Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Quick Review & Commentary On The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith Part of the Appendix S & N

 If there is one Appendix N or S  author who doesn't get the recogniation he deserves, It's definitely Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger, aka Cordwainer Smith whose Human Instrumentality stories were among some of the most unique pieces of science fiction produced during the Golden Age. Take one part Chinese or Japanese mythological tale, wrap it in a healthy dose of 16,000 years in the future 'peek a boo', & then give it the biting sarcasm of a psychological warfare officer from WWII. And you just might scratch the surface of Cordwainer Smith. 

Cordwainer Smith's Science Fiction writings  have been  highly influencial on both orginal Dungeons & Dragons & the orignal  Traveller rpg. These stories  have also influenced numerous Empire of the Petel Throne dungeon masters. 

"According to Frederik Pohl

In his stories, which were a wonderful and inimitable blend of a strange, raucous poetry and a detailed technological scene, we begin to read of human beings in worlds so far from our own in space in time that they were no longer quite Earth (even when they were the third planet out from Sol), and the people were no longer quite human, but something perhaps better, certainly different" 

The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith published in 1993 is the collection that your going to want to get if your a fan of his writing. Why?! Because it actually contains the following; "Includes 33 stories that represent Cordwainer Smiths entire SF works except for the novel Norstrilia. These stories are "classics" of the field such as "The Dead Lady of Clown Town," "The Game of Rat and Dragon," "Scanners Live in Vain," and "A Planet Named Shayol." Appearing for the first time in print are "Himself in Anachron" and the completely rewritten adult version of his high school story "War No. 81-Q." Introduction by John J. Pierce."

 Cordwainer Smith's Influence upon M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne stories  rpg  comes not from the good professor but many who run the game. The Human Instrumentality's efforts to shake up humanity & many of the events sorround  the Human Instrumentality organization remind one of the efforts of adventurers within The Empire of the Petal Throne. 

With the release of the Worlds without End rpg  & the Stars Without Number Rpg that preceeded it Cordwainer Smith's writing has become even more influencial. His writing takes a stab at the adventure plot idea covering  the vastness of both culture, , the rise & fall of Empire, and humanity among the vastness of the  stars.The Human Instrumentality  material here is vivid, rolling, & very well done in a style of writing that is unique. Interstellar regimes come & go, pockets of humanity continue along their paths out among the stars, & thousands of years pass on admist the ending of a story. 

Smith's work definitely hits spot on for Kevin Crawford's Worlds Without Number. The Human Instrumentality is a nice instellar empire to visit but you wouldn't want to live there. Humanity is a dour breed whose roles in life are genetically pre programmed. Underpeople animals that have been uplifted of a sort do many of the mundane jobs. And the Earth gets sold to an Australian boy one night & then things get weird from there. 

If you want to get into Cordwainer Smith's  science fiction. Then The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith is the work that you want to grab. Yes the book clocks in at six hundred & seventy one pages of science fiction Smith goodness but here's what it contains:

Stories of the Instrumentality of Mankind

No, No, Not Rogov! ( read the beginning below)
War No. 8 1 -Q (rewritten version)
Mark Elf
The Queen of the Afternoon
Scanners Live in Vain (read the beginning below)
The Lady Who Sailed The Soul
When the People Fell
Think Blue, Count Two
The Colonel Came Back from the Nothing-at-All
The Game of Rat and Dragon
The Burning of the Brain
From Gustible's Planet
Himself in Anachron
The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal
Golden the Ship Was-Oh! Oh! Oh!
The Dead Lady of Clown Town
Under Old Earth (read the beginning below)
Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons
Alpha Ralpha Boulevard (read the beginning below)
The Ballad of Lost C'mell
A Planet Named Shayol
On the Gem Planet
On the Storm Planet
On the Sand Planet
Three to a Given Star
Down to a Sunless Sea

Other Stories

War No. 81-Q (original version)
Western Science Is So Wonderful
The Fife of Bodidharma
The Good Friends

This review comes with a warning! Don't make the mistake that I made back in '93 in the U.K. and grab the U.K. title with the same name. 

If you want a sample of Cordwainer Smith's  science fiction here's two of his best Under Old Earth & A Planet Named Shayol. 
There's also the 
Cordwainer Smith website maintained by his daughter here

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