Here’s the second half of How Anne McCaffrey Changed My Life (Part 1 here). Let me know what you think!
It was not long after Beldona that I made my first discovery of online PbeM Weyrs, where you could post a persona of a dragonrider, crafter, or holder and then write a story with another person about your character and someone else’s’ through emailing. I started writing personas, basic at first but growing ever more complex, and posted the best ones on a site called Southern Boll Weyr. It was exhilarating getting to write back and forth and read the writings of other people who loved Pern just as much as I did and, for the 9 months I got to participate before it closed, I was in heaven. I never found another Weyr I liked as much, and that chapter in my life closed with Southern Boll.
But my time at a PbeM Weyr was not wasted. All those emails gave me all the tools I needed to make characters and come up with stories on my own, and it also opened the door to the endless possibilities. After Southern Boll, I started to create my own universes, populating them with diverse characters as I tried to emulate Anne. Most of the stories that I wrote in my head as I fell asleep each night never made it to writing, but “head stories” became a creative habit that I still employ today as I fall asleep.
Once I ran out of books by Anne, I started expanding into other Science Fiction and Fantasy stories. I read a huge number of young adult novels in my never ending search for dragons but eventually I went to Heinlein, Ursula K. LeGuin, S. M. Stirling, George R. R. Martin, Jody Lynn Nye, and Diana Wynne Jones – whose novel Howl’s Moving Castle became one of my all-time favorites. I also went to classics like The Picture of Dorian Gray and Pride and Prejudice.
I adored everything from the Science Fiction to the classics but something about Anne’s dragons held on to me in the way that none of the others could. Everywhere I went I was on the hunt for prints or figurines of dragons that fit with Anne’s depiction of them. They had to have four legs, not two; they had to be the right color; they couldn’t be to spiky or scary; they absolutely couldn’t be fighting other dragons or people. The cover art for the books was the obvious first choice, but I was more focused on figurines that. It was difficult to find the perfect dragons, but once I found them it was worth it. Dragon earrings, ear cuffs, models, posters, and computer backgrounds began to fill up my bedroom and with each new dragon I felt fuller, but I kept looking.
When Todd started writing Pern, my interest was quickly lost. I despised his works and stopped reading new books. In 2011, just before Anne’s death, I went to Dragoncon for the first time and found myself at a reading of The Smallest Dragonboy mostly just out of sentimentality. It had been so long since I read Anne’s writings that I had forgotten how wonderful it was and in that tiny conference room in the back of a hotel my love for dragons was re-awakened on a whole new level. At the vendor’s room later that day I bought a print of a green dragon but other than that I left mostly empty handed.
It was at the Dragoncon in 2013 that I spotted a large poster-sized print from across the room of a gold dragon in a spaceship. It was the cover art for Dragonwriter, which I didn’t even know about as I had stopped following the Dragonriders series when Todd took over. I wasn’t interested in Todd’s writing, but this image captivated me and I walked out with it happier than ever before. This was what I had been waiting for. A young Anne smiled at me over her shoulder as she and her gold dragon prepared to exit the ship toward their final destination, Pern, with the Red Star glowing in the background and a small portrait of an older Anne smiled out of a control panel in the lower left.
I mounted it above my desk, surrounded by the dragon figurines I had collected over the years, and just looking up at it filled me with love for the woman and the stories who changed my life. My most formative years were spent in the company of Anne and her characters and because of them I grew into the woman I am today. The books taught me about duty, bravery, strength, loss, unconditional love, and one person’s importance in the grand scheme of things. They encouraged my creativity and showed me how to channel it into creating people and stories that before I could only imagine in the deepest corners of my mind and writing is one of my favorite hobbies to this day.
When I first picked up Acorna’s World I didn’t know who I was or who I was going to become. Anne led me through that time and took what had before only been a small part of my being and put it into the light, making it a defining part of me. I know exactly who I am now, and a massive part of me belongs on Pern, just like the young woman and her gold dragon smiling down at me from above my desk, making their final journey to where we both belong.