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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: www.nesfa.org/press/.

More information about Cordwainer Smith and The Rediscovery of Man can be found at: www.cordwainer-smith.com/ /books.htm#rediscovery

   - - Karen Schaffer    

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Life 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 Kittons?

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    


Cordwainer Smith Reference Links

Cordwainer 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.

The 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.

From 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.

Christianity 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.

Google Literature Directory for Cordwainer Smith  This contains a number of reference and bibliographic links of interest, including some of the URLS listed above.

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