Y is for Yolen: Dragons Belong to Sci-Fi, Not Just Fantasy

This is the cover I grew up with.
For Y, I went back to an oldie but goodie: Jane Yolen's Dragon's Blood, the first in her Pit Dragon Series.

Yolen is an extraordinarily prolific writer for YAs and kids. She is also the editor of multiple fantasy anthologies. And I'm not even going to try to list her awards.

I chose Dragon's Blood because I remembered reading it years ago. This is not always the case with writers whose works I haven't collected. I remember The Narnia Chronicles because I've read them so often (I had to put myself on a 10-year recess after I collected the 1970 paperbacks through Goodwill and Amazon). But Yolen, while not a writer I read much of, is a writer I am always aware of. And Dragon's Blood evidently made enough of an impact that I remembered not the plot, which I had entirely forgotten, but the experience of reading it.

This is the edition I read recently.
It holds up remarkably well. In fact, if one wants to make a movie about dragons . . . I guess Dreamworks came along and made the decent How to Train Your Dragon, yet for dragon lovers (see comments on G is for Gannett), Dragon's Blood should have been a no-brainer as a film. Not only does it have a sympathetic hero and non-stop action, it has sociological and character complexity as well.

Of course, lovers of McCaffreys' Dragonriders of Pern would likely say the same. What interests me is that Yolen--possibly inspired by McCaffrey but certainly not possessed by her--both set their series on other worlds. How to Train Your Dragon doesn't, though it might as well be another world, bearing absolutely no resemblance to the Viking world I had to research for "Grave's Bride."
Pern illustration

Dragons seem so imminently  earthly, so much a part of human folklore, creating another world seems unnecessary. 

Except McCaffrey's and Yolen's other-worlds-with-dragons don't jar. Dragons may belong here, but they thrive better elsewhere. They also seem, rather like Patrick Stewart, to cross without discord between genres. Unlike other supernatural legendary beings, dragons do belong to space, not only to sword & sorcery.

1 comment:

FreeLiveFree said...

Jack Vance The Dragon Masters had a similar premise:


In I Am Legend, Richard Matheson came up with a scientific rationale for vampires. Gene Wolfe wrote a story about a genetically engineered unicorn. The inverse of dragon as sci-fi is probably Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos which takes place on an alternate earth that went through a magical revolution instead of the industrial revolution.