Теодор Стърджън

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Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:44 am

Тази сутрин се събудих с... прозрение.

(Ех... бяха ми долипсвали. :))

Нека вас да питам първо:

Сещате ли се за български писател(и), напомнящ(и) ви за Теодор Стърджън?

По какво си приличат?
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Nasko » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:17 pm

Велко Милоев - "Всичко, което наричаме небе" и "Няма да бъдем същите", "Вятър работа", "Тополата" - прилича ми по нежния хуманизъм и усещането за драматично противопоставяне на злонамереността.

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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:08 am

Прекрасен отговор - благодаря, Наско!

Аз имам наум и някой друг - но продължавам да слушам вас.
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:38 pm

Мой отзив за The Cosmic Rape на Теодор Стърджън:

Вратата на безименен вертеп в безименен град зейва и отвътре, сипейки проклятия и заплахи, изхвръква Гърлик. Той е без дом, без работа и без приятели, от много, много време насам. Онова, което запълва вакуума в сърцето му, е озлоблението: достатъчно озлобление, за да си мечтаеш да стъпиш върху лицето на целокупния свят и да скачаш отгоре му. Светът обаче е твърде голям и силен да го смачкаш току-така; дори един немилостив барман може да се окаже непобедим враг. Гърлик ще трябва да се задоволи да смачка премръзналия помияр край кофата за боклук; да се ограничи с триумфа в битката за парче недояден бургер.

В същия този момент, някъде другаде: Пол Сандерс сипва в шерито на прелестната (и, уви, омъжена) колежка Шарлоте нещо, което да го улесни в неговата собствена битка със съпружеската ѝ вярност. Африканецът Мбала се препъва в нощта с ослепели от ужас очи към нивата си, където зъл демон ограбва реколтата от гулии вече няколко седмици. Седемнайсетгодишният Гуидо дебне в къщата на инспектора, който си е поставил за цел да го спре, преди да извърши поредното престъпление – и агонизира от звуците на цигулката… толкова много звуци, тъй много музика тук и навсякъде… и всичката трябва да секне. Петгодишният Хенри подсмърча в един от ъглите на детската си градина, сам, смръзнал се, смъртно уплашен: какво чудовище се е притаило наоколо, та майка му все го наглежда скришом през оня прозорец, нищо че учителките са я помолили да не се натрапва постоянно в живота му? (Може ли чудовището да е… баща му?) Медуза се готви да приобщи още един разумен вид към множеството, което обхваща.

Медуза е групов разум, кошер от интелекти, ширнали се през две галактики и част от трета. Човечеството е разумният вид, който е на ред да бъде погълнат. Гърлик – мръсният, малограмотен, мразещ Гърлик – става средството, чрез което ще се осъществи поглъщането. (Понеже заедно с парчето от бургера той току-що е изгълтал и спората на Медуза.) И тъй като космическият нашественик, при все галактическия си опит, никога не е попадал на разум, възникнал у всеки индивид поотделно, а не като симбиотична рожба на групата, ятото, колонията, той стига до извод, че човечеството се намира в неестествено, фрагментирано състояние. Затова първата задача на Гърлик ще е да го обедини – човечеството; да открие начина, по който човешките умове да заработят като един отново. Поне така си мисли Медуза.

The Cosmic Rape от Теодор Стърджън (аз бих го превел като „Космическото обладаване“) е къс роман, сто и петдесет странички – но трясва далеч по-зашеметяващо от повечето епични „тухли“. В англоезичния свят наричат Стърджън „Въплътената любов“. Не се оставяйте на това очакване… инак, като мен, началото на романа ще ви шокира. Със страх, похот, отричане на собствените нужди, ненавист. Всеки нов герой сякаш е различно въплъщение на чудовището „човешко падение“; и е толкова по-чудовищен, защото мислите и действията му са простички, познати: там, на мястото на Мбала, Гуидо или Пол, можеше да съм аз, нали?

А любовта? Тя къде остава? ...


Останалото – в конкурса за рецензия на Сборище на трубадури.
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Thu Feb 19, 2015 10:26 am

Отзив в Goodreads за The Ultimate Egoist:

I have a dream.

That one day--when we have sold out the tenth reprint of the Bulgarian translation of The Innkeeper's Song and the thirtieth of The Last Unicorn (the electronic one too), and we have exposed a million Bulgarian readers to A Requiem for Homo Sapiens--I shall sit down and sublimate my impressions and compile a collection called The Ultimate Sturgeon. Or some such.

In reading this volume, I've taken another step to that dream.

Interestingly, I don't think that any of the stories contained here will find its way into my Ultimate Sturgeon. They lack maturity. (That is, "Maturity.") None of them would have made me yearn to read more of this Sturgeon fellow.

Yet--I did like them. For the sheer variety of their vocabulary. (I've been snatching bits and pieces as I translate Наследникът into English.) And for offering me the chance to watch one of my role models take his first steps, and falter, and not give up. Watch him grow.

And here're my tinier dreams as I read:

~ "The Right Line" drove a realization home: the young Sturgeon drew inspiration from O. Henry. Even then though, his focus on human relations was already brighter.

(And he already knew at least as many words as O. Henry. It's mind-boggling, how he managed ....)

~ Some of the short-shorts here are massive facepalm material. (Especially the one about how a true American behaves to the British king. O.o) It's encouraging to see Sturgeon didn't like them himself, knowing full well they were just means to put food on the table (and the way he raged about editors rejecting his longer, more ambitious efforts ... oh I felt for him, did I not). It's discouraging to see the crap a rising meteor like him had to wallow through; to think about the lost opportunities. The letter Sturgeon wrote to his mother following the publication of "One Sick Kid" hit me really hard. Especially these parts:

That story was ding-dong stuff; it had a shot of supersuperpseudo-patriotism in it to make it sell, the way you put—well, you don’t, but some do—a shot of baking-powder in flapjax. That story was a crime against literature—even my kind.


and

I’m no Wells or Welles; Shaw or Shakespeare. I give humor and originality and the utmost in refined horror (...) to people who need it. I’m no uplifter. I repeat: I’m a craftsman (...)


and

I will never write a Grapes of Wrath or a Gone With the Wind or an Appointment at Samarra because I have no message, no ardor, no lessons to teach.


But then again, would he grow into what he eventually became if he hadn't gone through this?

~ "Bianca's Hands" is as disturbing as it was some seventeen years ago, when I came across it in The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF. And I still do now know what this story is for: why did Sturgeon write it? Maybe I don't even know what it is about: what did Ran want with the hands anyway? I'd be interested to hear others' interpretations.

Judging from the story notes, it was what I call a "gift piece": a yarn that comes to you and refuses to go away until you spin it out in one way or another. (The first piece I sold, "The Film-thin Bound," was a bit like that too.) A question has nagged me about such instances: can a writer claim any credit for them? How much of the gift have we actually earned, through our erstwhile efforts and accumulated acumen?
Скрит текст: покажи
(Excuse my subjecting you to this terrible assonance; but otherwise, it was going to haunt me. ;)
If I remember correctly the theory of flow, which I first saw in The Psychology of Creative Writing, we can't really get any "gifts" until we've attained a level of proficiency--so we've mostly earned them. Sounds reasonable.

However, how you earn a level of proficiency at the age of twenty-one beats me and will keep beating me, with a vengeance. Maybe it's something karmic? ;)

~ What type of horror can still clutch at my chest?

The type where we--the horror and I--do not, cannot understand each other. We differ in ways that cannot be bridged. We think in ways that cannot be connected. We perceive incompatibly, yearn irreconcilably. None of my interpreting or listening skills work. There is no communication. No commonality.

It from the eponymous story had all the right, clutchy bits. (Before, you know, the freshet came and washed them away.)

So why did it make me more sad than scared?
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:00 am

Отзив в Goodreads за Microcosmic God:

This whole collection felt as if it was almost there. Almost moving; almost memorable; almost making me think and rethink.

I almost really liked it.

But I'm absolutely looking forward to the next one. Because the direction has been up and up.

My impressions as I read:

~ Recently, in one of my Bulgarian-language groups, we've been discussing which scenes can still scare the life out of us, as grown-up readers.

I've just made a catch: the ending of "Shottle Bop." It terrified me when I first read it a couple of years ago, and it still does. Probably with its madness and inexorability. You know it's coming, and you have no control to change it.

The funny part is that once I get over the shock, I start laughing. Just like the Wolfmeyer fellow. It's a stress release reaction, and thus another testament to the power of the scene.

Besides, I've generally noticed that the writers who can terrify me the most are also those who can make me laugh the hardest. (Pratchett can be pretty scary, for instance towards the end of The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents; and Beagle's encounters with the primeval elder beings in The Innkeeper's Song give me the creeps.) There must be something here ....

~ "Yesterday Was Monday" has obviously influenced a lot of people in the world of philosophical, tongue-in-cheek speculation. I wonder if David Eagleman read it before writing "Incentive" in Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives.

~ Two things about "Microcosmic God" have swirled in my head since yesterday.

One, the volume of preliminary work--research and idea generation--that Sturgeon put into it. It's staggering. And a stark reminder how little time most of us Bulgarian writers usually invest into germinating a story. (But man, don't we dazzle when it comes to philosophizing. :/ ) Of course, there're certain justifications for that: most of us write in between their paying jobs, we can't afford to spend the time, etc. However, the fact that writers such as Атанас П. Славов or Николай Теллалов exist proves that we can do it the Sturgeon way. (Or the Daniel Bensen way. I've had the pleasure and fortune of seeing how Daniel researches his fiction; it's both intimidating and inspiring.) It'll only take us more time--certainly more than the twenty-two years of being alive that were enough for Sturgeon.

(This is more obvious, but here goes: "Microcosmic God" is an early herald of the A-bomb. When you think hard about things, sometimes you stumble upon pretty likely consequences. I'm sure Sturgeon wasn't the first one, but I don't know the early history of SF.)

Two, I was taken aback by the immorality (amorality?) of the characters. All of them. Show me one good guy here. I'll show you two terrible things he does, or more. In that respect, I think Sturgeon was right to revile the story (although he says that "nobody is ever and altogether good" in one of his put-downs--does it mean he saw someone good there?). Also, it's full of cardboard characters. And has a distinct men-only feel.

(Kidder may have Asperger Syndrome, judging from his inability to interact with other people, and his total inability to empathize with the Neoterics.)

~ "Artnan Process" contains a miraculous mix.

On the one hand, it's still quite amazing for its scientific rationale and plethora of turns and twists. I wish we could put so much time, so many ideas into each of our stories. (Incidentally, the scheme that the Martians impose on Earth in order to control it economically felt eerily similar to Григор Гачев's recent explanation of the scheme behind the conflict in Ukraine.)

On the other hand, an intelligent race without a sense of humor? Same old power struggle brought over into space? Thank you, I don't smoke. (It's my ears.)

You're cracking me up, Mr Sturgeon.
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:38 am

In a letter to David G. Hartwell, Theodore Sturgeon wrote:(...) my preoccupation in a larger sense is the optimum man. The question of establishing an internal ecology, where the optimum liver works with the optimum spleen and the optimum eyeball and so forth. Now, when you get to the mind—not the brain, but the optimum mind—then you have the whole inner space idea; my conviction is that there’s more room there than there is in outer space, in each individual human being. Love of course has a great deal to do with that, as a necessary coloration and adjunct to everything that we do—to love oneself, to love the parts of oneself, to love the interaction of the parts of oneself, and then the interaction of that whole organism with those of another person. Which is as good a definition of love as you can get, I think.

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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:46 am

Отзив в Goodreads за Killdozer:

In a nutshell: Sturgeon is still on the verge of becoming a moving force. And his knowledge of, of, of everything still astounds me. (Everything but deeply appealing characters. Of his cast, only the children really appeal to me. Just you wait, though; they're growing up. ;)

My impressions as I read:

~ "Blabbermouth" is built on this idea:

“Remember what I told you about the entity that is conceived of suspicion and born of guilt? It’s a wicked little poltergeist—an almost solid embodiment of hate. And I’m a susceptible. Eddie, I can’t be in the same room with any two people who bear suspicion and the corresponding sense of guilt! And the world is full of those people—you can’t avoid them. Everyone has dozens upon dozens of petty hates and prejudices. Let me give you an example. Suppose you have a racial hatred of, say, Tibetans. You and I are sitting here, and a Tibetan walks in. Now, you know him. He has a very fine mind, or he has done you a favor, or he is a friend of a good friend of yours. You talk for a half hour, politely, and everything’s all right. In your heart, though, you’re saying, ‘I hate your yellow hide, you sniveling filth.’ Everything will still be all right as long as he is unconscious of it. But once let this thought flicker into his mind—‘He dislikes me because of my race’—and then and there the poltergeist is born. The room is full of it, charged with it. It has body and power of its own, completely independent of you or the Tibetan.”


Which I find fascinating, both from reading about how the brain works (e.g. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain) and observing how people interact. Paul Williams, Sturgeon's biographer, notes that "it is his treatment of this sort of insight that makes Sturgeon close to unique among fiction writers, sf or otherwise"; I can't think of any other writer who did so much exploration in this particular direction. In fact, in the stories so far, I've seen little of the love that is Sturgeon's staple--but much of his genuine interest in what makes us think and act in certain ways; what makes us human.

The ride is getting truly thrilling. :)

~ First story that gave me the real creeps was "The Hag Séleen." It starts all childlike and funny and innocent; and it ends all funny and childlike ... but the innocence drowns somewhere along the way. In a sawyer.

And if you just watch that sawyer long enough, the carcass may leap out at you. See?

As for Patty, she bounced resiliently away from the episode. Séleen she dubbed the Witch of Endor, and used her in her long and involved games as an archvillain in place of Frankenstein’s monster, Adolf Hitler, or Miss McCauley, her schoolteacher. Many an afternoon I watched her from the hammock on the porch, cooking up dark plots in the witch’s behalf and then foiling them in her own coldbloodedly childish way. Once or twice I had to put a stop to it, like the time I caught her hanging the Witch of Endor in effigy, the effigy being a rag doll, its poor throat cut with benefit of much red paint.

--It's there.

~ The amount of telling in "Killdozer" is unbelievable. What bothered me was that it is completely unnecessary, with all the masterful showing around it.

The earliest Sturgeon story where he came to a better balance (at least better from a contemporary point of view) is, as far as my reading goes, The Dreaming Jewels. (Here, I refer only to stories which require both showing and telling. Sturgeon was already extremely proficient when he only chose to show.)

~ "Crossfire" is one of those stories (?) that reduce me to a "wut?!". Can anyone please tell me what jus' happened?

(The notes say it's a rough draft. Perhaps not a story then, only a bud? Bringing such drafts to the public eye can indeed do a disservice to the writer. :( )

~ Fact check: Is Segundo Revenir in "Bulldozer Is a Noun" the precursor of Hari Seldon in the Foundation series?

Judging from the publication history of the earlierst Foundation stories, Hari came before Segundo, who was probably written in 1945 (but not much earlier). So my next question is, did John Campbell reject it because it reminded him too much of Asimov's idea?

~ You want to know all about bulldozers and bulldozing? Then Sturgeon is your man.

You want to know all about burglar alarms: setting them up and disabling them? Try Sturgeon.

You want to know all about all sorts of electric gadgets and doodahs? Have you checked Sturgeon?

... The man's curiosity and erudition are staggering. I'm trying to come up with someone even vaguely similar here in Bulgaria. Perhaps Николай Теллалов; Иван Попов; Асен Сираков?

But none of them have Sturgeon's curiosity and erudition about language itself ....

~ Nailing (some of) it down:

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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:56 am

Отзив в Goodreads за Thunder and Roses:

It is a marvel to behold, how Sturgeon the apprentice burst into the master Sturgeon. Bang at the start of the book too: smiling at you along with Robin English from "Maturity."

(However, this may be an exaggeration. Sturgeon did rewrite the second half of "Maturity" several years later, to make it more, well, more mature. The first version, as Clifford Simak pointed out to him, had a stellar start but slid into mundanity.)

Stop reading this review and go read that collection. Especially "Maturity," "Thunder and Roses," "Tiny and the Monster."

... Still here?! Ah well. Suit yourselves.

Or help yourselves to these bites, cooked as I read:

~ "Maturity" is the story where Theodore Sturgeon came of age.

I can't quite speak about it. It feels as I would be, as its protagonist Robin says, wasting wind.

Instead, consider how he handles the feelings of two people dear to him and hateful to each other:

“(...) Why do you hate each other?”
Warfield sucked in his breath and looked at Peg. Peg looked at her feet.
“I have been my own damnation,” said Robin, “like most damned souls. There isn’t a thing you could have done to prevent it. Mel once made an honest mistake, and it wasn’t even a serious one. Peg, you have no right to assume that it was made through a single motive, and that a base one. Nature never shows one motive or one law at a time, unaffected by any other. And Mel—to hate Peg because of the things she has felt is like hating a man for moving when a tornado has taken him away.”


Simple as that.

(But ... how often do we let ourselves speak up on the matters of the heart? How often do we reach this stage of clarity, to find the right words?)

And then ... the ending. Which I won't spoil for you. But it resonates--and a part of me wants to cry, "terribly!"--with my own reflections on never having enough.

I've never said I'm a mature human being, have I?

~ A glimpse into the mind of an anthologist:

I want to anthologize "Tiny and the Monster," because it has one of the loveliest canine protagonists ever--my partner will adore Tiny; and one of the most fascinating, to quote the author, "secondary characters taking over the story"; and a great concept; and a great leading couple who refuse to be seen as one--which only makes them greater.

I cringe at the thought of anthologizing "Tiny and the Monster" because it's full of technical jargon; and local dialect--in fact, two local dialects, if I counted correctly; and I couldn't make much of either; and I shiver to think what other translators will make. As it is, we've had enough trouble with Robert F. Young's "To Fell a Tree" for our „Зелени разкази (ама _наистина_)“ ....

... Do you guys still dream of becoming anthologists? ;)

~ I've read "Thunder and Roses" at least three times, and it's still as throat-clutching. Along with "Maturity," it wrenched my tears out: those tears that have been so hard to release over the years.

Perhaps the most astonishing part about it is that its message is so simple. What would any sane beings do knowing that they're dying, and it is on their hands to decide whether everyone else dies too?

That it still grips my throat and tears is a testimony to the persistence of this question. Have we grown up to be sane? What if someone kills us now? Do we kill back?

Future, future, what is it you carry on your shoulders? Behind the thunder, among the roses?

~ "Hurricane Trio" made me look for [Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril] (and wonder about the hurricanes inside Sturgeon's own soul). I found the first third of the book online (yay, Google Books!), and it was powerful and honest, and amazed me how much artistry writers actually put into their letters.

But I'd rather go on with the stories here. ;)

~ I've already read "There Is No Defense" at least once; the "convincing" of Hereford to choose the path of action pissed me off then, and still does. I'm coming to believe that we Westerners really don't understand Gandhi's satyagraha or what ahimsa is about in general. (Yes, I too have had the impulse to bunch my own fists or even punch whoever was attacking me. It's made me feel all the more miserable afterwards.)

Perhaps the deepest exploration of how non-violence could go differently is embodied in Danlo wi Soli Ringess, the protagonist of David Zindell's Requiem for Homo Sapiens. In essence, Danlo is an ambassador of peace in a galaxy on the verge of war; a devoted, evolving adherent of pacifism. However, even there, the ending comes with a caveat: something happens which breaks--a lot of things. The logic of the story, the MC's characterization, this reader's heart (and a bit of his mind) ....

So, can we understand ahimsa? To what extent?
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Tue May 12, 2015 12:57 pm

Отзив в Goodreads за The Perfect Host:

A striking feature of Sturgeon's writing that I haven't mentioned so far is its generous disregard for the principle "one basic idea per short story." He'd usually throw in two, three, at times even more; and all of them would sound thoroughly researched. The freshest example in my mind is "Farewell to Eden." There, we have:
- What would a piece of apparatus for restructuring the human body look like?
- How do you help people regain their memories?
- Why do intelligent beings discriminate against those who differ?
- And the ending, which I won't spoil for you.

After consuming such idea feasts for a while, ordinary short stories, with their meager single foci, become rather unpalatable. ;)

Here are my other impressions:

~ As I read "Quietly," the beginning of an unfinished early novel, an old yearning clutched at my solar split: to have known the author who would come up with such a character, such questions (what is important? what is functional?), and send them into the world, set them against it. To have known him, not so much by talking and asking my own questions, but rather living around him, sharing little everyday silences ... and maybe getting an occasional glimpse into what's fermenting inside him. Being friends.

I don't know why it feels so lonely as I write now, even though most of Sturgeon's stories lead me away from loneliness, even though I know people like him (I do) and have been blessed to call them my friends (and know what it takes to earn such a blessing). Perhaps the answer is somewhere along the same impulse that made me type "it feels so lonely" rather than "I feel." Perhaps I do not ....

~ ... which ties in--no, not nicely, definitely not; nastily is more like it--with the way my jaw dropped as I reached part VII "(Told by the Author)" of "The Perfect Host."

This is probably the earliest piece of genuine, genuinely creepy mindfuckaroo I've seen in literature, genre or non. Not only did Sturgeon broke the fourth wall, he also broke readers' sanity, at least for a while. I'm sure he did.

And after you read "The Perfect Host," come back and figure out what I meant by "... which ties in with." For an extra thrill.

~ "What Dead Men Tell" has two strong elements going for it: an ingenious intellectual puzzle; and the protagonist's reason to aspire to immortality: so that he can have enough time to think out everything (literally everything) according to his idea that what's important is simple--and then make everyone else's thinking more efficient. A lofty goal, if I ever saw one.

It also has two downers: that solving the puzzle requires advanced understanding of topology
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(a "non-simply-connected continuous trifacial," heh)
and physics--what if the protagonist didn't have it, had never been shown that strip of scrap film?--and that, when all's been said and done, no character in the story comes out really likable. I know it's only a novelette, but still. Sturgeon, of all writers, should know how to infuse likability. ;)

Two minus two equals zero, and here such simplistic math actually holds water: I wouldn't come back to reread this story nor recommend it, except to a more specialized audience.

The anthologist in me is unhappy. :(
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Mon Jun 01, 2015 9:56 am

Отзив в Goodreads за Baby Is Three:

Another full-blown Sturgeon collection. No matter how many or which other writers you've read, some of the stories here will blow your mind. Fully. ;)

The ones that blew mine were:

~ Bobby from "Shadow, Shadow on the Wall" is Sturgeon's most luminous child character yet. (Especially in the growing darkness. ;)

When he awoke, it was early. He couldn’t smell the coffee from downstairs yet, even. There was a ruddy-yellow sunswatch on the blank wall, a crooked square, just waiting for him. He jumped out of bed and ran to it. He washed his hands in it, squatted down on the floor with his arms out. “Now!” he said.
He locked his thumbs together and slowly flapped his hands. And there on the wall was a black butterfly, flapping its wings right along with him. “Hello, butterfly,” said Bobby.
He made it jump. He made it turn and settle to the bottom of the light patch, and fold its wings up and up until they were together. Suddenly he whipped one hand away, peeled back the sleeve of his sleeper, and presto! There was a long-necked duck. “Quack-ack!” said Bobby, and the duck obligingly opened its bill, threw up its head to quack. Bobby made it curl up its bill until it was an eagle. He didn’t know what kind of noise an eagle made, so he said, “Eagle-eagle-eagle-eagle-eagle,” and that sounded fine. He laughed.


While Mommy Gwen is what I'd call "a two-dimensional cutout come to life":

She clicked the high-up switch, the one he couldn’t reach, and room light came cruelly. Mommy Gwen changed from a flat, black, light-rimmed set of cardboard triangles to a night-lit, daytime sort of Mommy Gwen.
Her hair was wide and her chin was narrow. Her shoulders were wide and her waist was narrow. Her hips were wide and her skirt was narrow, and under it all were her two hard silky sticks of legs. Her arms hung down from the wide tips of her shoulders, straight and elbowless when she walked. She never moved her arms when she walked. She never moved them at all unless she wanted to do something with them.


Only she's growing darker-than-darkness ....

~ A casual conversation from "Rule of Three," taking place 60+ years ago:

Jon waved his empty glass. “There are 39,000 psychotherapists to how many millions of people who need their help? There’s a crying need for some kind of simple, standardized therapy, and people refuse to behave either simply or according to standards. Somewhere, somehow, there’s a new direction in therapy. So-called orthodox procedures as they now exist don’t show enough promise. They take too long. If by some miracle of state support and streamlined education you could create therapists for everyone who needed them, you’d have what amounted to a nation or a world of full-time therapists. Someone’s got to bake bread and drive buses, you know.”
“What about these new therapies I’ve been reading about?” Edie wanted to know.
“Oh, they’re a healthy sign to a certain extent; they indicate we know how sick we are. The most encouraging thing about them is their diversity. There are tools and schools and phoneys and fads. There’s psychoanalysis, where the patient talks about his troubles to the therapist, and narcosynthesis, where the patient’s troubles talk to the therapist, and hypnotherapy, where the therapist talks to the patient’s troubles.
“There’s insulin to jolt a man out of his traumas and electric shock to subconsciously frighten him out of them, and CO2 to choke the traumas to death. And there’s the pre-frontal lobotomy, the transorbital leukotomy, and the topectomy to cut the cables between a patient’s expression of his aberrations and its power supply, with the bland idea that the generator will go away if you can’t see it any more. And there’s Reichianism which, roughly speaking, identifies Aunt Susan, who slapped you, with an aching kneecap which, when cured, cures you of Aunt Susan too.
“And there’s—but why go on? The point is that the mushrooming schools of therapy show that we know we’re sick; that we’re anxious—but not yet anxious enough, en masse—to do something about it, and that we’re willing to attack the problem on all salients and sectors.”
“What kind of work have you been doing recently?” Edie asked.
“Electro-encephalographics, mostly. The size and shape of brainwave graphs will show a great deal once we get enough of them. And—did you know there’s a measurable change in volume of the fingertips that follows brainwave incidence very closely in disturbed cases? Fascinating stuff. But sometimes I feel it’s the merest dull nudging at the real problems involved. Sometimes I feel like a hard-working contour cartographer trying to record the height and grade of ocean waves. Every time you duplicate an observation to check it, there’s a valley where there was a mountain a second ago.”


... What's not to like about this Sturgeon fella? :D

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I can think of one thing, in fact. In a letter discussing this story, Sturgeon mentions a "dianetic emergency." Paul Williams, his biographer, doesn't explain the reference--or for that mutter, discuss Sturgeon's relationship to Hubbard, as far as I've seen so far. That would have been interesting; perhaps I should look it up elsewhere.

(... Actually, there's a brief discussion of Sturgeon, Hubbard and Dianetics in the notes on "Baby Is Three." Sturgeon's claim that Hubbard did not invent Dianetics but only synthesized it is really worth exploring.)


~ This collection is proving to be an exhibit of superb characters. The trio in "Make Room for Me" are the liveliest, most believable bunch of the whole lot so far. Listen to their banter:

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7027786

How does one make such characters?

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One--or rather, I should say "most"--take them from real life. These particular three, the notes explain, happen to be the author and his two best pals from high school.

So, to become a good writer, get to know good people. ;)


~ "The Traveling Crag" is as fine as I remembered it, with insider's insight into publishing and agents, terrific banter, and a hypothesis about how the ultimate weapon of a more advanced civilization would work. (In that last respect, it's an uncanny forerunner of "The Glow of the River," a novelette by Атанас П. Славов and Георги Арнаудов I hope to see published soon.)

~ "The Sex Opposite" is ... wonderful. Just wonderful. I can probably think up more adjectives (or even concrete thoughts), but "wonderful"--like in "sense of wonder"--sums it up enough.

~ The version of "Baby Is Three" I remember from More Than Human was more intense than the one here. More sinister, too. Makes me question my own memories. (Oh, the notes reassure me, my memories are all right; Sturgeon did tweak the novelized story. I know I need to re-read More than Human, but I'm keeping it for a special time; a time when I'll be able to do with it more than just re-reading.)

Still, it's probably the deepest Sturgeon story so far. Feels like a lifetime--or several: a gestalt of lifetimes--went into writing it. Makes you wonder what else the author knew that he never shared with us. Makes me wonder how many other people have felt this immense relief, this vastening recognition, when they read it.

WHERE ARE YOU?

Sorry, I'm rambling. Of course I am.
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Sat Jul 25, 2015 9:50 am

Отзив в Goodreads за A Saucer of Loneliness:

I liked this collection less than the previous one.

I've also realized that there's a misleading aspect of my ratings of these thirteen Sturgeon volumes. In terms of writing--the use of language, its enrichment and expansion--they're stellar, worthy of 5+ stars on this or any other scale. (Just listen to that alien voice in "The Clinic.") What I instead rate in them is their capacity to a) tell me something new (and renewing); b) move me. In that, I compare them against everything else I've ever read. It's a very high benchmark: the kind of high that an artist like Theodore Sturgeon deserves. (And it gets even higher in these hotter, hungrier months when nothing seems filling enough. :/)

So if I gave 4 stars to Ryan North's To Be or Not to Be and only 3 to this collection, which one did I like better? This is a question best left unanswered (what do we gain from such comparisons anyway?), but if you insist: I liked Saucer better. It's just that Sturgeon is competing against himself (and the rest of the world). Also, for the sake of fairness, I may eventually up-rate the collections.

Two examples of why I didn't find the stories here filling enough:

"Mr. Costello, Hero," for all the praise heaped on it over the years, left me underwhelmed with its main point boiling down to "Beware of men who apply Divide and Conquer." Isn't that too simplistic? How many of today's dangers does it alert us to? (I'm ready to accept that it was very relevant to the McCarthy era ... but what does this tell us about the people who believed McCarthy?)

"The Education of Drusilla Strange" contains a line about women helping "their men to realize themselves," which, if I look at it in a particular way, makes me wonder if Sturgeon had an issue with women. (Perhaps the problem is that I don't see a line about men helping their women to realize themselves, or perhaps it's the idea of "their"-ness; never mind men and women, mine and yours--why don't we just help one another?) Then again, if I look at myself in a particular way, I wonder if I have an issue with my reading of this story: perhaps the author was being playful, toying with a concrete fancy, not trying to generalize; perhaps he'd mentioned men and exploded the ridiculousness of intimate ownership in sufficiently many other stories so he didn't want to clutter this one too .... Time will tell.

On to my other impressions as I read:

~ "A Saucer of Loneliness," the short story, turned out to be quite different from the radio adaptation. I distinctly remember the radio drama getting hold of my throat and refusing to let go. The original is moving in its own way (and sympathetic, and empathetic of the human condition), but in comparison, its finale feels somewhat rushed, its male protagonist, almost nondescript.

Tell me more about super-emotion, onii-san. Motto, motto ....

~ "The World Well Lost," written some 60 years ago, is one of those pieces that can still raise people's hackles. Especially people here in Bulgaria, ages 40+. My older friends were shocked by the more revealing scenes between queer couples in Sense8. 60 years later, some of us still believe that we must love where the lightning strikes--or as the case may be, where someone has told us to.

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This stereotyping which I just did is a mirror and a test. I hope it outrages you--especially you, my Bulgarian friends--at least a bit.


Grunty's thinking in quotes from literary works is another winner. (There was a time in my writing when snippets of song lyrics would crop up spontaneously.) It also scares the self out of me: if we think in other people's quotes, whose thoughts are we thinking?

~ Talking about "The Dark Room," Sturgeon admitted that he wanted to develop another style, distinct from his usual one: "hard-heeling, fast-paced, brawling, macho." However, after listening to his protagonist Tom Conway for 40 pages, I cannot sense a tangible difference, except for two instances of questionable acts (one of which was revealed through telling rather than showing, and consequently didn't shock me as much as it should probably have). Tom reacts to people's behavior rather than provokes it. Consider his demeanor in the encounters with the elderly author of children's stories and the one-hit songwriter: he never leads the way but meekly follows. Also, if he is a macho type, why so much anguish at the end?

(Then again, I might have misread the ending. What with the heat of summer and my brain turning into mush, I'm not the most perceptive reader. This book hammered it home, amply.)

Nevertheless, I deeply admire Sturgeon's aspirations. I'm not sure if I've seen him meet them in his earlier stories (and they're great in that single voice of his anyway), but he certainly did it in later ones such as The Cosmic Rape.

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Also, now I hate him a little. Why did he have to go and remind me of the need to stay away from stylistic ruts just as I'm going through this mental trough? How am I gonna write my next story? ;)


~ In "A Way of Thinking," Sturgeon pulls a magnificent trick: he plugs himself as a character, adding significant meta-sweetness to the story.

And then we come to the ending, where another character does something really nasty. The author character reacts: “(...) Kelley,” I said, “stay away from me.” He takes a moral stance, doesn't he?

The question that's bugged me for the last few hours is: But who made that other character act nasty? And whom do we trust when it comes to moral stances?

~ "The Silken-Swift" is very likely one of the inspirations for The Last Unicorn. Can you see the parallels? (Can you hear the song?)

And while it's too short to make its characters as memorable as Molly and Schmendrick, its poetry soars. Will one day a magician come and translate it?

Hope springs eternal.
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Sun Oct 11, 2015 10:54 am

Отзив в Goodreads за Bright Segment:

The stories are getting longer; I think all but three are novelettes, and "To Here and the Easel" is a novella. Fortunately, they're not getting bloated.

Other than that (and a nasty doubt that has been gnawing at me--watch my last note), I can't add anything to what I've said about the previous volumes in the series.

My notes as I read:

~ While discussing Зелени разкази III, I mentioned Georgi Gospodinov's story „Среща с флорал“. The opening piece of Bright Segment, "Cactus Dance," reads like a full-fledged version of Gospodinov's short-short: it invests just enough time (and mystery) in the silent girl to make her memorable and relatable.

(Which reminds me that I should try Gospodinov's longer stories.)

~ In the fifty pages of "The Golden Helix," Sturgeon builds a more elaborate world and explores a greater number of ideas than most novels I'm aware of. As I've already said, he never skimps on content, research and novelty. Consequently, most of his pieces tend to expand, impact-wise, as I go over them later in my mind.

Nowadays, short prose generally earns lower advances than novels. If that was the case for Sturgeon too, it would have been a great injustice.

~ Check "Extrapolation" again.

~ I can't remember whether "Bright Segment" is the saddest or scariest Sturgeon story I've read so far, but the combination of the two, sad and scary, has never been so gripping. Or should I say "choking"? This novelette gripped both my heart and throat.

(Also, I can't imagine trying to translate it. The first dozen or so pages, where the man does an impromptu surgery on the girl in vivid anatomical detail, had me squirming, to say the least. If I have to go through them one sentence at a time, I'll likely alternate between throwing up and passing out. And who'll be there to fix me? ;)

~ I am so frustrated. :( "So Near the Darkness" soared so at first, with its humor and stylistic dazzle and lovable characters and lovable love. And it managed to twist out of one genre into another, twice. Yet (so help me) I can't put it on my favorite shelf, all because of its portrayal of women: both protagonist and antagonist.

Do I sense a trend? I am growing scared ... more than horror horrifies me.
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Mon Oct 26, 2015 6:07 pm

Отзив в Goodreads за And Now the News:

My delight with this collection was spoiled by a couple of grimmer, unpleasant pieces ("The Deadly Innocent," "And Now the News...", "The Girl Had Guts," "The Other Celia"). Interestingly, according to Paul Williams's notes, some of these have been hailed by critics as Sturgeon's major stories ("And Now the News..." may well offer one of the earliest warnings about the neurotic effects of media). Probably something to do with people's perennial fascination with their darker sides.

On a brighter note, one great asset of Sturgeon's writing that I haven't mentioned so far is its sheer diversity. Here, we have:
- a letter to a newspaper complaining about the author's inability to provide a story (and thereby telling the story)
- a Western with psychologically warped characters
- a police procedural
- a first-contact story
- a space opera with a twist
- a cosmic clash between opposing modes of government and thinking
- a psychological profile of those fittest to explore space
- a psychological profile of those trying to compartmentalize space into Earth-grown boxes
and so on.

My notes as I read:

~ "The Skills of Xanadu" is like a (wet :) dream come true: the greedy, authoritarian, rigid, militaristic guys get whopped by the sharing, anarchist, flexible, peaceful fellows. Of course, without resorting to violence.

(It's also very funny, during the "fiendish and unsportsmanlike" disaster that befalls Bril.)

Yet, ever since I translated it for our almanac ФантАstika 2007, a tiny thought has bugged me: Isn't the ending a bit smug? Too condescending for such a grown-up version of humanity?

~ This passage in "Fear Is a Business," while not Sturgeon's most eloquent, is among Sturgeon's most fundamental; it sums up some of his major themes:

“Device, device—what device?”
“Oh, a—” Hurensohn came up out of his reverie. “Labeling again, dammit. I’ll have to think a minute. You have no name for such a thing.”
“Well, what is it supposed to do?”
“Communicate. That is, it makes complete communications possible.”
“We get along pretty well.”
“Nonsense! You communicate with labels—words. Your words are like a jumble of packages under a Christmas tree. You know who sent each one and you can see its size and shape, and sometimes it’s soft or it rattles or ticks. But that’s all. You don’t know exactly what it means and you won’t until you open it. That’s what this device will do—open your words to complete comprehension. If every human being, regardless of language, age or background, understood exactly what every other human being wanted, and knew at the same time that he himself understood, it would change the face of the earth. Overnight.”
Phillipso sat and thought that one out. “You couldn’t bargain,” he said at length. “You couldn’t—uh—explain a mistake, even.”
“You could explain it,” said Hurensohn. “It’s just that you couldn’t excuse it.”
“You mean every husband who—ah—flirted, every child who played hookey, every manufacturer who—”
“All that.”
“Chaos,” whispered Phillipso. “The very structure of—”
Hurensohn laughed pleasantly. “You know what you’re saying, Phillipso. You’re saying that the basic structure of your whole civilization is lies and partial truths, and that without them it would fall apart. And you’re quite right.” He chuckled again. “Your Temple of Space, just for example. What do you think would happen to it if all your sheep knew what their Shepherd was and what was in the shepherd’s mind?”
“What are you trying to do—tempt me with all this?”
Most gravely Hurensohn answered him, and it shocked Phillipso to the marrow when he used his first name to do it. “I am, Joe, with all my heart I am. You’re right about the chaos, but such a chaos should happen to mankind or any species like it. I will admit that it would strike civilization like a mighty wind, and that a great many structures would fall. But there would be no looters in the wreckage, Joe. No man would take advantage of the ones who fell.”
“I know something about human beings,” Phillipso said in a flat, hurt voice. “And I don’t want ’em on the prowl when I’m down. Especially when they don’t have anything. God.”
Hurensohn shook his head sadly. “You don’t know enough, then. You have never seen the core of a human being, a part which is not afraid, and which understands and is understood.”


It also makes the ending of the story infinitely sad.
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Those billions of stars, all falling down on us, with every nasty lie ....


(I wonder about the real-life inspirations here. McCarthyism was certainly one--was there some other fear-instilling trend? And what did Sturgeon mean by calling Peter Lanroyd "a reformed murderer"?)

~
“(...) Who was it once said humanity will evolve into a finger and a button, and every time the finger wants anything, it will push the button—and that will be the end of humanity, because the finger will get too damn lazy to push the button?”


Who indeed? The earliest instance I can Google belongs to a certain Newell, a character--rather unpleasant, too--in Sturgeon's novella "The Other Man" from 1956. (And I thought it had been said much later, when we became exposed to/immersed in virtual realities.)

Does anyone know of an earlier source?

~ I am extremely torn about "The Pod in the Barrier."

On the level of individuals, it is superb: a triumph of latent human abilities overcoming the seemingly inexorable laws of physics (I don't want to spoil the ending by giving more details); and a triumph of compassion and understanding over ruthless efficiency.

On the level of society, it is scary: imagine a future where overpopulation has become so rampant that the United Planet government has to "freeze" entire cities from time to time (making everone there black out, and possibly die, depending on where the "freeze" caught them) to prevent riots--and not only on Earth but on 18 worlds. Would you really want to give such a species even more planets?

Perhaps that's dialectics at work: can you ever have a triumph without a failure, and vice versa? But it still tastes bitter.
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Wed Nov 11, 2015 6:58 pm

Отзив в Goodreads за The Man Who Lost the Sea:

Sometimes, I feel too dumb to say anything meaningful about Theodore Sturgeon. What is there to add to what he's already told us?

(Well, perhaps there is something--in those nineteen forewords by his fellow masters, the writers who've learnt from him one way or another. However, I'm not reading any of those until I finish the whole series; I don't want them to influence my impressions here.)

Anyway *sigh*, this collection resonated with me more than any of the previous nine, and here are the resonances I could capture in words:

~ "It Opens the Sky" is, ultimately, such a sweet tale. :) What makes it so sweet isn't only Sturgeon's profound faith in humanity ("you don’t, you just don’t increase intelligence by a factor of five and fail to see that people must be kind to one another," says a character who looks like an angel, but is merely a man); it's also the bitter raging against the protagonist's awfulness and all the awful things he does to people--some of whom he really likes himself. "Just die," you whisper at the back of your throat, "die and leave them alone." And then comes the turnaround. And you--okay, me--stand there and gawk and gape. "Boy, did I ever see that coming ...."

(This is also one of those rare stories that I'd like to see made into a movie. I even caught myself visualizing what kind of camera work would preserve the twists. ;)

~ On the subject of sweet, here's a passage from "A Touch of Strange":

She said faintly, “Are you … have you … I mean, if you don’t mind my asking, you don’t have to tell me …”
“What is it?” he asked gently, moving close to her. She was huddled unhappily on the edge of the shelf. She didn’t turn to him, but she didn’t move away.
“Married, or anything?” she whispered.
“Oh gosh no. Never. I suppose I had hopes once or twice, but no, oh gosh no.”
“Why not?”
“I never met a … well, they all … You remember what I said about a touch of strange?”
“Yes, yes …”
“Nobody had it … Then I got it, and … put it this way, I never met a girl I could tell about the mermaid.”
The remark stretched itself and lay down comfortably across their laps, warm and increasingly audible, while they sat and regarded it. When he was used to it, he bent his head and turned his face towards where he imagined hers must be, hoping for some glint of expression. He found his lips resting on hers. Not pressing, not cowering. He was still, at first from astonishment, and then in bliss. She sat up straight with her arms braced behind her and her eyes wide until his mouth slid away from hers. It was a very gentle thing.


Well. :)

~ "Sweet" is becoming a leading mood (a leit-motif?) of this collection. "The Graveyard Reader" is of the bitter-sweet variety: about how much we need to invest before we learn to read one another truly.

~ What can I say about "The Man Who Lost the Sea" that hasn't already been said by others, much more eloquently?

Only this: I knew where it was going, remembered that ending so vividly from my previous read ... and it still made my cry. It still does ....

~ In "Need," Theodore Sturgeon wrote:

“You hear a lot of glop,” he said carefully, “about infantile this and adult that, and acting like a grownup. I’ve thought a lot about that. Like how you’ve got to be adult about this or that arrangement with people or the world or your work or something. Like they’d say you never had an adult relationship with the missus. Don’t get mad! I don’t mean—well, hell, how adult is two rabbits? I don’t mean the sex thing.” He opened his hands to look for more words, and folded them again. “Most people got the wrong idea about this ‘adult’ business, this ‘grownup’ thing they talk about but don’t think about. What I’m trying to say, if a thing is alive, it changes all the time. Every single second it changes; it grows or rots or gets bigger or grows hair in its armpits or puts out buds or sheds its skin or something, but when a thing is living, it changes.” He looked at Smith, and Smith nodded. He went on:
“What I think about you, I think somewhere along the line you forgot about that, that you had to go on changing. Like when you’re little, you keep getting bigger all the time, you get promoted in school; you change; good. But then you get out, you find your spot, you got your house, your wife, your kind of work, then there’s nothing around you any more says you have to change. No class to get promoted to. No pants grown too small. You think you can stop now, not change any more.” Noat shook his craggy head. “Nothing alive will stand for that, Smitty.”
“Well, but why did I think she … why did I say that about—some man with her, all that?”
Noat shrugged. “I don’t know all about you,” he said again. “Just sort of guessing, but suppose you’d stopped, you know, living. Something’s going to kick up about that. It don’t have to make a lot of sense; just kick up. Get mad about something. Your wife with some man—now, that’s not nice, that’s not even true, but it’s a living kind of thing, you see what I mean? I mean, things change around the house then—but good; altogether; right now.”
“My God,” Smith breathed.
“ ’Course,” said Noat, “sooner or later you have to get over it, face things as they really are. Or as they really ain’t.” He thought again for a time, then said, “Take a tree, starts from a seed, gets to be a stalk, a sapling, on up till it’s a hundred feet tall and nine feet through the trunk; it’s still growing and changing until one fine day it gets its growth; it’s grown up: it’s—dead. So the whole thing I’m saying is, this adult relationship stuff they talk about, it’s not that at all. It’s growing up that matters, not grownup.… Man can get along alone for quite a long time ‘grownup’—taking care of himself. But if he takes in anyone else, he’s … well, he’s got to have a piece missing that the other person supplies all the time. He’s got to need that, and he’s got to have something that’s missing in the other person that they need. So then the two of them, they’re one thing now … and still it’s got to be like a living thing, it’s got to change and grow and be alive. Nothing alive will stand for being stopped. So … excuse me for butting in, but you thought you could stop it and it blew up on you.”


I've carried this passage around, as part of my own tree of ideas and ideals, for I don't know how many years. (When did I first read "Need"? 2006? Earlier?) I've talked about it with my friends--especially the ones I really like (the non-grownups ;). I've measured myself against it, year after year. ("Umm, just one millimeter taller. Well, this year I was so stuck, so stuck-up ....")

And it's the first time I realize that it was actually written by someone. And that this someone wasn't me ....

I call such moments "small epiphanies"; such passages, "life-building blocks."

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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:03 am

Отзив в Goodreads за The Nail and the Oracle:

There is a pronounced difference in the overall quality of the stories in the first two thirds of this collection (coming to an all-time low, at least for me, with "How to Forget Baseball," Sturgeon's only dystopian story I've seen so far) and the last few ones, marking the author's resurgence around 1970. Paul Williams's notes point out that Sturgeon's life was in turmoil in the mid-1960s; it's tempting to see the variations in the stories as a reflection of that.

(Including the occasional misogyny. There, I finally dropped the m-word. :/)

My impressions about individual stories:

~ When I first read (and liked) "When You Care, When You Love," I must have been much more gullible, or at least generous. I must have admired the intensity of the love at first sight, without questioning the depth of its foundations. I must have somehow silenced the background voice, which this time, all the time, screamed at the top of its lungs:

“Whaddaya love?” he barked. “That skrinkly hair? The muscles, skin? His nat’ral equipment? The eyes, voice?”
“All that,” she said composedly.
“All that, and that’s all?” he demanded relentlessly. “Because if your answer is yes, you can have what you want, and more power to you, and good riddance. I don’t know anything about love, but I will say this: that if that’s all there is to it, the hell with it.”


And then I must have--somehow--bought Sylva's answers and agenda and approach, and smiled my way through the entire thing.

(Really? Have I ever been like that? I honestly can't recall.)

And now ... I find it deeply creepy.

No, seriously. Think about it. Would you call the prearrangement and pigeonholing of all your life "love"?

No, seriously. How did Sylva convince Keogh? Wasn't he supposed to care for her? To teach her?

(Also, if I'm correct about the creepiness, there's a dark undercurrent flowing through this story and the previous one, "Assault and Little Sister." Who are the monsters there?

And what was going on through Sturgeon's mind? heart? life?)

~ On the other hand, "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?" hasn't lost any of its shock factor.

What if human beings are truly the only species that has an incest taboo? What is the real extent of incest-generated genetic problems? What if the moral offensiveness of inbreeding is another power tool, designed to divide families against themselves, break their cohesion?

My personal moral objection against incest is that it is too complacent, too narcissistic: You breed with those who are most similar to you. You don't give yourself an opportunity to get to know those who are different.

There is also the polyamory aspect of the story, but I'll leave that for another time. Let me just say that "If All Men Were Brothers ..." is a must-read for everyone who wishes to delve deeper into human sexuality and our approaches to it. Note also that it was first published fifty years ago--and written twenty years before that--which makes it a very early herald of the topic.

~ "Jorry's Gap" is among Sturgeon's most painful and poignant, especially since its protagonist is so young. It revolves around the importance of listening, and everything that happens past that peak of insight is at once so cruel and commonplace that it nearly shatters my faith in the viability of the family unit.

It doesn't shatter it completely only because Sturgeon never meant it that way.

~ "It Was Nothing--Really!" is funny, satirical, and quite bold in its stance about the distribution of power: in the senses of both energy and control. It sounds as if Sturgeon was really recovering from the chasm he'd plunged into.

(Plus, now I won't be able to tear toilet paper in my old thoughtless manner ever again.)
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Thu Dec 24, 2015 10:17 am

Отзив в Goodreads за Slow Sculpture:

The strongest collection in the entire 13-volume series, if you can trust my tour of its highlights:

~ "The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff" is a novella straight from the pinnacle of Sturgeon's acme, casting (or, like the fire at its end, burning) insights into what makes human beings tick, and making us re-evaluate our taken-for-granteds. Such as the idea that staying decent is more important than staying alive. The story distills "Ask the next question," the principle that Sturgeon championed throughout his life.

It also took my breath away with its diversity of characters and thought processes. If there is one piece I could give as an example of writing a varied, verisimilar cast, this would be it.

If the plot had been more dynamic, I'd have placed "The [Widget]..." on the same pedestal as More Than Human and To Marry Medusa.

~ "Slow Sculpture" is the most condensed, most moving, most Sturgeonesque of them all. I know I still have a volume and a half to read, yet I am certain of this verdict.

It works on absolutely every level: the fascinating scientific theory; the enormous stakes (both the life of one protagonist and the fate of humankind--but not in that literal, banal sense); the lovable, multi-faceted protagonists, with their pain and pathos gathered over two lifetimes; the resolution; the choice of words and metaphors and imagery ....

I don't know if there's any point in writing this. Don't waste your time with it; go straight for "Slow Sculpture," even if it's the only Sturgeon story you'll ever read.

(I bet it won't be.)

~ In his mid-50s, Sturgeon was not only alive and well; he was also as naughty as ever. Consider "Necessary and Sufficient," a novelette in which a scientist functions better the greater the pressure on him. So he, perhaps unconsciously, gets involved with two women at the same time.

Here're some of the effects when the ladies find out about each other:

“What happened?”
“We’ll never know. Whatever it was, Lasvogel walked in on it.”
“That must have been the night he limped into the lab with the scratches on his face and the big bruise on his cheekbone.”
“Language of love,” said Merrihew. “One of ’em.”
“And by morning he had the new formulation.”
“Pressure enough,” said Merrihew, spreading his hands in a Q.E.D. gesture. “Necessary and sufficient.”


And then--the grand finale. Which I will not spoil for you. Let me just say I haven't laughed so hard in a while.

~ I've already talked so much about "Occam's Scalpel" to my friends (besides translating it for our anthology Зелени разкази (ама _наистина_)) that I'm hard put to find anything to say here. Just like in "Slow Sculpture," the characters are shown gorgeously, the scientific theory kicks our brains around ("Stop sleeping tight, ya morons!") , and the finale blows them into deep space. Looking for ... what? :D

... So. Is there any point in writing this?

~ Straight from the Story Notes on "Occam's Scalpel"--and in the face of materialist reductionists:

Sturgeon’s intro to this one:
Who was the richest man in the world in 1971, while I was writing this? And what came creeping into my typewriter to suggest that any particular rich man would die under inexplicably mysterious circumstances?
I am unabashedly proud of some of the things I have done and can do with a typewriter. I’ve gone through a lot of grinding and polishing and tumbling to learn how to do it.
But there is something else that happens once in a while, something I’m unaware of at the time, which doesn’t manifest itself to me until after I’ve written a passage and reread it. I see then some hundreds or thousands of words written outside any learned idiom, written, as it were, in a different “voice,” and containing, sometimes, factual material which I did not and could not have known at the time, and (rather more often) emotional reactions and attitudes which I know I have not experienced. This phenomenon is quite beyond my control; that is, I know of no way to command or evoke it. I just have to wait for it to happen, which it seldom does. When it does, it keeps me humble; when I’m complimented on it, I feel guilty.

Howard Hughes, the reclusive billionaire, died in April 1976 of malnutrion. Sturgeon seems to be implying by this introduction that at the time he wrote “Occam’s Scalpel,” it was not known that Hughes would die of starvation like the rich man in the story.


~ "Pruzy's Pot," the finishing touch to this collection, is both an act of wild hooliganism (I approve!) and a kick turning our fingers back at ourselves (I approve!).

A good way to conclude, all in all. Just ... hold your pants tight. ;)

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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Thu Dec 31, 2015 10:20 am

Да закрием 2015-а подобаващо...

Отзив в Goodreads за Case and the Dreamer:

A powerful, diverse collection which squashed my fears that Sturgeon's juices might have run dry toward the end of his literary path.

Now, where can this metaphor have come from ....

~ One thing I love about Sturgeon is how gently he could chide--if he would chide at all. Here's his chastening of pulpy, actiony SF (can I actually say 'sci-fi' here? :P).

It's from "Time Warp," which is as fine a piece of actiony SF (definitely not sci-fi) as they come.

~ "The Country of Afterward," besides Sturgeon's first explicit sex story, is ...

Um. Hello? Is anybody still reading this?

Anyone?

Well, as I was saying, "The Country of Afterward" is not only the first explicit story by Sturgeon but also one of the earliest to suggest a highly titillating--scratch that--a completely logical explanation of the ways wars get started and carried on.

It also features some of the loveliest religious language for describing female genitalia and the miracle of sex, but I'll leave you--not that there's any of you reading this, right?--the pleasure of discovering it for yourselves.

My only issue with it--and I'd really like to get some input from the ladies here--is whether a woman could have written a story like that. Would a woman actually come up with such a solution? Would she be satisfied with it? Where is the factor of emotional attachment? How often can you make love to men--basically random men--before you get fed up or simply tired and need time to recharge?

Also, how about those people who are asexual by nature? Genuinely repelled by or indifferent to physical contact? (Which reminds me that I very much want to read Queers Destroy Science Fiction, especially the stories and essays whose authors define themselves as asexual.)

~ Now, "Like Yesterday" is like, well, nothing. I mean, nothing that I've read by Sturgeon.

It's both a scathing portrayal of how power--and the power of the police force in particular--works. (I should say instead, "how power may work"; and I must say, "not how power always works ... I hope") and ... umm ... oh the hell with those high-brow, highfalutin high-fives ... plain fun. Made me laugh my arse off.

~ "Why Dolphins Don't Bite" won't tell you why. However, it contains the earliest instance of the "po" notion in fiction that I'm aware of: the very same "po" that Edward de Bono has championed for most of his life. It also illustrates the foundations of active listening and conflict transformation.

It's another of those fireworks--that is, works of fire--I spoke about in my review of The Perfect Host, presenting in less than sixty pages more than a dozen groundbreaking ideas. Nor does it shy away from throwing some ballbreaking--too rude? okay ... brain-bashing ideas, whose level of repulsiveness is on a par with some of the stuff in Some of Your Blood.

Скрит текст: покажи
(No, not your blood, but Sturgeon's novel. Your blood is just fine, last time I tried it.)


~ I love "Seasoning"'s answer to why free will and predestination are the same thing:

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7418629

And Sturgeon's concept of acceptance is akin to what Danlo wi Soli Ringess undergoes in A Requiem for Homo Sapiens:

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/13842

Spot the influence, huh?

~ ~ ~

At the end of this 13-volume marathon (pageant, carny, kaleidoscope)--at the end of this year I spent with Theodore Sturgeon, master storyteller and human extraordinaire--I'd like to sum up my impressions.

However, recently (and going back years and years) I've been thinking that my age is so fond of producing new texts, so full of them, that it has nearly stopped reading the older, existing ones. Let alone appreciating them.

Which in many cases is well and good. Each age needs its own voices. A fast age such as ours needs them faster.

But Sturgeon's case is not one of them. Through the following excerpts, I hope to appreciate the appreciation bestowed upon him by other writers--and by appreciating it, to slow myself down a bit. So that I can appreciate better.

The excerpts I've chosen are those that resonated most with my personal impressions. (So there, two universes with one spaceship.) I didn't read any of these reflections until now because I didn't want them to filter my experience through any outside lenses.

Indeed, if, in vivid visual descriptions of the natural and social world, Sturgeon is surpassed—now and again just barely—by Nabokov or Gass—no other writer describes so accurately what it feels like to have a feeling—how feelings sit in or move through the body, tangling in its muscles, playing its nerves, wriggling under the skin or jarring its sensitive tissues.

(Samuel R. Delaney)

Looking at the range and power of this communion as it is presented again and again throughout Sturgeon’s work, certainly I see love as one of its most important forms. Yet what has always struck me vis-á-vis Sturgeon’s assertion is how much larger than love—love in any form I can recognize it—this communion is always turning out to be. It is almost always moving toward the larger-than-life, the cosmic, the mystical. In a number of places in Sturgeon’s work—More Than Human, The Cosmic Rape—it comes to be one with evolution itself.
Dealing with such an awesome communion, Sturgeon might well want to keep himself oriented toward love. It would be rather heady, if not horrifying, to explore that communion without such a fixed point to home on—though a few times Sturgeon has given us a portrait of this communion with the orientation toward hate (“Die, Maestro, Die!” and “Mr. Costello, Hero”), and these are among his most powerful stories. Certainly the relationships presented in “Bianca’s Hands” and “Bright Segment” begin as love; but although neither ever loses the name, both, by the end of their respective tales, have developed into something far more terrifying. Yet the intensity of effect, finally, allies that dark version to the brighter one of such tales as, say, “The (Widget), the (Wadget), and Boff’ or “Make Room for Me.”

(Samuel R. Delaney)

(...) the thoroughness of its ["The Chromium Helmet"'s] machine-shop technical background (perhaps inspired by the clutter of electronic gear all about him in Campbell’s legendary basement as he worked) is impressive testimony to his unwillingness to fake his material. He works his story out down to the last inductance bridge and oscilloscope, where a lesser writer might have been content to speak vaguely of unspecified “devices” and “gadgets” and let it go at that.

(Robert Silverberg)

“Careful measurements taken on a control group of non-Sturgeon stories consistently produced “crap-percentages” that were consistently in the 93 to 97 percent range; however, this percentage dropped drastically when applied to Sturgeon’s own stories.”
Asked if he could explain the remarkable disparity in crap-percentages, McCaffery cited a number of possible factors that might have contributed to his findings: “Empathy is undoubtedly one of the main factors. If you look at the main characters in the 17 stories I conducted my readings on, you’ll find that, first of all, they’re a marvelously motley crowd: you’ve got your usual sf types—scientists, military figures, and so on—but you’ve also got cowpokes, outcasts, musicians, murderers, misfits, kids, old people, idiots, geniuses, heroes, villains, and several different kinds of aliens. And yet somehow Sturgeon seemed to be able to empathize with them all (...)
“There’s no question that ‘love’ is one of the building blocks in all Sturgeon stories, but there’s so many different kinds of love—so many “isotopes,” as it were—that just noting its presence in his work doesn’t really tell you much. It’s like saying that carbon is one of the common features of human beings—that’s true, but unless you know something about what that carbon is combined with, you aren’t going to really know much about any given person. For instance, in the case of these particular 17 stories, my research was able to identify several different kinds of love—parental love (“Quietly,” “Prodigy”), romantic love (for example, “The Martian and the Moron,” “One Foot and the Grave” and “The Dark Goddess”), and of course sexual love (in “Scars,” “The Music,” “Till Death Do Us Join” and “Die, Maestro, Die!”). You could also say that Sturgeon ‘loves’ all his characters in the sense that he cares enough about them to produce some understanding of them—whereas in most crappy genre writing, the authors don’t really (if you’ll pardon the expression) give a shit about their characters, especially the bad guys. This doesn’t mean he forgives them or sympathizes with them—just that he empathizes with them.”
McCaffery also noted that Sturgeon’s well-known stylistic virtuosity undoubtedly contriburted to the low level of crap detected in the stories he analyzed. “One of the things that my readings of these stories confirmed is that Sturgeon’s stories nearly always exhibited a far greater attention to language—assonance, alliteration and other features of sound, patterns of symbol and metaphor, and so forth—than do the works in the control group.”

(Larry McCaffery)

Paul Williams tells me my friend Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead has described “Baby Is Three”/More Than Human as the only model he and his bandmates had to understand what was happening to them when they began playing together. He might have been more conscious about that than I was, but it affected me in the same place. There is a thing that happens in a band, where these diverse human beings link up, through this language that they’re speaking together, this music.
They create a thing where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And there springs into existence over them another being. So if there’s four of them, there’s a fifth being, or if there’s five there’s a sixth being, that is a composite of them, and that is bigger than all of them. And if they understand what they’re doing, they submit to this personality, they give up their individuality for this unity. And they create this new being that can make the art of the instant, that can make the magic happen when you’re playing live.
That’s how it feels. And it requires a—if it isn’t telepathic, it’s certainly empathic—link-up and union. And the relationship described first by Theodore Sturgeon in “Baby Is Three” really hit all of us that wanted that kind of “above the family,” taking the idea of a family to a new place, to a new level.

(David Crosby)

Leaving Paul and Noël behind, driving off into the Catskills, I spoke to my father of Sturgeon, and I spoke to him differently. That night I slept beside my father in two sleeping bags in a cabin lit only by candles and by the stars, and told him more of my life as an adult than I ever had. I was still with Sturgeon, though I was alone with my father and had never been with Sturgeon at all.
These stories are like that: they speak of human beings connecting with other human beings or attempting to do so at great odds, and at odd angles; of human beings failing at or sabotaging their own best efforts for fear that what they want most doesn’t make any sense, or that the odds are too great; of human beings learning again and again that their thin howling selves are part of a chorus which stands shoulder to shoulder in a traffic jam, a mob scene of lonely selves, of members of a great estranged family of beings. Sturgeon wrote miraculous short stories. Some fly, some stumble, but all are miraculous. By that I mean he always wrote of miracles, of deliverance and miracles and of a lust for completion in an incomplete world. He wrote of needs and their denial, with such undisguised longing and anger that his stories are caustic with emotion. His stories are carved in need.

(Jonathan Lethem)

And the kid on the night desk at the newspaper took the basics—Ted’s age, his real name, the seven kids, all that—and then he said, “Well, can you tell me what he was known for? Did he win any awards?” And I got crazy. I said, with an anger I’d never expected to feel, “Listen, sonny, he’s only gone about an hour and a half, and he was as good as you get at this writing thing, and no one who ever read The Dreaming Jewels or More Than Human or Without Sorcery got away clean because he could squeeze your heart till your life ached, and he was one of the best writers of the last half a century, and the tragedy of his passing is that you don’t know who the fuck he was!”

(Harlan Ellison®)

There is no lack of love in the world, but there is a profound shortage in places to put it. I don’t know why it is, but most people who, like yourself, have an inherent ability to claw their way up the sheerest rock faces around, have little of it or have so equipped themselves with spikes and steel hooks that you can’t see it. When it shows in such a man—like it does in you—when it lights him up, it should be revered and cared for. This is the very nub of the injustice done you. It should not happen at all, but if it must happen, it should not happen to you.

(Theodore Sturgeon to Harlan Ellison®)

So in spite of the story you are about to read, I insist that Ted Sturgeon was a man of character, a man of decency and principle, a man with higher—
—for Chrissake, Upper, he wrote a whole book about a guy who drinks menstrual blood; he wrote a story about a guy who saved the world while sitting on the toilet—
—he wrote warm, gentle, insightful stories which explored the nature of human love, which resonated with hope and wisdom, he delineated the tragicomic—
—he wrote a book full of hermaphrodites and a novel about motherfuckers and a story about a man who had a deep emotional and sexual relationship with a pair of hands dangling from an imbecile, for God’s sake—I mean, we’re talking here about a guy even more bent than Phil Farmer, even more disgusting than Jonathan Swift, with a finer grasp of the grotesque than even David Cronenberg—
—not only the most literate and lyrical writer science fiction ever had, but one of the nicest, most decent and genuinely lovable human beings that ever—
—and the story this reader is about to sample is, let us face it, a minor story, a story so twisted that even National Lampoon must have hesitated to print it, a truly gross little gem about The Ultimate Felch—so why don’t you just shut up and—
—this story makes many subtle and trenchant satiric points about the retentive personality and the societal ramifications of the organic lifestyle and—
—there’s no other kinds, once you’ve tasted hinds, that’s what the story has to say, Upper—
—dammit, Lower, I loved the man as much as I loved my mother, he wrote a story that kept me from killing myself once, okay?
—this may be the only story ever written after reading which you do not want to follow Ted’s lifelong advice and ‘Ask the next question,’ Upper—
—this is my bloody introduction, not yours, and I’m not going to let you screw it up, and if you don’t like it, you can kiss my—
—gotcha—
—aw, sh—
—gotcha again! —

(Spider Robinson)

Third, he wrote about women. As a feminist adult, I certainly have reservations about how Sturgeon wrote female characters. When I give his stories to women who didn’t grow up with them, my friends often say quizzically, “You like the women in those stories?” But all I knew then was that there were women in those stories: Arthur C. Clarke had no women; Asimov’s were way off the norm in one way or another; Heinlein’s were … well, entire books have been written about that. Sturgeon’s women were beautiful and smart, and they actually got to do things. Some of them were even scientists! That was enough for me then; a hell of a lot more than I was finding in most of what I read.

(Debbie Notkin)

This is where Sturgeon’s miracles come from: they come from his ability to take the ordinary world and see it from a different point of view, stand it on its head and make it fascinating without taking away its palpable reality. They come from the empathy he feels for all people who have a different way of seeing things, and his ability to heighten the reader’s empathy to an astonishing degree (...).
Most of all, his stories come from his ability to care about the people in front of him—that is, the characters in whatever story he happens to be working on. When he writes, he lives in the eternal present of those people and that place and time. And when he solves the central problem of the story, or rather when the characters he has created solve it for him, the sensation for the reader is overwhelming, because Sturgeon has in fact solved all the problems of the world at that moment. He gives himself entirely to each real story he writes, and when he arrives at his solution, the reader, who has also given himself to the story, experiences a moment of overriding intensity and liberation—regardless of whether the resolution of the story is horrifying or beautiful (it’s usually a little of both).

(Paul Williams)

Our heroes have to have feet of clay, not so we can bring them down to our level but so we can rise to theirs. We have to become our own heroes; and if it’s true that these stories, “Bright Segment” and More than Human and “The Comedian’s Children” and all the rest of them, were written by a human being, then I think there’s hope for all of us.

(Paul Williams)

... And whither now?

I'm off to David Zindell's Splendor.

You? :)
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Thu Jan 28, 2016 2:16 pm

В подготовка за Зимната Таласъмия:

Кал wrote:Който иска да се потопи в първопроходческия дух на Стърджън отсега (и не се бои от английски) – да заповяда тук:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1477736343

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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Sun Apr 10, 2016 8:19 pm

Каним ви на: „Теодор Стърджън, първопроходец“, 16.04.2016

+ Покана до приятелите ни:

Приятели (:

Заедно с нашите съмишленици от Столична библиотека, Клубa по фентъзи и фантастика към ФМИ и Клуб по фантастика „Иван Ефремов“ тази събота от 13 часа ви каним на представянето „Теодор Стърджън, първопроходец“:

http://choveshkata.net/blog/?p=5858

Ако ще идвате, молим да ни драснете един ред най-късно в петък – за да знаем колко стола да заредим. ;)

А ако искате бройка от „Бленуващите кристали“ (или която и да е друга наша х-нига), пишете ни до сряда.

Чакаме ви,
Екипът на (новата) ЧоБи – и особено Кал)))

P.S. Ако искате цялата ви събота да протече фантастично, вижте какво награждаване ще се случи в „Перото“ от 16 часа:

http://trubadurs.com/2016/04/10/pobedit ... melkonian/

Като свършим, ние отиваме там. :)
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Sun Apr 10, 2016 10:16 pm

Събитие в Ятото

Ще ви запознаем с десетте най-значими идеи или похвати, въведени за първи път от Теодор Стърджън – американски автор, познат сред колегите и почитателите си като „въплътената любов“. :) Заповядайте:

http://choveshkata.net/blog/?p=5858
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:35 pm

Събитие във Фентъзи ЛАРП център

Как влязох в 150 знака:

Запознайте се с десетте най-интересни идеи и похвати, въведени за първи път от Теодор Стърджън – фантаст, когото наричат „въплътената любов“.
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:53 am

В Ятото Кал wrote:Утре в Столична библиотека ще представя Теодор Стърджън, един от най-незаслужено незнайните радетели на обичта и порастването ни – и като индивиди, и като вид:

http://www.yatoto.bg/events/43
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Sat Apr 16, 2016 9:43 am

В Goodreads Кал wrote:Покрай представянето „Теодор Стърджън, първопроходец“ днес в Столична библиотека ще говоря и за „Скалпелът на Окам“. Като ще спомена един доста необичаен аспект на прогнозирането във фантастиката. ;)


В Ятото Кал wrote:Покрай представянето „Теодор Стърджън, първопроходец“ днес ще споменa и защо свободната воля и предопределението вероятно са едно и също нещо:

http://choveshkata.net/blog/?p=5858

Заповядайте! Входът е свободен (а идването ви – предопределено? :D )
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:09 pm



Звукозапис от представянето

Ако искате да прочетете цитатите в оригинал, пишете в пощата на Човешката библиотека – ще ви пратя пълните си записки.
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Re: Теодор Стърджън

Postby Кал » Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:22 pm

Отзив в Goodreads за Venus Plus X:

A Platonic dialogue exploring the similarities between the sexes and our stereotypes about sex, many of which sadly persist, more than 60 years after the book was first published. As usual, I'm awed by Sturgeon's courage, insight and warmth. (Although this particular story seemed more clinical, colder than his typical writing.)

My reading notes:

~
He remembered a thing he had read somewhere: was it Ruth Benedict? Something about no item of man’s language, or religion, or social organization, being carried in his germ cell. In other words you take a baby, any color, any country, and plank it down anywhere else, and it would grow up to be like the people of the new country. And then there was that article he saw containing the same idea, but extending it throughout the entire course of human history; take an Egyptian baby of the time of Cheops, and plank it down in modern Oslo, and it would grow up to be a Norwegian, able to learn Morse code and maybe even have a prejudice against Swedes. What all this amounted to was that the most careful study by the most unbiased observers of the entire course of human history had been unable to unearth a single example of human evolution.


These ideas create a curious resonance with the questions raised by Mikhail Ancharov, a Russian contemporary (and kindred spirit) of Sturgeon's. (E.g. "What sort of evolutionary pressures produced the human brain, this ginormously complicated organ?")

~ Sturgeon's language makes me question everything I know about English. Oh, how my grammar teachers would wail and pull their hair over the word order in a sentence like "In a box was a dried marigold"! And I just had to check if "There seemed no concept for “payment” or “pass” in the tongue" is a valid expression or a proofreader's mistake. (It is valid: "seem" can also mean "appear to exist." But it's an uncommon use ... I think. But I'm not sure. I ... don't know.)

Yes ... texts like these wreak havoc on my confidence as a translator. :( This is actually the second time I've started reading Venus Plus X; the first time, couple of months ago, I felt so stupid, found most of the phrases so impenetrable, that I just gave up.

On the other hand, it's a glorious (and ever rarer) joy to come upon an author who can teach you something new every other sentence.
Скрит текст: покажи
(Um, is there any preposition before "every other sentence"? ... There I go again. :/ )


~ However, language isn't only extensive vocabularies and Serious Stuff. It's also having fun:

“Hi, bulls!” says Tillie Smith. “What’s bulling?”
“Just man talk,” says Smith.
Herb says, “Hi, bowls. What’s bowling?”
Jeanette says, “Three strikes and I’m out.”
“Herb already used the gag,” Smith says in his leaden way, which isn’t true.
Tillie tops them all: “What’s everybody saying highballs for? Let’s all have a drink.”

Or:
“As Adam said when his wife fell out of the tree—Eve’s-dropping again.”


~ And it's not merely language you can learn from Sturgeon; it's all kinds of fascinating facts:

He went on to show pictures of other species, to give Charlie an idea of how wide a variety there is, in nature, in the reproductive act: the queen bee, copulating high in midair, and thereafter bearing within her a substance capable of fertilizing literally hundreds of thousands of eggs for literally generation after generation; dragon-flies, in their winged love-dance with each slender body bent in a U, forming an almost perfect circle whirling and skimming over the marshes; and certain frogs the female of which lays her eggs in large pores in the male’s back; seahorses whose males give birth to the living young; octopods who, when in the presence of the beloved, wave a tentacle the end of which breaks off and swims by itself over to the female who, if willing, enfolds it and if not, eats it.


~ Haha, Sturgeon also tackled the "Mommy, how are babies made?" story. Starting like this:

“Well then,” says Karen abruptly, “we don’t need daddies then.”
“Whatever do you mean? Who would go to the office and bring back lollipops and lawnmowers and everything?”
“Not for that. I mean for babies. Daddies can’t make babies.”
“Well, darling, they help.”
“How, Mommy?”
“That’s enough bubbles. The water’s getting too hot.” She shuts off the water.
How, Mommy?”


I'll let you find out the ending for yourselves. ;)

~ Sturgeon has the gift of ecstasy, no matter where he turns it. See him dancing about dancing:

It became, for him, a broken series of partial but sharply focussed pictures; the swift turn of a torso; the tense, ecstatic lifting of a fever-blinded head, with the silky hair falling away from the face, and the body trembling; the shrill cry of a little child in transport, running straight through the pattern of the dance, arms outstretched and eyes closed, while the frantic performers, apparently unthinkingly, made way by hairsbreadth after hairsbreadth until a dancer swung about and caught up the infant, threw it, and it was plucked out of the air and whirled up again, and once more, to be set down gently at the edge of the dance.


~ How can you tell a swine from someone just fine?

A pig among people is a pig, he tells himself, but a pig among pigs is people.


~ I can't remember where I first encountered (and embraced) the explanation why power structures (state-endorsed/institutionalized religion being only one example) need to denounce sex and the sexual impulse, but Sturgeon may have been among the earliest writers to highlight it. I'm quoting the following passage as a "historic(al) monument":

There are two direct channels into the unconscious mind. Sex is one, religion is the other; and in pre-Christian times, it was usual to express them together. The Judeo-Christian system put a stop to it, for a very understandable reason. A charitic religion interposes nothing between the worshipper and his Divinity. A suppliant, suffused with worship, speaking in tongues, his whole body in the throes of ecstatic dance, is not splitting doctrinal hairs nor begging intercession from temporal or literary authorities. As to his conduct between times, his guide is simple. He will seek to do that which will make it possible to repeat the experience. If he does what for him is right in this endeavor, he will repeat it; if he is not able to repeat it, that alone is his total and complete punishment.
He is guiltless.
The only conceivable way to use the immense power of innate religiosity—the need to worship—for the acquisition of human power, is to place between worshipper and Divinity a guilt mechanism. The only way to achieve that is to organize and systematize worship, and the obvious way to bring this about is to monitor that other great striving of life—sex.
Homo sapiens is unique among species, extant and extinct, in having devised systems for the suppression of sex.


~ Charlie's change at the "revelation" was abrupt. Too abrupt; to the point of rupturing my reader's credibility. :(

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