The Remakable Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith

Norstrilia, by Cordwainer Smith -- book coverNorstrilia: Cordwainer Smith's Only Science Fiction Novel

Rod McBan is a likable teenager who has had four childhoods. Unable to spiek or hier like normal Norstrilians, three times he has faced the Garden of Death, and three times the decision has been to give him another childhood in the hopes that he would develop normally.

But this time, there will be no more childhoods.

The story begins:


Story, place, and time--these are the essentials.


The story is simple. There was a boy who bought the planet Earth. We know that, to our cost. It only happened once, and we have taken pains that it will never happen again. He came to Earth, got what he wanted, and got away alive, in a series of very remarkable adventures. That's the story.


The place? That's Old North Australia. What other place could it be? Where else do farmers pay ten million credits for a handkerchief, five for a bottle of beer? Where else do people lead peaceful lives, untouched by militarism, on a world which is booby-trapped with death and things worse than death?

Old North Australia has stroon—the santaclara drug—and more than a thousand other planets clamor for it.

But you can get stroon only from Norstrilia—that's what they call it, for short—because it is a virus that grows on enormous, gigantic misshapen sheep. The sheep were taken from Earth to start a pastoral system; they ended up as the greatest of imaginable treasures.

The simple farmers became simple billionaires, but they kept their farming ways. They started tough and they got tougher. People get pretty mean if you rob them and hurt them for almost three thousand years. They get obstinate. They avoid strangers, except for sending out spies and a very occasional tourist. They don't mess with other people, and they're death, death, death inside out and turned over twice if you mess with them.

Then one of their kids showed up on Earth and bought it. The whole place, lock, stock, and underpeople.

That was a real embarrassment for Earth.

And for Norstrilia, too.

This is the only novel that Cordwainer Smith wrote. I usually recommend it to people as an easy introduction to his works and an engrossing story in its own right. It was pulled together from various tales, as the introduction by Cordwainer Smith scholar Alan C. Elms explains. The rest of the Cordwainer Smith science fiction stories are in The Rediscovery of Man.

My father spent time in Australia, teaching there, and here's a family snapshot of him with some of the sheep that sparked his imagination:

Paul M. A. Linebarger and sheep in Australia


Introduction, by Alan Elms
Theme and Prologue
At the Gate of the Garden of Death
The Trial
Anger of the Onseck
The Old Broken Treasures in the Gap
The Quarrel at the Dinner Table
The Palace of the Governor of Night
The Eye Upon the Sparrow
FOE Money, SAD Money
Traps, Fortunes and Watchers
The Nearby Exile
Hospitality and Entrapment
The High Sky Flying
Discourses and Recourses
The Road to the Catmaster
The Department Store of Hearts' Desires
Everybody's Fond of Money
Tostig Amaral
Birds, Far Underground
His Own Strange Altar
Counsels, Councils, Consoles and Consuls
Appendix: Variant Texts

You can get Norstrilia at various places: here's a link to the network of booksellers that sell through

It may be on eBay -- that link is for the US. Here are links for eBay in the UK, Australia, and Canada. These are set for "Cordwainer Smith," so you may see more than Norstrilia.

Of course, it's reliably on

 And at Amazon in the UK:

At the time I checked, the British Amazon also had several copies of a paperback edition put out by Gollancz:

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