I awoke this morning to the sad news that my favourite author had passed away. Anne McCaffrey. She was 85 years old and an author known for her Dragonriders of Pern series and “The Ship who Sang”. Just a small portion of the sheer volume of work she produced. She was also a past winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards. The Huffington Post have a look back on her life here.
My first read of Anne McCaffrey was “Dragonsong”. I was instantly attracted to the cover illustration which showed an incredible Dragon with two people riding on it. Inside the blurb read:
Death Rained from the Sky
Thread! Fear rooted her to the ground. If only she could run fast enough to stay beyond the reach of it. She ran, one eye on the Dragon Stones, one for the ground ahead of her feet. She heard the whoosh, heard the fire lizards’ startled chirrups, saw the shadow and fell to the ground, covering her head instinctively with her hands, her body taut for the first feel of flesh-scoring Thread. She smelt fire-stone, and felt the air heavy against her body. “Get on your feet, you silly fool! and hurry.” Incredulously, Menolly looked up, right into the whirling eyes of a brown dragon …
I was hooked, who wouldn’t be, Dragons, Fire-Lizards, Thread … what on earth was Thread? I laughed and cried reading it. I’ve read it so many times now I know it off by heart. From there I found the first of the Dragonriders of Pern series and started from the beginning.
Anne McCaffrey rekindled my passion for reading. The alien landscapes, the fantasy creatures, the strong female leads in the novels, the community, bravery and heroism. This passion was quenched while studying for A’levels. It became such a chore reading books and constantly analysing them and in my opinion overthinking what the author meant by certain statements blah, blah, blah. During the wilderness years after school, reading books was low on my list. Reading was no longer the fun activity I enjoyed as a child. Studying English at A’level was traumatic, exacerbated by an awful teacher. Discovering Anne McCaffrey rekindled that passion. The fire was lit and I was off on a fantasy ride of my own.
But Anne McCaffrey didn’t just write about Dragonriders, she wrote “The Ship who Sang”, a science fiction story about brainships who sang. Helva – a “complex, loving, strong, weak, gentle savage – a personality, all woman.” There are a number of Brainship novels. The one that always makes me cry is “The Ship who Searched”. About Tia, a precocious child who contracts a deadly virus, there is no hope, she will always be crippled, but she gets her dream to undergo the transformation into a Brainship. Who could read the lines Tia speaks to her Ted “It’s not fair, it’s not fair, I never did anything, ” she wept, as Ted watched her tears with round, sad eyes, and soaked them up for her. “It’s not fair. I wasn’t finished. I hadn’t even started yet…” without reaching for the tissues.
Anne McCaffrey created many worlds and communties within several series, Pern and the Brainships were a small part. There were also “The Talents” series “the elite of the Nine-Star League. Their gifts were many and varied, ranging from the gently telepathic, to the rare and extremely valued Primes, those whose mental powers were so strong they could shift cargoes across space with their telekinetic abilities.”
And who can forget the wonderful Killashandra Ree. Perfect pitch, vocal student who is betrayed by her singing tutor Lanzecki which causes her to leave without a backward glance, have an affair with a enigmatic stranger and end up becoming a cutter of crystal and having adventures on Worlds far away from Fuerte. “The Crystal Singer” is another firm re-read when things get too much.
More series? Doona. Humans populate a supposedly non inhabited planet due to overpopulation on Earth, it’s redneck stuff but they are horrified when they discover that the planet is indeed inhabited by a race of people called Hrrubans. Heartwarming friendships are solidly formed in this series particularly between the young of the two species Todd and Hrriss. (Todd being the son of Anne McCaffrey).
There was a sudden stench of a dead sea creature … there was the horror of a huge black shape closing over her … there was nothing… then there were pieces of memory … isolated fragments that were so horrible her mind refused to accept them … intense heat and shivering cold … excruciating pain … dismembered pieces of the human body … sawn bones and searing screams … and when she awoke she found she was in a world that was not earth, and with a face and body that were not her face and body. She had become a Restoree …
- The White Dragon
- Get off the Unicorn (short stories that are simply out of this world)
- The Ship who Sang
- The Ship who Searched
- The City who Fought
- The Crystal Singer
- The Rowan
For a full bibliography and more about Anne McCaffrey visit http://www.annemccaffreyfans.org/biblio/index.html or visit her own official website http://pernhome.com/aim/
Finally I’ll leave you with her own sign off:
My eyes are green, my hair is silver, and I freckle. The rest is subject to change without notice.