Interview: Todd McCaffrey

interviewed by Carl Slaughter

Todd MacCtoddmccaffrey3affrey has no plans to stop writing Pern books. He plans to sanction a movie but he wants the screen version done right rather than done quickly.


CARL SLAUGHTER: The Narnia series was 7. The Rings series was 3. The Shannara series was 3. The Potter series, 7. But the Pern series is at 22. What’s the explanation for such an enduring series?

TODD MCCAFFREY: Dragons. I think that Mum tapped on a hidden artery in the collective unconscious when she decided that dragons had had enough bad press. We also tend to write real characters who live and breathe, cry and laugh, in a way that makes us all yearn to spend more time with them.


CS: What instructions did you get from your mother about how to pursue the Pern series after she was gone?

TM: Nope. What she said was, “I trust you implicitly!”

I should add, however, that Mum in her Will said that it was her wish that only myself and my sister, Georgeanne, write on Pern. So I’m hoping that we’ll see a lot of stories from my very talented sister in the the not-too-distant future which will expand upon what Mum and I have done and add even more to the weft and weave that is Pern.


toddmccaffrey1CS: Do you have a longterm outline for the series or do the plots come one book at a time?

TM: For myself, I have a goal of writing the entire Third Pass. Mum never followed all the way through a Pass, so I think it’d be interesting. When it comes to Ninth Pass Pern, my sister and I will spend some time thinking out what we consider to be the best way forward.


CS: Is there a stopping point or will the series continue indefinitely?

TM: I think that as long as there are good stories and people who want to read them, we’ll continue.


CS: Any plans for a screen version?

TM: Plans? Always. But “there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip!” Pern’s been under option on and off since the mid-80s. I’d much prefer see it done *right* than done quickly.


CS: If you could revisit a character with more books, which character?

TM: Ah, that would be telling! 🙂

As I said, I’d certainly like to follow the characters of Third Pass through to the end. We see hints of what’s to come in Dragon’s Time but we’re only in the beginning of the Pass. Not only do I want to see these characters through but I’m curious to see how their children turn out.


CS: If you could revisit an era with more books, which one?

TM: I haven’t any particular era I want to revisit at the moment.


toddmccaffrey2CS: What kind of feedback have you gotten from the fans? What characters, eras, themes, plots do they like/dislike? What scenes or plot twists or ending do they strongly approve of or disapprove of? Have they asked you to revisit certain characters or certain eras?

TM: Everyone would like to see more Lessa and F’lar (or F’nor and Brekke).

I get all sorts of feedback from fans – some positive, some negative. Writing in someone else’s world will generate a lot of strong emotions from fans. People who love Pern have a sense of ownership and I totally understand that (don’t get *me* started on Harry Potter).

At the end of the day, a story is about change and it changes the writer most of all. I’ve learned a lot writing about the characters of the Third Pass on Pern.

I think some fans wish they could get that same sense of wonder they got when they first visited Pern. Unfortunately, a lot of that sense of wonder is simply because the world is *new* to them — and it can never be that new again.


CS: Do you work the convention circuit? Do fans show up dressed as Pern characters?

TM: I go to conventions. I wouldn’t call it “working the convention circuit”, however.

Some people do show up dressed in Pernese garb, many as their own Pern characters but fewer as characters from the books. One of the marvelous things about Pern is how many people are still actively MUSHing, MOOing, and Play-by-Mailing on the world.

People are also writing fan fiction on Pern. Initially that was a source of concern for Mum — would it break her copyright and make a film deal impossible? Fortunately, the kerfuffle over Harry Potter fans sites sorted out the legal issues in that regard and so, now, as long as fans follow Mum’s Fan Fiction Rules, we’re happy to let them enjoy themselves. We were thrilled to discover that Wen Spencer, who wrote the marvelous Alien Taste series started out writing Pern fan fiction.


CS: Is there a Pern fan club?

TM: There are *many* Pern fan clubs. A quick web search will reveal the most popular.


CS: Are there Pern conventions?

TM: No conventions on their own. For a long while Dragon*con hosted a Weyrfest which morphed into a Worlds of Anne McCaffrey track and which has now matured into the Fantasy Literature track.


CS: What have the reviewers said or do you pay attention to them?

TM: Some reviewers like the books, some don’t. I would expect no different. I was thrilled to have several starred reviews and Mum and I were delighted when Dragon’s Fire got on the New York Times Bestseller list.


Carl_eagleCarl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.