Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank you for the Dragons

I've lost many people these past few years who mean a lot to me. Although Anne McCaffrey's passing on November 21 was not unexpected (she was deep in her 80s, after all) it still caused me great sadness.

I still clearly remember the day I encountered my first Anne McCaffrey novel. I'd started high school in the second quarter--due to a serious illness at the start of Standard 6 during the early 1990s--and was in the library with my class. There, on the display, was a copy of Anne McCaffrey's The White Dragon. Our teacher--a real old bag--was droning on about the reference resources and I just had eyes for The White Dragon.

Up until then, my only experience with fantasy had been a few of those "choose your own adventure" books (in which I always cheated) and, of course, the Great Tome belonging to Tolkien. I didn't know it at the time, but McCaffrey was about to bridge the gap between fantasy and SF, and turn me from being a merely avid reader into a voracious devourer of words.

She would also be one of my earliest inspirations in the art of storytelling. After being swept away to Pern, I too wanted to create worlds where I could immerse my readers--and myself.

In total, I think I've read all the Pern books two or three times each over the past two decades. And, while I'll be honest and say my reading tastes have matured, I still appreciate those Pern books because McCaffrey tells a great story.

Lessa may be a bit of a Mary Sue, but who doesn't cheer when she Impresses Ramoth? And Jaxom, who somehow manages to straddle the worlds of dragonrider and lord holder? Of course who can forget Piemur's propensity for getting in--and out--of trouble? These are just a handful of the memorable characters I encountered in McCaffrey's books, which became like old friends to me.

Her later Pern novels didn't grab me as much. Whether this was to the sin of "too much awesome" or just personal preference I'd still like to thank McCaffrey for the great legacy she gifted us.

I appreciate too, that unlike other authors, she allowed other writers to "play nicely" in Pern, for those of us who were wont to dabble in fanfiction. Before I published my first novel, I wrote three (two complete, one unfinished) serial fics set in Pern. Although chances are slim that I'll revisit the genre, I gained much valuable feedback from the folks over at, which definitely shaped the writer I am today.

Thank you, Anne, for your words. You lived a full life and you taught me how to catch and ride my own dragons.

Disclaimer: My flash pieces were written a *very* long time ago and, scanning them at present, I encounter a fair number of cringe-worthy incidents that can be considered crimes against the English language. Once in a blue moon I’ll get a bug up my arse and write fanfiction. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. And you know what? If it serves the purpose of whiling away the hours, then there’s nothing wrong with it. The whole point with writing is about telling stories. Just remember to acknowledge the origin of the idea. And beware of Anne Rice. She takes a dim view on fanfiction. [grins]

This one’s totally non-canon, based around the concept of another sport being hatched, this one a “black” queen called Suteth who refuses to Impress, and the chaos that ensues. The main character is a formerly holdless girl named Shaya, who’s been taken in at Benden Weyr and how she ends up in a sort of Impression with the rogue queen. Considering that Shaya’s father was an erstwhile bandit lord who’d had his reign of terror, there’s plenty of politics for the young woman to navigate.

Weyrwoman Blues:
Nolena is a young queenrider at Benden, who has Weyrwoman duties thrust upon her at a very early stage in her career when her predecessor is ailing. She must prove herself and her young golden queen in turbulent political times, when often her abilities are overlooked due to her age. Added to her concerns are her queen’s incipient first rising. Who will be her future Weyrleader, and will it be someone she can trust? The story overlaps with events that take place in Evolution.

Flaming Greens:
One scenario I always wanted to see was post-AIVAS Pern many Turns in the future. I must admit having watched a bit too much Pirates of the Caribbean for my own good when I started writing this fic. I never finished it, sadly, as my original fiction started taking off with my first sales 'round about the time that I was writing Flaming Greens. Now I fear the story has lain fallow far too long and I simply don’t have the time or the wherewithal to finish it. There’s enough here to be entertaining. See if you can see my Captain Sparrow wannabe.

Illustration for the cover art image by David Roe

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