A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey
Today I has a sad. And also an indescribable joy. Anne McCaffrey passed away on Monday, 21st November, 2011, at the age of 85.
Long live Anne McCaffrey.
My experience of Anne McCaffrey is a story which has no doubt been repeated hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of times around the world. I discovered her books on the shelf of my new school at the age of sixteen, attracted by the word “dragons” and then by the covers, which showed more dragons.
I hated that school. It was a very good school, the kind I had to win a massive scholarship to in order to be able to attend, but being a typical geek I had zero social skills and therefore, zero friends. Well, not quite zero, but my only friends were day pupils and I boarded. That was the worst bit.
Boarding school is horrible, especially when you’ve just come from a really nice state school (public school to Americans) where you had plenty of friends. Now I was in a different town and I didn’t even get to go home at the weekends. It was rather like prison, except presumably with better food. And being in the sixth form I could turn my light out whenever I wished.
But I had no company, and I was terribly lonely. Until I picked up Anne McCaffrey’s books. I still remember being whisked away to another universe where passengers could spend fifteen years in cryogenic suspension on a massive space ship before waking up and stumbling about for a bit to find their legs again, and where worlds could produce miniature dragons. And there were entire beaches composed of black diamond, but that was a side issue. Who cared about money when dragons were being created using genetic modification?
Anne McCaffrey made me believe in a scientific route towards dragons. She made me believe in a connection deeper than friendship, deeper than love, between two individuals of completely different species. She made me believe in an entire world with politics and hierarchies and a culture all its own.
In short, she made me believe.
These days, when asked who my inspirations are, I say “Sir Terry Pratchett and Anne McCaffrey”. Pratchett for his style and McCaffrey for her dragons. Of course, there was more to McCaffrey than dragons. The Ship Who Sang and the Crystal Singer trilogy remain among my favourite books of all time, but I have a deep and abiding love for Ramoth, Mnementh and, of course, Ruth, who is still one of the most wonderful characters I have ever known.
Last night I was so sad to hear that Anne McCaffrey had passed. My non-geek dinner guest was somewhat confused when I started tearing up over my laptop. I said, “Anne McCaffrey’s died.” Blank stare. “She’s one of the reasons why I ended up writing dragons.”
“But you’ve still got the memories of her books. And the books themselves.”
And she’s right. A mortal has passed from the Earth, but Anne McCaffrey lives on in the skies, immortal through her stories, the emotions they inspired in others, and yes, even the stories she inspired others to write. Even the dragons in my books are a way of continuing her memory, inspired as they were by her dragons, the glorious protectors of Pern. May she continue to fly with her creations until the end of time.
Anne McCaffrey is dead. Long live Anne McCaffrey.