Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cordwainer Smith

If you recognize the artist, please drop me a line.

I've been reading the fiction of Cordwainer Smith in its fictive chronological order, starting with the short stories in the Baen collection, When The People Fell. As a kid, I probably would NOT have had the patience to appreciate these offbeat stories. Back when I was 13 or 14, I was too busy wolfing down everything Samuel R. Delaney had to offer (so to speak), so I missed other voices.

Now that I'm a third of the way through the collection, I have a much better appreciation for why Smith has been a favorite of so many people, from M.A.R. Barker (I have seen his handwritten corrections for the playtest manuscript for the Tekumel roleplaying game that preceded Empire of the Petal Throne; there is a note about an interstellar civilization called a "Commonwealth", IIRC) to transhumanist RPG authors like Sarah Newton (her Mindjammer RPG setting has a number of references to Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind setting).

Cordwainer Smith's fiction should be especially appealing to transhumanists, and his transhuman figures are quite... strange, in a "there's no going back" kind of way. Even though notions like The Singularity hadn't been invented when Smith wrote his fiction, he nevertheless "got" the concept, and how unsettling, strange, and irreversible such singularities will be.

Maybe I should cranch now, I'll feel better.


  1. Absolutely, without a doubt, Dr. Paul Linebarger (aka Cordwainer Smith) is one of my all-time favorite authors. Have you gotten to 'Norstrillia' or 'Mother Hitton's Littul Kittens' yet? And then there is the 'Ballad of Lost C'Mell' and 'The Dead Lady of Clown Town'...oh...and so many others...

    I've been toying around with adding Stroon into an adventure...but then I thought about mashing it up with a certain form of worm-poop really popular in some circles...

  2. I have not yet read ANY of the stories above, but I am 240+ pages into the anthology. It has over 600 pages, plus the other volume with the novel Norstrilia. Plenty more to read over the next few months.