“There’s something wrong in not appreciating one’s own special abilities, my girl. Find your own limitations, yes, but don’t limit yourself with false modesty.” 

Anne McCaffrey, Dragonsinger

Anne McCaffrey, grand master of science fiction (2005) and the first woman to win a Hugo and Nebula award, was born on April 1st, 1926, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her father was a Colonel in the US Army. She attended boarding school in Virginia and then graduated from Montclair High School in New Jersey. She continued her education at Radcliffe College, graduating cum laude with a degree in Slavonic languages and literature in 1947.

In 1950 McCaffrey married Horace Wright Johnson. The couple had three children – Alec, born in 1952; Todd, born in 1956; and Gigi, born in 1959.

While pregnant with her first son Alec, she wrote and published “Freedom of the Race” in Science-Fiction Plus, earning a $100 prize. She followed it with “The Lady in the Tower,” published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It was later collected in The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction, and editor Judith Merril connected McCaffrey with literary agent Virginia Kidd – who later represented her work. McCaffrey was invited to Milford Writer’s Workshop – an annual science fiction conference, where she further practiced and presented her writing skills in critiques. 

Her first novel, Restoree, was published in 1967. It featured a strong-willed intelligent female protagonist, a response to early science fiction books’ portrayal of women as weak and dumb – merely there to be saved. 

McCaffrey wrote nearly 100 books throughout her career, but she was best known for her Pern series. The first book of the series, Dragonflight, was published in 1968. It was primarily composed of two novellas, “Weyr Search” and “Dragonrider,” originally published in science fiction magazines in 1967.

In 1970 McCaffery filed for divorce and moved with her two youngest, Todd and Gigi, to Ireland, where artists did not pay income tax. Both children continued their mother’s work, Todd co-writing for the Pern series starting in 2003. 

McCaffrey died at the age of 85, on November 21st, 2011, in Ireland, following a stroke.

Lesson from Anne McCaffrey

McCaffrey broke through so many barriers in her writing career and blazed the trail for women writers in her wake. She didn’t set limitations on the worlds she created or herself – you shouldn’t either. Imagine bigger.

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