Anne McCaffrey (Dragon Riders of Pern)

Moreta-and-Orlith-the-dragonriders-of-pern-33409691-360-282Best known for the Dragonriders of Pern science fiction series the American Born Irish Novellist Anne Inez McCaffrey sadly passed away 21 November 2011. Born 1 April 1926 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.She attended Stuart Hall (a girls’ boarding school in Staunton, Virginia), and graduated from Montclair High School in New Jersey. In 1947 she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College with a degree in Slavonic Languages and Literature.In 1950 she married Horace Wright Johnson who shared her interests in music, opera and ballet. They had three children: Alec Anthony, born 1952; Todd, born 1956 and Georgeanne (“Gigi”, Georgeanne Kennedy), born 1959.Except for a short time in Düsseldorf, the family lived for most of a decade in Wilmington, Delaware. They moved to Sea Cliff, Long Island in 1965, and McCaffrey became a full-time writer.McCaffrey served a term as secretary-treasurer of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1968 to 1970. In addition to handcrafting the Nebula Award trophies, her responsibilities included production of two monthly newsletters and their distriution by mail to the membership.McCaffrey emigrated to Ireland with her two younger children in 1970, weeks after filing for divorce. Ireland had recently exempted resident artists from income taxes, an opportunity that fellow science-fiction author Harry Harrison had promptly taken and helped to promote. McCaffrey’s mother soon joined the family in Dublin. the following spring, McCaffrey was guest of honor at her first British science-fiction convention. There she met British reproductive biologist Jack Cohen, who would be a consultant on the science of Pern.

Rowena_Morrill_Dolphins_of_PernMcCaffrey had had two short stories published during the 1950s. The first (“Freedom of the Race”, about women impregnated by aliens) was written in 1952 when she was pregnant with her son Alec. It earned a $100 prize in Science-Fiction Plus. Her second story, “The Lady in the Tower”, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction by editor Robert P. Mills and published again by editor Judith Merril for The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction.McCaffrey said “she thought of the story when wishing herself alone, like a lady in an ivory tower”.Judith Merril matched McCaffrey with her long-time literary agent Virginia Kidd (died 2003) and invited her to the Milford Writer’s Workshop (to which she returned many times), where participants each brought a story to be critiqued.After her first Milford workshop in 1959 she worked on “The Ship Who Sang”, the story which began the Brain & Brawn Ship series. At the story’s end, the spaceship Helva sings “Taps” for her human partner. she considered it her best story and her favorite.[“I put much of myself into it: myself and the troubles I had in accepting my father’s death and a troubled marriage.”McCaffrey then wrote two more “Ship” stories and began her first novel. Regarding her motivation for Restoree (1967), McCaffrey explained that it “served its purpose of an intelligent, survivor-type woman as the protagonist of an S-F story”. her 1969 novel Decision at Doona opens on “an overcrowded planet where just talking too loud made you a social outcast”. As a settler on Doona, the boy talker has a priceless talent.McCaffrey made a fast start in Ireland, completing for 1971 publication Dragonquest and two Gothic novels for Dell, The Mark of Merlin and The Ring of Fear. After writing The White Dragon her writing stalled. During the next few years the family moved several times in the Dublin area and struggled to make ends meet.

However the young-adult book market provided a crucial opportunity for McCaffrey and Whilst brainstorming about dragons and their “bad press all these years”. she devised a “technologically regressed survival planet” whose people were united against a threat from space (in contrast to an America divided by the Vietnam War). “The dragons became the biologically renewable air force, and their riders ‘the few’ who, like the RAF pilots in World War Two, fought against incredible odds day in, day out—and won.”The first Pern story, “Weyr Search”, was published in 1967 by John W. Campbell in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. It won the 1968 Hugo Award for best novella. The second Pern story, “Dragonrider”, won the 1969 Nebula Award for best novella, voted annually by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Thus she was the first woman to win a Hugo for fiction and the first to win a Nebula.”Weyr Search” covers the recruitment of a young woman, Lessa, to establish a telepathic bond with a queen dragon at its hatching, thus becoming a dragonrider and the leader of a Weyr community. “Dragonrider” explores the growth of the queen dragon Ramoth, and the training of Lessa and Ramoth. The third story, “Crack Dust, Black Dust”. The first Pern novel (Dragonflight, was a combination of  Weyr Search, Dragonrider and Crack dust,black dust. In 1974 the New England Science Fiction Association invited McCaffrey to its annual convention as guest of honor (which included publication of a novella for sale on-site). She wrote A Time When, which would become the first part of The White Dragon which was released with new editions of the first two Pern books, with cover art illustrated by Michael Whelan. Other McCaffrey novels include “The Smallest Dragonboy”, The Crystal Singer, Dragonsong, Dragonsinger: Harper of Pern, and Dragondrums.

During McCaffrey’s 46-year career as a writer, she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction and the first to win a Nebula Award. Her 1978 novel The White Dragon became one of the first science-fiction books to appear on the New York Times Best Seller list.In 2005 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named McCaffrey its 22nd Grand Master, an annual award to living writers of fantasy and science fiction. She was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame on 17 June 2006. McCaffrey sadly passed away at age 85 on 21 November 2011 at her home in Ireland, following a stroke

Alex James (Blur)

Alex James, the bassist with seminal Bitpop band Blur was Born November 21st 1968. Formed in London in 1988 as Seymour, the group consists of singer/keyboardist Damon Albarn, guitarist/singer Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. Blur’s debut album Leisure (1991) incorporated the sounds of Madchester and shoegazing. Following a stylistic change influenced by English guitar pop groups such as The Kinks, The Beatles and XTC, Blur released Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993), Parklife (1994) and The Great Escape (1995). As a result, the band helped to popularise the Britpop genre and achieved mass popularity in the UK, aided by a chart battle with rival band Oasis in 1995 dubbed “The Battle of Britpop”.

In recording their follow-up, Blur (1997), the band underwent another reinvention, showing influence from the lo-fi style of American indie rock groups. “Song 2″, one of the album’s singles, brought Blur mainstream success in the United States. Their next album, 13 (1999) saw the band members experimenting with electronic and gospel music, and featured more personal lyrics from Albarn. In May 2002, Coxon left Blur during the recording of their seventh album Think Tank (2003). Containing electronic sounds and more minimal guitar work, the album was marked by Albarn’s growing interest in hip hop and African music. After a 2003 tour without Coxon, Blur did no studio work or touring as a band, as members engaged in other projects. In 2008 Blur reunited, with Coxon back in the fold, for a series of concerts and have continued to release several singles and retrospective releases. In 2012, Blur received a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.