Karle Wilson Baker

Many Sturgeon readers will have heard of Karle Wilson Baker and her children’s book The Garden of the Plynck, although I suspect fewer will have read it.
          Sturgeon’s introduction to the 1972 collection The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon called “From Plynck to Planck” (and originally published in “Worlds of IF Science Fiction” January 1962, Volume 11, Number 6) lists “some the books which my characters have found influential, and my character as well”—chief among these was The Garden of the Plynck. Published in 1920 by Yale University Press, I heard recently that there may less 1000 copies in existence.
          All well and good, another virtually unknown book to add to our reading-list. Then nine years later, Sturgeon wrote a second article about his much loved book.
          The magazine “Worlds of Fantasy” was fairly short-lived, but Issue 4 (Spring 1971) contains Sturgeon’s editorial called “Search for the Plynck”. Here he answers the question How to Get Started in Fantasy by telling of the importance to him of The Garden of the Plynck. Unfortunately, by now he has lost it (which perhaps accounts for his mistaking the year of its publication, giving the author as Karl Baker and referring to her as he)—Sturgeon concludes:

         Now, I’ve got to find the Plynck again. I want it for myself, of course, and for the children, but I also want you to be able to go into the Garden. If anyone knows where a copy of the book might be, or has an idea of a place to go to look for it that I haven’t thought of yet, please let me know. In return I promise to do everything in my power to get some publisher to reprint it, complete with its perfect illustrations, which are as right for this book as the ones in Alice and the Pooh books and The Wind in the Willows.
          Please. This world of ours has developed a Plynck-sized vacuum which desperately needs to be filled, to make it a better place.

          And by so-saying, he upped the ante.
          By comparison, my own search for the Plynck has certainly been easier and—as will be seen—ultimately more successful, thanks to the internet; oh how Sturgeon would have loved the World Wide Web (“Zeelup Wide Web”, corrected the Teacup). The main problem was to find a copy that would allow to me to continue to feed my family. Finally, in September 2005, I got hold of a copy and set to work scanning, proofing and editing. So—in tribute to Theodore Sturgeon, here is The Garden of the Plynck by Karle Wilson Baker complete with (in the Adobe version) “its perfect illustrations” by Florence Minard.

(Also available at Project Gutenberg)

Wm F Seabrook
September 2005