Blowhard, Esq. writes:
You may not know it had a name, but if you’ve spent any time talking about the arts, you’ve surely come across Sturgeon’s Law, coined by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.” The original quote appeared in a 50s pulp magazine:
I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. are crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms.
In other words, Sturgeon was originally defending science fiction from the snobs. OK, I can totally get behind that. I can agree that science fiction “conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms.” I wish he would’ve left it at that. But in his haste to defend science fiction from those who refused to take it seriously, Sturgeon instead, in an ironic twist, supplied generations of culture snobs with a cliché to justify their close-mindedness; that is, the blanket dismissal of 90% of all art.
But doesn’t Sturgeon get the 90% almost exactly backwards? Assuming art follows a bell curve (and why shouldn’t it?), you’re looking at, let’s say, 5% genius, 5% garbage, and 90% falling somewhere in the middle. In other words, 95% of an artform doesn’t suck, but is in fact excellent to OK. Hey culture snobs, I just outscienced you with science.
So can we please be a little more forgiving and receptive, please? Of course, all bets are off if we’re talking about a genre I hate. In those cases, Sturgeon is a visionary who is directly on point.