Anne McCaffrey 1 April 1926 – 21 November 2011
My writing life began when I was six, it grew steadily over the years, then one day I found something that was magic, something that let me know that the things in my head were special too. That thing was a book by one of the most amazing women writers of the modern age—Anne McCaffrey—the book was Dragonflight. I remember seeing the book sitting on the round table in the upstairs hallway. I walked past it for several days before I finally picked it up—and I was transported to a new world. I remember devouring Dragonquest as soon as I could get to the library. Her magnificent Harper Hall books actually convinced me to practice the piano and my scales for voice lessons. The Ship Who Sang encouraged me further.
Most of all, she encouraged me, the writer.
In a world populated by many women writers in science fiction and fantasy, we forget that not so very long ago, there were a few brave pioneers and Anne McCaffrey was one of them with her first novel Restoree. She literally opened worlds for women writers to venture where they had not gone before and along the way brought some of the best-loved books of the genre into existence.The Dragonriders of Pern should be, perhaps, dropped into the same box with Tolkien and Lewis. Middle Earth, Narnia, Pern. These are three places that truly live for so many people. I don’t know how many times I have spoken with someone about Robinton’s death, or the Jump Lessa made… Pern ties people together as surely as those other great writers’ worlds.
Of course she is not limited to that one world. Her Ship Who Sang was a universe that was stunning, and when she tied it together in the Crystal Singer universe it was like a hot fudge sundae. The best of two (literally) worlds. From Pegasus in Flight to The Tower and the Hive, she had an ability to let us understand and believe things that were truly out of the scope of the everyday world.
Less well-known are her romances. I have dabbled in romance writing because of those stories. I have read The Lady enough to know something about horses. I know that an Arran Sweater is hard to knit, thanks to Stitch in Snow, and I understand the choices the heart makes for the family because of The Year of the Lucy.
Anne McCaffrey was one of the first major influences on my writing. In fact my second work of what would be fanfic (although I don’t think the term had been coined back then) was a Pern story. I still remember it. F’lar and F’nor had a sister who was Master Healer of Pern. (Hey, I was young, Mary Sue’s are allowed when you are young!) That little story cemented the love of writing into my heart.
In fact, if I had never picked that book up off the round table in the shadowy hallway and entered into the world of Pern, my worlds might never have existed.
How can I possible say thank you for that? And now, sadly it is too late. I hope she knows how much her writing meant to all of us, and I hope she will forever fly with the dragons of Pern.