In my continuing desire to figure out what motivated me to previously write fan fiction based on Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series (in the hopes of getting back into the swing of fiction writing again), I re-read The White Dragon for the first time in nearly a decade. While it didn’t quite re-ignite my desire to write about Pern again, I do begin to see what drew me to do so in the past.
Of the original trilogy, The White Dragon is my favorite. It follows Jaxom, the young Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold, who also managed to Impress a small, unique white dragon named Ruth (all other dragons are either gold, bronze, brown, blue, or green, with Ruth being the sole exception). Because it follows Jaxom so much more directly than the previous two books followed their characters, I find myself connecting a lot more with this novel than the others in the trilogy. I think it also helps that at the start of the novel Jaxom is very close to the age I was when I first read it.
The book opens around two years after the end of Dragonquest, with Ruth finally mature enough to fly with a rider. The rest of the book follows Jaxom’s adventures as he comes of age and learns to accept his dual nature as both a Lord Holder and a dragonrider. The overall arc of the trilogy also concludes with the last of the “Oldtimer” leaders, banished in the previous book, making a last ditch attempt to regain power and get revenge on F’lar. With the final removal of the Oldtimers, the Southern Continent (where the Oldtimers had been banished) becomes open to exploration, with the help of Jaxom. Due to the unique nature of Ruth, fire-lizards are fascinated by him, and share images from their racial collective memory with him, which leads Jaxom to discover the original settlement of when Man first came to Pern several thousand years before. The book ends with excavations beginning on the ancient settlement (buried by ash from a nearby volcano, which proved to be the cause of the initial evacuation).
I think this story of personal growth, in addition to having a truly complete and robust world after three books is what caused me to decide to write about Pern. The writing is good, but I wouldn’t call it phenomenal, and I have a suspicion that is a large part of why I decided to write about it: writing that well seemed attainable. The world was rich enough, and there was plenty of room for the adventures of another dragonrider. Having just finished The White Dragon again, I must admit I do have a small craving to write a dragonrider story.
So why did I stop? And what can I do to start again? I started by finding that same writing club that had kicked me out years ago, and rejoined. I wanted to see people writing dynamically for Pern again, see the piles of stories to read. Instead, I got a trickle. Perhaps a single two page story a day, and lackluster stories at that Meanwhile, I couldn’t post, needing to submit anything through a mentor. I found it all almost laughable, and sad. I left without posting.
My quantity of writing hasn’t increased since then, and yet I still feel better off than that ghost of a club. I don’t think I’ll be returning to Pern again, in my own writing. But at least I feel some closure about it. I’m ready to move on, finally.
As far as The White Dragon goes, I definitely enjoyed it, and would recommend it as a solid coming of age novel. It still works best as part of the trilogy, but it is sufficiently “different” from Dragonflight and Dragonquest, that I could say it almost stands on its own. It also feels good to finally get some closure on a topic that has rankled me for 8 years. That chain is finally unbound; now I just need to move forward.
McCaffrey, Anne. The White Dragon. New York: Ballantine Books, 1978.