OK, confession time. Theodore Sturgeon is the one author I’ve consistently put off writing about in my “Yesterday’s Tomorrows” column. A couple of reasons for this: I read him very intensively as a teenager, and am worried he won’t read as well now; there’s one core work you have to talk about (More than Human) and then some more peripheral stuff it’s difficult to choose between. But I also have a pretext-masquerading-as-a-reason: to talk about Sturgeon properly, you need to talk about his short fiction a lot, and none of the extant collections, to my mind, really contains all the good stuff. So, borrowing an idea from Jonathan, I thought I’d put together my own.
My self-imposed rules: collection to contain a maximum of twelve stories; material is ineligible if subsequently incorporated into novel-length works (so no “Baby is Three” or “To Marry Medusa”); no length restrictions other than that, but a selection consisting of mostly novellas would be considered Bad Form. My selection:
- “Microcosmic God”
- “The Man Who Lost The Sea” [[Well, obviously. Hadn’t quite clocked till I reread it quite how much like Tiptree it sounds, especially “The Man Who Walked Home”.]]
- “Bright Segment” [[To my mind, the most successful of Sturgeon’s horror stories.]]
- “A Saucer of Loneliness”
- “…and my fear is great…” [[Sturgeon as lover of language and style at his best.]]
- “The Skills of Xanadu”
- “The [Widget], the [Wadget] and Boff”
- “The Sex Opposite”
- “The Ultimate Egoist”
- “The World Well Lost”
- “Slow Sculpture” [[Pretty much obligatory, given the rarity of late Sturgeon stories, and its status as Hugo and Nebula-winner]]
- “‘I say…Ernest…'” [[A 3-page squib, essentially a retelling of an anecdote, but such a good anecdote, and one so emblematic of his world-view, that I can’t omit it.]]
A friend of mine keeps saying that one day he’s going to compile a book called Great Emo Stories of Isaac Asimov – containing the one percent of Asimov stories where he puts gadgets and ideas to the back of his mind and talks about emotions instead.  (Of the novels, The End of Eternity is the one that goes furthest down this track.) This selection is, unashamedly, Great Emo Stories of Theodore Sturgeon. Partly that’s because I feel that’s his peculiar strength – getting over a message about how human beings should and do interact. The gadget-y stuff in his stories, even in something as accomplished as “Slow Sculpture”, has not only dated but feels oddly extraneous to the story. And I find myself actively disliking Sturgeon stories that try to do more orthodox sf-nal things like “It” or “Killdozer!”. So… 1) What stories have I missed? 2) What would be your contents list?
And, while I think of it, I’m assuming people who read this will know that Paul Williams, who’s been undertaking the mammoth work of putting together the Collected Short Stories of Sturgeon, has been having health problems and could do with any help you might offer.
 Said friend has now declared himself, and published the contents list for Great Emo Stories of Isaac Asimov.