Anne McCaffrey died last Monday, age 85, at her home in Ireland. I’ll miss her. She was one of my early discoveries in the world of science fiction, not long after I stumbled across Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. She was a pioneer in a genre dominated by men, bringing a new and refreshing depth and common-sensical realism to her female characters. No frilly, empty-headed arm-candy here–McCaffrey’s heroines were strong, intelligent, and resourceful, as all good heroines should be. They always found ingenious solutions to difficult problems. And, more often than not, they were outsiders, trying to find a way to fit into a society that didn’t quite understand them but desperately needed their intelligence and insight.
Her stories didn’t carry any perceptible feminist agenda or preachifying, either, not that I cared much about this as a teenager. She simply wrote great stories, full of adventure and imagination. She’s best known for her tales of telepathic dragons, living in symbiosis with a society of space colonists who long ago forgot the details of their heritage–the Dragonriders of Pern series. This was my first contact with Anne McCaffrey’s writing, and I’ve been toting those paperbacks around with me since high school. A later treat was her Brainship series, about disabled humans who find a new life as cyborged spaceships, and I’ve chosen one of my very favorites among those books to highlight today.
You’ll have to buy a copy to get the full text of this cool story, but the first seven chapters should be enough to give you the flavor of Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Searched, written in collaboration with Mercedes Lackey, courtesy of Baen Books. Hey, it’s nearly the entire story. Click on the book cover to go there.
Enjoy. And I bet you’ll want to read those last two chapters.