Some of Your Blood
by Theodore Sturgeon
Reviewed 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 closing 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 psychoanalytic
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's latest book is The Birth (and Death) of
the Cool
.
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Click on image to purchase
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 original
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."
ROGUES GALLERY:
THEODORE STURGEON

Further Clues:

The Theodore Sturgeon Page

The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award

The Fiction of Theodore Sturgeon

Sturgeon's Law
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Some of Your Blood

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