Science fiction matriarch, Anne McCaffrey, passed away last week in Ireland at the age of 85. Of all the authors I have loved in my lifetime, I loved Anne McCaffrey the most. As I sit and reflect upon the decades that I followed her work, I feel deep appreciation for the influence that she had on me as a young reader and for the warm companionship that I found in all of the wonderful characters and stories that she created. She wrote with palpable emotion and every one of her books came alive for me.
Anne McCaffrey was a pioneer of her genre as well. In the late 60’s she became the first woman to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards–the top prizes for science fiction writing. Her debut novel, Restoree, published in 1967, had a female hero–written in direct response to the male-dominated plots of the day. She created so many compelling female protagonists across her many series and made science fiction engaging to female readers who, like me, were ready to embrace this genre.
I was introduced to Anne McCaffrey in 1979 when my sister-in-law, Terry, pulled three books from her vast bookcase and let me take them home to try. These were the first three books in what became Ms. McCaffrey’s most successful series, The Dragonriders of Pern. I don’t think I slept, ate, or spoke for three days. I was completely captivated by the world of Pern and its inhabitants–dragons and humans living in harmony, united against a common enemy. That simple description doesn’t do the series justice. Pern is a complex and beautiful world, well worth spending time in.
Ms. McCaffrey appreciated her readers and went out of her way to connect with them personally. In 1990, I wrote a letter to her filled with questions. Months later, I received a letter back, typed on her Dragonhold stationary, answering every one of my questions–even telling me all the different directions she was going with her series! Two years later, I had the opportunity to meet her at a signing for one of her new Pern novels. The event went on for hours because she gave every person her time and attention. So many years have passed since that day, but this cherished memory remains vivid for me.
The world has lost a great author, but her words will live on forever.