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Must-Read Essay: Cordwainer Smith as Folklorist of the Future

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Cordwainer Smith remains a unique figure in science fiction history: a pioneer of psychological warfare who lived in China and bonded with Chinese culture. A brilliant inventor of future history whose Instrumentality universe was totally cohesive. But he also created a vision of the future as folklore.

That's what an essay over at Christ and Pop Culture claims, at any rate. The essay, not surprisingly, touches on Smith's identity as a Christian writer, but mostly talks about the astonishing way that Smith created his own mythology. One crucial paragraph reads:

To explore these “ageless dramas,” Smith cultivated his signature narrative voice, a writing style that was unlike any of his science fiction contemporaries and still remains entirely distinctive. Derived as much from his beloved Chinese literature as from any English-language works, Smith’s tales are often narrated as though they were legends compiled by rather dubious scholars. They are far-future folklore told by farther-future folklorists. Yet these narrators still allow the poetry of legend to intrude on their narratives as well. Even in the rare occasions when he adopts the first-person perspective, Smith ensures that his narrators place themselves as iotas in a sweeping history that is far bigger than they are.


Definitely worth reading the whole thing. [Christ and Pop Culture]