The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award

Theodore Sturgeon, the author memorialized with this award. Photo by Marc Zicree.

The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year was established in 1987 by James Gunn, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at KU, and the heirs of Theodore Sturgeon, including his partner Jayne Engelhart Tannehill 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 alongside Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and A. E. van Vogt as one of the four writers who established and led the way through that time. All four published their first SF stories in 1939, usually identified as the start of the Golden Age, and Sturgeon was famous for providing the heart.

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 author during the Intensive Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction. Sturgeon died in 1985.

His books, manuscripts, and papers have been deposited at the University of Kansas, as he wished. See this page for news and information about the 2011 acquisition, valued at over $600,000.

Selection Process

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 juried, 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. George Zebrowski served on the jury from 2005-2013. Also in 2013, Pohl retired from service to the Award, and Elizabeth Bear and Andy Duncan joined the jury. Since 1999, one of Sturgeon's children has also participated in this process, usually Noel Sturgeon.

The current jury consists of Elizabeth Bear, Andy Duncan, James Gunn, Kij Johnson, and Nöel 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, the editors who publish short fiction, and often times the jurors, as well. 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 Conference; the winner often attends the last day or two of the SF Writers Workshop, as well.

The Sturgeon Award is presented during the 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.

Note: If you read deeply or broadly in the short-SF field and would like to be a part of the Sturgeon Award nomination process, drop us a note at stating your interest. We're always looking for great readers to help diversify our nominations pool!

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.

Sturgeon Award Winners

  Sturgeon Award winners are listed below from most-recent to the first in 1987.

  Click here to see the Sturgeon Award finalists back to 2003.


1st  "When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis," by Annalee Newitz. Slate, Dec 2018.
2nd  "On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog," by Adam Shannon. Apex, Dec 2018.
3rd  "Nine Last Days on Planet Earth," Daryl Gregory., Sept 2018.


1st  "Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue," by Charlie Jane Anders. Boston Review: Global Dystopias, Oct 2017.
2nd  "And Then There Were (N-One)," by Sarah Pinsker. Uncanny, March 2017.
3rd  "A Series of Steaks," by Vina Jie-Min Prasad. Clarkesworld, Jan 2017.


1st  "The Future is Blue," by Catherynne M. Valente. Drowned Worlds, ed. Jonathan Strahan, Solaris Books, 2016.
2nd  "Touring with the Alien," by Carolyn Ives Gilman. Clarkesworld, April 2016.
3rd  "Things with Beards," by Sam J. Miller. Clarkesworld, June 2016.


1st  "The Game of Smash and Recovery," by Kelly Link. Strange Horizons, 17 Oct 2015.
2nd  "The New Mother," by Eugene Fischer. Asimov's, Apr/May 2015.
3rd  "Gypsy," by Carter Scholz. Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov/Dec 2015.


1st  "The Man Who Sold the Moon," by Cory Doctorow. Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future,
    eds. Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer, Morrow, 2014.
2nd  "Shatterdown," by Suzanne Palmer. Asimov's Jun 2014.
3rd  ""We Are the Cloud," by Sam J. Miller. Lightspeed Sep 2014.


1st  "In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind," by Sarah Pinsker. Strange Horizons, July 2013.
2nd  "Mystic Falls," by Robert Reed. Clarkesworld, Nov 2013.
3rd  "The Weight of the Sunrise," by Vylar Kaftan. Asimov's, Feb 2013.


1st  "The Grinnell Method," by Molly Gloss
2nd  "Nahiku West," by Linda Nagata
3rd  Eater-of-Bone, by Robert Reed
    A special Sturgeon Award for Distinguished Service was presented to Frederik Pohl this year.


1st "The Choice," by Paul McAuley
2nd "Six Months Three Days," by Charlie Jane Anders
3rd "The Paper Menagerie," by Ken Liu


1st  "The Sultan of the Clouds," by Geoffrey A. Landis
2nd  "The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon," by Elizabeth Hand
3rd  "The Things," by Peter Watts


1st  "Shambling Towards Hiroshima," by James Morrow
2nd (tie)  "Things Undone," by John Barnes
2nd (tie)  "This Wind Blowing, and This Tide," by Damien Broderick
2nd (tie)  "As Women Fight," by Sara Genge


1st  "The Ray Gun: A Love Story," James Alan Gardner
2nd  "Memory Dog," Kathleen Ann Goonan
3rd  "The Tear," Ian McDonald


1st (tie)  "Tideline," Elizabeth Bear
1st (tie)  "Finisterra," David R. Moles
2nd (tie)  "Memorare," Gene Wolfe
2nd (tie)  "The Master Miller's Tale," Ian R. MacLeod


1st  "The Cartesian Theater," Robert Charles Wilson
2nd  "A Billion Eves," Robert Reed 
3rd  "Lord Weary's Empire," Michael Swanwick


1st  "The Calorie Man," Paolo Bacigalupi 
2nd "The Little Goddess," Ian MacDonald 
3rd  "Magic for Beginners," Kelly Link


1st  "Sergeant Chip," Bradley Denton
2nd "Voluntary State," Christopher Rowe
3rd  "Mere," Richard Reed


1st  "The Empress of Mars," Kage Baker
2nd "Bernardos House," James Patrick Kelly
3rd  "It's All True," John Kessel


"Over Yonder," Lucius Shepard


"The Chief Designer," Andy Duncan


"Tendeleo's Story," Ian McDonald


"The Wedding Album," David Marusek


"Story of Your Life," Ted Chiang


"House of Dreams," Michael Flynn


"The Flowers of Aulit Prison," Nancy Kress


"Jigoku no Mokushiroku," John G. McDaid


"Forgiveness Day," Ursula Le Guin


"Fox Magic," Kij Johnson


"This Year's Class Picture," Dan Simmons


"Buffalo," John Kessel


"Bears Discover Fire," Terry Bisson


"The Edge of the World," Michael Swanwick


"Schrodinger's Kitten," George Alec Effinger


"Rachel in Love," Pat Murphy


"Surviving," Judith Moffett

Click here to see a list of Sturgeon Award finalists.

Click here to see images of the Sturgeon Award trophy.

Heard of Sturgeon's Law? Click hear to read about it.

Click here to see Sturgeon's essay regarding "Ask the next question" and the trophy's design.

Click here page for information about his books, manuscripts, and papers deposited at the University of Kansas.

Theodore Sturgeon Resources

  • The Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust website is a fantastic resource for all things Sturgeon. It contains many stories, audio readings of Sturgeon's works, information about new and reprinted work (the Trust owns the copyright to his work), and much more - even a recipe!
  • The Theodore Sturgeon Page contains a great deal of information about Theodore Sturgeon, including publications, reminiscences by friends and colleagues, a bio, photographs, and more.

updated 6/10/2020