Sheri S. Tepper, July 16, 1929 – October 22, 2016

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

sheri-s-tepperSheri S. Tepper, the prolific fantasy author who was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement last year, died on Saturday.

Sheri S. Tepper was the author of dozens of popular fantasy and science fiction novels. Her first published novel was King’s Blood Four (1983), which became part of an ambitious 12-novel series set in The True Game universe, and which spanned her entire career. The seres included The True Game trilogy, the Mavin Manyshaped trilogy, the Jinian trilogy, and the Plague of Angels trilogy, which wrapped up with Fish Tails (2014). She authored many other popular series, including The Marianne Trilogy, the Ettison novels, The Awakeners novels, and especially the Marjorie Westriding trilogy, which began with the Hugo-nominated Grass in 1989.

Tepper’s standalone novels included The Revenants (1984), After Long Silence (1987), The Gate to Women’s Country (1988), The Locus Award-winner Beauty (1991), Gibbon’s Decline and Fall (1996), The Visitor (2002), and The Companions (2003). In his tribute to Tepper this week, John Scalzi writes:

She was one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy writers, and an influence on my thinking about SF/F writing… 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… 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… It’s a stone classic.

Tepper began publishing poems and children’s stories in the early 60s under the name Sheri S. Eberhart. Her first genre appearance was the poem “Lullaby, 1990” in the December 1963 Galaxy. Her 1989 novella “The Gardener” was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. She was 87 years old. See our prior coverage of her work here.

Vintage Treasures: Jinian Star-Eye by Sheri S. Tepper

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Jinian Star Eye Tepper-small

Jinian Star-Eye was the last volume of Sheri S. Tepper’s monumental nine-volume fantasy opus, The True Game. On course, in keeping with 1980s-era fantasy marketing, no mention was made of this anywhere on the book. However, if you were an attentive buyer, you might have noticed the poem on the back, a sure tip that this was part of the series. Poetry as a marketing device, to the best of my knowledge, was an idea that was born and died with this series.

We’ve covered several of the previous installments over the years, but not the entire series. It began with King’s Blood Four in 1983, Tepper’s first novel. Subsequent volumes were divided into a trio of trilogies, starting with the True Game trilogy:

King’s Blood Four (1983)
Necromancer Nine (1983)
Wizard’s Eleven (1984)

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New Treasures: Fish Tails by Sheri S. Tepper

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Fish Tails Tepper-small Fish Tails Tepper-back-small

Sheri S. Tepper is one of the most beloved genre authors of the last few decades. Her fantasy series include the nine-volume The True Game, the Marianne trilogy, and The Awakeners trilogy.

Even among that impressive body of work, her 35th novel, Fish Tails, is uniquely ambitious, as it weaves together characters and storylines from eleven previous fantasy novels spanning nearly three decades of her writing career, starting from King’s Blood Four (1983) to her recent The Waters Rising (2010). 

Fish Tails see two of her most popular characters, Abasio and his royal wife Xulai (from A Plague of Angels and The Waters Rising) and their children traveling across the land of Tingawa, searching for those interested in adopting their sea-dwelling lifestyle. As they travel they meet visitors from the far-off world of Lom, characters Tepper’s fans will recognize from The True Game: Mavin Manyshaped, Jinian Star-eye, and Silkhands the Healer… all of whom have been gathered by a mysterious, time-traveling, rule-breaker. For the waters are rising and will soon engulf the entire planet, transforming it utterly.

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Vintage Treasures: The Song of Mavin Manyshaped by Sheri S. Tepper

Monday, July 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The song of Mavin Manyshaped-smallI think I’m finally starting to figure out Sheri Tepper’s 9-volume magnum opus The True Game (believe me, it took some work.)

I accidentally started (as usual) in the middle, with Dervish Daughter, which I didn’t even realize was part of a series, much less the eighth frickin’ volume. However, I overcame this as, after many decades of reading fantasy, I have mad reader skillz. Dervish Daughter isn’t really the eighth volume anyway, it’s actually the middle volume of the last trilogy, known as The Books of the True Game: Jinian.

The first trilogy, The Books of the True Game: Mavin Manyshaped, was written second, after the middle trilogy, which was composed of King’s Blood Four, Necromancer Nine, and Wizard’s Eleven, which were collectively gathered in a one-volume edition as The True Game. Which isn’t at all confusing. Still with me?

Forget it, I’m lost again. Let’s start over. The Song of Mavin Manyshaped is the first book in the first trilogy of The True Game. Mavin is a shapeshifter, and this opening trilogy tells the story from her point of view.

It is never easy growing up as a shape-shifter, learning to control the wild Talent for changing into any shape at all — a winged dragon, a pillar of stone, another human being, a creature from a nightmare. But for Mavin Manyshaped — one of only two she-shifters in her tribe, and recklessly headstrong by nature — coming of age is both exhilarating and terrifying. Little does she know she is destined to become the most notorious shape-shifter in all the lands of the True Game.

I bought The Song of Mavin Manyshaped as part of a jaunty collection of seven Sheri S. Tepper paperbacks on eBay for $10.50. They’re not all part of The True Game… I think. Anything is possible.

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Vintage Treasures: Marianne, The Magus, and the Manticore by Sheri S. Tepper

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Marianne The Magus and the Manticore-smallI’ve written a lot of Vintage Treasures articles (over 400 now, believe it or not.) Most of them feature collectible paperbacks and virtually all of them — even the old Ace Doubles from the 1950s — are inexpensive to acquire for the patient collector. It’s very, very rare that I discuss one that costs as much as a new paperback, for example.

Sheri S. Tepper’s Marianne, The Magus, and the Manticore is an exception. Used copies start at $10 – 15 on both Amazon and eBay and copies in good shape will run you closer to $40. It’s not particularly old — published in 1985 — and it’s not even all that rare. So why is it so expensive? Because it was published just before her groundbreaking novel The Gate to Women’s Country (1988) and the Hugo-nominated Grass (1989). In other words, before Tepper became a Big Name in the industry. The book was reprinted once, in 1988, but has now been out of print for nearly 30 years. Tepper has a great many fans, and the law of supply and demand dictates that the volumes in this trilogy are likely to be hot properties for some time.

Legacy Of Magic

Marianne was born to luxury in the tiny nation of Alphenlicht, nestled in the mountains between Turkey and Iraq. The her parents died, leaving control of their fortune to the older brother she fears. Struggling to make her way as a student in America, Alphenlicht seems as unreal as a fairy tale, her childhood there as distant as a dream…

… Until the Magus comes to claim her, and the Black Madame to destroy her, and the Manticore to hunt her down through the streets of another world. For there is magic in the land of Alphenlicht. Magic in Marianne’s blood, and magic in her soul…

Marianne, The Magus, and the Manticore was followed by two sequels in what’s now known as the Marianne series: Marianne, The Madame, and the Momentary Gods (1988), and Marianne, the Matchbox, and the Malachite Mouse (1989). A 592-page omnibus volume, The Marianne Trilogy, was offered briefly in paperback by Corgi in 1990 — it’s a great value, if you can find it.

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Vintage Treasures: Dervish Daughter by Sheri S. Tepper

Thursday, April 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dervish Daughter-smallI need to read more Sheri S. Tepper.

I tend to think of her primarily as a science fiction writer, probably because I first encountered her with her groundbreaking The Gate to Women’s Country (1988) and the major SF novel that followed, Grass (1989), a Hugo and Locus Awards nominee. But she wrote a great deal of highly acclaimed fantasy in the 80s and 90s, and it’s high time I acquainted myself with it.

A few weeks back, I purchased a set of four Tepper fantasy novels on eBay, all originally published in 1985-86 (and they look great, too — just look). Last night, I grabbed one to bring with me on a business trip. I chose Dervish Daughter because it had a floating ghost skull on the cover and this criterion has rarely steered me wrong in the past.

So now I’m sitting on the 24th floor of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, with what I just discovered is the second volume in the Jinian trilogy, itself the third series in a trilogy of trilogies called The True Game. Not that the Tor paperback bothered to tell me this. In fact, Tor doesn’t tell me much about the book at all. There’s not much of a plot description on the back, just this kooky poem.

Egg in the hollow — Hatching to follow
Lovers come calling — Bitter tears falling
Bright the sun burning — Night will come turning
New powers arise in the Land… Players beware!

I’m guessing free verse on the back of paperbacks was a short-lived marketing trend in the mid-80s. Anyway, I’m a little frustrated — as I imagine casual paperback buyers in 1986 were frustrated, when they discovered this is the second (eighth?) novel in a series. Over the last few decades, Tor has gotten better at letting buyers know books are part of a series. (They aren’t big on marketing through poetry anymore, either.)

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A Review of King’s Blood Four, by Sheri S. Tepper

Monday, October 18th, 2010 | Posted by Isabel Pelech

kb4aKing’s Blood Four, by Sheri S. Tepper
Ace (202 pages, $2.50, 1983)

I know Sheri S. Tepper primarily as a science fiction author. She tends to write sociological stuff, a little bit like Ursula K. LeGuin’s science fiction. I feel that she’s prone to having her message hijack her story, but I still read her books whenever I see a new one in the library. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of her fantasy.

As it turns out, King’s Blood Four might or might not be set in a fantasy universe. There is a strong hint that it might be crypto-SF. In a way, it doesn’t matter; fantasy or science fiction, it’s still a study of an alien society.

The story is narrated by Peter, a fifteen-year-old boy who lives at a boarding school devoted to teaching a peculiar chess-like game. In fact, it’s a training exercise for the deadly True Game. It seems that many people in this world have magic — or possibly psychic — powers, and the True Game forms a framework for their power struggles. It includes everything from dueling to intrigue to outright war, and children such as Peter are sent to the Schooltowns so that the True Game doesn’t chew them up as cannon fodder before they can come into their power. (We find out later that peasants — called pawns, in keeping with the chess theme — don’t ordinarily get this privilege, although at least one pawn’s mother found a way to manage it.) We also find out that Peter has been seduced by one of the teachers, a man named Mandor. The affair is forbidden, and one of the other teachers tries to warn Peter about it, but he’s convinced that he has it all under control.

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How to Assemble an Instant Science Fiction Collection

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Windy City Pulp and Paper 2017 Science Fiction Paperbacks-small

I came home from the 2017 Windy City Pulp & Paper Show with a lot of books.

The 120 SF & fantasy paperbacks books above represent the bulk of my purchases this year. I found plenty of additional treasures — including early issues of Hugo Gernsback’s Science Wonder Stories, a handful of hardcovers, art books, bargain graphic novels, and plenty of magazines — but this year, it was mostly about the paperbacks.

And man, what a haul. As I mentioned in my brief report Saturday morning, one of the highlights of the convention was discovering a vendor in the back of the room selling mint condition, unread SF paperbacks from the 70s and 80s at cover price (about $2 each). It was like stepping back in time 30 years into a well-stocked bookstore. You can’t reasonably expect someone to keep their head under circumstances like that.

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Total Pulp Victory: Windy City Pulp & Paper, Part II

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Horror on the Asteroid at Windy City Pulp 2016-small

Horror on the Asteroid, and other fabulous treasures

Happy Saturday morning everyone!

I leaped out of bed this morning, and hastily started packing up to head out to the Windy City Pulp and Paperback show in nearby Lombard, IL. I spent most of the day there yesterday, catching up with Jason Waltz, Arin Komins, Rich Warren, David Willoughby, Bob Garcia, Doug Ellis, and many other old friends… and more than a few fellow happy buyers and sellers.

I also found more than a few treasures, including a seller in the back with an absolutely gorgeous collection of 1970s and 80s science fiction paperbacks that looked glossy and flawless. He was asking $2 each, in many cases less than the original cover price, so it was like stepping back in time and plucking brand new books by Roger Zelanzy, Sherri Tepper, H. Beam Piper, P.C. Hodgell, Gene Wolfe, and Robert E. Howard off the shelves. I even found a complete set of M. John Harrison’s Viriconium sequence, which Fletcher Vredenburgh enthusiastically wrote up here at Black Gate. I spent a small fortune at that booth alone, and it took a few trips back to the car to carry all my bags.

Windy City has the kind of treasures I cannot find anywhere else, like rare Arkham House collections and early issues of Weird Tales, and even a copy of the first collection by my favorite pulp writer, Edmond Hamilton’s The Horror on the Asteroid and Other Tales of Planetary Horror, published in hardcover by Philip Allan in 1936. I’ve only seen one copy in my entire life, and that was at last year’s show, resting on a table among dozens of other near-priceless volumes, like early first editions of Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert A Heinlein, Fritz Leiber, C.L. Moore, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and lots more (click the image above for a closer look).

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2015 World Fantasy Award Winners Announced

Sunday, November 8th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Bone Clocks David Mitchell-smallUnlike last year, I was unable to attend the World Fantasy Convention, but from all reports it was just as exciting and rewarding as ever. They presented the World Fantasy Awards right on time at the end of the convention, and I’m happy to be able to share the winners with you.

For the last several years the coveted Life Achievement Award has been given to two recipients, and this year the judges continued that tradition, presenting the award to both Ramsey Campbell and Sheri S. Tepper for their outstanding service to the fantasy field.

The winners were selected by a panel of judges. This year’s winners of the World Fantasy Awards are:


The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (Random House)


We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)

Short Fiction

Do You Like to Look at Monsters?, Scott Nicolay (chapbook, Fedogan & Bremer)

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