In creating the Pern setting, McCaffrey set out to subvert the clichés associated with dragons in European folklore and in modern fantasy fiction. Pernese dragons are similar to traditional Western dragons in the fact that they can breathe fire and resemble great lizards or dinosaurs with wings, but the resemblance ends there. Unlike most dragons in previous Western literature, Pernese dragons were entirely friendly to humanity. Furthermore, they were not magical creatures. Instead, they are a heavily genetically modified species based on one of Pern's native life-forms, the fire lizard.
In Dragonsdawn, the race was intentionally engineered to fight Thread after it first caught the human colonists on Pern unawares, with devastating results. Geneticist Kitti Ping Yung designed the dragons by manipulating the genetic code of the indigenous fire lizards that had been acquired as pets by the colonists. The dragons were named after their resemblance to Western dragons from the legends of old Earth. Later genetic manipulation by Ping's granddaughter, Wind Blossom, also resulted in the watch whers, which were ungainly, nocturnal creatures who bore a slight resemblance to dragons.
As the primary line of defense against the Thread, dragons were a requirement for the survival and prosperity of humans and all other forms of land life on Pern. However, the great beasts required a good deal of maintenance and food, to the degree of requiring a large part of Pernese infrastructure - especially cattle farming - to be centered around their upkeep. The arrangement of donations to the weyrs was called tithing This was known to cause resentment among those doing the tithing, especially at times when Thread was not falling. In turn, the dragonriders were often resentful of what they deemed a lack of respect towards them.
This drove weyrleaders to seriously consider how they would live with dragons after the Ninth Pass when Thread was no longer a threat. In particular, F'lessan spearheaded this effort with the first "Weyrhold" at Honshu Weyrhold. The idea was that when Thread no longer falls, the dragonriders' time will be freed up to establish their own specialized holds, generally in locations that satisfy draconic needs but are less attractive to large human settlements. Weyrholds could then work to support dragon upkeep on their own (such as raising their own herdbeasts and the like), without having to depend on others.
Dragons were carnivorous, oviparous, warm-blooded creatures. Like all of Pern's native large fauna, they had six limbs - four feet and two wings. Their blood, referred to as ichor, is copper-based and green in color. Unlike Terran species, dragon ichor did not have different types, and giving a dragon a transfusion of ichor from another dragon would never make them sick. They had multifaceted eyes that changed color depending on the dragon's mood. Should only some of these facets be damaged, a dragon would still have limited vision in the remaining ones. Their head and general body type was described by McCaffrey as being similar in shape to those of horses. They had small headknobs, similar to those of giraffes, and no visible ears. Their talons were extremely heat and cold resistant. Unlike the dragons of Terran legend, they had a smooth hide rather than scales; the texture of their skin was described as being reminiscent of suede with a spicy, sweet scent when clean. They were described as having forked tail ends with a defecation opening between the forks; however, most artistic renderings depict their tails as having spade-shaped tips. Dragons were naturally very good healers, being able to regrow serious damage to their wings or hide, although debilitating or even mortal wounds were possible. The dragons usually got from one place to another by going through a teleportation process known as 'going between'.
Kitti Ping designed the dragons to gradually increase in size with each generation until they reached pre-programmed final dimensions. The dragons of the first Hatchings were not much bigger than horses. By the Sixth Pass (1500 years later) they had reached their programmed size and remained at that size until a single isolated dragon population suffered severe inbreeding, resulting in much larger beasts. In the 9th Pass, the largest Pernese dragon on record, Ramoth, hatched. According to the novel All the Weyrs of Pern these dragons were roughly three times the size of the largest first-generation dragons. Ramoth's great size was often attributed to mutation and the genetic isolation of Benden Weyr for over 400 years (or Turns). Ramoth, at full length, was forty-five feet (Although the Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, written by Jody Lynn Nye with input from Anne McCaffrey listed it incorrectly as forty-five metres). In All the Weyrs of Pern, AIVAS, an artificial intelligence still in operation after all this time, notes that all of the primary Benden dragons, Ramoth, Mnementh and Canth, are notably larger than Kitti Ping's specified end-size of the dragon species. Newly hatched dragons were the size of very large dogs or small ponies, and reached their full size after eighteen months. Because young dragons grew so fast, their riders had to regularly apply oil to their hides to prevent the skin from cracking or drying out, which could harm the dragons when going between.
Dragons, like their fire lizard ancestors, could breathe fire by chewing a phosphine-bearing rock (called "firestone" in the novels) which reacted with an acid in a special "second stomach" organ. This formed a volatile gas that could be exhaled at will and ignited upon contact with air. The flame was used to burn Thread from the sky before it reaches the ground. However, the chewed firestone had to be expelled from the body after it was used up, as the dragons cannot digest it. This was done by regurgitation. If a dragon did not do so in a timely manner (usually because of inexperience), it would cause a burning sensation and they would expel it involuntarily.
Dragons could fly to a height just over 3000 meters in daylight, which was around the limit their riders could go without passing out from lack of oxygen. Dragons could also hold their breath for around fifteen minutes, though this required several hours in an oxygen rich environment and a meal to recover from afterwards. The cold of space, while not entirely comfortable, was tolerable to dragons, though prolonged contact with freezing metals would damage their skin.
A favorite activity of dragons was sunning themselves. They would find a high place to perch that was exposed to sunlight and often spread their wings to catch as much sunlight as possible. Such locations were even better if a vertical surface was nearby to reflect more light and solar heat. They partcularly enjoyed doing this after going between or after spending time in snowy or cold environements.
According to the Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, the variety of colors were based on the amount of nickel, cobalt, and iron in the dragons' skin. In the real world, the oxides of these 3 elements are notably used for making green, blue, and reddish-brown dyes, respectively, which are the 3 most common colors of dragons.
Despite their relatively low intelligence, fire-lizards communicated through a form of weak telepathy. They also imprinted on the first individual who feeds them after they hatch, creating a telepathic bond with them; the Pernese call this phenomenon "Impression". In creating dragons, Kitti Ping intensified the creatures' telepathy, greatly increased their intelligence, and gave them a strong instinctive drive to Impress to a human. Upon hatching, each dragonet chose one of the humans present (usually) and Impressed to that person; from that moment on, the pair were in a constant state of telepathic contact for as long as they both lived, the connection only diminishing over vast distances (such as those between the planetary surface and a satellite in orbit) or when the two were in different time periods. Both situations were a rare occurence, as riders did not often willingly go far from their dragons. Dragons also used telepathy to communicate with each other and with fire lizards. They were capable of speaking telepathically to humans besides their own riders, but not all of them will do so except under unusual circumstances. Being spoken to by a dragon when one was not a rider nor a close acquaintance was considered a great honor.
Dragons and fire-lizards could also teleport. They did this by briefly entering a hyperspace dimension known as between. Both humans and dragons experienced between as an extremely cold, sensory-deprived black void. After spending no more than eight seconds in between, the dragon or fire lizard can re-emerge anywhere on Pern, along with any passengers or cargo they carried. This ability evolved in fire lizards as a defense against Thread; not only did it allow them to quickly escape from Threadfall, but the intense cold of between killed any Thread that had adhered to them. If a dragon attempted to teleport without a clear mental image of the place where they intended to reappear, they might simply fail to emerge from between and thus, be gone forever. The other danger was appearing in a location where another object already existed (such as appearing inside the stone of a mountain), which was deadly in most cases. Dragons' telepathic communication generally kept them from striking each other in the air or coming out of between where another dragon was currently located. While it is never fully explained why, throughout the ages it was stated that it was very dangerous to go between directly from the ground or even from to low in the air. Dragons were also generally unwilling to try and go between to most interior locations unless they had ample space inside, even to places as familiar to them as their hatching grounds. This implied that there was a margin of error to this teleportation, and combined with the fact that dragons seemed to maintain any momentum they had when going between, they could easily come out too close to or inside a wall.
Going between allowed dragons to travel through time as well as space, as long as they had a clear picture of what a particular place looked like (or would look like) at the desired time. However, the practice is more complicated than simple space transference and was severely restricted in all time periods. Temporal reference points were often based on the stellar alignments at the desired time. Existing twice in the same time for extended periods caused severe weakness and psychological disturbance for Impressed humans, although dragons and those not Impressed to a dragon generally had negligible effects. Close proximity to one's past or future self would dramatically increased these effects. In addition, while teleporting through space always took the same amount of time, when a dragon traveled through time, the amount of time they spend in between increased depending on how distant their destination was from their starting temporal point. Thus, traveling to remote times posed severe dangers from hypothermia and oxygen deprivation to both dragon and rider. In the first Pern novel Dragonflight, Lessa passed out after having travelled back over 400 turns and Ramoth was severely weakened despite dragons being able to hold their breath much longer than humans.
Riders are trained to give the dragon the image of their destination, but it is known that there are some that get lazy and let the dragon do the work instead. This is said to sometimes be the cause of accidental time travel.
The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern states that dragons defecated while between. This idea originated with a statement by Anne McCaffrey herself, in answer to a fan's question about the subject at a con. However, McCaffrey may have been joking when she first said this. As the idea has never been referenced in any of the Pern novels (in fact, defecation was probably only mentioned a scant few times in all of the books ever written in the Pern series), it cannot be considered definitively canonical. If true, it would eventually cause serious ecological problems for the planet, as large amounts of Pern's organic matter would be regularly disappearing into an alternate dimension, although when dragons and riders die, they went between, and organic matter would also be lost. It should be noted that The Skies of Pern references the use of dragon dung as a repellent against the large felines inhabiting the southern continent. Given the energy needed to take something between, it could be that anything taken between would eventually find its way back into normal space, though not necessarily back to Pern.
Dragons were also capable of telekinesis, though this ability was unknown and used in an unconscious manner (to augment flight) until it was discovered as a conscious ability by the green dragon Zaranth and her rider Tai in the 31st turn of the Ninth Pass. It was speculated that the undersized wings were intentionally created in the dragons by Kitti Ping to reduce the surface area of a dragon that is exposed to possible Thread injury (as Wind Blossom specifically stated that she did this for the watch-whers), and that the telekinesis was intended to make up for the loss of wingsail. A dragon was generally considered to be able to carry whatever it thought it could carry. This was likely an extension of the telekenesis, mentally "lifting" the extra load.
There was seemingly no limit to the distance a dragon could move an object by telekinesis, easily launching small objects into orbit or moving them partway across a continent. The object had to cross the distance between the two points rather than simply going between like the dragons did. Controlled movement was more difficult, and often required at least two dragons: one to move the object, and another to slow it down. As dragonriders and their dragons explored the ability, it was noted that telekinesis worked best in pairs consisting of male and female dragons. The Trundlebug, a species native to the Southern Continent, proved to be an excellent way to help a dragon awaken its telekinetic abilities, if an unusual one, as the creature would release a horrible stench if moved by physical methods.
Unlike their fire lizard ancestors, dragons were fully sapient. They communicated fluently in human language (although only telepathically), and had personalities and opinions distinct from those of their riders. However, their intelligence did seem to be somewhat lower than that of the average human. In particular, their long-term memory was severely limited.
Dragons' telepathic communication was usually limited to contact with their rider and with other dragons, although a dragon would sometimes communicate with a person with whom their rider had close emotional ties or if asked by their rider to contact that person. They did understand spoken human language and would occasionally reply telepathically to people whom they liked.
As a safeguard against the possible damage that could be caused by such powerful creatures, Ping engineered dragons to be profoundly psychologically dependent on their riders. Any dragonet that failed to Impress to a human shortly after hatching would go between to die. If a dragon's rider died, the dragon immediately suicided by going between without a destination. The only exception was when the rider of a queen dragon died while the queen is gravid; the dragon would wait just long enough to lay her eggs and see them hatch before disappearing between. Humans who lost their dragons often commited suicide as well. However, some did choose to continue life without their dragons, although the experience left profound psychological trauma and there were no examples of a former dragon rider re-Impressing.
Ping also designed the dragons to be fairly calm in temperament. They never naturally fought one another, unless two queens come into estrus at the same time, although rider conflicts could cause their dragons to become more agressive. They were also not dangerous to humans except shortly after hatching, when it was common for confused and frightened dragonets to accidentally maul or even kill humans hoping to Impress.
When a dragon hatched, they announced their name to their new rider upon Impression. Pernese dragons' names always ended in -th.
On Pern, barring occasional variations, female dragons and fire lizards were either green or gold in color, and males were blue, brown or bronze. The larger a color was, the less common it was. For instance, there were more blues than browns, and more browns than bronzes. Half the dragon population was female, with green dragons being roughly fifty percent of the population and golds being one percent or slightly less. Riding a larger color of dragon conferred higher social status in Pern's hierarchy, following the dragons own instinctual hierarchy based on color that they inherited from fire lizards. Perhaps as a result of this, it is commonly believed that the larger colors are more intelligent, although recent novels implied that this may not be true.
Gold dragons, also called queens, were the largest dragons, being 70-80 feet long. Ramoth, the largest queen ever hatched, was said to be as long from nose to tail as a jet plane according to The Dragonlovers Guide To Pern (although that book provides measurements inconsistent with other sources). They were notable for being the primary reproducers of the species, having strong maternal instincts and producing larger, stronger clutches than a green could. Gold dragons were by far the rarest dragons on Pern, at just less than 1% of the population. They ranged in color from pale yellow to dark, antique gold. They were dominant over all other colors; any non-gold dragon would invariably obey a queen's orders, even against the wishes of its own rider. Queens were physically incapable of chewing firestone or breathing fire. Attempting to do so invariably resulted in them biting their tongues or cheeks and vomiting the stone back up. However, they did fight Thread - they flew in the lowest wing, with their riders armed with specially designed flamethrowers to flame any Thread missed by the wings above. This reduced the danger to both rider and dragon, as well as greatly reducing the amount of times they had to go between, which could result in a pregnant queen aborting. An egg that was going to hatch a gold dragon was very distinct, developing a gold color a short time after being laid and being larger than other eggs. The mother would also separate it from the others and was often much more possessive of it. A gold dragon would always Impress a heterosexual female and most Weyrfolk believed they prefer young women who were not raised in the Weyr.
Bronze dragons were the largest males (55-65 feet long), although they were significantly smaller than the queens. Bronzes only comprised of about 5% of all dragons. Their color was described as golden-green, but some were dark enough to be nearly considered brown. They were almost always the ones to mate with queens, as the smaller colors generally lacked the stamina to chase and catch the gold dragons when they rose to mate. Due to the 5-1 bronze/gold ratio and the infrequency of gold mating flights, they often mated with greens (the losers of a gold flight almost always sought a green for their needs), but their size often put them at a disadvantage in chasing the smaller, more agile females. The senior bronze of a Weyr was determined by which bronze won the mating flight of the senior gold. The rider of a bronze dragon is always a heterosexual male.
Brown dragons comprised about 15% of the draconic population and were 50-60 feet long. They ranged in color from tan to chocolate. They would occasionally mate with queens, although this was rare, and became even more rare as the dragons increase in size; by Ramoth's time in the Ninth Pass it was unheard of, although some were willing to try. All brownriders in the Pern novels were men; most were heterosexual, but bisexual or "masculine" homosexual brownriders were not rare. Anne has also stated that masculine females also have the ability to impress to a brown.
Blue dragons were the smallest males (35-45 feet long) and made up about a third (30%) of all dragons on Pern. Their color range encompassed nearly the whole blue spectrum. They were nearly as agile as greens, but unlike the greens, they often had enough stamina to last for an entire Threadfall. They were noted to be some of the fastest straight-line flyers and often Impressed similarly quick riders. They mated only with greens, as they were simply too small to keep up with a massive queen over a long mating flight. There were few prominent blue dragons or blueriders in the books. Some assume the position of teaching the new riders after their Impression. Blue riders are typically homosexual or bisexual, though some are heterosexual. In interviews, Anne has stated that homosexual women may be able to Impress a Blue dragon, however it has only been shown to happen once in the books with Xhinna Impressing Tazith.
Green dragons were the smallest normal color (30-40 feet long), and made up about half of all dragons on Pern (50%). Their color range encompassed nearly the whole green spectrum. They were female, but unlike the queens, they could chew firestone and therefore produce flame, although this had the (helpful) side effect of sterilizing them. They were extremely valuable in Threadfall because of their agility, but they lacked the stamina to last an entire Fall and generally flew in two or three shifts. Originally, greens Impressed to girls; however, after various natural disasters and plagues decimated Pern's population, women were needed to help repopulate the planet. Since going between during pregnancy could induce miscarriage and because removing pregnant riders from the Wings reduced the effectiveness of the Wings, it became impractical to present large numbers of women as candidates for Impression. Thus, green dragons began Impressing homosexual boys; by the time of the end of the Second Pass, female greenriders were becoming rare. By the Third Pass, very few knew that green riders ever existed and no girls had been presented at Impressions (except for golds) in several generations, although there was a brief resurgence. By the time of Moreta in the Sixth Pass, female greenriders were entirely forgotten, although greens gradually begin Impressing to women again in the Ninth Pass. Females of any sexual orientation may Impress Green.
Ruth was the only known white dragon, whose rider was Lord Jaxom of Ruatha Hold. He was not an albino, as his hide contained very faint patches of all the normal dragon colors, visible on close examination when Ruth was very clean. Ruth's egg would not have hatched if Jaxom had not forced it open and released the dragonet from an unusually tough shell; thus, it seems likely that white coloration in dragons is normally a lethal mutation, as it is tradition to not assist dragonets who can't hatch on their own. It appears that a white dragonet is unable to break out of their own egg, perhaps due to possibly inadequate strength of the dragonet or the unusually tough shell of a white's egg such as Ruth's had, or a combination of both. Although his parents were the largest queen (Ramoth) and largest bronze (Mnementh) in the history of Pern, Ruth was smaller than even a normal green dragon in his time; he was only slightly larger than the largest dragons of the first generation. While his exact length was never given, it does state that he stood higher than a runnerbeast (horse) at the shoulder. Extrapolation would suggest that he might have been eighteen feet long. He was male or neuter (undetermined), and assumed sterile, with no urge to mate. Ruth also had the unusual ability to intuitively orient himself in time and space.
In Sky Dragons, it is speculated that blues and greens were originally the only colors of dragonet (the species that dragons, whers, and fire lizards were genetically constructed from), and that browns, bronzes, and golds evolved later in the species' evolution. This was partially confirmed when matings between blues and greens in an isolated population started producing queen eggs. These golds, dubbed "Green Queens", had enhanced psychic abilities that allowed them to Impress prior to hatching and detect threats to the clutch's survival. The characters believed Green Queens had these abilities in order to alert the notoriously non-maternal greens of dangers to their clutch, allowing the whole clutch to hatch.
Mating and reproduction
Both gold and green dragons experienced a periodic mating urge. During a Pass a gold dragon would rise roughly once per Turn. At the beginning of a Pass, queens sometime rose twice a Turn, but as the Pass went on they rose less often. During an Interval a gold dragon might rise to mate only once every four or five Turns. Greens would rise to mate three or four times a Turn. Whether this increased or decreased prior to or during a Pass is unknown. Greens would mate with any male, usually being the preferred mates of blue or brown dragons, but occasionally mating with bronzes as well. As they were smaller and had less stamina, a green mating flight was much shorter than a gold one.
When a female came into estrus, interested males competed to catch her in a mating flight. Usually, the female chose the male who impresses her the most with his skill in the flight, although inexperienced females may be caught before making their choice. The pair actually mate in midair; thus, the higher they get during the flight, the longer their mating can last. The Pernese commonly believe that longer matings result in larger clutches. For this reason, queen riders are strongly encouraged to restrain their dragons from eating heavily just before a flight, instructing them to drink blood instead for a quick burst of energy. Greens do not always eat prior to mating (as in the case of Zaranth), not needing the extra energy for a particularly long mating flight, but they still attempted it sometimes (like Sarinth), and during the Third Pass their riders were encouraged to only let them blood their kills like a queen did.
The Pernese knew that chewing firestone made green dragons sterile; this was not seen as a problem, as greens were so common and mated so often that if they regularly produced offspring it would quickly lead to overpopulation. Should a weyrling's green dragon rise to mate before they began training with firestone, she would quickly be provided with firestone to abort the clutch. Repeated trips between (particularly common during a Pass when greens had to fight Thread) also almost guaranteed that they wouldn't reproduce. However, Kitti Ping (possibly motivated by old-fashioned ideas about gender roles) deliberately engineered gold dragons to be incapable of chewing firestone in order to protect the gold dragons from the dangers of Thread fighting, as until the first generation clutched the golds were the only fertile females. By the Third Pass, dragon riders had apparently forgotten that golds were physically incapable of chewing firestone and simply forbid the practice, believing it would sterilize the queens the same way it did greens.
Effects on rider sexuality
Due to the intense psychic bond between rider and dragon, dragonriders were overcome by the powerful emotions and sensations associated with mating flights. The riders of the mating pair engaged in sex themselves, to varying degrees unaware of what they are doing. This contributed to a much looser attitude toward sexuality in general among dragonriders than in the rest of Pernese society.
For much of Pern's history, all greenriders were male. During these periods, all green mating flights result in homosexual intercourse between the riders of the dragons involved. This was accepted in the Weyr as being separate from the rider's personal sexual and romantic preferences unless the rider had shown otherwise. Mating flight sex between two riders, one of whom was not the other's chosen partner (known as a weyrmate) was not considered to be "cheating." It is understood within the Weyr that sex during mating flights was not optional for the rider. Anne McCaffrey stated that "The dragon decides, the rider complies." Dragons did not usually consider the preferences of their riders when considering what female they wished to chase, or for a female dragon, what male dragon might catch her. A primary example of this behavior was Weyrleader T'gellan, Weyrwoman Talina, and greenrider Mirrim. T'gellan and Mirrim were weyrmates, but T'gellan's bronze dragon had to mate with Weyrwoman Talina's gold dragon at least yearly in order for T'gellan to maintain his position as Weyrleader. Mirrim, known to be an extremely acerbic and temperamental rider, showed no jealousy or other problem with her weyrmate's sexual contact with Talina. There were also many rider relationships where the riders of two mating dragons were deeply in love with each other (for example, Lessa and F'lar or F'lessan and Tai). Particularly in the case of green dragons where there is no status involved in the flight, riders of male dragons would sometimes leave the area of a female about to rise so that the couple would have no competition, and even queen mating flights were generally "closed" to allow only certain bronzes within the weyr the opportunity to mate.
Effects on non-rider sexuality
Both green and gold dragons broadcasted their sexual feelings on a wide band during mating flights. Weyrfolk tended to become somewhat inured to this and therefore coulc hold their sexual reactions until an appropriate place and time. However, flights were usually not over the Weyr itself and sometimes the flightpath of the mating flight brought the mating dragons over Holds or Farmholds where the average people occasionally found themselves engaging in unexpected activities. This was especially common among young teens working out in the fields who reacted to the sudden, unexpected and overwhelming urges with potentially embarrassing results.
Riders of the losing dragons usually sought sexual relief after the intense flight. If they did not have a chosen partner, they may have sought the comfort of any willing and available person of their sexual preference. The weyrfolk tended to happily accommodate these riders, especially if they had been affected by the flight's sexual urgency themselves. This is one of the major reasons for the weyrs' reputation for being sexually very open.
Anne McCaffrey has stated in a number of documents and interviews that dragonets use pheromones to determine the sexual orientation of the humans to whom they Impress. According to these statements, greens Impress only to women or to "effeminate" homosexual men. Blues Impress primarily to homosexual or bisexual men with "masculine" temperaments, or possibly to masculine or lesbian women; browns similarly Impress primarily to heterosexual men, but sometimes to bisexual men. Bronzes and golds Impress exclusively to heterosexual men and heterosexual women, respectively.
However, these ideas have never been made explicit in the books (although it is clear, at least, that most male green- and blueriders are homosexual). Many members of online Pern fandom find McCaffrey's ideas about sexuality highly questionable for a number of reasons, both scientific and ethical. (Most infamously, she claimed in an interview that science has proven that being the receptive partner in anal sex triggers a hormonal change that will make a previously heterosexual man become homosexual and effeminate. Thus, she argues, even if a male greenrider were originally heterosexual, he would not stay that way.) In later interviews McCaffrey claims that green dragons merely pick up on psychological clues from homosexual boys before they themselves know that they are homosexual. "A green Hatchling is unlikely to be impressed (pun intended) by a heterosexual boy." - Anne McCaffrey 1998 on The Kitchen Table BB.
Pern-based roleplaying games thus sometimes ignore McCaffrey's restrictions on who can Impress to a given color of dragon. MU*s and fanzine-based clubs often ignore everything except the basic rule that only women Impress gold and only men Impress bronze; PBEM games are more likely to accept the restrictions on sexual orientation. Most clubs post their policy on canon strictness. While some accept more liberal thoughts on color/gender/sexual orientation matches, many are very strict on this issue.
For the purposes of roleplaying games, McCaffrey has also officially allowed females (masculine lesbians) to ride browns or blues, though she insists that this could never happen on her (canon) Pern.
Also in fandom, if a rider has strong objections to sex with someone involved in a mating flight or the writer has objections to writing a homosexual encounter or object to their character being involved in a sexual encounter with a person other than their "significant other," they may sequester themselves with a more acceptable partner during the flight. This idea is called "Stand-Ins" and based on a concept McCaffrey introduced in Dragonseye/Red Star Rising, in which a female greenrider objects to the idea of a specific bronzerider winning her green's mating flight. However, this concept is not seen in other books and clearly does not exist in the 9th Pass, as several problems arise regarding green and goldriders who object to the random nature of mating flights and end up raped by the male winner of the flight (most notably in The Skies of Pern).