Discovering the writings of Corwainer Smith in the early 1970’s was a life-changing revelation. At that time, neither his one novel, Norstrilia,nor any comprehensive compilation of his incredible short stories were in print.
For years, I would scour used bookstores in search of his stories, finding one of his stories in this or that compilation, in print, not in print, whatever. Needless to say, his writing had a profound effect on me and I have striven to create worlds, in music and art and words, as strange, as haunting, and, I hope, as full of love as his works, amidst the weirdness. Not that I come close in that regard: but one must aim high. Smith’s stories do not grow old. Interestingly, although he was almost unknown 40 years ago, he is regularly deemed the most influential science fiction writer of all time now. I recommend his books, Norstrilia and The Rediscovery of Man without hesitation.
From 1950 to 1966, stories appeared in mainstream science fiction magazines by an author named “Cordwainer Smith“. From the first to the last, these stories were acclaimed as among the most inventive and striking ever written, and that in a field specializing in the inventive and the striking.
Their author was a very private man who did not want his real name to be known because he did not want to be pursued by SF fans. It was only after his death in 1966 that more than a handful of people knew that
“Cordwainer Smith” was in real life Paul M. L. Linebarger.
Here is an article I found many many years ago and saved. I cannot find it anywhere else anymore, so I am taking the liberty of publishing it here. I make absolutely no claim to ownership or copyright. I am just publishing as a public service.
Christianity And The Science Fiction Of Cordwainer Smith
by James B. Jordan
Copyright © 1991 Originally published in Contra Mundum No. 2 Winter 1992
Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger
Paul Linebarger was born in 1913, the grandson of a clergyman. His
father, an eccentric man, had served as a Federal District Judge in the
Philippines, but had left this post to work full time for the cause of
the Chinese republican reformer Sun Yat Sen, who became Paul’s
godfather. Paul Linebarger grew up in the retinue of Sun Yat Sen, for
his father stayed with Sen during his exile in Japan and throughout his
career in China.
Linebarger spent his formative years in Japan, China, France, and
Germany. By the time he grew up, he knew six languages and had become
intimate with several cultures, both Oriental and Occidental.
He was only twenty-three when he earned his Ph.D. in political science
at Johns Hopkins University, where he was later Professor of Asiatic
politics for many years. Shortly thereafter, he graduated from editing
his father’s books to publishing his own highly regarded works on Far
Eastern affairs. 
After graduating from Johns Hopkins, Linebarger taught at Duke
University from 1937 to 1946, but he also served actively in the Army
during World War II as a second lieutenant. Pierce writes that “As a
Far East specialist he was involved in the formation of the Office of
War Information and of the Operation Planning and Intelligence Board.
He also helped organize the Army’s first psychological warfare
section.”  He was sent to China and put in charge of psychological
warfare and of coordinating Anglo- American and Chinese military
activities. By the end of the war, he had risen to the rank of major.
In 1947, he became professor of Asiatic Politics at Johns Hopkins
University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
Dr. Linebarger turned his wartime experiences into Psychological
Warfare , still regarded as the most authoritative text in the field.
As a colonel, he was advisor to the British forces in Malaya, and to
the U. S. Eighth Army in Korea. But this self- styled “visitor to small
wars” passed up Vietnam, feeling American involvement there was a
Travels around the world took him to Australia, Greece, Egypt, and many
other countries; and his expertise was sufficiently valued that he
became a leading member of the Foreign Policy Association and an
advisor to President Kennedy. 
Linebarger was reared in a High Church Episcopalian family. Alan C.
Elms’s sketch of the older Linebargers does not lead one to believe
either was particularly devout. Paul’s father was evidently rather
overbearing and placed many demands on his son. His mother was
apparently rather self-centered and controlling. At the age of six,
young Paul was blinded in his left eye as a result of an accident while
playing, and the resulting infection damaged his right eye as well,
causing him distress throughout his entire life. A sensitive,
introspective, and apparently rather lonely and sickly youth, Paul
Linebarger was to develop into a remarkable scholar, thinker, and
At some point in his life, Paul Linebarger became a strongly committed
Christian. “He and [wife] Genevieve went to Sung Mass on Sundays, and
he said grace at all meals at home. The faith extended and shaped his
powerful imagination’ But he simply ignored contemporary religious
movements, especially the secularizing ones directed to social
problems. The God he had faith in had to do with the soul of man and
with the unfolding of history and of the destiny of all living
The first science fiction story published by Linebarger, under the
pseudonym Cordwainer Smith, was “Scanners Live in Vain”, in 1949. It
had been written, however, in 1945. This story is a full-blown allegory
of the coming of the New Covenant, and reveals a very sophisticated
understanding both of the Biblical narrative and typology (e.g., the
smell of roast lamb reminds the central character of the smell of
burning people), and of the theological and philosophical tenets of the
Christian religion. Linebarger must have become a serious Christian
well before 1945.
Linebarger’s own psychological problems, as well as his keen interest
in psychological warfare, caused him to explore modern psychiatry and
psychoanalysis. These themes, as well as Christian philosophy and
allegory, and also psychological warfare, run all through the science
fiction he published as Cordwainer Smith.
Linebarger’s non-fictional works are these:
The Political Doctrines of Sun-Yat-Sen (1937)
Government in Republican China (1938)
The China of Chiang Kaishek (1941)
Psychological Warfare (1948; rev. 1954; reprint 1972).
Far Eastern Government and Politics: China & Japan (1954)
Linebarger’s interest in psychological warfare was closely related to
his Christian views of ethics and history. Essentially, the purpose of
psywar is winning without killing. The goal is to get an opportunity to
speak to the mind of the enemy, and convince him that there are other
ways to settle differences than killing people.
In Psychological Warfare , Linebarger focuses on the use of propaganda
to weaken the resolve of the enemy and persuade him to give up. In his
fiction, Linebarger matches the use of words with acts of kindness.
This twin approach ” true words and kind actions ” becomes the essence
of psychological warfare, both the military kind and the evangelistic
Under the pseudonym Felix Forrest, Linebarger wrote two psychological
novels: Ria (1947) and Carola (1949). Ria has been reprinted and is
available in hardcover. In this novel we see portrayed something of
Linebarger’s understanding of the world between the two great wars. Ria
is a young American girl, and she typifies America: young, naive, kind,
and rich. She is visiting Europe and encounters several people, who
typify (a) the older Christian order in decline, (b) the new European
occultism permeating Germany, and (c) the vigorous materialistic
atheism of the new orient of Japan. There are many levels in this
novel, but the most interesting may be its portrayal of these cultures
as they meet and interact with each other.
In 1949, Linebarger’s novel Atomsk was published under the pseudonym
Carmichael Smith. Atomsk is a spy thriller, and in it Linebarger openly
sets forth his ideal of a Christian warrior. The main character
explains early on that in order to defeat an enemy you have to love
him. You have to want what is best for him, and if possible get close
to him, win his confidence, and persuade him to change his ways. The
novel shows the outworking of this Christian principle in international
affairs. It is not in print, but if your library does not have an old
copy, you can obtain it though inter-library loan.
Finally, under the pseudonym Cordwainer Smith, Linebarger wrote a whole
series of stories and novellas about a time in the far future when a
suppressed Christian underground (the Holy Insurgency) faces a
stultifying humanistic hierarchy (the Instrumentality of Mankind). It
is through these stories rather than through his non-fictional work
that Linebarger’s Christian understanding of war, culture, history,
religion, and politics is encountered. The Cordwainer Smith stories are
completely contained in the following five volumes:
The Best of Cordwainer Smith (Ballantine/Del Rey, 1975)
The Instrumentality of Mankind (Ballantine/Del Rey, 1979)
Norstrilia (Ballantine/Del Rey, 1975)
Quest of the Three Worlds (Ballantine/Del Rey, 1978)
“Down to a Sunless Sea” ( The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction , October, 1975)
The Style of Linebarger’s Science Fiction
Stylistically, “Cordwainer Smith” was a very odd writer, when compared
with other science fiction writers. Some of his peculiarities found
their way into what was called “New Wave” science fiction, which used
experimental writing styles. What worked well for Smith, however, did
not usually work well with his non- Christian imitators, largely I
think just because of that difference in faith. Smith’s peculiarities
arose from his medievalism, while the “New Wave” was often simply
trying to be bizarre.
These peculiarities stem from several factors, of which I mention four
that seem to me most important. First, Linebarger grew up in the orient
and became familiar with the storytelling styles of non- Western
cultures. He even translated some Chinese stories into English. Some of
the abruptness and some of the elusive quality of his writing comes
from this influence. He was not interested in portraying an “American”
culture 20,000 years from now, but rather a human culture that had
matured ” “evolved” if you will ” into new forms that would not simply
be “Western”. There is, for example, a considerable amount of ceremony
and ritual in his stories.
A second factor is mentioned by Arthur Burns: Linebarger “once said
that Cordwainer Smith was a `pre- Cervantean’ ” the stories are like
cycles of medieval legends, without the Aristotelian beginning- middle-
and- end of classic tragedy, and certainly without the same structure
as transposed into the modern novel, which Cervantes began. They are
legendary cycles of the future, rather than future history, and were
meant to be connected with and consistent with each other on the
legendary and not the historiographic model.”  Many of his stories
are told as legends. In “The Lady Who Sailed `The Soul'”, a mother
tells her little girl the saga of Helen America and Mr. Grey-no-more.
In “The Dead Lady of Clown Town”, the narrator seeks to separate what
really happened on Fomalhaut III from various legends that have grown
up around the event; he even discusses the artistic validity of various
well- known paintings of the events.
A third factor is also mentioned by Burns: “Cordwainer Smith’s stories
were a kind of important `playing’ (Paul was greatly impressed by
Huizinga’s Homo Ludens ): through them are dotted irrelevant
cryptograms, geographic allusions, and names transliterated from
foreign languages.”  This is not quite accurate, in that the
cryptograms, allusions, and foreign names are usually important clues
to deeper and allegorical meanings in the stories. Linebarger does
indicate in his prefaces and in his frivolous prelude to Norstrilia
that his writing is, in part at least, for “fun”.
A final factor is his poetry. Over the years, Linebarger wrote quite a
bit of poetry, publishing some of it occasionally under the name
“Anthony Bearden”. Poems, songs, and ditties are found frequently in
his science fiction tales. Nobody else in science fiction has his
characters break into song!
The Content of the Instrumentality Cycle
All but three (some say five) of Linebarger’s science fiction stories
belong in the same legendary future, generally called the
“Instrumentality Cycle”.  Of the 24 short stories under
consideration, eight are basically romances (love stories),  and
many of the others have love as a basic theme. Here Linebarger
continues a theme found in the fantasy stories of 19th and 20th century
Anglican writers, the relationship between human romance and the
romance of Christ and the Church. Augustine’s view of love as the bond
among the persons of the Trinity is particularly important in
Linebarger’s stories, since it is frequently love that keeps men from
being seduced to evil.
Three dimensions of these stories call for our attention: the
narrative, the allegorical, and the philosophical. First, while the
stories vary in narrative strength, they are all well told, and hold
attention. Curiously, the story with the least narrative credibility is
the one novel, Norstrilia , but it must be born in mind that Linebarger
had not finished tinkering with it when he died.  Most of the
stories have to do with conflict and resolution. They are not puzzle or
discovery stories, so common in science fiction. Indeed, at the
narrative level they are no more science fiction than Star Wars . The
science fiction element comes in at a different point, to be discussed
The second dimension of the stories is allegory. The fall of man is
portrayed in “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”; the flood is portrayed in “Under
Old Earth”; and the coming of Christ and the defeat of the old law is
allegorized in “Scanners Live in Vain”. “On the Sand Planet” is a
sustained allegory that mixes and retells Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
and Dante’s Divine Comedy . Other stories retell events from history or
literature. “The Dead Lady of Clown Town” is based on the history of
Joan of Arc. “Drunkboat” is based on an event in the life of Arthur
Rimbaud. The stories, however, stand up very well quite apart from the
The third dimension is the philosophical. There are very serious
philosophical, social, and theological themes running through all of
these stories. We shall close this brief introduction by calling
attention to one of the most striking.
Linebarger was very concerned about what he called the “Pleasure
Revolution”; that is, the tendency to use technology to reduce the
risks of life, the pain of expanding dominion and growth. A society at
ease is a society that has become “perfect too soon”, to quote one of
his characters;  a society that has “tried to end history” to quote
another.  Man’s high calling is to mature to the point of having
dominion over the entire universe, but man tends to stop where he is
and refuse to take further risks. Linebarger’s heroes are the men and
women who “push the outside of the envelope” (to draw a phrase from Tom
Wolfe’s The Right Stuff ), experiencing the pain and risk of dominion,
and sometimes suffering permanent damage as a result.
A society that thinks it has all the answers is an autonomous society.
It cannot move forward, for it denies the need for the “other”, for
heteronomy, for social intercourse. This is the theme of romantic love
on a larger canvas, and Linebarger explicitly connects the two in story
after story. His prematurely perfected cultures are always essentially
Man is called to deal with everything God puts before him. If he deals
rightly, he grows; if he deals wrongly, he dies; if he refuses to deal
with things at all, he stagnates and dies. This canon can be applied to
virtually every one of the stories. When men reject further growth, God
Himself intervenes to force men back to maturity. This is seen
indirectly in several of the stories that deal with crisis points in
this future history. As a result of some “unexplained and inexplicable”
event, humanity is pushed away from autonomy.
The term “instrumentality” in Anglican theology refers to the priest
who celebrates the sacrament: He is the “instrumentality” of God.
Linebarger’s Instrumentality of Mankind is a kind of benevolent
humanism that functions like a secular church, like the communist
party, in overseeing human development. It is, however, essentially
unlike anything in the world today, because humanity has grown,
developed, and changed.
In its early days, the Instrumentality guides humanity well, but then
stagnation sets in. Two answers are set forth. One is the Rediscovery
of Man, the humanist attempt to reintroduce some diversity and risk
into human life. The other is the Holy Insurgency, the rediscovery of
the Old Strong Religion, advocated by the Underpeople who live in the
catacombs. The conflict among these forces underlies most of the
This “dominion” theme is virtually unique to Linebarger, and is very
powerful and provocative. Man is called to take ever- expanding
dominion over the universe. When he refuses, he dies. He must take the
risk and experience the pain, if he is to mature. Characters who have
faith and love survive; characters who do not love, or who don’t love
strongly enough, are seriously crippled or even die.
This, by the way, is where the science fiction aspect comes in. In the
future, as a result of expanding dominion, men are growing and
changing. Human society then will be different from the way it is
today. While much science fiction deals with the impact on society of
particular technological inventions or discoveries, Linebarger’s
approach is more psycho- social, in that he projects long- term social
change and growth.
The central story in the cycle is the “novel” (actually just a long,
pre-Cervantean narrative) Norstrilia . The theme of the novel is the
Messiah, a theme addressed very indirectly. Briefly (and this is very
brief): Rod McBan the 151st is heir of the Station of Doom. Before he
can inherit this, he must pass a test in the Garden of Death. A snake-
man stands ready to kill him if he fails. He does indeed fail, but the
intercession of an unexpected visitor saves his life.
Rod makes an enemy of a local official. After escaping an attempt on
his life, he retreats to a building kept on his property, the Palace of
the Governor of Night, brought from the Egyptian planet Khufu II. In
this replica of the Parthenon is a computer, called poetically a
“godmachine”. The computer provides Rod with the false answer to his
problem, by giving him financial advice so that overnight he becomes
the richest person who has ever lived. He even purchases the planet
For his own protection Rod is taken to Earth. He is regarded as a
messiah, and all kinds of people want his money for messianic projects
of one sort or another. All Rod wants, however, is a postage stamp for
his collection (a triangular Cape Colony stamp) ” he is, after all,
only a teenager. He is befriended by the Underpeople, animals raised to
intelligence as servants of humanity. The cat- girl C’Mell escorts Rod
to the Department Store of Heart’s Desires. Here, in a room called Hell
Hall, Rod is forced to come to grips with himself and his own depravity
and guilt. Afterward, Rod is ready to meet E’telikeli, a bird- man who
is primate of the Old Strong Religion.
The Underpeople have recovered the Scrap of the Book, and are guiding
human civilization back to an understanding of the Three Forgotten Ones
and the God Nailed High. E’telikeli wants Rod to use his money to help
with this project, to which he agrees. In exchange, E’telikeli gives
Rod a way to deal with his enemy on Norstrilia, a truer solution based
on love and kindness.
At the end of the novel, the twin sons of Rod McBan are taking their
ordeals in the Garden of Death. Only one survives. The surviving twin
is sorely upset, but controls his grief, while his brother laughs his
way to death under the influence of the killing drug. The last lines of
the book are these: “Then the boy broke, just for a moment. He pointed
at Rich, who was still laughing, off by himself, and then plunged for
his father’s hug. `Oh, dad! Why me? Why me ?'” The dying boy is named
`Rich,’ to show us the lost estate of Adamic humanity. Though he is
dying, he laughs, showing us the blindness of sinful humanity. Isolated
from life, he is “off by himself”. His brother, however, expresses the
wish that he might be a substitute. The brother’s name is Ted, from
Theodore, “gift of God”. In this subtle way, Linebarger shows us Who
the Messiah really is. This, of course, is made more explicit in other
Linebarger’s book Quest of the Three Worlds is a cycle of three stories
that give expression to his thinking at its most mature, though in
fictionalized and highly symbolic form. The overall story concerns a
man named Casher who is seeking revenge against the savage
revolutionaries who overthrew his uncle, a decadent dictator. In the
first of the three stories that make up Quest , Casher visits a planet
of gemstones (wealth) where he encounters a just and orderly
government. In the course of this story we are given a “mirror for
princes” as the hero learns what truly just human government should be
We move from “nature” (politics) to “grace” in the second story. Casher
visits a planet of wind (spirit) where he is swallowed by an air-whale
and then spat out again (as was Jonah, an image of resurrection). Now
he is ready to receive the ancient truths concerning the Book and the
Crucified God from a woman named T’Ruth.
In the third story Casher returns to his home planet of Mizzer
(Mizraim; Egypt), a planet of sand (wilderness and trial), and there
sets things right without taking vengeance. Then, in a story that
combines Dante’s Divine Comedy and Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress , the
Christian hero sets out on his journey to a new Eden.
The Impact of “Cordwainer Smith”
Briefly in conclusion let me comment on the influence of these stories.
First, they were all published in mainstream science fiction magazines,
though sometimes the editors removed the explicitly religious parts.
Second, these stories are very widely anthologized. I should say that
the majority of collections of classic science fiction stories contain
a Linebarger story.
Finally, Linebarger’s style and approach has had a great impact on the
new generation of writers. Several of the most important of today’s
science fiction writers, including Harlan Ellison and Ursula LeGuin,
give him credit for showing them that it is possible to write really
serious science fiction. At an SF convention in Austin, Texas, in
September, 1985, interviews with current SF authors revealed that the
two major influencers of modern SF are held to be Philip K. Dick and
“Cordwainer Smith”, yet a good deal of hostility was generated at the
suggestion that “Smith” was a Christian.  (There is a parallel here
with J.R.R. Tolkien. The modern fantasy literature sprang from Tolkien,
but for years most Tolkien fan- literature completely ignored the
Christian dimension in his writing. Linebarger’s Christianity is a
great deal more explicit and penetrating than Tolkien’s, however.)
In conclusion, I hope that these brief remarks have stimulated some
interest in these stories. If I have motivated any of you to read
Linebarger for yourself, I count this essay a success.
I. Larger studies of “Cordwainer Smith”.
Exploring Cordwainer Smith (Box 4175, NY 10017: Algol Press, 1975), 33
pages; $2.50. Collection of short essays and reminiscences.
Anthony R. Lewis, Concordance to Cordwainer Smith (New England Science
Fiction Association, Box G, MIT Branch PO, Cambridge, Massachusetts
02139; 1984), 90 pages; $6.00. An alphabetical listing of every name,
term, etc. in the Smith corpus, with translations and interpretations.
John J. Pierce, Mr. Forest of Incandescent Bliss: The Man Behind
Cordwainer Smith ( Speculation No. 33; photocopy obtainable from Mr.
Peter Weston, 72 Beeches Dr., Erdington, Birmingham, B24 ODT, England).
23 pages. The best lengthy study of Smith, with a pretty comprehensive
biography of Linebarger.
II. Shorter studies.
Alan C. Elms, “The Creation of Cordwainer Smith”, Science- Fiction
Studies 11 (1984):264- 283. This is a valuable and well- researched
biographical essay, particularly focussing on Linebarger’s early
writings, and then moving to “Scanners Live in Vain”, “The Game of Rat
and Dragon”, and Norstrilia . Elms views Linebarger’s writings as an
exercise in psychotherapy (though he admits there was more to them than
that), and he misses the point of the three pieces he discusses because
he ignores the religious dimension. For the psychological dimension,
however, this is a helpful essay.
Frank N. Magill, ed. Survey of Science Fiction (Englewood Cliffs: Salem
Press, 1979). This is “Magill’s Masterplots” for SF. Gary K. Wolfe
reviews The Best of Cordwainer Smith , focussing on the dialectic of
romance and realism. Jane Hipolito reviews Norstrilia , focussing on
its uneven literary quality. Walter E. Meyers reviews Space Lords , an
early collection; its stories are contained in other later collections.
Alexei and Cory Panshin, SF in Dimension: A Book of Explorations
(Chicago: Advent Publishers, 1976). Pages 222ff. briefly discuss
Norstrilia . The Panshins completely miss the point of the novel,
finding that it gives no answer to the questions it raises, and
incredible as it sounds, state that “in Norstrilia , Smith lacks the
nerve to imagine a larger power than the rigid and self- satisfied
Lords of the Instrumentality” (p. 227).
Gary K. Wolfe, “Mythic Structures in Cordwainer Smith’s `The Game of
Rat and Dragon'”, Science- Fiction Studies 4 (1977):144- 150. An
attempt to bring Levi- Strauss and Eliade to bear on this story! In my
opinion, a gross example of over- analysis, especially since Linebarger
wrote this story in one afternoon.
Gary K. Wolfe and Carol T. Williams, “Cordwainer Smith”, in David
Cowart and Thomas L. Wymer, eds., Twentieth Century American Science-
Fiction Writers (Detroit: Gale Research Co, 1981). A brief survey,
focussing on a dialectic of male and female attributes the authors find
in Linebarger’s work, but generally ignoring the religious
“The Majesty of Kindness: The Dialectic of Cordwainer Smith”, in Thomas
Clareson and Thomas Wymer, eds., Voices for the Future , Vol. 3
(Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1984). A
helpful but limited discussion. Includes some material on Linebarger’s
earlier fiction. The authors miss the theological dimension, and thus
their interpretations are askew rather consistently. For instance,
discussing “Scanners Live in Vain”, they write, “Scanners cannot
function without sacrificing a part of their humanity. Space is the
realm of technology, earth of the organic” (p. 53). Actually, Scanners
have to die in order to serve humanity. The work of Adam Stone, whose
symbolic name has evidently been missed by the authors, is to bring
resurrection and end the ceremonial law imposed by the Scanners.
Thomas L. Wymer, “Cordwainer Smith: Satirist or Male Chauvinist?”,
Extrapolation 14 (1973): 157- 162. A sensible analysis of “The Game of
Rat and Dragon”, dealing with the romantic and sexual dimension of the
Notes 1. “Cordwainer Smith ” The Shaper of Myths”, in The Best of Cordwainer Smith (New York: Ballantine, 1975), p. xii.
2. Pierce, “Mr. Forest of Incandescent Bliss”, in Speculation 33, p. 7.
3. “Shaper of Myths”, p. xiif.
4. Alan C. Elms, “The Creation of Cordwainer Smith”, in Science-Fiction
Studies 11 (1984):264-283. This essay tremendously overemphasizes the
psychological motivations in Linebarger’s development, and underplays
5. Arthur Burns, “Paul Linebarger”, in Exploring Cordwainer Smith (New York: Algol Press, 1975), p. 9.
6. Ibid ., p. 9f.
7. Ibid ., p. 9.
8. Twenty- nine stories and one novel. Of these, one was written at the
age of 15, and hardly counts. Four were completed by Genevieve
Linebarger and, while they shed some light on the overall scheme, they
are rather sketchy. There are, thus, 24 stories that merit most serious
9. I should count the following as having romantic love so central to
the story that they can be counted as primarily love stories: “The
Burning of the Brain”, “The Nancy Routine”, “The Lady Who Sailed the
Soul”, “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”, “The Ballad of Lost C’Mell”, “Think
Blue, Count Two”, “Drunkboat”, and “The Crime and Glory of Commander
Suzdal”. Walter E. Meyers has written, “‘ in the main Smith has only
one theme: love. That theme, in its varied forms, is so rich a subject
that thousands of years of storytellers have not exhausted it, but it
is rare in science fiction’ No writer in the genre exercises greater
skill in characterization or motivates those characters in mature human
relationships better than does Cordwainer Smith.” Review of Space Lords
in Frank N. Magill, Survey of Science Fiction (Englewood Cliffs: Salem
Press, 1979), p. 2124f.
10. The Old North Australians practice population control by sending
all their children to the “Garden of Death” at age 16 for a rite of
passage. Only those who pass the test live. They refuse birth control
as wrong. Being the wealthiest planet in the universe, however, they
might have solved their problem by the practice of primogeniture,
sending younger siblings offworld to make their own fortunes. This is
not mentioned as an alternative. Similarly, the problem set up in the
second half of the novel entails nothing that could not have been
resolved in the office of Lord Jestocost in one afternoon’s session. Of
course, had this been done we would not have the beautiful story! It
should be noted that Linebarger was not happy with the novel, and thus
released two sections of it as shorter novellas ( The Boy Who Bought
Old Earth and The Underpeople ), while continuing to work on the
complete version. What is published now was put together by his wife
after his death.
11. D’Alma in “On the Sand Planet”.
12. E’Telikeli in Norstilia .
13. Interviews were conducted by Rev. George Grant, and his findings communicated to me in a conversation.