The Dragonriders of Pern series was a major obsession for me for most of grade school, when I first read them. Dragonflight begins with an extremely strong, ruthless (and borderline sociopathic) female character who I of course immediately thought was the most cool character ever.Unfortunately, poor Lessa was written by Anne McCaffrey who does not LIKE extremely strong and ruthless female characters, preferring to have them“tamed” by the nearest Strong Male Protagonist. (The exceptions to this rule are generally Evil. Compare and contrast this mindset with C.J. Cherryh where ruthlessness and strength in a female character are definitely preferred traits.) Lessa does get a few moments of awesome heroism in later parts of this book and in the series over all, but she’s more or less relegated to being the fearsome “scary dragon woman in the background.” Despite this, and a few other incidents throughout the series, I was utterly captivated with these books fora very long time.
The basic concept of the story is that Pern is a colony world that has lost contact with its home government and has also lost most of its technology thanks in part to the “Red Star,” which periodically causes a “rainfall” of a very dangerous life form that eats living matter. They are able to survive due to“dragons” an indigenous life form that the early colonists tinkered with,creating huge animals that are able to exhale flame thanks to the ingestion of a of a certain kind of rock. These dragons are telepathic and bond mentally with their riders, and are able to teleport over long distances. When you are ten, all of this adds up to Extreme Awesome, even if later you get sick of the gender dynamics, homophobia and slut-shaming.
LESSA: *Has a premonition! Talks to her Only Friend in the World, the Hold watch-wher* Um. Is anything going on?
ONLY FRIEND INTHE WORLD:*There is nothing wrong, except he wants cuddles.*
LESSA: *is more than happy to oblige!*
ONLY FRIEND: ❤
*We learn that Lessa is the only survivor of a massacre of the noble family of Ruatha Hold. She has been hiding among the lowest servants or “drudges” for a very long time.*
F’LAR (and his half-brother, F’NOR): *Is Searching for candidates to join the Benden dragon riders! He is full of Disapprove because it has been centuries since the last Pass of Thread and everyone has forgotten of The Ancient Menace of the Red Star and consequently, The Reverence They Owe Dragonriders.* We’re on Search for a new Queen rider.
FAX: *Is Lord Holder of several holds and for some reason, despite the fact that no one likes him, no one has stomped on him for self-preservation’s sake.* I really don’t care,but can’t prevent you.*
F’LAR: *Is not able to find anyone at this hold who has the “right stuff” to be the new queen rider.He talks to a former dragon rider, LYTOL who agrees that there aren’t any women in any of Fax’s Holds who can be the next queen rider.* Well, we’ll go to Ruath Hold anyway.
*Meanwhile,everyone at Ruath Hold is in a tizzy because Fax is coming! With Dragonriders!To Ruatha Hold!*
LESSA: *evil smile*Dragonmen? And Fax? Awesome.
*Our Girl has spent the last ten or so years waging a one woman terrorist campaign on her own Hold. Her chief weapons are sabotage, stealth, telepathy and homicide. She has managed to make sure anyone sent to manage the Hold has met with mysterious demises and disgrace and has caused endless amounts of mayhem.Her plan is to make Fax repudiate his claim on Ruatha with Dragonriders as a witness, which means he can’t back down, and claim the Hold herself. It’s a very naïve plan, but Our Girl is determined and not really very sane.*
READER:LESSA is SITH. She is Darth Draconia.
FAX: *Is really pissed to find Ruatha in a shambles.*
F’LAR and F’NOR: *Are really, really appalled by the conditions.*
LESSA: *Massive amounts of malicious glee. Makes sure dinner is especially horrible! Positions herself in the perfect place to manipulate people telepathically!*
Um, I’m really sorry about how crappy everything is. If we’d known you were coming we’d havesent away for caterers…
FAX: Sent away for food? The day one of my Holds can’t feed itself is the day I abandon it!
F’LAR and F’NOR: *sense a disturbance in the Force!*
FAX: *annoyed* Is something wrong?
F’LAR: Um. No! *aside*There’s someone here!!
F’NOR: But who? All the girls here are skanky hags!
*GEMMA, one of FAX’S many abused wives goes into labor.*
FAX: Yeah, I’ll renounce the Hold in favor of that ho’s brat if it’s male and lives!*
WARDER: *kicks* Go get the midwife!
LESSA: *Is ninja! And using her Powers of the Mind to seem old and ugly! Takes off running.* Bwah-hahahahahah!Everything is going according to plan!
*Things get crazy downstairs in the dining room and upstairs in the room where GEMMA is having her baby. Lessa is on hand. GEMMA dies and Lessa heads back downstairs.*
The baby is a boy and lives! *bwah-hahahaha*
*Fax of course flips his wig and clobbers LESSA. She gets knocked out and a Duel ensues! FAX dies and F’LAR almost trips over Our Girl.*
F’LAR: Ew. Let’s get this out of the way. *Picks her up and takes her to a room where he makes a surprising discovery…* Holy dragon farts, she’s a babe! And apparently amember of the Lord Holder’s family because she’s smokin’ hot!
READER: Re-reading this, I’m coming across a lot of attitude I can only call “dickery.” I should start a F’LAR DICKERY site. Possibly also Writer dickery because of all the “pure bloodline” crap.
LESSA: *Is awake no wand is adding Bed plus Man About to Remove Dress and comes up with OH GOD NO,and makes use of a psychic talent SHE NEVER USES AGAIN to appear ugly.*
F’LAR: Ha ha no. You can’t fool me with mind tricks. What’s your name and rank.
LESSA: I’m the last member of my family, and this is my hold.
F’LAR: Bzuh-whut? What about FAX’S son?
LESSA: Dead! I lied to make sure you’d fight FAX for me!
F’LAR: WTF? You made me fight FAX when I’m on Search?
LESSA: This is my Hold, that I spent ten years wrecking for this moment! I don’t care about your“Search.”
F’LAR: *is mad enough to CLOBBER*
LESSA: *Is ninja!*Bwah-hahahahahaha! *Runs!*
F’LAR: Somebody catch her! *chases, runs into F’NOR*
F’NOR: What going on?
F’LAR:That–that–she’s the last surviving member of the Ruathan bloodline and she instigated this so I’d fight FAX!
F’NOR: So she’s going to depose the heir?
F’NOR: Gemma’s son.They did a c-section.
F’LAR: Anyway, we got to catch her! And–
MNEMENTH: *Got her! She was heading out a window.*
LESSA: *IS NOT AMUSED*
MNEMENTH: *IS VERY AMUSED*
ONLY FRIEND INTHE WORLD:*is completely out of tiny mind with rage and fear.*
F’LAR: You know what?You didn’t lie. Gemma’s child survived. *smug*
LESSA: Ruatha is mine!
F’LAR: Why would you want this pile of crap Hold when you could be a Weyrwoman?
LESSA: *For some reason is actually entertaining this idea despite the entire TEN YEARS OF SCHEMING Thing* Weyrwoman?
ONLY FRIEND INTHE WORLD: *Can’t be having with this. He breaks his chain and leaps at the bronze Dragon.*
LESSA: NO, DON’T!
ONLY FRIEND: !! *Breaks his back trying to obey.* :_:
LESSA: *gets loose and pets poor dying FRIEND* He was my only friend!
READER: The dog is supposed to die at the END, Not at the beginning!! *wails*
F’NOR and F’LAR: *are horrified that someone would think of a watch-wher as a friend* Ewww.
F’LAR: Anyway, let’s whisk you away to your new job as a possible Weyrwoman candidate! *whisks!*
LESSA: Okay–Aaaaaaah!*teleporting involves passing “between” a sort of freezing cold non-space.*
*So,LESSA ends up at BENDEN WEYR and gets her first real bath in ten years. There is also a moment of writer induced intimacy when F’lar makes her bandage him up. After a rather traumatic first Hatching, LESSA Impresses RAMOTH. Unfortunately, this turns out to be not quite as awesome as F’LAR promised.*
READER: For one thing, F’LAR is not in charge. And Lessa’s not in charge either. For another…
LESSA: WTF DO YOU MEAN QUEENS DON’T FLY?!
R’GUL *TheWeyrleader*:Um. They just don’t. Except to mate.
RED STAR: Oh hai! *is ominous*
REST of PERN: La la la, the WEYR is full of lazy idjits, la la la. We don’t owe them anything.
DRAGONRIDERS: *are getting sick of crappy tithes*
LESSA: Well, looks like we’ll have to barter!
DRAGONRIDERS: NOOOOOOOOO! LET’S RAID THEM INSTEAD!
R’GUL: Um, no, that would be bad and wrong.
DRAGONRIDERS: RAID THEM!
R’GUL: I SAID NO!
LESSA: *SITH MINDTRICK-*
F’LAR: *steps hard on LESSA’S foot* Don’t even think about it!
LESSA: Ouch! *PISSED OFF*
R’GUL: *Blah blah Tradition Blah.*
*Of course, this does not end the situation. Lessa sends off one of the younger dragonriders to go engage in random pilfering of various Holds. The Holds in return have discovered the pilfering and are understandably Displeased. Of course, this is not nearly as important at the moment as Ramoth’s First Mating Flight which decides to happen like, now.*
BRONZE RIDERS: *Horny!*
LESSA: *Freaked out!*
R’GUL: Bwah-hahahah. RAMOTH is going to mate. Don’t let her gorge.
RAMOTH: *Is it warm in here? And man, I’m hungry!*
R’GUL and OTHER BRONZE RIDERS:*Hur…hurr…hurr…*
LESSA: Where the heck is F’LAR?!
R’GUL: HUR HUR HUR….
LESSA: Oh no you didn’t! *Talks to Mnementh!*
*MatingFlight redacted due to purple prose*
F’LAR: LESSA was a virgin? Huh. Shocker.
*So, since MNEMENTH flew RAMOTH, F’LAR is now The Boss. He begins to instigate changes that cause some unhappy reactions among various parties. LESSA meanwhile is still chafing about not being allowed to fly with RAMOTH. Things come to a head when various Lord Holders are at their door, more than a little pissed off because of the Thieving Incidents. Unfortunately for the Lords, they forgot the part about huge teleporting dragons, so the Dragonriders quickly obtain hostages.*
LORD HOLDERS: Urk.
DRAGONRIDERS: *Carrying hostages on dragons*
F’LAR: Give us what we’re owed, or your ladies will be permanent guests.
LESSA: *Showboats on RAMOTH*
F’LAR: *Is not going to facepalm, really, he isn’t.*
LORDS: *Decide to be helpful. Under protest*
LESSA: See, queens can too fly.
F’LAR: *sigh.* Yeah,yeah, that’s why they have wings. Fine. I’ll teach you to go between so you don’t get yourself and Ramoth killed.
RED STAR: Oh hai, have some SPORES from OUTER SPACE
BENDEN WEYR: *does not have enough riders*
BENDEN: Oh boy. There’s got to be something we can do. RESEARCH MODE!
CRAFTERS: RESEARCH MODE!
LORDS: MEEP HALP *BITCH MODE*
MASTER HARPER ROBINTON:*PRO-DRAGONRIDER PROPAGANDA MODE!*
THREAD: *IN UR BIOSPHERES EATING UR FOODS MODE*
*Research is done and it’s discovered that Thread has a schedule. It’s also discovered that the mysterious disappearance of the other Weyrs is deeply mysterious. No one considers withholding firestone from a few green dragons and using them as back up breeders for excuses that seem to involve indirect slut-shaming and because the offspring would be “small” and no one wants economy sized dragons(probably tending toward blues, browns and more greens). READER suspects that the real reason is because the green dragon riders at this point are all male. They discover important things like the Southern Continent, flame throwers and time travel! Not all of this however will be enough.*
LESSA: *Has a scathingly
Horrible Brilliant Idea* Of course, that’s why all the Weyrs are gone! I brought them from the past to the present!
F’LAR: *DO NOT WANT*
LESSA: “Well, maybe you’re right.” *LYING*
LESSA: La la la, I’m just going to take this tapestry here back to Ruatha! *DOES THE TIME WARP*
*LESSA goes to the past and hard sells going to the future!*
PAST DRAGONRIDERS:Wow, we’re really bored after only a few months of blessed, blessed Threadlessness. The prospect of a really long interval of no Death and Horrible sounds really tiresome and we don’t want to cause a time paradox so we’ll go forward with you, LESSA!
EVERYONE: *DOES THE TIMEWARP AGAIN.*
WRITER: And that’s how LESSA saves the day, but the Triumphant all belongs to F’LAR. He totally owns all of it, and isn’t sharing.