I know I’m not the only one. She was one of the founding members of Del Rey Books and before that already had an extensive award-winning list of novellas and novels. I first became aware of her work due to Michael Whelan, whose wonderful cover on Dragonflight sucked me in and ensured I read Pern. I’m happy it did. At the early age of thirteen, it broadened my notions of what science fiction and fantasy could be, from women and their place in science fiction to how cultures repress others.
Many years later in 2003 or 2004, as I helped manage the Barnes & Noble in Downtown Seattle, I was in the music department when one of my fellow coworkers notified me Anne McCaffrey was in the store and she would like to speak with me. I was dumbfounded. I had never met her but my coworker had shared with Anne that I maintained the website for Terry Brooks, another founding member of Del Rey Books. It took me a few moments to comprehend it. I straightened my tie, a light sweat of nervousness breaking out all over my suddenly chilly skin, and I went in search of Anne.
I found her in the fiction department, of course. She had a friend with her, pushing Anne around in a wheel chair after she had hurt her hip, but that didn’t stop her from having a book basket on her lap already filled with books.
I introduced myself as Terry’s webmaster. She gave me a mischievous, shrewd look up and down, appraising me, and after talking about Del Rey, the people we commonly knew, who we loved to read and how her own writing was going, she promptly told me to get another book basket.
“I need more books today,” she said, as I looked at her almost filled basket. “And I’m putting you to work.”
I’ll never forget those words.
I grabbed another basket and after another hour we had filled both baskets. She bought mystery; she bought romance. She had an amount of science fiction and fantasy novels that would have taken me a month to read.
“Oh, these are just what I need for this trip out to Seattle,” she said. “Long flights to and from Ireland and time to only do one thing—read.”
I had a delightful time with her that afternoon. Most authors are kind but she possessed a smart sweetness I have yet to meet in another writer. She genuinely cared for my history, my work, and my own writing endeavors. After she had purchased her two baskets of books, she invited me to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame that evening where she would be speaking.
“Bring your books,” she said. “I’ll sign them there.”
I brought my books that night. With dozens of people around her before the event, she waved me over when I walked in and signed my books.
“Thank you for your help today,” she said, the two of us surrounded by her fans.
I didn’t know her well. We just met for those several hours. I’ll never forget them though and I feel like I have to share them today. There was a magic about Anne McCaffrey that transcended her writing, a personal magic few people have within. I am lucky to have seen it. We still have her work to read and enjoy, but it is a sad, sad day for many.
We all will miss you, Anne.
Ride your new dragon into the beauty of the sky.