- Theodore Sturgeon
Theodore Sturgeon (born Edward Hamilton Waldo on
February 26, 1918; died May 8, 1985) was an American science fictionauthor.
Though his mainstream success was relatively limited, Sturgeon is now widely recognized as one of the most important and influential science fiction writers of his era. Many of Sturgeon's works have a poetic, even an
elegiac, quality. He was known to use a technique known as "rhythmic prose", in which his prose text would drop into a standard poetic meter. This has the effect of creating a subtle shift in mood, usually without alerting the reader to its cause.
His most famous novel "
More Than Human" (1953) won serious academic recognition as literature, a rarity amongst science fiction works of the '50s.
He was born in
Staten Island, New York; in 1929, after a divorce, his mother married the Scot William Dicky ("Argylle") Sturgeon, and Edward changed his name to Theodore the better to match his childhood nickname, "Teddy", and distinguish himself from his father, also named Edward. [ [http://www.physics.emory.edu/~weeks/sturgeon/williams.html "Theodore Sturgeon, Storyteller".] 1976 Biographical essay by Paul Williams. "Young Edward had always been known as Teddy."] Although "Theodore Sturgeon" is frequently misidentified as a pseudonym, it was in fact his legal name since the age of eight. [ [http://www.physics.emory.edu/~weeks/sturgeon/williams.html "op. cit.".] "To this day, libraries all over the world list "Theodore Sturgeon" as a pseudonym for "E.H. Waldo, which is incorrect."]
He sold his first story in 1938 to the newspaper McClure's Syndicate, which bought much of his early (non-fantastic) work; his first genre appearance was "Ether Breather" in "
Astounding Science Fiction" a year later. At first he wrote mainly short stories, primarily for genre magazines such as "Astounding" and "Unknown", but also for general-interest publications such as " Argosy Magazine". He used the pen name"E. Waldo Hunter" when two of his stories ran in the same issue of "Astounding". A few of his early stories were signed "Theodore H. Sturgeon".
Sturgeon ghost-wrote an
Ellery Queen mysterynovel, "The Player on the Other Side" (Random House, 1963). This novel gained critical praise from critic H.R.F. Keating, who "had almost finished writing "Crime and Mystery: the 100 Best Books", in which I had included "The Player on the Other Side" ... placing the book squarely in the Queen canon"Keating, H.R.F., "The Bedside Companion to Crime", New York: Mysterious Press, 1989] when he learned that it had been written by Sturgeon. Similarly, "William DeAndrea, author and ... winner of Mystery Writers of America awards, selecting his ten favourite mystery novels for the magazine "Armchair Detective", picked "The Player on the Other Side" as one of them. He said: 'This book changed my life ... and made a raving mystery fan (and therefore ultimately a mystery writer) out of me. ... The book must be 'one of the most skilful pastiches in the history of literature. An amazing piece of work, whomever did it'."
Sturgeon wrote the screenplays for the ' episodes "
Shore Leave" (1966) and " Amok Time" (1967, later published as a "Fotonovel" in 1978). The latter is known for his invention of the Pon farr, the Vulcan mating ritual, the first use of the phrase "Live long and prosper" and the first use of the Vulcan hand symbol. Sturgeon also wrote several episodes of ' that were never produced. One of these was notable for having first introduced the Prime Directive. He also wrote an episode of the Saturday morning show "Land of the Lost", "The Pylon Express", in 1975. Two of Sturgeon's stories were adapted for The New Twilight Zone. One, " A Saucer of Loneliness", was broadcast in 1986 and was dedicated to his memory. His 1944 novella, "KillDozer", was the inspiration for the 1970s made-for-TV movie, Marvel comicbook, and alternative rock band of the same name.
Although Sturgeon is well known among readers of classic science-fiction anthologies (at the height of his popularity in the 1950s he was the most anthologized author alive) and much respected by critics (
John Clutewrites in " The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction": "His influence upon writers like Harlan Ellisonand Samuel R. Delanywas seminal, and in his life and work he was a powerful and generally liberating influence in post-WWII US sf"), he is not much known among the general public and won comparatively few awards (though it must be noted that his best work was published before the establishment and consolidation of the leading genre awards, while his later production was scarcer and weaker). He was listed as a primary influence of the much more famous Ray Bradbury. Kurt Vonnegut based his character Kilgore Trouton Theodore Sturgeon.
Sturgeon died on
May 8 1985, of lung fibrosis, in Eugene, Oregon. [ [http://www.physics.emory.edu/~weeks/misc/faq.html Theodore Sturgeon FAQ] ] Sturgeon lived for several years in the neighboring city of Springfield. [ [http://www.gwillick.com/Spacelight/obit/sturgeono.html Obituary] from the " Register-Guard", May 10 1985, retrieved from George C. Willick's "Spacelight" webpage May 4 2007.]
In 1951, Sturgeon coined what is now known as Sturgeon's Law: "Ninety percent of SF [science fiction] is crud, but then, ninety percent of "everything" is crud." This was originally known as Sturgeon's Revelation; Sturgeon has said that "Sturgeon's Law" was originally "Nothing is always absolutely so." However, the former phrase is now widely referred to as Sturgeon's Law. He is also known for his dedication to a credo of critical thinking that challenged all normative assumptions: "ask the next question." He represented this credo by the symbol of a Q with an arrow through it, an example of which he wore around his neck and used as part of his signature in the last 15 years of his life.
Life and family
Sturgeon was a distant relative of
Ralph Waldo Emerson, and through his Waldo, Hamilton Dicker and Dunn ancestors, a direct descendant of numerous influential Anglican clergymen. Both Sturgeon and his brother Peter were eventually to become atheists Fact|date=April 2008, although Sturgeon continuously developed his own, highly imaginative spiritual side). If Sturgeon had been aware of much of his ancestry and any stories associated with it, he never shared these with his friends or offspring, although the short "I Say--Ernest" (1972) does bring to life one wing of his ministerial family. True to his nature, he did not attribute much to the notion of "bloodline," and, according to certain of his children, thoroughly despised class-consciousness.
Sturgeon's one sibling, Peter Sturgeon, wrote technical material for the pharmaceutical industry and eventually for the WHO, has been credited with bringing Mensa to the United States. Edward Waldo, their birth father, was a color and dye manufacturer of middling success. Their mother, Christine Hamilton Dicker (Waldo) Sturgeon, was a well-educated writer, watercolorist, and poet who published journalism, poetry and fiction under the name Felix Sturgeon. William Dicky Sturgeon (sometimes known as Argyll), their stepfather, was a mathematics teacher at a prep school and then Romance Languages Professor at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia.
Sturgeon held a wide variety of jobs during his lifetime. As an adolescent, he wanted to be a circus
acrobat; an episode of rheumatic feverprevented him from pursuing this. From 1935 (aged 17) to 1938, he was a sailor in the merchant marine, and elements of that experience found their way into several stories. He sold refrigerators door to door. He managed a hotel in the West Indiesaround 1940-1941, worked in several construction and infrastructure jobs (driving a bulldozer in Puerto Rico, operating a gas stationand truck lubrication center, work at a drydock) for the US Army in the early war years, and by 1944 was an advertising copywriter. In addition to freelance fiction and television writing, he also operated a literary agency (which was eventually transferred to Scott Meredith), worked for Fortune Magazineand other Time Magazine Inc. properties on circulation, and edited various publications. Sturgeon had somewhat irregular output, frequently suffering from writer's block.
Theodore Sturgeon vividly recalled being in the same room with L. Ron Hubbard, when Hubbard became testy with someone there and retorted, "Y'know, we're all wasting our time writing this hack science fiction! You wantamake real money, you gotta start a religion!" Reportedly Sturgeon also told this story to others.
Sturgeon played guitar and wrote music which he sometimes performed at
Science Fiction Conventions.
Sturgeon was married three times, had two long-term committed relationships outside of marriage, divorced once, and fathered a total of seven children. His first wife was Dorothe Fillingame (married 1940, divorced 1945) with whom he had two daughters, Patricia and Cynthia. He was married to singer Mary Mair from 1949 until an annulment in 1951. Later in 1951, he wed Marion McGahan with whom he had Robin (his first son, b. 1952); daughters Tandy (b. 1954) and Noël (b. 1956); and son Timothy (b. 1960). His fourth long-term committed relationship was with reporter and photographer W. Bonnie Golden, with whom he had his third son, Andros (b.1970). Finally, his last long-term committed relationship was with writer and educator Jayne Engelhart Tannehill, with whom he remained until the time of his death.
Sturgeon was a lifelong
pipesmoker. Since pipe smokeis not inhaled in the lungs this probably had little connection with his death from lung fibrosis; rather, the condition may have been caused by exposure to asbestosduring his Merchant Marine stint as a young man.
Credited to Theodore Sturgeon
The Dreaming Jewels" (1950) Also published as "The Synthetic Man"
More Than Human" (1953) Fix-upof three linked novellas, the first and third written around the previously published " Baby Is Three"
The Cosmic Rape" (1958) Abridged version published as " To Marry Medusa"
Venus Plus X" (1960)
Some of Your Blood" (1961)
Sturgeon, under his own name, was hired to write novelisations of the following movies based on their scripts (links go to articles about the movies):
The King and Four Queens" (1956)
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (1961)
The Rare Breed" (1966)
I, Libertine" (1956): Historical novel created as a for-hire hoax. Credited to " Frederick R. Ewing", written from a premise by Jean Shepherd.
The Player on The Other Side" (1963): Mystery novel published as by Ellery Queenand ghost-written with Queen's assistance and supervision.
Sturgeon published numerous short story collections during his lifetime, many drawing on his most prolific writing years of the 1940s and 1950s.
Note that some reprints of these titles (especially paperback editions) may cut one or two stories from the line-up. Statistics herein refer to the original editions only.
Collections published during Sturgeon's lifetime
The following table includes volumes where up to three stories (representing no more than half the book) were previously anthologized in a Sturgeon collection.
The following volumes consisted entirely of previously anthologized material.
Complete short stories
North Atlantic Bookshas been releasing the chronologically assembled "The Complete Short Stories of Theodore Sturgeon" since 1994. Projected to run to 13 volumes, the currently available volumes include:
# "The Ultimate Egoist" (1937 to 1940)
# "Microcosmic God" (1940 to 1941)
# "Killdozer" (1941 to 1946)
# "Thunder and Roses" (1946 to 1948)
# "The Perfect Host" (1948 to 1950)
# "Baby is Three" (1950 to 1952)
# "A Saucer of Loneliness" (1953)
# "Bright Segment" (1953 to 1955, as well as two "lost" stories from 1946)
# "And Now the News..." (1955 to 1957)
# "The Man Who Lost the Sea" (1957 to 1960)
# "The Nail and the Oracle" (1961 to 1969)
Representative short stories
Sturgeon was better known for his short stories and novellas. The best known include:
* "Ether Breather" (September 1939, his first published science-fiction story)
* "Derm Fool" (March 1940)
* "It" (August 1940)
* "Shottle Bop" (February 1941)
Microcosmic God" (April 1941)
* "Yesterday Was Monday" (1941)
* "Killdozer!" (November, 1944)
* "Bianca's Hands" (May, 1947)
* "Thunder and Roses" (November 1947)
* "The Perfect Host" (November 1948)
* "Minority Report" (June 1949, no connection to the 2002 movie, which was based on a later story by
Philip K. Dick)
* "One Foot and the Grave" (September 1949)
A Saucer of Loneliness" (February 1953)
The World Well Lost" (June 1953)
* "Mr. Costello, Hero" (December 1953)
* "The [Widget] , The [Wadget] , and Boff" (1955)
* "The Skills of Xanadu" (July 1956)
* "The Other Man" (September 1956)
* "And Now The News" (December 1956)
* "Need" (1960)
* "How to Forget Baseball" ("
Sports Illustrated", December 1964)
* "The Nail and the Oracle" ("
Playboy", October 1964)
* "Slow Sculpture" ("Galaxy", February 1970) — winner of a
Hugo Awardand a Nebula Award
* "Occam's Scalpel" (August, 1971, with an introduction by
* "Vengeance "Is" (1980, "Dark Forces" anthology edited by
If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?" (1967, " Dangerous Visions" anthology edited by Harlan Ellison) — Nebula Award1967 Nominee Novella
* "The Man Who Learned Loving" —
Nebula Award1969 Nominee Short Story
* "Argyll", an autobiographical sketch about Sturgeon's relationship with his stepfather.
* [http://www.physics.emory.edu/~weeks/misc/sturgeon.html The Theodore Sturgeon Page] - an informative and comprehensive fan site
* [http://www.physics.emory.edu/~weeks/sturgeon/ The Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust] - owners of Sturgeon copyrights, information on Sturgeon publications
* [http://freesfonline.de/authors/sturgeon.html Theodore Sturgeon's online fiction] at [http://freesfonline.de/ Free Speculative Fiction Online]
* [http://www.sfsite.com/gary/stur01.htm Gary Westfahl's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film]
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