Introduction to Harper's Tale
Pern is a very low-tech, agrarian world; there is no industry, no complex machinery, not even electricity. When you create your character here, you should take these things into consideration. It is also a mostly peaceful world; although most people may carry a belt knife, and sometimes people will get into one-on-one combat, for the most part everyone is cooperative. They have to be, to survive Thread.
What is Thread? Thread is an alien organism that is spawned on a neighboring planet (the Red Star). As the Red Star swings past Pern every 200 years, it flings off these spores which travel through space and descend on Pern, unraveling in the atmosphere and forming silvery threadlike filaments. When the Threads hit the ground, they'll eat anything living... be it vegetation, animals, or humans.
Thread drowns in water, and can be seared by flame, so Pern's original colonists used genetic engineering to alter an indigenous lifeform, firelizards, to make much larger creatures, which became known as dragons. When a dragon hatches, it chooses a human lifemate to be its rider and caretaker. The two are linked forever, able to communicate telepathically with one another. When the young dragon matures, it learns to chew firestone, and can flame the deadly Threads out of the sky.
Dragons and their riders live in remote, extinct volcano calderas known as Weyrs. Holds are where non-riders live, and house the agricultural population of Pern. Holds are what feeds the rest of Pern. In exchange for the Weyr's protection against Threadfall, the Holds in a Weyr's territory donate food and clothing and materials to keep the Weyr's population alive, since dragonriders are too busy fighting thread and caring for their dragons to raise crops or produce things essential to living. This is called a tithe.
One final area where people reside on Pern is a Crafthall. There are many different Crafts specializing in different areas, such as harpers, healers, smiths, miners, herders, tanners, vintners, and others. Crafts also contribute their skills, goods, and/or services to the Weyr that protects them, as well as to Holds all over Pern, in return for food and raw materials from the Holds.
All references to worlds and characters based on Anne McCaffrey's fiction are © Anne McCaffrey 1967, 2000, all rights
reserved, and used by permission of the author.