Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Science Fiction "Secret"

More than HumanMy sleeves are rolled up and my clothes are getting dusty as I go through our Science Fiction section. I'm looking at all the books that haven't been checked out in ages, and also seeing which SF gems the collection may be lacking. While librarians have very specific criteria about which books to keep or add, sometimes a book or author may try to break the rules and make me check it out so that it appears to have more fans than it does.

One such author is Theodore Sturgeon. His works are strange and weird, even for a genre that thrives on strange and weird. I first came across his work in a collection of short stories, The World Treasury of Science Fiction, which has his brilliant short piece, "The Man Who Lost the Sea". My appreciation for him grew slowly, however. I would occasionally acquire one of his battered paperbacks in a used bookstore, but they would collect dust on my own shelves as I devoured new acquisitions by writers such as Philip K. Dick or Ursula Le Guin.

Breakfast of ChampionsAnd then, the "secret" was revealed to me. I was talking about Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. with a friend some years ago. If you've read just a few of Vonnegut's novels, then you're probably well-acquainted with one of his recurring characters, Kilgore Trout. Trout is a beleaguered science fiction writer who lives in abject poverty and can only manage publication in some rather questionable fora. However, in several of Vonnegut's novels, Trout's ideas are either the cause for the end of the world, the salvation of humanity, or both. My friend revealed the open secret that Kilgore Trout was based on Theodore Sturgeon. Trout...Sturgeon, funny that I hadn't connected the two before!

Curiosity compelled me to crack open the dusty paperbacks on my bookshelves, starting with More than Human. Now when I hit a used bookstore I head to the Sturgeons before the PKDs or Le Guins. He is not for every taste, and I can't promise that his books will save humanity. I can promise that if you want to read something unlike anything you've read, Theodore Sturgeon is worth the dust.

No comments: