Harper, tell me of the road
That leads beyond this Hold,
That wends its way beyond the hill...
Does it go further on until
It ends in sunset's gold?
Dragonsinger, Anne McCaffrey
Last Monday Anne McCaffrey, one of the leading female writers in Science Fiction and a recognized Grand Master of Science Fiction, passed away in her beloved home "Dragonhold-Underhill" in County Wicklow, Ireland. The science fiction world has lost an icon.
Anne McCaffrey was a prolific writer who left us more than a 100 novels. Though she was best known for her 'Dragonriders of Pern' series, currently comprising of 22 books, she also wrote the popular 'Crystal Singer' and 'Doona' series of books, as well as gothic novels and wonderful collaborations with authors who were or became famous writers in their own right, among them Elizabeth Scarborough, Mercedes Lackey and Jody Lynn Nye.
Two of her books have an extra special meaning in the world of sci fi: her first novel Restoree (1967), which was written as a protest against the absurd and unrealistic portrayal of women in scifi novels of those times, and The Ship Who Sang, her personal favorite and a book in which her storytelling talent is perhaps most visible.
Anne McCaffrey was born on April 1, 1926 -- an auspicious birthday that she often said that she did her best to live up to.
She was the first woman to win a Hugo and a Nebula Award for her books, and she later became a Grand Master of Science Fiction in 2005, as well as being inducted in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2006.
On the 40th anniversary of the first book set in the dragon-filled lands of Pern, nothing gave me more pleasure than to be able to personally present Anne with the book Forty Years of Pern at the dinner of the 2007 Eurocon in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Many people of the younger generations won't realize that, when Anne McCaffrey started writing scifi, not only the genre was still relatively young but that published female authors were a very select group. McCaffrey was a pioneer, something that fitted her character very well.
Todd McCaffrey wrote a biography of his mother Dragonholder, in which he reveals that Anne was a strong and dedicated mother and writer, using the hard lessons from her own life in her books.
Because Anne was among the first and foremost of the great female science fiction writers, she was an influence and inspiration to many. A great example is, of course, Mercedes Lackey, one of Anne's early co-authors and by now an author even more prolific than McCaffrey, who found her niche in fantasy and became one of the best selling authors in that genre ever.
Anne McCaffrey's books and way of writing have influenced generations of people. One has just to read about her on the internet and on some of the forums dedicated to her to read about the very real influence her writing has had.
Those of us who were lucky enough to meet her in person, at some of the enormous number of events and conventions she honored with her presence during the last forty years, certainly will never forget her wicked sense of humor, her generosity (which often resulted in cramped hands from signing books for too long), her incredible personality and direct, honest and unpretentious way of communicating with her fans.
The science fiction world has indeed lost an icon. But, as it is with good, successful writers: they become immortal through their work and influence.
Anne's books will please many generations to come, of that I am sure. Anne McCaffrey's books are like a drug: once read, you are usually hooked for life. Pern fans will hear the dragons keen in their mind, the Author has passed away. But as she wrote in All the Weyrs of Pern, quoting Ecclesiastes 3:1, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."