I heard last month that Anne McCaffrey had died at the age of 85. McCaffrey was an American science-fiction writer who was hugely influential on both the genre and me as a writer. She wrote over a hundred novels but arguably her most well-known creation were the dragonriders of Pern. The first book in the series, Dragonflight, was published in 1968 and won both Hugo and Nebula Awards. The White Dragon was the first sci-fi book written by a woman to make it to the New York Times best seller list.
McCaffrey is regarded as one of the first writers to include strong female protagonists in what had been a very male-dominated world. She also rehabilitated dragons, who had been cast as bloodthirsty monsters for many years, into sentient companion creatures for humans. Latterly the Pern novels were written as collaborations with her son, Todd, who presumably will continue the franchise. I must admit I haven’t read any of these more recent books – I’m more of the ‘let sleeping dragons lie’ school of thought.
I first came across McCaffrey’s work in my early teens through my grandmother, an avid reader of all things, including fantasy and sci-fi. She had a few dusty, early imprints with the most wonderfully illustrated covers (looky here and here) on her bookshelves. They were among the first ‘adult’ sci-fi I encountered and hugely influential in developing in my mind the kind of stories I wanted to read and write. I even wrote what would now be considered fan-fiction (I didn’t know there was a word for it back then) set on Pern but using my own characters.
When I was about fourteen a new dragon book was released and I badgered an older relative to use their credit card to order me a signed copy. Looking at the old cover art takes me back to the sheer joy and excitement I used to feel at holding each new release in my hands.
Back in April a reader of McCaffrey’s blog asked for advice for a new writer who wants to be published. Her response…
Follow Heinlein’s rules for getting published:
1. Write it.
2. Finish it.
3. Send it out.
4. Keep sending it out until someone sends you a check.
Thank you, Anne McCaffrey.