Rebecca's Reviews > The Best of Cordwainer Smith

The Best of Cordwainer Smith by Cordwainer Smith
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's review
Jun 20, 10

bookshelves: scifi, abandoned-ship
Read from May 25 to 30, 2010

Whoa, I file this under giving-sci-fi-a-bad-name. At first I just found it not my cup of tea. I don't go in for short stories or mythical far future stuff to begin with. And Smith is so obsessed with moralizing about traditional gender roles it borders on misogyny. But I tried to persevere and finish this for the SF Masterworks group.

Then. Then I got to the story "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal" which holds the dubious honor of being the most hateful piece of fiction I have ever read. It's literally about GAY MONSTERS FROM SPACE COMING TO GET US. Not even in a metaphorical way. It's... not subtle. So the premise is on some far away planet "femininity became carcinogenic" (!) and thanks to another sci-fi standby, a cold-hearted woman scientist, all the women transgendered into men. Cue B-movie as produced by the Family Research Council.

"Since they did not have the rewards of family life, they became
strutting cockerels, who mixed their love with murder, who blended
their songs with duels, who sharpened their weapons and who earned the
right to reproduce within a strange family system which no decent
Earth-man would find comprehensible... The family, as they recalled
it, was filth and abomination which they were resolved to wipe out if
they should ever meet it."

"Mankind could not meet the terrible people of Arachosia without the
people of Arachosia following them home and bringing to mankind a
grief greater than grief, a craziness worse than mere insanity, a
plague surpassing all imaginable plagues."

Hoooooly crap. I felt dirty just retyping that. This from a man who is widely considered a visionary and master of the genre. I don't want to censor his writing or lessen the inspiration readers have taken from him, but it makes me sad that amidst the rave reviews I couldn't find one single reference or discussion online regarding his gender issues, let alone this virulent homophobia. Scifi community, you're letting me down!
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