The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The stories collected in E Pluribus Unicorn, originally published between 1947 and 1953, share an intense and compassionate examination of human behaviors of all kinds and descriptions, including the bizarre, the cruel, the abnormal, the tender, and the sexual. Theodore Sturgeon first broke into science fiction in 1937, rapidly becoming one of editor John Campbell’s famous “Golden Age writers”. The early, groundbreaking (and rule-breaking) stories of E Pluribus Unicorn, his second story collection (following Without Sorcery, 1948), display his mastery in explorations of human emotions.

“The Silken-Swift” (1953), the lead story, is a marvelous reconstruction of the traditional unicorn-and-virgin story, vividly demonstrating that virginity does not necessarily denote an immaculate character and that internal beauty means more than external beauty. “Bianca’s Hands,” the next story, was first printed in Britain in 1947. Some American editors considered it so depraved that they not only refused to print it but also advised Sturgeon to destroy it. The hands belong to a congenital idiot, Bianca, and the plot deals with the fate of the young man who falls in love with her (or, more precisely, her hands). The story is explicit in its examination of fetishism, and it raises serious issues of tragedy.

“The World Well Lost” (1953) deals honestly and sympathetically with homosexuality. It caused quite a stir...

(The entire section is 413 words.)