The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year was established in 1987 by James Gunn, Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at KU, and the heirs of Theodore Sturgeon, including his widow Jayne Sturgeon and Sturgeon's children, as an appropriate memorial to one of the great short-story writers in a field distinguished by its short fiction.
Sturgeon, born in 1918, was closely identified with the Golden Age of science fiction, 1939-1950, and is often mentioned as one of the four writers who helped establish that age. The others were Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and A. E. van Vogt; all four had their first SF stories published in 1939. In addition to fiction (his best-known novel is the classic, More Than Human), Sturgeon also wrote book reviews, poetry, screenplays, radio plays, and television plays, including two classic teleplays for the original Star Trek. He was a popular lecturer and teacher, and was a regular visiting writer at the Intensive English Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction. Sturgeon died in 1985. His books, manuscripts, and papers are being deposited at the University of Kansas, as he wished.
Starting in 2004, winners of the Sturgeon Award began receiving personalized trophies.
The permanent Award, beside the new trophies in this photo, bears the names of every winner.
For its first eight years (1987-1994), the Sturgeon Award was selected by a committee of short-fiction experts headed by Orson Scott Card. Beginning in 1995, the Sturgeon Award became a juried award, with winners selected by a committee composed of James Gunn, Frederik Pohl, and Judith Merril. After the 1996 Award, Judith Merril resigned and was replaced by Kij Johnson, the 1994 Sturgeon winner; in 2005, George Zebrowski joined the jury. Since 1999, one of Sturgeon's children has also participated in this process, usually Noel Sturgeon.
The current jury consists of James Gunn, Kij Johnson, Frederik Pohl, George Zebrowski, and Noel Sturgeon, Trustee of the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Estate.
Eligible stories are those published in English during the previous calendar year. Nominations come from a wide variety of science-fiction reviewers and serious readers as well as from the editors who publish short fiction. Nominations are collected during the winter by Chris McKitterick, who produces a list of finalists based on nominators' rankings. The jury then reads all of the finalists and debates their merits during the spring until they arrive at a consensus decision in May. The winning author is usually contacted in May and invited to attend the Campbell Conference; the winner often attends the last day or two of the SF Writers Workshop, as well.
The Sturgeon Award is presented during the Campbell Conference Awards Banquet at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, as the focal point of a weekend of discussions about the writing, illustration, publishing, teaching, and criticism of science fiction.