Anne McCaffrey wrote a long-running series of books about the backward planet of Pern and its giant, telepathic dragons used to combat “thread” – an invasive space spore that filtered down from an adjacent orbiting body — by burning from the air with their fiery breath. Pern had a pseudo-Medieval culture and the dragons a hive one in which one golden Queen dragon lays all the eggs, which the young men of the weyrs – cavelike mountain holdings where the dragons and caretakers are quartered – vie to impress (or “Impress”) so they can be their riders.
Though the first book, Dragonflight, was exciting enough, there was enough that bugged me about the series that I stopped reading at The White Dragon, the last book in the original trilogy. Mainly that, only men got to ride the dragons. If you were a female and wanted some glory, you had to impress the single Queen dragon, and if you failed you were fated to be a drudge, slut, or “woman of the lower caverns” whatever the hell that was. (Yes, I know in later books girls were allowed in to impress baby Greens; but the fighting wings were still overwhelmingly male. I also never read the Harper books which probably went into more depth on the culture.) Pretty much the only way a woman could have any power, respect, or agency in the books was to impress a Queen dragon… not very fair, and not very likely, considering how rare Queen eggs were and how much politicking went into who was chosen to be present at the hatching. And even then, once a woman became a Queen rider and Weyrwoman, her power remained tied up with her sexuality. Eventually the books devolved into one big soap opera, rather dragon opera, with a lot of talk, talk, talk, talkity talk talk about weyr politics and who was mating with who and who should be mating with who, with romance novel tropes that were truly atrocious.
On the positive side, the books gave us a distinct naming system for the dragons, their riders, and their women. Dragon’s names always end in th, and can be one or two, or three syllables. Men shorten their names when they become riders, dropping the first vowel and adding an apostrophe. And women’s names were simple, feminine, and easy to pronounce in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon way.
Names of Pern