In this much-too-long-delayed episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we revisit stories from Cordwainer Smith’s The Rediscovery of Man, with especial focus on “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”. More importantly, we discuss these stories with senior SF critic Gary K. Wolfe, who brings quite a bit more biographical information about Smith to our attention, to our mutual enlightenment.

Many apologies to those (Fred!) who have been waiting for this episode–I (Karen Burnham) can only plead extreme mental discombobulation. And we hope it is worth the wait!

Read the rest of this entry

In this episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we tackle two more short stories from The Rediscovery of Man, the complete collection of the short fiction of Cordwainer Smith from NESFA Press.

We wound up finding so much to say about Smith’s stories that we decided to break this episode into two parts. In this installment we discuss “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” (1961) and “On the Gem Planet” (1963).

Read the rest of this entry

REVIEW: The Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith

REVIEW SUMMARY: The full title is The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith with an emphasis on complete. The book contains all the known short fiction by Cordwainer Smith (whose real name is Paul M. A. Linebarger) including things he wrote when he was a kid and just learning to write.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Editor James A. Mann has brought together all available writings by Smith, including some discovered during the research for the book and a story completed by his widow.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: There are some really outstanding stories such as “A Planet Named Shayol“, “Scanners Live in Vain“, and “Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons“, and some really innovative ideas.

CONS: Some early stories are clearly part of his learning process as a writer and were hard to read and come early, potentially turning readers off.

BOTTOM LINE: Worth reading if you are interested in learning about Smith’s history and reading his short fiction. The best are in here, and if you’re new to him you might want to read those first and then go back to some of the earlier works.

Read the rest of this entry

As I was perusing my collection of science fiction books, I thumbed open a copy of Cordwainer Smith’s short story collection Space Lords. The beginning pages had this dedication.

DEDICATED

to the memory of

ELEANOR JACKSON of LOUISA, VIRGINIA

20 February 1919 to 30 November 1964

Dear Eleanor:

You came out to my house to tend me, Eleanor, while I was sick and trying to finish this book. You died in the little guest room next to my bedroom. You spent the night there because you wanted to get a special breakfast for me, Eleanor, since I was sick at home while my wife had to be taken to a hospital, too.

You died there in my house, Eleanor; you looked very sleepy when you were dead, like one of the little “colored” dolls that they have at the department stores in America.

You were a Negro, Eleanor, and I have been called white. For seventeen years you shared my home, cooking, cleaning, and tending my things in America. You were a woman and I am a man. In seventeen years, we were thousands of times just the two of us in the house, and there was never an indecent gesture or an unchaste word from one of us to the other. I was kind, generous, courteous, and thoughtful toward you, and you were kind, generous, courteous and thoughtful toward me.

Only when the blue-clad police carried your little body away did I finally say to the morgue station wagon those words which I never said to you in life, “I love you, Eleanor. Where are you going, my little brown girl?”

I know where you are, Eleanor. Your little body is in a box somewhere on the other side of the world, in Virginia. I am back here In Australia again. But I can tell you this, Eleanor. I honor and remember the seventeen years of your intelligence and kindness, while I was called master and you were called servant. I’ll see the real you again, Eleanor, in a friendly place in Which we both believe.

Cordwainer Smith

Cordwainer Smith died in 1966, a little more than 1 year after this dedication first appeared in print.