Bookish Giveaway & Interview: Marc Secchia, Author of the Shapeshifter Dragons Series

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Folks, please give a warm welcome to historical fiction author Marc Secchia. I recently had the pleasure of listening to his book, Aranya: Shapeshifter Dragons Book 1 which follows the dragonish adventures of Aranya and her friends.

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

Snape – well, he’s not so much a villain, but he is a beautifully conflicted character who I found myself rooting for almost despite my instincts. Very well-written indeed.

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold?

African fiction. I believe this is one of the most underrepresented fields of literary endeavour and I’d love to see powerful African voices taking their place on the world stage.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

I’d choose a dragon. They are Fantasy’s finest and most magical creatures and they’d undoubtedly possess the skills and magic to pull off a crazy rescue.

If you could, what book or movie or TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Definitely The Lord of the Rings. It’s the classic fantasy tale of the insidious, corrupting power of evil and the courage of those who choose to stand against it. Peter Jackson did an awesome job of bringing the tale to the big screen, but I still love the rhythm, detail and power of the original text. I’d love to dive into that world afresh because it’s just incredibly immersive and every detail is thought out.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

There are so many terrific books out there that would make amazing movies, it’s hard to choose. Let me throw out a classic author’s name here – Anne McCaffrey. I think it’s a travesty her works have never made it to screen, although some of the mores are a bit dated I think this series would still resonate with so many people, not just Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans. I’d play Robinton, the Master Harper of Pern.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Let’s see … Dumbledore since we’re having a smallish Potteresque vibe here, Aladdin if he doesn’t come in his canned-and-potted Disney guise, since he’d have plenty of fun tales to tell, and it’s weird I know but I think Mulan just kicks it in her world and time. Two more (scratches chin) … Killashandra from one of my favourite books of all time, the Crystal Singer omnibus by Anne McCaffrey, and Aragorn from LOTR. Maybe I’d throw in a dragon just to liven things up. Toothless is awesome but not much of a conversationalist. He’d just have to make funny faces.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I live and work in Ethiopia so that’s a little different to most. I love to play music – I play a range of woodwinds such as flute, panflute and Irish whistle – and when I’ve a quiet evening I love nothing more than a relax with an epic book.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Ha ha, it’s really boring, but it’s one of those “learn-to-read” books about Kathy and Mark I think. After that must come Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and then I had a Hardy Boys binge before graduating to older books.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Well, I’ve a sale coming up on 15th/16th August when I’m going to take a run at getting one of my books into the Top 10 free books on all Amazon. If you’d like to sample my work, Aranya will be free on the 15th and it is a bestseller in Coming of Age fantasy. http://smarturl.it/draconic

Secondly, I’m really excited about the release of Dragonstar on August 16th. It’s the 4th book in my Dragonfriend series and the culmination of the series. http://smarturl.it/dragonstar

I think you’ll love the cover art for this series – do check it out, thanks!

Check out more interviews, spotlights, & reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Marc Secchia:

Marc is a South African-born dragon masquerading as an author, who loves writing about dragons and Africa, preferably both at the same time. He lives and works in Ethiopia with his wife and 4 children, 2 dogs and a variable number of marabou storks that roost on the acacia trees out back. On a good night there are also hyenas patrolling the back fence.

He’s the author of 21 fantasy books in 3 languages (2 more languages coming this year – watch this space!), including 8 rip-roaring dragon fantasy bestsellers. Dragonfriend won a Gold Award for Fantasy in the 2016 IPPY Book Awards. Look out for Whisper Alive, his latest release. The 4th tale in the Dragonfriend series, Dragonstar, is coming soon!

When he’s not writing about Africa or dragons Marc can be found travelling to remote locations. He thinks there’s nothing better than standing on a mountaintop wondering what lies over the next horizon.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Amazon ~ GoodReads

Synopsis of Aranya:

Chained to a rock and tossed off a cliff by her boyfriend, Aranya is executed for high treason against the Sylakian Empire. Falling a league into the deadly Cloudlands is not a fate she ever envisaged. But what if she did not die? What if she could spread her wings and fly?

Long ago Dragons ruled the Island-World above the Cloudlands. But their Human slaves cast off the chains of Dragonish tyranny. Humans spread across the Islands in their flying Dragonships, colonizing, building, and warring. Now the all-conquering Sylakians have defeated the last bastion of freedom – the Island-Kingdom of Immadia.

Evil has a new enemy. Aranya, Princess of Immadia. Dragon Shapeshifter.

Series Note

There is a companion series to Aranya, set in the same unique Island-World above the Cloudlands. Aranya is the last of the Dragons – or is she? Find out why the Dragons disappeared in The Pygmy Dragon, now available on Kindle.

Audible ~ Amazon ~ iTunes ~ Audio Excerpt

About Narrator Shiromi Arserio:

A native of London, England, Shiromi Arserio is a stage actor, voice talent and audiobook narrator. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. In addition to narrating dozens of audiobooks, her voice can be heard in documentaries, e-learning projects and video games such as Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion. Shiromi currently resides in the Seattle area with her husband and her two furbabies.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ SoundCloud ~ IMDB

GIVEAWAY!!!

The giveaway is for a $50 Amazon gift Card. Open internationally! Ends August 16th, 2017.

Aranya Giveaway: $50 Amazon Gift Card

Interview: Garrett Calcaterra, Ahimsa Kerp, & Craig Comer

CalcaterraKerpComerRoadsToBaldairnMotte2Everyone, please welcome the authors of The Roads to Baldairn Motte, Garrett, Ahimsa, and Craig. Today we chat about influential books and movies in the realm of fiction, tattoos versus cosplay, fictional beasties, and the challenges of self-promotion. Enjoy!

1) Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Craig: Absolutely. Today, you still see elements of fantasy fiction adorned on fashion items and throughout pop culture. Walking Dead and Game of Thrones shirts, mugs, and stickers are everywhere, and more so, you hear lines from these worlds quoted on news shows and by sports commentators.

Ahi: In some ways, probably more so than ever. I think Star Wars broke through the glass nerd ceiling and now fantasy is more popular than ever. However, it’s often a bit empty. Sci-fi can push for social betterment, but fantasy often seems to wallow in meaningless entertainment. They’re not mutually exclusive, and I’d love to see more ambitious fantasy.

Garrett: I think all genres tend to wallow in meaningless entertainment, even sci-fi and literary fiction. And you know, that’s fine sometimes. I see nothing wrong with literature functioning as escapism—life can get rough, and what better way to put aside your problems for a few hours than in a fun book?

But I’d argue that there is still ambitious fantasy out there. It may not shape history anymore, but it works in subtle ways. I think Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is so popular because it’s rooted in complex, believable characters. It functions in the same way good literary fiction does: we, as readers, learn something about the human condition from these characters.

Fantasy can also be a medium for exploring alternative philosophies and social viewpoints. I’m currently reading The Mists of Avalon for the first time, for example (I know, not exactly new, and yes, shame on me for not reading it a long time ago!), and it does an amazing job of making the reader question our patriarchal culture, not to mention our modern disconnect with nature and the magic in the world around us. That’s perhaps the biggest impact fantasy has, reminding us about magic. I just finished Bruce McAllister’s Dream Baby and it’s this amazing, sort of paranormal fantasy set during the Vietnam War, based on the premise that being in heightened combat situations awakens a dormant, magical ability in certain humans. That’s what good fantasy is all about. It makes us question our reality. Is there something more to modern human existence than working like a dog just so you can buy the newest iPhone or 60” flatscreen TV?

CalcaterraDreamwielder2) What fictional world would you like to visit for the holidays? Is there a fictional holiday that you would like to take part in?

Craig: I’m not sure any of the worlds I love so much are great for visiting. They are scary and dangerous places! But maybe Philip Pullmans London from, His Dark Materials. It’d be a trip to walk around and see everyone’s daemon running around!

Ahi: My answer is boring because I just want to go to Middle-earth. Hang out with the Dunedain, visit Rivendell, cruise up to the Misty Mountains… yup, that’s the dream.

Garrett: Yeah, my first choice would be Middle-earth too. The Shire probably has some pretty good holiday fixings going on. Hmm…where else? My girlfriend and I adore animals—to the point we like our pets more than most humans—so once we get married it would be pretty fun to take her to Narnia and visit the talking animals in the court of Cair Paravel.

3) Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

Craig: I think the level of reality has to match the tone and themes of the work. Something like A Game of Thrones needs to be gritty and real because the reader is so closely imbedded in the character’s perspective, and those details describe the world Martin is creating. Something like Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is more whimsical. Too many details there would weigh down the prose. But for each, the important thing is consistency.

Ahi: I love books where people swear and poop. But it has to be for a reason. Usually those mundane realities are cut because they don’t advance the story, and we don’t really need to know how many times per minute your protagonist blinks.

Garrett: Yup, I’ve got little to add beyond that. If I’m writing a dark, gritty tale, I use those realistic elements the same way I use setting description to create a believable backdrop and establish the tone.

ComerAbandonedTowers4) Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

Craig: I would love to have a Heinzelmännchen come stay at my house and do all the care taking! I would avoid any type of giant arachnid. Small little guys hanging on webs are fine; huge Shelob sized ones, not so much.

Ahi: I have quite an affinity for Yetis. And I would really like the platycore from Munchkin as a pet. Who would I avoid? Most fantastical creatures probably! But China Mieville‘s slake moths especially creep me out.

Garrett: I would love to encounter a dragon from Pern and have an Impression. How awesome would it be to fly on the back of a dragon and communicate telepathically? As for creatures to avoid, I’d have to say the Great Old Ones. I feel like I’m a pretty easygoing guy and could get along with most nefarious creatures, but the inhuman evilness of Cthulhu is too much, and the thought of losing my mind terrifies me.

KerpOriginsCollidingCausalities5) More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?

Ahi: I have no prediction as to how it’s going to evolve, but I am excited to see how it all goes down. I am definitely excited to continue to learn different kinds of storytelling as they continue to grow.

Craig: We’re already seeing interactive ebooks and tie-in novels for PC games. I think that will continue, and at some point a synergy (or at least an attempt at one) with social media—perhaps a choose-your-own-adventure with thousands of readers creating the story together?

CalcaterraKerpGoodBrewHardToFindGarrett: It’s an exciting and unpredictable time. For the biggest authors in the publishing world, yeah, you’re gonna continue to see their fictional worlds turned into multimedia franchises like we’re seeing with LOTR, A Game of Thrones, The Chronicles of Narnia, and American Gods. For those of us authors who aren’t best-sellers, technology will function to enhance the way we interact with readers. The new e-book edition of The Roads to Baldairn Motte has an enhanced character index with hyperlinks, for example, which is helpful for a sprawling mosaic novel. Earlier this year, Ahimsa and I were able to re-release A Good Brew is Hard to Find, a choose-your-own-adventure style humorous fantasy. Its first incarnation was on a website with clunky html a decade ago, and now it’s a slick, easy to read e-book. I too am excited to get to write in these different mediums, and am always open to new opportunities. Ultimately though, novels are my favorite and I hope novels are able to retain their market share in our attention deficit world where books have to compete for attention against other media.

ComerDragonmountAnthology6) What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

Ahi: It depends on the project, but I quite enjoy the role of researcher. I read 5-10 books per novel, and my booksmarks folders on Chrome have 30-40 links each. We live in the best time ever for research, as the wealth of human history and progress is all available on the same machine you type your story on.

Craig: There’s a book, What Would Your Character Do?, that I find useful for fleshing out character ideas. It puts them in different scenarios and asks a litany of reaction and motivation type questions. World building, for me, is the best part of the creative process, and I use everything from old childhood tales to military encyclopedias. The internet has made it easier than ever to find information, and not just with who, what, and where.  There are dialect translators, guides for creating armor, guides on botany and Victorian costume—everything is out there.

Garrett: I don’t read many non-fiction books and feel pretty inadequate in my knowledge of history compared to Ahi and Craig, but I do take my research seriously. I mostly rely on reference materials when writing fantasy. I did a ton of research to make sure I had my nautical terminology correct when writing The Roads to Baldairn Motte, for example, and that came in handy for Dreamwielder too. Beyond that, the non-fiction I read tends to be newspaper and magazine articles on technology and climate change. In fact, I posted an annotated bibliography on climate change and science fiction on my blog, if anyone wants to check it out. (link: http://garrettcalcaterra.blogspot.com/2013/06/an-annotated-bibliography-for-science.html )

ComerBardsAndSages7) With the modern popularity of ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

Ahi: I mean, genre is just a marketing tool. I’d like to see it removed entirely to be honest. Genre is rather a limiting, didactic way of looking at something much broader and nearly infinite in scope. As to ebooks, they haven’t lured me out of my comfort zone, as I read from a wide range already.

Craig: I agree with Ahimsa. It’s a double-edged sword, though, because you still need readers to find your book, and that can’t be on author name recognition or friend recommendation alone. Online lists have become a prevalent source for finding new books or songs or whatever, but even those are necessarily broken down by some sort of meta-label, whether it be genre or some other categorization.

Garrett: Yeah, I agree. In theory, better online categorization, meta tags, cloud servers and whatnot makes it easier for readers to find a broader range of books, but in reality it’s just become part of our norm, and readers still gravitate toward their individual interests. Back when I was in junior high and grade school, if I wanted a new fantasy novel (and I did, pretty much every week) I either went to the public library or the one bookstore in town that had a big section of fantasy novels. Now people only have to tap an icon on their Kindle or Nook to accomplish the same thing, but they still have their specific interests. Though the mediums have changed, we’re approaching our author branding and marketing toward a target audience with the same general philosophy that authors were using back in the 80s. Having said that, I could be totally wrong, and maybe that’s why my book sales aren’t tearing up the charts!

CalcaterraPiratesAndSwashbucklers 8) From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay?

Ahi: Ha! Good question. I’m afraid I would feel like a total wanker if I dressed up as my own character when there are thousands of great characters already out there.

Craig: None myself, but the heroine of my next novel, The Fey Matter, is modeled in part after my fiancé. So in some sense, she’s cosplaying all the time.

Garrett: I’m not really into cosplay, but I wouldn’t protest if my girlfriend wanted to dress up like Lyrie from Baldairn Motte, and I’d be happy to be Terryll Pace, her pirate lover. “Arr! Come to me, you lusty wench!”

Oh, and Ahimsa and I both have literature-inspired tattoos. I have a Frank Frazetta cover from a Bradbury book tattooed on my shoulder and Ahi has tattoos of all kinds of cool shit: Cthulhu, Odin, an airship from China Mieville’s The Scar, I think. Tattoos are sort of like cosplay, but way tougher and cooler.

9) Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

Ahi: I still think Trainspotting is the gold standard of adaptation. How anyone could turn that book into a movie is beyond me, but it was sheer genius. I haven’t read any PC game adaptations but working in licensed worlds takes skills all their own (maybe a bit like our own shared world actually) and my hat’s off to those who tell those stories.

Craig: Wonder Boys is one of my favorite movies, so that pops to mind. And the BBC’s Sherlock is very well done.

Garrett: I think Fight Club is one of the few movies that is better than the book, and I’m a big fan of the book and Palahniuk. I suppose I could say the same for American Psycho, in that the movie captures the essence of the book and makes it a tighter, more cohesive story. As far as fantasy goes, I think the first Narnia movie was very well done. Can’t say that I’ve read any books adapted from games or other media. My nerdiness is pretty well confined to original SF/F/H, and then real life scientific research (I have a BS degree in chemistry and bio, if you can believe it).

ComerBardicTalesSageAdvice10) In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

Craig: Throughout the whole writing process, I love the anticipation that someone out there will get as excited as I am about a character or plot point or setting. The rest of self-promotion is awkward and a bit embarrassing—kind of like swimming in a public pool amidst a cloud of warm water, while trying to get everyone else from swimming away from you.

Ahi: The only good part of self-promotion, for me, is the chance to meet like-minded people.  I really appreciate that aspect, but the rest of the horn-tooting is not something I’m at all fond of.

Garrett: Ditto for me. I don’t think any proper writers like self-promoting their work. If we did, we’d probably be salesmen rather than authors. But like Ahimsa said, being involved within the SF/F/H community is an entirely different matter. Doing this interview, for instance, is quite fun. I’ve also written articles and interviews for Black Gate, SF Signal and my own blog, The Machine Stops, and that’s awesome because I genuinely like to interview people and write non-fiction. So for me, the best sort of self-promotion comes in the form of being visible and active within the community in that capacity. That’s where you’ll see the best, most honest side of me. On Twitter or FB posts where I’m plugging my books, not so much.

 ComerPulpEmpire11) Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Garrett: Well, the big event for us, of course, is the release of the new edition of our mosaic novel The Roads to Baldairn Motte. The book is out in e-book format from Reputation Books as of the new year (January 1, 2014), and if it does well enough we’ll maybe see a print edition later in the year. In the meantime, the three of us are all cranking away on our own individual novels. I’m working on a high-action sequel to Dreamwielder, and then also my more serious near-future cli-fi novel. Craig is doing revisions on The Fey Matter, and Ahi is working on his Indo-fantasy. We try to attend conventions and conferences when we can, but I don’t think anything is on the books now apart from our virtual book tour online. So thank for having us and helping kick things off!

Craig: I wanted to thank a Ben Thornton for letting us use his artwork for our new cover! It’s awesome and got all three of us charged up to put together this revised edition of the book. Thanks also to you, Susan, for having us over for this chat at Dab of Darkness!

Ahi: Nothing else of mine to share, but I’d like to thank all who read this for their interest and time. Keep reading—everything. You’re awesome!

Thank you gentlemen for sharing so much and joining us here at Dab of Darkness!

Places to Stalk Garrett, Craig, and Ahimsa

Garrett Calcaterra Website

Craig Comer Website

Goodreads – Garrett

Goodreads – Ahimsa

Goodreads – Craig

Twitter – Ahimsa

Twitter – Garrett

Facebook – Craig

Facebook – Garrett

The Roads to Baldairn Motte

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

This is Heldig's better side, especially when she is cranky.
This is Heldig’s better side, especially when she is cranky.

Why I Read It: There was this group read hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

Where I Got It: Own it…since like I was 12.

Who I Recommended This To: Dragons + Science = WIN! Who doesn’t want to read this?

Publisher: Del Rey (1968)

Length: 303 pages

Series: Book 1 The Dragonriders of Pern

I loved this book as a kid and I love it again as an adult. There is so much going on in this book, which was first published as two novellas and later smushed together into one coherent tale. On Pern, there is an aging fuedal system of strongholds (containing the farmers, the craftsmen, and some of the ruling humans) and the dragon weyrs (containing the dragonriders, their winged steeds, and support personnel) which are granted tithes of food and other products by the surrounding strongholds. This book opens with the dragonriders on search as the single Queen dragon has laid a Queen egg. These men fly from hold to hold assessing the available ladies for personality and mental abilities. The threat of Threads from the rogue red star is a long ago memory-turned-to-myth-turned-to-disbelief. Only a few of the greatly diminished dragonriders even believe the threat will reappear.

If you read only the the first few chapters of this book, you might think that Anne McCaffrey was a sexist, having bought into the myth that men are greater than women, etc. But she is a clever writer and merely sets you up to show how our Heroine Lessa will change that paradigm over a few short years by her bravery, her wit, her strong personality, and her lack of impulse control. Indeed, our Lessa is flawed, deeply flawed at the beginning as she is a somewhat selfish individual bent on revenge. However, McCaffrey pairs her wits with F’Lar’s steady hand. He has his issues too, having waited too long to set a definitive course for his people, and then once doing so playing his cards too close to his chest in a show of control freakishness. And I love these characters for their flaws, as it reflects the true human spirit.

The second half of the book truly shines with more explanation of the dragon’s abilities, the pseudo-science behind their fire breathing abilities, and info on the Threads which travel the void of space when the Red Rogue wanders close to Pern, mindlessly landing on any organic matter and attempting to devour it. In addition to the science, we have a time travel element (and I won’t say much because I don’t want to spoil it), and we have telepathic ability to chat with the dragons who are at least as cognizant as their human counterparts. Indeed, this book has a lot going for it and I look forward to reacquainting myself with the series.

Read Along

Part I

Part II

VintageScifiBadgeWhat I Liked: Flawed, complicated characters; talking dragons; plausible science; feudal feel to book.

What I Disliked: The first dragon-mating scene gave me mixed feelings as no one clued Lessa into what was going on with the dragon passion and it was her first sexual experience; F’Lar continues to shake Lessa throughout the book which also gave me mixed feelings (realistic for the setting, but not really necessary).

This is Vintage SciFi Month over at Little Red Reviewer. Make sure you stop by her place for some classic SF. Also, this book definitely counts as part of The Science Fiction Experience hosted over at Stainless Steel Droppings, which runs to the end of February. So, for even more SF goodness, make sure to check out his blog. ScifiExperience2013Badge

Dragonflight Read Along Part II

You're lucky I could get Streak to hold still for this photo.
You’re lucky I could get Streak to hold still for this photo.

Welcome back everyone to the second half of the read along of Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. Our wonderful host is Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings, so make sure to stop by his blog to catch his answers and also links to other participating bloggers. If you have not read Dragonflight, please be aware this post contains major spoilers about the book, especially focusing on the last 2 sections of the book.

1.  The Threads are further explored and become very much the focal point in parts 3 and 4 of Dragonflight.  What are your thoughts on the Threads in general and how do you feel these worked as an enemy vs. the traditional enemies you see in SFF novels?

The biologist in me loves the little tidbits we learn about the Threads. Some kind of mycorrhiza(?), but really, really aggressive. The thought of a spore form traveling through space, such a cold void, to make it to a living, breathing planet. Perhaps. If you have heard of tardigrades (or waterbears), then you know there lies the possibility. Humans struggle against nature, whether here or on Pern, will be our greatest struggle. With that in mind, the Threads serve as a great, mindless antagonist and also to unite the various factions of humans on Pern.


2. The science fictional concept of time travel becomes an important device in the later half of Dragonflight, how do you feel McCaffrey did in working time travel into the plot?

First, let me say I really like that the plot wasn’t so predictable, and the time travel thing I didn’t see coming (not the first time I read it like 20 years ago, and not this last time because I forgot nearly all of it). Second, I think it is very realistic that Lessa would picture her Ruathan home as she remembered it, not as it stood in the present. So, very easy to see how this mistake could happen. But, third, with that said, why hasn’t this mistake happened with other riders recently? I know that F’Lar has a brief conversation pondering that if Lessa stumbled upon it, others probably have at some point. I wonder if this is explored further later in the series.

3.  Of the new characters introduced in this second half of Dragonflight, who did you like/not like and why? 

Let me just say that F’Nor is still one of my favorite characters and I am glad he had a serious role to play in the second half of the book. Next, I seriously like the changes that F’Lar and Lessa make in how the dragons are handled from egg, such as bringing in potential candidates early on so they won’t fear the baby dragons on Imperssion day. It was great to see Robinton – he was one of the characters I remember strongly from reading these books 20 years ago. And dude, many ladies flying queens using flame throwers. Anne McCaffrey is the bomb just for that.

4.  We talked about it in the first discussion and there is no way we can get away from it in Part 2: What are your feelings on the progression of the relationship between F’lar and Lessa throughout this second half of the book?

They’ve both grown, taming each other, and eventually learning to trust and support each other. I am glad they also eventually found some mutual enjoyment in bed too. Lessa has shown the most growth, even risking herself in fetching the dragons and riders of the past. F’Lar had to make some tough choices, such as going ahead with the Southern Weyr, even though he knew his brother would be in danger. Once again, the changes these 2 rulers made to the Weyr in being less secretive with potential riders and the civilian populace are of great benefit. I expect that future Queen riders won’t be surprised during their first mating flight, but rather, will have knowledge of how they will be affected by their psychic connection to their dragons.

5.  And finally, what is your overall assessment of Dragonflight?  How does it measure up against other classic science fiction you’ve read?  Would you recommend it to modern readers, why or why not?

I have greatly enjoyed this reread – Thank you Carl! I remember being perplexed teen that a scifi story had dragons, and yet there was some biological plausibility to these dragons and their fire breathing. Then you throw in the lost knowledge of a time gone by (space colony, anyone?) and time travel and you have some basic scifi elements. I would recommend this story to folks who do not give up on a tale at first blush. If I had simply stayed stuck in the first few chapters, I would have walked away thinking that Anne McCaffrey was really a sexist male using a pen name to appeal to the female half of society. One of the strengths of this story is that not only do the main characters grow, but so does the culture.

Dragonflight Read Along Part I

Waffles interrupted from her nap; she was curled around her favorite heater.
Waffles interrupted from her nap; she was curled around her favorite heater.

Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting this month a read along of Anne McCaffrey‘s Dragonflight, volume 1 of The Dragonriders of Pern series. Part I of the read along covers sections I and II of the book. Carl has provided the questions and over on his site are not only his entertaining answers but also a list of other participating blogs. So make sure to stop by his site to continue the fun.

1.  I (Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings) have hosted SFF-related group reads for books by Asimov, Herbert, Sanderson and Gaiman.  This is our first group read by a female author.  What are your thoughts on McCaffrey’s handling of the male and female characters in Dragonflight?  Feel free to compare and contrast male and female characters and/or discuss various male and female characters in relations to others in the book of the same sex.

As I often find with female writers, McCaffrey treats both males and females as humans first and then throws in any sex-based differences secondly. Both Gaiman and Sanderson are also good at this skill, while Herbert and Asimov create distinctly female characters in positions of power (equal in importance to the story but lacking equally interchangeable roles with the males of the story). I enjoy all 5 of these writers immensely.

2.  F’Lar and Lessa are an interesting pair of protagonists.  What do you like and/or dislike about their interactions thus far?  What things stand out for you as particularly engaging about each character (if anything)?

They are both driven and both have a strong need to be in charge. I think F’Lar has learned to hold his desire for power in check and await the right moment, while Lessa is still hasty in her decisions and is definitely driven by her need for revenge. Lessa’s callous behavior toward’s Fax’s wife Gemma came back to bother her, which showed me that Lessa can grow as a character. Yet, then we see F’Lar’s callous behavior towards Ruatha’s watch weyr as he dies trying to protect Lessa. I like that these main characters are not perfect heroes from the beginning with polished feelings and the ability to intuit others on a moment’s observation. They are rough, and perhaps that is what Pern needs right now.

3.  How do you feel about Pern to this point in the story?  For those new to Pern, you may want to discuss your speculations/thoughts on the Red Star and on the between here.  What are your thoughts on McCaffrey’s world-building?

I like how there are small indications that the current civilization has lost some knowledge to the past. I study maps in books, so I was quite pleased there was one at the front of this book. In looking at this map and counting all the Weyrs in the northern hemisphere, I have to wonder why there is only 1 in the southern hemisphere. I read this book when I was a teen, and I am happily surprised at all the details I have forgotten, including the mystery of the southern Weyr. I enjoy how McCaffrey shows us her world of Pern and doesn’t simply lay out all the facts for us in some boring internal monologue or narrative. With that said, there are times when I feel that perhaps the editors pulled out too much and could have given McCaffery another 50-100 pages to play with.

4.  For those new to Dragonflight, was their anything that particularly surprised you with the narrative choices, etc. thus far?  For those who have already read Dragonflight, how do you feel about  your return to Pern?  What stands out in your revisit?

As I read through this tale for my 2nd time at roughly 20 years apart, I can look on with amusement at how I used this book as a vocabulary lesson in my early teens. Various words stick out now as they did then, and I remember making a long list to go look up the next morning in the 30 pound dictionary we kept in the living room. Incumbent, midden, legumes, gravid, indolence, etc.

Many of the details of the story I have forgotten. I do remember my excitement of riding flying dragons, the curious nature of the Threads, Lessa’s temper and courage. All those things are still there. I do find myself wishing for more details here, or further character development there – things I didn’t notice missing as a kid.

5.  Discuss anything else that you feel passionate to discuss that wasn’t included in your responses to the above questions.

Back when I read this book in my early teens, I was fascinated by the references to ‘dragon roused’ and the mating flight and what that meant for the humans. Now, as an adult with a full understanding of such human relations, I can look at those sections without the mystery. Yet they still add to the overall story and the worldbuilding of Pern and life with sentient dragons. Truly, this is about the survival of dragonkind as Pern knows it and of carrying on the dragonrider livelihood. I am glad that Anne McCaffrey did not gloss over this significant part of human complexity.