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Dragonriders of Pern author Anne McCaffrey dies

Pioneering fantasy writer was 85

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Obituary Author of the Dragonrider series of books, Anne McCaffrey, died on Monday aged 85, having authored a huge number of books that straddled the border between science fiction and fantasy.

The author suffered a stroke at her home in Ireland on Monday, and passed away shortly afterwards. Her publisher, Del Rey, posted a notification and recent photograph of the author along with a forum which is already filling with fan tributes. She is survived by two sons and a daughter.

Starting with Restoree, in 1967, Anne McCaffrey wrote almost 100 published books during her life. In the last decade or two she increasingly lent her name to cooperative authors who worked with her to continue development of the remarkably rich worlds she created.

She was the first woman to win Hugo and Nebula awards, and is widely credited in cutting a path for female writers of science fiction, and the female characters featuring in such stories.

Most well-known of her worlds is Pern, where unpronounceably named characters mounted on dragons fight sky battles against extraterrestrial threads which burn all they touch. But the despite the action, the stories' focus was always on the politics of the time, and the people involved.

But in several interviews over the years, McCaffrey mentioned that the book of which she was most proud was The Ship Who Sang, about the use of people with disabled bodies as the central intelligence for mechanical ships (the disabled person is encapsulated in a titanium shell with multiple computer connections, thus becoming a "brainship"). The ships are manned by a single crew member (a "brawn"), the two of them working together but never able to meet as the "brainship" was inexorably integrated into the ship's workings.

Aside from her penchant for names that can only be pronounced by a cat coughing up a ball of fur ("F'nor" and "Mnementh" leap to mind) she was also accused of stereotyping and simplicity in her characters. Certainly the chaps in her stories tend to be square-jawed and righteous, while the women take control and organise, and McCaffrey's attempt at pornography (lots of science fiction writers were making money writing porn shorts, so she thought she'd have a shot) is slightly worse than one might imagine.

Anne McCaffrey wrote almost 100 books, along with numerous short stories and magazine pieces, but she'll always be remembered for the dragons, which is good thing 'cos Dinosaur Planet just isn't very good. ®

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