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Anne McCaffrey, 1926-2011

Anne McCaffrey, 1926-2011

Science fiction and fantasy writer Anne McCaffrey passed away at her home in Ireland on Monday, November 21 due to a stroke, as confirmed by Random House. The initial word arrived through author Alan Baxter reporting on behalf of Trent Zelazny.    Her death took many by surprise, as she had been updating her web site and answering questions through November of this year.

McCaffrey’s career began with Restoree in 1967. She went on to earn a dedicated following for her beloved series, Dragonriders of Pern, but she was unbelievably prolific and created such remarkable works as The Ship Who Sang, which remained one of her own favorites.

McCaffrey was the first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction, the first woman to win a Nebula Award, and the first author to hit the New York Times bestseller list with an SF title (The White Dragon).

In a 2004 interview with Locus Magazine, she remarked:

I think the best story I ever wrote was ‘The Ship Who Sang’. It still causes people to cry, including me. When Todd and I were reading it at Brighton, they had a BBC crew filming it. So there were these BBC cameramen hunkered down filming us, and comes the end of the story (which Todd always reads, because I can’t go through it without weeping), I saw that these cameramen had tears rolling down their faces. That’s such a thrill — a story I wrote at the beginning of my career, and it’s still packin’ the house. I wrote that story because I couldn’t tell my father, he died in 1953. I remember reading a story — I can’t remember the name or that of the author — about a woman searching for her son’s brain, it had been used for an autopilot on an ore ship and she wanted to find it and give it surcease. And I thought what if severely disabled people were given a chance to become starships? What if they wanted to do that? I thought, ‘Hey, that would be a gorgeous idea.’ So that’s how ‘The Ship Who Sang’ was born.

Her first novel, Restoree, was written as a protest against the absurd and unrealistic portrayals of women in s-f novels in the 50’s and early 60’s. She is, however, best known for her two series,  The Ship Who Sang and the fourteen novels about the Dragonriders of Pern.

On her blog, she offered this advice for aspiring writers: “First — keep reading. Writers are readers. Writers are also people who can’t not write. Second, follow Heinlein’s rules for getting published:

  1. Write it.
  2. Finish it.
  3. Send it out.
  4. Keep sending it out until someone sends you a check.

There are variations on that, but that’s basically what works.”

And so she passes from this world to the next, as all of us must do. Ms. McCaffrey inspired generations of new writers and thrilled the rest of us with the worlds she created. The tapestries of wonder and adventure she wove were all the better for her having invited us along. We are saddened by this world’s loss of such a one as Anne McCaffrey, but we like to think that the light in the next world now burns one flame brighter for her arrival.

Anne McCaffrey, beloved author and mentor, passed on at the age of 85.

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