A Friend Indeed

“Where do you get your ideas?” So goes the clichéd interview question. Once, when Theodore Sturgeon ran dry, he got them from Robert Heinlein. (See Letters of Note.)

Sturgeon wrote and told his friend he was having a terrible time because he had “no ideas that would strike a story.” Heinlein answered by return airmail with over two dozen ideas. Here is one:   

Fundamentalist congregation, convinced that faith can move mountains, concentrates onMt.Rushmorein theBlack Hills—and the greatest neo-Egyptian sculpture ever carved disappears, mountain and all. Should the Public Works Administration sue the church? Or is that suing God? Or should they ask them to pray it back? Or should they systematize this into a new form of theo-engineering? If so, civil engineers will have to have divinity degrees as well in the future. What is faith without (public) works?

And suspecting Sturgeon was out of money as well as ideas, Heinlein clipped a $100 check to the letter.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian and David Klaus for the story.]

Sturgeon Papers Donated

The late Theodore Sturgeon’s books, papers, manuscripts and correspondence will find a lasting home at the University of Kansas’ Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

The university’s Center for the Study of Science Fiction already has ties to the acclaimed writer. It gives the Sturgeon Award for the best short science fiction annually at the center’s Campbell Conference, which takes place this weekend, July 7-10.

The collection includes Sturgeon’s original manuscript and multiple film script treatments of More Than Human, the notes and outline for his Star Trek script “Amok Time,” correspondence, story ideas and drafts shared with John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Edgar Pangborn, Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Gene Roddenberry and T.H. White, and personal items like his adoption papers, in which his name was changed.

Til now the Sturgeon collection had been privately held in two parts — the Woodstock collection, from his widow, Marion, and the Sturgeon Literary Trust collection managed by daughter Noël.  In making the donation, Noël Sturgeon credited the work of James Gunn, professor emeritus of English created the university’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.

[Adapted from the press release. Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Autobiography of a Great SF Bookseller

Sherry Gottlieb needed a job in 1972, so she opened Change of Hobbit Bookstore and hired herself. One of the first specialty science fiction bookstores this side of London occupied a tiny space over a laundromat in the Westwood section of Los Angeles and it was immediately adopted by the city’s science fiction writers. Now Sherry is writing the history of her store and the community that grew around it. The first installment has been posted online, with photos:

The store’s location on the mezzanine of a laundromat, with no sign on the outside of the building, was even more of a problem. People used to telephone me from the payphone in the laundromat downstairs and say, “I’m at 1101 Gayley. Where are you?” And I’d reply, “Look up.”

Change of Hobbit was often on the razor’s edge of survival in its early days. Most small businesses fail within five years. But most small businesses did not have Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon and a posse of science fiction writers working to keep them afloat. Sherry’s vivid account of the October 14, 1973 benefit at the studios of Pacifica radio station KPFK recalls one of the great days in local LA science fiction history.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]