Meant to be a Monday morning Penguin, but this is how I roll:
The Joyous Invasions by Theodore Sturgeon. First published 1965, Penguin edition 1967.
From the biography inside the front cover:
Marion, beautiful jet-tressed wife to Theodore Sturgeon, maintains that the author has no biography, he being born anew each morning. He professes recollection of children, not less than four nor more than six, aged not more than 24 nor less than 4. He is at times aware of residence in an impulsively rambling house in a village a hundred miles from New York City, which latter he avoids as a species of unreality…
Theodore Sturgeon has two great claims to fame: he wrote the short story 'Killdozer', about a bulldozer possessed by a malevolent extraterrestrial intelligence, and he is credited with formulating Sturgeon's Law. The law, supposedly enunciated in answer to teh allegation that 90 per cent of science fiction is crap, is: "90 per cent of everything is crap." The percentages vary over time and according to activity: crapness — if we can distinguish it from dullness — is rare in classical music, where the technique must be so developed; it is ubiquitous in fringe theatre, where barriers of money and talent barely exist; still, the generalization stands up well. In my life as a critic, mulling over it has been an antidote to excessive gloom faced with mediocrity, to over-excitement encountering the halfway clever.
This book contains three stories. 'To Marry Medusa' is about an extraterrestrial hive-mind attempting to subsume humanity — that old chestnut — and being stymied by humanity's unconquerable individuality. The individual versus collective was a popular theme of Cold War SF: it's totalitarianism versus democracy, but also cooperation versus conflict (Sturgeon tackled it, kinda, in his novel More than Human). 'The Comedian's Children' is barely SF — a satire on celebrity culture and charidee with a light frosting of space travel: a Jerry Lewis-like comic is deliberately infecting children with what appears to be a space-borne virus to keep his charity telethons going.'The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff' is another story about the uniqueness of humanity: aliens visiting earth are puzzled by our tendency, unique among intelligent lifeforms, not to grasp at what we want — Freud dressed up as SF, set in a boarding-house in Everytown.
He's a lot like Ed McBain: the urban tableaux, the liberalism, the straining after literary effect and the conviction that realism consists of piling on detail… Both of them give the impression of having feminist impulses thwarted by an inability to think of women except in terms of desire or domesticity.
The cover is by Alan Aldridge, Penguin's art director at the time — for a while he did all their science fiction. I don't love his covers, but this one works OK. A shabby copy but hey, I got it as part of a six-for-a-fiver deal on Broadway Market. A couple more Aldridges to follow.
Special bonus — cover of the Marvel Comics version of 'Killdozer':