Friday, March 1, 2013

Theodore Sturgeon's Complete Short Fiction To Be Issued as Ebooks

   If you haven't bought an ebook reader, this alone is reason to take the plunge.  For fifteen years, North Atlantic Books has been releasing a set of books that presented all the short stories, in chronological order, of the wondrous Theodore Sturgeon; the first appeared in 1994 and the last appeared in 2010.  It's a beautiful set, containing Sturgeon's fiction with appreciations by other writers and end notes by series editor Paul Williams.  In April, all 13 volumes will be released as ebooks.

  Don't recognize Sturgeon's name?  He was one of the finest writers of short fiction ever to grace the science fiction field; if you've not read stories like "The Man Who Lost the Sea," "Thunder and Roses," "A Saucer of Loneliness," or "Slow Sculpture" you're cheating yourself.  If you're a fan of the original Star Trek series, you've probably seen the two episodes Sturgeon wrote for the show ("Shore Leave" during the first season, and the second season opener "Amok Time").  Sturgeon wrote novels too: the magnificent More Than Human is chief among them, but The Dreaming Jewels and the chilling Some of Your Blood are also not to be missed.

   In his book The Four Seasons of Success, Budd Schulberg likened the body of work a writer produces to a mountain range -- not every peak is Everest; that's the case with Sturgeon as well.  But there isn't a single volume in the North Atlantic set that doesn't contain at least one story that is all by itself worth the price of the book.  Every volume contains classic short works from a writer who was fine enough to stand with the best in or out of the genre.  And while you'll find these books categorized as science fiction, not every story in them is sf.  You'll find fantasies, westerns, horror stories, and mainstream works as well.

  It's tempting to describe plots, but that kind of information is easily found in reviews and on more web pages than anyone can count, and plot isn't the most important part of a story anyway; it's not negligible by any means, but fiction is about people, and there are few writers whose people are as achingly real as Sturgeon's.  He could break your heart with a line; he could reduce you to tears (of joy or sorrow) and it seemed to be so effortless for him to do it.  Don't believe it?  Check out "The Graveyard Reader," "Bright Segment," "Hurricane Trio," "The Girl Who Knew What They Meant," or "A Saucer of Loneliness," among numerous others.  Read the sequence in "The Widget, the Wadget, and Boff" in which a man  looks at a gun in a pawn shop window, considers what he regards as its design flaws, and comes to a realization of his own wish for death.  The writing is dazzling, but it's not dazzling because of flash and tricks -- it's because you're in the company of a writer who knows his craft and who knows and cares for the characters about whom he writes.  Samuel Delany once described Sturgeon as the American short story writer; in his obituary of Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison said that Sturgeon could squeeze your heart until your whole life ached.  He could indeed.  And there are few writers who could do that nearly so well and so often as Sturgeon.

  In the mountain range of any writer's work, not every peak is Everest, and that's true of Sturgeon's work as well.  But taken as a whole, these thirteen volumes of Sturgeon's complete short stories offer one of the great mountain ranges in American fiction.

Find them at:  Theodore Sturgeon-Complete Short Fiction

  And a brief commercial: This Saturday, Sunday, & Monday, my collection A Souvenir from the War, and Other Stories will be available free in Amazon's Kindle store.  It's a mixed bag, containing short fantasy, horror, and mainstream stories.  Grab it while the price is right.

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