The Many Works of Anne McCaffrey

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2/15/2006:  A Diversity of Dragons
by Hans van der Boom

In 1997 Anne's biggest book was published. Biggest book? Yes, A Diversity of Dragons is definitely Anne's biggest book . Just look at the first picture I put it in my computer chair and laid a (not too common) mass market paperback of a UK edition of Dragonquest in front of it to show you its size.

A Diversity of Dragons was published by Simon & Schuster Ltd. and was co-written by Richard J. Woods, a Dominican friar who teaches in Chicago and Blackfriar's Hall, Oxford University. An unusual combination at the least But take a closer look at what interests our friar on his site Dragonthorn and you'll understand a little better.

The two decided to write a book about dragons. It became sort of a compendium or reader's guide to dragons and dragon books in short story/novel form and if that sounds strange to you I advise you to hunt the book down and read it. If you love dragons you'll love it So far so good. A special book if only the text was there, but no... that was not enough.

In stepped John Howe, a superb Canadian illustrator and artist, influenced by Celtic and Northern Arthurian myth and legend, who has illustrated many books and is most known for his illustration of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. He was the ideal illustrator and his participation made a super book on dragons into a stunning-super book! On his own site John says about this book: It's long been out of print, so snap it up... (the original editor I did the book for went bankrupt ages ago, owing me a truckload of money, so it will never be reprinted.)

And it is not only dragons, although there are an unbelievable number depicted as well as documented when the story evolves (no, I am not giving away story details). I do feel I need to share a drawing by John Howe of Anne as she looked when I first met her in person in 2002.

Nice huh? Dragons, I hear you thinking... So, isn't there stuff in that book about the Pern dragons we need to know? Well, not much as the book is about dragons in general although Pern dragons are mentioned and Ramoth is classified to belong in the group of the "Big to huge" dragons A thing that might be special to Pern fans is the drawing John Howe made, undoubtedly with instructions and/or comments from Anne, of Lessa and Ramoth after Hatching:

Yes, indeed; the book does not fit on the scanner glass For some odd reason the dragon -- well, part of a dragon -- depicted on the front and back end papers made a deep Impression on me and I couldn't write this without showing you that, too:

A Diversity of Dragons has the ISBN 0-684-82112-5 and as far as I know there has been only the one printing. It has 96 full colour pages.  Its original price was 16.99 UK pounds (about $ 29.70) but because it has been out of print for quite some time they could fetch more than that if in top quality. However, there are currently some cheap second hand copies (quality may differ) "up for grabs" at Amazon, and a very good copy can still be bought for about the original price. I can heartily recommend this book and think it might increase in value over the years especially because it is fairly sure (cf. John Howe quote above) that it'll never be reprinted!

I'll end with quoting the first paragraph of the book which will probably bring a smile to your face (when you haven't read it):

"Are you the lady who writes about dragons?" asked the male voice on the other end of the phone.
Warily I answered I was. Warily, because, after the Dragonriders of Pern series became well known, I was apt to have some odd conversations with all sorts of folk. If the voice sounds young, I'm apt to inquire if mother knows he or she is phoning Ireland.

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Anne McCaffrey 1967-2007, all rights reserved, and used by permission of the author.

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