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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