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RIP Anne McCaffrey

Harper, your song has a sorrowful sound
Though the tune was written as gay.
Your voice is sad and your hands are slow,
And you eye meeting mine turns away.

--Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)

Article found here.

So this is a journal for fic.  However, everyone has their inspirations and favorite books, and Anne McCaffrey is one of my favorite authors. 

I first read Dragonsong when I was in junior high.  Both my parents are avid scifi readers, so we own every book she's ever written.  So when I was looking for something new to read, my mother suggested the Harper Hall series. 

There are very few things that are as magical to a reader as finding a character that you can relate with almost completely. Menolly was a lonely little girl, the daughter of a sailor/fisherman, who didn't quite fit in and was a bit of a tomboy.  She loved music and ran away from home to be able to keep playing, eventually 'impressing' nine fire lizards (tiny dragons) whom she took care of and looked after.  And at the start of the book, one of the people she admired and loved the most died.  I had moved eleven times by the time I was ten years old, so I was far from a stranger to being lonely and not fitting in.  Then my grandmother died within days of us moving to Texas, so that we had to drive all the way to Maine for the funeral.   Reading about Menolly's grief and how she had to live in a place where she didn't truly belong spoke to me on levels that I never imagined possible. 

And, of course, she had the most enchanting little dragons who loved her and stayed with her no matter what happened.  It may come as no surprise to you that I'm a fairly big fan of dragons.  That's in large part because of the Pern series.  Menolly's fire lizards fascinated me; her vivid descriptions of little creatures with whirling eyes that held every color imaginable are a mental image that has stuck with me ever since I first read the books.  Trust me, go back and read any fic of mine with dragons, and that will be how I've described them.  For the longest time, I went by the screen name "Star Dragonsong," from which you can see where I stole the second half of the name from. 

I read and fell in love with Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and The Dragonriders of Pern series.  (Yes, I'm not mentioning Dragondrums.  That one wasn't honestly one of my favorites.)  From then on, I basically went through every Pern book we had.  I remember being in Choir as I read Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern.  I sat there trying my damnedest not to just break down crying in front of the whole choir.  I think that was one of the first times I had ever really cried while reading a book.  Then I went home and read Nerilka's Story, and made sure that I was in my room alone when I got to certain parts of that book.  Honestly, that one makes me cry even more when Alessan burst into the main hall screaming Moreta's name. 

Just thinking about the scene in Dragonquest when the two Queens fight still sends shivers down my spine even thinking about it.  F'nor's jump to the Red Star was terrifying and Menolly's second hand account of it even more so when I was younger, followed by Brekke's haunting cry.  My first fight scene I ever had to write was so daunting to me.  What did I do?  Went back to the fight scenes between F'lar and Fax/T'ron and took notes.  I've had several roleplaying partners who have asked me if I took martial arts after a fight scene, and I haven't.  I simply learned how to choreograph a fight scene and translate it on the page by reading Anne McCaffrey's works. 

And there are so many memorable characters.  Menolly, as I said, Lessa, Brekke, Audiva, F'nor, Mirrim, Sharra, F'lessan, Fandarel, Jaxom, Lytol, and Robinton...  Oh, Master Harper Robinton.  I'm sure you're all well aware of my love for the Brigadier.  Well believe me when I say that my love for Master Harper Robinton is equal or greater to my affection for the Brigadier.  That scene at the end of All the Weyrs of Pern? Don't get me started on how hard I cried.  I'm near tears just thinking about it.  And, of course, the Dragons, who were brilliant and wonderful and all sorts of fantastic.  And that's just from the main two trilogies! 

I can't even begin to explain Anne McCaffrey's impact on my life and my writing.  But I can say this: Thank you.  Thank you so very much for shaping my childhood and dreams.  You were like an old friend who was always there during my darkest times and I will treasure the books you gave us for the rest of my life.  Rest well, Anne McCaffrey. 

The tears I feel today
I’ll wait to shed tomorrow,
Though I’ll not sleep this night
Nor find surcease from sorrow.
My eyes must keep their sight;
I dare not be tear-blinded.
I must be free to talk
Not choked with grief, clear-minded.
My mouth cannot betray
The anguish that I know.
I’ll keep my tears till later;
But my grief will never go.

--Menolly's Song for Petiron


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 23rd, 2011 02:04 am (UTC)
Oh, Anne. She meant so much to me back in the day, back around 1979 to sometime in the 1980s. I think I decided she was no longer my style in 1985 or so, but I was glad she was still out there. Robinton... oh, I can't forget his receiving a drinking vessel as a gift and plaintively pointing out, "But it's empty." *grin* I never read all of All the Weyrs of Pern, but had to read that last scene. *whimper*
Nov. 23rd, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
I pretty much grew up on the Pern series. It was a bit like losing a childhood friend when I heard she died. And really, just by reading her books she taught me so much about world building and writing in general. Dragonsong and Dragonsinger have been two of my favorite books since fifth grade, so it's hard to imagine life without her.

That scene. I balled and was heartbroken for at least a week after I read it. I adored his character so much. Him and his wine. <3
Nov. 23rd, 2011 06:04 am (UTC)
I'm afraid I haven't read her work, but it's really touching to hear that her books had such a beautiful impact on your life. That's what good authors do; they inspire and connect with us through writing. I'm happy to hear she was such a great influence to you, and to other readers as well.
Nov. 23rd, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC)
I would, of course, recommend giving her a shot. XD She did a lot for women in science fiction, selling under her own name in an age where most women used their initials or a pen name to fool readers into thinking they were men and wrote male characters as their protagonists. I've never quite understood why scifi is such a male-dominated genre. The first science fiction novel is widely regarded to be Mary Shelly's Frankenstein after all.

She will definitely be missed though. When people ask about my favorite book, it's always tough to narrow it down to one, but Dragonsong and Dragonsinger are always at the top of the list.
Nov. 23rd, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
Aw, I'm sorry to hear this. She was one of my faves as a young thing, and the Menolly books in particular. And all that dragon/human connection business, telepathic symbiosis, the experience of having your emotional states externally manipulated, etc., made a huge impression on me at a tender age. (I'm still hung up on it. Huh.)

I remember being really frustrated by how rigidly gender-defined the Pern universe was, but the society felt genuinely claustrophobic to the characters too, which made it go down easier. (And that was a rather inspired bit of authorial retcon in Dragonsdawn, making a geneticist responsible for most of Pern's biological determinism.)

She'll be much missed.
Nov. 24th, 2011 03:22 am (UTC)
I grew up a tomboy, so there was a lot of that. Not to mention the time she wrote in, where most women had to hide the fact they were women to be published, at least in science fiction. It's very much a product of its time in some ways. Even today you still see a bit of it. Just look at J.K. Rowling. She was published under her initials because the target audience was young males with a boy protagonist, and no one would read a book like that if it was published by a woman. Quick fix = use the initials. Of course, everyone knows who she is now, but back when she first started that's how it was.

I loved the dragon human relationship too. I've been going back and reading the Harper Hall series and falling in love with it all again. <3

Edited at 2011-11-24 03:23 am (UTC)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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