Theodore Sturgeon was born Edward Hamilton Waldo on February 26, 1918, at Staten Island, New York. In 1927 his parents divorced, and in 1929 his mother remarried William Sturgeon. About this time Edward changed his name to Theodore because he liked the nickname "Ted", though it's unclear if the change was made legal. Discovery of a congenital heart condition put an end to Ted's ambitions to be a circus acrobat, but his friend Robert Heinlein has described Sturgeon's ability to turn a full 360-degree flip in a crowded room from a standing position. He didn't let his damaged heart disable him, deliberately taking active jobs such as bulldozer operator, which experience inspired his famous story "Killdozer", about a sentient Caterpillar D-7 tractor. (Though 4-F, he made his brains available to the war effort during WWII, working under Heinlein.) His first story, "Heavy Insurance," was sold in 1938 for five dollars to McClure's Syndicate for publication in newspapers. The sale of "The God in the Garden" to Unknown was his first published science fiction story. He soon became notorious for such deep, psychologically perverse stories as "Bianca's Hands" and "Some of Your Blood". These dark early masterpieces were followed in the 1950's by such affirmations of love and human possibility as "Granny Won't Knit", about the re-introduction of liberties in a repressed society, and "The Skills of Xanadu", about a technology that encourages human co-operation. Novels such as The Dreaming Jewels
(The Synthetic Man) and Venus Plus X
enhanced his reputation. After suffering a famous case of writer's block for several years during the 1960's, he returned to writing circa 1970 to the delight of his admirers, producing a number of his best short stories during this period. Theodore Sturgeon died on May 8, 1985 after a distinguished literary career, beloved by most who knew him, fans and fellow writers alike. His artistically flawed but spiritually triumphant novel Godbody
was released after his death to great acclaim.
Almost from the beginning of his career, the theme of Sturgeon's best writing was love, not specifically sexual passion but human love in all its complexity. It was a byword, even a cliché in science fiction circles that Sturgeon was the writer who understood love: in reaction to this reputation, Sturgeon eventually went so far as to write a short story whose protagonist was a writer who was supposed to understand love, though how much of the story might be autobiograpical is hard to say. Besides his championing of human love, Sturgeon is well known for Sturgeon's Law, pronounced in reply to a critic who opined that 90% (or was it 95%?) of science fiction was crap, if "crap" was the word used. 90% of everything is crap, rejoined Sturgeon, and the saying still seems to hold true.
Sturgeon's novel More Than Human won the International Fantasy Award. "Slow Sculpture" won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. He was posthumously awarded the Life Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Awards.