“The Burning of the Brain,” Cordwainer Smith, 1958 – Magno Taliano, the greatest Go-Captain ever, and his vain and jealous wife, the former beauty Dolores Oh, are joined by his niece, Dita–a promising captain-in-training–on his ship. The ship is lost, the computers fail, and the captain’s brain must be burned out to retrieve his subconscious memory of the map home. Once his niece picks up his skills via a thought transfer, she is destined to become one of the greatest Go-Captains in history. As for his wife, her jealous fears regarding her husband’s affections may or may not be quieted now that the Captain has been reduced to a submissive, silly animal.
Comments: Yet another terrific tale by Smith that evokes the feeling of a fable or fairy tale. Themes of love, heroism, self-sacrifice. Read in Great Tales of SF.
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.