The ED SF Project

The Ellen Datlow/SCI FICTION Project, that is. We're showing the love for five and a half years of great short fiction, and we need your help! We've got over 300 stories to cover, so if you're a person who loves short speculative fiction, we want you. Go here to read the list and add your voice.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"The Other Celia" by Theodore Sturgeon: An Appreciation by John Joseph Adams

If there's anything positive to take away from the closing of SCI FICTION, it's that it gave me an excuse to re-read "The Other Celia" by Theodore Sturgeon.

I chose to appreciate this story because it's one of the first stories I remember reading on SCI FICTION, and it made me slap myself upside the head for not having read more Sturgeon (this was quickly thereafter remedied).

If I recall correctly, when I read "The Other Celia," SCI FICTION wasn't the must-read magazine for me that it has since become. I was aware of it, sure; I think the only other story I'd read was "Cucumber Gravy" by Susan Palwick. I'd really enjoyed the Palwick, but for some reason I never got around to checking in every week. All that changed after I read "The Other Celia."

Sure, it's a reprint of a classic, by one of the undeniable masters of short SF, but still, it really opened my eyes to what Ellen was trying to do with the site, and made me keep coming back week after week after that.

Another reason reading "The Other Celia" on SCI FICTION stuck in my mind, is because when I read it, I hadn't actually planned to sit and read a whole story. I had just idly clicked on the link to see the first few lines, intending to perhaps read it later. But that's all I needed to be utterly hooked.

Here's how it begins:

If you live in a cheap enough rooming house and the doors are made of cheap enough pine, and the locks are old-fashioned single-action jobs and the hinges are loose, and if you have a hundred and ninety lean pounds to operate with, you can grasp the knob, press the door sidewise against its hinges, and slip the latch. Further, you can lock the door the same way when you come out.

Slim Walsh lived in, and was, and had, and did these things partly because he was bored.


The poetry of Sturgeon's language is what really captured me from the get go. "Slim Walsh lived in, and was, and had, and did these things . . ." That line right there is what did it.

But these opening paragraphs also paint this compelling character portrait of our hero, and then the story moves on into this really strange but undeniably compelling fantasy--as Slim becomes obsessed with Celia, so does the reader.

Robert Charles Wilson has said that "The Other Celia" is "in its way as perfect a science-fiction story as The Time Machine." I agree completely, and it's hard to say it any better than that.

3 Comments:

Blogger Mikal said...

John--

Gotta agree. Sturgeon was an undeniable Master. Even today, his stories resonate with his language and precision of writing.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

The thing about Sturgeon that always draws me back is his uncompromising humanism. The man cared and his literature still does, and that, I think, is the true function of art and artists. They bind us together despite ourselves and our inability to see us as they do.

5:02 AM  
Blogger steven edward streight said...

I've been trying to locate what magazine I read The Other Celia and a story called Psi Man. Both stories stuck with me as a weird genre of science fiction, similar to Borges perhaps.

12:28 PM  

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