An interview, alternate history, reading, & Anne McCaffrey

Over at The Ranting Dragon site & forum, an interview with me just went up.

Among other things, I talk about some aspects of the world building of the Spiritwalker books;

Additionally, the legal system in the world is not the same as in ours. There is no English common law here; law is based on a rough amalgamation of Roman civil law, what we know of Celtic law, and some very basic elements drawn from reconstructions of the famous Mali charter called the Kurukan Fuga. I also made an attempt to show family structures as they might have evolved out of different culture traditions. In book two, I try very imperfectly to portray a conception of rights that is more community-based rather than individually-based because of the differing nature of community and relationship in West African and indigenous Native American societies.

I also answer the questions if I prefer to read female writers (over male writers) and why I value diversity in genre fiction. And more! Much more!

I have struggled to think of what I might say about Anne McCaffrey’s work. I read the first Dragonflight trilogy, the Dragonsinger trilogy, the first Crystal Singer book, Restoree, and The Ship Who Sang. If I read other of her books or stories I don’t recall, as the ones I list are the ones that stayed with me. I’ve not re-read them.

It’s really difficult for me to quantify what the books meant to me, harder than I thought it would be because her death has forced me to consider the part her novels played in my development as a writer. I never met Anne McCaffrey, and I never wrote to her. But she is one of the women who made my career possible because she helped forge that path.

These were the books in which girls got to have sfnal adventures. I think it’s easy to ignore how revolutionary they were — but they were.

11 thoughts on “An interview, alternate history, reading, & Anne McCaffrey

  1. When I was seven to about twelve, I loved Pern. I can still remember how excited and joyful I was when my parents bought me a hardcover copy of The White Dragon. It was the second hardcover book I can remember owning, the first being a Winnie-the-Pooh that I was given on my fourth birthday. For the next decade (until my early twenties), Pern was where I went when I needed shelter. I reread them dozens of times, whenever I was sick, sad, lonely. My paperback copies of Dragonsinger and the entire first trilogy long since fell apart. But when I’ve tried to return to them as an adult…well, they didn’t last, I guess. Or I outgrew them. But they were priceless to me as a child.

  2. Wyndes,

    thank you.

    I think you’ve hit on something that might explain to me why I didn’t tend to reflect on McCaffrey as one of my major influences until now: That I never did re-read, in large part because I suspected that the things that made the books work so well for me then might not work for me now, and I didn’t want to ruin the special place they had.

    McCaffrey blended elements in her fiction, particularly adventure and romance with a strong dose of coming-of-age, in a way I think few other writers were doing at the time, and certainly not from the perspective of a strong-minded and stubborn woman or girl.

  3. Yeah, it’s funny, I never re-read Anne McCaffrey novels . . . How strange that I re-read some things and not others. It’s interesting to note that of course she was groundbreaking in creating female characters who had adventures and were diverse and strong and clever and who could carry a story. I never thought of it as I had read other stories before I came to hers.
    Actually thinking about it, I adored some of those women – I mean characters.

  4. Pingback: Bookish News #10 | Lesley's Reading Heaven

  5. I’ve always been a stigler for reading books in order. SO I’ve had to miss out on reading the Pern books as I’ve never managed to find the early ones in the library. I have however read Every other series she has written.

  6. I’ve had the same experiences with Pern – I haven’t read the other series recently enough (time for a big reread now) to comment on them. I loved them as a young girl, had my own dragon etc, unconsciously absorbed the strong women and the gay men which helped shape me as a person, enjoyed the mild sex (light bulb moment – green dragons / male riders!) and was mesmerised by Anne’s writing. I still adore her writing, Dragonsdawn is one of my all time favourites, but now I see issues that I hadn’t noticed before (one of my getting to sleep when wide awake games is ‘what doesn’t hang together with Pern’ which shows its deep influence on me). But it’s because she was doing what she did that has allowed the genre to move on and has made some of the books old-fashioned – I have a similar, but worse, reaction to Darkover now – in the same way that I don’t enjoy the ‘golden age’ of SFF because I didn’t read it young and now where are the women?!

    Regarding the very interesting interview I find I generally prefer female authors because I just don’t do straight blood and guts anymore, I need plot, development, humour and intelligence AND good female leads. Rothfuss has me on the first four but really Denna? She’d better really kick some a** and save the world on Day Three to make that a perfect series, and I hope she does. I’m feeling particularly riled at the mo as I’ve just been reading Juliet McKenna’s post about the BBC all male sports personality of the year, and articles about how the tories are targeting jobs like midwifery to save money, because rather than than, you know, tax the white male tory voting bankers.

  7. It’s possible that Dragonflight and the sequel were paperback original publications and that the series didn’t start being published in hardcover until The White Dragon, but I’m not sure.

  8. When I first read the Pern books, I may not even have understood that some of the male riders were gay.

    It is interesting how aspects of her work have dated so much yet, as you say, her “daughters” (and now granddaughters!) in the field could not be writing what we are without her having opened those gates. But I suspect this is how it always goes.

    It may be I’m reading more fiction by women than men these days (I ‘m terrible at keeping track of what I’m reading). For one thing, my tolerance for books that don’t pass the Bechdel Test has worn down to my last nerve. Which means basically I no longer have any. And there are still a remarkable number of novels in our field that don’t pass that fundamental (and not difficult) test.

  9. I just went to see Arthur Christmas with my 5yr old daughter. Where were the women, and the men were hopeless in a way that I think we were supposed to find charming? I’m getting grumpier with old age about this whole issue on tv and in books as well 🙂

  10. We just watched the 1980 Flash Gordon. It’s not a good movie, but it’s fun. I couldn’t help but notice that there are 3 female characters, all of whom have agency and are played as if they are intelligent people who take action. The movie is still default patriarchal in an unthinking way, but I can’t help but feel we’ve moved backward — the roles for women in the current Immortals (which I saw last week) actually had less agenc although they were ethnically more diverse..

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