Territorial disputes among landed gentry. A ruling class threatened by the increasing importance of skilled craftsmen. Swords and sandals. And, most importantly, fire-breathing dragons—along with the elite humans who can communicate, coordinate and commune with the legendary beasts. It’s all basically Fantasy Novel Writing 101. But Anne McCaffrey, a trailblazing woman in the fantasy genre, subverts the genre in her 1968 novel by adding a science-fiction twist that makes it all seem much more raw, real and lived-in. It’s no spoiler to note that the story takes place on a far-flung planet colonized by Earth and then forgotten, and the “dragons” are genetically modified versions of a native lizard-like species. To write the book, McCaffrey merged two of her previously written novellas: Weyr Search, which won a Hugo Award, and Dragonrider, which won a Nebula Award. Her impact is clear: it’s hard to imagine Game of Thrones without Dragonflight. The series’ central conceit—the recovery of a world where dragons, the most powerful of beings, have not yet faded into the history books—is the driving force of Dragonflight, published some 30 years before. —Elijah Wolfson

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