On Dragon’s Wings
This morning I learned that Anne McCaffrey just died.
I can’t tell you the countless hours I’ve spent lost in worlds she created. The Dragonrider’s of Pern was among the first of the science fiction series that truly captured my imagination and mind. I grew up devouring tales of Pern, weyrs, threadfall and dragon’s flight. Through awkward preteen and teenage years I’d escape to Pern, dreaming of bonding with a dragon and sailing through the skies.
As I look back on those years, it’s difficult to put into words just how profoundly her books influenced my life. Short and chubby, with coke-bottle glasses, uncoordinated and clumsy, the “gifted” label placed on me at the tender age of 8 simply cemented the bully’s target onto my forehead. I was awkward, I cried easily and frequently and I honestly had no idea how to relate to most of the kids in my class.
McCaffrey’s heroines were always dealing with much larger adversities, with much more at stake than the simple emotions of one little girl. They were also flawed and made mistakes, they had hopes and disappointments, but they always stood up for themselves and did the right thing. Lessa, Rowan, Acorna, Menolly, Killashandra – they were all remarkable role models that rose above the challenges life threw at them and they did so with grace, humor and style.
Lunch hour after lunch hour, I hid from the cafeteria bullies in my Language Arts teacher’s classroom absorbed in Lessa’s quests, Killashandra’s struggles and the power of the Brainships. These women always looked at the world with a positive view and I desperately wanted to be them. I think I can attribute a good number of my personal values today to their influences while I was growing up.
What I didn’t realize then was that Anne McCaffrey was the first female writer to earn both the Hugo and Nebula awards and that she was reshaping how women were portrayed in science fiction. All I knew, was that these were women I could look up to and aspire to be. To this day, I would take it as a compliment to be compared to any of her heroines.
Soon I’ll introduce these wonderful worlds to my sons, but in the mean time I have some old friends to catch up with. Excuse me, I have some re-reading to do….