This sci-fi author had a secret life as psychological warfare mastermind

A celebrated science fiction author who spun wild tales of subversive cat women and psychic sex parties led a shocking double life — as the military mastermind behind America's psychological warfare operations for the US Army.

In their upcoming book, Stories Are Weapons: Psychological Warfare and the American Mind, journalist and author Annalee Newitz's writes of learning that science fiction author Cordwainer Smith was actually Paul Linebarger using a pen name. Linebarger was "an intelligence operative who wrote the first Army manual devoted to the practice of psychological warfare in 1948." In a recent issue of their Hypothesis newsletter, Newitz explains:

Now declassified, Linebarger's Psychological Warfare is available from a number of print-on-demand publishers. I ordered a copy online, and read it alongside a collection of Cordwainer Smith stories called We the Underpeople. I couldn't believe the same person had written them. This guy who wrote about subversive cat women and robot cities and weapons made from angry psychic weasels and mind control sex between people who are literally floating naked inside a chamber of flames – he had also codified the U.S. military's approach to psyops at the dawn of the Cold War? Really??

Worldbuilding is an essential skill in the crafting of science fiction stories. Creating new worlds in the minds of your readers gives your characters a sense of being, your plot a place to play. What if there's a war going on in the world you're building? What if you build a straw-world because you want to destroy it? Regarding Linebarger, Newitz adds, "His work made me realize how much American propaganda strategies owed to science fiction." 

Stories Are Weapons is out on June 4th from W.W. Norton.

Previously: The Jet-Propelled Couch: true story of a physicist who thought he was a science fiction hero on another planet