And in her great eyes, secrets swam

I’ve tried to read Theodore Sturgeon’s 1953 short story collection E Pluribus Unicorn several times since I bought it in 1998. I didn’t get further than a quarter of the way. This may be because some of the stories are unpleasant, but more likely I just got distracted.

I’ve gotten better at organizing my reading: One book at a time, from the top of the stack, with new books going to the bottom. I finish the top book or put it away, but I only read one at a time. Multiple open books is a leading cause of bibliophilic stress disorder. With one book, I can focus.

Focus is necessary to appreciate a finely crafted short story. Earlier, I missed the details, and didn’t quite get the point. Now I do.

The stories in E Pluribus Unicorn aren’t all good, and there are some awkward twists. But most of them are memorable. Many take place in the crossroads between romanticism and horror, and succeed in being truly disturbing. Others deal with themes of love and loneliness, the best of which is A Saucer of Loneliness. Some are realistic, including my overall favourite Die, Maestro, Die! – where the only magic is the magic of jazz. A Way of Thinking also stands out.

These are the kinds of stories that give you a sense of what SF can accomplish. It was other authors like Ray Bradbury who perfected this genre-bending approach to SF, but they were walking in Sturgeon’s footsteps.

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