Anne McCaffrey: Gone away, gone ahead

November 22, 2011 | Inspiration, Reading

Anne McCaffrey has died.

It’s moments like these that I’m grateful for the Internet and for services like Twitter that make it easy to see that McCaffrey affected other people as profoundly as she affected me. I don’t know if I could adequately describe her impact on me otherwise. But you know. Most of you already know.

I devoured the McCaffrey’s Pern books in high school and continued to re-read them through college and beyond. The first three books plus the three Harper Hall books were my favorites. And because I wasn’t a writer then, I expressed my fannish adoration with art.

From Old Art

Later, in college, I became engrossed in the (unsanctioned) Pern MUSH, my first massively multi-player online game. I still remember those evenings hunched over my amber and black monochrome monitor programming a little mechanical butterfly that would open its wings and flutter in the game if you gave it the right command.

I even dated a guy who loved Pern, and I made him this present one year: the two of us as harpers. I’ve kept this crude photocopy for 23 years now.

From Old Art

I will always remember F’lar and Lessa, Ruth and Jaxom, Masterharper Robinton and Menolly. I will remember Thread and the between. Anne McCaffrey taught me that science fiction can feel like fantasy, an idea that eventually inspired me to write Above World.

She’s the reason I’ve dreamed of having a fire lizard for the last 30 years, and I’m sorry she’s gone. What a life, though. What a legacy! The harpers will be singing her praises for generations to come.

14 comments

  • I first read the Pern trilogy in Seattle. Tom and I had just been married almost a year, and he was up there with the Pirates of Penzance tour. I DEVOURED all three books and read them again and again. I, too still long for a fire lizard (though my cat comes close).

    Damn it. No more words.

  • How great you’ve kept your sketches of fan art! She was one of my favorite reads in high school as well. My father bought the books as new release hardbounds and I would anxiously wait for him to finish them and pass them on to me. I bet there will be a resurgence in sales of her books as we all reminisce on the profoundness of her worlds.

    • I love love love that your father read the books, too! My family didn’t read — I’ve always envied families that could share that particular joy with each other.

      And yeah, I’m definitely going to be buying new copies of her books now.

  • Love the fan art!!

    I discovered the first three books in college when I had no time to read anything, but I read them. Then read them again. I liked a number of her other books, but those first three were always always my favorites.

    • I think there was a special magic to those first three books. I love the Harper Hall books, but not in the same way. Those first three just opened my mind in all sorts of incredible ways.

  • Love this post. I’m planning to write one tomorrow too. Because Anne McCaffrey is too wonderful to let her passing go unmarked. I love what you said though, about how she taught you that sci-fi can feel like fantasy. Dune does this too and I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently… just starting to be aware that this is something I’ve been striving for in my new book without realizing it. Thanks for articulating it so well and for this beautiful post!

    • Oh, I totally agree about Dune! And that epic, fantasy feel was sometimes hard to find in science fiction, where complex societies and technologies make it harder for just one person to make an impact and be a traditional sort of hero. The books that could be both — they were mind-blowing.

      I’m looking forward to hearing about your new book!

  • All I can say is that, for me, Pern is always there. Her dragons were so unlike any others, truly a whole new perspective. An essential writer. And one of those strong women who took her place in the front lines of science fiction and fantasy helping to lead the way for the rest of us.

  • I love the fan art! I definitely had fantasies about being a harper like Menolly and having fire lizards. Oh, such an engaging world!

    I have a friend who met her husband in a PERN community (it might even have been that MUSH! I’ll have to ask her if it was a MUSH or a fan-fiction forum)

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