Study Questions for Theodore Sturgeon's "Microcosmic God"


Theodore Sturgeon [1918-1985] was a prolific SF writer whose career alternated between extended periods of great productivity and those in which he was silent for years at a time.  During his active years, he produced around 175 short stories.  While best know for his short fiction, he also produced a number of memorable novellas and novels.  The most notable of these are the novella, Baby is Three [1952 in Galaxy], which was later linked with two other Sturgeon novels to become More Than Human [1953].  While Baby is Three earned a place in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume IIA, More Than Human won the International Fantasy Award for 1954.  His other best known novels are The Dreaming Jewels [1950] in which a young man runs away from home to escape his step-parents, joins the circus, and discovers remarkable powers that allow him to defeat evil adults, and The Cosmic Rape [1958] in which alien invaders provoke the evolution of the human race into a single being.  Sturgeon published most of his earlier stories in John Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction while sending those unsuitable for Campbell's emphases to the competing magazine, Unknown.  By the early 1950's, however, Sturgeon began publishing almost exclusively in magazines other than Astounding, primarily in Galaxy Science Fiction, whose editor, Horace Gold, was more receptive than Campbell to Sturgeon's emphasis on gestalt psychology, sexuality, and the social sciences in general rather than on Campbell's insistence on technology and hard science fiction.


While reading "Microcosmic God," consider these issues:


  1. What kind of SF protagonist is Kidder?  How would you characterize him?  As you read the story, make a running list of Kidde''s attributes and behaviors. 


  1. Kidder's antagonist is the banker, Conant.  Characterize him as well, creating a running list of his attributes and values. 


  1. At one point in the story, the narrator argues that "Conant's mind was similar to Kidder's" [95].  The narrator specifically refers to their common trait of taking the shortest available path to solve a problem.  Are Kidder and Conant similar in other ways?  Can you identify any essential differences between the two characters?  What makes Kidder a hero and Conant the hero's antagonist?


  1. As you read and consider this story (and in particular while considering Kidder as an SF protagonist) be prepared to compare and contrast Kidder to the scientist of McDevitt's "Act of God."