A Sad Day in Sci-Fi

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.

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6 Responses to A Sad Day in Sci-Fi

  1. Jessi Peterson says:

    I think you might have put me on to Anne McCaffrey the summer we stayed at Grandma Hedge’s house. I know I always think of you when I see her books and those of Stephen Donaldson while shelving at the library. And when I see giant garden spiders – I remember you and Vince and John staging spider fights in Grandma’s spare mason jars:)
    I’ve read most of McCaffrey’s other stuff, and you’re right that the first ones were the best. I just read the latest collaboration between Anne and her son Todd and it was a disappointment – confused storylines, too many characters and the detail that was supposed to reveal character was obvious. Thankfully I still have my worn set of Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums to fall back on:)

  2. Vincent Dodge says:

    That is sad-read all those books. Dragons burning threads and all that. Funny thing is I started re-reading the original Dragonriders of Pern a few weeks ago-something to browse through before falling asleep. Good update Tom.

  3. Vincent Dodge says:

    Spider fights…good times. What we used to do was throw spiders in each other’s web and see them duke it out-home team always won though 🙂

  4. Vincent Dodge says:

    Hey Tom-Remember when we-John was there-used to camp in back at the old ranch? The best was when we pulled a bunch of the old rope-making hemp that grew wild around there and threw it on the campfire and pretending we were getting wasted.

    We spent a lot of time playing geeky games-Ogre, GEV (still have those games btw), Traveller (cool game). I remember Grandpa Roy looking in on us while we played and thinking we were lame…I miss that guy.

  5. ttheobald says:

    Yeah, definitely some fond memories there. I still remember almost burning the whole back 40 when that windstorm caught us out back and was blowing the fire around ).

    Still got my old microgames creeping around in a box somewhere – and all my old Star Fleet Battles shit somewhere too. Know what I really miss, though? Just grabbing a rod and going fishing under a bridge somewhere. Don’t get to do that too much lately, and there aren’t any bass or walleye on this side of the Atlantic. Pike, though, so there’s that if I ever pull my thumb out of my ass and get my license.

  6. Lida Dodge says:

    It’s better that parents don’t know some of the things you try when you’re kids (or grandparents either). Happy memories, though.

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