Pioneering female sci-fi and fantasy author Anne McCaffrey has died at the age of 85, publisher Random House has confirmed.
McCaffrey penned several popular works in the genre, paving the way for other female authors to make headway in the oft male-dominated genres in which she worked. Born to Irish immigrants in Massachusetts, McCaffrey began writing at the age of 9. She sold her first story in 1952 when pregnant with her first child.
McCaffrey died of a stroke at her home in Ireland, where she’d emigrated from the United States in 1970. Up until earlier this month, she’d been interacting with fans on her website, and previously offered the following advice for aspiring writers:
“First — keep reading. Writers are readers. Writers are also people who can’t not write. Second, follow Heinlein’s rules for getting published: 1. Write it. 2. Finish it. 3. Send it out. 4. Keep sending it out until someone sends you a check. There are variations on that, but that’s basically what works.”
The sci-fi blog i09 quotes McCaffrey from back in 2004, when she talked about the work that had affected her most. The author said of The Ship Who Sang:
I think the best story I ever wrote was ‘The Ship Who Sang’. It still causes people to cry, including me. When Todd and I were reading it at Brighton, they had a BBC crew filming it. So there were these BBC cameramen hunkered down filming us, and comes the end of the story (which Todd always reads, because I can’t go through it without weeping), I saw that these cameramen had tears rolling down their faces. That’s such a thrill — a story I wrote at the beginning of my career, and it’s still packin’ the house. I wrote that story because I couldn’t tell my father, he died in 1953. I remember reading a story — I can’t remember the name or that of the author — about a woman searching for her son’s brain, it had been used for an autopilot on an ore ship and she wanted to find it and give it surcease. And I thought what if severely disabled people were given a chance to become starships? What if they wanted to do that? I thought, ‘Hey, that would be a gorgeous idea.’ So that’s how ‘The Ship Who Sang’ was born.
McCaffrey is survived by two sons and a daughter.