Given the day, it seems obvious to couch this post in the terms of what I’m thankful for. First and foremost, always and above, I’m grateful for my family. We’re none of us a huggy gushy expressive family, but the love among us is unquestioned. I’m grateful for an amazing sister with whom a real friendship has grown as we’ve matured; for a thoroughly insane brother who will make you laugh whether you’re willing or not; for three stunning nieces who are turning into amazing young women; for a mother who has always been my staunchest supporter and biggest fan. And for the beagle, best dog I’ve ever met. I’m grateful for the small core group of friends who have stuck with me through, to coin a phrase, thick and thin rather than just … till something more interesting came along.
And, remarkably, I’m a little thankful right now for Lady Gaga. Never thought I’d see myself write that, but she’s kind of fabulous. And valuable. And has Mark Kanemura in her troupe. (Yes, her Thanksgiving special is on as I write this.) I’m grateful for, and to, all the artists of the written or sung or spoken or illustrated word who weave through my life and make me smile, and cry, and laugh, and feel fierce, and feel humble … who make me feel. These are the beings who are, when I’m lucky, shared with friends, and – more importantly – are with me when I’m so alone, and – some of them – who save me.
Which brings me to one of those people, someone who has been with me since I was about twelve. (That’s the age I seem to have discovered a great many of my pillars of strength, or maybe I just remember it that way.) Anne McCaffrey passed away this week. She was 85, and wrote dozens and dozens of books over nearly fifty of her years, and – more importantly – she acted as a mentor and partner to young up-and-coming writers, co-writing novel after novel and helping careers in a way I admit to being deeply envious of.
The biggest impact she had on my life was through Pern. I’ve learned a lot from the Pern books, what I suppose could be called life lessons earnestly imbibed when I was younger, and a great many of the do’s and don’ts and whys and wherefores of writing ever since. Whatever else can be said, she created a deep and rich and real world filled with people going about their extraordinary business, and let us in on it. I wish she could have lived to see her creation brought to life. She didn’t create fire-breathing big lizards from whole cloth – but she did create dragons. She created the dragons generations have dreamed of ever since, the great battle companions and steeds who both were and served the knights of Pern and the small, quick, charming fire lizards who filled in all the gaps the great dragons could not. These creatures have fulfilled – and created, for that matter – a deep visceral need for the extraordinary. C.S. Lewis wrote, “I desired dragons with a profound desire.” Thank you, Anne McCaffrey, for creating a self-propagating joy and desire. I wish you peace.