The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey

I always feel at a disadvantage when I read a story I’d heard about forever. Especially a story that I’ve been told I’ll love, a story that someone felt I had to read right now. I’m such a contrary cuss that I generally don’t read those stories at all.

My husband tried to get me to read this story years ago with just those arguments, so I dug my feet in hard and refused to read it. I have no idea why I hadn’t read it on my own before that, but I hadn’t.

When I read the story tonight, I felt that initial resistance, the I’m not going to like this feeling I get whenever I’m told what to love. Then I sank into the story, and fell in love. Helva, the ship who does sing, is a fascinating character and believably young, and the life lesson she learns brought me to tears. I had to abandon my reading for a while to let the story sink in, one of the highest compliments I can pay to a piece of fiction.


Collected in Women of Wonder edited by Pamela Sargent, Vintage Books, 1974.

7 comments for “The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey

  1. Carbonel
    May 29, 2015 at 11:59 am

    McCaffrey’s short story collection, which got changed from the highfalutin’ (but perfectly sensible) “Spawn [get] of the Unicorn” to the more confusing “Get off the unicorn” (Look, if you keep bothering it, it’s going to gore you. Now hurry up, we’re late to soccer practice) has some real gems. “Lady in the Tower” was published in 1959, and is typical of McCaffrey did better than anyone until Sharon Miller & her husband showed up: write thoroughly engaging science fiction stories that were also satisfying romances. Her “Restoree” is one in which, thanks to the cover, few SF fans will admit to having read, but those who do often consider it a guilty pleasure and regular re-read.

    Oddly, like Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart, her romances were clearly popular with SF readers which skew male, so there appears to be a trick to writing romances that guys enjoy, and writing ones that guys (and women who approach romance novels in the same way) merely tolerate, or even reject.

    Do you plan to address the phenomena or is that outside the scope of the project?

    • May 29, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Which phenomena, Carbonel? I’m not sure which one you refer to. And thanks for the suggestions!I just got the McCaffrey collections, and will read through them.

    • Colleen
      May 29, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      The Restoree cover was awful, but I’ll admit to being one who rereads the story. McCaffrey was one of my early favorite writers, regardless of genre, and I loved The Ship Who Sang.

  2. Carbonel
    May 29, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    My apologies: It should read typical of what McCaffrey did better than anyone.

    Amazing how much harder it is to edit on a computer screen.

  3. Suburbanbanshee
    May 29, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Weeeell, there are definitely some bits which fall apart when you walk to the fridge, but in general all the stories are quite good. McCaffrey had a lot of useful storytelling skills that help make a world or a character feel real. More people should learn from her, especially if they want to made oodles of moolah.

  4. Felix Torres
    June 11, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    Of McCaffrey’s shorter works, I’ve long been partial to the Crystal Singer stories.
    I was particularly delighted by the STARSTREAM adaptation from 1976.

  5. June 25, 2015 at 6:13 am

    I love everything by McCaffery that I ever read..but I lost track of her after ‘The White Dragon’ came out, except for what I found in used bookstores.

    I’m SO happy that you’ve discovered her ‘other’ works. They’re marvelous.

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