Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Author Bumping- Theodore Sturgeon

Author Bumping – Theodore Sturgeon

Newbies: Please check my blog archives for Author Bumps with the likes of Stephen King, Robert B.Parker, and James Michener. Just enter Author Bumpings in the search bar at the top.

It was 1984. I had just graduated magna cum chatterbox from kindergarten. Okay so maybe I’m off by a few years. J

Florida Atlantic University was hosting the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Begun in 1980, this celebration brought together some of most talented writers from Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy. Guests at this event ranged from Stephen King to Issac Asimov, Fritz Leiber, and my all-time hero, Theodore Sturgeon.

One of the legendary figures of the “Golden Age” of science fiction, Theodore Sturgeon was a regarded as the primary influence on Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut among other science fiction luminaries. Sturgeon wrote over 200 novels and short stories. He won the Hugo, Nebula and International Fantasy Awards. His book More Than Human (1953) was a classroom classic.

Science fiction writer, Damon Knight said of Sturgeon, “He was a superb stylist, and that was unusual when he began writing in the field. He had his own individual viewpoint of human relationships. I think he had a Messianic streak. He wanted to find ways that people could live together better.” Or to paraphrase Star Trek… to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Sturgeon wrote some of the early screenplays for Star Trek. The Vulcan Hand Greeting, “Live well and prosper” AND pon farr, the Vulcan mating ritual were all introduced by Theodore Sturgeon. When I bumped into him I had no idea about his Vulcan background - now it just adds to his mystique.

I discovered More Than Human when I was a child. I carried the paperback version with me everywhere. It became the seminal book that instilled in me the passion to write. Sturgeon  created a haunting, creditable last step in man’s evolution.

With my battered but much loved copy of More Than Human, I approached Ted Sturgeon as he sat in the FAU auditorium. A slight, wizard-like man he beckoned me to sit with him while he signed my book. Under his signature he placed a symbol… a Q with an arrow through it. He was wearing a pendant with that strange symbol on it. His explanation: “Ask the next question. And the one that follows that, and the one that follows that. That’s how we realize our potential.”

He offered me the seat next to him. “Join us when he’s done,” he nodded to the author on the stage who was graciously signing books for hundreds of his adoring fans.  It took Stephen King over an hour to sign all the books presented to him. Sturgeon beamed like a proud parent.

Steve then stepped from the platform and walked toward us. Sturgeon, frail, took my arm and we exited the auditorium - King walking on my right and Sturgeon on my left.

Theodore Sturgeon seemed to channel pure energy even as he needed to brace himself on me. He leaned over, nodded at Stephen King and said to me, “Barbara, someday the world will recognize this young man as our greatest living American author.”

Looking up at all seven-feet of Stephen King, I know he said something humble… but for the life of me I can’t recall it. I was doing an out-of-body somewhere on Mount Olympus between two creative gods. It was an awesome moment.

Sturgeon died the following year. I still have my copy of More Than Human. Each time I read it the book has a profound effect on me. Don’t we all wish we could create a story that would so mark our readers for life?


If you ask me, I’ll explain the Vulcan Mating Ritual.


  1. Theodore Sturgeon sounds like such a great man. I thank him for the Vulcan greeting—I use that almost every day. I haven't read More Than Human and now I know I have to add it to my list. Thanks for another lovely author bumping post, Barbara.

  2. Barb - GREAT POST! Wow. I'm jealous! I think I would relive that moment at least once a day every day for the rest of my life. And I will now purchase a copy of More Than Human for my son the science fiction lover. :-)

  3. You have the greatest stories. I want to become an author bumper like you! Barbara, more and more it's clear to me that you are a nerd-girl (not to keep pressing the point). I am starting a nerd-girl of the month series on my blog and I've got June available. If you'd like to be that nerd-girl, I can either re-post this article and grab one of your pics, or you can send me a little something else. At any rate, I'm going to share this now on FB :)

  4. Georgina, Thank you so much. I am a true Nerd-Girl. Please repost this because as a true nerd, I'm still tweaking Wendy & the Lost Boys. Hard to find time to write articles until I give birth to her. Besides I want everyone to know who created the Vulcan Mating Ritual. :)

  5. I've always enjoyed Sturgeon's stories and observations. Thanks for sharing, Barbara.