I was sad last week when I read that Anne McCaffrey had died at the age of 85
. There are a couple of stories about her that I wanted to share.
When I was about eleven or twelve, on one of our frequent trips to Chippenham library, my father diverted me from my usual route to the children's section and picked out Dragonsong
from the fantasy/sf shelves. I remember that I read it pretty much in one go that evening, reading in bed long past when I should have slept. In the morning I woke up, saw it sitting by my bed, and started reading it again ...
After that, not only did I track down and read everything I could find by Anne McCaffrey, I also started routinely visiting the fantasy/sf section of the library. I saved my pocket money and gift money and bought what I could find in the WHSmiths that was all Chippenham had for a bookshop at the time. That intervention by my father changed my reading habits for life, though it is my mother with whom I mostly shared (and still share) books and discussions. Sadly, when I asked him at the weekend, he didn't remember the incident, or what had prompted him to pick out that book at that time.
When I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, Anne McCaffrey did a talk and signing at Heffers on Trinity Street, so of course I got a pair of tickets, for myself and my friend Donna. We went for a long walk earlier the same day, for reasons I can't remember, but I remember dashing up to New Hall to grab my tickets, leaving Donna behind to recover, and just making it back in time. The "little white-haired old lady" sat and talked and answered questions, including mine (on the topic of where the name Johnny Greene came from, that you will find on a number of characters in her various universes). I remember I had to repeat my question because I was too shy and quiet the first time. I was a bit nervous that it would be a silly one, but my genuine interest was responded to with respect and enthusiasm.
I stopped being quite so completionist in recent years, and I'm rather more sensitive to the flaws than I was at eleven, or indeed at twenty-one, but the McCaffrey section of my bookcase is still substantial as can be seen below (please ignore my piles of books-to-be-shelved):
I picked up one of the books and read it last week (Nerilka's Story & The Coelura
) and still found it worth reading. I will probably read more over the next months.