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Cordwainer Smith F.A.Q.

Alan C. Elms

[This list of Frequently Asked Questions will be considerably expanded when I have a little free time to put into it. The questions below are mostly filler items, though the answers are accurate.]

Q: What was Cordwainer Smith's real name? A: Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger.

Q: Where did the term "Abba-dingo" come from? A: Probably from the French words for "mad priest."

Q: Did Paul Linebarger ever live in Japan? A: No. Though he visited Japan on a number of occasions, the first time when he was about 6 years old, his longest stay was less than a month. He did, however, have considerable knowledge of Japanese culture.

Q: Where is Paul Linebarger buried? A: In Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.

Q: Where are Paul Linebarger's personal papers archived? A: His literary papers (including his work as Cordwainer Smith and drafts of his fiction under other pseudonyms) are mainly located at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, KS. His scholarly work on China, much of his work on psychological warfare, and some of his intelligence work on projects in other countries, are mainly located in the Hoover Institution Archives on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, CA. Some of his papers on his intelligence work for US Army Intelligence and for the CIA are not located in any publicly accessible archives -- and if you know where they are, send me an e-mail.

Q: Was Paul Linebarger the patient called "Kirk Allen" in the famous case history "The Jet-Propelled Couch," in Robert Lindner's book The Fifty-Minute Hour? A: Very likely yes (though I'm not absolutely certain about that). See my article in the New York Review of Science Fiction, discussed elsewhere on this website, for a good deal of evidence that he was Kirk Allen, and for evidence that various other people were NOT Kirk Allen. I'll include still more evidence of both kinds, as well as some reasons why I'm not absolutely certain, in my biography of Paul Linebarger, which I hope will be finished by the end of 2010 or soon thereafter.

Q: Was Cordwainer Smith the greatest science fiction writer of all time? A: Well, I don't rank writers ordinally, but he was certainly one of the best. You can find plenty of fan encomia about CS on the Net, but perhaps a better indication of his quality is to see what other science fiction writers have to say about him. Almost without exception (the exceptions, in my experience, being mainly a few young writers who haven't gotten around to reading him), the writers will talk about their awe of his work, and about how they have been influenced by him or have tried -- usually without success -- to "write like Cordwainer Smith."


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