Friday, November 25, 2011

In Memory of Anne McCaffrey

It was with great sadness that I checked my email this morning to find the news that Anne McCaffrey had passed away from a stroke on Monday. Her books were the beginning of many things for me, not the least of which was the beginning of my experiments in the sci-fi genre. "The Harper Hall of Pern" was my first introduction to her writings. Since I am a musician, the trilogy struck deep chords within me, especially "Dragonsong" and "Dragonsinger". To this day, it is still my favorite. From there I found the rest of her Pern series, coming to love "Dragonsdawn" for its explanation of how Pern began and "Dolphins of Pern" for its open door to the limitless possibilities of Pern's future.

Once I ran out of Pern books to read, I began hunting down her other books. I still haven't read the Acorna series or any of the ones she co-authored, but I found a few special loves in her military sci-fi short stories. (Her futuristic Cinderella at a military ball particularly caught my fancy.) Anne McCaffrey's range in sci-fi from bordering on fantasy to military/technical was amazing to me. She showed me how sci-fi didn't have to be boring science facts, but rather a fantastical story based in speculative fact.

Usually, one finds detailed world building prominent in fantasy but not elsewhere. However, Anne McCaffrey was an amazing world builder. She wasn't content to build one sci-fi world and write all her stories in it. She built a new one for each series, though with similar points so that one could almost connect all her stories into facets of the same universe.

All of us - readers, acquaintances, family - will miss her. The words of her character Menolly sum it up best:

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 sigh:
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.
Yes, I'll keep my tears till later:
But my grief will never go.

--Menolly's "Song for Petiron" (Dragonsinger)

Every time I make a beeline for the M section in the library or bookstore, I'll remember her in the brief moment when I see the name "Todd" preceding "McCaffrey" instead of "Anne". Each time I read one of her books, she'll live again for a moment. She'll always be there, never forgotten.

Harper, tell me of the road
That leads beyond this Hold,
That wends its way beyond the hill...
Does it go further on until
It ends in sunset's gold?

--(Dragonsinger)

Until next time.

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