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23 November 2011 @ 07:46 am
We loved you, Dragonlady.  

Robert Heinlein’s TUNNEL IN THE SKY. Robin McKinley’s THE BLUE SWORD.

Anne McCaffrey’s DRAGONSONG.

Those are the first three books I specifically remember reading as science fiction and fantasy. They weren’t; I’d been reading SF&F in the guise of children’s books for many years, but they’re the first I recall as genre-specific. I loved them all, but I loved DRAGONSONG and Menolly beyond reason. I had–who are we kidding, still have–a crush on Robinton, on Sebell. I still want a fire lizard. I always will.

I met Anne McCaffrey the first time I came to Ireland, in 1993. Knowing I was coming, I wrote to her and said it was presumptuous but I couldn’t come to Ireland without at least asking if I could meet her, because–well, because she was Anne McCaffrey. Because I loved her books. And she sent a postcard back with her phone number and said “Give me a call when you get here.”

So I did. And she’d had the worst day ever, the transmission had, like, fallen out of her car, the newly-built pool in her house had flooded, there was a ditch dug around the whole house so the foundation wouldn’t get ruined (McCaffrey’s Moat, she called it), and my friend and I got on the wrong public transport service when we went out to Bray (we took the bus, we should’ve taken the train, AKA “Dart”, but I had no idea what a “Dart” was) and she waited until we found her anyway, and she brought us back to Dragonhold and we spent the afternoon with the Great Dame of Science Fiction.

She showed us Robin Wood’s painting of Masterharper Robinton, and told the story of how she’d very nearly been out-bid for it at the convention auction she bought it at. (Somebody apparently finally went and told the other bidder that the woman bidding was Anne Freaking McCaffrey, and not to be an asshole.) She told me how when she saw the painting it was at the art show, and Robin Wood saw *her* and started to blurt “Um look here I did this painting, it’s supposed to be Robinton–” and Anne said, “Yes, yes, of course it’s Robinton, I could see that from across the hall!”

She had at least half a dozen of the other People of Pern paintings–F’Nor and F’lar, Lessa, Menolly, Sebell–all around her custom-built bookcases (“Your books will fit,” the man building them told her confidently. “If you have more than fit on these bookshelves, I’ll build you another one for free!” “This is the one,” she said, showing us a nook bookcase as tall and full as the others, “that he built for free.”), which were also filled with the dragons people had given her over the years. But Robinton was in the dining room, where she could take a meal with him every day.

One wall of her house was filled with Michael Whelan paintings. “I call it my Whelan Wall,” she said slyly, and I burst out laughing and opined it was rather more cheerful than the one in Jerusalem. She’d just gotten the ALL THE WEYRS OF PERN cover painting, and told me how Whelan had done the painting and when she’d seen it she decided she had to write that scene, with the dragons in the trees, into the book.

We met her cats. We met Elizabeth Anne Scarborough, who was there working on the very earliest books of the Acorna series with “Annieone” (and EAS was “Annietwo”). Anne asked if either of us wanted to be writers, and I said that I did. She told me to do anything else if I could, because it was a hard way to make a living. It was a piece of advice I didn’t *really* understand until nearly fifteen years later when I was holding URBAN SHAMAN in my hands for the first time.

Because, well, of *course* I *could* do other things. I did do other things, lots of them, and I was good at those other things and they certainly paid the bills. But there with the first copy of my first book in my hands, I finally really understood that no, actually, it turned out I couldn’t *really* do other things, because while I was doing all those other things they were only a platform to get me to the stage where I could write full time. While I was doing all those other things, I was also writing, because that was more important than going out or sleeping in or getting to the gym or whatever: in the end, I could not, in fact, do anything else and be satisfied, happy, content with what I was doing.

I sent Anne McCaffrey a copy of URBAN SHAMAN and a letter telling her that I finally understood what she’d been saying to me when I was twenty years old, and that it had turned out I couldn’t do anything else, and thanking her for her kindness and generosity to a couple of kids from Alaska all those years earlier.

That fall we moved to Ireland. The next October, at Octocon, the Irish National Science Fiction Convention, Anne showed up. I don’t even remember if she was an invited guest or if she just crashed the party, but she was zipping around the place in her electric chair, commanding attention not just with her speed but with her white hair and her big smile and by just being Anne Goddamned McCaffrey, the Dragonlady.

I had no idea if my copy of URBAN SHAMAN had made it to her, so when I got the chance I went to her table and knelt across from her and told her the whole story I’d said in the letter, all the things I said above, and partway through, she said, “Wait, did you write that book about the shaman in Seattle? You sent it to me, didn’t you? I loved it! I’ve gotten the next ones that have come out and I get to read them before anybody else in the house!”

Anne McCaffrey died Monday at the age of 85. It is not an exaggeration to say she helped shape my life, or that I loved her for all that I barely knew her. I’ve already read more than a dozen tributes to her on my friends pages, and I am clearly not the only one who was so affected by Anne, her works, and her worlds.

We loved you, Dragonlady. We always will.

(x-posted from the essential kit)
Current Mood: sadsad
(Deleted comment)
kitmizkit on November 23rd, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
All Over The Mapjemck on November 23rd, 2011 09:22 am (UTC)
Oh! I've just remembered! It was Anne who advised me - by which I mean to say, told me in no uncertain terms and financial prudence be darned - to buy the original artwork for my first series' book jackets - from the amazingly talented Geoff Taylor.

When I got my first big US royalty cheque, I did just that - and to heck with financial prudence. The pictures hang on walls around the house and inspire me daily.
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on November 23rd, 2011 10:34 am (UTC)
I'm wondering why publishers haven't noticed this - that authors will frequently end up buying the cover art to their own works - and sneaked it into a standard contract package. "No royalties, sorry, but You Get The Picture".

(No, wait, I've seen those foreign covers of yours.)

For me, McCaffrey was a writer that I loved while growing up. As a world-weary adult, I'm looking for something different, but if I was looking for a writer that I'd be happy to introduce an early teen to, in the knowledge that they'd be safe with her for the next decade, she was one of the best.

Also, a person generous with her advice.
(no subject) - suricattus on November 23rd, 2011 11:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on November 23rd, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on November 23rd, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bellinghman on November 23rd, 2011 07:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on November 23rd, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
martianmooncrabmartianmooncrab on November 23rd, 2011 09:37 am (UTC)
I sent her copies of your Bombshells, and she loved them.
kit: writing_catedermodymizkit on November 23rd, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC)
I have no idea what possessed you to do that, but as I was writing this I was thinking it was a shame I hadn't sent her those (I did send her the Negotiator Trilogy, after meeting her at Octocon), so thank you. I am profoundly grateful that you did that. I really, really am. Thank you very much.
(no subject) - martianmooncrab on November 23rd, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
eponin10 on November 23rd, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC)
This was lovely, Catie.
kitmizkit on November 23rd, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you. <3
Geek of Weird Shit: sensualgows on November 23rd, 2011 02:40 pm (UTC)
I thought about looking up Anne McCaffrey when I went to Ireland in '94, but I did think it was too presumptuous. I didn't want to intrude upon her privacy. The idea of, y'know, writing her first never even occurred to me. O.o

How very awesome that she liked your books!

Menolly was always my favorite, too. Her and Killashandra Ree, although Ree was from a different world.
Mary Annepers1stence on November 23rd, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
I love Menolly and Ree and Helva (the Ship Who Sang). While I wouldn't classify McCaffrey's work as the most "literary" of the sci fi/fantasy genre, it is imminently satisfying storytelling (which some "literary" fiction is not).

And unrelated to the Dragon Lady, I also deeply love McKinley's Blue Sword.
(no subject) - gows on November 24th, 2011 02:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pers1stence on November 24th, 2011 03:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on November 23rd, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gows on November 24th, 2011 02:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pers1stence on November 24th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC) (Expand)
Henrytahnan on November 23rd, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
Really lovely essay.

(The first SF I read as SF was Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man"—in spite of having obviously read any number of things before it like "A Wrinkle in Time" and the Tripod trilogy—and I have exactly the same deep unshakeable fondness for it that you do, I think, for "Dragonsong".)
kitmizkit on November 23rd, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's it exactly. First loves, and all; the earlier experiences were only dallying in the waters. :)
(Deleted comment)
kitmizkit on November 23rd, 2011 05:16 pm (UTC)
My own dog-eared, cover-torn, spine-broken, beat-up already-old-when-I-stole-it-from-my-cousin copy of DRAGONSONG is the one I brought to Ireland with me to have her sign. It was then retired with honors, and is, I believe, the first signed book I have from any author. Today I'm particularly glad I've got it.
TuftEars: Wynxtuftears on November 23rd, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)
Oh man! That is an awesome remembrance. I especially liked the bit about the bookshelves. ^_^
Dinidamedini on November 23rd, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this!!! I had always hoped to get to Ireland while she still lived, but alas. Thank you for giving us this look at her.
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on November 23rd, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
You know, one thing that is coming over really strongly is how many writers she encouraged, face-to-face or by letter. An amazing lady.
anthony_lionanthony_lion on November 24th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
Please don't tell anyone... ;-)

I was in the airforce(RNoAF) doing my duty for King and Country(15month conscription) when I read the Harper Hall trilogy and The White Dragon.
And there were tears in my eyes when Jaxxom impressed Ruth.

Anne; Thanks for teaching dragons to fly and spaceships to sing!

Now, I'm putting on the eletric kettle and heading up to the attic to find a certain trilogy.
(Tea, cookies and a good book. What better way to remember Anne?)

The books to read of Anne is:
All about Helva, the ship who sang,
Harper Hall Trilogy and The White Dragon from Pern,
Decision at Doona.
To Ride Pegasus.
Thorns of Barevi...
(OK, that last one is probably rated 18 or something... )
Not saying the others aren't good, just that these are the best of the best and that if you're not reading one of them tonight, you really should...
spiffikinsspiffikins on November 24th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
thank you for this!

Childlightchildlight on November 24th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing such a touching memory