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April 19, 2013

Featured Find: Cold War Science Fiction

Linebarger with one of his beloved cats. Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger papers, E
Linebarger with one of his beloved cats. Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger papers, Envelope A, Hoover Institution Archives.
The cover of The Planet Buyer, a novella that was later republished as Norstrili
The cover of The Planet Buyer, a novella that was later republished as Norstrilia. Early drafts are in box 18 of Linebarger’s papers.

Paul M.A. Linebarger had the international pedigree and double life of a John le Carré character. Born to Sun Yat-sen’s American adviser, Linebarger grew up in China, Germany, and the United States, spoke six languages, and received his doctorate at twenty-three. After teaching at Duke, he was hired by the US War Department to serve as the Far East Asian specialist of the Psychological Warfare branch. His analysis of propaganda in the Pacific Theater resulted in the 1948 classic Psychological Warfare and the article “The Struggle for the Mind of Asia.”

Today, however, Linebarger’s work as a Cold Warrior has been eclipsed by his secret career as a novelist. Known to readers as science fiction writers Anthony Bearden, Felix Forrest, Carmichael Smith, and Cordwainer Smith, Linebarger has been lauded as the author of “the best short fiction this genre has ever seen.” His novel Norstrilia, which features an alternate universe where “cat-people” communicate with humans, has been reprinted continuously since the 1960s.

Both Linebarger’s political writings and science fiction works reside in the Hoover Institution Archives. A biography detailing the double life of Linebarger as a Cold Warrior and science fiction author has yet to be written. “Perhaps,” as he noted in the acknowledgments section of Psychological Warfare, “This is just as well: some authors might object to being remembered.”