Cordwainer Smith

A few weeks ago I finished reading The Rediscovery of Man, a collection of short stories by Cordwainer Smith. His real name is Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger and he was the godson of Sun Yat Sen, a professor of Asiatic Studies at Johns Hopkins, spoke several languages, wrote the seminal work Psychological Warfare and was a spy [more here].

A pretty good thinkthrough of his science fiction can be found here: Cats, Cruelty and Children: Idealism and Morality in the Instrumentality of Mankind The Fourth Millennium also has some good info, including a page of book covers.

I can’t really pin down what I liked about his stories, and with 30k years to cover, that isn’t surprising. He has no shortage of interesting ideas though. Space sails, cats fighting phantoms in subspace, ancient manshonyaggers [from menschenjagers], telepathy taken for granted, longevity drugs controlled by one nation, underpeople… He found Jesus later in life and started incorporating some religious symbols of that sort, [references to the Old Strong Religion, images of the cross et cetera] which doesn’t really work all that well because it seems forced. Perhaps what I liked about his stories were the fact that they all at one time or another incorporate political, economic, personal, social, spiritual, scientific, artistic themes in an effective manner. His writing is quite adaptable, and it is all in the same general future, which helps add an additional sense of believability. I guess that is all I have for now. My brain isn’t in a high gear today.

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