Anne McCaffrey – feminist writer

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Batya Weinbaum once wrote that “Anne’s novels celebrate adolescence.” (221)

“In college, Anne met her husband, married, and moved to New York City. There, in the late 1940s, she happened to discover a stack of old magazines left by a previous tenant. These included Amazing, Galaxy, Fantasy, and Fantastic SF—“pulp magazines” in the science fiction genre. She sold her first story in this venue. Drawing on her experience with pregnancy, she crafted a story of aliens using human females as reproductive surrogates, a theme common in the pulp years. She lacked self-confidence, but once she published a story that Judith Merril chose for her anthologies in 1961, Anne’s career was on its way. Merril invited her to the Eaton conference of science fiction writers in Connecticut where experts shared experiences and mentored each other. There, Anne met Virgina Kidd of the New York Futurians, who later became her editor.

The critical years in Anne’s career, 1965–1970, coincided with developments such as emergence of science fiction courses in universities and the transition of the genre from pulp magazines to more respectable and expensive paperback and hardcover books. The simultaneous emergence of the women’s movement made women notice each other and recognize each other’s struggles. The emerging feminist spirit of the times energized Anne to leave her husband, who became jealous of her success. At the age of forty-two, she left him for Ireland with two dependent children. The U.S. women’s movement gave her the spirit to persevere in Ireland where feminism had not emerged to the same extent. This feminist spirit also influenced Betty Ballantine, who had founded a publishing house in 1952 with her husband, to publish science fiction writers such as Arthur Clarke and Ray Bradbury. Ballantine admired Anne and described her as a feminist, due to her spunky female heroines. This energy, fueled by the women’s movement, was also crucial in fostering in Anne the notion that she too could create supportive networks for others in Europe once she was there, which she did, co-founding the British version of the prestigious Eaton conference that had helped her in Connecticut.

In her work, Anne draws on ecofeminist thought illustrating how women and nature are, often, equally subordinate to male dominance. Her books depict how humans and animals have sympathetic, telepathic relationships. “Psionics,” or psychic powers, are accepted in the worlds Anne creates, and often are the major theme. Anne creates likable female heroines who find resolutions difficult to achieve in real life, narrating tales of achievement and romance.” (222)

Ref: Batya Weinbaum ‘Anne McCaffrey: A Life with Dragons’ Feminist Formations, Volume 21, Number 2, Summer 2009, pp.220-223 (Review)

Also check out: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/nov/23/anne-mccaffrey-pern-dies-85

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