Anne McCaffrey

Anne Inez McCaffrey (born April 1, 1926) is an American science fiction author best known for her Dragonriders of Pern series.


Anne McCaffrey was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to George Herbert McCaffrey and Anne Dorothy McElroy. She had two brothers: Hugh McCaffrey (deceased 1988), a Major in the US Army, and Kevin Richard McCaffrey, still living.

Anne was educated at Stuart Hall, an all-girl boarding school in Staunton, Virginia. She then went to Montclair High School, Montclair, New Jersey, and graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College majoring in Slavonic Languages and Literature in 1947. She married H. Wright Johnson in 1950 and has three children: Alec Anthony, born in 1952, Todd, born in 1956, and Georgeanne (Gigi), born in 1959. She was divorced in 1970, after which she emigrated to Ireland with her two younger children; Alec was a college freshman then. McCaffrey lives in a house of her own design in County Wicklow, Ireland, and calls her home Dragonhold-Underhill.


McCaffrey's most famous works are the Dragonriders of Pern series. These are set on an Earth colony which has reverted to medieval times but also produced dragons. These dragons are flown by elite "dragonriders" who communicate telepathically with their dragons, and defend Pern against pernicious "threads" which cross space periodically from a nearby planetoid and threaten to destroy all vegetation on Pern. The short story "Weyr Search" (1968), the initial story in the Dragonriders of Pern series, won a Hugo Award for Best Novella. McCaffrey thus became the first woman to win a Hugo for fiction.

At the 2005 Nebula Award ceremonies, McCaffrey was named the 22nd Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America organization. In 2006 she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Themes within Anne McCaffrey's writing.

Within the Pern Chronicles, McCaffrey explores love and emotion through the pairing of dragon and human rider, forged by a telepathic bond which enhances the emotions of the rider. The entwining of emotions allows human riders to be swept away with animalistic passion during the mating flights of their dragons, and McCaffrey uses this to develop challenging human-human relationships and contrast the sexual morals of the different parts of Pernese society. A similar enhancement of emotions is developed in the Crystal Singer stories, where crystal vibrations stored in human bodies enhance sexual connections. In some cases this leads to overloaded nerves, which is also described in the Pegasus and Tower Books. In the case of The Rowan, this became a metaphor for the dangers of immaturity in sexual relationships, whilst Afra Lyon's Talent was enhanced by long term loving partnership with Damia. The Ship who Sang and other stories about 'shell people' explore the theme of unrequited love where shell people are physically inaccessible behind a titanium wall, but still develop passionate relationships with others.

Breaking of Tradition

Unsurprisingly, given McCaffrey's drive to become an independent and successful single mother at a time when divorce was frowned upon, breaking of tradition where it has become unwieldy or restrictive occurs in many of her books. In the Crystal Singer Books, Killashandra Ree helps Lars Dahl break his planet free from government brain-washing. Jeff Raven helps the Rowan break the tradition of Primes being Tower-bound in the Tower books, ending her isolation. In the Pern Chronicles devoted to the Ninth Pass, F'lar and Lessa throw aside many traditions which have become corrupted or nonsensical in changing times. The First and Second Pass stories explore the loss of Earth traditions as they become irrelevant, the loss of Earth skills with a decreasing level of technology. Both of these increase the blind following of tradition, increasing their restrictiveness or allowing them to become misinterpreted.

Time and History

In the Crystal Singer stories, Anne McCaffrey explores the challenges of immortality and the personal history of memory. The Crystal Singers court the memory loss induced by the crystal they work with, and actively choose to forget the embarrassments of the past which gave them the drive to be crystal singers in the first place. When Killashandra Ree and Lars Dahl use a B&B ship, they come into contact with another long lived group of people, the 'brains' or 'shell people' of the Ship Who Sang stories. Within their shells the 'brains' experience greatly extended life spans and the grief of personal memory when their 'brawn' partners die.
The Pern Chronicles refer constantly to written history and to traditions passed down from ancestors. Lessa and F'lar struggle to read decaying Records, while marveling at the artifacts and intact records which survive from the technological beginnings of the Pern colony. McCaffrey also writes repeatedly about the ability to time travel by riding a dragon between times, which throws up interesting challenges and paradoxes in many of these stories. McCaffrey herself has often 'time traveled' within the universe of her books, writing prequels such as Dragonsdawn to explain the legends of her fascinating world. In the same way, the Pegasus Trilogy explains the beginnings of FT&T, which is a central part of the scenery for events in the Tower Books.
McCaffrey also uses genealogy to connect her stories. The original Peter Reidinger in Pegasus in Flight is the great grandfather of Peter Reidinger in The Rowan. Many of the characters in the prequel Dragonsdawn are biological ancestors of characters found in Dragonflight and Dragonquest. Other founding members of the colony are immortalised in the names of places and figureheads. Todd McCaffrey uses the biological connection between two characters to guide a time traveler back four hundred years in Dragonsblood.


With Anne McCaffrey's extensive musical background, it is unsurprising that music is a constant theme in her writing. Almost all of her central characters enjoy music, from Helga who enjoyed Shakespeare and Dylanising, to Killashandra, the disillusioned music student whose perfect pitch allow her to cut crystal. In the Pern Chronicles, an entire subset of books revolve around the Harper Hall, with harpers responsible for general teaching, diplomacy, law and history on Pern.

Old Earth

Almost all of Anne McCaffrey's books describe or refer to Earth as heavily over-populated and polluted, requiring space expansion to relieve pressure on the planet. The Pegasus stories deal with related issues of birth control, employment and subsistence living. The Tower stories describe expansion onto other planets, with Talented Primes allowing far-flung settlements to remain in contact with Old Earth, which eagerly awaits fresh resources. In the Crystal Singer trilogy, the Ballybran crystals allow mechanical means of transport and communication, and rapid diversification of human cultures in new settlements. Similarly, although the shell people of the Ship Who Sang stories were largely born and raised on Old Earth, they spend much of their lives exploring the FSP universe. The Pern Chronicles all begin with a Prologue describing humankind's expansion into space. In Dragonsdawn McCaffrey describes the pressures which the Pern colonists sought to escape in their new low-tech society, while in The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall Thread forces a new wave of overcrowding, this time in the cave-dwellings used to protect the Pernese from the airborne menace.

Biological change

Over the years, Anne McCaffrey's writing has incorporated developments in science to evolve from fantasy to true science fiction. One of her favorite aspects of science is reflected in her constant use of the theme of biological change.
One form of biological change that McCaffrey regularly writes about is genetic based. The Pegasus stories discuss a range of mutations which cause Talents such as telepathy and telekinesis. One character, Ruth Horvath, even uses telekinesis on a microscopic level to adjust DNA at the moment of conception. The Pegasus trilogy also sets up a tradition of selecting partners to breed stronger Talents, which is continued in the Tower books. In the Pern Chronicles, McCaffrey refers to the Eridani, an alien race which manipulates genetic material and then devotes multiple generations of its people to monitor the changes over thousands of years. This allows her to explain the origins of dragons, developed by the colonist Kitti Ping after her training with the Eridani. Kitti Ping's daughter Wind Blossom continues her mother's work, but rails against the Eridani traditions, a storyline which mingles two key McCaffrey themes.
McCaffrey takes pains to assure her readers that mutations are often beneficial. Shell-people in the Ship Who Sang stories are able to overcome deformities via shell-technology and live fulfilling lives. Ruth, the White Dragon, is a sport whose mutations give him unique equipment to play a vital role in saving Pern.


Federated Sentient Planets universe

While many of McCaffrey's most famous works are set in a universe which is governed by The Federated Sentient Planets or "FSP", these are not set in the same universe. The FSP is a story telling background that the author has found to be a useful tool for this series.

Dragonriders of Pern series

  • "Weyr Search" (novella, first published in Analog, October 1967
  • "Dragonrider" (novella first published in Analog, December 1967
  • Dragonflight (1968) (comprised of "Weyr Search" and "Dragonrider") ISBN 0-345-45633-5, ISBN 0-552-08453-0
  • Dragonquest (1970) ISBN 0-345-33508-2
  • "The Smallest Dragonboy" (appeared in Science Fiction Tales ed. by Roger Elwood, 1973)
  • A Time When (1975) (NESFA Press) ISBN 0-915368-07-2

(became the first part of The White Dragon)

* "The Survey: P.E.R.N." (also appeared in Amazing, September 1993)
* "The Dolphins' Bell"
* "The Ford of Red Hanrahan"
* "The Second Weyr"
* "Rescue Run" (1991)

(called Dragonseye for U.S. release, ISBN 0-345-41879-4)

* "The Smallest Dragonboy" (1973)
* "The Girl Who Heard Dragons" (1986)
* "Runner of Pern" (1998)
* "Ever the Twain" (2002)

The Brain & Brawn Ship series

The stories of this series deal with the various adventures of 'shellpersons' - people who as young children or infants have had to be hardwired into a life support system, with sensory input and motor nerves tied into a computer. They serve as starship pilots or colony administrators while paying off their debt for education and hardware - and then in whatever capacity they choose, as free agents.

It should be noted that the Ship books are set in the same universe as the Crystal Singer books, as Brainship-Brawn pairings were characters in the second and third volumes of that series.

The Crystal Singer series

The Crystal Singer series revolves around the planet Ballybran. Under a permanent biohazard travel restriction, Ballybran is home to one of the FSP's wealthiest, yet most reclusive organizations—the Heptite Guild. Source of invaluable crystals vital to various industries, the Heptite Guild is known to require absolute, perfect pitch in hearing and voice for all applicants, especially those seeking to mine crystal by song...

  • Crystal Singer (1982) ISBN 0-345-32786-1 (first published in four parts in Continuum 1, 2, 3, & 4, edited by Roger Elwood)
  • Killashandra (1986) ISBN 0-345-31600-2 (includes a Brainship from the Ship series above, in a minor role. This was not a main character in any novel.)
  • Crystal Line (1992) ISBN 0-345-38491-1 (includes a Brainship from the Ship series above, although not a main character in any novel, and, furthermore, is not the same Brainship from 'Killashandra')

The Dinosaur Planet series

When the Exploration and Evaluation Corps team reached the planet Ireta, dinosaurs were not what they expected to find.

  • Dinosaur Planet (1978) ISBN 0-345-31995-8
  • Dinosaur Planet Survivors (1984) ISBN 0-345-27246-3

Mystery of Ireta (2003)—omnibus edition of Dinosaur Planet and Dinosaur Planet Survivors, ISBN 0-345-46721-3

The Planet Pirates trilogy

All is not well in the FSP: pirates attack the spacelanes. In this series, survivors on Ireta and survivors of space pirate attacks join forces.

The Planet Pirates (1993-10-01)—omnibus trade paperback collection of the above trilogy, ISBN 0-671-72187-9

Note: The Planet Pirates and Dinosaur Planet books share the same universe and certain characters. The events of Dinosaur Planet overlap with the final chapters of The Death of Sleep, as does Dinosaur Planet Survivors with Sassinak; Generation Warriors continues and concludes the storylines of both series.

Standalone novels

  • Restoree (1967) ISBN 0-552-08344-5
  • The Coelura (1983) ISBN 0-312-93042-9
  • A Diversity of Dragons (1997) with Richard Woods, illustrated by John Howe
  • Nimisha's Ship (1998) ISBN 0-345-43425-0

The Coelura is short novel in the same universe as Nimisha's Ship.

The Coelura is usually printed together with Nerilka's Story.

The Talents universe

The Talents universe involves a society built around the Talents of telepathic, telekinetic individuals who become integral to the connectivity of interstellar society.

The Talent series

The Tower and Hive series

The Doona series

Two civilizations in near-identical circumstances - an overlarge, lethargic population and a tragic history with sentient aliens - end up attempting to colonize the same planet by accident. What the humans don't know is that the people they've misidentified as nomadic natives are actually more technically advanced than themselves - and under no such illusions regarding 'them'.

  • Decision at Doona (1969) ISBN 0-345-35377-3
  • Crisis on Doona (1992) with Jody Lynn Nye, ISBN 0-441-23194-2
  • Treaty at Doona (1994) with Jody Lynn Nye, ISBN 0-441-00089-4
  • Doona (2004) an omnibus edition of the latter two books of the trilogy, ISBN 0-441-01131-4

The Petaybee Series (Powers series)

The Twins of Petaybee series

The Freedom series

The Acorna series

Acorna's Children series

Short Story Collections

* "Lady in the Tower" (1959) (part of The Rowan)
* "A Meeting of Minds" (1969) (part of Damia)
* "Daughter" (1971)
* "Dull Drums" (1973)
* "Changeling"
* "Weather on Welladay" (1969)
* "The Thorns of Barevi" (1970) (part of Freedom's Landing)
* "Horse From a Different Sea"
* "The Great Canine Chorus" (1971)
* "Finder's Keeper" (1973) (a Talent story)
* "A Proper Santa Claus" (1973)
* "The Smallest Dragonboy" (1973) (a Pern story, appears in A Gift of Dragons)
* "Apple" (1969) (a Talent story, appears in To Ride Pegasus)
* "Honeymoon" (a Helva & Niall Brain & Brawn story)

* "The Girl Who Heard Dragons" (1986) (a Pern story, appears in A Gift of Dragons)
* "Velvet Fields" (1973) Worlds of If, Nov/Dec 1973
* "Euterpe on a Fling"
* "Duty Calls" (1988) (The Fleet)
* "A Sleeping Humpty Dumpty Beauty" (1990) (The Fleet)
* "The Mandalay Cure" (1990) (The Fleet)
* "A Flock of Geese" (1985)
* "The Greatest Love" (1977)
* "A Quiet One" (1991)
* "If Madam Likes You..." (1989)
* "Zulei, Grace, Nimshi and the Damnyankees" (1992)
* "Cinderella Switch" (1981)
* "Habit Is an Old Horse" (1979)
* "Lady-in-Waiting" (1978)
* "The Bones Do Lie"


  • The Mark of Merlin (1971) ISBN 1-58715-493-5
  • Ring of Fear (1971) ISBN 1-58715-016-6
  • The Kilternan Legacy (1975) ISBN 1-58715-793-4
  • Stitch in Snow (1985) ISBN 0-8125-8562-3
  • The Year of the Lucy (1986) ISBN 0-8125-8565-8
  • The Lady (1987) ISBN 0-345-35674-8

Three Women contains the first three listed in an omnibus edition.

Fantasy for Juveniles

  • An Exchange of Gifts (1995) ISBN 1-880448-48-3
  • No One Noticed the Cat (1996)
  • If Wishes Were Horses (1998)
  • Black Horses for the King (1998)


  • Brizzi, Mary (Mary A. Turzillo). Reader's Guide to Anne McCaffery, Starmont Press (Reader's Guide Series) 1986.
  • Lennard, John, 'Of Modern Dragons: Antiquity, Modernity, and the Descendants of Smaug', in Of Modern Dragons and other essays on Genre Fiction, Tirril: Humanities-Ebooks, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84760-038-7
  • McCaffrey, Anne, ‘Retrospection’, in Denise DuPont, ed., Women of Vision, New York: St Martin’s Press, 1988. ISBN 0-312-02321-9
  • McCaffrey, Todd, Dragonholder: The Life and Dreams (So Far) of Anne McCaffrey by her son New York: Ballantine, 1999. ISBN 0-345-42217-1
  • Roberts, Robin. Anne McCaffrey: A Critical Companion., Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. ISBN 0-313-29450-X

External links

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