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