Sunday, December 11, 2011

More Dragons of Pern

I'm not a big Pern fan, despite it having gotten me to Ireland when I won the "Dragondrums" art contest. But it seems I did quite a number of pieces from the Pern mythos before I lost interest in it entirely. I styled my dragons after the portrayal that the author herself had endorsed to me, which made them look like big flying horses. And I tried to be true to the books' rationale for the dragons in the first place, that their fiery breath burnt the poisonous fungus threads out of the sky and saved the people on the ground.

But something about this whole deal just made no sense to me. It didn't make sense in the early 80s when I was doing the pictures and it doesn't make sense now, so maybe I'm missing something essential from my Pern appreciation. The idea is that every century, a rogue planet approaches Pern's orbit and gets close to Pern. This reddish wayward planet, known as the "Red Star" from its color, is infested by a poisonous, spacefaring fungus which it emits as it passes by (or orbits) Pern. The fungus travels through space and rains down on Pern, destroying all life wherever it touches. The human settlers of Pern, after almost being wiped out by this, genetically engineered these flying, fire-breathing beasts from the local fauna. The "dragons," each with a human rider, take to the air and burn the Thread out of the air with their fiery blasts, thus saving human settlements.

OK, so dragons can burn away Thread. But how much can they do? If this poison invasion is happening on a planetwide scale, the dragons can only do so much. Their defense would only be local. And even on a local scale, a squadron of highly mobile dragons wouldn't be able to burn out a whole sky full, say a few cubic miles of infested air. What am I missing here? Does it all ignite when a few dragons breathe fire on it? If so, then there would be way too much conflagration. The dragons might be able to fly in formation in a sweep against Thread, but it just keeps coming. So if there are any Pern fans reading this, please could someone explain this burning question.

"Dragons in Flight" is gouache on illustration board, 10" x 7", fall 1982.

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