#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Anne McCaffery

At age five I was precocious, an adorable little girl who loved the stories she'd grown up listening to and was stumbling through her first attempt to read THE HOBBIT all by herself. By age seven the stumbling was over and I was in a full on reading rut. If the book didn't have Gimli or Legolas I wasn't interested in the least. The other girls read NANCY DREW, I talked the neighborhood boys into chasing orcs and using sticks for swords.

My parents, possibly alarmed by the fact that my only female role model at this point was a woman famous for killing someone, decided to step in and my father handed me what he probably thought was an age appropriate book. Keep in mind that my parents had some very liberal views on child-raising. It was the 80s, parents were very conscious of things like self-esteem and helping children assert their personhood.

The book my father handed me was DRAGON SONG, about a teenage Menolly who flees her abusive and misogynistic family to live in a cave... Think about that for a moment. From the perspective of a parent I have to wonder whether my parents had actually read the book, or if they just thought dragons were a good segue to get me away from LORD OF THE RINGS.

Whatever they may have been thinking, it worked.

I was hooked on the world of Pern.

When my world turned upside down (a new school and divorcing parents bickering at home) I found refuge in the world Anne McCaffery created. When reality failed to give me role models, I turned to the dragonriders and Harpers (and Eowyn because she will always be the epitome of womanhood). While I watched my parents marriage dissolve I looked for the perfect man in the pages of a book, and found F'nor, brown Canth's rider.

Sure, F'lar and Lessa are the main heroes, but F'nor was calm, quiet, steady and devoted. I have a weakness for secondary characters like that. Faramir is my favorite romantic interest in LOTR. Aragorn? Sorry, I could never wrap my mind around the appeal. Give me the quiet, steady guy who will love his lady from day one and never falter or leave her for stupid reasons just because the plot needs conflict. But I digress...

Pern became my second home. Fantasy was *MY* genre, the place I could retreat whenever I needed a refuge. I couldn't imagine ever reading a book without dragons or elves.

And then I went to the library. Our city library had an upstairs (with kid and reference books) and a downstairs (where all the adult fiction hid). I rarely was allowed out of the kiddy section, but on one chance occasion the computers upstairs weren't working and library check-out was moved downstairs. I was Alice without the drug references or confusion, I'd found Wonderland.

Sitting next to the checkout was a shiny new hardcover with clear plastic taped over it. I'm not sure I even registered Anne McCaffery's name as the author, I just remember the beautiful cover with a white-haired woman. I grabbed the book, and my mother absentmindedly checked it out with her books.

THE ROWAN was my first foray into the untamed wilderness of science fiction and science fiction romance. I devoured the book late at night while my parents fought. A week later it went back to the library, but that book haunted me. It took me years before I found it again (I've never been good at remembering title names), but I found it, and I fell in love all over again.

Anne had other sci-fi hiding in library nooks for me to discover. POWERS THAT BE... ACORNA... these were just names for the gateway to finding other sci-fi authors and branching out into the vast multiverse that the sci-fi universe represents.

Her books influenced my life in a million little ways. From my first discussion about sex with my mother (prompted by a fade-away scene in one of the Dragonrider's of Pern books), to my life-long reading habit, to my preference for complex characters and worlds. All of it started when Anne McCaffery sat down to write a book.

And she never knew.

I never wrote a fan letter. I've certainly never had the privilege of meeting Anne in person. I can't help but wonder if she ever had days like normal authors where she questioned why she was writing, or did she know in some secret way that she was making my life better in so many quiet ways. Surely, a legend like Anne McCaffery had to know. I hope she knew.

Now, if you'll please excuse me, I'm going to end this post abruptly and go cry for my childhood hero. She left an amazing legacy. She wrote more than books, she touched lives. Thank you, Anne, for sharing your world with us. You gave dreams to the dreamless.


  1. Liana I feel the same way! Anne gave us true female role models and I loved her for it. (I also loved F'Nor as well as F'lar.) Anne's books were also my first introduction into Scifi. Now I too am going to go have a little cry for her. Thanks for the post.
    Trish @ wordbitches

  2. Liana I feel the same way! Anne gave us true female role models and I loved her for it. (I also loved F'Nor as well as F'lar.) Anne's books were also my first introduction into Scifi. Now I too am going to go have a little cry for her. Thanks for the post.
    Trish @ wordbitches

  3. What a beautifully tribute, Liana. She indeed left an amazing legacy. I wonder if she realized how many young writer she inspired.

    Like you, I got lost in the worlds of Anne McCaffrey--the dragons, dragonriders and life in the Weyrs--and I also had tears in my eyes on hearing the sad news of her passing. She was the keeper of the spark for so many future SFR writers. We've lost an icon and a giant.

  4. Anne's books definitely inspired me to be a writer. And a lover of sci-fi and fantasy for life.

    Great post!