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Cordwainer Smith’s Dedication for “Space Lords”

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.


to the memory of


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.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

4 Comments on Cordwainer Smith’s Dedication for “Space Lords”

  1. Cordwainer Smith was a wonderful writer and, as evidenced here, a damn good human being.

    That’s sweet, and frightening, and it gave me shivers.

  2. Wow, that is powerful! Makes me want to pick up that book and read it.

  3. Fred Kiesche // February 19, 2007 at 2:27 pm //

    You’re better off looking for the several anthologies that are currently in print. From NESFA you have The Rediscovery of Man, a massive anthology of the short works plus Norstrilia, the novel. From Baen you have We the Underpeople, the first of two anthologies.

    I don’t think that the dedication carried over into any of the later editions, alas. And we’re still missing the long-promised biography of Smith (Dr. Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger). There is a good site out there run by his daughter, though.

    (And how come this darn system never remembers my “personal info” no matter where I dial in from, or what web browser I use?)

  4. Not sure why the cookies aren’t working, Fred. They’re not working for me either.

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