I know this is the week after Thanksgiving, and thanks are traditionally spoken beforehand, but I’d like to offer some gratitude to the recently departed Anne McCaffrey: Thank you for giving me an escape from the bullying and loneliness of my chubby nerd middle school life.
The cover for the first book in the original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy, Dragonflight, artwork by Michael Whelan.
I still distinctly remember the day I first encountered a book by Anne McCaffrey. I was in middle school. I’d read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but not much else science fiction or fantasy. I was a total dinosaur nerd. I was complaining to my Dad about not having a good book to read, and he said, “I think I can help you.” We went to my brother’s room, and my Dad pulled down several cardboard boxes from the closet full of his old science fiction and fantasy paperbacks from the 60s and 70s. There were books by Isaac Asimov, Cordwainer Smith, Philip K Dick, Clark Ashton Smith, Arthur C Clarke, Algis Budrys, Larry Niven, Stanislaw Lem, many others (these boxes of books supplied me with reading material until I moved out of my parents’ house), and Anne McCaffrey. My Dad dug through the boxes, flipping through each book and discarding them until he uncovered Dragonflight and Dragonsdawn. He said, “You like dinosaurs, read these. They’re about dragons.” I was hooked. I stayed up all night reading them.
The cover for the second book in the original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy, Dragonquest, artwork by Michael Whelan.
I read about Pern and other Anne McCaffrey universes for years. I bought every new Pern book when it came out. I got teary eyed when major characters died. But my favorite Pern book, by far, was The White Dragon.
The cover for the third book in the original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy, The White Dragon, artwork by Michael Whelan. My favorite.
I read The White Dragon over and over again until it fell apart. I got a white sweater with the cover art. I felt like I was the main character, Jaxom, riding the titular white dragon. I was a chubby nerd – I definitely would’ve gotten the runt dragon (if I got one at all). But like Jaxom and his dragon, I had a secret power – the fantastic worlds that I would imagine, bolstered by Anne McCaffrey’s books, gave me some respite from teasing and alienation and let me experience the soaring flight of a good read. Thank you Anne McCaffrey. I think it’s time I got another copy of The White Dragon to reread.