|Anne McCaffrey: Year of the Dragons|
Thirty years ago, Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight swept readers into the fascinating and dangerous world of Pern. One of the first novels written by a woman to combine science fiction with fantasy, Dragonflight secured McCaffrey both critical respect and the abiding loyalty of her readers.
Forty-two books (16 of them about Pern) and millions of devoted fans later, Anne McCaffrey talks to Crescent Blues about how a kitten became the catalyst for televising The Dragonriders of Pern, the ins and outs of co-authoring, and a horse named Jack.
Crescent Blues: First, we like to wish you hearty congratulations on the success of The Masterharper of Pern. You once said that Master Robinton was very annoyed that you killed him off. Is he any happier now that you've written a best-seller about his life?
Anne McCaffrey: I haven't heard a peep out of Robinton so he must be basking in the aura of success. He's not a nagger by temperament and if things are going smoothly, as they are for him now, he won't bother me.
Crescent Blues: Speaking of the Masterharper, rumors have been circulating that a movie based on his book might be on the horizon. Any truth to these rumors and if so, who do you have in mind for the title role?
Anne McCaffrey: I've thought of a lot of people who might be good in the role of Masterharper Robinton. But generally they are of such a calibre that they price themselves out of our budget. James Cromwell was, to my mind, a possible but his acting career just took off on warp drive. Robinton must be tall, fit, and have a good speaking voice (singers can always dub in).
I often thought Dwight Schultz (formerly Lt. Brocolli) would do justice to the part. Many email fans have suggested Sean Connery but that would really take all the budget! [Grins.] What I'd like to do is find a relatively unknown actor who has the look and the right charisma, as Babylon 5 did with the actors who played G'kar and Londo Molinari, and let them develop the character. But it's not my call.
Crescent Blues: While we're talking about dragons and cameras, Crescent Blues has heard there's a new television series currently in production in Toronto called The Dragonriders of Pern. This is really exciting news for Pern fans. When and how did this come about?
Anne McCaffrey: Zyntopo with Alliance/Atlantis are doing a live-action, digitally enhanced, animatronic TV series, prime time and internationally aired, called The Dragonriders of Pern (R). Robinton will certainly be a player, but the series will start with a combination of Renegades of Pern, Dragonflight, and All The Weyrs of Pern. With some 2558 years to work in, there's plenty of material for adventures. But to the second question, when and how, it all revolves around a kitten and that's a long story. Suffice it to say that there's been pre-production work in Dublin and Toronto, for the past year and a half, and I'm quite satisfied with the work in its present stage.
Anne McCaffrey: My Maine Coon queen cat had had kittens ready for homes. Eric Weymueller [of Zyntopo Productions] and his wife Joanna had been looking for a kitten for their daughter, Austen. A friend brought them to my house. They picked the tri-color female and went away happy... but I thought then that Eric had tumbled to the fact that I was the SF writer.
Ten days later, they had to go back to the States and I agreed to keep the kitten until they returned. We called her "Fighty-Bitey" because of her habits but Austen called her "Fluffy." It was after that that we got to talking about the Dragonriders of Pern since Eric had been with Warner Brothers when a producer had been "pitching" an animated film at them.
Anne McCaffrey: I've answered some questions for production designer, Sheila Haley, and hope to have more conversations with her on what more I know about Pern that isn't in the books -- yet.
Crescent Blues: Did you have any say in the choice of actors or in how the dragons were portrayed?
Anne McCaffrey: I did discuss how I saw the dragons to Gareth Edwards, of Myths and Legends, London. The current ones are much more equine -- which is how I always saw them -- than reptilian. AND they fly well.
Crescent Blues: What can viewers expect from the show?
Anne McCaffrey: They can expect to be entranced by the dragon-rider relationship, by the "look" of Pern, by good acting and a strong continuity line. Pern will be on screen, and the dragons you've all longed to ride. While some adjustment is needed to translate a book into another media, it will be as faithful to the original as possible. The "ambience" of Pern will definitely be portrayed. The launch date is January 2000 -- the Year of the Dragon.
Crescent Blues: You've really been a very busy lady. Word is out that you've signed with Red Storm to produce a line of computer games based on Pern and the Catteni. What was your involvement in the development of these games, and when can your fans expect to see them in stores?
Anne McCaffrey: Red Storm entertainment has the Catteni series, but it is Grolier, with Kevin Oxland in charge of production, who have been working on The Dragonriders of Pern (TM). Both interactive games are scheduled for September l999.
Crescent Blues: To top it all off, someone is recording a CD featuring the "teaching" songs of Pern. Since Masterharper Robinton and Menolly certainly aren't available, who are the musicians?
Anne McCaffrey: The Masterharper CD has music written by Tania Opland and Mike Freeman, a pair of musicians I have known for a long time. Tania's a gifted musician and singer -- plays guitar, violin, recorder, hammer dulcimer, keyboards and Kiowan flute (that's Native American.) Mike Freeman does guitar, djembe, darabouka, cymbals, snare, frame drums, timpani and other percussion instruments. There're four good voices as well as Tania's and Mike's, and my good friend Madeleine Doherty on the harp. All original music to my lyrics, some of which have been expanded for the express purpose. Gerard Brom sold me the rights to use his cover to The Masterharper of Pern, and it sure identifies the CD real quick... at least to American readers. The limited first edition is now sold out.
Editor's note: Tania Opland and Mike Freeman have advised Crescent Blues that copies of The Masterharper of Pern CD are still available through their Web site .
Crescent Blues: You've written quite a few books about extra sensory powers, i.e., "Talent." The Rowan series, Pegasus in Flight, Get Off the Unicorn and The Dragonriders of Pern all featured people (and dragons) with that little something "extra." Crescent Blues just has to ask, are you "Talented" too?
Anne McCaffrey: I've a limited range of psi, second sight, whatever you want to call it. But sufficient for me to extrapolate what real Talent is like. I decided to lift ESP out of the ghetto and make it legal, useful in the modern society -- and commercial. I'm in the process of writing the third Pegasus novel.
Anne McCaffrey: Todd has placed Dragon's Sight in the 2nd Pass, where the Pernese still know enough of their early history and the reasons for settling a planet at the back end of nowhere.
Crescent Blues: How did it feel collaborating with a member of your family?