Anne McCaffrey was the first woman to win a Hugo Award and the first woman to win a Nebula Award. She was influential, she was deservedly loved, and she wasn’t afraid to take risks: she leaves behind her a stack of books, some of which will go on to be enjoyed by future generations and some of which barely survived the decade they were published in. Yes, she expressed some odd views about sexuality and some of her plots didn’t hold water and her prose wasn’t always deathless, but she was a hell of a storyteller, and the world is worse off for no longer having her in it.
She wrote about people and places that didn’t exist and made them matter. I couldn’t count all the science fiction and fantasy books written since Dragonflight that have been part of a conversation the writer and the SF community in general have been having with Anne McCaffrey, from the various ‘no, this is my take on human-alien symbiosis’ novels out there to pretty much anything involving dragons that isn’t in a direct line from Chinese mythology or Fafnir by way of Smaug.
I can remember being in the back of my parents’ car driving back from my grandmother’s when I was about twelve, reading Dragonquest even though I knew reading in the back of a car quite often made me feel sick, and Pern was a lot more real than the outskirts of Salisbury going by outside the window.
If it wasn’t for Anne McCaffrey and the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, I probably wouldn’t have got the idea that what I really wanted to do was set a civilisation on a planet, disconnect it from the people who seeded it, and write about the people who lived there. That’s a tiny thing, compared to everything else that can be said about her, but I wanted people to know that however much I might have disagreed with her about what would happen if it suddenly turned out that you could move spaceships by psychokinesis, or about the politics of physical handicap, or any of the other things she discussed in her books, what I remember of her most is that she made me think I want to do that.
She was part of what made me and lots of other people like me want to write and want to read. My thoughts are with those who knew her, and those who, like me, only knew her books. Requiescat in pace.