I really didn't expect to be writing another sad post after the last one, since things have been pretty darn wonderful lately. So I refuse to make this weepy.
I just heard on Twitter that author Anne McCaffery passed away. It was like a punch in the gut. I mean, hardly unexpected since she was 85 years old, but still hard to hear.
I've read every book she's ever written. In fact, her book "Dragonsong" was the first fantasy novel I ever read. I actually remember getting it for Christmas from my mom. I unwrapped the package, and there was Menolly, surrounded by fire lizards on the cover. Tiny dragons! I'd never seen anything like it before!
I was a book fiend as a kid. I learned to read early and I spent so much time at the library that the librarians all knew my name and had a suggestion list for me when I got to the counter. They'd laugh, watching me attempt to carry home a stack of books half my height, knowing I'd be back in a few days for more.
But dragons? I hadn't really encountered them yet. When I cracked open the book, I was immediately hooked. Menolly sang. She loved music. She'd do anything to get to do it for a living. She went to a school that taught it! I didn't even know that was possible! She was brave and talented and she "impressed" a slew of fire lizards. I still have that book. At the beginning of one chapter, I wrote, "I wish I was her," in pencil. Considering I ended up going to Syracuse University for musical theater and sang for many years (if you're good, I'll show you my goofy acting reel which has me singing "Evita" and doing a short film of "Star Wars" done by pirates), and then ended up as a writer, you can see what this book did to me.
I went on to read every one of her books. Strong, powerful women were all over the place in a time when that wasn't really the trend in fantasy. I read many of those books before I really knew what the sex scenes were about! I was definitely too young to read "Dragonflight," but one thing did stand out. Lessa.
This lady was tough. She survived anything. No one gave her shit. I knew when I read it that this was the woman I wanted to be. (Which may explain all the weaponry in my house.) I wanted to walk into a room and have people know I was there. It changed the direction of a very shy little girl's life.
So did "Crystal Singer." Another tough lady, who after her singing career comes to an end, goes on to do something even better. When I decided to stop my theater career, I re-read this book, looked at the wider world and marched proudly onto the next thing, just like Killashandra.
Anne's work was directly responsible for my career choices, how I developed my personality, my love of dragons and space ships and so many other things. Reading about how she broke into what was mostly a male dominated genre influenced me in so many ways, they're beyond counting.
Anne McCaffery was the single biggest artistic influence in my life. Though her passing is sad, I'm about to celebrate her life by pouring one out and re-reading (for the zillionth time) "Dragonsong." Rest in peace, Dragonlady.
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