Farewell to Anne McCaffrey
Anne McCaffrey passed away on November 21, 2011, 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 as well as stand-alones, including half a dozen romance novels published in the seventies and eighties, but she is best known for her tales of the Dragonriders of Pern. When I checked my Keeper Shelf, I found seventeen Pern novels.
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 (and I still have them). I read the others as they came out, through The Skies of Pern (2001).
Beginning with Dragon’s Kin (2003), which I found waiting patiently 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.
I fell in love with McCaffrey’s book, and her worlds, long before I became interested in the romance genre, but her stories include elements that romance readers and writers love: memorable characters, detailed world-building, and romances ranging from subtle to world-shaking. I suspect that any writer of science fiction romance would list her (along with Lois McMaster Bujold and the late Marion Zimmer Bradley) as a favorite and as an influence.
I stopped by Half-Price Books recently 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 (which grew from an erotic short story, “The Thorns of Barevi,” that McCaffrey had written twenty-five years earlier) 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.
Kay Hudson is a life-long science fiction fan who was lured into the romance genre by the popularity of futuristic romances in the 1990s; she writes humorous paranormal and historical romance and wishes she had more time to read.