Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Lessa's Last Word - for Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)

Anne McCaffrey, whose death is just today announced, was a prolific and widely-beloved author of science fiction and fantasy - perhaps of science fantasy above all.

Her most famous work, and the one dearest to my own heart, is her Dragonriders of Pern series. Its beginning tale, Dragonflight, was one of the books I most badly needed to read on the threshold of my teens; Lessa, its central character, may have offered me my first female viewpoint into which I could sink quite seamlessly. I had the most enormous book-crush on her for a couple of years afterwards, and remain highly prejudiced in her favour. Readers who know what Lessa is like, may draw any deductions they please about my character from these several circumstances.

To these books I also owe: my first encounter with a vision of dragons that was not mine, but was yet close enough to be played upon my heart; my independent discovery of the possibility of fanfiction, and the inspiration that compelled its writing; a great eye-opening to the possibilities of fantasy that didn't fit into familiar moulds of the heroic and epic; and last, by no means least, a world which offered me wholly new kinds of places and characters worth being haunted by.

Without encountering the works of Anne McCaffrey so early on, I should have likely grown up a perceptibly different person - and I don't think the changes would have been to anybody's benefit. For all these things thanks are due, and I give them most heartily now.

Goodbye, Dragon Lady. Fare well; dream long; fly high.

And here is the only other thing I presently know how to say about it.

Lessa's Last Word

"He'll shake me!" she said,
Who shook him into shaking
Their world's mean Alexander from his roost atop High Reaches –
Who shook his heart, and in the aftershock
Their age,
Their ways,
Their me - a small mean singer from an eminence of twelve,
Borne up to be, to love her, in a storm of stone-musk wings –

"He'll shake me!" she protested,
Still shivering from shaking
The wide world's tree for redfruit: new days, new flights of old
Whom she had moved to leave for after times
Their age,
Their ways,
Their selves – that small fierce vision, from a child's height and the sky's –
Spent, shivered, frozen – home, with all the wide world's price on wings!

She shook us, then.

Between our worlds seeps chill.
The breath that bore her flight up's fallen still.


First posted here in the comments on Making Light, where the news caught up with me. A separate commemorative thread for the sharing of thoughts and memories has now been started there. More on io9, and John Scalzi's blog Whatever.

ETA 26/11/11: Replaced a self-destructing metaphor and removed two renegade commas.

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