The Remakable Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith
 

Was Paul Linebarger Also Kirk Allen?

Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger was Cordwainer Smith, Carmichael Smith, Felix C. Forrest, Anthony Bearden, and probably more.

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 psychoanalysts."

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 

 

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