‘Dragonriders Of Pern’ Could Fly A New Franchise

As a reluctant fan McCaffrey’s fantasy novels, I have mixed feelings about this development.
Lacy R. Burnett | Jul 30, 2014 | 2 comments |

cover_dragonflightDeadline reports that Warner has bought the big screen rights to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series:

Harry Potter, The Hobbit and now … Dragonriders Of Pern? On an endless search to find big-scale fantasy books that lend themselves to global franchises, Warner Bros has optioned the Pern book series from the estate of American-Irish author Anne McCaffrey. There is a lot to work with here, with 22 volumes that make it one of the biggest selling sci-fi series ever. The first book was published in 1968, and the focus is on an elite group of warriors who take to the skies on the backs of giant, fire-breathing dragons with telepathic powers. They try to save the exotic planet of Pern from a terrifying airborne menace — a rain of deadly spores that comes with the orbit of the Red Star.

As a somewhat reluctant fan of some of McCaffrey’s fantasy novels, I have mixed feelings about this development.

First, why on earth haven’t filmmakers done this before? The Dragonriders of Pern series is high-quality fantasy and science fiction. McCaffrey’s world-building is detailed and vivid, her plots intricate and tantalizing, and her characters memorable. To me it seemed like an obvious choice. Especially after The Lord of the Rings made such a splash, I was surprised no one jumped at this.

Second, as excited as I might be about the films — perhaps a possible adaptation of McCaffrey’s in-universe Harper Hall trilogy intended for younger readers? — I’m pretty sure that’s not what the filmmakers will attempt first. Unfortunately that’s going to mean this will be more like Game of Thrones and less like How to Train Your Dragon.

Third, McCaffrey’s world is highly political, which often makes for some great storytelling. She put a lot of thought into the realistic cultural outworkings of how people learned to survive on Pern. This meant that the most important culture on Pern, the dragonriders, is often highly sexualized. This makes perfect sense for a people who are intimately and telepathically connected to dragons all the time, even when mating, but because this process is often integral to the plot it likely means the movies won’t exactly be “family friendly.”

Which is a bummer, because McCaffrey’s world and the concept of her dragonriders is really cool. It will look fabulous and fascinating onscreen, making it difficult for Christian fans of fantasy to know how to handle the questionable parts, if at all. I foresee many a heated internet discussion over this one, maybe even rivaling the discussion over Game of Thrones.

Firstborn of four siblings, Lacy Burnett began discovering the benefits of communication and humor from an early age. Tempered to graceful maturity by God's work in her life, she is now also a master of diplomacy. Lacy has been involved in a range of creative work including her time in a flower shop, instructing ballet, molding the future of America through her child/parent outreach, and occasionally writing critical book reviews for Speculative Faith. In her free time she designs terrariums, reads books, pulls her sisters down out of their trees, and seeks out ways to shed a little more light on the beauty that surrounds her.

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Kristen Stieffel

Great assessment. Took me a minute to figure out what you meant by “reluctant fan,” but I get it. Even when I was outside the church, I found some of the sexual content of these books offputting. You are right that the filmmakers are likely to seize on that very thing.

Leah Burchfiel

Oh shoot, I’ve been meaning to blarg about these. I’m also a reluctant fan, but for different reasons: it’s only somewhat feminist. Sure, Lessa is a strong, complex female protagonist, but the chief villain(ess) is pretty much the entire  Blonde B*tch-Bimbo trope on legs. But heck yes I liked the medieval fantasty/60s sci-fi mashup.