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Archive for November, 2011

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Anne McCaffrey, award winning science fiction and fantasy author, passed away on November 21, 2011 at the age of 85. She has left a monumental and lasting legacy.

When The White Dragon was first published as a paperback in the late 1970s it caught my eye on the book rack at the drug store. (My major source of reading material, since it was on my way home from school. That store ended up with a large portion of my allowance over the years.) It looked like something I just had to read!

When I saw that The White Dragon was the third in a trilogy I went off on a quest to a bookstore  to hunt down the first one, Dragonflight,  because I can’t stand reading out of order. The quest resulted in finding Reading Heaven.

I was a teenager at the time and had read quite a bit of science fiction and a little bit of fantasy by then. Mostly Heinlein, Clarke, Herbert, and Lewis. But most of the books were primarily about boys and men. The stories were enjoyable, and sometimes great, but unconsciously I was getting weary of rarely reading about characters I could relate to on a deeper level.

McCaffrey’s books, with strong female protagonists, marked a turning point in my life as a reader. Finally I’d discovered there were actually books readily available about girls and women having adventures in fantastical settings. These were the books I’d been craving. Fantasy has been my favorite genre ever since.

I went on to read and love the Crystal Singer books, the brain ship books (starting with The Ship Who Sang), and so many others I’ve lost count. My two gray cats I’ve owned were named after McCaffrey characters in the brain ship and Rowan books.

In my 20s I started to outgrow McCaffrey. I tend to like things a little grittier and her books are always accessible as juvenile fiction. But still, over the years I’d occasionally pick up a new one and enjoy dipping back into one of her worlds. I introduced my mom to the Pern books when I first read them and she is still reading McCaffrey novels to this day.

Anne McCaffrey was amazingly prolific and her contributions to science fiction and fantasy can’t be underestimated, especially where her impact on female readers is concerned. She gave me and millions of others a treasured gift, and I will always be thankful. May she rest in peace.

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Pembroke Park by Michelle Martin. One of my favorite Naiad Press books - published in 1986.

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I just found out that Barbara Grier passed away a week ago at the age of 78. I couldn’t let that go by without writing.

There are many people in this world who devote their lives to helping others and making the world a better place. I have benefited from many of those people, but it’s almost always in an indirect manner. Barbara Grier made my life and my world better directly. Without ever even knowing that I exist, she touched me in a very personal way.

Ms. Grier was one of the founders of Naiad Press in the 1970s. A small, independent publisher of books. Lesbian books. Books by lesbians, about lesbians, for lesbians.

As an avid reader in the process of coming out as a lesbian in the mid-1980s, one of the first things I looked for was books. Trying to find other gay people to associate with was important too, but that came second. Reading has always been my primary means for understanding the world, learning about new things, and sometimes, especially in this case, understanding myself.

I was already a regular shopper at the various independent bookstores on Capitol Hill in Seattle (there were many back then), and living on Capitol Hill I had some exposure to gay culture simply through osmosis. But as I became a little more convinced of my orientation I hungered for confirmation. Which led to those first nerve wracking visits to the sections with gay and lesbian books on the shelves.

There were several small publishers putting out quality gay books, but almost immediately I learned to recognize Naiad Press on the spines of novels. It was a signal and an invitation – here is a book for you.

Because Ms. Grier was a visionary and cared about making the world a better place for lesbians in a concrete way, by putting books especially for us in our hands, my life has been so much the richer. Naiad Press closed up shop a few years ago when Ms. Grier and her partner, Donna McBride, retired. But they left a lasting legacy. There aren’t words enough to say how much it meant to me over the years, and how thankful I am.

Wherever your spirit wanders on, Ms. Grier, I hope it’s a wonderful place, with lots of lesbians, and lots of books. You are one of my heroes.

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