Theodore Sturgeon
BornEdward Hamilton Waldo
(1918-02-26)February 26, 1918
Staten Island, New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedMay 8, 1985(1985-05-08) (aged 67)
Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
Pen nameE. Waldo Hunter
OccupationFiction writer, critic
GenreScience fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, western, literary criticism
SubjectScience fiction (as critic)
Notable works
Notable awardsHugo, Nebula[1]
Sturgeon's "The Perfect Host" was the cover story in the November 1948 Weird Tales
An early version of Sturgeon's first novel, The Dreaming Jewels, was the cover story in the February 1950 issue of Fantastic Adventures
Sturgeon's novella The Incubi of Parallel X was the cover story in the September 1951 Planet Stories
Sturgeon's novella Granny Won't Knit took the cover of the May 1954 Galaxy Science Fiction, illustrated by Ed Emshwiller

Theodore Sturgeon (/ˈstɜːrən/; born Edward Hamilton Waldo, February 26, 1918 – May 8, 1985) was an American fiction author of primarily fantasy, science fiction, and horror, as well as a critic. He wrote approximately 400 reviews and more than 120 short stories, 11 novels, and several scripts for Star Trek: The Original Series.[2]

Sturgeon's science fiction novel More Than Human (1953) won the 1954 International Fantasy Award (for SF and fantasy) as the year's best novel, and the Science Fiction Writers of America ranked "Baby Is Three" number five among the "Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time" to 1964. Ranked by votes for all of their pre-1965 novellas, Sturgeon was second among authors, behind Robert Heinlein.

An overview of his work by science fiction critic Sam Moskowitz can be found in the collective biography Seekers of Tomorrow.[3]

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Sturgeon in 2000, its fifth class of two dead and two living writers.[4]


Sturgeon was born Edward Hamilton Waldo in Staten Island, New York, in 1918. His name was legally changed to Theodore Sturgeon at age eleven after his mother's divorce and subsequent marriage to William Dicky ("Argyll") Sturgeon.[5]

He sold his first story, "Heavy Insurance," in 1938 to the McClure Syndicate, which bought much of his early work. It appeared in the Milwaukee Journal on July 16th. At first he wrote mainly short stories, primarily for genre magazines such as Astounding and Unknown, but also for general-interest publications such as Argosy Magazine. He used the pen name "E. Waldo Hunter" when two of his stories ran in the same issue of Astounding. A few of his early stories were signed "Theodore H. Sturgeon".

Sturgeon ghost-wrote one Ellery Queen mystery novel, The Player on the Other Side (Random House, 1963). This novel was praised by critic H. R. F. Keating: "[I] had almost finished writing Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books, in which I had included The Player on the Other Side ... placing the book squarely in the Queen canon"[6] when he learned that it had been written by Sturgeon. Similarly, William DeAndrea, author and winner of Mystery Writers of America awards, selecting his ten favorite mystery novels for the magazine Armchair Detective, picked The Player on the Other Side as one of them. He said: "This book changed my life ... and made a raving mystery fan (and therefore ultimately a mystery writer) out of me. ... The book must be 'one of the most skillful pastiches in the history of literature. An amazing piece of work, whomever did it'."[6]

Disliking arguments with John W. Campbell over editorial decisions, after 1950 Sturgeon only published one story in Astounding.[7] Sturgeon wrote the screenplays for the Star Trek: The Original Series episodes "Shore Leave" (1966) and "Amok Time" (1967, written up and published as a Bantam Books "Star Trek Fotonovel" in 1978).[2] The latter featured the first appearance of pon farr, the Vulcan mating ritual, the sentence "Live long and prosper"[8] and the Vulcan hand symbol. Sturgeon also wrote several Star Trek scripts that were never produced. One of these first introduced the Prime Directive.

He also wrote an episode of the Saturday morning show Land of the Lost, "The Pylon Express", in 1975. Two of Sturgeon's stories were adapted for The Twilight Zone. One, "A Saucer of Loneliness", was broadcast in 1986 and was dedicated to his memory. Another short story, "Yesterday Was Monday", was the inspiration for The Twilight Zone episode "A Matter of Minutes". His 1944 novella Killdozer! was the inspiration for the 1974 made-for-TV movie, Marvel comic book, and alternative rock band of the same name, as well as becoming the colloquial name for Marvin Heemeyer's 2004 bulldozer rage incident.

Sturgeon published the "first stories in science fiction which dealt with homosexuality, 'The World Well Lost' [June 1953] and 'Affair with a Green Monkey' [May 1957]",[9] and sometimes put gay subtext in his work, such as the back-rub scene in "Shore Leave",[10] or in his Western story, "Scars".[11]

Though not as well known to the general public as contemporaries like Isaac Asimov or Ray Bradbury, Sturgeon is well known among readers of mid-20th-century science fiction anthologies. At the height of his popularity in the 1950s he was the most anthologized English-language author alive.[12][13] Three Sturgeon stories were adapted for the 1950s NBC radio anthology X Minus One: "A Saucer of Loneliness" (broadcast twice}, "The Stars Are the Styx" and "Mr. Costello, Hero".

Carl Sagan described "To Here and the Easel" as "a stunning portrait of personality disassociation as perceived from the inside", and further said that many of Sturgeon's works were among the "rare few science‐fiction novels [that] combine a standard science‐fiction theme with a deep human sensitivity".[14] John Clute wrote in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: "His influence upon writers like Harlan Ellison and Samuel R. Delany was seminal, and in his life and work he was a powerful and generally liberating influence in post-WWII US sf". He won comparatively few genre awards. (One was the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement from the 1985 World Fantasy Convention.)[1]

Sturgeon's original novels were all published between 1950 and 1961, and the bulk of his short story work dated from the 1940s and 1950s. Though he continued to write through 1983, his work rate dipped noticeably in the later years of his life; a 1971 story collection entitled Sturgeon Is Alive and Well... addressed Sturgeon's seeming withdrawal from the public eye in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Sturgeon lived for several years in Springfield, Oregon.[15] He died on May 8, 1985, of lung fibrosis, at Sacred Heart General Hospital in the neighboring city of Eugene.[15]

He was a member of the all-male literary banqueting club the Trap Door Spiders, which served as the basis of Isaac Asimov's fictional group of mystery solvers the Black Widowers. Sturgeon was the inspiration for the recurrent character of Kilgore Trout in the novels of Kurt Vonnegut.[16]

Sturgeon's Law

Main article: Sturgeon's law

In 1951, Sturgeon coined what is now known as Sturgeon's Law:

"Ninety percent of [science fiction] is crud, but then, ninety percent of everything is crud."

This was originally known as Sturgeon's Revelation; Sturgeon has said that "Sturgeon's Law" was originally

"Nothing is always absolutely so."[citation needed]

However, the former statement is now widely referred to as Sturgeon's Law. He is also known for his dedication to a credo of critical thinking that challenged all normative assumptions: "Ask the next question." He represented this credo by the symbol of a Q with an arrow through it, an example of which he wore around his neck and used as part of his signature in the last 15 years of his life.[citation needed]

Life and family

Theodore's birth father, Edward Waldo, was a color and dye manufacturer of middling success. With his second wife, Anne, he had one daughter, Joan. Theodore's mother, Christine Hamilton Dicker (Waldo) Sturgeon, was a well-educated writer, watercolorist, and poet who published journalism, poetry, and fiction under the name Felix Sturgeon. His stepfather, William Dickie Sturgeon (sometimes known as Argyll), was a mathematics teacher at a prep school and then Romance Languages Professor at Drexel Institute (later Drexel Institute of Technology) in Philadelphia. Sturgeon's account of his stepfather is included in a posthumous memoir.[17] Sturgeon's sibling, Peter Sturgeon, wrote technical material for the pharmaceutical industry and the WHO, and founded the American branch of Mensa.

Sturgeon held a wide variety of jobs during his lifetime. As an adolescent, he wanted to be a circus acrobat; an episode of rheumatic fever prevented him from pursuing this. From 1935 (aged 17) to 1938, he was a sailor in the merchant marine, and elements of that experience found their way into several stories. He sold refrigerators door to door. He managed a hotel in Jamaica around 1940–1941, worked in several construction and infrastructure jobs (driving a bulldozer in Puerto Rico, operating a filling station and truck lubrication center, work at a drydock) for the US Army in the early war years, and by 1944 was an advertising copywriter. In addition to freelance fiction and television writing, in New York City he opened his own literary agency[18] (which was eventually transferred to Scott Meredith), worked for Fortune magazine and other Time Inc. properties on circulation, and edited various publications. Sturgeon had somewhat irregular output, frequently suffering from writer's block.

Sturgeon played guitar and wrote music which he sometimes performed at science fiction conventions.

Sturgeon was married three times, had two long-term committed relationships outside of marriage, divorced once, and fathered a total of seven children.

Sturgeon was a lifelong pipe smoker. His death from lung fibrosis may have been caused by exposure to asbestos during his merchant marine years.



Sturgeon, under his own name, was hired to write novelizations of the following movies based on their scripts (links go to articles about the movies):

Pseudonymous novels

Short stories

Sturgeon published numerous short story collections during his lifetime, many drawing on his most prolific writing years of the 1940s and 1950s.

Note that some reprints of these titles (especially paperback editions) may cut one or two stories from the line-up. Statistics herein refer to the original editions only.

Collections published during Sturgeon's lifetime

The following table includes sixteen volumes (one of them collecting western stories). These are considered "original" collections of Sturgeon material, in that they compiled previously uncollected stories. However, some volumes did contain a few reprinted stories: this list includes books that collected only previously uncollected material, as well as those volumes that collected mostly new material, but also contained up to three stories (representing no more than half the book) that were previously published in a Sturgeon collection.

Title Year Number
of stories
Originally published
Earliest story Latest story
Without Sorcery 1948 13 1939 1947
E Pluribus Unicorn 1953 13 1947 1953
A Way Home 1955 11 1946 1955
Caviar 1955 7 1 1941 1955
A Touch of Strange 1958 11 1953 1958
Aliens 4 1959 4 1944 1958
Beyond 1960 6 1941 1960
Sturgeon In Orbit 1964 5 1951 1955
Starshine 1966 6 3 1940 1961
Sturgeon Is Alive and Well ... 1971 11 1954 1971
The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon 1972 10 3 1941 1962
Sturgeon's West (westerns) 1973 7 1949 1973
Case and the Dreamer 1974 3 1962 1973
Visions and Venturers 1978 8 1 1942 1965
The Stars Are The Styx 1979 10 1 1951 1971
The Golden Helix 1979 10 3 1941 1973

The following six collections consisted entirely of reprints of previously collected material:

Title Year Stories Notes
Number Earliest Latest
Thunder and Roses 1957 8 1946 1955 selected from 11 in 1955's "A Way Home"
Not Without Sorcery 1961 8 1939 1941 selected from 13 in 1948's Without Sorcery
The Joyous Invasions 1965 3 1955 1958 selected from 4 in 1959's "Aliens 4"
To Here and the Easel 1973 6 1941 1958
Maturity 1979 3 1947 1958
Alien Cargo 1984 14 1940 1956

Complete short stories

North Atlantic Books released the chronologically assembled The Complete Short Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, edited by Paul Williams. The series consisted of 13 volumes published between 1994 and 2010. Introductions were provided by Harlan Ellison, Samuel R. Delany, Kurt Vonnegut, Gene Wolfe, Connie Willis, Jonathan Lethem, and others. Extensive story notes were provided by Paul Williams and, in the last two volumes, Sturgeon's daughter Noël.

Representative short stories

Sturgeon was best known for his short stories and novellas. The best-known include:


Relationship with Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut based the name of his fictional science-fiction writer Kilgore Trout on Sturgeon's name.[22] They became friends when Sturgeon moved to Truro, Massachusetts.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Sturgeon, Theodore" Archived 2012-10-16 at the Wayback Machine. The Locus Index of SF Awards: Index to Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  2. ^ a b Theodore Sturgeon at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-18.
  3. ^ Moskowitz, Samuel. Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction. Westport, Connecticut: Hyperion Press, 1974. Print. Pages 229-248.
  4. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame" Archived 2013-05-21 at the Wayback Machine. Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Retrieved 2013-03-26. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004.
  5. ^ Williams, Paul (1976). "Theodore Sturgeon, Storyteller" Archived 2003-09-13 at the Wayback Machine. First published 1997, online. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
    Quote: "Sturgeon because that was the stepfather's name—he was a professor of modern languages at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia—and Theodore because Edward was the boy's father's name and the mother was still bitter and anyway young Edward had always been known as Teddy."
    Quote: "To this day, libraries all over the world list 'Theodore Sturgeon' as a pseudonym for 'E. H. Waldo', which is incorrect."
  6. ^ a b Keating, H. R. F. (1989). The Bedside Companion to Crime. New York: Mysterious Press.
  7. ^ Latham, Rob (2009). "Fiction, 1950-1963". In Bould, Mark; Butler, Andrew M.; Roberts, Adam; Vint, Sherryl (eds.). The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. Routledge. pp. 80–89. ISBN 9781135228361. Archived from the original on 2024-01-05. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
  8. ^ Nimoy (1995), p. 67.
  9. ^ Duncan, David D. (1979). "The Push from Within: The Extrapolative Ability of Theodore Sturgeon" Archived 2019-10-19 at the Wayback Machine. First published 1979, print. Retrieved 2020-03-20.
    Quote: "first stories in science fiction which dealt with homosexuality, 'The World Well Lost' and 'Affair With a Green Monkey'"
  10. ^ Hageman, Andrew (2016). "A generic correspondence: Sturgeon–Roddenberry letters on sf, sex, sales and Star Trek". Science Fiction Film & Television. 9 (3): 473–478. doi:10.3828/sfftv.2016.9.15. S2CID 193714832.
  11. ^ Garber, Eric; Paleo, Lyn (1990). Uranian Worlds: A Guide to Alternative Sexuality in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (2nd ed.). Boston: G K HallA. p. 203. ISBN 0-8161-1832-9.
  12. ^ Engel, Joel (June 1, 1994). Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek. Hyperion. p. 92. ISBN 0786860049. Theodore Sturgeon, the most anthologized writer in the English language but one who'd never written for television before Star Trek, received several long letters and memos from Roddenberry.
  13. ^ Meehan, Paul (November 1, 1998). Saucer Movies: A UFOlogical History of the Cinema. Scarecrow Press. p. 166. ISBN 0810835738. Veteran science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, reportedly the most anthologized science fiction writer of all time, wrote the teleplay adaptation of his own short story for the ABC-TV movie Killdozer (1974).
  14. ^ Sagan, Carl (1978-05-28). "Growing up with Science Fiction". The New York Times. p. SM7. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2018-12-11. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  15. ^ a b Portal, Ann (May 10, 1985). "Famed author, award-winner, dies in Eugene". The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. Archived from the original on 2021-03-04. Retrieved 2011-06-20.
  16. ^ "Interview with Vonnegut". Archived from the original on January 15, 1998. Retrieved 2013-04-04. "I think it's funny when someone is named after a fish"
  17. ^ Sturgeon, Theodore (1993). Argyll; A Memoir, Entwhistle Books. ISBN 978-0934558167
  18. ^ Sturgeon, Theodore (2002). "Foreword by William Tenn". In Williams, Paul (ed.). Bright Segment. North Atlantic Books. pp. xiii. ISBN 1556433980.
  19. ^ Sturgeon, Theodore (April 1961). "Tandy's Story". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 170–194.
  20. ^ Noël Sturgeon [daughter], "Story Notes Volume XII", Sturgeon (2009), pp. 289–92.
  21. ^ Sturgeon (1978), p. 12.
  22. ^ Link, Eric Carl; Canavan, Gerry (2015). The Cambridge companion to American science fiction. New York, NY. doi:10.1017/CCO9781107280601. ISBN 978-1-107-28060-1. OCLC 902771331.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)

General and cited sources