Kenneth J. Sterling (1920–1995), was an American science fiction author best known for his collaboration with Howard Phillips Lovecraft in the short story In the Walls of Eryx. He was a young man when when he first crossed paths with Lovecraft in 1934.
In January of 1936 Sterling shared his draft of a story with H.P. Lovecraft while he was a medical student in Providence. The story was rewritten and published after Lovecraft’s death in the Weird Tales of October 1939. This collaboration would be Lovecraft's only "interplanetary science fiction story.
There are numerous indications of a certain attitude the contrasted with Lovecraft. Sterling insisted that Lovecraft also have a by-line when the story was published — in Weird Tales about two years after Lovecraft’s death. As "In the Walls of Eryx" comes to a close the protagonist remarks:
|“||As the end approaches I feel more kindly toward the things. In the scale of cosmic entity who can say which species stand higher, or more nearly approaches a space-wide organic norm—theirs or mine?||„|
This type of progressive thinking presages the culturally reflective storytelling of the 1950s and 60s, and is extremely out of character for a Lovecraft story. Considering Lovecraft's notorious classist and racist attitudes, such sentiments are stark indeed. Reflecting upon Lovecraft's change of heart regarding socialism, due to his interactions and arguments with Robert E. Howard, it is interesting to imagine what impact and extended correspondence with Sterling might have had on Lovecraft.
As of 1952, Sterling had become a physician and was involved in cancer research.
- ed, N.E. Lilly, 1952. Avon Science Fiction Reader No. 3.
- Donald Wollheim, 1952. Avon Science Fiction Reader No. 3., "Introductory Notes".