A non-fiction scrapbook of the life and times of Anne McCaffrey
- CreateSpace Publishing
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- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.35(d)
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When I was nine years old, I started reading science fiction. My first book was Space Cat by Ruthven Todd. I really loved the whole Space Cat series. I loved it so much that I decided to write a fan letter to the author. He never replied. My mother was upset by that and vowed to answer all her fan mail.
She still does to this day. Her first fan was an eighty-year-old veteran of the Royal Flying Corps of World War One, named Pat Terry. He was paralyzed from the waist down and had to write lying on his back with a notepad held at arm?s length. With such dedicated fans as him, it was not at all hard to find the time to respond. As the number of her fans increased, my mother had to spend less time responding to fan mail?or else spend less time writing the new books every letter clamored for!
I remember her proudly showing me her copy of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with "The Lady in the Tower" in it. All I saw was a magazine with a picture of a banana floating on a field of stars?nothing at all like the picture of a cat romping in a spacesuit on the moon.
As the years passed (and her covers got better) I became a voracious reader of Anne McCaffrey. I even claim the distinction of being the very first person to read the individual pages of The White Dragon as it came out of Mum's IBM Selectric typewriter.
While you've been to Pernmet Lessa in her lonely fight against Fax, cried with joy for the smallest dragonboy, marveled at Robinton's wit and humor, laughed with Menolly and her gay waysyou haven?t heard the stories behind the stories.
I propose to fix that.
I suppose we ought to get acquainted, oughtn't we? I am Todd Johnson McCaffrey, Anne McCaffrey's middle child. I am the person who, aged twelve, writhed with anticipated teenaged taunts when his mother suggested dedicating Decision at Doona "To my darling son, Todd." We settled on "To Todd Johnsonof course!"
All Anne's kids are "A" children, but while Alec and Gigi (Georgeanne) were born in August, I joined her in April. I arranged this by the rather unique expedient of being born more than a month late. For some reason, we kids were all inclined to the late twenties; Alec was born on the twenty-ninth and Gigi and I were both born on the twenty-seventh of our respective months. Sadly, this means that I missed my mother's famous April Fool's birth date.
Growing up, I was the first of Anne's children to read science fiction. Because of this, I went with her to many meetings with her fellow writers, editors, publishers, and agent, and also to several of the local science fiction conventions.
I remember once being refused entrance to our front room in Sea Cliff, Long Island, because Anne was brainstorming. And what did I think about dragons? she asked. Why dragons? I asked. Because they've had bad press all these years, was the answer. I went away very confused.
Writing is a strange jobboth very lonely and very social. A whole new world inhabited with marvelous people in desperate situations is created, examined, and brought to life solely by oneself. A writer now myself, I am coming to understand those intense feelings of having people who are determined to be created knocking around inside your head.
In Sea Cliff, most of Anne's work was not done in the front room. She had a narrow room at the back of the first floor that was filled with books, filing cabinets, a table, a bed, and a typewriterfirst a Hermes, later an IBM Selectric.
The house at 369 Carpenter Avenue, Sea Cliff, Long Island, was an old three-story Victorian. Old is a relative term; this house was about eighty years old when we moved in back in 1965. We shared its eighteen rooms and ten bathrooms with the Isbells, another Du Pont familymy father worked for Du Pontwho had also relocated from Wilmington, Delaware. It wasn't a commune, merely a practical way that two families could afford to live in that very expensive part of New York.
We split the house, with a front room for each family and shared access to the great dining room on special occasions like Christmas. It was a good, if sometimes difficult, arrangement. The Isbells had the front entrance, the first-floor kitchen, and most of the second floor, while we had the side entrance, the whole of the third floor, some of the second, and Anne's room in the back of the first floor.
There Anne wrote all the stories that would be collected as the novel Dragonflight and wrote her first attempt at its sequel, which her agent told her to burnand she did. It was from Sea Cliff that she first ventured to Ireland, in 1968, accompanying her favorite aunt, Gladdie.
Aunt Gladdie was a hoot. She was an outgoing, kind person and we all loved her very much. Anne only found out on their European trip that Gladdie had suffered all her life from a spinal condition that caused her a great deal of pain. Gladdie dulled the pain by liberal application of alcohol, normally in the form of Scotch on the rocks; but any whiskey could be used in a pinch.
Gladdie stayed with us one Christmas at Sea Cliff. I recall that on New Year's Day, all the adults in the houseexcept my mother?were very "fragile" in the morning. Apparently they'd stayed up all night with Aunt Gladdie, trying to match her drink for drink. They'd failed. Gladdie cheerfully arrived for breakfast and nearly got throttled when, taking in their condition, she said sympathetically, "You know, I don't think I'd drink so much if I ever got a hangover!"
When Anne was younger, Gladdie would invite her up to her home in Winthrop, Massachusetts, for holidays. She felt that Anne didn't get as much attention as she needed. This was because Anne's younger brother had been hospitalized with osteomyelitisan often fatal disease in those days before penicillinand Anne's mother acted as his private nurse. Among other treats, when Anne was sent to Stuart Hall, Aunt Gladdie sprang for the piano lessons Anne had begged for.
"She was the first person who had faith in me for myself alone," Anne says of her.
Meet the Author
Todd McCaffrey is Anne McCaffrey's son. He works in the computer field and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I am not normally a biography reader, though I suppose you can't tell since this is my second biography this year. But as a huge fan of Anne McCaffrey's, this was a story I wanted to read. See, the very first author stalking I did was on Anne McCaffrey. A friend had lent me the first three books in the Harper Hall portion of the Pern series. The three about Menolly. And I fell in LOVE with Pern. This led me to more Pern books with Lessa, F'Lar, F'Nor, Robinton, Jaxom and Mirrim. Next I discovered the Crystal Singer trilogy, the BrainShips, Petaybee and the Tower and Hive series. This was the first author that I actively searched out used book stores looking for more to read. (This was way, way back in the day before ebay, amazon and easy internet lookups.) Ms. McCaffrey's words and worlds opened my mind to possibilities and a love of reading. This book, told via her son, tells of her life and mainly how the dragons came to be. I wish that all of the series had been touched on, but since I can understand that since he is continuing the Pern series, that is the one he knows best. It was still an interesting look in the early days of the sci-fi/fantasy genre and her part in it. This is a reprint of the of the 1999 edition, and I had hoped for some more information being added about or since her death in 2011. But nothing is mentioned. As a fan, it was a pleasant read. I gave this 3 stars, mainly because I really think the other series should have been mentioned and there was nothing past 1999.
Dragonholder: The Life and Dreams (So Far) of Anne McCaffrey by Todd J. McCaffrey I am glad that Open Books is coming out with this e version of this book. I have been an Anne Mccaffrey fan for decades, but when this book was published i chose the new book by Anne then the back story of her life and writing. To me her books were the escape i used to survive the difficult points in life, so as a reader her writing was foremost in my choice of books to read. Yes i would place everything on the back shelf for a new book by Anne Mccaffrey and yes that would include sleep. Anne Mccaffrey is the only writer i would read till 3 am and still want to read the book when the alarm went off at 6. The insight and back story has only made the books more precious. To know that the writer and person i most admire had her own problems and struggled through day by day. She had moments of darkness, light and love. I know some of the stories like Johnny Greene, and her admiration, or that she was divorced. Now i know the rest of the story like Paul Harvey would say. If you haven't yet included this book in your Anne Mccaffrey collection, it should be the next one. I have read every Anne Mccaffrey book, and avidly look for Todd Mccaffrey books, although i have mourned her loss since November 2011 i hope that one day another story will be published.