Book of Honor
The Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith
John Clute says The
Rediscovery of Man collects between one set of covers all the
short fictions of the unmatchable, unthinkable Cordwainer Smith.
All are magnificently weird, most are plain magnificent, and one
or two are the nearest thing to perfection that you or I will ever
chance upon in our little lives."
This is our book of
honor. Smith is best known for his short stories, most of which
take place in the Instrumentality of Mankind universe, sometimes
hundreds or thousands of years apart. NESFA Press has collected
all of the stories and arranged them in internal chronological order,
allowing us to appreciate the millennial sweep of Smithís vision.
The stories Smith tells
are complex, spilling over with ideas. They read like future fables,
with a compelling mix of poetry, cynicism, and hope. They address
topics such as post-traumatic stress ("Scanners Live in Vain"),
abuse of political prisoners ("A Planet Named Shayol"),
and racial prejudice ("Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" and other
stories of the Underpeople). But donít let me give you the impression
that all of Smithís stories are depressing; cynical hope or hopeful
cynicism, life still goes on. Smithís stories satisfy on many levels.
Cordwainer Smith was
the pseudonym of Dr. Paul Linebarger, a professor of Asiatic politics
at Johns Hopkins University. Linebarger grew up in Asia and Europe;
his godfather was the Chinese republican reformer Sun Yat Sen, a
close friend of his fatherís. By the time Linebarger was a young
man, he knew six languages and was familiar with several cultures.
His background explains the depth and insight he brought to his
stories and to the future history that he constructed.
NESFA Press is making
The Rediscovery of Man available to Potlatch members at a
20% discount. See their web page for details and an order form:
More information about
Cordwainer Smith and The Rediscovery of Man can be found
at: www.cordwainer-smith.com/ /books.htm#rediscovery
- - Karen Schaffer
Under the Instrumentality
Do you speak German?
In a galactic cat fight, who'd win -- the Pinlighters
from The Game of Rat and Dragon or Mother Hitton's Littul
In the Instrumentality, can a Lord's exalted station
be attainable by competitive examination?
Was The Dead Lady of Clown Town the one and
only serial that comes in the shape of animals?
These are some of the lighter questions I've found
myself musing over since we chose Cordwainer Smith's The Rediscovery
of Man as this year's Book of Honor.
Reading Smith's stories as a teenager, I kind of
assumed that his Instrumentality of Mankind knew what it was doing.
Jestacost and the other Lords were like John Marshall or Earl
Warren of the U.S. Supreme Court, overseeing many and many an
age of human civilization. (Or they were kin to Donovan's Twelve
Wisemen of Atlantis.) I didn't think much about the implications
of the Instrumentality's alliance with a plutocratic cartel of
pharmaceutical manufacturers -- or about all of the work being
relegated to the nonenfranchised underclass of Underpeople.
As an adult, I realized that Smith, himself, wove
a great deal of thought about these issues into the stories.
If you've dabbled in reading Cordwainer Smith's
work, but have trouble remembering the details and story names,
you may find it helpful to check out John J. Pierce's Universe
of Cordwainer Smith Timeline. Pierce's construction is similar
to the Past Through the Future outline that Robert Heinlein
constructed for his own future history stories.
- - Lenny Bailes
Smith Reference Links
Smith and His Remarkable Science Fiction Selections
from Cordwainer Smith's stories, biography, links, forum, photos,
books and other items for sale, in a site maintained by his daughter.
Also home to the Cordwainer Smith Foundation.
160th Century Worlds Tour, the Universe of Cordwainer Smith This
is a showcase site for virtual reality artist Corby James Waste's
VR-tour of Smith's universe. It includes a number of still-image
screen-captures, including some in stereo 3D.
Canberra to Norstrilia A participant report of a talk given
by Alan Elms at a science fiction conference. It deals with the
influence Smith's visit to Australia had in his work.
In the Science Fiction of "Cordwainer Smith" A discussion
of Christian symbolism in Smith's work. Essay by James B. Jordan,
in the journal Contra Mundum.
Literature Directory for Cordwainer Smith This contains
a number of reference and bibliographic links of interest, including
some of the URLS listed above.