RIP, Sheri Tepper
Posted on October 24, 2016 Posted by John Scalzi 113 Comments
This is genuinely upsetting news for me: Locus is reporting the death of Sheri S. Tepper, who wrote the Hugo-nominated novel Grass among many others, and who was given a lifetime achievement award by the World Fantasy Convention just last year. Tepper was in her late 80s, and had an accomplished life outside of her considerable writing career, including being an executive director of the Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood in Colorado, so one can’t precisely say this is an unexpected development. But she was one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy writers, and an influence on my thinking about SF/F writing, so to have her gone on is still a deeply depressing thing.
Also a bit depressing: That Tepper, while well-regarded, is as far as I can tell generally not considered in the top rank of SF/F writers, which is a fact I find completely flummoxing. Her novel Grass has the sort of epic worldbuilding and moral drive that ranks it, in my opinion, with works like Dune and Perdido Street Station and the Earthsea series; the (very) loose sequel to Grass, Raising the Stones, is in many ways even better, and the fact that Stones is currently out of print is a thing I find all sorts of appalling.
If you haven’t read Grass, I really suggest you find it and put it near the top of your SF/F reading queue. You won’t be disappointed (and if you are, then, well, I don’t know what to tell you). It’s a stone classic. Not everything that Tepper wrote worked for me, which makes her like literally every single writer I admire; but the things of hers that did (these two novels, The Fresco, Beauty, The Visitor and others) have stayed with me year in and year out.
Aside from her considerable talents as an author, Tepper stands as a reminder that it’s never too late to write. Tepper didn’t publish her first novel until 1983, when she was in her 54th year of life; she wrote something like 40 total, the most recent published in 2014. It’s never too late to write; it’s never too late to write a classic novel; it’s never too late to be a great writer, whether or not the genre has entirely caught up with you yet.
Farewell, Ms. Tepper. Your voice will be missed. I’ll keep reading what you have left us.
Aw, nertz. Grass, and the True Game series? Some of my absolute favorites. King’s Blood Four was one of the gateway books leading me to science fiction. Thank you for your work, and your worlds, Ms. Tepper.
i’m going to be really cynical and opine that the reason tepper wasn’t well-known or well-respected in the industry is because she wrote about women and women’s issues, almost always framing the villainy or dystopia her her worlds as patriarchy gone mad. i cut my SF and my feminist teeth on tepper’s works as a teen and was appalled a few years ago to learn how many of her works are out of print and, also, that you can’t find even one of her in-print works at your local barnes & noble.
I too count Grass and Raising the Stones as two of my favorite books along with my disintegrating copy of The Revenants. 2016 continues to the year of major suckitude for the arts.
“The Gate to Women’s Country” remains one of my absolute favorites in the alternative worlds/SFF genres. And there is a third book after “Grass” and “Raising the Stones,” called “Sideshow.” They’re regarded as the “arbai trilogy,” and I particularly like them AS a trilogy. I’m bummed, but also so very grateful for her amazing body of work.
Thanks for this. I’ve never read her books, so I ordered Grass.
I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of this fine writer, thank you for passing on the news of her death, I had no idea.
oh, and “After Long Silence” is also really awesome–unfortunately I gave away my copy and have never been able to find it again!
Adored Grass .. and The Enigma Score.. RIP Ms Tepper. You remain a Favourite.
Thank you for encouraging me to read Grass.
I went to a lot of trouble to collect all 9 True Game books. I literally bought second copies of three at a book sale yesterday just because they were there.
This is very sad.
Oh dear. :( I have yet to read anything of hers, though I do have several of her titles on my To Read queue. Condolences to her loved ones and to her fans!
Damn you, 2016! Tepper deserves to be regarded as one of the best of the best, not just for her quality, but her diversity of styles and subjects. Yet another blow to the world I grew up in. Except in this case, I have to worry whether she will be remembered much at all. Take Scalzi’s advice: go forth and read from her amazing works!
I’ve read only a handful of her books – the Arbai trilogy, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall – but for each one I was struck with how the first half always had a heavy slog of characters enduring or causing misery, always incredibly frustrating, basically always strongly, strongly gendered. Then at some point there’d be a turning point and all that misery transmuted into this intense catharsis, thrilling, building higher and higher on itself. It was always an experience.
The misogyny her heroines have to face seems flat and parodic, but is it ever even more than marginally exaggerated from what we see in the real world? Wouldn’t surprise me though if that is why she’s not better known.
I’ve meant to read The Companions for years but never quite managed. Ought to get on that.
I’ve always considered “Grass” among the top SFF novels ever. I’m not tuned in enough to the SFF world to know how it’s seen in broader circles, so I’m floored to think that it isn’t considered one of the greats. Reading it for the first time was one of the most intense intellectual and emotional SFF reading experiences I have ever had, a par for me with first reading “Left Hand of Darkness,” “Dune,” and a few others. I knew virtually nothing about her and am glad to know she had such a long and full life. I salute you, Ms. Tepper, and I thank you.
narya, abebooks is my goto used book site.
Buy two and you can give another away.
I have not read anything by Ms. Tepper, but Grass is in my “to read” queue. I will take your advice and read it soon.
I love most of her stuff. I think I’ve read every one of her novels, including her mystery novels from the 90’s that she wrote under pseudonyms. Gate to Women’s Country, and Beauty, and Gibbons’ Decline and Fall are among my favorite s/f novels ever.
She wrote smart! And never pandered. Was perfectly content to challenge the reader. And she tackled dense, complex issues.
We’re the poorer for her loss. But thanks, John Scalzi, for letting us know, and for providing this space to mourn her passing.
Grass was the first book of hers that I read, based solely on how cool the cover was. After I read, and loved, it, I picked up a number of her other books, and enjoyed most of them as well. I haven’t ready anything of hers for some time now, but I will also miss her.
Damn. “Gate to Women’s Country” made an incredible impact on me. As soon as I finished, I flipped back to the beginning and started it again. I wanted to find all the hints of the twist I’d missed on the first time through.
A sudden and shocking loss. Thank you for all you have done to spread appreciation of her work.
BEAUTY is weird and angular and all over the place and has some real troubling bits and is dated in spots and is still a flat-out stunning book.
Dammit. 2016 continues to disappoint.
I found Tepper a bit curate’s egg; I liked Grass and The Gate to Women’s Country, but some of the others were a bit too overtly messagy for my taste.
This is very sad. Grass is one of those books that you could see in your head. Every time I visited my parents in South Carolina, i would see it across the marshes near where they lived. All that tall, tall grass — it was a totally alien environment to me and yet her characters were so alive and real. Also loved Beauty and the Gate to Woman’s Country. 2016 is really sucky — except for the Cubs.
Grass was fantastic. The only other one I ever read of hers was Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, and the cartoonish villains turned me right off. I’ve got Six Moon Dance around somewhere, maybe I’ll get to that one.
Very depressing obituary to have to write first thing this morning, believe me. Grass and Gate to Women’s Country are genuinely great.
This year. Dammit.
Damn – I’m sorry to hear Tepper’s gone. I did find her a bit uneven as a writer (The Waters Rising) but when she was hot (Grass, Gate to Womens’ Country) she was hot.
I have to say, when Grass came out it was regarded as “feminist fiction” but now, 30 years later, it reads (to me, at least) as solidly mainstream.
Somebody upthread said she could be a bit preachy. The Fresco was clearly written by somebody who’d spent a lot of time dealing with battered women, but it made some good points and had a unique plot.
Lastly, I have to say I still get a chuckle out of a side-joke from Raising the Stones. A survivor of the events of Grass founds a religion, and she tells her followers “don’t let people mess with your head.” This gets interpreted to be “don’t get a haircut.”
I haven’t read any of Tepper’s work, and I guess now is finally the time to fix that. As it happens, Audible.com published Grass as an audiobook just this past March. I guess I know what I’m using my next credit on.
Thanks for sharing this sad info. If anyone ever fought the good fight, Tepper certainly did. Like others above, I found The Gate to Women’s Country a wonderful, powerful book. Must read Grass.
Sad news indeed. You are totally correct that Ms. Pepper was one of the greats.
I read the True Game books back in the 80’s. I had a lot of respect for an author who would actually deal with the difference in mass when shape shifting from one size creature to another. I was interested and impressed when she left that kind of fantasy world for books like Grass and The Gate to Women’s Country.
In the 90’s, I found out she’d written a bunch of mystery novels under the pseudonym B.J. Oliphant, I read a bunch of those too.
RIP Ms. Tepper. You did good work. And good works.
I recently read and enjoyed The Margarets. The rest of her books come and go from my collection, but I think this one’s a keeper.
I also read a lot of mysteries and developed a fondness for the Jason Lynx mysteries, by A.J. Orde, and the Shirley McClintock mysteries, by B.J. Oliphant, whom I later discovered were both pseudonyms for one of my favorite F&SF authors Sheri S. Tepper.
nicoleandmaggie, I’m happy to see the recommendation. I had never heard of “The Margarets” before today. I found it this afternoon while looking in my library’s catalog to see what they had of Tepper’s work. “The Margarets” was the only one they had in e-book form, so I downloaded it a little while ago (as if I don’t have too many library books already, but that’s how it goes), and I look forward to starting it this evening.
This is upsetting for me. Lady could tell a story and I could find myself disagreeing with her while at the same time hanging on tight because I wanted to find out what would happen. Gate to Women’s Country was first and closest to my heart, but Raising the Stones was the best. I was honestly thinking about what she thought about this year’s political horror, last week, and I figured her thoughts could somehow boil down to “I told you so!”
I must confess to never heard of Sheri Pepper until reading this post, but with a recommendation like this went straight to find Grass – and discovered that in the UK at least, Raising the Stones is available on kindle, though not in print on paper.
Grass, Raising the Stones, and Gate to Women’s Country would consistently be ranked among my favorites. This bums me out.
Thanks for such a kind and tasteful eulogy. As to why she’s not considered “top shelf” or whatever you said, my conjecture is that she just worked and published everything she could finish, without caring whether it was perfect. I’m reminded of Michael Caine, who wasn’t taken seriously until later in his career because he took every role that was offered whether or not it would advance his gravitas.
Like Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion series, Tepper’s first series, the True Game, is so obviously based on D&D that it might put one off (the way one could be put off by an author who based a novel on a hoary, over-loved TV show, for example ;-). Her plotting could be simplistic, at times she sketched a grand vision but was unable to fulfill its promise, and she could be self-indulgent, loving her characters a bit too much. But I only state these flaws to point out that by working through them she became one of my favorite authors and yes, one of the best authors in America. I read Gate to Women’s Country so narrowly, identifying with the protagonist so thoroughly, that the ending took my complete by surprise. For me, it was a novel with a punch line and I’ll love her forever for that.
I quite agree with your highlighting Grass and Raising the Stones, but let me just put in a word for the Margarets, my favorite of her later works. RIP, Sherri, and may we continue to cherish your joy and your outrage.
This is upsetting. We have a daughter named after one of Tepper’s characters, she means that much. We started reading her with the True Game books (and finding the complete set of those was a trial), and have read many others over the years. The Jinian books from the True Game and Raising The Stones are my favorites, but several of her others get re-read on a semi-regular basis, too. Oh! and The Bones was one of the few books that actually frightened me.
Oh…. To be perfectly honest, I am still an SF reader because of Ms. Tepper. Beauty was one of the first SFs I ever read — before Heinlein, Asimov, Herbert — and she set a model for me. I hated the misogyny of golden age SF, but I kept reading because I knew there had to be better stuff out there because I’d already seen some. At 20, when Gibbon’s Decline and Fall came out, I was a typically GenX struggling college student who had spent too many years in a deeply conservative, anti-choice place and raised by a misogynist; I wasn’t yet deeply thinking about feminism. Her books changed that for me. My copy of Gate is tattered from many careful reads and much loaning out.
I met her briefly in the very late 90s at a Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood fundraiser, and she was absolutely delightful. I have often worked with women she mentored, and her protégés are a credit to her mind, heart and dedication.
I will mourn and miss her presence in the world, and do my bit to keep her flames – both literary and political – burning.
Fuck. 2016 sucks.
I loved so many of her books. The Arbai trilogy is perhaps my favourite. It was a feat of such amazing story telling & world building. (Sideshow was actually the first SST book I read.) She was an amazing writer.
I loved many of her books. I am deeply saddened that there won’t be any more.
This is so stupid. I went to Audible, to see if they had the Arbai trilogy. I would have loved to listen to those books, the coming week(s). Guess what, Audible doesn’t have a single Tepper novel!
I like to many of Tepper’s books, but I actually hated “Grass”. The reason is she had her character ask “what are dead soldiers for?” And then she answered it by saying the purpose of dead soldiers is to be dead and out of the gene pool. I am a female veteran and everyone in my family back to the beginning of this nation had somebody in harms way, I considered her allegedly feminist line that dead soldiers were good for being out of the gene pool to be insulting in the extreme.u
More than any other writer Tepper changed the way I think about, read, and love SF. I only just started her most recent novel and now I’ll finish it knowing it is probably her last. She also wrote detective fiction, poetry and one of the scariest horror books I’ve ever read under various pseudonyms. I am going to miss her. So much.
I will miss her. Grass was her strongest work for me. I liked that the moral questions were complex. I liked what she had to say about civilization, and I loved the world-building.
I had kind of a rough weekend, news wise, but I thought I was doing okay. Until this news came along and pushed me over the edge, and I haven’t stopped crying.
Ah, no. As you say, a long and good life, well-lived, but still. What a shame.
Dammit! Now I’m crying at work. “Gate” was so meaningful and besides that a lesson in how to write setting. Go read the first few pages as a writer, not a reader – they are amazing. But as a woman, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall made the biggest impression. I’ve had a dozen conversations about the final dilemma with friends who don’t read SF&F. The answers always bring something new to Tepper’s choices. Oh, wow, and Family Tree – it was silly at times but packed a wallop. Dammit it – it’s like losing Tiptree all over again.
I think ravenfeathers is right: Tepper was so blatantly, unapologetically second-wave feminist that it was … uncomfortable for the industry.
“The Companions” was… not good. I did much, much eye-rolling and ended up hating all but one of the characters, IIRC. I un-recommend it to either people who like her work, or those who don’t know it.
oh this is so sad…. I found her work in college and it was the first time I realized the limitations and damage my conservative Evangelical upbringing had left me with. It was the start of my way out. Especially Gate, which I have re-read so many times.
I am deeply saddened to hear of Ms Tepper’s passing. I loved her books and would hunt for them but for some reason she was never that well known in the UK. I loved Beauty how it mixed fairy tales with science fiction. I always wanted to thank her for showing the strength of women even if things are tough. Sleep well.
This makes me very sad. I loved Grass and many of her other novels. I’ll admit they started to feel a bit repetitive after a while in terms of similar themes over and over and sometimes making a straw man out of sexism and anti-environmentalism, but she was a good and creative SF writer whose books I looked forward to reading. She also wrote mysteries and horror under different pseudonyms.
Oh No, so sad, I love her books, I think my fav is Beauty, thank you for letting us know on this sad new RIP
She left a deep mark in the sand. I’m certain her voice and presence will live on.
There are only a handful of authors whose new book I would buy sight unseen or reviewed. Sheri Tepper was one of them. I will miss her.
The ‘True Game’ books are my Speculative Fiction go-to books. Re-ordered the collection to keep a good condition paperback in hand. I have recently purchased a used UK paperback of ‘The Chronicles of Mavin Manyshaped’ .
Fred Saberhagen’s ‘Empire of the East’ and Zelazny’s ‘Jack of Shadows’, ‘Changling’/’Madwand’ and ‘Lord of Light’ are others. Even ‘A Planet called Treason’ aka ‘Treason’ is worthwhile. (N.B. Just found out that the author was Orson Scott Card by looking it up in wiki.
adding her bibliography to my reading list will only take but moments. wish I have done it sooner.
I am terribly upset to hear this. She was my favourite spe fic author ever, better than anyone else in the industry, IMO at pursuing a premise to its furthest conclusion. Sometimes this took her to absurd places, but most of the time she delivered a knock in the gut. My faves of hers are the Arbai Trilogy, Six Moon Dance, The Family Tree, and Gibbon’s Decline and fall, but the only two I’ve actively DISliked were The Companions and The Waters Rising. Thank you for acknowledging her; it means a lot.
PS, sybyl-labrys, That was The Awakeners, not Grass.
Damn. Like some other commenters, I found Tepper uneven at times – Sideshow, for example, just didn’t work for me – and haven’t read all of her work, but I have read Gate to Women’s Country and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall many, many times, and Beauty stayed with me long after I finished it. The Fresco and Six Moon Dance likewise. Her work definitely shaped my views as a feminist, and I’m grateful for what I learned from her.
Well bugger — this year, I swear…
Have always loved her books and while Gate To Women’s Country stands out I always bought anything she wrote. I can honestly say I never read a book of hers I didn’t enjoy, and I can’t say that about all of my favourite authors.
I’ve read lots of Sherri’s books, and always thought she was a Master of her craft.
This year sucks for losing great creative people. Looking better for an election next month, maybe Sherri sent in an absentee ballot~!!
John, thanks for the news, sad as it is.
I haven’t read any Tepper, but have many friends who admire her. I’m as saddened by this as when I heard Suzette Haden Elgin passed last year (who also wrote exceptional works focused on women).
She has been on my backburner for awhile…I’ll have to change that.
I adore her writing. Regardless of the lists and rankings of people who other people listen to, she was on the top of my list. It’s so sad there will never be a new book of hers to read. Such an impressive and wonderful woman…and a truly talented writer.
My first Tepper was “Gate to Women’s Country” and after reading that one I read everything I could find on Amazon. Sad that so many of her books are out of print. And sad that there won’t be any more new books from her.
I’ve read your blog regularly for several years now, though I don’t comment often. I wanted to say, though, that the last paragraph of your post was very moving to me. I’ve not read Ms. Tepper’s work, and I’ll have to remedy that in the future. She sounds like a soul who burned long and burned brightly and would have probably appreciated that sentiment.
Best to you and yours.
Never heard of her, but I hope to read one of her books now. Thank you for sharing this passionate post on hers. I cannot wait to dive into her works.
I thought Grass was a big step forward (in her writing), but I didn’t like it and haven’t reread it. My favorites are still the Mavin Manyshaped trilogy, then Jinian’s trilogy. The third True Game trilogy, focusing on Peter, eh.
Tepper has long had a high place in my personal pantheon of authors. Others have mentioned “Grass”, “Gate to Women’s Country”, and the True Game series, all of which I recommend, but my personal favorite has been the Marianne series. It’s quirky and a little uneven, but I always enjoy the sheer inventiveness of it.
At her best, her ideals and values worked very well in service of her storytelling, but in some of her later work “a little but preachy” could be a fair critique, the service relationship reversed; as they tended to be ideals and values I agree with, I still enjoyed those stories. And her best could also convey the strange and alien to us while still reminding us of our humanity.
Thank you. A moving and inspiring tribute about an important author and one whose work I love.
What sad news. I’ve read maybe 9 of her novels (5 are in my permanent collection). Even so, I’ve barely made a dent. Her eco-feminist predilection was pleasing at first, later becoming something of a dragging anvil in her writings. But holy heck, the woman could pen a cracking yarn. She didn’t get a tenth of the recognition she deserved. I wonder if I’m alone in thinking that Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam series owes an enormous debt to “A Plague of Angels.”
Speaking of which, I worked out easily enough that the Ellel clan was based on Lawrence Livermore, Mitty on MIT, and Berkli on UC Berkeley – but Anders? Couldn’t for the life of me. Current best guess: Stanford U.
“Nothing limits intelligence more than ignorance; nothing fosters ignorance more than one’s own opinions; nothing strengthens opinions more than refusing to look at reality.”
Tepper was an auto-buy for me for the last 25 years, and I spent way too much money trying to complete her back-list (I will never understand why the Mavin Manyshaped trilogy went out of print).
Not everything she wrote was good, but goddammit, a lot of it was great. I was so sad to hear of her death.
Her novels could definitely be powerful, thought-provoking, and lyrical. Her pioneering eco-feminism will always attract readers. But see
I find this review to be helpful on why a lot of people ultimately didn’t like her, starting with the fact that she was a hardcore eugenicist, and brought that into novel after novel (as well as speaking about it explicitly in interviews). Given the horrible history of eugenics in the 20th century, it’s rather shocking that someone would still advocate this. Entire groups are written off in her work, as the link documents. This might be the biggest reason why her work gets neglected or out into a secondary category.
Her books were brilliant, uneven, unapologetic, and I would buy them without question. They wrestled with issues (and sometimes lost) but she had the guts to wrestle in the first place. I can’t quite believe there won’t be any more. That just doesn’t seem right. I’m not okay with that.
Oh no, I had not seen this! One of my very favorite writers, whom I recommend frequently. I think I’ve read everything she wrote as Tepper. Grass, Gate Into Women’s Country, The Margaret’s, Beauty — all amazing. Unlike some people, I loved her didactic books — powerful feminist messages that were uncompromising and unapologetic. The Family Tree is a particular favorite.
Can’t say anything that nobody else has said already. Just very sad to hear this. Thanks John for the beautiful tribute.
I haven’t gotten all teary for an author’s passing for a long time. Godspeed, you’ll be missed!
Raising the Stones is a landmark book in sff. Sheri Tepper is one of my idols and it’s a bit sad that it might take her death to bring her books to a wider readership.
I was I first introduced to her by reading a bit of Gibon’s Decline and Fall that was published at the end of another book. I was hooked and immediately bought and read it. I went on to buy and read everything of hers I could find.
Her unapologetic (and sometimes didactic) feminism awoke and informed my own. Her writings encouraged me to be more aware of the blatant misogyny that surrounded me and helped give me the courage and the language to start calling it out.
Her writing was full of questions I still wrestle with. I haven’t always agreed with her answers to them but I also can’t just dismiss her answers out of hand, either.
The world is a lesser place with her passing. She will be sorely missed.
Sad about this, I’m the only spec fic nerd I know who loved her but I haunt second hand bookshops trying to fill gaps. Read ‘Beauty’ in high school and found it profoundly uncomfortable, asking questions I hadn’t yet considered on my own, a gateway to both feminism and critical literacy for a sheltered small town girl. I’m grateful to have read her. Agree that she was patchy but I can forgive that given how prolific she was!
Tepper was an instant buy, a real grand master of SF/F. I also enjoyed her mystery novels.
Her strong female characters were a draw.
Her voice will be missed.
Also a lover of the Marianne books. And the True Game. And everything.
“After long Silence” was also published as “The Enigma Score” for Narya or anyone else trying to find it
Sheri Tepper was my favorite for many years and I was deeply disappointed when ill health caused her to quit writing. Her books gave so much, provoked much thought, and in some cases found for me that sense of astonishment I have rarely found in recent years.
She will be missed.
The Margarets (2007) remains one of my top five favourite books. The publishing of a new Sherri S Tepper was always a cause for celebration, and she is one of the few authors I have collected in hardback. Sad year.
I liked your article
She was one of my favourite authors. So sad I won’t be able to read more of her words :(
In order to feel less sad I am pretending she sacrificed herself heroically taking down Jack Chick in single combat.
I think the image would amuse her.
Female writers vanish from the literary horizon when they stop producing new work. Men enter the canon. This is why every generation feels like it has invented women writing science fiction: because we stop talking about and reading Tepper and Brackett and keep talking about Dick and Lieber.
This is a source of endless frustration to me.
I ended up with an omnibus of the Jinian books when I was trying out a book club as a young reader. It was one of the first books I ever read that featured an entire cast of women, not just a single protagonist, a sidekick, or a villian. I’ve read a lot of work of hers, and sometimes she can be uneven or repetitive in themes, but sometimes she is just plain great. And I’ve never understood why the Marianne books aren’t more popular or even optioned- they are delightfully strange.
[Deleted because this was just a jerk thing to say — JS]
I love her books. Grass is outstanding, but I also adore North Shore and South Shore (The Awakeners), Revenants, Land of True Game trilogy… She’s the one I look to for worldbuilding. Like you, John, I’m astonished how little she is regarded and how hard it can be to find her books. She will be much missed.
[Deleted for following up on a deleted tweet — JS]
>: That Tepper, while well-regarded, is as far as I can tell generally not considered in the top rank of SF/F writers, which is a fact I find completely flummoxing.
I considered her top rank.
I’m struggling to say more, but the comments above cover a lot of what I wanted to say. Thank you for sharing. Stay safe.
I am so sad about this although when I read The Waters Rising it felt like her last book and she was putting things in it that she loved. I was surprised when Fish Tales appeared, but it made me certain. She really added a lot to my life. I’m glad she was here as long as she was.
Elizabeth Bear makes a really good point about women writers being forgotten. Lets not forget Sheri S Tepper or Octavia Butler
Bummer. She was a welcome follow up (for me) to Ursula K. LeGuin. My library has quite a few of her works, so now I’ll go back and reread Beauty and A Plague of Angels. Ms. Bear is quite right about the passing of female writers and its effect on their standing.
At 22, I threw The Gate to Women’s Country across the room after reading that I, and others like me, were a “condition” to be “corrected before birth”: finished it, trying to be “reasonable”. The notion that there are circumstances under which taking away the reproductive choices of others, without their knowledge or consent, serves the “greater good”? Given the history of forced/coerced sterilization of women with disabilities, with HIV/AIDS, and trans and intersex women? The book didn’t stay in the house.
At 52, post Plague of Angels and its dystopia brought about by compassionate treatment of people with HIV/AIDS? There are a lot of books out there with fantastic worldbuilding; may her memory be a blessing to those who loved her, and may her work be appreciated with an eye to who she considered “not us”.
This one hits me hard. I was so upset to learn a week after the fact that I had missed a chance to meet her earlier this year. She is hands down my favorite author of all time and I never understand why people never seem aware of her. My primary online handle that I’ve been using for at least 15 years comes from Six Moon Dance.
OMG – My heart aches from this loss. When I first read Beauty it changed me! I recently convinced my book club to read The Gate to Women’s Country. She is in my top ten favorite writers of all time! I hope more readers discover her and that her work is never lost! RIP Ms. Tepper – You made me a better person and writer. Good Job!
Not all of her books resonated with me but “After Long Silence” is one of my absolute favorite SF books. So sad to hear this news.
@ Elizabeth Bear
Bingo: “She wrote it, but there was only one of her.” (Trying to quote another great, Joanna Russ, from memory.
Apparently she said once in an interview, “Do I believe in reincarnation? What’s to reincarnate? We are the sum of all the electrical impulses stored in our brains: some memories, some responses, some preferences, some sensory enjoyments or hates. Where are you going to put that if you reincarnate? If, however, reincarnation is real, I will come back as an octopus. I have arthritis and am very healthy except for my bones, which I could do without.” I like that.
I only really became an engaged reader in my adulthood. While I was not a massive Tepper fan, The True Game, and the Chronicles of Mavin Manyshaped, were two of the books that turned me into someone with a passion for reading.
And my mum loved her work, fervently. She’s currently helping her own parents through some hard times, half a world away, so this news is pretty tough.
Like many of the commenters here, I started reading Sherri Tepper’s books when in my late teens and early 20s. I think that I started with the Gate to Women’s Country and Grass, and went on to a Plague of Angels and Beauty. I disliked the Family Tree, and when I recently read The Waters Rising (and bought a copy of Fish Tales) I was again reminded of her ability to create amazing characters and fascinating worlds, but then to divebomb her plots with political/social screeds that slowed them to a crawl. Still, I agree with Mr Scalzi that she’s an amazing author whose work should be lauded as science fiction classics. Her passing is a blow to the science fiction writing community and to those who love to read science fiction.
I really enjoy Tepper’s work. But for reasons I don’t entirely understand, I find it impossible to *remember* her work after I finish reading it. I’m curious if others have the same experience. Perhaps because the stories are too complex to be easily boiled down to an easily remembered plotline (aside from the Game series, which is aimed younger so easier)? I wonder if this may be part of the reason she’s not more widely acclaimed.
Sheri S. Tepper was on my “buy all she writes” list. I am very sad to hear she passed.
One thing I loved about Tepper is that even when she was writing overtly political SF, she never neglected the story, world-building, or characters. That’s a rare trait among those who try their hand at political SF. I’m an old hand at ignoring political messages I don’t like or disagree with when the writing is good enough to make up for it, but all-too-often, it isn’t.
LeGuin is really good at this; Heinlein is so-so, but better than many. Both are authors I enjoy. Tepper, I think, fell somewhere between those two at this particular skill.
I am so sad to hear of her passing. I loved Grass, The Gate to Women’s Country, and many other novels. Like some commenters, there were ideas and themes that resonated with me and some I found extremely problematic — but as xtifr said above, I can ignore political/social messages I disagree with when the writing is good. What ultimately resonated with me was the complexity of the women she created. That in and of itself was a gift to her readers.
I’ve always considered her in the top echelon of sf writers. This is a sad day. I loved so many of her books, and Gate to Women’s Country, Grass, and Raising the Stones come to mind fairly frequently. I also loved The Companions and was telling someone about it just last week.
She had a profound impact on some of us.
Let’s just say: Americans reading Grass might miss the socio-economic satire, no British reader did. Reading it with awareness to the nuances of hunting / social strata of said hunting. e.g. Rednecks vrs Cheney having someone apologize to him for shooting him in the face while duck hunting.
Given the 400+ years of Hunting and Red Coats and Class Warfare, the British could immediately see the ‘binding ties’ (organic or Other) and satire.
And yes, a lot of that involves why ‘women’ and ‘horses’ are so intrinsically linked – it goes beyond just the surface stuff.
RIDE ONTO THE STARS, BEAUTIFUL ONE.
RACKING UP A DEBT HERE ~ WAITING FOR THE UNDEAD VAMPIRE YOUNG BLOOD ONES PAY THEIR DUES TO BALANCE THE SCALES OF 2016.
IT’S GOING TO BE MESSY.
I was so impressed by ‘Raising the Stones’ that I’ve read all of her works, two shelves full!
Goddess Bless you, Sheri.
Epiphyta, I think I understand some of what you’re saying/referring to, and I appreciate you bringing that to this wake. I remember that one of the characters at the end of “Gate” refers to herself as one of the “damned few”–I always read that as discomfort (on the part of the character and/or Tepper) with the solutions that the occupants of the world had utilized, and a recognition that they may well have chosen badly.
She often left me wondering/contemplating how we humans were going to actually address the world-destroying we’re doing with climate change, patriarchy, etc., and I think Tepper tried to push those envelopes, sometimes more successfully than others. She certainly saw them as intertwined.
One of my favorite books is her “The Revenants”. But no one seems to mention it! Add it to your list of Tepper books to read, if you haven’t.