Theodore Sturgeon FAQ

Last updated June 19, 2007 (question 13 updated). More material may be added later. If there's anything you're curious about, send an email (my email address is at the bottom of the page).

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  1. Do people really frequently ask questions about Theodore Sturgeon?
    Well, no. This is just a convenient way to organize information. I do occasionally get asked questions.

  2. What would you recommend reading by Sturgeon?
    If you're new to Sturgeon, try finding a copy of "More than Human" in a used bookstore. Also, it is usually easy to find one of his short story collections in a used bookstore, these are also good places to start. While "More than Human" is Sturgeon's most famous work, apart from that novel I suspect most people like Sturgeon more for his short stories than his novels. You should be able to find some of the volumes of the "Collected Short Stories of Theodore Sturgeon" in a (new) bookstore; this will be a many-volume series, and currently the first ten volumes have been published. These are more expensive, though, so if you are new to Sturgeon you may want to try finding something used. Finally, "Selected Stories" has just been released, and contains an excellent selection.

  3. Where can I find his books, especially the old and obscure ones?
    Some of his books are available through, or could be found in regular bookstores. This is especially true of the "Complete Short Stories of Theodore Sturgeon," a thirteen volume series that has been published. Older books are harder to find; I have found a lot of them at used bookstores. You might want to consider Pandora's Books,, the ABE search engine, or Alibris: the last three let you search a large number of used book dealers, and have even extremely rare books. Fantastic also has a good selection, and FetchBook wanted me to add their webpage.

    At one point ABE had "It" listed for $4500; "It" was Sturgeon's first solo publication (I think it was a tiny book with just that one story, and predated Without Sorcery by a year).

  4. Do any of his stories/books have alternative titles?
    Quite a few, but fortunately, not as many as for some authors.

    Original                       Alternative
    --------                       -----------
    Beware the Fury                Extrapolation
    Brownshoes                     The Man Who Learned Loving
    The Deadly Ratio               It Wasn't Syzygy
    The Dreaming Jewels            The Synthetic Man
    Fluffy                         The Abominable House Guest
    Fluke                          Die Maestro, Die
    The Green-Eyed Monster         Ghost of a Chance              
    Last Laugh                     Special Aptitude
    To Marry Medusa                The Cosmic Rape
    The Music                      In the Hospital
    The Sky Was Full of Ships      The Cave of History
    Shadow, Shadow on the Wall     It Stayed
    Synthesis                      Make Room for Me
    A Way Home                     The Way Home
    Who?                           Bulkhead

    "To Marry Medusa/The Cosmic Rape" needs explanation. "To Marry Medusa" originally appeared as a novella in Galaxy, and was later expanded into the novel "The Cosmic Rape". When the novel was later republished in the same volume as "Killdozer!" it appeared as "To Marry Medusa" even though it was actually the full length novel, not the original novella.

    Some of the stories have been dramatised for radio, television or record and a few were given with alternative titles:

    Title                          Dramatised as
    -----                          -------------
    Bright Segment                 Parcelle Brillante (French)
    Godbody                        Britt Svenglund
    The Sky Was Full of Ships      Incident at Switchpath
    Yesterday Was Monday           A Matter of Minutes 
  5. Did TS collaborate with other writers?
    James Beard wrote three stories that Campbell asked Sturgeon to rewrite before they were published in 'Unknown' - 'The Bones', 'Hag Seleen' and 'The Jumper'. Many of the stories in "Sturgeon's West" together with 'The Deadly Innocent' were written with Don Ward. 'Runesmith' was written with Harlan Ellison.

    On of his finest stories, 'And the News', is based on an idea Robert Heinlein. Heinlein wrote with a number of story outlines at a time Sturgeon was in the middle of one of his many slumps; I don't if any others were the basis of subsequent stories.

    The three novelisations ("The King and Four Queens","The Rare Breed", and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea") were based upon the original screenplay. "I, Libertine" was co-written with Jean Shepherd; someone told me that Sturgeon & Shepard wrote alternate chapters.

    In the mid-1970s, Harlan Ellison chaired a semiar on science fiction writing. With the help of Sturgeon, Thomas M Disch, Frank Herbert and Robert Silverberg, they formed a sort of discussion group to invent the world, nature and history of the planet Medea, around which they each wrote there own story. Sturgeon's was "Why Dolphin's Don't Bite" [see 'Medea: Harlan's World' (1985)]. Sturgeon also collaborated with Ellison on the short story "Runesmith".

    I'm sure a number of people would have (depending on your point of view) assisted or interfered with the two scripts for "Star Trek". James Blish later adapted them for Bantam. Posthumously, James Gunn expanded a script idea by Sturgeon in to the novel "The Joy Machine".

  6. Didn't Robert Heinlein provide the plots for some of the stories?
    During his Guest of Honor speech at Chincon II in 1963, Sturgeon tells how in the mid-50s unable to think of a single idea for a new story, he wrote to his long-time friend Robert Heinlein and received by return an airmail letter containing 26 story outlines. Only two of these were to form the basis of published works: 'The Other Man' and 'And Now the News...' (Sturgeon appears to have confused the latter with 'Fear is a Business', maybe Heinlein provided the idea for this at some other time).

    By way of subtle acknowledgement, Sturgeon names the 'hidden' personality in 'The Other Man' Anson, and calls the main character in 'And Now the News...' MacLyle - from pennames used by Heinlein, Anson MacDonald and Lyle Monroe.

    The speech was reprinted in "The Proceedings of Chicon II", edited by Earl Kemp, Advent 1963; and another version of the anecdote appears as part of Sturgeon's introduction to 'And Now the News...' his 1980 collection "The Golden Helix". The actual letter appeared in 'The New York Review of Science Fiction' (Number 84, August 1995).

  7. What awards have he and his stories received?
    1947 Argosy Short Story Competition [Bianca's Hands]
    1954 IFA - Novel [More Than Human]
    1962 World Science Fiction Convention - Guest of Honour
    1970 Nebula - Novelette [Slow Sculpture]
    1970 Hugo - Short Story [Slow Sculpture]
    1975 Inkpot Award [for influence of his story "It"]
    1985 World Fantasy - Life Achievement Award
    2000 inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame
    2000 Gaylactic Network Spectrum Award [World Well Lost]

  8. What is Sturgeon's Law?
    In his 1972 interview with David G Hartwell (published in The New York Review of Science Fiction #7 and #8, March and April 1989) Sturgeon says:

    "Sturgeon's Law originally was 'Nothing is always absolutely so.' The other thing was known as 'Sturgeon's Revelation'"

    The first reference I can find in his oeuve appears in the March 1958 issue of Venture Science Fiction, where he wrote:

    "I repeat Sturgeon's Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of sf is crud.

    "The Revelation: Ninety percent of everything is crud.

    "Corollary 1: The existence of immense quantities of trash in science fiction is admitted and it is regrettable; but it is no more unnatural than the existence of trash anywhere.

    "Corollary 2: The best science fiction is as good as the best fiction in any field."

    It is this Revelation that has now become known as Sturgeon's Law (I've not heard the corollaries used before, or since). There is some debate over the last word, and when/how it was first used. The most reliable account comes from James Gunn's in his item in The New York Review of Science Fiction #85, September 1995 In contrast, the cover blurb for the 1968 Pyramid edition of "A Way Home" includes an obviously invented scene complete with dialogue and facial expressions; well maybe, but unlikely. A lot of information related to the dating of this phrase is at Science Fiction Citations which notes some problems verifying the earliest date this phrase was used.

    As a codicil, the author of a Spanish web site refers to an old Arab story I'd not encountered before:

    A young Caliph asked the Great Vizier how he could tell if a poem was good or bad. "Always assume it is bad", he was told. "You'll only be wrong one time in a hundred".

    Mike Weber also reports: " was at Emory University, many years ago, that I heard Robert Bloch, in response to something that David Gerrold said, propound Bloch's Corollary to Sturgeon's Revelation: "And your agent gets the other ten percent."

  9. What's the deal with his strange penname, "Theodore Sturgeon" ?
    It's not a penname (this actually is a question someone asked me). He was born February 26, 1918 with the name Edward Hamilton Waldo; he had an older brother Peter. His parents divorced in 1927 and his mother Christine later remarried, to William Sturgeon, in 1929. Around this time Edward legally changed his name to Theodore Hamilton Sturgeon, because he liked the nickname "Ted".

    In 1956 he published the book I, Libertine, using the pseudonym Frederick R. Ewing. He also used the pseudonym "E. Waldo Hunter" occasionally when two of his stories were being published in the same issue of Astounding. He wrote "The Player on the Other Side" as Ellery Queen, and used the name Billy Watson for the story "The Man Who Told Lies." I don't know what connection he had with Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, if any.

  10. Since we're on the topic, what other biographical information can you tell me?
    Ted started life as your typical 98-pound weakling. In school, he discovered gymnastics and went from weakling to athlete. He planned to become a circus aerialist, but when he was 15 he had rheumatic fever which changed his plans; he was no longer healthy enough for the life of a professional circus athlete.

    As far as his writing goes, his first story, "Heavy Insurance," was sold in 1938 for five dollars to McClure's Syndicate for publication in newspapers. He sold many more stories to McClure's; they are all very short and not science fiction. The sale of "The God in the Garden" to Unknown in 1939 was his first published science fiction story. His novel More Than Human won the International Fantasy Award. "Slow Sculpture" won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. He was posthumously awarded the Life Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Awards. Sturgeon died on May 8, 1985, of pneumonia, in Eugene, Oregon.

  11. What about his family?
    I don't feel this information is terribly important, but here's what I know; Noel Sturgeon has confirmed these details.

    Ted's only sibling was his older brother Peter Sturgeon, who was later to gain some prominence for bringing Mensa to the United States.

    The two brothers were extremely competitive, to the point that gives sibling rivalry a bad name. In almost every way they went in opposite directions. Peter completed college, and became a professional writer in the pharmaceutical field, eventually leaving private industry to work in Europe for the World Health Organization. Ted drifted from job to job for years before becoming a writer, and where Peter was strictly non-fiction technical writing, Ted was in fiction's closest equivalent to technical material by writing SF.

    Until joining WHO, Peter remained close to his origins, living in Brooklyn, while Ted drifted to the West Coast. Peter married once, Inez, a woman of Latin origin. They had no children--on one occasion Peter told a television interviewer who asked if they had children, "We took care of that before we were married", which delighted the audience and made the interviewer change the subject!

    Ted served his military experience in the Pacific. Peter volunteered for paratrooper training, and served in Europe.

    One habit they shared was smoking, but Ted chained smoked cigarets. Peter used a cigaret holder, much like FDR. They also shared pronounced views on religion--both were vocal atheists, clearly from their experiences growing up with their Methodist minister stepfather.

    Ted was usually seen dressed like a working class type, while Peter dressed quite upscale, one could even say a bit dandified.

    (Above information about the two brothers is courtesy of Thomas Wm. Hamilton, who is a distant relative on their mother's side, and who knew Peter well.)

    In 1940 Ted married Dorothe Fillingame. They had two daughters, Patricia and Cynthia (in that order); they got divorced in 1945. The biography on Barnes & also mentions a son, Colin, before the two daughters, although this seems to contradict other information I had.

    In 1949, he married Mary Mair, a singer; they were divorced in 1951.

    He married Marion McGahan, I think in 1951. Their first child was Robin, Sturgeon's first son. The next two children were daughters, Tandy in 1954 and Noel in 1956. Timothy was born later. They never divorced, but remained married until his death.

    He later was with W. Bonnie Golden (a TV/print news reporter, and photographer). Several of her articles can be found on the web. They had a son, Andros, Sturgeon's seventh and last child. W. took the last name 'Sturgeon' legally by means other than marriage.

    Still later, he was with Jayne Enelhart. They were still together when he died. She also took the last name 'Sturgeon' legally by means other than marriage. She has since remarried.

    That's all the information I have right now, and I don't really plan to worry about finding out much more information. Most of these people are still alive (I've heard directly from three of them) and I don't see any need to discuss them. As the above information was found in public sources, I hope it isn't violating anybody's privacy.

  12. Was Sturgeon a full-time writer? What other jobs did he have?
    The fact that you are asking this shows you don't know him well! Of course, I am writing this FAQ so I am putting the questions in the reader's mouth. Sturgeon was not a full-time writer, and in fact suffered from writer's block for many years at a time. Other jobs he has had included: His other talents also included guitar playing, singing, and cooking. In Lahna Diskin's book (see below), she also lists political ghost writer, woodworker, garbage collector, glass-factory employee, and circus roustabout. In the introduction to one of his novels, it also mentioned Sturgeon working in a rock quarry in Puerto Rico, and being a truck driver at some point. Most of the above information was gained from "Theodore Sturgeon" by Lahna Diskin (Starmont House, 1981). If anybody has any additional information, please let me know.


  13. What is the meaning of the Q-symbol?
    It means "ask the next question." Sturgeon included it in his signature, and also had it on a necklace he wore. For more information see Jacqueline Lichtenberg's discussion. I've heard that Sturgeon discussed this in an article in Cavalier Magazine in 1967, and it was adapted from a speech given about 10 years prior; so he had this philosophy at least as early as 1957, if this information is correct.

  14. Where can I learn more?
    This information was gleaned from "Theodore Sturgeon" by Lucy Menger (1981), "Theodore Sturgeon" by Lahna Diskin (1981), and from the introduction to the volumes of "The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon" Menger's book is an inexpensive biography/discussion of Sturgeon's work. I found it in an overstock/used book store for $1. Another place I found information was in an essay by Paul Williams on the web. Other sources as noted above in the questions.

    You should definitely read Argyll, Sturgeon's autobiography. This focuses almost exclusively on his childhood, and especially his stormy relationship with his stepfather (whose nickname was Argyll). I was able to obtain this book through the bookstore.

  15. Where can I get information about the copyrights?
    Some people are looking to reproduce Sturgeon's work as a movie, play, or in some other form. Others may wish to report a copyright violation. Please see The Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust for the appropriate contact information.

  16. Credits
    This FAQ has been written by Eric Weeks and Bill Seabrook. Send Eric or Bill (or both of us!) email if you have any suggestions or corrections: weeks(at) or wmfs(at) [Bill's email might no longer be working -- July 2011]

    Noel Sturgeon corrected several details [July 2011]. Information about Peter Sturgeon as founder of Mensa provided by Mary Matthews, and further information about Peter Sturgeon was provided by Thomas Wm. Hamilton. Thanks to those of you who have asked questions or provided other comments.