Rebecca Smith
KU Libraries

Private papers of legendary science fiction, 'Star Trek' writer donated to KU

Fri, 07/08/2011

LAWRENCE — A treasure trove of private letters, manuscripts and other papers by one of the most influential writers of the golden age of science fiction — who, along with Leonard Nimoy, is credited with inventing the “live long and prosper” Vulcan phrase for “Star Trek” — has been donated to the University of Kansas.

The definitive collection of the late author Theodore Sturgeon’s books, papers, manuscripts and correspondence will be established at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at KU, which also is home to the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. The Sturgeon Award for the best short science fiction is given annually at the center’s Campbell Conference, which this year runs July 7-10.

The collection includes:

— Original manuscript and multiple film script treatments of “More Than Human,” Sturgeon’s best-known novel

— Sturgeon’s notes and outline for “Amok Time,” one of two “Star Trek” episodes he wrote. In “Amok Time,” Spock returns to Vulcan to meet his intended future wife

— Correspondence, story ideas and drafts shared with noted science fiction editors and authors, including John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Edgar Pangborn, Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Gene Roddenberry and T.H. White

— Sturgeon’s rewrite of an L. Ron Hubbard article submitted to “Amazing Stories” magazine titled, “Dianetics: Supermen in 1950 AD”

— His adoption papers, in which his name was changed

Best known for transforming the pulp magazine short story into an art form, Sturgeon’s writing had a strong influence on 1960s counterculture, including the Grateful Dead and Crosby, Stills and Nash. His lyrical and varied style represented a turn from the “hard” science fiction of the 1940s to the socially conscious topics more common in contemporary science fiction, including sexuality, gender, pacifism and the individual cost of social conventions. His short stories ranged from science fiction and fantasy to comedy and horror.

Sturgeon was also known for coining “Sturgeon’s Law,” which states that “90 percent of everything is crap” and the credo, “Ask the next question.”

During his career, Sturgeon (1918-85) won virtually every major award in his field, including the Hugo, the Nebula, the World Fantasy Achievement Award and the Gaylactica/Spectrum Award for his groundbreaking story about homosexuality, “The World Well Lost.” He also was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

The Sturgeon collection, valued at $600,000, had been privately held in two parts — the Woodstock collection, from his widow, Marion, and the Sturgeon Literary Trust collection managed by daughter Noël. Additional support came from KU’s Center for the Study of Science Fiction, English department and Spencer Research Library.

In making the donation, Noël Sturgeon credits the work of James Gunn, professor emeritus of English at KU and a noted science fiction author who created KU’s Intensive English Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction in 1975 and the Center for the Study of Science Fiction in 1982.

“Jim’s long dedication to the teaching and scholarship of science fiction, and his particular interest in and support of my father’s work, was the main impetus behind our choice of the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas as the home for Sturgeon’s collection of papers,” she said.

Beth Whittaker, head of Spencer Research Library, said, “This extraordinary gift ensures that Sturgeon’s profound literary and cultural legacy will be available to new generations of scholars, writers and readers.”

For more information, visit:

Kenneth Spencer Research Library
Official Theodore Sturgeon website

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