Sturgeon's Law is an adage derived from a quote by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon: "Nothing is always absolutely so." It is sometimes confused with Sturgeon's Revelation: "Ninety percent of everything is crud."
Sturgeon's Law is referenced in Theodore Sturgeon's 1972 interview with David G. Hartwell (published in The New York Review of Science Fiction #7 and #8, March and April 1989): "Sturgeon's Law originally was 'Nothing is always absolutely so.' The other thing was known as 'Sturgeon's Revelation.'"
The first reference to Sturgeon's Revelation appears in the March 1958 issue of Venture Science Fiction, where Sturgeon wrote: "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."
Another version of the story has Sturgeon involved in a panel discussion of modern literature with a professor of English literature. The professor read a few selected passages of "purple prose" from popular science fiction works, and declared "90% of this Science Fiction is crap." Sturgeon replied "90% of everything is crap."
Sturgeon's Revelation is sometimes expanded as follows:
- 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. (It's clear this doesn't necessarily follow from the Revelation.)
Sturgeon's Revelation is often cited using crap or shit instead of crud. The percentage figure also sometimes varies, having been in print as "94%". Rarely, a more optimistic second clause is added, '"...but the remaining 10% is worth dying for."
Sturgeon's Revelation meaning was explicitly detailed by Sturgeon himself. He made his original remarks in direct response to ill-conceived attacks against science fiction that used "the worst examples of the field for ammunition." 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, (and so on), are crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crud is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artistic artifacts do.
Sturgeon's Law may be regarded as an instance of the Pareto principle.