Anne McCaffrey, whose vision of an interstellar alliance between humans and dragons spawned two dozen Dragonriders of Pern novels, has died in Ireland aged 85, her publisher and family announced Wednesday.
Random House said the Cambridge, Massachusetts-born author died of a stroke Monday at her rural residence south of Dublin, her home for four decades. She christened her self-designed house Dragonhold.
"Surrounded by the reassuring presence of family and close friends, her passing was swift and without suffering," her three children said in a statement.
McCaffrey turned to the male-dominated world of sci-fi writing after dabbling in singing and amateur acting.
"I have always used emotion as a writing tool," McCaffrey told the science fiction magazine Locus in a 2004 interview.
"That goes back to me being on the stage. The thing is, emotion — if it's visibly felt by the writer — will go through all the processes it takes to publish a story and still hit the reader right in the gut. But you have to really mean it."
She was the first woman to win the top two prizes for science fiction writing, the Hugo and the Nebula, in 1968 and 1969 respectively, following publication of her first two novellas set on the fictional planet of Pern.
McCaffrey moved to Ireland in 1970 after filing for divorce from her husband of 20 years. She had ancestral ties to Ireland, which also had just launched a unique program to woo novelists to live there exempt from income tax.
Her popularity surged with the 1978 publication of The White Dragon, which completed her original trilogy begun in the late 1960s. It was her only novel to break into The New York Times bestseller list.
But she maintained a prolific writing pace, producing a further 21 novels set in Pern at various periods of its imagined history.
Over the past decade as her health faded, she increasingly collaborated with her son Todd, who co-authored five Pern-based novels and wrote three others on his own. The 23rd novel, Dragon's Time, was published in June with mother and son sharing the writing credit, while the 24th, Sky Dragons, is set for publication next year.
She is survived by two sons and a daughter. Funeral arrangements were not announced.