An american science fiction author noted for feminist themes and fanciful plots. Born in 1929, Sheri S. Tepper worked for many years in the non-profit sector, including at Planned Parenthood. She wrote many children's books while she was there, and began writing adult novels in the early eighties. Her success encouraged her to retire and dedicate her life to writing.

Her major science fiction works include:
-The Marjorie Westriding Arc:
--Grass
--Raising the Stones
--Sideshow
-Six Moon Dance
-A Plague of Angels
-Singer from the Sea
-The Gate to Women's Country
-Gibbon's Decline and Fall

Sheri Tepper is a very prolific writer, and her novels are a joy to read: large in size and scope, absorbing, and meaningful. Perhaps because her books have an epic quality, and a strong moral overtone, they have been referred to by critics as "old-fashioned"...in a good way, I think.

Feminist themes are prominent in Tepper's fiction, as the good yam notes, but the stories she tells are not strident or simplistic, as some feminist sf can be, but instead intricate, ambiguous, and intelligent. And in novels like Sideshow she introduces homosexual characters in a sympathetic and totally matter of fact way which warms my heart.

Tepper is also centrally concerned with the environment, and many of her novels involve strong environmentalist messages, with worlds becoming personified as angry beings unleashing violent retribution on the human populations that have decimated a planet's plant and animal life. A number of her books speak against hierarchy and the exploitation of the powerless by a soft, spoiled élite, and show how the powerless and weak can blossom in adversity in a way the élite often cannot.

All of these are weighty and important themes, beautifully presented in highly readable volumes. In addition to all this, though, Tepper can make me laugh out loud with her wry humour and her quirky portrayal of very familiar human foibles. She's a wonderful writer, and I highly recommend her.

There's a comprehensive bibliography of Tepper's work at
http://www.myunicorn.com/bibl13/bibl1307.html

I'm a big Sherri S. Tepper fan. I think she's a great writer. But I wonder sometimes about the themes of separatism and even eugenics that run through her novels, mostly portrayed in a positive light. It was interesting to find out that she used to work for Planned Parenthood, I think that explains a lot. (Not that Planned Parenthood would ever endorse eugenics, just that someone working there might see more than their fair share of unwanted and uncared for babies.)

In The Family Tree the leader of the last surviving group of humans (or so they think...) goes off on this diatribe about how terrible it was that humans used to let infants with genetic diseases live and even reproduce, and that humanity is paying the price now because they can't produce viable offspring anymore. And as much as I loved The Gate to Women's Country in a lot of ways, it was all about breeding aggressiveness out of men, and how this was the only real hope for civilization. Now, she does this really well, it's definitely subtle and well written, and the women in "Women's Country" feel really terrible about sending their sons off to die, but then they make the awful choice because the future of humanity is more important than individual emotions. It sometimes feels like a more sophisticated version of the Black Stork.

Want to hear the REALLY scary part? I find myself getting confused about what I really think on the subject. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ready for mandatory contraception. But I start wondering whether this reproductive free-for-all is such a great idea. On the other hand, what's the alternative? Is it a good thing that an author makes me think, even about uncomfortable subjects? Or is it an insidious resurgence of the same old eugenics re-vamped with new arguments? I haven't decided yet.

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