An Ode to Anne McCaffrey

People far more important and influential than I have already weighed in on the passage of Anne McCaffrey, two days ago. So I will keep my comments here brief…but I couldn’t say nothing.

First off, it’s spelled M-c-C-a-f-f-r-e-y. I’ve probably typed or written this name hundreds of times; it’s disconcerting to see people who claim to love an artist’s work misspell her name.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

My first exposure to the lush worlds of McCaffrey’s fertile imagination was in middle school. I was an awkward child, something I’ve mentioned before. I spent a lot of time reading because I didn’t have many friends, especially in middle school, where I was a social pariah.

Anne McCaffrey’s novels introduced me to science fantasy with The Harper Hall Trilogy, novels written for young adults set on Pern. Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums carried me away on dragon wings for the first time. I never looked back. I became so obsessed that I collected all the Pern novels  in first-edition hardback, many signed by the author. I went to book signings. Once the internet became a thing, I joined an online RPG.

Science fiction especially, and fantasy to a lesser degree, was initially very alienating for many female readers. I took little interest in either until I found McCaffrey, and female dragonriders like Lessa and Brekke, and later, in the Crystal Singer series, Killashandra, and then in the Freedom series, Kris Bjornsen. She wrote about strong, intelligent women, whose lives were full of adventure and potential. Her characters sometimes fell in love, but that story was never the primary narrative; it was always secondary to the greater accomplishments of the heroine.

And the men who loved McCaffrey’s protagonists loved them because they were accomplished, brave, intelligent, and heroic. I was introduced to female characters who didn’t have to be helpless damsels in distress or wear metal bikinis. These women were fantasies, but they were real. They were my inspiration for volunteering answers in class, for running for class president, for never shying away from giving my opinion though mine might be the lone female voice.

They were also inspiration for my own fiction. Now I write stories, and this is in no small part due to McCaffrey’s influence.  Many times I write about strong, complicated, brave women. I even write about dragons sometimes. My life is full of adventure and accomplishment, and the love of a man who respects intelligence and courage.

And in many ways, all this is thanks to Lessa and Brekke and Killashandra…and Anne.

I can only hope that I will have such an influence on someone else’s life someday. Thank you, Anne, for all you did for me. I can’t wait to read your stories to the children in my life.

Your legacy will be little girls carried away on dragon wings, now and forever.

4 thoughts on “An Ode to Anne McCaffrey

  1. I too loved McCaffery’s work. I readher Dragonriders of Pern series in junior high, and I even owned and wore a pair of grey suede boots I called my “dragon-riding boots” until they were too small to walk in. I loved Lessa. Daydreaming about her story got me through many nights of the hated task of washing dishes. Along with my other fictional heroines, most notably Meg from A Wrinkle In Time, I found worlds where being smart, wassup, adventurous, and unusual was not only acceptable, but necessary. One reason I still think about having children of my own us because I want to pass those stories on.

    • I have to agree Sarah; if ever there was a reason for me to reproduce, it would be to pass on my love of such great stories. I’m glad to hear that Pern enriched your life as much as it enriched mine. These outpourings of love and support are the words that people who denigrate genre fiction as “lesser” need to read.

  2. Thanks for writing such a wonderful memory of Anne McCaffrey! I found her in high school, and immediately fell in love with Pern and dragons and dragon lizards… . And with her strong women. There were no such role models for so long, then along came Anne McCaffrey. Now we have so many strong women in fantasy and SF, it’s wonderful. But there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Pern, and its dragons.

    Let the dragons keen, for their mistress has passed Between, and is lost to us forever.

    • Thanks for commenting Mary. I love how McCaffrey’s work is bringing us all closer together as we share our memories of her. I had no idea so many of my friends were as obsessed and influenced as I was!

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