helps the Pernese in their desperate time of need. The simple act of creating female heroines gives the novels a feministic view and flavor. This draws the attention of women and girls alike to the science fiction genre that is stereotyped as an all male field. The female character makes it easier for a woman or girl to envision herself in the leading role of the novel making the book more appealing.
Nevertheless, it does not matter if the main character is male or female. Anne McCaffrey’s novels are strategically written so that the reader can easily find something that links the fictional world to reality. Gerald Jonas, a critic from the New York Times Book Review, remarks, “Few are better at mixing the elements of high fantasy and hard science in a narrative that disarms skepticism by its open embrace of the joys of wish fulfillment,” leading some to call McCaffrey’s work ‘science fantasy’”(Anne).
Works Cited
“Anne (Inez) McCaffrey: Criticism.” Discovering Authors. CD-Rom. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998. LHS. Evans, Georgia. 6 Feb. 2006.
"Dragonflight - Dragonriders of Pern 1 - Anne McCaffrey Book Review." AllReaders.Com. 28 Mar. 2006 <>.
"General Pern Discussion 1." A Meeting of the Minds: An Anne McCaffrey Discussion Forum. 16 Jan. 2006. 01 Mar. 2006 <>.
McCaffrey, Anne. Dragonflight. New York: Ballantine Books, 1968.
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