Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985) was an American writer of Speculative Fiction
, often considered one of the best genre writers of his era (and some critics would omit the word "genre"). He never achieved much mainstream popularity, but he has been cited as a major influence by writers such as Ray Bradbury
, Kurt Vonnegut
and Harlan Ellison
. He only wrote a handful of novels, of which More Than Human
is probably the most famous, but several of his many
short-stories are still popular, including "Killdozer!" (which inspired a film
, a comic book, and a rock band)note
, the much-imitated "Microcosmic God" (which has been referenced by The Simpsons
, among others), and "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?
Sturgeon wrote the screenplays for the Star Trek: The Original Series
episodes "Shore Leave" and "Amok Time", and is credited with inventing the concept of "Pon Farr". He has also been cited as the inventor of that show's Prime Directive
. In addition to Star Trek
, Sturgeon wrote an episode of Land of the Lost
, and two of his short stories were adapted for the revival series of The Twilight Zone
. He also wrote some novelizations
of popular movies, including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
(a film which inspired a later TV series
He has been mentioned as an inspiration for Kurt Vonnegut
's recurring character, "Killgore Trout".
Today, however, he is probably best remembered for coining the aphorism known as Sturgeon's Law
He was given a lifetime-achievement World Fantasy Award
in 1985. The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award
for best science fiction short-story of the year was created in his honor.
Tropes in his works:
- Be Careful What You Wish For: In the story "Shottle Bop", a seer-of-ghosts sees a ghostly couple in an endless feedback loop, repeating a conversation, summed up as follows: "If we kill ourselves, we're sure to be together.... forever.... just like this." "Will we, Tommy?" "I promise.... just like this."
- Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: "The World Well Lost" centers on a pair of fugitive "loverbirds" from the planet Dirbanu, which has shunned contact with Earth. The loverbirds are initially assumed to be a male and female, but they manage to explain, via some illustrations, that male and female Dirbanu are vastly different in appearance. In fact, the main reason why the Dirbanu dislike humans is due to homophobia, because they perceive all human relationships as being homosexual.
- By the Eyes of the Blind: Central to his classic novella, "The [Widget], The [Wadget], and Boff".
- Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": The title creature in "The Hurkle is a Happy Beast" has got six legs, the middle pair of which is essentially a pair of prongs it can rock back and forth on, and it turns invisible when anxious, among other things. The author happily calls it a "kitten" anyway.
- Gay Aesop: The controversial 1953 short story "The World Well Lost" is about a pair of fugitive alien lovers ("loverbirds") from the planet Dirbanu. The main characters later learn that both of the aliens are male, and that this was the exact reason for their exile. In a second, more poignant twist, it's heavily implied, if not outright stated, that the narrator has similar feelings for his partner.
- Hermaphrodite: The Ledom, an "advanced" (what exactly that means is an important Plot Point in the novel) type of humans, in Venus Plus X are all hermaphroditic, peace-loving, and empathetic. Late in the novel, the protagonist (and the reader) find out what's really going on.
- Hive Mind: The Cosmic Rape details a galactic hive-mind coming to Earth.
- Homicide Machines: The title machine in "Killdozer!", which does more than just move earth.
- Humans Are Cthulhu: "Microcosmic God", in which a scientist creates hyper-accelerated intelligent creatures, who regard him as a god. They surpass human technology, and the scientist passes off their inventions as his ... for a while.
- Magic from Technology: A technology known as Logros in the novel Venus Plus X. Logros was employed to do such effects as anti-gravitation, force fields, cold fusion, and many more diverse and fantastic things. But the principles behind Logros are advanced beyond any ability to describe, and all the machinery is invisible or not recognizable as technology to the uninitiated. However, we are assured that Logros is quite simple to build and use, as with any sufficiently advanced technology. For example, the underlying theory behind an electric motor is quite advanced, but the actual product is a series of simple coils of wires and magnets. Sturgeon goes on to make the statement 'Someday, we will be able to do absolutely anything with absolutely nothing, but the science behind it will be too complicated for any human or computer to comprehend.'
- Message in a Bottle: The short story "A Saucer of Loneliness", which was adapted into an episode of the new The Twilight Zone.
- Mistaken for Masturbating: In the post-apocalyptic story "Thunder and Roses", the marine narrator thinks the creaking cot behind him is because his bunkmate is enjoying the singing star's broadcast immensely. The bunkmate is actually committing suicide.
- No Periods, Period: The short-story "Some of Your Blood" features a non-supernatural vampire. You figure it out.
- The Punishment Is the Crime: In the short story "Vengeance Is", two men rape an academic's wife and he begs her to give into them. He does so because he knows that she's the carrier for a venereal disease that will soon cause them painful death.
- Sealed Evil in a Teddy Bear: "The Professor's Teddy Bear," a horror story in which a monster shaped like a teddy bear helps a four-year-old named Jeremy make terrible things happen, both in the present and the future.
- Second-Person Narration: Used to great psychological effect in "Bulkhead". Also used in one recurring narrative strand of "The Man Who Lost the Sea" ("Say you're a kid...") and in the fourth-wall breaking bookends of "Some of Your Blood" ("Go to the home of Dr. Philip Outerbridge. Go on in — you have the key.").
- Strange Syntax Speaker: The aliens in the novella "The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff" use this in written form. It's implied that the words in brackets represent alternative translations of alien words that have more than one common meaning, or nonsense words for concepts inherently untranslatable. The alternatives are often hilariously incompatible, like [escape|die].
- Technical Virgin: "The Silken-Swift" portrays a unicorn who is not only silken-swift but also gloriously fair in this regard.
- Trickster Twins: Bonnie and Beanie, the little teleporters from More Than Human.
- Undefeatable Little Village: The story "Microcosmic God" posits a scientist living on an island creating a population of small, intelligent creatures that live short lives in an ammonia environment in tanks in his lab. He communicates with them through a teletype connection (it's an old story). They make many great inventions for him because their generations are short in time, so many generations can work on a problem. The outside world wants them, so the navy is poised to attack him. He requires his creatures to build a completely impregnable shield around the island, which they do. The navy spends the rest of time bombarding the grey sphere, and he spends the rest of his days with his creatures.
- Virgin Power: In "The Silken-Swift", the unicorn subverts this trope itself. Given a choice between a gentle young woman who'd recently been raped, and the virginal witch who'd maliciously (though indirectly) caused the assault to happen, the unicorn chooses to lay his head in the lap of the true innocent (who promptly sets it free).