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The Ultimate Egoist: Volume I: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon Paperback – November 12, 1998
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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"Historically, the Complete Sturgeon is one of the most important reissues in years. In terms of reading, this is a goldmine both for those already familiar with Sturgeon's work and for a new generation of readers ready for something real."
-Strange Worlds Magazine
"Theodore Sturgeon has become a kind of patron saint of SF short story writers. His fiction demonstrated a love of humanity and an understanding of human emotion unparalleled in the field. At the time of his death in 1985, no short story writer was held in so high a regard."
-David Brin, author of Heaven's Reach
About the Author
Theodore Sturgeon was born on February 26, 1918 in Staten Island, New York. He died in Eugene, Oregon, on May 8, 1985. A resident of New York City, upstate New York, and Los Angeles, he is the author of more than thirty novels and short story collections.
Top customer reviews
That being said, my personal favorite book in the set is Vol. 12, Slow Sculpture, named for the story by that name. Beyond that, his last novel, Godbody. Robert Heinlein said that he thought Mr. Sturgeon knew he wouldn't be with us much longer, and put everything that remained into that one last novel -- I believe that.
I would reccommend this book for those who want to study writing of the 1940's or the development of a wonderful writer thoughout his career with this and the other story collections that follow.
Selected stories here include:
* "Heavy Insurance" -- Sturgeon's first published and possibly first completed work. A clever short short revolving around the, then, unusual properties of dry ice. With short shorts I am always reminded of Jack Ritchie's LITTLE BOXES OF BEWILDERMENT, and this story, even as early in Sturgeon's career as it was, can stand among those tales.
* "Fluffy" -- A few awkward wording moments, but they don't detract from the joy of a clever little twist story. This would have been a page from Jonathan Carroll except Sturgeon has to have a "logical" explanation (well, OK, *an* explanation--Carroll wouldn't have felt the need for any) for the basic conceit. However, it's still just a twist story. Sturgeon quickly moved beyond it.
* "Alter Ego" -- Almost a study in what not to do in a story, this previously unpublished piece reeks of the new writer, for it is all tell and no show. It spans years, yet there is not time sense. There are some specifics, but no details. While the plot itself could become something, it's too pithy for this treatment and too pathetic for longer. It's not too surprising that this one didn't see print in its time.
* "Permit Me My Gesture" -- This is my kind of short short: neat set up, perfect background, and clever ending twist. The notes include a letter from Sturgeon to his wife; in it, he calls this kind of story a gadget plot, and "Golden Day" a gag.
* "One Sick Kid" -- A short based on Sturgeon's personal experience, kind of a "true life" op-ed piece. A bit formless, though, without a genuine payoff, i.e., life isn't as clever as fiction.
* "A God in a Garden" -- Here is the *raison d'etre* for this volume, for the admiration that writers and readers have for Sturgeon is based on stories like this one. The perfect twist tale--what some people would term a Twilight Zone story. A man with a character flaw (he lies to his wife), a conflict (his wife knows about the lying, and is upset), and the twist (he digs up a god in his garden that gives him the ability to always tell the truth--not the actual truth, but whatever he says *becomes* the truth). Sturgeon handles it all brilliantly. The notes seem to agree. This story--Sturgeon's first sale to John W. Campbell for Unknown--was like his coming out party. Finally he had found a market that didn't require formula (the string- tugging as described under "Some People Forget" above), yet welcomed cleverness.
* "Bianca's Hands" -- A disturbing little fantasy/horror piece, showing the depth of Sturgeon's mastery of character, mood, and language. Yes, there's a plot, but the plot is nothing besides the description. It is so well done--this description of Bianca's hands and Ran's love for them--that is is close to erotic. Of course, Sturgeon was no stranger to that genre, although his take on it would not be fully revealed until years later with the novels SOME OF YOUR BLOOD and GODBODY.
* "The Ultimate Egoist" -- The logical extreme of the philosophical question best answered by Rene Descartes when he wrote, "Cogito, ergo sum." Whatever Woody thinks is, and what he doubts isn't, and it doesn't take long for him to break under the strain.
* "It" -- Probably one of the most famous Sturgeon stories, spawning at least two comic creatures: DC's Swamp Thing and Marvel's Man-Thing. Actually what Sturgeon accomplishes here is the envy of every horror writer--he invents a new monster. Unfortunately he did it in a short story rather than a novel or a movie, so his creation has yet to join the full pantheon to which it belongs, taking its place beside Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
I hope that this project--to collect all of Sturgeon's short stories-- continues apace. Paul Williams' earlier effort in this vein was the incredible Collected Philip K. Dick, and while the Dick was interesting, PKD was a writer who excelled at novels, not really the short. Sturgeon, on the other hand, was the opposite. I learned a lot about writing from the Dick volumes, and I hope to learn even more from Sturgeon.