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