The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award
honors under-read science fiction and fantasy authors with the intention of drawing renewed attention to the winners. The award was initiated in 2001 by the Cordwainer Smith Foundation.
That’s a fine goal. Yet, even though the award has been given every year since 2001, the award’s website has not been updated since 2012. That’s not the way to draw attention to the honoured works. At least the Wikipedia entry seems to be up-to-date.
Something else the Rediscovery Award people have never done, to my knowledge, is commission a Rediscovery-theme anthology. If they did, it might look something like this:
Starmaker (excerpt) by Olaf Stapledon, 2001 winner
Accompanied by like-minded companions, a star-farer explores a diverse array of inhabited worlds. He observes some common themes.
Like the novel from which it is drawn, this excerpt is less concerned with plot and much more concerned with drawing a vast yet detailed picture of the universe.
“Nine Hundred Grandmothers” by R.A. Lafferty, 2002 winner
A traveller to an inhabited asteroid is startled to discover the natives’ peculiar life cycle. It is one that promises an answer to the question that haunts him: how did it all begin?
I never know what to say about a Lafferty story.
“My Brother Leopold” by Edgar Pangborn, 2003 winner
The life and death and rehabilitation of a holy madman, as told by the holy man’s unfortunate brother.
Like the other stories in Pangborn’s collection Still I Persist in Wondering (which takes its title from a line in this very story), this one reflects Pangborn’s increasingly bleak view of the world.
Two-Handed Engine by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, 2004 winner
In a post-post-scarcity world, robots have taken extreme measures to try to save humankind from a surfeit of wealth (which will eventually lead to human extinction, as humans grow lethargic and amoral). The robots decide to supply the missing human consequences as robot Furies, who will track and strike down human murderers. One man thinks that he has found a way to corrupt the Furies. He does not stop to consider the possible consequences of his scheme.
One of Kuttner and Moore’s bleaker efforts. Readers may feel sympathy for the unfortunate machines whose programming does not them to simply walk away from the degenerate humans
“The Lake of the Gone Forever” by Leigh Brackett, 2005 winner
Convinced he will succeed where his father failed, Rand Conway mounts an expedition to mysterious Iskar, deep in the asteroid belt. He has secured funding and assistance. What he conceals from his companions is the fact that he expects to find treasure. Rand is in his way as ignorant as his allies; the revelation that waits will change him forever.
Smart guys like Rand never seem to be aware that pulp universes offer a number of ways cunning schemes like his can play out and none of them work as the protagonist intends
This features unconvincing but creative world-building. Also domestic abuse, albeit presented negatively.
The Night Lands (except) by William Hope Hodgson, 2006
Apparent rivals and misunderstanding could not keep the fated lovers apart. Death, however, cares nothing for human affection.
It all works out in the end, in a sense. But between the first chapter of the novel and final one is a long and twisty path.
Hodgson may be poorly known now, but like a lot of the authors in this book, his influence can be seen on a number of authors. Authors spanning a range from Clark Ashton Smith to Gene Wolfe, from Greg Bear to … John C. Wright. I in no way blame Hodgson for the last name.
“All Jackson’s Children” by Daniel F. Galouye, 2007 winner
Between the two human explorers and escape stood hundreds of devout robots, all of them convinced that one of the two men is their revered creator. Escape from the robots depends on working out the origins of their peculiar religion … and time is very much not on the humans’ side.
Robots. They’re pesky. Also unable to stop trying to do whatever it was they were built to do regardless of circumstances, which is the fault of the people who designed them that way.
“A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum, 2008 winner
A lone human castaway forms a peculiar friendship with one of Mars’ many intelligent natives.
Many other authors have toyed with the notion of intelligent Martians, in various creative and not-so-creative ways. Weinbaum was among the first author to try to depict a Martian as intelligent as a human but fundamentally alien. Moreover, his aliens are not at all horrific (no squamous, eldritch Lovecraftian monsters).
“The Pool of the Stone God “ by A. Merritt, 2009
Castaways stumble across an ancient idol, which just happens to be inhabited by … things. One of those inhabitants takes a close interest in the men.
As far as I can tell, the narrator and his companions were so busy being repelled by the Asian visage of the idol that they overlooked the opportunity to learn something new and exciting about the local wildlife. Well, not so much “learn something new and exciting about” as “run away from.”
“Star, Bright” by Mark Clifton, 2010 winner
Every father hopes his child will be bright. This father learns his daughter Star is so bright as to be nearly another species.
Happily for the dad and humanity in general, Star is an essentially nice little girl, not at all like the boy over in “It’s a Good Life” or any number of pulp era superhumans who casually murdered their progenitors as unfit. I suspect upbringing had a lot to do with how she chose to use her remarkable gifts.
For some reason, I had convinced myself this was by Alfred Bester, which is why I purchased Bester’s Starlight. A terrible memory can be very serendipitous.
“Pictures Don’t Lie” by Katherine MacLean, 2011 winner
The incoming video feed told the humans everything they needed to know about their alien visitors. If only the humans had had the wit to understand the significance of what they were seeing!
This was adapted into one of the first X Minus One episodes I ever heard. I have occasionally wondered if this inspired a minor incident in the Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers series.
“Knock” by Fredric Brown, 2012 winner
“The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”
The story that follows is fairly conventional one for its time, but what a great opening.…
“Beyond Bedlam” by Wyman Guin, 2013 winner
Chemically induced schizophrenia has saved humanity from itself. A sad handful reject their society’s benevolent system, which involves drugs and split personalities. The Medicops have ways to deal with aberrations.…
This was a very H. L. Gold-era Galaxy Magazine story, which is not surprising, as that was where it was first published.
“The Day of the Green Velvet Cloak” by Mildred Clingerman, 2014 winner
Timid Mavis was an ideal partner for sensible Hubert, someone who would never resist being shaped into the woman Hubert wanted her to be. At least, she was until the day she met the lost traveler…
Clingerman was the sole author in this little project whose works I neither owned nor could find online. I have seen other authors cite her as an influence. If this charming story is any guide, I can see why people enjoyed and remember her work. What I don’t see is how other people are encountering it, since she seems to be out of print for the most part.
“The Devotee of Evil” by Clark Ashton Smith, 2015
Averaud, a researcher, believes there is somewhere an entity of pure, unsullied evil and that he can with skill and arcane engines call it to him. His attempt to contact the ultimate evil ends in success. Of a sort.
Right about the point I read this bit:
“You saw and felt it, then?” he queried — “that vague, imperfect manifestation of the perfect evil which exists somewhere in the cosmos? I shall yet call it forth in its entirety, and know the black, infinite, reverse raptures which attend its epiphany.
I was pretty sure things were not going to end well for Averaud.
Daughters of Earth by Judith Merril, 2016:
An epic of space exploration that spans generations, told from the point of view of the women of one family. Their path takes them from Earth to Pluto and then to the distant world of Uller, orbiting Beta Hydra. There the colonists must find some way to coexist with the silicon-based natives of that world.
Merrill takes a stock SF trope — the glorious destiny of MAN! as told over generations — but develops it in an unconventional manner by telling it from successive women’s points of view. It is almost as though women were people whose contributions are important, not simply sentimental baggage! She even makes it clear that that the human men and their expectations are among the impediments that the female protagonists must overcome.
This is one part of a Twayne Triplet, three books in the same setting. Piper’s Uller Uprising shares this setting.
Each story is accompanied by a brief biography of the author, expanded versions of the biographies on the Rediscovery site.
This is one of the rare examples of an anthology that is exactly the way I would have done it, although I like to think I’d have spent more time on the cover art. The final product is quite reasonably priced, particularly given the acid-free paper. The stories chosen do an effective job of showing why these authors in particular were chosen for the award.
Feel free to comment here. Unless, of course, between now and posting this to Dreamwidth I forget I need to come back and add the link.
Please send corrections to jdnicoll at panix dot com