Today, after a scant 85 years in this life, Anne McCaffery has moved on to the next stage in our existence. I’m not here to discuss or debate what that might be. I’m here to talk about me, 30 years ago.
30 years ago was when I first got Dragon Riders of Pern, as a gift from my Mother. I hated it. The first chapter defied me; jargon, a lack of action, and characters I didn’t know doing things I didn’t understand. But, something about it got me to pick it up again, about three months later. I still hated it. And again, three months later, I still hated it.
And then suddenly I was halfway through the book in a single weekend, with my mother complaining I’d nearly forgotten to go to sleep. I was so enraptured by this amazing world I had just found myself invited to. This was fiction unlike anything I had touched before. This was a world that needed to be learned, to be explored, to be saved by heroes young and old. A place of dragons and honor, of companionship that transcended the human condition, of understanding of the value of fighting the good fight, no matter what it might be.
I actually had to replace my original copy, having read it so many times over my teen years that the binding simple disintegrated. I got another copy, gladly. In fact, I got two, and gave one to a friend. I got the Harper Hall series in hardcover. I was reading the White Dragon in high school. The Atlas of Pern was a a treasured Christmas gift I still have to this day.
But there was more to it than just hours upon hours that took me to the world of F’lar, Lessa, and the Master Harper. This was fiction unlike anything I had touched before. Not Sherlock, or Jupiter Jones, or Frank and Joe… this was stuff that was about whole other worlds, societies, hopes and dreams. And then I found the Brain/Brawn books. The Crystal Singer series. And on.
I started writing my own fantasy and science fiction. I’m not going to debate which category Ms.McCaffrey’s works fall into. She did them both brilliantly. However, there is no denying that her work has directly impacted my own.
And now, 30 years later, my first book of a melange of fantasy and science fiction is being published. The first chapter starts with jargon, a lack of action, and characters you won’t know doing things you many not understand. It is about a world that needs to be learned, to be explored, and maybe even to be saved by heroes young and old.
Ms.McCaffrey’s brilliance has taught me, amongst other things, that challenging your audience in some way is part of what story tellers do. I am not nearly foolish to claim to be anywhere near her league, but I am honest enough to say that her style and her works have left an indelible imprint on my own.
Thank-you, Ms.McCaffrey. I cannot even begin to guess how much poorer a world this would be without your lasting legacy on an entire generation of readers and new authors.