Friday, November 6, 2009
FFB: ARGYLL: A MEMOIR by Theodore Sturgeon (The Sturgeon Project 1993)
Eric Weeks's fine pages on Sturgeon, perhaps using Contento Index data or just in the same format.
Argyll: A Memoir (The Sturgeon Project 0-934558-16-7, July 1993, $10.00, 79pp, ph) Collection of Sturgeon material, including an autobiographical essay about his relationship with his stepfather, a letter to his mother and stepfather, an introduction by Paul Williams, and an afterword by Samuel R. Delany. All proceeds after cost go toward the projected publication costs for Sturgeon’s collected stories.
5 • Introduction• Paul Williams • fw *
7 • Argyll: A Memoir • • bi *
60 • A Letter to his Mother and Stepfather • • lt *
77 • Afterward • Samuel R. Delany • aw *
This was the kickoff (and a sort of fundraiser) for the Sturgeon Project, an attempt by Paul Williams, the founder of Crawdaddy magazine and the person most responsible, after Dick himself, for Philip Dick's current literary reputation...Blade Runner might've gotten made without Williams's earlier advocacy for Dick, most visibly in the pages of Rolling Stone (I believe after Williams sold Crawdaddy to another publisher), but I doubt nearly as much would've been made of it being loosely based on a Dick novel...nor would Dick have published one of his last stories in a 1979 Rolling Stone special issue, bringing his work directly to a much larger audience than it usually saw. Having put together a complete collection of Dick's short fiction (and having helped see most of Dick's unpublished novels finally into print), Williams took on, with North Atlantic Press, a new project...to get all the short fiction of Theodore Sturgeon into a uniform multivolume set. This chapbook was also an announcement of that project, a previously unpublished novella-length memoir by Sturgeon of his early life, and the stepfather who was instrumental in his transformation from E. Hamilton Waldo to Theodore Sturgeon...and not by any means all benevolently instrumental.
The most recent and apparently penultimate volume in the Sturgeon Project, Slow Sculpture, has just been published, and this the first with most of the nonfictional content (story notes, etc.) not the work of Paul Williams, who has been suffering with rather early Alzheimer's brought on in the wake of a horrible accident...he fell and struck his head severely while bicycling. His wife, musician Cindy Lee Berryhill, has been blogging about their experiences in these declining days for Williams, and Noel Sturgeon has stepped in to provide the supplementary material for this volume and the next. While anyone with a copy of the 1971 volume Sturgeon Is Alive and Well... has most of the fiction content of Slow Sculpture, that book has been out of print for a lot of years and this one included a previously-unpublished story, and the novella "The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff" (which was half of a Tor Double volume some years back, in that shortlived series), and also a story from the National Lampoon, also reprinted previously on its own.
The story around the publication of this chapbook and the collections it heralded is thus almost as compelling as much of the fiction in those collections, much of it among the best work published in the field of fantastic fiction, and at least good work in several other fields, as Sturgeon was a fine western writer, and wrote some decent crime fiction (including ghosting for "Ellery Queen"). Several contemporary mimetic stories, sometimes with some fantastic dressing to get them into a fantasy magazine "legitimately," are collected in the series as well...including such famous items as "A Saucer of Loneliness" and the mid-'50s Best American Short Stories inclusion "The Man Who Lost the Sea."
Sturgeon, as Kurt Vonnegut would agree (his "Kilgore Trout" is at least as much a satirical portrait of Sturgeon as of himself), even as Samuel Delany does in the afterword here, is precisely the kind of writer whom I was thinking of in my recent explication, on Patti Abbott's blog, of why the blithe construction "literary and genre fiction" (meaning two very different, even oppositional, things) is not only ignorant but pernicious, helping keep some of the best art we have from its natural audience.
Please see Patti Abbott's blog for other "Forgotten" books for this week.