Anne McCaffrey, the groundbreaking, award-winning fantasy author who won a dedicated following with her sci-fi/fantasy blending series Dragonriders of Pern, passed away Tuesday, November 22. She is survived by her three children.
After beginning her writing life by contributing short stories to sci-fi magazines in the ’50s and ’60s, McCaffrey kicked off her stellar career as a novelist in 1967 with Restoree, and since then published more than 100 books, including short story collections, guides to her fantasy worlds and even cookbooks. She won acclaim from fans, becoming the first female writer to win a Hugo Award in 1968, and from her sci-fi and fantasy peers as well, becoming the first female writer to win a Nebula Award in 1969. Despite the praise, she initially struggled financially as a writer, living in Ireland in the early ’70s and fighting to make ends meet.
That all changed when her dragon tales set in the fictional world of Pern began to take off in the mid-’70s. The first book in her Harper Hall series of Pern novels, Dragonsong, earned her a contract for a sequel that allowed her to buy a house, which she christened “Dragonhold” in honor of the dragons that helped buy it. By 1978, she had become the first science fiction writer with a title on the New York Times hardcover bestseller List, with The White Dragon.
The Pern series now encompasses a total of 22 novels, many of them co-written with McCaffrey’s son Todd. Another installment in the series, Dragon’s Time, is set to arrive in 2012.
As McCaffrey’s career grew, she continued to expand her writing into new fictional universes, including the worlds of the Brain & Brawn Ship series, the five-book Ireta series and the works of her Talents universe. In 2005, she received the highest honor of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the Grand Master Award, joining the likes of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury, and in 2006 she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.
McCaffrey maintained an active relationship with her fans via her website, and was answering fan questions as recently as Nov. 4. Among her more notable fan interactions is this advice to writers that she posted on her blog in April:
“First — keep reading. Writers are readers. Writers are also people who can’t not write. Second, follow Heinlein’s rules for getting published: 1. Write it. 2. Finish it. 3. Send it out. 4. Keep sending it out until someone sends you a check. There are variations on that, but that’s basically what works.”