Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Sturgeon, Theodore

(1918-1985) US writer, born Edward Hamilton Waldo, who changed his first name when he adopted his stepfather's surname. In the early part of his career he was more comfortable writing for John W Campbell Jr's Unknown – for which he wrote the haunted-ship story "Cargo" (1940) and the ironic conte philosophique "The Ultimate Egoist" (1941), among others – than Astounding (> SFE). Although he eventually made his name as a Science-Fiction writer, his primary interest always lay in parables of human maturation and transcendence, for which certain sf motifs merely served as convenient props. He wrote numerous Horror stories, including the ultimate Monster story "It" (1940; 1948 chap) and the intense psychological study "Bianca's Hands" (1947). TS's Weird Fiction often portrays characters labouring under a mysterious compulsion which forces them to be cruel; examples include "Cellmate" (1947) and "The Perfect Host" (1948). His posthumously published account of his troubled relationship with his stepfather, Argyll: A Memoir (1993 chap), helps explain the fascination of such themes, which achieved a more elaborate display in The Dreaming Jewels (1950; vt The Synthetic Man) and other sf tales of psionic persecution. The flipside of this coin is represented by heartfelt moral fables like "The Silken-Swift" (1953), in which a Unicorn plays out its traditional role as a moral indicator, applying its own criteria of female worthiness, and the hauntingly delicate "The Graveyard Reader" (1958). Most of TS's many story collections contain a few fantasies among the sf; the one with the highest proportion is E Pluribus Unicorn (coll 1953).

Contending supernatural forces – which TS refused to characterize as good or Evil – provide backgrounds for the novellas "One Foot and the Grave" (1949) and "Excalibur and the Atom" (1951), the latter contriving an uneasy alloy of Arthurian fantasy and hard-boiled detective fiction, but TS was not really interested in metaphysical contexts: he much preferred studying internal forces of compulsion and the behavioural strategies by which individuals might cope with them. Most of his stories in this vein lie, like the heartfelt "Need" (1960), on the sf/fantasy borderline, but the brilliant Some of Your Blood (1961) is a naturalistic study of a Vampire who finds that his harmless method of assuaging his appetite is regarded with more intense revulsion than if he had stuck to traditional modes. Late in life, when TS was cursed by a decades-long writer's block through which he broke only briefly and ineffectively, he began constructing a metaphysical fantasy about a new Messiah, but the version of it published after his death as Godbody (1986) is an abruptly concluded fragment. [BS]

other works: Without Sorcery (coll 1948; cut vt Not Without Sorcery 1961); A Way Home (coll 1955; cut 1956; cut vt Thunder and Roses 1957 UK); Caviar (coll 1955); A Touch of Strange (coll 1958; cut 1959); Aliens 4 (coll 1959); Beyond (coll 1960); Sturgeon in Orbit (coll 1964); The Joyous Invasions (coll 1965); Starshine (coll 1966); Sturgeon is Alive and Well . . . (coll 1971); The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon (coll 1972); To Here and the Easel (coll 1973); Case and the Dreamer (coll 1974); The Stars are the Styx (coll 1979); The Golden Helix (coll 1979); Alien Cargo (coll 1987); A Touch of Sturgeon (coll 1987).

Theodore Sturgeon

links

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.