Theodore Sturgeon (/ˈstɜːrdʒən/; born Edward Hamilton Waldo, February 26, 1918 – May 8, 1985) was an American writer, primarily of fantasy, science fiction and horror. He was also a critic. He wrote approximately 400 reviews and more than 200 stories.
Sturgeon's science fiction novel More Than Human (1953) won the 1954 International Fantasy Award (for SF and fantasy) as the year's best novel and the Science Fiction Writers of America ranked "Baby is Three" number five among the "Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time" to 1964. Ranked by votes for all of their pre-1965 novellas, Sturgeon was second among authors, behind Robert Heinlein.
|Born||Edward Hamilton Waldo|
February 26, 1918
Staten Island, New York, U.S.
|Died||May 8, 1985 (aged 67)|
Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
|Pen name||E. Waldo Hunter|
|Occupation||Fiction writer, critic|
|Genre||Science fiction, horror, mystery, and western novels and short fiction|
|Subject||Science fiction (as critic)|
|Notable awards||Hugo, Nebula|
Sturgeon was born Edward Hamilton Waldo in Staten Island, New York in 1918. His name was legally changed to Theodore Sturgeon at age eleven after his mother's divorce and remarriage to William Dicky ("Argyll") Sturgeon.
He sold his first story in 1938 to the McClure Syndicate, which bought much of his early work. His first genre story was "Ether Breather", published by John W. Campbell in the September 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. 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 one Ellery Queen mystery novel, The Player on the Other Side (Random House, 1963). This novel gained critical praise from critic H. R. F. Keating: "[I] 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" 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 favorite 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'."
Disliking arguments with Campbell over editorial decisions, after 1950 Sturgeon only published one story in Astounding. Sturgeon wrote the screenplays for the Star Trek episodes "Shore Leave" (1966) and "Amok Time" (1967, written up and published as a Bantam Books "Star Trek Fotonovel" in 1978). The latter is known for its invention of pon farr, the Vulcan mating ritual; first use of the sentence "Live long and prosper"; and first use of the Vulcan hand symbol. Sturgeon is also sometimes credited as having deliberately put homosexual subtext in his work, like the back-rub scene in "Shore Leave", and the short story "The World Well Lost". Sturgeon also wrote several episodes of Star Trek 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. Another short story, "Yesterday was Monday", was the inspiration for The New Twilight Zone episode "A Matter of Minutes". His 1944 novella "Killdozer!" was the inspiration for the 1970s made-for-TV movie, Marvel comic book, and alternative rock band of the same name.
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 English-language author alive. Describing "To Here and the Easel" as "a stunning portrait of personality disassociation as perceived from the inside", Carl Sagan said that many of Sturgeon's works were among the "rare few science‐fiction novels [that] combine a standard science‐fiction theme with a deep human sensitivity". John Clute wrote in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: "His influence upon writers like Harlan Ellison and Samuel R. Delany was 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 by the general public, however, and he won comparatively few awards. (One was the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement from the 1985 World Fantasy Convention.) 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 on the much more famous Ray Bradbury.
Sturgeon's original novels were all published between 1950 and 1961, and the bulk of his short story work dated from the 1940s and 1950s. Though he continued to write through 1983, his work rate dipped noticeably in the later years of his life; a 1971 story collection entitled Sturgeon Is Alive And Well addressed Sturgeon's seeming withdrawal from the public eye in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Sturgeon lived for several years in Springfield, Oregon. He died on May 8, 1985, of lung fibrosis, at Sacred Heart General Hospital in the neighboring city of Eugene.
He was a member of the all-male literary banqueting club the Trap Door Spiders, which served as the basis of Isaac Asimov's fictional group of mystery solvers the Black Widowers. Sturgeon was the inspiration for the recurrent character of Kilgore Trout in the novels of Kurt Vonnegut.
In 1951, Sturgeon coined what is now known as Sturgeon's Law: "Ninety percent of [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 statement 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.
Sturgeon was a distant relative of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and through his Waldo, Hamilton Dicker and Dunn ancestors, a direct descendant of numerous influential Puritan, Presbyterian, and Anglican clergymen. Both Sturgeon and his brother Peter eventually became atheists, although Sturgeon continuously developed his own highly imaginative spiritual side. If Sturgeon was aware of much of his ancestry or stories associated with it, he never shared them with his friends or children, although the short "I Say—Ernest" (1972) does bring to life one wing of his ministerial family.
Sturgeon held a wide variety of jobs during his lifetime.
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 wanta make 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.
Sturgeon, under his own name, was hired to write novelizations of the following movies based on their scripts (links go to articles about the movies):
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.
The following table includes sixteen volumes (one of them collecting western stories). These are considered "original" collections of Sturgeon material, in that they compiled previously uncollected stories. However, some volumes did contain a few reprinted stories: this list includes books that collected only previously uncollected material, as well as those volumes that collected mostly new material, but also contained up to three stories (representing no more than half the book) that were previously published in a Sturgeon collection.
|Earliest story||Latest story|
|E Pluribus Unicorn||1953||13||1947||1953|
|A Way Home||1955||11||1946||1955|
|A Touch of Strange||1958||11||1953||1958|
|Sturgeon In Orbit||1964||5||1951||1955|
|Sturgeon Is Alive and Well ...||1971||11||1954||1971|
|The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon||1972||10||3||1941||1962|
|Sturgeon's West (westerns)||1973||7||1949||1973|
|Case and the Dreamer||1974||3||1962||1973|
|Visions and Venturers||1978||8||1||1942||1965|
|The Stars Are The Styx||1979||10||1||1951||1971|
|The Golden Helix||1979||10||3||1941||1973|
The following six collections consisted entirely of reprints of previously collected material:
|Thunder and Roses||1957||8||1946||1955||selected from 11 in 1955's "A Way Home"|
|Not Without Sorcery||1961||8||1939||1941||selected from 13 in 1948's Without Sorcery|
|The Joyous Invasions||1965||3||1955||1958||selected from 4 in 1959's "Aliens 4"|
|To Here and the Easel||1973||6||1941||1958|
North Atlantic Books has released the chronologically assembled The Complete Short Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, edited by Paul Williams, since 1994. The series runs to 13 volumes, the last appearing in September 2010. Introductions are provided by Harlan Ellison, Samuel R. Delany, Kurt Vonnegut, Gene Wolfe, Connie Willis, Jonathan Lethem, and others. Extensive "Story Notes" are provided by Paul Williams and (in the last two volumes) Sturgeon's daughter Noël.
The volumes include:
Sturgeon was best known for his short stories and novellas. The best-known include:
Theodore Sturgeon, the most anthologized writer in the English language but one who'd never written for television before Star Trek, received several long letters and memos from Roddenberry.
Veteran science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, reportedly the most anthologized science fiction writer of all time, wrote the teleplay adaptation of his own short story for the ABC-TV movie Killdozer (1974).
"A Saucer of Loneliness" is a short story by American writer Theodore Sturgeon that first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction n. 27 (February 1953). It was later adapted as a radio play for X Minus One in 1957, and as the second segment of the twenty-fifth episode (the first episode of the second season, 1986–87) of the television series The Twilight Zone, starring actress Shelley Duvall.Amok Time
"Amok Time" is the second season premiere episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek. Written by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, scored by Gerald Fried, and directed by Joseph Pevney, it first aired on September 15, 1967.
The episode features First Officer Spock returning to his homeworld for a brutal Vulcan wedding ritual. It is the only episode of The Original Series to depict scenes on the planet Vulcan.
It was the first episode to air (though not the first filmed) featuring Ensign Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) as the ship's navigator. It was also the first episode to list "DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy" in the opening credits, and the first episode broadcast in the series' new time slot of 8:30 pm on Friday night.Baby Is Three
Baby Is Three is a science fiction novella by American writer Theodore Sturgeon, first published in the October 1952 issue of Galaxy magazine. It was later crafted into a full novel, More Than Human. The original novella was voted the fifth-best science fiction novella of the pre-1965 era by the Science Fiction Writers of America, and so was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.E Pluribus Unicorn
E Pluribus Unicorn is a collection of fantasy and science fiction stories by American writer Theodore Sturgeon, published in 1953 by Abelard.Godbody
Godbody is a science fiction novel by American writer Theodore Sturgeon, published posthumously in 1986. A foreword, "Agape and Eros: The Art of Theodore Sturgeon", was contributed by Robert A. Heinlein and an afterword was contributed by Stephen R. Donaldson.I, Libertine
I, Libertine was a literary hoax novel that began as a practical joke by late-night radio raconteur Jean Shepherd.It! (short story)
"It" is a horror short story by American writer Theodore Sturgeon, first published in Unknown of August 1940. The story deals with a plant monster that is ultimately revealed to have formed around a human skeleton, specifically that of Roger Kirk, in a swamp. P. Schuyler Miller described "It" as "probably the most unforgettable story ever published in Unknown. "Killdozer! (short story)
"Killdozer!" is a science fiction/horror novella by Theodore Sturgeon, originally published in the magazine Astounding (November 1944) and revised for the 1959 collection Aliens 4.
This story represents Sturgeon's sole output between the years 1941 and 1945. Everything else that was published during this time had been written before. Sturgeon suffered from long bouts of writer's block, but was somehow able to produce this story in 9 days. It is one of his most famous stories, and was his most financially successful during the first decade of his career. The story inspired a 1974 TV-movie and a Marvel Comics adaptation by Gerry Conway and Richard Ayers in Worlds Unknown #6 (April 1974).Microcosmic God
"Microcosmic God" is a science fiction novelette by American writer Theodore Sturgeon. Originally published in April 1941 in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, it was recognized as one of the best science fiction short stories published before the Nebula Awards by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1970, and was named as one of the best science fiction stories in polls by Analog Science Fiction and Fact (the renamed Astounding) in 1971 and Locus in 1999. In 1976, it was also published as a comic book version (drawn by Adolfo Buylla) in issue 3 of Starstream: Adventures in Science Fiction, a comic anthology in four issues by Gold Key Comics.More Than Human
More Than Human is a 1953 science fiction novel by American writer Theodore Sturgeon. It is a revision and expansion of his previously published novella Baby is Three, which is bracketed by two additional parts written for the novel ("The Fabulous Idiot" and "Morality").
It won the 1954 International Fantasy Award, which was also given to works in science fiction. It was additionally nominated in 2004 for a "Retro Hugo" award for the year 1954. Science fiction critic and editor David Pringle included it in his book Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels.
Simon & Schuster published a graphic novel version of More Than Human in 1978, titled Heavy Metal Presents Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human. It was illustrated by Alex Niño and scripted by Doug Moench.Slow Sculpture
"Slow Sculpture" is a science fiction short story by American writer Theodore Sturgeon. First published in the Galaxy Science Fiction issue of February 1970, it won the 1970 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and the 1971 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.Some of Your Blood
Some of Your Blood is a short horror novel in epistolary form by American writer Theodore Sturgeon, first published in 1961.The Cosmic Rape
The Cosmic Rape is a science fiction novel by American writer Theodore Sturgeon, originally published as an original paperback in August 1958. At the same time, a condensed or edited-down version of the novel was published in Galaxy magazine as a short novel, probably condensed by the editor, under the title To Marry Medusa. It was reprinted in 1977 by Pocket Books.Its plot concerns an extraterrestrial hive mind named Medusa, which has assimilated many worlds and life forms and plans to absorb Earth as well. Dan Gurlick is an alcoholic who unknowingly ingests a spore from Medusa, which turns him into a host.The Dreaming Jewels
The Dreaming Jewels, also known as The Synthetic Man, is a science fiction novel by American writer Theodore Sturgeon. It was his first published novel.The Undiscovered
"The Undiscovered" is an alternate history short story by William Sanders that won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. "The Undiscovered" was originally published in the March 1997 issue of Asimov's and, in addition to its Sidewise Award nomination, was nominated for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award. The story was subsequently reprinted in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Fifteenth Annual Collection, The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century, and Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction.The World Well Lost
"The World Well Lost" is a science fiction short story by American writer Theodore Sturgeon, first published in the June 1953 issue of Universe. It has been reprinted several times, for instance in Sturgeon's collections E Pluribus Unicorn, Starshine, and A Saucer of Loneliness. The story takes its title from the subtitle of John Dryden's verse drama All for Love.Theodore Sturgeon Award
The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award is an annual award presented by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to the author of the best short science fiction story published in English in the preceding calendar year. It is the short fiction counterpart of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, awarded by the same organization. The award is named in honor of Theodore Sturgeon, one of the leading authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction from 1939 to 1950. The award was established in 1987 by his heirs—including his widow, Jayne Sturgeon—and James Gunn, at the time the Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction.From 1987 through 1994 the award was given out by a panel of science fiction experts led by Orson Scott Card. Beginning in 1995, the committee was replaced by a group of jurors, who vote on the nominations submitted for consideration. The initial jurors were James Gunn, Frederik Pohl, and Judith Merril. Merril was replaced on the jury by former winner Kij Johnson in 1997, one of Sturgeon's children—Noel Sturgeon in most years—was added to the panel in 1999, and George Zebrowski was added to the panel in 2005. Nominations are submitted by reviewers, fans, publishers, and editors, and are collated by the current Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, Christopher McKitterick, into a list of finalists to be voted on by the jury. The maximum eligible length that a work may be is not formally defined by the center. The winner is selected by May of each year, and is presented at the Campbell Conference awards banquet in June at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, as part of the centerpiece of the conference along with the Campbell Award. Winners are always invited to attend the ceremony. Since 2004 winners have received a personalized trophy, while since the inception of the award a permanent trophy has recorded all of the winners.During the 32 years the award has been active, 188 authors have had works nominated, 33 of whom have won, including one tie. No author has won more than once. John Kessel and Michael Swanwick have each won once out of seven nominations, Ursula K. Le Guin, Nancy Kress, and Ian McDonald one of six, Ted Chiang one of five, and Paolo Bacigalupi and Lucius Shepard have won once out of four times. Robert Reed has the most nominations without winning at eight, followed by James Patrick Kelly and Ian R. MacLeod at seven, and Greg Egan, Ken Liu,and Bruce Sterling at five.Venus Plus X
Venus Plus X is a science fiction novel by American writer Theodore Sturgeon, published in 1960. David Pringle included it in his book Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels.