Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
I’m too close to this book to introduce it. I’ll let the publisher do that down below. Instead, here’s the story of how this book turned me into a blubbering mess at Dragoncon.
I discovered Dragonflight as a young woman. I was about fourteen, already struggling with grownup constructs like LIFE CHOICES and A CAREER PATH. It was all a bit overwhelming. I was interested in a lot of things, and I finally understood that I was expected to pick just one. Years of COLLEGE to do one single JOB for the rest of my life. It felt like a stranglehold on my future. And more than a little unfair.
And then I read this book. Anne McCaffrey’s dragonriders were heroes. They were strong and free, flying through the skies. They had to deal with politics and human opposition. They had to solve ancient mysteries. They had to invent things. They did a little bit of everything when they weren’t busy saving lives.
It was perfect! That’s what I wanted to be!
I spent more than one night crying myself to sleep over the fact that DRAGON RIDER wasn’t a realistic career plan.
I read every other book in the Pern universe. (There are 21, so this took a few months.) And every book ended with this bit about the author, how she lived on a farm and had red hair and green eyes and everything else was subject to change. And it began to occur to me that she was a real person. That her job was to create this world. And these characters. And their stories.
You can guess where this is going.
If I couldn’t be a dragon rider, then creating amazing worlds and living them out in my imagination was the next best thing. A pretty close second, and a realistic career plan. AUTHOR. In a drowning sea, Anne McCaffrey was my lifeline. (Is it a coincidence that Wendy’s hair has a healthy dash of red? I’ll let you decide.)
It turned out to be a long and winding road (more on that some other time), but years later I got to meet Anne McCaffrey at Dragoncon, just after our first short story was published in Australia’s Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. I went up to shake her hand and immediately fell apart.
I mean I bawled the whole time. Huge, wracking sobs, barely able to breathe, sniffling and hiccuping and trying desperately to tell her that her books had inspired me to be a writer and that I had just had my first short story published and that I felt like she had SAVED MY LIFE. And all of it basically unintelligible.
She stared at me with this look of intense confusion throughout the whole thing. She was near the end of her life (as it turned out) and hard of hearing, and I could tell she didn’t understand a word of it. I got through what I was trying to say and turned to her handler and said something like, “Please tell her what I said,” hoping he had understood it himself.
I have no idea whether he did. I ran away.
Still, I don’t regret a second of it. Believe it or not, I don’t even wish it had gone differently. It was as genuine a moment as I have ever experienced. Pure, raw TRUTH. She meant the world to me, and she had to see that. She had to feel that. Even if she didn’t understand the words.
Dragonflight. Only $2.99 in ebook.
From the Publisher:
On a beautiful world called Pern, an ancient way of life is about to come under attack from a myth that is all too real. Lessa is an outcast survivor—her parents murdered, her birthright stolen—a strong young woman who has never stopped dreaming of revenge. But when an ancient threat to Pern reemerges, Lessa will rise—upon the back of a great dragon with whom she shares a telepathic bond more intimate than any human connection. Together, dragon and rider will fly . . . and Pern will be changed forever.