A Rediscovery of Clifford D. Simak - A Reading Challenge

Tom Hering

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I finished reading Way Station yesterday. It's one of those books I always thought I had read, back in the 1970s, when I was making an effort to read everything considered a classic - up to that time. But skimming its pages this year (when I'm again making an effort to read the classics), I realized I had never actually read Way Station - I had only read about it. Damned memory!

Anyways, what can I say about the book that hasn't already been said? As fond as I am of City, I think Way Station is probably Simak's masterpiece. I actually cared about the protagonist, Enoch Wallace, and kept turning the pages to find out what happened to him next. Probably because, being in my 60s now, I found Enoch's situation to be a metaphor for aging. Though he doesn't age (or rather, ages very little), the years still pass him by, the world around him changes and becomes increasingly unfamiliar, and all his loved ones are gone. His isolation in the station, as a relatively immortal man, perfectly expresses the increasing isolation of old age. The pain of loss is a major theme of the book. There's no one left who Enoch is really, intimately close to. There are just simulacra of past loved ones whom Enoch has manufactured. Like the memories of loved ones we ourselves have lost, Enoch's simulacra are vivid for a while, then begin to fade, and eventually vanish altogether. Which only doubles his (and our) sense of loss.

Definitely the most emotionally moving book by Simak I've ever read. Younger readers might not find it so. (Simak was in his late 50s when he wrote Way Station. An age that felt more "ancient" in the early 1960s than it does now.)
 
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JoanDrake

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Simak is great. He is one of those who writes about normal everyday people being faced by extraordinary things, and mainly just bumbling through, no Heinlein Heroes here. Even his aliens are sometimes found just sitting on the porch with the protagonist. A publisher's agent once told him he wrote about losers, "I like losers" was his reply.

I must read Way Station. And I'm going to reread Cemetery World, which is my favorite of his. I've given much thought of how to write something else on that concept, because I just can't think of anything more interesting
 
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Tom Hering

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Here's Simak in his late 50s, sometime between 1959 and 1964, with his 1959 Hugo award for best novelette, The Big Front Yard.

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Ralf 58

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Happy B'day Cliff (yesterday).
Hello Bick,

as you wrote that, in Europe and America (as well as in Wisconsin) we still had 3 August. So your congratulations came not too late! (y)(y)

For all Simak fans still got a nice picture of young Cliff, which until recently was completely unknown to me. Presumably, it dates from the early thirties:
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Ralf 58

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There is a new official e-book series of the works of Clifford Simak. So far, nine volumes have been published:

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All of these e-books published on July 21 at Open Road Media. Two of these books also appeared as print editions:

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You can order all the books on Amazon.

About the new edition of "City" is remarkable , that it include the ninth story "Epilog" and a foreword by David Wixon. Dave is the administrator of the Estate of Clifford Simak, he was already here in the forum as guest.
 
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Extollager

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Ralf 58, thanks for that pic of the young Simak. What a lot of character in that face, and I relish seeing him with that typewriter. If there were a book showing various favorite authors of mine posing with their typewriters, I'd have to get a copy.

I'll start a thread on this.
 

Ralf 58

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The main event for the Simak fans this year will be the appearance of the first volume of "The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak" at Open Road Media.

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The book has been announced for October 20 as e-books and print edition. The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

The Publisher is David W. Wixon who wrote an introduction to each story.

Very important to mention is: This book will include a previously unreleased story of Simak: "I Had No Head and My Eyes Were Floating Way Up in the Air" !!! This story was written by Simak in the early seventies for Harlan Ellison's anthology "The Last Dangerous Visions", which, however - has never been released - until now. More than 40 years after the emergence of the story and 27 years after the death of its author it is now but still appear - that we may experience this yet!

A first review on the story can be found at goodreads.com. There we also find the complete story list:

Installment plan
I Had No Head and My Eyes Were Floating Away Up in the Air
Small Deer
Ogre
Gleaners
Madness From Mars
Gunsmoke Interlude [Western story, no SF]
I Am Crying All Inside
The Call From Beyond
All the Traps of Earth

Those are good news!
 
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hitmouse

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Somewhere, in a box of books in the back of my attic, lost amongst dozens of identical boxes, I have an old SF convention programme from a big American con, probably 1970s. It contains photos of Simak and some sort of biography, and I remember some mention of his dog. At least 10 years since I cast my eyes on it. Simak must have been a guest. I have been trying and failing to find the cover illustration of the prog on the internet, since turning over the attic is going to be a bit traumatic. I think the prog also had some stuff about CL Moore/Shambleau though I am not completely sure.

Does this ring any bells?
 

Ralf 58

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Somewhere, in a box of books in the back of my attic, lost amongst dozens of identical boxes, I have an old SF convention programme from a big American con, probably 1970s. It contains photos of Simak and some sort of biography, and I remember some mention of his dog. At least 10 years since I cast my eyes on it. Simak must have been a guest. I have been trying and failing to find the cover illustration of the prog on the internet, since turning over the attic is going to be a bit traumatic. I think the prog also had some stuff about CL Moore/Shambleau though I am not completely sure.

Does this ring any bells?

Hi hitmouse,

I think the Worldcon that you mean, was the "Denvention Two" from 1981.
Of course I was not there, but in my search for title images I found some time ago this:



I do not remember exactly where I got the picture, it was probably an eBay listing.

The program booklet would have looked from the outside like this:



It is found more often on eBay or Amazon.

Unfortunately, I do not know any photos of this Con with Clifford. There is a photo page with pictures from the Con 1981. You can see there as "Guest of Honor" CL Moore, however, not Clifford Simak.

Best regards

Ralf
 

Bick

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Great discussion over the last day. I love all this digging into the archives and finding obscure photos and con references. Many thanks all! I'd never seen that pic from the 30's - so much life in the young Simak. If we ever can get photos from the 1981 con that would be great too. This has again whetted my appetite, and as soon as I finish my current read I shall read another Simak novel. I'm undecided between Out of Their Minds, Destiny Doll or Goblin Reservation. Opinions?
 

Tom Hering

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About the new edition of "City" is remarkable , that it include the ninth story "Epilog" ...

After the first publication of Epilog in Astounding: John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology (1973), the story was added to the following editions of City: Ace 1981 & 1983, Old Earth Books 2004 & 2007. Most editions after 1973, however, continued to use the original 1952 text (minus Epilog): Ace 1975 & 1976, Doubleday/SFBC 1979, Collier/Macmillan 1992, Macmillan/SFBC 1992, Easton Press 1995, SFBC 2003, Gollancz SF Masterworks 2011, Open Road 2015. This is probably because Simak himself expressed qualms about Epilog in a 1975 Tangent interview (plus the fact that the the 1952 text is the text that won the third International Fantasy Award):

Simak: "A couple or three years ago, after John Campbell died, Harry Harrison conceived the idea of putting out a memorial anthology for John. The idea was to pick some of the older writers that were writing back in the 'Golden Age' - so called - which really wasn't the Golden Age at all. The Golden Age is right now. He wanted to put out what would stand as the final issue of the old Astounding. Harry wrote to me and said I want you in it, and would you possibly write a final City story. I was very reluctant to do that because as far as I was concerned the City sequence was finished. Done. There was nothing else I thought needed to be done with it. But, because it was Harry Harrison, because it was for John, and because I was rather flattered for being included, I said I'd try. So I wrote the final City story which, I don't think, is as good as it might be. At least it's in the spirit of the tradition that I created in the City stories." (Tangent interview.)

Simak then goes on to explain how problematic something like writing "in the spirit of the tradition" actually is.

http://www.tangentonline.com/interviews-columnsmenu-166/1571-classic-clifford-d-simak-interview
 

hitmouse

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Great discussion over the last day. I love all this digging into the archives and finding obscure photos and con references. Many thanks all! I'd never seen that pic from the 30's - so much life in the young Simak. If we ever can get photos from the 1981 con that would be great too. This has again whetted my appetite, and as soon as I finish my current read I shall read another Simak novel. I'm undecided between Out of Their Minds, Destiny Doll or Goblin Reservation. Opinions?
Goblin Reservation.
Entertaining little novel.
 

J-Sun

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Here's an unflattering review of City. I don't think book reviewers should be allowed to review "audiobooks," so this doesn't count in a way, but (as I've said before) I admit that, while I kept my copy and am willing to give it another try one of these days, it isn't my favorite, either.
 

Bick

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Thanks for those review links, J-Sun. I have some sympathies with the review of City - I found aspects of it rather unlikely too, and think perhaps I mentioned that - though I think the overarching mood and pathos compensates well.
 

Ralf 58

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For five months, the first volume of "The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak" is announced. This book is not yet published, but now the next five volumes have already been announced!

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All books you can now pre-order on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. However, volumes 2 to 6 will initially appear only as e-books.

Volume 2 and 3 (as volume 1) appear on October 20, volume 4 to 6 have been announced for March 1 2016th

What is known about the content?


Volume One: I Am Crying All Inside And Other Stories
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10 Stories:
  • Installment Plan (1959)
  • I Had No Head and My Eyes Were Floating Away Up in the Air (197?/2015)
  • Small Deer (1965)
  • Ogre (1944)
  • Gleaners (1960)
  • Madness From Mars (1939)
  • Gunsmoke Interlude [Western story, no SF] (1952)
  • I Am Crying All Inside (1969)
  • The Call From Beyond (1950)
  • All the Traps of Earth (1960)

Volume Two: The Big Front Yard And Other Stories
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? Stories, including:
  • The Big Front Yard (1958)

Volume Three: The Ghost of a Model T And Other Stories
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? Stories, including:
  • The Ghost of a Model T (1975)
  • City (1944)

Volume Four: Grotto of the Dancing Deer And Other Stories
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10 Stories, including:
  • Grotto of the Dancing Deer (1980)
  • Over the River and Through the Woods (1965)
  • Day of Truce (1963)

Volume Five: No Life of Their Own And Other Stories

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12 Stories, including:
  • Contraption (1953)
  • Spaceship in a Flask (1941)
  • Huddling Place (1944)
  • No Life of Their Own (1959)

Volume Six: New Folks' Home And Other Stories

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10 Stories, including:
  • New Folks' Home (1963)

It seems as if Dave Wixon the project realized very quickly and leads to the end.
Then there is perhaps in one year for the first time in history, a full story-collection of Clifford Simak!
 
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J-Sun

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That's really great on a certain level but I have to ask: he wrote over a hundred stories - maybe as many as 130, right? At 10-12 stories a pop, those six volumes can't be anywhere near the complete stories. It would take about a dozen volumes (not exactly the most bang for the buck possible, either). And having only e-books is a downer. That doesn't really count in my book (so to speak). Especially as, coming from Amazon, they'll be DRMed which I absolutely, unequivocally boycott. Also, like I've said before, after my fun with the "complete" Carol Emshwiller Volume One and Apparently Only, I don't believe in pre-ordering "forthcoming" books. Still, hopefully they'll eventually all come out and be in paper or at least non-DRMed formats - congrats to Mr. Wixon on getting it started.
 

Ralf 58

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Hi J-Sun,

in my bibliography are a total of 143 stories of CDS collected: 124 SF & fantasy stories, and 19 Western and air war stories. In the series "The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak" all stories should appear, including the non-SF stories.

You're right, the 6 volumes, which have so far announced are not all: Altogether there will be 14 volumes. This we know from a reliable source: Betsy Mitchell of Open Road Integrated Media had reported that.

I just thought: If Dave carries on at this rate, then until the end of 2016 or early in 2017 is the series completely. ;-)

From the letter from Betsy also shows that a total of 18 novels are planned (9 are previously published by Open Road Media, altogether there are 27 novels by Clifford Simak) and that the publisher does not intend for the time being, the story-books to be printed on paper. But I hope also that all volumes will be released in printed version, earlier or later.
 

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