Vale Anne McCaffrey

an illustration of an eldery Anne McCaffrey with a backdrop of ocean, cliffs and circling dragonsHer books were very important to me as a teen, and I loved the adventures that she allowed girls and women to have. As I grew older I realised that there were some problematic areas beyond the sometimes intrusive romance, and I became less fond, but without her I don’t think I would have found Marion Zimm Bradley, and without MZB I wouldn’t have found any number of awesome women writers, so I still have her books on my shelves, and I still lend them to people, and I still love those dragons.

Thank you, Anne.

Elsewhere: The Hathor Legacy, io9
Addit: Geek Feminism, FeministSF

I’ll echo Maria’s closing question from Hathor:

What’s your favorite McCaffery memory? How has she influenced your reading habits, for better or for worse?

[Image source: Worldbuilding From The Ground Up

Categories: arts & entertainment

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8 replies

  1. Oh wow – how sad. My introduction to feminism came through MZB via Anne. I remember reading her Killashandra (? spelling?) crystal singer series and being enamoured with this strong woman.

    • She did, as they say, have a good innings – 85 years old living in her dream house in the Irish countryside.
      I do happen to have a dragon sculpture in my garden which, because it is made of pale concrete, is named Ruth.

  2. I wanted to like Anne McCaffrey.
    When I was in 5th or 6th grade, one of her Pern short stories was included in the big lit book students hauled around for class. It was the story where a boy sneaks in to bond with an egg that hatches a bronze dragon, and the dragon picks him. So he goes up socially in the eyes of his peers.
    So I had a budding interest in dragons. I went to the bookstore & bought 2 more books by McCaffrey.
    And didn’t finish either because they were bad.
    Idk maybe I picked some crappy ones by random chance. They were Pern books… No one of them was a book of short stories including Pern, the other was Pern for sure.
    And I was still in 6th or 7th grade trying to get into it and it wasn’t working. I gave up and found some other influential books.
    Meanwhile one of my girlfriends read some Pern novels and she was like, They’re okay… She didn’t seem too thrilled either.
    So her writing didn’t really have an impact. I didn’t even pick up on the problematic themes in her books, I just didn’t like her writing style.

  3. Can you clear something up for me? NPR’s article on McCaffreys passing has the following quote and I wondered why since I haven’t read her. It says ” Even if the books don’t stand up to modern feminist scrutiny, in the ’60s, they were revolutionary.” Why would they not stand up to modern feminist scrutiny or is this a feminism bias of NPR’s author of this article? I believe my step mother read them all and about the only thing liberal about her is the fact that her ex husband came out of the closet after they divorced!

    • It’s the same thing I alluded to when I referred to “problematic” aspects of the books in my post, and if your mother is quite socially conservative then it’s probably why they appealed to her – superficially the books have terrific women heroines, but just underneath that there’s a society where women have no autonomy at all, there’s a rigid class system, and a whole heap of traditionalist and essentialist assumptions about people’s characters and potentials. Her portrayal of homosexuality is gobsmacking when properly looked at. Liz Henry has a classic rant from 2007 which a few of the linked posts above include in their own sets of links: she lays out all the ways of social justice FAIL on Pern.
      The books were revolutionary because women were the main characters yet men read the books as well, but one of the reasons they had such mainstream appeal was their very traditional social views underneath the dragon aerobatics. In later decades, some of the more recent books loosened up and tackled social mobility and other social justice issues to some degree, and McCaffrey tried to do better with the male homosexual riders, but she still never managed to have a lesbian rider, and some of the views she is on record as expressing about homosexuality are startlingly disappointing.

  4. Another thing revolutionary about McCaffrey was just her level of achievement as a genre writer. She was an absolute trail-blazer in a male-soaked field – the first woman to receive a Hugo AND the first woman to receive a Nebula, just before Ursula Le Guin. She was also a very key player in bringing science fiction into the mainstream, writing the first science fiction book to reach The New York Times Bestseller List (The White Dragon).
    She was the third woman to be given “Grand Master” status by SFFWA (after Norton and Le Guin) – and there have been no more women give the award since her. Which I think leaves Le Guin the only surviving female Grand Master.

    • Quite right – in retrospect my OP didn’t do enough emphasising of her role as a groundbreaker. She paved the way for so many women in SF.

  5. Thank you so much for making the time to reply to my question. When you’ve not read someone it’s difficult to understand what a critic is really getting at.

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