It is a sad day today as we say goodbye to Anne McCaffrey, one of the most influential female authors within the science fiction genre.
McCaffrey’s first novel Restoree was published in 1967, and would mark a significant shift for the portrayal of women in science fiction. She wrote this novel in response to what she considered unrealistic depictions of women in science fiction and fantasy: the protagonist is an intelligent, independent young woman who survives alien abduction and finds life on a new planet. McCaffrey has commented that she wanted to write a female character who wouldn’t be the victim and need a hero to save her, but who would be a hero herself and fight for her own survival.
You can see the influence of McCaffrey’s groundbreaking new take on female science fiction characters in more contemporary fiction: for example, when Joss Whedon explained how he came up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he had very similar ideas of wanting to portray a character who in this genre would normally be expected to get eaten by the monster, only in Buffy’s case, she’d kick the monster’s butt (Middleton 2007, 24-25).
While Anne McCaffrey herself considered her novel The Ship Who Sang, about a disabled girl who becomes one with a space ship, her best work, the author’s most famous books are undoubtedly the Dragonriders of Pern series. Set on a distant planet occupied by migrants from Earth living in similar conditions to medieval times, the series’ focus is on the elite dragon riders that have to protect Pern from alien invaders. The series has won several awards, and Anne herself was the first woman to win the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the title of Grand Master of Science Fiction.
MediaBistro reported Anne McCaffrey’s passing earlier today. She will be sorely missed, and we will never forget what she did for women in the sci-fi genre.