Baby Is Three — The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Volume 6
Volume 6 in The Complete Works series gives us stories covering the period 1950 to 1953, when Sturgeon was beginning to be recognised as a major talent in the science fiction field. The collection contains the following stories, plus story notes and an appendix containing two short autobiographical essays:
Shadow, Shadow On The Wall
A short, fantasy/horror story, featuring a boy, his wicked stepmother, and the shadow on his bedroom wall, which doesn’t seem to disappear, even in the dark. This was the first story Sturgeon sold after a year of writers’ block, since starting his job as a copywriter at Time Inc. The story was originally published in Imagination magazine, February 1951.
The Stars Are The Styx
A story of relationships, set on a space station where Earth’s misfits are dispatched into hyperspace, with only around a fifty percent chance of survival. Originally published in the very first edition of Galaxy Science Fiction magazine.
Rule of Three
Three tripartite energy beings, each made up of three individuals living in symbiosis, visit earth to study humanity. They discover that humanity is infected with the Pa’ak energy virus, which cultivates and feeds off neuroses, and is deadly to energy-based lifeforms. The aliens split into their individual component parts, as this makes them less susceptible to the virus, and each merges with a human in order to study their behaviour and try to discover a way to stop the virus spreading throughout the cosmos when humanity eventually develops space travel. Unfortunately, the aliens find that humans prefer to live as pairs, and that three is definitely a crowd, as they struggle to get the right three humans in close enough contact to be able to re-merge into their tripartite forms.
Make Room For Me
A story with a similar premise to the previous one. Alien psychic parasites, whose psyches consist of three parts, are in danger of extinction, as their hosts are not reproducing fast enough. The aliens build a machine to send one of them to Earth, to determine if they could use humans as new hosts, but in order to do this, the alien psyche must be split into its individual parts and each part implanted into a different human. Once implanted, the three parts recombine and the alien can then control the humans. Unfortunately, the alien is imbued with empathy, and he realises he does not want to control the humans, so he develops a plan to help his fellow parasites, such that they will not have to leave their planet and come to Earth.
A mission to Venus to collect energy crystals must cope with the native Gabblers, whose terrifying cries have seen off two previous missions. However, a mild-mannered civilian mission specialist, who is ridiculed by the rest of the crew, realises the Gabblers have been misunderstood. First published under the title Last Laugh, in Other Worlds Science Stories, March 1951.
The Traveling Crag
A literary agent discovers a writer who can produce a near-perfect story, but only when under the influence of an alien artefact. Unfortunately, the aliens want their device back.
Excalibur And The Atom
A tale of Arthurian legend, but set in the present day, as a private eye is hired by a Miss Morgan to find a very special cup and fulfil his destiny. A previously uncollected story, its only other publication being its original appearance in Fantastic Adventures magazine in 1951.
The Incubi of Parallel X
A ‘Land of The Giants’ scenario, in which our hero and his beefy companion travel through a gateway to a parallel world, populated by eighty foot tall women. Written in a very pulpy style for Planet Stories magazine, which specialised in this sort of thing.
A male scientist discovers a way to prevent women using their feminine wiles to influence men, but all doesn’t go according to plan when he deploys his new weapon in the war of the sexes.
The Sex Opposite
Following an apparent double murder, a symbiotic, asexual being shows a medical investigator and a reporter that they really were meant for each other. Another of Sturgeon’s stories looking at the nature of love.
Baby Is Three
A tale of a group of children with psychic powers, who together form a gestalt organism. The story is recounted by one of the children during a visit to a psychiatrist. Sturgeon later rewrote and expanded the story for publication as his award-winning novel More Than Human.
This is another solid volume in this excellent series, with not a clunker of a story to be seen. Sturgeon seems to have had a liking for stories of misfits around this time, as the first two stories and Special Aptitude all feature characters who feel they don’t belong or are put upon. The stand out story is, of course, Baby Is Three, which apparently surprised Sturgeon with its popularity, and surprised him even more when the expanded novel version came to be considered one of science fiction’s masterpieces. The psychoanalysis in Baby Is Three was based on Sturgeon's experience as an early practitioner of Dianetics (now known as Scientology). Sturgeon also used his own experiences in Make Room For Me, where the three main characters are based upon himself, an old school friend and his co-writer (who is not acknowledged), with some of the dialog lifted near-verbatim from school discussions amongst the trio.
Another highly recommended volume for anyone looking for good examples of Sturgeon’s works.