Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Farewell, Anne McCaffrey

Most writers start writing because because he or she was inspired by something she’d read. There was another storyteller who’d left an impression and became who they wanted to be.

I didn’t think about such things when I was a kid. I generally consider my starting point as a writer to be when I was twelve, and because I wanted to write an adventure story set in my favorite video game. But at about that same age I really got into reading. My dad encouraged my brother and I to read, and agreed to pay half of any book we purchased, which made books affordable entertainment in comparison to video games.

Not that it stopped my love of video games, but I read, a lot.

My first Anne McCaffrey book was actually Dinosaur Planet, chosen because it was quite obviously a science fiction story involving a planet full of dinosaurs, and how could you go wrong with that? I still remember the day I bought the book. A brand new bookstore had opened in town and my dad took me there for a look around. It wasn’t a very large paperback, and there were tons of books on the shelves, but I picked that one. I still have it at home.

Then, when I was a little older in high school, I discovered the school library had an amazing selection of science fiction and fantasy. It had volumes upon volumes of these dragon books by Anne McCaffrey. I liked dragons, so it wasn’t a hard sell. The problem was which one to start with.

I figured the one called Dragonsdawn was a good place to start, given the title, and fell in love with the genetically engineered dragons and their riders. I was disappointed to discover that the rest of the books in print at that time (the Chronicles of Pern collection would later revisit the First Pass) took place centuries if not millenia later, and I had to adjust to a new cast of characters, but I read nearly every Pern book in the school library (skipping only Nerilka’s Story).

After I graduated I continued to read all the way up to 2001’s The Skies of Pern. I read her other books too; The Rowan and Damia, The Ship Who Sang, Decision at Doona.

One of the reasons I thought Writers of the Future was the awesomest contest ever was because Anne McCaffrey was a judge, and the thought that she might one day read my writing was amazing.

Though I won the contest in the biggest way possible, she was not one of my judges, and by then her health no longer permitted her to travel the distance it would take for her to get from Ireland to California for the award ceremony. I wish I had met her.

But she remained an inspiration to me. There is no other author I’ve read more, and I have no doubt that a part of what makes me a writer today came from her.

Farewell, Dragonlady of Pern. And thank you.