Authors come and go, and as with all of us, eventually they grow old and die. The passing of Anne McCaffrey hits home with me in a peculiar way – her Dragonriders novels were the first real sci-fi I’d read (though now as an adult I see it more as a fantasy bit than sci-fi). I’d read Lord of the Rings as a voracious nine- or ten-year-old, and immediately jumped into the Science Fiction Book Club. Those pulp-paged hardbacks were an amazing value for a kid like me at the time – cheap, good, and durable.
Wandering through the Weyrs and nations of her fictional world Pern gave a geeky kid a great place to escape to – when growing up in an unstable world. We moved every few years back when I was a kid, and having at least those books to return to gave me at least something I knew would be consistent. It didn’t hurt that it was also adventurous, fun, and exciting in a lot of ways.
She was also the first (and to my recollection, only) author I ever wrote fan-mail to. She was living in Ireland at the time, I think, and I remember scribbling some wishful thinking and heaping praise into my letter before sealing it up and sending it on. To my astonishment, I actually did get a reply – though not from Mrs. McCaffrey herself. Instead, her daughter took the time to respond to a little boy who was struggling with his own adaptation to the world, and who found a useful refuge in her mother’s writings.
I never read much of her other work – it didn’t appeal to me, for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here. But suffice it to say, that child is still in here somewhere, and as the adult custodian of him, my gratitude goes out to her family. Her writing was a tremendous gift to me.
The world is a lesser place without her, but a better place for her having been a part of it.