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Anne McCaffrey and Fantasy Science Fiction


EmCatlyn

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At the risk of starting too many threads here I am going to take @Palimpsest's mention of Anne McCaffrey in another thread and pick the topic up here.

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On another topic I saw mentioned somewhere else, I haven't thought of the Pern books for years. The Harper Hall trilogy was my favorite.  

I hadn't thought of the Pern novels in quite a while either.  Anne's son, Todd, has taken over the series, but it is not the same and I stopped reading.  In fact, even before she died,  the stories were weakening.  McCaffrey had great imaginative powers.  Besides the world of Pern, she had a terrific series about the "Talents" (people with psychic abilities) and the "Ship Who Sang" novels are very inventive in their intersection of technology and fantasy.

I like the Harper Hall novels, but except for Dragonsinger, they are  less well-crafted than the main trilogy.  There is a major continuity error in Dragon Song: Menolly watches the fire lizards and composes the song in her head, but she never has a chance to write it down.  If you go through the plot, there is no chance for her to write the song, much less hide it among the papers in the Harper's rooms.  But the song is discovered among the Harper's papers. (Okay...)  

Back in the late 80's, I had the opportunity to discuss her work with Anne McCaffrey (She was on Compuserve as Anne Mack) and she told me that a lot of things happened in her imagination that she never made into stories.  I wish she had written a story explaining how the hell the fire lizard song got itself written --with lyrics, too--and hidden.  

Dragon Singer is my favored of the three. It is one of the best "Young People at School" fantasy novels, right up there (in its descriptions of school life) with the Harry Potter books.  And I must say, I could really enjoy "bubbly pies," if they had them in my town. ;) 

 

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Where's @sawasdee?  She's rereading the whole series! 

Somewhat to my amazement the Harper Hall trilogy has survived multiple book purges and is still in our scifi/fantasy book section.  I just checked.   I'm going to have to read it again for the first time in over 20 years.  It looks as though we've recycled all the other Pern books or never owned them in the first place.  I don't have much memory of the plots of the other books, but the runty little White Dragon (Ruth) and Jaxom were always favorite characters.

I'm sure you are right about the Harper Hall trilogy not being as well crafted. It is definitely geared YA compared to the other Pern books.  I can't remember whether I noticed the continuity error.  I liked it because of the reasons you mentioned - good comparison to Harry Potter.  I also liked it because it focused on Menolly (a girl) apprenticing and rising to the top pf her field - and music.   McCaffrey originally trained as an opera singer and her knowledge of music shows in her books.

I read quite a few of her other books too.  The first "Ship Who Sang book" was excellent.  I saw somewhere that she wrote it after her father died and it is a tribute to him.

A warning about one of McCaffrey's books for people who have not read her before. One of her books is to be avoided at all costs and I'm sure she hated it too.  It was a very early potboiler mystery/romance called Ring of Fear, which I hope is out of print.  The heroine is a victim of rape and falls in love with another man who -  has also raped her. I threw it across the room without finishing it and it put me off reading more McCaffrey for ages.  It is that bad.

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As this thread is broader than McCaffrey ... is Vonda McIntyre's Dreamsnake still out of print?  Has anyone read it?

It is odd looking back at those old books.  There were so many of them that were ground-breakers for women of my generation that seem so dated and reactionary today.

Compare Dreamsnake to the John Wyndham's The Chrysalids ("Rebirth" in the US).  That was on my O level curriculum.  So sexist but I still love it!

And there is the wonderful Ursula Le Guin.  :)

 

 

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I re-read the McCaffery books every couple years. I don't have all of Todd McCaffery's subsequent novels, but I do have all of Anne's, as well as all the Talents and Ship and Generation Warriors novels. I didn't like the Acorna novels as much, but I still have them, LOL. 

You can see the progress of women's equality in Anne's mind as the series progresses - at the beginning there was a lot of 70's type oppression of women and at the end women and men were working together on huge projects to protect their planet.

McCaffery led me to Elizabeth Moon and Jody Lynn Nye and several others whose names escape me.

My other favorite scifi/fantasy authors are Marion Zimmer Bradley (whose personal life was not admirable, apparently, but whose writing I enjoyed before that was revealed), Tamora Pierce, and Lois McMaster Bujold. I'm actually looking for new authors to read - you can see female authors tend to be my favorites!

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On March 12, 2016 at 8:12 PM, Palimpsest said:

As this thread is broader than McCaffrey ... is Vonda McIntyre's Dreamsnake still out of print?  Has anyone read it?

It is odd looking back at those old books.  There were so many of them that were ground-breakers for women of my generation that seem so dated and reactionary today.

Compare Dreamsnake to the John Wyndham's The Chrysalids ("Rebirth" in the US).  That was on my O level curriculum.  So sexist but I still love it!

And there is the wonderful Ursula Le Guin.  :)

 

I read and loved Dreamsnake.  The other (earlier) novel by Vonda McIntyre that I loved was The Exile Waiting.  I didn't like her later work as much, except for a juvenile fiction novella called Barbary about a girl who sneaks her cat onto a lunar space station.

I don't know if Dreamsnake is back in print, but there is an e-book version through e-pub and also kindle.

I never read The Chrysalids by any of its titles, but I loved Wyndham's Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos.  Both sexist, but excellent.  Maybe I will look for The Chrysalids.

LeGuin is great also.  I like her creation of different cultures.

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11 hours ago, AlysonRR said:

I'm actually looking for new authors to read - you can see female authors tend to be my favorites!

Have you tried Mercedes Lackey? I love her Valdemar novels.

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I have a very well worn copy of The Chrysalids. It was my introduction to this genre and I still read it regularly. I also read Piers Anthony's forays into fantasy in my teens.

These days I'm not fussy. I'll read pretty much whatever comes my way. I did draw the line at Gabaldon though. And that hideous Clan of the Cave Bear nonsense.

 

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5 hours ago, Bethella said:

Have you tried Mercedes Lackey? I love her Valdemar novels.

Yes, though never Valdemar. I should start it - at least I know how many books I'll have to read :-)

1 hour ago, Blahblah said:

I also read Piers Anthony's forays into fantasy in my teens.

I enjoyed his fantasy novels, but he wrote an absolutely horrid scifi trilogy that still haunts me. Refugees on a slow-moving spacecraft getting repeatedly victimized (rape, torture, death - victims included toddlers) by space pirates. Ugh. Some word pictures I do not want to remember.

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The Chrysalids is a coming

On 3/15/2016 at 11:32 PM, EmCatlyn said:

I read and loved Dreamsnake.  The other (earlier) novel by Vonda McIntyre that I loved was The Exile Waiting.  I didn't like her later work as much, except for a juvenile fiction novella called Barbary about a girl who sneaks her cat onto a lunar space station.

I don't know if Dreamsnake is back in print, but there is an e-book version through e-pub and also kindle.

I never read The Chrysalids by any of its titles, but I loved Wyndham's Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos.  Both sexist, but excellent.  Maybe I will look for The Chrysalids.

LeGuin is great also.  I like her creation of different cultures.

Please do.  The Chrysalids is a YA coming of age novel and stands apart from Wyndham's other books.  It is set in post-apocalyptic Canada and features Fundamentalism running wild!   Doesn't that tempt you?

It also has a rather controversial ending that I'd love to discuss but don't want to spoiler it for people.  You might also like The Kraken Wakes.  It is one of my favorite Wyndham books because the main (male) protagonist's wife (the little woman in the early chapters) demonstrates that she is far more perceptive than her husband when push comes to shove. :)

Women writers:  Sheri Tepper?  Grass and the Gate to Women's Country were very good.

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On 3/14/2016 at 1:18 PM, AlysonRR said:

I re-read the McCaffery books every couple years. I don't have all of Todd McCaffery's subsequent novels, but I do have all of Anne's, as well as all the Talents and Ship and Generation Warriors novels. I didn't like the Acorna novels as much, but I still have them, LOL. 

 

My other favorite scifi/fantasy authors are Marion Zimmer Bradley (whose personal life was not admirable, apparently, but whose writing I enjoyed before that was revealed), Tamora Pierce, and Lois McMaster Bujold. I'm actually looking for new authors to read - you can see female authors tend to be my favorites!

I love and loved Anne McCaffrey's Pern books, and getting an autographed book and bookplate was a major woo-hoo moment for me (won the book in a McCaffrey trivia contest).  I was buying the Pern books in hardback as they came out - and there was a very short list of books I'd buy that way (instead of paperback and/or used).  Since Todd took over, I've dropped them from the short-list, and I'm not sure I own the last few at all - read the library's copies instead.  Too much timing it, too much dragon-swapping, and an over-reliance on pre-teens saving the world, at least for my tastes.  I still love the earlier ones, along with the Rowan, Talent, Doona, and Brainship books.  Tried the Acorna books, but I just never got into them for whatever reason. 

Other authors:  Judith Tarr, Robin McKinley, Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books (although the latest series is iffy for me), Tamora Pierce, Susan Cooper, and Lloyd Alexander (both the Taran books and the Vesper Holly series, although they are a much easier read than the Taran books).  I've got a couple others that I can't remember right now, darn it. 

My "new HB" short-list has actually gotten really short - Anne Mc. has passed, Mercedes Lackey took a long vacation from Valdemar, the Sneaky Pie books got a little too preachy or something; I think the only things left are two mystery series by Susan Wittig Albert, and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and I'm a book or two behind on most of the series now.  

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On 3/15/2016 at 5:23 AM, Blahblah said:

I have a very well worn copy of The Chrysalids. It was my introduction to this genre and I still read it regularly. I also read Piers Anthony's forays into fantasy in my teens.

These days I'm not fussy. I'll read pretty much whatever comes my way. I did draw the line at Gabaldon though. And that hideous Clan of the Cave Bear nonsense.

 

Piers Anthony was my gateway into fantasy.

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52 minutes ago, violynn said:

Piers Anthony was my gateway into fantasy.

Me too :) I started with the Incarnations of Immortality series.

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On March 16, 2016 at 11:01 PM, Palimpsest said:

The Chrysalids is a coming

Please do.  The Chrysalids is a YA coming of age novel and stands apart from Wyndham's other books.  It is set in post-apocalyptic Canada and features Fundamentalism running wild!   Doesn't that tempt you?

It also has a rather controversial ending that I'd love to discuss but don't want to spoiler it for people.  You might also like The Kraken Wakes.  It is one of my favorite Wyndham books because the main (male) protagonist's wife (the little woman in the early chapters) demonstrates that she is far more perceptive than her husband when push comes to shove. :)

Women writers:  Sheri Tepper?  Grass and the Gate to Women's Country were very good.

I haven't been able to get hold of The Chrysalids -- looks like I will have to order it. 

Re Gate to Women's Country - I found some of it a bit contrived. But I think the Fundie-culture scenes were very well done.

Suzie McKee Charnas had some good feminist books-- Walk to the End of the World and its sequel, Motherlines are very 1970s, but good yarns of a post apocalyptic world like that of Gate to Women's Country.  (Don't know if they are still in print.)

And Suzette H Elgin's Mother Tongue (1980s) is a fascinating look at patriarchy and hyper-religiousity in a future inspired by feminist anxieties during the Reagan years.

 

 

 

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@EmCatlyn  A lot of these books seem clumsy, heavy-handed, and contrived in retrospect.  

I quite liked Elgin's Ozark trilogy but found it a bit too fluffy so I didn't read Mother Tongue - but I should.

Thanks for the Charnas recommendation too.

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13 hours ago, Palimpsest said:

@EmCatlyn  A lot of these books seem clumsy, heavy-handed, and contrived in retrospect.  

I quite liked Elgin's Ozark trilogy but found it a bit too fluffy so I didn't read Mother Tongue - but I should.

Thanks for the Charnas recommendation too.

Mother Tongue and the sequel The Judas Rose are quite good.  The third book in that trilogy (the title of which I forget) was not so good.  It leaves the linguist families that I found fascinating and switches to a future of global climate change and some surreal stuff.

Of course a lot of these novels get a bit dated.

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@Palimpsest: HUGE Sheri S. Tepper fan here. I've read pretty much all of her stuff. My faves are:

A Plague of Angels

Beauty

Singer from the Sea (If I had to name my one favorite of hers under duress, this would be it--horrifying future vision of all major religions coming together to oppress women)

The Arbai Trilogy (Grass, Raising the Stones, and Sideshow--my fave of the three)

The Visitor

And too many others to name. Lovelovelove her!

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