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Anne McCaffrey

A Life with Dragons

Robin Roberts

Publication Year: 2007

Anne McCaffrey: A Life with Dragons is the biography of a writer who vividly depicted alien creatures and new worlds. As the author of the Dragonriders of Pern series, McCaffrey (b. 1926) is one of the most significant writers of science fiction and fantasy. She is the first woman to win the Hugo and Nebula awards, and her 1978 novel The White Dragon was the first science-fiction novel to appear on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. This biography reveals a fascinating and complex figure, one who creates and re-creates her fiction by drawing on life experiences. At various stages, McCaffrey has been a beautiful young girl who refused to fit into traditional gender roles in high school, a restless young mother who wanted to write, an American expatriate who became an Irish citizen, an animal lover who dreamed of fantasy worlds with perfect relationships between humans and beasts, and a wife trapped in an unhappy marriage just as the women's movement took hold. Author Robin Roberts conducted interviews with McCaffrey, her children, friends, and colleagues, and used archival correspondence and contemporary reviews and criticism. The biography examines how McCaffrey's early interests in theater, Slavonic languages and literature, and British history, mythology, and culture all shaped her science fiction. The book is a nuanced portrait of a writer whose appeal extends well beyond readers of her chosen genre.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

I am grateful to Anne McCaffrey for opening her papers and her circle of family and friends to me. Her three children, Alec Johnson, Georgeanne Kennedy, and Todd McCaffrey, were very open and helpful. All of those I interviewed were forthcoming and enthusiastic about the project: Susan Allison, Marilyn and Harry Alm, Maureen Beirne, Jean Bigelow, Derval Diamond, Annett Francis, Vaughne Hansen, H. Wright Johnson...

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pp. 1-15

To millions of readers and her legion of fans, Anne McCaffrey is an icon, a magical presence, a writer whose books they devour, whose appearance at conventions they treasure, and whose fiction, Web site, and fan clubs dominate their lives. Literary critics know Anne McCaffrey as a member of a ground- breaking group of women science fiction writers who forever changed the field, humanizing it through their emphasis on women’s issues and plots. Librarians and book sellers know Anne McCaffrey...

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Chapter 1. An Irish Family Heritage

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pp. 16-43

From a family cauldron of Irish heritage and a tradition of iconoclastic beliefs and behavior emerged a wild child who was a loner. Anne McCaffrey’s family background, explored in this chapter, provided much of the raw material that would, decades later, be transformed into science fiction. Like most families, Anne’s provided contradictory experiences for her, but she always had a sense of being loved and being special. Even as a very young child, Anne was aware that she had family...

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Chapter 2. Adolescence and a Time of War

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pp. 44-65

Anne McCaffrey’s writing celebrates adolescence. Her awardwinning Young Adult series, the Harper Hall Trilogy, explores the trials of youth, but her adult fictions also convey the intensity of emotion special to the teenage years. Inspired in part by her own experiences as a young woman, she captures and re- creates the powerful longing, confusion, and desire of adolescence. Her editor Susan Allison explained that Anne “writes movingly and well about people who feel themselves different from...

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Chapter 3. College Days and Marriage

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pp. 66-95

If as an adolescent Anne struggled to fit in, at college she finally came into her own. At Radcliffe College, she made lasting friendships, satisfied her intellectual curiosity, and fulfilled her desire to perform. Radcliffe offered her a challenging intellectual environment, and during and following the war, it had an Ivy League coeducational easiness. She was able to pursue her academic interests, and she developed a social...

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Chapter 4. Annie and Virginia

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pp. 96-118

Like most writers, Anne has been a writer since she was a child, but she became not just a successful writer, but a good writer through her long relationship with her agent and editor, Virginia Kidd. Their relationship began when a mutual friend, writer and editor Judith Merril, suggested that Virginia consider being Anne’s agent. ( Judith had included Anne’s story, “The Ship Who Sang,” in a collection of the year’s best science fi ction.) Judith and Virginia were close friends who had been...

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Chapter 5. Emigration and a Best-Seller

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pp. 119-151

Although it certainly surprised her family and friends, Anne McCaffrey’s sudden removal to Ireland heralded her new life. Eight years after her emigration she would appear on the bestseller’s list. Her immigration to her great- grandparents’ home country led to the pinnacle of Anne’s writing career. Matching moves as bold as those of her heroines— from Menolly to Killashandra to Nimisha— Anne boldly relocated, taking herself away from the people who emotionally supported her, especially Virginia Kidd. Betrayed...

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Chapter 6. Struggling with Success

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pp. 152-173

Becoming the first science fiction writer to reach the New York Times best- seller list and signing her first million- dollar contract undeniably marked Anne McCaffrey’s success as a writer. As award after award showered upon her in the 1980s, she also faced the difficulties of success. Yes, it was wonderful to be appreciated and to finally, finally, not have to worry about money. Yet the old worries were replaced by new ones: the effect of money and fame on relationships. She had the opportunity...

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Chapter 7. Being a Fairy Godmother

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pp. 174-203

Her reward for a decade of hard work writing, Anne’s new home would carry the name of her last, “Dragonhold,” but she would add “Underhill” to commemorate her determination in building this house and its specific placement. While Anne was pleased with the builder’s progress, Sis often spoke harshly to the builder, whom she mistrusted. Always more optimistic than...

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Chapter 8. The Grand Master

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pp. 204-218

A time of great achievement and satisfaction for Anne, the 1990s were marked by the honors she received and her enjoyment of financial success. Yet more triumphs remained for the twenty- first century. Each represents an important milestone for Anne personally, as well as signifying her importance as a writer. The dream of many a science fiction writer or reader, seeing a space shuttle launch as an invited guest, came true for Anne. This event held special signifi cance, for in...

Source Notes

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pp. 219-232

Works Cited

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pp. 233-236


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pp. 237-243

E-ISBN-13: 9781604732993
E-ISBN-10: 1604732997
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578069989
Print-ISBN-10: 157806998X

Publication Year: 2007