Was Paul Linebarger Also Kirk Allen?
Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger was Cordwainer Smith,
Carmichael Smith, Felix C. Forrest, Anthony Bearden, and
But was he Kirk Allen?
In 1955, a book by Robert Lindner titled The
Fifty-Minute Hour and Other True Psychoanalytic Tales was
published. One of the tales is about a man called Kirk Allen in
the book, who created such a real fantasy world that the
therapist Lindner becomes deeply drawn into it himself. For
decades, people have thought that my father might be Kirk
Allen. After all, Lindner was practicing in Baltimore, and my
father lived in Washington. My father's biographer Alan Elms
and I have talked this over at various times.
I have been dubious that my father was the model for Kirk
Allen chiefly because I don't remember him talking about
Lindner, and he talked--incessantly, it seemed to me--about his
therapists and therapy. But I do remember him going to
Baltimore for various reasons.
But memory is tricky, and *not* remembering something is
even trickier. So I don't know.
A letter that my father's widow Genevieve Linebarger wrote
in May 1974 to Ralph Benko addresses this question: "I honestly
don't know the answer. Paul was undergoing psychoanalysis at
the time that story appeared and we laughed at the appositeness
of the situation. The writer, however, was not acquainted with
Paul, so his material, if Paul was indeed the subject of the
story, would have had to be second-hand...the gossip of fellow
The April 2001 issue of The New York Review of Science
Fiction includes an article by Lee
Weinstein titled, "In Search of Kirk Allen." Lee makes some
interesting points. He did a lot of detailed research; you
can really tell that this question fascinated him. He
examined another one of Lindner's stories, figured out who
the person actually was, and found out that Lindner
fictionalized the stories far more than you might think.
Still, there are a number of interesting parallels between
Kirk Allen and Paul Linebarger. You can order this article
online at the link.
Then Alan Elms' article "Behind the Jet-Propelled Couch:
Cordwainer Smith & Kirk Allen" came out in the same
publication, The New York Review of Science Fiction,
in May 2002. This article inclines me more toward the
theory that my father may well have been Kirk Allen. Or at
least the beginning point for Lindner's Kirk Allen. Imagination
is not limited to science fiction authors.
You can read Alan's article here: http://www.ulmus.net/ace/csmith/behindjetcouch.html