Anne MacCaffrey has died following a stroke.
It is hard to emphasize how important to me her books have been. Mrs MacCaffrey was one of the first writers I devoured. I hit her Pern series right at the sweet spot of twelve or so, when I was so receptive to dreams and wonder. And her stories about boys and girls and dragons were just perfect for someone just coming off Lloyd Alexander, Tolkien and Lewis. I was eight when the White Dragon was published. It was waiting for me, still new-ish on the library book shelves. I still remember the Michael Whelan cover, how skeletal and tiny the dragon looked. Something that needed protection, not something to be feared like Smaug.
It was her ‘Masterharpers of Pern’ series that lived in my head the most*. Dragondrums most of all. It was YA before there really was YA or maybe it kicked that genre off. All I know was the coming of age stories in those three books spoke to me, inspired me.
I still have those books, I sought them out when I started my library. I don’t have all the Pern books, but the first six, Dragonflight up through Dragondrums, those are the special ones to me, still covered in magic.
Some people are dismissive of the Pern series. I’ve heard them called ‘horsey’ books. (dragons = horses, I suppose) My wife found the first book dated and hard to get into. Other readers looked at the sheer number of Pern books and Pern tie-ins and accused her of just ‘cashing in’ or being lazy, just filling in gaps and riding the dragon pony for as long as she could. I doubt that. Sure, not all the books were as good as the first six, no one strikes gold every time. But I suspect she got trapped by her own success. I’m sure her publishers wanted more and more Pern stuff, a known quantity with an established reader base. No doubt it was hard for her to break away from her success and do other things.
But she did. Her Crystal Singer series was different, still MacCaffrey, still with her stamp upon it. She had a rich history of collaborations, as well. Many of which I read.
I enjoyed her books so much that her blurb on a book would compel me to at least give the author a try. She must have read voraciously because I can’t tell you how many books I picked up because of her.
Death comes to all people, I know but the world has a little less sparkle in it now. Thank you Anne, you will be missed.
*Dragonsinger, Dragonsong and Dragondrums