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
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