One time at Dragon*Con I waited in two author signing lines simultaneously. How I managed that is a story for another time. The important thing to this post is the two lines I was waiting in: Anne McCaffrey and Tamora Pierce. Anne McCaffrey's line was full of men and women ranging in ages across the spectrum. Tamora Pierce's line was full of weepy teenage girls. (I'm not exaggerating).
While I was standing in the Tamora Pierce line the girls kept saying how her books had changed their lives and how the characters were a part of them and how much they loved her. They expected me to be saying similar things, but the truth of the matter was that I was waiting in that line for my little sister. Sure, I have read all the Tortall books, but I read them as a college student who was trying to keep tabs on my high school sister's reading habits.
At some point, I had to explain to them my simultaneous waiting. They didn't know who Anne McCafffrey was. When they asked who she was I answered, "Anne McCaffrey is to me what Tamora Pierce is to you."
What did I mean by that? Well, I started reading The Dragonriders of Pern in my crazy seventh grade year when I started Harry Potter and Wheel of Time. "The Smallest Dragonboy" was a short story in my seventh grade text book and it mesmerized me. The idea of dragons as lifelong partners, the idea of Impression, and the fact that no matter what happened you would always have a dragon who loves you...it was breathtaking and enthralling. I wanted a dragon of my own, I wanted to be Keevan, and I had to read more.
So I began to check out books from the library, and I fell in love with this world. Girls like reading Tamora Pierce books because they enjoy strong women who work to change society and do what they want--like becoming female knights--but still have strong relationships and lives. I adored Anne McCaffrey books for the same reason. Lessa and Menolly were two fictional women I could look to, women who were in a men's world and forced that world to change to accept them and let them be who they wanted to be (whether that be Dragonrider or Harper). And yet they didn't isolate themselves from others by doing it, they formed strong relationships of love and friendship--and with dragons, as the case may be.
When I was in middle school, I read Star Wars, Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, and the Dragonriders of Pern (as well as a few smaller books). Each served a purpose. Star Wars got me through the fifth, sixth, and early seventh grade, when I wasn't ready for PG-13 material, but had out read PG. Harry Potter connected me to my generation. The Wheel of Time introduced me to how epic stories could be. But lets face it, most of the cool stuff in Star Wars is done by guys. Harry Potter only had three books out, and the Wheel of Time for all its epicness takes place over the course of 2 and a half years. The Dragonriders of Pern were different. They should me how girls could be strong teenagers and grow into strong women with children of their own and later even grandchildren. In Pern I was connected to a world, to generations, to a people.
And I think most importantly it showed me everyone deserves a dragon, someone who will love them no matter what, someone who despite everything bad that happens will be there for you.
However, my heart is still set on a non-metaphorical dragon that I can ride through the skies. If only fire lizards were real and we really could genetically engineer them into dragons. :)