A Long Overdue and Definitive Explanation of Pern's Renewable Air Force

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A Long Overdue and Definitive Explanation of Pern's Renewable Air Force by Anne McCaffrey was posted online in 1997.

It is at: A Message from Anne McCaffrey, Archived version.

A revised version (2000) is at Pern's Renewable Airforce (repost).

The Post

In the Beginning of Dragonriders on Pern™, females rode green or gold. Males rode blue, brown or bronze.

Since greens are females and tend to be 'loving', they mated with any dragon they fancied. When not enough girls elected to stand on the Hatching Grounds after the first disastrous Plague, males with feminine personalities Impressed the green dragon. Blue riders, not to mince words, were gay with masculine temperaments. Browns, who were not so inclined to mate with a green's rider, made an arrangement so that two pairs of riders were involved in a green's mating.

The dragons act in the way they were bio-genetically designed. You all know that, I hope. I went into considerable detail about it after long discussions with Dr Jack Cohen, an internationally reputable reproductive biology expert. The reason why the dragons Impress only certain candidates presented them is due to a factor built-in by Kitti Ping Yung, the bioengineer who designed them: using Mentasynth, an alien chemical compound which could often alter certain functions of those receiving it. This was mentioned during early landing years and had been used on quite a few animals on Earth, such as dolphins who elected to join the colony. Mentasynth permitted dolphins to communicate in reasonably understandable language but other animals did not react as favorably (dogs for instance).

After the particular abilities of the indigenous fire-lizards were observed by two biologists, an attempt was made to treat a newfound clutch with the Mentasynth. Their empathy with humans improved considerably. It wasn't until Thread began to fall and the colonists needed a renewable airforce that the possibility of creating larger animals with the same innate abilities (telekinesis and fiery breath), that the genetic material of the dragonets was used to create a new creature. In the course of designing the new creatures, Kitti Ping employed Mentasynth, to provide a telepathic link between dragon and rider, building on the empathy already apparent in the dragonets. She gave additional thought on how else it could be used to improve the new 'dragon' species and ensure that only the best, strongest, cleverest would propagate the species. While the main and most important application of the Mentasynth was to increase mental function and innate empathy in the 'dragons,' a secondary use was to allow the newly hatched young dragon recognize the most suitable symbiotic partner. At hatching, the dragon recognizes by the sweat pheromones the appropriate sexual partner. Therefore the dragonet, just out of its shell, would approach only the male or female candidates exuding the proper pheromones for its basic sex type.

The green dragons are particularly sensitive not only to the mental empathy of possible candidates but also to pheromones. Blue dragons also are to some extent, but it was long a Weyr practice to send mixed colors on Search. The Terran analogue - HLA - for this type of mate selection is similar to that of rat females who can recognize tissue type by the urination left by other rats. In fact, an A type tissue rat, already impregnated by a B type tissue rat, will abort the B type embryos when she discovered an A type tissue mate, and carry the proper tissue type.

Therefore there is a valid, bio-engineered reason for draconic choice on the Hatching Ground and why browns, bronzes and queens make heterosexual Impressions. And why I have particularly asked that it not be altered.

Why has this never been mentioned before? Possibly because no one has asked. Also because in the initial seven books, there was no knowledge of the bio-engineering that went into the dragons, and certainly no way to describe the advanced technology until DRAGONSDAWN. However Dr Jack Cohen, a Reproductive biologist of international reputation, is quite willing to verify that this was part of our original schematics for the Dragons of Pern®. And why I find it so offensive that this particular canon of Pern® tradition is being altered by those who feel it might add something newbie, bigger, better Six Million Dollar Mark VII in the ever unfolding Saga of Pern. Lesbian gold riders are as impossible as gay bronze riders are and the same holds true for brown female riders. They just aint possible, given the nature of the Pernese HLA draconic selection.

Now the Pernese Renewable AirForce was also not just whomped up in an odd moment since I have known quite a few pilots, including my son, and I did, after all, go through WWII and watched the evolution of different types of planes for different job descriptions.

Let me say once again that there are generally a third more greens in any fighting weyr since they are the fighter pilots, whose skills often saved the larger and less flexible dragons from getting Thread scored. Any Weyrleader welcomed with great relief the presence of each new green rider. But, since the greens are small and have exchanged speed and manoeuvrability for stamina, they generally fly only half of a Fall, being sent back to the Weyr to rest, returning only if a Fall lasts longer or is heavier than normal.

The blues are stronger, have a wider thrust of flame, and can last an entire Fall. The browns are stronger yet, with a wider and long thrust of flame, which is another reason they are often appointed as wingseconds. The bronze, of course, is the strongest of the fighters, having great depths of reserve and the most potent flame in length, depth and duration: the bombers you might say. They are invariably wingleaders, with two wingseconds, either or both of whom can be browns.

The queens don't like to be left out of the action and flame-throwers were their method of defence since they can't digest firestone. They fly low as the best way to catch whatever Thread might escape the upper level flights.

Back again to the different sexes involved. The greens, like their little cousins, are extremely affectionate, flirtatious, and when in season can be quite a problem to the Weyrleaders. However, some long-term unions were formed between greens and any of the other colors, bar the bronzes who always hope to make the queen theirs in her next mating flight. The greens oblige any of the males including bronzes...or we'd have a heap of sexually frustrated, very unhappy virgin male dragons.

As the queen is wholly heterosexual, larger and stronger than even the largest bronze, and certainly any browns, she mates infrequently and only when she feels an irresistible urge to procreate. (To be totally whimsical, she's catholic, you might say.) Nevertheless, she is not as amenable to being caught as the greens are. She makes quite a show of her sensuality, evades and taunts all the dragons rising with her in a mating flight. As she is larger and stronger, her stamina is considerable. The bronze that catches her has to be the smartest, strongest and fastest of the flight. The higher he can take her before linking with her, the longer he has to impregnate her which means a stronger and larger clutch. The stronger the impact of that mating is on the two riders also improves the clutch since the male is not inhibited by the queen rider's indifference. (It's no wonder Nemorth has so few dragons-she could barely get off the ground and neither S'loner, F'lon nor R'gul could stand the female.) If Weyrleader and Weyrwoman are totally compatible, clutches invariably reflect that accord and include more of the larger dragons, and possibly a queen.

There is a rational chain of command for very obvious reasons - ESPECIALLY DURING FALL. I designed my Pern Air Force quite carefully and, if it seems sexist to readers in this decade, I make no apologies for the world I designed thirty years ago: LONG before it ever occured to me that the World of Pern© would be online and subjected to alterations that contradict its basic traditions and canons.

This is my world, folks. I designed it. I haven't changed the design. When I gave permission for online games of Pern, I was assured by you, or your predecessors, that these traditions and social entities would be scrupulously followed. Most of you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart, have kept that bargain.

Therefore you will not try to out-persona another member of your group and teach Maid Marian karate kicks and how to shorten her costumes despite the draughts that were prevalent in 12th century castles. Nor will you design newer bigger better models of the Ninja Turtles or Hercules with a Valley accent. War is not a word in the Pernese vocabulary. It's one reason so many people would like to live there. Including me.

Which brings me to my final point. Recently, I discovered that there may be quite a few players of the various sorts of Pern games who have never read a single Pern novel. They just enjoy playing games. Which is fine by me but causes some of the problems, which have been plaguing me, the Sysops, the Wizards or whoever runs the online games (It was for the fanzines.) Not that this is a ploy to sell more books because one can borrow one from a friend, who HAS read a Pern book, or the local library.

Reading a Pern book gives the player much more of the 'feel', the 'ambience' of the planet that so intrigues games players. And it also lays out the rules, and the whys of those rules, again and again. It also gives you insights into a persona that might be better than the travesties that have come to my attention. Green female Weyrleader indeed! If she'd had that much potential, the gold would have chosen her.

Anne McCaffrey, 1997


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