Some of Your Blood
by Theodore Sturgeon
Essay by Ted Gioia

Some of Your Blood stands out in the oeuvre of
Theodore Sturgeon as a grand, unclassifiable novel.  
Readers who associate this author with science

fiction will be surprised to
find none of the trademarks
of that genre here.  The book
is sometimes presented as a
horror story or fantasy, but
no elements of the magical
or supernatural figure in
the tale.  "I thought I was
buying a hardcore crime
novel," writer Steve Rasnic
Tem has noted, recalling his
first encounter with the book;
"but by the time I got home
and into my bedroom, I wasn't
sure what I had."

Sturgeon may have been ahead of his time, for this odd
book has all the trappings of a post-modern mystery.

The novel is presented in the form of a lengthy text,
and its deconstruction—an unraveling of the story that
points out the ominous gaps and ambiguous signifiers.

At some points, the “author” intrudes to provide meta-
fictional reflections on the narrative, and at the

conclusion even offers a range of alternative resolutions
to the story, inviting the reader to choose a favorite
ending from among the available options.  

All the usual plot elements are reversed here. The

story starts with the criminal already in custody. But
it is not clear whether George Smith has broken any law.  
He is being held in a military hospital for observation,
because a major was worried about his violent

tendencies.  To all appearances, the charges are
overblown, and the supervising officer wants to
release Smith, and hush up the whole affair.   

In other words, the mystery is over before it begins.

There is no crime, no criminal, no victim, no evidence,
and not even an accuser—the major who made the
original complaint is killed in a C-119 crash a short
while later, so no one can even explain the original
charges. Apparently Smith, while stationed overseas,
wrote a disturbing letter that alarmed a military censor
and set in motion the whole matter—but no copy of
the letter has been preserved.  Smith, for his part, is
the least talkative individual in the US military, and
has nothing to say about his predicament.

In other words, the plot is dead on arrival, with

apparently nowhere to go from the starting block.  

Yet a doctor who is charged with closin
g the case
and releasing the soldier is suspicious. He asks his
taciturn patient to write an account of the circumstances
that led to his confinement, and is surprised when
Smith delivers a novella-sized manuscript a few days
later.  Smith has written the story of his life. This
document, which is both scrupulously true yet deeply
false, will serve as the departure point for a thought-
provoking hermeneutical exercise. Some of Your
Blood  amplifies on the details related in Smith’s
memoir with letters, transcripts, case studies, and
other supplementary materials. Yet the more we learn,
the less satisfied we become with the answers at hand.  
Long before Barthes'
SZ and Lacan's Écrits, Sturgeon
is showing that the real story often starts with the
silences in the text.  

Some of Your Blood gradually evolves into a dark,
twisted psychological study. Novels of this period
often reveal a fixation with headshrinkers and
sychoanalytic concepts—almost to the same degree
as stories by twenty-something writers these days are
dressed up with elements of Internet, email and text
messaging culture. Yet Sturgeon digs deeper than the

pop psychology trappings of his peers, and recreates
with vivid verisimilitude the real clinical atmosphere
of era. Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Sándor Ferenczi
and other early theorists of the unconscious even
show up in supporting roles. Sturgeon has done
substantial research into the literature of aberrant
behavior, and this allows him to impart an aura of
plausibility to his tale, a sense of realism that remains

even after the plot begins to veer off into the bizarre
and unseemly.

Like your standard mystery, this one ends up with

a solved crime, an apprehended criminal, and justice
upheld. Or does it?  Our estimable genre writer
shows that he can dish out experimental techniques
with the best of them, and Sturgeon caps off his
strange book with an even stranger ending . Often
when a novelist opts for an ambiguous conclusion
to a complex plot, I am left unsatisfied. But in this
case, the multiplicity of possible outcomes offers the
perfect closure to a book that started breaking the

rules from the outset.  The result is a gripping novel
that relies on pulp fiction conventions without ever
falling into the conventional.  

Ted Gioia writes on music, literature and popular culture.
His latest book is Love Songs: The Hidden History, published
by Oxford University Press.

Essay published August 23, 2011
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Where’s Waldo?  Well, in the case of the man
born as Edward Hamilton Waldo in 1918, you

will find him on the shelf under the name of
Theodore Sturgeon—which was not a

pseudonym, but his
legal name after 1929.
And this Waldo has
plenty of books to
hide inside—by one es-
timate, Sturgeon was
the most frequently an-
thologized short story
writer of his generation.  
Along the way, this prolific author also made

his living as a sailor in the merchant marines,
drove a bulldozer in Puerto Rico, managed a
resort in the West Indies, sold refrigerators
door-to-door, and wrote screenplays for the
Star Trek television show. He is also
known as the originator of "Sturgeon’s Law,"
which cynically (and perhaps astutely) asserts

that "ninety percent of everything is crud."  
Yet Sturgeon is most famous for his
transformation of genre fiction into

something far above the crud level of the
pulp fiction periodicals in which he first made
his name.  He may have operated in the gaudy,
concept-driven world of sci-fi, but Sturgeon’s
stories were pre-eminently about human
relationships. "Basically, fiction is people," he

once remarked. "You can't write fiction about
ideas." Certainly few of his peers had such

skill in constructing character-driven stories in
which the fanciful and fantastic co-existed with
the heartfelt and down-to-earth. And how was

he able to do this?  "I write a story as if it
were a letter to someone," he explained, "and
essentially, that's what you do."

Further Clues:

The Theodore Sturgeon Page

The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award

The Fiction of Theodore Sturgeon

Sturgeon's Law
The Reading List
(with links to essays)

Peter Ackroyd

Douglas Adams
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective

Martin Amis
London Fields

Paul Auster
The New York Trilogy

Thomas Bernhard
The Lime Works

Jedediah Berry
The Manual of Detection

Alfred Bester
The Demolished Man

Roberto Bolaño

Jorge Luis Borges

Truman Capote
In Cold Blood

Michael Chabon
The Yiddish Policemen's Union

Agatha Christie
The A.B.C. Murders

Robert Coover

Friedrich Dürrenmatt
The Pledge

Umberto Eco
Foucault's Pendulum
The Name of the Rose

David Gordon
The Serialist

Witold Gombrowicz

Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of
the Dog in the Night-Time

Elizabeth Hand
Generation Loss

Patricia Highsmith
The Talented Mr. Ripley

Norman N. Holland
Death in a Delphi Seminar

Franz Kafka
The Trial

Jonathan Lethem
Gun, with Occasional Music
Motherless Brooklyn

Jean-Patrick Manchette
The Prone Gunman

Gabriel García Márquez
Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Cameron McCabe
The Face on the Cutting-Room

Philip MacDonald
The Rynox Murder

China Miéville
The City and the City

Mo Yan
The Republic of Wine

Patrick Modiano
Missing Person

Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore
A Wild Sheep Chase

Vladimir Nabokov
Pale Fire

Joyce Carol Oates
Mysteries of Winterthurn

Flann O'Brien
The Third Policeman

Orhan Pamuk
The Black Book

Georges Perec
A Void

Marisha Pessl
Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Thomas Pynchon
The Crying of Lot 49
Inherent Vice

Alain Robbe-Grillet
The Erasers
The Voyeur

Leonardo Sciascia
The Day of the Owl
Equal Danger

Gilbert Sorrentino
Mulligan Stew

Theodore Sturgeon
Some of Your Blood

Miguel Syjuco

Other articles and feature:
50 Essential Postmodern Mysteries
The 8 Memes of the Postmodern Mystery
Selected Quotes on Detective Fiction  

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