Engineer Al shares his love of sci-fi literature.
I have always loved Science Fiction. Maybe it all started with Saturday Morning cartoons, but I disappeared into novels and short stories at a very young age. When I was a kid in grade school my mother would force me outside on nice days for exercise and “fresh air”, but most of the time I would bring my current science fiction escape and sit beneath a tree in the backyard, lost between the pages. At this point in my life I have collected quite an impressive library full of old favorites and new acquisitions waiting to be devoured. I thought it would be fun to share my library with my F:ATie friends.
I am a relative newcomer to Theodore Sturgeon. I’ve known of him for years of course. He’s one of those science fiction writers who has “always” been around. There from the very beginning in the forties when the pulps came to sci-fi. Also, he wrote two episodes of the original Star Trek, making him a modern day hero in my book. True, one of the episodes he wrote is “Shore Leave” which was never one of my favorites. In Sturgeons defense though, the story goes that Roddenberry asked Gene Coon to rewrite the script a bit because it contained too much fantasy and Coon thought he was supposed to ADD more fantasy. This misunderstanding led to Roddenberry trying to rewrite the script again, on the set as they were filming. So it goes. The other episode Sturgeon wrote is “Amok Time”, the one with Spock’s wedding and it is one of the very best. It features the first use of the Vulcan greeting “Live long and prosper.” Go Ted!
Recently I figured this hole in my literary background was inexcusable and I picked up MORE THAN HUMAN which Sturgeon wrote way back in 1953. I can hardly convey the staggering extent to which this novel blew the top of my head right off of my body. BAM! Blown away. It is a beautifully written and thoughtfully developed work of art. It is “Literature” in a way that is rarely achieved by writers of Science Fiction or Fantasy other than a precious few like Tolkien or Delany. But it is also a page turning incredibly fun romp filled with joyously developed characters and startling plot twists. As you can tell, I really can’t recommend this book enough!
I wanted more and I had read that Sturgeon was best known for his short stories, so I looked on the internets for a short story collection and sure enough for the past few years North Atlantic Books has been publishing a 13 book collection of the more than 200 stories Sturgeon wrote over his lifetime. I bought the first one THE ULTIMAT EGOIST and thoroughly enjoyed it. It obviously contains Sturgeon’s earliest work and it is not up to the caliber of MORE THAN HUMAN, but still very enjoyable. Interestingly, much like Ray Bradbury’s early work, very few of the stories were science fiction. There was some, and some horror (including the story that inspired “Swamp Thing”), but most of it was either romantic stories or stories about sailors. All of the stories centered around characters. And this seems to be the crux of Sturgeon’s writing. He is not just a Science Fiction writer, but a writer and a writer first. A writer who turned down the path of Science Fiction because that’s what the pulps were paying for at the time he was trying to get published. He is a superb storyteller and I am excited that there is so much more out there for me to discover.
I’ve already ordered the next short story collection MICROCOSMIC GOD. I’m looking forward to seeing Sturgeon continue to develop his writing and begin to focus on Science Fiction. I’ll let you know!
Other opinions? Any other Sturgeon fans? I would love to know!