- TEPPER, Sheri S.
- (1929-)US writer whose first genre publications were poems under her then married name Sheri S. Eberhart, the earliest being "Lullaby, 1990" in Gal, Dec 1963. She then fell silent as a writer, beginning to write againonly once she was in her 50s. Her first-written novel, a long, complex fantasy, eventually appeared as The Revenants (1984). Her first-published novel was King's Blood Four (1983), \#1 in the long and very interesting True Game series, which continued with Necromancer Nine (1983), Wizard'sEleven (1984), The Song of Mavin Manyshaped (1985), The Flight of Mavin Manyshaped (1985), The Search of Mavin Manyshaped (1985), Jinian Footseer (1985), Dervish Daughter (1986) and Jinian Star-Eye (1986). The first 3 were assembled as The True Game (omni 1985 UK), the next 3 as The Chronicles of Mavin Manyshaped (omni 1986 UK) and the final 3 as The Endof the Game (omni 1987). In terms of internal chronology, the middle trilogy precedes the first.Their readers knew almost at once that something very unusual was happening in these books, but most serious critics ignore paperback fantasy trilogies, and it took some years before SST was spoken of much at all. In the True Game books some of the humancolonists on a planet also inhabited by aliens have, long before the story opens, evolved PSI POWERS; the best term for these books would be SCIENCE FANTASY. They show an astonishing assuredness of narrative voice; for SSTis that unusual kind of writer, the apparently born story-teller. Further evidence of her narrative fluency (and her seemingly endless inventiveness) came with the Marianne fantasy trilogy: Marianne, the Magus and the Manticore (1985), Marianne, the Madame and the Momentary Gods (1988) and Marianne, the Matchbox and the Malachite Mouse (1989), all 3assembled as The Marianne Trilogy (omni 1990 UK). SST also showed real accomplishment in HORROR fiction with Blood Heritage (1986) and its sequel The Bones (1987) - both humorous and both involving some very practicalmodern witchcraft-and the later (and better) horror novel Still Life (1989 as E.E. Horlak; 1989 UK as by SST).SST's first novel of sf proper was initially split by the publisher into 2 vols, The Awakeners: Northshore (1987) and The Awakeners: Volume 2: Southshore (1987), but was soonsensibly released as The Awakeners (1987). As a work of speculative sociobiology and ecology it is ebullient, but the plotting of this tale of a theocratic riverside civilization where it is forbidden to travel eastwards is sometimes a little awkward. The same year saw the shorter and more confident After Long Silence (1987; vt The Enigma Score 1989 UK), a melodrama set on a planet whose crystalline native lifeforms are very dangerous, and can be lulled only by MUSIC.From this point SST concentrated on sf, although during and in between sf books she published crime and mystery fiction as by A.J. Orde (the Jason Lynx series) and B.J. Oliphant. Her first truly ambitious sf work was THE GATE TO WOMEN'SCOUNTRY (1988), which surprised some readers for the ferocity with which it imagined a post- HOLOCAUST world where social separation by gender is almost complete, but where the supposedly meek women outmanoeuvre the really dreadful men on almost all grounds. All SST's subsequent work is fierce; indeed, with hindsight, the same controlled anger is visible in the apparently affable science-fantasy books.The next year saw the beginning of her major sf work to date, the loosely and thematically connected Marjorie Westriding trilogy: Grass (1989), Raising the Stones (1990) and Sideshow (1992). To describe the trilogy by naming its villainssomewhat distorts the ease and glow of these books' telling, and labours their melodramatic elements (which are only sometimes insistent): the villains are Nature-ruiners, fundamentalist religionists and - it is a category which comprehends the previous two - men (whom SST sees as almost doomed by their own sociobiological nature). SST interrupted this trilogy with Beauty (1991; preferred text 1992 UK), part MAGIC REALISM, part fairy tale, part sf, in which Sleeping Beauty is taken to a savagely DYSTOPIAN future and meets (in various guises, including that of Prince Charming) the Beast; this is a book about despoliation, not just of womanhood but of Earth. A Plague of Angels (1993) puts its protagonists through the longordeal of coming to an understanding of a world complexly crafted out of sf and fantasy conventions; and Shadow's End (1994) returns directly to the theme of environmental destruction at the hands of the fundamental religionists whom she dubs, in this instance, Firsters, after their insistence that only humans, of all creatures in the galaxy, have any right to live.SST requires the engine of story to provide impulsion for the other things she can do, which tends to tilt her work towards melodrama and excess, and thus to obscure a little her remarkable sophistication. In the space of only a few years she has become one of sf's premier world-builders; the diversity of invented societies in Sideshow - this diversity being the actual point of the book - isbreathtaking, as is the vivid ecological mystery of Grass and the bizarre discovery of a bona fide "god" in Raising the Stones. She is one of the most significant new - and new FEMINIST - voices to enter 1980s sf. The kindly grandmother, who tells romantic tales around the campfire, has jaws that bite and claws that snatch.PN
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.