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Anne McCaffrey, 1926-2011
November 22, 2011 2:34 PM   Subscribe


 
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posted by tracknode at 2:37 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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Is there a harper in the hall?
posted by infini at 2:37 PM on November 22, 2011 [18 favorites]


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posted by ZeusHumms at 2:37 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Iridic at 2:37 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by blind.wombat at 2:38 PM on November 22, 2011


Oh no.

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posted by Rory Marinich at 2:38 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


A trip to Dragonhold-Underhill
posted by chavenet at 2:39 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


oh no.

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posted by sawdustbear at 2:39 PM on November 22, 2011


I raise a mug of Yarran beer to her memory.
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posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:40 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Such a shame.


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posted by rmd1023 at 2:42 PM on November 22, 2011


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I always wanted to Impress a dragon, or a fire lizard, or be an amazing musician, or sing crystal. Heck, I'd've settled for a ride on a dragon.

How many hours did I spend reading her books when I was a kid? Too many to count.

Thanks for all the stories, and all the worlds.
posted by mogget at 2:42 PM on November 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


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posted by spinifex23 at 2:43 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by furtive at 2:43 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Joey Michaels at 2:43 PM on November 22, 2011


She was 85, a long and productive life.
posted by stbalbach at 2:44 PM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I adored the Crystal Singer books as a child. For some reason, I interpreted the "tasty casserole of legumes" they were always eating as "barbecue beef Hot Pockets." I ate a lot of Hot Pockets in one summer.

Ah Tent Peg, we hardly knew ye.

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posted by cereselle at 2:45 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


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(I have all of her Dragonriders novels, even the semi-crappy ones, because I love her series. I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face. I'll miss her.)
posted by KoPi_42 at 2:45 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by feckless at 2:45 PM on November 22, 2011


My husband the engineer hated the physics-violating line, "It was dawn around the world" that opened up one of her books, and never went any further.

I read all of her books. She opened up real characterization of women in an era of SF when almost every other character was a cardboard cutout. I wanted a fire lizard too.
posted by wenat at 2:45 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by arcticwoman at 2:45 PM on November 22, 2011


Sorry, I posted that then realized the second part was a threadshit. Please to ignore the second one-sentence paragraph.
posted by cereselle at 2:45 PM on November 22, 2011


I was thinking of her books just last week.

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posted by gauche at 2:46 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by New England Cultist at 2:46 PM on November 22, 2011


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Her books introduced me to science fiction as something fun.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 2:47 PM on November 22, 2011


It looks like Tor.com is overwhelmed.

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posted by djeo at 2:48 PM on November 22, 2011


She's not dead, she's just gone between.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:49 PM on November 22, 2011 [44 favorites]


I can't think of dragons without thinking of her.

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posted by Rory Marinich at 2:49 PM on November 22, 2011


She was a major part of my adolescence.

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posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:51 PM on November 22, 2011


It looks like Tor.com is overwhelmed.

We're all overwhelmed.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:53 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


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/  \__/\__/  \   <- crappy attempt at a dragon

posted by kmz at 2:54 PM on November 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


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posted by syrcharles at 2:54 PM on November 22, 2011


Thread waits for no woman.

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posted by fairmettle at 2:55 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well we've already had a threadfall
posted by infini at 2:56 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Always wanted to taste a bubbly pie.
posted by feckless at 2:58 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's awesome that she didn't start publishing her novels until she was 41. It gives me hope.

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posted by SpacemanStix at 2:58 PM on November 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


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posted by tyllwin at 2:58 PM on November 22, 2011


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Without a doubt, the woman responsible for my endless drawings of dragons throughout junior high and high school.
posted by redsparkler at 2:59 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Akhu at 2:59 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by gurple at 2:59 PM on November 22, 2011


A relative gave me a paper grocery sack full of books when I was 12. Most of them were Pern novels--old mass markets. I inhaled them all, starting with Dragonsdawn. Back then, I had little idea of what "fantasy" was (books that were kind of medieval?), much less "science fiction." But I loved her books--not just Pern, but the Brainship books and Crystal Singer books and Planet Pirate books, too. Soon I was reading more SF: Douglas Adams and Frederick Pohl and so many others.

I joined Pern fandom that year. We'd only recently gotten the internet and it was like a door opening up. For two years, my life was hatchings and fruit pies and wherries and splats and dragon lizards and impressions. The girls at Starshine Weyr were truly my best friends. I became a writer by writing among them. Eventually, the shine would wear off. It was around the time when Anne started telling us that even queer girls wouldn't ride blues, but also around the time I made real life friends and starting coming out of my shell a bit. It seemed I'd outgrown Pern, or Pern had outgrown me, or something.

Since those days, my relationship with Anne's work has been complicated. There's the rape stuff and the tent peg stuff and the weird sexuality stuff and the way the later books were really not very good, more corrective than immersive.

But I can't deny what Anne gave me. On those lonely weekends, thirteen years old, I read about Sean and Sorka and thought that it might be possible to find oneself twinned someday in a magical creature. I thought I might not be alone. And thanks to her words, I wasn't. Last year, I got a tattoo in honor of Pern. A blue dragon, of course (I continue to be the opposite of a hidebound holder). Today, I write science fiction. For teenagers. I guess deep down, I hope to do for some other girl what Anne did for me.

Goodbye, old friend. You've not gone--just gone between. I'll see you under clearer skies.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:59 PM on November 22, 2011 [62 favorites]


My husband the engineer hated the physics-violating line, "It was dawn around the world" that opened up one of her books, and never went any further.

What if the planet has multiple suns?
posted by goethean at 3:00 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


She was a pioneer and a great influence to those who followed, much like her finest characters. For a writer, there is no greater epitaph.

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posted by vorfeed at 3:01 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by oonh at 3:01 PM on November 22, 2011


This really is a terrible year for authors I loved growing up; Dick King-Smith, Diana Wynne-Jones, and now this.
posted by redsparkler at 3:01 PM on November 22, 2011


I believe it's the Guide to Pern that contains a recipe for making your own bubbly pies. Not the same thing as the ones from the fair, though!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:02 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Anitanola at 3:02 PM on November 22, 2011


*sigh*

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posted by BlueHorse at 3:02 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Superfrankenstein at 3:03 PM on November 22, 2011


Much loved and much missed.
posted by Lynsey at 3:03 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by newdaddy at 3:04 PM on November 22, 2011


So glad not to be the only Pernie in attendance. It's hard to hear, but it was also inevitable, and part of me couldn't help thinking, "What, and you couldn't take Todd, too?"

The world was full of the dumb. But somehow she inspired an amazing online community of people, and everybody knew she meant well, and that we wouldn't have all been there without her amazingly open policy, back in the day, of saying 'yes' to nearly anybody who wanted to play around with her ideas.

We could use more authors like that. She will be missed.
posted by gracedissolved at 3:05 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


If I run across a dragon in Skyrim tonight, I think I'll set aside that conflict for another day.
posted by gurple at 3:05 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


More information.
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posted by ChuraChura at 3:06 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, I don't know if I should have been but I was well and truly shocked.


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posted by Carillon at 3:07 PM on November 22, 2011


How does one write "." in Pernese?

<sigh>
posted by jburka at 3:08 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by HumanComplex at 3:08 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by beefetish at 3:08 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Xoebe at 3:10 PM on November 22, 2011


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And another . from my wife, who's a fan.
posted by Gelatin at 3:11 PM on November 22, 2011


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I fell into Valdemar more than Pern, but I'm thinking I should revisit it.
posted by sperose at 3:12 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Smart Dalek at 3:12 PM on November 22, 2011


My heart just turned over in my chest. It was through Pern that I was first introduced to science fiction, to adventure, to fandom, roleplaying, and dragons.

Thank you, Anne. Thank you.

Black, blacker, blackest,
And cold beyond frozen things.
Where is between when there is naught
To Life but fragile dragon wings?

posted by fight or flight at 3:12 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Farewell, Lady.

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posted by MissySedai at 3:12 PM on November 22, 2011


Her books were the first SF books that I read and introduced to me a life-long interest both in SF/Fantasy and in dragons. Man, now I have to tell my Dad.
posted by Scientist at 3:13 PM on November 22, 2011


It's probably also worth noting that Dragonquest had what was probably the first references to homosexuality I'd seen in fiction; it was treated so matter-of-factly that it really made a world of difference to me when I read it in my early teens in the very early 80s...

While I stopped reading the Pern books after the first one Todd was involved with, I still re-read everything prior to that with some regularity. Anne unquestionably made my life better. To a life well-lived.
posted by jburka at 3:14 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by mothershock at 3:14 PM on November 22, 2011


Tried several times to get through a Pern novel or two, but never succeeded - even though the premise and cover art intrigued me to no end, and sparked my teen journey into sci fi and fantasy.

And even though I never made it through Pern, I know that she is a true icon of fantasy fiction.

RIP, Ms McCaffrey.
posted by davidmsc at 3:16 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by natabat at 3:16 PM on November 22, 2011


(I liked her slightly smutty bits when I was young.)

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posted by markkraft at 3:16 PM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


One of the first online communities I took part in was that section of CompuServe dedicated to Pern. It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of laughs. We went to IRL meetups. A lot of what I enjoy here, I first discovered there. Yeah, the science was often crap and she wasn't always the greatest at believable characterization and conflict. But I will never forget impressing dragons or singing crystal or intelligent lions or the Ship Who Sang.

Farewell, Anne. Thank you.
posted by likeso at 3:17 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was a voracious reader of fantasy from a very early age. After finishing the Harper Hall trilogy, I couldn't wait to move on to the Dragonrider books. Except, my parents forbade them based on sexual content. So I read them secretly. I was always worried of being caught, but the suspense made them all the better.

Thanks for being a part of my childhood, Anne.

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posted by gilrain at 3:18 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by mrgroweler at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2011


Anne; your books were amongst my favourites for many years, and then the first books that were visited by the suck fairy. I outgrew your writing, but never the sense of wonder that they inspired in me, and for that, thanks so very, very much.

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posted by ChrisR at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by jammy at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2011


         _________,---------.____------.___
        /_______    `--._______  `--.____ \\
         /__.-' `-----.____    `--.____\\`_/_
         ,'       ___      `---.___ ___//    `-.
        /     _.-'   )'           ``---'     \  \
       |     /       |           . '             |
      /    /     /   |          '    ___  )   |  |
      |   |     |  _/` _        ` _,' _ `/) '    |
       \_  `--._\__`--'_\-___ _,-'   '-`  ___   _/
         `---.____ `--.__-_  /_)____,  __/  ,`-'
                  `------__>  `-------(/(/-'-\)\)
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posted by benzenedream at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2011 [36 favorites]


Damn. Crying. Got my name from her.

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posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:22 PM on November 22, 2011


I read her Pern series as a kid, though to be honest I don't really remember much about them. But I do remember The Ship Who Sang vividly. Her early stories are sometimes forgotten, but I think it's some of her best work. Also, she has one of the great accidental titles in SF.
posted by Kattullus at 3:23 PM on November 22, 2011


While other kids were carrying around copies of Teen Beat and Sports Illustrated, I was that kid in the back of the room with my DM's Guide and well-worn copy of White Dragon.

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posted by thanotopsis at 3:24 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


benzenedream, that dragon ASCII art just pushed me over to tears. God, got to get away from the computer.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:25 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Faint of Butt at 3:25 PM on November 22, 2011


I don't remember ever actually reading any of her stories but I know how influential she was to a great many people and I know that the world will be a worse place without her imagination. RIP ms McCaffrey, I hope there really are dragons and dragonriders where you are now.
posted by DuchessProzac at 3:26 PM on November 22, 2011


I loved the early Pern books. Can't say I read much else by her other than that initial trilogy, or at least nothing that's sticking in my mind. But just for those, her contribution to the canon of great fantasy is mighty.

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posted by hippybear at 3:29 PM on November 22, 2011


Anne McCaffrey, and specifically Pern, was my first introduction to fantasy and science fiction, got me interested in writing in junior high, and is the main reason I and my best friend of 15 years became friends in sixth grade. I haven't read any of her work in a long time, but she was a huge part of my life in my very impressionable, and difficult, pre-teen and early teen years.
posted by Safiya at 3:29 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Catblack at 3:29 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by treepour at 3:30 PM on November 22, 2011


When I first went online, my pseudonym for several years was Jaxom, and still is in a handful of places.

Between Pern, Crystal Singers and the brain'n'brawn books, I loved her stories as a teenager. I still do go back and read through the older ones sometimes. Sure, as an engineer the science can be a little iffy, but who cares? The people are great, the stories interesting and she brings to life whole other worlds, different places, so you can be swept up into a whole 'nother place. That's always something I treasured. The City who Fought is still one of my all time favourite books.

And mum, dad? Weyr is TOTALLY a word in scrabble, dictionary be damned.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:31 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by Spatch at 3:31 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by brundlefly at 3:34 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Elly Vortex at 3:35 PM on November 22, 2011


She was a huge influence on me as a reader. I vividly remember the day in jr. high when we visited the library and the librarian held up one of her books as something we might like, and I realized there were books with dragons and women who were heroes in them. I read everything by McCaffrey in that library. I had to do it discretely, because my dad was a fundamentalist and frowned on "fantasy" or any kind of magical stuff. I went on to better writers, eventually, but almost all of them were obviously influenced by her in one way or another.

Bless that librarian, and bless Ms. McCaffrey.
posted by emjaybee at 3:36 PM on November 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


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posted by Increase at 3:37 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by gingerbeer at 3:39 PM on November 22, 2011


I just finished reading the new Pern book a few weeks ago and I've spent a few decades reading many other books in the series. I loved exploring the world each time she invited us in.
posted by dragonplayer at 3:39 PM on November 22, 2011


Yup, her books were my gateway drug to Sci-fi and fantasy.

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posted by OHenryPacey at 3:41 PM on November 22, 2011


Though I was an early fantasy and sci-fi fan (starting at age 8), I didn't read "Dragon Song" until a popular girl in junior high school (who happened to sit in front of me in one class due to alpha order seating) saw me reading our school library's tattered edition. She said, "my aunt gave me those books, you can have them".

I was touched by her generosity and eager to read the rest of the books.

I ended up being transported and enthralled and had an instant new favorite author. When the school held a book fair poster contest I entered with my rendition of the "Dragon Song" cover and won. I had used colored pencil and water colors to draw it and it was probably the biggest and most detailed piece I had created up till then, and at times it was tedious to color in, but I was really fueled on by my imagination.

Thanks Anne McCaffrey for your worlds of fantasy and strong heroines.
posted by Fricka at 3:42 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by smirkette at 3:43 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by XMLicious at 3:46 PM on November 22, 2011


Oh man. This sucks. Ugh.

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posted by lazaruslong at 3:48 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Chairboy at 3:54 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Seboshin at 3:54 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Lizc at 3:55 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by andraste at 3:57 PM on November 22, 2011


Gone away, gone ahead.
posted by rdc at 3:58 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


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Her writing was so important to me as a teen. DragonSong/DragonSinger really helped me get through high school.
posted by bryghtrose at 4:05 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Her books were a solace through an extraordinarily awkward and difficult pubescence. An escape, an idea, a possibility.

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posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:06 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by gomichild at 4:07 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Unioncat at 4:07 PM on November 22, 2011


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My first set of personally purchased books were the Dragonriders of Pern; tween allowance money.
posted by jadepearl at 4:08 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Minus215Cee at 4:10 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by usagizero at 4:19 PM on November 22, 2011


I think I first picked up To Ride Pegasus when I was eleven or twelve, hunting for books in the house I hadn't previously read, and I must've read dozens of McCaffrey's books in the next few years - all of the Pern series, the Talents, the brains and brawn ships, the pirate and dinosaur planet ones and the Petaybee trilogy. I even got a librarian to work out why I couldn't find Dragonflight on the shelves, only to discover it was hidden away in the back due to the, uh, interesting (NSFW) cover art.

I still don't know if I'd rather ride a dragon, have psionic powers, or be a crystal singer, but I know I wouldn't have had the love for SF&F that I do if I hadn't come across her books.

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posted by penguinliz at 4:26 PM on November 22, 2011


RIP. It's been an age since I read her books, starting with The White Dragon. Even now as I type this the book's cover and the enjoyment I got while reading it at a young age come back to me.

Thank you for that, Anne.
posted by ooga_booga at 4:26 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by kimdog at 4:31 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by jabberjaw at 4:34 PM on November 22, 2011


When I was going through my Pern phase, I memorized every single one of those Harper songs/poem. I could even recite them in the order they appeared in the books.

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posted by wending my way at 4:36 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by sammyo at 4:36 PM on November 22, 2011


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Oh, the Crystal Singer series was such a big deal to me as a kid, especially when I was being trained as a singer. Although I was always a bit frustrated by how she dealt with romantic plotlines, McCaffrey was central to me first encountering fantasy and science-fiction as woman-centered (before Aasimov and the rest of the hard-sci-fi crew disabused me of that).
posted by LMGM at 4:41 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Makes me want to go back and read them again, it has been so long...

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posted by msbubbaclees at 4:41 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by beandip at 4:41 PM on November 22, 2011


(I liked her slightly smutty bits when I was young.)

I'm pretty sure Dragonflight is the first book I ever read that had sexytimes in it. It was eye-opening to discover that responsible grown-ups like my grandma not only read books with dragons on the cover, but also books with sex in them.
posted by twirlip at 4:46 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by jquinby at 4:47 PM on November 22, 2011


I wanted a fire lizard.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:02 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


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My heart sank when I saw this post. I read all the Pern books when I was a kid, and loved them, problematic gender and sex issues and all. Dragonsdawn in particular was just great - something about the discovery that Paradise was not perfect, but still more than anyone had expected, just blew my mind. I'll be spending some time revisiting Pern very soon.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:02 PM on November 22, 2011


(I liked her slightly smutty bits when I was young.)


At some point in my early teens, I was given a Christmas gift of a boxed set of Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon. I don't think my parents had a CLUE that there was, y'know mating involved. And I certainly never mentioned it to them! (Honestly, they wouldn't have cared. They'd just have asked if I had any questions.)

I only vaguely remember the hints that there was gay sex going on - which is odd, because I sure knew I was, and you'd think I'd have embedded that on my brain a little deeper. Instead what seems to have gotten embedded has more to do with the leather outfits.........

I sort of lost interest in the Pern books as it became clear she was heading in a less Medieval-inspired and more SciFi-inspired direction. I suppose the blending is a good thing to a lot of people, but my personal tastes tend to like the two to be distinct.

One of these days I'd like to have another look at those books. It would be really cool to see them again with my fully grown-up eyes.

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posted by dnash at 5:02 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by vibrotronica at 5:06 PM on November 22, 2011


PhoBWanKenobi, thank you for saying almost exactly what I felt in a much more eloquent fashion.

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posted by ashirys at 5:08 PM on November 22, 2011


+ than I could have managed. Can't complete a thought, too sad.
posted by ashirys at 5:09 PM on November 22, 2011


Did her son Todd perish as well?
posted by Nomyte at 5:09 PM on November 22, 2011


My username (obliquely) means gold dragon. I picked it when I was 11 or so, because of Pern. We actually had a Pern story in my middle school English textbook—I think I had already started reading her books, but it might have been the first thing of hers I read. Dragonsdawn was my favorite, too, but I loved so many of her books.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:11 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by pahool at 5:12 PM on November 22, 2011


I only knew her from her book covers as "the dragon lady". I had no idea she was such a major figure.

So, .
posted by Trurl at 5:15 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by mkim at 5:17 PM on November 22, 2011


I used to hang around at her house all the time when I was a kid. I swam in her pool, stole from library, played with her grandkids, did odd-jobs over the Summer. I think it was her more than anyone else that inspired me to start writing. I used to sit outside her office for hours with a book, waiting for a turn at her computer so I could play computer games.

I wonder now what she was writing.

She gave me a kitten when I was about 12, I called her Lessa. She slept on my bed every night of her life. I don't think I've ever loved anything as much as I loved that cat.

Annie McCaffrey was literally one of the most generous, lovely, intelligent, inspirational and giving people I've ever met and I'm not just saying that cause she's passed. She was a giant of my childhood. I haven't been back to see her in a few years, God I wish I had now.

This is so sad.
posted by rudhraigh at 5:21 PM on November 22, 2011 [44 favorites]


Menolly is one of my favourite characters of fiction, ever. She was strong. She took charge of her own life. And yes, she had help, but everyone needs help (even stubborn girls who can outrun thread).

I don't enjoy the Pern stories the way I did when I was a teen, my literary tastes have developed and moved on a bit, but that doesn't mean that they weren't incredibly special and important in my life.

So.

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posted by sandraregina at 5:22 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by annsunny at 5:23 PM on November 22, 2011


We actually had a Pern story in my middle school English textbook

Mine too! I bet it was the same textbook and the story was The Smallest Dragonboy. I probably read and reread that story a hundred times before, during, and after class. The textbook didn't actually give the name of the author though. In desperation I went to the library (back before the internet really existed in a form I knew about) and looked up every book on dragons to try to find more of what I had become hooked on. Eventually I looked at the back of the textbook and found the author attributions and finally found the name of the person that had so enthralled me: Anne McCaffrey. The next book I checked out from the library was Dragonsong which, for a time at least, made me want to persue music as a career. I haven't read all of the Pern novels but I put a pretty big dent into them.

She didn't change my life in any immediately obvious ways but I feel her work has benefited me a great deal.
posted by Green With You at 5:24 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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I was 13 when I read Dragonriders of Pern. We were living in Germany, the summer of my awkward, too tall, thick glasses wearing 13th year and on a trip to the English language bookstore in Heidelberg, I found Pern. I brought it up to the counter and my mother, who had hardly ever before censored my reading, saw the bikini clad dragonrider on the cover and flipped right out. "You can't have that." she said, "It's not suitable. Can't you find anything with any literary value? I mean, my god."

I pitched the kind of passive aggressive fit that only bookish, miserable 13 year old girls can. "I'll read anything," I said, "Anything at all." and I brought up a copy of Bleak House, because, you know, it said Bleak on the cover (hey, BLEAK, that sounds perfect, just like me) and also it was clearly a classic. "I'll read this." I said, "Look, Dickens. And it's really thick. You won't even need to buy me any more books this summer because of how thick this is. And I'll read it before I read that. You can hold onto it and I'll read this first."
My mother was no fool.
"OK," she said, "If that's what you want, okay."

I still remember Pern. I couldn't tell you a damn thing about Bleak House.
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:28 PM on November 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


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posted by supercoiled at 5:28 PM on November 22, 2011


I think this is the first time in my life when I have teared up at the passing of someone that I never even met. Pho's comment, especially, said so much of how I felt.

As they were for so many others, her worlds were a sanctuary for me in the very difficult time of adolescence. I could identify with her heroines - Killashandra, Helva, Menolly and Lessa, amongst others. My god, I can still remember their names, and it's probably been 15 years since I picked up any of her books. They were so different from everything else I'd encountered in fiction, especially the genre stuff I already loved so much, packed with emotionless clones of Conan and his mighty thews.

And of course, the mating flights between green and blue dragons gave me a safe way to explore the reality that I might want to kiss other boys. I didn't want to be a fag of course, but what if I had a dragon that was my best friend and well, could I help it if I'd impressed a green dragon and she was flown by a blue dragon and I ended up tangled together with his rider?

Robinton's death reduced me to a sobbing wreck when I first read it. I want to cry now, but I'm at work.

I like the way others have put it in this thread already: not gone, just gone between. Thank you for everything, Ms. McCaffrey.

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posted by kavasa at 5:33 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was in elementary school when I found a pile of paperbacks with the covers torn off behind a drugstore. One of them was Dragonsinger. I was hooked, and read everything I could find by her at the library. The first box set of books I ever bought was the one including The White Dragon.
I haven't read any of her recent books, but I still have all my old Pern ones. Even the tattered paperback with the cover torn off.
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posted by bitmage at 5:42 PM on November 22, 2011


I hadn't realized she was 85. In my mind she was a fixture of fantasy, not someone who would die at some point.

I stopped reading the Pern books at some point around when her son got involved, but the early stuff was so attractive to a young, shy, bookish nerd who loved the idea of a creature that loved her and was deeply connected to her. Like so many in here, I wanted a fire lizard or a dragon of my very own.

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posted by booksherpa at 5:46 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Renoroc at 5:48 PM on November 22, 2011


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I read the first six or so Dragonrider books when I was a teen. Time to revisit them.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:54 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:59 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by halonine at 6:03 PM on November 22, 2011


Aw, man. I remember tearing through the Science Fiction Book Club Ominibuses of the first three books and the Harper Hall books one summer when I was in my early teens. I stopped reading them after Moreta (and haven't felt much desire to go back and revisit the series as the years went on), but they were such a huge part of my early SF & Fantasy fandom (mainly because they were the first ones that I discovered on my own, as oppossed to finding in my dad's library).

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posted by KingEdRa at 6:05 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by twidget at 6:09 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by stoneegg21 at 6:11 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by hydrobatidae at 6:12 PM on November 22, 2011


I've been lurking here for a bit over a year, and have been planning to subscribe for a while now - this post tipped me over the balance. Another thing to thank her for, I guess.

My dad was almost as much of a geek as I was - we had the internet at home when I was only seven or eight and before that he'd run a BBS. One day after we'd been to the library I picked up the copy of Masterharper that he'd borrowed and started reading it. I won't suggest that I understood a lot of the detail, but it started me on McCaffrey's books as a whole.

I learnt basic HTML and put together a little website, one of those 90's websites which was almost a text adventure game - it was a weyr made of text and tiled backgrounds. I found a website that offered dragons that you could adopt and Impress - really they were just jpgs to be placed on your webpage but each one came with its name, just like proper Pernese dragons (although without the 'th' suffix).
It was only a few years later that I discovered the world of MUSHes and MOOs, and I joined Harper's Tale MOO. I named the character I created after that JPG dragon - it's the name I use for RPG characters and most of my accounts to this day. My character became a Herder apprentice, and over the years made it to journeyman; by the time the appeal of the MOO faded she was working on her Masters project. Years later I rejoined and my new character was Searched - the dragon that she impressed was a green, and came with the name I've signed up with.

In the meantime the Pern books lead to the Talent books, and I began consuming all the sci-fi and fantasy at the library. None of my friends at the time really got it, but I told them about how you could ride dragons and there were berry pies and this klah stuff and they played along.

When I got to high school we were given a tour of the school library, and I quickly scoped out that they had Pern novels and all kinds of fantasy that the public library didn't have. More to the point, I noticed that I wasn't the only girl in my class that picked up one of the McCaffrey books. I approached her a few days later.
We're still friends to this day, and that connection left me with a group of friends that carried me through high school and university and with whom I'm still close today. I have no idea if I would have even really known them if not for that one book.

A few months ago I started rereading the Pern series and encountered all those slightly dodgy features that have already been mentioned upthread. They're certainly not perfect novels, but they've given me so much.

I have Anne McCaffrey to thank for my interests, my fledgling attempts to write, my friends, and for names which I associate with my identity as closely as my birth name. I can only hope that wherever she is now, it has Benden red on tap.

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posted by belissaith at 6:13 PM on November 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


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sad. I also read her pern books (and later crystal singer and ship who sang and anything I could get my hands on) and they were so immersive and captivating and wondrous. Sure they were cheesy sometimes and I'm sure I'd cringe at things in them now. But they were a positive force in my life and I'm immeasurably glad for that.

I always thought maybe I would get to meet her someday and shake her hand...
posted by everyday_naturalist at 6:19 PM on November 22, 2011


I read Dragondrums first, in seventh grade, and that led me to the rest of the Pern books. There are characters in those books who deserve to stand forever among the great creations of literature.

I can't say I cared for the later books as much, but I've gone back and re-read my favorites more times than I care to admit. Here's to the imagination and storytelling ability wielded by Anne McCaffrey at her best.
posted by Songdog at 6:19 PM on November 22, 2011


The first time I ever bought an international stamp was for a letter I wrote to Anne McCaffrey. I was in the seventh grade, I think. And she wrote back! She suggested other books -- written by her as well as others -- that I might like based on what I'd told her I enjoyed about her work.

Reading her letter was the first time I understood that authors are real people and I was really touched that she'd responded. I'll have to remember to look for that letter at my folks' house over Thanksgiving.

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posted by cranberry_nut at 6:19 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I once christened an inflatable boat "Orlith".
posted by Songdog at 6:22 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


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I loved the dragon books in middle school; I outgrew them as the series went on, I think, but they seemed like a nice world where ultimately, everything would always end well, and I suspect the Whelan covers inspired more than a few of us as kids. She'll be missed.
posted by tautological at 6:50 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by LobsterMitten at 7:02 PM on November 22, 2011


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She did a public chat thing on CompuServe, years ago, that I think (if I remember this correctly) was one of the first things that lured little junior high school me online (I almost said "onto the Internet", but it wasn't that yet). I had to nag my parents for ages to convince them to subscribe. I don't remember much of the chat, except that a cat walked across her keyboard in the middle of it.

I loved her books. The dragons and the world building and, yes, the smutty bits in something that one's parents didn't know to object to. I don't think I've touched them in a good fifteen years, but I can still see one on the bookshelf across the room from me. Maybe time to read it again some time soon.
posted by moss at 7:06 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by MattD at 7:13 PM on November 22, 2011


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I wish I had the skills to summarize what a huge role Anne McCaffery's books played in my pre-adolescence and early adolescence. I recall The White Dragon as the first of her books I read, when I was in 5th grade, and it was published the year I remember reading it - 1978. After that, I read and reread as much of her work as I could. I read many of those 70s and 80s books so many times that the covers and many story details remain vividly engraved in my memory.

Oh, I was a nerd girl! There was an artist at our local Renaissance Faire who sold fire dragons she fashioned out of silk, with gems for eyes. I saved and saved so I could buy one of my own. I combed the dusty shelves at Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction bookstore for Anne McCaffery I hadn't read and I could buy used. I loaned the books to friends, bonded with my sister over our mutual obsession, memorized every detail of the Whelan covers, and dreamed of a life being friends with Jaxom, or Menolly or Lessa, of aliens turning me into a golden-skinned beauty, of love as transgression and redemption, of traveling through space to talk with giant cat-like creatures, and of ships who sang and the men who loved them.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:23 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


KingEdRa: "Aw, man. I remember tearing through the Science Fiction Book Club Ominibuses of the first three books ."....

I first met Anne McCaffrey and Pern through that Science Fiction Book Club omnibus of Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon.

I read and reread that book until it literally disintegrated.

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posted by John Smallberries at 7:36 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by lapolla at 7:41 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:56 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by genehack at 8:19 PM on November 22, 2011


My first d&d character was named Menolly. I was 11 and profoundly awkward in my own skin. I set Menolly's song about rescuing the fire lizard clutch to music and played it on my flute, in the woods. I had a cat named Beauty, which sounded so pedestrian to others, but really meant that she was my golden queen. Oh yes, Robinton's death, that sent me over the edge.

I have a son that age now, a self proclaimed geek, but confident and popular in ways I never was. He's always been a reader, but he just found that book, the one that spoke to him, like Dragonsong did to me. I'm a little jealous of him, and a little sad, because someday he'll have this melancholy moment too.
posted by Biblio at 8:31 PM on November 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


belissaith: "I learnt basic HTML and put together a little website, one of those 90's websites which was almost a text adventure game - it was a weyr made of text and tiled backgrounds. I found a website that offered dragons that you could adopt and Impress - really they were just jpgs to be placed on your webpage but each one came with its name, just like proper Pernese dragons (although without the 'th' suffix). "

This is like you are telling me episodes of my own life.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:37 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Menolly is like Jo March, or Anne Shirley, or Liza Bennett for me - a character I know so well that she takes on a life of her own and becomes a friend of sorts. I count myself lucky that I came across Menolly and Aerin (Robin McKinley, you have a long, healthy, and productive life ahead of you, you hear me?) early in my introduction to sci-fi and fantasy, since I not only enjoy McCaffery's worlds, but her work encouraged me to seek out the work of other women authors.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:42 PM on November 22, 2011


Anne changed my life. She introduced me to sci-fi at 13, when I picked up The Rowan at a book sale at the local library. I have read it more than any other book, and that same tattered edition is one of my most valued possessions.

As an aspiring female sci-fi author, I only hope to be able to pass on the influence she has had on my life.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:50 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by disclaimer at 8:56 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by dazed_one at 9:06 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by eustatic at 9:20 PM on November 22, 2011


To be honest, I did not read Pern (the concept of thread wigs me out, I can't explain why), but I loved Crystal Singer and Petaybee and the Talents. All of that was pretty awesome.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:24 PM on November 22, 2011


oh.. I'm unbelievably sad. She and Bradbury were my way in and I've never left. I was able to survive because she invented a world I could go to when my own was too much. I became a reader because of her. Rest in Peace ma'am and thank you.
posted by pywacket at 9:32 PM on November 22, 2011


I don't have an Anne McCaffrey story, but I just read one by her friend Isaac Asimov, in the second volume of his autobiography written 35 years ago:
She and I got along famously. Anne is a large, buxom, Junoesque woman with a beautiful shock of prematurely Irish-white hair, a flashing wit, and a spectacular soprano singing voice. It had become traditional at any convention that we attended for us to do community singing together at a piano, ending with "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and holding the final note.

I always lost. She could hold that note louder, and longer, and more beautifully than I -- or, I should think, than anyone who wasn't a professional singer.
Now I wonder whether the detailed and sympathetic depiction of musical training in the Harper Hall books didn't have some basis in her own life.

(Asimov's story continues for a while, ending with Anne pulling Isaac off the stage while shouting "You can't trust a tenor!")
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:36 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Add me to the list of awkward kids who started reading Pern around age 10-12. I don't remember when I started reading them, around when the internet got big and my parents bought me my first laptop. I stumbled across the online Weyr community fairly quickly and thereafter spent hours every day writing and writing... and writing. I reached a point where I'd type a good 6000 words a day and hide my laptop under my covers so I could keep writing (or I'd read more Pern books with a flashlight).

I remember when I first realized that the male greenriders were queer. I remember the sex scenes being awkwardly titillating (and oh my, the fanfiction of mating flights was even more absurd!). I remember the friends I made as an awkward 14 year old, all of them older than me and much more knowledgeable but willing to guide me along. I remember, in particular, a queer couple across the country who really made me question my identity and come out to myself, though I never told them that. I still talk to them every now and then (they're still together 7 years later). I remember the amazing community of artists and writers who put up with my being all of 16 years old, the drama and the moving on. Oh and I can't forget the godawful layouts we made, either.

I'm still sad that I outgrew the books. I still own 6 of them (I had to borrow them from the library because my mother insisted Pern sounded too much like Porn for her to condone my reading them). I don't think I could read them through again with the same enjoyment but damn did I love them as a little kid.

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posted by buteo at 9:41 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by firelizard at 9:53 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by pahalial at 10:05 PM on November 22, 2011


Back when I was a picked on...they call it bullied now, and do something about it...preteen, and on into being an angsty teenager, Anne Mccaffrey saved my life and my sanity. Her books gave me an escape when things got too hard to deal with. Without that escape, I'd most likely have ended up just another teenaged suicide. Her books lead to a better realtionship with my mother...She'd called all sci-fi "pure escapist drivel", and disapproved of me reading it, until she read one of Anne's books...She had run out of other handy reading material, and picked up one of my books because "It had a pretty cover." The book was "The White Dragon". I never heard a word of protest more about my sci-fi habit, and shortly after, she started buying me sci-fi books.

I was never more honored than when I got to meet her at Dragoncon 2008, and thank her for saving my life and for bringing me closer to my mom, who I'd lost just the month before. When I told her how her books had provided an escape when things got too bad to bear, she said that was the reason she'd started writing...to escape when things got to be too much. There's a Dragonlady shaped hole in the world now, and nothing can ever take her place.

For Todd and the rest of her children, I have no words...Just lots and lots of zen hugs.
posted by meowwl at 10:39 PM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


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posted by Coaticass at 11:11 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by mikelieman at 11:32 PM on November 22, 2011


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posted by Kevin Street at 11:41 PM on November 22, 2011


I picked up on the Pern books fairly late, long after I'd discovered science fiction through Asimov and Clarke and van Vogt, but for a long time these books were the main fantasy like series the local library had and I'd read them all, with every so often a new book appearing. Then I also read her other series, The Ship Who Sang (which had a S. M. Stirling (!) written sequel and two more different writers are hard to imagine) and the Talent series and the Doona one and all that. Most of that was pure bubblegum reading, but perfect for a bookish twelve year old.

Eventually you grow out of them or you discover the more ...awkward... parts of them, but you'll always remember the thrill of first discovering them.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:48 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I never really got into the Pern books: I first encountered them as a teen in the mid-80s. I was intrigued, but they seemed like a godawful mess of "Where do I start? How does the story flow? WTF?", and I was a teenager to whom that mattered. I wanted to start at the beginning and work through to the end. So McAffrey didn't strike me for the Pern books as she did so many people.

But.

I loved the Crystal Singer books, but even more than that was the short story version of "The Ship Who Sang." If she'd written only that story she'd be well-remembered, I suspect. For me, personally, as a kid who'd started reading sci-fi at maybe 7 or 8 with a well-worn copy of Between Planets and mostly been exposed to the more orthodox science fiction of action and relatively abstract ideas, Ship was like some people described dropping acid. It opened up a whole new notion of fiction about characters and feelings. Not as far as it could - in my later teens I still struggled to see what was so great about C.J. Cherryh , something I laugh about when I re-read her work and see how much it stemmed from my own lack of life experience, but Ship was the first opening.
posted by rodgerd at 1:06 AM on November 23, 2011


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Theres a lot I should say about this woman and her work. But I can't say it now. All the dragons of the weyr are keening.
posted by strixus at 1:26 AM on November 23, 2011


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posted by wrm at 1:58 AM on November 23, 2011


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posted by travertina at 3:12 AM on November 23, 2011


Live for my living
Or else I must die.

Still remember the words.

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posted by kyrademon at 3:43 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Live for my living
Or else I must die.

Still remember the words.


It's been eighteen years since I first read Dragonsinger and I still remember the tune I mentally set those lyrics to.

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posted by kiripin at 3:54 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed reading her novels as a teenager. They were a great hiding place when life got to be a little too much. Rest In Peace, Anne.
posted by juhrom at 3:59 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


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I don't even remember how many times I read and reread the Pern series. They were a huge influence on me. Rest in peace, dragon lady.
posted by impishoptimist at 4:12 AM on November 23, 2011


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She was my fantasy gateway drug too. I'm a little in awe at how common my story is - picked up tattered copies of the first three from somewhere aged about 13 and was totally hooked. I never really found anything else in her canon that I loved as much as those three, but for that alone I owe her a hell of a lot.
posted by corvine at 4:36 AM on November 23, 2011


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posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:50 AM on November 23, 2011


Put me down as another who loved the Pern books with the terrifying passion only a bullied teen girl can have. Thanks, Anne.

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posted by marginaliana at 6:19 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Shoggoth at 6:32 AM on November 23, 2011


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Was ransacking the used paperback stores for Pern books at just about the same time I was also ransacking them for Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series. Wonderful stuff, all of it.

Also damn, redsparkler, I hadn't heard that Diana Wynne Jones was gone. C. J. Cherryh, you are taking good care of yourself, right?
posted by jfuller at 6:52 AM on November 23, 2011


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Just introduced my wife to the Pern books. One of many writers that enriched my early years beyond all measure.
posted by envygreen at 6:57 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Arrrrrrrgh. Her books made my shitty teenage years so much better.

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posted by By The Grace of God at 7:01 AM on November 23, 2011


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posted by mfoight at 7:24 AM on November 23, 2011


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posted by papercake at 7:26 AM on November 23, 2011


Bollocks. I haave just remembered I set that Menolly song to music too. It was one of the first things I ever did that too. And I've just looked up the words and the song is still remembered by me. I'll upload it to Music later.
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:40 AM on November 23, 2011


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posted by dlugoczaj at 7:50 AM on November 23, 2011


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posted by blurker at 8:03 AM on November 23, 2011


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posted by Rash at 8:07 AM on November 23, 2011


Read all her books through about 1990. The Pern books were less and less appealing to me by then, though I had loved the Ship Who Sang books and others. I am still fond of her stories, and it's probably about time I gave them another run through before handing off the best of them to my kids.

^^.^^
(memorial dot with dragon wings)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:13 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got my reading habits from my older brothers. I just worked through their sci-fi and fantasy books - I have no idea how they managed to afford them, but they had several hundred second hand books by the time I was interested in such things.

I never took to Pern, but I've re-read The Ship Who Sang and the Crystal Singer series many times, and I have fond memories of reading of talents. I'm very sorry to hear of her passing - like many others, she made my life better.
posted by YAMWAK at 9:45 AM on November 23, 2011


It was pure happenstance that I happened upon the Pern books -- in a swap of Commodore 64 games with a friend, he felt it was a little unbalanced and threw in a softcover box set of books his mom had bought him but he had decided he would never read because they were "girly" -- the Harper Hall trilogy. Since I read constantly in those days, I set it aside for when I had nothing else to read, and it sat unopened for a year before I finally picked up Dragonsong and gave it a shot.

And, well... I still have that now-mangled paperback, bagged up as if it were an artifact of my childhood. I read it (and Dragonsinger) hundreds of times... and many more in the other copies I've bought since. I have it on cassette, in two paperbacks, two hardcovers -- I even typed it out word for word about ten years ago because it wasn't available in any digital format and I "needed" a copy on my old PalmPilot.

Thank you, Anne. I'll never forget you or what you shared with me and so many others.
posted by Pufferish at 10:18 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tried a few times with Pern and didn't care for it, but Crystal Singer and Killashandra I loved.

And I see there is a third? Hmm...

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posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:25 PM on November 23, 2011


I can't think of dragons without thinking of her.

I can't think of dragons without thinking of Ursula K. Leguin and dragons of the Earthsea series. Le Guin could write. Her dragons had the mysterium tremendum.

But tastes differ, so I will say no more.
posted by y2karl at 12:45 PM on November 23, 2011


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posted by safetyfork at 12:50 PM on November 23, 2011


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posted by monopas at 4:23 PM on November 23, 2011


io9 has a nice short piece up and Anne's family has released a statement. (Also the main Tor link now points back here, among other places.)
posted by restless_nomad at 4:38 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Skorgu at 4:45 PM on November 23, 2011


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posted by Blackanvil at 4:52 PM on November 23, 2011


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posted by Mitheral at 4:56 PM on November 23, 2011


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posted by solarion at 4:59 PM on November 23, 2011


Comments that brought things back to me - thanks, all of you. There's an interesting biog of McCaffrey.
posted by paduasoy at 5:08 PM on November 23, 2011


I remember one long winter when my family was having car issues. Me and my sister & brother would walk over to the library when school was let out. We got to wait for 2-3 hours each day until my mom was done at work and ready to head home.
During that winter, I read all of the Acorna books available from cover to cover - got to sit in the big leather chair under the library clock, and just lose myself in Acorna's universe.
Beautiful descriptive writing - I remember wishing I had a golden unicorn horn - Boy howdy, would that make the Grade 8 boys notice me!!!
I don't know if I could ever appreciate it now as much as I did then while waiting on my mom...
posted by NorthernAutumn at 7:09 PM on November 23, 2011


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I finally just replaced the paperbacks of the original Dragonriders trilogy that were were falling apart. And yeah, like a lot of others I have outgrown them, but having owned copies since high school, I can't imagine not having them.
posted by weathergal at 8:41 PM on November 23, 2011


I've read a whole damn lot of Pern novels, often multiple times. Excellence in speculative fiction.

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posted by wires at 10:18 PM on November 23, 2011


I'm fairly sure I've read all her Pern novels. I hope I'm wrong, and there are some waiting.

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posted by Goofyy at 1:31 AM on November 24, 2011


Michael Whelan (the artist who did a number of the memorable covers for her books) has a nice note and a collection of those covers up on Tor. Man, those paintings bring back memories. What a perfect collaboration.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:35 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by trogdole at 3:24 PM on November 24, 2011


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posted by theplotchickens at 2:39 PM on November 27, 2011


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