The esteemed author Anne McCaffrey made a rare U.S. appearance here at Dragon*Con this year. The prolific writer is the author of the extremely popular Pern books, as well as many other series, including The Ship Who Sang, The Rowan series, the Crystal Singer series, and several other stand alone books for adults and children.
We asked Ms. McCaffrey:
What authors influenced you as a child?
Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Will James. Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia was very influential when I read it at age 14.
How have you seen the role of women writers change through the years?
There have been huge changes and I say huzzah! When I started, there were a group of about 40 female science fiction writers, including Marian Zimmer Bradley, Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, Kate Wilhelm. About the time Star Trek became popular in 1968, more women began reading and writing science fiction and demanded real women heroes. Star Wars and ET also brought more female fans into the fantasy and science fiction areas. It used to be that girls were kept out of the sciences because they were expected to be wives and mothers and so on.
What did your parents think of your writing?
My mother was a fantasy and murder fan. My father looked up, said “hmmm” and went back to his reading. My mother was pleased.
How was John Campbell to work for as an editor?
He was vastly encouraging and marvelous to work for. Often he gave a core idea, which were often “a man’s suggestion” and I of course went with my own intuition.
What are some of the dangers of living in a technological society?
Of course, technology was invented to assist us, not run over or addict us. Some people are attached to their cell phones. (Aside… says she who is addicted to her keyboard.)
What do you say to the people who try to categorize your work as science fiction, fantasy or something else?
I do not write fantasy. The dragons were bio-engineered from indigenous life forms.
Who is your favorite character?
Robinton, Miriam, Piemur, but I would like to be more like Killashandra (Aside: her name is derived from a type of Irish butter). My alter ego is Helva.
Fill in the blank: my passion in life is ______ .
Seeing dragons on the screen.
Tell us about the Dragonriders television show.
I want it to be true and I want to be on it too. I want to be a person in the corner watching ( does an impersonation of an Auntie). Will be doing an Alfred Hitchcock.
Do you think any other series will take off and have alternate applications such as Pern?
Red Star is looking into doing the Catteni Freedom Series.
What advice would you give to young writers?
Learn how to spell, use grammar and syntax. What makes you think you can drive without the fuel.
How do you feel about Pern fandom?
I’m glad people can find what they need in my books. I find it very complimentary and am delighted.
What would you like to say to your fans?
I’m sorry that I’m no longer able to sign autographs like I used to. There was a time that I would sign anything anyone put in front of me. I’m very arthritic in my right hand and just can’t do it any more. Also, just thank you for coming.
Ms. McCaffrey was also a guest on a panel in the main ballroom discussing the upcoming television series based on the Dragonriders of Pern. The show is being put together by Alliance Atlantis. Pre-production has been ongoing for about three years, working out the technical details of the CG dragons. U.S. distribution is still under preliminary discusssion at this point. Script writing will begin next week and casting is planned for the November time frame. The actors will most probably be unknowns. You can track the progress of the series on the new website www.pern.com. This will be your first stop for information. Ms. McCaffrey is very pleased with the series development so far. There will also be an interactive video game based on the Dragonriders. She commented “Fort Hold is exactly as I pictured it. It couldn’t have been done better if they’d crawled inside my head.”
Shelly Shapiro, editor at Del Rey Books talked Ms. McCaffrey’s son, Todd McCaffrey into writing a biography of his mother and what it was like to grow up as part of her family. As he grew up next to her and her writing, no one is more qualified to write on the subject.
In a brief interview with Todd he shared some of these memories:
- At age nine, Todd was scared to death of his mother because she played Queen Agravine in a production of “Once Upon A Mattress.” His mother had to reassure him that she would be nice again when it was over.
- As Secretary/Treasurer of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Association, Ms. McCaffrey published the SFWA Forum for members. Todd remembers getting people together and going around a big round table to coallate copies.
- Mr. McCaffrey did not like the original dedication in “Decision at Doona,” which was “to my darling son.” Being 13 at the time, he now describes it as being a source of teenage angst. He and his mother settled on the compromise currently in the book. Upon reflection today, however, he thinks the original dedication would be cool.
- When asked what it was like to grow up around so many people that are now legends of the science fiction genre, Todd said that to him they were, “people who you have conncected with in a very interesting way.” John Campbell in particular came to his mind because he took the time to seriously listen and give advice to a 13 year old Todd.
When asked about the future of her work, Ms McCaffrey gave the crowd a teaser saying, “What happens when Thread stops falling? This will obviously effect the entire social structure of Pern.” There were also requests from the audience for her to continue all of her other series as well.
“Did you ever imagine a room full of people discussing your work, and by the way thank you so much.”, Ms. McCaffrey replied, “You know, sometimes, you get what you wish for.” Thank you Anne McCaffrey for enriching our lives with your wonderful characters and stories. Oh, and by the way, please keep them coming.