Tag Archives: How I met the author

How I met the author: Anne McCaffrey

An infrequent and random series of posts musing about my introduction to some of my favourite writers.

A funny thing happened at the shop one day…

I really don’t know why I had a book in my hand when I went into my local corner store that day bay in the mid-90s, but I did – back then, I pretty much ALWAYS carried a big fat book around with me (now they mostly live on my phone, which is way more convenient!), so it wasn’t that unusual, I suppose. I was writing a thesis on representations of reality in fantasy novels, based mostly on the works of my favourite fantasy authors at the time, Raymond Feist and David (and Leigh) Eddings. I’m not sure if it was Belgarath the Sorcerer or Magician I had with me, but whatever it was, as I was chatting to the owner of the shop who was serving me, we got to talking about the book. And it turns out, he was a fan as well. From memory, we discussed our favourites for a bit, then he told me that if I loved Feist and Eddings, then I really had to try McCaffrey. And then, even though I don’t think I’d been in the store more than a couple of times previously (I had only recently moved in up the road), he popped out the back to his attached house and grabbed his personal copy of The White Dragon to loan me.

Well, I loved it. I haunted local bookstores, new and secondhand for months, finding in dribs and drabs the rest of McCaffrey’s ouvre. I don’t recall the order in which I read the rest of Pern, nor the other series, though I would always be delighted to come across one I didn’t have in the secondhand book shelves. I read and reread all those books many times over the next 20 years (I recently reread Pern again last year, and was bemused to realise I had never actually read Anne’s last solo Pern novel, Skies of Pern – somehow flew entirely under my radar (to be fair, it came out in the year I was pregnant with my first child and studying my Masters degree!), though I did read a couple of the collaborations with Todd thereafter. Skimming through Goodreads now, I see there are a few collaborative works I missed in other series, too, and while for many years my McCaffrey collection was as complete as I could make it (pre-online shopping!), even including the Atlas of Pern and The People of Pern, two hard-to-get gorgeous hardcover tie-ins, at some point I stopped reading the books I bought, and at some later point, I stopped buying altogether.

I still have them all. Multiple packing boxes filled with McCaffrey sit in my shipping container, waiting for a time when I can once again put them out on the bookshelf (no room in the current house, unfortunately). Many other books have not made it past the great book culls I’ve had over the years, but I don’t think I’ll ever part with Pern, nor McCaffrey’s other works. I don’t know if it was mentioned in one of her books but in late 2000, I discovered Anne’s Kitchen Table Bulletin Board, and became part of my first real interactive fandom, chatting in real time and on message boards with fans all over the world (one, a girl from New Zealand, I’m now Facebook friends with!). One of my fondest fannish memories is the time I was online at 3am in the morning (probably doing a university assignment) and actually got to chat to Anne herself. More than a decade and a half later, with all the wonderful writers I’ve met and worked with in the last 15 years, that is still my biggest thrill.

I wish I’d taken the chance to go visit Anne in Ireland when I was there in the late 90s – I didn’t have the nerve, I guess, though she always said she was happy to have fans visit her at Dragonhold-Underhill (with a little notice!). Maybe if I’d been a bit older, or had any other fan experiences under my belt (I didn’t come into the Australian fan scene until 2001, as a part of Andromeda Spaceways, and didn’t attend my first convention and meet my first authors until 2002!), I would have done it, but I didn’t. Maybe it is for the best – they say don’t meet your heroes – but I still regret that lost opportunity.


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How I met the author: Lois McMaster Bujold

An infrequent and random series of posts musing about my introduction to some of my favourite writers.

I discovered Lois Bujold on a remainder table in an Australian two dollar shop more than a decade ago. I don’t remember which titles I picked up there. I’m not even sure now whether her name was familiar to me or if it was just chance I decided to buy those slightly tatty (though still unread) paperbacks for the ridiculous sticker price of about A$1.13 each. I did that on occasion back then, when I still read exclusively in print form and still had time to take a chance on books from the remainder bin (sadly these days I don’t even scrounge through these bins any more – so many books, so much digital, so little time…). I do remember they were Vorkosigan books, because for a long time, they were the only books of hers I read. I also know I read the Vorkosigan Saga entirely out of order the first time through, but I loved every single one of them anyway. Whatever those first books were, they led me on a (mostly online) hunt for the rest of the series, which as I recall, arrived in dribs and drabs in mostly the omnibus editions. I devoured each one, and was hungry for more.

When Cryoburn came out in 2010, I bought the hardcover edition, something I rarely did, and was delighted when it came with a CD Rom of almost all (bar Memory) the rest of the series in ebook, plus some extra goodies. When Baen offered Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance advance review ebooks for sale, well in advance of release, I bought it. I did the same thing with the recent Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. And I bought the hardback editions when they came out later, too. Why? Because I adore this series just that much. I have loaned or given copies to at least a dozen people, insisting they much read the Vorkosigan Saga, and I’ve been delighted when they’ve fallen hard too. In 2011, a friend and I read/reread the entire series (to date) – we even won an award for it! But the reading (in internal chronological order this time) and reviewing was a breeze – when you love something, it’s not hard to do.

Eventually, I realised that Bujold had written other things, fantasy rather the SF, so I hunted them down, or so I thought. I thought I read the four Sharing Knife books a few years ago, but having just “reread” them in the past couple of months (so good!), I realise I must not have read books 3 and 4 – if I did, my memory is in far worse shape than I thought! I have no idea why not, as I own them all in paperback (and now in ebook too), and they are certainly MEANT to be read as a single volume, so it seems very strange that I stopped. Not only that, but for years I thought I had read BOTH of Bujold’s fantasy series, and it wasn’t until I picked up her recent self-published Penric novellas, set in the World of the Five Gods, that I realised I had missed all three Chalion books entirely, so I immediately grabbed them and read the lot, back in 2015. That series is next on my comfort reread pile.

Basically, I’ll read anything Bujold writes. I love that I don’t know what to expect when I pick up one of her books – one of my favourite things about her Vorkosigan series (well, apart from all my OTHER favourite things) is that each book is essentially a different genre, even while all being basically space opera at the core. It’s a clever way to keep a series fresh. Bujold frequently makes me snort with laughter, and all too often has me sobbing, and I think that genuine emotional response to a book is a true measure of its value.

I’ve never met Lois in person. I wasn’t part of the convention-going scene in Australia when she was here as a guest. I do hope someday to be able to thank her in person for her words.

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