Sturgeon was not the happiest of writers, but he was more intense in his joys than almost any of his peers. He suffered spasms of overproduction and long periods of writer’s block, but his fellow writers admired him above all others for his professionalism, his technique, his adventurousness. He was dismissed and rehabilitated a dozen times, but he was always loved.
Some early stories – “Microcosmic God” (1941), or “Killdozer” (1944) – might have been written by any of a dozen competent contemporaries, but the mature Sturgeon story – “Bianca’s Hands” (1947), “Maturity” (1947), “The World Well Lost” (1953), or “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959 – is almost impossible to mistake, and often focuses on the traumas of being a lonely child or adolescent in a world of uncaring, or malign, adults. The Style is sometimes excessive, trying too hard to convey too great a complexity of emotion for easily approachable language; but more often it is both incandescent and unforgettable. After all is told, love triumphs.
At least three of Sturgeon’s longer works will always be remembered. The first, The Dreaming Jewels, is one of the best of his wish-fulfillment metaphors. Young Horty, persecuted by a vicious stepfather, runs away to a carnival, where he finds protection and friends, and falls in love with the world. But Horty is no usual child: he is a telepathic shape-changer, “dreamed” into existence by jewel-like aliens, and at the same time representing the true human spirit. As in all of Sturgeon’s finest dreams of freedom, to escape the trammels of our mortal condition is to be fully human at last.
This potent aspiration is even more eloquently expressed in More Than Human, although again without a realistic world to back it up.
Only in Venus Plus X, one of the few utopian novels by an American SF author, does Sturgeon try to create a society untrammeled by constraints on sexuality or imagination. Woundingly, it was published only in paperback, and disappeared from view.
Sturgeon’s last novel, the posthumous Godbody, shows the strain of trying to maintain so soaring a vision in a complex and unresponsive world.
(Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia, JC)