As many of you have probably heard by now, Anne McCaffrey, one of the grand dames of science fiction, has passed away.
I came to her books through Dragonsinger, I think, and the rest of the Harper Hall trilogy, before moving on to Dragonflight and the other, more “mainstream” Pern books (by which I mean the ones that focused on the riders and Weyrs). From there I went onto some of the Ship books, and the Talents, and the Crystal Singer series, and more. She was never quite one of my DNA writers — not a formative influence on me as a reader or writer — but she was part of the step out of children’s fiction and into adult SF/F. She was, however, a formative influence on a crap-ton of other people, and her oeuvre is one of the big islands in our archipelago.
And, although I never thought of it this way consciously, I think she helped print in my mind not the belief, but the assumption that writing this stuff was a thing done by both men and women. It never really occurred to me that anybody might think otherwise. If you’d asked Teenaged Me to list off important fantasy writers, I would have responded with Anne McCaffrey and Robert Jordan and Mercedes Lackey and David Eddings and Marion Zimmer Bradley and Raymond E. Feist and — well, let’s put it this way. I was a little nonplussed when I found out Terry Brooks was a man, because that was one of those names that could go either way, and women were prominent enough on my bookshelf that I thought nothing of dropping him in that category.
(No, I didn’t pay much attention to the “about the author” bit. Why do you ask?)
(And yes, you can totally see the reading tastes of Teenaged Me in that list. Don’t quibble over me putting McCaffrey in with the fantasy, though. I played the Might and Magic computer games. I was, and in some ways still am, firm in the opinion that slapping a bit of technology on a story otherwise stuffed with fantasy tropes does not make it SF.)
So anyway. I’m thankful for Anne McCaffrey, and for a whole host of other people like her, both for putting amazing and influential books into the world, but also — in the case of the women — for making it possible for me to cruise along in my blithe assumption of gender equality. That mindset has its shortcomings, but I really do believe it’s enabled me to steamroll over any number of small speedbumps that may have appeared in my path.
Thank you, Anne McCaffrey.