Live Long and Prosper

A Brief Introduction to the Life & Works of Theodore Sturgeon

Dying at the respectable age of 67, Theodore Sturgeon did accomplish the first half of his shibboleth, “live long….” I wrote this post so you would explore for yourself whether–as a writer who left us a great many works–he accomplished the other half, “…and prosper.

Mr. Sturgeon, a name that many of you (and myself until recently) have probably never heard of, is credited with the Star Trek Episode (“Amok Time”) that gave us the Vulcan mating ritual pon farr, & the far more familiar Vulcan phrase (and title of this blog post), which, of course, was transmitted to us by the nerdtacular Spock (it was Mr. Nimoy himself who is credited with giving us the hand gesture/finger-yoga maneuver that accompanies it).

(Follow the link to a wonderful video interview of Mr. Nimoy describing, and demonstrating, where the Vulcan salute came from, including its Jewish origins).

I suppose it can be said of Sturgeon what was said of a writer from our own time, “The most famous writer you’ve never heard of.” (At his peak in the 1950s Sturgeon was the most anthologized author alive).

I must confess that I am a poor carrier of this literary gospel, as my sentiments toward the science fiction genre have, for the most part, followed those of Michael Chabon:

Most science fiction seemed to be written for people who already liked science fiction.”

Because I am not alone in this bias against sci-fi, I present the evidence for Sturgeon, obscure though the sources may be:

“Perhaps the best way I can tell you what I think of a Theodore Sturgeon story is to explain with what diligent interest, in the year 1940, I split every Sturgeon tale down the middle and fetched out its innards to see what made it function. I looked upon Sturgeon with a secret and gnawing jealousy.”

– Ray Bradbury

Sturgeon’s often tender explorations of alien minds were as carefully worked out as Faulkner’s exploration of the mind of the idiot in The Sound and the Fury. His emphasis on psychology instead of blasters prepared the way for most modern masters of the science fiction genre.

—Stephen King

Sturgeon is a master storyteller certain to fascinate all sorts of readers, not only science fiction fans.

—Kurt Vonnegut (Vonnegut also used Sturgeon as the basis for his fictional character Kilgore Trout)

A terrific writer; I enjoyed every word he published.

—Robert Heinlein (I thought we’d better hear from the sci-fi community, too)

If you are a lover of the sci-fi genre, you have probably already read and enjoyed Sturgeon’s works. If you are a lover of fiction, and not sci-fi, you have probably already enjoyed the works of those (like those listed above) who were inspired by him. And if you only love making fun of people who read fiction & sci-fi, and do not read such things for yourself, I am truly sorry for the unenjoyable life you have led.


Because it can be overwhelming to know where to start with a new author, here is my suggested Sturgeon reader, though this is only a launching point:

Mr. Costello, Hero” – an interesting fictional commentary about the McCarthy era

Bianca’s Hands” – a horrifying little piece about obsession

A Way of Thinking” – an amalgamation of several genres with a twist to the voodoo-doll legend

Extrapolation” – a short story about troubled men and the women who love them

Slow Sculpture” – a great short story that won him both a Hugo & Nebula award


I must give credit to the following sites for making this post possible:

Theodore Sturgeon – The Wikipedia article

Theodore Sturgeon – A Biography (you must forgive this site’s awful layout; it is filled with gems of wonderful commentary, though they are buried in a world of barren design elements)

Published in: on June 2, 2010 at 3:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great post, Scott; both well-written and interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Glad you liked it!
    It’s been a ton of fun doing book reviews. I hope to make it a regular part of the site.

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