The Crime and Glory of Commander Suzdal is a short story by Cordwainer Smith that captures most of the elements that he explored in his work : individual psychology, sociology and the implications of genetic manipulation of both people and animals. In addition, the ever present Instrumentality shows up.

The story also is written in a less straightforward manner then some of his stories, starting with a one paragraph long introduction warning the reader "Do not read this story : turn the page quickly.". It goes on to state that nothing in the story is true. This voice enters throughout the thirteen page story several times, warning the reader not to believe anything they are reading. The concluding words of the story are: "That's the story. Furthermore, it isn't true.".

The stories possible mythic nature aside, the narrator tells us in quite a bit of detail what happened. The story tells of how A Commander Suzdal is sent off an a mission of exploration. As often happens in these stories, he is a trance state for most of the journey, while most of the actual work of the running of the ship is done by turtle underpeople. Suzdal was only awaken when a decision had to be made. In his trance state, Commander Suzdal is kept entertained by playing chess with the computers, but refuses to have an animal brain implanted with his wife's personality brought along to keep him occupied.

This slight loneliness is hinted at as being the driving element behind the stories plot, as when Commander Suzdal is woken up by the turtle people to hear a distress message, he feels sympathetic to the soft female voice and takes his ship to land and investigate.

The story then shifts to the planet of the Arachosians, a race of humans that reached this planet long ago, and settled it. The settlers soon came across a problem. All their women were dying of a cancer, caused by soe weird combination of factors that caused the estrogen in their bodies to turn carcinogenic. They save themselves by the rather grisly expedient of giving all the women hormone treatment and turning them into men. Their instinct for survival also allowed them to devise a way to become pregnant, but only for male children.. This quickly leads to a world full of "bearded homosexuals, with rogued lips and ornate earrings". This is a society that advances in leaps and bounds, jaggedly, because it lacks "the balance of male and female, the family, the operations of love, of hope, of reproduction". And these monstrous men had only one goal: to find the worlds where women lived, and to kill them.

When Commander Suzdal lands on their world, he immediatly realizes something is wrong. His ship has been trapped in statis, and he can't escape. So what he does instead is take a capsule, filled with the fertilized eggs of eight house cats, in incubation, and genetically modifies the cats DNA so that they will learn to "serve man". He then throws the tiny capsule back in time 2 million years, to land on the planets habited moon.

The next thing he knows, his ship is being liberated by swarms of highly evolved cat men, who have came to his rescue. He takes off, never knowing whether the cats or the man-people won the war.

The story concludes with Commander Suzdal being tried by the Instrumentality, and being sentenced to being exiled and never rememembered. It then concludes with the narratior saying "this never happened".

The story, as I noted, has several significant elements. Perhaps one of the most interesting elements is the idea of what will happen when the bioenhancement of people, which Cordwainer Smith dreamed of long before it was a matter of fact, is applied to gender differences. It could be sometime soon that hormone treatements will be commonly proscribed for personality traits and physical conditions that are considered to be the problem of one gender or another. And for several reasons beyond the obvious physical complications, this may not be a good idea. I would also comment that the negative implications that Cordwainer Smith places on the "homosexual" men are probably not due to the morality of Leviticus, but rather to the fact that as a Confucian scholar, he would be sympathetic to the belief that marriage and (proper) courtship are the basis of human society. After all, without male female relationships, the Book of Odes would be much shorter and less interesting.

Even without such trendy subjects as gender identity and its relation to society, this story also includes such sure fire winners as time paradoxes and a genetically enhanced race of humanoid cat people.

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