Anne McCaffrey (1926 – 2011)

Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey (1926 – 2011).

We all know that our friends and family influence and shape our lives. But every so often, someone we’ve never met changes the entire course of our lives.

Anne McCaffrey changed mine.

I was my early twenties when I picked up a copy of one of Anne’s Dragonriders of Pern novels. I took the book home, gulped it down, and discovered three things.

Anne McCaffrey made me realize that I wanted to be a writer. I had been writing for years. But writing was not a dream or ambition for me. It was just something I did — a compulsion rather than a desire. I had always figured I would write a book one day. But after reading that first Pern novel, my relationship with writing shifted. It became something in which I wanted to excel rather than a passive hobby.

The Pern series showed me that I wanted to write science fiction and fantasy. I have always read widely across the genres, but when I read Pern I suddenly realized that I had always had a particular affinity for science fiction and fantasy stories. I guess I had kind of a geek awakening. And it was good.

I wanted to read all the other books in the Dragonriders of Pern series, immediately. These were the days before online shopping, so I had to trawl through used bookstores to complete my adventure, and what an adventure it was. I fell in love with the Masterharper of Pern. I was wildly impressed with McCaffrey’s fantastical concepts of going between and Thread – Thread! It was brilliant!

The Pern novels were fantastical but rooted in science. Anne McCaffrey’s stories took me through the spectrum of human emotion. The stories were funny and sad, simple and philosophical, full of equal parts tragedy and triumph. By whisking me out of this world, those stories helped me understand it better. Through Anne’s vision, I better understood the human condition. Plus, the entire series was packed with spaceships and dragons! There was a wizardly character and a ton of musicians. My kind of fantasy world!

Saying Goodbye

On Tuesday, November 22, 20011, I popped onto Twitter, and when I saw “Anne McCaffrey” listed in the trending topics, my heart sank. I knew what it meant, and a quick click confirmed that she had left this world. I was heartened, however, in reading tweets from other admirers of Anne’s work. I knew that I was not alone in my mourning and that people all around the world were celebrating Anne’s life and the tremendous legacy that she leaves.

Anne McCaffrey has been one of the guiding lights on the path of my life and I am wholly grateful to her. And now, the dragons have gone between and somewhere, she is soaring through the skies with them. May she rest in peace.

-Melissa Donovan

Please feel free to use the comments section to share your memories of Anne McCaffrey and her work and to celebrate her life.

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


22 Responses to “Anne McCaffrey (1926 – 2011)”

  1. What you have written is my own experience with Anne McCaffrey as well. I can only add that I’ve read all the books more than once!

    • One of things I love about art and entertainment is that it brings people together, particularly people who are drawn to the same stories and songs. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Evelyn says:

    There are so many reasons why I like you and why I follow this blog. But this, this seals it! I had no idea — about your fascination wiht her or with er death. I missed this completely! See, the media always misses the boat on important news like this. Tsk!

    The Dragonriders of Pern designed my whole world. I still love dragons — I have tons of them, I want to believe they are real, I scold people and movies for even the thought of killing dragons (you’re supposed to ride them, not kill them!), I can still get into McCaffrey’s prose, when I’m lucky enough to find it and it really IS HERS. Sigh.

    Let’s put it this way, I was into dragons before they were cool! I just thought I was strange. Using the name “Sprite” all over the place is just a spin off of that. OMG, I am so closer to that tattoo that I promised myself.

    Sorry, doll, you didn’t need to “hear” me go off about this but I thank you for sharing this sad news, and for loving her too! I will share a link back to you when and where ever I put a mention of this online.

    Did I tell you I really like your blog? 🙂

    • Wow, thank you so much for your kind words, Evelyn. Yes, we are kindred spirits. It’s too bad that we often find our kindred spirits through a sorrowful occasion.

      I can’t tell you how many times I have scolded stories for depicting dragons as evil and for killing them! It’s kind of funny, actually, because I think (and I could be wrong about this) that the earliest dragons were monsters. So, we have parted with tradition and given the dragons a new persona 🙂

      Thanks again Evelyn! May your world be full of dragons!

  3. Allan Knowles says:

    Although I am not personally familiar with Anne McCaffrey or her writing, I am very impressed by your touching tribute about the impact she had on you and your literary career. How nice of you to let the world know how her life affected your own and helped change a previous hobby into your predominant passion. I am sure many are sorry for your loss, but also heartened that her passing gave you the opportunity to share such feelings of appreciation. I enjoy your excellent blog very much, but will now do so even more knowing what a warm and compassionate person authors it.

    • Thank you, Allan. I think it’s important for artists and creative people to recognize those who have influenced and shaped their work. Your kind words mean a lot to me.

      • Susan Boone says:

        I loved Anne McCaffrey books growing up. I read all the books in the series, and sometime twice. She will be sorely missed amongst her friends on the plane, but will be flying high with her dragons in the next plane. She was an inspiration to me in many ways: with her strong characters, great scenes, the stories just seemed to have flowed. I began writing due to her wonderful story telling.
        She will be missed.

        • Indeed, she will be greatly missed. I first read the Pern series at random, picking up used paperbacks wherever I could find them. A few years ago, I read them all in chronological order (based on the Pern timeline). Someday soon, I’d like to reread them in the order she wrote them. She left quite a legacy.

  4. Jaden says:

    Melissa — This was a nice piece. As inventive as Anne was, she probably never foresaw the day that she would be trending on Twitter! 🙂

    Evelyn — Dragons ARE real, just a lot smaller now! Birds, lizards, and alligators are the descendants… dinosaurs.

  5. Bill Polm says:

    A heart-warming tribute. Oddly, I have not read Pern yet, but now I will.
    There are a number of people, mentors from afar, that I wished I could have met and known personally. Now with the internet, I get to communicate with some of the people I admire. And some of them, yes, have turned my life around.
    You seem to be well on your way with your career. Me, I’m too much a jack of all trades. Watercolor and writing and at times music. So I’ve never made a living at writing or art and wound up in a government bureaucracy where my writing did help me a lot. But I’m happily retired, 9 years now and in good health, thank God; and at nearly 70, I am closer than ever to getting that novel of a couple decades (off and on) published. Course 6 grandchildren add to my joy in living–constantly.
    Greetings from Northwest Oregon! I’m, a California native too, by the way. I’m not savvy yet on Twitter or Facebook, but I may connect up with you one of these days.
    At any rate, well done, both with your memorial and your writing.

    • Hi Bill. I love your story! Thanks so much for sharing it. If you like dragons and science fiction, you’ll probably love the Pern novels. I hope you’ll come back when you finish your novel and tell us about it!

  6. Karen Swim says:

    I am not familiar with Anne McCaffrey’s work but your tribute makes me want to read it. What a wonderful thing to impact the life of another, to inspire and cause them to dream bigger than they thought possible. It makes me realize anew how interconnected we truly are in this world.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Karen. We are so interconnected! Sometimes I marvel at how one person’s idea leads to ten ideas for other people, and those ten ideas lead to a hundred. As we influence and inspire each other, the impact is exponential. I think it’s all pretty cool.

  7. Patricia Nickell says:


    Thank you for writing this nice article in her memory. I was shocked when I first saw her passing, on a group I belong to. I hate to hear of her passing, she will be missed.

    Anne McCaffrey is one of my favorite authors. I read her books when I was a teenager, the dragon series that is. I never read the others, but I may do that now. Her books about dragons made me love dragons too. I hate it when they make dragons out to be the bad guys. I will have to re-read the dragon series again.

    Thanks again,
    Patricia Nickell

    • Yes, Anne McCaffrey was a wonderful storyteller and she will be greatly missed. But we’re quite lucky that she left us with so many books to keep reading over and over! Thank you so much for sharing your sentiments about Anne and her work.

  8. What a wonderful tribute to Anne McCaffrey. Like you, she inspired my love of fantasy in my 20s and opened my imagination to magic, majesty and beauty, for which I am forever grateful.

    • Thanks, Debra, Anne inspired so many writers (and readers). I’ve come across a lot of people who discovered fantasy fiction through her Pern novels. I’m glad the Internet provides a way for all of us to connect and remember her.

  9. D. Blackwell says:

    This was a well done post and we will all miss her continued influence in our lives.
    I spent many hours in the realm of Pern soaring high, upon dragons.

    I can only aspire to create such a vivid world in my own writings.

  10. Ekaterina says:

    I really enjoyed this post, Melissa! It was very interesting to read something personal about you.

    So you say, sci-fi/fantasy with musicians? Sounds like my cup of tea! 🙂 Will there be musicians in your books? 😉

    In case you ever come across Russian mythology, don’t read it – dragons there are evil. 😀 They spit fire and kidnap maidens. And they have three heads.

    • It’s quite likely there will be musicians in my books, yes. I’m working on a story now with a character who is a musician and it’s science fiction. Ooh, I’ll stay away from the stories with bad dragons. Actually, I prefer stories where good and bad are a bit arbitrary anyway.

      Thanks so much for commenting!