• Published a book you want to tell us about? Uploaded a YouTube video you want to share?

    Normally you'll need 100 posts to self-promote, but with an upgraded membership you can do so with your first post.

    Find out more here: Become a Supporting Member

A Rediscovery of Clifford D. Simak - A Reading Challenge

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,082
Location
Auckland, NZ
One of the most interesting things, I think, isn't what sort of new science or technology Simak created, but rather the mundane things he left in.
An interesting observation. I guess he appreciated that not everything changes at the same rate, or to the same degree. Since 1951 (when Empire was written) communications, for example, have advanced to a ludicrous degree with the development of smartphones and the internet, but we still travel around in very similar ways, farm in very similar ways, etc. So, by leaving a lot of the mundane as it is, he's reflecting the reality of how 'progress' takes place. Also, I think perhaps Simak was more interested in how humans would develop in the way they think, than in what they will invent. A third thought - its probably a useful literary approach to keep certain elements of a SF story familiar to keep the reader engaged.
 

Ray McCarthy

Sentient Marmite: The Truth may make you fret.
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Messages
8,090
Location
The Mid West (of Ireland)
We still have wired telephones, the ones with circular dials often still work too. My 1929 radio sounds better than a DAB set, which doesn't look set to replace FM except in a couple of countries.
Development is very uneven and sometimes due to fashion or costs goes backwards!
Software quality has gone down since 1980s. Development of it hasn't really advanced, we can just compile bigger prettier bloat quicker. Computer security is mostly a failure, AV doesn't actually work! (it needs to work 100% or else it's a menace).
Last manned space mission was in December 1972
Built in speakers on TV are equivalent to a 1960s pocket radio. No where to put real speakers in super skinny TVs as the only real development in speakers in 60 years is smaller magnets allowing in-ear earphones.
 

clovis-man

Prehistoric Irish Cynic
Joined
Sep 28, 2007
Messages
2,400
We still have wired telephones, the ones with circular dials often still work too. My 1929 radio sounds better than a DAB set, which doesn't look set to replace FM except in a couple of countries.
Development is very uneven and sometimes due to fashion or costs goes backwards!
Software quality has gone down since 1980s. Development of it hasn't really advanced, we can just compile bigger prettier bloat quicker. Computer security is mostly a failure, AV doesn't actually work! (it needs to work 100% or else it's a menace).
Last manned space mission was in December 1972
Built in speakers on TV are equivalent to a 1960s pocket radio. No where to put real speakers in super skinny TVs as the only real development in speakers in 60 years is smaller magnets allowing in-ear earphones.
I think a good portion of this is just what Neal deGrasse Tyson is saying in his book, Space Chronicles:
http://www.slideshare.net/mpea/space-chronicles-facing-the-ultimate-frontier-neil-de-grasse-tyson
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,082
Location
Auckland, NZ
This is turning into an interesting, but different discussion - could we maybe keep this thread for discussion of Simak?

Perhaps a separate thread on technological progress is warranted?
 

hitmouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2011
Messages
1,561
This is turning into an interesting, but different discussion - could we maybe keep this thread for discussion of Simak?

Perhaps a separate thread on technological progress is warranted?
Agree, please hive off, since I cannot let this go:

Software quality has gone down since 1980s.
Complete nonsense.

AV doesn't actually work!
Please be more specific. What do you mean by AV?


Computer security is mostly a failure
No it isn't. Mostly? How about almost completely successful, with a few notable failures which represent a tiny fraction of a fraction of the total worldwide secured computer activity.



Last manned space mission was in December 1972
Umm...there's some fellows up in that thar Space Station at this very moment if I am not very much mistaken.
 
Last edited:

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,082
Location
Auckland, NZ
Getting back to Simak, does anyone know of a biography of the writer? I've looked around but not located anything as yet.
 

hitmouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2011
Messages
1,561
Getting back to Simak, does anyone know of a biography of the writer? I've looked around but not located anything as yet.
From the Encyclopedia of SF, which has quite a detailed essay on Simak:
http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/simak_clifford_d


 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,082
Location
Auckland, NZ
Many thanks for the links, Hitmouse, much appreciated. These seem to comprise essays or analyses of his writing, though, as opposed to being biographies of his life. I'll look into them though, as maybe the scope of one or more of them is greater than I realise.
 

hitmouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2011
Messages
1,561
I found this POD book on abebooks. Not a proper biography but it might be something to check out.

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=10517446677&searchurl=kn=clifford+d+simak+biography
Interesting. The blurb suggests that an evening doing a bit of intelligent surfing might produce something just as useful:

Project Webster represents a new publishing paradigm, allowing disparate content sources to be curated into cohesive, relevant, and informative books. To date, this content has been curated from Wikipedia articles and images under Creative Commons licensing, although as Project Webster continues to increase in scope and dimension, more licensed and public domain content is being added.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,082
Location
Auckland, NZ
Many thanks Extollager. The great advantage of your link for me, is that it links to an interview with Simak from 1975. I found that very interesting. As I just read City, and I know others are doing that too, here is an extract from that interview where Simak discusses adding the final epilogue to "City", and his thoughts on the story sequence:

Simak (1975) said:
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.

Knowing that I hadn't read City for fifteen years or more--to try to get the hang, the spirit of the thing, the way I wrote back then--I went back and read the book in its entirety. And when I reread it I absolutely ached to go back and rewrite it. The writing is somewhat crude, and juvenile, and it shows the lack of technique and craftsmanship you pick up as you go along. I know that if I rewrote City that I could make a much better book out of it, craftsman-wise, but I would lose the spirit of it entirely. I just don't think the way now, as I did when I wrote City.

As a writer develops--and this is true of any writer--he's bound to change. His viewpoints shift, his ideas change, his values vary and are reassessed. That's what is important. What was important twenty years ago is not so important today. Something else becomes much more important.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,082
Location
Auckland, NZ
A fair few of Simak's books have now arrived in the mail from Ebay and the like. My collection now looks like this (these are the actual editions):

 

TheDustyZebra

Aspiring notaphilist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 26, 2009
Messages
8,820
Location
Colorado
My son was at a media lecture and he was astounded by the lecturer claiming the media was more important than content. Is that why BBC, RTE and others are wasting so much money on Web services, digital initiatives, 'Apps', promotion of DAB, Twitter, Facebook etc rather than making actual programs?
Well, it must be the lecture that my employer went to, before they decided to turn us digital and crash the print side of the business into the side of a mountain....
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,082
Location
Auckland, NZ
Book 3: Shakespeare's Planet - Novel, 1976

One of Simak's later and shorter novels, Shakespeare's Planet is to be highly recommended. It doesn't attempt to convey a depth of message to the degree that more serious works like City do, and for its lightness of tone it could be under-rated, but this is an excellent SF novel. At under 200 pages, it manages to pack a lot in: planetfall on a distant world, the psychological effects of being displaced in time from long hyper-sleep, interesting aliens, a neat plot, love interest, action, mystery and that ever elusive 'sense of wonder'. Simak commented in one of his interviews that the sense of wonder in SF comes not from the book, but from the reader, but it seems to me that some authors were very much better at evoking it than others. Simak was a master at it, I think. Of the books read so far in this little reading challenge (and I'm admittedly not far along), this ones tops the charts so far. It manages to combine cool ideas and considerations of what it means to be human (the author's speciality) with a fun plot and engaging characters. Its also is very funny here and there. The alien "Carnivore" is a hoot, while managing to avoid being presented as a pastiche or a joke. I was a bit worried 20 pages from the end when there was still so much plot left to tie up and I was half expecting a disappointing conclusion, but Simak managed to conclude the book well in the few pages he gave himself; a master of brevity - some modern authors could do worse than look at how he did it.

Next up for me in my reading challenge: Book 4, "Time is the Simplest Thing", which looks like it has a very interesting plot idea. I'll report back on that one shortly!
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,074
One thing about Simak's output -- many of his short stories seem to date to that period when the fashion was for rather noncommittal titles -- perhaps in reaction to lurid things like "Brain Thieves of Alpha Centauri," that sort of thing. So you'd get "Census," "City," "Courtesy," "Hobbies," "Jackpot," "Limiting Factor," "Lobby," "Neighbor," etc. I'm afraid that, as I explored sf, these inert titles often put me off. Anybody else have that experience?

It wasn't just Simak. Take Asimov: "Anniversary," "Belief," "The Billiard Ball," "Evidence," "Fair Exchange," "Not Final!," even "The C-Chute" -- really uninviting. "Marooned Off Vesta" -- now there's an inviting title. (Yes, I do understand why an author might shy away from such obviously dramatic titles. I'm just saying that for the beginner with sf especially, or the browser of anthologies, that era of bland titles may have created some obstacles.)
 

J-Sun

Joined
Oct 23, 2008
Messages
4,889
Nope, I always loved titles like that. A story is already in a deep hole with me when I see something like "Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler's Green, the Potter's Garden", "The Soul Selects Her Own Society: Invasion and Repulsion: A Chronological Reinterpretation of Two of Emily Dickinson's Poems: A Wellsian Perspective", or "Bierhorst, R. G., Seera, B. L., and Jannifer, R. P. "Proof of the Existence of God and an Afterlife." Journal of Experimental Psychology. Volume 95, Spring, 2007, Pages 32-36". And these are mostly just long ones - I can't think of any of the many really long and extremely pretentious ones that I should be citing here.

Lester del Rey also did a lot of the direct concise titling, such as "Habit" and "Instinct". For probably the best, how are you going to top "Nerves"? That's the perfect name for that story. Could have called it "Exciting Mayhem at the Atomic Plant" or "Oh, Wretched Mortals, How Thy Distrustful Natures Cause Such Suffering" but that would suck. But I'm not totally averse to titles longer than a word. Lightly lit'ry titles like "Promethean Pain" can work (though it wouldn't here).

You're not alone, though (I'm probably very much in the minority, actually) - @Victoria Silverwolf was just raising this issue in this month's Analog review thread.
 
Top