Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dragonwriter: A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Pern - Todd McCaffrey

 I received a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.


From the publishers:
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.

Contributors include:

• Angelina Adams
• David Brin
• David Gerrold
• John Goodwin
• Janis Ian
• Alec Johnson
• Georgeanne Kennedy
• Mercedes Lackey
• Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
• Lois McMaster Bujold
• Elizabeth Moon
• Charlotte Moore
• Robert Neilson
• Jody Lynn Nye and Bill Fawcett
• Robin Roberts
• Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
• Wen Spencer
• Michael Whelan
• Richard J. Woods
• Chelsea Quinn Yarbro


Oh wow.  I had no idea what I was getting into when I read this book!  For some reason I thought it was going to be a dry collection of stories about Anne, it would be a quick, informative read and then I'd be on my way!  I was so wrong it's laughable!  The only thing I got right is that it was very informative.

Firstly, it's clear that any stories involving Anne could never be dry.  It's amazing how clear an image of her I got - it didn't matter if it was family, friends, colleagues, or fans - no matter how these people knew Anne (and see?  I can't call her Anne McCaffrey after reading this book), they all painted the picture of the same person.  Warm, loving, snarky, hard-working, extremely supportive - the story written by her daughter referred to her as a "universal mum".  I'm not really sure how to review short stories honestly, so I won't bother to separate them because all of them were absolutely wonderful to read.  I had to limit myself to one chapter at a time though as I do much of my reading on the train and if I wasn't laughing out loud then I was failing horribly at trying not to cry which made me look a bit mad!

I came to this book as a fan of Anne McCaffrey's, but not a particularly knowledgeable one.  I must have read Dragonflight a million times and have read whatever other books she's authored I stumbled upon, but I had never really thought much about the creator behind them.   I have only recently started thinking about the impact of female writers in fantasy and science fiction in an era when they had to really fight to be recognized.  I didn't understand the full impact of Anne McCaffrey's achievements as a writer and as a woman, but while none of the stories harped on all of her achievements, it became quite clear to me that she paved the way for all the female sci-fi writers we have now.  Perhaps still in a minority, but I believe it is a growing minority.

This book also solved a big mystery for me - why do so many sci-fi series become co-written or taken over by other authors?  I'd always thought of it as a cop out sort of thing (probably because most sci-fi I read is YA sci-fi and they don't do that as of yet).  I'd never thought of it as a nurturing sort of thing that could launch another writer's career as well as bring in fresh ideas and characters into an already existing world.  And considering how much I love fanfiction, it's no surprise that I LOVED the idea of being able to create your own characters and work side by side with an author to add your characters to her world!

Most surprising to me was how approachable Anne was.  Every single story mentioned it - but at first I just thought it was something you said about someone.  In fact at first I thought most of the great things about Anne were exaggerated because people often do that after someone has died.  But then EVERY story mentioned these things about her - particularly how approachable she was, and I began to realize Anne really was all those great things!  One of my favourite stories in the book was a hilarious story of a fan, Charlotte Moore, meeting Anne.  I won't get into the particulars, but at one point when she was in high school she'd sent Anne an e-mail.  She got a response - but also a reprimand as Anne knew one of the teachers at the Charlotte's school (I think it was a teacher) and had heard that Charlotte was not applying herself in classes, so in her e-mail she'd said "So STUDY, twithead!"  I thought this was hilarious - and it was sort of amazing to me how she responded with such familiarity and not a stock e-mail sort of thing.  I was flabbergasted when I found out she would just let anyone into her home!  Fans would go to Ireland, call her up, and stop by for a visit!  I'd never heard of anyone doing that for complete strangers!  She apparently was extremely generous financially as well as everything else, and helped many young people get started on their career.  Not just family friends or aspiring authors either!  Reading these things about anyone, let alone an author you admire, was absolutely amazing.

This book was extremely moving.  You don't have to be a fan of Anne McCaffrey's, you don't need to know a single thing about her or her books.  This book is a fantastic collection of stories about a powerful woman's life, as well as enlightening on sci-fi writers in general.  I would highly recommend you read this - I told you, I don't do non-fiction or pseudo non-fiction, but I absolutely loved this book!


  1. Wow, I now want to read this book... and check out Anne McCaffery's books! She sounds like an amazing person and I am sure I would be touched by the book. It sounds so moving and memorable :) Great review Elizabeth!

  2. It really was, I was very surprised! If you're at all a Tamora Pierce fan I think you'll like her series (at least the Pern ones). While her world building is really different, her heroines are similar.

  3. Ooh, I really need to check her books out then! I LOVE Tamora Pierce! I read The Song of The Lioness quartet around three years ago, and then ended up reading all her other books!

    Hmm, I am going to go look up the Pern series...

  4. Yay!! Dragonflight is the first book in the Dragonriders of Pern series, and Lessa is one of my favourite characters!

  5. I must read this book!! I wish I could remember the title to a book I borrowed from the library years ago, at least twelve, that featured some female Science Fiction writers with short one chapter bios. The chapter on Anne was superb. It had photos of her home and family and talked about her beginnings in writing. I hope my library has it, and I suspect it will because they seem to have everything perceivable when it comes to Pernish things. Lol.

  6. Also, if I come across that bio compilation again, in my library adventures, I will let you know the title.

  7. Definitely do! I can only think of Ursula K. LeGuin and Anne McCaffrey in my list of female sci-fi writers, and judging by this book I can only imagine how interesting the chapter on her was!


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