Brainship Books in Order, Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang Universe

The Brainship Series, also known as the “Ship Who Sang” or “The Brain & Brawn Ship Series” series is a collection of science fiction novels set in a universe where humans coexist with sentient starships.

Created by Dragonriders of Pern author Anne McCaffrey, the series focuses on people with profound physical impairments who are incorporated into ships as “Brains” that develop into the ship’s mind and enable sophisticated navigation and communication.

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How to read The Brainship Series in Order

The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey

The Ship Who Sang started as a series of short stories written by McCaffrey in the 1960s. All those stories were put together to make the first book in the series focusing on the brainship Helva.

The Ship Who Sang (1969)

McCaffrey revisited the universe and delivered a first follow-up story in 1977. Then, she came back again to reconnect with Helva after all the other books in the series in 1999:

– “Honeymoon” (1977, short story) – published in the anthology Get Off the Unicorn.
– “The Ship That Returned” (1999, short story) – published in the anthology Far Horizons: All New Tales from the Greatest Worlds of Science Fiction. Also reprinted later under the title “The Ship Who Returned

You can choose to read the last story here or after the rest of the series.

The Brainship series, the 90s revival

The Brainship series was revived during the nineties for a series of co-written books written by McCaffrey and various authors, focusing on other brain ships:

PartnerShip (1992), co-written with Margaret Ball
The Ship Who Searched (1992), co-written with Mercedes Lackey
The City Who Fought (1993), co-written with S.M. Stirling
The Ship Who Won (1994), co-written with Jody Lynn Nye

Then, two solo entries by Stirling and Nye also serves as follow-up to previous stories:

The Ship Errant  (1996) by Jody Lynn Nye. Sequel to The Ship Who Won
The Ship Avenged (1997) by S.M. Stirling. Sequel to The City Who Fought.

More about the Brainship series

The Inspiration behind The Ship Who Sang

In an interview with Locus Magazine from November 2004, Anne McCaffrey discussed about how The Ship Who Sang came to be and what inspired her to think of people with disabilities becoming the brains behind starships.

I wrote that story because I couldn’t tell my father, he died in 1953. I remember reading a story — I can’t remember the name or that of the author — about a woman searching for her son’s brain, it had been used for an autopilot on an ore ship and she wanted to find it and give it surcease. And I thought what if severely disabled people were given a chance to become starships? What if they wanted to do that? I thought, ‘Hey, that would be a gorgeous idea.’ So that’s how ‘The Ship Who Sang’ was born.

The Brainship series, part of the Federated Sentient Planets

More than half of McCaffrey’s books are set in a universe governed by the “Federated Sentient Planets” (also called “Federation” or “FSP”), including the Dragonriders of Pern series, Brain and Brawn ship books, The Crystal Universe, and Ireta.

While all those series take place in the same universe, and Some Elements may overlap or be referenced, there is no big interaction. The series are independent from each other.

With that said, there are cameos and references in the Crystal Singer trilogy that readers would likely catch if they have read both series. It’s just a nice little bonus.

For more brainship-type of stories, you could be interested in the short story “Becalmed in Hell” by Larry Niven, or Destination: Void by Frank Herbert.