Cordwainer Smith (/ˈkɔːrdweɪnər/ KORD-way-nər) was the pen-name used by American author Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger (July 11, 1913 – August 6, 1966) for his science fiction works. Linebarger was a noted East Asia scholar and expert in psychological warfare. ("Cordwainer" is an archaic word for "a worker in cordwain or cordovan leather; a shoemaker", and a "smith" is "one who works in iron or other metals; esp. a blacksmith or farrier": two kinds of skilled workers with traditional materials.) Linebarger also employed the literary pseudonyms "Carmichael Smith" (for his political thriller Atomsk), "Anthony Bearden" (for his poetry) and "Felix C. Forrest" (for the novels Ria and Carola). He died of a heart attack in 1966 at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, at age 53.
Smith, c. early 1960s
|Born||Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger|
July 11, 1913
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US
|Died||August 6, 1966 (aged 53)|
|Occupation||Writer, professor, military officer|
|Education||PhD in political science|
|Alma mater||Johns Hopkins University|
|Subject||East Asia political science, psychological warfare|
|Notable works||"Scanners Live in Vain"|
|Relatives||Sun Yat-sen (godfather)|
Linebarger was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father was Paul M. W. Linebarger, a lawyer and political activist with close ties to the leaders of the Chinese revolution of 1911. As a result of those connections, Linebarger's godfather was Sun Yat-sen, considered the father of Chinese nationalism.
While Sun Yat-sen was struggling against contentious warlords in China, Linebarger's father moved his family between a variety of places in Asia, Europe, and the United States and sometimes sent his son to boarding schools for safety; Linebarger attended more than 30 schools. In 1919 at a boarding school in Hawaii he was blinded in his right eye; the vision in his remaining eye was impaired by infection.
While retaining his professorship at Duke after the beginning of World War II, Linebarger began serving as a second lieutenant of the United States Army, where he was involved in the creation of the Office of War Information and the Operation Planning and Intelligence Board. He also helped organize the Army's first psychological warfare section. In 1943, he was sent to China to coordinate military intelligence operations. When he later pursued his interest in China, Linebarger became a close confidant of Chiang Kai-shek. By the end of the war, he had risen to the rank of major.
In 1947, Linebarger moved to the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC, where he served as Professor of Asiatic Studies. He used his experiences in the war to write the book Psychological Warfare (1948), regarded by many in the field as a classic text.
He eventually rose to the rank of colonel in the reserves. He was recalled to advise the British forces in the Malayan Emergency and the U.S. Eighth Army in the Korean War. While he was known to call himself a "visitor to small wars", he refrained from becoming involved in the Vietnam War, but is known to have done work for the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1969 CIA officer Miles Copeland Jr. wrote that Linebarger was "perhaps the leader practitioner of 'black' and 'gray' propaganda in the Western world". According to Joseph Burkholder Smith, a former CIA operative, he conducted classes in psychological warfare for CIA agents at his home in Washington under cover of his position at the School of Advanced International Studies. He traveled extensively and became a member of the Foreign Policy Association, and was called upon to advise President John F. Kennedy.
In 1936, Linebarger married Margaret Snow. They had a daughter in 1942 and another in 1947. They divorced in 1949.
In 1950, Linebarger married again to Genevieve Collins; they had no children. They remained married until his death from a heart attack in 1966, in Baltimore, Maryland. Linebarger had expressed a wish to retire to Australia, which he had visited in his travels.
Linebarger is long rumored to have been "Kirk Allen", the fantasy-haunted subject of "The Jet-Propelled Couch," a chapter in psychologist Robert M. Lindner's best-selling 1954 collection The Fifty-Minute Hour. According to Cordwainer Smith scholar Alan C. Elms, this speculation first reached print in Brian Aldiss's 1973 history of science fiction, Billion Year Spree; Aldiss, in turn, claimed to have gotten the information from Leon Stover. More recently, both Elms and librarian Lee Weinstein have gathered circumstantial evidence to support the case for Linebarger's being Allen, but both concede there is no direct proof that Linebarger was ever a patient of Lindner's or that he suffered from a disorder similar to that of Kirk Allen.
According to Frederik Pohl
In his stories, which were a wonderful and inimitable blend of a strange, raucous poetry and a detailed technological scene, we begin to read of human beings in worlds so far from our own in space in time that they were no longer quite Earth (even when they were the third planet out from Sol), and the people were no longer quite human, but something perhaps better, certainly different
Linebarger's identity as "Cordwainer Smith" was secret until his death.
Smith's stories are unusual, sometimes being written in narrative styles closer to traditional Chinese stories than to most English-language fiction, as well as reminiscent of the Genji tales of Lady Murasaki. The total volume of his science fiction output is relatively small, because of his time-consuming profession and his early death.
Smith's works consist of: One novel, originally published in two volumes in edited form as The Planet Buyer, also known as The Boy Who Bought Old Earth (1964) and The Underpeople (1968), and later restored to its original form as Norstrilia (1975); and 32 short stories (collected in The Rediscovery of Man (1993), including two versions of the short story "War No. 81-Q").
Linebarger's cultural links to China are partially expressed in the pseudonym "Felix C. Forrest", which he used in addition to "Cordwainer Smith": his godfather Sun Yat-Sen suggested to Linebarger that he adopt the Chinese name "Lin Bai-lo" (simplified Chinese: 林白乐; traditional Chinese: 林白樂; pinyin: Lín Báilè), which may be roughly translated as "Forest of Incandescent Bliss". ("Felix" is Latin for "happy".) In his later years, Linebarger proudly wore a tie with the Chinese characters for this name embroidered on it.
As an expert in psychological warfare, Linebarger was very interested in the newly developing fields of psychology and psychiatry. He used many of their concepts in his fiction. His fiction often has religious overtones or motifs, particularly evident in characters who have no control over their actions. James B. Jordan argued for the importance of Anglicanism to Smith's works back to 1949. But Linebarger's daughter Rosana Hart has indicated that he did not become an Anglican until 1950, and was not strongly interested in religion until later still. The introduction to the collection Rediscovery of Man notes that from around 1960 Linebarger became more devout and expressed this in his writing. Linebarger's works are sometimes included in analyses of Christianity in fiction, along with the works of authors such as C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Most of Smith's stories are set in an era starting some 14,000 years in the future. The Instrumentality of Mankind rules Earth and goes on to control other planets later inhabited by humanity. The Instrumentality attempts to revive old cultures and languages in a process known as the Rediscovery of Man. This rediscovery can be seen as the initial period when humankind emerges from a mundane utopia and the nonhuman Underpeople gain freedom from slavery. It may also be viewed as part of a continuing process begun by the Instrumentality, encompassing the whole cycle, where mankind is constantly at risk of falling back into bad old ways.
For years, Linebarger had a pocket notebook which he had filled with ideas about The Instrumentality and additional stories in the series. But while in a small boat in a lake or bay in the mid 60s, he leaned over the side, and his notebook fell out of his breast pocket into the water, where it was lost forever. Another story claims that he accidentally left the notebook in a restaurant in Rhodes in 1965. With the book gone, he felt empty of ideas, and decided to start a new series which was an allegory of Mid-Eastern politics.
Smith's stories describe a long future history of Earth. The settings range from a postapocalyptic landscape with walled cities, defended by agents of the Instrumentality, to a state of sterile utopia, in which freedom can be found only deep below the surface, in long-forgotten and buried anthropogenic strata. These features may place Smith's works within the Dying Earth subgenre of science fiction. They are ultimately more optimistic and distinctive.
Smith's most celebrated short story is his first-published, "Scanners Live in Vain", which led many of its earliest readers to assume that "Cordwainer Smith" was a new pen name for one of the established giants of the genre. It was selected as one of the best science fiction short stories of the pre-Nebula Award period by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. It was selected for The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964.
Smith's next story did not appear for several years, but readers began recognizing the name on stories and novelettes, often published through Galaxy Science Fiction. His stories feature strange and vivid creations, such as:
Titles marked with an asterisk * are independent stories not related to the Instrumentality universe.
"A Planet Named Shayol" is a science fiction story by American writer Cordwainer Smith (pen name of Paul Linebarger), set in his Instrumentality universe. It was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine in October 1961.
In the story, a man convicted of crimes against the Empire is sent for punishment on the planet Shayol—a name derived from Sheol, the Hebrew afterlife.Alpha Ralpha Boulevard
"Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" is a science fiction story by Cordwainer Smith, set in his Instrumentality of Mankind universe, concerning the opening days of a sudden radical shift from a controlling, benevolent, but sterile society, to one with individuality, danger and excitement. The story has been reprinted a number of times, including in The Rediscovery of Man collection.
Ursula K. Le Guin said that " 'Alpha Ralpha Boulevard' (...) was as important to me as reading Pasternak for the first time.""Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" was inspired in part by a painting from Smith's childhood, The Storm by Pierre-Auguste Cot, of two young lovers fleeing along a darkening path. Additionally, the names of the two principal characters, together with the conscious attempt to revive a French culture, recall the 18th century French novel Paul et Virginie. According to his widow and second wife, it was also partly about his first wife's attraction to another man. The name of the story is likely derived from that of Ralph Alpher, who himself was convinced of the connection.The ancient computer in the story is called the Abba-dingo, which some Smith scholars have speculated may mean "Father of Lies"; others have noted similarities to "the French phrase 'l’abbé dingo', or 'mad priest'".Atomsk (novel)
Atomsk, first published in 1949, is a Cold War spy novel by "Carmichael Smith", one of several pseudonyms used by Paul Linebarger, who wrote fiction most prolifically as Cordwainer Smith. Written two years after Winston Churchill's Sinews of Peace address, Atomsk is the first espionage novel of the Cold War, inaugurating a genre exemplified by writers such as Ian Fleming and John Le Carré.Linebarger's third published novel, it has long been out of print. Paper copies regularly command figures in the hundreds of U.S. dollars in the second-hand market, even though it is also available as an inexpensive e-book.As well as drawing on Linebarger's own expertise in the field of psychological warfare, it is a study of the personality of an U.S. operative (Major Michael Dugan) who has little in common with James Bond except his extreme resourcefulness under cover and in danger. A man of many identities who sees himself to some extent as a blank sheet, he goes from calling himself "Comrade Nobody" to saying "I'm anybody". The novel also has an underlying, albeit devious and ambiguous, message of peace. As one character says, learning to like people is "the only way to win wars, or even better, to get out of them."Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award
Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award honors underread science fiction and fantasy authors with the intention of drawing renewed attention to the winners. The award was initiated in 2001 by the Cordwainer Smith Foundation.Drunkboat (short story)
Drunkboat is a science fiction short story by American writer Cordwainer Smith. It was first published in the magazine Amazing Stories in October 1963. It was included in Space Lords, a collection of five stories by Cordwainer Smith published in May 1965. It appeared in The Instrumentality of Mankind, a collection published in May 1979, and it was in The Rediscovery of Man, a complete collection of his short stories, published in 1993.Instrumentality of Mankind
In the science fiction of Cordwainer Smith, the Instrumentality of Mankind refers both to Smith's personal future history and universe and to the central government of humanity within that fictional universe. The Instrumentality of Mankind is also the title of a paperback collection of short stories by Cordwainer Smith published in 1979 (now superseded by the later The Rediscovery of Man, which collects all of Smith's short stories).Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons
"Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons" is a classic science fiction short story written by Cordwainer Smith, first published in Galaxy Magazine in 1961, and partly based on Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. It is collected most recently in The Rediscovery of Man. It details the methods by which the Norstrilians (or "Old North Australians") of Smith's fictional "Instrumentality" universe maintain their monopoly on the precious immortality drug stroon. The story details part of the background to the novel Norstrilia (which references the Kittons once in its introduction as a sure method of death).
The story has been alluded to in Charles Stross's Glasshouse.NESFA Press
NESFA Press is the publishing arm of the New England Science Fiction Association, Inc. The NESFA Press primarily produces three types of books:
Books honoring the guest(s) of honor at their annual convention, Boskone, and at some Worldcons and other conventions.
Books in the NESFA's Choice series, which bring back into print the works of deserving classic SF writers such as James Schmitz, Cordwainer Smith, C. M. Kornbluth, and Zenna Henderson.
Reference books on science fiction and science fiction fandom.Norstrilia
Norstrilia is the only novel published by Paul Linebarger under the pseudonym Cordwainer Smith, which he used for his science-fiction works (though several related short stories were once packaged together as a short novel Quest of the Three Worlds). It takes place in Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind universe, and was heavily influenced by the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. The novel is in part a sequel to Smith's 1962 short story "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell", featuring some of the same characters and settings.Old Earth Books
Old Earth Books is a specialty publisher which specializes in out-of-print and niche books, primarily in the science fiction genre. The name comes from the Cordwainer Smith Lords of the Instrumentality series. It is located in Baltimore, MD. It was founded and is operated by Michael Walsh.Scanners Live in Vain
"Scanners Live in Vain" is a science fiction short story by Cordwainer Smith (pen name of American writer Paul Linebarger), set in his Instrumentality of Mankind future history. It was originally published in the magazine Fantasy Book in 1950. It was judged by the Science Fiction Writers of America to be one of the finest short stories prior to 1965 and was included in the anthology The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964. A revised text, based on Linebarger's original manuscript, appears in the 1993 NESFA Press collection The Rediscovery of Man (where it is accompanied by a facsimile of his original cover letter) and the 2007 collection When the People Fell. The story was nominated for a Retro Hugo award in 2001. It has been published in Hebrew, Italian, French, German and Dutch translations.Space Lords (short story collection)
Space Lords is a collection of science fiction short stories by the American writer Cordwainer Smith. It was first published by Pyramid Books in 1965.
The stories belong to a series describing a future history set in the universe of the Instrumentality of Mankind.
The book is dedicated "to the memory of Eleanor Jackson of Louisa, Virginia, 20 February 1919 to 30 November 1964". In a moving letter to her, we learn that she was an African-American housekeeper for the author during many years, and that she died unexpectedly while visiting him to help when he was sick and working on this book. (Note that in Cordwainer Smith's novel "Norstrilia", the hero is accompanied by his "workwoman Eleanor", to whom he shows great loyalty - "It's up to me to do what I can for her. Always.")The Ballad of Lost C'Mell
"The Ballad of Lost C'Mell" is a science fiction novella by American writer Cordwainer Smith. It was first published in October 1962 in Galaxy Magazine, and since reprinted in several compilations and omnibus editions.
The main characters are Jestocost, a lord of the Instrumentality of Mankind and C'mell, a beautiful cat-derived "underperson" (an animal given human speech and form but no rights, while retaining some of its inherent genetics -- for example, C'mell's father held the long-jump record at the time) who works as a "girly-girl" (similar to an escort) at the main spaceport.The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal
"The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal" is a science fiction short story by Cordwainer Smith, set in Smith's "Instrumentality" universe. It was first published in Amazing Stories in May 1964, and is collected in The Rediscovery of Man compendium.The Dead Lady of Clown Town
"The Dead Lady of Clown Town" is a science fiction short story by Cordwainer Smith, set in his Instrumentality of Mankind future history. It was originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1964. It was included in the collection The Best of Cordwainer Smith and most recently in The Rediscovery of Man short story collection. A graphic novel adaptation by Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta was to have appeared in DC Comics during the late 1980s, but never materialized.The Game of Rat and Dragon
"The Game of Rat and Dragon" is a short story by American author Cordwainer Smith, written in 1954 and published in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1955. It is set in the far future, though no date is given. It occurs in the same universe as other Cordwainer Smith novels, with a passing reference to the super-powerful regulatory 'Instrumentality'.
The 'dragons' are mysterious aliens which attack human starships and drive the inhabitants insane.
Cats guided by telepaths are used to fight the 'dragons', because of their very quick reactions. They see the aliens as giant rats: hence the story title. Also the humans form very strong bonds with these cats, seeing them as almost human. Non-telepaths sometimes mock them for this.The Rediscovery of Man
The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith (ISBN 0-915368-56-0) is a 1993 book containing the complete collected short fiction of American science fiction author Cordwainer Smith. It was edited by James A. Mann and published by NESFA Press.
Most of the stories take place in Smith's future history set in the universe of the Instrumentality of Mankind; the collection is arranged in the chronological order in which the stories take place in the fictional timeline. The collection also contains short stories which do not take place in this universe.
Within the context of the future history, the Rediscovery of Mankind refers to the Instrumentality's re-introduction of chance and unhappiness into the sterile utopia that they had created for humanity. Other than Smith's novel, Norstrilia, which takes place in the same future history, the book collects all of Smith's known science fiction writing.Think Blue, Count Two
"Think Blue, Count Two" is a science fiction short story by Cordwainer Smith, set in his Instrumentality of Mankind future history. The story revolves around a psychological trip-wire installed to prevent an atrocity on a sleeper ship.
Originally published in Galaxy Magazine in February 1963, it was awarded the 1990 Seiun Award for Best Foreign Language Short Story of the Year.Tähtivaeltaja Award
Tähtivaeltaja Award is an annual prize by Helsingin science fiction seura ry for the best science fiction book released in Finnish.