Full record for Sturgeon's Law n.

Definition a humorous aphorism which maintains that most of any body of published material, knowledge, etc., or (more generally) of everything is worthless: based on a statement by Sturgeon, usually later cited as '90 per cent of everything is crap'
OED requirements antedating 1960
Earliest cite P.S. Miller in Analog
Comment The statement has a history going back to the early 1950's, and was for a while known as Sturgeon's Revelation; see the Theodore Sturgeon page FAQ for more details. It would appear from this account that citations for "Sturgeon's Law" ought to be findable from before 1972.

The web page referenced above gives a reference to a 1958 citation for "Sturgeon's Revelation", an early name for Sturgeon's Law. Mike Christie located this citation and submitted it; however this does not push back the earliest date for citations for "Sturgeon's Law". Bill Seabrook then submitted a 1968 citation from the blurb to Sturgeon's "A Way Home"; we have checked the 1956 edition and the blurb does not include the phrase. Alexx Kay checked the 1961 edition and it doesn't contain the phrase either.

Phil Klass's wife, Fruma Klass, sent in a note about the origin of the law (not the phrase "Sturgeon's Law", but the law itself). According to Phil Klass (William Tenn) Sturgeon made the remark to a talk at NYU around 1951.

Fred Galvin submitted cites from Judith Merril and Theodore Cogswell from the 1963 "The Proceedings; CHICON III". Fred Galvin submitted a 1957 cite for "Sturgeon's Revelation" in Venture Science Fiction. Fred Galvin submitted a 1957 cite for the phrase "Sturgeon's Law" but with the meaning "Nothing is always absolutely so" in Venture Science Fiction. Fred Galvin submitted a 1960 cite for the "90%" sense from P. Schuyler Miller in Analog.

We are still interested in cites before 1960 for "Sturgeon's Law" with the "90% of everything" meaning, and cites before 1957 for variant names for the law.

Added to the OED3 in March 2003; updated in June 2004 with an earliest cite of 1963 for "Sturgeon's Law" and a bracketed cite of 1958 for "Sturgeon's Revelation".

Last modified 5 August, 2010

Citations for Sturgeon's Law n.

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1957 T. Sturgeon On Hand: A Book in Venture Sci. Fiction Mag. Sept. 78 Sturgeon had a revelation. For twenty years he has been defending s f against its lay critics, especially those who buy on the open market anything which calls itself s f, sieve it with a warp and a woof, and dish up the cruddiest bits to the Saturday Review or the New Yorker with the smarmy comment that This Is Science Fiction. It isn't as easy as one might think to argue with these people, primarily because they really do take their horrible examples out of the s f field, a field which is, they inform the world, ninety-percent crud. And on that hangs Sturgeon's revelation. It came to him that s f is indeed ninety-percent crud, but that also--Eureka!--ninety-percent of everythingis crud. All things--cars, books, cheeses, hairstyles, people and pins are, to the expert and discerning eye, crud, except for the acceptable tithe which we each happen to like.
1957 T. Sturgeon in Venture Sci. Fiction July 78 There's Malcolm Jameson on ‘Space War Tactics’, a discussion on ‘Fuel for the Future’—the machine to be fueled happens to be human—by the articulate Jack Hatcher; a fine bit of tongue-in-cheek on the sad state of the copyright laws in the days of interstellar intercourse, by Donald F. Reines; and then there's your reviewer's personal favorite, as must needs be for one who has reduced the cosmos to Sturgeon's Law: [i]Nothing Is Always Absolutely So[/i] from a lifelong search for something you can really count on—it's Frederik Pohl's ‘How to Count on Your Fingers’.
1957 T. Sturgeon in Venture Sci. Fiction Sept. 49 STURGEON had a revelation.For twenty years he has been defending s f against its lay critics, especially those who buy on the open market anything which calls itself s f, sieve it with a warp and a woof, and dish up the cruddiest bits to the Saturday Review or the New Yorker with the smarmy comment that This Is Science Fiction. It isn't as easy as one might think to argue with these people, primarily because they really do take their horrible examples out of the s f field, a field which is, they inform the world, ninety-percent crud. And on that hangs Sturgeon's revelation. It came to him that s f is indeed ninety-percent crud, but that also—Eureka!— ninety-percent of everything is crud. All things—cars, books, cheeses, hairstyles, people and pins are, to the expert and discerning eye, crud, except for the acceptable tithe which we each happen to like.
1958 ‘T. Sturgeon’ in Venture Sci. Fiction Mar. 66/2 It is in this vein that I repeat Sturgeon's Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against the attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of s f is crud. The Revelation: Ninety percent of everything is crud. Corollary 1: The existence of immense quantities of trash in science fiction is admitted and it is regrettable; but it is no more unnatural than the existence of trash anywhere. Corollary 2: The best science fiction is as good as the best fiction in any field.
1960 P. Schuyler Miller in Astounding Sci. Fact & Fiction 162/2 F. M. Busby, who will probably chair the 1961 World Science [sic] Convention in Seattle, seconds this with the opinion that a new reader, going over the output of the ‘great’ days of 1946 and that of 1959, would consider more of the 1959 stories really good. Theodore Sturgeon once attacked it from the other side with what has become known as Sturgeon's Law: ‘Ninety per cent of everything is crud.’ The remaining ten per cent is what we call ‘good’ and ten per cent of that—one story in a hundred—is ‘really good’.
1963 T. R. Cogswell Proceedings: Chicon III 38 Judy mentioned Sturgeon's Law; she was kind enough not to bring the new revisions which is that 9/10ths of all science fiction is bad enough to be written by Ted Cogswell.
1963 J. Merril Proceedings: Chicon III 35 I think it was probably the final statement which sort of eliminates this discussion but we will go ahead with it anyhow and that was the memorable Sturgeon Law that 90 per cent of everything is crud; including, we regret to say, science fiction.
1990 P. Anderson in Thrust Winter 16/2 Be it simply agreed that most of what appears to popular taste ranges from bad to abysmal. Sturgeon's Revelation, you know: Ninety percent of everything is crud. (This is usually quoted as Sturgeon's Law, but that, according to the man himself, reads ‘Nothing is every [sic] absolutely so’.)
1993 SFRA Rev. May 42 But that is no reason for literary scholars to avoid studying or reading them, (after all, [Theodore] Sturgeon's Law states ‘90% of everything is crap’).
1994 B. Bova Craft of Writing Sci. Fict. that Sells vi. 44 This is merely proof of Sturgeon's Law, coined many years ago by one of the best science fiction writers, Theodore Sturgeon: ‘Ninety-five percent of science fiction is crud; but then, ninety-five percent of everything is crud.’
1994 Sci. Fiction Age July 15/1 Well, look at it this way: Sturgeon's Law applies to the concept too.