Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger – Major, United States Army Colonel, United States Army Reserve Science Fiction Writer: Cordwainer Smith

Cordwainer Smith (Pseudonym for Dr. Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger)

Ph.D. professor of asiatic studies at John Hopkins University, School of advanced International Studies. Closely linked with the U.S. Intelligence Community with special interest in propaganda techniques and psychological warfare.

Born in Milwakee, Wisconsin in July 1913, died in Baltimore, Maryland. Grew up and was educated in China and Japan, his father was a legal advisor to the Chinese Republic (Dr. Paul Myron Anthony L.) attended school in germany, visited Russia in his teens, married in 1936, divorced in 1949, remarried 1950 to Genevieve Collins.

In 1966 most of his science-fiction work was published for the first time. University teacher in 1947. Recalled for Korean War. Travelled alot in the 50’s and 60’s with his wife in spite of his being very ill. He was very impressed with Australia and hoped to retire there but died of a heart attack at age 53.

All but 5 stories are of the Instrumentality of mankind. First of these was “War #81-Q” (1928) Apparently he did not bother alot with making the different facts and dates match. Also wrote as Felix C. Forrest, a pun in reference to his chinese name Lin Bah Loh (Forest of Incandescent Bliss).

From 1950 to 1966, stories appeared in mainstream science fiction magazines by an author named “Cordwainer Smith”. From the first to the last, these stories were acclaimed as among the most inventive and striking ever written, and that in a field specializing in the inventive and the striking. Their author was a very private man who did not want his real name to be known because he did not want to be pursued by SF fans. It was only after his death in 1966 that more than a handful of people knew that “Cordwainer Smith” was in real life Paul M. A. Linebarger.

Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger

Paul Linebarger was born in 1913, the grandson of a clergyman. His father, an eccentric man, had served as a Federal District Judge in the Philippines, but had left this post to work full time for the cause of the Chinese republican reformer Sun Yat Sen, who became Paul’s godfather. Paul Linebarger grew up in the retinue of Sun Yat Sen, for his father stayed with Sen during his exile in Japan and throughout his career in China. John J. Pierce has written, Linebarger spent his formative years in Japan, China, France, and Germany. By the time he grew up, he knew six languages and had become intimate with several cultures, both Oriental and Occidental.

He was only twenty- three when he earned his Ph.D. in political science at Johns Hopkins University, where he was later Professor of Asiatic politics for many years. Shortly thereafter, he graduated from editing his father’s books to publishing his own highly regarded works on Far Eastern affairs.

After graduating from Johns Hopkins, Linebarger taught at Duke University from 1937 to 1946, but he also served actively in the Army during World War II as a second lieutenant. Pierce writes that “As a Far East specialist he was involved in the formation of the Office of War Information and of the Operation Planning and Intelligence Board. He also helped organize the Army’s first psychological warfare section.” [2] He was sent to China and put in charge of psychological warfare and of coordinating Anglo- American and Chinese military activities. By the end of the war, he had risen to the rank of major.

In 1947, he became professor of Asiatic Politics at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. Pierce writes, Dr. Linebarger turned his wartime experiences into Psychological Warfare, still regarded as the most authoritative text in the field. As a colonel, he was advisor to the British forces in Malaya, and to the U. S. Eighth Army in Korea. But this self- styled “visitor to small wars” passed up Vietnam, feeling American involvement there was a mistake.

Travels around the world took him to Australia, Greece, Egypt, and many other countries; and his expertise was sufficiently valued that he became a leading member of the Foreign Policy Association and an advisor to President Kennedy.

Linebarger was reared in a High Church Episcopalian family. Alan C. Elms’s sketch of the older Linebargers does not lead one to believe either was particularly devout. Paul’s father was evidently rather overbearing and placed many demands on his son. His mother was apparently rather self-centered and controlling. At the age of six, young Paul was blinded in his left eye as a result of an accident while playing, and the resulting infection damaged his right eye as well, causing him distress throughout his entire life. A sensitive, introspective, and apparently rather lonely and sickly youth, Paul Linebarger was to develop into a remarkable scholar, thinker, and writer.

At some point in his life, Paul Linebarger became a strongly committed Christian. “He and [wife] Genevieve went to Sung Mass on Sundays, and he said grace at all meals at home. The faith extended and shaped his powerful imagination’ But he simply ignored contemporary religious movements, especially the secularizing ones directed to social problems. The God he had faith in had to do with the soul of man and with the unfolding of history and of the destiny of all living creatures.”

The first science fiction story published by Linebarger, under the pseudonym Cordwainer Smith, was “Scanners Live in Vain”, in 1949. It had been written, however, in 1945. This story is a full-blown allegory of the coming of the New Covenant, and reveals a very sophisticated understanding both of the Biblical narrative and typology (e.g., the smell of roast lamb reminds the central character of the smell of burning people), and of the theological and philosophical tenets of the Christian religion. Linebarger must have become a serious Christian well before 1945.

Linebarger’s own psychological problems, as well as his keen interest in psychological warfare, caused him to explore modern psychiatry and psychoanalysis. These themes, as well as Christian philosophy and allegory, and also psychological warfare, run all through the science fiction he published as Cordwainer Smith.

Born 11 July 1913. Died 06 August 1966. Buried in Section 35, Grave Number 4712, Arlington National Cemetery. Bronze Star. His widow, Genevieve Collins Linebarger, was interred with him on 16 November 1981.


Smith, Cordwainer, –The Planet Buyer, Pyramid, 1964. –The Underpeople, Pyramid, 1968.

Short Magazine Fiction

Smith, Cordwainer, –Amazing –F&SF –Galaxy –If

Collections of Short Fiction

Smith, Cordwainer, –Space Lords, Pyramid, 1965. –Norstrilia, Ballantine, 1975. –The Best of Cordwainer Smith, Nelson Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1975. –The Instrumentality of Mankind, Ballantine, 1979.

Sources of Biographical and Bibliographical Information

Pierce, J. J., Cordwainer Smith: The Shaper of Myths, in The Best of Cordwainer Smith, Nelson Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1975.

Pierce, John J., The Instrumentality Series, in The Great Science Fiction Series, edited by Frederik Pohl, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Joseph Olander, Harper & Row, New York, 1980, 420 pp. ISBN: 0-06-013382-1


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 07/11/1913
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/06/1966
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 04/09/1966



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