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Story Cycles of Future History: Cordwainer Smith's 'Instrumentality of Mankind'.


This article discusses how Cordwainer Smith (i.e. Paul Linebarger) constructs a cycle of stories dealing with the future history of humanity. Rejecting the method of internal realism, he uses a more symbolic method of narration through a series of central metaphors. Smith establishes a grand narrative which commences with a period of catastrophic wars followed by the establishment of a ruling autocracy out of which humanity must struggle to regain lost freedoms. This sequence, known as the Instrumentality of Mankind, acts as a broad template within which Smith can locate the chronology of his stories. Typically these stories narrate phases of cultural recovery where historical outcomes are obscured though repeated acts of liberation occur. The complexity of Smith's narratives contrasts polemically with the certainty of the Communist utopian ideal which Smith interpreted as a plan for world conquest.

Modern story sequences are frequently unified by place, whether Winesburg Ohio (Sherwood Anderson) or San Francisco (Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City). In science fiction, by contrast, we find sequences set in a variety of locations but held together by a scheme of future history. These sequences represent a specific narrative expression of a defining characteristic of the genre itself. Robert H. Canary, for example, has argued that science fiction 'presents a fictive history set outside our agreed upon historical reality but claiming to be consistent with our experience of that reality, to operate by more or less the same rules'.[1] Following such leads, some of the most fruitful recent science fiction criticism has explored its complex relation to history.[2]

The rediscovery of story cycles as a narrative form in American Science Fiction appears to date from the Second World War. Isaac Asimov began his famous Foundation series against the backdrop of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. His editor John W. Campbell insisted that the subject was too large for a single work and told him: 'It will have to be an open-ended series of stories.'[3] Asimov took as his model Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and subsequently explained: 'I used history as a guideline to keep me from using ridiculous misinterpretations of what can happen, given people and their way of behaving.'[4]

As well as helping to establish conventions of the sub-genre such as part-screening the names of prototypes (Bel Riose for Belisarius, Dorwin for Darwin, and so on), Asimov punctuates his Foundation stories with quotations from the fictional Encyclopaedia Galactica, which relates each specific narrative to a pool of historical information. There thus emerges a gap between historical enactment within the stories and the process of codification implied in the existence of the encyclopaedia, a gap partly addressed by Asimov in 'The Psychohistorians', a piece written to introduce the series. Here Asimov's protagonist Hari Seldon is charged with treason for prophesying the downfall of the Empire in a dramatization of the institutional resistance to historical extrapolation. Although such a series is based on the premise of historical change, Charles Elkins has argued persuasively that Asimov's belief in an essentialist human nature contradicts his method. Because 'the plot and characters are forced to conform to a predetermined template', the whole series is therefore 'invested with a pervading fatalism'.[5]

The most famous case of a serial narrative of future history was that of Robert Heinlein whose 'Timeline' chart has passed into science fiction mythology. Published in 1941, the same year as Asimov's first Foundation story, the chart was modelled on similar tables in Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men (1930) and was later revised to include more and more of Heinlein's stories.[6] In effect the chart assembles these stories into a composite narrative from the 1940s well into the next century. Heinlein anticipates a 'gradual deterioration of mores' despite technological advances, a period of imperial exploitation and a lapse into religious despotism. Heinlein draws on the precedent of Nazism in retaining terms such as 'Anschluss' and on the analogy between a culture and the life of an individual, concluding his sequence with the 'end of human adolescence, and beginning of first mature culture'.[7] Such a scheme surcharges every story with a significance beyond its individual limits and, as Poul Anderson recognized when he tried to apply Heinlein's practice, the scheme also clarifies time intervals between stories.[8] Only rarely, however, did Heinlein set up an explicit framing device to situate a specific story historically. 'The Long Watch' (1949; collected in The Green Hills of Earth) describes the heroic foiling of an attempted military coup on the lunar military base. The protagonist disables the atomic bombs, exposing himself to a fatal dose of radiation in the process. Heinlein places this story between quotations from a twenty-first-century archive to underline the historical importance of the event that renders the protagonist a martyr: 'When enough time had passed, long, long after the heaped flowers had withered, the lead casket was encased in marble, just as you see it today.'[9] The emphasis here on time (present visibility as against the gradual decline in the corpse's radioactivity) suggests that Heinlein is using the frame as an estrangement device so that the reader perceives the events as an immediate drama and as a turning point in the present transformed into a past. The historicization of the tomb thus alludes indirectly to the then prevalent fears that a nuclear holocaust (a real threat in the story) might have wiped out all human life.

When Heinlein's first stories began to appear in a loosely structured sequence, John W. Campbell announced them in Astounding Science-Fiction in the following terms:

All Heinlein's science fiction is laid against a common background of a proposed future history of the world and of the United States. Heinlein's worked the thing out in detail that grows with each story; he has outlined and graphed history of the future with characters, dates of major discoveries, etcetera, plotted in.[10]

This must have made somewhat alarming reading for Heinlein since it prescribed a method of applied realism which proved so restrictive that it forced Asimov to abandon his Foundation series. This method of cumulative detail distracted him into pursuing absolute consistency from story to story.[11] The practice of Heinlein and, as we shall see, Cordwainer Smith, suggests that this danger could only be avoided by keeping the larger historical narrative well in the background.

This essay will focus on a connected series of stories by Cordwainer Smith known collectively as the Instrumentality of Mankind. Cordwainer Smith was the main pseudonym of Paul Linebarger (1913-1966) who was educated in the Far East and after the Second World War secured a chair in Asiatic Politics at Johns Hopkins University. During the war he played an important role in establishing the Office of War Information and the Psychological Warfare Section of the US Army, writing one of the seminal studies of the subject, Psychological Warfare,in1948. He served in the Korean War, advised the British authorities in Malaya on their campaign against Communist guerrillas, and from the war to his death remained an ardent supporter of the Chinese Nationalist cause. Nevertheless, the 'right-wing' label is too crude and his biographer Alan C. Elms insists that 'he usually occupied the ground between moderate Republican and moderate Democrat with a heavy dose of realpolitik on certain matters of state'.[12] Throughout his life Cordwainer Smith, as he will be referred to here, was an avid reader of science fiction and wrote a series of short stories mainly in the 1950s and 1960s together with a novel entitled Norstrilia which are all set in different phases of a future history.[13] These works centre on the concept of the Instrumentality of Man, the key term here suggesting both cultural systems and historical destiny.[14]

Cordwainer Smith avoided one of the most serious problems of the future history sequence -- internal consistency -- by rejecting the narrative method of applied realism. Instead, he drew on the Symbolists and probably also on Chinese culture to produce parabolic narratives whose surface often screens reference to political subjects and national myths. Smith's perception of the Chinese Communists constructing a political rhetoric out of 'imagery by analogy' and 'poetic devices' may have helped to shape methods he himself applies in his own stories.[15]

A preliminary example will help to identify some of the hallmarks of Smith's stories. 'Golden the Ship Was -- Oh! Oh! Oh!' (1959) describes an attack on 'corrupt, wise, weary Old Earth' by a distant despot. In response the Lords of the Instrumentality ('corrupt rulers of a corrupt world') use an enormous golden spaceship as decoy to the dictator's fleet while a smaller craft drops 'virulent carcinogens' which wipe out the entire population on the dictator's planet. On the face of it the story seems to narrate a tale of threat and survival, but certain aspects bear implicitly on the US defence posture of the 1950s. First, this is a reactive account to a distant unprovoked threat from a dictator named Raumsog, i.e. 'space sucker' in German, with a possible play on Hitler's demand for Lebensraum (literally 'living space'). Earth responds with a superweapon which can never be used because it is a 'gigantic dummy', i.e. a weapon that depends entirely for its deterrence on perceived not actual threat. In that respect it somewhat resembles the ambiguous status of the nuclear bomb. The golden ship conceals the actual threat of biological weapons (which the US was accused of using in the Korean War). And finally we should note that psychological attack precedes a physical assault and continues into the war's aftermath when the few survivors from Raumsog's planet have their memories 'discoordinated'. Smith follows the science fiction convention of using interplanetary space to represent Earth within which he suggests shifting analogies with contemporary or recent political events. These resemblances are sometimes cued by names and as a result the reader has to readjust interpretative protocols with almost every story. This is now being recognized by critics such as Gary K. Wolfe and Carol T. Williams who take 'The Burning of the Brain' (1958)as a retelling of the discovery of America transposed on to the 'sea' of space.[16] Again in contrast with the practices of Asimov, Heinlein, and others, Smith repeatedly problematizes the very notion of historical information, introducing 'Golden the Ship Was' with the remark: 'The Raumsog war was never known to the general public except for the revival of wild old legends about golden ships.'[17] Such statements complicate the provenance of Smith's narratives and anticipate theorists such as Hayden V. White who argues that history is a narrative construct like other stories. The desire to understand historical processes clearly drew science fiction writers to theorists such as Spengler and Toynbee, but Poul Anderson for one had to admit that historical change nevertheless remained ambiguous for him.[18] Smith thematizes this ambiguity by building many of his stories around searches or enquiries so that the processes of narration and historical understanding tend to converge.

The master narrative of Smith's Instrumentality series is that the Old World has wiped itself out in the 'ancient wars'. The following dark ages have ushered in a regime presided over by the Jwindz, a ruling caste of Chinese origin who tranquillize the people. The next historical phase marks the emergence of the Instrumentality, the development of space travel, and the creation of a utopia. The last phase in Smith's history, which critics have compared to Olaf Stapledon's chronicles, marks the Rediscovery of Man where old cultures re-emerge and the conditions of the underclass are relieved.[19] These stages in the broad historical cycle feature in different ways in the stories. The earliest phases are scarcely narrated at all, indicated only through their traces; but the stories regularly build on each other. 'Mark Elf' (1957) capitalizes on the reader's memory of the Second World War; we are now in the Sixth Reich under a government by morons, probably a glance at C. M. Kornbluth's famous dystopian story 'The Marching Morons' (1951). 'The Queen of the Afternoon' (1978) opens with a reprise of Smith's earlier story which fills out the background of the latter's protagonist. And terminology in one story will be explained in other. We have to cross-refer works to discover the meanings of terms such as 'scanners' and 'pinlighters'. Typically, Smith's stories carry a referential margin which is never closed off. He wrote this device explicitly into a 1959 story, 'When the People Fell', which describes the Chinese invasion of Venus. Events are recounted by an eye-witness to a bemused journalist whose ignorance places him in the position of the reader. The narrator's opening question challenges the journalist's capacity for response: 'Can you imagine a rain of people through an acid fog?' The journalist struggles with such images and unfamiliar terms such as 'showhices' right through the story and finally manages a clear sense of events, but his editor files the story away in the archives because 'it wasn't the right kind of story for entertainment and the public would not appreciate it any more'.[20]

The public indifference suggested in this coda bears directly on one of Smith's overriding concerns throughout the Instrumentality stories: human ignorance. Thus there is a striking gap between his narrators' role of supplying historical and contextual information on the one hand, and his characters' attempts to understand their present situation on the other. Sometimes Smith draws on Olaf Stapledon, to give a choric comment on the vast cycles of history: 'The years rolled by; the Earth lived on, even when a stricken and haunted mankind crept through the glorious ruins of an immense past' (p. 29). At other points Smith avoids such privileged externality and speaks from within a common pool of fallible memory as when he introduces his allegorical history of the foundation of America, 'The Lady who Sailed The Soul' (1960): 'The story ran -- but how did the story run? Everyone knew the reference to Helen America and Mr. Grey-no-more, but no one knew exactly how it happened' (p. 97).

The relation of story to memory is a complex one in Smith's fiction since he repeatedly uses earlier literature as a template for his narratives. Darko Suvin has argued that 'The Lady Who Sailed The Soul' exploits the tropes of the soul-as-boat and the ship of state in order to dramatize the renewal of values Smith 'holds as necessary for the salvation of the USA in this historical epoch' (Suvin's emphasis).[21] Helen the protagonist thus embodies individualist isolation while the boat implies the 'supreme collective'. The unresolved tension between the two reflects the contradiction within America's national ideology of the time. This story retells in Symbolist terms the foundation of the USA and as such is symptomatic of Smith's constant suggestion that narratives have to be rediscovered, not invented. Smith admitted as much in his prologue to the 1965 collection Space Lords whose stories derive respectively from Ali Baba, the 'true narrative of Joan of Arc', the 'life and experience of Arthur Rimbaud', the fourteenth-century Chinese novel The Romance of Three Kingdoms, and Dante. Rejecting any notion of origination, Smith declares: 'All I can do is work the symbols.'[22] 'Working' obviously suggests reworking and indeed several of Smith's stories read like palimpsests over earlier narratives. 'Drunkboat' draws on Rimbaud's 'Bateau Ivre' to describe a hero who outflies everyone into deep space. On his return he is discovered naked, like Odysseus on the beach, and poses an enigma for the reader and the authorities alike. Lord Crudelta (i.e. 'cruelty' in Italian) attempts to appropriate Rambo's voyage as his own experiment and bring him under control by scientific testing. Rambo breaks through limits, posing the same startling vitality as Blake's 'tyger', quoted in the text as an 'ancient poem'.[23]

Smith's stories frequently narrate attempts at recovering a lost past, the textual sign of which is the discernibility of earlier narratives embedded within the present ones. 'Alpha Ralpha Boulevard' (1961) draws on Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's romance Paul and Virginia to describe a salvation-ist sequence. Saint-Pierre's novel extrapolates its story from the ruins of two estates on Mauritius where the eponymous Paul and Virginia fall in love with each other. Virginia is summoned to Paris but returns to the island only to be drowned in a storm before her arrival, whereupon Paul too expires under the shock. The narrator reflects piously on transience and mortality, being drawn to ancient inscriptions because they strengthen a conviction of the immortality of the soul 'by demonstrating that a thought has survived the ruins of an empire'.[24] In Smith's story the ruined landscape is an extended emblem of recent cultural catastrophe and the Rediscovery of Man is being enacted as a reinvention, or rather simulation, of French culture. Paul and Virginia appear to be simulations who consciously try to resist their programmed destiny. Virginia insists: 'If we're not us [. . .] we're just toys, dolls, puppets that the Lords have written on.'[25] By this point Saint-Pierre's concept of the divine will has become secularized as a mode of conditioning and implicates Cordwainer Smith metafictionally as the 'lord' of his palimpsest-text. The two figures set off on a pilgrimage to an ancient and obsolete computer, a possible divine 'unmachine' to confirm their own autonomy. This quasi-spiritual progress takes them up into the sky on a high-rise road (the 'boulevard' of the title) to the abandoned computer which is ominously surrounded by human remains. Far from being an oracle, this computer proves to be part of the technological detritus of the reader's present represented as a ruined future where terminology has lost its meaning, as happens in post-holocaust novels such as Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz or Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker. The label 'meteorological' thus functions as a lexical trace of a defunct signifying system and as a reminder to the reader of spiritual absence.

Cordwainer Smith's master narrative is one of cultural loss through the cataclysm of war followed by a tortuous process of rediscovery. His texts are peppered with moments of incomprehension where words function as parts of the ruined landscape traversed by his characters. When one figure asks, 'What is God?', he is told: 'It's an old word. I heard it from a robot' (p. 140). The 1966 story 'Under Old Earth' locates ancient wisdom spatially beneath the surface where the people live on in a state of 'miserable happiness'. A lord on the verge of death descends into the underground in order to access such mythical stories as that of the 'Sunboy'. More typically, Smith, who was proficient in numerous European and Oriental languages, exploits polyglot puns and anagrams to tantalize the reader with multiple allusions. These reach their greatest complexity in the stories of Casher O'Neill, a name chosen by Smith, according to his Australian friend Arthur Burns, 'because he wanted the idea of an adventurer'.[26] His name is glossed within a story as deriving from 'cash', one of his favourite childhood words, but it also derives from the streetname Qasr el Nil in Cairo. Casher comes from the planet Mizzer ('Misr' is Egyptian for Egypt), being related to King Kuraf (Faruk was deposed in 1952 by a coup led by General Neguib -- Gibna in Smith's story). Casher's quest for justice takes him back to Mizzer and then on another symbolic quest with his female companion D'alma ('of the soul' in Spanish). They pass through Mortoval (Valley of Death), a city named Kermesse Dorgeuil (Vanity Fair), until they finally reach the source Quel, the thirteenth Nile ('Quelle' in German).[27] The Modernist array of languages and SF neologisms such as 'cranch' and 'haberman' create a textual condition where far more seems to be suggested than is immediately accessible and the reader is thereby put in a position analogous to Smith's characters who repeatedly scrutinize objects and scenes to decode their significance.

The possibility that events and even consciousness have already been scripted gives a dystopian dimension to some of Smith's narratives. 'A Planet Named Shayol' (1961), one of Smith's grimmest stories, describes the dehumanization of a political victim into a medical specimen according to procedures devised and exercised elsewhere. Drawing on the Western myth of Sheol (the abode of the dead) conflated with allusions to gulags and concentration camps, Smith describes a going-into-exile, not a return. The protagonist Mercer's transit to the new planet is described as a symbolic death, a rite of passage where he is stripped naked in the ferry and offered the option of losing his memory. Through the medium of a pod (shades of invading body-snatchers) he is transported on to the exile planet to join the others whose bodies are used as hosts for alien life forms. The result is a Bosch-like phantasmagoria of humans with extra displaced limbs, where the greatest kindness, ironically, is exercised by the robot B'dikkat ('dikkat' in Turkish meaning 'care' or 'attention'). Once news breaks of the prison planet, the Lady Gnade (i.e. 'grace' in German) arrives from the Instrumentality and the planet receives a liberating transformation.

The austerity of Shayol is offset by Mercer's retention of memory but in Smith's novel Nostrilia news is forbidden; the 'underpeople' are conditioned to attend to the technology necessary for society's functioning; citizens are expected to learn the laws off by heart and if they show any signs of dissident behaviour are 'brainscrubbed'. In several stories Smith borrows the term 'peeping' from Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man (1953) where a regime perpetuates itself through an elaborate system of telepathic surveillance. Not only might thought be monitored. The tales of the early sixties in particular refer to a process of 'imprinting' whereby characteristics are transferred or encoded in the consciousness. 'The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal' (1964) contains a group of figures created by imprinting human characteristics on to mouse brains. The Arachosians fall victim to a disease that kills off the entire male sex: 'femininity became carcinogenic'. These figures in an oddly gynophobic fantasy devise a 'disaster capsule' that lures a space traveller to their planet and so they emerge as essentially updated sirens. Suzdal significantly can only escape by creating a race of cats with genetically coded instructions to combat the Arachosians; the former must follow a 'destiny printed into their brains, printed down their spinal cords, etched into the chemistry of their bodies and personalities'.[28] This imprinting is made possible by futuristic technology that Smith renders plausible by precise references to the different areas and centres of the brain. To a certain extent the process resembles in guided form the spontaneous accumulation of the 'engram bank' by the 'recording' of the mind's data described by L. Ron Hubbard in Dianetics (1950). Smith was at college with Hubbard and wrote a book on 'mutual emotional aid' in 1950 called Ethical Dianetics.[29]

The evocation of dystopian situations of orderly repression acts as a prelude in Smith to sequences of liberation like that we have seen at the end of 'A Planet Named Shayol'. His Joan of Arc narrative, 'The Dead Lady of Clown Town' (1964), makes this trajectory clear by describing a series of discoveries made by the protagonist Elaine who is 'peeped' for signs of conspiracy by the Lord Jestocost ('cruelty' in Russian and thus a label for his regime). Elaine symbolically accesses the Old City lying beneath the New where the 'underpeople' function as anonymous drudges. Elaine has a catalytic influence on D'Joan whose creed of love liberates the suppressed signs of humanity in the underpeople. The latter embodies the positive side of being able to access consciousness and triggers a social transformation exemplifying what Darko Suvin describes as 'politics as salvation'.[30] In this context telepathy functions polemically against an economic valuation of citizens and characteristically frees qualities that are already in D'Joan's companions, however latent. Once again we encounter a tale of rediscovery.

Smith's dramatization of the de-objectification of humans from socioeconomic means to subjects in their own right bears directly on the grant narrative of the Instrumentality. As a specialist in psychological warfare Smith was particularly conscious of what he described as the 'great struggle of our time'. Steadfastly anti-Communist throughout his career, he nevertheless recognized the appeal to converts in the Communist Party's conviction 'that they are the masters of the probable future of the world'.[31] While he rejected the latter utopian dogma, Smith was also too much of a realist to believe that the end of the Cold War would mean an end to political conflict. Surveying the possible futures that might grow out of the mid-1950s world situation, Smith chose the most apocalyptic to weave into his fiction: 'Collapse of all major civilisations under impact of fissionable and thermo-nuclear weapons' (p. 254). Smith's Instrumentality series could thus be seen as relating to one of the most versatile of postwar science fiction sub-genres: the post-nuclear holocaust narrative. Poul Anderson's Twilight World (1961), for instance, assembles stories set in the aftermath of such a cataclysm and counterpoints characters' local attempts at survival against larger reference, through allusions to Nordic mythology, to the doom of the world.

Anderson makes the gap between these two broad perspectives into conflict within his stories between a holistic way of seeing and a capacity to appropriate 'one piece' and use it. Smith dramatizes the same problem in one of his earliest Instrumentality stories, 'No, No, Not Rogov!' (1959), which is framed at beginning and end with the lyrical image of a 'golden shape on the golden steps' dancing out a wealth of meaning 'beyond the limits of systems'. Leaving this enigmatic image unexplained, Smith plunges us straight into the specifics of recent history in the war between the Nazis and Soviets, and its sequel. Rogov is a scientific genius who works out an integrated theory for the 'electrical and radiation phenomena accompanying consciousness'.[32] Testing his own machine, he experiences the vision described in the opening as a sign of human potential in the far future. But Smith sets up a fatal contrast between the capacity of that image to elude definition and the paranoid Soviets' attempts to confine and use Rogov. In their eyes 'the brain was a weapon'. Although their secret scheme is called 'Project Telescope', it collapses because their desire for one kind of long view, specifically the dream of an ultimate weapon, collapses under the petty rivalries within their system. The fact that a Soviet project fails carries the pointed irony that the very regime claiming to know the future actually demonstrates historical myopia in its mismanagement of the project that would give access to that future. Ultimately, then, we could read Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality series as a polemical counter-narrative to Communist millenarianism. In Psychological Warfare he endorses the historical account of Stefan T. Possony who identified the world crisis of the early 1950s as follows: 'The Soviets find themselves confronted with the problem of eliminating America as the last serious obstacle to the establishment of communist world rule.'[33] The fluctuating eras of the Instrumentality stories counter this perceived grand narrative of expansion to world conquest with accounts of cultural excavation where lost values have to be unearthed and restored to human centrality.

[1] 'Science Fiction as Fictive History', in Many Futures, Many Worlds: Theme and Form in Science Fiction, ed. by Thomas D. Clareson (Kent, OH.: Kent State University Press, 1977), p. 165.

[2] For an excellent introduction to this topic see Edward James, 'The Historian and SF', Foundation, 35 (Winter 1985/86), 5-13.

[3] In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954 (New York: Avon, 1979), p. 311.

[4] Letter quoted in Joseph E. Patrouch, Jr., The Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov (London: Dobson, 1974), p. 85.

[5] 'Asimov's Foundation Novels: Historical Materialism Distorted into Cyclical Psychohistory', in Isaac Asimov, ed. by Joseph D. Olander and Martin Harry Greenberg (Edinburgh: Harris, 1977) pp. 99, 104.

[6] H. Bruce Franklin, Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 27. For critical comment on Heinlein's future histories, see David N. Samuelson, 'Major Frontier Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein: The Future and Fantasy', in Robert A. Heinlein, ed. by Joseph D. Olander and Martin Harry Greenberg (Edinburgh: Harris, 1978), pp. 32-63.

[7] Robert A. Heinlein, Methuselah's Children (New York: Baen, 1986), p. [ii].

[8] Poul Anderson, 'Concerning Future Histories', Bulletin of the Science Fiction Writers of America, 14.3 (Fall 1979), 7-14 (p. 10). This special issue is devoted to future histories.

[9] Heinlein, The Green Hills of Earth (Chicago, IL: Shasta, 1951), p. 71.

[10] John W. Campbell, 'In Times To Come', Astounding Science-Fiction, 26.6 (February 1941), p. 67.

[11] Isaac Asimov, Asimov on Science Fiction (London: Granada, 1984), pp. 359-62.

[12] Introduction, Norstrilia (Framingham MA: NESFA Press, 1994), p. xi. The best introductions to Cordwainer Smith's work are Alan C. Elms, 'The Creation of Cordwainer Smith', Science-Fiction Studies, 11.3 (1984), 264-83; John J. Pierce, 'Mr. Forest of Incandescent Bliss', Speculation, 33 (1976), 2-22.

[13] Smith's stories have appeared in a number of collections: You Will Never Be the Same (1963), Space Lords (1965), Quest of the Three Worlds (1966), Under Old Earth (1970), Stardreamer (1971), The Best of Cordwainer Smith (1975), and The Instrumentality of Mankind (1979). However, the only complete and textually reliable collection is The Rediscovery of Man, ed. by James A. Mann (Framingham MA.: NESFA Press, 1993), which is the one used here.

[14] Pierce, p. 6. Historically the term 'instrumentality' originally denoted the status of believers as the subjects of divine power or providence.

[15] Paul M. A. Linebarger, 'The Communist Psychological Attack', 1951 typescript in Linebarger papers, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA, pp. 17, 18.

[16] Gary K. Wolfe and Carol T. Williams, 'The Majesty of Kindness: The Dialectic of Cordwainer Smith', in Voices for the Future, Volume Three, ed. by Thomas D. Clareson and Thomas L. Wymer (Bowling Green, OH: Popular Press, 1984), pp. 63-64.

[17] The Rediscovery of Man, p.214.

[18] Anderson, p. 9. Spengler was also used by John F. Carr and James Blish. For tabulated commentary on the latter, see R. D. Mullen's afterword to Cities in Flight (London: Arrow, 1981).

[19] According to Smith's widow he was a great admirer of Stapledon (Pierce, p. 7). For discussion of the relation of his 'underpeople' to Chinese culture, see Alan C. Elms, 'Origins of the Underpeople: Cats, Kuomintang and Cordwainer Smith, in Fictional Space: Essays on Contemporary Science Fiction, ed. by Tom Shippey (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), pp. 166-93.

[20] The Rediscovery of Man, pp. 119, 128.

[21] Darko Suvin, Positions and Presuppositions in Science Fiction (Kent OH.: Kent State University Press, 1988), p. 210. Suvin sees Helen as the 'exemplary representative of a seeking, and mainly frustrated, but ultimately triumphant USA' (p. 209).

[22] Space Lords (New York: Pyramid, 1965), pp. 9-10. The prologue and epilogue were omitted from UK editions of this volume.

[23] The reference to Blake suggests another science fiction intertext, Alfred Bester's Tiger! Tiger! (1956; later retitled The Stars My Destination) which also describes the return to Earth of a voyager abandoned in space.

[24] Paul and Virginia (London: Orr, 1839), p. 73.

[25] The Rediscovery of Man, p.385.

[26] 'John Foyster talks with Arthur Burns', in Exploring Cordwainer Smith, by John Bangsund and others (New York: Algol Press, 1975), pp. 20-21.

[27] Some of these details are given in John J. Pierce's introduction, in Quest of the Three Worlds (London, 1987), pp. v-vii.

[28] The Rediscovery of Man, p.213.

[29] Elms, 'The Creation', p. 275.

[30] Suvin, p. 212. Smith himself was a practising High Church Episcopalian; see James B. Jordan, 'Christianity in the Science Fiction of "Cordwainer Smith"' Contra Mundum, 2 (Winter 1992), http://

[31] Paul M. A. Linebarger, Psychological Warfare, 2nd edn (New York: Combat Forces Press, 1954), pp. 251, 246.

[32] The Rediscovery of Man, p.8.

[33] A Century of Conflict: Communist Techniques of World Revolution (Chicago: Regnery, 1953), p. 352.
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Title Annotation:author's portrayal of future history in works
Publication:Yearbook of English Studies
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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