sturgeons-law
Source: Mental Floss

 

 

As someone who has spent his fair share of time debunking nonsense, I love the elegant way Theodore Sturgeon trashed this anti-SciFi trope in the March 1958 issue of Venture:

“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 art forms.”

Excellence is rare, stupidity abounds,

 

 

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Mental Floss notes the following trivia: “First, as you can see above, Sturgeon himself termed this “Sturgeon’s Revelation,” however, accidents of history (and the OED) turned it into Sturgeon’s Law. There actually is a “Sturgeon’s Law,” and it is: “Nothing is always absolutely so.” Second note — Sturgeon is the basis for Kurt Vonnegut’s recurring character Kilgore Trout.”

Category: Philosophy, Quantitative, Rules

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

29 Responses to “90% of Everything is Crap”

  1. atandon says:

    This argument is like Russel paradox … “A set of all sets ..” .. It leads to self alteration..

    1) 90% of this argument itself must be crap then, which means 81% of all things is good.
    2) 72% of all things is crap then (90% of 81%) [Reapplying S. Law]
    3) .. and so on..

    90) 0.0001% of all things is crap… everything is good :)

    • You are being recursive where it is not necessary. Use arithmetic, not fractal regressions.

      10% Good, 90% shite.

      I suspect the ration for unmoderated comments would approach 100%

  2. george lomost says:

    Ezra Pound wrote the same thing (in ABC of Reading or Guide to Kulchur) some years before that – but he was labeled a “reactionary.” Never heard of Theodore Sturgeon.

  3. Derektheunder says:

    Too funny! As a bit of a SciFi geek I would have to agree. SciFi has a tougher go of it because there is a fair amount of it whose badness makes it popular. I recently watched the movie “Ted” where they just finished watching “Flash Gordon” for the millionth time, and Mark Wahlberg says, “So bad but so good!”

    Non-SciFi fans get exposed to a lot of ‘crap’ because it can be just as popular as the quality stuff.

  4. rtalcott says:

    A refined Pareto?

  5. faulkner says:

    This is a data management conclusion with all of the reasoning left out.

    Assumptions:
    The production of any goods will vary in quality.
    Those qualities can be described in a single distribution within a category of goods.
    (Default: One inclusive standard criterion, Gaussian distribution, but other models are available.)
    Those goods below x percentage quality, by whatever standards, are deemed crap.
    Sturgeon’s standard, determined by consensus, is comparative with all goods in a category.
    Any goods in the top 10% are deemed quality. Everything else is deemed crap.

    Art, like morality (and apparently quality) consists of drawing a line somewhere.

    • Anonymous Jones says:

      Shorter faulker: “Everything is relative. If you adopt a narrow 10% cutoff for quality, then all else is by definition crap. Tautologies abound.”

      I’m not criticizing. He’s inescapably correct. And it’s terrifying to people who need to believe in deities or universal morality to navigate daily existence. Well, reality is tough.

  6. Bam_Man says:

    Thanks for the Kilgore Trout tidbit. Even as an avid Vonnegut fan, I didn’t know that. IMHO, Vonnegut’s best book is The Sirens of Titan – by far.

  7. rtalcott says:

    possibly a new “theory of everything?”

  8. lburgler says:

    If you kill the top 10%, does the remaining 90% resolve into the same ratios; i.e. is ‘crapiness’ relative?

    Is the Good good because it is loved by the gods? Or do the gods love the Good because it is good?

  9. bigsteve says:

    This is akin to 10% of fishermen catch 90% of the fish or 10% of workers do 90% of the work.

  10. CardinalRam says:

    Sturgeon was right.

    I point this out when some quasi-baby boomer complains to me that “today’s music is crap – not like the music WE grew up with.” They then cite music from Bob Segar, the Stones, the Beatles, and so on. I then ask them if they remember “Disco Duck”, “Timothy”, “Kung Fu Fighting”, and in 1977 didn’t they think Debbie Boone’s version of “You Light Up My Life” was the greatest song ever? They then shudder….

    In so many things, including music, movies, and stock picks, only the good ones last. Just because it was hot once (YLUML was the longest running Pop #1 until 1991!) does not mean it’s a diamond. Diamonds last, crap eventually dissolves and even it’s smell goes away….

    I didn’t know about Sturgeon’s quote. It’s a great one I will use the next time some says to me “why can’t they make (songs, movies, plays, stock picks, etc,.) like they used to….”

  11. JimRino says:

    Any good outside the standard specification of it’s usage is also crap: Any car with horsepower above 300, for example.

  12. donna says:

    I do think Pareto is more accurate, it’s really about 80%.

    Sturgeon was a bit of a curmudgeon.

  13. donna says:

    And quality does not mean lack of defect, necessarily. It means that it is at the level you expect to see. You don’t read pulp fiction expecting it to be a great work of literature. You read it for entertainment.

  14. DMR says:

    90% of the time, crap is good enough.

    • Remind me never to hire you, contract anything to you, purchase anything from you, or consume anything you produce.

    • rd says:

      This is true for when you only need to pass a stair well test and is just ephemeral filler (financial reporting on TV and much of CNN’s and Fox News business models come to mind) .

      However, if you need something to function as something more than filler, then the vast majority of that 90% must be at least servicable. Sci-fi magazines with editors like Campbell achieved this in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Less reputable editors had a much higher percentage of schlock and many of their magazines did not survive long.

  15. Oral Hazard says:

    Sturgeon failed to take into account the ability to leverage crap into even more crap.

    Global GDP is about USD $70 trillion. Notional derivatives are about $500 trillion. So if 90% of GDP is crap, that’s $63 trillion. Since derivatives are probably approaching 100% crap, Sturgeon’s Law needs to be revised:

    Thanks to the financial sector, 800% of everything is crap.

  16. BarneyPanofski says:

    Hope your blog’s in the green part. So far so good.

  17. Frilton Miedman says:

    In the case of Edison, 99.9% of everything was crap, it was the single material – tungsten, that changed everything and made his time worthwhile.

    In economics, the difference being that self imposed “Edison’s” of the field want to assume they know the 0.01% answer without tangible, empirical results.

    In the first example, you might have manufactured and distributed thousands of light bulbs that burn out after an hour.

    In the second example, you have tens of millions, maybe more, starving.

  18. Mentalist says:

    Sturgeons law reminds me of a friendly debate I once had with a friend. We were discussing different religions when he stated: there is no absolute truth! So I kindly asked him if that statement was absolutely true. Lol

  19. bernie69 says:

    I am a farmer crap may be made into compost

  20. milbank says:

    Presentation is 90% of everything.

  21. culhnd says:

    90% of people can’t tell the difference. A good chunk of the crap is covered with a veneer of not crap to mask its crappiness – true both in physical goods and intellectual product. Only power users can tell the difference ie, my running shoes might be crap to a marathoner but I can’t tell the difference. Different use cases – same is true of much creative work, it appeals to someone. Intellectual work is different though, it should be truth seeking. No room for crap there but its probably the space where the most veneering occurs.