Writing has long-lasting impact…

The written word has always held tremendous power.  From the fear and awe created in the middle ages, through various misguided mantras penned by dictators and tyrants in the intervening centuries, right up to the modern penchant for spin and hype – words have an amazing capacity for good and much potential for destruction too.

All authors need to remain mindful of the impact their words might have.

Here’s a short, hopefully positive, story…

Picture the scene: there’s a young boy, over there.  Can you see him?  He’s probably only about eleven years old and is being led by his mum, on a typically grey Midland morning, along the street to where the local library bus is waiting for them.  He’s holding tightly to her hand and having to scamper to keep pace with her longer strides but, if you look closely, you’ll note that he’s made sure he’s on the road-side of her, because that’s what ‘gentlemen’ are supposed to do.

The boy loves this big, bright yellow, Winnebago which is packed full of books.  He looks forward to its visits although, for him, they really don’t come around often enough.  Let’s face it: if you can only borrow two books at a time on your library card, and you’re eleven, and you read voraciously, then fourteen days is a very long time to have to wait between recharges…

They arrive at the bus and he scrambles up the steps, disappearing into the shady interior like Aladdin into the Genii’s cave.  Once inside he goes straight to the sci-fi section because a couple of nutters called Clarke and Asimov have started to bend his mind and the US Saturn V lunar programme has captured his imagination and he searches high and low for aliens and spaceships… but unfortunately there are no new space creatures or time machines lurking on the shelves this week.  His head drops in disappointment.  What’s he going to read?

Eventually, on one of the shelves, he finds a book which has a nice picture on the front but he’s not too sure about the blurb.  It’s something about dragons, which might not really be his thing.  It’s also probably a bit too grown-up for him –  the words look quite complex and, from the look of it, it might even have stuff like kissing inside.  Blushing slightly, he decides that he’d better keep the details hidden from his mum, just in case…

The book is called Dragonflight.  Originally published in 1968, it was a recipient of a Hugo Award (not that an eleven year old knows what that means) and it was, without doubt, one of the most enjoyable books that this particular little boy ever read.

It was, in fact, so memorable that I can still remember taking it down off the shelf, in the library bus.  I can still remember holding it and wondering whether I should smuggle it home.  I can still remember devouring it and then the next dozen or so books in the series (I can’t remember if there was any kissing, but there were a lot of girls in leading roles…).

Right now, more than thirty years later, I still have five of the series, complete with their yellowing paper, in pride of place on my bookshelf.  I don’t, of course, have Dragonflight; it had to be returned a fortnight later.

The author was a lady called Anne McCaffrey who has sadly, at the age of eighty-five, just been called to take her gifts elsewhere.  Apparently she was still writing, still delighting young minds and still corresponding with her many fans right up to her final moments and I’m certain her talents will be being put to great use wherever she finds herself now.

I’d just like to record my thanks.  Thank-you Anne.  Thank-you so much…  Your positive and uplifting stories made a little boy very happy and laid an inspirational foundation stone upon which I continue to build my life and, hopefully, my writing.


Anne Inez McCaffrey, science-fiction and fantasy writer.

Born 1 April 1926; died 21 November 2011

The Guardian Obituary


About anthonybellaleigh

Writing to amuse myself and entertain others. (https://anthonybellaleigh.wordpress.com)

Posted on November 25, 2011, in General, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. It is amazing how much a book can impact us, regardless of age. I was a vorocious reader myself as a kid, though there weren’t many books that left an impact on me. The only one I remember clearly (and read it many times) was Black Beauty. It horrified me to think anyone would treat horses the way they were in that book. I eventually found out that was part of the author’s intent- to bring attention to the cruelty horses faced in those days. Yet it really made me think of how animals had feelings too. Heck, I even worried whether any of my stuffed animals would get jealous if I put some on my bed and others not. Even while serving in Iraq I had my beanie babies lined up across my pillow on the tiny bed issued to me. It didn’t seem right to not give them all a place of honor there. You might laugh that a tough soldier in a war zone had stuffed animals on her bed, but you would be amazed how many of us did. Heck, my sergeant major had his office filled with stuffed sheep (there was a bit of a joke with that one though). I used to go in there when he wasn’t around and set them up in compromising positions. He eventually caught on to who was doing it, lol. Then one day I found my beanie babies lined up in a train formation on my bed after they had ran inspections of our sleeping quarters. I have a good idea who did it!

    Okay, enough of my diverting from topic. Just wanted to let you know that your story was a nice one to share. I enjoyed it!


  2. Nicely written, Anthony, and a great glimpse into your world as a child. It’s also bitter sweet that one of your favorite authors has passed, but it was nice to learn she kept on writing to the very end.


    • thanks! … and, yeah, I think it’s great that she was able to keep plugging along; seemingly very happily! (p.s. I have also subsequently discovered that Finland also used to run Library Buses… With fixed libraries struggling to stay open, I can’t help but wonder if mobile libraries still exist anywhere nowadays??)


      • I suppose I should be thankful to be in the States since mobile libraries are only used in very remote areas. Sad state of affairs per books/libraries in Europe.


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