The Remakable Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith

Where Do Cordwainer Smith's strange words come from?

Concordance to Cordwainer Smith book coverCordwainer Smith's writing is so filled with literary puns, obscure references, and bizarre names, that you'd never know what they all mean. Some of them turn up in multiple stories, and you may not remember exactly how they were used in something you read a while ago...

Luckily, Tony Lewis' 190-page paperback, Concordance to Cordwainer Smith solves many mysteries. (Clicking on the title will open a new window at Amazon's page for the book.)

Hundreds of entries, arranged alphabetically, answer such questions as:

  • What characters, besides the famous girlygirl C'Mell and the heroine D'Joan, have names beginning with C' or D'?
  • Who is the E-telekeli and why is his name not said aloud?
  • What did Lord Jestocost do, and in what language does his name mean "cruelty?"
  • How is Scanners Live in Vain related to an Anglican hymn?

I could have fun making up a lengthy trivia quiz... the book is a delight to browse... but you get the drift. I keep my copy handy next to the stories.

Tony Lewis began compiling the Concordance to Cordwainer Smith in 1968, and he's been at it (off and on) ever since. In his words, the book "is the attempt to bring together all the people, places, things, and concepts in the science fiction works of Cordwainer Smith together with exegetical—in some cases, highly speculative—comments."

I like his remark, "Where dates or comments are in contradiction, I have selected those which best serve my theories. Go Thou, and do likewise." Lewis invites readers to contribute their thoughts for future editions. (The current edition is the third, published in 2000, and nominated for a Hugo that year.)

A Sample Entry

To give you the flavor of the book, here is one entry. (Many are shorter, some are longer.) The letters in brackets are codes for the stories.

An obsolete computer part way up in Earthport on Alpha Ralpha Boulevard. The words written on its doors are in English (possible dating?). It is a prediction machine and always works if you go up on the northern side. The Underpeople treated it as a god. It knew Paul and Virginia 12 years before they came into being. [AR] Lord Jestocost had a direct connection to this machine. [PB]

Abba (Aramaic) father + dingo (Australian slang) to betray = father of lies?
less possible: from Abed-nego = worshipper of nebo (lofty place)

You can read the rest of the entries for the letter A on the website of NESFA (New England Science Fiction Association), the publishers of the book. They also list the entries for the letter R.

Further Uses for Concordance to Cordwainer Smith

  1. You can look up any story by its title for a brief plot summary and other comments.
  2. There is a chronology of the Instrumentality, updated from the one that J.J. Pierce produced for The Best of Cordwainer Smith.
  3. There is also a bibliography of the fiction of Paul M. A. Linebarger, his science fiction as Cordwainer Smith and his other fiction. Lewis calls it incomplete, but at 13 pages of small print, it must have more than I do!

What others Have Said

"One of the most entertaining reference books around. It should delight all Smith's fans." — Locus

"It impelled this reviewer to immediately reread all of Smith's stories, and if it does so for others it's a most valuable book indeed." — Steve Carper, Fantasy Review

"Fun for other dedicated Cordwainer Smith fans and helpful to dedicated Cordwainer Smith scholars." — Alan C. Elms, Science Fiction Studies

Where to Find It


At in the UK:

It's likely to be at alibris too. This link takes you to a Cordwainer Smith search page there.

Of course, you can buy it directly from the publisher, NESFA, but they do state on their website that you need to allow several weeks for delivery. (They are a volunteer organization.) I used to buy from them wholesale and sell directly from this website, and my experience was that it often did take a good while to get orders.


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NEW! His spy thriller  Atomsk, written as Carmichael Smith, is now on the Kindle!
Click on the image to find out more at Amazon.

Atomsk Kindle version

 The Blog
 His Books
 The Rediscovery of Man, by Cordwainer Smith
 Norstrilia, by Cordwainer Smith
 Atomsk, by Carmichael Smith
 Ria, by Felix C. Forrest
 Carola, by Felix C. Forrest
 Psychological Warfare, by Paul M. A. Linebarger
 Letters from Paul, by Paul M. A. Linebarger
 Letters from Paul: One Letter
 Books about His Science Fiction
 Concordance to Cordwainer Smith, by Anthony Lewis
 The Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith, by Karen Hellekson
 Exploring Cordwainer Smith, Booklet by Andrew Porter
 Where You Can Get Books
 Cordwainer Smith at Amazon
 Cordwainer Smith at Alibris
 Cordwainer Smith at AbeBooks
 Cordwainer Smith on eBay
 Cordwainer Smith, the Author
 A Cordwainer Smith Panel Discussion
 Scholarly Corner, by Alan C. Elms
 What Other Science Fiction Authors Say
 What Readers Say
 Paul M. A. Linebarger, the Man
 Family Photos
 A Daughter's Memories
 Was Paul Linebarger Kirk Allen?
 His Arlington National Cemetery Bio and My Comments
 Rosana's Ramblings
 Rambling 1: Shakespeare Had It Wrong
 Rambling 2: The Return of C'mell, Sort Of
 Art Inspired by Cordwainer Smith
 Virgil Finlay
 Pierre Lacombe
 Craig Moore
 Corby Waste
 Annual Rediscovery Award
 2012 Fredric Brown
 2011 Katherine MacLean
 2010 Mark Clifton
 2009 A. Merritt
 2008 Stanley G. Weinbaum
 2007 Daniel F Galouye
 2006 William Hope Hodgson
 2005 Leigh Brackett
 Leigh Brackett: Her Biography
 2004 Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore
 2003 Edgar Pangborn
 2002 R. A. Lafferty
 2001 Olaf Stapledon
 Cordwainer Smith Foundation
 Cordwainer Smith T-Shirts
 Cordwainer Smith: Other Online Resources
 Contact Us
 Illustrated Bibliography, by Mike Bennett
 Introduction to the Illustrated Bibliography
 All the Stories and All the Books
 Chronological Book List
 Magazine Covers
 Book Covers
 Book Covers: Best of Cordwainer Smith
 Book Covers: Instrumentality of Mankind
 Book Covers: Norstrilia
 Book Covers: Planet Buyer
 Book Covers: Rediscovery of Man
 Book Covers: Quest of the Three Worlds
 Book Covers: Space Lords
 Book Covers: Stardreamer
 Book Covers: Under Old Earth
 Book Covers: Underpeople
 Book Covers: You Will Never Be the Same
 Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger - Chronology
 Press Releases
 2008 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award Goes to Stanley G. Weinbaum
 2002: About the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award
 2001: First Rediscovery Award Ceremony
 2001: Creation of Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award