This fourth volume of Theodore Sturgeon’s Complete Stories publishes the work of 1946-1948, wen Sturgeon’s early popularity among science fiction readers crystallized into a lasting reputation among a wider group of readers. “Maturity” and “Thunder and Roses” are the best-known of the stories in this period. “It Wasn’t Syzygy” display’s Sturgeon’s interest in psychological themes. “The Professor’s Teddy Bear” is an early prototype of the modern “horror story” as practiced by Clive Baker, Stephen King and many others.
In these years Sturgeon was recovering from the failure of his first marriage and a severe case of “writer’s block”. In March 1947 his luck turned around: a story he had failed to sell earlier won a short story contest sponsored by the prominent British magazine, Argosy, with the then-enormous prize of $1000. Later Sturgeon credited this event for restoring his faith in himself as a writer. The same year “Maturity” and “Thunder and Roses” were received with tremendous enthusiasm by his peers. Ray Bradbury, a few years short of his own success, wrote to Sturgeon in February 1947:
“Ted, I hate you!…MATURITY…is a damned nice story. Your sense of humour, sir, is incredible. I don’t believe you’ve written a bad story yet; I don’t think you ever will. This is not log-rolling, by God; I only speak the truth. I predict you’ll be selling at least six stories a year to Collier’s and The Post before long. You have the touch.” A month later, the day he learned he’d won the contest, Sturgeon wrote to his ex-wife, “It’s more than a thousand dollars. The curse is off with me. My faith in [the story’s] quality and my own is restored, and I don’t think that I shall ever again experience that mystic diffidence and childish astonishment when one of my stories sells or is anthologized. I know now why they do, and I’m proud of it, and I know how to use it.”
This fourth volume also features a major “undiscovered” story, “Wham Bop!”, from an obscure youth magazine in 1947. It may be one of the finest fictional portraits of a 1940s jazz band in American letters.
Additional delicacies awaiting the Sturgeon fan in Thunder and Roses are his first Western Story, “Well Spiced”, and a UFO saga, “The Sky Was Full of Ships”, written in 1947 and set in the Southwest. It could well be the true story of the Roswell incident.