Wednesday, 23 November 2011

RIP Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey, sf writer, died of a stroke on Monday. Locus online has an obituary, and I found out about it via ADM's blog post.

Anne McCaffrey was the writer that first made me really realise how different it is to read an English novel in the original from reading its German translation. I bought my first McCaffrey book - one from the Brain/Brawn series - on a bicycle holiday with my parents, and I loved it. With another of her books, I found that the German translation had lost all the appeal that came with her style of writing... and that convinced me to read books by English-language authors in the original, no matter what.

Then, for a while, she was my favourite author. I was in my teens, and her stories were just what I wanted: tales of love and conflict and glorious partnerships (between humans and dragons, humans and human-ish starships, humans and a living planet, and humans and humans). And all of them with a sort of happy ending guarantee. That was back in the days when it was not so easy to get your hands onto English language books in Germany, and I ordered them in via our local bookshop. With a considerable markup on the cover price in that procedure, I left quite a bit of money there.

Over the following years, my tastes gradually changed and evolved, and other authors took first place in my personal ranking. I stopped buying new books she wrote, instead turning to other tales - not so much guarantee for happy endings, not so many obvious storylines, and vastly different styles. Today, I usually tell people they are "Badewannenbücher" (bathtub books) - books that usually have more appeal to females than to males, a kind of story that you take into the bathtub with you for comfort reading when you are feeling down, with a non-taxing storyline and non-taxing style of writing, and something you don't mind too much if a splash of bath water gets onto it. (And there's nothing wrong with bathtub books - life would be much, much poorer without them.)

My sizeable stack of Anne McCaffrey books is still something I look at and remember my teenage days, my discovery of novels written in English. Even though I don't read them often anymore, they will stay - for the occasional day where I need to get into the tub with a book, or a friend does. And because Anne McCaffrey's books are an important part of my own history as a reader.

Rest in peace, Anne McCaffrey - and thank you for your books.


Harma said...

I'm sorry she died.

Her books have been comfort reading for a long time for me. Cove Hold seemed to be the ideal holidayspot for years. (Now it is South Tirol, though.)

Did you ever read the Freedom series? I liked those a lot too.

Cathy Raymond said...

Thanks for your words on what Anne McCaffrey meant to you.

I actually met her once. I was part of a tour of the British Isles set up by science fiction fans for science fiction fans. One of the stops (with her agreement) was McCaffrey's home, just a bit south of Dublin. I still have a photograph of the dozen or so members of the tour, taken with Ms. McCaffrey.

I also remember that the household cat had had a litter of 15 kittens a few days before. One of Ms. McCaffrey's daughters picked up one of the fuzzy newborns and let me hold it on my palm a few moments.

Anyway, whatever her abilities as a writer, Anne McCaffrey was a warm, generous person, and will be much missed.