Anne McCaffrey passed away a few weeks ago, at the age of 85. I learned of her death from Laurie Green at Spacefreighters Lounge, in a posting aptly titled “When Dragons Cry.” McCaffrey wrote many books spread over several series and stand-alones, but she is best known for her tales of the Dragonriders of Pern. When I checked my Keeper Shelf, I found fifteen Pern books (one is a three-in-one).
The first two books in the Pern series, Dragonflight and Dragonquest, were published in paperback in 1968 and 1971. I had pretty well worn out my copies by the time they were republished in hardcover in 1978 and 1979, after the hardcover edition of the third volume, The White Dragon, hit the New York Times bestseller list in the summer of 1978. I rarely bought hardcover books in those days, but I had to have those, even at the princely sum of $8.95 each. I read the others as they came out, through The Skies of Pern (2001).
Beginning with Dragon’s Kin (2003), which I found on my To Be Read Shelf, McCaffrey shared the Pern universe with her son Todd. Seven or eight more books have been published, either as collaborations or by Todd McCaffrey alone. Somehow I’ve gotten behind on those, a case of so many books, so little time.
I’ve never liked the questions “Who are your favorite authors?” or “What authors have influenced you?”, but Anne McCaffrey would rank high on either scale. She was the mistress of the planetary romance, my favorite variety of science fiction, she was a pioneer (New York Times bestseller, Hugo and Nebula Awards), and she was a woman who didn’t hide behind her initials or a pen name as so many female SF writers before her did.
The other day I stopped by Half-Price Books to look for some of McCaffrey’s early books, many of which I remember fondly. I found Decision at Doona (1969), Dinosaur Planet (1978), and Dinosaur Planet Survivors (1984). I didn’t find Restoree (1967), which I believe was her first novel (she’d already written quite a few stories and novellas, some of which later became novels), but I’m going to keep an eye out for it (there’s always Alibris.com). I do have the four books in McCaffrey’s Freedom series on the shelf, and a few more. I read many of her other books along the way, but my library has had to be thinned out every so often: more books than shelf space, a perennial problem.
While I was at it, I picked up the first of Todd McCaffrey’s solo novels, Dragonsblood. I’m sad to say farewell to Anne McCaffrey, but so glad to know that the story of Pern will continue.