Anne McCaffrey passed away on Monday 21st November 2012.
And I’m not sad about it.
Her Pern books were the first novels I read that catapulted me into a world that I could escape into on my own. I shared Star Wars with my friends, Lord of the Rings with my brothers, but Pern was all mine and nobody read that but me, and in 1986 I fell into the pages of Dragonsong. I ate up the Harper Hall series and then went back to the first book, Dragonflight. I was hooked. It was 1986, I needed a place to escape to, a place that was just mine, and here it was.
In 1987 I took the plunge and wrote a letter to Anne. I poured out my sixteen-year-old heart and gushed to her about how much I loved her books, how they moved me and how I would love to write myself. I posted it and thought nothing of it, just enjoying the cathartic experience of finally releasing the pent-up emotion the books had instilled in me.
A month or so later, I got a reply. From her. From Anne. From the woman that had created this wonderful world. She appreciated my words, she loved the fact that I loved the books, she told me of other books that I should try and she wished me luck with my own writing endeavours. She typed the letter, wrote my address on an envelope and licked a stamp to get it to me. I can’t tell you how amazing I felt, how special she made me feel by taking the time to answer my letter. She had no doubt done this a thousand times but, at sixteen, I didn’t care. I knew that for a few moments, while she read my letter and wrote the response, that I was her focus, the only person in the world she was thinking about. She had spent time thinking about what I had written and she had taken even more time to write back. Anne McCaffrey did something for me that nobody else has ever done – she told me that it was okay to like what I like and that I should be proud of it.
From then on I absorbed her other books religiously; Dinosaur Planet, the incredible The Ship Who Sang, the beautiful Restoree, the Crystal Singer. I read them all. I loved them.
Ten years ago I packed her books delicately away and I haven’t touched them. Last week I was looking at random websites and there was a mention of her book The Ship Who Sang and I thought, ‘Wow, it must have been more than a decade since I last read a Pern book’ and I decided that once I had finished my current read I’d dig them out and dust them off. Yesterday, I read that she has passed on. I have cried for her and I will mourn her.
But I will not be sad. I absolutely refuse. Because if I’m sad about her passing then that is how I will remember her. I’ll think of her and feel sad that she has gone. All I want to do is remember what joy she gave me, what happiness, what wonder she unleashed into my sixteen-year-old head.
In fact, it’s not that I won’t be sad. It’s that, after everything she did for me, I simply can’t be.