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Sheri S. Tepper

American fiction writer
To my mind, the expression of divinity is in variety, and the more variable the creation, the more variable the creatures that surround us, botanical and zoological, the more chance we have to learn and to see into life itself, nature itself.

Sheri Stewart Tepper (16 July 1929 - 22 October 2016) was a prolific author of science fiction, horror and mystery novels, frequently with a feminist slant. She wrote under several pseudonyms, including A. J. Orde, E. E. Horlak, and B. J. Oliphant. Her early work was published under the name Sheri S. Eberhart.

Contents

QuotesEdit

 
I have always lived in a world in which I'm just a spot in history. My life is not the important point. I'm just part of the continuum, and that continuum, to me, is a marvelous thing.
 
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.
 
I am myself, though from moment to moment something else seems to be looking on.

The Gate to Women's Country (1988)Edit

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Spectra ISBN 0-553-28064-3
  • Morgot and Myra would tell her there wasn’t any reason to make promises or seek changes because the Great Mother didn’t bargain. The deity didn’t change her mind for women’s convenience. Her way was immutable. As the temple servers said, “No sentimentality, no romance, no false hopes, no self-petting lies, merely that which is!” Which left very little room, Stavia thought, for womanly initiative.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 9)
  • There is no fucking in Hades.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 57; catch phrase often repeated in the rest of the book)
  • We obey orders, and we don’t ask if the officer is crazy or not!
    • Chapter 8 (p. 75)
  • Myra subsided into outraged and sulky silence. Her romantic dream of motherhood had been riven into sharp-edged fragments by late-night feedings, constant diaper washing, and a baby who persisted in looking and acting like a baby, not like a young hero.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 88)
  • Honor is only a label they use for what they want you to do. Chernon. They want you to stay, so they call staying honorable.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 149)
  • The one sure part of every plan is that it will be set awry.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 165)
  • The extent of my ignorance oppresses me.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 171)
  • “We have a saying, we travelers: ‘For a man’s business, go to your troupe leader; for a woman’s business, go to Women’s Country. For a fool’s business, go to the warriors.’”
    • Chapter 16 (p. 173)
  • “Show yourselves,” cried Stephon. “Only cowards hide in the dark.”
    “Cowards do many things,” said the voice. “Cowards kill their Commanders and make it look like a bandit attack. Cowards plot in secret. Cowards breed insurrection. Cowards plan the abuse of women.”
    • Chapter 34 (p. 302)

Grass (1989)Edit

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Spectra ISBN 0-553-28565-3
  • To Sylvan truth was truth and all else was black heresy, though on occasion he had the very human difficulty of deciding which was which.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 7)
  • Rich people didn’t get in that kind of mess. They never had. Only the poor got trapped: by ignorance, by religion, by self-righteous laws passed by people who broke them with impunity.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 32)
  • All kids think some other family is perfect.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 103)
  • They see things; they overhear things; they tell us. We put two and two together to make forty-four, when we must.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 115)
  • Eugenie thought of this often. Men had told her many sweet things about herself, but never before that she was important. It was the nicest compliment she had ever received.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 120)
  • All men believed they had their own magics in bed.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 120)
  • The first thing you’ve got to do is tell yourself that the shitheads are wrong...Not just a little bit wrong, but irremediably, absolutely, and endemically wrong. Nothing you can say or do will stop their being wrong. They’re damned to eternal wrongness, and that’s God’s will.
    • Chapter 7 (pp. 140-141)
  • “They’ve got a kind of committee there,” he had said, “an office. Acceptable Doctrine, it’s called. Everyone on the committee is mostly concerned about what people believe. They’re running things, too; don’t let them tell you they aren’t. Truth doesn’t enter in. If they’ve decided something is doctrine, they’ll ignore all evidence to the contrary and lie to your face. You don’t want to run afoul of those types, do you? Not if you have questions to ask. No.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 191)
  • If God is truly powerful, He would not let this plague go on.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 208)
  • “Not hunting today, sir?” asked Tony in his most innocent voice, busy putting two and two together but not sure how he felt about the resultant sum.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 235)
  • History upon Terra tells us what horrors follow upon religious mandates of unlimited reproduction.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 250)
  • Don’t waste your time on penitence or guilt. Solving the problem is better!
    • Chapter 15 (p. 338)
  • Useless as a third leg on a goose.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 345)
  • “I don’t have much confidence,” she said. “A lot of what I’ve been taught isn’t making sense.”
    “That’s the nature of teaching. Something happens, and intelligence first apprehends it, then makes up a rule about it, then tries to pass the rule along. Very small beings invariably operate in that way. However, by the time the information is passed on, new things are happening that the old rule doesn’t fit. Eventually intelligence learns to stop making rules and understand the flow.”
    • Chapter 16 (p. 354)
  • Too good is good for nothing.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 355)
  • I’m trying to decide whether we can afford to be merciful. The Arbai were merciful, but when confronted with evil, mercy becomes an evil.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 358)
  • They haven’t learned that being penitent sometimes does no good at all.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 374)
  • Marjorie thought: It always comes down to something like this, doesn’t it. No matter what our consciences say, no matter how much doctrine we’ve been taught, no matter how many ethical considerations we’ve chewed and swallowed and tried to digest, it always comes down to us arming ourselves with weapons as deadly as we can manage and going out into combat...
    • Chapter 17 (p. 377)
  • Time past was nothing, no matter how long. Time ahead was everything, no matter how brief.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 385)
  • She was trying to feel philosophical about dying, not managing it, trying not to be frightened, and not managing that, either.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 388)
  • Duty was simply not enough. There had to be more than that!
    • Chapter 20 (p. 446)
  • He did a lot of disputation and he always raised his voice when his logic was weak.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 447)

Gibbon's Decline & Fall (1996)Edit

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Spectra ISBN 0-553-57398-5
  • On that far horizon the Sandia Mountains stand behind their outliers in receding gradations of gray or blue or violet, paper cutouts against the lighter sky, vanishing into night when the lights of the city come on. Then the stars look down and the air is sweet with piñon smoke as centuries-old nut-bearing trees are burned for the momentary pleasure of those who, unlike the native peoples, never think of the food the trees produce.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 41)
  • Another window to the outside opened on the first day of school, when an eager young teacher told the class they could find out anything in the world if they paid attention and learned to read. To Jake it came as a revelation, the missing piece of the puzzle of his life! Here was the secret of existence he had known must be somewhere! All the mysteries of his existence would come clear, all the things he wondered about, if he would only learn to read. He did learn, quickly, passionately, with the ardor many boys reserve for sports.
    • Chapter 2 (pp. 44-45)
  • Keepe pursed his lips, nodded. “We’re already in a very strong position in this country, of course. We’ve taken over all of the antigovernment militias, most of the religious groups who think of themselves as conservative, plus what’s left of the KKK and the American Nazi party, but they’re only pocket change. We now own the Republican party. Any moderates still hiding in there have been flushed out. We’ve been managing the press for over twenty years now, and the public is accustomed to our view of the world.”
    Jagger paid attention. “I didn’t realize...”
    “Oh, yes. People don’t want to absorb new information. They like predictability. So as long as we don’t surprise the public with the truth, we’re free to move as we like. Very shortly we won’t even have to be covert about it. And then, of course, people are sick of issues. Civil rights, human rights, women’s rights—people are tired of all that. You understand?”
    • Chapter 2 (p. 52; spoken by one of the leaders of a secretive neo-fascist organization)
  • One of the difficulties of being the good guys is that even open societies have to have secret police, and secret police turn toward repression as a compass points north.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 96)
  • She needed more sleep and less aggravation.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 114)
  • Fear needn’t be grounded in fact to cause problems.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 153)
  • Words? Not really. Mankind is a good word.” She set down her glass with a thump. “Or humankind. I’m afraid we’ve spent a lot of feminist energy on meaningless symbols rather than essential functions.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 170)
  • Infanticide and infant neglect exist in inverse ratio to the accessibility of abortion services.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 173)
  • Here we are after a couple million years of natural selection has produced a race that overpopulates and makes war and dominates and rapes, and you want to know about wisdom! Natural selection doesn’t select for wisdom!
    • Chapter 11 (p. 194)
  • “When your people began to press upon us, long, long ago, we moved into remote enclaves. To us, numbers are not strength; wisdom is strength. What profiteth a race to be numerous and stupid, la? Behold how great we are, saith the lemming!” She laughed.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 392)
  • We believe that nothing worthy of our worship would want our worship.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 401)
  • The boys attend the Institute. I saw where they keep the girls. They are not taught anything. They are merely fed, bathed, given exercise, raised so until puberty, at which time they are culled. The enemy does not want either rebellion or thought bred into his followers, so any who show signs of independence or unusual intelligence are culled.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 421)
  • They looked like men. That was the trouble with devils, Carolyn thought. Too often they looked like men.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 449)

Locus interview (1998)Edit

"Sheri S. Tepper : Speaking to the Universe" in Locus magazine (September 1998)
  • To my mind, the expression of divinity is in variety, and the more variable the creation, the more variable the creatures that surround us, botanical and zoological, the more chance we have to learn and to see into life itself, nature itself. If we were just human beings, living in a spaceship, with an algae farm to give us food, we would not be moved to learn nearly as many things as we are moved by living on a world, surrounded by all kinds of variety. And when I see that variety being first decimated, and then halved — and I imagine in another hundred years it may be down by 90% and there'll be only 10% of what we had when I was a child — that makes me very sad, and very despairing, because we need variety. We came from that, we were born from that, it's our world, the world in which we became what we have become.
  • The only people who have the long view are some scientists and some science fiction writers. I have always lived in a world in which I'm just a spot in history. My life is not the important point. I'm just part of the continuum, and that continuum, to me, is a marvelous thing. The history of life, and the history of the planet, should go on and on and on and on. I cannot conceive of anything in the universe that has more meaning than that.

The Visitor (2002)Edit

 
People allow themselves to believe an event if it's called a miracle while disdaining the same event if it's called magic. Or vice versa.
 
Mankind accepts good fortune as his due, but when bad occurs, he thinks it was aimed at him, done to him, a hex, a curse, a punishment by his deity for some transgression, as though his god were a petty storekeeper, counting up the day's receipts...
 
Only by repudiating both devils and small gods will they ever know the Real One.
 
They're correct that a god picked out the material; they just have the wrong god doing it.
 
The sooner we can separate salvageable skeptics from self-righteous absolutists, the sooner we can move along.
 
Ignorance perpetuates itself just as knowledge does. Men write false documents, they preach false doctrine, and those beliefs survive to inspire wickedness in later generations.
  • Picture this:
    A mountain splintering the sky like a broken bone, its western precipice plummeting onto jumbled scree.
    • Ch. 1 : caigo faience, first lines
  • Long ago, the people of the world cried out for help. In the reaches of heaven their cry was heard, and a Visitor came in answer to it. The Visitor began helping immediately, but secretly. Now the visitor intends to be known to the people of the world and the people of the world must deal with that knowledge.
    • Guardian Camwar, in Ch. 4 : the cooper
  • We are to be needed, but I'm not sure for what.
    • Guardian Camwar, in Ch. 4 : the cooper
  • You asked for wisdom? Hear these words. 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.
    • Guardian Camwar, in Ch. 4 : the cooper
  • I am myself, though from moment to moment something else seems to be looking on. Whatever will be required of me, however, can best be done if I remember who I am.
    • Guardian Camwar, in Ch. 4 : the cooper
  • We must be able to find out what really is. ... It is not enough merely to tell stories about what exists. We must go out into the world again. The sign has come. Therefore, build ships!
    • Guardian Camwar, in Ch. 4 : the cooper
  • The Regime has become so smug it can't tell the difference among the revolutionary, the innovative, or the merely various. The high command knows so little about the outside that if I came back with a fully equipped chemical laboratory and told them I'd found it in a cave, they'd probably believe that, so long as I brought it back piecemeal in my saddle bags, thus proving I hadn't known it was there beforehand.
    • Ch. 37 : leaving bastion
  • Those of us from Chasm started calling it the Visitor because that's a relatively comfortable label. It implies the stay is temporary, the the thing will go away. We think the Visitor must be part of a race of beings who live in space, though we're guessing at that. We also postulate that they hitch rides on bits of space trash that are moving somewhere, like the one that came at us. Anyhow, the Visitor is getting closer by the day.
    • Ch. 37 : leaving bastion
  • The world stopped. She was somewhere else, learning things she had no names for. She was being instructed. Nell was in abeyance. The mind she shared was full of those treasures she had always sought, the workings of the universe, the reasons and intentions of the galaxies. Time passed forever.
    • Ch. 40 : at ogre's gap
  • She knew ... everything. She had no words for what she knew. The pause became anticipatory silence. There were no words she could use for the reality and truth and understanding she had been given.
    • Ch. 40 : at ogre's gap
  • People allow themselves to believe an event if it's called a miracle while disdaining the same event if it's called magic. Or vice versa. Life arises naturally; where life is, death is, joy is, pain is. Where joy and pain are, ecstasy and horror are, all part of the pattern. They occur as night and day occur on a whirling planet. They are not individually willed into being and shot at persons like arrows. Mankind accepts good fortune as his due, but when bad occurs, he thinks it was aimed at him, done to him, a hex, a curse, a punishment by his deity for some transgression, as though his god were a petty storekeeper, counting up the day's receipts…
    • Guardian Galenor in Ch 43 : various pursuits
  • Each race creates its own devils. You had so many that they specialized. Devils of racial hatred, devils of greed and violence. Devils who killed their own people in orgies of blood. Devils who bombed clinics, devils who bombed school buses, devils who bombed other devils. I got to know every one of them by name. As soon as I arrived, I sent my monsters out to kill them all. They had tarnished my reputation, and though I have lavished much care on mankind, vengeance is mine.
    • The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor
  • "This place is a godland, you may call me god. Small g, for I am not proud. We are a race evolving in this Creation to serve the Maker of it. We act as temporary deities during the childhood of individual peoples and planets. I was the midwife who brought forth this world, who stirred the primordial ooze, and noted the life that crawled up from the sea. Our race is not unlike yours, but I am very old, and you are still very young."
    "We come and go. I came to teach your people language. I raised up oracles, whispered to soothsayers, wove bright visions for sorcerers, and spoke marvels to your alchemists. I came again to raise up prophets in the the Real One's name: Bruno, Galileo, Newton, Fermi..."
    The doctor interrupted, "The Real One? Who?"
    "The Being whom I worship. The Ultimate who stands apart from time. The Deity some men think they are addressing when they pray with words. The Real One doesn't even perceive words. If IT did, imagine what IT would have to listen to! The Real One sees only the pattern of what is, where it begins and where it comes to rest. The only prayer IT perceives is action. … Only actions enter the pattern the Real One sees. What is. What was done. IT perceives neither intentions nor remorse."
    • Ch. 44 : the visitor
  • I will raise up prophets to make conflicting pronouncements that inevitably will be garbled in transcription, resulting in mutually exclusive definitions of orthodoxy from which the open-minded will flee in dismay.
    • The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor
  • Occasionally, I will do a conspicuous miracle to save one dying child while a thousand children starve elsewhere. This will convince sensible people I am perverse, and they will curse my name. Be sure to recruit those who do, they'll be invaluable. Only by repudiating both devils and small gods will they ever know the Real One.
    • The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor
  • I will be a sham, but not a snob. I will let every man, woman, or child, no matter how greedy or wicked, claim to have a personal relationship with me. In other words, I will be as arbitrary, inconsistent, ignorant, pushy, and common as humans are, and what more have they ever wanted in a god?
    • The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor
  • Not many years before the Happening, one of your country's largest religious bodies officially declared that their book was holier than their God, thus simultaneously and corporately breaking several commandments of their own religion, particularly the first one. Of course they liked the book better! It was full of magic and contradictions that they could quote to reinforce their bigoted and hateful opinions, as I well know, for I chose many parts of it from among the scrolls and epistles that were lying around in caves here and there. They're correct that a god picked out the material; they just have the wrong god doing it.
    • The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor
  • Creation has the truth written all over it — the age of the universe, the history of the world — but nine-tenths of mankind either don't know it or think it's a sham, because it isn't what their book or their prophet says, and it isn't cozy or manipulable enough.
    • The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor
  • The sooner we can separate salvageable skeptics from self-righteous absolutists, the sooner we can move along.
    • The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor
  • You will divide the sheep from the goats and you will encourage the one and shepherd the other. You always had a leaning that way. Each of you will find the fight that suites yourself and your being. You will triumph, suffer, weep, rejoice, possibly die... If you die another will rise up in your name, if you don't die, you'll live an extremely long life. You are my angels, for whom an almost heaven waits ... Your work will be long, however, long and hard before you can rest in it.
    • The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor
  • The space began to move around them as the being on her plinth receded. The splintered world hurtled toward them as though they were in a kaleidoscope, images whirling to join, spinning outward to disintegrate, vortices of jagged light, horizons of endless time, pinwheels of splendor that rushed at them and receded through which they heard the small god cry, "You will not see me soon again. It is not fitting that gods, however small, consort casually with their servants. I leave you as Guardians for all that live on this world."
    • The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor
  • Ignorance perpetuates itself just as knowledge does. Men write false documents, they preach false doctrine, and those beliefs survive to inspire wickedness in later generations. ... Conversely, some men write and teach about the truth, only to be declared heretic by the wicked. In such cases evil has the advantage, for it will do anything to suppress truth, but the good man limits what he will do to suppress falsehood.
    One might almost make a rule of it: "Whoever declares another heretic is himself a devil. Whoever places a relic or artifact above justice, kindness, mercy, or truth is himself a devil and the thing elevated is a work of evil magic."
    • Arnole, in Ch. 45 : not in conclusion
  • To the Chasmites, truth is determined by how well it fits their expectations, and doesn't that sound familiar? ... They have consistently refused to have a god contest, and I fear they will have to encounter the godlet rather forcibly before they believe there is anything there at all.
    • Guardian Dismé Latimer in Ch. 46 : nell latimer's journal

Strange Horizons interview (2008)Edit

 
If creation is important to something or someone or is going to become important, then all subcreations of it are also important. Everything is important. There is nothing so unimportant you can ignore it or destroy it with complete impunity.
"Of Preachers and Storytellers : An Interview with Sheri S. Tepper" by Neal Szpatura, Strange Horizons (21 July 2008)
  • If creation is important to something or someone or is going to become important, then all subcreations of it are also important. Everything is important. There is nothing so unimportant you can ignore it or destroy it with complete impunity. Your senses are part of the "everything." Seeing is important. Smelling is important. Hearing is important. Everything is important and you have to look at, study, get involved with everything, and you have to believe what you find out, and test, and finally prove! None of this nonsense about not believing in fossils because God was just playing around in order to confuse us. If you ignore the evidence of your (dare one say God-given) senses, if you define myth as reality, and if you claim divine revelation allows you to destroy any part of creation, you have committed absolute evil.
    Do we have any way of knowing exactly what is intended for the universe to be or become? No, but given the age and complexity of the whole shebang, we can be fairly sure creation is important.
  • We have several races of beings that speak on this one planet. We have many and varying types of intelligence on this one planet. Therefore, tendencies that encourage intelligence, language, and a continuing search for information may very well be in accordance with the purpose of the universe.
    And contrariwise, all systems that discourage intelligence, language, and a continuing search for information are anti-existence, death-dealing, and evil.
  • The Inquisition, by defining and limiting knowledge, was evil. The Taliban, by defining truth and refusing girls an education, is evil. Any religion that says it knows the one and only truth is evil, because it limits knowledge. Any political body that says it owns the truth is evil. Same reason.
    Any repressive regime that seeks to control exploration and experimentation is evil. Same reason. Any regime that defines truth as a set of beliefs and occurrences that cannot be questioned, that can neither be demonstrated nor proven is not only evil but ridiculous. This includes all mythologies, miracles, etc. because, if creation happened for a reason, if it was done by God, you'd better believe every part of it, including intelligence, was done for a reason ascertainable, eventually, by intelligence. We would not follow and adore a ruler who lied and tortured. Why would we worship a God who did either? God doesn't lie and he/she/it doesn't fool around!
    Shutting down inquiry is evil. Causing pain purposefully for no reason is evil. Enjoying causing pain by shutting down inquiry is an absolute evil.
  • I never read an author twice if I can't trust him or her to make it come out right. I never read an author twice if he writes the kind of books where everyone and everything is in tension from page one to the last paragraph of the last page, like that dreadful TV show, 24. Tension is something I have plenty of in life. I don't need it elsewhere.
  • Every villain or villainous activity I have ever written about is a person or an activity that has actually lived or taken place. I invent nothing. When I wrote in Raising the Stones about the slavery practiced by one race and their reasons for it, those reasons were taken verbatim from arguments written in defense of Negro slavery by southern slave owners. Watch bullies at school. See how they delight in causing pain. See how little is done to change them. Imagine them grown, elected, put into power. They do grow, they are elected, they are put into power.
  • I say the entities that are named as gods by Earthians are imagined into being by Earthians as personal helper-buddies, justifiers, threateners (my god can beat up your god). They don't "run on" anything any more than a mirror image "runs on" anything. They merely reflect what people want them to be. "I want to have more children than my brother does, thus proving I'm a better man than he is, so my god tells me I should have a big family." "I want to screw women, so my god is going to give me seventy virgins I can screw for all eternity." The "gods" in The Margarets who could really do anything were actually an old, highly evolved race of real people. The others were only reflections. The real God, who may really exist, is outside all that, perhaps watching closely, perhaps merely asleep for a few trillion years while the experiment runs out.
    We — thee and me as individuals — will never know that God, though after a few trillion years, the universe as a whole may come to understand that God.
  • Look at Mother Teresa. She spent her whole life being holy. She didn't benefit anyone in any real sense. She didn't work on stopping disease, helping poverty, doing anything that would relieve the condition of her countrymen. She just went around the city, picked up dying people, and took care of them while they died. It was a good thing, no doubt, but it meant no betterment, no progress, no help, no relief from pain. She longed to be holy. She wanted to be a saint. Now she's a saint.
    Salk isn't a saint. But he did more for the human race than Mother Teresa did. He didn't long to be holy, which meant having faith, not asking questions, doing something unpleasant without thought or complaint. He longed to do good, which meant finding things out, asking hard questions, and thinking hard, deep thoughts. Goodness and holiness are two different things, unfortunately.

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