There is the religious approach, fostered by the Rosest in which little basic difference ix seen between Dr. Linebarger's intentions in writing science fiction as Cordwainer Smith and those of C.S. Lewis in using science fantasy as a religious vehicle. The Roses, of courses are looking for religious messages in science fiction generallyI k~/t since Dr. Linebarger was a religious man the search at least makes more sense when directed at his work that when applied to that of Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov.
Lastly, there is the search for possible hidden meanings in names of people, places and things used in various Smith works.
£u~.3 Lewis has pursued this approach in his glossary, from the obvious cases (the city Meeya Meefla being derived from Miami Fla. ) to the not-so-obvious (the religious significance of names used in ,The Dead Lady of Clown Town' and elsewhere, and the origin of the Vomact family name from the German vomAcht - "outlaw" or "outsider."
Some derivations were missed even by Lewis, but these were so personal to Dr. Linebarger that Lewis can hardly be blamed: "cranch" comes from the name of an abandoned shop, "The Little Cranch," which Dr. Linebarger saw when he came to Washington: "Ambiloxi" (in 'On the Storm Planet') from Biloxi, Miss., where he had once been frightened by a hurricane when a child.
Yet none of these approaches seems adequate - particularly when applied to Smith's work as a whole.
In the remarks made by Dr. Linebarger's friend Arthur Burns for the Australian Science Fiction Review shortly after Dr. Linebarger's death in 1966, two things seem to stand out in relation to the overall meaning of the Cordwainer Smith science fiction.
First, there is the specific nature of Dr. Linebarger's religion: "Paul was a High Church Anglican," Burns explained. "The faith extended and shaped his powerful imagination, and gave his emotions their qualities. I believe that it explains much in (his) science fiction, and not merely the recurrence in his distant futures of the 'Old Strong Religion.'
The secularizing ones directed to social problems. The God he had faith in had to do with the soul of man and with the unfolding of history and of the destiny of all living creatures."
Second, there is Dr. Linebarger's interest in psychosociological ideas. Asked by Foyster why the Cordwainer Smith stories took the form of a cycle of legends set against consistent backgrounds Burns said:
"I don't think it's too pretentious to say that he had a sort of view of mankind and of human nature which he saw as something that was changing and developing in a most complex kind of way, and I think that he saw it as going through certain stages. The period of the Instrumentality, for instance, is really a period of considerable human decadence, brought on by the perfection of something that he often spoke about as having already developed in the Twentieth Century - something that he called the Pleasure Revolution."
These religious and psychosocial concerns are combined in Smith's epic of the Instrumentality, which taken as a whole can be seen as the projection of the social evolution of mankind. an evolution with some quite Stapledonian overtones which may in fact have been an attempt to reconcile Christianity with the theory of evolution similar to that of the theologian Pierre Tellhard de Chardin.
That Dr. Linebarger was an admirer of
Olaf Stapledon is known; it is also known that hews, quite familiar with the traditions of science fiction generally. It is true that Dr. Linebarger rarely spoke of his intentions - and then only of the origins of specific stories. But the internal evidence in his work points to a vast evolutionary conception
To begin withs his stories are clearly set in different stages of a consistent future history. Despite the carelessness in the citation of specific dates (16,000 years hence for 'Mark Elf,' vs. 15,000 A.D. for OLD NORTH AUSTRALIA,) there is a definite progression.
'No, No, Not Rogov' can be seen as a prelude to the series, with its contrast between the experience of the present and the vision of a strange future in which mankind has been transmogrified by experiences of space and alien contact. There is an implicit reference to what are called the "ancient wars" in other stories in the mention of the "ruin and reconstruction" from which mankind has arisen by 13,582 A.D.
The "ancient wars" themselves add the emergence of the elite of prime movers known as the Instrumentality of Mankind figure in 'War NO. 81-Q'. This period is followed by the Dark age recorded- in 'Mark Elf' and in unpublished material - a period "when stricken and haunted mankind crept through the glorious ruins of an immense past." It is an age in which the true men, exhausted of all vitality, lead weary and contemplative lives in their isolated cities, while the Wild is left to the barbaric tribes of the Unforgiven, the animal-derived Beasts, and the predatory 01d Machines or manshonyaggers.
The environment has been poisoned by atomic war, and the true men use biological inventions to reclaim, the land and sea alike. The position of the Instrumentality in this period is not entirely clear - it is possible that the Dark Age represents the Rule Of the
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