BrooksBlog: Anne McCaffrey
Thought I would send a short message to you wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I am especially moved to do this so that I can tell you how much I am going to miss Anne McCaffrey, who passed away three days ago. Because one of the things I intend to give thanks for this holiday is that I had the chance to know this incredible woman.
There are so many reasons I will miss her. I was reading her Pern books long before I met her, well back before Sword of Shannara was published, and it would not be an exaggeration to tell you that those books had an immediate and lasting impact on me as a writer. She was a storyteller of the best kind; she wrote about characters that were engaging and of conflicts and challenges that were spellbinding. She was the first in a line of writers from the 60s and 70s that I began to read shortly after finishing up with the old timers from the 40s and 50s. At first, it was all science fiction – a boy’s favorite turf when I was growing up. But later I found myself eager for a steady diet of fantasy. Anne came along at the right time to help fulfill a young writer’s need.
A couple of quick stories about Anne.
I met her in person for the first time not long after Sword was published. I was traveling to my first World Con with Lester and Judy-Lynn del Rey, a callow and very awed young writer meeting so many men and women he admired. Among then was Anne, and the four of us went out to dinner after one day’s events. What I remember was listening to them all talk shop, telling tales and measuring the value of stories and giving me a chance to become immersed in the culture by listening in. As they did this, they knocked back shots of scotch. Well, maybe not Judy-Lynn, but definitely Lester and Anne. I tried keeping up and quickly realized the futility of it. They drank as if it made no difference while I was none-too-slowly sinking into the abyss. But what a great night.
In another World Con, maybe twelve years or so ago, this one in Scotland, I was on one of those ubiquitous bestseller panels with Anne, Stephen Donaldson, David Gemmell and perhaps one or two other writers talking about how you write a bestseller. As if anyone has ever figured out a formula that could somehow be passed along. What I remember most clearly is listening to the others talk and then suddenly jumping in with both feet in response to a question from the audience about outlining. Ah, ha! This was something I could speak to! So I did, vociferously and pointedly, rather in the way of a particularly irritating pundit. Of course, you should outline. You had to outline if you were a young writer. That’s how you learned to think and organize.
Blah, blah, blah. When I finally stopped to take a breath, there was dead silence in the room. Then Anne said, in her softest, most gentle voice, “Gosh, Terry, I don’t think I have ever outlined anything in my entire life.”
It was a teachable moment. The first of many courtesy of Anne, who had so much to teach.
I loved her, and I will miss her so. Remember those you care about this Thanksgiving. We do so all too infrequently.
Best to you all, Terry.