Sturgeon's law

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Sturgeon's revelation, commonly referred to as Sturgeon's law, is an adage commonly cited as "ninety percent of everything is crap." It is derived from quotations by Theodore Sturgeon, an American science fiction author and critic; while Sturgeon coined another adage that he termed "Sturgeon's law", it is his "revelation" that is usually referred to by that term.

The phrase was derived from Sturgeon's observation that while science fiction was often derided for its low quality by critics, it could be noted that the majority of examples of works in other fields could equally be seen to be of low quality and that science fiction was thus no different in that regard from other art forms.

History[edit]

One of the earliest formulations of a similar principle is the saying attributed to Euripides, "Man's most valuable trait is a judicious sense of what not to believe."[1]

A similar adage with a slightly different percentage appears in Rudyard Kipling's The Light that Failed, published in 1890. "Four–fifths of everybody's work must be bad. But the remnant is worth the trouble for its own sake."[2]

The first written reference to the adage appears in the March 1958 issue of Venture, where Sturgeon wrote:

I repeat Sturgeon's Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms.[3]

According to Philip Klass (William Tenn), Sturgeon made this remark in about 1951, at a talk at New York University at which Tenn was present.[4] The statement was subsequently included in a talk Sturgeon gave at a session of the World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia, held over the Labor Day weekend of 1953.[5]

In 2013, the eminent philosopher Daniel Dennett championed Sturgeon's Law as one of his seven tools for critical thinking.[6] "90% of everything is crap. That is true, whether you are talking about physics, chemistry, evolutionary psychology, sociology, medicine—you name it—rock music, country western. 90% of everything is crap." Its re-introduction to a modern audience received a positive reception, according to Dennett.[7]

Sturgeon's revelation[edit]

Sturgeon had originally deemed Sturgeon's Law to mean that "nothing is always absolutely so" in the story "The Claustrophile" in a 1956 issue of Galaxy.[8] The second adage, variously rendered as "ninety percent of everything is crud" or "ninety percent of everything is crap", was originally known as "Sturgeon's Revelation", formulated as such in his book review column for Venture[3] in 1957. However, almost all modern uses of the term Sturgeon's Law actually refer to the second, including the definition listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Euripides'". Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  2. ^ Rudyard, K. The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling. ISBN 9785874724696. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Venture 49, September 1957
  4. ^ "'SF Citations for OED'". Jessesword.com. 6 July 2008. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  5. ^ "James Gunn, 'Addendum: Sturgeon's Law'". Physics.emory.edu. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  6. ^ "Daniel Dennett Presents Seven Tools For Critical Thinking'". 21 May 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  7. ^ "Point of Inquiry". 10 June 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2016. Audio segment starting at minute 39 
  8. ^ "The Claustrophile", Galaxy August 1956

References[edit]