Read the Robert Heinlein letter that saved Theodore Sturgeon's career

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Dec 17, 2012, 4:24 PM EST

Robert Heinlein and Theodore Sturgeon are two of the titans of science fiction literature, and the men were good friends as well. Still, it comes as a surprise to hear about a letter from Heinlein that possibly saved Sturgeon's career.

Sturgeon, the author of works like More Than Human and The Dreaming Jewels (as well as the classic Star Trek episodes "Shore Leave" and "Amok Time"), discussed the letter in 1962, when he was guest of honor at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago. According to Letters of Note, here is what he said:

"I went into a horrible dry spell one time. It was a desperate dry spell and an awful lot depended on me getting writing again. Finally, I wrote to Bob Heinlein. I told him my troubles; that I couldn't write—perhaps it was that I had no ideas in my head that would strike a story. By return airmail—I don't know how he did it—I got back 26 story ideas. Some of them ran for a page and a half; one or two of them were a line or two. I mean, there were story ideas that some writers would give their left ear for. Some of them were merely suggestions; just little hints, things that will spark a writer like, 'Ghost of a little cat patting around eternity looking for a familiar lap to sit in.'"

Sturgeon added that Heinlein's generosity didn't end with ideas for stories:

"This mechanical, chrome-plated Heinlein has a great deal of heart. I had told him my writing troubles, but I hadn't told him of any other troubles; however, clipped to the stack of story ideas was a check for a hundred dollars with a little scribbled note, 'I have a suspicion your credit is bent.' It is very difficult for words like 'thank you' to handle a man that can do a thing like that."

As a result of that letter, Sturgeon ending up writing and selling two stories—"And Now the News" and "The Other Man"—and presumably getting his productivity back on track.

As for Heinlein, author of landmark sci-fi novels like Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and countless others, the complete letter—which he sent to Sturgeon just two days after getting the latter's plea for help—can be seen here. We should all have a friend like that!