Dragons, An Introduction to the Modern Infestation by Pamela Wharton Blanpied (1981, 194 pages including bibliography and appendix) – This is a nice piece of fluff.
Basically, it’s a pocket-sized dissertation of the science of dragons as if they really existed. It does not deal with the historical tales of dragons but of recent arrivals, possibly from outer space, that are reducing cattle herds and leaving scorch marks. Countries around the world find themselves unable to destroy the creatures. They are too well-armored, too quick in flight, and too smart for conventional weapons. The world has to learn to live with these predators, ignoring them, fleeing from them, or – in some cases – appeasing them with gold and livestock.
All this interaction and compromise is told through various studies conducted over the years by verminologists (a real word). Ridiculed at first, these scientists helped pave the way for authoritative dragon studies as the dragon population increased. There are no heroes in this story; the viewpoint is that of a professor in a classroom or perhaps a student’s term paper.
One of my favorite chapters was about hoarding behavior, both dragons and humans. Not all dragons hoard, but of those who do succumb to “hoard lust,” some of them are quite eclectic. One collects plastic milk cartons, one fine diamonds and heavy gold. Humans who stumble on these hoards while the dragon is away, collect the hoard for museums and science and personal wealth. Normal people, overcome with dreams of riches beyond avarice, begin searching for hoards, but encounter hostile environments, dragons at home, and a greatly reduced lifeline.
I’m glad this paperback was put together before the age of computer graphics and Photoshop. Real photos supposedly depict cloudy images of dragons in our everyday world, but the reproduction is so bad, it could be Darth Vader waltzing with Yoda. The photographs, along with statistical charts of dragon population growth and hand-drawn illustrations, add to the “realistic” feel of the book. It’s a clever approach and fun to read. I don’t know if it will really add anything to our current knowledge of dragon legends, but it is interesting from an educational viewpoint. I appreciated the matter-of-fact delivery and the fact it dealt with dragons on a worldwide, international basis.
The book is broken into three parts: A Short History of the Modern Infestation and the Development of Verminology (stats and history from various papers), Anatomical and Behavioral Characteristices (lots of weights, dimensions, and baby raising), and Excerpts from the Papers of Marta Froedlich and Philip Marsden (two early pioneers in dragon behavioral science).
Light and imaginative, a nice break from what I’ve been reading lately.