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.