Friday, February 04, 2011

The Rough Guide to Space Opera: Cordwainer Smith - Blue Tyson

Cordwainer Smith was a brilliant writer of completely original science fiction as far as his Instrumentality Of Mankind Future History went. Unfortunately, his output was not very large, comparatively. A novel or three, and around 40 short stories. Also a spy novel and a couple of non-genre works to go with his writings on China and psychology. Like Hamilton, Smith is a really great last name for space opera future history.



There are a number of collections of his stories over the decades, and the complete science fiction has been done by Baen in two volumes, When The People Fell, and We the Underpeople, available at webscriptions. The Best of Cordwainer Smith contains the strongest stories. Quest of the Three Worlds contains The Casher O'Neill related 'Planet' work. You Will Never Be the Same and Space Lords are small collections. There's the SF Masterworks Instrumentality of Mankind, too.



The Planet Buyer is about Rod McBan, a young man who barely passes his Nostrilian majority test, his mental abilities defective. The planet where the immortality drug Stroon comes from has no need for defectives, and puts such down at 16. Taxes are massive, so the old North Australians aren't idle playboys, by any stretch, but Rod is still under watch. So a plot is hatched for a massively audacious economic takeover, which requires space travel. The Boy Who Bought Old Earth is a short story along these lines. The Underpeople has Rod on Old Earth, encountering Lord Jestocost of the Instrumentality, who has him transformed with the catwoman underperson C'Mell as guardian to try and keep him alive while their plans come to fruition. Norstrilia is basically The Planet Buyer and The Underpeople in slightly different form.



As far as the short stories go, On the Storm Planet finds Casher O'Neill meeting a long-lived turtle girl who needs some muscle. Himself In Anachron has a time traveling ship. The Dead Lady of Clown Town is about the rights struggles of the Underpeople of the Instrumentality and its legal system. The Colonel Came Back From Nothing At All is about a pinlighter. The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal sees a captain find a lost planet where a plague means feminity is a cancer. Then we have a timeslip spacewar with a cat army. The Game of Rat and Dragon is about combat against space dragons with pinlighters and their feline partners and you will find this online. Golden the Ship Was, Oh! Oh! Oh! has a time war, and maybe a duck. The Lady Who Sailed the Soul is about intrepid adventurers in space of different eras finding something in common. Drunkboat has the lurchings of experimental spaceflight. Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons shows that Old North Australia is really rather well defended from thieves that want to plunder its immortality riches. Scanners Live In Vain is about cyborgs who are modified to enable them to handle space flight and one of their number's rebellion against the status quo.



The Instrumentality of Mankind

Quest of the Three Worlds

The Rediscovery of Man

The Best of Cordwainer Smith [The Rediscovery Of Man]

You Will Never Be the Same

Space Lords


When the People Fell

We the Underpeople



The Planet Buyer

The Boy Who Bought Old Earth

Norstrilia



On the Storm Planet

Himself In Anachron

The Dead Lady of Clown Town

The Colonel Came Back From Nothing At All

The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal

The Game of Rat and Dragon

Golden the Ship Was, Oh Oh Oh!

The Lady Who Sailed the Soul

Drunkboat

Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons

Scanners Live In Vain

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