Wednesday, November 23, 2011

RIP Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)

Distracted though I may be with the final tweaks to Thousand Suns, but I am not so distracted to have failed to notice news of the death of science fiction writer Anne McCaffrey, who died on Monday at the age of 85. McCaffrey began writing in the early 1950s, but almost everyone who knows her name knows it because of her long-running "Dragonriders of Pern" series. That series got its start in the October 1967 issue of Analog with the novella "Weyr Search." Over the course of the next 40 years, she would write 22 novels and numerous short stories set in the world of Pern, along with many more written singly or as parts of other series. McCaffrey was widely recognized for her talents, winning both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1968, the first woman to win the first and the first to win both in the same year.

I can't count myself among McCaffrey's legions of fans, but I know and respect enough people who can that I thought it worth taking a moment to remark on her death. Entering the hobby in the late '70s as I did, it was nigh impossible to go to a bookstore and not see Pern novels on display, both in the science fiction section but also toward the front of the store. Along with Terry Brooks, McCaffrey's name was ubiquitous in those bygone days when I regularly visited bookstores looking for the latest issue of Dragon or new products from my favorite RPG publishers. In a weird way, even though I wasn't a reader of her books, she was still an inspiration to me, because it showed me that it was possible not only to be a successful writer of "genre" books but that it was possible to make it onto the New York Times bestseller list to boot (they used to post those lists in the stores in those days, too). I am sure I'm not the only one who was similarly inspired.

Rest in peace, Ms McCaffrey.


  1. Well said. I was reading the Dragon Riders books during the same period as I was consumed by RPGs and they had some effect on me. I even wrote a supplement for Traveller at the time based on the book Crystal Singer (her best work in my opinion) allowing characters to take on the role of singers and fly their air sleds through the mountains of Ballybran for the Heptite Guild. Thank you Ms McCaffrey.

  2. Rest in peace, O wonderful author and terrible homophobe.
    It seems none of the best fantasy writers are without their crotchets.

  3. I read the original Dragonriders within six months of starting to play D&D and the Harpers books not long after.

    I doubt a single D&D game I ran from the late 70s through HS lacked some analog of Pern's Harpers guild. Even today it's a touchstone of what I desire in fantasy settings although it rarely appears in unchanged form.

  4. Wow...I completely missed this news. Thank you for posting.

    I am NOT a huge fan of AM, but she's still an author's whose body of work is enviable to any would-be writer. She has provided me with quite a bit of inspiration (based on her Pern books) and I think her combination of fantasy and scifi is something every D&D aficionado should take a look at.


  5. "Rest in peace, O wonderful author and terrible homophobe.
    It seems none of the best fantasy writers are without their crotchets."

    Not just fantasy writers; it seems there are even 'blog readers who cannot miss an opportunity to mount their PC hobbyhorses - even for someone's death notice.

    I wonder what taxonomy of "-phobe" that would be...