Monday, January 30, 2006

Theodore Sturgeon

There are two reasons why I am becoming a fan of Theodore Sturgeon, the first is that he comes highly recommended by Samuel Delany (which has to be good news in my book) and the second is that, whilst most people claim that Science Fiction is a literature of ideas and not characters, Sturgeon (along with Delany and a few others) is an exception to this rule. In the two collections of short stories I have so far read it's quite clear that for Sturgeon, the very reason for writing science fiction is as an investigation into the human condition.

The short story, The World Well Lost is one of the best early pieces of gay-interest science fiction I've ever read. A sympathetic and gently ironic story, made all the more convincing by the fact it was first published at the height of McCarthyism in the US in 1953. It's well understood that of all the art forms science fiction was the only one which managed to continue real social commentary and to promulgate more liberal ideals under the McCarthy reign of terror - but even so...

I also particularly liked the story of how Sturgeon's book I, Libertine came to be written. It's a non-genre novel and started out as a myth. The radio presenter and satirist Jean Shepherd had a radio show called 'Night People' and to try and prove that there were 'night people' in the world and 'day people' and just how separate they were Shepherd and his viewers made up a book, they began to go to bookstores and request it and soon there was a huge and growing demand for this book, which didn't exist. It was only some time later when Shepherd met Sturgeon that a collaboration was suggested and the book was finally writen, published under Sturgeon's pseudonym, Frederick Ewing. A much better literary hoax than the current JT Leroy scam I would say...!

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