Yes, I know that November is the month of death, but we didn’t have to take it that literally, did we? Because in addition to losing a neighbour to cancer, this November has seen the loss of some remarkable people I did not know personally.
First of all, science fiction writer Anne McCaffrey has died aged 85.
Anne McCaffrey was one of the first SFF writers whose works I read in English as a teenager. I started with the Crystal Singer/Killashandra duology (later there was a third part) and then dug into the other stuff, including Pern. Though my favourite of her works was the Talented series (To Ride Pegasus, Pegasus in Flight, The Rowan, Damia, etc…). God, I loved those books as a teenager.
My interest in Anne McCaffrey’s novels waned as I grew older and it is certainly no accident that most of the McCaffrey books in my collection have copyright dates in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I suspect she is one of those writers who is best discovered and read as a teenager, because the magic won’t work as well in later life.
Nonetheless years later, Anne McCaffrey’s essay Hitch Your Dragon to a Star: Romance and Glamour in Science Fiction, first published in 1974, provided some invaluable quotes for my MA thesis as well as some equally invaluable insight in how difficult it was to introduce both realistic female characters as well as believable romance subplots into the male dominated science fiction in the 1960s and 1970s (though I still don’t like A Womanly Talent, sorry).
In many ways, Anne McCaffrey paved the way for the genre-crossing fiction of today, for she not only combined fantasy and science fiction but also introduced romance elements into the SF genre. She will be missed.
There’s another death to mourn, because today we also lost Austrian singer, songwriter and comedian Georg Kreisler, who died at the age of 89. He wrote many wonderful satirical songs, the best known of which is the delightful “Geh’n ma Tauben vergiften im Park” (Let’s go poisoning pigeons in the park).
November is a bad month for German language singers and songwriters in general, because last week another of the greats, Franz-Josef Degenhardt died days before his 80th birthday. His best known song is “Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern” (Don’t play with the dirty children), which will resonate with anybody who has ever been told just that by parents and guardians.
And yes, I know that the song is metaphorical. But as a kid, it was simply great to see an adult who got it.