By Thierry Goubier and Onil Nazra Persada

When I received these comments by email, I asked for permission to use them on the website. Thanks, you two, for granting it! –Rosana

Since getting hold of the complete French edition of Cordwainer Smith stories in 1988, we have been both interested and surprised by the liberal use of Malay words in the names of characters and places. So, with our best knowledge of Indonesian and Malay, we have tried to list all those names, their meaning in Indonesia (or Bahasa Melayu, if appropriate), with a few guesses. Most of those names are found in “Down to a Sunless Sea”, and in a few other stories, and have often very direct meanings for their subject.

In “Down to a Sunless Sea”, we found:

– Kemal bin Permaiswari (Kemal son of the Queen): name of the hero coming to Xanadu to heal his mind. Permaswari is probably Sankrit (Permaisuri in Indonesia), and Kemal bin is an Arabic naming convention.

– Madu (Honey): A young girl in Kuat’s keep, innocent and sweet.

– Kuat (Strong): The ruler of Xanadu.

– Lari (To run, run): A runner and nephew of Kuat.

– Pisang (Banana): A poison with instantaneous effect. Did Cordwainer Smith hate bananas?

– Dju-di (Gambling): A sweet, tasty and relaxing drink. The gamble is that Dju-di is served along Pisang, hence the risk taking. Dju-di is the old (dutch colonial) syntax; nowaydays it would be written judi.

– Kelapa (Coconut): One of the two kinds of tree in Xanadu; as a tree, in Indonesian it would be called Pohon Kelapa.

– Buah (Fruit): The other species of tree on Xanadu.

In “Think Blue, Count Two”, we have:

– Tiga-Belas (Thirteen): a technician.

In “The Saga of the Third Sister”, we have:

– Binatang (Animal): the Binatang Planets are a place where true humans and under-people can marry.

– Merak (Peacock): one of the Binatang Planets

– semangat-memperlangat (Motivation-?): A drug to slow down the perceptions. We haven’t found “langat”; our hypothesis is that this is an old Malay word. Slowing down would be memperlambat.

In “Alpha-Ralpha Boulevard” we have:

– Menerima (accept, receive): the name of Virginie before the rediscovery of mankind. In Indonesia, it would convey a meaning of lack of personality, or emptiness, which matches very well with the story.

In “On the Sand Planet” we have:

– Gunung Banga (Montain – ?): the power behind the arch that Casher O’Neil has to defeat to pass. Banga could be a spelling mistake for bangga (pride).


– Lord Limaono (In “The Dead Lady of Clown Town”) could be a dialect prononciation of lima-enam (or fifty-six).


Cordwainer Smith, “Les Seigneurs de l’Instrumentalitie”, Jacques Goimard ed., Presses Pocket SF, 1987, 6 vol.