"Man no sooner discovers a new intelligence, than he tries to
involve it in his own stupidity."
AN INTERVIEW WITH ANNE MCCAFFREY
by Richard Karsmakers
When I look back at my period of employment at Thalion Software
in Germany, I come up with mixed feelings. One the one hand their
was great friendship and a lot of talent, and on the other hand
there was commerce knocking on your door, commerce littered with
individuals you couldn't trust at all. One of the good things to
come out of that period, however, was my colleague Erik Simon's
advise to check out a writer by the name of Anne McCaffrey. At
the time we were creating an entire concept world in which all
future Thalion games would be put - a project that was axed not
much later due to lack of funds - and McCaffrey's world of Pern
was a most excellent example of such a world.
I bought the first book of the Dragonriders of Pern series, a
book by the name of "Dragonflight" (the game of the same name
released by Thalion was a total coincidence, as Erik had read the
German version of the book and had never before heard the English
title). I read it and was hooked. The end almost had me in tears
as main protagonist Lessa rescued her world from the ravages of
the main threat to life on Pern, Thread.
Anyway, in the following years I bought all further Pern books
and read most of them up to and including "Moreta: Dragonlady of
Pern". After that I somehow lost interest and it wasn't until a
few months ago that I started reading again. "Nerilka's Story"
was next, and now I'm reading "Dragonsdawn".
Recently I also got in contact with Mrs. McCaffrey - a good
opportunity to do an interview, of course. The result of that can
be found below.
Can you give us a short biography of your life (date and place
of birth), education, computers (if applicable), work and social
Anne: Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 1 1926 (Holy
Thursday that year), in the Sign of the Fire Tiger at the hour of
the Sheep. Raised in Upper Montclair New Jersey with two
brothers, one old, Hugh and one younger, Kevin Richard. Father
returned to active service during WW II and was one of the
formational Military Governors in Agrigento, Sicily, Italy and
Vienna Austria, then in Japan for Tax Reform and, waiving his
physical disabilities, he became Chief of the Finance Division of
UNCACK in Seoul, Korea: He contracted TB and died six months
later. My mother was a linguist and real estate agent. I
graduated from Radcliffe College cum laude in Slavonic Languages
and Literatures and, although I used my languages in my first
job, when the company folded, my next job was in copywriting.
Married in l950, three children, Alec, Todd and Georgeanne and
divorced in l970 at which point I moved with my two younger
children to Ireland, joined by my mother who died in l974. My son
Todd introduced me to computers in l982 - a Kapro II, user-
friendly, and it was. I have since graduated to a 486 IBM clone
and "Microsoft Word" 6.0 and Windows.
Can you give us a short description of the surroundings where
you live? Its nightlife, its people?
Anne: I live in Ireland which has no nightlife to speak of, save
in its pubs which I used to frequent until I got too old to drink
heavily. I am in rural Ireland, 27 miles south of Dublin, between
the hills and the sea, on a 47 acre farm which I own and which
contains not only my house but the stables that I started in
Can you give us a description of your home, most specifically
the room where you do your work or another room that you perhaps
think deserves to be known better?
Anne: The house I now live in was designed by me for the purpose
of housing all my books, artwork, papers, me and various
relatives and assorted guests. The County Council thought I was
building a B&B since I included 5 bathrooms. I have a heated
enclosed swimming pool to ease my arthritic bones. The house is
termed a bungalow but it's large, more or less modern in style
though it owes certain architectural details to older Irish
houses. My office is a large room, overlooking one of the jumping
paddocks, facing west, and it's crammed full of worktops,
bookshelves, CD shelves, the CD unit, fax and my laptop and some
of the more recent awards, plus two geraniums on the window sill
and photos of friends, horses, and people.
What do you look like? Or, at least, how would you describe
Anne: My hair is silver, my eyes are green and I freckle. The
rest is subject to change without notice.
What is (are) your worst habit(s)?
Anne: My worst habit is interrupting people and playing
"FreeCell" when I should be working on the latest novel.
What is "FreeCell", actually?
Anne: It is a computer card game, one of the Patience variety
of which there are thousands.
Do you have any pets and, if so, what kind? What are their
Anne: I have cats - or rather, they have me. Right now there are
five in the house, plus an ageing Dobermann soon to be replaced
by a Weimaraner pup. There is tuxedo b&w Bronsky who is currently
senior cat, a tortoise shell Chesapeake, who lives with my
sister-in-law in her apartment (which is part of the house but
separate), three Maine Coon cats, Chanel who is tricolor and
drapes, Thomasina who is silver mackerel and timid, and Punjab
Pumpkin who is orangey-pink and charming. Saffron is my red
Dobermann and noble watchdog for the past 12 years. My special
mount is a b&w mare named Pi who is bomb proof but I've had to
give up riding as my right hip is too stiff to get over the
saddle, fore or aft. Pi misses me.
If I were ever to visit you, where would you take me for a night
Anne: I'd probably take a visitor to The Tree of Idleness where
the Greek-Cypriot food is some of the best to be had in Ireland.
If you're younger by far, I'd get my daughter and her husband to
take you to Johnny Fox' Pub or some of the nightclubs in Dublin
but I'm no longer comfortable in such rackets.
Do you do any other work except for that through which most
people tend to know you?
Anne: How would I have time to do any other work than my
Which book have you read recently that made most of an
impression on you, and why?
Anne: I think Carol Severances' two Polynesian based books, "Reef
Song", and something about Drums (she changed the name from the
manuscript title) have haunted me the most. Strange and unusual
background, with strange and unusual protagonists and some
really, truly queer folks. And Connie Willis' "Doomsday Book"
which was so brilliantly written and compelling to read. But I
get a lot of books through here that I'm supposed to read and
sometimes I don't get a chance to finish them. Both those
selections go back about a year or more but as I still remember
them most vividly, they made an impression.
What's your favourite season, and why?
Anne: I like Autumn, or rather Autumn in New England, the best,
but I like all the seasons here in Ireland.
What's your favourite music for flipping out, or working?
Anne: I don't flip out - too much to do - I have a five place CD
player and I load it up in the morning and let it rip, repeating.
I prefer movie music - mainly James Horner, at the moment - as it
makes as nice a background to writing as to the movie it was
Do you ever play computer games?
Anne: I don't play the involved computer games - partly because
my reflexes aren't fast enough for "Supaplex", but I do play
"FreeCell" and "Tut's Tomb" - "FreeCell" more than the other as
it's endlessly competitive...and also "Taipei" or "Mahjongg"
whichever is up on the screen in the Games.
What is the film you've been to recently that made most of an
impression on you?
Anne: "Dances with Wolves" and "Last of the Mohicans" made quite
an impression on me - I have the music, fer starters, so I can
endlessly get back into the movies. I don't go that often,
however. I thoroughly enjoyed "Mrs Doubtfire".
Do you remember a film that struck you as being especially crap,
a film you was tempted to get a refund at the cinema for?
Anne: I've had a lot more videos I've watched only the first
five minutes of. But as I chose them, I don't get the money back.
Wish I could.
Is there a man on earth whom you would now - had you been in
your late teens or early tweens - seriously like to have a huge
poster of, hanging above your bed?
Anne: I could use a photo of Tom Skerrit or Sam Shepard very
handily, but I never was much of a movie-star fan. There were far
too many others girls that such people would rather be with than
I so I was pragmatic even then. I'd like to meet James Garner
Which of the male characters in your novels is your favourite?
And which female?
Anne: Robinton's my favorite (an old Master Harper on Pern, ED.)
and Afra is next on the list. I couldn't say which of my female
characters I like the most - possibly The Rowan.
Besides the "Dragonriders of Pern", have you written any other
novels and what kind are they?
Anne: Lordee, I've written some 42 books on my own, 13 collabs,
and there're only 13 Dragonrider Books out of that total. All but
7 are s-f: the others are romances or Gothicks.
What's the book you're most proud of?
Anne: I'm still real proud of "The Ship Who Sang" though I'm
aware of its flaws, too. "All the Weyrs of Pern" comes next and
then "Lyon's Pride".
Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which and how well
Anne: I used to play piano - but badly. Fingers are too stiff
now to stretch.
You make use of the Internet. What would you advise other
Internet users to check out without further ado, i.e. what would
you would more or less have parted with your right arm for to
have someone reveal to you when you started out?
Anne: I'm not on Internet but Tapcis receives it. I wouldn't
part with my right arm - nor my left - for any reason but it
would've been nice if I'd started word processing as early as
some of you lot so I'd be more comfortable with all the things
one can do on PCs.
When, in many years, you'll eventually die, which song would you
like to be played at your funeral service?
Anne: Brahm's Academic Overture or Eye Level.
What is your favourite author, and why?
Anne: I don't have a definite favorite author though I
immediately buy Dick Francis' latest hardcover.
Is there something you see everybody likes but that you loathe
Anne: I don't waste time on loathing anything.
What do you remember as the worst ever moment in your life?
Anne: I've had several 'worst moments' - but the recurrent one
was the realization that, with plenty of funds available, the one
thing I could not purchase was a cure for my daughter who suffers
from Crohn's Disease. I think the second worst was the
realization that my marriage was over and divorce was essential
for the safety of my children.
Most cliché question of the interview (possibly): What's your
favourite food? And favourite drink?
Anne: I'm very fond of broiled live Maine lobster and Clearly
Canadian's my favorite drink since I have to be careful how much
white wine I drink. In the wines, it's the Belle Pais from Cyprus
that I particularly like.
What is your favourite fantasy?
Anne: Favorite fantasy? Personal or written? If it's written,
it has to be Terry Pratchett's marvelous Discworld series. As to
personal fantasies, I've accomplished most of them: Being
successful, respected, owning my own home, having my children
grow up to be responsible and reasonably happy adults. A couple
of very private ones, I'm now too old for but hell, I've done
pretty well. One of the earlier ones - say back in the 70s - was
writing a book that got on the New York Times Best Seller List.
I've done that with the last 14 books (smile).
Is there a person you haven't met yet which you'd dearly love to
Anne: There are a lot of people I'd like to meet - for different
reasons. But it's more fun if I don't - I preserve the illusion
What publications can we expect from you within, say, the next
(few) year(s)? Any collaborations?
Anne: I'm currently working on the third of the Petaybee series
with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough: I've just finished "The Dolphins
of Pern" for Del Rey and am writing "Catteni" for Berkley. I'll
have a fifth in the "Tower and Hive" series next year and that's
what I've planned so far. No further collaborations are
What would you advise budding writers to do?
Anne: I advise all budding writers to learn to spell, construct
a proper sentence and learn the difference between the possessive
pronoun and the contraction, and TO TELL A STORY!
What was the first thing you got published and what did you have
to do to get it printed in the first place?
Anne: The first story I got published was "Freedom of Race"
which Sam Moskowitz bought. All I had to do to get it published
was send it to Sam to see if he'd buy it. There are no
incantations, bribes necessary - just a fresh story that
Do you do other things besides writing?
Anne: I don't have time for hobbies but I used to ride five or
six times a week on my b&w mare, Pi.
Right. Now the words to react to, a section designed to provoke.
Anne: Maybe there's a good reason for some countries to be
autocratically ruled by a dictator.
The ozone layer.
Anne: Well, I do my part not to dissolve it further.
Anne: It's the infringement of a copyright and should be
Anne: What's MTV?
It's 24 hours a day Music TeleVision.
Anne: MTV doesn't occur in Ireland now that you've explained it.
I miss WABF in the States which played non-stop classical
music. Aint no such animal over here.
Anne: I know Guns'n'Roses is a rock group and that's all I know.
Anne: Michael Jackson is the epitome of the horror of
popularity. I'm sorry for the man on quite a few levels.
Anne: Take every kid from the age of 3-13 and educate them in
another country and without emphasis on religion and the problem
MIGHT clear up.
Anne: I've never heard the question.
Anne: You will notice that I don't have religion in my books. I
didn't import it to Pern and resist any attempt by fans to put
some there. 'God' is a private concept and should remain a
personal, not a public, figure. More horror and death has been
done in His name than for any other reason. I'd prefer Commercial
Greed. However, I sang in a Presbyterian Choir for l8 years.
Anne: Jane Austen was a woman so far ahead of her times we
haven't caught up yet.
Anne: Atari was touted as a 'games machine' but is actually a
far more versatile and powerful PC than it is ever given credit
for. My son Todd taught it how to write in Greek, among other
things. Too bad it got overshadowed by Apple and Macintosh (it
should be noted that Anne is here referring to the Atari 800
SELECT ANNE MCCAFFREY BIBLIOGRAPHY
(Also thanks to Mike Powell for details)
- Dragonriders of Pern
("Dragonrider", short version of "Dragonflight", 1967)
"The White Dragon" (1978)
("A Time When", different extracts of "The White Dragon" used
"Dragonsinger - Harper of Pern" (1977)
"Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern" (1982)
"Nerilka's Story" (1986)
"The Renegades of Pern" (1989)
"All the Weyr of Pern" (1992)
"The Girl Who Heard Dragons" (?)
"The Dolphins of Pern" (1994?)
- The Crystal Singer
"To Ride Pegasus"
"Pegasus in Flight"
- The Tower and the Hive
"Decision at Doona"
"Crisis at Doona" (with Jody Lynn Nye)
"Treaty Planet" (with Jody Lynn Nye)
"The Ship Who Sang"
"The Ship Who Searched" (with Mercedes Lackey)
"Partnership" (with Margaret Ball)
"The City Who Fought"
- Planet Pirates
"Sassinak" (with Elizabeth Moon)
"The Death of Sleep" (with Jody Lynn Nye)
"Generation Warriors" (with Elizabeth Moon)
- Dinosaur Planet
"Dinosaur Planet" (1978)
"The Survivors (Dinosaur Planet II)" (1984)
"The Coelura" (1983)
"Powers That Be" (with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)
- Other (Non-SF)
"Stitch in Snow"
"The Year of the Lucy"
"The Carradyne Touch"
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.