Hi, here's Jo, writing about the phenomenal Anne McCaffrey who died this week. I'm using an image that must belong to someone, but though I've seen in on the web in a few places, it hasn't had an attribution, or not a link to an attribution that worked. It's a lovely picture that shows Anne McCaffrey in her magical context that seems so perfect for the moment.
For those few who don't know, Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011) was a groundbreaking author of science fiction and fantasy, and above all a groundbreaking woman author. SF&F was a male dominated world when she started writing, and most fiction was male protagonist driven, but Anne set out to do it her way, and won both the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award, the first woman to do so. What's more, she did it with relationship books, proving that romance and SF&F can be combined successfully.
Her first hit was The Ship Who Sang, a novella about the relationship between a female space ship and a male pilot (to put it very awkwardly.) A series of stories were put together as a novel in 1969. This is still many readers' favorite.
Her first novel was Restoree (1967), more purely an SF romance, complete with the Ugly Duckling transformation. The heroine is abducted by aliens who use humans as a food source, then rescued by others who don't, and who repair her into a beauty. And there's a tough, warrior hero, of course, and excellent worldbuilding. Great book.
This quote comes from the Wikipedia article about her. '""I was so tired of all the weak women screaming in the corner while their boyfriends were beating off the aliens. I wouldn't have been—I'd've been in there swinging with something or kicking them as hard as I could."'
Don't we all know that feeling! Anne McCaffrey established the strong, female protagonist in SF&F, and also affected popular fiction as a whole. Romance back then had too many heroines wating to be rescued, but she influenced us as well. As Wench Joanna Bourne says, "AMcC was one of the science fiction writers I went to as a child. SF was not particularly friendly to women in the 50s and early 60s. She said,"Girls can too ride dragons," which we all needed to hear."
Yes, Anne McCaffrey is most famous for her Dragonriders of Pern novels. These again started with short fiction as two stories published in 1967 in Analog, an SF magazine, and winning her the Hugo and Nebula. I remember reading Weyr Search in the Magazine back then and being instantly entranced by the "forced marriage story" — always one of my favourites — woven into a complex fantasy world with sentient dragons overhung by the terrible threat of "thread."
These stories became a novel, Dragonflight, and if you haven't read it, rush off immediately to do so. It's fabulous, and that's in part because Lessa, the heroine, is the main protagonist in an action/adventure story.
That was only the beginning, and you can read about the triumphs of the next 40+ years in many places, including here. But now, it's over to you. I bet many Wench readers are McCaffrey fans.
Tell us about your favourites, about how you discovered her, and if you first read her in the sixties, how she affected your view of women's roles, women in fiction, women in SF&F.
Or anything else you want to say to celebrate the life of the greatest dragon rider of them all.