Science fiction and fantasy writer Josepha Sherman died on August 23 in New Haven, CT, after a long illness, in which she battled dementia. She was 65.
Sherman’s works include Gleaming Bright (Walker, 1994), a story of a resourceful young princess who goes in search of a magic box to avoid marrying a cruel king, and an adult fantasy, The Shining Falcon (Avon, 1989), a tale of love, hate, and magic that’s filled with Slavic mythology. The book won the 1990 Compton Crook Award, as the best first-time English-language novel in science fiction, fantasy or horror.
Sherman’s interest in folklore was fostered at an early age by J. R. R. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories.” The essay “turned me on to the fascinating world that is comparative folklore,” she’s quoted as saying in the reference series Something about the Author. “Many of my books and stories reflect my love of folklore.” Writing in School Library Journal’s (SLJ) February 2005 issue, a reviewer described Sherman’s Magic Hoofbeats: Horse Tales from Many Lands (Barefoot, 2004) as a “rich combination of scholarly… historical information and well-told story.”
Sherman lived in New York City for most of her life and was a cousin of classical music conductor and composer Leonard Slatkin. Sherman, a longtime editor at Baen Books, knew and loved classical music as well, and was also an expert on Judaica and a gifted storyteller.
She was “irrepressible, unstoppable, and never quiet about books,” Jane Yolen, a fellow author of folklore and fantasy, told SLJ. Yolen recalls a time when the two were autographing books in a shopping mall as a storm approached. As shoppers hurried by, hoping to get home before the downpour and ignoring the writers, “[Sherman] declared loudly, ‘Where else can you get two famous authors at the same time!’” says Yolen. As a result of her chutzpah, the authors ending up autographing many books that day.