“The Game of Rat and Dragon,” Cordwainer Smith, 1955

The Game of Rat and Dragon,” Cordwainer Smith, 1955 – A story of the partnership created by a human and animal mind interface.  The telepaths Underhill, Woodley, Father Moontree, and the girl,Wes, are Partnered with modified cats that are able to perceive the insanity-inducing “Dragons” of space as “rats.”  “Pinlighting” allows the teams to target and destroy the Dragons with tiny nuclear bombs, which clears the way for safe passage for  human cargo.  During a mission, Underhill and his partner, Lady May, are unable to communicate and a Dragon manages to touch Underhill’s mind.  The mission is successful, but Underhill is hospitalized afterward.  Upon awakening, his first concern is for Lady May, which puts off his nurse; Underhill muses that no human woman will ever compare with Lady May.

Comments:  Online text at Project Gutenberg.  Richly quirky, inventive.  Theme of partnership, communication, differences in perception (rat v. dragon).  Ends with a chauvinistic assessment of the perfect woman. Read in The Mirror of Infinity: A Critics’ Anthology of Science Fiction and The Third Galaxy Reader.

Author: Wikipedia: “Cordwainer Smith…was the pseudonym used by American author Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger (July 11, 1913–August 6, 1966) for his science fiction works.  Linebarger was a noted East Asia scholar and expert in psychological warfare…Linebarger was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father was Paul M. W. Linebarger, a lawyer and political activist with close ties to the leaders of the Chinese revolution of 1911. As a result of those connections, Linebarger’s godfather was Sun Yat-sen, considered the father of Chinese nationalism.” See also Carol McGuirk’s “The Rediscovery of Cordwainer Smith” in Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Jul., 2001), pp. 161-200.


About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1946-1959, animals/insects, communication, favorites, gender, psych/mind/madness, senses/space, space exploration. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “The Game of Rat and Dragon,” Cordwainer Smith, 1955

  1. Cordwainer Smith also wrote “The Ballad of Lost C’Mell” — he really liked cats. And sapient animals in general — it is a common theme of the Instrumentality stories (of which this is one) that the underpeople are often nobler than their human masters. The cats in “The Game of Rat and Dragon” are I think technically not considered underpeople, but rather augmented animals — but it comes to the same thing.

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