S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Building my world with Anne McCaffrey

When I was ten, I was living in England. The school librarian memorably introduced me to both Anne McCaffrey and Diana Wynne Jones that year. I started with Dragonsong. The library itself didn't have very many books by either. I saved up my allowance and bought McCaffrey books wherever I ran across them that year, mostly from book carousels outside countryside corner shops.

I became something of a McCaffrey completist in following years, something which - just as well - I didn't pursue once internet shopping had become part of my life. I read her romance novels, her cookbook(s), the Pern tie-in books. I have the Dragonriders of Pern board game, The People of Pern, the Atlas of Pern, both editions of the Dragonlover's Guide. It's likely that therein lies my ongoing interest in tie-in books, specifically those trying to make atlases and guidebooks to fictionalized places.

Toward the tail end of high school, I took a computer science course at the local university. The class included an account on the university's unix mainframe. The first day I connected to the internet, I browsed the options. I found USENET. I found alt.fan.dragons. I discovered online RPing and MUSHing. The very first day I connected to the internet, I found SouCon, a Pern-themed mush. (PernMUSH was down that day.)

It took me a bit to figure out roleplaying and online socialization. Even then, I was never really into the dragons so much as the world constructed around them, the challenges of the economics and being an everyday person in a world with those fantastical elements in them. (One day, I would go on to guest GM in a friend's ongoing RP campaign as a weather system. And my research interests still focus on how everyday technological details fit into broader worlds.)

Several months later, I'd figured out where I was doing my undergraduate degree. When I updated my in-game status with that information, I learned that a good half-dozen of the people I'd been RPing with were at my institution-to-be. Before classes even started at Smith, thanks to that connection, I'd met a swathe of the science fiction club, my fellow MUSHers. They become close friends of mine - and still are. They showed me that science fiction clubs were a quick-and-easy way of finding compatible new people when I moved to a new place. They took me to my first SF convention. They introduced me to fandom.

The model of finding the nearest SF group when I arrived worked well for me the next time I moved. That's how I met C, among other people - when I arrived at York, I went to the first meeting of the year of the SF club, before classes had even begun. It didn't work in Toronto, because a university of 70,000 people managed not to have an SF club. But that next spring, I found fandom anyways, through the local convention, Ad Astra.

MUSHing let me continue to interact with good friends even when I moved and moved again. It provided social continuity. When it finally took up more of my time than I could spare, LJ eventually became its social replacement for me, not for roleplaying, but for social continuity and active staying in touch with friends, regardless of place. And LJ is still how I keep in touch with so many of the good friends I made in my years of MUSHing.

I kept buying Pern books long after they'd become soap opera, only finally giving up on them after her first collaboration with her son. (It read like the summary of a novel, plus it was so very embarassingly coy about sexual relations, it felt it was written for an eight year old - not at all the target audience for the original books!) But I kept buying the Acorna books at least, even if they were never quite what I wanted them to be.

I never did meet her. I saw her from a distance once, with thousands of others, at the last Glasgow Worldcon. She was already frail then, going around in a wheelchair. And now she's dead.

But her influence has been entwined around most of my life. The first author I was at all a completist about. The author whose influence shaped my first day on the internet, and the effects of whose fandom shaped a large swathe of my subsequent social life, both online and off.

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