samedi 11 janvier 2014

The Rediscovery of Cathay: Chinese Elements in Cordwainer Smith's Science Fiction (2004, 2007) -- Introduction: Mr. Forest of Incandescent Bliss (1/7)

Introduction: Mr. Forest of Incandescent Bliss

In the 2001 Philadelphia World Science Fiction Convention, a new sf award was presented. It was established 'to recognize the creative output of "a science fiction or fantasy writer whose work deserves renewed attention or 'Rediscovery'[1], and was christened 'The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award'. The work of the awarded writer 'should display unusual originality and should embody the spirit of Cordwainer Smith's fiction.'[2] The founding of this award shows two facts: first, there have always been sf contributors neglected by readers of later generations, but their works are still excellent and worth noticing; second, Cordwainer Smith could be the representative of this kind.

Of course, Smith has never drawn as many readers as big names like Isaac Asimov or Robert A. Heinlein, and his oeuvre just contains only one novel Norstrilia and a number of shorter tales which can be compiled into a single-volume collection – The Rediscovery of Manpublished by The NESFA Press. However, his work is a gem in the genre. Most of his works construct a grand future history called 'The Instrumentality of Mankind' spanning the time from 2,000 to 16,000 A.D. Smith's future historical saga is unique in spite of the reader's familiarity with the theme. As a matter of fact, this categorisation of the Instrumentality stories is just because of the semblance of historical lineage, but the content of these tales is 'impossible to fit into any of the neat categories that appeal to most readers and critics'[3]. And for the reader, it is 'more than history: it is poetry, and romance, and myth'[4]. Such an extraordinary writing does appeal to a number of scholars, and a great portion of their researches have something to do with Smith's unusual personal stories – his political stance, his religious belief, his psychological history, his knowledge about science fiction, and most of all, his life experiences in China and other countries.

Cordwainer Smith was a pseudonym of Dr. Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger (1913-1966), who was a professor of Asiatic Politics in John Hopkins University as well as a psychological warfare expert serving in the U.S. Army. Besides science fiction and his professional field, he also wrote in other genres under various pen names – mainstream novels, Ria and Carola, as Felix C. Forrest; spy thriller Atomsk under the name Carmichael Smith. Though born in the United States, the name of Linebarger was close to modern China in the first half of the 20th century due to his father, Judge Paul Myron Wentworth Linebarger, who was not only a political and legal advisor but also a long-term supporter of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, one of the revolution leaders against the Manchu dynasty and later the founding father of the Republic of China as well as the godfather of the younger Linebarger. While he was still young, Dr. Linebarger had travelled around various countries and spent a couple of years in China for his own education and providing assistance to his father. According to John J. Pierce, these experiences made Linebarger develop a 'strangely ambivalent attitude toward China'[5]:

On the one hand, he [Linebarger] admired Chinese culture deeply, as evidenced by the prominence in his Washington home of Chinese art objects and his use in his fiction of Chinese prose and verse forms. Yet at the same time, he was appalled by the cruelty and disregard for individual life so typical of China, with its overpopulation and feudalistic mores.[6]
Linebarger received a doctoral degree in 1936 with a thesis on Sun's political ideology – San Min Chu I (三民主義, The Three Principles of the People)[7]; during the Second World War, he served in the U.S. Army and later became the liaison with the Chinese secret service[8]. Even when the Kuomintang government lost the control of China to the Chinese Communists and moved to Taiwan, Linebarger was still awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law by the local National Chengchi University[9] in 1965, and he also made an address on the topic of 'The Universality of Sunyatsenism'. All these personal experiences demonstrate his Chinese background; no wonder scholars always consider that his literary works, inclusive of science fiction, are also influenced by this 'exotic' Far East culture.

The mastering of Chinese language and culture of Linebargers (both father and son) can be shown in their interpretive translation of their Chinese names. I would like to explain both here since they are misinterpreted in the postscript section of Carol McGuirk's essay 'The Rediscovery of Cordwainer Smith'. Dr. Linebarger's name 林白樂 (Lin Bah Loh, and Lin, Bai-Le in Pinyin) is given a translation as 'Forest of Incandescent Bliss'. While McGuirk quotes from another scholar Mikael Huss that

"Lin" [林] is the character for "forest" ... [but] Chinese names are usually not meant to convey one single idea like “Forest of Incandescent Bliss” ....Le (or Loh) [樂] is a very common character meaning "joy," "happiness," or why not "bliss." I think Bah/Bai [白] just means "white" ....[10]
Huss might misunderstand a concept here. Of course it is usual for a Chinese character to have more than one meaning; however, in the process of naming, the giver of the name often seeks for the best idea constructed by the combination of the characters in a given name, and this idea thus represents his/her expectation of the name bearer. Hence a parent who wishes the son will be always lucky would call him 來福 (Lai-Fu, incoming good fortune), and another who is eager for a boy may call the new-born daughter 招弟 (Zhao-Di, calling for a brother). So is in Linebarger's case; and it needs more advanced understanding of Chinese culture for such a beautiful translation. The ordinary meaning of 白 (Bah/Bai) is exactly 'white'; but it is not too hard for Chinese people to understand that 'white' is the colour of the west, whose corresponding element is 'metal'. So, here it is more likely representing the shining sparkle when a piece of metal is in the status of incandescence. What is more, combining this meaning to 樂 ('bliss'), the idea 'incandescent bliss' might also be related to the Christianity, the common religion of Linebarger and Sun families[11].

The interpretation of Judge Linebarger's name 林百克 (Lin Bah Kuh, and Lin, Bai-Ke in Pinyin) is more straightforward, but it is worse misinterpreted instead. McQuirk provides two sources to negate the translation appeared in Pierce's introduction to The Rediscovery of Man – 'Forest of 1,000 Victories'[12], the first one is still from Huss's email:

I have no idea about the father's name. "Lin" [林] is the same, of course. "Bah" [百] could be "bai" (not the same as above) [we can tell the difference between the characters I add in the previous quote and here] meaning one hundred (not one thousand). I can't find any character for "victory" even close to being pronounced "kuh" [which is 克] .... "Victory" is usually translated as "sheng." [勝][13]
First, the translation of 百 (Bah/Bai) is indeed one hundred, so Pierce is surely wrong in the introduction. But I think it could be merely an editorial mistake, because the translation appeared in his 1973 essay 'Mr Forest of Incandescent Bliss: a Profile of Paul Linebarger – Wordsmith Extraordinary' is the correct 'Forest of 100 Victories'. As for the character 克 (Kuh/Ke), it has the meaning of 'to win over' or 'to conquer' while used as a verb, so that it can be translated as 'victory' without any problem.

The other misinterpretation is from the Photogallary section in Rosana Hart's website 'The Remarkable Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith' There is a reference of the Judge's name as 林百架 (Lin Bai Jia)[14]. And McGuirk interprets it as below:

"Jia" means "home," so the characters (if the first sense of "Bai" mentioned by Mikael Huss is retained) would mean Forest-White-Home. I wonder whether "white" (and even "white-home") might have referred to the elder Linebarger's non-Chinese ethnic/national status.[15]
We must notice that this 'Jia' (架) is completely different from the 'Jia' (家) McGuirk interprets. The meaning of 架 is 'frame' or 'shelf' as a noun and 'to install, to erect' as a verb. And we have seen the differences between both 'Bai' (百 and 白), where百 is definitely not 'white' but 'one hundred'. Therefore this version should be translated as 'the forest of a hundred frames' instead of McGuirk's. In my opinion, the person who wrote these two notes on this picture just translated 'Linebarger' directly from a wrong pronunciation. According to Alan C. Elms's 'Pronunciation Guide', 'Linebarger' should be read as 'LINE-bar-ger' with a hard 'g'[16]. But if we pronounce it as 'LIN-bar-ger' with a weak 'g', it will sound like 'Lin Bai Jia'. Since the translation of Judge Linebarger's name in Chinese records is always 林百克, 'Forest of 100 Victories' is the correct interpretation.

This dissertation is aimed to search for solid evidences of the traditional Chinese fantastic writing's influences on Cordwainer Smith's science fictional work. Since most critics acknowledge them, some even proposed their theories, but there is almost no conclusive proof revealed. The only clue provided by Smith himself is in the prologue of Space Lord, where he vaguely tells the reader that 'The Ballad of Lost C'mell' was loosely inspired by a certain scenes in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.[17] Lisa Raphals's research 'The Limits of "Humanity" in Comparative Perspective: Cordwainer Smith and the Sousenji' is a promising attempt; however, she is more concentrating on the comparison of the human-animal and human-underpeople relations in Smith's oeuvre and the Chinese collection In Search of the Supernatural: The Written Record. I will as well review these theories in the following chapters respectively.

The dissertation is divided into four chapters: the first one is to compare Smith's narrative structures with the traditional Chinese storytelling method, and discuss their similarities and differences; chapter two makes another comparison between Smith's only novel Norstriliaand the famous Chinese fantastic work The Journey to the West; the third chapter clarifies the influences from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and explains miscellaneous Chinese origins which could be clearly observed in Smith's oeuvre; the last chapter pays more attention to the 'non-human' intelligent beings, and discusses whether their creations have something to do with Chinese backgrounds.

Since I refer to so many Chinese materials and some of them have never appeared in English world, a great portion of these references are in fact translated by me. And I would like to take all the responsibilities while there are any mistakes in the translations. As for the names and places, they are translated in Pinyin, the official system used in the United Nations, if without a specific indication.


[1] Silverberg, Robert, 'The Cordwainer' in Asimov's Science Fiction (2002), pp. 4-7 (p. 4).[2] Ibid.[3] Pierce, John J., 'Introduction' in James A. Mann, ed., The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith (Framingham, MA: The NESFA Press, 1993), pp. vii-xiv (p. vii).[4] Ibid, p. xiv.[5] Pierce, John J., 'Mr Forest of Incandescent Bliss: A Profile of Paul Linebarger – Wordsmith Extraordinary' in Speculation, 33, (1973), pp. 2-23 (p. 5).
[6] Ibid.[7] The title of this thesis is The Political Doctrines of Sun Yat-sen, an Exposition of the San Min Chu I.[8] See Elms, Alan C., 'The Creation of Cordwainer Smith' in Science-Fiction Studies, 34, (1984), pp. 264-283 (p. 267).[9] This school had been reformed from Kuomintang's Central School of the Party Affair, and Linebarger was the first person to be honoured when the school resumed the honorary degree ceremonies after the Nationalist's retreat onto Taiwan, hence we can see the close relationship between Linebarger and the Chinese Nationalist Party. According to Arthur Burns, Linebarger even held a Kuomintang party card which had been issued earlier than Chiang, Kai-shek's. See Arthur Burns, 'Paul Linebarger' in Andrew Porter, ed., Exploring Cordwainer Smith (New York: Algol Press, 1975), pp. 5-10 (p. 8).[10] Cited from Carol McGuirk, 'The Rediscovery of Cordwainer Smith' in Science Fiction Studies, 84 (2001), pp. 161-200 (p. 196).[11] Though I do not know which schools they believe in respectively.[12] Pierce, 'Introduction' in The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith, p. vii.
[13] Cited from McGuirk, op. cit.
[14] See the picture in[15] McGuirk, op. cit.[16] Elms, Alan C., 'Pronunciation Guide' in Cordwainer Smith Unofficial Biography Page, [accessed 25 August, 2004][17] See Smith, Cordwainer, 'Prologue' in Smith, Space Lords (New York: Pyramid Books, 1965), pp. 9-10 (p. 10).

5 commentaires:

Je a dit…

Cordwainer Smith était le nom de plume du Dr. Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger ( - ) pour ses ouvrages de science-fiction. Son livre Psychological Warfare, basé sur son travail dans le domaine de la propagande durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, a été publié sous son vrai nom. Ses autres pseudonymes : Karloman Junghar Felix C. Forrest Carmichael Smith Anthony Bearden Linebarger était le fils d'un diplomate américain et a passé une grande partie de son enfance en Chine, Sun Yat-sen a été son parrain. Il y connut plusieurs personnages célèbres tel que Tchang Kaï-chek. Un de ses premiers noms de plume Felix C. Forrest vient de la transcription phonétique en chinois de Linebarger 林白樂 Línbáilè qui peut se traduire par Forêt heureuse. À l’âge de 23 ans, il obtint un Doctorat de Sciences Politiques à l’Université Johns Hopkins. Il travailla à la Duke University de 1937 à 1946, produisant un travail remarqué sur des sujets liés à l’Extrême-Orient. Durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, il servit comme officier dans l’armée américaine en étant impliqué dans les services de renseignements. Il apporta également sa contribution au premier service de guerre psychologique. En 1943, il fut envoyé en Chine pour coordonner les opérations de renseignement militaire. À la fin de la guerre, il avait été promu au rang de major (commandant). En 1936, Linebarger épousa Margaret Snow. Ils eurent deux filles, l’une née en 1942 et l’autre en 1947. Ils divorcèrent en 1949.

Je a dit…

Les Seigneurs de l’Instrumentalité est un cycle de science-fiction écrit par Cordwainer Smith. Composé de 27 nouvelles et du roman Norstralie, il raconte l’évolution de l’Humanité lors des prochaines années. D’autres nouvelles ne faisant pas partie du cycle peuvent y être rattachées de par leur thématique. Il est aujourd’hui considéré comme l’une des œuvres majeures de la science-fiction classique. Le 2 avril 1945, le savant Ritter Vom Acht décide d'envoyer ses trois filles Carlotta, Juli et Karla, dans des capsules spatiales individuelles afin de leur épargner la guerre et de leur sauver la vie. Plusieurs milliers d'années plus tard, la capsule de Carlotta puis celle de Juli reviennent sur Terre. La planète est alors dominée par le gouvernement de philosophes chinois, les Jwindz, qui asservissent les hommes à l'aide de tranquillisants. Juli Vom Acht va alors diriger la rébellion et obliger les Jwindz à quitter la Terre. C’est alors qu'est créée l’Instrumentalité du genre humain. Ses dirigeants, les Seigneurs, forment le gouvernement de l'Humanité et ont pour mission de veiller sur elle. L’Humanité va alors connaître une expansion extraordinaire. Tandis que la technologie ne cessera de se développer (découverte du voyage supraluminique), les Hommes vont poursuivre la colonisation de nombreuses planètes. Même sur Terre, les changements seront notables. Après la révolte des sous-êtres (des hybrides mi-humains mi-animaux), menée par D'joan, une fille-chien, ceux-ci obtiennent quelques droits et font redécouvrir à l'humanité la Vieille Religion Forte (christianisme).

Je a dit…

Homosexualité dans la science-fiction

Alors que la science-fiction, la fantasy et le fantastique sont des genres qui offrent aux auteurs plus de liberté que la littérature classique, les mondes et cultures imaginés reproduisent la plupart du temps les schémas hétérosexuels et à prédominance masculine de notre société. Certes, on pourra remarquer que pendant très longtemps, les ouvrages de SF se caractérisaient à peu près tous par une parfaite absence de sexualité : pour toucher un plus grand nombre, y compris les adolescents (selon le cliché considérant qu'il n’y a qu’eux pour lire de la SF), il ne fallait pas choquer. Mais certains auteurs ont su sortir de ces schémas pour évoquer des sexualités alternatives. Dans les Histoires vraies, Lucien de Samosate imagine le premier monde entièrement masculin où le héros se voit offrir en mariage le fils du roi Sélénites. La description des mœurs (mariage, naissance, reproduction) de ce peuple est très imagée et peu d’œuvres ont atteint par la suite ce niveau de détail. Dans la nouvelle Le Crime et la Gloire du Commandant Suzdal des Seigneurs de l’Instrumentalité T.II Le Rêveur des étoiles de Cordwainer Smith (1955), sur Arachosia, planète de l’empire, la féminité est devenue cancérigène. Une femme médecin, le docteur Astarté Klaus, met donc en place une mutation pour que les femmes deviennent hommes et élabore un système génétique de reproduction par inséminations et de radiations afin que les hommes puissent porter des enfants de sexe masculin.

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Je a dit…

Une voile solaire ou photovoile est un dispositif de propulsion utilisant la pression de radiation émise par les étoiles pour se déplacer dans l'espace à la manière d'un voilier. Compte tenu de la faible propulsion générée, le procédé ne permet pas de quitter la surface d'une planète (même dénuée d'atmosphère, et donc de friction). Il est en revanche utilisable sur un appareil ayant déjà atteint la vitesse de satellisation minimale, voire la vitesse de libération. La voile solaire est propulsée par la pression produite par les photons qui viennent la percuter. Plus la voile est grande et réfléchissante, plus grande est la force de propulsion. On peut alors en inclinant la voile ou en agissant sur sa voilure, modifier la surface offerte à la lumière et ainsi doser l'équilibre des forces pour ainsi « piloter » la voile. À la manière d'un bateau à voile, utilisant la force de l'eau et du vent, un engin spatial à voile solaire, peut utiliser la force gravitationnelle et la force de poussée photonique pour naviguer dans l'espace. Le principal intérêt réside dans l'absence de carburant pour un véhicule muni d'un tel dispositif. Cela permet d'envisager une très grande autonomie de déplacement dans le système solaire. Un corps massif animé d'une vitesse par rapport à un repère possède dans celui-ci une quantité de mouvement qui est le produit mv. Une particule sans masse (comme un photon) possède une caractéristique s'exprimant dans la même unité et qui se nomme l'« impulsion » : le rapport de son énergie sur sa célérité.

Je a dit…

Le transhumanisme est un mouvement culturel et intellectuel international prônant l'usage des sciences et des techniques afin d'améliorer les caractéristiques physiques et mentales des êtres humains. Le transhumanisme considère certains aspects de la condition humaine tels que le handicap, la souffrance, la maladie, le vieillissement ou la mort subie comme inutiles et indésirables. Dans cette optique, les penseurs transhumanistes comptent sur les biotechnologies et sur d'autres techniques émergentes. Les dangers comme les avantages que présentent de telles évolutions préoccupent aussi le mouvement transhumaniste. Le terme « transhumanisme » est symbolisé par « H+ » (anciennement « >H ») et est souvent employé comme synonyme d'« amélioration humaine ». Bien que le premier usage connu du mot « transhumanisme » remonte à 1957, son sens actuel trouve son origine dans les années 1980, lorsque certains futurologues américains ont commencé à structurer ce qui est devenu le mouvement transhumaniste. Les penseurs transhumanistes prédisent que les être humains pourraient être capables de se transformer en êtres dotés de capacités telles qu'ils mériteraient l'étiquette de « posthumains ». Ainsi, le transhumanisme est parfois considéré comme un posthumanisme ou encore comme une forme d'activisme caractérisé par une grande volonté de changement et influencé par les idéaux posthumanistes. En France, ce mouvement cherche à s'organiser autour de l'Association Française Transhumaniste.