Vintage Treasures: Starshine by Theodore Sturgeon
For this installment of Vintage Treasures, we’re going to set the Wayback Machine for that far distant era of American publishing, when it wasn’t at all unusual for a midlist science fiction writer to publish a paperback collection clocking in at a slender 174 pages… and have it go through nearly a dozen printings in as many years. Ah, for the days when the American public had a greater appetite for short stories!
Starshine was Sturgeon’s thirteenth collection (thirteen short story collections! It boggles the mind). It included three novelettes and three short stories, spanning just over two decades of his career: 1940 to 1961. I’ve captured the covers of all the paperback editions in this article — if you’re an old-timer like me, maybe one of them will jog your memory.
The first edition of Starshine was the December 1966 Pyramid paperback (above left, cover by Jack Gaughan.) It was back in print less than two years later, in March 1969, with a new cover by Gaughan again (above middle). Why it needed a new cover, I dunno – I much prefer the original one.
Here’s the book description for the 1966 Pyramid paperback:
Starshine — the eerie, unmistakable fire of Ted Sturgeon’s genius — lights up unforgettably these stories of now and tomorrow… tales of aliens from far planets, men of the spaceways and creatures of darkness. From the daring of “The World Well Lost” to the tense adventure of “The Pod and the Barrier” and the brisk fantastic humor of “Derm Fool,” these are Sturgeon classics — stories you can’t forget and shouldn’t miss.
Pyramid released one final edition in March 1972, with a rather pedestrian — and uncredited — cover (above right.)
Starshine had two paperback editions in the UK as well, starting with a release from Corgi in 1971 (below left, cover by Harry Willock.)
The first non-Pyramid US paperback edition was from Jove in 1977 (above middle), with a particularly bizarre cover by Don Ivan Punchatz.
Finally, Starshine had a 1978 edition from UK publisher Sphere (above right, cover by Peter Elson.) This was the book’s swan song… it has never been reprinted since, and has now been out of print for 37 years.
Here’s the complete table of contents:
“Derm Fool” (Unknown Fantasy Fiction, March 1940)
“The Haunt” (Unknown Fantasy Fiction, April 1941)
“Artnan Process” (Astounding Science-Fiction, June 1941)
“The World Well Lost” (Universe, June 1953)
“The Pod and the Barrier” (Galaxy Science Fiction, September 1957)
“How to Kill Aunty” (Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, March 1961)
Our most recent coverage of Theodore Sturgeon includes:
A Touch of Strange (1958)
Not Without Sorcery (1961)
Sturgeon in Orbit (1964)
Sturgeon is Alive and Well… (1971)
To Here and the Easel (1973)
The Stars Are the Styx (1979)
Starshine was originally published by Pyramid in December 1966. It was 174 pages priced at 60 cents. It is currently out of print, and there is no digital edition.
See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.
I’d say it’s one of the weaker Sturgeon collections … “The World Well Lost” is more significant (and daring) than particularly good, if you know what I mean (though it’s OK — it’s just not one of Sturgeon’s truly great stories), and the others seem pretty minor. Which is maybe another remarkable thing … this was an era when a good enough short story writer got to the point where paperback publishers would cull their list of stories for even relatively minor stuff. (For that matter, Sturgeon had already reprinted at least “The World Well Lost” in another collection, E PLURIBUS UNICORN.
There’s a typo, SUNSHINE for STARSHINE, in the third paragraph. Also, “The World Well Lost” first appeared in the June 1953 issue of the magazine Universe.
Thanks for the mini-review (and for the correction!) We’ve fixed both errors.
And I completely agree. Not just that paperback publishers routinely produced collections featuring minor work (such an assessment is really only clear in hindsight, after all), but that they published such slim volumes — and that they were popular.
You don’t find too many inexpensive 174-page paperbacks on the shelves today. I miss them.
[…] short story collection, first published in 1971, and it came following a five-year gap after Starshine (1966). As I mentioned in my write-up on that book, Starshine went through nearly a dozen printings […]