RIP Anne McCaffrey – I owe you one

Posted: November 23, 2011 in thoughts
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Anne McCaffrey

I was saddened to hear of Anne McCaffrey’s death yesterday. Not in any mawkish way and certainly not in a frenzy of weeping. She was eight-five and had had a good innings.

I think my immediate sadness stemmed from two things. One, that we would have no more books from this wonderful pioneer of how to portray real women in sci-fi. And two, that I had not bothered to write and tell her what I owed to her.

This latter sounds stupid. But I have already written to a musician from whom I learnt so much many years ago when I was a beginner at leading a group of musicians. And his pleasure at being acknowledged made me vow to let people know they are appreciated if they’ve helped me along the way. Preferably before it’s too late and has to be blogged about instead.

With Anne I failed to make that effort, and from there stems my sadness.

So what do I owe her?

Well, I discovered her wonderful Pern books in the days when I had little kids and needed to escape to another world; in the days when I had rubella and could hardly move; in the days when I was depressed and laid low from a typhoid jab that went seriously wrong. There’s all that. I think I bought every book in every series she’d ever written.

But there’s more. From her I learnt how to make a believable world. I learnt to love dragons, to realise that good dragons were more interesting than fierce anti-human dragons. I understood how great it would be to be able to talk with them and write about them. How it fed the reader’s imagination with good things. Because, of course, dragons exist if you know where to look.

When my friend and I wrote our Lothian Dragon books a few years ago, I felt we had been inspired by her. Though looking at them now, I realise they are nothing at all like hers. Neither in stature nor in fact. Phew! I wouldn’t want to be accused of plagiarism.

The Dragons of Pern series: Red Star Rising, 1997

But the evidence is there, in our dragons who relate to and talk with children in a time of need. In our dragons who work for humanity, rather than against it. In the idea of dragons speaking telepathically.

Nothing else is the same and I wouldn’t want it to be. I just have a warm glow when I remember that the root of this publishing venture started way back with Anne McCaffrey.

As I said: rest in peace, Anne. You gave us more than you can possibly know. Can we take this as belated thank you?


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