Sheri S. Tepper (b.1929), critically acclaimed author of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery novels, died October 22, 2016, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she ran a guest ranch. She is survived by her husband of 51 years, Eugene X. Tepper; her daughter, Regan Eberhart; son, Mark Eberhart; two grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
Sheri was born in 1929 in rural Colorado, near the town of Littleton, to Hazel Louise and Stedman Stewart. She recalled her childhood as being lonely because she and her younger brother, James, were often banished outdoors to make the house quiet for the elderly relatives living there. Playmates were few and far away. The outdoors is where Sheri learned to appreciate solitude and to amuse herself with her vivid imagination. It is also where she developed her love for animals and the environment, which were strong themes in her books.
In 1962, Sheri began a 25-year career as the executive director of Planned Parenthood in Denver, now known as Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. At the time, it was a small nonprofit, primarily serving the Denver area. By the time she retired, she had overseen the growth of the organization to provide family planning services to thousands of women throughout Colorado and Wyoming. She pioneered a service-delivery model that made family planning affordable for low-income women, and this model was widely adopted throughout the United States in the ’80s and ’90s. During her tenure at Planned Parenthood, she was a fierce advocate for women’s rights and reproductive freedom.
Upon Sheri’s retirement, she and Gene moved from Denver to a ranch near Castle Rock, Colorado, and later to Santa Fe, where she launched her second career, writing novels. Not surprisingly, they were written from a fierce feminist (and environmental) viewpoint. Sheri recounted that when she met her publisher for the first time, the publisher had expected to meet a young woman, maybe 30 years old, because it would have been unusual for someone of Sheri’s age to be an eco-feminist. “She was quite surprised,” Sheri said, “to meet instead a middle-aged matron in the middle of a hot flash.”
Sheri wrote prolifically for nearly three decades, authoring nearly 40 science fiction and fantasy novels. She also wrote murder mysteries under the names A. J. Orde and B. J. Oliphant and horror books under the name E. E. Horlak. Her first published work during this period was the True Game series, which began with Kings Blood Four in 1983. The following year, she was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Many of her novels were shortlisted for major awards, including the Arthur C. Clarke, the James Tiptree Jr. Literary Award, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her novel Grass was a Hugo Award finalist and her novella The Gardener (1989) was a World Fantasy Award finalist. She received a World Fantasy Life Achievement Award in 2015. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls her “one of science fiction’s premier world-builders.”
The guest ranch that Sheri owned and managed reflects her talent at building new worlds. Wind sculptures and fantastic statuary adorn the grounds, which are teeming with vivid perennial gardens and inviting nooks and spaces. Rare breeds of farm animals live throughout—sheep, goats, burros, chickens, rabbits in a warren—and families of raucous peafowl roost in the trees and eves.
Cat Rambo, President of SFWA, had this to say, “I came to Tepper’s work with her marvelous True Game series and have been a faithful fan for decades now, following her through any number of amazing, beautifully crafted, and thought-provoking landscapes. This is a tremendous loss to the genre.”