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Introduction to Pern

Okay, okay, I know I said this wasn't an introductory site, but I thought I'd provide one (an introduction, that is) anyway. So here goes...

Pern is the third planet in the Rukbat System, located in the Sagittarian Sector of space. The system has five planets and two asteroid belts, plus a rogue planet captured in recent millennia. The system is surrounded by an Oort Cloud.
Pern was colonized in the hope of creating an farming community which only used the technology it required for this way of life. The colonists were not counting on Pern's step-sister planet, the Red Star, swooping close to their planet at regular intervals to drop Thread, the silvery spores which devour all organic material. And so they created dragons: a feat of bio-engineering, enormous creatures who could fly to meet Thread and scorch it before it fell to wreak havoc on otherwise unprotected Pern. When they hatched each dragon would Impress a highly empathic human being, and the dragon and their rider would become companions for life: friends, confidantes, and cherished familiars. The love between dragon and rider runs deeper than any other.
The instability of the Southern Continent forced the Settlers north, where Fort Hold was founded. The nearby extinct volcano provided an excellent habitat for the dragons and their riders, and it was called a 'Weyr'. In the years that followed the population of both Hold and Weyr grew steadily until the Pernese were forced to found new Holds and Weyrs. Over the years and through the Passes of the Red Star, the Pernese forgot their earthly origins and developed their own complex society. The heart of this society was the Weyrs - the dragonmen and their giant companions who protected Pern from Thread.
The common people of Pern live in Holds. There are now sixteen principal holds, and each of these is ruled by a Lord Holder. The Lord Holder runs the hold and his holders (those who live on his land) tithe to him and generally do what he wants them to. In return he offers protection from Thread. Most holders do whatever work the Lord wants them to in order to earn their place in the hold. The principal Holds are Fort, Ruatha, Southern Boll, High Reaches, Tillek, Ista, Keroon, Igen, Nabol, Crom, Telgar, Nerat, Benden, Bitra, Lemos and Southern.
The Crafthalls are the home to craftsmen; those Pernese skilled in a particular industry. The Crafts of Pern are: Harper, Smith, Healer, Weaver, Farmer, Miner, Fisher, Tanner and Herder. The Harpercraft is responsible for teaching young children the Teaching Ballads, which provide them with basic knowledge. When a child is ten or twelve, they are sent to be an apprentice at a Crafthall if they show a flair for that particular craft. The Crafthalls train the crafters and send them out all over Pern to provide their skills to even the remotest hold.
The Weyrs are home to dragonmen. They are Fort, Benden, Igen, Ista, High Reaches, Telgar and Southern. The Weyrs are extinct volcanoes, and the caverns within them are perfect for dragons. Each Weyr is led by a Weyrleader and a Weyrwoman, and each is resposible for protecting certain Holds from Thread. The care of dragons and fighting Thread means dragonmen have no time to farm, hunt or fish, and so the Holds tithe to them annually in return for protection from Thread.
Weyr, Hold and Hall are all seperate from one another and Weyrleaders, Lord Holders and Mastercrafters are equal in rank. This is the situation at the beginning of the Ninth Pass, and here is where we are introduced to the planet with Dragonflight, just as Pern is on the brink of a new era...