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Theodore Sturgeon





Theodore Sturgeon is one of my favorite short story writers; his elegiac, polished prose is full of human feeling and deep insights, it's emotional and thrilling at the same time. I can not emphasize enough the importance of keeping Sturgeon's work in print - he is truly one the finer standards in sf writing, the ideal to aspire to (excellent characterization, crisp plot lines and always a bit of poetic reflection, invariably affecting the heart)

Pen-names: Billy Watson, Frederick R. Ewing, E. Waldo Hunter
------------------------------------------------

"Abreaction"
© Weird Tales, Jul 1948
Beyond, 1960
--/ cool f story

"And Now The News"
© F&SF, Dec 1956
The Golden Helix, 1979
--/ cool sf story

"Artnan Process"
© Astounding, Jun 1941
Without Sorcery, 1948
--/ cool sf story

----------------------------------------------


(cover by Emsh: "Galaxy's Birthday Party")

"Baby Is Three"
© Galaxy, Oct 1952
More Than Human, 1953
--fiction : 1954 International Fantasy W
--book : 1956 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /3 (tie)
--book : 1966 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /19

--/ cool sf novella
--/ style award

See review for "More Than Human"

----------------------------------------------


"Beware the Fury"
(also as "Extrapolation")
© Fantastic, Nov 1954
Sturgeon in Orbit, 1967
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

The story reads smooth, like a good drink (Sturgeon, the word-smith), but the drink is diluted, so other than the main moral "Beware the fury of a patient man" this story does not linger in the mind. Some barely exciting encounters with evil aliens bent on conquiring Earth, with a Waldo-like figure of a savior: a man-hater, anti-social academic who gains the upper hand in the fight by the same trait of unpredictability. Not every traitor is what he seems. Usually one can not see the whole picture enough to judge.
review: 10-Jan-08 (read in 2007)

----------------------------------------------

"Blue Butter"
© F&SF, Oct 1974
--short story : 1975 Jupiter award
--/ cool sf story
--/ rare find

"Brownshoes"
(also as "The Man Who Learned Loving")
© Adam, 1969
© F&SF, Oct 1969
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--short story : 1970 Nebula
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ emotion award

----------------------------------------------



"Bulkhead"
(also as "Who?")
© Galaxy, Mar 1955
A Way Home, 1955
--/ third place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award
--/ style award


This one belongs right there in a category "Stories that made you cry". It has a great twist in the end, but that would be a spoiler to tell. It is lyrical, but at the same time, very tough space tale. Is there such a thing as "psychological therapy space fiction" sub-genre? I can count a few superior examples dealing with men's adaptation to the weirdness of space. Some guy in a spaceship is on a very long voyage. His only companion is some strange character, who he can talk to but must not meet until they arrive at their destination. When they do meet, it is not what anybody would expect...
review: 06-Jul-06 (read in 1986)

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"Butyl & The Breather"
(Ether Breathers)
© Astounding, Oct 1940
Without Sorcery, 1948
--/ cool sf story

"Cargo"
© Unknown, Nov 1940
Without Sorcery, 1948
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award
--/ style award


"The Comedian's Children"
© Venture, May 1958
Aliens Four, 1959
--/ cool sf novella

----------------------------------------------



"The Cosmic Rape" (nv)
(also as "To Marry Medusa")
© Galaxy, Aug 1958
book : Dell Books, 1958
The Joyous Invasion, 1965
--/ fourth place sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ style award

Good science fiction is fun to read. Great science fiction says something. Fantastic science fiction changes the way you think.

The Cosmic Rape by Theodore Sturgeon is good, great, and – most of all – fantastic. Sturgeon’s writing is (as always) fun and engaging, the story addresses identity and individuality, and – best of all -- Sturgeon changes the way you’ll think about one of the most common science fiction bug-a-boos: the idea of collective consciousness, a human hive mind.

Originally published in Galaxy Magazine as a novella called To Marry Medusa, the Cosmic Rape is initially told through a series of characters, each one separated from everyone around them and the rest of the world by shame, miscommunication, guilt, fear, and inexperience. Paul Sanders is a empathy-less sexual opportunist, Guido is a teenage musical genius trapped by an abusive history into a life of violence against the music he subconsciously craves, Dimity Carmichael is a self-satisfied abstinent getting off on the sexual sufferings of others, Mbala is a tribesman fighting his own fears along with the demon stealing yams from his family’s scared patch, Henry is a boy living a life of unrelenting fear, and Sharon Brevix is a little girl lost in the middle of the desert.

Flowing, separately at first, between these characters is the skid-row loser Gurlick who just happened to have bitten into a discarded hamburger – a hamburger containing a scout seed from a galaxy-spanning hive mind called Medusa.

But Medusa has a problem: every other lifeform it’s absorbed into itself has been in some way a shade of its own collective consciousness. Humanity, though, is different: here everyone is separated and alone, disconnected and unique.

So, thinking that humanity must have been together at one time but then broke apart, Medusa sends the alcoholic out to find a way to "put people’s brains back together again" by promising the smashed-up and broken Gurlick whatever he wants.

Like everything of Sturgeon’s, The Cosmic Rape is brilliantly written: the characters are rich and full and alive, the language is equal parts lyrical, poetic, and carefully structured and classical. Also like everything else of Sturgeon’s, the story is bright and clear, a sneaky trick that takes you completely by surprise without ever resorting to cheap devices.

Here too are Sturgeon’s favorite subjects: the explosion of what is sex and sexuality (as in Venus Plus X), the careful and perceptive look at humanity (as in Godbody) and especially the reinvention of what consciousness is and could be (as in More Than Human).

There is a part of The Cosmic Rape that lays it all out: the fun reading, the perfect ‘something’ that great science fiction has, and especially the way Sturgeon changes how we think but I won’t just excerpt it here because that would be … well, wrong. Like – maybe, just maybe overdoing it a bit -- pasting in Michelangelo’s God Creates Adam without the whole of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. You have to read it yourself, but to give you an idea of what happens in that chapter, as well as the whole conclusion of the book, just think about the idea of a hive mind, a united human consciousness.

It’s an old science fiction cliché, from Star Trek’s borg to the Flood of Halo: "resistance was futile" and all that. Lots of folks lay awake at night and shudder at the thought of being merged, combined with something else, of losing their identity to some monstrous and hungry collective. But what Sturgeon did with The Cosmic Rape is to take that idea and twist it, turn it upside down and make it not hideous and frightening but warm, welcoming and wonderful: a humanity without judgment or fear, loneliness or shame, a united mankind of acceptance and understanding.

I can’t recommend The Cosmic Rape enough. It's fun to read like all good science fiction, it says something important like all great science fiction, but best of all it’s fantastic because Sturgeon manages to change the clichéd terror of a collective humanity into something that, like the book itself, is brilliant and wonderful.
(review by M. Christian)


(cover art by Paul Lehr, 1968 edition)

----------------------------------------------

"Crate"
© Knight, Oct 1970
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--/ style award

"The Dark Room"
© Fantastic, Jul 1953
The Golden Helix, 1979
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award

"Derm Fool"
© Unknown, Mar 1940
Starshine, 1966
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


"The Dreaming Jewels" (nv)
© Fantastic Adventures, Feb 1950
also - New Worlds, Jan 1961
book : Greenberg, 1950
--novella : 2001 Retro Hugo
--/ fourth place sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


"The Education of Drusilla Strange"
© Galaxy, Mar 1954
The Stars Are the Styx, 1979
--/ cool sf story

"Ether Breather"
(Ether Breathers)
© Astounding, Sep 1939
Without Sorcery, 1948
--/ cool sf story

"Exalibur And The Atom"
© Fantastic Adventures, Aug 1951
Science Fantasy Yearbook No 1, 1970
Baby is Three, 1999
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ style award

"Extrapolation"
(also as "Beware The Fury")
© Fantastic, Apr 1954
Fantastic, Sep 1967
Sturgeon in Orbit, 1964
--/ cool sf story

----------------------------------------------


"The Fabulous Idiot"
(part of "More Than Human")
© Ballantine, 1953
--fiction : 1954 International Fantasy W
--book : 1956 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /3 (tie)
--book : 1966 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /19

--/ cool sf novella
--/ idea award

See the review for "More Than Human"

----------------------------------------------

"Farewell to Eden"
© Invasion from Mars, ed. O. Welles, 1949
The Perfect Host, 1998
--/ cool sf story

----------------------------------------------



"Fear Is A Business"
© F&SF, Aug 1956
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award
--/ emotion award


Nice, easily flowing story about an alien gift to humans, breaking the barriers of fear and embracing deeper knowledge - but with bittersweet overtones, how Sturgeon loves to do, bringing a little tear of "much is lost, but perhaps not all" sentiment to reader's eye. There is a rumor that the idea for that story was provided by Robert Heinlein. Of course, Sturgeon wrapped it in his inimitable style.
review: 23-Jul-06 (read in 1983)

----------------------------------------------

"The Girl Who Knew What They Meant"
© Knight, Feb 1971
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--/ style award

"The Golden Egg"
© Unknown, Aug 1941
Microcosmic God, 1996
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award

"The Golden Helix"
© Thrilling Wonder Stories, Sum 1954
The Golden Helix, 1976
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award


"The Graveyard Reader"
© The Graveyard Reader, ed.G.Conklin, 1958
Science Fantasy, Oct 1958
The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon, 1972
--/ fourth place f story
--/ wonder award

"The Haunt"
© Unknown, Apr 1941
Starshine, 1966
--/ cool sf story

"The Heart"
© Other Worlds, May 1955
Sturgeon in Orbit, 1964
--/ cool sf story

"How To Kill Aunty"
© Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, Mar 1961
Starshine, 1966
--/ cool sf story

"Hurkl Is A Happy Beast"
© F&SF, Fall 1949
A Way Home, 1955
Thunder And Roses, 1957
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

"Hurricane Trio"
© Galaxy, Apr 1955
A Way Home, 1955
--/ fourth place f story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award
--/ adventure award


"If All Men Were Brothers..."
© Dangerous Visions, ed. H. Ellison, 1967
Case and the Dreamer, 1974
--novella : 1968 Nebula

"The Incubi Of Parallel X"
© Planet Stories, Sep 1951
Sturgeon in Orbit, 1964

"It"
© Unknown, Aug 1940
It, Prime Press 1948
Without Sorcery, 1948
--/ third place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award


"It Stayed"
(aslo as "Shadow, Shadow, on the Wall")
© Imagination, Feb 1951
Caviar, 1955
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award

"It's You!"
© Adam, Jan 1970
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--/ style award

"It Was Nothing - Really!"
© Knight, Nov 1969
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971

"Jorrey's Gap"
© Adam, October 1969
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--/ style award

"Killdozer!"
© Astounding, Nov 1944
Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Dec 1952
Aliens 4, 1959
--short fiction : 1971 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /35 (tie)
--/ third place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award
--/ adventure award


"Largo"
© Fantastic Adventures, Jul 1947
Amazing Stories, Oct 1967
Beyond, 1960
--/ third place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award
--/ style award


"Last Laugh"
(also as "Special Aptitude")
© Other Worlds, Mar 1951
A Way Home, 1955
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

"Make Room For Me"
(also as "Synthesis")
© Fantastic Adventures, May 1951
Fantastic, Nov 1967
Sturgeon in Orbit, 1964
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

"The Man Who Learned Loving"
(also "Brownshoes" ©Adam, 1969)
© F&SF, Oct 1969
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--short story : 1970 Nebula
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ emotion award

"The Man Who Lost The Sea"
© F&SF, Oct 1959
The Golden Helix, 1979
--short fiction : 1960 Hugo
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

"The Martian And The Moron"
© Weird Tales, Mar 1949
Visions and Ventures, 1978
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

"Mewhu's Jet"
© Astounding, Nov 1946
A Way Home, 1955
Thunder And Roses, 1957
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

"Microscopic God"
© Astounding, Apr 1941
Without Sorcery, 1948
--short fiction : 1971 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /13 (tie)
--novelette : 1999 Locus All-Time Poll /42 (tie)

--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award


----------------------------------------------

"Morality"
(part of "More Than Human")
© Ballantine Books, 1953
--fiction : 1954 International Fantasy W
--book : 1956 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /3 (tie)
--book : 1966 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /19

--/ cool sf novella
--/ style award

See the review for "More Than Human"

----------------------------------------------






"More Than Human" (nv)
(exp. from "Baby is Three")
© Galaxy, Oct 1952
novel : Ballantine Books, 1953
--novel : 1954 International Fantasy Award W
--book : 1956 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /3 (tie)
--book : 1966 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /19
--sf novel : 1998 Locus All-Time Poll /13
--novel : Retro Hugo runner-up
--/ fourth place sf novel
--/ style award

A true, and very well deserved, science fiction classic, More Than Human is brilliantly original and, as with pretty much everything Theodore Sturgeon did, astoundingly well-written.

To detail what I mean by "brilliantly original," More Than Human is a series of novellas exploring the birth, and growth, of the next stage in human evolution. In the first novella we’re introduced to Lone, “the idiot” who is actually an incredible genius; Baby, whose mind functions like a computer; Bonnie and Beanie, who can teleport; and a young telekinetic girl named Janie. That’s great and all, but the brilliance and originality of Sturgeon’s masterpiece is that each of these people are not the single next step but all parts of one super-entity, a gestalt. There’s a problem with this new, emergent, being, however: it needs a conscience.

Sturgeon’s genius is throughout More than Human: the characters are engaging, never heavy-handed or simplistic; the science fiction elements are experiential and totally real-feeling, never embarrassingly melodramatic; and the story has a real impact because Sturgeon embraces a true understanding of humanity with all it’s glory as well as flaws, and so the book is never feels cheap or lazy.

More Than Human is one of those books that should be read by everyone, science fiction fan or not: it’s a true work of art. And now, just for laughs... Here are a few quotes of what other famous figures think about being "more than human" :

"I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human." - David Bowie
"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe." - Albert Einstein
"I think I've become more comfortable about being a human being" - Cameron Diaz (Keanu Reeves, take note)
"Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the human heart can hold." - Zelda Fitzgerald

And this is what Theodore Sturgeon's work is all about. He has heart, and he's not afraid to use it.
Review by M. Christian


Cover by Emsh: "Galaxy's Birthday Party"

----------------------------------------------

"Necessary And Sufficient"
© Galaxy, Apr 1971
--/ cool sf story

"Never Underestimate"
© Worlds of If, Mar 1952
Baby Is Three, 1999
--/ cool sf story

"Not an Affair"
© F&SF, Oct 1983
--/ cool sf story
--/ emotion award

"Occam's Scalpel"
© Worlds of If, Aug 1971
The Stars Are The Styx, 1979
--/ cool sf story

"The Patterns Of Dorne"
© Knight, 1970
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--/ style award

"The Perfect Host"
© Weird Tales, Nov 1948
The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon, 1972
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


"The Pod And The Barrier"
© Galaxy, Sep 1957
A Touch of Strange, 1958
--/ third place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


"The Professor's Teddy-Bear"
© Weird Tales, Mar 1948
E Pluribus Unicorn, 1953
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


----------------------------------------------



"A Saucer Of Loneliness"
© Galaxy, Feb 1953
E Pluribus Unicorn, 1953
--/ third place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award
--/ emotion award


The story uses first contact (introducing pretty neat life form along the way) to speak about the sadness of isolated souls, the bitter-sweet rewards of drawing close to each other - all in a soft, warm voice that is hard to forget, once you let it into your heart. The classic of classics, possibly the best inspirational story ever written.
(review by Avi Abrams)

----------------------------------------------

"Shadow, Shadow, on the Wall"
(aslo as "It Stayed")
© Imagination, Feb 1951
Caviar, 1955
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award

"Shottle Bop"
© Unknown, Feb 1941
Without Sorcery, 1948
--/ fourth place f story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award
--/ humour award


"The Silken-Swift"
© F&SF, Nov 1953
E Pluribus Unicorn, 1953
--/ cool f story

----------------------------------------------



"The Skills Of Xanadu"
© Galaxy, Jul 1956
The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon, 1972
--/ cool sf novella

The Xanadonian clothing belts interconnect and amplify minds between individuals. They thus develop mental networking, planet-wide coordinated acting and something like "the-presence-of-all-in-the-presence-of-one". Really quite boring stuff...
review: 07-Jul-06 (read in 1986)

----------------------------------------------

"Slow Sculpture"
© Galaxy, Feb 1970
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--short story : 1971 Hugo W
--novelette : 1971 Nebula W
--short fiction : 1971 Locus /6

--/ cool sf story
--/ idea award

"Special Aptitude"
(also as "Last Laugh")
© Other Worlds, Mar 1951
A Way Home, 1955
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

"Starshine" (coll)
© Pyramid Books, 1966
--/ fourth place sf collection
--/ wonder award
--/ style award

"Sturgeon In Orbit" (coll)
© Pyramid Books, 1964
--/ cool sf collection
--/ style award

"Sturgeon is Alive And Well" (coll)
© 1971, Berkley Books
--reprint anth/collection : 1972 Locus /4
--/ fourth place sf collection
--/ style award

"Suicide"
© Adam, 1970
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--/ style award

"Take Care Of Joey"
© Knight, Jan 1971
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--/ style award

"There Is No Defense"
© Astounding, Feb 1948
The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon, 1972
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award

"Thunder And Roses"
© Astounding, Nov 1947
A Way Home, 1955
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award

"Tiny And The Monster"
© Astounding, May 1947
A Way Home, 1955
Thunder And Roses, 1957
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ emotion award


"To Here And The Easel" (nv)
© Star Short Novels, ed. F. Pohl, 1954
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
To Here and the Easel, 1973
--/ third place sf novella
--/ wonder award
--/ style award
--/ emotion award


----------------------------------------------



"To Marry Medusa" (nv)
(also as "The Cosmic Rape")
© Galaxy, Aug 1958
book : Dell Books, 1958
The Joyous Invasion, 1965
--/ fourth place sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ style award

See "The Cosmic Rape" entry for full review.

----------------------------------------------

"The Travelling Crag"
© Fantastic Adventures, Jul 1951
Visions and Venturers, 1978
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award
--/ humour award


"Uncle Fremmis"
© Adam, 1970
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well, 1971
--/ style award

"Unite And Conquer"
© Astounding, Oct 1948
A Way Home, 1955
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

"Venus Plus X" (nv)
© New Worlds, Jan 1961
novel: Dell, 1960
--novel : 1961 Hugo
--/ cool sf novel
--/ style award

"Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea" (nv)
(movie tie-in)
© Pyramid Books, 1961
--/ cool sf novel

"The Waves Of Synergy"
© Startling Stories, Aug 1953
Sturgeon in Orbit, 1964
--/ fourth place sf novella
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


"The Way Of Thinking"
© Amazing, Oct 1953
Fantastic, May 1967
E Pluribus Unicorn, 1953
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

"A Way Home"
© 1953, Amazing Stories
A Way Home, 1955
--/ fourth place f story
--/ style award
--/ emotion award


"A Way Home" (coll)
© 1955, Belmont Books
--/ third place sf collection
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


"When You Care, When You Love"
© F&SF, Sep 1962
Case and the Dreamer, 1974
--short fiction : 1963 Hugo
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

"When You're Smiling"
© Galaxy, Jan 1955
The Stars Are The Styx, 1979
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award

----------------------------------------------

"Who?"
(also as "Bulkhead")
© Galaxy, Mar 1955
A Way Home, 1955
--/ third place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award
--/ style award


See review under "Bulkhead"

----------------------------------------------

"The (widget), The (wadget) & Boff"
© F&SF, Nov 1955
Aliens 4, 1959
--/ cool sf novella
--/ style award

"The World Well Lost"
© Universe Science Fiction, Jun 1953
E Pluribus Unicorn, 1953
--hall of fame : 2000 Spectrum W (tie)
--/ fourth place sf novella
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


"Yesterday was Monday"
© Unknown, Jun 1941
Unknown Worlds, 1948
The Golden Helix, 1979
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ humour award




(art by Maxfield Parrish)

----------------------------------------------

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"SF&F Reading Experience" is part of "Dark Roasted Blend / Thrilling Wonder" family of sites. We try to highlight the most entertaining and rewarding science fiction and fantasy, with emphasis on memorable reader experience, not necessarily general acceptance by the critics. Have fun, and delve into our extensive ratings and reviews!

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("winner" has a letter "W" by it, otherwise it is a runner-up only)

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--/ first place :
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- novel :
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--/ wonder award
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outstanding literary qualities, inimitable style

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touching, lasting impression, sensitivity

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Again, please feel free to leave your own review or comment under every writer's entry; also recommend us other stories you liked.