Worst Week of My Life - by S P Somtow

(contributed to Eric Weeks's Theodore Sturgeon Page by Bill Seabrook, permission granted to post this on the web from S P Somtow)

Somtow Papinian Sucharitkud (S P Somtow) was born in Bankok, Thailand in 1952, and grew up in Europe. He was educated at Eton College and Cambridge, receiving honours in English and Music. His first career was as composer, but he began writing in 1977 and four years later won the John W Campbell Award for best new writer. S P Somtow has now written over eighteen books including the galaxy-spanning Inquestor series, the satirical Mallworld and The Aquiliad. He has also written two highly acclaimed horror novels: Vampire Junction has become a cult classic, and Moon Dance is already being hailed as a landmark in the field. Other novels by S P Somtow include Starship & Haiku, Fire from the Wine-Dark Sea, The Shattered Horse, Forgetting Places and Riverrun. He now lives in California.

In the following extract, Somtow expresses his sense of personal loss over the death of Sturgeon, who he acknowledges as a major influence on his own writing and I am grateful to the author for giving his permission to include it on the WWW. [The full article appeared in Fantasy Review, Vol. 8 No. 5, May 1985, p.9]

(photo by Beth Gwinn)
I have been promising [Bob] Colins I would return to the pages of his august magazine [Fantasy Review] for some time. I had hoped to make a comeback with some apocalyptic, biting satire, but it was not to be. Two weeks ago I was visting Los Angeles, attempting to peddle "high concept" in Hollywood. But instead I'm sitting at the keyboard comtemplating a week of grief, both for myself and for the world of science fiction. It's been rough, my friends.

It's obvious that I'm going to talk about Ted Sturgeon. It seems that I was among the last people to talk to him...May 5 when I received a message from Sharon Webb, who suggested that I call the Sturgeons. "I think he's dying," she told me. "I spoke to him, he sounded as if he was saying goodbye." When I 'phoned him in Oregon. he spoke breathlessly, panting between words. I told him that my new book, The Darkling Wind, was dedicated to him. I had meant it to be a surprise, when it came out, but I knew it would be too late. Ted said, "I love you very much" "I love you too," I said. He said, "I know." Then he said "Good-bye." I talked to Jayne for a while longer, but I was barely coherent from weeping. I heard his voice in the background; "Tell him, 'Thanks for the S P Phonecall.'"" He was still making puns, weakened though he was. Only a few hours after I talked to him, I discovered later, his already critical lung condition became complicated by pneumonia, and he went into hospital. He died three days later. His youngest son Andros told me, "I was there and it was beautiful."

I had known Ted peripherally for about seven years, and been close to him only for the last year of his life. But I can barely remember a time when I had not heard of Theodore Sturgeon. His is the single most important influence on my own work. The earliest science fiction story I can remember reading is The Skills of Xanadu, a story so rich in resonance that I based an entire tetralogy on its premise. Another seminal work of his, the novella Some of Your Blood, was the structural, thematic, and conceptual inspiration for my novel Vampire Junction, which is nothing more or less than a remake of and a homage to, his book. As always, he said it all in about a twentieth of the time it took me.

I have promised to write a short eulogy for Charlie Brown's Locus. It will represent, as befits the stature of that magazine, a more public sort of mourning. Ted Sturgeon was, and always will be, one of the most significant figures in our field, and in a way it is hard not to find one's personal sense of loss subsumed in the far greater awe at a great man's passing.

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