Anne McCaffrey

In memory of Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey

We lost Anne McCaffrey this week, to stroke. Yonmei remembered her gloriously at FeministSF (and if you don’t know her inspiration, reading that makes it even better.)

I was nine years old when my frenemy Claudia (precociously elegant with her hair in a glossy pageboy) read aloud to me: “Lessa woke, cold.” Dragonflight was my first contraband, and F’lar one of my first crushes. In a corner of the high school playground, determinedly ignored by the kids with friends, I was comforted by my flight of fire lizards, or hurtling through space as an embodied ship. When my text adventures in CPM/BASIC actually executed, it was like the black crystal picking up and amplifying my voice. I was young enough to extract maximum escapist value from McCaffrey’s worlds before her writing started to pall.

I hadn’t thought of her in years when I chuckled over Liz’s fierce and righteous takedown of gender (and race and disability) politics on Pern. McCaffrey was a product of her time, no question, and not the worst by any means. Ursula Le Guin works strenuously to re-examine and correct her older work, and with mixed success, but that’s part of what makes Ursula Le Guin so very full of awesome. We can’t expect it of every writer. Now, as we mourn McCaffrey, we have to find some way to honor both the worlds she gave us and the ground we’ve covered since.

Our foremothers fail in myriad ways, and we will doubtless look like hypocritical assholes to future generations too. Re-examining assumptions is good and important work (and might help us avoid our own worst excesses.) But without foremothers like McCaffrey – and the other writers of sexy, problematic contraband, like Marion Zimmer Bradley and Jean Auel – we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

Thank you, dragon lady, for teaching us to sing.

5 thoughts on “In memory of Anne McCaffrey

  1. Liz

    Thanks for this post! I went down the links rabbit-hole and found lists of woman and POC sf authors. Yay! I’ve read many of them but discovered many more. My reading list is becoming unwieldy.

  2. Counter Space

    I remember reading a great series of sci-fi books with Dragons in my early to mid teens. The women were strong, not weak and stupid, and the imagination behind the plots was astounding. I don’t think I realised just how important it was that a woman had written those stories and how lucky I was, as a little girl, to have that woman’s strength placed into my life through a series of books. Thank you, Anne, for giving people around the world a chance to have some breathing space outside of stupid social strictures and mores. I got a chance to grow from those spaces. Thank you,, for marking her passing.

  3. MadGastronomer

    OK, a week has gone by and nobody else has mentioned it, and I find I have to.

    I loved Anne McCaffrey’s books for many, many years, but since I heard about her claim that young boys grow up to be gay because they have some gay experience, with the example of being raped with tent pegs, and that she specifically linked this to the impression of dragons, I simply find myself unable to reread her.

    I’m so, so sad that she’s gone . . . but I don’t think this should be ignored by feminists, especially geek feminists.

    1. Yatima

      Yeah, it was gross that she said that, and I don’t think I’ve reread her since either.

      (In other news, o hai! Don’t I know you from Chaz Villette’s Livejournal?)

      1. MadGastronomer

        Yep, that’s me! Hi! (I’m the only MadGastronomer on the net, so if you see the name, it’s definitely me.)

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