A Rediscovery of Clifford D. Simak - A Reading Challenge

Ralf 58

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Ralf 58

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By the way, "Limiting Factor" was the first story of Clifford Simak, which I had read. That was about 1972 - at the time I was 14 years old.
An entire planet is a single machine - that had impressed me very much!

The Story was published in East Germany in 1969 in this book:
 

Bick

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Ralf - I'm curious, you are obviously a very big fan of Simak, but what other SF writers do you admire? And who do you think are like Simak in style? Is anyone writing now you think are carrying on the Simak tradition, or do we need to look at other authors from the same eras to find similarities.

Myself, I've always enjoyed Asimov, and I decided to read a lot more Simak because I know Asimov was a fan of Simak's writing himself.
 

Extollager

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Another question, along with Bick's questions -- what do readers think of the conclusion of Simak's "The Sitters"?
 

Ralf 58

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Ralf - I'm curious, you are obviously a very big fan of Simak, but what other SF writers do you admire? And who do you think are like Simak in style? Is anyone writing now you think are carrying on the Simak tradition, or do we need to look at other authors from the same eras to find similarities.

Myself, I've always enjoyed Asimov, and I decided to read a lot more Simak because I know Asimov was a fan of Simak's writing himself.

Hi Bick,
I read science fiction since I was 11 years old . I come from East Germany, where from 1949 to 1989 about 500 SF books are published. You could make it so, to read everything that came on the market. And I've read almost everything!
Most authors who have appeared in East Germany, you are certainly unknown. It was even a single pure science fiction book series, here are the covers: SF Utopia

There are also in East Germany a few books published by American and English authors, including Ray Bradbury ("The Martian Chronicles", "The Illustrated Man" and "Fahrenheit 451"), Isaac Asimov ("I, Robot"), Robert Sheckley ("Pilgrimage to Earth" [Stories]), Arthur Conan Doyle ("The Lost World"), Ursula K. LeGuin ("The Dispossessed", "The Left Hand of Darkness"), Kurt Vonnegut ("Slaughterhouse Five"), Stanley G. Weinbaum ("The Worlds of If" [Stories]) and Herbert George Wells ("The War of the Worlds," "The Time Machine"). Here are a few anthologies, including short stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Harry Harrison, Alfred Bester, Philip K.Dick, Philip Jose Farmer and ... Clifford Simak.

I have read most in the years 1981-1985: Almost every week at least one book (in 5 years about 250 books!). After that I had less time.

With the fall of the wall opened up new worlds for me, because suddenly I had to access thousands of books that were published in West Germany. The offer was overwhelming, so I had especially been looking for books by authors whose names I already knew, for example, Isaac Asimov, Robert Sheckley and Clifford Simak.

As I was a Simak fan, I have described on my website.

In early 90s so I have again read a lot, including everything from Sheckley and Simak, what came into my hands.I have read also some books by Asimov, but the thicker his books were, the less they have fascinated me.

Due to professional reasons and other hobbies, I do not read so much in the last 20 years. Then times when I take a book in the hand, it is usually an old, which I always liked 20 years ago.

2 years ago when I once had a little more time, I was faced with the decision: Either I read again more or am I doing something that is useful to other people. I decided for the second and have created the bibliography.

To your question: Except Clifford Simak I really like Robert Sheckley, Cordwainer Smith and Stanislaw Lem. In addition, some East German writers who do not know can (Steinmueller, Fuhrmann, Sjöberg, Szameit, Kruschel and others). These authors write all very different. But I love them all ....

Which writer is most comparable with Simak? I dont know. I have never sought after ...

Simak is Simak. :)
 

Bick

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Very interesting, Ralf, thanks. There is obviously a whole world of SF out there by European authors most of us have never heard of. Have many of the German authors you mention have been translated?

As to the English-language authors you rate - I agree about Cordwainer Smith. He's excellent, and I should read more. In fact, upon reading some of the most fantastical plots and ideas in Simak I have been reminded of Smith, and no-one else has really done that; Smith is generally in a category all by himself, I think. Sheckley, I have to admit to not having read him. Well, perhaps the odd short story, but nothing that springs to mind. I'm sure there's a thread on here somewhere for us to admit to those authors we've never read but really think we should have read - Sheckley would be a good example for me.
 

Bick

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Incidentally, I read the Simak short Story "Worrywart" last night and enjoyed it very much. It's an excellent tale, with what I begin to recognise as being Simakian hallmarks: it's set (partially) in Wisconsin, and from a smallish idea to begin with, it ends with a conclusion of tremendous and far-reaching significance. It also concerns the striving for peace in the shadow of the bomb - a idea that was predominant in many stories of the era (this was published in 1953).
 

Ralf 58

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Very interesting, Ralf, thanks. There is obviously a whole world of SF out there by European authors most of us have never heard of. Have many of the German authors you mention have been translated?

As to the English-language authors you rate - I agree about Cordwainer Smith. He's excellent, and I should read more. In fact, upon reading some of the most fantastical plots and ideas in Simak I have been reminded of Smith, and no-one else has really done that; Smith is generally in a category all by himself, I think. Sheckley, I have to admit to not having read him. Well, perhaps the odd short story, but nothing that springs to mind. I'm sure there's a thread on here somewhere for us to admit to those authors we've never read but really think we should have read - Sheckley would be a good example for me.
No, as far as I know, none of the East German authors has been translated. There are some translations of the Polish author Stanislaw Lem (see ISFDB and his Official Site). Lem is an interesting author, his novels often have a philosophical claim.

Sheckley - You must read this! Especially his early short stories from the 50s. This is a true firework of ideas and gags.
Simak has also written some funny stories in this period (eg "Drop Dead", "Honorable Opponent", "Lulu", "Shadow World", "Carbon Copy", "Leg. Forst.", "Installment Plan" and "Crying Jag"). Simak and Sheckley were in style at that time quite similar. They have both mostly written for the magazine "Galaxy", probably they have inspired each other.
 
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DaveWixon

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The storyline and dates for The Fisherman correspond exactly with the novel I'm currently reading, Alex - "Time is the Simplest Thing". I'm sure it's the same story.

EDIT: I started to edit this with more info I'd found out but then realised others had already filled in the information (next page on thread), so I'll leave off changing this.

Hi! This is my first post to this forum, and I hope you'll bear with me if I repeat something that someone has already mentioned...
You are correct about "The Fisherman" being the serialized version of TIME IS THE SIMPLEST THING. "Fisherman" was published in four issues of ANALOG, April-May-June-July, 1961. (I've never gone back to check whether the two versions of the novel differ...).
And as someone who knew Cliff, I'll confirm that he pronounced his name with a short "i" and the emphasis on the first syllable.
That cover for the magazine that had "Big Front Yard" was done by Kelly Freas, truly one of the very best of the sf illustrators.
 

DaveWixon

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Thank you Extollager, even though a picture like that had already been posted on Simak forum, as a member had visited the cemetery and shot it... you know, over the years we missed very few things about CDS.
If, in the future, should I happen to be in that area, surely I'd visit his grave. I think it'd be touching.
BTW, during my trip to Millville area back in 2011 I stumbled in a country cemetery, where probably Simak's parents are buried (probably, as I did not enter it - but the description from other members who had visited it matches my recollection).
It's a small country cemetery among the trees, in a desert place at a road intersection; IMHO, and not only in mine, it would be a much more proper burial place for CDS, in his beloved place, rather than in a big anonimous city cemetery like the one where he rests.
Roberto
I've been at the Simak family plot in Wisconsin, too. It's a great setting, and I loved the fact that the stone has an open book carved on its top. But it was Cliff who chose to be buried in Minneapolis, and he had two good reasons for that: (1) he had lived in the Twin Cities area for most of his life, and he felt that he was no longer at home in the Millville area; and (2) Cliff had an aversion to being buried underground -- so he chose a vault, which was not an option available in that tiny Wisconsin cemetery.
 

Bick

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A very warm welcome to you Dave! I am of course very interested to hear that you knew Clifford Simak. How did that come about, if you don't mind my asking, and what are your thoughts on his work, and what are your favourite books, etc?
 

DaveWixon

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Thank you for the welcome. I'm glad to be here -- it warms my heart to find people who are still appreciative of Cliff (not just of his work, but of the man himself)...
I'm not going to have time, right now, to answer some of your questions. But let me start with this:
I first met Cliff in the fall of 1974 (shocked realization: that was 40 years ago!!!), when I sold him a book.
I was just beginning my second year in law school, and I was helping out one of my classmates, who had just opened a science fiction book store (Uncle Hugo's, still in business) and had rented a few huckster tables to sell books at Minicon (unusually, the con was being held in the fall; there were two Minicons that year, and the first, held the prior spring, had been my first sf convention...).
(Someone I didn't know at the time actually took a picture of me selling the book to Cliff -- of course, it was taken because of Cliff, not me...)
I encountered Cliff from time to time thereafter as I became part of the group that ran both Minicon and the Minnesota Science Fiction Society (MNSTF). And one day, some years later, Cliff called me out of the blue, saying that he wanted to get rid of some books -- he'd learned that my house was at that time playing host to the MNSTF library, and wanted to donate them.
So on the following Saturday I drove over to his house, and he presented me with several bags of books that had been sent to him by various publishers. And after I loaded them into my car, he asked if I'd like to stick around for a drink.
I did. We talked. And we talked and we talked and we talked -- for hours!
After that we were good friends, and I spent a lot of time with him -- helping him with various things, such as trips to doctors, shopping, banking, paying bills, writing letters, or simply talking. We would watch football and baseball games on television, for instance -- I remember him turning to me, after the Minnesota Twins won the World Series in 1987, and exclaiming excitedly that he had never thought he would see that day!
After his wife, Kay, died, we spent even more time together -- his children lived in other states, and he was glad of the company, I suppose.
After his death, his children, knowing both how I had helped their father with his business affairs, and that I did the same for Gordy Dickson, asked me to run Cliff's literary estate; and I still do that.
All in all, I never would have expected to be such a part of Cliff's life. It was nothing I planned; I more or less fell into it. But it was one of the great honors of my life.
 

Bick

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Wow! Dave, as we're fans of Simak's works, its a privilege to have you with us then, as you obviously knew him very well. I imagine he spoke about his writing sometimes, and I daresay you asked him at some point which books he was most proud of? I'd be fascinated to hear any remembrances you have on that front. Its a funny thing, but not many interviews with Clifford Simak seem to have survived (at least I've only found a couple posted on the internet).
 

Ralf 58

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Hi Dave,

I am pleased that you found your way to this forum. It's nice to read from someone who knew Cliff personally.

I know that you are managing the estate of Clifford Simak. That is indeed on the SFWA site.
What I always wanted to ask: In the Project Gutenberg 5 works of Simak are freely available, which were often reprinted by various small publishers since about 2008. There are "Hellhounds of the Cosmos" (1932), "The Street That Wasn't There" (1941), "Empire" (1950), "Project Mastodon" (1955) and "The World That Couldn't Be" (1958). Why this works, why not others?
All the mentioned works have been published from 1923 to 1963. If I understand the United States copyright law correctly, it means: If the copyright was renewed, the works would have to be 95 years still protected after their appearance. If the copyright was not renewed, they are public domain.
Are only the mentioned 5 works Public domain, or all published before 1963?

Incidentally, it is recently at CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform published a new book: "The Clifford Simak Collection". (The book is still missing in my bibliography.) Besides the mentioned 5 free works, there are also included "Cosmic Engineers" (1939), "Ring Around The Sun" (1952) and "Galactic Chest" (1956). I hope the publisher has paid the fees. ;) Or are these three works now also Public Domain?
 

J-Sun

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In the Project Gutenberg 5 works of Simak are freely available, which were often reprinted by various small publishers since about 2008. There are "Hellhounds of the Cosmos" (1932), "The Street That Wasn't There" (1941), "Empire" (1950), "Project Mastodon" (1955) and "The World That Couldn't Be" (1958). Why this works, why not others?
All the mentioned works have been published from 1923 to 1963. If I understand the United States copyright law correctly, it means: If the copyright was renewed, the works would have to be 95 years still protected after their appearance.

I believe that's an odd technical case of the magazine version not being renewed so its parts can be reprinted. I know the original '30-33 run of Astounding ("Hellhounds of the Cosmos") was not renewed when the original went out of business though all the revived '33-current are copyrighted. Likely smaller less successful magazines like Comet ("The Street That Wasn't There") also failed to be renewed. If they were renewed, they'd now be under the life+70 rule which means 2058 or 126 years of copyright protection for "Hellhounds" not to mention that, whenever things approach falling out of copyright, the copyright law is changed to extend it still further. Basically, nothing published after 1922 that isn't already public domain will ever be public domain unless there are changes in the system.

But I'm sure DaveWixon could answer this better - I just happen to be on now and maybe I'm not completely wrong. :)
 

DaveWixon

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Wow! Dave, as we're fans of Simak's works, its a privilege to have you with us then, as you obviously knew him very well. I imagine he spoke about his writing sometimes, and I daresay you asked him at some point which books he was most proud of? I'd be fascinated to hear any remembrances you have on that front. Its a funny thing, but not many interviews with Clifford Simak seem to have survived (at least I've only found a couple posted on the internet).
You're correct in saying that not many interviews of Cliff have survived. At least in part that's because he did not do very many of them. Cliff did not go to a large number of conventions -- usually he did so when it was in his local area, or when he was invited to be Guest of Honor. And conventions are where most interviews of sf authors took place -- at least in those past days.
Cliff was also interviewed in newspapers in the Twin Cities area, but those seldom did more than touch the surface of his writing -- those interviewers tended to be in the "gosh-wow!" school of journalism (I was victim of one such interview myself: it was embarrassing to see what the interviewer did with what I told her...).
It's also the case that Cliff was rather reticent -- both in general, and especially in talking about himself and his work. You had to catch him at the right moment, or else be someone he was really comfortable with -- he really had fun when one of his fellow senior writers would come to town; those were people he could really relax with, I guess.
 

DaveWixon

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Hi Dave,

I am pleased that you found your way to this forum. It's nice to read from someone who knew Cliff personally.

Hi, Ralf. I've been trying to do a long reply to you, but I've gotten an error message, something about I must have at least 15 posts to post a link... As far as I know, I'm not trying to post a line -- let me see if this goes through...
 

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