“And Now the News,” Theodore Sturgeon, 1956 – In a media-saturated world, MacLyle retreats to a “wordless matrix,” an oasis of non-communication in which he can be absorbed in his own “practices and procedures.” His desire conflicts with the psychiatrist’s “prime directive to adjust the aberrant to society, and to restore or increase his usefulness to it.” Even though he is “bothering no one,” MacLyle’s behavior flies in the face of the known Truth of psychiatry, which believes it operates according to the scientific method; all other things “[p]ossible are thrown out of the toolbox.” He retreats to a mountain cabin and isolates himself, but he is brought back to society. Again forced to find his place in society, he becomes a serial killer, based on a perversion of the logic of John Donne: Every death diminishes him. He had tried to retreat before he was diminished entirely but, now forced back, he will diminish humanity.
Comments: A rich treatment of a multitude of related themes, including alienation, media saturation, aphasia, psychiatry, and the use of visual symbols versus spoken language to navigate culture. Read in The 18 Greatest SF Stories.
Author: Wikipedia: “Theodore Sturgeon (born Edward Hamilton Waldo; February 26, 1918 – May 8, 1985) was an American science fiction and horror author…In 1951, Sturgeon coined what is now known as Sturgeon’s Law: ‘Ninety percent of [science fiction] is crud, but then, ninety percent of everything is crud.’…Sturgeon was a distant relative of Ralph Waldo Emerson.”