Whenever I remember that sci-fi writer Anne McCaffrey is dead, I feel sadness and as if my world is a little bit darker, a little less colorful.
I didn’t know McCaffrey personally. I’ve never met her. I don’t even have anything signed by her and I’ve never sent anything to her to sign. She went through her whole life not even knowing I would exist or did exist. But she had a profound impact on my life nonetheless.
I discovered her books in high school. My freshman year was spent in Florida and the school had a very large library (or, it seemed large to my country girl eyes). In wandering the stacks looking for reading material, I came upon shelves and shelves of books by Anne McCaffrey. I remember pulling out Dragonflight and being intrigued by the cover of a woman on a golden-bronze dragon flying across a green sky.
She taught me how to love dragons and the idea of creating entire new worlds. I consumed the Dragonriders of Pern trilogy, moving on to read the Harper Hall trilogy and others, and even picked up her other sci-fi novels, such as The Ship Who Sang.
It was in McCaffrey’s books that I discovered the strong, fearless heroine, the girl who wouldn’t back down even to her own detriment. Often foolish but passionate, this heroine wasn’t a soft maiden waiting to be rescued. Whenever I create a female hero, there’s a picture of Lessa in the back of my mind that acts as my inspiration.
There is something intensely fearless about McCaffrey’s writing, as if she wasn’t afraid of critics or what her readers might think. She had a voice, she had a message, and she wished to spread it. Her books had an almost thoughtful tone, at times, as if you just walked into her study and she was in the middle of musing over some aspect of the universe or of human nature.
She also had this wonderful understanding of human nature. Even when the impossible was happening, the reactions of characters were totally believable. You could see people in our world reacting as the people do in her world. And even though she was a woman, her men are spot-on. Her men deal with the pride and vulnerability that every man today deals with and operates under. But above all, they are memorable. The hero paired with Lessa is named F’lar and his character is forever embedded in my mind.
She inspired me to write. My imagination was stirred by reading her work and I felt emboldened to be fearless like her. With her voice ringing in my ears, I lost some of my worry that I had nothing of value to say. We all have something of value to say. When we accept that is when we lose our fear, step out onto the ledge, and sing. She taught me how to sing in my books.
And now McCaffrey is gone. She was already letting her son, Todd, write more and more of her work. But she was still there, no doubt guiding him and answering his questions. Without her, the Pern series will never be the same. The world will never be the same because it lost a unique, daring voice, whose echo remains in books. And though we treasure that echo, we will miss the originator.
Anne McCaffrey, we miss you. We remember you. Safe journey.