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The Pern Gather
at Weyrfest '99


A very informal panel, with nothing planned except a chance for people to gather together and talk.  It was a good chance for folk to hook up with friends met through the internet, and to meet entirely new people.  And, of course, one of the best time to show off Gather finery for those people industrious enough to have costumes.  Having no sewing skills myself outside of cross-stitching, I was not dressed for the occasion this year.  But my mother-in-law is an accomplished seamstress, so I will be able to go in style in the future.  (The pattern and fabrics we found for my costume are excellent, and I'll probably devote a page to the plans soon--not that they're of interest to most Pern fans, but perhaps to anyone in need of ideas for a costume.)

I didn't really know anyone else yet at the Gather--Becky, who I knew only through the internet at that point, wasn't due to arrive until the next day.  At first I thought I'd leave early because I had no one to talk to, as everyone else present seemed to know a number of other people, and were enjoying conversations to get re-acquainted.  But I started to get over my initial shyness which kept me aloof all day, and sought out people to talk with.  And this was when I started to really enjoy the Con, and decide it wasn't so overwhelming to be there on my own.  Once I started feeling comfortable, I employed a great strategy for other shy or companionless wall-flowers, which is to seek out other people who seem to be spending most of their time standing by their lonesome, or hanging on the periphery of other conversations.  Through this strategy I met a wonderful new person, and helped recruit her as a future Pern fan.  What was a non-Pern fan doing at the Pern Gather, you ask?  Well, let me explain...

I'm sad to say that I don't remember her real name, but only the nickname she chose for her tag, "Gamma's Drudge," which actually made for a real easy conversation started.  After all, why would anyone choose to be a drudge?   So I learned that she was brought to the Con by her friend Dove, who is known as Weyrwoman Gamma in one of the fanfic writing clubs.  Not knowing very many other people at the Con, and not being attracted to any of the other programming happening concurrent to the Gather, she tagged along with Dove.  And while she was a general science fiction and fantasy fan, she had never read any Anne McCaffrey books before, and therefore couldn't really present herself as anything more than a drudge in the world of Pern.  She had picked up just a little knowledge about Pern by virtue of her friendship with the devoted Pern fan Dove, and had been curious about the series that had such a devoted following that a whole culture of fandom had grown up about it.    In our conversation I explained the basics of Pern more fully to her, which she thought sounded quite interesting and helped her decide that she really must try the Pern novels sometime.  I did many other people at the Gather, but none stand out in my memory as much as Gamma's Drudge.

Apparently at other years of Weyrfest it is normal to have a Gather every night of the Con, each sponsored by a different fanfic writing club.   These would be perhaps a little more organized, with food and whatnot provided for attendees.  But they would also be of less interest to anyone not belonging to that particular club, because it essentially served as a rare face to face get-together for club members, and a chance to recruit new members.  This year there wasn't programming time available for more than one Gather, since Anne and Todd McCaffrey were there to do panels, plus the Zyntopo and Grolier folk.  I think this more general Gather was therefore of more general interest, especially to people like myself who don't belong to any club.

It would, however, be more fun to try and make it feel more like a real Pern Gather, with some Pernese food at least.  Because the other elements of a real Gather (music, dancing, the Conclave, and stalls selling wares) had whole panels devoted to them already, trying to include them in the Gather would be somewhat redundant, and would overshadow the main idea of the Gather--a chance to hang out and talk.  The only spark of an idea I've come up with to liven up the Gather, but still allow everyone the chance to mingle as much as they want, would be to set up some Craft, Weyr, and Hold booths.

I would picture the Craft booths to be staffed by a few (one to three) people with active personas in that craft in any of the fanfic writing clubs or MU*s.  The booths could display the craft badge,  perhaps their shoulder knots and some sample craft wares (or pictures of them), and have some short written materials to explain the function of members in craft, which the people staffing the booth could elaborate on.  The Craft booth would serve a dual function: to entice new recruits to their craft and help relatively new craft members understand their role on Pern and develop their personas, and to serve as a meeting place for craft members belonging to different clubs and MU*s the chance to meet colleagues and exchange information.

Weyr and Hold booths could be organized in several different ways, depending on how people want it done and how many folk are available to set them up.   You could have the booths represent the many different writing clubs and MU*s that are available, to explain their group and it works.  Or, have booths for the different ranks found at Weyrs and Holds, like blue riders, stewards, headwomen, Lord Holder, etc.  If done this way, then the booths would serve the same general functions as the Craft booths, namely to let people know more about their role and actions on Pern, and to meet colleagues from different clubs.

I think this sort of booth would both really benefit the writing clubs and MU*s, and be of interest to the general Pern fan.  Those who do write or role-play Pern would come away with a better understanding of their persona's day to day life and function in society, and would have their creativity sparked with ideas for future plots.  People who aren't involved in any of these clubs might learn enough about it to feel confident in creating a persona and joining.  And finally, people who really just enjoy pure Anne McCaffrey Pern, and don't want to join any clubs, can still come away with a better understanding the lives of the average Pernese crafter, holder, or rider.


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All references to worlds and characters based on Anne McCaffrey’s fiction are copyright © Anne McCaffrey 1967-2007,
all rights reserved, and used by permission of the author.