**A SFR Month Post**
I have been thinking about our SFR month since Has first brought up the idea. Reading her introductory post, the great list of authors and books she included, and the additional authors provided by readers of the blog and I have been awash in fond memories. As part of that I tried to determine if I could remember what or who my introduction to SFR came from. I am guessing it was probably Anne McCaffrey because she was my introduction to reading SF/F itself. The argument could be made that her Dragonriders of Pern series/world fits within the SFR construct and I wouldn’t disagree I just felt that the science was introduced much later in order of publication. I remember reading The White Dragon first, but at that point I was too young to catch any nuance of the relationship between men and women besides friends and good friends. I was more fascinated by the relationship between Rider and Dragon or Human and Firelizard. In later years as I continued to read McCaffrey’s Pern series I did pick up on the thread of romance even though it never seemed to be the driving force behind any particular installment. It was just part of what the characters experienced through life, the dragon-human relationship was preeminent.
Yet for some reason McCaffrey’s name continued to stick in my head along with SFR, so I went through my collection and picked one series that had science evident from the beginning, space – something I always associate with SF, romance, and the implications of the science on the humans directly affected by the particular laws of science. The series I honed in on is McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer trilogy composed of Crystal Singer, Killashandra, and Crystal Line. Blurbs and links are at the end of this post if you are interested.
In this particular universe transportation of various forms to include interstellar, intraplanet, or ordinary everyday use, communication, music, basically everything that uses electricity in our world was or could be powered by a crystal of some color, cut, size, and configuration. They were not the only method of power but due to their relative rarity the type, size, and color of the crystals was used as a status symbol among the elite and also meant much higher reliability in a particular service for others. The color, cut, and initial tune of the crystal along with demand or need all factored into its market value. The crystals were tuned like a musical instrument is tuned to resonate at certain frequencies. And just like a musical instrument they required returning at regular intervals or re-cutting if some of the facets were damaged. A small percentage of humans or humanoids had the ability to work directly with crystals and even smaller percentage could find and mine or harvest them. If you were one of those individuals you were known as a Crystal Singer and a member of a very exclusive, influential, and yet not widely known Guild. Being a Crystal Singer convoyed some incredible benefits but it also had some pretty steep drawbacks, even the application and apprenticeship period was life-altering.
The Crystal Singer trilogy was also the first time I recall reading about a heroine who was rather difficult to like. Killashandra started off incredibly self-centered, selfish, dramatic, and had an incredible drive to be the best. When she was told that she failed her voice exams and was recommended to stop training as a soloist and settle for being a choral singer, she left her training academy and ended up encountering a Crystal Singer. Captivated by the lifestyle he seemed to live, even after seeing one of the negative side effect she decided to apply to become a Crystal Singer. To her frame of mind the potential downsides were far outweighed by the benefits, because she “knew” she would get accepted and become the best. As the trilogy continued, Killashandra had to face some of those downsides and learn how to deal with loss, pain, suffering, love, and adventure. Watching her transform over time to a person very far removed from the woman who left as a failed singer was impressive and would not have happened without the effects of those particular laws of science leaving their mark.
In the Crystal Singer trilogy McCaffrey provided a love story that required Killashandra to grow up enough to understand and accept what love really meant instead of the superficiality that she associated with love. McCaffrey also had a complex link between crystals as a source of power, the price paid by humans to harness that power, and also the potential gifts provided with harvesting the power. She also fleshed out and defined some aspects of what it really means
to be human. McCaffrey did provide a touch point to another of her series in this trilogy but that might be the subject of another opinion post at a later date. Seeing the linkage highlighted how the same science that is used for the base of one story or a universe can be expanded and not contradicted in the hands of a master storyteller to allow for updates over the passage of time. McCaffrey’s world-building allowed my imagination to soar and run rampant. It might have also informed my love for colored gems instead of colorless ones. Her characters let me see their flaws and their strengths. I could watch humanity changed by a series of choices and circumstances. I also saw how power could be used for good or evil depending on where you stood and what you believed. McCaffrey combined all of that into well three solid reads which I feel provide a good example of why regardless of how many SFR authors and stories I have read since, McCaffrey always comes to mind first.
Having said all of this, I am now curious about who or what was your introduction to SFR?
Crystal Singer: Her name was Killashandra Ree. And after ten grueling years of musical training, she was still without prospects. Until she heard of the mysterious Heptite Guild who could provide careers, security, and wealth beyond imagining. The problem was, few people who landed on Ballybran ever left. But to Killashandra the risks were acceptable….
Killashandra: At first Killashandra Ree’s ambitions to become a Crystal Singer, get rich, and forget her past, were going just as she had hoped. But after she grew wealthy, a devastating storm turned her claim to useless rock. In short order she was broke, she had crystal sickness so bad she thought she was going to die, and the only way she could be true to the man she loved was to leave him….
Crystal Line: When Killashandra Ree joined the mysterious Heptite Guild, she knew that she would be forever changed. Crystal singing brought ecstasy and pain, near-eternal life…and gradual loss of memory. What she hadn’t counted on was the loneliness she felt when her heart still remembered what her mind had forgotten. Fortunately, someone still cared enough to try to salvage what was left of Killashandra’s mind. But she would have to learn to open herself–to another person, and to all her unpleasant memories.