The beginning of it all

Yesterday one of the cornerstones of modern science-fiction passed away. Anne McCaffrey died in her home in Ireland following a stroke at the age of 85. There is not a fan of science fiction or fantasy that I know who did not fall in love with the dragons of Pern or explore the bounds of telepathy with the Rowan or the Ship Who Sang.

Although I loved dragons and science fiction long before I read anything by Anne McCaffrey, it was she who first revealed to me that these things that I loved could be found in books. I remember receiving Dragonsong for Christmas when I was twelve, sitting in the upstairs bedroom (‘my’ room) in the Old House, reading it late into the night. It was one of the few books that as soon as I finished it, I read it again. She awoke my thirst for reading science fiction and fantasy, and also, for writing it. My very first ‘novel’ (that shall never see the light of day) shamelessly borrowed from Pern (and Xena and the NBC miniseries Merlin, but let’s not go there). Although I can point to Peter S. Beagle for my deep love of the high medieval period and the Pooka, to Piers Anthony for my weird way of mixing Greek myths with fairy tales, and to Robin McKinley and Mercedes Lackey for examples of strong, amazing princesses, it was Anne McCaffrey who started it all.

Thank you, Anne. May you rest in peace.

For Writing Wednesday I feel I ought to post an excerpt that has dragons in it, but unfortunately, Uncle Urian the dragon was left behind in Chapter Two. Instead, meet my newest protagonist:

With a start, the swan flapped its wings and was gone into the trees. The Pooka reared in surprise as Lukas drew his sword. “Swan!” he cried. The Pooka turned, leaving the road to chase after the swan. Ahead of them they could see the flash of white hopping and flapping its wings through the underbrush, half-running, half-flying. Suddenly the swan was lost in a flurry of white wings and necks. The Pooka slid to a halt in front a flock of swans, all silently swarming around one swan, rubbing their heads and necks together.

“Swan?” asked Lukas, dismounting.

Out of nowhere a branch swung at his head. Lukas ducked. The Pooka sidled out of the way. When he looked up the branch was swinging back at him, so he stepped aside and grabbed it. The branch struggled against his grip, and it was then that he saw that it was held by a maiden, a young lady dressed in the fine clothes of minor nobility.

“Who are you? Why are you attacking me?” asked Lukas.

The woman, whose skin was nearly as fair as the swans and her hair pale besides, scowled at him. The color was high in her cheeks. Her eyes were pale blue — the same color as the swan’s eyes, he noticed. Without speaking, she pointed angrily at him, at his sword, and then at the flock of swans. Lukas followed each point until he was staring at the swans, unable to make out which one had been his travel companion for the past several months. The swans had settled enough for Lukas to count them. There were six swans.

“What?” asked the knight.

The Pooka whuffed through its nostrils. “Perhaps she thought you were hunting the swan,” it said.

The maiden’s eyes grew wide and round at the Pooka, but still she said nothing. She nodded once.

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