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.