Theodore Sturgeon


Jacqueline Lichtenberg



The first short story of Ted Sturgeon's that engraved his byline on my mind was titled "Bianca's Hands."

That short story contained a penetrating image that, for me, defined both the genre of horror and the reasons why people are so fascinated by this genre. The image was of detached hands chasing the protagonist around her house. It gave me nightmares.

It also defined for me why I don't like horror, but that's another story. Having taken notice of Theodore Sturgeon's writing, I studied it, because even then I wanted to be a professional science fiction writer. And so I came to understand how Ted handled various themes, most particularly alien reproduction.

In the course of this, I ran across some interview or article, I forget now, where Ted's concept of the Q with the arrow through it, which represents his own personal, primary philosophical stance on how to live the best possible life, was explained in some detail. In brief, it is simply, "Ask The Next Question". That's harder than it sounds, for it requires that you be able to penetrate the walls that your cultural conditioning builds inside your mind, compartmentalizing it.

Formulating the next question is very hard. It means you must never stop thinking, never take things at face value, never accept the illusion that you really understand everything about a subject, never accept any theory as final.

The Q with the Arrow means "Life is Process" -- a dynamic, ongoing, never-ending search over the rainbow, beyond morning, into the Unknown. It is an attitude which is almost exactly like Gene Roddenberry's "Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations" -- and Gene's idea that "When We Are Wise" we won't be xenophobic. Ted and Gene had a lot in common, not least of which was a deep, inner, gentleness of being.

Many many years after reading "Bianca's Hands," when I had become a devoted fan of the first Star Trek Series, I read in The Making of Star Trek that the upcoming season of the show would include a story about Spock's mating drive and that it had been written by Theodore Sturgeon. I spent the ensuing weeks imagining what that script would include. I had it in my mind, long before seeing it (or hearing rumors on the ST grapevine on what it would include) a sequence of scenes that had to be there, the basic premise of the Vulcan mating drive, and long sequences of dialogue. I knew that script word-for-word before I ever saw the show.

The most stunning thing about this was that, when I saw the show in first broadcast -- I was proved correct in every surmise. Knowing Ted's writing, I knew exactly what he'd do with the Trek premise.

For me, this validated my ambition to become a professional in this genre. I can do this kind of work. It was a very gratifying experience. "Amok Time" became my all-time favorite Trek episode.

But that's not all.

Years and years after that, at a Star Trek Convention in Great Gorge, New Jersey, I met Theodore Sturgeon for the first time.

I went into the room for my first panel, and he was the speaker on stage right before my panel. I sat in the audience, enthralled. And I asked a question which, today, I don't even recall. It started an audience discussion and I suppose brought me to his attention.

Later, I saw him sitting alone in the bar, and I went over to introduce myself. At that point, I was already well known as the primary author of the Bantam paperback, Star Trek Lives! I can't now recall if this was before or after I became the Chairman of the Science Fiction Writers of America Speaker's Bureau.

He taught me to drink Compari properly (no water, one ice cube) as he was famous for doing with all his acquaintances, and we talked for 3 hours or more, until one of us had another panel to do. During the course of this discussion, he personally explained the silver Q with an arrow through it that he always wore around his neck. I had forgotten all about it. I learned it the second time, in depth and detail during that weekend, and recognized in it one of the core elements in my own personal philosophy.

Later that weekend, we were assigned to the same autographing table, and between customers, we sat and talked and talked -- and I finally got up nerve to tell him he was the author of the one story in all SF/F that I really HATED ("Bianca's Hands") and the one story in all televised SF that I thought was the best thing ever written in SF/F -- "Amok Time" -- and I told him how I had anticipated every element in it, scene for scene and word for word, based only on knowing he was the author and that it was television. As Trek aficionados know, the script Ted turned in is quite different from what was broadcast, and what I constructed in my mind at the time was the broadcast version.

At any rate, this started another marathon talkathon between us.

Years and years after that, at a World Science Fiction Convention in San Francisco, I ran across Ted with his wife Jane, and they invited me out to dinner. We got to talking about the Occult, and one thing led to another, and I admitted I was running the Tarot Workshop at the Worldcon. so we talked Tarot. Turned out Ted's wife Jane reads cards too, and during this discussion, she read for me. Afterwards, she was rather surprised at herself for it was the first time she'd ever eaten an entire meal in trance. She could barely remember what she'd eaten. And the reading was exceptionally good.

When Ted, May He Rest In Peace, left this world, I grieved seriously.

Lately, I haven't seen anyone carrying on the Q/Arrow philosophy, and I think it's time to create this little memorial to a great man.


Hour 25  -- the Radio show in Los Angeles from which the MP3 recording above was taken.  Permission to post here has been granted.
December 3, 1976
The hosts are Mike Hodel and Mitch Harding
The guest is Theodore Sturgeon - making the comment.

       As far as transcribing it ... remember, you can't change history, no praise cutting now. :) Jaye says "Remember, those who edit history are doomed to repeat it."

       Transcript -

Host - Mike Hodel.
Host - Mitch Harding.
Guest - Theodore Sturgeon.

Harding: Thanks a lot Terry for shortening it for us. (Referring to The Hour 25 Calendar.)
Hodel: (Laughs.)
Sturgeon: Oh listen, speaking of horror and science fiction.
Mitch: She didn't ... folks.
Sturgeon: Among my, my many, many adventures recently I ran across a perfectly marvelous character by the name of Jacqueline Lichtenberg. Jacqueline Lichtenberg is the, she's the queen of the, of the Trekkies. She's a remarkably articulate and deeply serious human being, she really is; and she is the fan of all fans. As a matter of fact there exists such a thing as the Jacqueline Lichtenberg Fan Club. (???) Here's a fan who has a fan club.
Harding: That's great.
Sturgeon: But she's completely articulate as I say, very quick minded; and she came out with one of the most beautiful distinctions I have ever heard in my life. Terry's just mentioning a horror and science fiction convention. At the recent Fantasy Convention she was on stage and she drew a beautiful distinction between horror fiction and science fiction. She says, "Horror Fiction frightens you out of your mind, ... Science Fiction frightens you into it."
Harding: Good.
Sturgeon: Isn't that neat?
Hodel: That's kinda nice. Yeah.
Sturgeon: That's really neat, I really like that. Now I'm for Jacqueline Lichtenberg; if you ever get her into this area, put her on the air.


Back to The Zeor Visitor's Center. Or Return to Sime~Gen Welcommittee

See Jacqueline Lichtenberg's Home Page.