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OtherView: Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey, who has inspired a loyal following of readers to keep up with the tales of Pern and the dragons and riders who dwell there, honored OtherSpace with an interview back in the year 2000 or so. Here’s the Q&A:

Mikhar asks: What have been your main influences in your writing? Have you found yourself inspired by any other authors?

Anne McCaffrey answers: I was very young when my parents read to me from Rudyard Kipling, but I grew up wanting to emulate his ability to tell a story that makes you read and reread it. In my preteens, I liked Edgar Rice Burroughs because his Tarzan and John Carter stories were so unusual. Rereading him now, his chauvinism and conservatism annoys me. But he was a man of his times as I am a woman of mine. However, when I was fourteen, I read Austin Tappan Wright’s ISLANDIA and Wright’s philosophy had an intense appeal for me at that impressionable age which I have never lost.

Gildar asks: Have any events in your books been symbols for a real life happening? if so, what?

Anne McCaffrey answers: I don’t do symbols but I’m not above taking someone else’s idea and switching it inside out – if I can make a story out of it. Although, when I was trying to get pregnant for my second child, I did look into exogenesis – and back in 1956, I wrote a story called The Greatest Love. It dealt with a woman who agreed to carry to term the fertilized egg of another one. About ten years later, “in vitro fertilization” was possible. Ironically enough, my story wasn’t published until after an English surrogate mother had given birth to a child that had no relationship to her at all. I haven’t so much been inspired by other authors – though I’d love to be able to write like some of them. But I have read stories and thought, well, what if THIS was true, instead of what they posited. That’s entirely legal – just a new spin on the ball. After all, science fiction – indeed ALL fiction – is “a what if” situation: what if THIS happened instead of that! There are only so many basic plots: you have to gussy them with fresh characters, fresh dialogue and fresh endings.

Harris asks: Your novels (The Crystal Singer, The Pern series) often deal with sex as a forced reaction to outside events. Do you feel that sexual activity has to be justified in a story as something that the participants are unable to resist? Why does this theme appeal to you?

Anne McCaffrey answers: I’m not sure I understand sex as a ‘forced reaction’ in Crystal Singer or Pern (excluding the mating flights of gold dragons). I know that after a period of danger, fear or action, the libido is apt to be heightened. When two people of opposite sexes are keyed up and both are willing, sex is a good way to relax. I don’t bother justifying my use of sex in my books: it’s a natural reaction. It’s never a ‘theme’, merely proves that the main characters are normal in their reactions. (In the 50’s and early 60’s, there was never an SEX in an s-f novel because the girl was so pure, chaste, dull. So she and her hero walked off into the sunset, she secure in his powerful presence and he happy to have been able to protect his little woman! Blah!) I wrote Restoree as a protest against unrealistic attitudes.

Weslak asks: Was the Pern saga intended to be read in the order they were published or in the chronological time of Pern? Did you consider this while writing the books?

Anne McCaffrey answers: The Pern saga should be read in publication order because, with each new book, I tried to enrich the world and point out some other facet of the world and its inhabitants – a world constantly under threat from outside. Since the first story, Weyr Search, was only to be a short one, improving the bad press of ‘dragons’, it wasn’t until John W Campbell asked me to write more on that world that I began to think in terms of A novel. Sixteen books and three (really) short stories, I’m still writing on that world.

Sharpeye asks: What do you consider to be your favorite work aside from the Pern series? Why?

Anne McCaffrey answers: I’m quite fond of the Freedom/Catteni series but The Ship Who Sang is still my favorite book.

Wes Platt asks: How did the Freedom: First Resistance game come about with Red Storm Entertainment? What are your thoughts on how it has turned out?

Anne McCaffrey answers: My publisher, Susan Allison, was asked by RedStorm to suggest books which she thought might make good games. She proposed The Freedom Series. I understand it’s turning out very well indeed – it was the hit of the E-3 convention in Los Angeles and my son, Todd J. McCaffrey, thought it was a very good game. He’s an inveterate gamer so he’d be able to judge. (Me? I play SolitareMaster.)

Wes Platt asks: The MUD Connector shows at least 11 online games based on the Pern universe. How does it feel to see your work brought to life by fans this way?

Anne McCaffrey answers: Well, it’s certainly an indication of how many people would LOVE to be on Pern. Actually, I don’t go into the games – at the insistence of my publishers so that they are certain that any new novels will not inadvertently reflect something I saw or heard from another source. As long as folks enjoy the ambience, I’m happy that my books provide the Pern canon by which they play.

Wes Platt asks: What do you think creates such appeal among fans for dragons? Is it the idea of being able to harness that sort of power, or something else?

Anne McCaffrey answers: Simple, wouldn’t you like a 25-40ft firebreathing, telepathic, teleporting dragon as YOUR best friend?

Wes Platt asks: Share your thoughts on the subculture that has developed around the Pern stories, with fans forming weyrs, “training” hatchlings, and some making a living on the convention circuit, selling dragons and other paraphernalia.

Anne McCaffrey answers: So long as the ‘subculture’ doesn’t wreck mayhem on the main premises of Pern, I have no objections. I have closed down some sites that twisted the Canon out of line. On the other hand, seeing Pern-phernalia IS quite a compliment and, in the days when I was doing many conventions, I used to be fascinated with some of the beautiful sculptures, artifacts and paintings. Of course, these items helped the hucksters pay their convention expenses and get to the next con but frankly, when my lawyer walked through his first Huckster’s room, he went into shock – copyright infringements everywhere. Remember that it is copyright infringement to advertise items for money on the web. Ubisoft/Grolier own the gaming rights to Pern: I did manage to grandfather the original online gaming but Ubisoft owns rpg rights. Zyntropics, the TV producers, own all other merchandising rights for Pern. RedStorm is bringing out the Freedom’s Landing game – like real soon now – so keep it all at the convention level. I am developing some non-Pern items on my website http://www.annemccaffrey.org and we will be expanding the selection available.

Wes Platt asks: What was it like working on the Legends project with folks such as Robert Silverberg, George R.R. Martin, Terry Pratchett, Tad Williams and Robert Jordan? Do you foresee future showcase projects like that?

Anne McCaffrey answers: Well, as I live in Ireland and Silverbob lives in San Francisco, everything was done by email or fax. So while it is very good (for sales) to be in such excellent company, the only glimpse I had of any of them was their signatures when we passed the front piece around to add our autographs. Robert did a splendid job auctioning both Legends and Far Horizon to the publisher and I was considerably chuffed that he asked me to be in both – one as Helva and the other as a citizen of Pern. There probably will be more showcase projects like this – particularly since Robert’s anthologies made best sellers lists – and that’s hard enough to do for Muggles. Many new writers are turning to science fiction because of the freedom the genre gives a person. Just be sure to buy them. <VBG> Nice talking at you…Ciao now, Anne McCaffrey.

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