Illustrator Ian Schoenherr recently published a letter Anne McCaffrey wrote to his father, John Schoenherr, thanking him for his dragons! The elder Schoenherr provided some wonderful illustrations to accompany two of McCaffrey’s early Pern stories in Analog Magazine, making these the earliest depiction of F’lar, Lessa, and Mnementh! “Weyr Search” and “Dragonrider” were published in October and December of 1967, respectively, and each served as the magazine’s cover story.
Rather than referencing traditional European or Asian dragons, birds, or even modern lizards, Schoenherr used dinosaurs as a jumping off point, giving his dragons real weight and gravitas. McCaffrey certainly loved them:
“You did me and my dragons real proud and I spent a half an hour drooling over the new black and whites and the cover, which I saw the proofs of which, yesterday in John’s [John Campbell, editor of Analog] office… those are mighty appealing dragons. Particularly, especially, and triumphantly, the one in which Lessa is enclosed in Mnementh’s talons. Oh, that, I die a little over. How HOW did you manage to convey that foolish bronze’s tender regard and lack of menace in black and white, no less. Superb. Honest, I nearly cried in front of John and Miss Tarrant…which at my age would be a little the other side of enough. But the sketch was so much, so very much what I had imagined in my mind for the scene, I’d swear you were a telepath yourself.”
McCaffrey mentions wanting to meet Schoenherr for dinner the next time they’re both in New York, and says pretty much the most endearing thing ever:
“My husband and your wife can talk about things others than science-fiction which bores my husband although he is very interested in Fine Art (which is why he isn’t interested in s-f). That’s sounds rather stuffy, doesn’t it? Well, looks that way on paper.”
You can read the rest of this lovely letter and see more Schoenherr’s illustrations over at Ian Schoenherr’s blog!