[[quoteright:288:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cordwainer_smith_in_red_chair_3712.jpg]]
Cordwainer Smith was the pen name of Doctor Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger: ScienceFiction writer, poet, and psychological warfare expert. In fact, he ''literally'' wrote the book on psychological warfare -- the standard US Army textbook on the subject. He looked like a classic {{nerd}}, wrote weird little SF stories about cats, and was apparently regarded with respect by a generation of top US diplomatic/intelligence specialists. He was a man of the world, but had particular ties to China and the Far East -- his godfather was Sun Yat-sen, and he and his father were confidants of Chiang Kai-shek. He also liked Australia.

Most of his SpeculativeFiction work describes the future history of the [[TheVerse Instrumentality of Mankind]], which was richly described but left a lot to the reader's imagination. Influenced by Chinese short stories, Smith's books [[SignatureStyle cannot be mistaken for anyone else's work]].

One suggestion: Read the stories first. This page could do no justice to discovering the wonder of Smith's words.

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!!Works by Cordwainer Smith with their own trope pages include:

* "Literature/ScannersLiveInVain"

!!Cordwainer Smith had an affinity for:
* ALoadOfBull: Bull-Men are often prominent characters in Smith's stories. They include B'dikkat in ''A Planet Named Shayol'' and B'dank in ''Norstilia''.
* AfterTheEnd: A good chunk of the Instrumentality tales are set after the Ancient Wars, which left only Morons and Saints barely surviving a wasted, poison world, hiding from death machines. "Mark Elf" and "Queen of the Afternoon" are set in an era following some recovery. And even in stories set millennia latter, the scars of the war remain.
* AliensAreBastards: The Apicians are downplayed. With superior telepathic powers and equal weaponry, Mankind can do nothing but put up with their rude guests. On the bright side, they do pay for their meals. Even then, however, they insist on paying cash on the nose, which is considered bad form in a credit-driven society.
* AlienSky: The planet Xanadu in "Down to a Sunless Sea" has no sun, but its surface is illuminated by the light of its two moons. It's never explained how the moons shine with no sunlight to reflect.
* ArcNumber: "Five-six" appears in several of Smith's tales, mostly as names of people and places in different languages.
* AristocratsAreEvil: Played with the Lords of the Instrumentality. They are corrupt, ruthless, callous, and make arbitrary decisions. However, they are devoted to protecting humanity and benevolent, creating a utopia for mankind.
* AuthorAppeal: Meow!
** Linebarger was interested in Australia (thus Norstrilia), and his knowledge in China is reflected in his works.
** There are a number of references to duck feasts. [[spoiler:Which makes it unfortunate for the Apicians that they happen to taste like the finest duck imaginable.]]
* AuthorExistenceFailure: See NoodleIncident, below.
* BaldWomen:
** In "Under Old Earth", Santuna takes it to an extreme - not only is she bald, but she has no body hair.
** The cover art for the ''Instrumentality of Mankind'' anthology includes a bunch of bald people floating down to Venus. One is clearly female.
* BearsAreBadNews: Inverted with the Bear in "Mark Elf" and "Queen of the Afternoon". Wise, educated, and sporting spectacles, when the Bear shows up things improve for the human characters.
* BigDumbObject: Smith was never averse to sheer scale, with buildings reaching up to the stratosphere and all. But crucially, the titular craft of "Golden The Ship Was - Oh - Oh - Oh" is ''ninety million miles long'', taking it beyond the PlanetSpaceship range and into this category. [[spoiler:Even if it is mostly foam. Smith may have been {{parody}}ing the trope before it really got started.]]
* BilingualBonus: More like Multilingual Bonus -- many names in the Instrumentality cycle have secondary meanings if one knew the language used. And Smith used Chinese, Russian, German, Finish, Japanese, and many other languages for his theme naming.
* BittersweetEnding: In "Down to a Sunless Sea" Kuat's plan for conquest is foiled, but only at the expense of [[spoiler:Lari's legs, Madu's innocence, Griselda's life and Lord Kemal's peace of mind]].
* BodyDouble: In ''Norstrilia'', Rod gets ten body doubles when he arrives on Earth. Eleanor is surgically modified to look like him, and nine robot doubles are also sent out.
* BodyHorror: "A Planet Called Shayol" has a ''lot'' of this.
* BrownNote: "The Fife of Bodhidharma", "No, No, Not Rogov!".
* BrainComputerInterface: The ''Wu-Fienstien'' in "The Burning of the Brain". Except for one symbolic lever, the ship's controls are either electronic or telepathically controlled.
* CallASmeerpARabbit:
** Norstrailian "Sheep". Granted they were once sheep, but are now house-sized and very ill creatures that generate an immortality drug.
** The "Dragons" or "Rats". To telepathic people or cats they appear like those creatures. But they're [[EldritchAbomination anything but those]].
* CanonDiscontinuity: Averted with "The Colonel Came Back from the Nothing-at-All". It's plot is eventually reworked into "Drunkboat", with "Colonel" reading like a beta version of that tale. However, it does not contradict any of the previous continuity, and presents how planoforming was discovered.
* CatGirl: Literally with C'Mell. What's particularly notable about this example is that she may have been the ''[[UrExample first]]'' literal cat girl, arriving in 1961.
** As well as dog girls, snake girls, buffalo girls....
* [[ChinaTakesOverTheWorld China Takes Over Venus]]: The Chinesian Goonhogo. It becomes a superpower by virtue of surviving the apocalypse. In fact, it's the only nation to survive. In "The Queen of the Afternoon", the rest of the world not under the Goonhogo is ruled by Chinese philosophers. "When the People Fell", in which China takes Venus by sheer weight of numbers is something of an UrExample of Chinese space colonization plots.
* CivilizedAnimal: The Middle-sized Bear in "Mark Elf" and "Queen of the Afternoon". No, he's not an Underperson -- the Bear is simply an intelligent and civilized being. Yeah, even for the ''Instrumentality'' stories, this comes out of nowhere.
* ComfortFood: Eggs for Lord Jestocost, who makes it a point to eat some once a year as a treat.
* CrystalSpiresAndTogas: Subverted in that the Instrumentality deliberately allow the people to go back to a more retrograde way of life, with their approval. Still, one does see an interesting mix of amazing tech and weird and sometimes archaic furniture.
* {{Cyborg}}: The use of living rat and wolf brains as components in technology. Also, individual robots sometimes have other kinds of animal brains; two different robots are described having a chicken brain and an owl brain.
* DaysOfFuturePast: As noted.
* DefectorFromDecadence: The Instrumentality forces this on civilization.
* DepravedHomosexual: Arguably, the klopts in "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal". It's not clear if they are depraved ''because'' they are homosexual, or because of the social, psychological and hormonal disruptions brought about by their need to become a monosexual culture or die out.
* DividedForPublication: ''Norstrilia'' was originally split into two volumes, ''The Planet Buyer'' and ''The Underpeople'' (with a chapter and a half of additional bridging material). Smith died before the second volume appeared, and so never got to see the single-volume version.
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: Most of his stories are Christian allegories, but it is subtle and many will miss them.
** "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" is a retelling of [[spoiler: Joan of Arc]].
** "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell" was written during the peak of the civil rights movement.
** A number of his stories were also inspired by Chinese literature. The aforementioned "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell" was influenced by "conspiratorial scenes" in ''Literature/RomanceOfTheThreeKingdoms''.
** "Drunkboat" is an allusion to Arthur Rimbaud's "Le Bateau Ivre". The main character Artyr Rambo is named after the poet.
** The planet Mizzer, the homeworld of Casher O'Neill. Its natural and political climate mirrors that of 1950's Egypt.
* DoomyDoomsOfDoom: In ''Norstrilia'', Rod is the heir to the Station of Doom. It was named back when it was actually dangerous.
* EasterEgg: A rather impressive one in "On the Storm Planet" (also collected in ''Quest of the Three Worlds''). The author manages to have the first letter of consecutive sentences to spell the phrases "KENNEDY SHOT" and "OSWALD SHOT TOO". And all without breaking the narrative flow.[[note]]Actually in at least one printing, one of the letters isn't at the beginning of a sentence; apparently an editor decided to combine two sentences, replacing the period with a semicolon. Fortunately this is corrected in the most recent collections.[[/note]]
* EldritchAbomination: The reason Planoform ships require pinlighting teams in "The Game of Rat and Dragon".
* ElectricInstantGratification: For recreation and pain relief. Admiral Tedesco is so addicted to it, that he exceeds the legal usage and ignores his everything. The only thing that brings him out is the call to defend Earth.
* TheEmpire: The Bright Empire, the Goonhogo (the surviving Chinese government), and the Empire mentioned in "A Planet Named Shayol".
* HegemonicEmpire: The Instrumentality of Mankind. It's a bit vague how it's actually ruled, but its Lords and Ladies are collectively very powerful:
-->''The Instrumentality was a self-perpetuating body of men with enormous powers and a strict code. Each was a plenum of the low, the middle, and the high justice. Each could do anything he found necessary or proper to maintain the Instrumentality and keep the peace between the worlds...\\
\\
This was all the business of the Instrumentality. The Instrumentality had the perpetual slogan 'Watch, but do not govern; stop war, but do not wage it; protect, but do not control; and first, survive!'''
* FasterThanLightTravel:
** Planoforming, allowing for ships to make a series of FTL jumps through Space Two. "Drunkboat" discovers Space , which allows for instantaneous travel [[spoiler: without the use of a spaceship!]]
** There's brief mention of ships capable of entering [[SubspaceOrHyperspace "nonspace"]], allowing for FTL without the need for Planoforming. It's also a nice place to hide stuff as well.
* FluffyTheTerrible: The "Kittons". Lets just say there's a good reason why they're sedated most of the time.
* AFoolAndHisNewMoneyAreSoonParted: ''Norstrilia'' starts with Rod making enough money to literally buy everything on Earth; by the end of the book, he's given away almost all of it (though he keeps enough to be rich).
* ForegoneConclusion: ''Norstrilia'', for example, tells you exactly how everything's going to turn out in the prologue.
-->See, that's the story. Now you don't have to read it.
-->Except for the details.
-->They follow.
* FutureImperfect: The great Terran metropolis of Meeya Meefla -- which is what you get when you try to pronounce "MIAMI FLA." phonetically. Incidentally, this is the one city in the Instrumentality whose name has changed the ''least'' in the centuries since its founding.
* GalacticConqueror: Raumsog attempts to be one, by trying to take over Earth. [[spoiler: He fails, badly.]]
** Kuat in "Down to a Sunless Sea" dreams of becoming one, but is foiled before he can even conquer his homeworld of Xanadu.
* {{Geisha}}: The job of a "girly-girl" is compared to this - they entertain off-worlders through dance and conversation.
* GenderBender: Eleanor in ''Norstrilia''.
* {{Gratuitous Foreign Language}}s: Used to help add layers of meaning, as well create a sense of the exotic.
* GreatOffscreenWar: The Ancient Wars.
* HumanHardDrive: Monitors - usually condemned criminals modified to sit back, do nothing, and record events. [[ThePoliticalOfficer And secretly kill whoever they monitor if they attempt to commit treason]].
* HumanSubspecies:
** When colonizing the stars, humanity had to adapt to several different worlds. These changes results in many True Humans looking nothing like humans.
** Inverted with the Underpeople. They're animals genetically modified to be human. In fact, they're more human than True Humans.
* HumongousMecha: The titular "Mark Elf" manshonyagger - [[spoiler: a "Model 11" German-made man-hunting robot, continuing its mission long after the war was over]].
* HyperspaceIsAScaryPlace: Dealt with in "Drunkboat" and "The Colonel Came Back from the Nothing-at-All", where Space Two and Three turn out to very, very strange places. Not that the interstellar void is any safer, with the Dragon [=/=] Rats lurking to eat human souls.
* HypocriticalHumor: There's a very dark example, illustrating the Instrumentality's corruption, in "Golden the Ship Was - Oh! Oh! Oh!" The Lords of the Instrumentality accept huge bribes from the tyrant Raumsog not to attack his planet. Then they declare the bribes off the record and attack his planet anyway, killing ''95% of the population'' including Raumsog himself.
* IChooseToStay: At the end of ''Norstrilia'', Eleanor decides she likes being Rod and stays on Earth in his body.
* InterspeciesRomance: In ''The Game Of Rat And Dragon'', humans and cats must telepathically link to fight off aliens that MindRape humans traveling through deep space. The protagonist finds he enjoys being linked with his feline partner a little ''too'' much and the story ends with him repeatedly reminding himself "She's a ''cat!''"
** In a 1980 Radio Adaptation of ''The Ballad of Lost C'mell'' the story opens with a human woman and an Ox-Man trying to leave Earth for New Mars so they can start a family [[StarCrossedLovers It...doesn't end well...]]
** In the original version of the aforesaid story the cat-girl C'mell falls in love with the human Lord Jestocost, and spends the rest of her life regretting that he couldn't love her back. Not that their relationship could ever have been legally consummated anyway.
* ItsRainingMen: "When the People Fell"
* JeanneDArchetype: D'joan in "The Dead Lady of Clown Town."
* LaResistance:
** The Holy Insurrection, an underground Underpeople rights movement.
** The Band of Cousins and their supporters within [[SecretPolice Instrumentality of the Jwnidz]] against the philosophers who rule the post-apocalyptic Earth. [[spoiler: They succeed, and form the Instrumentality of ''Mankind'']].
* MagicMusic: "The Fife of Bodhidharma", which doesn't take place in the Instrumentality of Mankind universe.
* MeaningfulName: Oh so many, with a healthy heaping of BilingualBonus.
** The Vomacts. "Acht" in German could both mean "proscription" and "care". Consider the role they play in these stories.
** Lord Lovaduck, whose ancestor [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin loved feasting on Peking Duck]].
** Paul Linebarger even did this with his pen names. "Cordwainer" is an old surname meaning "bootmaker", which in combination with "Smith" gives an image of a man who performs specialized, useful work; "Felix C. Forrest", another name he published under, was derived from the Chinese name he adopted, Lin Bailo ("forest of incandescent bliss").
* MilitaryCoup: Mizzer goes through one, overthrowing the decadent Hereditary Dictator Kuraf. At first, many (including Kuraf's successor Casher [=O'Neill=]) thought it was a great idea. Then the coup's leader institutes a reign of "terror and virtue", which drives Casher's mission of revenge.
* MilitaryScienceFiction: Oddly enough, "The Game of Rat and Dragon" has been published in at least two sub-genre anthologies. One editor pointed out that the story technically doesn't qualify. Of course, it does deal with cat-piloted {{Space Fighter}}s as they battle alien horrors.
** "War No. 81-Q" (''both versions'') and "Golden the Ship Was-Oh! Oh! Oh!" deal with more traditional military matters. Well, in Linebarger's own way.
* MindScrew: Frequently.
* MundaneLuxury: The planet Pontoppidian is a literal "gem planet". It's people have plenty of diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. But simple things like tea, worms, and ''soil'' are a luxury on the planet.
* NakedOnArrival: Colonel Harkening in "The Colonel Came Back from the Nothing-at-All" and Artyr Rambo in "Drunkboat" both appear naked and almost catatonic on Earth after traveling through Space-2 and Space-3 respectively.
** Casher O'Neill in "On the Storm Planet" is transported from Henriada to his homeworld of Mizzer in much the same way by T'Ruth and gets badly sunburned, although his mental faculties recover more or less unimpaired.
** The wind-people in "On the Storm Planet" are pretty feral and don't go in for wearing clothes.
** "[[spoiler:Three to a Given Star]]": The three protagonists have been transformed into living weapons as punishment for earlier crimes, but once their mission is completed they are allowed to resume human form, stepping out of their mechanical bodies on an uninhabited (by humans) planet as a kind of naked Adam and two Eves.
** In "Under Old Earth" Santuna is naked (and depilated), but it's not clear if this also applies to her lover Sun-Boy.
** In "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" it's implied that C'mell is nude for at least one of her brief appearances, though it's unclear why. (Not that anyone would complain.)
*** Probably not ''strictly'' relevant, but a British paperback cover for ''The Underpeople'' (the second half of ''Norstrilia'') depicts a corridorful of young women wearing nothing but silver caps and boots.
* NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Lord Jestocost and Lord Crudelta, whose names mean "Cruelty" in Russian and Italian respectively. Subverted in that they're not sadists but merely insensitive, but benevolent.
* NoBiochemicalBarriers: The Apicians in "From Gustible's Planet" have extremely Earth-like biochemistry; this is specifically called out as unusual, although it's very much PlayedForLaughs.
* NoodleIncident: Many major events, both historical and personal, are alluded to but never specifically described in-story. Smith apparently had plans for more stories, but he died before he could reconstruct them from his lost notes. As an example, we never learn the nature of the "crime without a name" committed by the main character of "A Planet Named Shayol", nor how the robot, rat and Copt rediscovered the Old Strong Religion as referred to in "On the Storm Planet".
* NumberedHomeworld: Fomalhaut III, Khufu II and Earth's Two and Four (and presumably Earth Three).
* OneGenderRace: The Arachosians in "The Crime and Glory of Commander Suzdal".
* OneProductPlanet: Norstrilia, which has the monopoly on the immortality drug Stroon. In addition, there's Viola Siderea (an Underworld) and Shayol (see below). The novel ''Norstrilia'' also mentions Khufu II, which produced a lichen more luxuriant than the finest fur, and became almost as wealthy as Norstrilia - until the lichen was killed off by an infection and the Khufuans were reduced to begging.
* OneWorldOrder: The Instrumentality, after the fall of China.
* PenalColony: Shayol, of the BodyHorror kind.
* PettingZooPeople:
** Some of the Underpeople. It seems to vary from underperson to underperson; some are more animalistic in appearance than others. In the story ''On The Gem Planet'' one of the Underpeople is a Tiger-Man who is very clearly described as looking more like a tiger then a man, though this seems to be unusual among underpeople.
** The Unauthorized Men in "Queen of the Afternoon". Called "puppy-dog people" by Juli vom Acht, they're intelligent, small anthropomorphic animals. However, they are not Underpeople - the Unauthorized people seem to have their origins from the Ancient Wars.
* PlanetSpaceship: The Golden Ships, which are larger than most stars.
* PlotRelevantAgeUp: In "The Dead Lady of Clown Town", D'joan is force grown from age five to fifteen.
* PunctuationShaker
* PopulationControl: Norstrilia practices population control by way of a RiteOfPassage: you go into a room, are examined by a panel, and either come out a full citizen or are given a painless death.
* PosthumousCollaboration: Genevieve Linebarger, Paul's wife and story collaborator, finished "Down To A Sunless Sea" and "The Queen Of The Afternoon". May also apply to Smith's other posthumous stories, "War No. 81-Q (rewritten version)", "The Colonel Came Back from the Nothing-at-All" and "Himself in Anachron".
* ReallySevenHundredYearsOld: T'ruth in "On the Storm Planet" looks between ten and thirteen years old, but Casher knows she must be older because Administrator Meiklejohn has been sending unsuccessful assassins after her for eighty years [[spoiler:of whom Casher himself is the latest. He can't bring himself to kill her precisely because she looks so young]]. She's actually nine hundred and six, more than twice the normally-allotted span even for true humans, but has an artificially-extended life expectancy of ''ninety thousand'' years.
* {{Recurring Character}}s:
** The Vomact family, the decedents of the vom Acht sisters. Various Vomacts show up through the series - some helpful, others malevolent.
** C'mell, who figures in several of the underpeople tales and ''Norstrilia''.
** Casher [=O'Neill=], the focus character of the ''Quest of the Three Worlds'' sequence.[[note]] This comprises three stories, "On the Gem Planet", "On the Storm Planet" and "On the Sand Planet", together with a loosely-connected story, "Three to a Given Star". These were collected together in 1966 with the individual story titles stripped out and presented as a novel, ''Quest of the Three Worlds''. Whether they, or at least the first three, really constitute a novel is debatable. Later collections have simply printed the four stories in chronological order with their titles reinstated.[[/note]]
* TheRemnant: The Manshonyaggers [[spoiler: robotic killing mecha built by the long defunct Sixth German Reich]].
* {{Revision}}: Done in a [[{{Rewrite}} rewritten]] "War No. 81-Q". The story is reworked to fit into the Instrumentality universe, as well as add some backstory.
* RightfulKingReturns: Averted with Casher. Though the rightful heir to the Hereditary Dictatorship, [=O'Neill=] doesn't want the position. Nor does he want to restore his infamous uncle to power. He just wants to stop Col. Wedder.
* RipVanWinkle: "Mark Elf" and "The Queen of the Afternoon" are about three German sisters from 1945 who end up in the future.
* [[spoiler:StableTimeLoop]]: What ends up becoming known as [[TitleDrop "The Crime And The Glory of Commander Suzdal"]].
* ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney: Raumsog bribes the Lords of the Instrumentality with the most precious drug in the galaxy. Then the Lords merely note the bribes in their record, remove the record from the record, and [[ScrewTheMoneyIHaveRules go to war with Raumsog]].
* SleptThroughTheApocalypse: The origins of the Vomact family. [[spoiler: They're the decedents of three German sisters, the vom Achts. During the end of World War II, they were placed in suspended animation in some experimental rockets, and sent into space. Sleeping and preserved, they are awakened thousands of years after the Ancient Wars.]]
* SolarSail: Prior to the discovery of Planoforming, solar sails were used for interstellar voyages that lasted years (if not decades or centuries).
* StandardSciFiFleet: Gives two unique ship types: Football sized Fighters piloted by cats, and the Golden Ships, a sphere ''90 Million miles'' in length.
* StandardSciFiHistory: Plays the trope straight, but then the Instrumentality appears to have reached its Apex, it stays stuck in an Interregnum of stagnation until it decides to re-diversify humanity.
* StarScraper: Earthport, a wineglass shaped building made of a rust-, weather-, stress-, and time-proof material.
* StarshipLuxurious:
** The ''Wu-Feinstein'' is designed to look like Mount Vernon, with plenty of space for the rivers, grass, and buildings for it's passengers.
** And there's the Golden Ships, with ''90 million miles'' of space [[spoiler: for a crew of one.]]
* StealthPun: Kind of. "...[T]he only living city with a pre-atomic name. The lovely meaningless name was Meeya Meefla [near] the warm, bright, clear beaches of the Old South East." ("The Dead Lady of Clown Town"). In other words... [[spoiler:A mispronunciation of "Miami, Fla"]].
** Another variation is "Mark Elf". The title means what it says, but there's nobody called Mark and no elves.
* StoryArc: The collection ''The Quest of Three Worlds''. The first three stories ("On the Gem Planet", "On the Storm Planet", and "On the Sand Planet") tell the story of Casher's mission of vengeance [[spoiler: only to find something greater]].
* SuperweaponSurprise:
** "Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons". Everybody ''knows'' that the planet of Norstrilia has a secret weapon. ''What'' it is, nobody ever lives to tell.
** In "Golden the Ship Was-Oh! Oh! Oh!", Earth and the Instrumentality seem defenseless against Raumsog's invasion. However, they bust out an awesome Golden Ship to stop the attack. [[spoiler: And then zig-zagged, as it turns out the Golden Ship is just a decoy. The Instrumentality's real attack happens during the distraction.]]
* {{Telepathy}}: Common enough after the Ancient Wars, with the Unauthorized Men, some of the True Men, Pinlighting humans and cats, the Underpeople, and the Lords of the Instrumentality having the ability to mentally "Spiek".
* ThievesGuild: Rules the planet Viola Siderea. Once a decent planet, [=FTL=] travel ended up bankrupting the planet. To survive, its people became thieves.
* TimeDilation: Played with in "The Crime And The Glory of Commander Suzdal". It's mentioned that Suzdal would subjectively experience thousands of years of traveling through non-space - the inverse of regular time dilation. Though once he heads back to Earth "the time will wind back up again", and by the time he returns it would only be a few years objectively since he left. [[spoiler: And this is only some of the wacky time travel hi-jinks in this tale.]]
* TimeMaster: In times of danger, Chronopathic people can transport themselves (and whatever vehicles they ride) back to a position they were a few seconds previously. Useful in avoiding enemy attacks. The Instrumentality has developed [[TimeMachine Chronopathic]] devices to generate the same effect.
* ToServeMan: [[spoiler:Inverted]] in "From Gustible's Planet".
* TranshumanAliens: Some humans are have adapted to the new worlds that some cease looking human at all.
* TurtlePower: [[MeaningfulName T'ruth]] from ''On the Storm Planet'', a Turtle-Girl with extremely powerful psychic abilities.
* UnusualUserInterface: Genetically altered animals, a giant scrying dish and many more.
** The entire wall of laminated star charts, which aids the telepathic Go-captain in "The Burning of the Brain". [[spoiler: It proves to fail catastrophically at the worse time.]]
* UpliftedAnimal: The Underpeople.
* UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans: The Instrumentality feel it does.
* VestigialEmpire: The Goonhogo is the last nation that managed to survive the collapse of civilization prior to the Instrumentality.
* WhatCouldHaveBeen: Linebarger lost all his enthusiasm for the Instrumentality stories after he accidentally dropped the notebook in which he kept his plot ideas into a lake, rendering it unreadable and useless. He died before he could reconstruct any of the lost stories, and it's doubtful whether he would have bothered to try.
* WetwareCPU: Laminated animal brains.
* WhatMeasureIsANonHuman: The stories concentrating on the Underpeople. They can love, sing, think, pray... but they're less than nothing to the Instrumentality.
* WhoWantsToLiveForever: Subverted. When a certain planet is found to have the components to make one immortal, the opportunity is there, although the Instrumentality seems to settle for 400 years (there is a dismissive reference to people who try to live longer than that).
** Nostrillians themselves don't feel compelled to follow the Instrumentality's lead on this, however. Also, Lords and Ladies of exceptional value are sometimes allowed to live longer; Sto Odin, the eldest Lord of his era, was over 1000 years old at the time of "Under Old Earth" (in which he sacrifices his own life to save Manhome).
* WildChild: "On the Storm Planet" has the wind-people of the eponymous Henriada, who manage to survive being flung around by ''tornadoes'' and live on the fringes of human society. T'ruth temporarily captures a few of their children with the intention of giving them new motivation.
* WouldHurtAChild: Benjacomin Bozart in "Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons" kills an 11-year-old Norstrilian boy after snatching the name of the eponymous secret from his mind (although just learning the name is enough to seal his own death warrant).
* YouCantFightFate: In "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" the Abba-Dingo machine predicts that Virginia will love Paul for the rest of her life... and that Paul will love Virginia for 21 minutes. Poor Virginia. There is some implication that this effect makes the Abba-Dingo an EldritchAbomination.
* YouAreNumberSix: In-between the later age of Solar Sails and the Rediscovery of Mankind, most people on Earth have numbers instead of names. But to avoid sounding impersonal, the numbers are in different languages. For example, Sto Odin is "101" in Russian.
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-->Go gently now, reader. Your Job is done.
--->-- Cordwainer Smith, Epilogue from the collection ''Space Lords'' (1965)