Sci-Fi Group Book Club discussion

The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith
This topic is about The Rediscovery of Man
12 views
Archived Group Reads > The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
This is the discussion thread for the first book of the month, or group read, for July/August. Please remember to use the spoiler tags where necessary.

The other group read topic for this month (Rendezvous with Rama) can be found here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/....


message 2: by David (last edited Jul 23, 2018 03:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

David Lutkins Hi All,

Our moderator, Greg, asked that I act as the discussion lead for this month's group read of The Rediscovery of Man, as I nominated the book. I have just received my copy today and will begin reading it tonight.

I am excited about reading this collection, as it has been on my TBR list for years. Of all the stories in the book, I am only familiar with one: Alpha Ralpha Boulevard.

To help with understanding the universe Smith created, I will try to find some background material on the Instrumentality of Mankind.

For starters, here is the Wikipedia article:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumentality_of_Mankind

I am looking forward to a fun read and some great discussions!

David


message 3: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
Thanks for agreeing to be the discussion leader of this group read, David!


David Lutkins I hope those who are planning to participate in this month's read are enjoying the stories. I've only gotten through a couple of them so far, but am really enjoying the experience. IMO, Smith has a writing style that is almost completely unique.

For those who might be interested, two of the stories ("Scanners Live in Vain" and "The Game of Rat and Dragon" are available as free audiobooks on SFFAudio's website. I believe there are discussions about the stories after the audiobooks as well, but I haven't listened to them. I did listen to "Scanners Live in Vain" on Audible, and was surprised at how good the narration was.


 Eldritch Reading Reindeer 2021 In Cobwebs  (readingreindeerproximacentauri) | 28 comments I don't have this volume, but I do haveThe Best of Cordwainer Smith. Hopefully some of the stories here will be in that volume.


David Lutkins July Is The Shadow Out of Time wrote: "I don't have this volume, but I do haveThe Best of Cordwainer Smith. Hopefully some of the stories here will be in that volume."

There is a good number of the stories in both books, and certainly the most well-known are in both:

"Scanners Live in Vain"
"The Lady Who Sailed The Soul"
"The Game of Rat and Dragon"
"The Burning of the Brain"
"The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal"
"Golden the Ship Was-Oh! Oh! Oh!"
"The Dead Lady of Clown Town"
"Under Old Earth"
"Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons"
"Alpha Ralpha Boulevard"
"The Ballad of Lost C'mell"
"A Planet Named Shayol"


message 8: by David (last edited Jul 26, 2018 07:41PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

David Lutkins July Is The Shadow Out of Time wrote: "Thanks so much, David!"

You're welcome!

Just by chance, I noticed that Project Gutenberg has a Canadian site which carries several of the Instrumentality stories:

"Scanners Live in Vain" (Instrumentality)
"The Burning of the Brain" (Instrumentality)
"Western Science Is So Wonderful" (Not Instrumentality)
"Angerhelm" (Instrumentality)
"No, No, Not Rogov!" (Instrumentality)
"When the People Fell" (Instrumentality)
"The Fife of Bodidharma" (Instrumentality)
"Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons" (Instrumentality)
"A Planet Named Shayol" (Instrumentality)
"From Gustible's Planet" (Instrumentality)
"The Ballad of Lost C'mell" (Instrumentality)
"Think Blue, Count Two"(Instrumentality)
"Drunkboat" (Instrumentality)
"The Good Friends" (Instrumentality)
"On the Gem Planet" (Instrumentality)
"The Boy Who Bought Old Earth" (Instrumentality, not part of The Rediscovery of Man, but I think it is perhaps an early version of Norstrilia)
"The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal" (Instrumentality)
"The Store Of Heart's Desire" (Not Instrumentality)
"The Dead Lady of Clown Town" (Instrumentality)
"On the Storm Planet" (Instrumentality)
"Three To A Given Star" (Instrumentality)
"On the Sand Planet" (Instrumentality)
"Under Old Earth" (Instrumentality)

Site is http://gutenberg.ca/index.html#catalogueS


message 9: by Thorkell (new)

Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments So I read 3 stories.

I had read Scanners Live in Vain before but reread it. Much like the first time, I liked the idea but I felt this was a material for a much longer story. I liked the setting, the universe he creates here but I felt there was so much unsaid and not in a good way. I wish someone would turn this into a feature film but add more to the story. The idea is so cool.

I actually have the same problems with the other two stories. The Lady Who Sailed the Soul and The Game of Rat and Dragon. Really fascinating setting but lacking plot and story wise. I wonder if this will change when I have read more by Cordwainer Smith. It is obvious that he is creating a very different universe from what other authors have done and I'm aware that that might be be reason for why I'm having problems with connecting. I feel like the whole setting is so complicated that I can't get lost in the story. I'm constantly trying to catch up with the strangeness of this future.

Anyone else feeling the same way?


David Lutkins Thorkell wrote: "So I read 3 stories.

I wonder if this will change when I have read more by Cordwainer Smith. It is obvious that he is creating a very different universe from what other authors have done and I'm aware that that might be be reason for why I'm having problems with connecting. I feel like the whole setting is so complicated that I can't get lost in the story. I'm constantly trying to catch up with the strangeness of this future.

Anyone else feeling the same way? ,..."


I am nearly finished with the stories now. I get what you're saying about "trying to catch up with the strangeness of this future", but its this strangeness that I find so appealing. For me, Smith is creating a future mythology, if that makes sense, where a lot of details that we would like to have are missing, so we have to try to figure it out ourselves.

Thorkell wrote: "Really fascinating setting but lacking plot and story wise. I wonder if this will change when I have read more by Cordwainer Smith. ,..."

I do think it's easier to appreciate Smith's mythology as you get through more of the stories. At least it was for me.


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim  Davis | 48 comments Thorkell wrote: "So I read 3 stories.

I had read Scanners Live in Vain before but reread it. Much like the first time, I liked the idea but I felt this was a material for a much longer story. I liked the setting,..."


I loved "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul" It was sort of a pre-Instrumentality story and I felt that it was a terrific story that would hold up well on it's own outside the collection. I also loved "The Game of Rat and Dragon", one of the earliest stories in the Instrumentality universe. I think that it also had enough of a self contained plot to hold up well outside the collection. I think the first story I read, many years ago, was ""The Ballad of Lost C'mell" and another of my favorites. Maybe that's because it introduced me to the unique and wonderful style of Cordwainer Smith.


message 12: by David (last edited Aug 01, 2018 02:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

David Lutkins "The Lady who Sailed the Soul" is probably my second favorite story, after "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard". The one thing that puzzles me, though is (view spoiler).

Jim, you referred to "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul" as a pre-Instrumentality story, but didn't she need permission from the Instrumentality to go on her sail? Also, another thing I'm a little confused about is (view spoiler).

I think this is an extremely sad story about, among other things, loneliness. Did anyone else feel that way?


message 13: by Jim (new)

Jim  Davis | 48 comments I read it many years ago. I guess I considered it pre-Instrumentality because it was before planoforming. I think there might have only been one other story from the time of solar sailing. I believe you are correct that the Instrumentality already existed then. Looks like I'll have to read it again since it has been a few years!! My impression was that it was more of a bitter-sweet story than a sad one. If I am remembering the stories in "Rediscovery" accurately enough I think that "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul" had a slightly different feel than most of the other stories. Less quirky and more emotional.

It's interesting that you mentioned the "body modifications". I hadn't really thought about that. Would it have been the same as the scanners or was it something specific to planoforming? I believe "The Lady" was written after "Scanners Live in Vain" so the concept of that type of modifications for space travel had already been established.


message 14: by Thorkell (new)

Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments David wrote: ""I think this is an extremely sad story about, among other things, loneliness. Did anyone else feel that way? ."

I think all of these stories (of the ones I have read until now) are very sad. There is a strong feel of loneliness in all of them. Or maybe an underlying sadness.

As to the universe. It looks like all of these stories are taking place in the same universe and abide to the same rules. That's the feeling I'm getting. Am I right? If that is so then I can see that a second visit would improve a lot.


David Lutkins For those interested, here is a timeline of the Instrumentality. It seems to agree with the timeline printed in my book (I have the SF Masterworks edition). Jim is correct that "Scanners Live in Vain" and "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul" occur quite early in the Instrumentality. The Instrumentality rose to power somewhere between the years 4000 and 5000, these two stories happen somewhere around 6000, and planoforming was discovered somewhere around 8000. The recorded history ends somewhere around 16000.

Smith Universe Timeline


message 16: by Jim (last edited Aug 03, 2018 06:10AM) (new)

Jim  Davis | 48 comments David wrote: "For those interested, here is a timeline of the Instrumentality. It seems to agree with the timeline printed in my book (I have the SF Masterworks edition). Jim is correct that "Scanners Live in Va..."

Thanks for the link to the timeline. Very helpful.


message 17: by Thorkell (new)

Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Great help with the timeline.

I'm really starting to get into these stories. It took some time to figure out what the hell I was reading but once I started to get a better picture of it I started to enjoy it.

Thus far, The Dead Lady of Clown Town is my favorite. What a brilliant piece of writing.


message 18: by Thorkell (new)

Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments I'm so glad I did not give up on Cordwainer Smith after the first few stories. It took some time to get into the universe but once I did I loved it. This was a lot of fun. The Ballad of Lost C’mell was brilliant and A Planet Named Shayol was really scary.

Now I feel like I have to read the first stories again so I can really appreciate them. Thanks to who ever suggested Cordwainer Smith.


message 19: by David (last edited Aug 04, 2018 10:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

David Lutkins Thorkell, I'm glad you're enjoying the stories more now.

When I started reading the book, I didn't read the stories in the order that they appear in my table of contents (which I think is chronological by the timeline and not in order of publication), rather I read the ones that I had already heard about first and then read the others after. Maybe that is cheating and I suppose reading the most popular ones first influenced my opinion of the entire collection.

I agree with your assessment of "The Ballad of Lost C’mell", it is absolutely brilliant.

I've been traveling this week and hope to get back into the discussions when I get home next week.


back to top