Edmund Ross
Jeff Labrecque
November 23, 2011 AT 09:03 PM EST

Anne McCaffrey, who wrote Dragonriders of Pern and nearly 100 other science-fiction and fantasy books, died of a stroke on Monday in County Wicklow, Ireland, according to a post on the Random House website. She was 85 years old.

McCaffrey was born in Massachusetts, and lived about half of her life in the U.S. She initially aspired to be a ballet dancer or an opera singer, but she found her calling in writing. After some promising short stories in 1967, she published her first novel, Restoree, a feminist response to the sexist treatment of women characters in science-fiction at that time. “I felt that I could write better stories myself; tales where the female characters didn’t cower in the corner while their “hero” beat off the bad guys, but got right in the middle of the fight, kicking and swinging along-side the man,” McCaffrey wrote on her website.

The next year, she became the first female writer to win the prestigious Hugo Award, for the novella Weyr Search that was later incorporated into her first Pern novel, Dragonflight. Soon after, she and her children moved to Ireland, where she continued to explore that world with what eventually became nearly two dozen fantasy novels set in Pern. In the past decade, she and her son, Todd, had collaborated on the Pern series, most recently with this summer’s Dragon’s Time.

On her site, she wrote how her childhood made her the woman she became. “As a young girl, I was an opinionated, asocial, extroverted, impossible egregious brat whose primary friends were books! The early lessons I learned, generally the hard way, in standing up for myself and my egocentricities, being proud of being ‘different,’ doing my own thing, gave me the strength of purpose to continue doing so later in life. You learn how not to conform, how to avoid labels. But it isn’t easy! It’s lonely until you realize that you have inner resources that those of the herd mentality cannot enjoy. That’s where the mind learns the freedom to think science-fictiony things.”

McCaffrey is survived by her two sons and daughter.

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