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Authors: Theodore Sturgeon

The Perfect Host

BOOK: The Perfect Host

Theodore Sturgeon (circa 1960)

eISBN: 978-1-58394-749-4

Copyright © 1998 by the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust. Previously published materials copyright © 1948, 1949, 1953 by Theodore Sturgeon and the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust. Foreword copyright © 1998 by Larry McCaffery. All rights reserved. No portion of this book, except for brief review, may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the written permission of the publisher. For information contact North Atlantic Books.

Published by
North Atlantic Books
P.O. Box 12327
Berkeley, California 94712

Cover art by Michael Dashow
Cover design by Paula Morrison

The Perfect Host
is sponsored by the Society for the Study of Native Arts and Sciences, a nonprofit educational corporation whose goals are to develop an educational and cross-cultural perspective linking various scientific, social, and artistic fields; to nurture a holistic view of arts, sciences, humanities, and healing; and to publish and distribute literature on the relationship of mind, body, and nature.

North Atlantic Books’ publications are available through most bookstores. For further information, visit our website at
or call 800-733-3000.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows:

Sturgeon, Theodore
   The perfect host / Theodore Sturgeon : edited by Paul Williams : foreword by Larry McCaffery.
      p. cm. — (The complete stories of Theodore Sturgeon. v. 5)
   1. Fantastic fiction, American. 2. Science fiction,
American. I. Williams, Paul, 1948–. II. Title. III. Series: Sturgeon, Theodore. Short stories : v. 5.
PS3569.T875A6 1998  vol. 5
8​1​3′.5​4—d​c​21                                                                      98-20023



was born February 26, 1918, and died May 8, 1985. This is the fifth of a series of volumes that will collect all of his short fiction of all types and all lengths shorter than a novel. The volumes and the stories within the volumes are organized chronologically by order of composition (insofar as it can be determined). This fifth volume contains stories written between late 1947 and early 1949. Two are being published here for the first time; and five others have never before appeared in a Sturgeon collection.

Preparation of each of these volumes would not be possible without the hard work and invaluable participation of Noël Sturgeon, Debbie Notkin, and our publishers, Lindy Hough and Richard Grossinger. I would also like to thank, for their significant assistance with this volume, Larry McCaffery, the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust, Marion Sturgeon, Jayne Williams, Dorothe Tunstall, Ralph Vicinanza, Dixon Chandler, Gordon Benson, Jr. and Phil Stephensen-Payne, Judith Merril, Tom Whitmore, William F Seabrook, Paula Morrison, Catherine Campaigne, T. V. Reed, Cindy Lee Berryhill, The Other Change of Hobbit Bookstore and all of you who have expressed your interest and support.


Without Sorcery

The Dreaming Jewels
The Synthetic Man
] (1950)

More Than Human

E Pluribus Unicorn


A Way Home

The King and Four Queens

I, Libertine

A Touch of Strange

The Cosmic Rape
Medusa] (1958)

Aliens 4

Venus Plus X


Some of Your Blood

Voyage to the Bottom of the

The Player on the Other Side

Sturgeon in Orbit


The Rare Breed

Sturgeon Is Alive and Well …

The Worlds of Theodore

Sturgeon’s West
(with Don Ward) (1973)

Case and the Dreamer

Visions and Venturers


The Stars Are the Styx

The Golden Helix

Alien Cargo


A Touch of Sturgeon

The [Widget], the [Wadget]
and Boff


Star Trek, The Joy Machine
(with James Gunn) (1996)


The Ultimate Egoist

Microcosmic God


Thunder and Roses

The Perfect Host

Baby Is Three

A Saucer of Loneliness

Bright Segment

And Now the News …

The Man Who Lost the Sea

The Nail and the Oracle

Slow Sculpture

Case and the Dreamer

by Larry McCaffery

I. Preliminary Remarks

“And now, though the idea behind the [Normalcy] program was still the same … a new idea was gaining weight daily—to examine Irregulars always more meticulously, with a view, perhaps to letting one live—one which might benefit all of humanity by his very difference; one who might be a genius, a great artist in some field.… It was the thin end of the wedge for Homo superior, who would, by definition, be an Irregular.”

—Theodore Sturgeon, “Prodigy” (1948)

really matters—
Citizen Kane, Waiting for Godot
, the music of Charlie Parker, John Cage, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, Pynchon’s
, the short fictions of Borges, the collaborations of Brecht and Weil, “The Waste Land,” Picasso’s
, or the works of Warhol and Pollock—always manages to alter fundamentally our notions of what a given genre can do. One of the subsets of innovation that is especially attuned to postmodernism’s spirit of intertextuality, collaboration, and the dismantling of distinctions between high art and popular culture has been the exploration by “serious” artists of commercial genres. These sorts of artistic leaps often have an especially broad impact precisely because the artist is working with, and extending, codes, themes and motifs that a mass audience is already familiar with. When an artist confounds our expectations by exploring and extending the boundaries of a popular genre—the way Dylan did with folk music in his pre-electric albums, and as Sturgeon does with a variety of genres throughout this volume—the reverberations seem larger and more intimate simply because more people are in touch with (and hence can appreciate) the nature of the transformations involved.

II. A Saucer of Loneliness

Don’t talk to me about the Fifties if all you’re going to say are the predictable clichés about Eisenhower, prosperity, conservatism and drive-in movies. There was a lot more going on back then than tail fins, ICBMs, and McCarthyism. Like Ted Sturgeon.

The first time I encountered a work by Theodore Sturgeon was sometime in 1957. I was an eleven-year-old kid growing up in what seems, in retrospect, almost a parody of an alienating environment: living with two alcoholic parents in a hyper-repressive military community on Okinawa. And as with a lot of other alienated kids from that era, science fiction—together with rock ‘n’ roll—provided me with some of my first intimations about the existence of another, alternative world that was totally alien from the limited, limiting world I was living in, and yet utterly exhilarating, exotic, and alive. It was a world in which Robert Sheckley and Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Philip K. Dick, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon and Little Richard were all equally important.

The writer who was most responsible for creating a bridge between me and that other, more sensuous, more exciting world of open-ended possibilities was Theodore Sturgeon. My introduction to Sturgeon’s work wasn’t through the usual sf magazines or books but through a chance conjunction of a radio and a tape recorder—a couple of those technological devices that were already transforming my world into something that FELT like the sf worlds I was just then reading about for the first time.
Of course, a lot of kids in those days had radios, but it was the tape recorder I had won one Saturday night at the Harbor View bingo game that really changed my life. This may not seem like much in today’s age, where there’s a Blockbuster Video store on every streetcorner and in which mechanical reproductions of all sorts are as commonplace as the common cold, but for an eleven-year-old kid to personally own a tape recorder in 1957 was a very big deal indeed. For one thing, having a tape recorder meant that I was now freed from having to save up enough money to purchase the latest tunes by Pat Boone, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and Coasters, Patti Page, Dean Martin, Stan Freberg, and, above all, Elvis Presley. Elvis was especially important because my dad disapproved of Elvis so much that my playing “Heartbreak Hotel” on the living room’s hi-fi set would frequently result in him taking me to the barber shop, where I would be relieved of all that unruly excess hair I kept trying (unsuccessfully) to coax into something resembling Elvis’s magnificent ducktail.

The only thing more important to me in those days than being sure I had my tape recorder rolling on Saturday morning for the Top 50 radio broadcast was the ritual I observed each Thursday evening when I would slip under the covers with my radio to listen to (and record) the weekly science fiction broadcast
X Minus One
. And the first show I ever taped—one I would listen to again and again over the next few years—was “A Saucer of Loneliness” by Theodore Sturgeon.

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