A great sadness has hit the world of science fiction as it has been confirmed by Random House that renowned author Anne McCaffrey has died in her home in Ireland from a stroke. She was 85.

Anne McCaffrey pioneered the path for women science fiction writers becoming the first woman to win a Hugo Award in the category of fiction as well as the first woman to win a Nebula Award and the first author to hit the New York Times Bestseller List with a science fiction book, ‘The White Dragon’, the third in her famous ‘Dragonriders of Pern’ series. But it was the strides in how she changed the way science fiction authors wrote about women that were groundbreaking. Her first novel,’Restoree’, was written as a protest against how women were portrayed in the genre in the early 50’s and 60’s. From there, her talents soared as high as her characters in the world of Pern did with her ‘The Ship Who Sang’ and “The Dragonriders of Pern’ series.

McCaffrey may be best known for her ‘Dragonriders of Pern’ which displayed a stunning and richly detailed world where genetically engineered dragons work together with elite dragon riders to protect the inhabitants of Pern from the dreaded ‘thread’. The series has developed into 22 novels and was in development for a feature film. Before her passing, McCaffrey was working on the 23rd installment with her son, Todd McCaffrey, which was to be released sometime in spring of next year.

McCaffrey has stated, however, that the best story she ever wrote was ‘The Ship Who Sang’ as it still has the ability to make people cry, including her. ‘The Ship Who Sang’ is about a severely disabled girl who becomes the core of a starship and her mind would control all its major functions.  ‘The Ship Who Sang’ has been attributed to help pave the way for the subgenre of post human space opera.

McCaffrey remained active in the sci-fi world till the very end and would also often reply to her many fans via her site The Worlds of Anne McCaffrey.  Her last posting was on November 4. The only indication that she might have been ill was in the August post when her son Todd wrote on her behalf:

“Dear All,

Mum wants me to relay to you how terribly sorry she is to have to cancel this year’s appearance at Dragon*con.

What seemed to be indigestion last week has now turned out to be something more serious – some incident with her heart, the full details of which are still to be determined by tests.

Mum very specifically asked me to apologize to those who had hoped to see her there, saying: “Sorry that old age came up and bit me on the a**.”

The Directors at Dragon*con have said that she’s to rest and get better so she can come next year.


Todd McCaffrey”

Several fans and authors have expressed their sadness regarding her passing via Twitter including Neil Gaiman:

Undoubtedly the light in the world of science fiction has dimmed tonight with her passing but Anne McCaffrey has left a legacy that will no doubt influence many upcoming writers and fuel the imaginations of many to come.

RIP Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)