Theodore Sturgeon (born Edward Hamilton Waldo; February 26, 1918 – May 8, 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 (1974), and two of his short stories were adapted for The Twilight Zone (1985). 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.
Frank Zappa named him in his influences list on the Freak Out album.
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."
- Beware the Quiet Ones: The short SF story "Extrapolation" was originally published under the title "Beware The Fury", as in the phrase "Beware the fury of a patient man". Wolf Reger is a brilliant but aloof and antisocial scientist/astronaut and humanity's future depends on his actions. When he is captured by alien invaders , Earth's governments all think he has turned traitor. But he manages to destroy the alien fleet single-handled without even using a weapon.
- 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.
- Evil Hand: In "Bianca's Hands" Bianca, who's severely retarded, has hands which are more attractive than the rest of her and move by themselves. Ran (who's not too bright himself) marries her after falling in love with the hands, only to be strangled by them during the wedding night.
- Fantasy-Forbidding Father: More Than Human has Child Prodigy Hip (Hippocrates) Barrows, a gifted engineer. His father the doctor is determined to shoehorn him into the same profession, burning his electronics magazines and tearing up his homemade radio set. It does absolutely no good, his father disowns him and he dedicates his life to his chosen field, later becoming the conscience of the gestalt group.
- Flawed Prototype: In More Than Human a strange man known as "Lone" assembles children with super-normal powers, attempting to build "Homo Gestalt" with himself as the head. But he knows that his cannot do it. Eventually he finds a replacement that can do the job.
- 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.
- Good is Not Nice: The lead character in the short story "Extrapolation" is thought by the US Military to be a warped genius with every reason to hate humanity. They are wrong.
- 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.
- Living Shadow: The short story "Shadow, Shadow on the Wall" features a flickering thing living in the upper corner of a little boy's bedroom. In the light, it's a shade darker; in the dark, it's a shade lighter. When the little boy's Wicked Stepmother interferes with it, it doesn't end well for her.
- 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 as episodes of X Minus One and The Twilight Zone (1985).
- Mistaken for Gay: Affair with a Green Monkey, about a military man and his wife who befriend an awkward young man after saving him from being beaten up by a group of thugs. The husband has no problem with him getting close to his wife because he thinks he's gay but in truth he's an alien.
- 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.
- Muck Monster: The 1940 short story "It!" is about a plant monster that is ultimately revealed to have formed around a human skeleton in a swamp. The story is generally regarded as having been the inspiration for The Heap, Man-Thing and Swamp Thing.
- Mundane Utility: In More Than Human, Lone asks Baby to come up with a mechanical device that would help a farmer keep his truck from getting stuck in mud... Baby gives him instructions on how to build what turns out to be an anti-gravity machine. Neither character actually realizes the full extent of this invention - Lone is capable of making the device with help but doesn't comprehend how it actually works, while Baby does have this knowledge but, having a mind comparable to a computer, doesn't consider any other uses for it until later on when he's specifically asked about what might happen if the device is found.
- Mutually Assured Destruction: Averted in "Thunder and Roses". The United States has been destroyed in a nuclear attack, but the survivors make a decision not to retaliate to ensure the human race will survive.
- 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.").
- Speculative Fiction LGBT: In particular The World Well Lost, in which alien refugees from Dirbanu who gain brief popularity and sympathy on Earth, but who are then promptly deported when Dirbanu identifies them as fugitive criminals. The copilot of the ship deporting them learns that the refugees are a same-sex couple, which is illegal on their home world; helps them escape extradition; realizes that the Dirbanu's distaste for humans comes from Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism that makes all human couples look same-sex to them; and is revealed to the reader as a deeply closeted Straight Gay man himself.
- 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.
- Unicorns Prefer Virgins: 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).