Todd McCaffrey (ed.) – Dragonwriter: A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Pern

I stumbled across the unmistakable Michael Whelan cover that usually indicates a Pern book to me on NetGalley. A quick glance at the “synopsis” and I knew I wanted to read this. I love Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series and while I started reading them as a teenager, I still enjoy returning to that world of weyrs, dragonriders and Harpers. Why not learn more about the writer herself and take a look back at her career?

dragonwriterDRAGONWRITER: A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Pern
edited by Todd McCaffrey

Published by: Smart Pop, August 2013
ISBN: 9781937856830
ebook: 288 pages

My rating: 8,5/10

First sentence: All too often we try to measure a person by cold, hard facts: when they were born, when they died, their marriages, their children, their schooling.

When Anne McCaffrey passed in November 2011, it was not only those closest to her who mourned her death; legions of readers also felt the loss deeply. The pioneering science fiction author behind the Dragonriders of Pern® series crafted intricate stories, enthralling worlds, and strong heroines that profoundly impacted the science fiction community and genre.
In Dragonwriter, Anne’s son and Pern writer Todd McCaffrey collects memories and stories about the beloved author, along with insights into her writing and legacy, from those who knew her best. Nebula Award-winner Elizabeth Moon relates the lessons she learned from Pern’s Lessa (and from Lessa’s creator); Hugo Award-winner David Brin recalls Anne’s steadfast belief that the world to come will be better than the one before; legendary SFF artist Michael Whelan shares (and tells stories about) never-before-published Pern sketches from his archives; and more.
Join Anne’s co-writers, fellow science fiction authors, family, and friends in remembering her life, and exploring how her mind and pen shaped not only the Weyrs of Pern, but also the literary landscape as we know it.

I had a plan for this. I thought: This is nice. These are short little pieces on Anne McCaffrey and her novels, memories and anecdotes, just long enough for my way to and from work each day. One chapter per subway ride. It could have worked out so well and this book would have lasted me for weeks. Alas, I found myself drawn more and more into what people had to say about the late, great Dragonlady. I picked this volume up even though I have The Republic of Thieves right here (and half-read, I might add).

This collection brings together a variety of pieces about Anne McCaffrey, her work, and the influence she’s had on her surroundings. I was not for a second surprised to find one recurring description of Anne – lovingly called Annie by many: that of an open-hearted, generous, kind, and sharply clever woman who helped those around her grow and thrive. If I hadn’t read any of her books, I would want to now. I also would have liked to be friends with her, have visited her in her ever-open Dragonhold in Ireland, and heard her sing.

You will find a diverse range of pieces in this collection. While some essays are simple (yet touching) memories of encounters withe Anne, of growing and lasting friendships, others recount how her fiction has helped them through the rough patches in life. Yet others read like an in-depth analysis of Anne’s impact on the science fiction genre, or how religion figures into the world of Pern. Her former collaborators talk about how they came to be Anne’s friends, a couple of young writers share how Anne helped save their career with her endless confidence in their talent and good advice.

anne mccaffrey
All three of Anne’s children contributed to the collection. While Alec’s story is more about him than his mother, one can see her influence on his life and her support for all his activism. Gigi (Georgeanne, Anne’s only daughter) tells how Anne McCaffrey was a “universal mother” for her, her brothers, and all their friends and colleagues.

There is one story that stood out the me, although I enjoyed every single one of them, and that is “Changes Without Notice” by Angelina Adams. I haven’t read The Ship Who Sang (but I will!) but it becomes clear from this collection what it is about. Reading Adams’ story made me understand how that book must have touched her and how it actually changed her life. I admit, I am prone to being emotional when I read, but if this story doesn’t make you cry at least a litte, you must be heartless.

I won’t give away too much – I’ll just say that this collection has given me an amazing insight into who Anne McCaffrey was as a person, not just a writer. My conclusion is: I would have loved to have known her and I am truly sad she is gone.

Just because it needs to be mentioned: This collection was edited superbly. The stories’ succession made utter sense, especially to someone who hasn’t read all (or any) of Anne’s books. There are a few spoilers for two Pern novels (Dragonflight and Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern). Some stories mention other of Anne’s works that I am not familiar with. These stories are arranged in such a way that, in order to understand one story, we get an essential bit of knowlege from the one preceding it, be it Dragon*Con jargon or Anne’s training as an opera singer. I felt like I slowly got the inside scoop on an amazing woman.

Another thing that deserves praise is Michael Whelans piece. He talks about designing the covers for Anne’s Pern novels and, even in the e-ARC edition, shows some of the sketches that were sent to the publishers as cover ideas. Being me, I will buy this as a paper book once it’s out, not only to see the beautiful artwork in color (and larger scale) but to have this gem of a tribute gracing my shelves, right next to my small (but growing) collection of Anne McCaffrey novels.

RATING: 8,5/10  – Absolutely excellent

dividerTable of Contents

  • Todd McCaffrey – Introduction
  • David Brin – Believer in us
  • Sharon Lee and Steve Miller – Why Are You Reading This Stupid Shirt?
  • John Goodwin – Star Power
  • David Gerrold – How the Dragonlady Saved My Life
  • Robert Neilson – Bookends
  • Elizabeth Moon – Lessons From Lessa
  • Robin Roberts – Flying in New Directions
  • Lois McMaster Bujold – Modeling the Writer’s Life
  • Wen Spencer – All the Weyrs of Pern
  • Jody Lynn Nye and Bill Fawcett – The McCaffrey Effect
  • Mercedes Lackey – The Ships That Were
  • Elizabeth Ann Scarborough – The Dragonlad’s Songs
  • Richart J. Woods – Religion on Pern?
  • Chelsea Quinn Yarbro – Anne and Horses
  • Michael Whelan – Picturing Pern
  • Alec Johnson – Red Star Rising
  • Angelina Adams – Changes Without Notice
  • Charlotte Moore – The Twithead With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Janis Ian – The Masterharper is Gone
  • Georgeanne Kennedy – Universal Mom
  • Todd McCaffrey – Afterword